Cynthia L. Eppley 10/10/2021
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
Perhaps the best family vacations are those that include the unexpected.
A favorite of my childhood was a trip West.
Dad had saved 6 weeks of vacation in order to take our camper on a trip of a lifetime.
We skimmed across N. America seeing National Parks, and ended in Texas to visit with family. I could go on about the size of the camper (tiny and cramped.)
Or how we all wedged into it to sleep at night. (I shared a bunk with my younger brother.)
Or how my Mother made meals miraculously from the tiny stove.
The negative criticisms of youth have faded into a glorious memory of shared family time and our incredible country.
You must understand: my Father was a history buff, and cherished the Country for which he fought in WW2.
While we 3 kids were more interested in Amusement Parks, or gift shops, Dad was interested in historical markers.
Did you know that you can find them almost anywhere?
And find them we did, pulling over to read them.
Meanwhile, I’m sure we 3 kids obnoxiously kidded him and teased him. We did not understand the treasure of history within these markers.
We have recreated much of this trip with our own children.
And in retirement, we have added to our list of National Parks.
Our history of vacations have included tent camping, catching every storm front coming through, and eating questionable meals over an open fire.
But sometimes, those very moments (I shudder) are the best ones.
Glacier National Park
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns.
Two years ago we went to California, and then up the Pacific Coast Highway.
Our destination was Glacier National Park.
Did you know that when you explore and go on an adventure….your GPS may not work? That the internet is not available everywhere?
And so we harkened back to the tried and true, very old fashioned paper Map. Our morning started out brightly as we followed the signs for Glacier National Park, driving through a little town and meandering down an increasingly narrow road. Not to worry!
We had a full tank of gas! We had a map!
Take Me Home, Country Roads
“Every once in a while, take the scenic route.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The road narrowed and eventually became a dirt road. Not paved: this should have been the first indication of trouble.
No signs anywhere, and no cell service.
But we drove on bravely as the dust billowed up in deep brown plumes behind our car.
The Western Entrance
After 2 hours of this adventure, we reached a small mercantile in the road: Polebridge. We drove on past it, following the sign for Glacier National Park….and for Canada. And within 15 minutes we arrived!
A small, dinky entranceway. The Ranger welcomed us warmly and asked:
“I guess you followed the GPS?”
“This is the Western entrance, but not the main entrance. Everyone makes this mistake. You can turn around here and go back.”
“Welcome to Polebridge, Montana where the West is still wild.”
And so we turned around and decided to stop at this small trading post that looked like it was built in 1800. In fact, it was built by homesteaders in 1914.
“The Mercantile was then, as it is today, a community center and a grocer of last resort.”
“Celebrating our 106th year. The world famous Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery. Located close to Glacier National Park and far away from everything else.”
“We’re like a cozy enclave in the wilderness. The length of the road, the primitive condition of the road, it makes a psychological transition, and gives the illusion that you’re very, very far away….Some don’t want to leave. Others want to know what’s the best way to get out of here, and is it paved?” Deb Kaufman
A complete tiny town, with cabins and historical markers, and Northern Lights Saloon and cafe. We stayed several hours and learned more about Polebridge and its’ history.
“It’s beautiful once you get here. Breathtaking. But the journey is part of the reward. People who come here need to accept it on its terms. You don’t change it to make it easier. As a society, we have the expectation of instant gratification. but that’s not the North Fork.” Scott Emmerich, Polebridge District Ranger, Glacier National Park
Famous for their “Bear Claws”, this pastry is served fresh from the oven.
“This is no quaint general store, but rather a living piece of history. Its’ bakery is a paradise of pies and pastries, its’ rows of merchandise an inventory of elemental existence.” Tristan Scott, Missoulian
“And there, at the end of the road, the rapture, Heavenly manna, fresh baked bread, and cinnamon rolls, and sinful huckleberry Bearclaws, piping hot straight from the oven.” Michael Jameson, Missoulian
It was a nugget of history and Americana that we loved— and would have missed if we had taken the correct road.
The Road Less Traveled
“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, he is also at every stopping place.” Elisabeth Elliot
We certainly did take the road less traveled.
There was no instant gratification in this dusty trail.
But in the process, we found a rich treasure.
Polebridge, Montana remains one of the favorite places of our trip. And remarkably, I didn’t mind reading the historical markers.
In fact, they enriched our visit there.
Often we want quick answers, quick success and no struggle.
Certainly interstates get us to our destination quickly.
But we have found small town Americana to be charming and full of history and charm. Life seems to hand us a journey that is circuitous.
Like those who have gone before us, we look to their persistence and resilience with tremendous respect.
Their stories are valuable for teaching us.
Behind and Before
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down, you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
When life throws us a curve?
When we hit a bump or a bend in the road?
We can trust in the path , knowing that God is at work in it. He knows us and our ways.
He hems us in, and His hand is upon us.
And in this path and this journey, whoever we may go, we are always safe.