Wednesday, January 28, 2015

East Glacier / Essex Cross country skiing

We rolled into east Glacier 7:30 PM on an extremely blustery Friday night.

Vacancy, blinked the Circle R motel. I had made online reservations earlier that day and had paid for the first night. Alas, not a soul was to be found!

Wandering about the mostly shuttered up town I happened upon a young man who was receptive to my predicament.

“No one around at the Circle R? Sometimes they leave the door open to your room and leave the key on your counter, do you remember your room number?”

The young fellow was kind enough to walk with me over to the motel. Sometimes they leave the door open, he had said. Upon arrival, the young chap discretely shimmed the door open with a credit card. As luck would have it, our room key was lying on the counter, just as the young man had predicted. I felt a surge of gratitude and instantly liked this young fellow, who promptly disappeared into the night, his good deed complete.

The room smelled of smoke (although there was a no smoking sign on the door) and the garbage bins were overflowing and to boot, the bed had not been made. I was having thoughts of the Three Little Bears when K. said, this is exactly how most horror movies begin (the effect of that statement was amplified by the fact she was holding 17 month Gabby while Nicolas  ran wildly through the room). I was certain we had the correct room as per my online reservation but there was no point arguing, we were not waiting for Freddy Kreuger to pop out of a closet, so off we went into the windy night.

We couldn't miss the neon lights flashing 'Vacancy' for the Dancing Bear Inn just down the road. A lone dog trotted down the middle of the highway and took a right under the tunnel going north into the park as we popped over to check it the other motel. I explained our lodging situation to the fellow at the office and he tried to call around to get a hold of the Circle R.

“Well, I just feel that bad that this gives you a bad impression of East Glacier, I tell you every one in this Town is friendly. Let’s see if we can’t find you a room here.” Not only did he have vacancy but he put us up in adjoining rooms at a discount to our reservation at Circle R. Impression of East Glacier-ites redeemed! Twas the start of a great weekend.

Photo: Our adjoining rooms at the Dancing Bear The first night was crazy windy. Huge trees were dancing about like something from Sleepy Hallow.

I walked back and forth to the Circle R a few times until 10 PM but no dice, the workers were inexplicably gone for the evening. Back at our room, the curtains in our room at the Dancing Bear would gently flap to and fro with the wind bursts. Coming from the windy plains of Lethbridge we didn’t really notice the gale, nor did we mind the trains. After 10 PM, I watched a few minutes of cable TV with the kids asleep with their mum in the adjacent room and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning we enjoyed a free breakfast courtesy of the Dancing Bear office room (waffles, coffee and yogurt).

Photo: We noticed the next morning that the sign for the Dancing Bear on the highway had completely blown apart. Most of the town in east Glacier is closed for winter with the windows shuttered up, and in the wind event some of the boards that had been placed to shutter up windows had also blown off!

In contrast, the morning was completely calm as we drove over to Essex to check out the cross country ski trails at the Izaak Walton Inn. “Why again did they name this place after Isaac Newton?” Kiki asked.

The blue skies of East Glacier gave way to fog in Essex and we ended up skiing in the rain.

 Photo: We had a fantastic little adventure carrying our skis and ski pulks (child carrier sleds you pull behind you) across the bridge to access the trails.

 Photo: View from pedestrian bridge crossing

Photo: Skiing at Izaak Walton

We did a short loop and detached the sled for Nicolas to get in a few runs on a slope suitable for sledding, then we headed over to the grand hotel for lunch. Nico actually got in a bit of exercise with his snowshoes, but mostly he rode along behind in the sled. Although conditions were generally poor there were a few other people on the trail. Not a lot, but I had the impression that the hotel and adjoining cabins were completely full and that on a nice day it would be quite busy.

The Izaak Walton was extremely cool. The kids had fun running around the lobby while awaiting lunch, which was reasonable and quite good – I had a pulled pork sandwich. The kids and I checked out the bar in the basement enroute to the bathroom and wandered upstairs just to take a peek.

Photo: Izaak Walton lobby

We parted ways with the Izaak Walton to get in some quality naptime back at the Dancing Bear, and as soon as we left, of course the skies cleared and it turned into a beautiful day.

 Photo driving back to East Glacier past Marias Pass.

 Later that afternoon we intended to do a bit of cross country skiing in east Glacier at the golf course, but there was hardly any snow so we headed further up the road towards Two Medicine.

  Photo: East Glacier

At the barricade we threw on our skis and headed up a short ways but the snow was quite bad and it was tough to pull one of our sleds fully loaded with a kid on a completely ungroomed trail. Nicolas wasn’t too interested in snowshoeing this time around, so I decided to sprint up a ways and take a couple of photos.

 Photo: Looking up the road past the barricade towards Two Medicine Campground

 Photo: Skiing on the barricaded road.

The wind coming up the valley was impressive, it sounded like a jet plane was taking off. We headed back to the Dancing Bear and had a great dinner at the little diner that is attached to the grocery store (Two Medicine Grill). We bought frozen treats afterwards and walked back to the Inn, seemingly in a completely different world compared to the strangeness of the place that we had arrived at 24 hours previously. All in all a fun trip. Poor snow and bad skiing but always good times with the family in Glacier!

Photo: We stopped by Many on the way home
Photo: View of Chief Mountain near the border
Photo: Photo of Chief from near Babb
Photo: Statues of Blackfeet braves near border

No comments: