Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crown of the Continent
August/September 2008 - State # 26 - Montana

We had been looking forward to visiting Montana for 2 reasons.  First, it would mean we had made it half way through the 50 states!  Second, we had not been out west since Idaho - State # 12. 

With all Montana has to offer we decided to "Go West" and see Glacier National Park.  Actually the official name is Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which is why 3 flags fly over the entrances.  This is an international park because its land stretches into Canada and encompasses acreage owned by the Blackfeet Nation. (This entire area is commonly called "Crown of the Continent.") 

This was more than a "room with a view" was a vacation with a view!

This was also our first trip with a digital camera.  And everywhere you pointed the lens was an awe inspiring shot of this amazing state.  Below is Guy's favorite:

We flew Delta to Salt Lake City.  There we changed to a smaller plane on Skywest Airlines and flew into Kalispell, a beautiful small western town.  We took a shuttle to an actual barn across the road to pick up our rental SUV.
We drove through Kalispell to have lunch at MacKenzie River Pizza.  When you visit, you must have their pizza with sourdough crust..."unlike any other in the free world!" 

After our delicious lunch, we drove 45 minutes through gorgeous countryside to the town of Whitefish.  We found it very curious to see the 75 m.p.h Speed Limit signs on wheels.  Evidently, the signs are moved around from one roadside to another after serious accidents.  We were told Montanans would not have signs at all except there would be no federal highway funds without them.  In Whitefish we checked into our lovely accommodations.

Consistently recognized for excellence, Whitefish’s finest bed & breakfast has been catering to discerning travelers since 1987.  The impeccably restored 1920s house-turned-inn offers five luxurious guestrooms, each furnished with period antiques.  The scrumptious three-course breakfasts are prepared by chef/owner Rhonda Fitzgerald and chef/owner Chris Schustrom.  The Inn has a great location, just a one block walk from downtown Whitefish’s charming shops, restaurants and nightspots.

This is one of our Top 5 Hotels...EVER! 
(And there was no TV in the place.) 

The service was extraordinary...each morning starts with a coffee or tea tray delivered to your room.  Downstairs in the Breakfast Room the meal begins with fresh–squeezed orange juice and their own blend of locally roasted coffee.  Next comes an elegantly presented fruit course, then homemade pastries.  The morning entrée might be: huckleberry–pear crèpes, scrambled eggs in puff pastry, cinnamon–apple french toast, or perhaps a frittata; all served on snowy white linens and Blue Willow china from Glacier Park’s Great Northern Railroad era.

"What...NO television?"

That evening we walked to dinner in Whitefish at a restaurant called Latitude 48.  The building was incredibly nice and had a cozy dining room.  But we were underwhelmed by the food.

Our Sourdough Pizza at lunch was far better.

The next morning we drove 25 minutes to the western entrance of...

We had 9:00 reservations for The Red Bus Tour called - Mountain Majesty.

Red Bus on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

The White Motor Company, between 1936 and 1938, built Glacier’s red-with-black trim vehicles. This fleet of Red Buses is considered the oldest intact fleet of passenger-carrying vehicles anywhere. These 17 passenger convertible touring sedans are more than a mere means of transportation for locals and visitors - they are cherished, elegant icons of Glacier National Park.

The Mountain Majesty tour takes 6 hours.  That is Brian (left), our driver and tour guide.  We started our tour at the Lake McDonald Lodge, in one of the few rain forests in Montana.  Soon we were traversing the side of a glacially carved valley while touring on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (a 50 mile stretch of pavement that bisects the park) over Logan Pass, where it was snowing on the last day of August!  After a stop at the Continental Divide, with lunch at Rising Sun’s Two Dog Flats Grill, we headed down into the St. Mary Valley.  This tour is an absolute alone is worth the trip to Montana!

Red Bus on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Red Bus tour ended back at Lake MacDonald Lodge where we sat by an enormous fireplace with a gigantic roaring fire and chatted with hikers.  We had an early dinner at Russell's Fireside Dining Room inside the lodge.  This place specializes in wild game and so we tried it.  We'll eat anything...once!

Speaking of wild game, the unofficial mascot of Glacier National Park is the Grizzly Bear and you will see the following sign all over the park:

This is Bear Country!
Make noise when you hike
Do NOT cook where you sleep
Do NOT sleep in the same clothes you cook in

Needless to say we followed these instructions to the letter.  Easy enough...I do not cook while on vacation and we make plenty of noise. 

