"Ah, you guys live the good life," she sighed as she leaned back in her chair yesterday.
'She' was a guest from Bozeman who visits regularly - and 'she' did and didn't represent the norm. She didn't represent the norm for women - most of whom think I've lost my mind when I say I 'love' living in the middle of nowhere. A visit they love. To stay? No, thank you. However, she did represent the norm for the majority of our guests - primarily the men and youth.
I must admit, depending on the day of course, most of the time I would agree with her wholeheartedly. Take last night. After a couple hours of heavy (well, for this winter at least) snow, a calm, quiet night slowly descended upon us. In spite of the cold (it was quickly approaching zero outside), I opened the upstairs slider and stuck my head out - just to listen.
The only sound was the faint shushing of the trees across the lake. Otherwise. . . How does one describe stillness? A quiet so deep you can feel it?
Some people are accutely uncomfortable with this much quiet. Take much of our current youth culture. Even in a crowded mall with lots of noise or in the presence of their friends, I notice many of them wandering around with earplugs piping 'music' to their brains at all hours of the day and night. I guess my craving for 'quiet' is as alien to them as their craving for constant noise is to me.
On the other hand, there was the middle of the day yesterday with its roar of snowmobiles, the clanking of crashing of pots and pants and silverware from the kitchen, and the laughter and rumble of conversation from the dining room. The press of guests makes up the greater part of my day (particularly in the summer) and, like everything else, although I enjoy it for the most part, there are times when I wish I could just lock the door and keep the world out.
Take last weekend. We were all under the weather due to a visiting virus. Everyone was either in bed sleeping off their bug or laying around (in their PJ's with sleep squished hair and pillow creased faces) on the couch watching TV. In roared a bunch of snowmobiles. Now, we're closed on Sunday so they didn't ask to come in, but sometimes it feels like an invasion of our privacy to have a half a dozen people eating their sack lunches on our deck while we huddle out of sight in our living room.
I guess it's just like everything else - we get to take the good with the 'bad'. However, I must admit, for the privilege of living here - I'll be glad to take a lot of the 'bad'!
Lady of the Lake
-Clu-clink, -Clu-clink, -Clu-clink this President's Day Weekend
Well, here we go again. Another President's Day weekend, come and (nearly) gone, and we still haven't found out what a 'good' one is really like.
It's like this. President's Day is supposed to be the 'highlight' of the snowmobile (winter) season. Businesses are supposed to be swamped. The money is supposed to come in clu-clink, clu-clink, clu-clink. But, if you notice in my title, there are little 'minus' signs next to all those clu-clinks for our 2007 President's Day weekend - in other words, the money's going out, not coming in. I tell you, God must have a sense of humor, but I'm sure having a hard time figuring out the punchline!
Our first year it was slow because the previous owners had been closed the year before. It took most of the season just to get the word out we were open again. So, President's Day was pretty much a bust - like most of the season.
Our second year we had WONDERFUL snow - incredible piles of beautiful white stuff piled high all around. And, overall, business was great. Word was out. We were open, and the snow was great. In roared the business!
As the 'weekend' approached, we anticipated great things - stockpiled the food, prepped for crowds, and then - - the high on Saturday of President's Day weekend a whopping 16 below zero. Yep! What a great time to get bitterly cold. We had ONE guest that day - and he got frostbite for his trouble (personally I thought I was hallucinating when I heard his sled).
Our third year (this year). Well, the snow hasn't been the best (so business has been slow, overall), but last week we got about a foot of new up high AND six inches at the lodge. Decent weather forecast. Wow! We're set. We'll experience President's Day this year. Maybe even fill in some of the 'cracks' in our leaking money pot (you know the kind - it runs out faster than you fill it up!).
Early Wednesday morning (three days before 'D' day), Nathaniel gets violently sick. Okay, don't panic. It's just the stomach flu (or something he ate). He'll be better in the morning. Go to bed all, I'll sit this one out with him.
