I was exhausted when I arrived in Whitefish, Montana around 3 PM. I’m not sure why though. The trip took 24 hours and I had a nights rest so why was I so tired. I found a hotel but they would not give me the Internet’s lower posted room rate. So I had to register via the Internet while sitting ten feet from the front desk in their lobby. Once my bag was in my room, I headed to Whitefish’s Main Street.
The retiring Boomers had invaded the area ten to fifteen years earlier turning this sleepy ski town into images of a fancier place. Main Street was lined with art galleries and higher-end shops to capture the dollars the boomers brought to the area. Unfortunately, like many ski towns housing was no bargain and pushed the locals to the surrounding areas, which were no less beautiful but were filled with modern condos costing close to the average price of condos in Denver. I guess in big cities this was called gentrification.
I positioned myself slightly off center to a TV screen at the bar of a local restaurant. I would classify the establishment more towards a family bar with a full menu than a restaurant with a bar. It seemed like a cozy place with lots of wood surfaces. I ordered fish & chips and a beer. The Rockies were playing the Brewers in the Division Series, and not doing so well. Although I am not a sports fan, it provided a little comfort being so far away from home. Once I was done eating I had only one thing on my mind. I was in bed by 5 PM and did not stir until 12 hours later.
The next morning I was up and ready for the hotel’s breakfast by 6:15 but I had fifteen minutes before they were open. I felt the fast food of the road had not helped my energy levels so I went across the street to a 24-hour grocery store. I picked up a couple apples, juice, PB&J and hamburger buns; a full loaf of bread was too much. My thinking was that this would be far better then what I could expect from the wide open, sparely populated plains of Montana I would find on the road today.
The short walk did me well by lifting my spirits just a bit. All the music and audiobooks and tuning in to the local radio stations actually left me empty inside, plus it filled my mind with other peoples reality. Part of dong a road trip was to get away from it all, my modern day walk-in-the-park.
The area was still socked in with clouds with little signs of it break until the next day. The weather forecast was for snow and I did not want to get shutout of traveling because wind and snow closing I-25, so my sights were on a straight route back to Denver.
After having juice and some fruit plus a small cup of coffee, I was on the road by 7:00 AM. I was still feeling a little defeated that this road trip might not yield any good images let-alone a nice get-a-away. My mind was on my route back to Denver in maybe two hops. First a short 4 hour drive to Great Falls, spend the night, then the final 12 hours to Denver and my wife and son. I was even going to bypass entering Glacier Park. The Road To The Sun was closed due to early snowfall and there wasn’t any sun. The day was gray with flat and empty light. But as I entered West Glacier and the park’s entrance a little voice rose up inside of me and said, “You’re here, aren’t you curious see what you might find?”. I turned towards the entrance.
I drove towards the Lake McDonald Lodge. I was first here with my wife earlier this year over Memorial Day. It was a great time when I captured my Rock Moss series. It was cloudy with scattered shows that day but the sun did shine through the clouds, today nothing but gray. The lodge was closed for the winter; in fact most of West Glacier was closed or closing today. Quiet. The light was quiet too. The roaring chaotic fires of August were out. No one was preparing the Red Buses for tours; no Red Buses were in sight. Calm filled the area. I walked down to the dock, no boats only the flat still peaceful water of the lake. A couple was appeared out of the gray as they too walked the through the early morning light. I clicked a few frames as I wondered around the lodge.
I drove to where the gates closed the road from going any further. A few more cars were parked there allowing their occupants time for a morning hike. I stopped a few times at places I had done so on my Memorial Day trip as I drove back towards the park’s entrance. I rarely take more photographs of a series because often my series were about a time and place. Time never stops and so the place was never the same, the innocence of the exploration was never the same. I did discover a new series. I looked closer at the tress I passed and how the autumn had changed the ferns. With the newly captured photographs I felt better. The peacefulness that surrounded me lifted some weight off my mind. Finally I began to feel at home.
I stopped at the only place opened in West Glacier, as gas station, gift shop, and restaurant to have eggs, pancakes and coffee breakfast. Boy where they good comfort food. Back in the car I continued down US Highway 2 towards East Glacier. It was a great autumn drive. I think the reason I liked the place so much was it reminded me of my youth in the woods of Red Raider Camp located east of Cleveland. Highway 2 was lined with tall pine trees and aspens as it wound through the mountains. I drove slower to take it all in.
More snow appeared on the ground as I entered the small town of East Glacier. I turned towards Glacier’s east entrance. I felt the corners of my mouth turning upward and my spirit rising to the tops of the mountains in front of me. Yes, this was where my heart belongs and yet I could not imagine living here for more than a month or two. It’s like visiting your parents but knowing at some point you got to leave for your own sanity. I took some snapshots knowing that no photograph could ever capture the feelings I had for the place. That’s the thing with photography; there were some subjects that you just can’t capture the full beauty. The emotions were beyond a feeling, beyond words or images. It’s an experience deep inside that only I or you can feel.
I could have stayed there all day but the short time was enough and the road was calling me.
To be continued . . .