Late September - WOW - at Our Western Montana Lodge

It's hard to imagine any place on earth which can compare to mid and late September at Our Western Montana Lodge. Granted, I love every season, but there is something extra special about fall - at least while we're enjoying it.

Take the animals - I've seen more animals of late than I have all summer combined. Since most large animals are in rut this time of year, they tend to be more visible and more active. For example, the Elk. One of the most majestic and awe inspiring large animals on the North American continent, our Elk are doing their best to fill their roll. In just one day - less than three hours time in the Valley - I saw three bulls and their cows. And, they weren't little, scruffy bulls either! Of the three, I'd say the smallest had to be a five point.

I didn't even have to beat the brush for these upclose and personal encounters. I was actually on my way out (first bull and herd in the morning) for the day - and then on my way back in (last two bulls with their cows) later that evening. All three were close to or crossing the road.

As if that isn't enough, I talked to some locals who have been seeing and hearing up to eight bulls in a group. In fact, one man told me of two guys who just sat and listened to the Elk bugle and carry on until well after dark. Now, if that doesn't raise the hair on the back of your neck and put goosebumps on your goosebumps - well, you've been hanging around the city far too long!

However, if Elk just really aren't your 'thing', consider the Moose. The next week or two is supposed to bring us to the high point of their rut. Now, I haven't personally seen a bull in the last two weeks, but I've heard it on good authority that they are not only out there - there are some real nice looking ones.

Of course the excitement isn't limited to the big game this time of year. The antelope are plentious - and often hilarious to watch as the bucks jockey for position. I must have seen 30 - 40 last evening. Most easily seen on the North road - or coming in from the west - these lively little animals may look a lot like deer, but their personalities are quite different!

None-the-less, if deer are what you seek, we've got those around too. Although not as visible as some of the larger game and the antelope, I managed to see half a dozen right beside the road recently. With the bucks in the middle of their annual competition for the ladies, a little time spent off the beaten path out to be quite rewarding.

Not everything in the valley is about the 'rut', however. The ducks and geese are gathering for their annual pilgrimage to south. A couple of mornings ago I'd estimate we saw better than 100 geese on Culver Pond as well as myriads of ducks. What this means, of course, is great photo opportunities as well as potentially terrific hunting - especially as there are a lot of birds but not many hunters.

Okay, enough of the birds and animals. Some time spent at Elk Lake Resort this time of year offers incredible opportunities to enjoy the local color as well. The aspens in the Centennial Valley have gone overboard in an effort to show off their fall foliage. In fact, the drive over Red Rock Pass has got to be one of the most beautiful around.

Add to all of the above - great fishing, great opportunities to view smaller wildlife and birds (a couple of friends had an excellent photo shoot earlier this week with a badger as the model), and little to no people. Now, the Centennial is NEVER really busy, but this time of year you practically have the whole place to yourself!

I guess, all things considered, I have a LOT of good reasons to think life at Our Western Montana Lodge is at its best this time of year.

Lady of the Lake


We're Enjoying Fall at our Western Montana Lodge

Fall is such a beautiful time of year at Elk Lake Resort. In fact, if I were hard pressed I might say it was my favorite time of year. Then again, there really isn't a season in the Centennial I don't enjoy. Spring brings a carpet of green which spreads like paint flowing from a huge can across the dry and dead landscape left behind when the snow departs. And who can forget to mention to baby animals which seem to appear on every side.

Summer, with its long warm days and cool nights adds delights of its own. Early summer is a great time for fishing, wildflower enjoyment, and wildlife viewing. Mid summer the lake warms enough for swimming and water play; late summer brings the animals back down from the high country for more viewing opportunities.

Then we've got fall. Glorious, colorful fall! The aspens put on a display unlike any other season. With their coats of red and gold hanging on white and black coat racks against the deep green background of their evergreen counterparts, they are the 'queen' of the season. However, the fishing is back in gear, much of the wildlife is in 'rut' and thus showing and sounding more, and the sky takes on the deep blue which no color chart can replicate.

But let's not forget winter. I think it odd so many think winter would be the 'hardest' time of year here. With hundreds of miles of snow all around, all one needs is a snowmobile, snowshoes, or cross country skies to enter this wonderland of white which Disney, with all its special effects and computer gurus, can NEVER replicate. In my opinion, there is nothing so beautiful as the sun turning a white field into a million sparkling diamonds and draping capes of white across noble evergreen ladies under an endless canopy of blue. Who on earth could take such a sight for granted?

Lest I wax too poetic, I better end. The days are getting shorter and cooler, but we continue to be blessed with lots of warm sunshine and beautiful blue skies. I know they won't last long so I'm enjoying every moment I can get outside. Yesterday evening it was a kayak ride on the lake just before dusk. Today it was a visit on the porch with friends, old and new. Tomorrow - well, I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds, here in the backside of nowhere - or, in my opinion, just a mile or so from heaven.

Lady of the Lake


Winter Reminds Us Of Its Impending Arrival

It got cold! It got real cold! Well, maybe not real cold (the 20's above really doesn't constitute real cold weather at our Western Montana Lodge), but going from the 70's to the 30's in a 24 hour period definitely got our attention.

