Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald Lodge and Going-to-the-Sun-Road

We settle our bags in our hotel, and as soon as we can, we head into Glacier National Park, west entrance and hurry to Going-to-the-Sun-Road. We know it is early in the season and the road may not be open, but when we got to Avalanche Creek we learn that there was an avalanche just days ago and two bicyclists were trapped several hours while rescuers tried to get them out. You can walk or bike farther beyond the gate closing the road, but you can’t drive.

Meanwhile, there is much to see, but it is very very hazy. We keep thinking it will burn off, and it doesn’t. Later we learn that there is a huge grass fire in Alberta, across the Canadian border, and the smoke has all blown south. It is a little hard to breathe.

Nonetheless, this place is gorgeous. This river is the color of old glass bottles, and it is swollen with snow run-off. I would not want to raft on this river at this time of year, it is too unpredictable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Avalanche Creek, AdventureMan took a short walk in the woods, while I walked on the road.  Guess which one of us spotted wildlife? I was taking photos of Avalanche Creek when a deer walked right in front of me and settled down in a little grove of trees.

 

 

 

 

 

In Glacier National Park, even more than in Yellowstone, there are warnings about bear everywhere, and there are all kinds of kiosks selling bear repellent.

I grew up in Alaska. AdventureMan has heard my stories about blueberry picking so many times that he can tell the story himself, starting with “when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska, . . . ”  It never fails to crack me up. So, when I was a little girl growing up in Alaska and the blueberries would get ripe, my Mom would send us out to pick blueberries. We had big coffee cans hanging from string around our neck, and a stick. If we saw bear, we were supposed to beat the can with the stick and back away slowly from the bear. We were never never never to touch a cub, or to get between a cub and its mother. Those were the rules I grew up with.

There was a boy I knew who lost an eye to a bear, and had a big claw mark across his face. He was the lucky one. His friend didn’t survive.

So I keep my distance. I have a healthy respect for bear, for all wildlife. This is not Disney-does-wildlife, these are bear, in springtime, and they are hungry and focused on filling their bellies. You do not want to get in their way.

I spit on bear repellent. I think it gives people false courage. It might stop a bear. It might enrage a bear. I think the best strategy is not to be alone in bear country if you can help it, especially in a remote area, and to move away slowly if you find yourself in one of those “holy shit” moments that no one could predict. And I know it’s easy to say, and very very hard to know how anyone will respond to that kind of lethal threat.

 

Lake McDonald Lodge is lovely. It has all the features I love; huge old timbers, a three story high lobby, a huge stone fireplace, homey furnishings. I love this place:

 

 

 

We walk out the front door (the Lodge was built before the road was built, so the front door faces the Lake, and today you enter the Lodge through the back door) to discover there is a Lake boat cruise leaving right now, so AdventureMan buys two tickets and we scamper aboard just in time for a sundown cruise.

Can you see how hazy it is? That isn’t fog, that is SMOKE!

It makes for an atmospheric photo, but . . . no visible mountains.

 

It is dinnertime when we return to the Lodge, and we know where we want to eat. Fortunately, it is early in the season, and we are able to snag a table without a reservation. This is the creek next to the dining room, as it empties into Lake McDonald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what the Dining Room looks like. This was the best Lodge Dining we experienced. The food was exquisite and the service was experienced and sophisticated.The wait staff was really good at helping us choose wine that went with our meals.

I had a Farmer’s Market salad, with smoked trout on top. It was just right for me.

 

My husband had a salad, and a charcuterie platter. On the platter, the meats and cheeses were all from Montana. There was smoked duck, an elk sausage, and a bison pastrami, I think. I may have gotten something mixed up.

This was one of the nicest meals we had on our trip. We thought that the lodge prices were very reasonable, too.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

From Missoula to Kalispell to Coumbia Falls and Glacier National Park

Our day starts off with our divine leftovers from The Notorious Pig, and we hit the road early.

 

Once we leave Wye, we are on the Flathead Reservation. Things are done a little differently. There are bilingual signs, and there are special protected places for the animals to cross the highways.

 

 

 

This sign is not bilingual, but easily understood. AdventureMan and I are taking a short hike and he points it out. He knows I am irrational about snakes.

