Thursday, July 25, 2013

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Or, how I spent my summer vacation.

We don't always spend our vacations camping.  Sometimes we try something different.  We wanted to visit Glacier National Park in Montana but didn't feel like driving that far and we were less than enthusiastic about camping in grizzly bear country, so I booked a tour called "Great Lodges of Glacier".  A tour that put solid walls between us and the grizzly bears at night.
    To get to the starting point we flew from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon and then rode Amtrak's "Empire Builder" overnight to East Glacier, Montana.

After that is was Jammer Joe's responsibility to get get us from place to place in one of the historic canvas topped touring buses.  These buses, built in the 1930s were renovated between 1999 and 2002.  Be sure to bring sunscreen when the canvas is rolled back for viewing the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

 The tour stays at four lodges operated by Glacier Park Inc.
 The first stop is Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier.  The lodge is located on the Blackfeet reservation and is across the road from the railroad station.  It was built by the Great Northern Railroad to lure tourists to travel west on their trains and opened in 1913.  

In the lobby, the roof is supported by huge timbers, whole tree trunks 36 to 42 inches in diameter and 40 feet long.  The logs still have the original bark.

These lodges are not for those who feel the need to be connected.  There are no televisions in any of the lodges and cell phone and wi-fi coverage poor to none.

Next stop was Canada at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes Nation Park, the Canadian portion of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  The next morning there was time for a hike or sightseeing in town followed by afternoon tea in an area off the lobby.  The highlight of the tea was the amazing view through those picture windows.

Then it was back to the United States for a two night stay at the Many Glacier Hotel.  This was our favorite due to the magnificent setting.  A boat ride across two lakes led to several trails.  We chose to walk the two miles back to the lodge, talking and calling out "hey, bear" lest we startle a grizzly in the woods.
The last night of the tour was at Lake McDonald Lodge, the only one on our tour not built by the Great Northern Railroad.  The tour would have taken us to the train depot or airport in Kalispell but we asked them to drop us at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier.
This is another of the original Great Northern hotels and is now privately owned.  It had been allowed to fall into disrepair after Word War II when it was sold by the Railroad.  Now lovingly restored, it maintains its historic charm while giving guest modern conveniences.
The staff drove us to the park service's Transit Center where we were able to catch the free shuttle to trail heads.

Linked to Our Word, Tuesday


Sylvia K said...

Such a beautiful area! We raised our family in Montana and spent lots of summers traveling through the parks. Terrific captures as always, Martha! Thanks for sharing!! Hope your summer is going well, good to see you back online!

Janie said...

What a great trip with so much to see! We visited Glacier many years ago when the kids were little, and also stayed at the Waterton Lodge. I agree with you about sleeping inside when in grizzly country!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Wonderful pictures -- and I really look forward to reading more about your trip. We camped through there many years ago (in a van and a tent). We were young and foolish and not afraid of bears and it is a wonder our children survived into adulthood.

Would love to go back, and if we are ever lucky enough to do so, I'd follow your lodging plan.

Carol said...

Great photos! What a wonderful vacation! I love Glacier Ntl Park

Linda Reeder said...

Oh, this looks like a wonderful trip. I love the old national park lodges! I might have to look into this.

Gaelyn said...

What a great way to spend your summer vacation. I especially like the chauffeured transportation to all these old lodges.

biebkriebels said...

What a beautiful places to stay and spend the night. I love the old bus and so nice you can open the top of it. Love the mountains there.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

What an adventure, I'd love to stay at those old hotels. No wifi or televisions. Sounds great to me.

Beats camping in bear country. My cousin's brother in law was killed by a black bear in Alaska just a month ago or so.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Oh what a lovely tour. I'm not a fan of camping so this would be just perfect for us. I love the photos and the fantastic views.

Gary said...

Great tour of old raileway hotels!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Luna Miranda said...

wow, this looks like a fabulous vacation. the hotels/lodges you stayed in are in gorgeous locations. the one in the last photo looks amazing!

katney said...

There is one of those old buses at Mt. Rainier, used for ceremonial situations or dignitaries. Did your red bus take you across the Going to the Sun Highway? I forget my Glacier geography. It has been a long long time since I was there.