(Part 2 of a series on Great National Parks of the West)
What a smooth beginning to my Uncommon Journeys trip. Flying day is not always easy but this one was a breeze. I arrived at the Kalispell airport in Montana to see a greeter holding a placard with my name, ready to transfer me to nearby Grouse Mountain Lodge.
Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish is where our Uncommon Journeys group will be staying two nights to start our trip visiting the Great National Parks of the West. Throughout the day, tour participants are arriving either by plane or by train. I chose to fly.
Since I arrived in early afternoon, I caught a complimentary lodge shuttle downtown to see what Whitefish has to offer. With a population of about 6,000, Whitefish was originally called Stumptown because the spot was filled with exactly that. Early settlers had cut down some of the numerous trees to create a town. In their hurry, they left behind tree stumps which later had to be removed.
The Stumptown name didn’t stick. Instead, the growing community was named Whitefish after nearby Whitefish Lake. When the Great Northern Railway rolled into Whitefish in 1904, the town began to boom. Most people worked for the railroad or logging industries.
Then a ski resort opened in the late 1940s and tourism discovered the beautiful area. What is there to do? Skiing, fishing and numerous outdoor activities, of course, plus the town is only 25 miles west of Glacier National Park.
Whitefish has a renovated downtown with neat little stops, live theater, restaurants, railroad museum, new library, cultural arts center and lovely park near the depot. I was lucky to be there for the weekly Farmers Market in the park.
Quite large and well organized, the market has many covered stands filled with fresh produce at reasonable prices. I bought a basket of cherry tomatoes from two little boys for $3 and they sure didn’t taste like the tomatoes you get in a supermarket. I plan to have them for dinner with cheese.
The Farmers Market also has craft booths, food trucks, music and a game where youngsters can wear a fireman’s hat and try to aim a hose into the windows of a make-believe burning house. Weather was ideal and the market was hopping.
The Whitefish Depot Museum offers free admission and is well worth a visit. One interesting display had a “Fur Fish” on exhibit. It looked like a real fish but had fur on it. Figured it must be a hoax and the museum guide didn’t dispute that. In his opinion, he said, the fishy critter was the creation “of someone suffering from cabin fever who had too much time on his hands.”
Because I had been sitting for hours on airplanes, I decided to walk back to the lodge. The free shuttle from the lodge makes regular stops and the driver also gave me a business card with a phone number to call if I wanted the shuttle to pick me up somewhere else. Walking was good. Took less than an hour and I dawdled. Scenery was nice and I got some photos on the way.
At 4 p.m. those of us who had already arrived for the trip were invited to stop by the lodge lobby and met our tour manager Cathy Lee. Then we were free to rest up in the beautiful lodge for our upcoming 12-day trip.
Bright and early tomorrow, we will meet for breakfast, then board our coach bus for the drive to Glacier National Park. Sure looking forward to it.