Saturday, August 28 - Monday, September 6th 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010: At the begining of this year, I started to mull over where I wanted to go on my next vacation, and Larry has travelled surprisingly little, so I wanted to show him some of my favorite places. I started thinking about Yellowstone, my favorite place in the United States of America, of course, with its amazing array of geothermic phenomena, wildlife, and flora but instead something made us settle on Glacier National Park instead. I've never been to Glacier, but have always wanted to come here- high on my list for the scenery, the weather, the incredible big sky that you can only seem to see in Montana- and the fact that very few glaciers actually remain in what once was an icy landscape, and scientists estimate that it will be only 10 years before the last 25 of the 125 that were present in 1960 are completely gone. When I started doing the initial research, I noticed on the map that Banff is only about 4 hours north across the Canadian border into Alberta and British Columbia. So why not add the gem of the rockies into the trip for a few days as well? When I sat down to draft an itinerary, I found some more flaws in my plan- I had wanted to drive- rent a car (the corolla was not going to be relied upon to drive 2500 miles given it already had 135,000) and camp. I actually love camping, albeit car camping which afford several critical luxuries that you never get with this acetic backpacking nonsense: namely, my laptop, electricity that I can power it with, campfire and wine. The problem, on further consideration, is that I would be wasting 4 days of my precious 10 day stint off driving, and that was not going to work. Flights to Calgary from SFO were only 2.5 hours long, and about $180 all told, so I took the easy way. Then the camping became an issue for a couple of reasons: first, you have to either lug all of your gear with you on the flight, back and forth (in a box, usually, and that is checked luggage so they'll charge you more, and even then you have to pare down a lot to take what you need most, and avoid some of the luxuries, like the tent heater and my martini glass set), and second, the weather in the north pretty much always includes rain. Daily, in most cases. Camping in CA where the rain is very rare is a luxury- nothing is more miserable than being cold and exhausted after hiking all day, then coming home to a wet tent and more water and rain and a night of being damp and freezing too. So this turned into inexpensive hotels and motels, which turned into "wouldn't it be ideal to spend a little more on a place with a hot tub? Nothing would be nicer after a long day of hiking with sore muscles than a hot tub..." So hotels became nicer and nicer and the cost more and more. Ah, well, creature comforts. In retrospect, I'm so glad I didn't camp. Holy miserable in this weather.
At 8:39am our US Air flight to Calgary took off from SFO, we had a straight shot into Calgary where they barely checked our passports before wishing us a "great time" and that was it. We rolled our carry-ons with us to Enterprise, picked up the Nissan Versa after getting a burger at Harvey's in the air port and drove 3.5 hours south to Glacier's east side. We made a pit stop before leaving Calgary for good to pick up a cord for the ipod so we could plug into the car's audio system and play our tunes and away we went.
We got down to the park area, which is about 10 miles across the US border in good time. I slept for an hour or so and we arrived just before 5pm. I wanted to drive first to the St. Mary Visitor Center and check in with the ranger station about closed trails, weather reports, bear sightings, where the trail heads to two hikes I wanted to see were located, etc before they closed. So we went there just as a bunch of clouds rolled in over the plains after we crossed the border and it started to rain. By the time we got to St. Mary's it was a persistent light drizzle, quite cold in the 40s, and the mountains were all completely covered in a haze of cloud and fog. We got our maps and ticket into the park, and drove back out toward the teeny collection of trailers called "Babb" where the turnoff into the park to the Swiftcurrent area was. On the way out, in the town of St. Mary is a huge log-cabin style lodge with grocery store, numerous gift shops, a hotel and a couple of restaurants so we stopped to pick up a few necessaries at the grocery store, and went inside the gift shops to browse, and noticed the cozy fireplace and end of the Detroit Lions pre-season game on tv. We had wanted to get a beer and stay a few minutes since it was so darn cozy in there, but after waiting to be even acknowledged by the wait staff for 5 minutes, I decided I had enough and we'd just go to the hotel.
The Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is one of many lodges that were built in the park in the 1930's when car trips were just becoming popular in America. Glacier has been a park since 1910, and the Great Northern Railroad company actually built the massive historic lodges you see in many of the parks out West- these were an attempt to bill this area as the "Alps of the West" as many folks were heading over to Europe for vacations. This was a win-win for the railroad since it greated tourist infrastructure on top of the business of the railroad, so into Glacier went the historic (swiss-style architecture) Many Glacier Lodge, MacDonald Lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, and several others. In the 1930s a few little "motor" inns were built: the Swiftcurrent (a mile from the Many Glacier Lodge), and the Sun Point Motor Inn. We picked the Swiftcurrent because it's not just a motel, but has a bunch of little cabins. We got a little cabin (bargain priced at $65 a night, but we are sharing a bathroom facility) that has two rooms. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the budget travelers love this place on reviews- so I booked it. This was the budget accomodation, and there is surprisingly little online that was of value at knowing what to expect from the very few choices around here. No tv, phones, internet, it's just you and the mountains. And it's inside the actual park, which is really nice, along with several of my top hiking picks right out the door without so much as a drive anywhere. We checked in to find that the weather had driven everyone into the shabby but comfy lobby (where they have a drink menu of wine and beer, as a clerk told this obnoxious and complaining massively obese sextagenarian sitting on a couch with some friends who asked, "Don't you have anything else?") And we walked away before I smacked her. We put our names into the list for a table at the little cafe inside the Swiftcurrent (devoid of any ambiance, but it's inexpensive with the usual american fare and seriously massive portions), wandered into the gift shop and checked into our cabin. The cabin is delightful- drafty, and it was freezing, but two small little rooms, the "living" area with this 1930s farmhouse sink, a table with pine benches, lighting, and a mirror, and a small little bedroom with an overhead light and a few coat hangers. I loved it. Charming. Freezing cold, but charming. We dropped our things off, used the shared facilities (very much like camping, but rather cleaner) and headed back the 100 paces to the lobby/restaurant/shop building for dinner. The sun was just starting to set, and on the huge front porch of the main lobby lodge, rangers had set up spotting scopes and binoculars scouting the adjacent mountain for the elusive Mountain Goat. We didn't spy any, but got our table and got prompt and good service by our waiter, and found the obnoxious sextugenarian with friends sitting at the table behind us (loudly, of course) and she was drinking- not kidding- MILK with her meal. Larry got a cup of the Emu and Lamb stew which was the soup special of the day which was the highlight of the meal- amazing. So warm and homey and hearty and delicious that we both kept eating it. I had a forgettable cesar salad drowned in dressing, and Larry had some kind of pasta dish with Buffalo sausage in red sauce. We sampled the local beers (good! and made right here in Montana) and a glass of bad chilean cab served in a wine glass that was something of a joke. When we went to pay and leave, the waiter forgot to add our drinks so the tab was less than anticipated, but still not cheap for the food. Still, hearty meal, ready for a night in the cabin in the rain. We went back, unpacked a little bit, and tried not to freeze in there. Larry walked in the freezing drizzle back to the store to pick up candles that we planned to use as heat (they work! I'm not kidding! Get a bunch!) and while he was gone, I walked out to take the picture of the cabin you see above, and noticed that there is a heater on the wall. I turned it on, and since it's a small cabin, it heated up fast very nicely. When he came back with several packages of candles (huckleberry scented along with some standard camping ones) he was most upset to find out that there was a heater and I let him buy the rotten candles. While I was sorry he spent $7 on them, I wasn't as pissed about it as he was.
A restless night in a small bed with the tin roof echoing every raindrop showing from the sky and at times beating down on us in our little cabin, I woke up when the alarm went off at 6am with the idea that we needed to do one the major hikes I had planned today. The rain was still beating down, so I turned the rotten thing off, opting to go on some small hikes instead, mostly taking the shuttle through the park in that minute of wakefulness, then drifted back to sleep until almost 9am. By the time I got my things together, I was up and ready to go by 9:20 am but as usual, men seem to be plagued by one little thing after another and waited for Larry to get his stuff together until after 10. My plan was to drive to St. Mary's entrance, and take the park shuttle across Going-To-The-Sun road (the one main road through Glacier) and stop off at between one and four "little" hikes in the park proper that are must-sees, according to my research. I had 4 main ones- starting from Westmost to East:
