Past Meets Present At Our Western Montana Lodge

It is amazing how time flies. The last two weeks which were supposed to be relatively quiet - a break before our biggest weekend of the year - turned into one busy day after another. Any owner of a seasonal business will tell you this is a blessing, but a double sided one in a small, family-run business.

However, last week brought an extra special treat. Gregg and Marina Williams, son and daughter-in-law of one of the former owners stopped by for a visit and ended up coming back for a night. What fun was had by all as we learned more about the past, and we shared with them some of the 'fun' of the present.

Gregg's step-dad and mom, Bill and Georgia Miller, owned Elk Lake Resort from the mid eighties to the early nineties. Although Elk Lake has gone through many owners (we are the eighth) in its seventy plus years of existance, Bill and Georgia were some of the most energetic and determined business people to own the Resort in the last 40 years.

They added the front porch and increased the dining room. They finished putting bathrooms on the cabins. They put in the well. They changed the entry way and put in the arch which still greets our visitors. They updated the furnishings in many of the cabins.

In addition to all of this, Georgia is well known in these parts for her wonderful way with food. A talented cook who enjoyed making even the most 'normal' food taste extraordinary, Georgia developed the kitchen we now enjoy. In fact, as I told the Williams, it is a bit intimidating living in her shadow. However, it was a joy to listen to Gregg and Marina talk about life at Elk Lake during their sojourn.

Gregg came to the resort as a single young man in his early twenties. He took on the responsibility of many of the resort operations in the summer while he helped Bill and Georgia with their winter enterprise - a hot air balloon business. It was during one of those hot air balloon excursions that he met Marina, a pretty Austrian interpreter for the tour agency with whom he was working.

The next year Marina joined him at the Resort. According to Gregg, this is when things really began to change. The upstairs of the lodge (our current living quarters) was made livable. A bathroom was added (replacing the 'one' shower for all in what is now the storage room downstairs) and bedrooms were framed in. The roof was raised to add more space - and the upstairs became a comfortable 3 bedroom sleeping area.

Georgia shone in the kitchen, and Marina shown in the yard. With her well-developed green thumb Marina brought splashes of color to compliment the green backdrop. The window boxes on the cabins overflowed with blossoms. The flower pots bulged with their colorful contents. Together the two women made the place 'bloom' with color and good food.

I could go on and on with stories they related. Stories of the floods which used to show up without notice (there was no phone) for dinner - upward of 60 one evening. Stories of the wildlife they saw and the friends they made. Stories of their lives together at the Resort. But, sadly, even the best things must come to an end.

Gregg and Marina decided to move on in the early 90's as their family began to increase. Without a phone (they used an answering machine on a phone not far from West Yellowstone - a phone which could only be checked a couple times a week at best) they were uncomfortable living here with small children. Thus they made the hard decision to leave.

As we visited it became clear the "Elk Lake Bug" still ran in their veins. What is there about this Western Montana Lodge that gets under its owners' skins? How come none of the previous owners have never gotten 'over' the place? Well, as a current owner I can suggest it is the sheer wildness - the pure nature - the incredible beauty - the deep dark nights - the still quiet - everything that makes Elk Lake Resort the last best place, or, as many of our guests have said, "A Mile From Heaven."

Lady of the Lake

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