Greetings from Glacier National Park!
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that David and I did this exact trip a year ago, and it was so fantastic that we decided to go back for two weeks this year. We arrived yesterday after over two full days of driving. It felt great to get out and hike this morning, and breathtaking Avalanche Lake was our first stop. Everything feels the same, but different. First of all, the weather is hot, hot! Last year we did some hiking in the snow. This Tucson girl prefers the heat!
The biggest difference from last year to this year though is that this year we are vegans. And as all of my vegan pals know, that can complicate things unless you plan, plan, plan! So that’s just what we did. From the drive to get up here to hanging out at the park to finding reasonably accommodating restaurants we are on it and I’m convinced that this will be a smashing trip. Here’s how we’ve done it so far…
Our general plan for driving up here was to do a short leg from Tucson to Flagstaff on Thursday night (about four hours), stay over in Flagstaff, then continue on to Park City, Utah on Friday. Since we did this trip last year, we knew that between cities we would be treated to spectacular scenery and absolutely nothing healthy or vegan to eat. So we took a little cooler with some cold packs for all the perishables (Trader Joe’s vegan wraps, hummus, veggies, peanut butter) and tossed the rest of the nosh in shopping bags in the back seat. The Boy Scouts have nothing on us as you can see from our pile of provisions! BE PREPARED!
Along with bringing our own eats, we checked out Happycow.net to see where we might be able to grab a vegan bite in Flagstaff and/or Park City. We found a funky-looking place for breakfast in Flagstaff called the Whyld Ass Cafe (really!), and according to the info the place opened at 5:30am. So we took a few extra minutes to find this place hoping we could get a muffin and coffee and be on our way. I like to frequent as many vegan restaurants as I can so they stay in business. Unfortunately, when we found the place it looked closed (like for good). Not sure if that’s the case, but there was no sign of life there. So, we found the nearest Starbucks, got some soy lattes and made some peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. No problem for us but a good reminder that while Happycow is a good resource, it’s not perfect. For me a little bag of Starbucks almonds was not going to cut it. I was glad to have my provisions.
En route to Park City, we stopped at a highway convenience place and munched on our Trader Joe wraps in the Burger King. I was dying to find some picnic tables or anywhere else to enjoy our lunch, but the options were non-existent. The whole scene there was pretty depressing and an acute reminder of how important it is that we spread the word about the health benefits of plant-based eating. At least we were able to eat our own healthy and satisfying food. By the way, if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s vegan wraps, you’re missing out. There’s a great selection (falafel, unchicken, lentil and veggie) and they travel well. These are our go-to sandwiches for travel of any kind. Convenient, tasty and filling.
Once in Park City, we unloaded our little cooler and put everything in the hotel room fridge overnight. This Best Western happened to have a larger than average mini-fridge with a freezer area for refreezing our cold packs. I hadn’t asked about this in advance, but in the future I will. It made a big difference to be able to put all our stuff in a refrigerator overnight and those teeny tiny ones don’t fit much. In Park City, we found a place (also on Happycow) that had a decent selection of vegan options. It was right on the main drag, and it’s called 501 Main:
We learned a lot here, particularly that the vegan food you request might not actually be vegan. Case in point:
We treated ourselves to “vegan” onion slivers with our drinks. As you can see, the chipotle dipping sauce looks a bit creamy. We made it clear to the waiter that we wanted the vegan option. He obviously had no idea what vegan actually is, because when David asked him what was in the sauce he said “buttermilk”. Uh, no. He replaced it with another fruity dressing which didn’t exactly go with fried onions. Maybe that was the universe suggesting that I could do better than fried onions.
I ended up having vegan chili (mine is much better) and a salad (mine is much better), and David ordered one of their specials, a vegetable risotto in a potato crust (vegan option). When the dish arrived David dug in and lifted up a fork full of stringy cheese. Um, no again. Apologies, apologies and the vegan version arrived:
This was actually very tasty (Mine isn’t better because I’ve never made it!). We enjoyed our time at 501 Main hanging at the bar and watching World Cup Soccer, but the food bit was a grind. It was a reminder that we really need to be vigilant.
Day two of driving took us out of Utah, through Idaho and into Montana. Lunch again was in a truck stop place, but this time we munched on homemade hummus, veggies and crackers in the McDonalds. Interestingly, the McDonalds was pretty empty so we didn’t have to deal with as much of a sensory onslaught. Everyone seemed to be eating at Subway. No better, but at least we could chill in peace.
Many hours and lots of chips and mango slices later we arrived in Columbia Falls. Because we are staying in a time-share community, we have a terrific one bedroom condo with a full kitchen and all of the amenities. We’ve always enjoyed vacationing this way, but it’s particularly helpful now that we’re vegan. This area has no vegan restaurants, and while we can make our way through some Asian and pizza places our plan is to cook most meals ourselves. So as soon as we got settled we ran out to the local supermarket for some staples.
We started the day today with a berry smoothie (we brought our Vitamix with us) and hit the trail. In the afternoon we needed to go to Costco for some additional items, and we were thrilled to find a Natural Grocer across the street. TOTAL SCORE! If you don’t have Natural Grocer near you, it is a store of all organic products including produce. The selection of vegan products is excellent. I’m now certain that we will have all we need for these two weeks.
I’m sure that my desire to cook will eventually start to wane, and we will venture out into Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell to see what we can find in the local restaurants. A few places look promising, and as we make our way through the local offerings I will report back on how we’re faring. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a whole lot more of this: