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Posts tagged: Montana

Travel: Canoeing Montana’s Missouri River

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

    When I opened my eyes, the sun was not yet over the horizon and the weak light it cast was wrapped in the heavy mist rising from the Missouri River. I lay still, warm and bundled under a heavy layer of quilts, watching through the small window beside the bed as the day came into its own.  Soon I could see deer grazing in the rolling fields around the other cabins, all, like my own, early homestead shelters that had been moved to the Virgelle Mercantile and refurbished for guests.


    By the time I was up and dressed the coffee was ready in the kitchen of the old Mercantile building. I poured a cup and the steam rose from the mug in my hand as I walked back outdoors out to take photos.


    After a breakfast of whole-hog sausage and baked French toast, washed down by pots of hot coffee, in the company of others there for the guided fishing and canoeing trips offered by the Mercantile’s sister business, The Missouri River Canoe Company, we gathered our gear and took the short ride down to the canoe launch.Once our canoes were loaded we paddled away.

   This stretch of the Missouri River is shallow this time of year, no more than a couple of feet deep in some places. We made steady progress, paddling hard enough to get where we were going but stopping whenever something caught our attention. The beauty of September in Montana is that the summer travelers have gone back to work and school. We had the river to ourselves, but we were not alone. Deer splashed across inlets and an eagle sitting on the branch of a tall Cottonwood tree studied us as we passed. Farther along, a silent, watchful Coyote, camouflaged in the tall grass, turned his head to follow our progress down the river.

       Soon, warmed by the sun and the exercise, our jackets came off. There wasn’t a cloud in the wide blue dome of the sky and only an occasional gust of wind worked against us as we paddled.

    I listened as our guide, a genuine Montana woodsman who makes his living guiding, hunting and trapping along the river, talked about Lewis and Clark’s journey along the same route through what is now the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. It was, he pointed out, with the exception of the occasional barn or fenceline and the grey-green Russian Olive introduced by homesteaders as a way to shelter flimsy cabins from the relentless wind, essentially an unchanged landscape. Soon, at a bend in the river, the eerie Hoodoos and white sandstone cliffs so unique to that portion of the river, the aptly-named White Cliffs stretch, came into view.    One more thing checked off the list of places I need to see before I die.


    After a couple of hours we pulled our canoes onto a pebbled strip of beach and stopped for lunch, digging into the sandwiches and fruit like we were starving, as though we hadn’t eaten a massive breakfast that morning. As we ate, I thought about something one of the group had said the night before. He’d been telling a story and mentioned a particular day— a special day—as one of the thirty or so he actually remembered of that particular year. I’d never really thought about it before but he is right. Most of the 365 days of work and worry, scheduled appointments, hurried commutes and eat-at-your-desk lunches, blend into a blur. Not much stands out. But, once in a while, there are moments that stay with us forever, etched into memory. They are special enough to share.    

    We packed up the scraps left from our meal and pushed away from the shore, paddling on down the river. More white cliffs and narrow coulees. More photos. More memories.


    At the end of the trip, gathering our gear and hopping back into the van that would carry us and the canoes back to our cars at the Mercantile, I let what I’d seen and done replay in my mind.  From the moment I opened my eyes and let them rest on the fog-softened view, to the last spectacular mile of Missouri River wilderness before we pulled our canoes out of the water, the day was special. It was a day worth holding onto and, in that way, worth sharing.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Travel: Overnight idyll at Montana’s Virgelle Mercantile

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

   The two-story mercantile, a farmhouse, the old grain elevator, a bank building and a set of abandoned railroad tracks running across the grassland are the only visible reminders of the town of Virgelle, Montana. Settled in 1912 by homesteaders who rushed to claim their 300 acres in the harsh Montana landscape, by 1930 the boom was over and the little town was frozen in time


    After the last holdout left in the 1970s, the ghost town could have faded away but the property was purchased by a pharmacist who’d grown up nearby. He filled the mercantile space with an antiques business and turned the upstairs rooms into a Bed and Breakfast. One by one, original homestead cabins, rescued from the surrounding countryside, were brought in and refurbished. A vintage sheepherder’s wagon was added to the mix of restored accommodations.


