I have been so stoked about this adventure to Glacier National Park. A friend of mine, Laura Burlis, was selected to be their Artist in Residence for the month of July.
I am so proud of her. Of course, I think she is amazingly talented and am so glad to have learned as much as I have from her as I’ve learned to work with Polymer Clay.
Since the use of a car is pretty necessary in a park as large as Glacier, Laura was hoping for someone to drive out with her on the long drive west. I was immediately up for it though I wondered how I’d make the time! [Did I mention that I thought Glacier was in Alaska?] Once I realized it was only in Montana, she couldn’t beg me not to go. The plan was hatched for Laura, me, and her sister Jenny (love her too) to road trip to the park. Yahoo!
We also planned a stop at Little Bighorn where there was some possible historical family significance. I was intrigued to hear the whole story. We met up in Moorhead where Dan dropped me with Laura and Jenny. He was scheduled to pick me up in Detroit Lakes at the Amtrak a week later.
We ended up staying in both Glendive and Big Timber on our way to Glacier and, along the way, we hit both the Custer House and Little Bighorn Battlefield. I do recommend the Astoria Hotel in Glendive – very reminiscent of the Hampton Inns I stayed in during working days. The family that owns it is super friendly and nice. They have wonderful beds. http://www.stayastoria.com/ Big Timber found us in an AirBnB (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/13605836?location=Big%20Timber%2C%20MT%2C%20United%20States&s=JzW6Ar-F) Adam was awesome friendly and offered to bring us breakfast but we were happy with the food he had available in the fridge – made eggs and waffles with coffee. The beds were comfy, even the air mattress bed I had, and we had amazing fireworks for hours, it being 4th of July. Apparently EVERYONE does their own fireworks in Montana.
So, the magic of our trip really began when we arrived in Mandan. I was suddenly flooded with all the memories of DAPL. I felt like I was riding down the road to revisit that site with Sylvia and Rita, only it was me, Laura and Jenny and we’d only go a short ways down 1806 to the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. We were there to visit the Custer House but arrived just as the last house tour ended. We hesitated to spend the $5 to go in to just look through the windows and walk the grounds but… we paid and entered. As we drove into the parking lot, we watched as the Tour Guide, in full military uniform of the day, was heading into the closed gift shop.
Laura jumped out of the vehicle and headed up to knock on the door. Jenny and I wandered out, asking the lone woman in the parking lot if she’s seen the house tour and what she thought. She noted it was wonderful and we mentioned that we were trying to make it because Laura and Jenny are great-granddaughters of a member of Custer’s band. We were sorry to have missed it.
Wait, did you know Custer had a band? Well, I didn’t but apparently he was quite a showboat. He also was very concerned about his hair – blonde locks that he combed across his forehead, kinda like someone who is in the news daily at present. Thankfully, he’d left his band at the river before heading to the battle at Little Bighorn or I wouldn’t be telling you this story of a trip with his great-granddaughters!
As we headed up to meet Laura at the building, this woman followed us and asked if we’d said something about a relationship to Custer. Jenny explained to her who they were and then the woman told us why she was there. Turns out, she’s directing a documentary for Susan Sarandon’s film company, ReFramed Pictures, on Custer. The goal of this company is to reframe stories that “shine a light on socially relevant causes, people and issues”. The woman was Katia Lund, co-director of City of God. Her camerawoman, Gwendolyn Cates came up at that point and we started talking. She was surprised to hear about the Custer connection but then talk turned to her wanting a magnet but the gift shop being closed. I was like, “We can get them to open up for a magnet. Sure!” So I headed up to the door with her. When the young woman answered the door, she wasn’t sure if they could but I was like, “Can’t you put it on tomorrow’s sales?” and Gwendolyn was like, “I can pay cash.” She let us in the store and all five of us crowded in quickly. The gal at the counter, Ree, was responding to Gwendolyn when I really saw her and blurted out, “Holy cow, you look just like my best friend, Steph!” Ree pointed at me (just like Steph does) and said, “You’re just trying to butter me up!” And I was like, “OMG! That’s how she points at me too! Can I take a picture with you?! I have to send her this!” Well, this got her and she cracked up and we ended up posing for a shot. Then Gwendolyn got her magnet and we asked if it might be possible to get a photo with the tour guide. They told us “Jonah is still in the back.” We found him and he was SO GRATIOUS! He agreed to come outside for a photo and ended up spending about 10-15 minutes more with us filming and discussing Custer, his band, and the House at Fort Abraham Lincoln. He and Laura went back and forth confirming what the other was saying while the filmmakers asked questions and we all enjoyed the stories. I filmed with Jenny’s camera for them, though the sound was rough with the wind. It was just magical to watch this unfold!! Not sure if they will end up in the film or on the cutting floor but it was an amazing way to start our big trip to Glacier. It also saved me wanting to go all the way to the No DAPL site in Cannon Ball. Katia was able to tell me it was mainly all cleaned up with only a few prayer ties on the fencing. Not worth the drive to see, especially with all the driving we had ahead of us!
The next day started with Laura & I hiking Makoshika State Park. The Campground volunteers were super friendly here. I didn’t know before this trip that people volunteer to be Campground Hosts for State/National Parks and basically get a camp spot for agreeing to welcome guests to the park. This guy was super friendly, driving to the entrance to welcome guests before the park opened, and his wife welcomed us at the trailhead with maps they had posted. It was a steep hike, straight up but pretty cool to see a dinosaur fossil and check out the Badlands.