 

 

When we get to Polson, the road splits. The iPhone is working once again, and tells us to go up the east side of Flathead; I had thought we were going up the west side, but sometimes the phone has a better idea. This time, I think how much we might have missed – the east side is very rural, with gorgeous views of the lake and with orchard after orchard – cherry orchards!

First, we came to this beautiful Camp, Blue Bay.

 

It is early in the season, and there are only one or two campers, but we can see the signs that someone has been very busy preparing for the campers to come.

 

The Lodge is not ready for the season, but we peek in the windows; the lodge is my idea of camping 🙂

 

We see signs like this everywhere. Montana is working very hard to protect their lakes and rivers against an invasive mussel. All boats have to be inspected before launching. So far, this campaign may inconvenience the boaters, but the lakes and rivers have not been infested.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I fall in love with a name – like Kalispell. We had a lot of fun in Kalispell, this day and the next day when we came back for a Farmer’s Market.

 

This day, AdventureMan parked so I could run into City Hall in Kalispell. Two women were there, and no customers, so I asked first if there were any German restaurants, and there weren’t, and then I asked where they might eat lunch and why. That started a great discussion, and then they mentioned the Split Rock, just up the street. It sounded perfect for us.

 

This is an old mercantile, sort of the predecessor to a much larger department store. Below is the interior of what is now a Cafe and restaurant. Their coffee smells divine.

This is what this room used to look like if you were coming in the door, a long time ago.

 

The special today is a French Dip Sandwich – I have a weakness for French Dip Sandwich – and this one is made of prime rib. So that is what I order. AdventureMan orders the clam chowder and half a club sandwich.

This is the best French Dip sandwich I have ever eaten. I limit the bread I eat, I limit the red meat I eat, but – not today. Today against all my better angels, I eat the whole thing. The dip is juicy and spiced, and hot. It is heaven, every bite.

 

 

This is what we had for dessert:

 

From Kalispell, we explored Whitefish, very picturesque. This is the old railway depot:

We get to our hotel, and we have a beautiful room. Here’s the funny thing . . . I thought we were going to have a view of the mountains. What we had was a view of the roof. Mostly the underneath of the roof!

 

 

 

Our room is square over the lobby, and we look out on the antler chandelier. I thought maybe we should ask to be another floor up, but when I looked at the rooms from the outside, I could see that the third floor also had a view of the roof. Aargh.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone to Missoula: A Day of Transition to Glacier National Park

I’ve had one odd problem on this trip, which is that my iPhone went wonky in Yellowstone National Park. I figured out that if I downloaded maps while I had wi-fi connections, sometimes they worked in the park. It was a pain in the neck, and I didn’t always remember. The phone always knew where we were, but the maps didn’t always show up clearly. I am guessing it is a coverage problem, no cell towers, or something, but once we left the park, the problem was over. The phone could show me where I was.

We got a slow start – like maybe we slept in until 7 a.m. and then we went to Gardiner for breakfast, this time trying a place we had seen and wanted to try, Tumbleweeds.

Tumbleweeds is also a book store, where both AdventureMan and I found used books at 50 cents each to get us through the rest of our journey. In the last week, I had totally caught up with all my unread New Yorkers (woo hoooo!) and was ready for something light. I found Margaret Atwoods “A Cat’s Eye” (not light, has to do with bullying among girls, and emotional manipulation) and my husband found a Ludlum book he hadn’t read.

The food was just exactly the kind we like, not fancy, not pretentiously served, but made in house from locally sourced ingredients, as much as possible. Their coffee was delicious, to start. AdventureMan had a breakfast sandwich, and I had Montana oatmeal, and an english muffin. They make their own bread. They make all their own food. We were happy to be there.

 

 

If it weren’t for the mountains, the road to Livingston, where we got on I-90, would have been pretty boring.

 

 

No elk. No bison. No wolves. No bear. Shortly after we left Gardiner, we discovered also that the weather had changed dramatically, and not only were we shedding layers, but it was getting hot. I checked the forecast for Glacier – in the 80’s. In the 80’s ??? Yikes! I packed for freezing!