1. Sperry Glacier: 2.5 miles from Lake MacDonald
2. Avalanche Lake and Avalanche Gorge, and Trail of the Cedars Interpretive Trail: 6 miles from Avalanche Creek
3. Hidden Lake: 3 miles from Logan Pass
4. Sun Point to Virginia Falls: 7 miles from Sun Point, but it looked like I could take some shortcuts on the map...
So we got onto the shuttle after having breakfast at the outside of the park St. Mary Lodge (expensive, massively proportioned but in okay ambiance- best part was looking out on a wall of glass at the adjacent park and snow covered mountains- of course all shrouded in clouds and fog with the weather). I had the Cowgirl breakfast- an egg (poached, per routine, a little over cooked), a slice of bacon, a link of sausage, and one pancake that was bigger than my head, and a $2.50 cup of coffee. Larry got the steak and eggs which was a massive slab of beef and while the service was pretty good (they're all 20 year olds from foreign countries- the concessions in the national parks are all run by Enterra company, and you can apply for summer jobs and internships, even with foreigh students coming here for a summer, I remember applying myself at that age- Alaska, then Yellowstone, then Rocky Mountain in Colorado were my top 3 choices). Our coffee busboy was Japanese, suffered from kind of painful acne, and kept bowing at everyone. The hostess I'm guessing was Romanian or similar Eastern Bloc Slavic by her accent and limited grasp of English, and our waitress was Chinese. The check took some time to come (which makes me very impatient as an American with important things to do), and we got to the St. Mary Visitor Center parking lot at 11:03am to see that the shuttle was just pulling in. I had to use the loo, but opted to wait since shuttles only run every 30 minutes and ran down the length of the parking lot to be the last ones to hop on board, in the front seat. We got on the road immediately. Our driver seemed to be very clearly of Native American ancestry (the park shares a border with the Blackfeet indian reservation) who Larry said "has diabetes" and was very pleasant. She was amazingly tolerant with these 2 New Yorker septugenarians (also obese, although not so much as the couple weighing a collective 800lbs behind me) who were so obnoxious, loud, stupid and *so* from New York I cringed to admit I shared a state with their kind persisted on asking moronic questions the whole trip to our polite dirver: "So what happens if Logan Pass is closed for snow? How do you know we're there?" "What if the shuttle leaves us there?" "How often do the shutles go?" "What do you do for a living when you're not here?" "How many trips do you drive a day?" I wanted to kill them. Mostly for the littany of questions they asked that were all widely available on all printed signs and materials in and around the entire park about "How To Ride The Shuttles." It's fortunate most New Yorkers seldom feel the need to actually leave New York City (Why go anywhere else? Everything is right here?) since when they do they're humiliating for the rest of us decent, non-obnoxious Americans.
Anyhow, the shuttle runs in a confusing 3 different run manner: the "east" side covered from St. Mary to Logan Pass (easten half of the park) by the eastern shuttle, which runs every half an hour. The west side is covered from Logan to Avalanche Creek by a smaller shuttle that runs every 15-30 minutes, or a shuttle that runs from Logan Pass all the way to the western edge of the park, Apgar Station. I decided it was probably best to go as far west as we could, then work our way back east, doing hikes as we and the rain tolerated eachother. Larry is kind of easy in that way- we just go with my agenda, mostly because I'm the weirdo who actually does the planning and researches trips before I go, so I know what I want to see. Most other folks who have travelled with me are just there for the ride, relying on my itineraries for everything. Every once in a while I get a companion who wants to interject a personal wish or two, and that's just fine with me. But most companions just want a tour guide, not to actually plan and research a trip... Larry is among them, but that works out okay.
We got off at the transfer point at Logan Pass to find it was SNOWING in August at the 6900ft elevation pass. Big flakes coming down, coating the trees and the roads and the buildings and signs and somebody even made a 2 foot tall snowman who sat on a bench near the shuttle stop. It was surreal. From Logan pass, you take the smaller shuttle to Avalanche Creek, where we got off to start the "shorter" hikes into Avalanche Lake and Gorge. Our driver on this leg was "Jon" who was lovely and full of some interesting information. We had a full shuttle on the way to Avalanche, and got off along with everyone else on board. We stopped for bodily functions at the rest rooms, then headed into the Trail of the Cedars interpretive trail which was combined with the trail to Avalanche Lake. The books all say that although these are not short hikes, they are extremely popular (Glacier in general is a popular park) so in the summer are usually crowded. We went in unarmed with any bear-repellants, but aware with every red posted sign that we were at our risk, as we were entering Grizzly Country. Gulp.
