Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trip to Glacier National Park, Montana

I wasn't planning to post this but both my husband and my son asked me to post it.  I was honest so some of the things that happened are a bit embarrassing for me mostly...  

Memories from Trip to Montana (Glacier National Park)

Friday, July 15, 2011 – we left for the airport at around noon on Friday.  The first funny thing that happened was that after I went through security at BWI, when I went to put my sneakers back on, I noticed that the sole of my right sneaker was separated from the shoe.  I had to walk around BWI with my right sneaker flapping.  Once we got to Denver where we had a four plus hour lay-over, we found out that they had a Croc Store at the airport.  I bought a pair of Crocs really quickly.  I promptly threw out the old sneakers.  Unfortunately, in my excitement to buy the new Crocs, I left my carry-on bag at the Croc Store.  I did not realize I left it until we were at a French restaurant in the airport getting ready to be seated.  We had to run back to the Croc store and fortunately the bag was still sitting where I left it!   After dinner at the French restaurant, we had to hang out and kill time while waiting for our flight to Spokane, Washington.  Unfortunately, the weather was bad that night.  We sat near some windows and watched the rain and lightening.  Our flight to Spokane was delayed not so much due to the weather but because our flight crew was stuck in San Francisco for reasons unknown.  We were really worried that we would not be able to pick up our rental car in Spokane because the rental companies all closed at Midnight.  We arrived in Spokane at 11:45 pm and remembered that the Rental car agency close at Midnight!  B ran over to the National counter and got our car without a hitch. D and I went to the baggage claim to get our bags.  It was funny but the bags took so long to come out that B had already finished with getting the car before any of the bags came off the conveyor belt.  We spent that night at a Residence Inn in Spokane. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011 – we woke up on Saturday morning and promptly went downstairs to eat a nice complimentary breakfast at the Residence Inn.  After breakfast we took off for the 5 hour drive to our hotel in Kalispell, Montana.  We drove through beautiful Idaho and into amazing Montana.  We noticed on our drive that there were Espresso places on every block or maybe two per block.  It was funny.  They looked like the snowball stands we have in Maryland.  Just little stand-alone shacks with names like “Cowgirl Coffee”, etc.   That afternoon we made it to the National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge in Moiese, Montana.  The funny thing that happened here was in the parking lot I overheard two groups of tourists talking about how they had come all the way from Maryland.  The one group said they drove here a few weeks ago.  Of course, I chimed in to say that we were also from Maryland.  It was quite a week for Maryland tourists in Montana.  I have always wanted to see bison but when we got close to them I got pretty nervous because I read in the National Bison Reserve Wildlife Refuge (NBRWR) brochure that they were in mating season from mid-July so the Bison bulls are very irritable.  They will charge at a drop of a hat according to the brochure.  I wanted B to keep driving but we got stuck a few times with a large bull bison fairly close to our car.  Fortunately, nothing bad happened.  We also saw many white-tail deer and antelopes.  The best part was when we saw an antelope hanging out and eating when he saw another antelope and started chasing her (we guess) up a hill.  They did a funny zigzag run/chase up the hill.  It was quite amazing to watch.   We really wanted to see an elk but we didn’t.   After we left the Bison Range, we stopped at a small shop outside and bought some buffalo jerky and huckleberry jam, huckleberry gummies, huckleberry wine, huckleberry soda (you get the idea).  All of the huckleberry items were delicious.  D absolutely loved the buffalo jerky.  We drove through a town called Polson and ate dinner at a restaurant called 4B’s.  That restaurant is where we learned from our waitress that there were lots of grizzly bears around and that huckleberries are very popular in Montana.  I ate a piece of huckleberry pie that night.  The funniest thing that happened was when we were getting close to the hotel, B asked me for the address.  I looked at the paper B had printed out with the information about the hotel.  I gave him what I thought was the address.  We drove and drove and drove when finally B started wondering aloud about how could a hotel be on a dirt road?  We realized at that point that we were driving directly to the travel agent’s house!  I had picked up the wrong address from the paperwork.  We got a good laugh out of that (mostly at my expense).  Once we arrived at our hotel (the La Quinta in Kalispell) at round 11:30 pm.   The room was fine.  It had a pull-out couch in the living room for D so he had his own privacy.  The negative thing about it was that the stove burner pans in the kitchenette were disgustingly dirty.  I pulled them out and put them on the counter for cleaning.  Yuck! 

one of the many Espresso stands

Sunday, July 17, 2011 – on Sunday morning we ate a complimentary breakfast at the La Quinta which was good but not as good as the one at the Residence Inn.  Although, they had two waffle machines instead of one which was nice.  We took our first drive up to Glacier National Park (GNP) to get our $25.00 one week entry ticket to the park.  I thought that was very inexpensive for such a wonderful week of fun.  B decided that he wanted to drive up to Bowman Lake which is one of the many glacial lakes in GNP.  We figured it would be a fairly long drive but neither of us realized it would be a challenging drive, too.  We drove through Apgar and had some huckleberry ice cream, huckleberry lemonade and other snacks.  Our drive to Bowman Lake took us onto Outside Fork Road through a small town called Polebridge.  We did not realize that Polebridge is actually one of the main entrances to the park.  They have a store that we visited.  We bought a few snacks and things.  As we finally arrived at the lake, we saw how beautiful it was.  We decided to take a short walk through some trees to get to the lake.  During that short walk I was fairly nervous that we would encounter a bear (black, brown, grizzly or whatever) but we did not see any wildlife.  Bowman Lake is a glacial lake (of course).  It is surrounded by snow capped mountains.  The water was so clear and clean that D decided to go into the water.   He went in a bit deeper than he had planned and his new Ipod Touch was in his pocket.  Thankfully the Ipod did not get wet! A few days later I was talking to a Park Ranger who told me that there are bears near Bowman Lake!  That evening we ate dinner at a very nice restaurant called Truby’s.  It is at Meadow Lake Resort and Golf Course in Columbia Falls, Montana.  We had a bit of trouble finding the restaurant due to our GPS being fairly outdated.  This became a running theme throughout our trip.  That night D and I went for a swim in the pool.  The pool was super cold so we spent some time in the hot tub.  We met a family from North Dakota.  They told us that they had taken a hike through the park on a trail called Avalanche Trail and walked up to see Avalanche Lake.  They were sad that they did not see any bears because the trail was too populated.  It sounded like a nice hike for us.   You will read more about this on Thursday. 
Bowman Lake

Monday, July 18, 2011 – we drove around the park to the east side and ate breakfast at The Park Café which is in St. Mary’s Montana near the entrance to the Park.  They have amazing pie and the biggest pancakes I have ever seen!   B tried the pecan pie and I tried the razzleberry pie.  D is not a fan of pie so he did not have any.  Our waitress told us that the winter in St. Mary’s, MT was awful and at one point she was stranded in her house for two solid weeks!   After breakfast we got on the Going to the Sun Road and drove 52 miles across the park to see all the sites.  We entered GNP through the St. Mary’s Park Entrance.  We saw glaciers, trees and zounds of waterfalls.  They had just opened the road a few days before we got there.  It got pretty chilly up at Logan’s Run.  We saw a few people cross-country skiing in shorts up there.   We all agreed it the scenery was the best we have ever seen, including better than the Grand Canyon and Sedona formations.  After leaving the park, D wanted to get a splash ball and some goggles for the pool so we stopped at Walmart.  We ate dinner at a chain restaurant called HuHot Mongolian Grill in Kalispell, MT.  It was great.  After dinner, D and I took another swim in the cold pool and warmed up in the hot tub. 
Breakfast at the Park Cafe

Tuesday, July 19, 2011— we took a Scenic Boat Tour on Flathead Lake.  It was called “The Far West Boat Tours”.  The GPS did a number on us again while we were trying to find the Lakeside Marina.  The guy who was selling tickets was not in the booth when we finally got there.  When he arrived, he promptly got on the phone and spent the next 10 or 15 minutes talking and ignoring us while we tried to get his attention.   The line for tickets behind us kept growing.  He finally got off the phone and we got our receipt in time for the boat tour.  Later they came around to collect the hard tickets and we didn’t have them.  B said that we did not get our tickets because I was making mean comments about the guy but it wasn’t true.  We just did not go through the room where they were giving out the tickets.   The cruise took about an hour and forty-five minutes.  The lake was beautiful.  We chatted much of the time with a guy from Alaska who told us he was an anthropologist and a professor at University of Anchorage.  He was very interesting.  He guessed that D was Italian and that he plays an instrument and plays soccer.  When I asked him how he knew that he said, "I'm an anthropologist." So I guess that explains everything...  I also talked with a very nice farming couple from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  The guide pointed out the CEO of Starbucks house on the lake with a funicular down to their boat dock.  Nice.  After a bit, I started looking at the scenery around the lake which was amazing.  As I stared out at the lake I said to no one in particular, “If this was New York City we could be watching a body float by” after I saw a few logs floating by.  The next morning I read where a guy had drowned in that very lake on Saturday and his body had not yet been found.  Wouldn’t that have been ironic if we did actually see his body float by?   Afterwards, we went to the Big Sky Water Park in Columbia Falls.  There was quite a storm that day.  Luckily, we were able to wait out the storm and went into the park.  Most the patrons left because of the storm so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.  D went down the slides around 11 times in one hour!  That night we ate at Café Max Soup Company.  D ordered Elk and Buffalo Chili.  Unfortunately, he could not eat much of it because it made his mouth itchy.  We figured it had too much soy filler in the meat.  That night we all went back for a swim and hot tub in the evening.  Something I have not mentioned but was very obvious to us:  the sun does not go down in that part of Montana until after 10:00 pm.  We were definitely burning the candle at both ends by staying up late and getting up early each day.
Funicular on Flathead Lake

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 – on Wednesday we drove to the park again.  B wanted to drive Going-to-the-Sun road from the other direction.  It wasn’t as crowded and the construction traffic was lighter probably because we left earlier than on Monday.  The drive was even more beautiful and impressive than the east from west drive we did on Monday.  The waterfalls were much more visible.   We drove all the way to Two Medicine today in the hopes of taking a cruise around the lake.  The weather was rainy and cold.  The Two Medicine cruise was full so they put us on a waiting list.  The boat was out of order so all the people had to get off the boat until it was fixed.  We gave up on the idea of taking a cruise so we went into the camp store.  D had a hot dog and we all had a hot drink before we left to drive back to Kalispell. We saw a moose today on our drive back.  B was driving back on the road around the park when he said that he thought he had seen a moose.  Both D and I looked into the field and saw it too.  We drove back to see it again but sadly by the time we got back the moose was gone!   On this long drive we also saw a cow sitting on the outside of a fence and it looked like she was “talking” to another cow on the inside of the fence.   Dinner that night was at a restaurant called Blue Canyon.  The restaurant is at a hotel.  We had big problems finding the restaurant with our GPS.  We had called the restaurant and they told us to make a right at the intersection when the restaurant was actually to the left.  It was ridiculous but it took us a long time to find the restaurant.  We still got their before the restaurant opened.  We got a table directly under a huge Elk head that was on the wall.  It was kind of creepy.  The food was really good.  Their special was homemade potato chips with a blue cheese sauce that was so yummy!  We all enjoyed our meals at the Blue Canyon.  Then B and I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 while D got to spend time on his computer to play some games.