Next morning - not much change. He's four. He's tough. It's probably the 24 hour kind. He'll be better in a few hours!
Day two (two days before 'D' day). Just a little left over - after all, that was a tough go yesterday. He'll be better tomorrow. Oh, yeah, I feel a little quesy, but you know, watching someone else get sick kinda does that to me.
Day three (one day before 'D' day). I think he looks a little better. Yeah, I know he threw up again. Okay, maybe I'll call the doc.
NOROVIRUS - good Lord, what's that? Lasts 4 to 5 days! No way! Very aggressive! Anymore good news? Oh, you recover slowly! Gee thanks doc. Yeah, I'll keep those fluids coming!
Day three - late p.m. ('D' day is tomorrow). I think I'll hit the sack a bit early. I'm not feeling too great. What's the bucket for? Oh, well, you know, just in case. Dinner (gag), no I think I'll skip tonight.
Well, guess what we spent 'D' Day doing (well, not all of us - Craig managed to wait till the night of and Hannah had one of those rare, brush-by, experiences which can also accompany this wonderful 'bug'). Yep, President's Day weekend, the busiest weekend of the season, and we've got the sign up (for only the second time in three years) - "Closed due to illness".
I must say, this hospitality business stretches one to the limit sometimes. I mean, I try to be pleasant and hospitable to 'everyone' who comes to the door - after all, that's my job. But this, well, I really think this is above and beyond the call of duty.
Not only did we NOT invite this guest - shoot, if didn't even make a reservation - but it stayed longer than was polite, and made life, well, quite unbearable during its sojourn. All I can say is, this is one guest I'll be glad to see the back of. You know, "Here's your hat, what's your hurry!".
My advise -if you hear of the Norovirus coming to town - rally the troops, circle the wagons, and turn off the lights! You definitely do NOT want it stopping by.
Now, for the weather - gorgeous today. We got about 1/2 inch of new snow down here (it looked like a bit more up higher) last night. The sky is too blue to describe. The air is crisp and clear - and the temps are getting into the low 30's during the day, making for pleasant riding. And, yes, we're open again - maybe running a bit slow - but we're over the 'contagious' part.
Animals? Mostly moose sightings - daily at the lodge. However, I'm accompanying this lovely 'blog' with a photo of some of the Hayden Valley Wolves. (Bearman's Guide to Yellowstone's Wildlife is a fun page for those who enjoy looking at and learning about wildlife).
As is normal, I hear the wolves have been sighted several times this winter in the Park. This photo, taken by our friend Gary Pumplin, is beyond belief. That someone, who is not a professional (however the photo is copyrighted), can take such good photos - well, folks, it puts my feeble efforts to same. However, Gary has been more than kind to share his work with us. So, if you want to see more, take a look at our website.
Better run for today (well, not run - I'll walk, thank you).
Lady of the Lake
Finally, after literrally months of work, I've finally got the new and improved version (or at least updated and enlarged version) of our web page up and running. It has been an effort - and not a lot of fun sometimes - but there is an incredible sense of accomplishment having reached this point.
Of course, if I'd known it would take this long, and be this hard - well, to be honest I wouldn't have started. However, even though I'm still working out the bugs, it is a pleasure to be able to look at it and know I did it - for better or worse - I'm responsible! Check it out!
Okay, to the weather news: Today is sunny. After several days of spitting snow and clouds, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and life's good! Days like this I wonder how on earth anyone could live anywhere else.
And, wildlife: yesterday was a ridiculously slow day. I can honestly report I saw as many moose as I did people. Two of each. The moose (at least the one) were definitely harder to get along with.
In fact, yesterday afternoon we looked out our sliding door - from upstairs - and here is a moose! If I'd been on ground level we would have nearly been nose-to-nose! It was definitely in a BAD mood! It was licking its lips, stomping its feet, and pinning its ears. Craig had to snowball it (there was a little moisture in our recent snow fortunately) to get it to back off. I tried yelling - it just gave me the evil eye.