    My room for the night was the 1914 Little Mosier homestead cabin. Big enough for a double bed, an oilcloth-covered table and two chairs, a big iron-and-nickel cook stove and a washstand with both a Coleman lantern and a battery lantern, the cabin faced the grassy slope rolling down toward the Missouri River. To my left, down the road a bit, I could see a working ranch. To my right, a bath house and the Mercantile building. A little further, more cabins and the rest of what remains of the original town.


    Dropping my bags in a chair, I opened the screen door and stepped back out to the porch and stood there a long time looking out, trying to imagine the scenes that had played out in the tiny cabin and others like it. I thought about what it must have been like to live there a century ago, a child on my hip, maybe another in a cradle by the stove. The family would have ached with cold in the harsh winters and been baked by the relentless summer sun. It’s easy to imagine early optimism giving way to fatigue and loneliness and perhaps, eventually, even despair. The reality of the hardscrabble life most early homesteaders faced would break most of us. Only the toughest made it.


    Grabbing my camera, chasing the golden light cast by the fading sun, I followed the path across the road and walked to where the old railroad sign still marked the town by the railroad tracks. A rabbit, startled by my footsteps, darted out and, deciding I was no threat,  skirted me, almost touching my boots, before continuing down what was obviously a trail, worn and defined by generations of other wildlife.


    As it always does, gazing out at the vast openness of the Montana sky and rolling grassland soothed the jangled tension inside me. Like many others, I am someone who needs quiet spaces but although I relish my solitude, I don’t need complete isolation to find it.  The little cluster of old buildings and cabins was perfect. There were a few others staying in the restored cabins and the sheepherder’s wagon surrounding the mercantile store, but voices were low and each of us seemed to be happy to be left alone with our thoughts.


    After a big meal served family style in the kitchen of the bed and breakfast, in the company of other guests—there were only one or two others as it was late in the tourist season—I was ready to call it a day. Flashlight in hand, I followed the path back to my cabin. A bird, startled by my footsteps on the porch, returned the favor and startled me as it flew over my head and out into the night sky. Inside the cabin, the lantern painted the walls with shadows.


    I slipped between crisp cotton sheets, burrowing under the heavy hand-stitched quilts. The early September night was already cool, tinged with autumn, hinting at the winter that would come.


    As I lay alone in the dark, listening to the coyotes call down by the river and the rustling of nightbirds and small creatures outside, I closed my eyes. Content, warm, safe, and, for the first time in weeks free of the noise of a busy life, it felt possible to pick up the loose and broken threads of work and family and all the other nagging worries that fight for attention in my mind and knit myself back together. I closed my eyes and let the night sounds sing me to sleep.
    

More information about the Virgelle Mercantile

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Barter for Beer at the Whitefish Winter Carnival

(Pam Barberis and son Evan wave to the crowd from the Black Star van at the Whitefish Winter Carnival Grand Parade. Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)



    There’s still time to get to Whitefish, Montana this weekend for a unique Northwest winter event.
    

    This Saturday, Feb. 4, is the culmination of the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival. You can watch the gooseflesh-and-screams fun of the Penguin Plunge as hundreds of locals cannonball off the icy shore of City Beach at Whitefish Lake. You can elbow toddlers out of the way to catch candy thrown by participants at the rowdy downtown Grand Parade. Or, best of all, If you’re the haggling sort, especially the beer-drinking haggling sort, you might just be lucky enough to score a year’s worth of Black Star Beer.
   

    Ah. Now I have your attention.
   

    At the annual Black Star Beer Barter, held at the Great Northern Brewing Company, contestants try to out-bid one another by offering outrageous examples of just what they would do and how far they would go to win fifty-two cases (1,248 bottles if you’re math challenged) of the distinctive double-hopped golden lager. You don’t have to participate to enjoy the fun. It’s perfectly OK to hoist a Black Star or two and just watch the show, but it’s still not too late to come up with your own outrageous trade.
   

