Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Into the Great Wide Open (Montana and Wyoming) Day 3

Going to the Sun Road

We’ve been in Glacier National Park before, but I have never been here when Going-to-the-Sun road has been open. We tend to travel in Spring, before school gets out and we want to be available over the summer to help with care of our grandchildren. The last time we were here, it was early June, and Going-to-the-Sun road wasn’t open, would not be open until June 20th. Some bicyclists has been caught in a Spring avalanche, and disaster crews were busy trying to find them, and rescue them before they perished. These mountains are nothing to fool with.

It’s a cloudy day, and AdventureMan is grumping at me about getting up so early. I want to be there for the morning light, and we are about 30 miles away from the entrance. We take a twisty-turny road, have a lovely sunrise, then get to the entrance. I had gone to a lot of trouble to get a reservation; Going-to-the-Sun road went reservation only for the summer, but when we get to the gate, there is no one there to look at our pass, so we drive along. There is no rain, but there are dramatic clouds. The scenery is spectacular. We have the road to ourselves, for the most part, up to Logan Pass.

We intended to hike some of the trails at Logan Pass, but at 0753 at Logan Pass, every parking lot is full, there isn’t a parking spot to be had. Just after the pass, which was the only crowded place we found on the entire drive, we stopped at a lookout on the other side. It was very cold, snow was in pockets where little sun reaches and the air had the sharp clean smell of pine trees. We did a short hike starting on a frosty, slick boardwalk to overlook a valley, then headed back. The smell of the fresh clean pine was intoxicating.

We head down toward Lake MacDonald, stopping where we can to walk and to take photos of scenery and waterfalls. It is a spectacular, memorable morning altogether, but we are freezing cold. Clothing that was adequate for the high elevation at the entrance is pathetically not suitable for the high elevation and the bone-chilling winds. We walk anyway. There is snow. It is beautiful.

When we finally get back down to the Lake MacDonald Road, once again, all the parking spots are taken. We love the lodge at Lake MacDonald and had thought to stop there for breakfast on our way to Kalispell, but we could see that would not be possible.

We love Kalispell, Montana, and one of our major plans was to hit the Kalispell Farmer’s Market and pick up some Flathead Cherry Juice, which we love drinking. We had also thought we would see if anyone brews a Flathead Cherry Juice liqueur, so we headed on towards Kalispell with the help of the Bossy Lady.

AdventureMan gets short tempered with me when I am navigating. Sometimes I don’t communicate clearly, sometimes not quickly enough. So for several years now, ever since I discovered Google Maps, I have been getting directions, and putting them on speaker phone. It works like a charm. AdventureMan gets SO annoyed, but not with me, with the Bossy Lady! She doesn’t take any of his annoyance seriously, she just carries on with aplomb. We can laugh about it.

The closer we get to the market, the quieter we get. It started sprinkling on the way to Kalispell, but as we enter Kalispell, it is pouring rain. We carry on to the market, and there are about ten hard-core vendors there, none of which are the Flathead Cherry Juice vendors. 

We visit a couple sports stores in the area, looking for a long sleeved “performance layer” or “basic layer” because AdventureMan just brought one, and it is COLD. We don’t find what he needs. 

We head into Kalispell to dry off and warm up, and find the Ceres Bakery, on Main Street, and it is just what we need. We have gorgeous, tasty pastries; I have a Mocha cafe and a brioche like ball that has cinnamon sugar on the top and a croissant like interior. AdventureMan has a Pain au Chocolat and a cup of hot chocolate. It is delightful, with a mouthwatering display of breads available in addition to the pastries.

The Bossy Lady takes us on some back roads to get us back to Highway 2, which will take us back to the East Glacier Park side. It is very rural, but also avoids all the traffic of the major roads. 

East Glacier Park has a glorious big timber lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, which unfortunately, is not serving meals but doing take out only. Meal options in East Glacier are limited, even the Mexican restaurant is closed until dinner. On our way in, AdventureMan sees a sign for the Isaak Walton Inn and asks me what it is. I tell him I am not entirely sure, but I know it has a good reputation and has something to do with railroads. We decide if they have a restaurant open, we will stop there for lunch. 

