Spontaneous Road Trip 2013 Around Montana and Idaho

I am not known for spontaneity. There I said it.

If you know me or have seen at least some of my blog postings about trip planning you will notice there is not much room for “stumbling on to the next great thing” while Boomer and I truck off to the next spot.
Some people say you should plan a bare bones trip that way it gives you an idea of what you are doing and where you are staying but leaves your days open to discover. For me, I like to discover prior to leaving. I dig deep into the area I am going and plan a tightly organized trip ensuring that I will get a wide array of great stops.

I do this as I am fearful of driving by an amazing spot and get home only to realize Boomer and I stopped at the big ball of twine because we did not know that… wait a minute there’s nothing near the big ball of twine other than the twine. But you get my point right? I don’t want to miss out on something amazing while checking out something less than amazing…

So a few days ago it was a Saturday and I had placed myself in front of the computer searching for cars (because yes I’m still looking). I looked outside at the sunny day and thought to myself ‘why am I wasting the day inside?’

I threw together a quick itinerary in my head, a bare bones one if you will. I called my friend Nicole to let her know I was leaving town and where I was going. I was leaving the state so I figured it would be a good idea to let someone know since I had not been talking about this trip until about 4 seconds ago.

With in the hour Boomer and I were headed off to Montana. I had packed us a small lunch and a few scoops of dog food just in case my spontaneity lead into an overnight stay. Although I planned ahead with the dog food I brought no other necessities for an overnight stay. Proof that I need more than 4 seconds to plan a trip out.

My plan was to visit Ross Creek Cedars off of Montana Highway 56 in between Heron and Noxon. Never heard of those towns, don’t worry about it – you blink and you’ve missed them.

Our first stop of the day was the Cabinet Gorge Dam. The dam is located near the Idaho/Montana state line (on the Idaho side). I was driving along the highway, saw the sign for the “scenic overlook” for the dam and swiftly followed the gravel road to the parking lot. I am a fan of dam tours and visiting dams. You would think after visiting one dam it would be enough but each one is different and each one I am happy to have stopped at.

Cabinet Gorge Dam is privately owned so they do not offer tours but we were able to get a pretty decent view of the dam.

Cabinet Gorge Dam, Idaho

Cabinet Gorge Dam, Idaho

along with this giant turbine

a giant turbine at Cabinet Gorge Dam, Idaho

a giant turbine at Cabinet Gorge Dam, Idaho

and a nice view down the gorge.

A look down the gorge at Cabinet Gorge Dam, Idaho

A look down the gorge at Cabinet Gorge Dam, Idaho

We moved along to the Ross Creek Cedars. We were officially in Montana traveling along Highway 56. If you ever get the chance to travel this highway it is a true a gem. The highway snakes along following Bull River and Bull Lake with large mountains jetting up to the sky and lush green forests with the occasional animal sighting… we saw two big horn sheep (sorry for no photos – I wasn’t quick enough with the camera – the joys of being the driver and sole photographer)

I have this photo to offer you of Highway 56 to make up for missing the bighorn sheep!

I have this photo to offer you of Highway 56 to make up for missing the bighorn sheep!

I had not been to Ross Creek Cedars since I was about 17 years old but I found it with ease as the road signs led us right to the parking lot. There is a campground near the Cedars, Bad Medicine campground, which I found ironic as we were listening to Bon Jovi’s (of course we were) song Bad Medicine as we turned up the road to the Cedars. Oh Jon it was like you were there with us!

Ross Creek Cedars, Montana

Ross Creek Cedars, Montana

We parked and Boomer and I got out and headed into the grove of cedar trees. The Ross Creek Cedars is dog friendly, however they must be on leash at all times. We took in the massive trees as we walked along the dirt path, that was sometimes covered in exposed roots. I felt a little bad stepping on the roots but there was no way around it… trees are alive people!

