Stretching from Columbia Falls to the Canadian border is a 50-mile long piece of road that is known throughout the area as the North Fork road, and the country it meanders through is appropriately named the North Fork. It is named after the North Fork of the Flathead River, which is the western boundary of Glacier National Park, and runs along this primitive road.
The North Fork is well-known for the scenery, the wildlife, the recreational activities, and the remoteness. It is common for those living up there to see a grizzly bear, moose, elk or wolf pass through their “yards.” There are a surprising number of hardy souls who live here fulltime (including Robin’s dad and his wife), battling snow and cold in the winter to get to town (Columbia Falls) once a week. People here are considered to be living off the grid. There are no phones, no power lines. Most people have generators for power and wells for water. Mail is delivered two days a week, if weather permits. It is like stepping back in time and most of the folks up in the North Fork like it that way.
The road itself is unpaved and usually quite bumpy in the summertime, with washboard areas that make your teeth hurt bouncing over them. Snow, however, makes the road smooth as glass in the winter when the snowpack has accumulated. In the spring meltdown, the road can be treacherous due to ice, and chains are absolutely essential during these times. The charm of the North Fork is that it isn’t easy – it isn’t modern day society with all of the luxuries and comforts. For those who need smooth pavement, Walmart and cell phone service, the continental US has plenty of locations like that to choose from, whether buying property or vacationing. The North Fork is not for those who need to be tethered to modern society. So much of the rustic, primitive beauty of the US is buried under asphalt and the views obscured by power lines. The North Fork of Montana provides a rare glimpse back in time that is hard to find anywhere anymore, which is why we always hate to leave it, and miss it so much when we are away.
Mountains here offer a view that you never get tired of, no matter what the season, and every season has its own particular attraction. In the winter, the mountains are huge towers covered with blindingly white snow. The sunlight and clouds passing by create a constantly-changing scene, especially at dawn or dusk when colors of the light change from pink to orange to red. The mountains reflect the light and put on quite a show. In the summertime when the snow has melted away (except for some remnants tucked away in crevices here and there), the range is gray, silver, black, and bluish-green in places, again depending on the quality of the light and the time of day. When the snowcaps are on the peaks in fall and spring, the combination of white and gray gives rise to variations of views that can keep the onlooker entertained for hours. One of our favorite pastimes when we visit the North Fork is to sit on the deck facing the mountains, and watch the scene while relaxing and socializing.
There’s something about the mountain air that invigorates and calms at the same time. The smell of pine forests and the complete lack of pollutants make every breath a joy. The feeling of being in a natural setting that is relatively wild and untouched by people is one that you get used to, and when you have to leave, it feels just wrong somehow. There is a connection to nature in the North Fork that is impossible to find where there are more people, more traffic, more noise, and too much of everything modern. There is peace here, and quiet, and space to expand into and to let the mind roam.
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