The trail was probably way less crowded than it usually is, since this was only one week before the shuttles stop running and school was already back in session here so the parks see a great drop in visitors, and the rain had to keep most of the obese and New York City types away from trails ("I don't even want to get off this warm bus.") We walked on the exhibit walkway through the mature forest of cedar trees, magestic and scented, soft and quiet most of the time. We continued when the wheelchair-accesbile walkway ended onto the Avalache Lake trail, and hiked into bear country for the first time with what seemed like nobody else. Avalanche Lake happened when an avalanche fell decades ago, creating the lake of today. It's only 2 miles (although it was actually 2 in and 2 out), so what I thought was an easy 2 miles ended up being 4 after all, and then a little change.
The trail at the beginning was uphill but not too badly that we were in bad shape- it reminded me a lot of being in the seattle woods- the ground was damp, covered with moss and lichen, rocks, uphill and fairly dense forest, although not so dense that it was out of the question to have mountian lions in there. We stopped halfway along the trail at a waterfall that was really amazing- the glacial landscape plays out pretty much everywhere in this park, and this waterfall was a series of these granite rocks, tumble-down styles from the dragging at the bottom of the glacier, and over time and the constant rain and melting runoff of water, waterfalls have formed all over the landscape, and over centuries have smoothed that granite down to these smooth, smooth round cataracts the undulate and bulb out in pockets and make for an incredible waterfall. We climbed up alongside this one for about a quarter mile, no real great shots presenting themselves for me to get that hourglass shape to the negative spaces in the granite.
We climbed up and into much denser forests, with Larry reminding me of his friend Sanjay's routine for scaring bears - a loud hand clap followed by "hey Bear!" by voice also loudy, to scare them off. Apparently, the bear you approach by hiking quietly is the bear more likely to attack due to surprise.
Hikers all over the signs are encouraged to hike making noise and talking loudly (funny, Larry and I have only passed TWO other groups who were not silent) to scare them when they hear you, off the trail. Bad things can happen when the animal is surprised, like a maling. Bears here are either black (6,000) or grizzly (brown- 2,000) and the grizzly is much larger and more ferocious than the black. Cubs, as are with their mothers for a few years after birth to learn the necessary survival skills like foraging, hunting and making a den for wintering, are much to be feared when they're spotted on trails as you know mom is not far behind, and she will attack and defend on any percieved threat, so those can be especially dangerous. If you come upon either species, you should back away quietly and return the way you came if they didn't spot you, or corcumvent them as round as possible if you have to go on. If a grizzly approaches you, you should lie down, play dead, lie in a fetal position and cover the back of your neck with your hands and you should not leave until you're certain the bear is gone. If a black bear spots you, you should make as much noise as possible, try to appear large and in charge, and stand your ground. If attacked, you should fight back, as black bears have never been known to fatally maul when faught against. In either case, they say be as loud as possible on trails, make noise, sing, whatever, and carry bear spray. Amazingly, when we were in a thicket of woods, there was a small clutch of observers on the trail staring into the woods at the side of the trail at a juvenile black bear sitting, totally oblivious to the hiking crowd observing him, eating away at all the red clusters of berries that are sprouting this time of year. A father hiking with his two kids (i'm guessing 6 and 8), moved the 8 year old out of the way so I could get a picture (terrible since all you can see is this black shadow on my shot), and tried to calm the 6 year old who was crying and petrified out of his wits). The bear sat there, 40 feet from me, frolicking and eating his lunch to his content on his behind in the thicket and we saw no signs of a mother, although Larry and I didn't linger too long since this possiblity of spotting a juvenile unattended may be a great photo-op for the masses on the trail, presented the serious likelihood of danger since there was no mom in sight. We took a few (very bad, indiscriminate) shots and moved along.
to the left is the very bad fuzzy shot of the black bear (he was about 40 feet away, but you're so excited you just snap the shot fast) to the right was his little head and you can make out two ears sticking out of the brush- the usual "wildlife" shots- "See that brown speck? Yah, there, that one! THAT is a bear!!"
You come upon Avalanche Lake after a downturn and then a leveling of the path, and its first glimpse is through the dense pine forest at the lakeside, with a vista of mountins, glacier, and expanse of sparkly blue mountain runoff with a bunch of downed trees in front of you. That first shot, I'm telling you, is the most breathtaking. You can go in farther, to hike around a little ways, but that first shot is the money shot. Wow.
