Greetings from Waterton Lake National Park, the Canadian sister park to Glacier National Park. We are sitting in Prince of Wales Hotelwaiting to see the sunset. After what feels like days without internet access, I am finally back online (expensively roaming on the MiFi).
We had driven 750 miles since my previous trip post at Bremerton on Monday. Right after I posted that blog entry, we left Bremerton on a ferry to Seattle.
We didn’t spend much time in Seattle as we plan to return at the end of the trip for a video game convention. So, we marched onto Snohomish, Washington, the self-proclaimed “Antique Capital of the Northwest”.
At a big antique market, we spotted a nice set of 1940s Duncan & Miller teardrop crystal glasses. After some negotiation, we bought four of each of the large and small glasses. I was happy with the purchase even with the knowledge that we didn’t get the best bargain.
Onward to Leavenworth, Washington, a small “Bavarian Village” nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, our stop point for the day. We watched the Giants vs. Jets preseason game at Uncle Uli’s Pub, a sports bar where I had a jalapeno cheddar bratwurst sandwich, with tender, juicy, uniquely flavored meat, which definitely hit the spot. It was also a memorable meal because I saw Giants star quarterback Eli Manning getting hit by his own teammate which led to a lost helmut and blood dripping down his forehead.
For our evening entertainment, we went to the local old-school arcade. On way to the arcade, we saw this curious sign. I was tempted to call the phone number to have them explain the difference between rent vs. lease.
At the arcade, I played the Cyclone, a surprisingly addictive game in which you try to hit a button at the exact moment a quickly circling flashing light passes the jackpot slot. It was one of the games that gave you most reward tickets per play — most bang for the buck. I consciously hypnotized myself by immersing my focus into the speeding rhythm of the circling light, and I hit the jackpot (after a dozen or so tries, for full disclosure). High five!
Here is a picture of the machine spewing out reward tickets, which I used to exchange for a few toys for our cats. I am hoping my next jackpot will be something more substantial.
Next day, we passed through Wenatchee, Washington, the “Apple Capital of the World” and apparently one of the largest producers of apples in the world, where we got some roadside peaches (but no apple!). Then we took a pit stop at Costco in Spokane before crossing the state line into Idaho.
Intrigued at the last minute by the website slogan “Escape to Ultimate Luxury — Discover the Beauty — Celebrate the Season”, we decided to stay at The Coeur d’Alene Resort because my husband wanted a quiet place to relax. Well, far from luxury, it was a place full of fat midwesterners, like the rest of the city, still stuck in the 1980s with the whiff of complacent mediocrity. And far from quiet, it turned out to be the kind of place that caters to corporate and family retreats, hustling and bustling with loud salespeople trying to impress each other and half-naked kids charging towards the pool area.
Instead of relaxing in the room, we saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Based on my previous post, you know how I felt about that.
We should have stayed at Sandpoint, Idaho, about 60 miles east from Washington, 50 miles west from Montana and 60 miles south from Canada. (This mistake shows the downside of our ad hoc no-plans approach to this vacation.)
In Sandpoint, we hung out at a games-beers-and-burgers joint called The Dive for lunch. We were competing with the little kids in riding the mechanical bull. It was so much fun — both in term of riding the mechanical bull for the first time for me and to compete with the little kids.
Straddling the state line between Idaho and Montana on Route 2, there is a self-styled casino. We were going to try our luck at the blackjack table, but it turned out to be just a bar with slot machines. The bartender, grizzly old man with missing teeth, was a chatterbox. After I drank some whiskies with him (my husband was driving), he wanted to tell us the exaggerated version of his life story, which was promptly shut down by a local retired couple sitting next to us.
The retired couple who I guessed to be in their mid 70s were rabbit farmers who lived close by. They were spunky with dry sense of humor. The old man even taught my husband how to play shuffleboard.
We enjoyed bantering with them and wished we had stayed longer to chat with them to learn about how modern farming works, as they had owned a farm with 50,000 hogs in Nebraska before retiring to Montana.
We stayed at Kalispell, Montana for the night, preparing for a long hike in the Glacier National Park the next day.
However, not all went as planned. My husband had to deal with some work stuff in the morning, so we didn’t start our hike until around noon. Instead of doing a whole day hike, we were only able to do The Loop Trail, an 8-mile round trip hike up and down the Granite Park Chalet.
Even though the 4-mile 2,200 feet ascent didn’t look too daunting at first, I had a tough time hiking up, perhaps due to the thinning air at the high altitude and/or the burgers I had eaten lately. The view at the top was well worth the effort (but the picture doesn’t do justice to the grandeur).
We were too sore to do another hike the next day, so we took a scenic drive towards the east side of the park.
We stopped at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier for lunch, and lounged on their wooden deck in the breeze under the toasty sun over looking the jagged edged mountains in the distance.
Serendipitously, the lodge was hosting a chili cook-off and a cookie bake-off. We sampled at least eight different kinds of chilis, all hearty with the right amount of heat. Yummers!
With a stomach full of chilis and cookies, we set off to St. Mary Lake. At the empty picnic area, we encountered two young deers — or maybe they were elks? — with their mother, scrounging for food. The lake with the mountain as a backdrop was simply gorgeous. We laid on the shore under the azure sky wondering how many people have done that before us.
We stayed at the Rising Sun Motor Inn, a no-frill lodge adjacent to the St. Mary Lake. Over dinner, we played The Original I.Q. Tester, a brain teaser game they had at each table. You basically jump pegs around on a small game board. The game says you are a “genius” with an IQ of 200 if you are able to leave exactly eight pegs on the board with no remaining jumps possible. Apparently, my husband and I have a combined IQ of one genius, as we worked together to figure it out.
In the fresh and crispy morning air, we drove north onto Many Glacier this morning.
At the Many Glacier Hotel, we rode two gentle horses to Cracker Lake. Since my husband and I were the only two people on the ride, we had a great chat with the guide on a variety of topics, from horse personality and hierarchy to the operation of a concession business in the national park to her future aspirations.
To rest our sore bums, we lounged on the wooden deck of the hotel. It was beautiful scene and this photo (with the glass of local beer) captures my husband’s idea of happiness.
However, I was getting “cabin fever” being out of touch with the internet and having no cell signal. So I dragged my husband on a mission looking for a WiFi signal somewhere picturesque. That’s what brought us to Prince of Wales Hotel here.
It is not a bad way to cap off our last full day of the first portion of the trip together. My husband will return to New York from Great Falls tomorrow. He wasn’t able to get consecutive weeks off from work, so he will be working from Monday through Friday and return to Great Falls Friday night. We will then continue our trip onto Banff National Park.
So, it is just me, the “tools,” and some thoughts-in-progress about quitting law next week roaming around Montana. If you know of any fun things to do, please let me know.
UPDATE: This blog entry was not posted until Sunday morning in Great Falls because I was too cheap to upload all these pictures while roaming on the MiFi.