Polebridge really is unique. Its off-grid (everything powered by private generators or solar panels), it has just one shop, but its a great place with a thriving community. The local shop, the Polebridge Mercantile, is something of a legend. Its an old traditional style western shopfront standing by itself, the only apparent change over the years are the two huge solar panels outside.
Inside, its part post office, part astoundingly good bakery, part gift shop, part coffee shop, all in a tiny room. Its always full of local and tourists using it as the local hang out. The bakery is addictive, for two days I lived off its various products. The first thing I ordered was called an ‘au gratin’. The girl behind the counter looked at me strangely. ‘Are you French?’ she asked. ‘Err…. no’ I replied of course. ‘Sorry, its just that nobody every pronounced that right before, everyone here calls them ‘oh grattins’!’
The other great thing about Polebridge is the North Fork Hostel, a simple small place owned by a German immigrant, Oliver, who used to be a regular visitor before taking it over. Its just a simple little place, powered by solar power and gas lights, with an outdoor latrine, but wonderfully cosy and friendly. Every Sunday the locals pop in for a potluck – a real collection of locals, blow-ins and various oddballs. Its also the sort of place where someone can say to you ‘I wouldn’t use the restroom for a little while, there is a black bear sitting beside the door’ and not actually be joking. And yes, someone did say that, and yes, there was a black bear at the door.
Polebridge is actually full of interesting buildings – Montana in general has some beautiful farmhouses and buildings, almost all using local timber. Some are clearly standardised, others reflect the owners ideosyncracies.
I stayed in Polebridge for two days. One was wet, so I just sat in the bakery, drinking coffee and enjoying the pastries, reading one of Olivers great collection of books. The other day was better, and I went for a cycle and hike up into Glacier Park. It is stunningly beautiful, I could easily have stayed there to explore for many days.