We spent part of Day 4 and all of Day 5 in Missoula, Montana, easily the most COVID-19 aware city we had been to, as well as one that made it clear the it supported the Black Lives Matters movement, this despite the demographic makeup of the city as shown in the image below (city-data web site).
Businesses in Missoula displayed their support for BLM, as shown in the image below (Betty’s Divine clothing boutique, 509 S. Higgins). There was no real commercial or profit-oriented motive for this support – after all, it was not as though people of color were flocking to Missoula for vacation. Seeing these signs made us not only feel good about being in Missoula, but proud to be in Missoula as well.
Image from The Montana Free Press
I am not much of a shopper (I leave that to Donna), but I found this website to be a hoot. If you wish to shop via the Internet at Betty’s, here is a link.
The Holiday Inn, Downtown Missoula, was strict about wearing face masks, as, it seemed, were all the businesses in Missoula. The hotel provides a mini-fridge and microwave in each room, so we were able to buy take out dinners and make our own breakfasts every day.
Other businesses in Missoula strictly applied COVID measures as well. The first night we were in the city we stopped in a Worden’s Deli, a pretty famous place, and ordered two Shepherd Pies to go. Two was one too many, so we had some leftovers the next day. I also ordered a half Moon Pie. Believe it or not, it was the first Moon Pie I have ever had (I think).
Worden’s Market was established around 1883, as Missoula’s first grocery store. Originally located near what is now the 100 block of West Front Street, Worden’s has always been a downtown entity and is now in its fifth location at 451 North Higgins. Worden’s is one of only three to four businesses of its age in Missoula that has been in continuous operation since its inception.
In addition to a great choice of food, it has a HUGE choice of beers. Since I already had quite a bit, and was going to be leaving our truck outside for a week or so while we kayaked, I did not take advantage of the selection. Next time.
We also met fellow kayakers at Tamarack Brewing Company, 231 W Front St. Once again, COVID restrictions were followed: social distancing and masks for the wait staff as well as patrons. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the street, keeping out masks on when not drinking beer. I had a Switchback Stout, a great dark beer.
Missoula, it seems, is geared towards people who want to be outside. We saw many, many jogger/walkers, skateboarders and river surfers. A lot of people walking/jogging wore face masks. We had ours along and put them on when encountering other people. If you look at the map (from Google Maps) you can see all the parks just around the Holiday Inn.
Below is a description of some of the parks.
Bess Reed Park
We actually thought this green space was part of the Holiday Inn at first. Our room overlooked it. We then found out that, although it is small, Bess Reed Park has picnic tables, a paved trail, and some public art. The paved trail keeps going and connects up with other parks. There’s also a non-motorized boat launch for the Clark Fork River, and convenience access for fishing. If you go to the American Whitewater website, you will discover that there have been four incidents of death on that river – all whitewater rafting!
Kiwanis Park provides a variety of activities for the whole family or a relaxing afternoon with friends. The main aim of the park is to provide for both physical and mental needs by outfitting the park with a number of courts for numerous activities and has a playground with slides and swings for the kids. We played pickleball on the tennis courts that are there. While we were there, we encountered a very friendly orange tabby cat who demanded a lot of attention.
Clark Fork Natural Area
As the name suggests, this is a park where native vegetation can be found. A number of people walked their dogs there and, fortunately, animal waste bags were provided.
The main attraction of Caras Park is Dragon Hollow, an all-inclusive play area where children can exercise their minds and bodies together. It is also a place where events, such as weddings, can be held. Unfortunately, because of COVID, the area was cordoned off. It would have been nice to see the kids playing.
Photo from TripAdvisor
Brennan’s Wave is a man-made wave feature that was constructed in memory of a world class kayaker from Missoula, Brennan Guth, who died while paddling in Chile in 2001. The company we kayaked with on the Main Salmon, Tarkio Kayak Adventures, was originally founded in 1997 by Brennan Guth. Brennan’s vision was to create a community for paddlers to come together and enjoy the beautiful rivers of the world.
There are plans to complete a second wave just a few yards from Brennan’s to up the action. Brennan’s Wave brings great surfing into the city limits.
Below are pictures of a plaque dedicated to Brennan.
I posted a video of the river surfers on YouTube. Here is the link:
Missoula is not Austin, but it does have its weird aspect. The photo below shows something Donna found on the side of a store called The Trail Head.
It is apparently the name of a song by Meat Loaf, a band/singer I never got into. However, given COVID, it seemed so appropriate. I looked up the lyrics and here is what stuck out.
The future just ain’t what it used to be
It’s never gonna be like it was
We shopped at The Trail Head, by the way. It is right behind the Holiday Inn. It has a lot of gear for boating, fly fishing, and hiking, but no boats. I learned that they used to sell boats, but when the Marriott Residence Inn opened across the street from the store, parking became scarce. The Holiday Inn, not wanting non-guests to park in its parking lot, responded by gating its parking lot. That made it tough for customers to load boats from the Trail Head. So The Trail Head opened a new shop near a mall that carries all of its kayaks/canoes/rafts.
Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people saying, “Keep Missoula Weird” some time in the future.
Fort Missoula Regional Park
You have to drive to get this park from downtown Missoula but, if you are a pickleball player, it is worth the drive. Since we got to Missoula before we could check into our hotel, we went to the pickleball courts. There are 6 in all, only one of which was in use. After playing “skinny singles,” another couple invited us to play. We were all very COVID conscious, making sure we wiped down the balls with disinfectant periodically.
Photo by Donna Hansen
You only have to go a couple of hours outside of Missoula to see a lot of wildlife. We saw more bald eagles on our trip than I think I have seen in my life. One actually soared 20-30 feet over our kayaks for quite a while. I wish I had captured that on a camera.
While we were on our way to the place we would start our kayak trip, a juvenile big horn sheep wandered in front of our truck. Donna was able to get a picture of it. It seemed to be totally unconcerned that it was standing in front of a big vehicle. It watched us for a while and then moseyed along. We saw another later on. It, too, displayed the nonchalant attitude as the first.
If you are interested in learning more about our kayaking trip, here is a link: