Guest Author - Rachel Rome
Whitefish, Montana, embodies the spirit, feistiness, fun, nonchalance and essence of this Rocky Mountain State. And,this little western town packs a lot of sophistication, belying its population of around 5032. Lucky me, I spent an adventurous, activity-filled week enjoying what locals call “the long days of summer.“ Needing to relax, one morning I and a few other women in my group booked a treatment at Remedies Day Spa.remediesdayspa.com.
Owned and run by dynamic, energetic owner Jennifer Krack, the spa was a terrific way to de-stress after a day outdoors. This delightful day spa offers massage, pedicures and manicures, and her unique signature “Kitchen Fassage” in a colorfully decorated house only a few blocks from downtown. Friends Monica, Lisa and I enjoyed an hour’s Fassage (unique facial massage), at the old wooden table in the cozy kitchen. We steamed, scrubbed, exfoliated, toned and buffed our faces ourselves. It was so much fun!
The sun never seemed to set in June, when I visited and neither did my pals nor I. Instead, we hiked, biked, rafted, fly-fished, and walked in the tree tops. We hiked up and down and around Big Mountain, spent a day in Glacier National Park hiking and driving on the Road to the Sun. Best of all, we enjoyed the mountain air, mountain people and spectacular vistas in one my favorite Rocky Mountain States.
When we arrived at the spa,we were ready to be pampered by an aesthetician facial expert. Instead, we were surprised to discover we would learn how to create our own facials, rejuvenation, cleansing and moisturizing treatments from everyday kitchen food ingredients! We giggled, laughed, played, and glowed by the end of our introduction to Fassage. Honey, oatmeal, eggs and a bowl of steam were our main ingredients in our cleansing ritual. We also wrote down the recipes for the home treatments. Jennifer sells her products, similar to what we created, so it’s easy to continue the routine without breaking any eggs.
But the Remedies Day Spa held more surprises. In the living room, relaxed women received manicures and pedicures on comfy couches; upstairs and in the quiet downstairs back rooms, massage tables in lowlit rooms awaited the next client. The entire setup is adorable. Remedies also has a day spa up the mountain, at The Big Bear Lodge, and one other site; check the website for directions.
According to my tour leader, Lisa Jones, a Public Relations Manager, planned this trip for us with the help of Brian Schott and vivacious Rhonda Fitzgerald, head of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. (Rhonda’s Garden Wall Inn was one of our favorite romantic inns in town.) Dan Virkstis, Communications Manager for the Big Mountain Resort also led a mountain hike through gorgeous wildflowers, while Lisa and Lisa hiked the Danny On Memorial Hiking Trail, bottom to top, then took the gondola back down to the base. Vistas of downtown Whitefish and Whitefish Lake, and a visit to the mountain’s U.S.F.S. Environmental Education Center helped me better understand the ecology of the area and Glacier National Park.
Whitefish is on an important Amtrak and rail route, allowin travelers to step off Amtrak's famed The Empire Builder at the historic Whitefish Depot in downtown. Situated in gorgeous Flathead Valley in the northwest corner of the state, it is still a pristine western town, although more and more people are discovering this paradise in the Rockies.
From Whitefish, it’s about a thirty minutes drive over easy, uncrowded roads to America’s Number One National Park: Glacier National Park. The majestic, awesome Glacier National Park was the highlight of my visit. I took two hikes -- in the rain! -- Just off Going to the Sun Road. The hike to Avalanche Gorge was a challenge but exhilarating and rewarded with gushing streams, little wooden bridges, and fellow hikers. Hiking to Virginia Falls led us past “nature’s sculptures,” as Jared Barclay titled some intricate and wonderful twisty, squirrelly looking trunks, rocks and other oddities.
Dinner that night was at the Cafe Kandahar, with delicious Montana filet mignons cooked to perfection by Chef Andrew Glanton. Another night we dined at the Tupelo Grille, 17 Central Ave., www.tupelogrille.com, and an amazing dining experience with fabulous seafood appetizers, Cajun style and gourmet cooking. Another night, we dined at The Grill-Wine Room at the Grouse Mountain Lodge, and it was one of those incredible meals with great steak, appetizers, dessert, wine and conversation. Our last night we ate at the Whitefish Lake Restaurant and again, soup to nuts, the cooking was perfection. No one goes hungry or complains about the food in Whitefish.
Aside from driving through the park, visitors can of course, hike, camp, enjoy river and lake activities. But it’s great to take a guided trip or wild river-rafting trip with the Glacier Raft Company and Outdoor Center.
We had breakfast at the local favorite The Buffalo Café, before a day on the mountain. We began with a short, scenic eight-mile drive to Big Mountain Resort where a network of trails weaves through a carpet of wildflowers, bear grass and lodge pole pine forests, offering spectacular views of Glacier National Park, Whitefish Lake and the entire valley.
The Walk in the Tree Tops adventure on The Big Mountain was an exhilarating experience, and I didn’t get vertigo. We hiked -- some mountain biked -- on a mountain trail, climbed into a tree-top platform, harnessed and clipped ourselves to overhead steel cables, then walked around on narrow platforms in the treetops, surveying the distant horizons, mountains and town. Standing on two 70 feet high platforms, our guides talked ecology, animals, and wildlife while we all gawked at the ground below.
If You Go --Lodging: Grouse Mountain Lodge, a rustic, modern 145-room full service conference resort located on the 36-hole Whitefish Lake Golf Course2, Fairway Drive, 406-862-3000. Kandahar, The Lodge at Big Mountain, Big Mountain Rd., Whitefish, 406-862-6098.
The Remedies Day Spa, 105 Wisconsin Ave., 406-863-9493; Jennifer Krack, owner.
remediesdayspa.com, www.glacierraftco.com, www.whitefishchamber.org, www.bigmtn.com, www.montanasfinest.com, www.kandaharlodge.com, www.golfmt.com, www.glacierairport.com, www.nps.gov/glac.
Glacier Park International Airport is 20 minutes from Whitefish.