“See America first.” That’s not a controversial political campaign, but one of the early advertising slogans for Glacier National Park in Montana.
Phrases like “The happiest week of your life,” “The mountains are calling” and “Somewhere west of worry” also come straight from history. John Muir said that Glacier National Park had “the best care-killing scenery on the continent.” Have any of those retro advertising slogans piqued your interest?
Over 100 years ago, the Great Northern Railway laid down tracks with Western Washington tourists in mind. All we need to do is hop on Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Seattle, Edmonds or Everett, and the next morning we’ll wake up at Glacier National Park.
My daughter and I did just that while my husband and son were at Boy Scout camp. We boarded the Empire Builder at 5:12 p.m. in Edmonds and relaxed in our cozy roomette. Dinner in the dining car was included with our sleeper-car ticket and offered spectacular views as we rolled through Leavenworth. After a wobbly shower, we climbed into our bunks. By the time we woke up, we were already in Montana. There was time for a leisurely breakfast and a second cup of coffee before we pulled into East Glacier Station at 9:49 a.m.
So easy. So fast. So fun. Yet it seems like 98 percent of my friends don’t know this opportunity exists. It’s weird because historically, Seattle to Glacier to Chicago was a famous rail journey. It would be like if we all collectively forgot about SeaTac and didn’t realize that we were only a plane ride away from Hawaii.
Glacier Park Lodge, which is across the street from East Glacier Station, has deep connections to Washington as well. The three-story atrium is supported by old growth Douglas firs with the bark still attached, direct from the Evergreen State. The lodge was completed in 1914 and has attracted tourists for more than a century.
In the old days, visitors would arrive at the lodge by train. Then they would travel by horseback through a system of Swiss-style chalets that were one day apart. Nowadays, train travelers have two options: shuttle buses or renting a car.
When my daughter and I arrived at the train station, our rental car was there waiting for us. It was 10 minutes up the road to our first stop in Glacier National Park, the gorgeous Two Medicine area. Thirty more minutes of driving and we were at St. Mary and ready to travel on the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road along the Continental Divide.
When we stood at Logan’s Pass, I was in awe. It’s not that the mountains were more beautiful than what we have in Washington — North Cascades National Park, Mt. Rainer and the Olympics could rival anything — but the Montana sky was infinite. The jaw-dropping scenery made me and my problems seem insignificant.
I have been to the mountain top and back. This summer I went “somewhere west of worry.” It’s a real place, and you deserve to go there, too.
Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.