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-   -   Magnificient, Marvelous Montana! (https://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/magnificient-marvelous-montana-434227/)

cmcfong Sep 15th, 2008 11:00 AM

Magnificient, Marvelous Montana!
 
Who we are: Four adult couples who travel together every other year for hiking, fellowship and great times. We range in age from 45 to 62. All of us are in good physical condition.
Where we went: We flew to Billings, MT and drove rental cars to Red Lodge, MT.
Where we stayed: Blue Sky Cabins between Luther and Roscoe, MT (about thirty minutes from Red Lodge)
Because there were four couples we booked the entire resort. DH and I stayed in Granite, which was absolutely lovely. The cabin had very comfortable beds, luxury linens, a huge jacuzzi tub for post hike soaks, and a very nice living room/kitchen/dining room area with a fireplace. Many of the features of the cabins are made by the owner. Their personal care in decorating is very evident. They have put a high premium on romance and guest comfort and privacy. It shows!

Tammy and Kevin Luoma live on site, but maintain a very low profile preferring to let their guests control contact. They were very helpful any time we called on them for dinner suggestions, hiking information.

Where we hiked: Our weather ran the gamut from snow, sleet, and rain to gorgeous days. It was generally between 45-70 during the days, which is quite nice for hiking. We had no mosquitos, but the black flies about did me in on one hike.
We bought Day Hikes in the Beartooth Mountains by Stone and Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness by Schneider. Both books are excellent guides. I would suggest the Schneider guide is the more thorough.
1. Becker Lake-this is a great hike but we would have been better off to save it for day three or four after we had made the altitude adjustment. This hike starts at 9,000+ and left a couple of us pretty winded.
2. Mystic Lake-an excellent hike on some of the best maintained trail areas I have used. There are several points where one is crossing large boulder fields, normally a challenge for me as I have horrible balance. However the trails were so well maintained even I did them without a problem.

cmcfong Sep 15th, 2008 11:23 AM

3. Lake Fork of Rock Creek: this is a very easy almost flat hike through the woods. It was pouring rain this day and this was a good choice. I would not have wanted to be scrambling over rocks in the rain.
4. Elk Lake off West Rosebud (thank you,johnthedorf)-this is a splendid hike with waterfalls, lakes, gorgeous vistas, wildlife and RASPBERRIES to pick to your heart's content. Followed by Slough Lake which was a bit more altitude gain, but offered some beautiful sights. What a great day.
5. Stillwater Canyon-Sioux Charley Lake hike. Another perfect day and a wonderful walk. We did see bear scat and snakes (it is a tossup which one is more frightening for me) but the beauty just calms the heart. A walk by rapids and into a glorious forest...really enchanting. We ended the day by sticking our feet in the cold water of the rapids.

What we did when we couldn't hike:

We drove the Beartooth Highway which is simply one of the most spectacular drives I have ever done. The area sports some of the tallest mountains of Wyoming and Montana and is well worth your time.
We also drove to Cody, WY to visit the museums there. They are of excellent quality and exceedingly interesting.
We did a little shopping in Red Lodge. The main street has gift and clothing items and a very nice bookstore. By the way, internet access is available for free at the public library. Great setup so no need to drag a laptop with you.
Where we ate:
I am of the opinion that a girl who hikes should have a very good dinner. We had a first rate meal at Bridge Creek Bistro. So good we went back! Loved the huckleberry salad and my husband is still talking about his pork scallopini. We had a horrible meal at Bogarts...don't go there. And we had a very good pizza at Red Lodge Pizza company. Our server, Cara, was a delight and she helped us learn about all the Red Lodge beers which happen to be quite good. Our favorite pizza was the zip code. A great place to stop when you are a bit "gamey" after hiking. We did not try Pollard's but they have recently hired a new chef and it was recommended to us by a number of people. We also went to the "world famous" Grizzly Pub in Roscoe, MT. The food was fine, but nothing remarkable.

One night we did a progressive dinner at the cabins. Each had a fully stocked kitchen and a charcoal grill. Each couple handled a different course and we had a ball watching sunset and moonrise with deer playing right in front of our porches. A very fun night.

We spent our last night in Billings. Excellent meal at the Walkers Grill. Highly recommended although it is a bit noisy. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza which was fine and very conveniently located.

Summary: I had previously visited Glacier (and after reading Enzian's trip report worried that I had made a mistake going east), Yellowstone and Missoula. Each of those areas has drama and beauty which make them perfect destinations. Red Lodge deserves a place with them. It is a wonderful spot. The Blue Sky Cabins are fantastic and for those who believe luxury cabin or Montana romance to be oxymorons...well here's proof they exist!

Thank you to all of you who were so helpful in my planning. I appreciate the generous and right on the money advice I got. My only regret is that I did not get to try the Chocolate Runs Through It ice cream by Wilcoxins. Maybe next time.........

