Most people would say Montana is remote. We are now remote in Montana and more remote than most people ever experience in their life. We have been remote before and we like — remote. Here the nearest city is only twenty miles if you flew to get there. Flying to get there from here would require a floatplane or a helicopter. Driving to get here is not easy. Our location is Tally Lake, close on a map and very distant in terms of hard to get to.
We left Idaho on Interstate 90 eastbound on Friday. Our “destination” is Glacier National Park. It is kind of funny to say destination because it really is only a visit, along the way. Glacier promises to be a real high point on our route. Anyway, we crossed into Montana with our first stop in Missoula for the night.
In Missoula, our campsite was at the Big Sky Brewery. Some people, mostly locals, revere the brewery for their craft beer; we are camping outback, within easy flip-flop walking distance to the tasting room. Moose Drool is my favorite of their beers (although I have to say it is not my favorite all-time beer) — it is very good. To get a chance to camp at the brewery was an opportunity not to be missed. As we head south, from Glacier, I intend to stop again. Big Sky Brewery is a Harvest Host location which I discussed in an earlier post. In this case, free camping, good beer, right off the highway – nice.
Tia’s Big Sky
Tia’s came highly recommended (thanks Laura) and Tia’s Big Sky came through big time with outstanding tacos and tamales right in Missoula. We don’t know much about Tia’s Big Sky, but if you are in Missoula Tia’s makes great food. I didn’t expect much given how far Montana is from Mexico, but Tia has the taste dialed in.
Big Miles in Big Sky
We expected to stop again at the south end of Flathead Lake for an additional overnight at another Harvest Host, halfway between Missoula and Kalispell. This stop had to be bypassed because the museum was closed, so we just kept driving. Driving our previous RV it was more difficult to crack off the big miles because the ride was not nearly as nice. I say big miles, but most RVers and all truckers would scoff. Big miles, for us, on this leg was 160 miles, which I was going to break into two legs. Since our host wasn’t answering the phone, we added a day to our stop in Kalispell.
Just south of Kalispell we stopped at Montana Basecamp which is a brand new RV park with easy access to Kalispell and the surrounding area. Basecamp is a converted pasture.
Here is our review of Basecamp in this post — Montana Basecamp.
Not Montana Remote
Kalispell is remote in terms of off the beaten track, except for visitors to Glacier National Park. Really, however, it isn’t remote in terms of the mountains in the west. We had a very nice visit. My reason for stopping here, rather than other places was two special lakes that I saw on a satellite photo. Foy’s lake was ten minutes away to the west. I was intrigued by the color of the water on the satellite picture. Foy’s had crystal clear water and easy access for the kayaks. The picture is at the top of this page.
About forty minutes from Basecamp was Ashley Lake. Since Foy’s lake turned out to be as beautiful as we had hoped, we also went to Ashley Lake for a mid-day paddle. Again, we were treated to crystal clear water and no wind. Getting to Ashley was more difficult than Foy’s, requiring a four-mile drive on a dirt road. One section was wetted by a morning rain shower, mud still cakes the car. Still, the lake was beautiful, and assuming you don’t mind the mud and dust all over the car, the lake was well worth the visit.
We resisted the urge to run directly to Glacier National Park immediately after getting to Kalispell. The urge was strong. The reason is that we wanted to see more than just Glacier. Had we gone straight to Glacier, we would have missed kayaking on these beautiful lakes. We still get to go to Glacier, (tomorrow) and will be camping six miles from the entrance.
So, we went west rather than east. Twenty miles northwest of Kalispell is a glacier-carved lake, named Tally. At the north corner of the lake is the Tally Lake Campground. This is Montana remote. Unlike every lake we visited in northern Idaho, there are no lake houses along the shoreline. The lake is also the second deepest in Montana and although not as big as some of the bigger Montana lakes, or northern Idaho lakes, it is still very big. The shoreline runs eighty miles.
Both the inlet and outlets at Tally are on the north end, meaning that the water doesn’t so much as flow through the lake but rather flows into the lake and sits – forever until it soaks into the ground or evaporates. Foy’s Lake and Ashley Lake are both fed primarily from spring water and are crystal clear – not so for Tally Lake. Since the inlet and surrounding areas have miles of forest in every direction, and since the water comes from runoff – the water isn’t crystal clear like the previous two lakes. The lake has a tea color caused by tannic acid that comes from decomposing vegetation. It is still pretty but in a different way.
Best color is no color
I find watercolor to be very interesting. Clear is the best “color” and creates a deep blue increasing in color with depth. Glacier fed lakes have a silt blue color that also is very nice. Both Idaho and Montana have beautiful lakes. Some of the most beautiful water we have ever seen was at the Blue Pool in Oregon pictured in this post- Tamolitch Falls, Blue Pool. In the Blue Pool, the water was the same color as Windex. The color isn’t everything but it does make a good picture.
If we were more remote we would need a different kind of RV. Or perhaps horses.
Tally Lake is at about the halfway point on Tally Lake Road. You get there from the north by turning south on Tally Lake Road from Star Meadow Road. Or you get there from the southeast by turning west on Tally Lake Road from Farm to Market Road. The easy way, requiring only four miles of gravel road is from the north. All of these roads are National Forest roads and that is where the confusion sets in because Tally Lake Road is either NF 913 or also NF 113 depending on your location. Do not follow your GPS which will take you down Old Tally Lake Road — this road does not lead to the campground or to Tally Lake.
Here is a link to our campsite review of Tally Lake Campground.
The long way is the easy way. The harder way is shorter. Our route from the north only required four miles of narrow gravel road rather than the more direct route that would have been along the lake edge. As it is, the back of our RV and car got quite the dusting. I have washed off the front of the car twice since arrival, just to see out the windshield. There is no reason to wash off the RV or the back of the car, here dust is measured in layers and depth, and it cannot be escaped.
Once in the campground, we still have dust problems, dust is now everywhere. We won’t be coming back here, but I am glad we are here. The final straw is the dust. One and done.
Remote enough for you?
Once you get there, the only lights you will see are the campfires in the campground for about twenty miles. If you need electricity you need to bring it with you, the same for water. The nearest cell service will be found at the top of a mountain to the south after going about ten miles on a forest service double track. (Double track = two tire ruts with grass down the middle)
Not remote enough?
I expected that it would be a great place to view Montana wildlife. It was a tad disappointing in that respect. We did see a snowshoe hare in summer colors and a few still-life turtles. The turtles were very patient subjects for the camera.