Saturday, February 16, 2019

Ice Creatures

footprints melt
spinal cords disintegrate
under waves of history

extinction is forever

Inspired by the sculptures of Peter Thomas
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
Spokane, Washington

Thursday, February 14, 2019

On the Spokane SkyRide

"Why are you so jittery?"

"Uh . . . well . . . because in my Two Hundred and One Ways to Die book, falling into a freezing cold river is Number Sixty-Two."

My travel buddy looks at me with an expression of pure dismay.  "Man, I'm glad I don't have your mind."

I mean, really, I knew the Spokane SkyRide operated all year long in all types of weather, but seriously?  It was freezing cold outside.  Icy.  Foggy.  And yes, a bit windy.  What was I thinking?  The damn thing started to sway the minute we took off.

But travel junkie that I am, I had to ride it.  It is touted as being one of the most scenic cable rides in the world by many a travel magazine editor.  The attendant assured me that a safety check had been done that morning, but then he added:  "There's a phone number on the inside of the car.  If you see someone in trouble down by the river, please call it."

And, yes, the view is spectacular.  I started to calm down.  A little.  The goofy guy in the car behind us helped me realize my fears were unfounded.  He was grinning, taking pictures and even waved at us a couple of times.  He was having a great time.

My active imagination is sometimes my worst enemy.

The ride (thankfully) is only fifteen minutes and it does give you an unparalleled view of these amazing falls.  But I was glad to get back on terra firma.

Been there.

Done that.

And I didn't die Death Number Sixty-Two.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Two Days in Spokane

The Art of Travel

After checking into the old historic Montvale Hotel in downtown Spokane, we took a walk down by the river.  It didn't take long before my travel buddy and I started to spout dumbfounded superlatives.  I had no idea this place was so beautiful.  What a cool city.  Those sculptures.  Wow.  Those waterfallsAstounding. 

Spokane, Washington, took us by total surprise.
I couldn't help thinking about Alain de Botton's book, The Art of Travel, while I negotiated the patches of black ice on the city streets.  My senses seemed to be on Hyper-Alert.  I was thrilled to be in a city that held so much fascination.  There were magical moments around every corner.  And this was unexpected.

Why was I so surprised?

"The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to."    Alain de Botton

It occurred to me that after all these decades of traveling,  I was still open to new experiences and new feelings.  But that I could be as happy in this small city in the northwest corner of Washington as in Paris or Rome gave me a moment of pause. 

 It's all about the mindset.

Perhaps I don't give myself enough credit.  I make it a point to search out the most charming hotels in the area.  When I make out an itinerary, I allow time to see the major sites, but I also allow time to get lost.  To let amazement wash over me, whether it be from a reflection in the water or from a whimsical piece of art.  Whether it be from a single cup of coffee or from a delicious meal of smoked duck.

 I take the art of travel very seriously.  And it is paying off.
Hotel Montvale Interior
Mimi's Soulmate

"The destination was not really the point.  The true desire was to get away . . . "

Friday, February 8, 2019

Whitefish 59937

Whitefish, a resort town in Northwest Montana, is a downhill skiing destination in the winter and a gateway to Glacier National Park in the summer.  It's a little off the beaten track, but that is what makes it so appealing.  Because Hood Meadows in Oregon has a reciprocity agreement with Whitefish Mountain, my travel buddy had to check it out.  He had two great days of skiing.  And me?

Well . . . I am happy to report that the small town of Whitefish (Population: 7,608) has plenty to offer for us non-skiers.  Especially if you like to shop.  And shop I did!

I hit pay dirt with the winter apparel sales and enjoyed the interaction with my tribe. Once I started talking retail, the sales associates opened up and we talked "shop".  We all agreed how crazy it was for stores to be stocking spring clothes when it was 17 degrees outside.  Now that I'm on the other side of the counter, however, I'm loving the fact that all those winter duds are half-priced this time of year.

Mimi wears one of my finds--a cute flannel top.  She refused to model my other purchases-- base layers in solid black and gray which I wear every day up here in the wet, cold Pacific Northwest but not her.   Oh, no, not Mimi.  She wants nothing to do with basics!

There were many women's apparel stores along Central Avenue.  The Toggery and the Village Shop were the best, but I enjoyed them all.  I did meet one Grumpy Old Man in one of them.  He told me that Whitefish was ruined and then when he found out I was from Oregon, he said, "Oregon's ruined, too.  Portland's a cesspool.  Too many people moving up here from California."  Oh, brother.  I didn't dare mention my previous life in Santa Barbara.

