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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

Wounded Grizzlies next up for Eastern

Montana Week is officially on for Eastern Washington University, which will dedicate its new artificial red turf and officially change the name of its home football venue to Roos Field on Saturday, when the Grizzlies come to Cheney to open Big Sky Conference football play.

UM, which was ranked No. 1 among Football Championship Subdivision schools prior to suffering a 35-33 road loss to Cal Poly on Saturday, will probably come in a bit angry — seeing red, perhaps — which should make for another interesting renewal of  what has become the BSC’s most competitive rivalry.

I’ve included links to Big Sky-related items below, along with some additional thoughts and comments from Eastern’s 35-32 win over Central Washington at Qwest Field in Seattle last night.

Read on.


JohnA: Montana Dreamin’

JohnA: Montana was always a fun place to visit back in the old days. Growing up a few miles away in the Silver Valley, we’d take advantage of their hospitality on more than one occassion. Seltice was a short drive away, especially when their drinking age was 18 (officially, anyway). The 10,000 Silver Dollar bar was another great place (the old one, not the commercial gag at Haugen) and for a longer trek there was St. Regis and the nearby hot springs. It was cool cruising along at whatever speed felt right, which when you’re a teenager is as fast as the old beater could go.

DFO: My family has strong ties to Montana from my 5 years there. My wife & I were the first O’s to migrate. Eventually, three siblings & my mother followed. My son was born there. Two of my siblings married Montanans. Two nephews were born there. I’ll always have a fondness for the rugged Rockies out of town to the east and the independent characters that I met there.

Question: Do you have Montana ties and/or fond memories of The Big Sky state?

INW: Montana DUI Culture Under Fire

People are shown outside Red’s Bar on a late Friday night in Missoula, Mont., earlier this month.  Montana has long been a state where you could crack open a beer and drive down the interstate just about as fast as you liked. Drinking and  driving  was legal until 2003, when it was changed only under heavy federal duress, and there was no specified speed limit on major highways. But spurred by the high-profile death last year of a highway patrolman at the hands of an intoxicated driver,  Montana’s Old West drinking and  driving culture is in retreat. Story here. (AP Photo/Mike Albans)

Question: Do you miss the days that you could drive as fast as was “reasonable & prudent” in Montana?

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.

Breastfeeding Key For Slim Montana?

Still, she said there are reasons Montana has not caught up with the rest of the country (in terms of adult obesity). First, she said, Montana has one of the nation’s highest rates of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is tied to lower obesity rates for both children and their mothers. Statistics released last year showed that 86 percent of Montana children under the age of 5 had been breastfed during at least some part of their infancy. Also, “we really do have incredible opportunities to get outside and be active,” Baehr said, and a growing number of cities and towns are making safer biking and walking routes to schools a priority/Jennifer McKee, Helena Independent-Record. More here. (AP file photo for illustrative purposes)

Question: Were you breastfed as a baby? Were your kids breastfed?

Montana Memories


    Continuing my Treasure Hunting series featuring noteworthy collectors, creative types and entrepreneurs, I’m introducing Jana Roach.

    Roach lives near Kalispell, Montana in the beautiful Flathead Valley, and as one of the creators of Montana’s Vintage Whites Market, she spends a lot of time searching for lovely things to sell at her monthly sales which run from May through October.

    “ If you told me 10 years ago that I'd be partnering in a seasonal vintage market & making my own goods for it, I would have laughed,” she says.

    But, when thinking about what first sparked her interest in old things, Roach isn't surprised. And she gives all the credit to her mother.

     “ My mom used to take me to every garage sale in town and every antique store in between,” Roach says.  “She has the best decorating touch, so I got to watch her take things she would buy for pennies and turn them in to beautiful, functional, decorations in her home.”

    Growing up in a home filled with her mother’s finds was a powerful influence and now it is a bond the two share. “The history behind each piece sings throughout her home,” Roach says.   

    Both her parents like to excavate old homesteads looking for antique bottles, many dating to the 1800s. They display the bottles in a bathroom window creating a stained-glass effect.

    “Slowly, over time, I came to appreciate this and even looked forward to calling her and raving about an old funnel I bought for $2, or a stool that was rusted and dirty that I got for free out of the city dump,” she says.

    Now. as an adult with her own home and family, Roach continues the family tradition.
    “Now, I get excited every time I find things to fix and repurpose.  I hardly buy anything new if I can help it,” she says. “The thrill of sharing that with Mom is still there, as is the thrill of sharing it with an online community of  men & women who are just as excited about junking as I am. Roach established that online connection through blogging.

