The Glacier Park Foundation (GPF) held its annual membership meeting in Oakdale, Minnesota in September. A diverse group of former Park employees were present, including Don Wheeler (Many Glacier 1936) and Bonham Cross (Lake McDonald 1939, 40, 41).
Cross and Wheeler intrigued the younger members with tales of Glacier in bygone years. One of Cross's hiking stories appears in the present issue (see p. 8). Wheeler recalled the Heaven's Peak Forest Fire of 1936, which devastated the Swiftcurrent Valley and nearly burned Many Glacier Hotel. He recalled rushing into his quarters (one of the old chalets on Mt. Altyn) and rushing out again with his luggage just minutes before it burned to the ground.
The guest of honor and featured speaker at the meeting was Steve Frye, Chief Ranger of Glacier National Park. Frye's Glacier experience started in childhood, when his father worked for many summers as a seasonal ranger. Frye's own career began in with 14 years working in Glacier (at Kintla, Bowman and Logging Lakes, Polebridge, Swiftcurrent Lookout and the Lake McDonald backcountry) from 1970 to 1983. He then was transferred to the North Cascades and to Yellowstone before returning as Glacier's Chief Ranger in 1992.
Steve Frye's presence at the meeting was in response to GPF's work on the Park's pending General Management Plan. Frye thanked GPF for the detailed research memorandum on the Plan which it sent to the Park Service in June.
Frye invited GPF to consider developing a formal "FriendsofthePark" relationship with Glacier Park. He said that the Park Service values GPF's capacity to act both as a collaborator and as an independent, constructive critic.
Frye spoke about numerous management issues confronting Glacier. He spoke at length about some of the less well publicized issues, including winter use, aircraft overflights, and Blackfeet Indian claims to the "ceded strip" on the East Side of the Park.
Frye also discussed the chronic problem of inadequate federal funding to maintain the aging infrastructure in Glacier and in other National Parks. He pointed out that historically there were two large movements to renovate National Park facilities: Depression era public works programs (such as the Civilian Conservation Corps) and the "Mission 66" program in the 1960s. Those movements occurred about thirty years apart. Now another thirty years have passed, and facilities again are breaking down.
In this vein, Frye noted that most travellers encounter only "frontofthehouse" facilities like visitor centers, which may be in good repair. Meanwhile, unseen things like sewage systems, wiring, and road foundations often are critically decayed.
Frye discussed recent changes in federal law which allow higher entrance fees and allow Parks like Glacier to keep part of what they collect (until recently, fees were capped at $5.00, and all fees had to be sent to Washington). These reforms have helped, but a huge backlog of unfunded work remains in Glacier and many other Parks.
Frye and Mac Willemssen (one of GPF's delegates to "focus groups" held by the Park Service) jointly discussed the specific problem of financing lodge renovation. Willemssen gave a vivid account of the "focus group's" inspection of aging buildings. He stated that "moss appears to be the number one component of many of the roofs at Lake McDonald." (For a detailed account of the Lodge Renovation problem, see p. 4)
When the talks were concluded, members nominated candidates for five seats on the GPF Board of Directors. Candidates include Laura Chihara, David Gilbertson, John Hagen, Mark Hufstetler, Rolf Larson, Paul Meierding and Drew Metcalfe. Voting members of GPF should find a ballot included with this issue of The Inside Trail.
By Kathy Stapleton Renno
The summer of 1997 brought both excitement and tragedy to Glacier Park. Stories that topped the news included the reopening of Granite Park Chalet, the filming of a Hollywood movie in the Park, and the death of two climbers, disappearance of a lone hiker, and the dangerous jump of a parachutist off of Mt. Siyeh.
Granite Park Chalet, which is accessible only by trail, was closed in 1992 because of water and sewer problems. It opened last year as a "hut", with hikers having to pack in their own water, food, and bedding. The owners had hoped to return to the traditional hotel method of accommodating tourists, which included fresh linens, restaurant meals, and running water. This goal has proved to be prohibitively expensive and would have caused the chalets to remain closed for at least two more years. Installing a new sewage system will cost more than anticipated, so the two existing composting toilets will continue to be used until an additional six can be purchased. At $100,000 apiece, that may take awhile. Hikers can now experience more rustic accommodations, just as they would in a hut in the Alps of Switzerland. At $60 per night, this plan is more affordable for most people.
Plans are underway to make major changes in the Avalanche Campground area. Well known for its Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail, the area has had serious overcrowding and congestion problems in recent years. The ranger station, built in 1967, was put up for auction for purchase and removal. Since there were no bidders, it will be converted into restroom facilities. To improve pedestrian safety along Going to the Sun Road in the Avalanche area, large boulders will be placed along the shoulder to prevent parking on the road. A new 71space parking lot will be built around the ranger station. Most of the facilities on the west side of the road will be relocated on the east side. This will prevent hikers from having to cross the road to get to the trailhead. The Park Service's plan takes into account the public outcry against the removal of any of the cedar trees. These old growth trees are the easternmost example of a Pacific Northwest rain forest.
Glacier Park is the scene for a new feature length movie called "What Dreams May Come", to be released in the fall of 1998. The film, which stars Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., is billed as a "mythical romance." Filming took place in the Two Medicine and Many Glacier areas. The 150member cast and crew were blessed by the Blackfeet elders in a traditional Native American ceremony. The cast encountered grizzly bears, gale force winds on Swiftcurrent Lake, and a real life search and rescue mission in the Two Medicine area.
The search being conducted was for a missing GPF employee who was a computer operator at Glacier Park Lodge. Matthew Truszkowski, 25, of Lexington, MI, left the lodge on July 5 to do a solo climb of Sinopah Mountain. When he did not meet his friends at the end of the day the Park Service was notified and a search was begun. His disappearance remains a mystery, along with four others in the Park's history who were never found. An extensive ground and aerial search was conducted and another was planned for the fall, after the leaves had fallen. Truszkowski is presumed dead.
Another tragedy that happened two days before Truszkowski's mysterious disappearance was the death of two very experienced climbers attempting to climb Rainbow Peak. The mountain is located at the head of Bowman Lake in the North Fork region. Mark Robison, 24, of Columbia Falls, MT and Chris Foster, 23, of Whitefish were just a few hundred feet from the summit of the peak, climbing up a steep, snow-covered chimney on the northwest face when they fell to their death. The cause of their fall was unknown, but both were knowledgeable and safety conscious. They were not roped together, but both were wearing crampons and using ice axes. Robison established a record in Glacier's unofficial mountaineering record book when he and a friend climbed 10 peaks in 24 hours in 1996.
Probably the most bizarre story of the summer involved a foolhardy parachutist whose September 24th leap off of Mt. Siyeh down toward Cracker Lake ended 400 ft. below the summit. James Kaufmann, 40, of Marion, MT, hit a wall immediately after jumping and his chute got caught on a rock. One of his three friends on the summit immediately called for assistance, reaching a Browning resident who called the county sheriff's office, who in turn called the Glacier Park ranger station. The daring rescue effort involved a park ranger who rappelled down the side of the mountain to pull up Kaufmann, who was perched on a narrow ledge and had suffered only minor injuries. A total of eight rangers were involved in his rescue, along with other Park employees assisting. Kaufmann was transported by helicopter to Kalispell, where he was treated and released. The Park Service is trying to recover the cost of the $5,000 10,000 rescue effort from Kaufmann.
In other news, Karelian bear dogs were used this summer to teach bold bears to stay away from Camas Road on the west side and the Red Eagle Campground on the east side of the Park. The specially bred, extremely brave dogs were used to try to teach both black and grizzly bears to stay away from areas frequented by humans. They were teaching the bears not to approach cars to beg for handouts. The program, along with the use of rubber bullets and pepper spray, is having a positive effect.
Visitor numbers in Glacier Park were down for the third year in a row in 1997. This has Park officials and local merchants such as Roscoe Black, owner of the St. Mary Lodge and Resort, very worried. Numbers of people visiting the Park through the end of June were down 22% from 1996. Record snowfalls and construction on GoingtotheSun Road, causing the road to open late, may have contributed to the slowdown.
By Tessie Bundick
Unless drastic action is taken, a dear old friend is leaving Glacier National Park never to return. This beautiful and steadfast companion has been around for eons, but because of human addiction to fossil fuel, it has a projected life span of just thirty short years. We are talking here of none other than glorious Grinnell Glacier.
All of the glaciers in this vast wilderness are in trouble, but Grinnell Glacier was chosen by Vice President Al Gore as a prime example of the dangers of global warming because it is diminishing so rapidly.
