Kathy Manos Penn is a native of the “Big Apple,” who settled in the “Peach City” – Atlanta. A former English teacher now happily retired from a corporate career in communications, she writes a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier and the Highlands Newspaper. Read her blogs and columns and purchase her books, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday” and “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on her website theinkpenn.com or Amazon.
We hadn't departed Whitefish, Montana before I began to wonder how we'd ever top our 2017 Christmas trip. I had dreams of a white Christmas in a rustic yet luxurious lodge, and that's what I got.
We started following the weather in mid-December and saw highs in the 30's with lows in the 20's. During our stay, the daily highs were 12⁰ to 14⁰ with the lows dipping to 0⁰ to 4⁰. We weren't there long enough on the last day to experience the whopping high of 17⁰.
A winter wonderland awaited us when we deplaned after dark, as did the Whitefish Lodge shuttle. Fred was our friendly driver, and his service with a smile was mirrored by every staff member we encountered during our stay at the Lodge. We delighted in the picture book scenery of the drive and smiled at the sight of the roaring fire in the lobby fireplace.
When we reached our room with a view of Lodge Christmas lights and Whitefish Lake, we were tempted to enjoy room service snuggled beneath the down comforter in front of the gas logs. Instead, we ate in the Lodge restaurant and marveled anew at the snow-covered landscape outside the windows.
Over Christmas Eve breakfast, we discovered that the daylight hours in the dining room offered the best views yet, as we could see the mountains in the distance and homes around the lake.
Next, warmly dressed in several layers, we traveled to Bar W Ranch for a sleigh ride. Two Clydesdales pulled our wagon around the ranch and beneath snow-laden pines as we huddled beneath blankets and exclaimed at the snow flurries. The ride ended at the Ranch Lodge with homemade cookies, scones, hot chocolate, and a choice of flavorful liqueurs. Again, it was hard to leave, but we had more to see that day. Our driver surprised us with a scenic detour before dropping us off in the town of Whitefish.
The town, dressed in its Christmas finery of lights draped across the streets and lampposts hung with wreaths, was filled with shops and eateries. We wandered into a few shops, and when I spied a unique Christmas necklace, my husband asked, "May I get that for you for Christmas?" Of course, I said yes.
That night, we enjoyed a cocktail at the Ice Bar outside the Lodge before taking the shuttle back to town for dinner. As promised, we awoke Christmas morning to a stocking hung on our door.
I've never considered what my most memorable Christmas Day may have been, but our dog sledding adventure ensured that 2017 wins the prize. Words cannot describe the experience of being tucked into a sled behind a team of dogs joyously pulling and running full out. The stark contrast of 120+ barking dogs vying to be hooked up to a sled vs. the hushed silence as the sled leaves the yard was astounding. The 90 minute, twelve-mile trip over narrow, tree-lined snow-covered trails took my breath away.
We spent our final day atop Big Mountain. Since I don't ski, simply taking the chairlift up and down and seeing more snow-laden pines was a treat. Our evening began with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, made festive with a horse decked out in bells and a Santa cap. The Ice Bar beckoned once more before we visited another outstanding restaurant in downtown Whitefish.
For me, it was a Christmas dream come true-a sleigh ride, dog sledding, unbelievable winter scenery, even an ice bar. And so I ask, whatever will we do in 2018?
Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident. Her latest book, "Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,"
and her collection of columns, "The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,"
are available on Amazon. Follow her on Facebook to catch all the latest: https://www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/