Elk Lake Christmas Memories

Some things are worth repeating over and over again. Christmas is definitely one! In our family, Christmas has always been a time of celebration and feasting with family and friends. Early in our married life, we joined together with family - usually at one of the parents' homes.

Once the kids came along (and we got a bigger house), we began hosting Christmas at our house. When we moved across the state, it wasn't as easy or as practical to gather with family. That's when our gathering began to be populated with friends. In fact, before we moved to Elk Lake Resort, it wasn't uncommon for 20 to 25 of us to sit down to Christmas dinner.

Now our only winter access is by snowmobile. This makes it a little harder for friends and family to reach us. However, some die-hard friends are not above bundling up the whole family (this year our youngest had just celebrated his 1st birthday in August) and making the trek.

And, in keeping with our more remote location, we've increased the time spent together. Now, instead of a long day, we spend a week enjoying each other - feasting each night, playing games, frolicking in the snow, snowmobiling, and whatever else sounds like fun at the moment. This is when we get to enjoy Elk Lake to the fullest - the way our guests do it.

Those who do not live in the 'wild west' probably have a hard time imagining living so close to the great outdoors. Instead of delayed flights, traffic jams, and busy shopping malls, we deal with cold (sometimes bitterly) temperatures, extended drives to the 'coveniences' of life, and snow drifts which threaten to swallow our machines. But, I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else.

In fact, as I read the recent Christmas in YNP article in the Billings Gazette, I was reminded how much our lives can still parallel those of our forefathers and mothers. Candlelight services. Wildlife traffic jams. Cold trips. Deep snow. Week-long celebrations. Time to enjoy good friends and good food while we recount our blessings.

That's part of what makes life worth living - and, here at Elk Lake, we enjoy doing just that!

Lady of the Lake


From Montana to Costa Rica and Back Again!

Talk about temperature shock. Less than a week ago we were sweltering in mid 70 to upper 80 degree weather (and a humidity level way up there) on the south-western coast of Costa Rica ("Beautiful Coast"). Two days ago Elk Lake Resort welcomed us back to 17 degrees below zero! I'm not sure my 'thinned' blood has warmed since I got back home.

Nevertheless, I'm so very glad to be here. Outside my window a light snow is falling, adding its splendor to the beautiful white blanket covering the ground. As much as I enjoyed the tropical splendors of Costa Rica, nothing compares to the beauty and serenity of the Centennial Valley.

And, yet, many things about Costa Rica 'felt' like home (I'm speaking of the Centennial Valley in particular here). The natural beauty, the friendly people, the slower pace of life (at least when we're not in the middle of our busy season), and even the roads.

In fact, I finally figured out where Beaverhead County learned to build roads. They visited Costa Rica! Sadly, however, Costa Rica is moving ahead, improving their country's infastructure. On the other hand, Beaverhead County appears to have no desire to move the Centennial Valley into the 20th century (at least when it comes to roads - now if we're talking taxes, that's a whole different arena all together).

However, on a more positive note. Costa Rica is a country loaded with natural beauty. The flora and fauna are incredibly colorful. Many of the birds proudly display brilliant plumage. Even the degrees of green in the jungle foliage are diverse and varied. Top that off with pristine south-western beaches. Here one can still find unspoiled and unpopulated sandy beaches boarded by palm trees and rugged cliffs. If that isn't enough, awesome sunsets throw flaming reds and golds across the sky.

One might think, from my adulation, the Centennial Valley has dimmed in my eyes. Never fear! Costa Rica can't hold a candle to the sheer vastness of our wild open spaces. In fact, Costa Rica is almost claustrophic by comparison. Our countryside seems to welcome entry and exploration. Their countryside seems to do all it can to bar intruders. Unless you're armed with a machette and several gallons of water (to replace all you're going to loose in sweat), you won't be wandering far off the 'beaten path' in Costa Rica.

I must say, however, the Costa Rican people made us feel right at home, even when we couldn't speak their language (which was all the time unless they could speak ours). In fact, I had two occasions where I needed to communicate something, but I didn't speak Spanish and my would-be 'helper' didn't speak English. Believe it our not, we figured it out!

In the first instance I needed to call home. In our little town, Ojochal, there was a small C-Store (I can't remember what they call them, but that is a close description) which offered a 'public' phone. In other words, they would let us use their phone. We were then to pay them for the call.
My helper, a young man in his mid-teens, didn't speak English. I wrote the phone number I wished to call on a piece of cardboard. He dialed the operator, placed the call, and handed me the phone. (At this point no money had changed hands). When I finished my call, I offered to pay (held out money). He held up his hand for me to wait and called the operator back. After a brief conversation with her, he handed me the phone. Fortunately she could speak English. Long story short, she told me how much to pay him - and told him how much I owed. I passed over the money (and a tip for his time and help), and we called things good. Amazing!