On September 2, Mr. Gore flew into Great Falls, helicoptered into Babb, and then drove into the Many Glacier Valley to give a speech on this most vital topic and to actually hike to the glacier in question to see for himself the damage that had been done.
A podium was set up on the far western end of Many Glacier Hotel and national, regional and local press were in attendance. On the speaker's stand, Mr. Gore was flanked by Blackfoot chief Earl Old Person, who gave a gracious welcome and Park Superintendent Dave Mahalic. Ellen Stone MosleyThompson, an Ohio State University professor, who studies glaciers, spoke in semiscientific terms concerning the problems that will ensue for the environment when our glaciers start to melt in an accelerated manner.
With majestic Mt. Gould as a backdrop, the Vice President told the gathering of dignitaries and curious hotel guests that a bold resolve was in order if the terrible menace of global warming was to be contained. Gore asserted that the effect of this dangerous trend is starkly real and that debate about it should cease. He reminded the audience that ice all over the world is disappearing at an alarming rate. In Glacier Park alone, seventy per cent of the ice that covered the area in the last century is gone. Grinnell Glacier, alone, has lost 3,500 feet since 1850. Catastrophic weather events are predicted if nothing is done. He recommended energy sources other than fossil fuel. He also stated that more energy efficiency could be built into cars and houses.
Al Gore has a reputation as a stiff speaker, but on this sunny day on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake, he made a strong call to arms. Even staunch Republicans in the crowd were impressed.
After his speech, the Vice President hiked to Grinnell Glacier with a large entourage of aides, secret service and park rangers. Senator Max Baucus of Montana was also in the trail party.
Gore's bodyguards were ever on the alert for an unwelcome advance by a bear but the only bruins the group saw, from the safety of the lake launch, were a playful mother and her two cubs on a mountainside.
The trail was kept open to the public, and ordinary tourists were astonished to see the Vice President heading towards them on the narrow path. He always stopped and shook hands with everyone.
Just two days before Gore's visit, a two acre slab of Grinnell Glacier had broken off and become an ice floe on upper Grinnell Lake. Dan Fagre, Park climatologist, was able to point this out to Mr. Gore when they arrived at their destination. Fagre led Gore into an ice tunnel below the Glacier to point out that it had thinned as well as receded.
When the hiking party returned to Many Glacier Hotel, the Vice President stood for some photo opportunities, shook more hands, and took off for Babb to be helicoptered to Great Falls.
Everyone involved in the event felt that it was a big success, bringing national attention to an ecological problem that is becoming more severe every day.
GPF, GPI and the Park Service Ponder Renovation Options
Glacier National Park's historic lodges face an uncertain future. The lodges need renovation work requiring tens of millions of dollars. Options for capitalizing the necessary work are all problematic. Room rates could double or triple, and new construction could bring dramatic changes to the face of Glacier Park.
The lodges, constructed during the early years of this century, have worn down severely through decades of harsh weather. Neglect of maintenance in the 1960s and '70s accelerated the process of wear and tear. A lifesafety program begun in the 1980s corrected urgent defects, but left a heavy backlog of work.
In 1990, the National Park Service (NPS) released a study on rehabilitating the lodges. Architects and engineers assessed several hundred defects in the buildings. The study estimated the cost of rennovation at roughly $60,000,000.
The NPS hoped to use this study to obtain Congressional funding to rehabilitate the hotels. In the 1970s, largescale appropriations had been obtained to renovate the lodges in Yellowstone Park. Such relief, however, proved not to be feasible for Glacier in the context of federal budgetcutting during the 1990s.
The Tentative NPS Proposal
The question of largescale renovation of the lodges has reemerged in recent months in the context of Glacier's pending General Management Plan (GMP). The GMP (to be released in 1998) will set Glacier's management guidelines for the next 20 years.
As part of the GMP process, the Park Service once again surveyed the lodges. It drafted a tentative proposal for renovation, with a projected cost of some $80,000,000.
The NPS proposal involves major alterations in some facilities, either for historical accuracy, safety or operational reasons. At Many Glacier Hotel, for example, the Circular Staircase would be reinstalled in the lobby (requiring a rearrangement of gift shop space and a transfer of theater productions to the Lucerne Room). At Lake McDonald Lodge, the coffee shop would be removed and a new 32room lodge and fast food restaurant constructed. New employee lodging facilities would be constructed at several Park locations.