We drove as far as Butte before our breakfast wore off. We had no idea where to eat, so we drove to the downtown area and stopped a couple guys on the street and asked them where they eat lunch. They looked at each other, said there are a lot of options, then one of them looked at us and asked “Do you like a little nuance?”

No one has ever asked us that before.

We said “sure” and he recommended Metals, and showed us how to get there. Just as we were entering, the two guys entered, too, and said “we thought as long as we were recommending it, we might as well eat there, too.”

 

The first photo I took was the menu, because it cracked me up and agrees so totally with how I would like to live my life.

Metals is a sports bar. I guess it has been several things, but it began as Metals Bank, as Butte is a mining town.

You can even dine in the bank vault.

 

 

 

I had an Oriental Chicken Salad, delicious, and AdventureMan had the Chef Salad with Grilled Chicken Breast, which was also very good.

 

We continued on to Missoula, where we have stopped before when we used to drive from Pensacola to Seattle, and like a lot.

Our hotel was beautiful and quiet. We were welcomed warmly, and the receptionist was very helpful. This was the Grant Creek Best Western Plus, and it had great beds, was very quiet and was an easy access back to I-90.

 

I had found a Montana food blog and we knew exactly where we wanted to go. There is a fabulous BBQ restaurant in downtown Missoula called The Notorious Pig. My phone got us there without any problems.

 

We know what we like. This is it. We heard someone come in behind us and order, and asked about desserts. The guy at the counter said “We don’t do desserts. We just do smoked meats.” You could hear the pride in his voice. You could smell the meats; holy smokes.

 

 

I had first ordered burnt tips, only to be told they had already sold out. The smoked turkey was a great choice, so moist and so delicious and – so much. So much of both my husband’s BBQ pulled pork and my smoked turkey that we good boxes back to the hotel and although the hotel offers breakfast, we preferred to have warmed up BBQ. It was that good.

 

 

I will tell you this was one of the most memorable meals on our trip because of the quality of the meats. Also, I had never had Fire and Ice pickles before, so this was a first for me, and I was hooked. I’ve always loved pickles. These almost tasted like dills – maybe they even started out as dills, but then pickled again in a sweet, spicy brine. Oh wow. I’m going to have to figure out how to make these pickles.

 

We had a great nights sleep in Missoula.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Wonderland and Last Trip to Lamar Valley

When we finish hiking the terraces, it is still early. We decide we do not want to eat breakfast in the Dining Room, so we go into Gardiner, back to The Wonderland Cafe and Lodge. The Cafe is already full, a few tables with couples and one very large table with a local woman’s group. They are having such a good time, it made me feel like home. I saw one bring in a bag of books for another, and I thought “I could be happy living here.”

We order and are delighted with our choices. My husband tried Avocado Toast for the first time, and thoroughly enjoyed the combination of flavors. I had the breakfast burrito.

 

 

It’s a hearty breakfast, and we know we won’t need to eat for a long while, so we head back out to Lamar valley, still looking for those wolves around Slough Creek. On the way back into the park, we stopped to take a photo at the 45th latitude. We thought that was pretty cool. You’ll note we are still in heavier clothes at this point.

On the way we hike up to Wraith Falls; it’s an easy hike, only half a mile there and back. You can’t really get too close with all the wood fall, but it is a lovely cascading kind of falls.

 

 

 

 

My husband had some interest in the petrified forest, but we figured maybe the next trip. What I like about this photo of the deer is that it looks like one would prefer to go one way and the other in a different direction. It kind of cracked me up.

Back in Slough Creek again, looking around for those wolves. Did not see any wolves, nor the babies we had heard about, but I took a photo of this wonderful rock. In Alaska, and in the Seattle area, people pay big money to have a great huge rock in their yard, like a landscape focus. I think it has to do with Scandinavian blood, and glaciation, the fact that these great huge rocks are brought from mountains, many miles, and then are dumped where the ice melts. You will see valleys full of great huge rocks, with no source in sight. Many have come for miles. This one looks to me like a very alien rock; he has a curved round head and on either side of his cracked (helmut?) you can see his alien eyes.

 

Also in the valley at Slough Creek, we find anglers; at one time three of them angling. We never saw them catch anything.

