Pam and I (and Pip) spent Christmas in Essex, MT with the Crane family. We stayed in a cabin owned by the Izaak Walton Inn.
Essex has no stores, no stop lights, and beautiful open country. The main draw is the Inn and the 60 km of cross country skiing trails.
Prior to this trip I had not cross country skied. Many years ago Jon and I used to treat a set of strap-on cross country skis like downhill skis in the backyard, but that involved bombing down a hill and crashing (for me at least). I got some helpful pointers from Charlie and Nancy, which kept me upright on my final run of the day on green and blue trails. Before those pointers I had several crashes.
The Izaak Walton Inn has the primary inn building, cabins, and rail cars that are outfitted as rooms. The rail cars are a very cool touch. Some of them are along the ski trails, so you could drop right out the door onto the trails.
Traveling to and from Montana, Pam and I took the train. We had a roomette, which is easy to picture: just imagine a small cubicle with two train seats and a fold-down bunk modeled after submarine sleeping quarters. It was a very fun way to travel. We took the Coast Starlight from SLO to Portland (well, we were supposed to do that, a delay caused us to divert to a bus from Klamath Falls to Pasco), then the Empire Builder from Portland to Essex. It was fitting we played Ticket to Ride several times during this vacation.
Living in a place lacking a winter makes me appreciate cold temperatures and snow when I get it. Essex definitely scratched the winter itch, with snow falling more often than not when we were there, and the air crisp and cold. We were prepared for temperatures below zero ºF, but it stayed in the balmy 10-30 °F range. Perfect for skiing and keeping fingers thawed. I believe we got to Essex at its best. Lots of snow. Cold but not too cold.
During this trip I also got to spend some time at the cabin Pam’s grandfather built in Essex. It is a sweet cabin, with a sweeping panoramic view of Glacier National Park. Plus there is a hot tub on the deck, so you can soak in comfort while taking in the scene.
This trip also allowed the newest Crane cousins a chance to meet again. It won’t be long before they can play together.
It was great to see family, eat good food, drink Montana beer, and ski.