The Beauty of Northwest Montana… and some Lawnmower Races

We really enjoyed our time building in Libby two summers ago but the kindness of the people and the great community aren’t the only reasons: this corner of Montana is absolutely gorgeous. Even our in-town morning and evening dogwalks following Parmenter Creek through mixed forest and meadow are scenic:

Though we didn’t do much in the way of serious hiking this visit the forested mountains and the glacial blue Kootenai River still featured heavily in our weekend excursions. We took trips north into the Kootenai National Forest, both east and west along the gorgeous Kootenai, out to Lake Koocanusa, and more. We re-visited some our favorites, but we also covered some new ground:

And speaking of favorites we of course went back to Kootenai Falls, a series of dramatic drops in a gorge of compressed sandstone and shale. Wave or ripple marks can be seen in some places here as can fossilized mollusks and algae that date back well over a million years ago when what is now Montana was covered in shallow sea. Even without inspecting the rock for fossils, the narrow gorge through which the Kootenai rares is impressive for the layers and ledges that channel the churning azure water.

We choose to walk both downstream and up this visit, exploring the forest on the far side of the Swinging Bridge as well. Because releases from Libby Dam at the mouth of Lake Koocanusa control the flow, the water levels in the gorge change regularly, revealing new treasures or frothing wildly over rock,and altering the appearance of the river in general. This visit the water levels were definitely up and the river raced down the channel, pouring over the falls with a greater intensity on its way downstream.

In addition to our outdoor excursions we also had a few evenings spent with friends Jan and Steve whose time in Libby overlapped ours. We of course had some beers at the local brewery, Cabinet Mountain Brewing, enjoying the staple Ross Creek Red as well as the seasonal Smokejumper Jalapeno Hefe. Together we also attended Libby Logger Days – a cross between a fair and an educational reminder of the region’s culture of forestry – on two nights, once to watch a logger competition and one night to watch the lawnmower races. Oh yes, there were lawnmower races, souped-up riding mowers screaming onto around the track, holding the turns as best they could while traveling at speeds they were not designed for. With multiple divisions and races it was a solid half hour of nonstop laughing and screaming as we cheered on our chosen speed demons. I think the crowd favorite – and ours – was 17-year old Jazy who was doing her best not to spin out on her new, higher-powered machine while competing against some cagey veterans but the most laughs definitely went to Richard who, as the announcer commented, had a hell of a lean.