During my travels in this northwest corner of the U.S., I am hearing such comments more and more.   People are moving up here (like me) to get away from drought, wild fires, over-population and the high cost of living, but consequently, these little towns begin to grow.  Real estate prices jump.  Rents double.  The locals get angry.

I walked all the way back to my hotel with three shopping bags in tow and then ducked into the bar for a glass of wine.  I started to chat with the bartender.  He told me where all the best snowshoe trails were and went on and on about how much he enjoyed living here.

"So where are you from originally?" I asked, recognizing that recently discovered enthusiasm of a transplant.

"California," he said.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Nordic Skiing at Whitefish

Whitefish, Montana
A Winter Wonderland

We got our wish.  We wanted to be able to ski right outside our door and that's exactly what we did in Whitefish, Montana last week.  We were surrounded by snow.

The Grouse Mountain Lodge is located on Highway 93 about one mile from town.  Across the street is the Lake Whitefish Golf Course which transforms into a Cross-Country Ski Mecca during winter.  The local Glacier Nordic Club grooms and maintains 12 kilometers of trails around the gentle rolling terrain of the golf course.  Many of the trails wind around the back of the lodge. 

We picked up our day passes at the temporary shelter outside the restaurant and skied to our heart's content.  In the sunshine.  In the fog.  It didn't matter.

We got our wish!

. . .and by the way, the restaurant at the Golf Course, which opens for dinner at 5:30 is amazing.  We had the best meal of our entire trip there.  I had the grilled salmon served on top of a bed of spinach and sauteed mushrooms and my travel buddy had a classic steak, baked potato and salad.

  The clubhouse restaurant is a warm and inviting place--a perfect way to relax after a day of skiing.  It was built out of logs with WPA funds in 1935 and is one of the state's oldest buildings still in use.
Later in the week, my travel buddy hit the slopes for downhill skiing.  The mountain can be seen in the picture above, right behind the golf course.

We wanted snow.

And we got it!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Going to the Sun Road in January

Glacier National Park

The odds were against us.  A government shut-down.  Unplowed roads.  Freezing temperatures.  Would anything be open at all?  What the heck . . . Glacier National Park was only 26 miles from Whitefish and the sky was blue and clear.  We had snow tires and a jet boil.  Warm parkas and boots.

"Let's do it," so said the two mad dogs and Englishmen who go out in the midday sun AND hike in blizzards.

Not so mad, methinks.
Not so mad, at all.

We passed through the gate at West Glacier and took the road to Lake McDonald Lodge, which is as far as you can go this time of year.  The views of the lake were breathtaking, and my travel buddy (who has seen a few mountains in his lifetime) uttered a nonstop litany of superlatives the entire way.

"This has got to make your Most Beautiful Places on Earth list," he said a few times.


We parked at the Lake McDonald Lodge and strapped on yaks to our snow boots.  The snow was too icy for skis and too packed down for snowshoes.  Yaks were all we needed.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road that traverses Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful drives in the world.  I drove this route with my family way back in the summer of 1974.  It was the last camping trip I took with my mom and dad.  That fall, I went away to college.  Three years later I was married.

  They are both gone now and I thought of them often while walking in the snow on the very road we once drove together.  My dad, too, was full of superlatives.  We took many hikes with rangers.  Saw grizzly bears and turquoise glacial lakes.  Walked out on glaciers and even took a swim.  We turned as blue as the water itself.

  My mom was not as enthusiastic.  She was a good sport, but camping was not her cup of tea. (Neither was hiking.)  Given a choice, she would have booked a room at the lodge in a hot second and spent her days lounging by the lake with a good book.

I have a little of both of them in me.  I love hiking and being out in nature.  But in the evening?  Sorry, no sleeping bags for this gal.  I want a soft bed and a hot bath.

After two hours of walking, I was ready to turn back.

  So to answer my travel buddy's question:   Is Glacier National Park going to make my list?


But first I want to return in the summer when the road is open to traffic.  I want to drive under a waterfall. I want to take a long ten-mile hike.  Swim in a glacial lake.  Climb one of those awesome mountains all the way to the summit.

Okay . . . let me change that answer.

Most Likely.