Black and White print over our table, loved the First Nation and Snow

The Izaak Walton Inn was an old railroad stop for visitors to the Glacier National Park, famous for it’s atmosphere and food. In this time of COVID, they were still serving meals, although the menu is more limited. 

We are happy to have a booth in an unpopulated part of the restaurant. Our meals are good, above average, not great. No photos, can’t even remember what we ate. As we finish, a large group with a guide comes in to take a large table right next to our booth, so we put our masks back on and exit as quickly and graciously as possible.

We are tired and still wet and cold when we get back to our cabin, but AdventureMan makes a wonderful discovery – the gas fireplace we have not been able to figure out how to turn on is operated by the thermostat on an opposite wall. Now we have a beautiful gas fire and a toasty cabin to warm up in.

For dinner, we go into Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation, where there are two grocery stores and I find Ramen and AdventureMan finds Campbells Vegetable Soup, which suits us both just fine. The grocery store is clean and well organized, and there is a man at the door, masked, who takes our temperatures as we enter. The Blackfeet Nation is taking COVID very seriously. Did you know of all the ethnic groups, the First Nation peoples have the highest rate of vaccination in the country? We feel very safe staying in East Glacier Park. We have a microwave and refrigerator in the cabin, hot soup is the perfect ending to a chilly day.

Going into Browning

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 2

Bozeman to East Glacier

Nice breakfast, then back to Walmart looking for a couple more layers; it is cold. We’re on the road to East Glacier Park by 0900, with the luxury of time to talk and catch up. 

The major topic, as it will remain throughout the trip, is demographics. Many of the businesses we have interacted with don’t have enough people working for them. It is a constant topic. Hotels aren’t renting out all their rooms; they can’t get them cleaned and serviced fast enough. Restaurants have to limit the number of people, they don’t have the staff to cook and serve the meals. Many restaurants are closed altogether, with signs saying “we will re-open when we can find people to work.” 

Some people feel very hostile about this. I believe it has to do with demographics, and my age group is greatly complicit. For years people have worked well beyond retirement age, not just out of need, although that has driven some, but also because they loved working. COVID changed a lot of that. COVID made having a lot of public contact more risky. People who might still be working have retired, decided to live on less and to enjoy life more. OK, Boomer, you have that right.

COVID also impacts on young families, what mother or father of a young child wants to take a job which could expose their vulnerable children to the ravages of COVID? And, who is going to take care of the children? COVID had made parents reluctant to use child care centers, and child care centers are nearly non-existent because caretakers are also vulnerable, physically and financially. 

In Bozeman, there are a lot of people happy to work outdoors. Not so many willing to work in the service industry. Some believe that the end of federal employment subsidies will make a difference. I imagine it will, for those with the fewest choices, but will not make the difference people expect. Is not one of our inalienable rights the right to protect our own health and that of our children? Montana, like Florida, has a governor who does not allow mask mandates. To me, that is insanity. We know masks plus social distancing work to lower the rates of transmission. Why would we not choose this rational, proven formula which works? 

AdventureMan and I wore masks in public places. We also spent a lot of time in wide open spaces where there were few people. That was part of the whole point of choosing Montana and Wyoming. 

It is also raining, and rain is a big topic of conversation. Montanans tells us they are thankful for this rain, there is been a huge drought which has been hard on the cows and hard on the crops. The rain dampens the forests, and helps the fire fighters. 

Because the roads are nearly empty and we are driving kind of fast, we also have a long raucous discussion of embarrassing speeding tickets we have earned over the years.

My most embarrassing traffic ticket was presented to me by a German policeman who delivered it to my house. He gives me a photo. I am sitting in the front seat, driving my Volvo with a big smile, and chatting with my cousin, who is visiting me. It is taken just outside Heidelberg, in a notorious speed trap. I am well over the speed-limit, and oblivious. When the policeman sits down on the couch I have been working on re-upholstering, the leg falls off and he jumps up very embarrassed and apologetic, which saves me from a very uncomfortable lecture. He delivers the fine, I accept and sign, and he is too embarrassed at “breaking” my couch to even scold me or warn me not to do it again. It was a hefty fine, but I am an expat, and I was thankful just to pay the fine. 

A couple hours into our drive, we come to Townsend, a town we didn’t know we were going to like as much as we did. It started with a restroom in a gas station which was also a town True Value Hardware store. The restroom was beautiful and very clean, and the store was wonderful, with really cool useful things. They had barrels of nails and screws and farm items we could not begin to identify. People stopped in to pick up what they needed, but also to exchange news of what was going on in Townsend. 

We decided to take a look around, and liked the neatness of the place, some old houses, some new. AdventureMan spotted a bakery, his weakness, and found a parking spot. 

Often mentioned in C.J. Box Montana Mystery series

I laughed. “Do you see where you have parked?” I kidded him, and he saw that he had parked in front of the Quilt shop, and it was open. Sometimes fate just works that way. 

The quilt shop was full of wonderful fabrics. I restrained myself; my suitcase capacity is limited, but I allowed myself a little, and a James Lee Burke novel from the used book shelves in the back that I had read before but knew I would love reading again. I could see that this shop was also a great Townsend gathering place, and a good place to learn what is going on with your neighbors. We really liked Townsend, and we liked that almost every town and city we visited in Montana had a bookshop.

We arrived in Augusta around lunch time, and found a place we couldn’t resist. There was a horse carrier out front. Inside, yep, were real cowboys who kept their cowboy hats on while they ate lunch, and one of them ordered GIZZARDS.  I had a crispy chicken salad, which was really pretty good, and AdventureMan had a Ham and cheese sandwich with salad, also pretty good. It was a welcome surprise to find more salads and more vegetables in Montana than we have found on previous trips.

The entire restaurant is decorated with antlers, mostly from elk, but maybe a Moose and some smaller deer, too. What I liked, in addition to the very courteous service to people who clearly “aren’t from around here” was that they had tiny bottles on every table with fresh wildflowers, a nice touch in a very masculine restaurant. 

Many times I might ask people if I can take their photos, but I didn’t ask the cowboys and I didn’t take their photo. They did not seem to be people who would like to be thought of as local color, and I did not want to offend them. 

Montana has a lot of long rural stretches.

We arrived at Traveler’s Rest and our cabin was ready. We’ve stayed here before and really love that the owners built these cabins themselves. They are beautifully crafted, and well thought out. This time we are staying in the cabin they call Two Medicine (also one of our favorite drives) which is in the back. All the cabins are somewhat together, but the porches all face in different directions, and none looks on each other’s porch or into another’s windows. There are poplar trees between and amongst the cabins, and a wind which blows through them and makes the leaves quiver and whisper. They have metal roofs, so when it rains, you can hear the drops hit the roof. 

View from Traveler’s Rest toward Glacier National Park and Mountains

We unpack, and drive to the East Glacier Trading Post for fresh milk for our breakfast and for my coffee. It is half a mile down the road, and full of just about anything you could need, and some fun stuff you don’t need but can’t resist. In front of the store is the first time we see the notice that masking is required on Blackfeet Nation property, and what is really cool is that there is a box of masks on a table in front of the store free for people who do not have masks to use. The Glacier Trading Post also sells ice cream, and ice cream cones.

We take a quick drive on Two Medicine Drive to the lake.

We also take a quick hike to Running Eagle Falls, greatly reduced from when we visited them in the Spring, a year and a half ago. Then, they were double in height. I just love the story of Running Eagle, and it’s a quick, easy hike.

For dinner Friday night, we choose Serranos, a Mexican restaurant that wasn’t there the last time we stayed in East Glacier. We both ordered Devil’s Stew – WOW. It was mostly pork, stewed in some fiery concoction. I had a bowl, AdventureMan ordered a cup but got a bowl, and he also ordered a tostada. The stew was out of this world, although we are usually a little cautious about eating fiery dishes near to bedtime, oh well. (LOL yes, we suffered, but it was worth it.) We ended up with boxes, and the waitress, who was inexperienced but very kind and a very good server, gave us an extra bag of fresh hot taco chips to take with us.

This was Flathead Cherry cider, not the same as cherry juice. Packed a punch.

It’s little things that people remember. I remember that waitress, and how attentive she was, and how caring, even though she told us she was new on the job. 

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Hotels, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment