Sheila and I enjoyed a National Parks fall tour a couple of weeks ago, but I have not posted much of the trip. Other activities have intervened, including the rediscovery of Spencer on the National Parks Highway (see posts on the forum).
Our National Parks tour took us through Rainier, Glacier, and the North Cascades, and of course we stayed on the two lane roads. Interestingly, the highlight of the trip wasn’t any of the parks. Don’t get me wrong….all three are breathtakingly beautiful, and it has been years since I have been to Glacier. The photo I posted of Lake McDonald shows its beauty, and Rainier and the North Cascades were no less magnificent.
But the highlights of the trip were the small, unassuming, basically unknown old lodges on lakes, miles from civilization. You won’t find these places in your AAA Tour Book, or in any “travel and spa” magazine. In fact, I had the feeling that maybe the owners and the clientele liked it that way!
These are not the magnificent and storied lodges where a night will set you back a half week’s wages. They are simple, often rustic as the word was meant to be used, and personal.
We stopped at three such lodges. These places harken back to the mom and pop days of road travel, and of course are still owned and operated by mom and pop. Mom serves up the food and cleans the cabins, and pop maintains the cabins and lodge, and tends bar in the evening.
These lodges were everywhere in the west when I was a younger guy. Some of my fondest memories are of St Bernard Lodge (Chester / Mill Creek, CA) or Childs Meadows Lodge (Mt Lassen area), or Idywild Lodge (San Jacinto Mountains, So. Cal) and a half dozen others. Most are gone, but the tradition lives on in a few places.
I know that it is comfortable to pull into a nice franchise motel for the night with the confidence the room will be clean, and often rather “familiar.” I don’t know how many motel doors we have opened and “recognized” the room. But I promise we didn’t “recognize” our room (cabin) at the typical example of the three lodges we visited.
The beds were in the loft with a lake view, and downstairs the easy chairs had a view of the lake through the big picture window. There was a small deck, a barbeque, and a picnic table outside. Inside we had a stove and refrigerator and a TV, but no phone. The bathroom had a heater (!!!). The room was clean, but nothing was new. And there was no exercise room, no pool, and no steel armored door locks with triple deadbolts.
The lodge had a small store, heavy on fishing gear, beer, and beef jerky, and a combination dining room, bar, and pool table area, with one corner devoted to fishing photos, and another to a fireplace. The owner tended bar and cooked and served a great steak dinner.
In early October we had the dining room to ourselves. The steak filled half the plate and I had to leave half of my second glass of wine because the glasses were so big I feared I would stagger on the walk back to the cabin. The meal was straight forward, fresh and as good as home….or better.
Our biggest hardship was that there was Wifi only in the lodge which didn’t reach the cabins, and the TV in the room was only useful to play DVD’s. Since the two steak dinners and wine came in under $30 and the cabin set us back $65, we suffered in silence!!!
If I ever get around to posting stories of this trip, I’ll include some of the mom and pop lodges of the Northwest.