Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Glacier Park in the spring

Spring is my favorite season for visiting Glacier National Park because on the right day one can have the ultimate experience. What I'm about to describe is best experienced a few weeks down the road when more of Going-to-the-Sun Road has been opened for vehicles.

Picture a bright sunny day with a Montana blue sky and puffy white clouds. You gaze in any direction seeing beautiful snow covered mountains, but you are distracted by an unearthly roar. Looking below you see a raging crystal clear river swollen by the melting snow pack, racing its way down a path that was cut into the rock eons ago. As the river charges toward Flathead Lake, along the banks, you see beautiful wildflowers blooming in a sea of magnificent colors. This is no dream of heaven, this is Glacier Park in the spring.

Many of the most spectacular photographs you will see of Glacier National Park are captured during this time of year. This is when it all comes together. Although most of the park services including campgrounds are still closed, this time of year provides the ultimate Glacier viewing experience. This is also time for the grizzlies and black bears to leave their dens and because they are ravenously hungry, they are on the move and can be seen in more places.

Plowing Going-to-the-Sun Road begins any day now and the road is usually opened for vehicle traffic in late May or early June. It is too early to predict this year's opening, but I will update this blog and our website as soon as I learn more. Currently about 12 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open for travel. You can drive 11 miles from the west entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge, and 1 mile from the (east) St. Mary entrance to St. Mary Lake. The rest of the road is closed due to the weather. However, if you are up for a hike, or want to cross-country ski you can travel beyond the closed gates.

Whatever you do... if you visit Glacier National Park in the spring - don't forget to pack a LOT of extra film!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Montana Sucks!

Are you kidding me?

Well yes, but I must tell you a funny story. My bride and I fell in love with Montana the first time we crossed the state line. Granted, eastern Montana is not as striking as the western part of the state with the mountains, dramatic landscapes, Glacier Park, Flathead Lake, etc., but as a whole, this is one beautiful state. Maybe that's why it is called "The Treasure State"... but I digress.

Soon after my bride and I moved to Montana we were out at a local restaurant and a young fellow walked into the restaurant wearing a tee shirt with the words "Montana Sucks" emblazed across his chest. We were appalled that someone actually felt that way about Montana, and that they would advertise such feelings on a tee shirt. However, as we were leaving, I got another view of that shirt and written under the bold headline were the words, "Now go home and tell all your friends".

I couldn't help laughing at the clever statement. We had been here long enough to know that if most Montanans had their druthers, they'd rather that things stayed the same and fewer tourists would choose this as a destination. For a state that gets a large portion of their revenue from tourism, this is a conflicting sentiment, but an honest one to be sure.

As it happened, I loved the tee shirt's slogan. It was the kind of thing that offers both a shock from the headline and then a smile from the caption. I just had to get me one of those. After doing a thorough Google search for such a tee shirt, I discovered that no one was selling such an item online, there were no copyright or trademarks associated with that phrase (yet). I had a brainstorm!

You can probably guess what happened next. Being a closet geek possessing an acceptable sense of humor, I created a website and partnered with an online printing company to create some tee shirts, ball caps, bumper stickers and other items I thought might be of interest to people of a similar mind. The Montana Sucks website was born.

I was not delusional about this little venture and did not expect that this tee shirt site would make me a wealthy man. In fact, I really didn't do anything to promote it except link it from a couple other related websites, but as a result, I did get that tee shirt I wanted. Over time, my website sold a few shirts and bumper stickers, but I was surprised how many people wrote to tell me how funny they thought my "tongue-in-cheek" website was and that it was probably doing more to generate awareness for Montana than what the state's tourist bureau was doing. I doubt that, but always enjoy hearing form people who got a chuckle from my site.

Two things happened this year that substantially increased the traffic on that site and caused me to sell a bunch of shirts and bumper stickers. A reporter from the local Hungry Horse News stumbled upon my site and wrote a story about it this past winter. You can read Cristal Jones' article here...

Then a few weeks ago an AP reporter researching a story about Californians moving to other parts of the country, found my site and interviewed me. The mention of my website in her story was a mere couple of sentences, but the article was syndicated and picked up by almost every newspaper and online news service in the country. USA Today, MSN, Google and newspapers from the Boston Globe to the Kalispell Interlake were running "my" story. See Angie Wagner's (AP) story here...

Wow!... the story hit the wire yesterday and the fallout I received would make you think this was breaking headline news. I received so many emails it took me until late last night to respond to most of them and I'm not finished yet. In addition, I sold more tee shirts and bumper stickers yesterday than I did since I launched that comical website. My 15 minutes of fame lasted all day! In fact, I'm now stretching that 15 minutes to day two... as I've already had more visitors this morning than I see in a typical month and its not yet 7:00 AM.

If you have ever visited Montana, or live here, you know how ludicrous such a statement is... "Montana Sucks". Montana is the jewel of the lower 48, boasting scenery and natural beauty that one never tires of. I brag to my friends in other states that I experience more beauty taking out my trash than most will see on a typical vacation. So yes friends, Montana does suck... now go home and tell all your friends.

Oh and BTW, you just must get yourself a tee shirt and a bumper sticker - help us spread the word! Visit my sleepy little website, Montana Sucks.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Calling all fishermen!

In the event you just awoke from a comma, you must know that the first BIG event of spring is underway now. Mac Days is sponsored by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, we told you it was coming in an earlier posting here.

The good news is that $35,000 is still up for grabs! That specially tagged Lake Trout is still eluding fishermen. According to their website, tag number “985161000031890” is worth $35,000 if it is the first tag caught and checked into the contest. Get all the rules here...

A new local blog for following what's happening and finding out who is catching what, click on over to Mo Fisch's Fishing Report.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To our Irish friends...

As a fitting tribute to our Irish friends on this Saint Patrick's Day, a few of my favorite Irish Blessings.

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

May the grass grow long on the road to hell for want of use.

May your day be filled with blessings
Like the sun that lights the sky,
And may you always have the courage
To spread your wings and fly!

Here's to a long life and a merry one;
A quick death and an easy one;
A pretty girl and an honest one;
A cold beer -- and another one!

May you live forever
And may the last words you hear be mine!

May you be buried in a casket made from the wood of a 100 year old oak...
That I shall plant tomorrow.

May you live to be a hundred
And may I live to sing at your wake!

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Our friends the Irish are indeed a colorful lot, and today is a special day to honor Saint Paddy and Irishmen everywhere. Enjoy and have a fun and safe Saint Patrick's Day.

Oh and BTW, best of luck to all the anglers on Flathead Lake this fine day who are competing in the "Mac Days" fishing tournament. May you all hook that Mackinaw trout that is tagged with a $35,000 prize!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spring is in the air

A couple of things today...

Spring hasn't quite sprung yet, but it sure seems that old man winter is on the run. Less than a week ago, I still had 6"-10" of snow in the front of my home and 4' snow banks. In a matter of days, the temperature rose and steady rain has virtually eliminated all but a few stubborn snow banks. I have never seen so much snow disappear so quickly.

This warmer weather will be appreciated by the hoards of fishermen who will descend upon Flathead Lake this weekend for the opening of "Mac Days". If you remember a few posts ago I told you about this bi-annual fishing tournament, but this year the grand prize is a whopper! There is one Lake Trout swimming in Flathead Lake with a tag worth $35,000.00! Oh yeah, that's enough to convince my bride that she needs to take up fishing.

Lastly - for you parents of teenagers, with the weather warming up and thoughts of spring... that also means that every high school in the country will be holding a prom in a couple of months. Many of those schools (or PTA/PTOs) are planning an after prom party. If you have a prom-age teenager, or know the parents of one - do them a favor. Prom night is one of the most dangerous times in a teenager's life and holding an after-prom party is one thing we can do to save some kids' lives. My wife wrote a book on how to plan and stage a fun, safe after prom party... check it out and send the link to every parent of a teenager you know. It just might save a life.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Polebridge Iditarod Follow-up

The race is over, but it may take weeks to wipe the smiles off the faces of those who attended the 26th. Annual Root Beer Classic sled dog race in Polebridge, MT.

My daughter and I put the truck in 4-wheel drive and followed the North Fork Road to Polebridge last weekend to attend this wonderful event. We had a marvelous time watching the dogs, talking to the mushers and seeing the teams cross the finish line.

If you missed it, be sure to put this on your "must see" calendar for next year. This is a fun event and worth the trip. Read more...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sled Dog Race at Polebridge

Did you see the movie "Eight Below?

Would you be willing to brave Montana's harsh winter weather at high altitudes riding atop an open sled for 15 miles to win a bottle of root beer?

Drop whay you're doing this weekend. Dress warmly and head to Polebridge! Because the 26th. Annual Root Beer Classic sled dog race will be held this Sat. & Sun. (March 3rd. - 4th.). The race will begin and end at the Polebridge Mercantile, who offers fresh pastry & a whole lot of fun! If you are not familiar with the area, Polebridge is north of Columbia Falls abutting Glacier National Park.

Mushers and their sled dog teams will race a 15 mile trail along North Fork Road and Hay Creek. The race begins at 10:00 AM and the grand prize is.... yep, you guessed it, a bottle of root beer!

As "dog people", my wife and I attended our first Polebridge sled dog race last year and we had a blast. This was a really cool (no pun intended) event and will give you a flavor of Montana you may have never experienced. There will also be skijoring races, so if you have no idea what that means... better come out to Polebridge this weekend.