Many things to do following trip to Glacier National Park
Food for the Neighborhood
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 4:40 AM
I spent most of my summer looking to the time when I would travel with my children and their children to Glacier National Park.
Ian Clark stands in front of the Izaac Walton Lodge, which was close to the house where the Clark family stayed during its visit to Glacier National Park. This photo was taken after he had spotted a bear on the railroad tracks.
In the meantime I was working and cooking garden produce through the summer. After returning, I finally completed a booklet cookbook called "Vegetable ABC" as a give-away for the Eyota Farmers Market. I'd meant to get it done a couple months ago, but life has been very busy.
The recipes are a combination of some I had shared in the past for market goers and others I found in a variety of sources from personal cookbooks and online. At the end I will share one recipe that's an updated macaroni and cheese recipe disguising cauliflower and using whole-wheat pasta. I found this one online included in "Healthy Recipes from the White House to You."
There was one mystery I hoped I might solve by going to Glacier National Park. I have an old photo of my grandmother, Terra, and her sister, Garnet, as young fresh-faced girls dressed in Swiss type costumes.
In the background is the outline of a mountain and a building having a kind of Swiss chalet shape. I knew they had gone to Glacier National Park and worked together as waitresses and/or maids there. Since my grandmother was born in 1896 and the park was formed in the early 19-teens, the two fit together and the photo backed up the vague story I had been told of them. But I knew almost no details.
My grandmother's father had died young, leaving his family of six children living on a farm and having to fend for themselves. Although she eventually became a registered nurse, getting there meant my grandmother needed to provide for herself. Thus, I imagine the summer Glacier Park job fit her needs.
I also imagine that her farm background and strong work ethic bode well for fitting in at Glacier. I learned when the railroad first arrived in Glacier, the railroad financier, Mr. Hill, saw this beautiful wilderness as a place he might capitalize on and draw rich vacationers from the east.
Chalets were built in isolated locations and a fine lodge was built along Lake McDonald on the western side of Glacier. Calling this a western Alps, vacationers were lured to take the rails there instead of traveling via ship to the European Alps. A stay could extend a month or two while the visitors traveled from location to location along trails on horseback.
Today, there are roads, but horseback riding is still an option, although a limited one. When Grandmother was there, the Riding to the Sun Road did not exist. During my family's stay, a few of us did get on horses for about an hour, while others rode rafts along crystal clean waters.
If I could summarize what I liked most about Glacier, I think about the views we saw when we woke up the first morning and left our house. Standing in the parking lot of the Izaac Walton Lodge, there were panoramic mountains studded with evergreens, as I looked one way and another. Later, I discovered one clear-water mountain lake after another and rode a raft on a window-like clear stream.
Our train arrived three hours late, so the views I'd imagined we'd see as our train traveled into the mountains of Glacier were shuttered by darkness. Kids fell asleep waiting for our arrival. We had to gather up our numerous suitcases, kids' car seats, and duffel bags of various sizes, and have them stacked by the door on the lower level. (When the train arrives at a destination, it is one's responsibility to be ready to get off quickly.) Our porter advised us to have the bags ready, so they could be hoisted off while the parents carried their small children.
Our train was met by staff members from the inn with vans to carry us to the house where all but two of our party were staying. Looking at the map of Glacier when I initially planned the trip, it seemed to be located on the south tip of the park. It was also about 30 miles from the east and west entrances of the national park.
After choosing beds, we went to sleep, finally able to sleep on firm ground, but oddly near a train station with noises of trains coming and going throughout the night. Because there was a mountain pass nearby, there were engines in the rail yard that helped trains over the Marias Pass. Even with diesel train engines, the job was too taxing for them.
We were staying at a location where cell phones did not work, there was no TV and Internet was available only at the bar on the lower level of the lodge. Instead of treating my family to a Disneyland experience, I had chosen a wilderness.
During the days we shared a succession of day trips together. The first day found us going to Lake McDonald where my youngest son, Logan, quickly found a great opportunity to make reservations for two campsites that he planned to travel to via backpacking.
Logan was the only one of our party who had previously traveled to Glacier - twice with friends, driving his own vehicle and camping once he had arrived. He'd been excited about the trip, but there weren't any others in our party who shared his enthusiasm for roughing it. Although not advised by park guides, he was backpacking by himself, but staying in the proximity of others at night, and traveling around 15 miles each, the first two days.
His sister, Amanda, and her friend, Cory, dropped him off in one distant location the next morning. Two days later, I rode along with them to pick him up, traveling two hours before we found him at a campground at the end of a single lane road by a beautiful lake.
While he was gone, we spent one day at Flathead Lake to the south swimming and anther day driving the Going to the Sun Road and crossing Logan's Pass. A dozen of us filled a car and a van, rented from the lodge. At points along the way we all walked on trails to see giant cedars, a waterfall and a distant lake.
We rode from west to east on the Going to the Sun Road, a two-lane trek along roads that took decades to chisel out of the rocky mountainsides. We were hardly alone, as this is a very popular tourist visit. Advised to leave early that day, we tried our best, but still found the parking lot was full by the time we arrived at the Logan's Pass Visitor Center.
Once there, our seven adults took turns watching over the five children in our group and hiked up steps and trails leading to Hidden Lake. The far end of the road led to the eastern part of the park where there is less rainfall and the vegetation is more grassy and less lush than the western side.
It was a long trip back to our house, along winding roads before getting back to the highway perimeter to the park. Each evening it was so nice to get "home" again to relax and for me, it was especially nice because the couples took turns preparing the evening meals. I was on vacation and didn't have to cook.
Logan never saw a bear on his wilderness hike, but 3-year-old Ian did when he and I were out walking early on our last day at the park. We were on a bridge above the rail yard, while I was looking one way waiting for the morning Amtrak to arrive, he was looking out the other side.
When he said a single word, "bear," I looked back his way and saw a black bear ambling across the tracks. Later, we spotted the same bear munching huckleberries in our yard!
Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
1 pound wheat penne pasta
1 cup milk (2% or skim)
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 head cauliflower florets
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, cook the cauliflower until soft, then transfer to blender and puree. In a medium-sized pan, transfer the pasta and pour the cauliflower in. Add the milk, cheese and season to taste. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.