Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs in Montana

2 Perfect Days in Sleeping Buffalo, MT

The Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs has humble origins. A wildcat oil rigger testing for oil in the 1920s struck hot water at 3,100 feet, according to a 1962 Phillips County history.

“During these years when bathtubs were not as plentiful as now, cowboys in the vicinity made use of the hot water for a ‘Saturday night bath.'”

Then Saco rancher Elbert Davison, whose son had polio, had the idea of building a pool for his son to soak in, which proved popular for others, too.

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The American Legion posts in Saco, Malta, and Hinsdale worked together to capture the natural gas in the water without shutting down the water. No longer would the water ignite at the “burning well.” The resort aspect began as a New Deal, Depression-era project, launching the Legion Health Resort.

While we were there, a vanful of Saskatchewan Hutterites arrived and I got to talk with one of them. Very interesting to meet them and hear about their religion. The handful of other visitors who came were either from Canada or from nearby in Montana. We basically had the whole area to ourselves for most of our visit. I took advantage of swimming/wading while the pool filled up on the first day we were there.

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In recent years the old site, a very run down and stinky place, closed. The reviews we saw on the web were pretty bad so I almost didn’t go. BUT, I found a couple of articles about a Bozeman couple who bought the place and renovated it. I’m so glad we stopped!

The Sleeping Buffalo has three pools, a large one at a comfortable swimming temperature, a smaller hot pool and a cold plunge pool next to the sauna. The pools drain nightly, which prevents staining. In the hot tub, water flushes through every 20 minutes, and in the big pool it’s every three hours. The mineral-rich water flows from the well at 108 degrees and 750 gallons a minute.

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Just a warning that the hot tub is super hot, but relaxing. There is also a sauna.

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Ten motel rooms are under construction, and the Sleeping Buffalo will have a KOA campground with 20 cabins and 75 camping spots. Very soon, Simpson will start work on outside pools. Right now there are three cabins and at least 35 RV spots with hook ups.

The resort isn’t planning a restaurant right now but does offer snack food, pizza and hot dogs. There is also a bar next door.

Be sure to stop at the sacred Sleeping Buffalo rock that marks the turn to the resort off US Highway 2 and know that fishing is available at the nearby Nelson Reservoir.

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The Sleeping Buffalo is between Malta and Saco, Montana at 669 Buffalo Trail. Winter hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. An adult swim is $8.50. Snacks and towel, etc., rentals are available.

We stayed for three days and had a great time!

 

Next up: East on Hwy 2

 

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Glacier National Park: Three Perfect Days

From Tacoma, WA we took I-90 through Coeur d’Alene, ID to St Regis where we transitioned onto a northbound route to Hot Springs, MT. From there we went directly to Glacier National Park. 

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Coeur d’Alene RV Resort in Post Falls, ID was a great stopping point. Level pads, wifi, and a pool.

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In Hot Springs, MT do not stay at Symes Hot Springs! We stayed there and it’s not worth putting yourself through. It’s old, not well kept, dusty, and creepy. The germophobe in me cried all night. The blankets were dirty, the pillows inside the cases had nasty stains on them, the carpet hadn’t been cleaned in years. For the same money stay around the corner at Alameda Hot Springs Resort and if you must visit Symes do so on a day pass. If you stop in during the summer at Symes say hi to Mabel the Great and try to imagine Symes as it was in its heyday and not in its current state.

 

Flathead Lake is gorgeous. We will stay there next time we go through.

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Kalispell has all the things: Cabelas, Popeyes, Krispy Kreme, Target, Costco, and Starbucks (but no mugs).

Sundance RV, right outside West Glacier,  is where we stayed for one night for hook ups so we could prepare to dry camp in Glacier.

Glacier NP has so much to offer. I promise you if you go you will want to return. The Going to the sun road over Logan Pass is a MUST DRIVE (or ride).

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Look into Road Scholar Tours if you want the Cadillac version of touring this park. If you are doing it yourself, visit the NPS webpage on guided tours in case you want to learn from an expert while in the park. That site has the best boat, bus, hike, raft, and horseback tours available.

