Everthing Goes as Expected at Our Western Montana Lodge

Some things can be relied on. When you sit down, the chair to holds you. When you turn on the switch, the light comes on. When you turn on the faucet, water runs out. And, when Memorial Day weekend rolls around at Elk Lake, it snows.

This Memorial Day did not fail to deliver. In spite of the mid 70's - shorts - weather, just a few days before the big weekend, the sky began to fill with clouds; the temperatures began to drop; and, yes, the snow came rolling our way.

And, so as not to disappoint, we received even more snow than normal. In fact, for two days - Saturday and Sunday - the snow continued to fall, the wind continued to blow, and the highs (I have NO idea what part of the day actually got this warm) reached a whopping 50 degrees!

Now, snow, Memorial Day, and fishing in nasty weather, all go together to make the 'perfect' weekend for my die-hard Montana fishing guests. But, for those who brought their RV's and their little kids, and (perhaps foolishly) planned to spend a little time outdoors, Saturday completely wiped out those plans.

In fact, it is unusual, even in the winter, to receive such a steady fall of snow. It snowed ALL day. Although the ground was warm, which slowed accummulation, we still managed to stack up about 1 1/2 inches before the day was over. Sunday, however, was a bit more typical (although COLD). It would snow for 20 minutes then sunshine for 10, then snow again, then hail, then blow, then a little sunshine.

Well, the weather didn't only make for what I'd class "miserable" fishing, it also turned our road (which at its best can be far from good) into a virtual 5 mile long mudhole with deep ruts and nasty sink holes). Now, consider this - you brought your new (or nearly so) $40,000 (or more) RV up to spend the weekend. The road, on the way in, was its usual rough but passable at 5 - 10 miles per hours self. However, now that you're here, the weather has turned that lovely road into something you don't want to take your four wheel drive pickup down, let alone your nice RV - but, what are your options?

Yeah, they had to haul them back out! According to the folks I talked to (calling to let us know they'd survived the experience), they only jacknifed a few times! And, of course, they took a couple of acres of Montana mud with them, courtesy of the Beaverhead County Road Department.

Less you think I exagerate, I have 'written' proof of the road conditions (as well as photos). When the young men who typically look for excuses to go squirrel around in mud, balk at such as they have to traverse, it is not for the faint of heart.

However, less you think we had a bad weekend, fear not. Fun was had by all (who could get here), regardless of the weather (or maybe in spite of it). The fishing, in between snow showers, was terrific, and the pool table got a fair amount of use during snow showers.

And, so, another saga in life at Elk Lake goes down in the history books!

Lady of the Lake


Boy shows the way at our Western Montana Lodge

After a busy day fishing, it was a young man who took the 'prize' for catching the biggest fish. Young Cameron was determined to catch something. Dad might be here on business, but, to Cameron, fishing was his business. As with most things in life, the fish didn't make it easy, but he persisted. And, after several hours on the dock, drowning his fly, his patience and persistence were rewarded.

A fish finally bit at that fly, and that was all the encouragement Cameron needed. He deftly and skillfully worked him in to shore. Then what? He came bearing his fish, de-gutted and bloody to the lodge. "Your husband said you'd cook this for me," he said.

After making him a deal to cook the fish if he'd let me take his picture (not a very hard bargain to reach), the boy parted with his prize. Of course, as soon as Dad got back, he had to come to the kitchen first - "Can I show Dad my fish?" A few more interested parties (men who couldn't seem to get a bite - would the whipping wind and white caps have anything to do with that?) to have a look, and the fish finally got cooked and eaten.

This morning, the memory and a photo, one young man headed back home - his quary slain - his goal accomplished. And so, like the 12# rainbow from Hidden Lake, last year, a boy showed the men how it was done. Good for you Cameron!

Lady of the Lake


We see the 'white' at this western Montana lodge

This weekend was punctuated with flashes of white. Saturday started with a 'bang', literally, as a thunderstorm rolled through the area. Of course, thunderstorms are the norm here in the mountains, and, I must admit, I enjoy them. The roar and crack of the thunder as it rumbles and echoes down the canyon - well, there's nothing man-made like it. There is always the danger of fire, but usually, this time of year, the danger is low.

However, the storm which rumbled through the canyon Saturday morning carried a little more 'bang for the buck' than usual. I love listening to the thunder, and so, in typical fashion, I opened the nearest window. Well, since I was still upstairs, the nearest window happened to be the sliding glass door from our bedroom to the upstairs deck. As a worked around the room, I relished the upclose and personal experience - or at least I thought it was up close and personal. And, then it was!

