"I'm twitching," Bob said. On a recent Saturday, a group of Ambassadors gathered for lunch break, sitting at socially-distanced intervals around the table. Somehow, the talk had migrated to fishing. "In July, my feet twitch for ski season. Right now, my arms are twitching for fly fishing." All of us nodded in understanding, and the room grew quiet, each person lost in thoughts of spring and summer. Images of flowers and long summer days blossomed in my mind's eye. It inspired me to take a break from winter and highlight a hike. I could have chosen any one of 50 hikes, but I certainly needed one with more than a monochromatic palette. So, here we go: this is Entry 35 in my Hiking Journal - May 21, 2018 - the Boundary Trail from West Glacier Old Bridge to Lincoln Creek, 10 miles round trip. Enjoy!
We immediately learned that the "Old Bridge" is called the Belton Bridge. Built in 1920 to replace an unsafe wooden truss bridge, the Belton Bridge served as the primary entrance into Glacier National Park for nearly two decades. You can click on the photo below to read more details.
We crossed the bridge and headed east. Much of the Boundary Trail meanders along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, offering mesmerizing views. In May, the river is high with snow melt, and brown with silt. Later in the summer, it is clear or even blue from glacial flour and the rocks on the river bed. (June of 1964 saw the worst flooding in Montana in recorded history. Bridges, dams, towns and railroads were all dramatically effected. The west side of Glacier was cut off and isolated. If not for the concrete arch of the old Belton Bridge, it might have been months or years before access could be restored. Heroic efforts after the flood quickly constructed a new bridge on the existing concrete arch and the west side of the Park was re-opened in only 3 weeks. Meanwhile, it took two years to re-build the bridge at West Glacier and restore that entrance to the Park.)
Spring flowers abounded along the trail: Wild Strawberry, Biscuitroot, Serviceberry, Trillium, Blue Violet, Fairybells, Blue-eyed Mary, False Solomon Seal, to name a few. I was delighted to find a number of my favorite orchids, the Fairy Slipper (also known as Calypso Orchid) (see picture at left). In 2018, I still had a lot to learn about the flora of Northwest Montana. In my journal, I note one plant as "unidentified". Now I can tell you that it was Wild Sarsaparilla. The roots were used by Native Americans and pioneers as a beverage flavoring. Native Americans also used a poultice of wild sarsaparilla to treat fevers, stomachaches, coughs and skin ulcers. (Sarsaparilla is also the common name of a soft drink that was trendy in the 1800s. Contrary to popular belief, the drink was made from another plant called sassafras.) I had seen plenty of sarsaparilla on our hikes, but it wasn't until I spotted the flowers underneath that I was able to make the identification.
Occasionally, I come across an uncommon plant, and that is a cause for celebration. On this day, I was over the moon to meet the Striped Coralroot, a member of the Orchid Family. This plant was the only one we saw on the entire trail (5 miles one way), and I have rarely seen it since. It is a parasite that gets its nutrients from soil fungi and dies when removed from this association. Therefore, they are rarely cultivated or transplanted successfully.
The Striped Coralroot prefers a moist soil, so it is not surprising that a stream with a waterfall was nearby.
The trail began to climb more steeply, leading us up and away from the river. As the terrain changed, so did the flowers.
We reached a plateau, and we were fascinated by this stand of lodgepole pine, reaching to the heavens. Lodgepole typically grow up in thick stands, whereas this area appeared to have been thinned in a systematic manner. Thinning is not a normal practice by the National Park Service, so we wondered how this happened. It is still a mystery to us!
Shortly after this point, we arrived at Lincoln Creek and its swing bridge. A sign warned that only one hiker should cross at a time. We followed that advice!
On the return, we saw a train snaking its way along the tracks on the other side of the river. Burlington Northern Santa Fe has a good safety record; anyone who loves Glacier National Park would abhor an accident that would spill oil or other harmful products into the river.
Sometimes, on the return journey, you see views you did not catch the first time. Isn't this a beauty?
Yep, I am twitching. But this post will have to scratch that itch for now - mid-May and hiking the trails is a long way off!
January 2021 is treating me well. From winter recreation to Whitefish Winter Carnival merriment to the invigorating inauguration of President Biden, I have a myriad of reasons for celebration.
La Nina may not have delivered the mounds of snow that we expected, but we have enough to support our winter sports, including downhill and cross-country skiing. And it's only January 24; lots of "winter" remains!!!