Those sliver streams like thin little shoots of wire, are snowy runoff melting down the side of the mountin in these little trickles that shine in the distance. The fog and rain clouds hung in the air like puffy blankets, covering the tops of the mountins in the distance. The rain wasn't bad, it started to get a little more insistent when I reached this point in the trail, but overall I wasn't too bad- my rain shell worked great, and I had more condensation from sweating inside the jacket than I had rain on the outside.
It was awsome, and I promised that I'd ry to stop exlaming superletive addjectives at some point, but had to give up since all of it was just so awsome I was glad that we had braved the trek in the rain and cold.
On the way out, we went back through the sma trail that we came (the bear had moved on) and we got the shuttle back to Logan Pass with the same driver, Jon, who had delivered us in the first palce. He let us know that bears were common, sightings common, and the lone little juvenile black bear we had seen was one that the parks folks had been watching since he was probably only a yearling and was an orphan, who mom was not seen in months. He said that the good side was that he appeared to be fat and healthy, but the down side was that his mom was missing, so when it comes time to make a den, he had liekly never learned what to do, and that does not bode well for his survival. The mother was presumed dead, since she has not been seen with the cub, and otherwise would never, and may have fallen ill, fallen and injured something (also that may have killed her), fallen prey to a male black bear, who will kill both mother and offspring if necessary, or to a grizzly attack since they also will fight and kill black bears. It was kind of sad and concerning for that little guy, happily slugging down berries in the brush, knowing that he had actually little chance of survival since his mom was gone.
Jon also gave us some literature about hikes in the park which had been published in the local paper (by a woman who was not such a hiker, it seems, and was hard pressed to do much more than we did that day), and by Jack Hannah, famous hiker, guide and animal man, who had a party hiking on Grinell Glacier trail in July who encountered a grizzly who charged, and he fired 3 rounds of bear spray that finally fended the bear off.
We decided it was better to spend the $50 on bear spray than go on unprotected when we went on the next hikes here in Glacier (and Banff, provided you can take the spray over the border which provided a ton of controversy when we asked in the store), than chance an unprotected hiking encounter with a bear. We also noticeably increased our voices when talking to eachother on the trails (at least I did), and clapped and yelled loudly at every 50-100 feet on the trails when coming back. We were surprisingly alone, with only a few people here and there on the trails, and we were kind of embarrased to be caught yelling and showting when we encountered other folks on the trails, many of whom were on the trails solo (bad idea) or were seemingly hiking silently when we encountered them.
We hiked out and ended up catching the shuttle back, and went a few stops from Logan Pass (deciding to forgo Hidden Lake due to both the snow at Logan Pass, and time which was now getting on 3 pm) for a series of falls that I had mapped out to be 3-5 miles. We got on the shuttle, and stopped and I asked ther driver suddenly as we were stopped "Is this the Jackson Glacier Overlook?" and since he didn't really hear me, or realize I was getting up to get off as he was about to take off from the stop again, said "Oh! Yes, it is." And opened the doors and Larry and I got off the shuttle. We were a little warmed and dried by the shuttle, and now were back out into the cold and drizzle. The shuttle left us, and I looked at a signpost 100 yards back up the road from where the shuttle let us off to "Jackson Glacier Overlook" which you could supposedly see the Jackson and Hamilton glaciers, but at this time were covered over almost completely by fog and clouds, and we thus walked along the roadway, me thinking the trail head to the Gunpiont trailhead which would take us to the 3 falls was just around here. We came to a trail head, but it didn't have any falls on it, so we kept on walking down the road, thinking it was going to be around the bend at any moment. We kept walking (2 miles thanks to the GPS) and finally got to the St. Mary Falls trail head. I had wanted to see these 3 falls, so I went down into the trailhead, thinking this was going to be a simple mile trail in, and realized that I had grossly miscalcualted. I did indeed need to take the Gunpoint trail head, which was the one that hadn't marked the trails, and it was far longer than I had anticipated from the map. Since I was there, I went down to the St. Mary falls, which were along St. Mary lake and seemed to be pretty gorgeous on the picture at the trail head. I am so glad I did. Larry was fortunately a really good sport and wanted to go on seeing what there was to see since his feet felt fine and he wasn't tired.
