Winter Wonderland

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I began a little adventure yesterday afternoon from Union Station in Portland. This is a beautiful station that looks like it was hand crafted back in the day when people took time to build things. I boarded a train to Montana and set out to check off one of the 5 states I’ve yet to visit. This is so far the longest train trip I’ve taken in the USA. The seats are wide and somewhat comfy with plenty of leg room. Though I started the journey at 4:45, it was quickly dark and there wasn’t much to see out the windows. I wrote in my journal, played some solitaire and listened to some music. Eventually I became tired and napped. There isn’t really much for sleeping on a train, but napping comes in quite handy.

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In the middle of the night, we passed through Spokane, WA. This was my first time there and as we were passing through I realized it was a lot bigger than I had imagined. Another nap and a few hours later we had entered Montana. I think I slept through Idaho. It was almost 6:45 and it was still pitch black dark out. As we came upon the South side of Whitefish Lake, I could make out the distant mountains shining above the lower cloud line. I also noticed that everywhere I looked was snow. My first reaction was, ugh, snow, then I thought, “I’m a snow bunny, yes bitches, yes!”

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We arrived at Whitefish train station about 10 minutes early. The paparazzi was there and taking my picture as I came off the train. Apparently, they had been told I would be arriving. As I was waiting for my skis and bag to be unloaded, I went into the cute town train terminal to find a celebration taking place. Empire Builder, the people train company, has been renting this line for years with service from Seattle to Chicago. For the past few months, they have been overlooked in priority by BNSF for the cargo carriers. That left the people carrier with delays of up to 3-4 hours consistently. That doesn’t bode so well for business, no?! The celebration today was with a spokesman from both BNSF and Empire Builder in a unity of train travel. The train I was on, was the first one that was on time in months. BNSF has finally given Empire a go for consistency. Isn’t that swell? Hey, I got a pin!

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After my bags were unloaded, I walked a few short blocks to Whitefish Hostel. No one was awake yet, so I went one more block up to get some breakfast at Loula’s. YUMMY indeed! I enjoyed a yuppi scramble – loads of fresh steamed vegetables cooked with some scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and breakfast potatoes. Once I was stuffed, I walked back to the hostel and was allowed early check-in. I dropped off my bags, changed into my ski gear and clunked my way back the few blocks to pick up the free Snow Bus which had a stop right next to the train station. The Snow Bus is embraced by and endorsed by the town of Whitefish to carry people and their gear, for free, to the mountain for a day of skiing. How very cool is that!

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Getting to the mountain I entered Base Lodge and found no line for the passes. The friendly girl behind the counter rattled off a couple of trail names by my request as ones I might consider finding throughout the day. Pass received, gear in hand, out I went to the back of the lodge. But where do I go?

I asked another cute girl if she knew the mountain at all. She said, yes, so I said, can you tell me where I need to go? Easy enough, up this little lift to another lift then the options are endless. I found my way up to the Summit Lodge after one short and one seemingly long chair lift. Okay ski legs, don’t fail me now!

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I took the advice of my fellow lift rider to go off the backside of the mountain towards Chair 7. This area houses a lot of blue squares and a few black diamonds. I had been getting pretty comfortable skiing on blues back in Meadows, so I thought, “why not!” My legs were a little shaky, as were my nerves, as I descended down the first traverse. I found my way onto Goat Haunt, a blue, and got down to the Big Creek Express (chair 7) without incident. (Ski bunny bitches).

I went up again, then took a long slow gentle ride down Russ’s Street which took me back to the Village (where I needed to do number one and warm up my hands which were not happily warm at all). Hey, I’ve got no agenda, no schedule, just time to explore. I found myself a cuppa coffee and sat by the fireplace to warm up a bit.

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After feeling revived, up I went again and found my way all over the mountain. You can ski all sides of this mountain, there are chairs and trails everywhere. This place is huge!

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I had lunch at the Summit House. A greasy grilled cheese, curly fries and hot cocoa. After lunch I skied more becoming very familiar with the backside of the mountain. I did run a few trails down the front side of the mountain, warmed up again, and eventually got myself an end of the day beer at Summit House. My last run I ventured over to Hellroaring Basin at the advice of the cute girl who was scanning my ticket. I met a lot of cute girls today!

I have to say, out of all the places I skied on the slopes today, the last run was the most fun. It was a winding pathway through the trees with lots of possibilities of going into the trees, but I stayed on the blue trail called Hell Fire. This brought me to the chair 8 which ran up purgatory back to some windy parts leading to the village and base lodge.

I did find this along the way. Say what?

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I took the free shuttle back to town, trekked back to my space at the hostel, took a quick shower and headed out to eat. I ended up at Casey’s and got a baked ziti and a dark beer. The guy next to me at the bar was talking to his friend about hunting wolves. I cried a little on the inside. The food was just alright, nothing to see here, move along. Once I got back to my bed, I was exhausted from lack of sleep on the train and a full day on the slopes, I decided it was nap time. After nap, I decided it was dessert time, so I walked to the end of the street and found Ciao Mambo. Yes, Yes, Yes! I got the cheesecake and a cuppa decaf. I think I will come here for dinner tomorrow night before I get back on the train.

Let It Snow!

-Denny

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3 thoughts on “Winter Wonderland

  1. Nice post about Whitefish, MT. I had friends from the Midwest do the trip by train as well and loved it. I forgot that I could still do that trip from the other side of the country. I’m new to the Pacific Northwest and am enjoying your posts to acquaint myself with the area. Ever make it over to the Coast to hike?

    1. Hello Paul. I have been to the coast to hike. It is lovely there. There is Ecola State Park, Oswald West State Park, Cape Lookout, and more. I’ve also hiked/backpacked in the dunes area south of Florence. It is great and a lot of work.

      I grew up near Boston, so I equate ocean with relaxation and breathing. I can walk on the beaches for hours on end and still be full of energy. Typically, when I go to the coast, it’s just to get away and be. Not as much hiking, but lots and lots of beach walking.

      I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. There is so much amazing hiking around. Let me know if you ever want some suggestions.

      Denny

  2. Thanks! I’m living in Waldport. Right now I’m just taking in all the trails at Cape Perpetua, but soon I’ll be ready to branch out. I haven’t been down to the Dunes, yet, plus I want to try some of the inland trails within the Siuslaw National Forest.

    Your backpacking trips look amazing. I’ve never had the wherewithall to be organized to pull something like that off. I definitely enjoy car camping, though.

    Yes, if you have any recommendation on the North Coast, I’d be happy to check them out. And if you’d ever like company on a Central Coast hike, feel free to hit me up.

    Paul

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