Thinking back to our first year and our first experience with moose always makes me laugh. Yesterday was too similar to that first encounter. Here we are - an agressive moose in the yard. Everytime (for several days) he shows up, the kids run for the house. The dogs run for the deck. So, what does one do?
Craig calls the refuge and asks the biologist how to discourage his overzealous attention. "Throw rocks at him."
Throw rocks at him? Nice idea, but there's 2 feet of snow covering all the rocks. So, Craig decides to try snowballs. Well, if you've never experienced winter in Montana, you might not immediately suspect the problem with the plan. In Montana, the snow usually has a very low water content, i.e. it's dry. Dry snow doesn't stick together. So, no snowballs.
Now what? Well, to make a long story short, in the end they cut up potatoes and threw them at Mr. Moose (it was a bull, by the way). He finally takes the hint and leaves - I suspect only to return as soon as we were out of sight and feast on the potatoes we threw at him. Oh, well, moose are moose!
Lady of the Lake
Thoughts from our Western Montana Lodge
Usually I come to my blog with a specific 'purpose', a specific idea. Today, many thoughts are running around in my head. But first, the weather. As has been usual for this winter, the weather is a big issue. This time last week we had guests eating lunch on the deck - in nearly 50 degree weather. In fact, we suspected each day would be our last as we didn't expect the snow to hold.
This week we have received 6 - 8 inches of new snow, the temperature has dropped back down into the 20's and teens, and we're back in business! Wow, when you are dependent on the weather for your business, a little snow or a little warming sure make a difference.
And, the animal report. Recently - as of yesterday - we'd seen the Sharp-Tail grouse, five elk on the hill, and at least one persistent moose hanging around in the yard. The elk were a change as we don't usually see them this time of year. However, I suspect the low snow levels has allowed some to winter in the draws near the resort. The five we saw were on the hillside to the north of the lodge.
The Shiras moose in the yard is getting bolder. In fact, Craig's had to break out the B&B gun and pop him a couple of times to convince him dog-chasing wasn't his new passtime. However, as I write this, I'm watching him chewing his cud in the willows just south of the lodge - where he's hung out all day. In fact, our guests enjoyed looking at him. Fortunately they had the good sense to give him lots of space!
Craig saw a coyote on the refuge today. With the elk and the coyote sightings, I suspect there are no wolves in the immediate vicinity. We've also seen Trumpeters, Eagles, and other birds lately - spring is around the corner.
I got to thinking (uh,oh) the last few days about the present conservation movement. Like any 'movement' it has its extremes. On the one end there are groups, like the TNC, which appear to be striving to protect the best 'open spaces' while not treating humans (and human involvement upon the land) as an enemy to be kept away at all costs. At the other, the people who see everything as a BIG issue and are spend a lot of time scream 'protect' at all costs - and often this means removing people completely from the land.
Anyway, since Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, I got to wondering what our forefathers were thinking. Were they concerned about protecting the land from the people? Were they concerned with legitimate conservation or were their decisions driven by some other motive? How important did they see our natural resources?
It's important to remember, I think, that at the time YNP was set aside there were HUGE tracks of undeveloped land - basically the entire Louisianna Territory. So, if anything one would expect they'd see little need for conservation - if they didn't have a underlying desire to protect the land for future generations (the motto of most conservationists, however, some imply they're the first and only to have seen the 'light'). But, most important, in my opinion, was their (Congress in the late 1800's) desire was to set aside the land "FOR" the people. In other words, people were not the enemy. In fact, part of the discussion in Congress about setting aside Yellowstone Park was to protect it from what was happening at Niagara Falls - the general public was having to 'pay' to see the natural beauty within their own country.
I'm still working through this in my mind. But, I think that one of the things missing in many of the conservation movement - a movement which IS important to the future of our country - is the remembrance of our history. We aren't the first generation to recognize this need, and it is just as important to know what drove our forefathers to set apart the lands we enjoy as 'special' places as it is to work to continuing to protect these wonderful national treasures.
So, I'll keep reading - and thinking. And, this may not be the last I have to 'say' on the subject. One way or the other, I'm learning some very interesting tidbits and facts about Yellowstone's past.
Lady of the Lake
Wildlife Sightings Continue at Our Western Montana Lodge
Guests continue to enjoy numerous wildlife viewings. We even get a chance to join the fun. A group of six who came for lunch today saw a dozen moose, a golden eagle, a Trumpeter Swan, and a dozen Sharp-Tail Grouse between Island Park, Idaho and our Resort.
Last weekend we enjoyed seeing ten Trumpeter Swans, a Bald Eagle and eight moose - one bull with an impressive pair of paddles (antlers) still attached. And, of course, the moose continue to hang around the lodge. This year the bull has allowed a cow and calf to join him in the area. With three moose hanging around the yard, regular sightings are to be expected.
Even the fox is sighted occasionally. I suspect the low snow fall makes it easier for the smaller animals to get around. Regardless of the reason, even after seeing hundreds of moose, dozens of Eagles, and numerous Trumpeter Swans in the course of a year, my heart always leaps a little with each sighting.
Sometimes I wonder why. At least when it comes to the moose. After all, they are a terribly homely animal - something like a mule who stuck his nose into a beehive - and ornery too. But, even with all their 'unlikely' traits, I get a thrill every time I see them.
Lady of the Lake
No matter how we hold our mouths, or how many times we ask, we just can't seem to get much in the way of snow this winter. However, what we've lacked in snow, we've made up for in COLD!
It continues to be cold - day after day. Of course we get LOTS of sunshine. And, sunshine at this elevation is pretty powerful, but even a bright sunny day can still be cold if the temperature is much below zero.
For example, the week before last (Jan 18th - 25th), after a couple of weeks of extremely cold (even for here) weather, we managed to get to 35.4 degrees ABOVE zero for our highest temperature (on the 25th). But that same night we reached -8.3 below zero which was our coldest temperature for the week.
Compare that to this past week (Jan 26th - Feb 1st) where we've only reached 17.2 degrees above zero (less than half of our high for the previous week) on the 30th with a low the next night of -22.9 below. The next coldest night that week was on the 28th with a low of -20.0. That's better than 3 times farther below zero than the previous week.
So, as large sections of the rest of the country talk about cold, with temperature hovering around the freezing mark or just below - we strive to keep the pipes in the shower house unthawed and the lodge above 55 degrees.
Lest one think this is all complaint - it really isn't complaint at all. Oh, I admit, snow would be very welcome (considering our last measureable snowfall was on the 20th of January - and that only measured about 3"), and a little warmer temps wouldn't be too bad either (although with the mercury staying below 25 degrees the vast majority of the time, we've managed to hold onto most of the snow which has fallen). However, even the cold doesn't make life any less beautiful or interesting back here in the middle of nowhere.
We still have regular visits from moose. Wednesday and Thursday morning we had a bull, a cow, and a calf munching on the willows by the old barn. Thursday afternoon Craig saw a nice big bull - with impressive antlers still attached - at the end of the lake. This morning the cow and calf were down by the ranch house, pleasantly munching away.
Funny things - moose. I'd expect a cow with calf to be more aggressive toward the dogs than a bull on his own. However, bulls are definitely more touchy, more territorial, and easier to irritate. (Hum. Does this have any tie to humans? Certainly not! :-)
Cold or not - life is good at Elk Lake Resort. We continue to get regular visits from the outside world. We continue to enjoy incredible scenic vistas out our front window. We continue to experience daily wildlife sightings (Craig saw a fox a couple of mornings ago down by the boat house.) Life is good!
Lady of the Lake