Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Wild West

Larry’s son Mike and his wife Anne live in Whitefish Montana, at least for a few more days and then they will be moving to Louisville Kentucky for three years. So Larry and I few into Glacier International in Kalispell Montana to visit for the weekend, flying over the golden wheat fields of eastern Washington and into the green fields of the farms and ranches in the Flathead Valley. Winding roads snaked through the valley with homes sitting close by and barns surrounded by tree breaks next to the rivers, lakes, and streams.

Downtown Whitefish is sort of like Winthrop Washington but on a larger scale. The buildings all have a western, cowboy theme from the facades on the outside and the merchandise for sale inside, including cowboy bread sold in a brown beer bottle, or Moose Drool beer, or grizzly bear chocolate claws. We arrived on a Friday night and the town was hopping with locals and tourist crowding all the local restaurants and bars. After dinner we took a short walking tour through town and then drove to Mike and Anne’s home which sits in a fairly new development with a little pond in back. We talked and visited until everyone decided if we were going to go act like tourists the next day, we should get some sleep.

Saturday morning we drove to the west entrance of Glacier National Park. We took the “Going to the Sun Road” to Logan Pass. There was lots of road repair work going on and parts of the road were completely torn up with long stretches of gravel beds waiting to be repaved. It was bumper to bumper and looking ahead we felt sorry for the motorcycles, not only because of the gravel but the uphill stop and go traffic is really hard on the bike and the rider. We arrived at Logan Pass that marks the continental divide and only had to wait about five minutes to find a parking space. The sign in the women’s bathroom advised you to use the hand sanitizer because the glacier water running through the facets was ice cold from the melting snow. Little ground squirrels scampered around the tourists on the walkways not letting us get in the way of their single-minded objectives to get where they were going.

We saw Sunrift Gorge and St Mary Lake and the most photographed island in Glacier Park--Wild Goose Island--before heading down the eastern side of Glacier Park to have lunch at the Park Café in St. Mary, Montana. We were surprised to find it wasn’t packed and only had to wait a few minutes for table. The food was good and we bought a few cookies to enjoy on the second half of the trip. This is the type of little café that our Harley Owners Group looks for when we are traveling; good food, good service, and good prices.

We headed south to see the magnificent Many Glacier Lodge; built by the Great Northern Railroad. We also found the most enchanting cabin with a painted red door and twig furniture outside just as we entered the lodge drive. We drove on to Goat Lick overview but only found one lone goat under the bridge resting in the middle of the day. We did find some goat hair and I am going to try to find a way to add it to a piece of my art. We made a complete circle of the park and arrived back in time to shower and change before heading out to Anne’s birthday celebration. We had a wonderful dinner at a small gourmet restaurant and I wish I had the recipe to the sauce that was drizzled over my pork tenderloin. We also had a chance to meet some of Mike and Anne’s friends, Jeannie and Gary. We had flaming desserts to celebrate as we sang happy birthday to Anne with the rest of the restaurant patrons joined in the singing.

After dinner we took a drive around Whitefish to see more of the town, Whitefish Lake, and then up to Whitefish mountain and the ski lodge. From the top of the mountain the view of the valley was outstanding. There are lots of new homes being built from the top of the mountain all the way down and across the valley floor. Mike and Anne are hoping to complete their Snowy Owl Lodge when they return to Whitefish in a few years.

Sunday morning we joined Mike and Anne for church services in Columbia Falls then bought the makings for an indoor picnic style lunch. Everyone changed clothes and we headed to the Montana Raft Company for a trip down the middle fork of the Flathead River through Glacier National Park and an afternoon spent in Gods glorious country. We spent about thee and a half hours floating and paddling down a scenic, peaceful, relaxing, restful, sun filled afternoon. The rapids were rated class II and III and yes we got wet. We were attacked by rogue pirates on a raft not flying a flag so as to appear as if they were just another innocent rafting group. They drenched us with water guns as we slowed through a calm spot on the river and we fought back with our paddles splashing the water to try and soak them back. Lots of laughter from both rafts and they finally left us drift on down the river as the prepared to attack the next raft. There were a few sore muscles that evening and a few more the next morning, but the experience was worth every groan. No pictures, though, because my camera is not waterproof.

Mike cooked up his famous marinated steaks for dinner and Anne fixed all the trimmings including little mixed fruit and berry open tarts for the girls and chocolate brownies for the guys and both topped with vanilla ice cream. After dinner Anne helped me label my pictures so I would know where I had been for the last two days.

The long low whistle of the freight train signaled it was past time for bed in the valley. The same long low freight train whistle also wakes you up in the morning and it sounds better than any alarm clock. Amtrak runs through Whitefish coming east from Chicago and west from Seattle bringing the summer tourist crowds.

Monday morning and it was time to pack our bags. We didn’t fly out until later in the afternoon so we drove out to Howling Wolf Ranch which Mike helps to manage. It is two hundred acres about twenty-five miles outside of Whitefish. It really was a beautiful peaceful setting but more isolated and lonely for me to ever think about living in. I guess I’m just too much of a city girl.

We stopped for lunch at the Red Caboose Café for lunch. The paper placemats had a doodled train design, sort of like zentangle art. Famous quotes were cleverly written into the scenes and the one I found inspiring was: “sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction” by anonymous. It’s hard, sometimes, to accept change especially when life becomes more difficult or not the way we are used to living or doing things; but when we can acknowledge, and allow ourselves to say yes to, God’s will, then we find peace to continue in a new direction and fulfillment.

The airplane ride home was uneventful as I slept from Kalispell to Seattle and Larry read his book on his new Kindle electronic book and listening to music stored on it. It was good to be home again and Michael was in Bellingham to pick us up. Deuce the dog has happy to have his dad home and Ally the grandbaby was waiting to be fed as usual.

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