    If you want to prove you’re willing to party hard, here’s an idea:  Catch the 1:30 am Amtrak Empire Builder in Spokane, arrive in Whitefish with the Saturday morning sunrise. Spend the day downtown, after the Beer Barter stop by the Great Northern 17th Anniversary festivities and then take in the Whitefish Mountain Resort Torchlight Parade before the train pulls out and heads back to Spokane at 9:40 pm.

   Don't tell me that wouldn't impress your friends at Sunday's Super Bowl party.

 


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. She blogs at CAMera and Treasure Hunting. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com






  

The First Flush of Fall

   I don’t need a calendar to tell me what’s happening, and it doesn't matter where I am. I just have to open my eyes to see the change of seasons.

    The light has, for weeks now, had a golden cast as it slopes down over the tops of the fir, pine, chestnut and oak trees in my neighborhood. The air is cool and sweet in the morning, tinged with traces of rain the night before.

      The roses in my backyard and in the park are all in bloom, one last exuberant burst of color with flowers so large and heavy they bend the thin stems that hold them to the bush.

    Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by the flush of energy and impatience that comes with autumn.

     Recently, I climbed into the saddle of a trail-savvy horse on a ranch in Montana. But the moment I put my feet in the stirrups I could feel the vibration. The horse couldn’t stand still. He pranced and danced, shaking his head at every tug of the reins. Finally, surrendering to the knowledge that I was no match for him, I turned around and headed back to the stable.
    “What gotten into him?” I asked the cowgirl who took the frisky horse from me.
    “Oh, he can feel the changes coming,” she told me as she pulled him in. “They can get like that this time of year.”

    Then, last week, standing in an Oregon meadow just as the late afternoon sun washed across the clover, I stopped to watch a pair of Flickers as they moved back and forth between trees, perching and calling before moving on to hunt more insects. Robins, young adolescents still staying close to their mothers, always ready for an easy meal, flew low overhead, swooping across the field like a chorus of dancers on stage. Every creature was busy.

   When my flight landed and pulled into my own driveway, home at last, I dropped my bags in the house and took a minute to breathe, strolling around the flower beds, settling in before catching up on work and housework.

   I stopped to admire a rose I’d transplanted in June and noticed a twig, with three curling and drying leaves, blown from a nearby tree, draped around it like roses around the neck of the derby winner. It was the last of summer and the first of fall in a race - a dead heat - to mark the change of seasons.

   No calendar page can pinpoint when it begins. But the soft, subtle, signs are everywhere I look.
    

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

A Path of Desire

    I rested the side of my head on the cool glass of the small oval of the airplane window and gazed down at the ground below the wing. We were flying east, moving beyond the Cascades and toward the Rockies, covering hundreds of miles an hour.
    Patchwork squares of gold and brown and green were stitched together across the landscape, rising and falling, rippling from one edge of the horizon to the other. Roads and highways dissected the pattern, connecting farms and towns and cities.
It all reminded me of a model train display, roads at right angles and tiny trees planted along fence lines and around boxy white farmhouses with driveways and walkways leading from the house to a barn or garage.
    The plane followed a river, wide, winding and serpent-like, snaking between mountains and through canyons, twisting and turning, carving deeper into the landscape, bordered by a ribbon of green fed by the moisture.
    From 36,000 feet above, I could see the bends and turns the river made as it rushed headlong toward the sea. It was like a giant living thing crawling across the earth.
    But what interested me, was that from my view, I could see where the river had run before, before it had changed its course. Ghost canyons stretching across the grassland, no longer filled with water, often choked with homes and entire communities. There were faint scars on the crust of the earth, evidence that a river, like people, when left to its own, choses its own path. It wears away at the boundaries, carving, breaking and widening the road it wants to travel.
    Just like us.
    I thought of the river again later that week, as I rode up Montana’s Beartooth Highway, following switchback to switchback, circling up to the top. Looking back down at where we’d been, the ribbon of asphalt and concrete unfurled behind me. To my right, I could see the faint track etched into the steep hillside, made long ago, by pack animals threading their way up to the top.
    The mountains were there first. But, like the river, the earliest people chose a desire path, the term landscape designers use for the shortcuts people and animals make. They wanted to get over the mountains so they made their own way. Later, trappers and miners and explorers followed that early trail. Then came the tourists, making another kind of pilgrimage.
     In the summer of 1931, during the bleakest part of the depression, work on the ambitious project of building the Beartooth Highway began and in the span of four short years, primarily 1932 to 1936, it was done. A desire path that covers more than 60 miles and reaches a summit of more than 10,000 feet. Today, three quarters of a century later, the road still shines.
    Standing at the summit, I looked up at the tall Montana sky already heavy with snow even on a late summer day. And I gazed over the edge of the plateau to the valley below.  And, for a moment, I was filled with a fine sense of happiness.
    There are roads and rivers and even invisible navigational routes in the sky that carry us to where others have been before. But occasionally, often when we least expect it, we find the courage and the freedom to create our own path of desire.
    

