Small and Mighty Town

Nestled in a broad valley between two ranges in the Montana Rockies resides a town, built by miners and ranchers, and hit as hard or harder than many in this country by recent economic trends. Phillipsburg, Montana doesn’t look much different from any other small collection of buildings. On closer examination the visitor will find obvious differences.

After turning from the state road onto the main street, the visitor sees a sign that screams a blatant sense of humor. Not far away is the punch line to the joke. Of course, the visitor will probably never get a local resident to admit to it being a joke. It isn’t.

Several examples of fun and whimsical architecture enliven the main street, with color and design.

Meticulous sculptures peek out from positions among the buildings. Historical markers give lessons to those who stroll along on a mild afternoon.

Mysterious doors lead to unknown realms, taunting and flirting with passersby, silently daring a closer examination.

The Quilt Guild takes possession of one of the Halls for a month, delighting visitor and local alike. A second-hand store does a brisk business a few doors down, stuffed with treasures gleaned from who-knows-where.

It’s the people, though, that make this town a special place. They are the friends you didn’t know you’d missed until you met them, the ones that smile and ask you how long you can stay, ones who laugh when you ask if an item really costs so little.

These people do something about a problem when it’s brought to their attention and do it together. Recently a news story was filmed about this little town that wouldn’t give up its right to be happy. Take a moment and watch and discover who lives in Phillipsburg, Montana and decide for yourself if seeing such a place is worth the effort.

During one short afternoon you can go to a hometown that you didn’t know you had, learn the name and lineage of a resident’s dingo, and wonder why more places aren’t like this anymore.

For more information on Phillipsburg and the surrounding area, go to:  or   or

Scent of Romance

If you drive up Hwy. 101 on the east shore of the Olympic Peninsula during late summer, you’ll come to lavender farms along the way. The south of France isn’t the only place claiming capital status on the lavender business. Join the many visitors who experience these luscious smelling farms each year in Western Washington.

The Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm is one example of the kind of afternoon excursion you can anticipate. The farm borders Hwy. 101 a few miles south of Sequim, WA. The main entrance welcomes the visitor with a profusion of blossoms and lush plantings that whet your appetite for more visual goodies to come. A hundred yards further the drive delivers you to the main building and flower gardens of the farm.

Lavender-scented air greets you as you step from your vehicle. In every direction you’ll see beds of flowers; corral roses cuddle with brighter nasturtiums, purple Echinacea tries to lord it over the simple Euphorbia inches away, scarlet crocosmia startles the viewer as it bursts from the greenery. Bountiful hardy fuchsia puts forth thousands of tiny Chinese lanterns to brighten the leaves holding them captive.

These enticing and whimsical beds of blossoms distract the visitor for only moments before visual focus moves outward onto row after row of lavender in bloom. The rounded purple rows of waving stems of the fragrant herb snare the eye and the mind.

Seen en masse, the herb appears blurred, as if the colored wands were trying to paint everything around them. A sense of peace flows from both visual and olfactory sensations. The desire to touch, fondle the delicately blossomed stalks, near overwhelms one’s discretion.

There need be no fear of indiscretion. Under a canopy sits smaller potted plants for taking home. Other available culinary and fragrant herbs also share space in the shade. Attendants are willing and eager to talk about the farm, the products, and the joy of doing what they do each day.

Inside the main commercial building are many products that use those tiny purple blossoms as ingredients. Soaps, lotions, perfumes, and sachet name only a few of the creative ways this herb can be taken home as a souvenir from the farm where it was grown.

Spending an afternoon down on this farm is an exercise in pure sensory delight. Be sure to take the opportunity to stop in and partake of a walk through tranquility and fragrance in the scented sunshine of an Olympic lavender farm.

 For additional information go to:

Beards Hollow: No Disappointment

Any time you drive down the Pacific side of the Olympic Peninsula, take the time to slow down with a visit to Beards Hollow State Park just outside of Long Beach. The Park is for exploration, contemplation, and getting in touch with your natural side. Here’s an example of what you’ll find.