Last week brought a wild wind storm that tumbled trees and power lines, knocking out power across the valley. We were fortunate to be without electricity for only a few hours; some waited a couple of days! We have newly resolved to purchase a generator.
Whitefish has been the home of the Whitefish Winter Carnival for over 60 years, and I have been fortunate to be involved since the fall of 2019. My main responsibility has been the design and sale of the Carnival buttons, a role I share with another Board member. This year, none of our traditional events will be held as a safety precaution. (If you need a refresher, I wrote extensively about the final weekend of 2020 Carnival in my February 16, 2020 post. My March 2, 2018 post explains many of the other traditions.) This presented an opportunity for the Board to find creative ways to keep the spirit of Carnival alive. The theme SURVIVOR was chosen, and this opened the door to brainstorm "challenges" that could be entertaining and safe. (If you have ever watched the show, you know contestants have to participate in various challenges.)
The community has enthusiastically responded - businesses have helped create and conduct challenges, and people have jumped at the chance for distraction and prizes! To mention just a few: The Great Toilet Paper Challenge required participants to guess the number of toilet paper rolls in the shop window at Imagination Station. The Virtual Penguin Plunge raises money for Special Olympics; by February 6, teams will film themselves "freezin' for a reason" - I surmise this could take many forms! The Stumptown Art Studio is hosting Technicolor Yeti, a ornament painting contest. Double the Bubble, Double the Fun is sponsored by Sage & Cedar; competitors will estimate the number of soap slices sold in 2020. First place wins this stuffed yeti and a slice of soap!
Given my role selling buttons to the businesses, it quickly evolved that I became heavily engaged in coordinating quite a few of the challenges. Imagine my delight when, for my contribution "to the realm", I was knighted last week. The Executive Director of the Museum where I volunteer lured me there early, with the ruse of a special project. Little did I know that the royalty was gathering nearby. I am not on the Board for the recognition, but it is wonderful to be appreciated! (During a knighting, the Prime Minister reads the scroll, King Ullr performs the knighting, and the Queen of the Snows places the ribbon on the new "liege of the realm". The knight is also presented with pins from the King and Prime.) I was so surprised, I was crying - masks are good for more than just viruses!
January has been a historic month in the US for several reasons; for diehard Cleveland Browns fans, the 2020-2021 season marked the first time in 18 years that their beloved team made it to the playoffs! With great anticipation, we gathered around the big screen on January 10 for the match-up with the Steelers. There is no love lost between these long-time rivals, and almost no one was predicting that the Browns could win. But win they did, 48-37. Such vindication, especially considering the head coach, Kevin Stefanski, was sequestered in the basement of his house due to COVID exposure. The following week, we battled with the Kansas City Chiefs, and eventually succumbed 22-17. I think I speak for all the fans when I write that we are very pleased with the season, and are ready for even greater things next season!
Mid-month, I was tickled to get a text from a neighbor, offering us fresh eggs. Together with her husband, she is on 28-day cleanse and couldn't use the abundance produced by her hens. It was fabulous to find this basket on our front porch the next morning; eggs in many colors and sizes, some of them practically luminous. And you know the taste is so much richer and deeper than store eggs!
A friend of ours from Cleveland came for a week-long visit; he just departed yesterday. I have christened Tim the "Best Guest from the Midwest" - he is generous to a fault, and helps around the house during his stay. Apart from our kids, he has been our most frequent visitor and the next time he comes, I will probably have a sign on the guest room door that reads "Tim's Room".
The day we visited Kootenai Falls, a train passed by and our waving prompted the engineer to blow the horn. I love trains!
The month has also seen other blissful moments. The storm I mentioned at the beginning of this post shredded my moose flag beyond further repair, so I purchased a new one. A Christmas gift I ordered for Spousal Unit (chocolate liqueurs) finally arrived. Deer by the creek, captured on my trail cam. A sunrise over Whitefish Mountain Resort on the way to work. The sparkle of a million snowflakes, glistening in the meadow as I ski with Dear Neighbor Friend. We all have our problems, and the world certainly does, but at these times, I am filled with cheer and optimism.
I will leave you with one final video. Winter Carnival conducted a Songwriter's Challenge, with several terrific entries. The winner, "Wake Me" by Big Sky City Lights, is a showcase for the talent that thrives in the Flathead Valley. It is a song about hope, about the journey. It is simple, with a hauntingly beautiful melody. Set in a Montana barn with light snow falling, it gently encourages us - it is "time to start living".
