With Glacier National Park behind us and the sale of our house just around the corner, we needed to try to find a campsite closer to downtown. Up until now, we struggled with not having a computer but more importantly no cell phone signal. We decided to try our luck at the closest campground to Whitefish. The Whitefish State Park. We had stopped there once before hoping to get lucky and snag a campsite. However we were told that they were full and were probably going to remain that way all summer, but to check back in about a week just in case. So this time, we popped in to ask about any openings not really expecting that we would get lucky, only to find out they had one that was available. Because this site was not one you could reserve, we were able to grab it and stay there for the maximum, fourteen days.
Throughout all the Montana parks, they allow eighty percent of the sites to be reserved leaving approximately twenty percent open for walk-ins. This is pretty great for people like us who need to stumble in last minute.
Having never stepped foot in Whitefish State Park Campground or read any Yelp reviews, we were surprised when we pulled into our site that it wasn’t quite as nice as we had hoped. It had beach access and showers though and we didn’t need to stress about being homeless for two weeks. That was enough for us.
I don’t recall exactly how many trains we encountered that first day. But when the first one drove through, Ryan and I raised our eyebrows at each other acknowledging this “problem”. It carted through so loudly, you couldn’t even hear the person next to you speaking. I wondered how bad it would be when we slept or if trains even ran through the night. My naive mind thought that surely the neighboring houses wouldn’t live this close to the train if that was the case. Surprisingly, I was wrong.
That first night in campsite #17, was terrifying. I believe there were a number of these over sized gigantic double decker freight trains. Although I cannot remember the exact number. Maybe four or five. They didn’t blow their horns. They just rumbled. The ground underneath us shook violently and somehow the alarming sound of the engines and screeching of the rails echoed twice as loud inside our tent causing my six year old to roll over to me and grab on scared out of his wits.
And that was apparently a good night. One particularly rough night, and I will always remember this one well, there would be eleven trains passing through. Eleven!!!! Needless to say, none of us slept a wink including our two year old son.
There is one funny story to come out of this experience. If you have been following this blog, by now you know that my 2 year old has this intense fascination with trains. So each time he would hear one coming he would yell out “choo choo!” Now, even in the middle of the night he would yell,” choo choo!!!” Normally I would freak out if he yelled like this in the campground. But here, I guess the positive was that the trains were so loud, that no one could hear a damn thing. So I didn’t have to worry about waking the neighbors. I just let that boy yell without a care in the world.
There were a couple of other positives of staying at the campground. One was being able to work in the downtown library. There had been a little progress on the Bed and Breakfast front. We were waiting for our house back in Oakland to sell. In the meantime, we were feeding information to our Inn Adviser and our SBA Account Representative who were both helping us build our 40 page business plan. (It really is shocking to see what all goes into these things).
We were also working on a purchase agreement with our lawyer so that we could start pushing for a closing date.
The contract signing process struggled with a few delays, which included people taking vacations and financial documents needed by the seller that were not easily attained. Finally, by mid August we had a signed contract and a signed addendum for an additional $100K in owner financing. These additional funds would be our cushion for capital improvements and to carry us through our slow seasons for the first year or so. All we needed to do now was sit back and wait for the SBA backed bank to grant us the loan. This type of loan has a 30 day waiting period. We were looking at possibly owning our very first Bed and Breakfast by September 15th or if we were lucky, even earlier.
What eventually made our stay at Whitefish State Park an enjoyable one, despite the trains, were the encounters we had with people we met while camping. This is really why I love camping. It’s so fun to meet people from all over the world. People who are typically like-minded. Just there to have a great time in the woods.
There was this one couple from Tennessee who were biking their way from Banff National Park through Whitefish to Glacier National Park. They were bike packers. They rode with small tents and the essentials right on their bikes. The idea is you bike long miles slowly, taking in the sights with plenty of stops along the way. Their plan was pretty successful except that the wife found out that she was pregnant only days before leaving. She was feeling really tired and couldn’t make it up to Glacier National Park, so they decided to call it quits after reaching the state park. She felt terrible that she couldn’t finish the leg. Her husband of course, totally understood. But he was hoping to get out one last day to put a few more miles in. Luckily for Ryan, it just so happened to work out that they could ride that last stretch up to Glacier together. It was a seven hour day, 107 miles. Shockingly, this was Ryan’s first time ever riding this many miles (if you can believe that).
We met a few other travelers who all had cool stories too. One guy brought with him his two teenage sons and their mountain bikes. They take these amazing trips all over the country every year together. They were visiting from Berkeley, CA. Just a few minutes from our old house! We shared beers, stories and enjoyed the campfire under Montana’s big sky…..oh and not to forget we also endured the annoying and never ending sounds of the freight train blowing by together (chuckle).
(to be continued….)