Monday, July 30, 2007

Sitting Duck Saloon...

What happened?

On the east shore of Flathead Lake in Woods Bay is a little tavern called the "Sitting Duck Saloon". It is the Montana version of the "neighborhood bar"... small, cozy, friendly, great food and the bartender and waitresses treat you like family. One huge advantage of the Duck is its dock that will accommodate a bunch of thirsty boaters. While you are out on the lake, you can turn into Woods Bay, tie-up at the Sitting Duck and have a great Montana experience. Well... it used to be like that, but of late, the Sitting Duck - just plain sucks.

Now THAT was hard for me to say.

My wife and I have been boating over to the Duck for years. It was always a wonderful afternoon on the lake to put-in at Somers Bay and cruise down the shore and hang a left over to Woods Bay. We'd tie up at the dock, order a frozen margarita and sit outside on their multi-level deck overlooking Flathead Lake. The food was outstanding for a small restaurant; our favorite meals were the fish & chips or the prime rib on weekends. Inside, the Duck is outfitted like a hunting lodge with moose, caribou and a mountain lion hanging on the walls, a roaring fireplace (in season) – the Duck just oozes ambiance.

Quite honestly, boating over to the Sitting Duck was one of our most cherished summer routines, which we tried to do a few times every week. Sometime last year, it all began to unravel. The Duck was sold, and it appeared that the new owner was going to make a bunch of changes. Some of these "improvements" were good like a new dock addition, new TV monitors placed around the bar, and some not so good - like price increases on the menu and for drinks. But hey... that's progress, right?

I don't know the whole story behind the sequence of sad events, but the Duck began to have serious problems. First the restaurant was abruptly closed (I heard it was shut down by the food police, but I do not know if that is true), then it seemed that the staff was changing weekly. No longer having a restaurant, someone had the idea to sell hot dogs and bratwurst cooked on a grill out on the deck.

I must tell you about yesterday and (what will probably be) our LAST visit to the Duck. Until we hear that something has drastically changed, we'll not be tying up at the Duck's dock (say that fast 10 times) again any time soon.

We found an open slip around 4:00 PM and walked up to the deck to order a couple of hot dogs. "SIX DOLLARS", I complained to the teenage-looking cook, "for a hot dog"? "You do get a bag of chips with that", he countered. Ah, well that makes it a bargain, I thought, and ordered $12.00 worth of hot dogs (for those of you who play the lottery regularly, that's $12.00 for 2 hot dogs).

Without boring you with the entire sequence of blood-pressure-building events, here's the short version... The bartender (another new one) had no personality, no smiles for paying patrons and he mumbled responses such as "the margarita machine's been broke for a long time". The $6.00 hot dogs right off the grill were cold - as in not cooked and condiments came in a plastic squeeze pouch. I had to hunt down the teenage-looking chef (who was smoking at the bar) to beg for mustard and it seemed like it took ages for him to loot through the kitchen before rewarding me with 2 additional squeeze packets of yellow mustard. The bathrooms were dirty... according to my wife; there was no paper in the ladies room.

Hey, I am NOT a restaurant critic and such comments are actually outside the purpose of this blog. However, watching one of the best establishments on Flathead Lake literally melt down in one season is truly a sad event. The Duck was one of our favorite haunts all year round. The restaurant used to close for a few weeks in winter so the staff could take vacation and we always drove down for a great meal when they reopened. Anytime we have out-of-town visitors, the Duck was always one of the places we took them.

This blog is about NW Montana's Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake and all the wonderful things to see and experience when you visit. The Sitting Duck used to be one of those places we liked to recommend, and I have done just that in this blog and on our website. Unfortunately, the Duck has been deleted from my to-do list. Hey, if all you want is cold beer, cozy decor and a great view of Flathead Lake... do the Sitting Duck. That's about all it has going for it these days.

BTW, I do not know the owners - they may be wonderful people, I have no axe to grind and mean no one harm. I guess I'm just so disappointed about the Duck's demise - and getting burned with cold hot dogs... I just had to tell somebody. If you hear that the Duck’s been sold again, or something has changed, please leave us a comment. I miss the Sitting Duck already.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Glacier Park - New Fire Alert

Baby mountain goat above Hidden Lake

Old friends from out of state visited yesterday, and of course, it was my duty to introduce them to the splendor of Glacier National Park. They received the royal treatment. We drove Going-To-The-Sun Road from the park's west entrance to Logan Pass where we hiked the beautiful Hidden Lake trail.

I am still sorting through a remarkable collection of photos from our visit, and will post some here in the next day of two. I'd love to share them with you now, but my bride and I are about to tow our boat south for a day on Flathead Lake. Summers are short here in the Flathead and with upper 90's temps forecasted for today, we don't want to miss this opportunity. More to follow...

One word of caution regarding Glacier Park travel. There is a fire raging on the east side of the park. Official have already evacuated a lodge and closed a stretch of U.S. 2. The Skyland fire was burning about 400 acres early yesterday, but we learned that approx. 1,000 acres was estimated after the fire blew up in the afternoon due to high winds and our dry weather.

This is a picture of the fire we saw from U.S. 2 prior to the road being closed. I'm sharing this with you in the event you have plans to visit Glacier in the next few days. Either enter Glacier from the west entrance or call the park to make sure U.S. 2 on the east is open.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

iPod Tour Guide?

I just discovered the coolest thing...

There is a company called TourCaster, that is offering tours of cities and National Parks by way of a download for your iPod. I'm sharing this with you because one of their downloads is for Glacier National Park.

Whether you are driving Going-to-the-Sun Road or hiking, TourCaster can be your private guide! Their audio tour blends unique stories and experiences of Park Rangers and the Chief of the Blackfeet Nation with music and nature sounds, offering the most informative guide available. This is really a cool service where you will hear how the park's jagged peaks, sheer cliff walls and its lovely glacial lakes were formed.

Tourcaster is a service that provides downloadable audio tours for your iPod or MP3 player. Each downloaded audio tour comes with multiple mp3 files and a map. The audio tour is as entertaining as it is educational. 65 minutes in length.

Using this service, you can download to an MP3 player, or burn a CD to play in your car. If you're planning a trip through Glacier, check out this tour. Learn more...

PS: TourCaster offers this service for cities and attractions around the globe, so if you're planning a trip to Amsterdam or Yellowstone - or anywhere in between, this is a cool service!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Flathead Cherries

They're baaaaaack!

The Flathead Valley is known for many exceptional things. There is of course, our world-class Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park, local wines, huckleberry products and of course, our famous Flathead cherries.

In a matter of days, the first batch of these cherries will be seen along the road being sold by residents and growers from their temporary fruit stands. Don't even think about passing one of these stands without buying all you can carry.

The president of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers, Mr. Dale Nelson, says that growers are looking at three to four million pounds of cherries this season. Considering that we average 2.7 to 3 million pounds in a typical season, this is great news. Especially after a severe wind storm we experienced in June, there was some concern as to what impact that might have on this year's crop. The cherry harvest is expected to start next week.

My bride always comes up with new and tasty dishes and even some outstanding "adult beverages" she's made from cherries and vodka or brandy. Whether you want the best tasting cherry pie you've ever experienced, can preserves - or just eat 'em as God created them, Flathead cherries are another extraordinary feature of the Flathead Valley experience.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Going-to-the-Sun Road is OPEN!

They're finished plowing!

Today's the day! Going-to-the-Sun Road is officially open to vehicles today, July 1st. All 52 miles of this scenic highway is open. You can reach Logan Pass from the east (St Mary) or from the Highway 2 west entrance to the park.

Be aware that you may experience some delays as the road repairs resulting from last November's storm will not be finished for a while. With this in mind, why don't you consider letting someone else drive while you get to enjoy the scenery?

Also new today is Glacier Park's new free shuttle service. The new shuttle will provide two-way service along Going-to-the-Sun Road between Apgar and St. Mary Visitor Center. This is not a tour, although tour services are still available, the shuttle is a travel option and it is free. Park the car, grab your camera and let someone else watch the road. Get all the FAQ's about the free shuttle here.

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