A brilliant flash, a deafening crack, the smell of electricity, the hair on my arms standing to attention. I spun around to see a tree swallow flutter to the deck (from the roof), and flounder around - obviously scared witless or more likely effected by the 'very present' electrical currents in the air.

At that same instant, the power failed. Now, those of you who live in areas where thunderstorms are a norm, know power failure during a storm is not unusual. However, for us - it IS! And, worse, since we generate our own power, it can also mean a crisis of major proportions. As I pondered my next move - Craig was down at the barn taking advantage of the heavy rain shower to burn a brush pile - Nathaniel came running into the room, crying and yelling "Scared You!", his version of "I'm scared spitless."

After a quick hug, a few comforting words, and turning him over to Hannah, I hurried out the door. First job - find Rosie, Hannah's Golden Retriever who had, moments earlier, been lying outside my sliding glass door. Second job - get Craig. After all, maintenance is his job, right?

I found the dog, hiding on the front porch - actually both dogs. Bo, the new pup was curled in the corner as if thunderstorms which struck the house (or so I thought) were the norm. Rosie, a little more upset by her up-close-and-personal experience, was hiding under a log bench.

Moments later, I shared with Craig my concerns that the lightning had struck the house, sighting the poor swallow (which, by the way, recovered quickly and returned to sitting on the roof - or so I assume) as proof of my theory. He, however, said he'd been looking toward the house at the 'moment' and saw the lightning strike either the chimney on the cold room, or the solar panels.

After a quick assessment for visual damage (after all, lightning doesn't strike the same spot twice - right?), I returned to the house to find the power had returned. THANK GOD! Since Craig could find no permanent damage, we were thankful we had escaped unscathed. (Side note: When Craig kicked on the generator later that evening, we found a timed delay switch in the lodge had been blown. However, as it was easily bridged, and just about as easily fixed, we remain thankful to have escaped more serious consequences.)

On another note: later that same morning I had the privilege of watching two bald eagles playing the wind currents up Narrows Creek Canyon. As I watched them feint, circle, and dive, the sun flashed and winked off the white of their tails and heads. That afternoon, as I worked in the lodge, I looked out just in time to see them rush by, apparently caught up in a game of race and chase. As they passed, the lead eagle rolled, reached toward his partner with his tallens, then righted himself - an amazing display of airiel acrobatics!

Otherwise, life is quiet relaxed and 'normal' here at this western Montana lodge. The sun is warm, the grass is green, the aspens and willows wear a shimmering cloak of green and white, and even the lilac (which typically blooms on the 4th of July) is getting into the act and putting out a few tentative leaves. The air has cooled in the aftermath of the weekend's thunderstorms, with a bit of rain over the last 24 hours to cut the dust and rinse the air. Today the sky is blue - like the Celestial waters lapping at heaven's shores - and a few fluffy white clouds meander by on their way to only they know where.

Lady of the Lake


A New Season at our Western Montana Lodge

Of course the big news is - after a great snow year, we are watching our snowpack fizzle under the onslaught of an unusually warm spring. In fact, the trees have leaves! Yes, before Memorial Day, we have leaves. But, who in their right mind would complain in the face of an awakening earth?

Then again, the water level hasn't looked this good in years, and the fishing - well, the fishing has been great! After their latest survey, Montana FWP has given a thumbs up to both Hidden Lake and Elk Lake.

In other news, the wildlife is back in full-force. Elk have been seen passing through the valley. Wolves have been sighted in the area. The moose are beginning to move off the valley floor, but we still saw eleven on our drive the first of the week. The smaller animals are getting into the act too - with regular visits from river otters and chipmunks. Even the fox seems to be frequenting the back door, looking for handouts. And, the birds!

After a long winter with only an occasional visitor (outside of the Magpies), we have an abundant variety of birds to enjoy. In the last few days I've had the pleasure of watching majestic Trumpeter Swans flying in formation overhead, listening to the haunting calls of Sandhill Cranes echoing down the canyon, watching my favorite winged acrobats - the Tree Swallows dipping and diving in search of a snack, relished the awesome colors of an Audobon Warbler, been dazzled by the nearly flourescent blue of our Mountain Bluebirds, and been serenaded to sleep by the soft calls of a variety of water fowl.

Life is good. It's good to be back at Elk Lake - especially at this time of year as we watch the green of summer unfold before our eyes.