KALISPELL, MONTANA -- YOULL BE TEMPTED to sing a chorus
of Home On The Range when you visit Montana, the fourth largest U.S. state,
"where the deer and the antelope play," as the song goes. Big Sky country also
has grizzly bear, elk, Bighorn sheep, Indians, ghost towns, forests and deserts. Luckily,
its not squeezed for space, being one of the least populated states, with fewer than
a million residents.
Take Horizon Air from Spokane, Washington into Kalispell International Airport,
where in the wintertime youll see snow hugging the Whitefish Mountains in the
northwest. In summertime, The Big Mountain has fun-filled activities for
the family from horseback riding and biking to picking huckleberries. Whatever you do,
dont miss Montanas most spectacular attraction: Glacier National Park,
the Crown Jewel of the Continent. Want more? Glacier Wilderness Guides
arrange backpacking adventures.
Of course, you can always change the pace by hopping on board Amtrak, the U.S. passenger rail system, for Montana vistas seen only on
those glossy picture postcards. (Picture: A winter vista as seen from Amtrak)
A Peek at a Friendlier Past
If its friendliness youre after and a city filled with affection,
(near Kalispell). With only 5,000 residents, youll soon see where Montana is really
Big Heart country, a throwback to charmed earlier American times when holiday time meant
family fun and not family fortune.
Grab a Bisonburger at the Buffalo Dog for a low $2.85, or a $1
espresso at the Trailhead Deli. The Tupelo Grille invites
visitors to try their sandwiches: No one likes a coward, proclaim the owners.
Pottery lovers will find beautiful buys over at Whitefish Gallery & Jenson
Studios. And Java lovers, the most flavorful cuppa Joe can be yours at the Montana
an upclose personal view of the city, ring up the Whitefish Chamber Of Commerce
and ask for the Ambassadors personal tour. This is one sure way of
making new friends and having a tip top guided venture through town. Picture: And now
for a guided tour of Whitefish..Meet the Whitefish Ambassadors!)
When it comes to lodging, try the $100 or under price range with plenty of amenities of
other fancier locales. Cozy up at the Garden Wall B&B, or the Good
Medicine Lodge, and youre looking at homey accommodations with a personal
touch the Whitefish Lake Lodge Resort has condos that overlook the water,
while the Quality Inn Pine Lodge features suites with Jacuzzis, just the
thing for any traveler who wants to be pampered.
I must admit that my favorite is the rustic Grouse Mountain Lodge, a celebrated
venue that hosted Bruce Springsteen one summer. It is a first class establishment with
spacious suites and a helpful staff.
(Picture: Relaxing at the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, Montana.)
Of all the adventures I had in Big Sky, Big Heart country, the most memorable was an
afternoon spent dog sledding. At first, I was a little anxious about the health of the
animals, and always wondered how they were treated. But the moment I landed at the Dog
Sled Adventures (406-881-BARK) in Olney, minutes away from
Whitefish, whatever concerns I had were promptly assuaged by 60 high spirited dogs who
almost looked like they were smiling to see you.
seemed eager to be part of the team that took you out on your ride, and although the
weather was chilly, we didnt feel the slightest breeze as soon as the slusher
wrapped us in comfortable elk furs. (Picture: Dog Sled Adventures ... For a Dog-Gone
Once we got going, it was apparent that the dogs wanted to perform for the
riders, slusher, and for each other. Taking frequent breaks, the large Husky- Wolf-
Greyhound- Shepherd mixes would lie down in the snow to cool off, and once given the
command to begin again were off and running the 12-mile loop through the Stillwater State
Forest...at the speed of dog!
For nighttime entertainment, The Great Northern Brewing Company features
Big Fog or Mooses Drool pale ale. You might laugh
at the names, but this is only half the fun of being in a small town where everyone can
laugh along with you. Where else but in Whitefish could you scan the Saddest
Pleasure Used Book Store, meet The Liars Club in the Buffalo
Cafe, read the weekly Hungry Horse News, and even see a Broadway
show in the heart of downtown. When I was there, Neil Simons Lost In
Yonkers was packing them in. Yonkers and Whitefish go well together, and youll
have to take my word on it.