After several days of Indian Summer - warm, blue skies, soft breeze, perfect weather - the cold front which passed through over the weekend served as an excellent reminder. As one visitor said, "In Montana, September can be in the 70's or snowing." And it did, snow that is.

In fact, all day Saturday, while our brave fishermen from California tried to keep their fingers from freezing (and while, by the way, they caught some nice fish), it snowed. Never very hard, and it didn't stick, but it snowed all day - and blew a bit too. Consequently, several of our guests thought it was a nice day to sit around the fire and watch some college football or play a game of gin or poker in the dining room.

Today, however, although there is still a 'bite' in the air, it is into the 50's in the shade - and much warmer in the abundant sunshine. And, the air is clean and clear - another benefit of the weather system which passed through. Another, and there are several, is the help I'm sure it gave to the firefighters who have been bravely battling fires on several fronts this summer.

Now the trees are getting very serious about showing off their fall wardrobe. The bugs have just about had their final curtain call. The air is clean. The sky is soooo blue. And, life here at Elk Lake Resort is a new adventure everyday!

Lady of the Lake


We Step Back in Time at Our Western Montana Lodge

A visit to Cody, Wyoming produced some nice photographs and a few good stories from a nearly forgotten era. As some of you know, I am always searching for stories relating the history of Elk Lake Resort. A couple of years ago, the second Resort owner, Erlene Mercer, graciously offered me a chance to view her photo album from their time here. So, fearing to wait too long, and thus loose the opportunity, I finally made the trek to Cody.

Erlene kindly opened her home to me; we spent a couple of hours perusing her photo album. Beginning with a few photos from when the original owners, Faye and Edna Selby, owned the place, we worked our way to the early 70's when Hank and Erlene sold to Bill Green.

Erlene's photos showed how much things change - and how much they stay the same. For example, early photos of the ranch house and resort show the cabins similar but different. The roofing material, at this time, was 3 tab. The siding appears to have been some kind of cement board - painted white until the 'boys' decided red would look better. Cabin 3 used to sit closer to the road, and Cabin 7 was the 'tack room'. No porch existed on Cabin 1, Cabin 2's porch looks to have been changed, and Cabin 3's porch has definitely taken on a new look in the passing years. Another fact I'd been told, but had not seen, none of the cabins had bathrooms. In addition, the lodge didn't have a front porch (and was sided and roofed similar to the cabins).

As I knew before going, the addition onto the dining room was still in the future. Also, the interior of the lodge, although still retaining familiar impressions, looked quite a bit different. In fact, the current sitting room and bar were basically one big room with a small bar against one wall, an oak roll-top desk where business was conducted, and a piano in one corner. The rest of the room could easily be cleared for the regular dances which were held here. (One brief story Erlene told was of the big quake in the 1950's. Apparently the Selbys were in the lodge at the time. They reported the piano rolled clear across the room and banged against the far wall. Other damage occurred, I'm sure, but the self-motivated piano made the biggest impression, it seems.)

However, the general layout of the Resort remains the same - except - the entrance used to the to the south of the Resort. Unfortunately this meant a great deal more traffic (at least as years passed) traveled by Cabins 1, 2, and 3. Therefore, during Miller's time, the entrance was moved to the West side.

I also saw photos of the boats, and boat docks. The dock at Elk Lake was similar to that which we now have. However, at the North end of the lake a dock also existed (although by Mercer's time it was looking a bit worn out). This dock, however, continued to serve a purpose until late in the Mercer's ownership. According to Erlene, even after a road was put in to allow access to Hidden Lake, it was very rough and often dangerous to use early and late in the season. Thus the Mercers continued to ferry people across the lake and then drive them on up to Hidden Lake for much of their ownership.

The boats, at Hidden Lake, were wooden - and there were quite a few. The lake produced nice trout (as it does today) and was popular with quite a few. In fact, a very old copy (probably 1940's) of 'Click Magazine' had an article on Jane Russell - and it contained several photos of her 'frolicing' around Hidden Lake.

Other photos Erlene had to share were (obviously) of fish which had been caught. Another photo taken during Selby's time showed a young black bear on the back porch of the Ranch House. According to Erlene, this bear took a liking to the Selby's and hung around quite a bit. Another interesting series of photos from Selby's time were of a young elk calf being suckled by a Hereford cow. In fact, this calf elk continued to suckle that cow until it was so large it had to lay down to access the milk. The photo Erlene allowed me to copy of Edna Selby shows her standing beside a full grown bull elk (this youngster all grown up).

I also obtained several photos of the Resort showing things as they used to be. Other photos show guests enjoying their stay - something which hasn't changed! Erlene told me of one group which came annually from California. This group stayed a week and had a continuous party. Oddly enough, a few days after I returned from our visit, two gentlemen and their families stopped by. And, who would have guessed it, but they were some of the children who came with this group years ago.

Well, I guess, the more things change, the more they stay the same. One way or another, every time I hear another story of people and events which have occurred here in the last 72 years, I feel increasing blessed to be making a piece of my 'own history' here at our Western Montana Lodge.

Lady of the Lake