My second helper came along when I desperately needed a bathroom. We were waiting for the road crew to fix the only bridge heading North out of town (the nearest 'detour' was over 8 hours out of the way). After waiting nearly an hour we learned they estimated repairs to take another hour. I went in search of a bathroom. Fortunately my helper, an older gentelman this time, had a better understanding of basic English than I did of basic Spanish. When I asked for a bathroom, he pointed at what looked like a closet. When I asked again, he pointed again. Sure enough, he'd gotten my point.

Here in the Centennial, people are friendly too. Costa Rican's don't have us beat here. I've heard many stories (and been involved in a few too) of people stranded or in need of assistance here in the valley. When you get stranded here, it feels like you're in a foreign country. It's just soooo far to the outside world. However, in each case our valley residents and visitors have stepped in to lend a hand.

The primary difference, from my point of view, is Costa Rica is all about people. While our nearest neighbor is over 15 miles away, Costa Rica packs hundreds into its villages and millions into its cities. It may be many miles between villages, but the jungle keeps people (for the most part), contained. So, there is little chance to feel the seclusion which the Centennial Valley offers.
Last, but not least is the slower pace of life. Here I found the most similarity between Costa Rica and the Centennial Valley. People had time to visit. They seemed to enjoy one another's company. You didn't see much of the American 'keep up with the Jones' syndrome. People worked hard and relaxed freely. Much work was done by hand - and sweat wasn't something to avoid. There were no three-piece suits. Although it seemed most Costa Ricans had a cell phone (just a few short years ago the town only had a single land-line phone), many didn't have a car. Most of all, they seemed content to live where they were. You didn't see the need to move which predominates Western society.

Here are several lessons we, Americans, could learn. Fortunately in the Centennial, most families still make their living close to the land. They still believe in hard work and healthy sweat. Neighbors are still important. Friendships are still honored - even when it hurts. And, most people who live in the Centennial can't imagine living anywhere else. This is home, and they love it!

All in all, I think the two biggest contrasts I found between home and Costa Rica were the temperatures (100 degrees is quite noticeable) and the unfriendly jungle as compared to our wide open spaces. I loved our trip. I highly admire the Costa Rican people. I can see why so many Europeans (there are a LOT of them down there) now call that little country home. They, too, have found what most of America and Europe has forgotten - how to slow down and live without overwhelming governmental control and unlimited handouts.

For those of you who think Costa Rica might be worth a visit (I'd recommend it), check out La Casa De Tierra. Set on 55 private acres in the middle of the jungle, this single-family home provided us a private 'get away' while we enjoyed Costa Rica. We'd also recommend a small motel owned by a Canadian family which serves as an excellent base for visiting Costa Rica's beautiful volcanos. Hotel La Rosa de America is a B&B hotel located in the Central Valley. Or, if you prefer a little more pampering, check out Buena Vista. "Beautiful View" is a lovely B&B owned by wonderful Canadian couple. They not only offer many 'support' services, recreational suggestions, lovely private rooms, and an inviting pool, their property does indeed offer a beautiful view in nearly every direction.

In spite of all these words of praise, I can honestly say, "There is NO PLACE LIKE HOME". I'm glad to be back, Elk Lake.

Lady of the Lake


Controversy - Blessed Controversy!

Controversy: Debate; Dispute (courtesy Thorndike Barhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary).

Without controversy we would probably never have reached our current 'heights' in technology, pharmacology, psychology, theology and so on (although we may someday view some of our progress as regress)! No doubt, without 'debates' we would have been content to maintain the status quo. However, someone always manages to come along and poke at our comfortable repose - and, in the positive sense, get our brain cells clanging around which, if all goes as it should, leads to positive improvements in the things which make our lives 'comfortable'.

On the other hand, wars would cease if it were not for our disputes. In good 'fence riding' fashion, I will tiptoe around that hot spot and dive into what I consider to be safer ground - even though I highly doubt it is less of a 'topic' for many.

Since most of the time I am surrounded more by nature and its issues, I am not surprised my view of 'controversy' is more colored by animals than wars. Not to raise them to a pedastal for which they were not made, but these issues are important too - especially the clash between human interests and animal interests.

After all, this is the springboard for animal rights groups. Lest I be misunderstood, that isn't where this is headed. Although I would be in the front lines to stop animal brutality, I don't put animals and humans on the same level. If I were forced to take the life of an animal to save the life of a child, it would pain me severly, but I'd do so.

To the point. Take the environmental movement. Many in this growing 'class' work with serious dedication and hard work to return our planet to what they envision it was in the past. Their efforts have saved many beautiful and valuable places from over-development and explotation. For that I applaud them.