The GPI Proposal
Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI) runs visitor services in Glacier under a contract which expires in 2006. Last winter, the NPS and GPI held discussions on doing largescale renovation of the buildings as part of a new concession contract.
GPI brought a counterproposal to these discussions, in response to the Park Service renovation proposal. GPI's position is that, if it must invest tens of millions of dollars to finance the renovation, then it must be allowed a return of some 20% on the investment. To accomplish this, it proposes to double the number of rooms in the Park, to charge "market rates" for most of the rooms, and to extend the hotel season into May and into October.
GPI's proposal would enlarge the rooms (converting three rooms into two) at the principal hotels, and install more elegant decor. GPI also wants to add a large new lodge near the Many Glacier parking lot, a new lodge at the north end of the Lake McDonald complex, and a number of other new rooms. A standardized splitlog facade would be added to cabins, motels and other buildings.
The "Focus Group"
In September, the NPS hosted a twoday "focus group" on the issue of rehabilitating the lodges. Local, regional and national Park Service personnel attended. Representatives came from two prominent national interest groups, the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Hotel industry consultants provided professional expertise.
The Glacier Park Foundation also was invited to send a number of representatives to the meeting. GPF sent three former lodge employees: Mac Willemssen, an attorney (Swiftcurrent and Many Glacier, 1967 to 70), Janet Cornish, a community development consultant (Lake McDonald, 1973 to 1976), and Mark Hufstetler, an architectural historian (Lake McDonald, 1978 to 1983).
The focus group toured the Glacier facilities for a day. It was addressed at length by Glacier Park Superintendent David Mihalic and by GPI's president and general manager Dale Scott.
The group was deeply divided philosophically over issues presented by the renovation proposals. Numerous members, for instance, had strong objections or reservations concerning the construction of new lodges.
Some members declared themselves ready to "go to the mat" to oppose alteration of long-standing structures at Rising Sun and Swiftcurrent; other members openly suggested that these buildings be torn down.
The focus group's mission was to talk about different means of financing the work (whatever form that work may take). Almost everyone hoped to find some public/private financing option (such as raising money with taxexempt bonds). However, the NPS warned that current tax laws may make a bond issue impossible.
GPF's Task Force
After the "focus group" meeting, GPF formed a Lodge Renovation Task Force. The Task Force is focused on finding a method of rehabilitating the lodges without hugely increasing room rates.
Task Force members include Cornish, Hufstetler, Willemssen, David Gilbertson (an accounting professor at Loyola Marymount University), Drew Metcalfe (a banker), and John Hagen and Einar Hanson (both attorneys). The Task Force also is receiving "pro bono" assistance from bondlaw specialists (Joe Gonnella and Mae Nan Ellingson) with Dorsey & Whitney, a major Minneapolis and Montana law firm.
The task force hopes to develop a method of issuing taxexempt bonds to the public to fund renovation of the buildings. The tax exempt feature could attract large private investments which might be paid back over 30 years or so without huge increases in Park room rates. However, taxexempt bonds can be issued only for strictly limited purposes. The Task Force hopes to identify a bond concept which fits the requirements of the current tax code.
After long reflection and review, the National Park Service is preparing to release a Draft General Management Plan (GMP) for Glacier Park. The Draft is scheduled for release in late February 1998, for 60 days of public comment. Thereafter, the Park Service will release the GMP in its final form.
The GMP process has been underway in Glacier for the past three years. In July 1996, the Park Service issued a set of "draft alternatives" which were highly controversial. Three "action" alternatives each called for the closure of longstanding visitor services, including the Swiftcurrent compound and a number of auto campgrounds.
Public response to these proposals was sharply negative. The Park Service compiled a 900page database of comments, which overwhelmingly called for maintaining the Park's status quo.
The Park Service spent many months reviewing the public's comments and rethinking its approach to the GMP. "Newsletter 6" (August 1997) sketched options for Glacier's future which generally adhere to the status quo. These options focus on finetuning present policies in various local venues around the Park.
To increase public involvement, the Park Service sponsored "focus group" discussions on a number of planning issues. Groups met this fall to discuss Lodge Renovation, Aircraft Overflights, GoingtotheSun Road and Regional Issues. (See stories on pp. 4 and 5 of this issue.)
