Smoke Jumpers, Bikes and Breweries

Missoula's old train Depot along the Riverfront Trail
Tamarac Brewing

So far Missoula has proven to be a real treat. Sunday we headed to the downtown area to check out one of the local microbreweries that had great reviews, Tamarack Brewery. This sits right next to the Carousel Park overlooking the river. When we pulled into the parking area and there was a small farmer’s market and craft show going on. This was handy since I was planning on going to the grocery store on our way back to the rig. There weren’t many vendors but they had several things that I needed. Yea!! After a little shopping it was time to check out the brewpub. John was excited because they had an Imperial Stout and he says it was excellent, for me they had an unfiltered Amber that I found to be exceptional. We also ate here and the food was also excellent. It gets 5 stars from us all the way around. So if you find your self in Missoula and you need a bite to eat and a place to quench you thirst, Tamarac Brewing is the place to go.
Riverfront Trail

Also downtown we were able to get a look at their bike trail. They had a local visitor center stand set up at the market so we were able to talk and get a little more info on the trail system. Monday we headed downtown with our bikes and rode the Riverfront trail on both sides of the river. It goes from the University of Montana west along both sides. There are other branches that take off from there but the signage was confusing. We ended up on the Milwaukee trail pass. We decided to turn around when the sky began to look threatening and we could see it raining in the distance. It never did rain so we cut our bike ride short for nothing. Oh well, another day. It left us with time to check out a brewpub that my niece Mary  told us about called the Iron Horse. It is not a microbrew but does have some of the local brews from Big Sky Brewery and Bayner Brewery on tap. The food was good but both the food and brew are better at Tamarac.

This is the gear they wear, weighs about 100 lbs.

Sewing their suits and packs
Yesterday we just hung out around the house and it did finally let loose with a good rain. We’ve had so few storms this year it was actually nice to hear the thunder. Like many places in the country it is very dry here. The mountains are in a haze from all the forest fires. Today we visited the Smoke Jumpers Visitor Center and Operations center. Sandie had recommended this tour and I’m glad she did. When we got there we did hear the alarm go off but didn’t get to see them leave. The tour was given by a second year smoke jumper. The guided tour takes you through the area where they sew their own suits and packs, where they check, repair and pack their chutes, the operations desk and the ready room. Outside we were able to see inside one of the planes and watch two tankers get refueled and loaded with fire retardant to take off for one of the many fires going on out there. If you get a chance to visit this center or one of the others in the west I’d highly recommend it. I think the thing that impressed me the most is that these smokejumpers learn every aspect of what they do including sewing the equipment. Their suits and packs are made onsite. They also are the ones that check their chutes for repair and each jumper packs his own chute. Now that’s quality control, when you know your life depends on the quality of your work it makes a difference. I read a novel about smoke jumpers a few years ago by Nora Roberts, I think I’ll go back and reread it now that I’ve seen this center. I know they are having a very busy year.

The ready room. They get dressed and ready to do in about 2 min.

Operations desk, names in yellow on right are the ones out working
on the right are the names in order of who goes next.

Where the chutes are hung to be checked prior to repacking

Where the chutes are packed.

This guy is repairing a chute

Tanker being refueled and loaded with retardant

Inside the jump plane

On our way home we stopped at the taproom of Big Sky Brewery. This is a more well known brewery in Montana and I discovered their Moose Drool last year in North Dakota and we have since found it many places. I love the names of their beer - Trout Slayer, Scape Goat, Slow Elk Stout, along with the Moose Drool.  They let you have 4 tastings free each day and you can fill a growler here too. We just had our tasting and got to look into the brewery from some viewing areas. It was a short sweet visit. 

Not sure what we will do the next couple days but there are two festivals going on in the area this weekend. One is in Hamilton, south of here, and it is a Scottish - Irish festival that looks great and I think we will take it in on Saturday and then on Sunday we may head back downtown for the Roots Fest. There are a lot of activities and music planned for that one. Should make for an enjoyable weekend. 

Happy Tails...................................


  1. Glad you're having a great time. Those smoke jumpers are sure getting a workout this year. Smoke was horrible coming back from Billings yesterday.

  2. A friend on the Women's RV forum just posted this and I thought you might be interested

    "if you are still close to Missoula, there is an area a little north and I think it was the Bison Range. Well worth the very short trip, we stayed at Jim and Mary's RV park in Missoula and went and toured the area. It is a one way road that winds up to the top of a mountain and it breath taking. You are up there with the bears, and the bison (right beside your car) and the views from the top are absolutely beautiful. Need to take your toad, not RV if you have one. Tight turns and climbs."
    Might be something to interest you.

  3. ummmm... I say Scottish - Irish festival...

  4. Another great place My notebook is getting full of all these places.
    We like Moose Drool too. George and I are big fans of Scottish/Irish festivals and go to the one that they have in our area. I love bagpipes :)

  5. I read that Nora Roberts book, too. Thank goodness there are people willing to jump into those fires! We've never been to that part of the country. Definitely on the list of places to go. Enjoy!

  6. Thanks for the tours and tips on things to see in Missoula. It's always been one of our favourite spots to visit as well.

  7. It sounds like you are finding plenty to do in Missoula. We also enjoyed the city when we visited a few years ago but you have scouted out a lot more activities than we did.


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