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Wheels and Wranglers

Each of us builds a future in our own way. Some are the caretakers of an established family legacy. Others roll up their sleeves, lay new brick and create a fresh start. Today, I experienced both.

A bicycle built by two

This morning, I rode a freshly painted rehabbed biodiesel school bus, towing a trailer, up the five hairpin switchbacks of Montana's Beartooth Highway.  The driver was a petite woman just barely beginning to show with her first pregnancy. Beside her, in his signature Utilikilt, her husband looked over the back of his seat and grinned widely as he talked.

Welcome to Beartooth Bike Tours.

The couple, Doug and Suzanna Bailey, are the creative energy and enthusiasm behind the business. Their year-old enterprise carts passengers and bicycles up the winding highway to an elevation of more than 10,000 feet. After taking photos at the Wyoming state line sign (we drove right into a late-summer snow storm) and strapping on helmets and getting a few safety tips,  everyone hops on comfortable Cruiser-style bicycles and, as Doug likes to say, “It's all downhill after that.” Riders simply coast down the next 14 miles, tapping the brakes now and then. Stopping frequntly at turn-outs, there are plenty of opportunities for taking photos and asking questions.  No pedaling. No struggling in the thin mountain air. Just the feel of the wind in your face and a wide horizon filled with breathaking scenery. The business, Doug told me, was conceived as a way to stay in a place they loved. And, as he looked over at Suzanna behind the wheel, “to provide for my family.”

Maintaining a Montana Dynasty

After lunch, we pulled into the Lazy E-L Ranch in Roscoe. The 12,000-acre spread was homesteaded in 1901 by Malcom Mackay, who was just 19 at the time. Today, the ranch is still intact and now managed by great-grandaughter Jael Kampfe.

Kampfe is a pefect blend of cowgirl, business woman and hostess. She runs the summer grazing program, feeding and fattening more than 2,000 head of cattle each year, while operating a successful guest ranch. Kampfe, the first woman to head the ranch, has taken an established, successful and respected legacy and brought it into the 21st Century. Surrounded by cabins rich in Montana and Western history, she guards the old while looking for ways to stay relevant and contemporary. It is no easy task.

As we drove back to Red Lodge, in the deep Montana twilight, they were all on my mind. The young family breaking rocky soil to put down roots and the smiling, determined, woman who calls the shots at a beloved family ranch.

Going forward isn't necessarily easy. But it's still the only way to get where you want to be.

(To see photos of Doug Bailey and Jael Kampfe click Continue Reading)

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

Shadow Pony


     I was instantly awake when I opened my eyes to a clear, bright, Montana morning. There was no swimming through murky dreams to surface into consciousness, stretching and yawning and blinking. One minute I was asleep, the next, I wasn’t.


     Through  the open window I could see the peaks of the eastern edge of Glacier National Park in the distance. It was early, but the sunrise had already stained them, tinting the bands of stone with soft color.