It seems unlikely that the Draft GMP will propose major changes in policy of the sort that stirred up controversy in 1996. The Park Service probably will honor the very strong public consensus in favor of maintaining the traditional visitor facilities in Glacier. The most difficult and potentially controversial planning issue is renovation of Glacier's lodges.
The Glacier Park Foundation has broadly researched the various planning issues, including the lodge renovation issue. (See GPF's Internet web page at www.spacestar.net/ users/skyward/gpf97) GPF will solicit input from its members to formulate comment on the Draft General Management Plan.
GPF member Rolf Larson, also a member of the Glacier Mountaineering Society, was asked to represent that group at the Overflight Focus Group.
The Overflight Focus Group was convened to explore issues related to the impacts of air traffic over Glacier. The group consisted of about 20 people representing government agencies (state and federal); aircraft associations and pilots; individuals and group representatives with environmental concerns, and one park user group (us).
From the outset, Superintendent Mahalic made it clear that none of the recommendations made by the group would be binding and that the NPS would retain control over all proposed alternatives and final decisions. He also stated that ultimately the decision would be a pragmatic one; whatever is acceptable to park visitors. As such, the challenge he put to the group was to define and explore an area of middle ground where air travel would be allowed, but closely managed over the park's air space.
Highlights of Group Proposals
1. The park should obtain the ability to manage and enforce use of space in a limited envelope of space above the park (12,500 feet - 2,000 feet above the highest point in Glacier).
2. NPS should have the ability to manage both real and potential park impacts.
3. All potential air operators/vendors should need to apply for incidental business contracts (short term contracts to do business in the park). With such contracts, vendors could be required to meet specific criteria prior to doing business and could be required to follow specific guidelines once they have a contract.
4. Consider limiting tours to certain days of the week, hours of the day and the number of trips per day.
5. Limit the number of ships flying over the park.
6. Set specific routes and times.
7. Define quiet/sensitive resource zones.
8. Set specific requirements for all non-scenic tour operations (research/administrative).
By Drew Metcalfe, Many Glacier Employee.
I have many memories of Ian B. Tippet from my time at the Many Glacier Hotel, the Showplace of the Rockies. My clearest remembrance is the way he moved. His long legs and strong gait always had him whisking past at a pace quicker than those around him. His tall, willowy physical stature resembled Ichabod Craine from the Tales of Sleepy Hollow. I mean this kindly, Mr. T. He wore oversized soft-soled buff hush puppies that made his movements sweeping and silent. You never heard him coming. When dining room staff were behind the piano eating key lime pie, prime rib, or other rare dinner offerings, or the waiters were having a roll fight in the kitchen with the salad girls, Ian B. always came into the situation at the most inopportune time. His entire air made everyone scramble for cover. He did not say anything. His steely eyed look through those thick lens glasses alone would wilt those with the strongest ill intent. I just remember everyone scrambling, trying to cover their tracks. It was FREEZE, recover, and move as if nothing had happened.
Mr. T's movement through the kitchen door out into the expansive Ptarmigan Room to the front occurred every evening just before the six o'clock dinner opening. Staff would be assembled with last minute instructions about menu changes or whether we were to bone the trout. Ian would stride through in less than 10 seconds, bounding out of the double kitchen doors. Here a moment. Gone. One evening salad oil had been spilt by accident. It was in the middle in the cross section when the dining room tables were four quarters with big passageways forming a center cross. The floor was ugly dark green linoleum with black streaks that the lobby porters polished weekly to a satin sheen. Ian slipped on the oil and did a slide into home that would have been the envy of Mickey Mantle. This sudden fall left everyone silent with mouths agape. To his credit, he very flowingly, with a clean continuous movement like a master in Japanese martial arts, rolled through the fall and stood upright. Without missing a beat he strode forward. Very controlled, he casually informed a busboy folding napkins in the crown fold, "Would you please clean up that oil?" It was so smooth, so composed, so Ian B. Tippet.
For me, Mr. T. remains an integral part of the spirit of Many Glacier Hotel. His airs and graces were a key to why I kept coming back five summers. That and having those mountain trails converging at the doorstep of Swiftcurrent Valley. My last summer he called personally and asked me to manage the dining room. The real care he had for his staff, the red calendar of events he had someone hand paint and hang for the new season outside his office, Christmas in July, the Thursday Serenade, the musicals, chorales by the Many Glacier Singers, orchestra and combo in the St. Moritz Lounge. I remember him playing "O Danny Boy" in his grand manner. Bill Rollie, Anthony Ginyard, Scott Moe or the new tenor of the summer would sing it.
from glen to glen and down the mountain side.