It has been almost three months since we completed our autumn road trip, but I have more memories and stories to share. We pick up on October 22, having left the creature comforts of the Utah home of my brother and his wife (see post here). Our initial destination? The Museum of Clean, Pocatello, Idaho. Say what? A museum about cleaning? I had the same reaction when I first saw it listed on TripAdvisor. As I read further, I learned the museum actually presents many dimensions of clean through art, displays, exhibits, print and participation. Clean dominates the value of everything that affects life - like clean air, clean water, clean language, clean beds, floors, teeth, arteries - the list goes on! It is not a cleaning museum, it is a museum OF clean. My curiosity was piqued; I had to see it for myself!
We were greeted by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable docent. He explained that the museum had been created by Don Aslett, founder of Varsity Contractors, a cleaning company. He described the layout of the 74,000 square-foot facility, and I could sense straightaway that this is not your average museum -- I anticipated that we would be thoroughly entertained, and I was not disappointed. For example, one display told the story of Bill Zickgraf, who worked for Don as an outhouse cleaner at Sun Valley Ski Resort. Despite the fact that he did know how to ski, Bill came on board after Don went through 14 skiing toilet scrubbers. As he learned to ski the hard way, Bill's attitude and pride in his job soon made him the most famous person on the mountain. Indeed, the only rivals for prestige and status were the square-jawed heroes in the Ski Patrol, with their bright red jackets sporting the big emblem of two crossed skis. So, Bill had a coat especially made, complete with an outhouse silhouette and "Bowl Patrol" proudly emblazoned across his back. I loved this story about attitude and work ethic, especially since it takes place at a ski resort!
Many of the exhibits brought back memories of products that my parents had used, or advertising campaigns from my youth. Ty-D-Bol, an American brand of toilet cleaner, was introduced in 1958. The company is best known for its nautical spokesperson, the Ty-D-Bol Man, who piloted a toilet tank-sized boat in TV commercials from 1968 to 1984. (The display also pointed out that Don turned down the opportunity to be the Ty-D-Bol Man because he could not vouch for the effectiveness of the product!) Do you remember the commercials?
In the early 1950's, wooden wash tubs were replaced by metal tubs, and people started using them as a more efficient way to take family baths. Every Saturday night, the wash tub was placed on the floor in the kitchen near the stove, and filled with hot water from a tea kettle. Parents, then kids (in order of age) were bathed. This is where the phrase "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!" comes from. I don't recall taking a bath in a metal tub, but I do remember Saturday night baths as the norm when I was small.
In 1962, Bob Prewitt of Prewitt Fiberglass created a 20-foot fiberglass Paul Bunyan, complete with an ax, for the Paul Bunyan Cafe on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1963, the company became the International Fiberglass Company. From 1963 - 1974, the company made 1000s of giant men, women, animals and dinosaurs. The term "Muffler Man" refers to what is now called The Classic, which was used to promote muffler shops. A close cousin to The Classic is The Cowboy, created for Phillips 66 gas stations. The Janitor is a Cowboy, and is one of only 27 known to exist.
The moulds were destroyed in 1974, leaving a finite number of the giants still standing in America. According to the museum, the total number of Muffler Men and their incarnations is around 230. For more information, check out USAgiants.com.
(The International Fiberglass Company made other giants, including the 17-foot Uniroyal Gal. The Gals are very rare - only 14 are known to exist. Coincidentally, one of them is in nearby Blackfoot, Idaho, at Martha's Cafe. We stopped to see her after we left the Museum of Clean.)
During his museum introduction, the docent mentioned that we might see Don during our visit. In the end, we did not have a "Don sighting", but you could not leave the building without getting a good feel for a man that seemed as large in life as his Muffler Man. He has authored 40 books (I bought one in the gift shop.) He has completed more than 6000 seminars, workshops and T.V. filmings nationally and internationally. Don was married for 61 years to the late Barbara Morris. He has six children, 21 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. He was personally involved in the purchase of the museum building in 2006 and its renovation through 2011 to the highest energy efficiency standards. And yet his only self-acclaim is "I'm a good poet." I would have like to met the man who has "earned" all of these nicknames - sometimes gentle teasing in this form is the greatest compliment one can receive!
By now you have a sense of the "oddities" in the museum, and the humor that is rampant through the building. But the museum also prides itself on its historical items, referred to as the Holy Vacuum Grails.
Personally, I preferred the humor and the idiosyncrasies. So, I will leave you with three final curiosities.
