Essex, Montana is a tiny village hidden away in the evergreen forests surrounded by tall snow capped mountains forming the Southern boundary of Glacier National Park.
Essex owes its existence to the Great Northern Railway, which maintains a large rail switching / service yard since the 1890s to move trains over Marias Pass - which we featured in our previous blog.
SPIA spent the night on the bank of the Middle Fork Flathead River, which flows at the bottom of the hill above which lies Essex. Early yesterday morning, I began walking West on US 2 for an hour or so when it began raining...and naturally, I did not wear my rain gear..., so I returned to Essex, where I snooped around town, the rail yard facilities, and joined early risers in the Issac Walton Inn (Hotel) for breakfast in the ornate dining room.
Built in 1939, the Issac Walton Hotel has served railroad crews - for years shoveling snow from the mountain railroad tracks...all by HAND..., and tourists to the region.
Unique are a number of pieces of real-time railroad equipment, such as the diesel locomotive above, which are available to guests who wish to spend the night in rail-era rolling stock instead of in the hotel itself.
A number of additional Caboose are being renovated and decorated to join the one above which are / will be offered as "cabins" to visiting guests. I am told they are quite elegant inside.
Please click click to enlarge this historical writing about Issac Walton Hotel.
My view from my breakfast table...looking out onto the railroad tracks watching trains go by.
AMTRAK passes two times a day...so, theoretically, one could catch the train in Seattle or Chicago (or places beyond) for a first class trip to Essex, Montana.
The Dining Room.
The downstairs bar, featuring 75 year old appointments.
The view from Essex sitting high above US 2 and the Middle Fork Flathead River.
Logs cut to fit into the Issac Walton Hotel massive fireplace in the lobby.
Please click click to enlarge.
A side road from US 2, crossing over the BNSF (old Great Northern) railroad tracks.
West on US 2, one will find excellent food, conversation, and Convenience Store services at the HALF WAY HOUSE...which also features modern "duplex" cabins for rent.
After my failed 1st walking leg of the day...and after breakfast at the Hotel, I moved SPIA up from her overnight spot on the river bank, to the Half Way House, where I spent a couple hours - waiting for the rain to let up a bit - meeting and chatting with a number of locals.
Please say HELLO to Leo.
Please say HELLO to Patsy and her Father Jim.
Jim lives a couple miles further along on US 2...who says he has a Bear in his yard at the moment..., while daughter Patsy is visiting for a few days.
Please say HELLO to Ron and Myrna, owner and operator of the HALF WAY HOUSE.
Ron received SPIA and I with open arms, allowing us to tap into his computer router to complete yesterday's blog update. Later, SPIA remained parked at the HALF WAY HOUSE while I again walked West on US 2.
Ron & Myrna have the HALF WAY HOUSE for sale...I can attest to the brisk business going on and would love to be in a position to take it on myself...here are some details:
HALF WAY HOUSE serves as the Post Office for the village of Essex.
The private home, which is included in the 3.5 acres with duplex cabins and the main building.
The duplex cabins.
While walking West on US 2 from the HALF WAY HOUSE - which means it is located half way between the two villages: East Glacier Park and West Glacier - I met Bill and Ginger returning from the short trip to Kalispell, Montana. They stopped for me, I got into their car, and spent the rest of the day and long into the evening enjoying their company, their home, their dinner, and their friends Larry and Callie.
The "home" of Bill and Ginger. The two of them hand built this log home, which has every modern convenience...an absolute jewel of comfort and efficiency. They have lived here since 1991. Both are retired - Bill says HE is retired...Ginger simply quit working to be with him. They are the epitome of outdoors living...having recently walked the 250 miles from Essex to Butte, Montana TAKING THE TRAIL ATOP THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, supported only by what they carried in their backpacks. Bill and Ginger have also travelled extensively about the World, recently driving the ALCAN Highway to Alaska, as well as circumnavigating the perimeter of the Lower 48 by car.
Bill's FOOT STOOL.
Their home has three living spaces: a 16 x 16 foot Kitchen; a 16 x 16 foot Living Room; and a 16 x 16 foot Bedroom...all enveloped into their 16 x 16 foot Log House.
No matter what one is doing, one has 16 x 16 feet to do it in.
The toilet and laundry room is in a separate building with walkway from the log house. If it snows & nature calls, a shovel is needed to clear the walkway to reach the "necessaries" room.
Please say HELLO to Bill.
Please say HELLO to Ginger and Bill sitting in the North east corner of their living room / bed room / of the entire log home for that matter.
Complete with hardwood floor and sanded / varnished interior, Ginger and Bill have created a unique living fitting into the surrounding mountains and their active life style.
Among other things, Ginger pointed out where the Bears come look into their kitchen window.
Every item in their home, says Bill, has it's own story. The above image is an actual Bear Trap found by the gentleman in the photograph - a close truck driver friend who was murdered during a robbery while driving his truck -...the trap still has pieces of bone embedded in the metal where an unlucky bear was trapped, died, and probably consumed by other critters long before the trap was found many years later.
After an excellent Italian dinner prepared lovingly by Ginger, we drove to the nearby home of Larry and wife Callie, where we spent the next couple hours chatting...and getting a live demonstration of Larry's new push mower.
I even got a go at cutting a swath or two.
Bill and Ginger drove me back to SPIA...we said goodbye - a most difficult moment for me...and I drove SPIA to a River Access parking area, where we spent the night.
The above photograph was taken from SPIA just as darkness descended upon us.
This morning, I again walked US 2...this time, leaving SPIA beside the river, as I walked under gorgeous skies...and NO wind...for 5.5 hours toward the village of West Glacier. Counting the two interrupted efforts of yesterday (about 12 miles or so), I more than covered the 25 miles from Essex to West Glacier.
Along the roadside this morning, I came across these nine (9) crosses. They mark the spot where nine people died in a single accident.
SPIA was parked overnight to the right of that gravel bar reaching out into the river.
The day-time view of the same image taken last night.
Returning to SPIA, we drove to West Glacier, but did not stop as I was informed by Bill that there was a super breakfast deal in the next village - Coram, Montana. We followed Bill's instructions, found the "deal", consumed it, parked SPIA for the day...and indeed, for the night tonight as well; then, I walked all the way back to West Glacier - 7 miles one way - and returned to SPIA.
I have spent the rest of the afternoon doing my laundry and wading through 150 photographs to share on this blog update.
Hope all enjoyed a nice day...I certainly enjoyed mine.
In the morning, I will walk West on US 2 to the city of KALISPELL, Montana, only 17 miles distant. SPIA has a boo boo on her "overdrive", in that it has stopped working, limiting speed to only 45 mph. I hope to check in at the TOYOTA dealership in Kalispell to have a new electronic switch installed. If necessary, we can drive all the way to Bellingham at the lower speed and do the repair later.