Sunday, April 17, 2016

Paradise at Polebridge

Last summer whilst accompanying Jan on her “Roam the Park” daythe “gate Rangers” in Glacier National Park get one work day to wander around the park and get to know it betterwe headed for the North Fork country as she was least familiar with that semi-remote area of Glacier.
    The North Fork of the Flathead River serves as the western boundary to Glacier for part of its length and the North Fork valley is home to some awesome scenery as well as the little hamlet of Polebridge. The Polebridge Ranger Station, guardian of the NW entrance to Glacier, is located nearby.
    There are many who consider the North Fork Paradise on Earth, and I would not dispute that claim. There are more residences up there than appear to the eye, most of them being for summer occupancy only, but there are a few hardy souls who live up there year around. Polebridge itself is home to two institutions of far-reaching fame: the Polebridge Mercantile and its awesome bakery, creators & purveyors of divinely mouth-watering treats fit for the gods, and its next-door neighbor, the Northern Lights Saloon.
    On our little jaunt up the North Fork with Kintla Lake as our ultimate destination, we stopped in Polebridge, of course. After indulging in some heavenly pastries, we headed north on Glacier Drive for the one mile drive to the Polebridge entrance to Glacier National Park. After chatting with the gate Ranger (the official Park Service name for those folk is Visitor Use Assistant or VUA), we headed on north for Kintla. As we left the entrance, I opined somewhat wistfully that it would be a grand place to be assigned for the summer and wouldn’t it be fun! She whole-heartedly agreed.

    Be careful what you wish for.
Paradise at Polebridge
    Around about November last, I brought up the topic of our future plans for our books and observed that we need more capital and perhaps I should get a job of some sort, but that I definitely refused to work retail ever again. She nodded in agreement and understanding, then asked me, ”Well, why don’t you apply for the Park?” I knew that some of the VUAs would not be returning and I said, “What he heck? Why not?” I’d rather sit in the kiosk at the West Entrance where Jan worked than work retail any day. And it might work out that we would work together some of the time which was fine with both of us.
    So, I applied.
    I jumped through all the hoops and was eventually notified that if I was still interested and available, I had a job—West entrance, of course. Cool. I was tickled pink and quite excited. After filling out more paperwork and getting my fingerprints taken (for the background check—we handle money after all), I settled into a regular routine of checking my e-mail daily for any other communications from the Park people as I did not wish to miss anything.
    So one fine day, I found an e-mail not from the usual roster of folk I had been dealing with. Curious, I opened it up, read it, blinked, read it again and then shouted to Jan who was out in the kitchen.
    “Hon, they’ve offered me Polebridge!”
    “I’ve been offered Polebridge!”
    “Super! You’d better take it or I’ll hurt you!”
    Of course, there was no way I was going to turn that offer down anyhow, so I quickly responded in the positive.
    So now, I will take up my station at the Polebridge Ranger Station May 23 after four days of orientation and training. Because of its remoteness, I will be staying in a little cabin up there during my work week and driving home for the weekend over one of the nastiest dirt roads in the state.

    But the rest of the week, I’ll be in Paradise.

-- Richard