More Dogs on Main Street
September 4, 2009
The bacon I ate in Canada was regular bacon. But if it was served in Canada, does that make it Canadian bacon anyway? That was just one of the little puzzles from a 24-hour sojourn into Canada as part of a six-day trip to Glacier National Park.
If you haven’t been to Glacier, put down the paper and get in the car. The place closes up pretty quickly now, but there’s still time to get up there and enjoy scenery that will knock your socks off.
This was the annual Tom, Dick and Harry bike trip. It’s part of a tradition that has gone on for close to 25 years now. We used to do mountain-bike trips that involved camping. It was sort of luxury camping with an outfitter cooking good food, but still camping. As the group has gotten older, the willingness of some to sleep on the ground has faded and the trips moved to road biking. Outside of a small group of regulars, the group changes a fair amount each year with friends of friends along. It’s an eclectic mix, and the only guarantee is interesting conversation at dinner.
Glacier is a nice bit of God’s work, but it was really brought to us by James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railroad. He and the Union Pacific boys were in a bit of an arms race to see who could build the most incredible cross-country railroad, with the most amazing hotels along the way. The Great Northern built several grand lodges in Glacier, any one of which is an equal to Old Faithful Lodge.
The lobbies and public areas are Gothic cathedrals executed in four-foot-diameter logs. The rooms are more like the catacombs. They were probably pretty nice when new, but somewhere along the line, bathrooms were retrofitted into them. The result is the rooms are small, and the bathroom truly is a water closet. In one case, it was more like a water cupboard. The floors slope to the point that a glass set down on the table would slide off. In one place, I felt like I needed a seatbelt to stay on the throne. The walls are very thin, making it hard to know if the snoring was my brother or somebody down the hall. But the views out the windows are worth a million bucks, and staying there is a big part of the experience.
Glacier is just crawling with bears. They have grizzly and black bears. The local story is that you can tell the difference by listening for the sound of hiking bells tinkling in the bellies of the grizzlies. Everybody in our group saw a couple of bears. Usually they were just walking leisurely across the road in front of them, or feeding on berries on the side of the road. My brother stopped to decide if he wanted to ride up a big hill or catch a ride in the van when a big black bear ambled across the road a couple of hundred feet in front of him. It went down a hill into a campground and a bunch of dogs started barking. The startled bear came charging back up the hill, and my brother said he thinks he could have touched it as it ran for cover in the deep woods.
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There is a lot of advice out there about encountering bears on the hiking trails. The park says that nobody has ever been attacked when in a group of 4 or more. The other side of that is that apparently people in groups of 3 or less are attacked with some regularity. What do we really know about the math skills of these bears? The best way to avoid a bear attack is to carry a copy of the Watchtower, because not even a bear wants to hear from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I didn’t see a bear on the road. I heard big things rustling in the woods, but didn’t see them. I’m pretty sure I smelled bears in thick brush along the road, but never saw one. I don’t think I could see a bear at the zoo, though I have seen two in my front yard this year.
The border crossing into Canada was a strange process. The Canadian border people were mostly interested in liquor and guns, but not interested enough to open the trailer. The U.S. was on red alert for potato salad. Coming back into the U.S., the people in the car in front of us had their potato salad seized and destroyed. We had a trailer with a cooler full of cold cuts and coleslaw which was apparently not a threat to national security because it had been purchased in the U.S. There were no Canadian cooties in our food. We all slept more soundly knowing that they were on the case.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.