Then we headed to the Little Bighorn Battlefield and I recommend, if you make it to this park, you definitely take the Apsaalooke Native Bus Tour. Rusty gave us an AMAZINGLY detailed description of the day’s events with a focus on the Indian perspective. The tour is $10 but it’s a full hour of story and with a couple stops for photo ops. We also heard the Ranger talk with was more of a Rah-Rah-Troops perspective but which did acknowledge that one of the best parts of the park is the addition of the Indian Memorial, Peace Through Unity, which honors the fallen warriors in the battle. It’s gorgeous iron and stone work and worth the walk up the hill, even in 90-degree burning sun. We had a lovely picnic in the shade of a tree on the edge of the military graveyard which was strikingly similar to Arlington Cemetery. The girls agreed my Ambrosia was delicious – finally think I’m getting that recipe right, as were the lovely Honeyberries (with sugar and tapioca). Glad I could contribute such yummy goodies for our travels. We also had garlic hummus, cherries, chips and crackers. We are good on this trip!
The next day, we headed for Glacier and drove up the Going-to-the-Sun Road to make our way in to the McDonald Lodge where Laura was meeting Ginger to check in for her month long stay. Going-to-the-Sun is a great way to see Glacier if you only have a couple hours to drive through – yep – it will take you a couple hours just to drive THROUGH this National Park. Dan had set me up with the NPR audio files that accompanied the 20+ stops along the road so we had stories the whole way. It was nice to hear a lot of history and ecology as we made our way through stunning vistas and past beautiful waterfalls.
We arrived on the 5th and spent three gloriously hot days with a lake just outside our door. Ginger gave us the basics: Bear training (behavior, pepper spray, best practices), best trails, cleaning/paper supplies for the cabin – we’ve got TP for months! We spent the first little bit cleaning. It is a rustic cabin that the Artist in Residence enjoys but there is no housekeeping like at the lodges! Then, hot, we got on our suits and headed into Lake McDonald. After opening the wine, of course. It was so refreshing. Cooled off, we showered, snacked, and were in bed about midnight.
At 12:30, the bed started shaking!! We figured it was an earthquake as we felt a small aftershock but didn’t have that confirmed until the next day when people with access to the outside world told us there had been a 5.8 quake in Lincoln, MT. The next morning we were up and out to the Avalanche Creek trail. We arrived about 11 and headed up, stopping for a lovely picnic lunch about 1/3 of the way up to Avalanche Lake. We decided to save ourselves for more hiking later by not going all the way to the lake – we’d seen the best of the trail with rocks and waterfalls along the creek and big shady forests up the hill. Instead, we headed to Apgar Village for Ice Cream. I don’t recommend Eddie’s Ice Cream. It’s pretty overpriced and I think the Huckleberry Ice Cream I had at the Blue Bunny Parlor in Le Mars a few weeks back was much tastier. For all the traffic, I was surprised to find ice crystals in my vanilla scoop. After that we headed to McDonald Lake where we had tickets for the Boat Tour. Victor & JT were great and at the end, Laura took a moment to introduce herself as the Artist in Residence and Victor didn’t miss a beat before offering to come model for her! I wonder if those dudes will be keeping her company now that Jenny and I are gone! Had a late dinner of BBQ Ribs, Bakers, Slaw, and wine slush. Got showers and read a bit before bed.
Friday we slept in. Then we headed to the John’s Lake hike, over McDonald Creek. It was an amazing hike and we spent quite a while at the bridge where I was able rock hunt and get in the water. Jenny dared me so I had to! Laura took an awesome video which I should be able to get posted soon. We took a short tour of GTTS road to Logan’s Pass. We got lucky and found a mountain goat on the way to Logan’s Pass. Then on the way back, we found 2 more… with babies!!
Got back to the cabin in time for quick showers before the Jack Gladstone Triple Divide show that evening. Up late enjoying our last evening together.
Saturday we got Jenny to the airport and watched the Full moon set – She was HUGE! Laura and I drove through Whitefish, stopped at the grocery, found a rummage sale and headed to the West Glacier Amtrak stop. Turns out, the Amtrak website auto books you for East Glacier (which I didn’t even know existed) when you type in Glacier as your criteria in the station search. West Glacier (WGL), Essex, and East Glacier are the three stops in the park… in that order. Needless to say, getting to WGL at the time the train leaves GPK (East Glacier designation… you can see why I thought I was at the right stop, eh?), meant I missed my train. Luckily, Dan could re-book me for the next day so… ONE MORE DAY IN GLACIER!!
Though we were starving, we still hit the Oxbow trail before heading back to the cabin to make a lovely lunch of a potato, broccoli crown, onion, pepper, egg and cheese lunch. It was heavenly. And then, with a full belly… NAP! The days are so long that we still had time for some more cleaning, swimming, meeting some staff kids hanging out nearby, hiking a Creek Trail and then hiking back to the cabin via the lake shore. We made a lovely dinner salad and then headed over for the Astronomy program. We were BUSHED after two nights of little sleep so hit the beds by 11:30.
But. did you notice that we did a Triathlon? Yes, we did hiking, swimming and sale-ing. What? Yep, hiking, swimming and rummage sale-ing! Love that!
Sunday resulted in a successful train boarding and I was able to finally leave Laura for her real work to begin. We were able to find lots of lovely rocks, formations, wildflowers, and even some critters for her to incorporate into art while she enjoys the stay at Glacier. I can’t wait to see what she makes.