Shellfish Couscous

Blue Cheese Crusted Flat Iron Steak

Thursday, July 21, 2011 -- we didn’t eat much for breakfast because we thought it would not be a very strenuous day.  We were planning to drive to Apgar and take a shuttle to Avalanche Trail.  There is a very easy trail called Trail of the Cedars that is wheelchair accessible and less than a mile long.  There is also a trail that you can take up to Avalanche Lake which is 2.1 miles each way. At the last minute, we decided to take on the challenge of hiking up to Avalanche Lake.   It sounded very easy.  We had talked to a family that did the hike on Sunday.  They had said it was very busy trail so no bears were found around there.  I read in the GNP literature that just because a trail is very busy it doesn’t mean you won’t see bears or other animals.  That got me a bit worried.  Also, we noted that the last shuttle from Avalanche back to Apgar was at around 6:45 pm.  We didn’t think that would be a big deal because when we decided to do the trail it was quarter to 2:00 pm.  The trail up to the lake was a lot steeper and harder than we thought it would be.  There were really quite a lot of people on the trail.  The views were beautiful. We could see the Avalanche River and a few waterfalls and mountains around us.  We knew that the lake was 2.1 miles away but we didn’t realize how hard the trail would be.  Luckily, when we got close we met a guy who told us just how close we were and not to give up because the lake is beautiful and worth the walk.  We finally made it up to the lake.  Once we got there, we enjoyed the view and relaxed a bit.  We figured that the walk back wouldn’t be as hard because it would be mostly downhill.  It was still pretty hard but B took his time.  I started to get nervous because it was getting late.  B told me to go ahead because I was not 100% sure what time the last shuttle was going to leave.  I started to speed up and go off on my own.  D had gone ahead and was sitting by the side of the trail waiting.  I saw him and asked if he was waiting for B – he said “no”.  He did wind up waiting and keeping B company as he slowly completed the hike back.   I started to take off and go as fast as I could – I was nervous about missing the shuttle and seeing bears!  I never saw any bears but I saw a few deer.  Once I got back to the Trail of Cedars I ran up to a woman who I thought was a Park Ranger. I asked her what time the last shuttle was and she said 5 pm.  I freaked because it was 5:20 pm at that point.  I ran up to where the bus stop was and I saw a shuttle there.  I asked around and read the sign.  I relaxed when I realized that the woman I had talked to was only a volunteer and she was talking about the time of the last shuttle was 5 pm when the road was closed due to snow but now the last shuttle back was at 6:45 pm (which is what I thought).  Bill and David came off the trail about 40 minutes later.  I made it back from the lake in about 1 hour and five minutes as opposed to almost 2 hours getting up there.  We had taken pictures and stopped quite a bit on the way up but still…  There were so many downed trees on the trail that B asked a ranger we saw on the trail about it.  The ranger told B that there was a big storm over the winter and the Chinook winds took the trees down.  My body was extremely achy by the time we got back to Apgar.  D (it was his night to choose) had a hard time deciding where to eat dinner that night.  We were really starving after our hike and not eating breakfast or lunch.  D finally decided to eat at Wasabi which is a nice Japanese Sushi place in Whitefish.  We called them and they were full with reservations; their first reservation was 8:45 p.m.  So instead we went to a place called Nickel Charlie’s in Kalispell which is in a casino.  I forgot to mention that we saw so many little casinos.  There were at least one or two casinos on each block.  The dinner at Nickel Charlie's was really good.  We over-ordered but it was alright since we had a refrigerator in our room.  D and I also took our last swim at the hotel pool that night and warmed up in the hot tub once again. 

Friday, July 22, 2011 -- we ate breakfast at a place called The Rack Shack for the second time this week.  It is a really great place to eat. Surprisingly, we saw an accident right in front of the restaurant.  Sadly, a guy on oxygen was driving a car that rear-ended a car that looked like it had just stopped in the middle of Rt. 93.  The bad part was there is a turning lane but the woman driving did not use the turning lane.  I wonder why she stopped short that way?  The favorite item for our family on the Rack Shack breakfast menu was Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.    The funny thing was that I had ordered the pancakes a few days before and the boys’ were about twice the size of the ones that I ordered.  Another funny thing was that the menu said that the pancakes came with strawberries but when I ordered them they came with raspberry jam on top and when B and D ordered them the pancakes came with blueberry syrup.  Weird.  After breakfast we drove over to see some bears!  We hadn’t seen any during the entire week so we paid $22 to drive through the Great Bear Adventure.  We saw 4 black bears in captivity.  One of the bears actually crossed the road almost right in front of us.  It was very cool.  After driving through the Great Bear Adventure a few times we decided to drive up to Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada.  The drive was pretty.  It took about 2 hours to get up there.  We decided to eat dinner in Cranbrook.  The first thing we saw when we got into the town was a Tim Horton’s so we used the bathrooms there.  Of course, we had to sample the donuts especially since D had never tried one that he could recall.  We had a really hard time finding a restaurant in Cranbrook.  The problems involved our GPS that hadn’t been updated and the bad economy.  Most of the restaurants we found on the GPS were either gone or replaced by other restaurants.  We wound up at a place called East Side Mario’s.  We had been looking for Boston Pizza.  We drove past Boston Pizza on our way out of East Side Mario’s.  East Side Mario’s had pretty good food. I would say it was sort of like a cross between Olive Garden and Pizza Hut.  The tomato sauce on my spaghetti was odd but not terrible.  I was so hungry I did not care.  On the way home, we drove through a big storm.  After the storm passed, we saw a great double rainbow.  It was amazing!  We drove back to the USA through Eureka.  B wanted to see the rodeo so we got our tickets and went into the rodeo.  The funny thing was I thought the rodeo was indoors.  B and D thought that was hysterical.  Then I saw 3 people riding what I thought were lawn mowers but they were actually riding on wheelchairs.  B and D thought that my mistake was a scream.  D and I did not feel very comfortable at the rodeo but we stayed about an hour.  We saw the bareback riders, bronco riders, calf roping, and barrel racing.   There was a weird clown type guy who was part of the show.  I was worried he would come over and start giving us a hard time but he never did.  We left the rodeo after an hour and went back to the hotel to get ready to leave for home.  It was getting close to the end of our journey. 
Black Bear at The Great Bear Adventure