However, I believe there are those who take things to the extreme. I'm referencing, for example, those who feel the wolf has a right to be wherever - whenever. In other words, wild creatures by their very definition deserve the right to do as they please with no consequences whatsoever (except what another natural aspect should wish to impose on them).

No human interference. While this may sound practical - in the sense of protecting the wolf - it certainly flies in the face of those who make try to make a living without 'feeding' the wolf.

I speak of ranchers. Oddly enough, most folks I visit with do not see the rancher as an environmentalist. Nevertheless, much of the land we now enjoy - those wide open spaces which bring us a taste of what it used to be like - exists because of this hardy breed. By the way, the Centennial Valley is a PERFECT example.

It is the rancher who has kept the west from being developed as rapidly as the east. It is the rancher who has protected and preserved and provided for the land - purely and simply (sometimes) because he would loose his livelihood without it. It is the rancher who has held off the developer - often the great exploiter of the land.

Yet for all his hard work, not only does he not receive the credit he is due, but he is often slapped with the label of 'wolf-killer'. Case in point: "The Loop" by Nicholas Evans. Although I enjoyed portions of this book immensely, Evans paints the rancher with the broad (and politically correct) brush. He's shortsighted, money-grubbing, and environmentally destructive - if he perceives it as being in his best interest.

Books like this, I believe, despite the good they may do in providing a 'postive' outlook on a feared (and thus endangered) animal, have put the rancher in the position of defending himself (as well as his livestock) against the wolf - or more specifically - against those who see the wolf's side of the equation but fail to see the rancher's side.

I'm not advocating a free-for-all wolf killing spree. I agree, this beautiful creature has a right to exist on the planet. But what I believe sets me apart from many who would agree with that statement is: I believe there is greater value in a human life than in a wolf's life. Lest I be painted with that broad (and currently politically correct) brush let me clarify my point.

Wolves have a right to exist wherever and whenever they choose, as long as it is not endangering the life of a human. I also agree we must exercise great restraint in the expansion of development to prevent pushing them into a 'too small to survive' location. However, as in the case of the rancher, we - as humans - must be allowed the right to defend ourselves (and our livestock or our families) against a wolf.

Wolves are top of the food chain predators. They have NO enemies except man. While I'm certainly not advocating broad scale wolf killing, there are cases where a rancher must do what a rancher must do. Sadly enough, there are some out there which just don't see it that way. For them the wolf is sacred.

Another case in point (and closer to home): the man who sat in my dining room and condemned me when he found out - through the course of our conversation - that if I saw a wolf stalking my (then 3 year old) son, I would kill it. In the end I think it all boiled down to point of view.

Like I told him - yes, my son probably has no more intrinsic value to you than that wolf (although he should). However, were that your son out there, I would hope you would find enough love and parental fidelity in your heart to protect your son, even if it meant taking the life of such a beautiful and wild animal.

It's all in your perspective - and so the controversy will continue.

Lady of the Lake
PS - The beautify photo of the Hayden Pack is courtesy of our good friend, Gary!

The Close of a Season

The time has come - and we are ready. Time to shut the doors for a few weeks and enjoy a respite from the day to day. What most people call 'vacation'. What those of us in the service industry call 'rest'.

Living in such an incredible place, the sad part is only that we must leave (at least briefly) to get a complete break. Otherwise people still stop by - the curious, the friendly, or the lost ones - to visit. This, of course, does not facilitate the complete break our bodies need to rejuvenate nor the mental relaxation our minds need to regroup.

I think season closure is much like sunset. You work hard during the day, but (at least for most of us) the sun's set signals a time for repose, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Our bodies demand it. Our minds require it.

If it were not for the blessed time we call 'sleep', our bodies would soon burn out and our minds would whirl out of control. However, after a good night's sleep our bodies awake, eager for the new day, and our minds leap forward into the new challenges the day provides.

Thus we look forward, with eagerness, to our re-opening --- full of vim, vigor, and vitality --- eager for the new days and the new challenges.

Lady of the Lake


Life on the "Wild" Side

I've finally gotten back into the swing - the daily walk swing. During the summer and early fall seasons I spend WAY too much time indoors. In fact, with a season as busy as our last, I don't have the time (or the energy) to get out and enjoy the incredible natural resources in my back yard. However, with the changing of the seasons, I'm back outdoors and loving it.

Lately, as I've been walking along, I've gotten to pondering the 'deep' subject of why it is some people find pure (not the 'Disneyland' form) nature so inviting while others find it overwhelming at the least, maybe a little inhibiting, or, in some cases, downright frightening. I'm sure I seem as alien to those who are more comfortable in the city (or at least suburbia) as they seem to me. But, I think, in reality, 'they' are in the majority while I'm somewhere nearly off the scale in the minority.