    The catchy quote on Roach’s blog, “Just a girl who likes to make things, buy things, look at things, eat things, do things, want things, and loves everything and everyone.  Except for bees,” captures the lively spirit she brings to antiquing. The blog has more than 500 followers and through it Roach is chronicling the recent purchase of an old farmhouse online.

     “Being able to connect with someone through words and sometimes even voices is almost therapeutic.  I've made many lasting friendships,” she says.  “(But) I have to credit my wonderful mom as the reason I absolutely love - and wouldn't want to live without - treasure hunting.”



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.

Montana To Replace Boise State In WAC?

Karl Benson, the WAC’s commissioner, said in a news release that the conference’s board of directors will start evaluating replacements for Boise State right away. Reports have mentioned Montana, a member of the Big Sky Conference, as a possible candidate. Akey said the Grizzlies make sense for the WAC geographically. Yet moving from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the NCAA’s highest division is “quite an expenditure,” the UI coach noted. Asked about the perception of the WAC now that Boise State is leaving, Akey said, “To really give you an answer on that, we’ve got to see where we are when the dust settles.” Then he joked: “If Boise is the only team that has left and we replace them with Notre Dame, I think we’re going to be perceived as being a pretty strong conference”/Josh Wright, SR. More here. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield: Boise State football coach Chris Peterson)

Question: Which school would you like to see replace Boise State in the Western Athletic Conference?

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.

Golden-age glamour in Whitefish

I just spent a couple of days in Whitefish, Montana surrounded by antiques and collectibles.

Whitefish, a 5-hour drive or 6-hour train ride from Spokane, is close enough to getaway for the weekend. I love the small-town feel and the proximity to Glacier National Park , just a 20-minute drive away. The scenery is beatiful, local dining is delicous and the places to stay are as varied as the people who visit.

This trip, I spent the night at the Garden Wall Inn. The Garden Wall has five guest rooms in what used to be the town’s finest residence.

Part of the Garden Wall Inn’s charm is that the heritage of the period house-turned-bed and breakfast is honored. Everything - from the furniture, to the china, to the linens on the beds, to the silver bud vase in the bathroom - is vintage.

If you love antiques and would love to incorporate them into every aspect of your home, Garden Wall owner, Rhonda Fitzgerald is a good example.

“I love all these pretty things,” she told me on my first visit to Whitefish as I admired her collection of vintage lamps in the living room. “And, in this kind of setting, anything else would be out of place.”

So true.

I’ll be writing more about Garden Wall Inn in my new Home Planet “Sweet Dreams” series, but thought I would give treasure hunters a first peek. So many of us would love to surround ourselves with one-of-a-kind vintage luxuries. A night at Garden Wall Inn lets anyone do exactly that.

Montana Offers Restraining Order Cards

Montana has become the first state to offer the “Hope Card,” a wallet-sized card that will be carried by someone who has been granted a restraining order. The card contains information about the person who has been granted the permanent order of protection and who is restrained by it. It will include the restrained person’s photo, name, birth date and other identifying information along with details on those who are protected, including children. Local law enforcement and victim advocates joined Attorney General Steve Bullock today to announce the new program/Angela Brandt, Helena Independent-Record. More here.

Question: Should Idaho also offer the “Hope Card” for individuals who have been granted a restraining order?

Montana oil leases suspended

BILLINGS – A federal judge has approved a first-of-its-kind settlement requiring the government to suspend 38,000 acres of oil and gas leases in Montana so it can gauge how oil field activities contribute to climate change.

At issue are the greenhouse gases emitted by drilling machinery and industry practices such as venting natural gas directly into the atmosphere.

Environmentalists – who sued when the Montana leases were sold in 2008 – argued the industry has allowed too much waste and uses inefficient technologies that could easily be updated. Full story. Matthew Brown, AP


Montana Racing Facility Partners With Lucas Oil

Montana Raceway Park signs agreement with Lucas Oil that provides the company with several benefits including title sponsorship of the Super Late Model division. Going forward the group will be known as the Lucas Oil Super Late Models.

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.

Griz take down Eagles

Eastern Washington let a 41-37 halftime lead slip away Friday night and lost to Big Sky Conference rival Montana 79-66 in Missoula.  You can read the game story that was cobbled together by the S-R here, and see what The Missoulian published on the Grizzlies’ victory here.

In addition, you can check out what EWU’s sports information department posted about the game here, and learn more about what happened around the rest of the Big Sky here.  Wish I had more, but I didn’t even get a chance to listen to the EWU-Montana game, because I was covering Whitworth’s 86-62 Northwest Conference win over Pacific.