    Still lying on my side, one hand beneath the pillow under my cheek, I studied the mountain range visible over the stream that rippled past the hotel and fed Saint Mary Lake. The sound of water rolling over stone washed the air.


    As I lay there, gazing at one of the tallest mountains, I noticed on its face a shadow shaped exactly like a pony in full gallop. Not in the amorphous way a cloud might resemble a leaping dolphin to you, but a steam engine to the person lying on the grass beside you. The image was stark and clear. It was as if someone had painted the silhouette of a wild, running, horse directly onto the side of the mountain.


    I blinked but it was still there when I opened my eyes. I turned away but it was there when I turned back. I got up, walked around the room for a minute and then got back into bed. The pony was still running.  Convinced I wasn’t imagining it, I surrendered and lay there watching until the sun shifted in the sky and, finally, the pony was gone.


    I’d spent a week immersed in Blackfeet tribal history and customs and I was still pondering what I had seen and heard.Young Blackfeet climbed the same mountains searching for the vision that would give them direction, on a quest to find an answer to the riddle of who they are. Some still do. It crossed my mind that the mountain might have brought the vision to me.


    The day before we had driven up to a high meadow overlooking a canyon and watched as men rode out to round-up a herd of horses. The cowboys were bringing in the herd so they could choose bucking horses for the night’s rodeo. They disappeared into the horizon but soon rode back over the ridge driving the herd down to the pens. We felt them before we saw them. The horses ran like the wind and the ground shook with the thundering of their hooves.


     They were driven into a corral and the mares and foals were separated into one pen and the rest were “spilled” into anther.


     A magnificent stallion, strong and powerfully built, as black as anthracite with a while blaze on his forehead, protested his capture. He reared and kicked, tossing his wild mane and lashing out with powerful hooves. He bullied and chased the younger stallion, butting and kicking with his back legs, biting deeply into the younger horse’s back.


    The foals whinnied, close at their mother’s sides and the mares circled protectively. Three recently neutered palomino geldings stood at the fence and watched, nickering softly.
    A tall, soft-spoken Blackfeet horseman with the unlikely name of Mouse Hall, called the shots. His crew worked fast, seemingly able to intuit what the horses would do next, calling out “Come here Mama” or “Get in there little fella.”


    When the stallion - “the crazy s.o.b” - raged at his predicament they pulled in a mare and foal to calm him, to reassure him that even penned, quivering and pawing in fear and impatience, he was still the master.


    I sat on the fence, lost in the wild beauty of it all. Finally, the horses were loaded and ready to go.


     The sound of hoofbeats was still echoing in my mind when I closed my eyes. It’s guess it’s no wonder that I opened them to see the shadow of a pony running across a tall Montana mountain.     


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com.

Glacier National Park Centennial

     For a girl like the girl I was, a child of the deep South, born into a world of steel mills and tidy neighborhoods of bungalows on oak and maple and pecan tree-lined streets; for a child steeped in the heady Southern perfumes of feathery mimosa trees and delicate gardenia blossoms and the unlikely grape bubblegum scent of Kudzu vine in bloom, driving into Glacier National Park, under an endless sky and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, was like suddenly discovering I had wings. That my feet were no longer tied by gravity.     
    

     The world around me never again looked the same.
  

      I was fresh out of third-grade. My family packed up the station wagon, towing a tent trailer, and set out to see America. We set out for Glacier National Park.
    

     As we drove across Montana and through the park, I rode with my head at the open window, curls blowing in the wind, my fingers curled over the top of the car door, my chin resting on the back of my hands, trying to take it all in.
     

     I remember the feeling of being too small for the landscape, like an ant crossing the sidewalk. I listened to the cool, singing sound of clear mountain water rushing over beautiful green, red and lavender stones scattered like cabochon jewels on the river bed. I let the sandy soil of boulders, ground into dust by a millennium of massive glaciers, fall between my fingers. I held my breath as we made our way up a spectacular, winding, climbing, breathtaking road called “Going-to-the-Sun.”
    

     The place left its mark on me. By the time we got home, I wasn’t the same girl I’d been when we left. I never forgot what I had seen.
  