The summer's o'r and all the roses dying.
Tis you, tis you, must go, and I must bide."
Anthony once told me, "With Mr. T you don't rely on the accompanist to follow, you followed him". And we did follow, our manager, our leader, our very British boss.
We all adopted his accent. We all had faint imitations of "Down the road, thank you," or the standard introduction at the Thursday Serenade, "Her father is a successful business man and her mother is a housewife. She will perform for us a selection from " drawing out mother to a very British sounding "muther". I honor the way he used his own resources and resisted company pressure in order to keep the entertainment programs alive.
Thank you, Mr. T., for making my college summers so memorable and joyful. In a real way the life long friendships I have kept through this experience were begun because you saw an application from a college kid outside Chicago and decided to offer him a summer job.
Editor's Note: Last summer's "Ian B. Tippet Commemorative Issue" contained one glaring omission. It had no story by Ray Kinley. As Many Glacier's most famous storyteller and most long-standing employee (19221977), Ray certainly would have wished to have a voice in saluting Mr. Tippet.
Consulting our library of Ray Kinley stories, we found a suitable tale. Last summer's issue included an interview with Mr. Tippet, in which he recalled a waiter named George Monseur (p. 9). As Mr. Tippet recalled, Monseur was an intensely dedicated musician who stayed up all night revising scores, and who went on to become guest conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Ray's anecdote reveals another side of this distinguished musician's Many Glacier career. New readers should note that Mr. Tippet has a distinctive British accent, and that Ray (a man of downhome Indiana origins) always pronounced the manager's surname as "Mr. Tibbets."
There once was a waiter named George Monseur, who could imitate Tibbets to a "T." He always was called upon to play Mr. Tibbets' role in departmental skits, and he always brought down the house with laughter. This was amazing, because Mr. Tibbets is very tall and Monseur is short. But George had a perfect knack for his accent and mannerisms - when Monseur was on stage, Tibbets himself was in stitches!
One summer during the 1960s, a teenage employee went to Lethbridge and bought a case of Canadian ale. He stowed it away in his dormitory room. As the dormitory supervisor, I quickly learned that the boy had contraband liquor. I incited Monseur to call him up on the dormitory telephone and pretend to be Mr. Tibbets.
"Mr. Peterson," said Monseur, "I understand that you are keeping alcoholic beverages in your dormitory room. Is that true? Well, is it?!" The boy said shakily, "Yes, sir."
"You have not attained the age of majority," said Monseur, in his British accent. "And, as you know very well from your contract, minors are not allowed to drink or keep liquor in the dormitories. I want you to transfer that case of ale to Mr. Kinley immediately!"
Young Peterson did as he was told. I teased him unmercifully about the business for a couple of weeks, and then gave the case of ale back to him.
Glacier Park Lodge
End of Season 1997
I wish to thank John Hagen and all my fine associates who contributed so kindly to "The Inside Trail", Vol X, No. 2 (the Ian Tippet Commemorative Issue). The years of 1961 to 1983 were specially memorable indeed. When it was stated that Glacier Park, Inc. recruited from nationwide the "cream of the crop", the results were just that very thing.
There will never be anywhere again such a consistently marvellous group of employees season after season, and with some summers never losing one single employee to contract breaking. Unbelievable, when in our present days, students and others come and go on a continuing basis with no regard for completion of an agreement or caring about work performance.
It was amazing the number of hours employees gave to the many Calendar Events without financial reward, and to produce good hotel work and first class musical programming of every form. We were all very fortunate to have been part of that and the glorious memories we all have strong in the mind.
I am very privileged to be still involved with the life at Glacier and the Great Lord has been very kind to me. I hope to see many of you again soon.
Ian B. Tippet
By Bonham Cross, a Lake McDonald Hotel Employee 1939-1941.
Reading about the experiences of former Glacier Park employees brings to mind some of the great times I had at Lake McDonald Hotel before WWII.
My duties as cabin porter called for two half-days off instead of the usual one each week, which meant limitations on how far I could go during time-off. Often, as soon as my morning duties were completed, I and one or more friends were on our way, hitching rides to Logan Pass for hikes to Hidden Lake or Granite Park Chalets, or hiking from the hotel to Sperry Glacier or to Mt. Brown lookout, or other nearby trails.
One time three of us tackled Mount Stanton. At the top, I extended a long collapsible pole I had with me and fastened a large cloth to its end. Then, facing the hotel across the lake and far below, I proceeded to move the "flag" left and right in large sweeping movements, exchanging morse code messages with Paul Fridlund, another former boy scout, who responded by similar means from the lawn in front of the hotel. Both of us relied on telescopes mounted on tripods and friends who wrote down the letters as we called them off. That was fun.
The hike I remembered best, however, took place in 1940, late in the season. Fellow Minnesotan, Bryant Calrow, and I had often talked about making a tougher hike, one that none of our friends had ever tried. Now came the time when Manager Bertha Barley had given me a one-time full day-off instead of two half-days. This was our opportunity!
"How about Sun Chalets," Bry suggested, "via Gunsight Pass!"
"Sounds good," I said, "No one's done it because they might not get back the same day."
"Sure," continued my friend, "I've been thinking about it. It would take all day, but, how about including also Many and still get back to McDonald before dark?"
Well, his idea sounded just crazy enough for me to buy it.
Friday evening, as soon as Bry had finished his kitchen duties, the two of us started up the trail toward Sperry Chalets with lunches and flashlights in our packsacks. A tall, slender, long-legged guy with a face that seemed ready to smile at almost any situation, he was a hiker not easy to keep up with, even for me who I believed to be in great condition! We soon found ourselves in almost total darkness. To save our flashlight batteries, we followed the trail, switchbacks and all, depending mostly on the outlines of nearby trees silhouetted against a star-filled sky.
It was long past midnight when we passed the short trail to the chalets and started down the path to Lake Ellen Wilson. Then came the steep climb up and over Gunsight Pass and down the other side. It was daylight when we reached Gunsight Lake. Flopping down onto the grass, we were so exhausted that the next thing we knew, an hour had passed!
Arriving at Going to the Sun Chalets, we found that breakfast had already been served, but the employees were good enough to provide us with snacks. One look at us prompted an offer of two of their beds for an added hour's nap.
(Even though Going to the Sun Chalets were in deteriorated condition and over-run with pack rats, we thought it was a wonderful place. Upon returning after WWII, I was dismayed to see the buildings gone and the area re-named Sun Point!)
Now came the hitch-hiking part of our trip. Departing these chalets in the morning was supposed to allow us enough time to catch rides to Many Glacier Hotel and still return to McDonald by nightfall. This was a gamble, though, because auto traffic continued to be low. Workers of later years may find it difficult to believe how little traffic there was in Glacier at that time, affected by the terrible depression of the thirties from which America was still recovering.
Well, we reached Many Glacier Hotel without problems, and we enjoyed visiting with some of the "cheap help" and acting like "sheep herders" as we wandered around the hotel. Were those terms still used in later years?
Early in the afternoon we positioned ourselves on the road, ready to thumb rides. After at least 30 minutes, the first car came by. It ignored us. "Oh, well," we thought, "There's bound to be more cars coming soon." We were wrong. It was even longer before the next car came along. It, too, ignored us. Later, a third.
Same story. Being clever college students, we began to notice that many more cars head towards Many Glacier in the afternoon than those which head away from it!
We had reached a state of near-panic when a covered truck loaded with bags of dirty laundry stopped to offer us a ride. Yes, it would eventually get us to Lake McDonald, but only after extra miles and many stops elsewhere in the park first. Boy! what a stroke of luck!! We piled on top of the bundles in back and proceeded to catch some more sleep during a long, comfortable ride.
We had already missed supper when our truck pulled up to the laundry at Lake McDonald. The volunteer orchestra was starting to tune up in the grill's auditorium for the regular Saturday night dance for employees and guests.
We crawled out of the pile of laundry and went into action. Bry dashed to his room, grabbed his bass viol and hurried over to take his place in the orchestra. Smart-aleck remarks only produced a smile as he responded to the teasing from his buddies. "I told you we'd be back in time!" he reminded them.
I made a quick change and headed toward the music, my eyes searching for a partner for the first dance.
It was a night and day we would never forget, rarely to be duplicated by others.