WHITEFISH, Mont. – A gooey mixture of cream and honey is causing flower petals to stick to the hair on my legs, and every few minutes the girl rubbing my feet stops to peel the petals off of my skin.
It’s not a treatment that I’m at all used to, but my friends at the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau have arranged for me to have a hot-stone foot massage at Remedies Day Spa, a company with spa locations throughout the Glacier Region of Montana. The company prides itself on using natural food products in all of its treatments, which is why my feet and lower legs have been glazed in a cream and honey mixture, and rubbed down for a good half hour. Maria, the lovely young lady who has been so kindly massaging my feet, says that the flower petals in the foot bath are mainly put there for decoration. At this point, though, they’re sticking awkwardly to my legs, and we both have a good laugh about it.
The treatment is quite pleasant, although not the sort of thing I would have ever thought to have signed up for myself. Still, it’s part of the story of the great variety of attractions here in Whitefish, a town of about 7,000 residents that’s about a half-hour’s drive outside of Glacier National Park. During the summer, some 10 million visitors will come to see the million-acre park, and a good number of them will use Whitefish as their home base. As a result, the town has an eclectic mix of shops and services, from antique stores to outdoor outfitters, t-shirt shops, saloons, and a wide variety of restaurants serving great and diverse food.
For breakfast, I had a bocadillo at Montana Coffee Traders, a coffee shop downtown that is a favorite among Whitefish locals. The bocadillo is a Mexican-inspired dish, comprising breakfast meats, cheeses and peppers stuffed inside a tortilla wrapper, which is then grilled on a Panini press. It comes served with the restaurant’s homemade salsa, and the meal is all-around delicious. Lunch was a salmon burger at a local French bistro, where everything came in large portions with a delicious creamy sauce.
As Maria finishes with the hot stones on my feet, I realize that I’ll soon need to hurry off to the next stop on my itinerary, which is a horseback trail ride and Bar W Guest Ranch outside of town. It will be a quick trip from the effete spa to the rugged ranch ride. But the contrast is one of the great things about Whitefish, and probably one of the characteristics that makes it a favorite return destination for visitors. Whitefish is one of the most popular stopping points along the Empire Builder route… and I’m beginning to understand why.