Seriously! Take for example the folks who move 'way out' into the country. They obviously are pulled toward something. Something draws them. Most likely it has something to do with the quiet, the privacy, the seclusion. But, what is the first thing they do? They install one of those big mercury vapor yard lights (or something similar) to light up their space. My questions is: why? Why move out where you can see the stars then drown their existance? Why settle in a secluded location then advertise your presence with a beacon?

I decided it is, in most cases, a reflection of our fear. We fear nature. At first this may seem odd, but dig a little deeper and the actions of most people support my theory.

Take Mr. VanBlaricom's article from an old issue of "The Wallowa County Chieftain". Years ago when Mr. VanBlaricom wrote for this small town newspaper, he was one of my favorite contributors. In recent years the new owners have decided a more 'politically correct' approach to news casting (isn't that an oximoron?) is preferred. Thus Mr. V's contributions no longer fit.

For all his 'unpolitically correct' viewpoints, Mr. V had a major dose of good sense. In the article to which I'm referring, Mr. V tells of a 4th of July weekend excursion he took with his wife.

Before I relate his story, a little background might help. Wallowa County, Oregon is a large county of which a vast percentage is public land (BLM, USFS, State, and the like). The people made their living primarily in the timber industry (until our national forests were closed to logging) or in agriculture (hay, grain, cattle). One final point of importance was the county's draw to the tourist. Boasting beautiful scenery, grand mountain ranges, deep canyons, and lots of wide open space, Wallowa County was a popular spot for those 'escaping' the city.

With that in mind, consider Mr. VanBlaricom's story. He says, one bright morning on a busy 4th of July weekend, he and Mrs. V decided to take a drive out north. Leaving behind civilization (and pavement), they headed into the hills. The loop they were traversing covered more than 100 miles, mostly through public land on gravel roads. However, in spite of passing two or three forest service campgrounds, the VanBlaricoms traversed a completely unpopulated piece of earth.

Having seen all the tourists rolling into town for the long holiday weekend, they found this just a bit odd. Especially as the county had been hit (again) by another push from 'environment lovers' to ban hunting of 'this' or close cattle access to 'that' or protect 'these' from 'them'. So, where were all those people who so loved nature and so desired to protect it for themselves and the future generations? Here it was, the land they were protecting so they could enjoy it. Why weren't they enjoying it?

Mr. and Mrs. V pondered this question into their dreams. The next morning, they decided to set the issue aside and take a drive to the lake. It is important to note that 'the lake' was one of the county's most beautiful attractions - but, it was also one of the most 'commercialized' pieces of real estate. However, people aside, the locals still enjoyed a visit now and again. So, off they went.

To their surprise, not only did they find the lake, they found ALL the people. The lake's campgrounds were spilling over. Side by side, people were crammed into every available nook and cranny.

In the end, Mr. V came to the only logical conclusion. Although some of those folks had probably fought for (or at least agreed with) the petitions to 'save' the wild areas from . . . . - they were too afraid of nature and too accustomed to their 'conveniences' and 'entertainments' to go out and 'enjoy' it. Instead they huddled together in their comfortable RVs listening to their neighbor's TV show or the argument down the lane instead of the birds twittering in the nearby bush, the wind whispering in the trees, the hooting of a solitary owl, or the yipping conversation of a pack of coyotes.

So, what's the moral of this story? Sadly, it supports the growing realization that many people are uncomfortable with or even scared of 'pure nature'. On the other hand, I can't seem to get enough.

Don't take that to mean I'm out there looking for bears and wolves with which to have up-close and personal experiences. My hiking companion - he's BIG, black, white, and tan, and furry - was picked to help avoid such confrontations. But, I don't like hiking the road (hunting season may make it expedient, but certainly not desireable). I don't even like hiking the same trail day after day - even my favorite trails grow old that way.

I do like exploring over the next ridge or revisting a spot I haven't been in a while. Listening to the elk bugle across the lake (or up the draw) sends shivers of pleasure up my spine. I get a kick out of watching a coyote watching me. Spotting a new bird species makes my day. Even the quiet pleasure of sitting on a hillside - me, the dogs, and no one else - soaking up a few 'rays and listening to the wind's whisper, the bird's chirping, and the squirrel's chatter beats out any 'civilized' form of recreation in my book.

So, does this make me odd? In a not so distance past I would probably have been considered the 'conservative', the 'hesitant', or maybe even the 'fearful' hiker. Today, well, things are just different today, aren't they?

Lady of the Lake


Who Can Be So Blind As To Doubt This Granduer Has An Architect?

I don't usually 'preach' in my blog - and I won't today, I'll let Isaac Watts have the podium. He says it much more eloquently anyway. I'm glad he does because I can't keep silent when such beauty floods the countryside around me!

