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Camp Scout and Gather expands with grill, ski trails along Montana 40

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | January 18, 2023 1:00 AM

As Montana 40 seems to be transforming into an ocean of mini-storage facilities, the Archer family decided to create a family-friendly destination for mini-golf, dining and hanging out with friends.

Just west of Gil’s Furniture, on the south side of the highway and just beyond the Montana Expresso coffee hut, construction of the Mini Mountain Mini-Golf course and Scouts Grill finished this summer.

The course and the grill join the Scout and Gather Mercantile, Denise Archer’s antique/art shop, and the entire property, known as Camp Scout and Gather, has become the newest place for the local community to mingle.

“It’s a family project,” Kyle Archer said. “The whole idea was to give families a place to come — a fun, family, community place where people can come hang out, play mini-golf with the family, get something to eat.”

Community is at the center of the development and the Archer family is interested in serving the community. The idea behind Scouts Grill was to create a meeting place where people can enjoy good food and drinks, the outdoors, live music, mini-golf as well as other offerings planned for the future.

Aaron Holliday, Scouts Grill General Manager and Chef, said the original idea was to just be open seasonally, in the spring and summer, but the project kept evolving.

“Now, we have a year-round restaurant and an event space in the wintertime to rent out,” Holliday said. “We’re doing the cross-country skiing out here. People are super excited about that.”

Starting this week, they are offering a groomed cross-country ski trail for both traditional and skate skiing that loops through 40 of the 52 acres that make up the property. There is no charge for skiing and for now, skiers must bring their own gear.

“The trail goes along the east side of the property and loops around… through the trees and hills,” said Kyle Archer. “It should be something fun to bring your family to, get out… do something fun.”

The north and south walls of Scouts Grill are large, glass garage doors that can be opened in the summer. Diners are afforded wide views that include the golf course and the vast backyard to the south. The other walls are wood-covered and the decor has a clean, Montana vibe.

The kitchen is on the west end of the building with a self-serve kiosk nearby. People can order from there or from their phones and be alerted via text when their order is ready. More traditional ordering is also available.

Holliday has installed a traffic light that is visible from the golf course to indicate the current wait times for food. The red light signifies a long wait, the yellow a short wait and green means you can get your grub quickly.

Now open Thursday through Sunday, the grill has expanded hours and has started to offer brunch to go along with the cross-country skiing.

“We’re trying to give people places to go for lunch and for dinner,” said Holliday. “Right now, it’s a lot of tacos and burgers and shareable plates… for the community (feel) of sitting down with your neighbors and your friends and your family and sharing a plate of food.”

For the last five years, Holliday owned and ran the Señor Montana Tacos and Mas food truck, but when he had the opportunity to help the Archers with Scouts Grill, he gave up the truck.

“I realized how important and valuable something like this would be,” said Holliday. “I have a lot of hospitality experience and I’d like to help them get (the grill) off the ground and just be part of something new and something cool and something fun that I could be proud of.”

Holliday added that they have a great kitchen crew who add their flavors to the recipes, making for an even better experience.

While winter on the property is cool, the team is looking forward to spring and summer, when the garage doors will be open and the huge, sodded backyard area will be available for fun. It features lawn games and a walking path good for scooters and strollers. Live music is also on the slate come warmer weather.

“It’s definitely going to be a meeting place — bring your neighbors, your friends, your visitors, the out of towners, show them the property and the views,” said Holliday. “Enjoy the outdoors a little bit.”

JIM AND DENISE Archer moved to Whitefish in the early 1990s, raised their family here and started Archer Excavating. They own and operate Camp Scout and Gather with their three children, Kyle, Kris and Kaylee.

“My brother and I grew up here, went to Muldown and Central School and Whitefish High and then went away for college, got married and realized there’s no better place to live and raise a family,” Kyle said. “We came back, started working excavation and thought, what could we do that would be something fun?”

With the mad pace of development all over the valley, the Archers had a tremendous number of options to consider when developing the property.

“We had an opportunity to do a lot of metal buildings and storage units and we could have sold the place and been done by now,” Jim said. “But I think this is really community-based. We’re pretty proud of it.”

A wide range of the community’s residents can enjoy the property. Several Columbia Falls High School students worked at the mini-golf course over the summer and had lots of friends come and hang out. There are plans to host residents from The Springs at Whitefish for a lively round of mini-golf this summer.

The owners are also interested in hosting a mini-golf tournament between the Columbia Falls High School and Whitefish High School golf teams with the proceeds going back to the high school golf programs.

The Archers have volunteered to help out with a lacrosse tournament this summer that is scheduled at the same time as a large concert in the area that makes securing accommodations nearly impossible. Teams will be able to camp at the property and, “Aaron will fire up some breakfast burritos for them.”

Given all the different ideas of what to develop on this desirable piece of land, Jim said, “the best thing we did was nothing.” While he is anxious to enjoy the grounds in the summer, he is dusting off his skis to enjoy what he promises will be the best groomed trail in the area.

For more information visit: www.campscoutandgather.com

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The indoor dining area of Scouts Grill on Highway 40. In the summer, the garage-style doors open to let in a breeze. (JP Edge photo)

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The outside patio of Scouts Grill on a cold January morning. (JP Edge photo)

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A mural on the side of the Scouts Grill building that faces the mini golf course. (JP Edge photo)

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Scouts Grill's logo on the side of their new building, now open on Highway 40. (JP Edge photo)

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