Sunday, October 24, 2021

Tourist for a day, or two

| September 26, 2021 12:00 AM

The past few weekends I’ve been going on day trips fit for a tourist.

Labor Day I couldn’t find any takers to go huckleberry picking with me, so I drove up to Big Mountain with my trusty bucket (an old gallon jug with a cutout in the neck and homemade belt clip), a sandwich, water and bear spray, rode the gondola to the summit and hiked down to where a friend had generously advised me there were plenty of huckleberries the previous weekend. Since I was alone, I played my iPod in my pocket, which made the pastime of picking huckleberries all the more pleasant.

After a couple of hours I took a break and sat on a log to eat my sandwich. A passing couple observed me dump its contents on the forest floor and then exclaim, “I’m still going to eat it.” I then tripped and fell flat as I was climbing back up onto the Danny On trail. What a dork. Thankfully, my palms and berries were unscathed.

Given my track record, I then carefully and slowly dumped my stash into a gallon Ziploc and stuffed it in my CamelBak.

I hiked back up to the summit, enjoyed the view, a snack and then a fun, if chilly, ride down on the chairlift. The lady who brought my lift to a complete stop asked me how my huckleberry picking went, I said it went great; she seemed genuinely happy for me.

Two weekends ago, Saturday arrived very soggy. The forecast was for showers throughout the day so I decided it would be a good day to go to Glacier Park. The Inter Lake had previously reported in the days after the park entrance reservation system had expired that cars were queuing up mid-week a mile and a half or more outside West Glacier. I was taking a chance the rainy weather would alleviate the crowds somewhat, but I couldn’t believe it when I reached the West Entrance gate around noon with only one car in front of me.

I’d never been to the newish Apgar Visitor Center before, and had no trouble finding a parking spot. There was a “wait here” sign outside the center so I stood behind a couple of folks waiting in line to talk to two rangers outside, then realized I didn’t have to “wait here” if I didn’t need to talk to a ranger. I just went in.

I’d intended to do some shopping (yes, shopping) in the park for my family for Christmas. The stores weren’t busy, the salespeople friendly. I found some park T-shirts, stickers and mugs, glad to be supporting the park businesses and Glacier Park Conservancy.

By the time I was halfway to the Trail of the Cedars a steady rain was falling. I parked right next to the trail in a spot left by a car with California plates. The boardwalk, the cedars, the ferns, well everything, was soaked ... and lovely. The temperature was mild and the woods smelled sweet and sylvan. I followed Avalanche Creek up the trail for a ways. There were others on the trail but nothing like what I’d heard it had been like all summer. On a visit in August with family, we couldn’t find a parking spot at either Avalanche or Logan Pass.

As I was leaving, a park ranger glanced my way, then did a double take and smiled and nodded her head at me. I’m pretty sure she recognized me. She was the same ranger back in May who had directed my friend and I to enter the Avalanche parking lot after initially being turned away because it was full. I remembered I’d rolled my window down and asked her where we could park. She replied, “Come back in an hour or two.” A minute later a car exited the lot and she called in through my open window, “You can go in. There’s one spot in there somewhere.”

After checking out Lake McDonald and the cozy fireplace in the Lake McDonald Lodge, I headed for home. A long day, but one that just couldn’t end before I’d made one last stop at the Huckleberry Patch and treated myself to a huckleberry milkshake.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or