"I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God's command, and all the stars obey.

"I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where'er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tred, or gaze upon the sky.

"There's not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that man can be, Thou, God art present there."

Lady of the Lake



Sometimes I think fall is the most beautiful season of the year. However, I think that as every season comes around. I guess it just proves how fickle I am - just like the weather this time of year.

Two days ago we were soaking up the sun in 70 degree weather. Today we're hanging out by the fireplace enjoying its warmth and taking care of those inside jobs to avoid the 30 degree weather outside. However, in spite of the chilly temperatures, the colors outside our windows still tug at us, teasing us to come out and enjoy Fall's last hoorah!

This week we learned about a movie-in-the-making here in the Centennial. Fortunately this is not one of those "Hollywood" movies. This, instead, is a celebration of the Centennial Valley's unique characteristics and a tribute to those who have helped to keep it that way.

Although an honorable project, this production doesn't have the big bucks which Big Production promoters seem to find surrounding their plans. However, with help from groups like The Nature Conservancy, other parties interested in protecting and preserving the Centennial, and maybe even YOU? - the rare beauty and pristine wildness of the Centennial will be documented for all to see and enjoy. For more information contact The Nature Conservancy.

Lady of the Lake


Summer Is Going, Going, Gone!

Wow! And they say time flies when you're having fun. Well, this summer must have been a LOT of fun because time seems to have passed at the speed of light. Wasn't it just yesterday we were headed into our summer season? Today I find myself nearing the end.

It has been a GREAT season. We've made lots of new friends, had great visits with some old ones, and look forward to many returns next year. But, fall is quickly approaching - the signs are all around.

The last three nights the mercury has dropped below freezing - one night well below. The trees are getting serious about putting on their fall foliage. The bushes on the hillsides are rushing to get dressed first. The birds are looking for warmer lodging, and life is taking that turn to the quieter days of winter.

I must admit, I'm ready. It has been a long (sometimes hard) summer. We were blessed with almost more business than we could handle. In fact, we've come to the conclusion even with our wonderful help from New Zealand, we were short staffed again this summer. So. . .next summer I suspect we'll be looking for three pairs of hands to help out instead of two.

However, as we look to enjoy a bit more down time - time enjoying this wonderful place we call home - I wish you all a wonderful fall and winter. And, if you're in the West Yellowstone / Island Park / Centennial Valley area - give us a call. We always enjoy a visit from our friends.

Lady of the Lake


When did "We" become "They"

Wow, I can't believe an entire month has flown by without a single entry! Shame on me. However, I can honestly say the lack of words on paper (or blog) is not due to lack of anything to say but rather lack of time to say it.

But, I have a few minutes so. . .

Our days are filled with fun, food, and fans (of Elk Lake). They're also filled with work, work, and more work. Sadly we've also experienced a bit of controversy here in paradise.

One of the things I read recently not only poked me in the eye but also hit the proverbial nail on the head. I stumbled across this article by accident, but found it 'enlightening' to say the least.

I can't even remember the subject. Something controversial. Whether it dealt with wildfire, wildlife, or wild country doesn't really matter in the end. After all, they're all connected. Each one is at the heart of a controversy raging right now - somewhere.

What 'poked me in the eye' was when the interviewee said 'we all agree. . .' (on whatever it was) and 'we are all concerned. . .' (about whatever they were discussing). This man's statements immediately provoked the question, "When did you become me?"

After all, I am a free citizen of this country. I thought that gave me a voice of my own. However, this man felt he spoke for me (and you, for that matter). Now, I don't mind letting someone else speak for me, if they are saying what I believe. But when someone (like my undisclosed man in this scenario) starts saying what they believe is what I believe - and nothing could be farther from the truth - that really gets my dander up.

But isn't that just like life? After all, it seems we're constantly having to either accept or correct the opinions and pre-suppositions which people try to thrust upon us. Take Elk Lake. We're currently in the middle of discussing whether Elk Lake should be changed from an open lake (free to any and all boats) to a no-wake lake.

Oddly enough, we received a call from our USFS representative (or overseer - depends on the day :-) on a Sunday (what was he doing in the office on a Sunday?) letting us know he'd decided it would be prudent to change the lake to no-wake status. When we disagreed (quite adamently), he was surprised. After all, why wouldn't we want the lake 'protected' and the rights of fishermen 'preserved'?

Another case of someone else assuming they knew what was best for us - and for you if you enjoy using Elk Lake. But, like so many of these situations, decisions were being made arbitrarily - based on what someone 'thought' not on the facts. After all, we really didn't appreciate the idea of the USFS taking $10,000 of our annual income when there have been no complaints from anyone (fisherman or otherwise) and no studies (or even suggestions) of environmental harm being done. Besides, what about the tax payer who likes to waterski? When did they become less important?

