After a night of cramped quarters and constant movement aboard the AMTRAK Empire Builder, we arrived in East Glacier, Montana. From the train station, I saw the iconic Glacier Lodge only 200 yards away. As we walked up the stairs, we entered a beautiful lobby constructed over 100 years ago. It was made of giant logs and arched up for two stories. It was quite impressive. Then we found our room.
Like the rest of the hotel, the rooms were also built over 100 years ago. This is when I learned that the word “iconic” is an old Indian word that means “no modern conveniences.”
For starters, there was no elevator to get to the room, so we schlepped our luggage up the big log stairs to our room. When I entered the room, I scanned it and quickly noticed that someone had stolen the TV set. I called the front desk to report it, and they told me that none of the rooms had TVs. It must have been one heck of a heist.
It was unseasonably warm when we were there, with the highs in the 80’s. It was warm enough to turn on the air conditioning. Alas, that was stolen too! This time, when I called the front desk, I was told that the air conditioner was in the closet. I hung up and looked in the closet to find an electric fan. Ha, ha. There was also no mini-bar or room service, and water pipes hung from the ceiling, but at least the bed was bigger than the one on the train and the toilet was separate from the shower.
In the morning, we prepared for our pre-arranged tour and soon discovered that we would not be sight seeing that day because you couldn’t see any of the sights. A forest fire raging in the western park of the park was smoking up a storm and that smoke covered the rest of the park and much of the state. As we drove around, the tour guide pointed out where all of the mountains would be if we could see them. He even showed us some alleged glaciers that we couldn’t see. For all I know, he was making it all up.
The next day we went for a walk, figuring that since smoke rises, we’d be closer to good air. Once again, ha, ha. The smoke could not be avoided and after three days of it I had not seen any sights and wound up with a three-pack-a-day habit. But we made some new friends and enjoyed our time talking to them. One couple was celebrating their 30th anniversary and flew to an airport near the lodge. From there, they were going to take their first train trip, on their anniversary, thinking they are going to have James Bond sex. Ha, ha. I hope they make it to 31.
On the last day of our smoked-filled adventure, we walked back to the train station and boarded The Empire Builder for the return to Chicago. It was quite refreshing this time because the entire train was a non-smoking area. At last, clean, recycled, air conditioned air.
Because of the smoke,we saw little wildlife in the park, but we saw a lot of it out the train window on the ride home. Cows and horses, of course, but we also saw a lake filled with beautiful white egrets. And we saw both deer and antelope and they appeared to be playing, just like in the song.
After another 30 hours of stopping at every Podunk train station on the route, we arrived back in Chicago, clutching the postcards we bought of what we would have seen had we been able to see it. Now it is on to the next adventure.