Is this really Montana?
How can this even be in the U.S.? This Swiss-looking scene greeted us as we headed down the stairs from the upper parking lot. The staff at the desk welcomed us with much enthusiasm.
Many spoke with European accents, which added to the international feel of the place. Were they always in such high spirits? Maybe, but a few admitted they were pretty excited about seeing the mountains without smoke. We lucked out and arrived on the first day of clear skies in weeks.
Across the Lake
To get a good feel for the size of this massive hotel, you can hike the 2.6 mile trail that loops around Swiftcurrent Lake.
It's just amazing to look across the lake and think about this stone and wood superstructure being built in 1914! It's easy to see why this lodge became known as "The Gem of the West".
Love the Uniform
My friend here was a good sport, posing outside by the flowers. He and the other bellhops and desk help admitted they didn't love wearing the lederhosen.
One showed me an old photo of a bellhop nearly 100 years ago. "See, they didn't always have to wear this uniform!" I wondered if it got cold in the winter? But then I learned Many Glacier was getting ready to close for the season. Maybe that was another reason for cheery spirits?
The American Alps
It was early September and the air already had a brisk feel of fall. The dusting of snow on some of the mountains made the stone chimney look extra inviting.
I loved the Swiss Chalet look of the balconies and painted trim. It was hard to believe we arrived at this wonderful place without using a passport!
The lobby was comically large. Rows of balconies surrounded the open space which was scattered with cozy seating areas. The most coveted couches were centered around the circular fireplace at the north end.
The arrangement allowed for more seating, but I was frustrated that they never used the enormous stone fireplace near the front entrance. I was also frustrated that many people took naps around the fire. Yes, fires make you drowsy, but they should have put a time limit on that prime seating!
Hall of Information
The long hallway connecting the lobby and dining rooms was actually quite entertaining.
It was also often congested with people standing and enjoying the old photographs, maps and history that lined the walls. You have to love the folks who stay at historic lodges. They all carry big cameras and read anything that's posted.
Doors and Windows
I appreciate a good door and ours to Room 222 was quite memorable. Not only did it have a snazzy Swiss shield presenting our room number, but it had a quaint, no-frills barn look about it!
As for windows, we lucked out with two windows in our tiny corner room. Both had spectacular views, but especially the lake-facing window.
Tiny Room, Tiny Bed
Don and I never expect luxury on our lodge stays. But we think it's funny when they try to trick us into thinking the bed is large and luxurious by pillow placement.
Luckily Don can fall asleep easily anywhere... and he stays asleep! If he tossed and turned that 6'2" frame as much as I do, we'd both be in trouble.
It's often the people encounters that make an overnight memorable for me. But animal encounters can rank pretty high. Don was intrigued with the curly-horned friend we found parked outside the gift shop.
I was more interested in the live animals, particularly the horses. Horseback riding was one of the original attractions for the lodge, when the wealthy visited 100 years ago. I wish I'd had the time... and the wealth to enjoy.
I can't believe I'm giving photo space to these tiny specks on the mountainside! (And I zoomed in as far as I could!)
But these photos make it clear I did not have a close encounter with a brown bear or a white mountain goat.
Enjoying Our "Boat"
When evening came, the temps dropped and guests moved inside. Don and I took a little wine to the lower deck and waited for the clouds to break up.
There was a steady breeze that made me long for a blanket. I had to keep reminding myself, as I looked at the lake over the railing, "I'm actually not on a boat."
Glow on the Water
The sun peeked out just a bit as it got ready to lower behind the mountains.
Then they called us to our table for dinner.
Who cares about food?
We got a lovely table in the Ptarmigan Dining Room, which was a lot more crowded than when I took this photo.
I was so distracted by the window, I couldn't concentrate on the menu. I kept popping up to check on the sunset, acting like a squirmy 4 year old who should have been left with a babysitter. We did enjoy a lodge-worthy, "Loose Elk Sandwich" with salad, later.
Enjoying with Strangers
Luckily we were surrounded by tourists and waitstaff who were also distracted. It was pretty sweet, stepping out the door and onto the steps to share the sunset giddiness with strangers.
You would have thought the employees would have had enough photos by the end of their 4-5 month season. But when I saw a few taking selfies together... and offering sentimental hugs... I realized it was like the end of summer camp for them. Most were headed back home to Eastern Europe.
We slept well and woke to a beautiful sunrise.
The mountains that were reflected in the the smooth water, were clearer than the real thing!
Those Aged Early Risers
There were quite a few folks roaming around with cameras, bright and early. I should have guessed, since the lodge and it's 215 rooms seemed sound asleep by 9 pm the night before.
Maybe that's because there are no TVs and hardly any wifi and cell abilities at the lodge. Or maybe it's because National Park Lodge guests are pretty outdoorsy and exhaust themselves hiking. Or maybe it's because the fall guests are all so dang old. At least that's what Don and I chuckled about, until we realized they were pretty much our age.
Acting Our Age
So we embraced our age and did what retired folks do. Don fished that morning.
He got the idea from a couple we met in Three Forks, MT who said we should pick up a cheap rod at Walmart on the way to Glacier. "You don't have to have a license to fish!"
I did the thing I always thought retired folks did.
I sat. But I was looking out over the most amazing views... and I was watching my husband fish.
Nothing Wrong With That
There really is nothing wrong with that, since the image of Don fishing was rather intriguing.
It's hard to tell in the photo, but those are not trees beyond his green jacket. I was shooting downward and that's actually lake water in the background... reflecting the green mountain.
Many Glacier Hotel takes you back in time... and I love time travel!
The old Red Jammers and the tour boats still shuttle tourists just as they did back when National Parks were a new thing! Even sitting on the deck chairs looking at the lake over the railing, made me feel like I was on an old ship seeing a world I'd never seen. The charm of the old lodge, boats and cars does take you back. But the isolation of this idyllic location is what completes the package!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!