 

Out on the edge of a large plain between the mountains, a huge valley where the Bison were slowly brought back from near extinction, is this formation, called Soda Butte. It has a hot spring that kept springing up, depositing minerals, until it built this anomalous structure. We hiked around it to get a view of the other side.

 

 

 

 

We see bison grazing peacefully across the river, except for one, who is looking at us and moving quickly and purposefully toward us. Hmmm, those big guys can move pretty fast. We calmly and quickly walk to our car and get in. The bison comes all the way to where we were standing and fortunately, stops. After the adventure with the elk, we aren’t taking any chances. Most of the bison we have encountered have been placid and uninterested in humans, but wildlife is wild. They don’t think like we think, and we don’t take anything for granted.

No, I didn’t stop to take this photo, I was taking this photo when I noticed he was running towards us.

 

We see a clump of cars, and as we approach, we see a woman walking in our direction. “What have they spotted?” we ask her, and she says “Oh, there is a bear, high on the hill, they are watching him. He is the size of a little tiny dot.” We’ve seen a lot of bear. The rangers are already here, encouraging people to move their cars, park legally, but there a lot of sharp drops here, and not a lot of parking spaces.

I don’t know a lot about the Ranger program at Yellowstone, but it appears to me that there are a lot of trained people out observing animals, good at spotting them, and generous about pointing them out to others I would think they are photographers, but they are not. They have these super telescopes, like uniscopes, which are very powerful. If they are Rangers, out spotting game for the visitors, I think that is a lovely service.

We dawdle our way back toward Roosevelt Station, where the road heads out to Lamar Road. As we cross the Yellowstone River and head towards the junction, we see a large group of men and women walking in the direction from which we are coming. “What are you doing?” we asked, and they said “Ranger training.” How cool is that?

The Roosevelt Lodge isn’t open yet, but will open soon. How do we know that? We see stagecoaches, and what I take to be a chuckwagon, on rubber wheels, practicing in the large field where two days ago we saw coyote. They are having a lot of fun practicing. And note, a placid bison.

 

 

 

 

Back in Mammoth Hot Springs, we stop to take a photo of the old Fort Yellowstone church. This was our goal the elk attacked AdventureMan, and we never made it to the church. We have  a beautiful day for a photo.

We stop by the General Store, pick up some sandwiches for dinner on the porch, and some huckleberry ice cream cones to give us energy to pack up for tomorrow’s departure. The sandwiches in the General Store are huge, so huge we can never eat the whole sandwich. They are on big bread, and the bread is also thick. The filling is generous, thick. We hate to waste food, but we can’t eat the whole sandwich.

We’ve had a great visit to Mammoth Hot Springs. We can’t wait to bring our family here.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Building, Civility, Customer Service, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone: Mammoth Hot Springs

There are crowds of people visiting Mammoth Hot Springs during the day. There are special lots just for all the buses that come to see the magnificent terraces. Suddenly, the afternoon is hot, and we are shedding layers. Late in the afternoon, we decide to visit the Upper Terrace, a one way road, very short, but you can park and hike in several of the areas.

This is not snow, although it looks like it might be. It is calcium carbonate, leached from the soil by heat and water, and laid down, layer by layer on these fabulous terraces. We are told this is the same material that makes up travertine tile, but it looks nothing like travertine. It is also different colors in different places, depending on which minerals are also mixed in and how long the deposits have been in one place.

We visited Pamukkale, in Turkey, many years ago with AdventureMan’s sister and her family, and were astounded such a wonder could exist. We had no idea that it also existed in our own country.

 

 

There are also crowds at the Upper Terraces, so we head back to the hotel to check in.

This is the Mammoth Hot Springs General store, where they have all kinds of souvenirs, t-shirts, jewelry, art works, ice cream and grab and go sandwiches and snacks. This was the best stocked General Store we found in Yellowstone. (Canyon was the most shopped out.)

This is what a view of the terraces looks like from the hotel – it is Mammoth.

 

This is a map of the USA made out of US woods. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is undergoing renovations, and rooms IN the hotel are not available, but they do have cabins. The facilities – the lobby, the Xanterra Gift Shop and the Map Room and Bar are open, and in a separate building, the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room and the Grill.

Guide to the woods used in the giant map of the USA.

 

Map room bar

Map room place to hang out and use internet. There is no internet in the cabins.

.This is a view from the lobby to the Xanterra Gift Shop. This is important to know if you are obligated to bring back gifts. The General store has souvenirs. The Xanterra shops are totally different, and have different – and often nicer – gifts to buy than the General stores. Don’t think that because you have shopped in one, you know what is in the other. They are different!

Now for the fun part. Well, fun for us. Not everyone would prefer a cabin to a hotel room, and they have their reasons, too. We love cabins, and we reserved far in advance, thanks to my friend’s warning, so that we could get a cabin with a bathroom. Do you want to go walking to a communal bathroom at night when there are huge wild animals walking about?

We also just like the privacy of having a little cabin. So don’t be shocked, it is tiny but it has enough space for people who are out most of the day.

 

It has a porch! We ate dinner out here on our second night of our stay.

 

Little washstand, and that is what works as a closet next to the washstand. We kept our suitcases in the car, parked right next to the cabin, and brought in what we needed for the next day in our backpacks.

It may be tiny, but you can shower and toilet without having to walk outside in your bathrobe, or wrapped in a towel or something.

AdventureMan loved these little chipmunks (?) squirrels (?) which were everywhere in the park. This one had a burrow with two entries right under our porch. He wasn’t shy about inviting himself to share our dinner, either.

Our first night in Mammoth Hot Springs, the end of a very long and eventful day, we decide to try dinner at the Mammoth Dining Room.

The Dining Room is entered from the right, the Grill Room (burgers, etc) is entered from the left.

 

The interior of the Dining Room; nice high ceiling, everything looking freshly painted.

 

We each had soup, Butternut Squash for me, French Onion for my husband. The soups were good. The Flatbread and the Hummus Plate were not what we expected. They felt assembled, not prepared. They didn’t feel fresh.

 

After such a nice lunch in Gardiner, this was a let down.

You are probably ready for this day to be over, but not us. We want to take a walk through the old Fort Yellowstone historical area before we close down for the night. We love that Mammoth Hot Springs is so walkable. Just have to watch out for the local residents:

 

 

But what happens if the Elk approaches you, at a rapid pace?

 

 

There are wonderful old military quarters, and stables, and an old PX, all with signs. As we were looking at the old PX, one of the residents (park employees live in the old military quarters) hollered out to us to watch out for the cranky old Mama, that she had a baby hidden somewhere nearby and could be a little hostile. We moved away, and were reading a sign when we heard yelling again, only this time “Run! Run! She’s coming!”

I got behind a nearby car so she couldn’t see me, but it wasn’t me she was interested in, it was my husband. He kept a sign between them, terrified, he tells me later, because an elk is big and muscular, and this was a big muscular mad mama elk. Someone else clapped hands at her and yelled, and she backed off long enough for us to move far far away. We didn’t know, but we must have moved too close to the hidden baby. Not her fault, our bad.

(In the newspaper two days later I read that an elk had attacked a park employee in that same residence area and the employee had to be hospitalized. The mama elk had to be relocated.)

This was a very appropriate finale for a day full of fun and adventures of all kinds.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone; The North Entrance and Gardiner, MT

This is all the same day, still, the day we left Canyon Valley early in the morning and it is only about 10 a.m. and we’ve had all these adventures.

But AdventureMan and I also love to eat good food, and we are (ahem) fed up with the Yellowstone offerings. We know Gardiner is just across the border, in Montana, mere minutes away. I haven’t had my coffee this morning (not a good thing if you are traveling with me) and we can’t get into our cabin until later.

Gardiner is FUN. We spent time in Gardiner three times. This time, we discovered the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge, where I had coffee and AdventureMan had hot chocolate. The Wonderland Cafe has all the things we love; high ceilings, lots of light, wood, comfy furniture – it has a great feel.

 

 

 

 

 

The view from Gardiner is purely grand:

 

 

 

And here is the famed Roosevelt Gate at the North Entrance:

We decided to head back out to Lamar Valley, our happy place, but first, we needed to have a good lunch. We found Rosie’s Bistro, loved the look, and had a great meal.

You know we are careful eaters. We have fruits with us, and crackers and peanut butter. We drink a lot of water. If you are that kind of people – stop reading now.

At Rosie’s, we went off the rails.

We could smell wonderful smells.

AdventureMan ordered a BBQ Pork sandwich, and did not bother ordering a salad. The french fries were fantastic. I ordered the not-on-the-menu ribs, which were so tender I only needed a fork. I ate them all. I barely even pecked at my salad. We did not order dessert.

 

View from Rosies Bistro:

 

 

I took this picture because of the picture. I thought I had a cool photo of the bison in the steam, but this one, oh WOW.

 

 

 

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone Grand Canyon and Canyon Village

We first drove the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, getting out and taking photos, then hiking down to the brink of the falls on the North Rim side. We had to wait and go back later to hike the North Rim side because the parking lots were full, and cars were blocking the road, parking wherever they could create a space. It was chaotic, and it was unsafe.

These are the vistas that attracted and astonished the Park’s earliest visitors.

Honestly, too many people, I took the shots and got out so the next person could step up.

 

 

 

 

I think it is only fair to tell you that Canyon Village is the part of Yellowstone I like the very least. It is high on the tour bus schedule, because they have lots of services there to deal with high volumes of people. They have lots of space.

Some of those high volumes of people kind of don’t know park etiquette, like if you are on a narrow trail with a steep drop off, you don’t go barreling down on people, passing, and putting them at risk.

Some of the people on the trails were older than I am, making a valiant effort to get down and back up. There were children. There were a lot of people. The worst offenders seemed to be large groups of men traveling together, and oblivious to the needs and vulnerabilities of others, running over the weak and less capable.

Then again, world round, you put too many people in a small space and things happen. People run over other people, and people get hurt. Mostly, I just try to stay out of the way, and keep my eyes open, watching out for the heedless. AdventureMan and I are strategists – we find ways to avoid the crowds, as much as possible. Fortunately, our body time is an hour earlier than this time zone, and getting up early isn’t hard, and so totally worth it to avoid the frantic short-on-time visitors.

Our room was beautiful. Canyon Village is central to many different places. Canyon Village has stores, food places, a gas station, a post office, an outfitter, camping grounds, cabins. There are good and valid reasons to stay there, but we will never stay there again.

This was our Lodge; do you see all the snow? Parking was great, and although there was a large hiking group here, they were quiet and well mannered, no problem.

 

I loved having shutters on the windows instead of curtains. We had a patio, which I stepped out on from time to time, but it was too cold to sit outside.

 

We both liked that the bathroom had a sink area in addition to this vanity area having its own sink. The hairdryer was tiny, but strong.

 

All the lodges had little Teddy Bear soaps, which I loved. The Lodge was nice enough. No fridge, no microwave. Here’s the thing. The same people that run the lodges run the food places, so they want you to eat in their food places. I wouldn’t mind, if the food were good. It’s not.

Remember I told you we picked up foods for the road in Bozeman, at the Walmart, at the beginning of the trip? It was a God-send.

We had just hiked down 11 switchbacks to the brink of the lower falls and then  – 11 switchbacks coming back up, and we were hungry, so we decided to go to the food area for dinner. It was still early, maybe 5:30, so we had time to figure out what we wanted, and get in line. The line wasn’t that long.

The not-that-long line took us 45 minutes. One  woman ordered several meals, each on a separate tray; it took forever. Many foreign men ordered two or three meals, one to eat and two to take with, probably for the next day (?) I can only speculate, because I don’t really know. The line inched forward. A lot of people didn’t understand how the ordering system worked. Others didn’t speak English, and had problems making themselves understood. When we got to the front of the line, several things were already out, and many of the condiments that go with the meals were not yet in stock. It was a nightmare, worse than a college dormitory. Here is my order:

Intlx:  I’d like the noodles, please, with peanut sauce

Counter person: These noodles are cold! More are coming

(wait) (wait) (wait) (More noodles show up)

Counter person: No more peanut sauce! All gone!

Intlx:  I’ll have Teriyaki

Counter person squirts large amount on, then looks up in horror and says “Oh no! I just put hoisin sauce on!”

Intlx: (thinks “get me out of here”) Hoisin is fine. Green onions and chopped peanuts on top, please.

Counter person: Oh! We’ve run out of the chopped peanuts!

At least in a dormitory, once you have your food you can go sit down, but here, you have to go to the centralized cashier stand and – yep – stand in line. Once again, there are problems with currency, problems with communication, people letting others in line, it is a disaster, it is chaos.

After you pay, you try to find a table that has been cleaned off and that no one else is waiting for.

We were really lucky – we had gotten there early. Things only got worse as more and more people came in trying to get fed. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

For the rest of our stay, we never ate in Canyon Village again. We spent our days out and away, mostly in Lamar Valley. We discovered good food in Cooke City, just outside the northwest gate. We discovered that the Grab-and-Go sandwiches in the General Store were not bad: tuna, chicken and cranberry, turkey and apple, all kinds of meats for those who like ham and roast beef. We had our own favorite snacks already, apples, oranges, chocolate, and would refill our water bottles from our faucets in our room. The water was cold and delicious. From time to time, we would buy pie. We did fine. We just hate to see food service done so ineptly, with so little care for delighting the customer.

Our other thought was “and this is just the beginning of the season. What is it going to be like when the real crowds hit?”

June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful and Old Faithful Inn

I love this photo, which I owe to my husband. we were out for a walk after dinner and he spied this old bison in front of the steaming geyser, just walking along, not at all concerned about the dangerous ground.

 

Forty two years ago, (we were so young) my husband and I spent six weeks driving across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus with our six month old baby and our cat, Big Nick. Mostly we camped; one time Big Nick, who was dog-like and usually came when we called, didn’t come. We had to cool our heels for a couple hours before he sauntered out of the meadow and rejoined us. We stopped in Yellowstone, and stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. Big Nick had to stay in the car.

So when we started planning this trip, we knew we had to stay in the Old Faithful Inn. This time, we wanted a bathroom, in our room, not down the hall.

We loved our room. It is so quaint and cabin-ish. It even had a radiator, and because it is very cold, the radiator feels good. For a while.

This is the view from our room:

 

 

 

I loved this old time bathroom with it’s clawfoot tub and octagon-tiled floor.

 

We watched Old Faithful erupt, and quickly went to the Bear Pit so we could grab something to eat. We had looked at the dining room, which is grand and atmospheric, but even the staff told us it was too expensive for the unreliable quality of the food.

The Bear Pit Lounge is a bar that serves food. It seemed odd to me – it was a large space, with few tables, mostly for six people. Not much food, a few items. We thought we would try the bison burger, in honor of being in Yellowstone. It took a loooonnngggg time to get there. The fries were cold. The bison burger was ok.

 

 

I took a couple photos of the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. Normally I love lodge dining rooms. Not so much this one.

 

 

After dinner, we take a walk over to the Old Hamilton Store – remember, you saw a photo of it from the Museum of the Rockies? On our way back, we were far enough away that when Old Faithful erupted, I could capture the whole thing. The firs time, I was too close.

 

 

 

 


So I can be a little wonky about old lodges, but we were so delighted to be at Old Faithful Inn . . . until we went to bed. I had taken a bath in the claw foot tub, fighting my guilt about using all that water, but the room was hot – all that radiant heat. We had the window wide open because we couldn’t get the radiator to stop radiating. We were also in a bed that called itself a Queen, but hmmm. . . . we used to sleep in a double bed, and this bed was very small, like a double bed.

We could hear every conversation, from the outside, from the rooms on either side of us, from the hallway. Any time, all night, someone went in our out of their room, we could hear it. It was very atmospheric, and it was the worst nights sleep of our entire trip.

I wouldn’t recommend skipping the Old Faithful Inn. You can visit. You can sit in the galleries and drink coffee or have ice cream and listen to the cellist. You can make reservations and eat at the Dining Room. You can do all that. You can take a tour of the historical parts of the hotel. We are actually going back next year, we already have reservations, but we will stay in the newer part of the hotel . . . with bathrooms.

Why stay at Old Faithful Inn? Early early the next morning, before any of the tour buses or day-trippers arrive, you can have Old Faithful all to yourself, to give you a private eruption with the sun gleaming off the steam in the icy cold morning.

(Thinking of all my old Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti sunrise series I used to run)

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Food, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bozeman, Montana and the Museum of the Rockies

The Museum of the Rockies not only has fabulous exhibits, they also have a wonderful gift store with unique and reasonably priced things to take back for grandchildren. Many locally made items are available.

 

How many places have to space to recreate an entire dinosaur skeleton outside?

Don’t you love this sign? During our two visits, we saw buses of school children arriving to tour the museum.

I was fascinated by the sheer number of relatively complete dinosaur fossils they have, and especially the teeth. There is something about these teeth that gets into my head. I can’t let myself think about them too much.

 

 

 

These teeth in particular creep me out.

The problem I have with the Museum of the Rockies is that there are diverse exhibits, and it is a lot to take in. There is an entire pre-history section, with great documentation and contextualization to help you understand what you are seeing. There is also a local history section of settlement and pioneering.

 

This is a horrible photo exhibit. It talks about the Indians and what they thought of the invaders and that pile on the right is buffalo skulls. One of the dominant ideas was that if the pioneers could kill off the buffalo, the First Nation peoples living there would move on; their major form of protein was the buffalo. To that pile on the right is thousands of buffalo skulls. The bodies were just left to rot.

This is a photo of the early Hamilton Camp Store in Yellowstone NP at Old Faithful. This building is still standing and is used now as a General Store and gift shop. I love preservation of well constructed old buildings.

The Museum of the Rockies had a knockout visiting exhibition on Genghis Khan. It was very thorough, and lush with fabrics, and textiles, and objects we have inherited from the time of the rule of the Khans. Things like passports, playing cards, charcoal. We found this exhibit fascinating.

 

The items of daily life

 

Mongolian warriors

Ritual dancing masks. No, the masks don’t dance, people wearing the masks dance.

 

 

Dinner our first night in Bozeman is at the South 9th Bistro, one of the few restaurants I have ever found on Trip Advisor with a full 5 stars. Every contributor had happy, wonderful things to say about the food there. We have heard the food in the park is poor, so we are willing to spend a little more for a memorable meal our last night outside the park for a while. For us, eating well is part of our travels.

We were welcomed warmly, and seated. We had reservations. There are other people in the restaurant, and they all seem to be having a great time, but subdued, rumbling conversations, not boisterous or loud. We get recommendations on wines, and love the wine we get. We order the seafood ravioli, the heirloom beet salad, the steak au poivre, and “The Beast,” a very chocolate-y dessert. I forget to take photos, we are so into the food, except for the beet salad.

At the risk of sounding effusive, everything was wonderful. It was a great evening. The steak was divine; the sauce creamy and peppery and the meat so tender I didn’t even need the steak knife. At the end of the trip, we went back and ordered almost exactly the same dinner, it was so good.

 

Our hotel is the Best Western Plus Gran Tree Inn. When you enter to check in, it seems all woods and stone floors and beautiful finishes. When you go to your rooms, it is like there is this beautiful entry but the rooms are all kind of tired, not at all what would go with the nice entry. I don’t think we would stay there again.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Food, France, Local Lore, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Bozeman, Montana and Feed

Our room isn’t ready, so we head out to lunch and to visit the famous Museum of the Rockies. Remember how yesterday I had a passing though of bad omens? Those thoughts are well past. We love being in Bozeman. The air is cool, but not cold. People have been very kind and helpful to us here. We are hungry, we don’t know where to go and my husband sees this innocuous looking place and says “Let’s go there.”

Wow.

 

The place is bustling. You order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. Behind the counter is an open kitchen, including a whole area for their baking. They have a display counter full of pastries and muffins and some breads. Most of the people eating there seem to be regular customers. You can smell coffee, and it is good coffee.

 

 

 

You can get your own water from a dispenser; even the water is good. Finally our meals come, soup and salad for my husband, salad with trout for me. One taste and we are in heaven. Part of it is that the bread is SO GOOD.

 

We decide we will have breakfast there the next morning; sometimes when you find a place this good you just want to stick with it.

We feel re-energized. We are close to the Museum of the Rockies, it is starting to drizzle, the Museum sounds like just the thing.

 

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment