In late January, I had the pleasure of driving Duncan Chisholm, a first-time visitor to Montana, and the Missoula area, on a custom-designed tour of places in the Mission Valley. The National Bison Range (NBR), our first stop, was followed by the Ninepipes Lodge restaurant (aka Allentown), then a stop at the St. Ignatius Mission church and finally, a somewhat impromptu stop at the Huckleberry Patch in Arlee, MT on the return trip.
Wildlife viewing in Montana can be as unpredictable as the animals themselves, and what may appear to be a bison on a hillside, can actually turn out to be a large, dark rock; much like a bear, sitting on a mountainside for a time, often turns out to be a tree stump, and so on... It happens a lot while traveling around Montana, and happened that day with Duncan, as we drove through the range, and joked about animals disguised as rocks, and the government shutdown affecting how the NBR was then unable to 'pepper the hillsides' with bison for our viewing pleasure. So, while the wildlife at the NBR were not particularly 'cooperative' that day, staying largely out of view and up the mountainside, with binoculars in-place, a couple of bison were spotted way up on the hillside, as well as several grazing whitetail deer, down below.
While my newsletters are often written sharing my perspective of this wondrous place we live in, I thought I would share Duncan's experience here, transcribed into an interview-style blog article, to give you all Duncan's unique perspective on his visit to Missoula, MT and his experience with his custom MTAS tour...
Me: Where are you from and/or where did you travel from before arriving in Missoula?
Duncan: Originally, Wellington, New Zealand, but I live in Portland, OR these days.
Me: What brought you to Montana and/or what brought you to Missoula?
Duncan: I had a spare weekend and am keen to explore different parts of the US. Missoula is a quick flight from Portland too.
Me: Was the state and/or city of Missoula what you expected before arriving?
Duncan: I didn’t have a completely clear expectation before arriving. I was a bit surprised that the population was under 100,000. I expected a university town with a chilled, relaxed vibe and Missoula certainly was that!
Me: What did you enjoy most about your visit to Montana, and Missoula?
Duncan: Being a Kiwi, I’ve love the outdoors. Although I came in the middle of winter, I enjoyed the feel of the town and enjoying Big Sky country.
Me: What kinds of activities did you participate and/or what places did you visit while exploring Missoula / Montana?
Duncan: I tried to fit a lot into 2 days and 3 nights. I started off with a visit to downtown and the Missoula Art Museum, followed by a walk along the river to the University of Montana. Managed to catch a basketball game (Go Griz!) at the Adams Center which was pretty cool. A highlight was a a visit to the National Bison Refuge. Sheila said we saw two bison (but they could have been rocks – they were far away) which was pretty cool. Also, a visit St Ignatius Mission is definitely worth the time. I enjoyed visiting a few of Missoula’s breweries too.
Me: Why did you choose the places we visited / what drew you to the places we visited during your custom tour?
Duncan: I’d never seen a Bison (and perhaps I still haven’t) so the Bison Range was a must.
Me: Would you likely plan a return to Montana, and if so, where would you like to go / what would you like to see next in our state?
Duncan: I’d love to come back in spring/summer/fall and head out into the country side a bit more. Glacier National Park would be great to visit.
Me: Have anything else to share about your experience here?
Duncan: Sheila is an awesome tour guide and great fun to talk with.
Thank you, Duncan!
Sheila is an awesome tour guide and great fun to talk with.