But we stayed in an A-frame that weekend next to a cattle ranch. No haunted stories there.
Haunted or not, just the hope that any old hotel could be lurking with spirits and old tales is exciting enough for me. It's a hope that's stuck with me, that comes rushing back every time I peek into the Davenport, Patsy Clark's Mansion or the music building at Gonzaga.
So when I first saw pictures of the Paradise Inn, deep in the shadow of Mount Rainier, I couldn't help but be intrigued. The old building's roof peaks in high angles, small windows dotting each corner. It's one of those places with a grandiose lobby, decorated with old grandfather clocks, enormous beams and French doors. It's a place just reeking with mystery.
Built in 1917, the Paradise Inn was intended by its builders to serve as an example of a rural luxury and natural elegance. The Inn quickly overshadowed the small bungalow villages that surrounded it as frequent skiers and outdoorsman began to hang up their coats and boots at the Paradise. A 100-room annex was tacked on in the 1920s, and the Inn even hosted the Olympic Ski Trials in 1934.
But like so many things, the sun stopped shining on the Paradise during the 1940s as World War II dragged on. Supplies were limited, and the hotel fell into disrepair. The hotel's allure, however, was only briefly forgotten. The U.S. Government bought the Paradise in the 1950s, maintaining it despite calls for it to be demolished. Urged on by community pressure, the inn was restored and renovated in 1979.
Today the Paradise Inn is still as grand as it was once before. Dining halls, luxurious rooms and grand ballrooms adorn the Rainier castle. It's the kind of place where tea is served to guests on the mezzanine in the afternoon.
And even though it's right in the backyard of one of the Northwest's most breathtaking natural areas, just staying inside and exploring all of the stories and mysteries of the Paradise is vacation enough. --Leah Sottile
Lionhead -- Go to the northern tip of North Idaho's northernmost lake, then go back in time 83 years. You'll be standing right next to the elk, the wolves and a bear named Brownie.
In 1922, with a film crew and a menagerie of more than 200 animals (including skunks, raccoons and ducks), actress and screenwriter Nell Shipman established a film production camp at Lionhead that lasted three years -- before blizzards and financial mismanagement did her in.
Shipman (1892-1970) wrote, directed and starred in such silent classics as Trail of the North Wind, The Light on Lookout and The Girl From God's Country, practically creating the so-called "Northwoods" film genre in the process and earning for herself the sobriquet of "the queen of the dogsleds."
So if you want to combine silent-era Hollywood movie history with pristine mountain lakes and pine forests, visit the Lionhead Unit of Priest Lake State Park, a campsite on East Shore Road (just off State Highway 57) that's 23 miles north of Coolin, Idaho.
How remote was Upper Priest Lake in Shipman's day? To get to what is now Shipman Point, she had to take the same kind of steamboats that had been on the lake since the 1890s; roads weren't constructed until the 1950s.
Today the amenities are "still fairly primitive," according to Sandy Day, a volunteer at Lionhead. They include day-use facilities, a boat launch and a thousand feet of white-sand beach. There's fresh water, but no showers or flush toilets.
A display at another unit of Priest Lake State Park, Indian Creek (12 miles south of Lionhead) offers information about Shipman and even offers one of her movies on VHS. Still, there aren't a lot of Shipman relics lying around anymore. So what do campers come to Lionhead for? Assistant Park Manager Faith Berry mentions that the old pack trail to the 1929 fire-watch tower at the top of Lookout Mountain (elev. 4,800 feet) has recently been cleared. From up there, she says, "you can see Chimney Rock and all the beautiful mountains in the Selkirks, as far as the eye can see." In addition, there's boating and fishing, says Berry, "and a lot of large family get-togethers at our group-camp site. Some people come here to photograph wildlife or to pick huckleberries."
"Oh, don't tell them that," whispers Day in the background.
One of Nell Shipman's big causes was protecting animals from harm during the movie-making process -- and it turns out folks up by Priest Lake are still protective of their fauna and flora. Especially their huckleberries. --Michael Bowen
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Lake McDonald Lodge -- I grew up fishing, huckleberry picking, morel hunting and riding shotgun on my dad's many forays into the woods for grouse, boletes and other delectables of the wild. I've seen some gorgeous forests and been high up on remote mountain logging roads with simply mind-blowing views. Still, nothing prepared me for the scale and beauty of Glacier National Park. Everything there is bigger (the craggy peaks, the trees, the size of the lakes) and prettier (all the colors seem amped up on Tide Extra).
Entering Glacier from the west entrance, it's just a 10-mile drive to one of the park's biggest attractions - an early 20th-century Bavarian lodge on the shores of Lake McDonald that still houses the thousands of visitors who come to Glacier each summer. Lake McDonald Lodge was built in 1913 and is inspired by the same "parkitecture" movement that saw the building of the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. Designed by Spokane's own Kirtland Cutter, the place features sequoia-sized exposed log beams, a vast interior of open spaces, mezzanines and trophy heads. The concrete floor is inscribed with Cree, Blackfoot and Chippewa phrases for "welcome," "big feast" and other hospitable sentiments, and it's rumored that Charles Russell drew the pictograms above the massive fireplace.
As picturesque as the lodge is from the road, it's even more so from the back, where the glacial waters of Lake McDonald meet the gray, blue and rose pebbles of the lakeshore. I don't know what kind of minerals the area boasts but in terms of rock variance and beauty, there's nothing like what I've seen on the shores of Lake McDonald.
The lodge is nestled deep into a grove of old Western cedars, and once you're done exploring the lodge interior, you can embark on a number of hiking trails, including the Johns Lake Loop, which takes you right by the Sacred Dancing Cascade McDonald Falls, the steep ascent to the Mount Brown Lookout, and the wheelchair-accessible Trail of the Cedars.
There are a number of campgrounds - both primitive and well-developed within the area. Apgar is one of the major ones, and you'll pass it on your way to Lake McDonald. Sprague Creek is a little cozier, and, like the lodge, is situated right by the lake. The lodge itself has 100 rooms and, in keeping with the historical significance of the site, there are no TVs, elevators or air conditioning in the rooms.
Once you've satisfied your Lake McDonald Lodge itch, be sure to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the nation's most scenic highways and an engineering feat that took 11 years to build. At its completion in 1932, travelers could see parts of the park that would before have taken days to get to by horse or on foot. The ascent carries you past stone guardrails, numerous waterfalls, alpine meadows and a glacier or two. At Logan Pass, the Going-to-the-Sun road intersects the Continental Divide, and you can either turn around and head back down, or press on to the St. Mary Visitor Center, where you can then take the long highway route up to Waterton National Park, Glacier's Canadian counterpart. --Sheri Boggs
For Lake McDonald Lodge, call (406) 892-2525
or visit www.lakemcdonaldlodge.com.
For Glacier Park information, visit www.nps.gov/glac.