GO!

mms Sep 15th, 2008 11:50 AM

cmcfong--Sounds like a fantastic trip! Finding places you can go when you are "gamey" (love that term) is the best;) Any idea where your next trip will be?

cmcfong Sep 15th, 2008 12:04 PM

mms, you would have loved it! It was a great trip. On our last night we tossed out ideas for the next trip and three of the guys voted for the PNW. You and Enzian are my go to girls for that!!!! Personally I am torn between going back to Lake O'Hara (my favorite place on the planet) and the PNW. One way or another I will get to both in the next two years. I will be depending on your advice!

mms Sep 15th, 2008 12:13 PM

We were supposed to head back to the Wallowas and E OR this summer for a week of backpacking, but DS knee surgery threw a big wrench in that. So we have that on tap for next summer. I can let you know how that goes as it is a great area of the state and doesn't get near the attention it deserves!

cmcfong Sep 15th, 2008 02:07 PM

I will be looking for your report, mms. Johnthedorf sent me some great photos from that area which is very intriguing.

enzian Sep 15th, 2008 02:40 PM

Could you combine a few days at Lake O'Hara with a few days in Washington or Oregon? I can't imagine passing up that wonderful place. . .

If you head to the Wallowas I might just have to meet up with you there!

cmcfong Sep 15th, 2008 02:58 PM

That would be great fun, Enzian. Perhaps we can talk mms into it as well!

I suspect DH and I will do Lake O'Hara without the group. I have always wanted to see it when the larch are golden. The prices are insane so it will only be for a few nights. IF the group were to go there, I suspect we would stay at Mt. Engadine Lodge in Canmore, for the lion's share of the vacation.

brando Sep 15th, 2008 03:39 PM

Great report, the beartooth highway is simple amazing, I've always wanted to hike in that area.

kodi Sep 15th, 2008 06:38 PM

Welcome home! I loved your report and it certainly makes me want to visit the area.
It sounds like you had a great time.
Nothing better than beautiful scenery!

Floridafran Sep 16th, 2008 05:01 AM

cmcfong,

Glad you had a great trip. I'm saving this for future reference.

Sorry Bogart's was so bad, especially since I recommended it. Apparently it has gone downhill since we were there so I won't be telling people about it in the future. Thanks for letting me know.


cmcfong Sep 16th, 2008 08:26 AM

Oh don't feel badly about the Bogart's thing, Fran. Everyone has that risk when they make a reco and sometimes the place just doesn't measure up. It may have been an off day for them, but the food and service were both pretty bad. It was a very small bump in an otherwise fantastic trip. Thanks for taking the time to help me plan!

Love2RV Sep 16th, 2008 12:14 PM

Sounds like a great trip, one I would love someday. Also, you are very lucky to have such a great group of friends that are willing to have some fun outdoors. We are finding that the older we get (early 50's), the more fuddy-dud our friends are becoming. It's a real drag. Going as a group makes it 10 times more fun, even though my DH and I do alot of travelling together and enjoy it.

Carrybean Sep 16th, 2008 02:47 PM

Oh, you lucky duck, you! Sounds like a fabulous time (well, all except the hiking part. :) )

Did I miss it or did you mention how long you were there?

doohickey Sep 16th, 2008 02:50 PM

cmcfong,

Thanks for your great trip report! Regarding your missing out on Chocolate Runs Through It ice cream...how 'bout I have some for ya in the next couple a days and think of ya while I'm smackin' my lips? :))

-doo

cmcfong Sep 16th, 2008 04:36 PM

We were there a week, Carrybean. It went by way too fast. I should have given the website for the cabins in my post. Here it is
http://www.blueskycabins.com Great place to stay!
Doo, that is so gracious of you. Have two servings!

cmcfong Sep 16th, 2008 04:38 PM

Love2RV, you are right, I am lucky to have such a great group of friends. We all get along very well and it does add a fun element to the trips. They are a remarkable blend of personalities.

Carrybean Sep 17th, 2008 01:46 AM

Wow! Love your cabin. That bath is to die for. Your doggies would have a blast there. Too bad they couldn't enjoy it too. The views are spectacular.

cmcfong Sep 17th, 2008 03:45 AM

Oh yes,Carrybean, it would have been fun to have the pups along; but, that might have kept the visits from the fawns down!
Blue Sky Cabins are really perfect.

johnthedorf Sep 17th, 2008 04:31 AM

Good to hear the trip was all I said it would be. Be happy you didn't hike the Hellroarin's in the rain! Actually I wouldn't think of recommending that one to the over 30 group! On the Cooke City trail to Elk Lake is that where you stopped? If so you may have to return to the really spectacular part and take mms and enzian with you! The trail to Jasper lake (Becker) is also a favorite. great fishing for Grayling on the far side! If you went over the top you'd find my "secret" camp and Lake. I remember almost stepping on a Ptarmigan whose camouflage
was very effective. He/she never flinched!


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