We headed out of the park, but the scenery was still beautiful. All of western Montana could be a National Park. We stopped at the Swan Lake General Store and I had some huckleberry ice cream.
We went further up the road and saw a rainbow in the mountains. That’s where the MM pulled over to teach me how to shoot a handgun – a first for me!
I actually hit my target!
The view of Lake McDonald from behind the lodge were breath-taking. Again, the cloud cover hid the mountain peaks from view, but the I still very much enjoyed the beauty.
Back in the 1930s, the red jammer buses were introduced to Glacier. These allowed tourists to see the park while letting someone else do the driving. They were in continual use until 1999 when the park took them off the roads. Newer, more eco-friendly models were then reintroduced in 2002.
In honor of the red jammer buses, a beverage company near Flathead Lake introduced Red Jammer Root Beer and Red Jammer Huckleberry Cream Soda. We all enjoyed some during lunch – I had the Huckleberry Cream Soda and it was delightfully delicious.
Interrupting my recent visit to Glacier to talk about my last visit to Glacier. We had two interesting experiences. I looked for pictures and found a couple, but they aren’t worth the trouble of scanning, so I’ll just explain.
1. We had left camp the day before, spent the night in Missoula and on Sunday afternoon made our way north along Flathead Lake. The kids were probably junior high age. Flathead Lake is encompassed by two beautiful scenic drives and is actually the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi (even larger than Lake Tahoe). The area of the lake is 197 square miles and in places it is more than 300 feet deep.
So, anyhow, we were driving along enjoying the absolutely beautiful lake (just south of Glacier) when suddenly we hear a siren and a police car pulls up behind us.
Ken, who had never gotten a ticket before this time, just groaned, not even sure what was happening.
A police woman and a police man got out of the car and walked up to us.
Police People: Hi folks, you having a nice day?
Ken: The lake is beautiful.
PP: It is, isn’t it? (Looking out over the lake.) Do you know you were driving 50 in a 40mph speed zone?
Ken: I really didn’t. I was enjoying your lake.
PP: You’re from Wisconsin?
Ken: Yes. We don’t have mountains like this back there. That’s why I was paying attention to the scenery and not the speed limit.
PP. Well, sorry, but we need to give you a ticket.
They took his license/registration, etc. We sat and waited and they came back.
PP: Here you go, sir. You can pay us right now or go into town and contest it in court.
Ken, looking at the ticket: I think I’ll pay it right now.
PP: Ok. Have fun at the park and have a great vacation.
They left and we laughed. Ken always called them Bonnie and Clyde – they were absolutely the friendliest police officers you’d ever want to meet. Ken’s ticket? Five dollars for wasting natural resources.
This from the same state that a couple years later changed the speed limit to “whatever is reasonable,” however that didn’t last long. I guess reasonable for some is actually a little too unreasonable – so they’re back to a speed limit.
Actually, I think I still have that ticket somewhere.
2. So, later that evening we got to Kalispell and as was often the case back then, we didn’t have reservations for motel rooms. Usually this wasn’t a problem, but it seemed like it would be a problem on that particular night. We were on motel row and Ken went into motel after motel with no vacancy. We were beginning to get concerned. But then he came out of one motel and handed me a map.
The hostess said that everything in town is full, but she had a friend up on Big Mountain who has a lodge she opens in the winter – but sometimes if the motels in town are full, she’ll rent out rooms in the summer. The clerk at the town hotel called and got us a room.
We followed the map and found a road that went straight up a mountain. The tree-lined road got narrower and narrower and no person or building was anywhere in sight. The road kept going and going and we wondered what was going on – was this some sinister plot?
Suddenly we came out of the trees to the top of the mountains and there was the most beautiful lodge you have ever seen – made of thick logs and looking absolutely postcard perfect. Our room was amazing – with a loft for the kids which they loved. The lady only charged us a regular motel rate, so it wasn’t even expensive. We were the only ones there with the exception of an Amway convention, so every time we walked through the lobby we got inspired to sell healthy makeup and stuff.
Just one of those never-to-be repeated experiences.
The early National Park Lodges are magnificent – with high-beamed ceilings and awesome wood trim. Including large “chunks” of wood on the stairwells and fireplace mantels. Even though the Lake McDonald Lodge was to look like a Swiss Chalet, Native American welcome messages are etched in the floor and the lanterns too, have Native American designs. Since I haven’t hung out in a Swiss Chalet, I’m not sure if they have moose and elk heads mounted on the walls … but who knows.
If you get the opportunity to stay at a National Park Lodge, I strongly recommend it. Although I haven’t stayed at this one, Ken and I did stay at a few others including Old Faithful Inn.
Here are some pointers.
1. They might have been luxury hotels in the early 1900s, but that doesn’t include air conditioning, WiFi, or other television – so be prepared. (They can get hot in mid summer.)
2. Luxury also does not always include a bathroom in each room, though many do have them. I remember one stay at Old Faithful where we had to walk down a very public hallway to the bathroom.
3. Luxury also doesn’t include sound proof walls. We stayed at a lodge in Yosemite that we very much enjoyed, but we could hear every word our neighbors said through paper-thin walls.
4. Food at the lodges is often excellent.
5. Some of the websites say you have to make reservations at least a year ahead of time. We never reserved that far ahead, although several times we did make reservations. However, both times we stayed at Old Faithful we decided on a whim to see if they had a vacant room and both times we got in – once with the kids and once there without the kids.
6. Staying at the lodges is extremely fun and worth it (the prices can be luxury – though not totally over-the-top).
From Apgar, we drove further up the road to Lake McDonald Lodge. These late 1800/early 1900 National Park Lodges are truly unique. The goal was to lure people away from European travel and to the parks right here in the States and so the lodges were the epitome of luxury. Lake McDonald Lodge was given a Swiss Alpine feel so that European guests would feel right at home and American guests would get a glimpse of Europe without leaving the country.
We headed to Apgar Village which is at the West Glacier entrance to the park. The rain was sputtering which intensified that “out-west” pine smell that I love so much. We wandered in and out of the stores. I half-heartedly looked for a sweatshirt – but once again, every last inch of my luggage was stuffed so knew getting it home would be a problem. Not having any room to pack stuff certainly helps one save money.
(However, maybe if I had an extra bag to carry, I would’ve been more conscious of where I put stuff and wouldn’t have left my coat in Denver.)
Then we wandered down to Lake McDonald. Incidentally, if you haven’t been to Glacier, let me assure you that there are VERY LARGE mountains beyond the cloud cover.
Our first stop was the Snappy Sports Senter – a Montana Landmark and a place to make memories.
They had clothes and gun supplies and a home decor/art section and a variety of Montana-type animals mounted on the wall, animals like elk and deer and moose and bears. The children’s department had a very unique section of baby camouflage onesies.
After awhile, I went back outside (in my nature to be outside instead of inside) and had fun seeing how close I could get to the magpie which was flying around the parking lot.
Actually the grounds were rather well taken care of – especially when you consider this was on a busy corner of a town.
I think my favorite picture was the view along the side of the lot.
Soon we left to head back to the park.
After our salmon-cake supper, we headed to a nearby town where the MM had arranged for us to spend the night at the home of a pastor and his wife. When we got there the hosts already had company – a young guy from Montreal and a couple from their church.
So the pastor introduces himself to me and I said, “So, what church do you pastor?”
Would you believe Central Bible Church?
I figured I was in the right house.