Wow. The falls were beautiful, but the lake vistas from the trail that skirts the southern shore were amazing. Above is Larry sitting by the cataract near Avalanche falls, and next to it is a view of St Mary Lake, a man made lake via dam, of pure cobalt glass, shiny and calm, reflecting the fog and clouds above. One stop in the trail to the next, t
the vista seemed to get more and more amazing. We were clapping our hands, I was taking, but a lot more than I would have usually, and at the top of my lungs even though Larry was right behind me, and we were employing the Snjay clap and yell routine the whole way. It was moments when the vistas came into best view when you were just shocked into silence by the mere magnifecence of the scenery and the smallness of me as a person were revealed.
It seemed like along time, and I hemmed and hawed about just going back to St. Mary Falls trailhead since there *may* have been a shuttle stop there, but Larry convinced me to keep going the 1.7 miles to Sun Point, so we could just see the next falls I had wanted to (I skipped Virginia falls, another 1 mile walk along from St. Mary's Falls since it was a 1 mile hike in and back and not on the loop). I'm gald he talked me into it, since it was another moment when Glacier lets you know you're so small and it's got all the glam. We hiked along the road on the trail instead of going back for the road (and the shuttle stops) to see Bering Falls. It was lovely, I'm glad we did, it was wonderful.
The falls were populated with a few of the other hiker out past 5pm on the trails, many with telephoto lens cameras and hiking in with tripods in silence. We oogled and awed at the lake (man made, yes, via dam, which I had huge environmental issues with), out onto a little dock made of floating logs onto the lake itself, and then back into the woods for the short hike to Bering Falls. The falls are lovely, the glacial stone tilts at this 30 degree angle on Bering and the water comes shooting out from it, into a pool below. There is a bridge of timber that you have to cross to get across the river bed below, and then back up to the trail which leads to Sun Point.
As we hiked back along the Cedar Woods Interpreteive Trail, we stopped to spy these two yearling bucks in the woods, eating and looking around them. The passed along in a few minutes, but it was a pleasant and tranquil reminder that wildlife is really beautiful. Back at the stop, we wandered along the path of Bering Falls upstream even over Going-To-The-Sun Road, along the amazing 1920s stone bridge and amazing masonry work that houses not just a bridge over the falls but pedestrian walkways along the sides, and got to the shuttle stop on Sun Point. We were cold, tired, and read to fall into a beer and bed. The shuttle, it turns out, had other plans. On the other side of the road was a group of about 8 kids who waited at the westbound stop by tossing rocks into the trees on our side for fun, and picked them up at 6:29pm. The driver, as we noticed, was our friend the Native American that Larry thought was named Naomi. She waved as she went by, and I thought she stopped a minute too long for passengers, wondering if she was signalning to us, but she drove off. We waited for what we assumed was the shuttle we just missed at 6:22pm, another we were expecting at 6:53 pm, and the very last according to the sign was 7:23 pm. We waited and it was clear that we must have jsut missed the 6:22. We got there at 6:23 to an empty stop. At 6:53 we were expecting another shuttle, which did not arrive. We waited and waited, now freezing and cold and starting to worry about the gathering rain drops, for a glaring hour and 15 minutes until our Naomi came by, picked us up, said "Oh! I tried to get your attention! I knew I was the last shuttle, you would have been freezing out there. The 6:53 driver went home on emergenecy, so I'm the last shuttle." I was so tired I was not nearly as pissed as I would have been otherwise as we loaded the shuttle, listened to Naomi (we still have no idea what her name is but this was Larry's guess) talk to a nice gentleman in the front all thee way to Sun Pass, then we moved up when we were the last people on the bus to chit chat with her (yes, Larry was all right, she is Native American, and she is diabetic, right on both counts) and finally got dropped off at 8pm at St Mary's Visitor Center where the car was parked. I was freezing, tired, crabby, and ready for either bed or beer at this point. We left the shuttle, checked the weather report at the visitor center on the way to the car (AND they have an "osprey cam" on the two mated pair who inhabit the nest in the parking lot, who we watched feeding the schreeching young in their nest) and drove to St. Mary Lodge where we had a sit, a fire to warm us (my fingers were falling asleep), complete with beer, liquor, and supersized protions of overpriced good food. We ate too much (we split the artichoke dip appetizer and I had the buffalo and elk chili for dinner), went home sated and happy, and fell into the small bed at Swiftcurrent.