31.08.2014 - 31.08.2014
31.08.2014 - 31.08.2014
Y'all come back now, ya hear?
30.08.2014 - 30.08.2014
Day Eight: Y'all come back now, ya hear?
It was our final day. We love the town of Whitefish but never get a chance to spend any time there on our trips to Glacier National Park, so we had opted to spend our very last day soaking in some luxury at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish.
Incredibly, it was another gorgeous day. We had been so lucky with the weather.
We stopped in Columbia Falls for carbs and caffeine at Montana Coffee Traders.
Then it was on to Whitefish. Whitefish is a quaint little mountain town. You can see the mountains towering in the distance, and it is filled with great little shops and restaurants.
Like Loula’s where you can get the best pie in the known universe.
Montana. It’s all about the pie.
Matt and I headed back to the lodge for afternoon massages which, after 60 miles of hiking and 7 nights of alternating between sleeping on the ground and sleeping on the world’s hardest beds in the historic lodges, was exactly what we needed.
I’d like to say we ended with a bang – roping a grizzly in the parking lot or riding a bucking bronco into the sunset – but we did nothing more than have one final, quiet, fat loaded dinner.
Tupelo Grill in Whitefish was just the place to have it. We started off with a hummus plate and fried catfish nuggets. I followed that with the panzanella salad: heirloom tomatoes, blue corn croutons, queso fresco, roasted corn, avocado, and a cilantro vinaigrette. As a finale, just to make sure I wasn’t cheating my body of needed carbohydrates, I had the almost famous baked mac & cheese with prosciutto, quattro formaggio, and a panko parmesan crust.
We wrapped up the night with drinks on the rooftop at Casey’s.
Dear Friends, I know I make Montana sound amazing, but it’s not all that great. Really. It’s not. You shouldn’t ever go there.
In an effort to consider your welfare, I am giving you several reasons you should never go to Montana:
Your boss can’t text you here. It’s a wireless dead zone. You know when Verizon shows that map? It’s one of the white spots. Pretty much the whole state. I think most internet still comes on a dial up. Seriously. Your boss, your nagging family members, that telemarketer that always calls you at dinner….they can’t reach you here. Why would you subject yourself to all that peace and quiet? Just crazy.
If you die there, they won’t find your body until July. There is simply too much space. What are you supposed to do with all that room? Go somewhere small. Like Rhode Island.
It’s cold. I mean, summer is only 2 months and winter is 19. You need a parka in July. And where else can you make a snow angel in August? Take my word for it, head south. It’s warmer down there.
There’s just too much beer. They drink it for breakfast. It’s everywhere. You’d exhaust yourself just trying to drink it all. And I’m pretty sure “open container law” means you are required to have an open container at all times. No one needs that kind of pressure.
One word: Glaciers. I mean, with all the global warming, one of those things could break loose and take you out at any moment. And they wouldn’t find your body until July.
You can’t escape the wildlife. If you like bears, wolves, wolverines, bighorn sheep, marmots, mountain goats, elk, moose, deer, beavers, ducks, and the biggest damn cows you’ve ever seen, and you like seeing them all in one day, this place is for you. Really, who needs the stress of a free range cow?
There is nothing up there but crazy, gun toting outlaws. Everyone is packing. And drinking all that beer. And eating beef jerky. That can’t be good.
You might get eaten by a bear. They say that, when hiking, always carry pepper spray and wear a bell. If you see bear scat, you can tell what kind of bear it is by looking at the contents. Black bear scat has berries in it. Grizzly scat smells like pepper and has little bells in it. A person in a sleeping bag? Pretty much a soft taco.
All that steak. I mean, who wants steak all the time? You should go where the broccoli is. It’s very high in lots of nutrients that are hard to pronounce, so that’s good. And studies have shown broccoli helps protect you from colon cancer. Go to California instead. Your colon will thank you.
The Unabomber is from Montana. Enough said. There could be more of them up there. Hiding. With guns. And beef jerky.
So much big sky and fresh air will just mess up your allergies. I mean, if you can actually breathe clean air for a week, what do you think that will do to you when you get back home to the pollution that you are used to? Better keep your lungs sucking on what it knows.
Seriously. Montana sucks. Go tell your friends.
MMMmmmm.......SPAM. Said no one ever.
29.08.2014 - 29.11.2014
Day Seven: MMMmmmm.......SPAM. Said no one ever.
Without electricity, waking up in a room at the chalet can be a cold, dark experience. We got dressed inside our sleeping bags, groomed ourselves out of a Ziploc bag, and ran to the warmth of the common building where we could sip coffee by the fire inside and make breakfast.
It was another beautiful day.
I made us a breakfast of hashbrowns topped with cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes.....and ......spam.
Yes. Spam. I am not ashamed. Spam travels well. Any food that has a shelf life of "indefinite" is a food you want in your backpack. Maybe not in your stomach, certainly not in your intestines, but definitely in your backpack.
The horse disagrees.