Double Rainbow

Rodeo in Eureka, MT

Saturday, July 23, 2011 – Saturday morning B got up at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am!  I stayed in bed as long as possible and so did D.   In the few minutes I had to get ready to go, I saw B’s Park Café Mug (I thought) on the counter.  I wrapped it up and packed it in B’s carry-on bag.  It turned out that he had already packed his mug and I had wrapped up a mug from the hotel room.   I also managed to put B’s contacts in my eyes by mistake.  Remember, I was very tired by then!  We managed to get out of the hotel only about 20 minutes later than B wanted us to leave.  We had that 5 hour drive ahead of us.  We had almost reached Idaho when we needed to take a “rest stop” and fortunately there was one available right off the highway.  When we went into the restrooms we noticed that coffee and snacks were being served outside.  It was 37 degrees that morning but two ladies from the town of Mullan, Idaho were setting up a table to serve coffee, tea, cookies, lemonade and even dog biscuits for the doggies.  I was very impressed.  They only took donations.  I guess it was mostly for the truck drivers but we were offered coffee, too.  Since we had some extra time, we decided to have breakfast in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Again, we had GPS problems but we found a great family restaurant that served only breakfast and lunch called “Jonesy’s”.  We had the best hash browns in Idaho at that breakfast meal!  We made it to the Spokane airport in plenty of time.  There were no problems with our flights but we still made it home to BWI about 15 minutes late.  The worst part was that the plane didn’t land until 12:30 midnight.  By the time we got our bags and drove home it was around 2:30 or 3:00 am.  All-in-all we had a wonderful if tiring vacation in Glacier National Park.
At the Spokane Airport

Sunday, July 24, 2011 – when we finally arrived home at around 2 am on Sunday morning, we noticed indications that the electricity had been off for a short period of time while we were gone.  When I woke up on Sunday, I saw my clock said it was 3:47 pm so I thought we had slept a really long time when in reality it was only around 10:00 am because my clock was not set correctly!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back from Vacation!!

We have been away on vacation and the last two weeks of school were brutally busy with all the year-end activities like the 4th Grade picnic and Play Day. We left for Tennessee the day after D's school ended. We visited Nashville and Chattanooga. We may be the only family ever to go to Nashville and NOT see Opryland. We never made it to either the new Opryland or the old Ryman Auditorium. I thought it would be fun to see the Ryman Auditorium just for the historic value but D was absolutely NOT interested. He did agree to come with us to two historic homes (which surprised me very much). The first was Belle Meade Plantation. It is one of the oldest horse breeding plantations in Tennessee. Several of the Triple Crown winners came from Belle Meade.

The second historic home was called the Belmont Mansion. The Mansion is located on the campus of Belmont University. Funny, but the security people had no idea that the Mansion was visited by so many tourists. They told us that they have only two dedicated parking spots for it but when we took the tour there were literally dozens of people inside. It was a beautiful mansion that had been owned by one of the richest women in the late 1800's. I don't remember her name but I do remember that she died during a shopping trip to NYC. I guess she died doing what she enjoyed most! I can relate to that.

