A Backpacker's Dream-Come-True
While slackpackers and other less ambitious adventurers might bemoan the lack of services, the regular backpacker will think they've found heaven on earth at Granite Park. For those accustomed to carrying everything, cooking on a Primus and sleeping on a padded rock, the digs at Granite Park are downright exquisite. Each group of guests is assigned a slot of kitchen time, providing access to a sizable facility that was once used to prepare Great Northern's finest offerings. And while many opt to carry in their provisions, the concessionaire does offer a few dried or canned foods that can be purchased and then cooked. The dining area is comfortable and inviting, with an adjacent lounging area to relax and chat afterward if the weather is less than agreeable.
The concessionaire also offers bedding rental, if you choose to forego carrying a sleeping bag. It is a somewhat costly proposition -- as the bedding must be removed, packed out, and cleaned after each guest. So if you can manage to schlep the bag, it's a better deal all around. Speaking of bedding, the interior walls at Granite are in some places paper thin, in some place have open slits between logs, and in some places a little of both. You will hear beds creaking, snoring, even people whispering in the next room. Of course when you consider that another contributing factor is the absolute quiet in the complex...no traffic, no streetlights buzzing, no appliance humming, no televisions, no...nothing.
For the backpacker, it is simply fabulous. The camaraderie, newly met travelers, convenient kitchen, and clean toilet facilities. More importantly, the trails to reach Granite Park are relatively simple in backpacker terms, and day hikes to key locations from the Chalet are even easier -- again, in backpacker terms. Seasoned backcountry adventurers often say that Granite Park feels like cheating!
Now, the guest who believes that anything less than a three-diamond hotel is "roughing it" will have a difficult time at Granite Park, even if they do arrange to have food and bedding waiting for them. The toilet is a pit composting type, and water is 1/4 mile away. Each party is expected to fetch their own water; the concierge won't do it for you. Actually, the staff usually has water waiting in the kitchen, which is a nice little extra. Even so, visitors should understand that this is not a "full service" lodge -- not by any stretch of the imagination.
"Roughing it" is a matter of your point of view.
Some guests feel shortchanged when they find themselves assigned to the "back building." The main chalet is naturally grander and more appealling; the single-story dorm appears to have been an afterthought. The reality is that it was the other way around; the smaller "back building" is the original chalet, and oddly enough, the more historic of the two. It was designed simply as a stopping place for guests on pack trips; after a year of operating it was so popular that the property had to be expanded. It wasn't originally intended so; the original chalet was complete and occupied before the Great Northern Railway even applied for additional buildings. So while it is less attractive than the main chalet, it is equally significant.
Regardless of your personal perspective, the best way to make the most out of Granite Park is to go for the overall experience, not for the lodging. Take time to talk to other guests. Offer help -- join someone on a water trip, offer up some assistance around the dining area, or whatever. Go with an attitude of sharing and caring...preparing the evening meal is not a competition.
To approach Granite Park with an open mind and a friendly attitude is to open yourself to one of the most fantastic experiences the National Parks have to offer.
The main chalet building is situated to provide commanding views from its front elevation. Photo courtesy the National Park Service.