It all boils down to the current 'politically correct' climate. If you aren't part of the 'in' crowd, you don't have much voice. More than that, they speak for you. As in the article mentioned above, 'we' are now 'they' - at least when it comes to how they report the news and what they suggest for changes.

Lady of the Lake


Agony and Ecstacy

Although life at Elk Lake most often falls inot the 'ecstacy' category, the 'agony' part has to play a role at times. It's like they say, you can't appreciate sunshine if you haven't endured many a cloudy day.

And so, in the last week we've enjoyed the ecstacy of a project nearly completed, and the agony of conflicts with the Forest Service.

First, the good news. The Ranch House is nearly complete. In fact, the interior is finished except for some final trim installation and painting. What a monkey off our backs! It seems like we've been working on this project FOREVER! However, if I consider where we started and to what point we have arrived, we have made incredible progress.

It looks great. It was an affirmation to have the accolades of a group who have been coming to Elk Lake for about 30 years. Upon viewing the 'new and improved' ranch house each one said something to the effect, "I want to stay in THERE!"

What encouraging words! Now to finish painting the exterior trim and putting on the metal roof. Then - well, then we're finished until the end of the season when we'll complete the inside trim and painting.

All of life seems to need tempering. I guess, sometimes, life here is so sureal(sureal in that we live so far from the violence, stress, and pressures of the rest of the world - don't take that to mean we don't have a few of our own just keeping the business running smoothly - at least all but the violence part, at least to date!) we need to be reminded all is not so 'nice' in the rest of the world.

And, so, the USFS took it upon themselves to bring us a reality check. First in the form of our local ATV ranger. John is basically a nice guy. However, in accomplishing his duty, he is an irritation to our guests - in one way. It is his job to enforce no ATV riding of 'non-street legal' ATVs on the Hidden Lake road between Elk Lake Resort and Hidden Lake.

John has no choice but to tell our guests (the one time of year we actually have guests who ride their ATVs up to Hidden) they are violating the law by doing so. However, as he knows - and everyone else who drives Hidden Lake road knows - every year the road becomes more 'practical' and 'safe' to traverse with an ATV than a truck. And, for years, because the road has no pull-outs for passing and because it gets deeper wash outs and ruts each year, the road has been vastly safer on an ATV than in a truck pulling a trailer load of ATVs.

The one 'good' thing which may come out of this is we may, finally, get the USFS to take the necessary steps to change the road to dual-purpose. A change which, in our opinion, should have taken place years ago.

The other reality check sent our way courtesy of the Forest Service was a suggestion Elk Lake may need to be changed from a 'wake' lake to a 'no-wake' lake. Oddly enough, this suggestion was made based on the fear that my efforts to improve Elk Lake Road will eventually come to fruition and, at that point, the lake will be inundated with ski boats and jet skies.

Of course, this inundation will be a source of undying frustration for our local fishermen. Thus, the USFS was greatly surprised when hubby and I didn't jump in with both feet to support this 'wise' change.

In fact, hubby and I did jump in with both feet - to oppose this change! After all, our two biggest weekends of the year are in July and feature a little bit of water skiing and a little bit of jet skiing. Loss of these two groups would greatly deplete our summer income.

In addition, Elk Lake is too cold for all but the most foolhardy water skier or jet skier until early to mid July - and fishing is poor that time of year. Therefore the chances of conflict are nearly if not completely eliminated due to the very nature of the lake itself.

Oddly enough, the USFS suggestions were made based on no environmental, economic, or sociological studies. There has been no environmental damage done. There has been no economic impact studies completed. There have been NO complaints.

Huh? Just leaves me scratching my head. However, I have hope that our Forest Service personnel, now armed with some information, will take a step back and reconsider their stance on this issue. If not - well, I'll be calling on all you water enthusiasts to help us keep open one of the few wake lakes in the huge Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Lady of the Lake


Business Is Booming At Elk Lake

I have an article finish but no time to finish it. As those of you know who follow this blog, I started an opinion piece on Global Warming - beginning with those speaking for it (and they aren't hard to find), and promising at least one follow up segment for the other side. However, work hasn't allowed me time to finish the second piece. But I will!

In the mean time, the fishing is great! There were numerous 18 - 20 inch fish caught at Hidden Lake on opening weekend. If the number of people says anything, I certainly hope most were catch and release (most we talked to were). Not to be left out of the limelight, Elk Lake produced a beautiful 22 inch - 3 pound plus Westslope Cutthroat. Shhhh - don't tell anyone! It was caught on a worm!

In other wildlife news, a recent trip up Narrows Creek Canyon produced a variety of sightings. A Buffle-head Duck and her three ducklings were darling to watch (however, a couple days later only one duckling remained). A pair of Red-Tail Hawks were watching the ducklings as well (who wants to bet they are the villians in this story?). A Great Blue Heron flew off as I approached the pond, then loudly reproached me for disturbing his respite. A pair of Sandhills also rebuked me for entering their haven - then flew across the canyon to 'safer' ground.

The miriads of colorful butterflies flew up from the stream banks as I walked adding clouds of color. There were even a few birds I'd never noticed before, but which I could not identify as I didn't have my binoculars or my bird book - next time!

However, the highlight of the day was the bull moose Beau flushed out of the willows at the head of the pond. I suspect I never would have seen him were it not for the dog. In fact, both he and the dog were silent throughout their meeting and parting of ways. Nonetheless, I delighted in a great view of him as he trotted up the hillside across the narrow canyon. (But, alas, I left my camera at the lodge!)

Moose sightings actually remain fairly consistent, in spite of the warmer temperatures. Of course, as the area becomes a more popular moose-sighting spot, we are glad some remain on the valley floor to delight their fans.

We've also had regular fox sightings as our local female comes looking for baby food. Then there are the elk sightings which are frequent. Antelope are regularly visible. We've even seen quite a few deer - numerous lone does, two does with tiny fawns, and three nice looking bucks - all near Elk Lake.

It's a wonderful place to be, even if you have to work most of the time!

Lady of the Lake


Who To Believe? - part one

One would think, with the advances we've made as a country in science, it wouldn't be hard to find the truth about something as simple as 'global warming'. Being at least somewhat concerned about our planet - I'm not an 'eco-emotionalist', but I love the beauty I enjoy daily and wish to see it maintained and cared for in a responsible manner - something as 'big' as global warming is at least looking into, right?

And, of course the thinking person would assume something as big as global warming would be well researched, well reported, and well, generally clear! NOT! In fact, my studies are revealing, amonst other things, a new definition for 'political science.'

You know, political science. Webster's says it means: 'the science of the principles and conduct of government.' That makes sense. However, that definition is clearly outdated, except possibly for use in acadamia.

The new definition of polical science is: 'the practice of science to achieve a politically defined scientific law'. Obviously I use the word 'law' tongue-in-cheek as no real scientific laws can be proven if based on strong pre-supposition and forced to conform to political whims. However, more and more the evidence is weighing in which proves, at least in part, this form of 'science' is being used to 'prove' global warming.

So, is it real? Global warming that is. Like so many other things the media spoon-feeds the majority of Americans today, I'd say that all depends on who you ask. If, however, you look at the scientific evidence, well, that appears to be weak at best.

The logical question follows. If, as I'm suggesting, global warming is more 'myth' than 'reality', why isn't that what we're all hearing? Anyone who watches the news, reads a magazine, or visits most news sites on the Web is hearing everything BUT this. Where are all these well-qualified scientists and climatologists and meterologists who are poo-pooing the idea? Beaten down and threatened, their voices are being squashed on every turn!

In America? Good Lord, what are we coming to? I think it all boils down to my new definition of political science. After all, what's the big deal? If global warming is a reality, why these nay-sayers? Worse yet, why are they being bad-mouthed, refused funding, and threatened - even with death for contradicting the popular opinion?

In the early stages of Hitler's Germany I can imagine someone questioning the treatment of the Jews being treated thus. But in America? In the 21st century? In a 'free' nation? Unthinkable! Maybe?

Let's look at a little proof. First the pro-side. My latest email 'news' from the National Wildlife Federation says, "The National Wildlife Federation's Gardener's Guide To Global Warming has been all over the news this month letting people know how global warming is affecting gardens across the country. The New York Times, Associated Press, and NPR have all picked it up." They go on to make such strong statements as, "By the end of the century, the climate will no longer be favorable for the official state tree or flower in 28 states." Then they tell us to, "Urge your representative to support strong global warming legislation."

Strong words. No proof, of course, but strong words. Sounds bad but to a thinking people our first thought ought to be, 'where's the proof?' That's what I'm left wondering.

Then my latest edition of The Nature Conservancy, a regular publication put out by folks whose work here in the Centennial I have admired, jumps on the band-wagon with both feet. In their article boldly titled, "An 'Unequivical' Change" they say a 'monumental new report leaves little doubt that humans have hand in climate change.' They go on to say, 'the world's leading body of climate scientists concluded in its latest assessment that climate change is 'unequivocal' and that people are more than likely to be causing the recent increases in temperature and other climate shifts. . .' (emphasis mine). At least this report offers 'proof' - of a sort.

An increase in global temperatures since 1906 of 1.3 degrees Fareneheit.

