In our last post we were spending a few days in Elk Bend, Idaho during the Moose Fire north of Salmon, Idaho. We were unsure if we could continue north as planned to Missoula. We waited it out a few days to see if the wildfire would switch directions, get contained, if the highway would close, etc. We had no idea what was to happen. One morning the wildfire update stated that the wildfire may jump the Salmon River and Highway 93 which was our only way to the north. The highway appeared to still be open so we decided to hit the road quickly and see how far we could get.
At this point the wildfire was burning another 3,000 to 5,000 acres a day and was 0% contained. The hot weather and gusty winds were adding to the spread. There were about 800 firemen fighting the fire and Salmon, Idaho was set up with the fire camp. We saw lots of activity along the road near Salmon and near North Fork (which was evacuated) with fire crews, forest service workers, HotShots (elite group of highly trained personnel to take on wildfires as a crew), pilot vehicles, etc. Salmon was smokey but we have been in much worse wildfires. In the Northwest Territories we were piloted through a wildfire that had fire burning on both sides of the road pretty close to where we were driving. That was scary and we had extremely low visibility.
We thank the firemen profusely for all the work they do to control and extinguish these fires. A heartfelt and giant thank you!
We made it through the worst of it and by the time we were in Gibbonsville the sky was blue and the air was clear. On we drove up the mountain to Lost Trail Pass and into Montana. Lost Trail pass is a ski resort and also has a very nice rest area. Since we left so early that morning with the goal of getting through the wildfire we decided to stop at the rest area and enjoy the nice cool, clear air and have our breakfast. It was delightful to say the least!!
We then started out descent north down the mountain via a steep, windy road with warning signs about the curves and the steep grade. It was a beautiful drive.
A mile or so down the road we came upon a sharp corner with vehicles parked on the shoulder and people standing around. We had no idea what was happening at first and just kept driving. As we passed we could clearly see two motorcycles down, two motorcycles up right, 3 cars, and 2 trucks/campers/trailers. No motorcycle riders were visible and the people standing around were looking over the concrete guard rail over the edge. Not good. We passed a number of emergency vehicles heading up the mountain as we drove on. We didn’t stop because there were already so many people there and there was NOWHERE there to stop. The emergency vehicles needed room too! We hope and pray everyone was all right. It was heartbreaking to see.
We continued north through the beautiful scenery and onto Lolo to fuel up and as we got closer to Missoula we came upon a rainstorm and lots of traffic (AND it was a Sunday). It wasn’t even noon yet and we had endured a wildfire, a motorcycle accident, and a rainstorm. Just another day in the life of RV travel.
We made it into town and to the KOA. Luckily we could check in early and get out of the rain and get settled.
We got to our site by lunchtime and waited out the rain. In a few hours it was sunny and hot again. Too bad the wildfire cannot get some of the rain.
RV Park: Missoula KOA
Location: Missoula, Montana
Site: L03 (pull thru)
Services: FHU (50AMP)
Comments: A typical KOA RV Park but the roads were a bit wider than many of them. It was conveniently located to everything Missoula has to offer and close to I-90 but far enough away to not hear the noise. We had a very pleasant stay.
In typical fashion, the RV park has an abundance of wildflowers and various artifacts that are always interesting to take a look at. There is some shrubbery next to the office with a trail and a sign that says “Shopping”. You walk through the opening and you arrive in the parking lot of a shopping center. How convenient is that.
The RV Park has food trucks that come into the park in the afternoons. The park sends you a text message telling you what truck and the approximate time they will be there. The trucks (one at a time) park next to the office at the “Gathering Place”.
The RV park has lots of pull thrus, back-in, patio sites, and tent sites. The park was almost empty during the days (except for a few of us) and full in the evenings.
The park also offers a number of the cabins and a few teepees and they all looked quaint and charming and seemed to be full every night.
The RV park has a cute little “selfie center” where you can, guess what, take some selfies. Of course we indulged ourselves.
And even more signs and decorations all over the park.
We saw lots of squirrels and a few bunny rabbits that didn’t move if you walked near them. You could just walk over them and they would just keep eating the grass. Obviously habituated!
Fort Missoula is about ten minutes or so from the RV park and has an indoor museum and an outdoor interpretive center. The fort was established by the US Army in 1877 to protect settlers and has a varied history such as being a station for the Buffalo Soldiers traveling by bicycles and later a POW camp during WWII. There are a number of buildings and signs around the area explaining the past. Many buildings you can go into and learn more.
Forestry Interpretive Center
The Forestry service also has an Interpretive Center there where you can wander through a relocated train depot, a sawmill, lots of old machinery, and even a lookout you can climb to view the surrounding area. University of Montana has their Woodsman Team facility there too!
Missoula Iris Society Show Garden
Behind the Fort Missoula museum is a lovely show garden by the Missoula Iris Society. There is a gazebo, benches, gardens, and paths with identification cards for all the Irises. I can’t imagine the place when it is full bloom as it must be gorgeous.
What a great time of year to be in Missoula!