Renegade Roads

Sleeping in a Dog’s Head

And other unique lodging in the American West.


Nesting in the belly of a beagle, in the cabin of a sternwheeler or in a granary surrounded by flower gardens can give you not only a unique night of lodging, but also a chance to explore the American West and have something to talk about when you get back home.

In my quest to find some beds that are a little out of the ordinary, or in locations that are truly historic, I started on the Northern Plains at the Pipestem Creek Bed and Birding near Carrington, North Dakota, where lodging is in restored granaries (one is a 10-sided structure). The real attraction is the opportunity to explore 700 acres of prime bird habitat and private gardens. This is rural living, with an atmosphere where you can literally listen to the birds sing and smell the flowers. Among the rare bird species you may see while staying here are Baird’s Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Sprague’s Pipit, Le Conte’s Sparrow and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Just five miles from Pipestem Creek you can have more birding opportunities at the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a 40-minute drive from Pipestem Creek, boasts the largest white pelican population in North America.

Pipestem Creek Bed and Birding owner Ann Hoffert has a lifelong knowledge of birding on the Northern Plains and, as president of Birding Drives Dakota, can give great advice on species and where you might see them. Room rates start at $70 per night for two people. (701-652-2623 or 701-650-9002)

Relaxing in a Tipi

Heading west, Browning, Montana, beckons. Here I found accommodation in a Blackfoot camp at Darrell Norman’s Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village. Norman is an artist, and he cooked me a fresh trout dinner while an eclectic group of friends and artists popped in and out of his gallery and home. Then he took me down to my accommodations for the evening. The tipi where I stayed was one of several at the site. Inside was a small fire pit, and since it was a chilly, fall evening, with wind sweeping across the plains, Norman started a fire and shared some Blackfeet stories with me before departing to head up to his house.

I had the lodge to myself, and with only the light of the small fire, I found it relaxing and inviting. I lifted back the heavy buffalo robe and settled into the “bed,” which was a camping mattress and sleeping bag on the ground. (You can take your own sleeping bag and mattress, or rent one at the site.) The Crow’s Nest, just up the hill from the tipi camp, is a guest lounge and dining area. A shower room is also located up the hill from the tipis.

This site gives you a view of north-central Montana’s plains to the east and south, and of the striking peaks of Glacier National Park to the west. Lodging prices start at $75 for two people; meal prices range from $12 to $30.  (406-338-2787)

The works of Blackfeet, Choctaw, Cree, Arikara/Hidatsa and Kiowa-Apache artists, including that of the lodge owner Darrell Norman, are available in the gallery. Various art workshops are held on site, and you’ll have opportunities to see Spanish Mustangs and take a horseback ride or an herbal walk with a Blackfeet guide.

To learn more about Blackfeet culture and history, you should visit the Museum of the Plains Indian, in nearby Browning, or attend North American Indian Days, held the second weekend in July.

Sleeping in a Dog’s Head

My route takes me across western Montana to Cottonwood, Idaho, home of Dog Bark Park Inn, which has...

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