      Years later, when the chance to move my own family out west presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Leaving behind everything familiar, I knew I was going home.
    

     This was all running through my head on on May 11, when I made another trip to the park. This time on the occasion of its centennial. A celebration of 100 years. Exactly 100 years ago to the day, President William Howard Taft signed a bill that established Glacier as the 10th national park.
   

      I sat in a folding chair in a big white tent and listened to Park Superintendent, Chas Cartwright welcome the crowd. On the dais, in addition to representatives of local legislators and governmental entities, Native American leaders, in full headdress, were there to signify the complex and collaborative relationship between the National Park Service and first nation peoples.
    

     I studied the faces in the crowd wondering what, exactly, besides the opportunity to be a part of history, had drawn them. Common wisdom states that there is something within each of us that seeks a companion. A mate. A missing piece to complete the human puzzle. I wonder if the drive to find our place, our geographic perfect-match, is just as strong. Some of us give into the siren call and get behind the wheel, or board an airplane or train. We chase the dot on the map. Others of us settle for romance from the armchair. Some, like a little girl gazing up at tall mountains with wide eyes, just know it when we see it.
    

     After the centennial ceremony, I joined a tour of the park facilities. At each stop someone - a retired superintendent, a craftsman, a landscape specialist, an archivist - deepened our understanding of the history and structure of the park. I was proud to be a part of the unique history of the moment.

    At the end of the day, carrying my souvenirs - the commemorative centennial coin, lapel button and program - I boarded the Amtrak Empire Builder, the train that would take me back home to Spokane. As we rolled out of Whitefish, Montana, I could see tall peaks in the distance.Chin-in-hand, I gazed out the window until the light faded.

     The important thing to remember is that we are all as small as ants in the million-acre landscape of Glacier National Park. And it will stand long after we’re all gone. It will be there for others to discover, to fall in love with and to celebrate. Glacier National Park has, for 100 years, awed us and inspired us. I hope my children’s children will make the same pilgrimage to celebrate 100 more.
             
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

To see more photos of the Glacier National Park centennial celebration click Continue Reading

Sweet Dreams: The Garden Wall Inn

     In love and lodging, the little things always seem to matter the most.
      I was reminded of this in early May, when I traveled to Whitefish, Montana for the centennial celebration of Glacier National Park.  I was lucky enough to find a rare opening at The Garden Wall Inn.
    The beautiful bed and breakfast sits on a corner in a residential area just two blocks from downtown. Once the town’s finest home, thanks to the vision of owner Rhonda Fitzgerald, the lovely two-story house is now home to five of Whitefish’s most luxurious overnight guest rooms.
     Located just at the top of the quaint staircase, rose wallpaper and bedding, antique furnishings and artwork as well as lace curtains at the windows, all perfectly suited to the home’s provenance, gave my room a sweet vintage charm.
    Personal touches like paper-thin antique water glasses on the dresser, freshly ironed antique linen sheets and pillow cases on the bed and well-chosen accessories such as the delicate Wedgwood dish on the dresser, wrapped me in comfort and elegance.
    This, I learned, is a specialty of the house.
    Fitzgerald insists that whenever possible, vintage and antique items are used to decorate and accessorize the inn. This concept is carried through from the furniture, to the artwork on the walls, to the sterling silver bud vases on tea trays and bedside tables.
    The white-tiled en suite bathroom, complete with a massive vintage claw-foot bathtub, is stocked with a variety of Gilchrist and Soames soaps, lotions, bath beads and plenty of big, plush, monogrammed towels. After a long hike, I couldn’t wait to slip into a fragrant bubble bath and relax. There was plenty of stretching-out room in the big old tub. It was the perfect place to unwind and think about what I’d seen and done that day.
    It became clear that at Garden Wall Inn the luxury doesn’t stop with the accommodations. That’s just the beginning.
    Each afternoon a glass of sherry, or wine if you prefer, is served in the living room by the fireplace. When innkeeper Chris Schustrom discovered I like to have a cup of chamomile tea before bed, he delivered a silver tea tray complete with a vintage Blue Willow cup and saucer to my room at bedtime. Taken with the homemade truffle from Whitefish’s Copperleaf Chocolat Company left on my pillow at turndown, the combination was delicious and soothing.
    In the morning, half an hour before breakfast, a morning tea or coffee tray was delivered to my room, another specialty of the house. It is a most civilized way to ease into the day.
    The crowning touch is the signature Garden Wall Inn breakfast.
Owner Rhonda Fitzgerald is a trained chef. Her breakfasts are a culinary work of art.
    I sat down to a work-of-art fruit salad decorated with a slice of star fruit and livened by a spritz of fresh lime. Freshly squeezed orange juice and hot coffee were waiting on the table.
    The main dish was Montana smoked trout and served en croute, accompanied by slices of local artisanal bread and homemade huckleberry muffins.
    Everything about Garden Wall Inn is perfectly appointed. From the delicious gourmet breakfast, to the chance to unwind over a glass of sherry in the afternoon, to the delictable chocolate left on the pillow at turndown, guests are pampered by one little luxury after another. And, as any travel lover knows, the little things make a big impression. I can’t wait to spend another night in the beautiful white house on the corner.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons.”  Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