When you enter the Beards Hollow State Park the impression is one of quiet, moist nature walks. There are plenty of those within the bounds of the Park. Still lily ponds entice the visitor to pause and reflect on their lives as well as the sky’s mirror. Delicate yellow blossoms peak up from the foliage to wave at the viewer. Birdsong echoes through moss-covered trees to remind you of the outside world.

Other visitors may whiz by you on their bikes. Don’t be alarmed. Wish them a Bon Voyage as they trek along the Discovery Trail, which winds its way through the Park from Long Beach to Cape Disappointment, and on to Ilwaco and the Coast Guard Station.

Allow yourself to take the slow road for a while as you stand on a wooden bridge to look across the intervening vegetation that occludes the sea. It was less than 150 years ago that the sea came all the way into the position of that bridge. Time and silt, breezes and seeds on the wind have filled in the former inlet.

Take a stroll down the paved path to the beach. Pause to admire the hidden lily ponds. Study the lushness of the hillsides, and know that if that lushness disappeared tomorrow, it would take little time for it to return with the prevailing climate of the rain-forested area.

Pass under nature’s arches. Look at the small offerings along the way. Breathe deep and let your mind wander toward possibilities.

Short cliff sides rise on the right. Native succulents cling to cracks so they can show off their colors. At the dunes driftwood stops you in your tracks. This one can give the visitor a vignette view of the sea simply by looking through its eye.

Fog rolls in, sometimes without warning. Early morning in August often finds misty beaches like Beards Hollow. The day’s temps are warm, but fog can linger to add of subtle chill to the dune side experience.

When you return to your car, think about exploring Cape Disappointment on the next prominence south of the Park. You won’t be disappointed. Between the lighthouse and the views, another chapter in your visitor’s book will be completed.

Try the links below to help decide when you’ll take a walk or ride on the Pacific’s edge.

Discovery Trail from Long Beach, WA, through Beards Hallow State Park, Cape Disappointment, and across to Ilwaco and the U.S. Coast Guard Station. Link:

Beard’s Hollow State Park link:

Discovery Trail: a different view. Link:


There’s Room at the Inn

After getting a few things done this past Monday morning, BJ and I decided to take a little jaunt for relaxation and exploration. We do that as frequently as possible as a kind of recharging of the creative batteries. One of the things we also do is drive along a road that we’ve not explored.

We knew that we wanted to go up to Goat Lick, which is a spot just outside the southern boundary of Glacier Park where Rocky Mountain Goats congregate on a regular basis. We also knew that the little town of Essex came before Goat Lick. Our tentative plan fell into place.

Gas, food, sunshine, and a road to lead us. What more could a person want?

Tourists are moving out. The steady stream of outgoing adventurers makes way for those who come from closer locations, as well as those who wish to see parks like Yellowstone and Glacier in the autumn. Meeting visitors is inevitable and the only requirement for successfully dealing with the situation is to take the time to proudly bestow one’s local knowledge to those looking for it. It saves nerves and patience supplies.

The Essex entrance on the south side of Hwy. 2 tends to sneak up on a driver. We were looking for it and had no trouble, though. The winding, forested road took us past mountain homes of all descriptions, some very elaborate. At the end of the main road we entered the parking lots of Izaak Walton Hotel and Resort (formally Izaak Walton Inn) and came to an abrupt halt.

The Tudor style Hotel on our right commanded our attention and admiration. Until that moment we’d not known that such a place existed. Color us delighted.

Delight expanded our horizons when we looked to the left and saw train cars ready for perusal. A caboose, freshly painted red with the Great Northern Railroad logo on the side sat at the edge of the parking lot, tempting the visitor to come see.

Straight ahead stood a pavilion to shade and welcome those who simply wanted to rest and socialize outdoors. To its left loomed an engine, painted blue and white with entrance deck platforms at either end.