We managed to hang around long enough to see the mule train arrive with supplies. Since the chalet is inaccessible by roads, supplies must be brought up a steep, winding 4 mile trail called The Loop. I would hate to be the guy that got to carry the mattresses.
It was our final hike of the trip, so we wanted to make it a good one. The first part of the trail took us up and over Swiftcurrent Pass where you can see forever.
Our hike would take us past the farthest lake. Really. And I mean that one waaaaaaay in the back.
After the pass, there is a steep descent on a narrow ledge. This seemed to be the trip for ledges. You’re welcome, Matt.
As we dropped into the valley below, we found a plethora of juicy, ripe huckleberries just waiting to be picked.
Did you know that Montana has the largest grizzly population in the lower 48? It’s a well-known fact that they mostly eat roots and huckleberries. A lesser known fact is that they berries generally come from inside humans who at the berries earlier.
We stopped for lunch at the lake: Peanut butter and jelly bagels with dried bananas and Snickers.
The last time I did this hike, I was wearing flip-flops duct taped to my feet because of some serious blisters. I couldn’t believe how much easier it was in ACTUAL BOOTS.
The end of the hike took us through the valley, through forests, wildflowers, waterfalls, lakes, and streams.
And dangling chipmunks.
And a moose! All my years of trying to see a moose out here and I manage to see two in one trip.
Apparently, all they do is stand in the water and eat.
Our reward was a giant cup of huckleberry soft serve at the Swiftcurrent store.
As we made the drive back to the west side of the park, I was still in awe of the beauty of this place.
We checked in to the Belton Chalet, just outside the west entrance to the park. We had never stayed here before, and I was immediately enamored with the quaint, historic inn.
Until they left a note on my car.
My very dirty car.
Oh, the shame.
But it was time to celebrate! We had hiked about 60 miles, climbed sheer rock faces (okay, with cables, but still….it was scary), teetered on narrow ledges, and narrowly escaped death at the jaws of ferocious wildlife. What? Those ground squirrels can be aggressive with the Fig Newtons, I’ll have you know.
We started off with drinks at the chalet lounge.
Then it was onto dinner at their world class restaurant. We started off with more cocktails. Of course. Then it was on to steamed Mussels served in a lager beer broth with jalapeno, chorizo, roasted cherry tomatoes, farm fresh greens & grilled toast. Next up was their southern mac and cheese, locally made penne in a pimento cheese sauce topped with sliced chorizo and crumbled pork rinds. Who doesn’t love a good pork rind? That was followed by a hot bowl of their savory potato soup. Finally, we shared the Montana Wagyu Delmonico Steak with scallion bacon cheddar mashed potatoes topped with smoked paprika chili butter and the Montana buffalo meatloaf wrapped in hickory-smoked bacon and served with a port wine mushroom demi and roasted shallot mashed potatoes with savory creamed corn.
THAT, my friends, was worth hiking 60 miles for.
There are no shortcuts to any place worthwhile.
28.08.2014 - 28.08.2014
Day Six: There are no shortcuts to any place worthwhile.
Our destination of the day was Granite Park Chalet and the only way to get to it was to hike 7+ miles. We had a 7:30 a.m. shuttle to catch, so we only got to see the first rays of the sun as they peeked over Many Glacier.
The shuttle took us to St. Mary, where we waited for 45 minutes in the freezing cold for a very late shuttle to Logan Pass. There were about 8 of us that had gotten there at 8:00 am and had been waiting for a very long time in the cold when the shuttle finally arrived. Apparently, someone had not shown up for work so the early shuttle didn’t run. As we all wrestled with our large backpacks and headed toward the van, a slick couple in brand new shiny hiking suits that had just shown up practically knocked us down as they ran in front of us all and jumped on the shuttle.
Oh hell to the no.
You see, the shuttle didn’t have enough seats for everyone who was waiting. God bless the shuttle operator who escorted them off, as they cussed and made faces, and made sure everyone that had arrived on the 7:30 shuttle was seated first. She then filled in the few remaining seats with others who had been waiting longer than Mr. and Mrs. Slick Pants. They were left on the sidewalk scowling.
I am always amazed how some people can be so self-absorbed that they give no thought to common courtesy.
No matter. It was a beautiful day to do the Highline Trail from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet.
As we made our way across the ledge that starts the trail, I couldn’t help but think of the headline from just a few weeks earlier:
CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF A GRIZZLY KIND ON THE HIGHLINE TRAIL
The narrow ledge drops 15 stories to the highway below. It’s only wide enough for single file and it stretches for just over a quarter of a mile.
Now imagine if you were THIS guy:
That’s him going in one direction and a bear coming in the other direction.
See. It can always be worse.
I’m pretty sure thinking about ice cream did not help in that particular circumstance.
The Highline is a hike that we have done several times, but it never gets old. Our favorite way to do the hike is to hike 7 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet, stay overnight, and hike 8 miles out over Swiftcurrent Pass into the Many Glacier valley where our car would be waiting.
We saw marmots. We saw bighorn sheep. We saw fat ground squirrels. We saw incredible views stretching in every direction.
