Whitefish Montana on Amtrak
I was surprised how many people were waiting to get on the train in St. Cloud. The train was about an hour late leaving but made up time along the way and arrived in Whitefish only about twenty minutes late. As I had opted for a bedroom, I got on the train with my pajamas on under my coat and climbed right into the upper bunk. My friend, Kaye, was getting on in Fargo and she has claustrophobia so I gave her the lower bunk which is actually a ¾ size bed. You could actually have 3 in the bedroom as during the day there is a couch and a chair. For a family with 2 adults and one child it would be great. Kaye was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. There isn’t a lot of room to move around when the lower bed is pulled out so you have to be organized and keep everything tucked away. There is a tiny closet, a shelf over the chair to tuck things away and room under the chair and the bed (couch) for bags. If you have large suitcases, they can be left on the luggage rack in the lower level of the car. We just had small bags so we kept everything with us and organized everything so we could move around and still get into the bathroom, which is a kick. Each bedroom unit has a bathroom that is a combination toilet and shower. The water runs for 30 seconds at a time so at least a clean up is possible. There is a small sink in the cabin itself. With a bedroom we got bottled water in the cabin, towels and amenities like in a hotel bathroom. In the corridor very close by was juice and coffee available anytime day or night. If you were getting off the train during the night the conductor would come and let you know the stop was coming soon.
Also with the bedroom are all your meals and they were very good. Each meal was an assortment of choices from Vegetarian to Healthy to Local Specialties. Some of the things I had in the two days of traveling were steel cut oatmeal with very juicy grapefruit, Turkey Chili over a baked potato, Catfish one way and Salmon the other. They offered a steak cut each way and I remember Pork Chop and Short Ribs and a pasta selection. They have tables for 4 in the Dining Car and will seat you with other people to fill the tables. We met some really interesting people. It’s not like on the airplane where no one talks. Each day at 3:00pm they had a wine and cheese tasting opportunity for the people in the sleeping compartments. During the summer they have guides from Glacier Park on the trains giving informative talks. Besides the Dining Car there is a Snack Car on the lower level and an Observation Car where the chairs turn to face the windows. Some of them have tables between them and others are booths where you can play cards or games.
Instead of a bedroom you can get a roomette which is less expensive but still includes all your meals. They are about half the size with two roomy chairs facing each other. At night the two chairs are made into a bed and the upper bunk folds down. They do not have any bathroom facilities but there are several in the corridor. There are Family Bedrooms which have two adult beds and two child beds, again no bathroom. The family bedrooms are on the lower level, roomettes on either lower or upper levels and bedrooms are on the upper level. There are also a limited number of handicap accessible bedrooms on the lower level which have a curtain dividing the bedroom and bathroom areas.
That probably covers Amtrak now on to Whitefish! You arrive about 9pm so it works great to go the short distance and check into your hotel and go to bed. We chose the Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge which has a shuttle to pick you up at Amtrak. The resort is very nice with a heated outdoor pool and hot tub and an expanded Continental Breakfast with waffles and egg patties. The rooms varied in size. Ours had two queen beds and was very roomy and my brother’s was a mini-suite and was just great with a whirlpool tub and a fireplace in the living room area. You could manage without a car because there is a Snow Bus that makes a variety of stops throughout the day and the hotel Shuttle will take you a variety of places. As it worked out my brother had picked up a car when he arrived so we had easy transportation.
First let me say the weather was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining and it was in the 60’s each day. On Friday they drove as far as you can go into Glacier during the winter so on Saturday we spent the day driving around Flathead Lake. What a beautiful spot with the mountains in the background and the little islands in the lake. We stopped several times on the way to Polson for picture taking. At Polson we stopped at the Best Western/Casino for lunch and an hour in the
casino. Most of the casinos in Montana are just Keno and Blackjack but this was a little bigger casino with machines also. It wasn’t busy – everyone was probably skiing – and very clean. They also have a glass enclosed room that is non-smoking so it was very comfortable. I was playing a penny machine and managed to come out ahead so I was a happy camper. We continued around the lake and back to Whitefish to get ready for the evening adventure.
We drove to the base of the mountain and chairlift 1 for the trip to the summit. I have had problems on chairlifts in Switzerland but this was no problem. You could always see ground around you. At the Summit the views of mountains and the lights of Flathead Valley were spectacular. We went inside and enjoyed an elaborate German Buffet. They only do the Moonlight Dine and Ski a few times during the winter and we happened to be there at the right time. They also had a snowboarding competition that weekend but we missed that.
After dinner, and therefore after dark, we took the chairlift back down and it was really spectacular. It was colder and windier now but the view and lights made it well worth the temperature. We had dressed warmly and it only takes about 20 minutes.
Sunday morning it was back on the train. We had checked online and knew to arrive later than scheduled as the train was running late. You do have to be a bit flexible as you never know what may happen to change the schedule. We had to stop at one point to fix an air hose and apparently the rule is once a train is late, they are the ones who have to stop to let other trains go by so that happened a few times.
What did we see? By the time we got to Glacier Park it was evening and dark but during the summer you would see most of it. We did get a good view on the way back as it was mid-morning and the sun was shining. Until you hit the mountains you see a lot of flat land but many people find that beautiful. I thought there would be more evidence of what is going on in Williston but other than the number of people getting on and off the train there wasn’t much to indicate the oil boom. The thing you do notice is it is all men, not families.
Well worth everything involved. I would do it again in a heartbeat.