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West Glacier Restaurant was decent, better than the food in the Park. Plus they serve elk.

Jammer Tour or Going to the Sun Road Shuttle? The jammer red bus tour is a bit pricey but you get to stop at each site along the way and take photos and hear about what you’re seeing. If you do that your first day you can make note of the trails and scenic views you want to go back and see on the shuttle.

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Apgar Campground was where we camped in Glacier. It was quiet and walking distance to Lake McDonald, Apgar Village, and the Visitor’s Center.

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Make sure you use the bear lockers if you are tent camping!

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Avalanche Lake trail is a nice, moderate trail that I would recommend. It is connected to Trail of the Cedars, which is also nice and wheelchair friendly.

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Lake McDonald is gorgeous and you have to go swimming or kayaing in it.

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Up the road is McDonald Creek, which has a nice, accessible waterfall (near Johns lake trail bridge).

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Bowman Lake is a drive short, very secluded, and breathtaking.

Stop at Home Ranch Bottom on the way to or from Bowman Lake for limoncello, Apple wine, huckleberry wine, and taco Tuesday. I hope these two are there and you get the full “cowboy who makes limoncello” speech.

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For more information on things to see and do in Glacier National Park, see these articles:

A Whole Day in Glacier for a Sightseer

“If you have one day to take in the highlights of Glacier National Park, drive Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) in its entirety. GTSR is a 50-mile long, two-way road that cuts through the center of the park between the West Entrance and the St. Mary Entrance. Your journey can begin at either location. To return, either retrace your path back over GTSR, or take U.S. Hwy 2 along the south border of the park to create a loop. Along U.S. Hwy 2, you will find scenic views, some restaurants and lodging.” (click link for full article)

Take a Half-Day Hike in Glacier

“Glacier boasts 734 miles of trail. It is safe to say there is something for every ability level. Day hikes abound in every section of the park, from a short lakeside stroll to a hike up a mountain. Bring plenty of food and water on your hike, wear sturdy footwear, and remember the weather can change at any time. Be prepared with both rain gear and sunscreen. Below are some popular trails for a half-day (3-5 hour) excursion. These hikes may take longer depending on your hiking speed and ability. Mileages listed are ONE-WAY.” (click link for full article)

 

Tacoma Dome & Ranier National Park

We visited Tacoma to attend the Don’t Give Up regional convention at the Tacoma Dome.

 

The Tacoma Dome was the perfect location for the convention and we found an RV campground nearby. I will say that those walkways on the upper tier to connect the seats with the corridor… are SCARY.

Sapporo Sushi in Fife had great food. Plus they have little boxes lining the cashier area where you can store your own personal chopsticks. I love that idea.

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But… PhoEver is my new favorite pho place… because their name is everything right now.

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Korum Ford fixed our Ford Expedition when it got stuck in 4-wheel drive. Thank goodness we were camped less than 2 miles to the dealership.

Ranier National Park. There are no words.

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To get the whole flavor of Mount Rainier is about in just one day, you will probably want to do the normal route and head into the park through the Longmire Entrance in late summer. You get old-growth forests, subalpine meadows blooming with flowers, and a look at the rocky scree underneath the Emmons and Winthrop glaciers. Our top four stops along that route were:

  • Whittaker Bunkhouse
  • Sunrise Visitor Center
  • Trail of the Patriarchs
  • Emmons Vista (better than Sunrise!)

 

A shrimp boil was held in our honor… well, they would’ve had it anyway but let’s just pretend.

 

The “Don’t Give Up” regional convention program was encouraging and uplifting. What really made it perfect was actually knowing the friends there. When you travel among our brotherhood you always find loving ones who are hospitable, but there’s something nice about seeing a familiar face in a crowd. All the ones from the hall in Anacortes gave us hugs and made us feel at home at their convention and we love them for that.

 

 

Anacortes, Washington & San Juan Islands

My BFF since first grade now lives in Anacortes, WA. I miss her terribly and hope one day she gets sick of the PNW and moves back to south Louisiana. Well, at least I thought that before I got to know where she lives now. She has invited us to visit several times but we hadn’t made the trip.

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So, after a year or two of invites we have finally made the trip and boy should I have gone sooner! First off, it’s GORGEOUS there.

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We stayed in the uplands and had Norweigan Fjord Horses for neighbors. I found the whole town (of just 16,000 people) to be cute, quaint, and full of little gems that I found during my stay. Compass Wines become my new favorite wine shop as the owner loves Lambrusco… and I love anyone who also loves my favorite wine.

 

I even got to try Ferry Witnessing for the first time. The Friday Harbor Ferry has pretty views, including some of Mount Baker.

 

 

Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink… but the mountains that pop up out of the water and make up these islands offer much to do in the way of hiking and biking so we took advantage of that while there. Use the Washington Trails Association website to find trails near you (wta.org)

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Cap Sante Park is just up from the town marina and has lovely views.

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Sharpe Park has several trail loops to take you to an amazing view of the San Juan Islands. I will caution you to choose wisely as some of the trails are steep.

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Deception Pass State Park is breathtaking. We will be sure to camp there on our next trip.

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Mount Erie is part of Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) and offers several great trails with outstanding views.

 

Mount Erie ACFL (from wta.org)

 

Fragrance Lake Trail was a bear! It’s so steep, so skip the Fragrance Lake Trailhead and go the easy route from a trailhead on Cleator Road or one on Fragrance Lake Road that is a mile from the lake… use the WTA website for directions and reviews. The lake is worth the hike either way, though 🙂

 

Lady of the Sea statue is a must see. It’s a quick drive to the marina for this one.

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Rooftop dining at the Majestic Inn & Spa.

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We visited the mainland towns of Mukilteo, Bow, and Edison (make sure to get coffee at Tweet’s in Edison!).

 

Titan had a good time, too.

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We took the Port Townsend ferry to Port Angeles and drove over to the Olympic National Park visitor center. There is nothing about the Olympic Peninsula that I don’t like 🙂

 

This picture sums up Anacortes. It’s a shabby chic, rustic place just bursting with evergreens and wildflowers in July. I will definitely be back.

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Airport Travel Tips

 

 

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Early morning airport travel tips:

  • Only take what you can easily carry yourself.
  • Never sit near a trash can in the airport.
  • Always wear shoes with socks.
  • Have one place where you keep your phone, wallet, and boarding passes and always put them there. Ideally, strap your wallet to your purse so it’s never left behind.
  • Count the outerwear pieces you are wearing/carrying at every checkpoint and in getting on/off the plane and always reach the same number (for instance: 1) Jacket, 2) scarf, 3) bag, 4) purse.
  • Carry your own water bottle rather than buy bottled water.
  • Be nicer than necessary or expected.
  • Look for ways to help fellow travelers; for instance, if the woman walking out of the restroom in front of you has inadvertently tucked the back of her dress into her pantyhose, let her know. Hypothetically, of course.
  • Sit near an electrical outlet in the gate area with a small multiple outlet surge protector and offer slots to fellow travelers if you see them hunting for a place to plug in.
  • Say thank you to airport employees who started work at 3am to provide you with coffee and chewing gum.

Thus ends this edition. I’m paying it forward for Patti Digh.

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Portland, OR to Olympia, WA

Leaving Oregon with a sigh…

Bye-bye Hwy 101 beautiful beaches, great seafood, and lovely weather!

On the way from Tillamook to Portland we stopped at a few Oregon wineries.

 

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Montinore Estate in Willamette Valley

 

In Portland we had to stop at the famous Coco Donuts and the unique Abbey Creek Winery.

 

When we got to Olympia to visit friends from CB’s time in flight school at Fort Rucker we stayed for a week to do some modifications to the R-Pod and enjoy a rest from the road.

Olympia has some pretty nice diversions for a small city. We shopped and dined at:

  • Farmers Market
  • Bellezza Ropa
  • Market 22
  • Pig Brewery
  • Ricardo’s Steakhouse

Then spent the rest of the time relaxing, fixing up the r-pod and visiting with our friends. Oh, and if you ever need your hair braided in Olympia, Washington look up Dell’s Hair Design 🙂

 

Oregon Coast Beaches

We traveled along Oregon Highway 101 to enjoy the beach campgrounds and lighthouses on this lovely stretch of coast. Here are the highlights.

Coos Bay

We camped in a field right on the water in Charleston (thanks, Seamus and Pa Kelly!!) where we had water and electric hookup to their house. We woke the next morning to the sound of sea lions barking, which totally scared me at first. After a little exploring we found a few places to recommend:

We really liked La Herradura restaurant. Their flautas were perfect and their margaritas are HUGE (as are their plates so go knowing there will be leftovers).

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From Coos Bay you can quickly drive to the following scenic sites:

  • Sunset Bay State Park
  • Lighthouse @ Cape Arago
  • Botanical gardens @ Shore Acres State Park
  • Trails all along Cape Arago Highway
  • Egrets and blue herons were nesting (early June)

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Most of the congregations were attending the regional convention in nearby Salem but we were able to go to meeting with Bayview Cong in Coos Bay. Brother Ortiz gave a great talk and afterwards gave us some good recommendations for restaurants in Newport.

We did need to get an oil change because we had driven over 3,600 miles since leaving home on May 5. We took Smokey (our Ford Expedition) to Tower Ford  and had a terrific experience with their master mechanic, Ron.

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We reserved an RV spot at South Beach State Park in Newport, which was a nice park with great bike trails… but since there is marsh nearby there are millions of mosquitoes. Maybe not when it gets more sunny, but when it’s overcast they’re out in force.

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Nye Beach is a historic neighborhood with cool little shops and restaurants. The nice lady at Shipping Solutions in town recommended we go there and we can’t thank her enough. We ate at Nana’s Irish Pub and had the most amazing dessert that has renewed my faith in dessert — it’s called Banoffee Pie, which is a banana-toffee extravaganza. Near Nana’s is Enrique’s Taqueria and a restaurant called Table of Contents, both of which we will be sure to try next time because their reviews are excellent.

Georgie’s is a nice restaurant on the main Highway with an AMAZING view of the beach and ocean. Wait for a window table. Try the Dungeness Crab Louie.

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The Newport Bridge is a lovely Art Deco bridge in town with great views of the bay — when it is not overcast.


South Jetty Trail at the State Park south of town was so picturesque.

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Fred Meyers, my old favorite from when I worked on a fire crew on the Siuslaw National Forest at Hebo Ranger District. Oh… the memories…

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Pacific City & Hebo

Pelican Brewery is the place to go as they’re right on the water near Haystack Rock and the Cape Kiwanda dunes. They have decent food and beer, of course.

Haystack Rock

I spent my first summer working for the Forest Service in Oregon on the Siuslaw National Forest for the Hebo Ranger District. For a City Girl I have done some decidedly non-city stuff like working out west on a wildland fire crew especially when I had never really been in a forest or on a mountain! We visited Mount Hebo and Lake Hebo on this trip.

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From the top of Mount Hebo you can see Haystack Rock in Pacific City. Camping at Hebo Lake is quiet and secluded.

Nearby you can visit Cape Meares and the Octopus Tree plus view the Three Arch Rocks from The Goonies movie.

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Tillamook

Tillamok cheese factory has the best cheese. Plus their exhibits teach you about dairy farming.

Blue Heron Cheese & Wine is a must visit in Tillamook, Oregon. Ask for Steve, a font of Oregon wine knowledge 🙂

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Trask River Auto Sales…  for pet, car, and RV washing!

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I didn’t get to visit the Air Museum, but next time!

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Steve suggested that next time we try to see a few other spots along the coast:

  • God’s Thumb in Lincoln city
  • Munson Falls near Tillamook
  • Saddle mountain in Astoria

I’ll cover the drive though wine country to Portland and Olympia in the next post.