We also saw Mr. and Mrs. Slick Pants. Apparently, another shuttle had arrived about 10 minutes later, and without any packs, these two were making time. Probably trying to outhike everyone with backpacks so that they could get to the Chalet first and drink all the chocolate milk and get the best seats by the fire.
We scowled at them as they went by and I secretly hoped that trail karma would bite her on the butt. Maybe she’d break a nail or get her shiny new suit dirty.
We stopped for lunch in an area I like to call the “valley of the boulders.” Giant rocks are strewn everywhere and it’s easy to find one with a spectacular view. At this restaurant, every seat is the best seat in the house.
Summer sausage with cheddar cheese and wheat thins, a granny smith apple, and a fig bar never tasted so good.
We continued on with more marmots, more bighorn sheep, and more amazing views. We even treated ourselves to a few huckleberries.
We reached the Granite Park Chalet in the early afternoon. That left plenty of time to simply enjoy being there.
The chalet is hike-in only and there is no greater experience than getting to spend the night. After all the day hikers pack up their lunches and leave, it is a mountain refuge, quiet and calm, with views that take your breath away.
Each group signs up for a turn in the kitchen. Since we didn’t have to carry cookware or our propane stoves, we carried more food!
Yay! Food! In case it’s not obvious by now, I hike for the food.
Dinner was easy but delicious: angel hair pasta with pre-cooked meatballs, marinara, and parmesan cheese, an Italian salad, and tiramisu in a cup!
As we ate, an incredibly thick fog rolled in on top of us. It was eerie. You couldn’t see the tree line from the Chalet.
We ended the day hanging out in the chalet’s common room by the fire with hot tea and cocoa listening to the staff tell stories of the chalet’s history as the fog crept in around us.
The Bear's Hump: Harder Than Milking a Grizzly, and Half as Fun.
27.08.2014 - 27.08.2014
Day 5: The Bear’s Hump – Harder Than Milking a Grizzly, and Half as Fun.
We woke up to the smell of freshly baking muffins and yawned deeply between crisp sheets that had been lined dried and pressed with lavender. The Northland Lodge was just what my aching body needed.
So was a day off.
Our original plan had been to get up at 0-dark-thirty and drive back to Montana in time to catch an 8:30 a.m. boat to the Grinnell Glacier hike in the Many Glacier are of Glacier National Park. When I mentioned this plan, the rest of the group started plotting a coup that involved ropes, a gag, and burying me beneath all those suitcases.
Screw hiking. I wanted muffins.
We slept in and spent the morning doing nothing more strenuous than slathering butter on hot muffins.
With no real plans for the day, we decided to drive around Waterton Village. It was small and quaint and literally overrun with deer.
After that, we decided to drive out Red Rock Canyon Parkway before leaving Waterton because I had read that you were likely to see bears there.
We only saw one bear.
The views were worth the drive, though.
We did a short, two mile stroll that took us to a waterfall and ran along the side of the Red Rock Canyon.
Because I simply couldn't bear the thought of giving up a complete day of hiking, I convinced everyone to do the Bear’s Hump, telling them it was only 1 mile each way.
What I didn’t tell them was that you gained 750 vertical feet in that one mile, on 18 switchbacks. Some of the switchbacks were so steep that I’m pretty sure I could kiss my own butt as I walked by.
And it was HOT.
We climbed. Then we paused. Then we climbed. Then we heaved. Then we climbed. Then we lay in the dirt crying. Then we climbed some more. I think Teresa was devising ways to kill us all in our sleep as we went up.
But the views when we reached the top…..all I could say was, “Wow.”
We had a 360 degree view that included Waterton Village, the lake, and the mountains beyond.
We even saw a bear. Sort of. Really. I think that’s a bear. Or a big fuzzy black pig. I really can’t be sure.
The one thing I’ll say about the Bear’s Hump: going down sure is more fun than going up.
Before we left Waterton, we had a picnic lunch by the lake: tuna salad sandwiches, grape tomatoes, and cheese-its.
We made the drive back down to Montana and re-entered Glacier National Park at the Many Glacier entrance. This has always been, and will always be, my favorite area of the park. The mountains are giants. The lakes are blue and still. And the Many Glacier Hotel is majestic.
We headed to the lounge for drinks to take the edge of the sore muscles. Yes, Matt got another pink Martini. He just can’t help himself.
As we sat out on the expansive deck, looking over Swiftcurrent Lake, we got to watch a moose frolic in the water. Mostly, she just ate. And ate. And ate. I guess it takes a lot to fill up a moose.
It was time for Matt’s favorite dinner of the trip: the Cattle Baron Supper Club.
What looks like a dive from the outside, is actually an oasis of steak awesomeness on the inside.
The bathroom, however, leaves something to be desired.
A bottle of red wine, a salad, a filet cooked perfectly rare with their house potato covered in god-knows-what-creamy-deliciousness, a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a slab of coconut cream pie and all was right with the world.
Okay, almost right. Sometimes you need an authentic Indian headdress to really complete the meal.