Monday, October 02, 2023

The Deck

| June 21, 2023 6:55 AM

By Chris Ashby

Contrary to the name Glacier Park Lodge is not exactly in Glacier National Park. Instead it sits on the Blackfeet Reservation a few miles east of the Park’s boundary. It was built in 1913 to serve as the first stop on the main line of the Great Northern Railway closest to the newly created Park.

It was not built out the goodness of James J. Hills’ heart, but was created to lure train passengers west to spend their money on Hills’s railroad and spend some more going into the Park on his son Louis Hill’s interior lodging facilities. James J. Hill was not called the Empire builder for nothing and the only thing green about him was his desire for money.

Still without his and his son’s willingness to invest in Glacier’s infrastructure there would be an entirely different set of lodging facilities and trail system in Glacier; with the exception of Lake McDonald Lodge and primitive Native American and explorer trails, the Hill’s built them all.

Behind the Glacier Park Lodge sits the Chalet, a residence and dining facility built in 1912 to service the workers who built the Lodge.

It is still there and serves as a residence dorm for what used to called “higher caliber and more mature male employees. That definition seems to have changed some as the years between its inception and 2023, but it is still a good place to live in the summer months. I know because I have resided there for the past thirteen years. It may be old and somewhat in need of a major upgrade, but as I said it is home and home is where the heart is. My heart is in room 15 of the Chalet.

This past winter the outside deck of the Chalet finally gave up the ghost and Pursuit, the company I work for, put in a fine new deck wrapping around two sides of the building. It is a great place to socialize in the evening and for me a great place to sit in the sunny afternoons and read and stare at the mountains. There used to be a swimming pool adjacent to the Chalet and I used it faithfully, but time took its toll and the pool was recently removed. I still mourn the loss of the pool. The view of the mountains to the west of the Chalet is not as spectacular as that of other places in and around Glacier, such as Two Medicine, St. Mary, or Many Glacier. The mountains are not as jagged as in those places and are somewhat more subtle and softer.

I look upon them as a gentle approach to the incredible beauty that is to come within the Park. The sunset and majestic cloud formations that appear over these mountains more than make up for the lack of ruggedness. It is also a great place to meditate on the dandelions which are abundant on the lawn to the side of the Chalet. Abundant that is until they are cut down by the lawn mowers or have naturally gone to seed, whichever comes first. Recently while reading on the deck and enjoying the sun I noticed that a solitary dandelion was growing up between the boards. Dandelions are pretty much considered weeds and not looked upon with favor by gardeners or lawn enthusiasts.

They certainly do not get raved about as bear grass and Indian paint brush do in and around the Park. However, dandelions are everywhere in late Montana spring and I find their golden color to be quite beautiful. This is especially so on the plains east of East Glacier.

Knapweed is also abundant in and around East Glacier and out on the plains. Its magenta fields are quite striking from a distance, but unlike dandelions it is truly an obnoxious and invasive weed; to me at least in comparison the lowly dandelion not so much so. Well, I watched this little flower for several days and pondered its existence in relation to the overall scope of things.

Even though it was a lowly plant and I was somewhat higher specie of animal it and I shared the commonality of life together. I actually wondered if it knew of my existence. Well, I watched it bloom for several days and then one day it had gone to seed overnight and then it was gone for good. I was saddened by its disappearance because I know that next spring its progeny would return. I thought of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer which says “only God can make a tree,” knowing full well that a dandelion was not a tree.

Still dandelions and trees are of the plant family and maybe the same force is behind their creation as well. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

Chris Ashby is a writer in East Glacier Park.

Recent Headlines