I’ve put off writing up Whitefish for a few days because I’m so overwhelmed by my experience there. Like a kid hopped up on sugar I’m afraid whatever I have to say will just pour out of me jumping topic to topic with no way to really convey what this place was like. So bare with me, this one might be a doozie.
My train pulled into Whitefish three hours late and just shy of 2:00 am. My anxiety was pretty high walking around an unknown place where the local bars were starting to wind down. I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and hoped I was walking in the right direction to the hostel. The hostel was super cute, comfortable, and clean. I was surprised to hear they had only been open just over a year judging by the impressive map that showed where guests had traveled from.
As a girl missing my Xterra, I was thrilled with what the rental company put me in. Some Toyota SUV that looked like a mini hummer. After a wonderful conversation with Kim from Enterprise about travel, Burlington, and her life as a flight attendant she handed over the keys and suggested I take it out off-roading while I have it. I jumped in my new badass ride (no disrespect Terra ❤ ) and headed up to Glacier National Park. It was an overcast day with chance of showers, but the scenery on the drive and throughout the the park couldn’t look bad regardless of the forecast. As I started through the Going to Sun Road I was struck by how beautiful Lake McDonald as I wound around between the mountains and the cedars framing the lake. I had found a used Norah Jones CD back in Madison and it provided the perfect soundtrack on a grey, slightly rainy drive through the mountains. The drive was so relaxing, beautiful, and blissful. Really I couldn’t urge anyone enough to make it up here. The road is about 50 miles long and goes from West Glacier to East Glacier right through the park. In the late spring and through the summer the whole road is open. As the temperatures begin to cool off in September they begin closing off portions of the road for repairs. At this time only 33 miles were open closing to what is known as Logan’s Pass. The highest point on the drive I believe. Going to Sun Road gradually climbs as you soak up the incredible views. Eventually there is a sharp right turn and at the overlook you realize how high you have made it. It’s followed by another sharp left turn. Now I really understand what it means for something to “take your breath away”. I quickly pulled the car over and just stared. Completely enamored, I just scanning back and forth. The fog over the mountain allowed small sun rays down and across the vista. I have no idea how long I stayed like that, but once I snapped back to my immediate surroundings I could hear Norah Jones whispering ‘You humble me Lord, you humble me Lord’. I couldn’t have found a more perfect song to accompany the moment. But once I got past my near religious experience all I could think was ‘holy crap, this is where Little Foot lived’. For those of you who may not be familiar with The Land Before Time (you should really make a priority of seeing it) this is how I imagine prehistoric times to look.
Once I moved on from this spot, that’s when the driving got really fun. I’ve never had the pleasure of driving up and hugging a narrow, winding mountain road before. I wish I could convey the excited terror I felt as I climbed higher. First in sprinkles, then heavier rain, then at the highest and most narrow point-hail. I was definitely ready to turn off once I reached Logan’s point and wait for the weather to change before making it back down. While waiting in my car I noticed a Subaru pull past with Montana plates and an OGE sticker- small world.
I took my time coming back out of the park and slowly made my way back to Whitefish. Before getting to the downtown area I stopped at a restaurant off the main road and sat at the bar. I love sitting at the bar where ever I go. It’s the best way to blend into the community, eavesdrop, and learn what it means to be a local. On this night, a waitress came in on Saturday night off to drink, get cheap food, and chat with her coworkers and regulars. My heart fluttered, I knew I picked the right place. On the corner of the bar was a middle aged man who moaned with every bite he took. I wish I could tell you what he was eating, but honestly I was too afraid to look over. I mean every-single-bite a low and slow moan, WTF. To his left was a very nice guy and self proclaimed retired bartender. I would have started conversation with him once Moan Man left, but there was a new oddball between us and I rather prefer to just soak up all he had to say. From him I learned that “you’re just stupid if you stick around here all winter with 8 hours of daylight”, visiting a Buddhist country like Japan is best because “they respect their elders and the woman aren’t as mouthy and sassy as here” and finally, that 100 proof Southern Comfort is the best for driving “It taste just like B&B and I keep a flask of it in my car and on my motorcycle”. Life lessons I otherwise may not have known.