The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #42


A reader writes:

Let's see ... US-style handicapped parking and Do Not Enter signs, wind-whipped snowy mountains, superwide two-lane streets to accommodate heavy snowfall in what appears to be the densest local development, and faux-Austrian architecture.  This could be any small mountain town in the Rocky Mountain states, but I'll have to go with Gunnison, Colorado, which sits in a valley surrounded by bare mountains.

Another writes:

Big sky with cirrus clouds and snow on the mesa look like the Mountain States.  Semi-arid; dormant deciduous trees look planted. The streets look wide enough to be a town square, so maybe it’s a county seat.  Overhead contrails, so maybe it's under one of the main high-altitude jet ways, which often follow the interstates.  I’m guessing it’s a small city off I-25 or I-80 in Colorado, Utah, or Wyoming.  Just for fun, I’m going with 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way, Green River, Wyoming, because I think the hill in the background could be a disguised view of a landmark there called Castle Rock, and the yellow painted curbs look like the ones shown downtown in that city on Google Earth.


It could be any of a number small cities in the western US that abut barren, front-range mountains. If it's a recent picture, then it's some place where winter is abating but still present, which rules out the Southern states. The sidewalks, streets, lamps and signs all make it look somewhat prosperous. The building in the upper right could be an apartment building or a dorm, so I'm going with a college town. Provo, Utah?


Man, can this contest get any harder?

The only identifying feature for me is the hill in the background, which reminds me of going to school at Washington State University (go Cougs!).  The campus is in the eastern part of the state sometimes referred to as the Palouse, an area heavy with agriculture, small towns and incredible scenes of rolling hills that go on forever.

However, there are buildings in this picture that seem to indicate the town isn't that small (that bland multi-story white building on the right is a bit of an oddity - a hospital? a prison? a dorm?).  And what's with the green paint around the edges of the window we're looking through?

So based on the ridiculously small number of clues here, I'm guessing a street scene in a small to mid-sized American city located somewhere near either Spokane or Boise.  Or maybe out to Montana.  What the hell, throw in Wyoming too.


The traffic signs are obviously American.  Somewhere fairly rural, dry and mountainous but not in the heart of the Rockies. There are some dome-like mountains near Bozeman, Montana, so I will go with that.  Let’s say 636 Main Street. (I consider myself a VFYW purist, so no protracted Google Earth search for me.  Ok, I’m just too lazy.)

Montana it is. Another:

This is definitely in the United States, probably the northern US, and judging by the geography I'd say it's out West somewhere.  I'll say Butte, Montana ... am I close?

Yep. Another:

I am a native Montanan and recognized the distinctive hills of Missoula immediately. It looks like it's finally spring there!


Missoula is a bright, welcoming town in Western Montana, home of the Universisty of Montana. Thanks for a picture of Big Sky Country!


Specifically, the view is looking ENE from the SW corner of Ryman St and West Front St.  It looks to be from the second building from the corner, from the second floor window. The field of view is indicated on the attached pic:

Missoula 1


On a hot day last July, these streets were filled with young people in bathing suits, carrying inner tubes for a dip in the nearby Clark Fork River.


At this very moment, there is a rally going on at this location protesting the raids by the DEA on medical marijuana growers and clinics across Montana last week.


I remember from the two times I've been to Montana the treeless hills that surround some of the towns along I-90. They stand out in my memory because some of them have large letters on the slopes. A quick Google image search identified Mount Jumbo as the mountain in the background of the photo (it has a large "L" on the slopes). A Bing bird's-eye search found the distinctive roofs of buildings nearby and pinpointed the intersection as that of Ryman Street and West Front Street:



I live in Minnesota, but for years I had a vacation home in Swan Valley, north of Seeley Lake, MT, about 80 miles in the direction this photo was taken. We often drove into Missoula, so I immediately recognized "Mt. Jumbo" in the background of the photo. This mountain is particularly famous in the Missoula area because of the "Big L" on its face. This is actually in your picture, but it's hard to make out. I downloaded your photo, enlarged it quite a bit, improved the brightness, and bingo, there's the "Big L", clear as day (go here for a close-up). That "Big L" is for Loyola Sacred Heart High School, and stands as a landmark to the north of the other Big Letter, the "Big M", for the University of Montana on Mount Sentinel (here's a pic).


The "L" stands for Loyola High School, although it occasionally morphs into other things.  For example, it became a heart when Missoula was trying to pass a bond authorization to acquire Mount Jumbo as public lands; the day after the bond was approved by the voters, it morphed into a big happy face.


I did a quick Google search of assorted possibilities for this window view (Yakima, WA, Moscow, ID, etc.) and found that when I googled "Downtown Missoula, MT", a photo from Andrew Sullivan's "The View from your Protest: Missoula, Montana" (Nov. 15, 2008) pops up:



Home sweet home.  I’m a Montana ex-patriot, now living in Charlottesville, VA, which is nice, but it’s no Missoula.  Check out the perfect horizontal lines on Mount Jumbo, which you can see thanks to the snow melt.  Those lines represent the shores of glacial Lake Missoula, when the entire valley was under water during the last ice age.  When the ice dam that held back the waters of Lake Missoula broke, it was one of the largest flooding events in the history of the planet.

Missoula is also, of course, home to the Montana Grizzlies, some of the best local microbreweries anywhere (Hey Kettlehouse!), some the best trout fishing anywhere in the country, and the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.


One of my favorite names for a beer adorns the nut brown ale made by Big Sky Brewing Company here: Moose Drool.


After months of being completely stumped by the VFYW offerings, I couldn't believe Rhino that I instantly recognized this spot. I went to grad school in Missoula, studying geology, and the first thing that jumped out were the ancient shorelines from Glacial Lake Missoula on Mount Jumbo standing out in relief with the snow.  The corner of the big white building with the red brick on the lower floor houses the Rhino, a popular bar where I spent (probably way too much) time.


That's definitely Missoula, MT, where I lived for eight years. I recognized the Rhino bar on the left, where I once played a hole of mini golf with a plunger (it's a long story and a quirky town).


I'm a Montana Griz alumnus and spent many a beery night on Front Street during the administration of Bush Sr.


I was at the Rhino, the bar at the corner of Ryman and Front St. pictured here, just this week. They have 50 great craft beers on tap. This photo was taken from above the Children's Museum, where my wife volunteers, and the Grizzly Hackle fly fishing shop.


I'm not totally sure which building it is (215 W. Front or 223 W. Front), but a closer look at the image below doesn't show any green paint on the window at 215 W. Front:

Screen shot 2011-03-22 at 3.42.50 AM

My family owned a coffee shop on the ground floor of the building(s) next door for a while.  First at 225 W. Front, then they moved to 211 W. Front.  A co-worker lived in an apartment on the south end of the building where there is a deck overlooking Caras Park, a carousel and  the Clark Fork River.  Nice vantage point for a beer.

Love it - more VFYW contests where I've actually been in the building!


As cliché as it is to make my claim, Missoula is the first place my future wife and I got ourselves an apartment - a $75 a month attic-like studio with a kitchen in a walk-in closet - across the river that is behind the building where this picture was taken. That was back in February 1985. We made it through the winter and headed north to Alaska in the spring, leaving the Lower 48 forever. But our fondness remains for western MT.

Missoula remains a fine college town, even as it seemed to be extruding box stores on its outskirts during my last visit a few years back. But the riverfront has gotten better over the years with nice greenways, a kayak wave, and trails emanating in all directions. And despite increasing yuppification, downtown retains some old western ambiance with a few shitkicker cafes and bars too. An easy place to miss.

It's been a long drought since I correctly guessed a window view, but it always feels good when it happens - especially as a diversion from the world's recent state of crisis.


I lived in Missoula in the ‘70s and early ‘80s when I was in high school (at the rather unfortunately named Hellgate High).  I’m pretty sure that one of your Missoula readers (quite possibly my friend Rob) will go out to the intersection and give you precise GPS co-ordinates of the exact window, so I hope that you’ll give me credit for doing this by memory from Phoenix!


Missoula2I have been playing along since you started this contest.  When I get lucky, I get the correct continent.  This time I was immediately certain.  Not only do I know this city, it has been my home for the past 20 years (coincidentally, my first apartment in this town was upstairs from the Rhinoceros Bar on the other side of this same building, Howard's Apartments).

I've attached a photo I took from the same location, and a photo  of the window from which the original was likely taken.  It could be any of the 2nd story windows in the brick building; they all have the tell-tale green paint from

the original photo.  It's most likely one of the two on the far right due to the rectangular window shape in the original photo (the others are square).  There are doors to 213 and 221 W. Front, as I indicated on my photo.  My best guess (based on angle and window shape) would be 221 W. Front Street  Missoula, MT 59802.  I sure hope I win this week, because I don't usually have this kind of luck.

I love Missoula and I love your blog.  Best of luck at your new online home and keep up the great work.

There were many accurate and wonderfully detailed submissions this week, but the prize goes to the only one of those readers who correctly guessed a difficult view in the past but was barely denied a victory:

After the thrill of finding the exact window in Sydney and yet LOSING, we think we've done it again - right down to the window.

If that's not Mt. Jumbo in the background in Missoula, MT, I'll eat my hat!  It looks a little like an elephant lying on its side with head and trunk to the left.  The horizontal lines on the mountainside are quite distinctive as remnants of the shorelines of ancient Lake Missoula. Your photo is Vfyw-missoula-rhinolooking roughly northeast at the mountain, which is above Rattlesnake Canyon.

Missoula is my old home and stomping grounds.  The photo was taken from the second story, above the Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop at 215 W. Front St., probably from the 4th window from the left in the attached storefront photo. Next door is Trout River Coffee. Looking closely at the VFYW photo, it looks like dark green paint has been scraped from the window.

The one-story building on the NE corner of W. Front St. and S. Ryman St. is now Transformation Chiropractic.  That sure looks like it used to be a pizza place where we  hung out near the U. of Montana, but I've been gone too long to be certain.  Right next door on S.Florence-hotel Ryman is the Rhinoceros brewpub.  I've attached a side view of the Rhino on a winter night.

The taller building on the right of the photo is the top of a 1941 Art Deco landmark; formerly the Florence Hotel, at 111 N. Higgins Ave., one street east of Ryman St.  Attached is an older photo showing where the elevator shaft (visible in the VFYW photo) extends up from roof level.