Friday, July 09, 2010
Never Listen to a Man on an ATV
I'll get to that.
Upon our arrival at our campground on Monday, the lady at the desk suggested several places to visit in the Glacier area one of which was the Polebridge Merchantile. Not because of the history, not because of the scenic beauty, but because of their bakery. Bakery? 'nuff said! So yesterday's jaunt was to Polebridge to buy some huckleberry beer bread for Patty at the desk and whatever scrumptious goodies we could find for ourselves. Understand, we were driving 25 miles one way for food; yep, that's the RV Vagabonds for you!
Imagine our surprise to find the Polebridge Mercantile surrounded by cars and ATVs--apparently the word is out about this place! Located 25 miles from the west entrance to Glacier National Park, 14 of those miles on dirt road, no electricity, the restrooms are outhouses and the pastries are to die for. Along with their breads, they apparently bake a sandwich where the meat, cheeses, onions, etc are placed inside the bread and then baked. Sounds yummy, right? We picked up a bottle of dark cherry cola to wash our huckleberry pear and lemon cheesecake Danishes down and sat on the sawed off logs on the front porch to eat the Danish while it was still warm from the oven. There were several people wandering around the grounds since they rent cabins (and outhouses) and there's also the Northern Lights saloon/restaurant next door that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built by William Adair in 1904 who later built the false fronted Polebridge Merchantile, the log cabin is an attractive place to sit and rest a while, although they don't open until 4 in the afternoon.
After Denny and I finished our Danish, several men pulled up on ATVs. I asked one of them where the road led that they had come down and he told me they led to Bowman and Kintla Lakes. He said Bowman was nice, but Kintla was a must-see lake. I asked if we could take the truck there without a problem and he said sure--the road got narrow in places but we'd be fine. As the title says, never listen to a man on an ATV. It took us two hours to drive the 16 pot-hole rutted, one lane scary, scratchy bush line roadway. Black Beauty now has Montana pin-striping all down her passenger side which I'm hoping I can buff out eventually and Denny's blood pressure went through the roof each time we couldn't avoid a bone-jarring teeth-clattering front end alignment requiring pot hole. The already blue skies were made bluer by his language, believe me.
After driving for what seemed to be 30 miles, we saw a park ranger by the roadside cutting up a large tree into sections. Denny asked him how far it was to Kintla Lake and he told us another five miles. When Denny said how he was tempted to turn around because the road was so terrible and hard on our truck, the ranger told us that the drive was well worth it (now he was the third person to tell us that because we earlier we had stopped by a road crew and asked how far to the lake and were told at that time it was still 14 miles away, but the drive was worth it) and went on to tell us he had been working there 26 years. His name is Lyle (and I didn't get a picture, darn it!) and at 90 years old, he is the oldest park ranger in Montana. Heck, at 90 years old, I imagine he's the oldest park ranger in the country! Denny volunteered to help him cut the remainder of the tree, but he waved us on telling us he'd be following soon. So we ended up driving the rest of the way--more pot holes, more cussing, more coming off the seat jarring roadway, but we made it. Was it worth it? Yes. I wish we had brought water with us so that we could have taken one of the trails, but it was too hot to walk without water and this is a very primitive area. The road dead ends at the campground/lake area.
Lyle was right behind us all the way (apparently when the park service owns your truck you can drive over potholes with abandon) and came right over to point out the Boundary Mountains and how the snow melts and flows into both Canada and the US as the Canadian border was just behind the mountains across the lake. Lyle is in charge of clearing trees from the roads, filling the potholes with gravel, testing the purity of the water weekly and collecting camping fees and maintaining order within the campground. Kintla Lake is the cleanest lake in Montana and the state bases the quality of their other lakes on that of Kintla Lake. There are no motor boats or trolling motors allowed on the lake, dogs are not allowed to go into the lake (nor on the trails) and the result of that is a lake that is crystal clear and absolutely gorgeous. The lake itself is over 400 feet deep and although the ranger told us how many miles long it is, we forgot the number. I pointed out a submerge log about 100 feet out from shore that appeared to be about ten feet underwater. Lyle told us that the water is 40 feet deep above that log, so we were indeed impressed by the clarity of the water.
Lyle wanted to show me the baby hummers in the hummingbird nest over Kintla Creek, but after watching the mother sit and preen on a branch nearby without approaching the nest we realized that the babies must have flown.
Instead, we stood on the bridge over Kintla Creek and talked until Lyle said he needed to go fix himself some lunch.
Denny and I climbed back into the truck, girding our loins for the long, dusty and bumpy two hour drive back to Polebridge which then would leave us with another 33 miles to get to the campground. About 3 miles out, we were passing a hiker that we had passed on the way in and he seemed to want us to stop, so we did. Now normally we would not pick up a hitchhiker, but this man was obviously hot and tired so we asked how far he needed to go. He only wanted a ride to the Big Prairie area as he was looking for butterflies. Intrigued by his accent, we discovered that Glyron (no idea how to spell his name) is from Hungary and has been traveling for the last two weeks, working his way from Minnesota where he's currently based to several of the national parks before transferring to his new job with the Forest Service to a town not from from Crater Lake in Oregon. The prairie was only about a mile and a half from where we picked him up, but talking to him distracted us from the horrible road. I can only hope that someone picked him up on the way back. Surprisingly, about ten people passed us going towards Kintla Lake as we were leaving (fortunately in the lane and a half areas of the road but still causing the paint scratches to the truck) so he probably had a shot at getting a ride back to the lake since it was about a six mile hike back from where we dropped him.
So was it worth it? Thanks to Lyle and Glyron, it was. Until I look at the truck, that is.