A late day after post on EWU’s loss to Montana

Sorry about the late post, but a late night in Missoula, followed by a leisurely drive back to Spokane put me a little behind. And by the time wrapped up some quality times with the grandkids and was finally able to acess the S-R’s website it was time for dinner.

Still, I’ve gone ahead and posted some links to stories about Eastern Washington’s hard-luck football loss to Montana on Saturday, along with some additional post-game quotes from Eagles coach Beau Baldwin and a couple of his players.

Read on.  And be sure to leave any thoughts you might have about Saturday’s game — or the guys that offciated it — right here.

Third-ranked Griz hold off Eags

Third-ranked and unbeaten Montana scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns Saturday to beat Eastern Washington University 41-34 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

Click here for my game story, and be sure to check back tomorrow for addition comments and links to other stories about the game.

EWU vs. Montana: How big is it?

Will is mean anything come November?

That remains the question on the minds of many Eastern Washington University football fans as they look toward Saturday’s 12:05 p.m.Big Sky Conference game against unbeaten and third-ranked Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

Read on.


House approves voluntary $5-a-car fee to stave off state park closures…

In a move designed to stave off the closure of dozens of state parks, the state House of Representatives  voted Monday night to ask motorists to pay an extra $5 a year per car.

Over Republican objections, House Bill 2339 passed, 56 to 42. The bill now goes to the Senate.

If half the state’s residents pay the fee — which would be voluntary — it would raise about $28 million for parks over the next two years.

“We are now in a budget crisis, and we don’t have the money to pay for our parks,” said Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

And if ever there was a time to keep parks open, she said, it’s now, when cash-strapped families need a cheap place to relax.

Lawmakers lifted the idea from Montana, where since 2004, motorists have been asked to pay a voluntary $4 fee to pay for state parks. Most do.

Washington tried a mandatory $5-a-day parking fee during a previous budget crunch in 2002. Attendance at state parks dropped by millions, and lawmakers repealed the unpopular fee in 2006.

House Republicans tried to tack on several amendments. One would have instead asked for a $1 donation from everyone visiting a park. Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, tried to add language to re-open parks closed since 2002, including Chief Timothy State Park, Lyons Ferry State Park, and Central Ferry State Park.

A third amendment would have taken $25 million set aside to buy park land and instead used that money to keep existing parks open.

“It’s important to famlies to fund this now, not to leave it up to speculation about who will pay, said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead. He lives two miles from Mount Spokane State Park.

Some lawmakers have also raised concerns about people paying the extra $5, not realizing that it’s optional. Several mentioned a 1991 court case that slapped a cable TV company for a similar opt-in fee. Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham, argued that the state is acting “as telemarketers, trying to fool the senior citizens of Washington State into giving $5 they did not know they had to give.”

Both sides agree that it would be a bad idea to shut down parks. Facing millions of dollars in cuts, the state Parks and Recreation Commission earlier this year prepared a list of 47 parks slated for closure or transfer to local governments.

“Nobody has emailed in and said, `yeah, that’s right, shut em down.’ Nobody.” said Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City.

Eags’ skid continues

Eastern Washington dropped another men’s basketball game Saturday night, losing to Montana on the road.

I tried to post information on the game last night, but couldn’t.  So I’m back this morning with this link to the game story that ran in Sunday morning’s S-R, this link to the story published in the Missoulian, and this link to the game story posted on EWU’s website.

Now the Eagles return home for a Thursday night matchup against Sacramento State — which might prove to be the perfect cure for their current losing streak and the perfect way to jump start a crucial late-season stretch run.

What do you think?



Looking back on blog glitch and Eags’ nasty loss

Good morning,

And let me apologize about last night’s post, which obviously didn’t include the unedited version of the game story I wrote following Eastern Washington’s 63-50 Big Sky Conference loss to Montana at Reese Court.

Let’s just blame it on my technological ineptitude and move on … to this link to my game story as it appeared in Thursday morning’s S-R and this link to the column filed by John Blanchette, as he looks at all that has gone wrong with the Eagles, of late. I’ve also included this link to the game story that ran in Thursday morning’s Missoulian.



EWU chemistry woes continue in loss to Montana

Montana put a 63-50 beatdown on Eastern Washington at Reese Court Wednesday night and will head into Saturday’s road matchup against Big Sky leader Portland State without much momentum, confidence or chemistry.

You can read an unedited version of the game story that will appear in Thursday morning’s S-R below. Be sure to leave any comments you might have on the Eagles’ recent struggles, and be sure to check back on Thursday for addition information and a link to the game story that runs in the Missoulian.