It's a stop my brother recommended for its small size, simple beauty, and for Jimmy's Down the Street, home of delicious cinnamon buns the size of a horse's head.
I needed the calories, because from there is was a good five hours' drive to Glacier National Park, a pristine forest area that's also home to the only actual glacier in the continental Unites States, which according to scientific estimates will melt by 2030.
The place was closed for the season. A normal person would have been perturbed by this. A huge investment in time and gas money, not to mention the mental anticipation of getting to hike around a mountain made entirely out of frozen water, only to be snatched away at the last minute because some administrator decided it's too cold to experience ice? Yeah. I wanted to punch something. Like reality. I wanted to go Earth-2 Superman on this park's butt and shatter time and space into something where I could get into the gift shop and pick up a cheap souvenior pin.
But I didn't. Instead I got out of the car and struck up a conversation with the other car full of people waiting outside the closed and locked gate. Two of them were local fixtures of the community: one ran a hospice and the other was the "chairman"? of the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association. They were nice enough to take my picture.
Then they took it right.
They were keeping company of a third man, a young ranger investigating the death of a goose. This ranger was walking along the river investigating a specimen whose neck had broken. He came back up to the gate to pet his dog and make sure it was secure in the car, then resolved to walk down the river to see if there was any clue as to what killed the goose. And he took us all along!
I don't know if it counts as a clue, but we did find another dead goose. This one didn't have a broken neck, though, it had a hole straight through it. Obviously, I'm not posting pictures because, as far as I know, the investigation is still ongoing and to release evidence would cripple the process.
While in the area, we also found an abandoned bear den. There were no bears in it, but there was a collection of bones ranging from very small to large rodent. Bears: the comic nerds of the animal kingdom.
The area we were in had burned down in 2001.
Life is returning.
And there were other views like these...
By the time I'd made it through all the dirt roads and barely navigable paths to get this far, my car had war paint and a twinkle in its eye.
So I didn't get to go on my controlled hike or get my commemorative survey pin. What I got instead was conversations with some colorful local characters, a guided tour of some natural wilderness, and civilian involvement in a multiple murder mystery. And I didn't even have to pay admission!
Next stop, Devil's Tower!