To see more photos of 
The Garden Wall Inn continue reading below.


Where the Wild Rivers Run

 Special to Pinch

March 2, 2010

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap 

    Waking early in the February morning, it took a minute to get my bearings in the dark Missoula hotel room before I dressed for the day’s drive. We were crossing a swath of the wide Flathead Valley in Northwest Montana and I wanted to take advantage of the wintery sunlight. The days are short in the Northwest this time of year with precious little sunlight between the dark of morning and dark of night.
    Stopping to pick up a pastry and a cup of coffee, we crossed the Clark Fork River on our way out of town. The sun was just coming up and the sky along the horizon was fading, changing from a deep indigo to violet to plum.
    The river, already awake, already on the move, snaked quietly between snowy banks following the curves it had already cut, centuries before.    It seems a shame to drive right over or alongside a river without slowing down for a closer look, to be so blind to the beauty. Because a river is a wild and wonderful thing.
    Impulsively, I pulled over. A few more minutes wouldn’t break the day’s schedule

Riding the Amtrak Empire Builder

Special to Pinch

Feb. 25, 2010

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap 


    The lights glowed in tiny pools on the sidewalk, piercing the darkness every few yards or so, reflecting in the polished steel as I walked along the idling train.
    Stepping up into the railcar, I stowed my heavy suitcase in the rack and carried my smaller bag up the narrow staircase to the upper level of the Amtrak sleeper car. I scanned the signs above the doors before coming to my  compartment. The bed, as the attendant had told me when I showed him my ticket, had already been turned down.
    It took me a few minutes to settle in; pulling out my computer, plugging in my phone, gathering all my tools and travel talismans around me. Finally, I was ready. I had everything I needed to work through the night.
     I don’t know why I bothered.
   

Winter in Glacier National Park

Special to Pinch

By Cheryl-Anne Millsap

Feb. 21, 2010

 

      We drove into the west entrance of Glacier National Park late in the clear February morning and our tires crunched into the frozen crust of last week’s snowfall. The cold, sweet, air bit at our faces as we opened the back of the car and unloaded our gear.
    Strapping snowshoes on our feet, we put on gloves and hats and slipping our hands into the straps of our poles, we set out. Our lunch of hearty sandwiches on homemade bread, each as thick as a doorstop, was stowed and ready for a picnic along the way.
    The wide flat trail we followed was much more than a path meant for meandering.  In the summer, which comes late to the northwest, the 60-mile Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park is a busy throughway, carrying hundreds of thousands of tourists from one side of the 1.2 million acre park to the other. But in winter, which comes early, the road closes and becomes a place to play. The only human sounds are the scraping of snowshoes or the gliding sound of cross-country skis. Occasionally a laugh slices into the solitude.
   

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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