Hands down, Bozeman, Montana is my favorite place that I’ve visited thus far. The food was excellent and there were too many good restaurants to even try. There was great hikes in every direction around the town. Other than seeing driveway stakes with 8 foot high poles attached to them everywhere ominously reminding everyone of crazy winters, what’s not to like?
While traveling throughout the rest of central Montana, I spent a night in Helena and then a night in Missoula. Missoula has one of the biggest dog runs I’ve ever seen and it’s awesome. Charlie liked it too.
Since I knew we were going to be spending some up close and personal time with bears, I thought it would be a good idea to learn a little about our furry friends. As it turns out, there are really only 3 types of bears in North America: brown, black, and polar. While polar bears aren’t anywhere near Montana, of the 3, they are the most likely to be a problem if we encountered one. For the most part, bears want just as little to do with humans as humans want to do with bears. The key point is to not appear threatening, but definitely carry bear spray (which is basically just pepper spray). In other words, walk softly and carry a big (?) stick. What you need to worry about with bears is if they charge. If it’s a grizzly bear, they might be faking a charge to see your reaction. If it’s a black bear, you should probably try to kill it if you have the means and it is looking for food. If a black bear sees you as a threat, good luck. And remember, if you are charged by a bear, don’t spray in to the wind and be sure to aim it at roughly 60 degrees because bears charge with their heads down (more reading). This is really all just good life advice.
Lava Lake and Hyalite Canyon
There are so many amazing places to hike around Bozeman. As I was walking around town and finding places to eat, I surveyed people to find out what their favorite places to hike were (since I only had a limited time). The three most popular suggestions were Lava Lake, Hyalite Canyon, and Storm Castle; so I did what I could of all 3. The first picture is Lava Lake. What’s really cool about Lava Lake is that it is one of the few bodies of water deep in the Spanish Peaks that wasn’t formed by glaciers, it was formed by a landslide of the surrounding peaks. Once you get to the top, it’s a beautiful rock laden shore that you can climb all over and hike around for better views. It’s fairly easy to see in some places where the rocks are still sliding from time to time. The second image is from Palisade Falls in the Hyalite Canyon. There is so much amazing stuff in Hyalite Canyon that it would take weeks to get through just a small part of it. But as I typically do, I just went after some waterfalls. And after hiking 2.5 miles out on the wrong trail and ending up in knee deep snow, turned back around, narrowly missing a bear (walked past fresh poop and fresh bear tracks), and running in to a mountain goat, I figured it was a full day. The 500,000 acre canyon itself was named for the mineral Hyalite. But I couldn’t actually find any of it in any place that I went. The last picture is of Charlie at the top of Storm Castle. That was a very vertical hike covering nearly 2,000 feet in under an hour and a lot of fun.
While I went to a whole mess of great food spots in Bozeman, I don’t want to go in to all of them in detail. The first two dishes were both from Montana Ale Works. I had the bison potstickers (bison, because when in Rome) and (with a bad picture because I was hungry) the bison patty melt: 1/2 lb. ground bison on rye, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese and 1000 island. The next morning, I went to the Nova Cafe which calls itself Bozeman’s best breakfast. Their self-proclaimed best dish is the huevos rancheros and I would agree that they do it really well. I just ate it outside on a plastic plate because it meant I didn’t have to wait in line to be seated. The last picture is of 3 of the 4 doughnuts I ate from Granny’s Gourmet Donuts. There are only the 3 because I ate the 4th while waiting in line to pay. Clearly self-control around food isn’t my strong suit. What is in the picture are a vanilla frosted with sprinkles, glazed and a maple pecan stick. All of these doughnuts were so good that I went back and got more the next day.
The bison steak here was prepared by the original Ted’s Montana Grill in Bozeman. Everything I ate there was fantastic. The Ted in the name is Ted Turner, media mogul. The interesting thing about this is that Ted Turner is the second largest land owner in North America (he used to be the largest land owner in North America until recently). He owns over two million acres of land with the stated eventual goal of creating an uninterrupted roaming area for his now 51,000 and growing bison, stretching from Canada down to Mexico. His idea is to do this sustainably and continue creating a business (hence the Montana Grill). Here is an approximate map of his current land ownership.
Montana MMA and Missoula BJJ
Pulling in to my hotel in Bozeman, I spotted an MMA gym right across the street. So I went over and found out when the next jiujitsu class was. I ended up standing around and chatting with some of the folks that train there for nearly 2 hours. They were a great group. When it came to the actual class, there (unsurprisingly) weren’t many people training on a Sunday morning. However, during the open mat, I met another BJJ Globetrotter who recently in St. Barths (where I was in November) and getting ready to move to Bozeman. A few days later, In Missoula, Montana, the gym that I randomly chose was a BJJ Globetrotter’s affiliate gym. Although that one was for a gi class, it was still an awesome time. The owner, Brad, runs a great program at Missoula BJJ. I’ve been incredibly lucky that all the schools I’ve dropped in on have been the type of schools that are chill and that Globetrotters can easily drop in on. The picture here is from Missoula BJJ.
Other than doing some BJJ and eating, I didn’t really do all that much in Missoula. However, Charlie and I spent quite a bit of time in a massive dog run there. There is a 6-acre spot right next to the college called Jacob’s Island Bark Park. While the park is fenced in where necessary, it’s also on an island and therefore bordered by water; or more specifically, the Clark Fork River. This is just a really cool spot where there are lots of dogs, lots of room for them to run, and multiple places for the dogs to cool off on a hot day. Then afterwards we went for a walk downtown and had some great food. I ended up eating some alligator with a bunch of old drunk fisherman at Charlie B‘s bar (the food was made in the back of the bar at the Dinosaur Cafe) and then following it up with some fantastic ice cream from the Big Dipper. These are two places definitely worth stopping in to if you are passing through town.
The whole gallery of pictures from Bozeman, Montana is available on Google Photos.