We enjoyed a rainy day at Opry Mills which is a very large shopping center directly across the parking lot from the new and improved Opryland. We spent the afternoon playing Glow Golf, watching The Incredible Hulk movie, eating at The Aquarium Restaurant (very cool) and visiting the touch pool they have called Stingray Reef. We took a "behind the scenes" tour of the Aquarium Restaurant. The tour was well worth the $5.00 each that they charge. The food at the Aquarium Restaurant was surprisingly good. The view from almost any table in the restaurant of all the fish is amazing.

We drove up to Kentucky for the day and toured the Lost River Caverns. These were pretty impressive. I got a bit claustrophobic in the boat when we all had to put our heads down to get into the caverns. Once we got into the caverns I was fine. It was interesting to learn that there had been a tavern of sorts on the premises back in the 1930's during prohibition. Apparently, if you drink too much while you are underground you don't feel it until you reach sea level. The people drank way too much and passed out on the steps of the cavern. That is said to be the reason the tavern didn't stay open very long. The drive to and from Kentucky from Nashville had great scenery and was well worth the price of gas.

We ate dinner at another really good restaurant. It is called Demos'. Demos' is located in downtown Nashville. They serve Italian food. I scarfed down a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. B had a seafood dish and D had the kids meal of unlimited soup. One of their specialties is baked chicken rice soup. It is really "out of this world". We each ordered and enjoyed a bowl of our own. Yummo!

Our drive to Chattanooga was uneventful. B was worried that we would hit traffic because the music festival known as "Bonnaroo" is in the area and had just ended. We didn't have any problems at all getting to Chattanooga. It was also a nice drive. Chattanooga is a small quaint town from my perspective (an ex-NYer). In Chattanooga, we ate dinner at two different chain barbecue restaurants. We ate at Smokey Bones and Sticky Fingers. I enjoyed both of them but I think Sticky Fingers is probably my favorite of the two. We bought and brought home a bottle of their barbecue sauce.

One of the most fun thing we did in Chattanooga was see their aquarium. I think that the Baltimore Aquarium is great but I felt that the Chattanooga Aquarium was even better. They have a permanent showcase of jellyfish that was very impressive. I was also taken with their penguins and seahorses. The Baltimore Aquarium has had travelling jellyfish and seahorse exhibits pass through but nothing permanent. Nor do we have penguins. Baltimore Aquarium does have puffins and a fairly large frog exhibit.

They also have a natural wonder in nearby Georgia called Ruby Falls which is an underground waterfall. I couldn't believe how gorgeous the waterfall was. Yes, I know. You are probably asking yourselves how many caves or caverns can one family visit on a vacation. Well, we can visit quite a few. We think they are gorgeous and interesting. You have to admit that on a blistering hot day, a visit to an underground cavern that is between 50 and 60 degrees can't be too bad!

Another scenic touristy thing we did in Chattanooga was to ride the "Incline." The Incline is a railroad that goes up a mountain at a 72 degree angle. The trip takes 15 minutes each way up and down Lookout Mountain. At first, I wasn't sure that I could manage riding the Incline because I have a fear of heights (along with so many others). I just "bit the bullet" and got into the train. It really wasn't bad at all. I met another woman travelling with her family who is also afraid of heights. We chatted all the way down the mountain. We didn't even notice that we had arrived. The trip back up was not at all scary and I was able to enjoy the view.

I almost forgot to mention that we visited Rock City which is also located on Lookout Mountain. The picture of D was taken at "Lovers Leap" in Rock City. It is a very interesting place that was formed by boulders that fell off the mountain. The view is fantastic as you can see. They also have a few tight squeezes between the boulders and some lovely gardens.

Last but certainly not least, we drove up to Sweetwater and took another tour of a cave. The cave in Sweetwater is called The Lost Sea. It is an underground lake inside a cave. This time they stocked the lake with lake trout. The guides feed the trout and almost jump into your boat for a little excitement. This cave was cool and relaxing.

I am pretty sure that you probably haven't considered Tennessee for your next vacation unless you are a country music fan. Take it from me, you would definitely enjoy it. There is something for everyone. The restaurants are top notch. The prices are very reasonable, too.

The Creative Cook