Friday, February 26, 2010

Our Daily Bread

We only spent a day in Missoula, but while we were there we got our share of good bread. First, a quick stop at Le Petit Outre for a yummy pastry. The Bacca Florentine, about the size of a ping pong paddle, was delicious. Wish I could bake like that.

From there, we drove to the Great Harvest Bread Co. All in the name of research, of course.
I have five words for you: Honking big cheddar bread sticks.
Buy. Eat. Taste. Smile.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh, Wilma. You beautiful thing!

Missoula has more than its share of natural beauty. The Clark Fork River rambles through town. Mountains ring the valley. But one of the sights you need to see is entirely man-made.
The elegant Wilma Theater reigns over the pretty little town. Built in 1921, and named after Edna Wilma, the vaudeville-star wife of the builder, the elegant Louis X1V theater and concert hall is still a vibrant social hub. A steady stream of entertainers and big names appears throughout the year.

Stepping inside, you can easily imagine Missoula at its early 20th Century best. Gilded and tasseled and just this side of paradise.

Missoula, Montana

Looking for a little fun, we drove over to Missoula, Montana for the day.

We left Spokane early enough that we were able to make it to Missoula around lunch time. The drive, as always, was beautiful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter in Glacier National Park

I've seen Glacier National Park in the summertime. When the sky is so blue you could swim in it and the forest is lush and green.

I've been there in the fall. When the natural world is at its busiest, preparing for the long winter to come. One September night in East Glacier a mountain lion and her two cubs crossed the road in front of us. The lioness stopped to give us a long look, her babies peeking around her, before disappearing into the trees beside the road.

In the winter, the air is sweet and clean and the blanket of snow softens the rugged landscape. There is a quiet that settles on the park and once you step into it it feeds you, like a vitamin you didn't know you needed.

I drove through West Glacier recently, skirting the shores of Lake McDonald. The mirrored surface of the lake reflected the snowy peaks of the mountains and threw back images of the blue sky breaking through the clouds. Even the bare trees, a stark reminder of the fire that swept through the park in 2003, were somehow beautiful.

I was so moved by my time in the park that I drove back to Glacier National Park the following weekend, bringing my husband and two of my daughters along.

Social scientists say one critical element of true happiness is the bond of a shared experience. Perhaps this is why I had to return. And to bring my loved ones with me. I needed to share what I'd seen and felt. To know they had a chance to experience the same wonder. And, they did.

We drove home under the spell of the ancient landscape. Permanently changed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What goes up...

After a day at the Summit, I caught the last chair down Whitefish Mountain. I was fortunate. The clouds thinned and then lifted giving me a birds-eye view of the Flathead Valley.

Whitefish backcountry

Riding the snowmobile trails, each new curve led to one breathtaking view after another. I took photo after photo and still don't feel as though I captured it all.

Winter at Whitefish

On our 30-mile snowmobile ride, I stopped at least a dozen times to take photos. The scenery was breathtaking. Flocked evergreen trees. Expansive views from the mountain. Blink-and-they're-gone moments of brilliant sunlight peeking through the clouds. What a beautiful day.

Straight to the top

After Pigging out on the Montana Coffee Traders' "Piggy" bocadillo, we went straight to the top. I hitched a ride on the lift - 2,000 feet in 7 minutes, if you're counting - and hopped off at the summit of Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
I don't ski downhill, so I opted for another kind of mountain adventure. Instead of buckling into skis, I slipped into a jumpsuit and jumped onto a snowmobile. A first for me.
I loved every minute of it. Our guide took us on a 30 mile ride through a pristine winter wonderland. I was timid at first, slowing down on the hills. But, by the time our ride was up, I was keeping up with the rest of the group. It was an amazing experience I intend to repeat.
By the way, if you get hungry, I recommend the basket of homemade potato chips at the summit grill. Delicious.

This little Piggy...

Arriving in Whitefish, our first stop was breakfast at the Montana Coffee Traders store for breakfast. That's where I was introduced to the breakfast bocadillo. The "Piggy" bocadillo, to be specific.
The piggy is a sandwich of bacon, chopped hard-boiled eggs, cheddar cheese and thinly sliced rosemary potatoes wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled on a panini press.
It's like nothing I've ever tasted before. The perfect fuel for a day on the slopes or just looking at the slopes.
I'm going to be sniffing around for the recipe...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sleep tight

Sleeping on the train is an exercise in efficiency. If you're in a coach seat, you figure out how to fold into the seat, curling against the window or trying not to spill out in the aisle.
Or, you book a sleeper; a beehive of tiny rooms, each making the most of every available inch of space. On the Empire Builder Superliner sleeping car the "large" bedroom features a fold-out upper bed, a sofa which opens to become a somewhat-wider lower bed.
There's a tiny basin and a really tiny toilet which doubles as a shower.
Small? Yes. Fun? You bet. Comfortable? Surprisingly so.
Best thing of all? The soft knock-on-the-door wakeup call. I'd trade my alarm clock for that any day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Leavin' on a midnight train...

I love traveling by train. I hop aboard whenever it is an option. And, usually, some kind of adventure follows.
I met the man I would marry on a restored steam engine making a trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I met one of my best friends on the Crescent as it snaked up the Shenandoah Valley on its way to New York City.

I once had a meltdown on that same train as it traveled through the deep south down to New Orleans. I was 5 months pregnant with my first child, and I was so hungry I couldn't wait another minute for the dining car to open. The conductor (obviously a man with children) brought me a bag of chips to tide me over.

I've rolled through a winter wonderland as I rode the Empire Builder through snow-covered passes in the Cascades and sipped my coffee sitting in a domed observation car as we snaked along the Columbia River.

Like I said. I love riding the rails.

In Spokane, the Amtrak trains roll in around midnight and depart not long after. Heading to Whitefish, Montana for winter visit, the train was darkened and quiet as I opened the door of my sleeper.
The bed was made up and turned down. All I had to do was stow my gear and turn out the lights.

As we pulled out of Spokane, I watched the city roll away. The rhythm of the train lulled me. The last thing I remember before getting a 7am wake-up call was a song running through my head.

" Leavin' on a Midnight Train..."