Exposed roots at Ross Creek Cedars, Montana

Exposed roots at Ross Creek Cedars, Montana

As we weaved our way through the forest I found some of the spots where we had taken my senior photos (this is why we had last come here when I was 17). I felt compelled to get a photograph of Boomer and the trees but he is horrible at sitting still. I finally found a tree suitable that I could attach his leash to and take his photo. Although we still spent some quality time getting him to look at the camera. I found when I said “cookie” he would look right at me. Noted for the future.

"cookie"

“cookie”

If you would like to visit Ross Creek Cedars they are located off of Montana Highway 56. The nearest town is Troy on Highway 2 or on Highway 200 Heron or Noxon. You will turn onto Forest Service road 398 and follow that for about 4 miles where you will reach the parking lot. There are picnic tables and vault toilets located in the parking lot. There is no camping at the grove but Bad Medicine campground is located near by. The area is open year round but the road is gated December 1st to May 1st.

After leaving the cedar grove we headed back to the highway. The day prior I had taken a vacation day from work and volunteered at the local brewery. I had spent most of the day chatting with the brewmaster about the breweries around the area we both liked. With that fresh in my mind I thought I would pop over to Flathead Lake and visit one of my favorite breweries, Tamarack Brewing. I am usually yip-yapping about their amber ale, the Yard Sale Ale.

As I drove along the highway and the miles wound down where we would meet up with the main highway I started to rethink my decision about heading over to Flathead Lake. Although this trip was to be spontaneous Flathead Lake would be a 2 hour drive and then at least a 3 hour drive back home. I started thinking about the cost of gas and the possibility of an over night stay in a hotel and I talked myself out of it. The more money I spent today would mean less money for my Utah trip and that was something I did not want to compromise.

I reluctantly drove home but not without one more stop (Ok two – I stopped at the Kootenai River Brewery in Bonners Ferry Idaho). My last stop of the day was Snow Creek Falls.

Just south of Bonners Ferry is Snow Creek Falls. I had been here a few times before, once with Drama Papa and once with my dad. I was fairly certain I knew the way but googled the directions just in case. For the most part the directions got me there but there were a few roads missing.  I will list the roads below to help you out if you want to visit the Snow Creek Falls.

The trail leading down to the falls is very similar to Ross Creek Cedars. A dirt path lined with large cedar trees. The trail breaks off into two, giving you the option to see the upper or lower falls. I picked the upper falls first.

The trail to Snow Creek Falls, Idaho

The trail to Snow Creek Falls, Idaho

We arrived to the falls and quickly snapped some photos as there was a family and unleashed dog frolicking in the water. Although the dog seemed friendly the owner was quite concerned if my dog was friendly. Perhaps it was that he was dragging me down the wooden stairs to get to their dog that made her question if he was nice or not.

Upper Snow Creek Falls, Idaho

Upper Snow Creek Falls, Idaho

We left quickly which was unfortunate as the upper falls are much larger falls than the lower falls, although I still recommend seeing both.  Depending on the of year and water run-off the falls can be quite impressive!

We got to the lower falls and snapped a few photos before we were on our way back up the hillside. That is really the only downside of the falls, it’s all uphill on the way back. Luckily I had Boomer to pull me along so it made it much easier!

Lower Snow Creek Falls, Idaho

Lower Snow Creek Falls, Idaho

If you would like to visit Snow Creek Falls head south of Bonners Ferry on Idaho State highway 95, turn at the golf course 2.5 miles out of town. Turn right on to Moravia road (there will be a brown sign for Snow Creek Falls) This road will meet up with Forest Service Road 417. Turn right and follow for about 2 miles. Take road 402, a left off of 417, for about 1.5 miles. There is no traditional parking, but there is lots of traffic on that road so make sure you pull completely off the road.

As for my spontaneous trip, that got a little sidelined by responsibility, I would say it was still a pretty successful trip. I didn’t spend the whole day behind the computer while the warm summer day passed me by – which was good! I took Boomer to a few places that he had never been to and I challenged myself with not being so regimented with my planning.

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