Less than a mile from the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park, the St. Mary Lodge & Resort is well situated for a stay on the park's eastern border. With Divide Peak rising high overhead, and Divide Creek babbling along the property, the resort normally is a good basecamp. But a recent stay pointed to some serious problems.
I was so impressed with a 2005 stay at the resort while working on National Parks With Kids that I wrote, "the best accommodations in or out of the park can be found here on the east edge of Glacier National Park. Owner Roscoe Black (who since has sold the resort) has built himself quite an empire. Overall the accommodations are very nice, those in the Great Bear Lodge are excellent -- roomy with large bathrooms, comfortable beds, wet bars, Western and Arts and Crafts style decor, and balconies overlooking Divide Creek, whose rippling waters will serenade you to sleep."
So pleased was I with that stay that I later put my in-laws up at the lodge, and they, too, had an enjoyable stay.
A recent stay, sadly, blew a gaping hole through that earlier praise.
When I placed a call to the resort not quite two months out from a late-July visit, my options for a room were understandably limited, as reservations usually are -- and should be -- made months in advance. But a relatively spur-of-the-moment business trip took my wife and I to Glacier, and so I figured a stay at the resort made sense, particularly since all the in-park lodging was full.
While the reservations clerk told me all they had left were "small sleeping rooms" in the main lodge building, one that's been around for decades, I figured that would be OK, since we'd be spending our days out in the park and only use the room for sleeping. And a blurb on the lodge's website makes the rooms sound OK for such use:
Every room is nicely equipped with either one or two beds, a desk, table and chair, private bath and no television.
Upon check-in we discovered that Room 321 was indeed small -- big enough only for a queen bed, small desk, and a tiny bathroom. And while the desk's paint was chipped and its drawers lacking pulls, that was OK, too, as were the pipes that ran just below the stained ceiling tiles and the view of ventilation fans out the window.
But then we discovered that the linoleum bathroom floor tiles were "squishy." The problem, I discovered later that evening, was that the spray from the shower head was so forceful that it blew the flimsy cloth shower curtain out of the shower stall ... along with torrents of water that flowed across the bathroom floor.
It was quickly obvious why the floor was spongy -- the sub-floor likely was soaked from repeated showers since the start of the summer season -- and closer inspection showed signs of what possibly was a growing mold issue along the outside of the shower stall.
Going down to the front desk to explain the problem, I learned that lobby ceiling fixtures below the room recently had been leaking water. I also learned that there was no other room in the lodge for us to be relocated to, in part because the lodge had somehow overbooked its accommodations.
The next morning the front desk manager, a young woman named "Florie," acknowledged that they were aware that there were problems with the room. She also said that after some searching of her computer system she had found a "similar type room" they could move us into later that afternoon. Rather than chance another encounter with the plumbing, however, we decided to check out and move on.
While Florie might have understood our concerns -- other front-desk staff who overheard our conversation later said they did -- she not only refused to refund our previous night's charge, but also refused to waive the second night's charge, noting the lodge's "30-day cancellation policy" and the availability of a similar sleeping room.
Our short stay raised a couple of questions:
* Why had the lodge kept Room 321 available, even though officials seemingly were aware of the plumbing problems?
* Had maintenance personnel not been notified by other guests or housekeeping staff about problems with the shower overflowing, or inspected the source of the water coming through the ceiling fixtures? Certainly the spongy floor was too obvious for housekeeping staff not to notice when cleaning the bathroom, and I know I'd be curious about the source if my kitchen lights were dripping with water.
* Why was Florie so adamant not to issue a $130 refund for a room that, in light of the plumbing problems and potential mold issues, quite easily could have been deemed uninhabitable, and whose continued use would continue to create leakage problems into the lobby's ceiling and fixtures, leaking that could prove highly costly to address if the sub-floor in Room 321 needs to be torn out and replaced and if mold has spread into the lobby's ceiling and walls.
Is the resort's reputation not worth more than $130? Are they concerned about both the experience and the health of their clientele, not to mention maintenance and upkeep of their facilities?
Hopefully, the resort will address these issues. But until they do, the reputation of the St. Mary Lodge & Resort will be sullied.
P.S. -- Why does the resort blare country music across its parking lot?