After dinner we took a sunset cruise onboard the historic "DeSmet," the largest in the lodge's fleet of all wooden boats.

Leaving the boat dock at Lake McDonald  (the largest of the park's 653 lakes)  the boat crosses to the north of the lake to view more remote areas and the rebirth of the forest from the 2003 fires.  A park ranger is on board to answer questions; turns out he was also driving the boat.  So my only question when he came down to talk with us -

"Who's driving the boat?"

By the time we returned to the inn, we were exhausted and neither one of us missed the TV.

The next day, Labor Day, we decided to drive around to the east side of the park and cross back over Going-to-the-Sun Road on our return trip to Whitefish.

So after another marvelous breakfast, we set out around the park for the eastern entrance.

In addition to railroad tracks, my husband enjoys photographing storm clouds.  Although this was not an ideal weather day for me, he was totally happy driving and stopping along these two-lane roads to take pictures.

And this was our destination...Many Glacier Lodge(Yes, there was yodeling!)  We had lunch inside the lodge at the Interlaken Lounge and enjoyed "Apres Fondue" for dessert. 

We have some thoughts on our country's beautiful parks and the lodging options inside.  The word "authentic" is used frequently in describing these accommodations.  Translation:  This hotel is exactly the way it was back when it was built in the mid-twentieth century. 

Obviously there are many people who enjoy that kind of experience...for me, that would be
(Actually the lodge does offer shower and laundry facilities for campers and hikers.)

Back on the road, we used the East Glacier entrance and headed west over Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The road gains more than 3,400 feet in 32 miles, and is very narrow in places.

This was Guy's Ultimate Driving Experience! 
If we lived in Montana, Guy would drive one of those Red Buses.


And now look out National Geographic, I took this next photo...

This family of mountain goats was above us as we drove through the park.  As we approached them, we opened the sunroof and I stood up and snapped this photo.  (I actually took a dozen shots...don't you love digital cameras!)  We continued down the mountain road and returned to Whitefish.  State # 26 is amazing and after two days we were still overwhelmed by the beauty of this "River Runs Through It" land.

We had dinner at a restaurant near the Big Mountain Ski Resort that just recently closed its doors.

We are not skiers, but for those of you who enjoy snow skiing you should think about this beautiful place...

On the next morning, after yet another delectable breakfast, we walked into Whitefish for a "treasure hunt!"  Following our standard procedure for acquiring souvenirs, we zeroed in on a shop/gallery featuring works by the Blackfeet tribe called Two Medicine Gallery.  And this was our find for Montana...

Hand woven basket with antler handle

We had lunch at The Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse, Montana.  You will eat huckleberries when you visit this corner of State #'s what the basket is stained purple with....and they are delicious!  And since it was the loveliest day yet on our trip, we drove to the park and ascended Going-to-the-Sun Road one last time.  We were not disappointed!

That evening we had our one truly remarkable meal (outside of breakfast) while in Montana.

We had dinner at Tupelo Grille.  Imagine my surprise at finding truly delicious Cajun food in Whitefish, Montana!

The Tupelo Grille Menu
Established in 1995, this fine dining restaurant quickly gained a reputation as being one of the top eateries in the Flathead Valley and Northwest Montana, (our thanks to Elaine for the recommendation). This place specializes in Cajun and Southern cuisine, carefully prepared and presented by a friendly and experienced staff.  Combined with a warm, casual atmosphere and an award-winning wine list, Tupelo Grille delivered our most memorable dining experience while we were in Montana.

Our final morning at The Garden Wall Inn, we had to drive to Kalispell to catch a 7:15 flight back to Salt Lake City.  Our innkeepers did not serve breakfast until 8.  But true to the impeccable service provided throughout our stay, we were delighted to find a gourmet "picnic" breakfast packed and waiting for us downstairs!  (One of our Top 5 Hotels...EVER!)

And so we bid farewell to State # 26 - Montana.

Only two of these photos were provided by:
All of the others were taken with our Canon EOS Rebel. 

We are so fortunate to live in a wonderful neighborhood filled with nice people.  For this trip we have to thank other neighbors for keeping an eye on our home and plants...(our usual security team was out of town) our warmest regards to:

Claci & Jeff
Your TLC kept these alive during the drought!

And again...keep believing...Spring will be here soon.  It's already arrived at our home!

Next time...
(sing it with me & Fats Domino)

We're going to Kansas City,
Kansas City, here we come!

1 comment:

  1. Liz - Montana looks wonderful!!! It is definitely on my list and I would love to stay at that B&B. Great to see you the other day!