30 September 2014

The "Last Great Place" in the World {Yaak, Montana}

Scott and I have had a lot going on lately tending to some family matters in Coeur d'Alene, so we haven't been able to get out and about as much as we would normally like. So, when we go the chance to escape for a day, we jumped up and down with excitement like two little puppies playing tug-of-war with your expensive shoes which you just bought the day before. Maybe you can relate to that?

We've been back in the States long enough now to have been completely re-indoctrinated into the belief that burning fossil fuels and driving our car long distances for no apparent reason is a noble and patriotic pursuit. {It probably helps that gas is so much cheaper here then when we lived in Scotland and New Zealand.} So, armed with a full tank of gas and maps of Idaho and Montana, off we went. First stop - a big, greasy breakfast. Because if you're going to sit in a car for over 12 hours and engage in as little physical activity as possible, then you should make sure you consume as many calories as you possibly can before setting out. 

After unbuttoning my pants just a little bit to make room for all the pancakes I ate, we headed off through Sandpoint and Bonner's Ferry towards the Idaho and Montana border and made our way to Yaak in northwest Montana. Yaak is known as the "last great place", at least according to the people of Yaak. It is pretty remote and rugged with most of the land owned by the Forest Service. The few people who live out this way probably like the fact that it is a remote and rugged place. It helps to keep the outsiders away. I imagine many of them live off the grid and would prefer as little interference from government in their lives as possible. 

To get to Yaak from North Idaho, take Highway 2 across the border to Highway 508 and follow the river. Be sure to stop at the Yaak Falls and take in the views. By the way, yaak means "arrow" in the language of the Kootenai Indians.

While you're there, watch out for bears. A friend of Scott's loaned us some bear spray for our travels, just in case. He told us that he has seen tourists spray the stuff all over them like mosquito repellant. I'm scared of bears, but not that much.

After the falls, keep heading up the road. When you arrive in the town of Yaak (it is a "don't blink or you'll miss it" kind of place), you'll want to stop and have cold drink. You have a choice between the Dirty Shame Saloon or the Yaak River Tavern & Mercantile. While the Dirty Shame Saloon was tempting (after all, it does have a 24/7 shower and laundromat for hunters available), we ended up heading over to the Yaak River Tavern because it sits along the Yaak River. I like it when an establishment has a straightforward name that tells you exactly what to expect - like views of the Yaak River.

I love how they serve beer in mason jars at the Yaak River Tavern. I had an IPA (as I usually do) and Scott tried some of the Irish Death. I thought the beer was great, he thought it was just so-so. But we both agreed that the views of the Yaak River were fabulous.

This cute little fellow came up to say hi and hang out. 

The days have been gorgeous lately. Very little rain with the sun shining shining brightly practically every day. I was glad I wore my camouflage hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. With hunting season open, I was also hoping it would help me blend in and look more like a local. But I think the fact that I kept staring at the camouflage covers on the bar stools and the taxidermy on the walls kind of gave me away. Scott saw a real, live moose the other day on the side of the road. The only kind I ever seem to see are on walls.

After you've finished your beer, there isn't too much more to explore in Yaak, but you'll want to check out the community hall, which was built by residents in 1925. Log construction is very popular in this part of the States. 

After that, make sure you stop at the Boyd Hill Cemetery. Boyd was an early trapper and prospector and the first person to be buried at this site. I love exploring old cemeteries and I've seen quite a few in my day, but this one has to be one of the most interesting I've ever run across. It isn't one of those formal sort of places with expanses of mowed lawns and tidy, uniform graves that you normally run across. While there are some more traditional headstones set among the pine trees, there are also a number of homemade markers and many of the grave sites are quirky and individualistic, which probably reflects the type of folks who live in the area.


I like this one for "Piss Fir Jim". Notice the fir trees and the chainsaw? Although he had a short life, I bet it was an interesting one.

Yaak might be a bit off the beaten track, but it sure is one of the last great places in the world. You should try to get there before everyone else finds out about it.

We made it to the last great place in the world on 18 September 2014.

Linked up to Travel Tuesday with Bonnie  CamilaJessi, and Amy


  1. Hi Ellen,
    I love that part of the world- a little biased as I was born in CD'A
    Nice read.

    1. Wow - a native of CDA! I love this part of the world too. So beautiful, interesting people and some great microbrews. What more could you want?

    2. It does look like a beautiful part of the world, Maybe I will get there some day.

    3. Knowing your family's love of travel, I'm sure you will get there one day :-)

  2. I wish we were somewhere cool like this right now. It looks wonderful.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Susie! It was a wonderful place to visit. Too bad, you can't get there on a sailboat :-)

  3. As a Montana native, I love seeing posts about Montana! It's funny that almost every town (including my hometown) claims themselves as the "Last Best Place." I think the whole state kind of claims it :) and sometimes, I even agree. I love your photos! Thanks for giving me a piece of home!

    1. I think Montana could probably get away with declaring the whole state as the "last best place" :-) Have you been to Yaak before?


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