They were, in short, a railroad enthusiast’s playground.

Never let it be said that we don’t take advantage of an opportunity when we find it. BJ pulled in, parked, and grabbed camera before we’d seen half of it from the street. She’d guessed what I had. Those rail cars and engines were guest accommodations. What a treat for a visitor staying for a few days.

The active rail lines pass behind the hotel. The town’s history boasts of being a railhead with accommodation for travelers and Glacier park visitors moving from coast to coast along the nation’s highline. If original Inn gave half the amenities as the current one, those were blissfully fortunate travelers.

Dotted among the trees across the tracks to the south and up the mountainside are cabins for families and larger groups. The log cabins come with everything needed for a stay but the human component. They certainly looked comfy.

We finished exploring the small town and moved on to Goat Lick. No goats were visible. The afternoon had turned too warm for them to be anywhere but in the shade. We did meet a couple from Washington State, though, who’d just come from Yellowstone. They were driving on to East Glacier and the Many Lakes area for that night. BJ was the one who recommended Many Glacier as a destination for their desired uses of camping and hiking, as well as photography.

As we turned back toward home, photos in the camera, excitement about new knowledge and a new haunt, we had to congratulate ourselves again for choosing to travel a road we’d not explored before. We’d learned, enjoyed, and come away refreshed.

For anyone who’d like to stay near the park in luxury with lots of amenities, check out Izaak Walton (Hotel) Inn and Resort. You can find all the necessary information at:


Deciding on a Destination

The following will give you a taste of our options on any given day. 

Whether sitting on the sidelines of a summer’s skydiving competition or admiring classic cars/boats at shows, Kalispell, Montana has a bit of everything for visitors. The well-appointed downtown area expands to include museums, public library, eateries, and other businesses.

Early morning can arrive in splendor, surprising resident and visitor alike. A hot-air balloon can sail past your window just after sunrise with only an occasional distinctive burner burst to catch your attention. Any day can be a day of unknowns and adventure for those who look for them.

Need to get out of doors to see the countryside but don’t want to brave the peaks in Glacier National Park or the tourists?  Consider any destination within a one hundred mile radius of Kalispell to tickle your fantasies.

For instance, travel to Libby in early to mid-September for the annual NordicFest. Scandinavian pioneers founded logging town. The three day event tantalizes the soul with varied activities for children and adults alike. From quilting to crafting, logging exhibitions to equestrian shows, and good food, Libby can supply your needs during the Fest.

North of Libby sits Eureka, a small northwestern town on the Canadian border. The Roosville customs station will allow you to travel into that country provided you have the proper identification. A passport will always get you across the border.

 From there you can go into Canada (with proper papers) or drive east-southeast along Hwy 93 to Whitefish. Big Mountain Ski Resort is open for both summer and winter. Activities vary by season but always entertain with thrilling daring-dos. If you like snow sport, fly in for a week of snowballs and ski runs. If luge is more your “speed”, you can find that, too. Hiking and other summer activities keep visitors pumped in warmer weather.

Those who would rather spend an afternoon window shopping, gallery haunting, or taking a snack at a quaint Bistro, Big Fork on the east side of Flathead Lake on Hwy. 35, is the ticket.  The town is built at the confluence of the Swan River and Flathead Lake.

Its Repertory Theatre Company sparkles on stage with its productions, dramatic or musical. Like Whitefish, Big Fork is heavily weighted toward the Arts and has many renowned representatives to prove it. The offerings in this modern, yet quaint, lakeside town change constantly but never lessen in value.

Whether you choose to travel far from Kalispell’s hub, or just down the road to Smith Lake for some quiet time at dawn or dusk, surprises abound and satisfactions are many.

 Any visitor can ask a local about places to go and things to do, regardless of the desired outcome. That’s one things we’ve learned in the past several years. Locals love to take about their home areas. And if you just want to relax, ask the guy down on the dock where you can get needed items for join him for a while.You, too, could catch a freshwater salmon.