Running and Kayaking in Big Sky Country

A couple of years ago, I ran one of my favorite half marathons to date, Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. I never thought of going to Montana and definitely had never heard of Missoula, but I heard it was the race to run in Montana so off I went for a week long summer vacation to Missoula and Glacier National Park.

Race Motivation

I got on the plane in hopes of actually finishing the race, even if it meant crawling. I had been dealing with a pretty bad case of plantar fasciitis for the past few months and really probably shouldn’t have been running a half marathon. But I had been getting ART done on my calf and foot for a couple of months and the doctor said that hiking would actually be something that would help, so since that’s what I had planned for after the race in Glacier National Park, I figured what’s the harm in heading across the country and attempting the race.

I took a very early flight into Missoula on Saturday morning and headed straight downtown to pick up my race bib for Sunday morning’s race and walk around and check out the area. Missoula was beautiful, nothing but fresh clean air with mountains in the distance. Race packet pickup was located near the river and it was so relaxing to sit by the river and watch the people fishing and walking out on the rocks. No walking out there for me, no need to add another injury before the race. With the time change and being that I left Boston fairly early, I was in bed before the sun went down that night, which worked out well since I normally have a hard time sleeping before races.

After a great night sleep I woke up early and drove to the parking lot where they had buses that took us to the start line. While waiting at the start we were able to see the sun rise above the mountains, it was a beautiful sight! It was a good way to start the morning and prepare myself for the beautiful 13.1 miles that lay ahead. This was definitely one of the most beautiful and entertaining courses I have ever run. Nothing but mountains, river, the greenest trees and grass all the way into the cute downtown finish. The locals definitely bring their A-game when it comes to entertaining the runners, how many races will you see a man dressed in a tux playing a grand piano on his lawn for the entire race?

I made it across the finish line in only a little over 3 hours, since my normal time is around 2:45-2:50, that wasn’t that bad considering I walked a lot and stopped quite a few times to stretch out the calves. A couple of friends from my running group here in Boston were running the full marathon and I was determined to make sure I finished the half before they finished the full. They are really fast, so they didn’t finish that far behind me!

At the finish they had free photos and I got to try a beer from Big Sky Brewing, I love trying local beers when I travel.

My foot was screaming in pain after 13.1 miles so after showering and having some food, I spent a good amount of time in the hot tub which helped dramatically. It just so happened to be National Ice Cream Day so I did a quick google search and found out Big Dipper Ice Cream was the place to go for some local homemade ice cream. I drove up and it was crowded so I knew I found a great place. Being that I was in the Northwest I knew I had to have the Huckleberry ice cream, it was the first of many delicious huckleberry flavored foods and drinks I’d have during the trip. When in states like Montana and Idaho definitely indulge in all the huckleberry you can!

After indulging in the ice cream, I knew I had to take a little walk around so my muscles wouldn’t tighten up on me. So I headed downtown to check out the Carousel for Missoula.

This carousel is completely volunteer built. The horses are all hand carved and they are beautiful. What a great thing for the community to build together.

There’s a lot to do in and around Missoula. If I was staying longer, I would have taken a rafting trip down the Clark Fork.

But alas the next morning it was on to my next adventure.

I headed out late morning and the ride was just beautiful, lots of open space and mountains, definitely a different view than driving in Massachusetts. Flathead Lake is a fairly large freshwater lake and it’s beautiful driving around it. I found a great restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the lake and had some lunch. Then I drove further north up the lake to Somers Bay for my kayaking trip.

I took a kayaking tour with Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours. The tour ended up being just me and one of the owners of the kayaking company.

It was a really great tour, since it was just me, we went at my speed and he was able to tell me a lot about the area.

We took the kayaks out for a couple of hours in Somers Bay and saw some Osprey and a birds nest.

We also kayaked out to the remnants of an old pier used by the Somers Lumber Company. The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and also took lots of pictures which were great to receive a few days later.

One of the advantages of taking tours with someone that is so knowledgeable of the area, is they can recommend other things to do or places to eat in the area. I told him that I was heading up to Glacier National Park after the tour and he recommended a great place for me to stop for dinner along the way. He mentioned it was a brewery and that they had great garlic parmesan fries, say no more, I’m there. So after kayaking, I stopped at Backslope Brewing for dinner. This place did not disappoint, the fries were to die for and they had great beer.

After dinner I headed to the West Glacier Motel which was just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. This National Park deserves a whole blog of it’s own so check back next week!

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