The story of Play-Doh begins when Kutol, a Cincinnati-based soap company, was floundering in the late 1920s. In 1933, the company attended a meeting with Kroger grocery store representatives, who asked if Kutol made wallpaper cleaner. This product was in high demand as coal was the leading method of heating in most homes. Even though Kutol didn't make or even know how to make the cleaner, the company made an expensive commitment to Kroger. Kutol figured it out using a common formula, and this supported the company through WWII. The product became obsolete as coal was replaced and vinyl wallpaper came on the scene. In 1954, a nursery school teacher (also a family member) read that wallpaper cleaner could be used for art projects. Seeing how well it worked and how much fun the kids had with it, the company transformed the cleaner into a toy. They removed the detergent, and added an almond scent and coloring. Kay Zufall, the teacher, came up with the name, Play-Doh. A partnership with the Captain Kangaroo TV Show created national exposure and it became a hit. Since 1956, over 950 million pounds of Play-Doh in over 2 billion cans have been produced. Currently, over 100 million cans of Play-Doh are sold annually.
As you may have gathered from my dissertation, I was entranced with this museum. If you ever find yourself within driving distance of Pocatello, Idaho, you MUST visit!
Is your Christmas tree still up (if you celebrate Christmas)? Ours is standing proud, and probably will until the end of the month. It just went too fast, folks. Anybody else feel the same? I have given up listening to Christmas music, but I can't quite put away the tree or all the decorations ...
So can you tolerate a smidge more of December? Just for me, your blogging buddy?
So where to begin? Or how to continue? Let's see, I think I have figured out that food is a crowd-pleaser (this is for you, Debbie). Team cooking (Head Chef, #1 Son and I) in early December included Nasi Goreng and Jamaican Jerk Chicken with ginger rice and plantains. #1 Son favors Asian dishes, hence the Nasi Goreng. Well, he likes jerk seasoning too, so maybe he was driving the menu choices! My request was for the plantains, a type of banana that has a crispy, caramelized texture when fried. A ubiquitous Caribbean dish, it was a must-have to accompany the jerk chicken.
Ok, maybe that's not really about the holidays - would some ornaments be more appropriate? I couldn't share these before now - they were SECRET gifts! As I have written in the past (here), creating a personal ornament for family members each year is a relatively new tradition. I enjoy the whole process - choosing a design, buying the materials and stitching the ornament!
As long as we are focused on presents, below are some photos of my treasured Christmas gifts from the family.
Thanks to Spousal Unit, #1 Daughter, The Boyfriend and #1 Son for their generosity and thoughtfulness!
The holidays can pack on the pounds, so I try to stay active. Dear Neighbor Friend and I go cross-country skiing around her property - we have been blessed by Nature's finest decoration of hoarfrost and snow.
While these macro shots are jaw-dropping, so are the micro views of feathery frost along the creek and lake.
Right before Christmas, Spousal Unit and I resumed our seasonal positions as Ambassadors at Whitefish Mountain Resort - the exercise, fresh air and opportunity to meet new people is a welcome change. The Mountain is taking COVID precautions very seriously - the livelihood of many people relies on a successful winter season. One of the Mountain watering holes, the Bierstube, makes the pitch well.
I walk our back forty regularly, often building in a visit to the trail cam. I have had quite a few trail cam malfunctions, and don't have much to show you from December. But sometimes there comes a moment of serendipity. I was collecting greenery for decorations, a few days before #1 Daughter and The Boyfriend arrived. Looking closely under a tree for Oregon Grape Holly, I spied a spot of white close up to the trunk of a Douglas Fir. Strange; the rest of the ground around the trunk was bare. How did that clump of snow get there? I moved forward and suddenly realized that white clump was nothing other than a snowshoe hare! It allowed me to get quite close and take this video. So adorable! (I will ignore for the moment that it might enjoy my landscaping next spring ...) Closer to home, I have a squirrel story. (I think everyone with birdfeeders has at least one squirrel tale!) Two Christmases ago, I received a window feeder. Ever since, it has been attached to the outside of our dining room window, and we are thoroughly entertained by the ongoing traffic of chickadees and nuthatches. Well, you guessed it, a squirrel has discovered it. This photo was taken through the window at close range. Did the fellow bat an eyelash? Not in the least!
Well, I am reaching the end of my holiday anecdotes. I have enjoyed re-living these memorable moments, and I hope something in my narrative put a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face. January is marching on, and now I am ready to fall in step.