Is that all? Based on other research I've read, that is an iffy suggestion at best. But, what kills me - these prophets of doom porport the temperature has raised 1.3 degrees in the last 100 years. But they project it will rise 3 to 7 degrees in the next 94 years.

Let's look at that. We have 'proof' (there's proof to the opposite too) that the temperature has raised 1.3 degrees in the last 100 years. However, they 'project' (remember that is like saying they 'think') it will increase 2 times to more than 5 times that amount in the next 100 years. Now, without offering proof as to why this phenomenon will occur, I see that as little more than a scare tactic.

They go on to say, 'most of the observed increase in globally averaged tempertures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.' (emphasis mine) . Does anyone else see the huge 'I THINK SO' this is based on? (By the way, anthropogenic is a fancy way of saying it's caused by man)

But, that isn't all, the report goes on to lay out six scenarios that project how the Earth will continue to change based on what we do (which boils down to how much we're willing to spend on eco-credits). The doomsayers continue, 'If these emissions continue unabated during the next 100 years, the scientists project that consequences will include flooding, increased wildfires, increased heat waves, storms, and droughts.'

Wow, it sounds terrible. I must admit, if they are right there is reason to be concerned. However, they may have the podium, but they aren't the only ones in the auditorium who have the knowledge and skills to provide a valid opinion on this subject - and, let's admit it, that's all they've done.

What I find even more confusing, is the 'solution' for this whole thing. This is where the 'political' involvement becomes crystal clear. In this same edition of The Nature Conservancy magazine, there is a profile of the 'politically proper environmental scientist', one of the Nature Conservancy's own.

Mr. Patrick Gonzalez is leading the way into the brave new world - or at least the world as global warming prophets see it. He's gone 'climate neutral', living the good life without leaving a footprint behind. Or, at least in theory it works that way.

Now, don't misunderstand me. Mr. Gonzalez does not live in a cave, run around naked, and live on nothing but air - forget food and water, after all they are part of the planet which he would 'pollute' by using them. No, in fact, Mr. Gonzalez lives in a comfortable home, in the big city, eats Peanut Butter (which comes in a plastic jar by the way) and I'm sure other assorted foods, most likely drinks water as his photo shows him to be a healthy specimen, and does a bit of globe trotting.

How then, can Mr. Gonzalez consider himself to be living 'climate neutral'? Well, for starters he doesn't own a car. However, he does travel via public transport and plane. He continues to light his home with electricity. He eats food packed in environmentally harmful (or so we're told) containers. So, how does he manage to live 'climate neutral'. Well, folks, here's the wave of the future as global warming enthusiasts see it.

Mr. Gonzalez faithfully fills out a spreadsheet he has created. On a monthly basis he tracks his energy use then mutiplies 'by 2.6 - to account for the entire infastructure that supports our lifestyle - to get our total greenhouse gas emissions.' Then he purchases carbon offsets from a company that builds windmills and methane recovery plants. And, he always washes the peanut butter jar and recycles it!

Wow! That sounds impressive. But what exactly is he doing for the environment (outside of recycling and using public transportation)? His lifestyle sure seems a long way from what I'd consider 'climate neutral'. But, as you can see, 'climate neutral' really consists in what you buy - in this case, eco-credits or as our prototype called them, carbon offsets. And, this does what? Well, as I will go on to show - next time - it pads some already well-padded pockets for one.

(Don't you wish you built windmills? Maybe we should all switch. Then we can look forward to having everyone send us a nice monthly check to off-set their 'greenhouse gas emissions'.)

Lady of the Lake


The Hard Push

It's that time of year - time when we're constantly thinking of the upcoming season. Of course, we're thinking about our guests. We're thinking about the fun (and work). We're thinking about friends we will soon see. We're thinking about a LOT of things - but mostly, at this late date, we're thinking about how we're going to get everything done in time.

What that boils down to is a lot of long days and short nights. But, we're starting to see a glimmer of light at the end of this long tunnel. And, although we hit the bed tired every night, we're also pleased to see our projects coming together.

But, the highlight of the last two weeks (yeah, I know, I've failed to update this thing for two weeks. However, it isn't my fault! If they'd only advance our computer technology so I could just 'think' it in, it would have been on time.) was an ATV ride we took the other day. No, we didn't have time. But, it was fun - and we saw a TON of wildlife. It was definitely a nice breather.

Oh, and did I mention we saw a TON of wildlife? Lots of moose, over a hundred antelope, two fox, one badger, a large variety of birds including numerous sandhill cranes, and oodles of elk. To borrow a new phrase (to me), "The hills were lousy with elk." It was absolute the best elk viewing I've ever enjoyed, hands down. Never, even in the Park, have I seen so many elk. It seemed like every hill had a half-dozen or more.

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows I appreciate having the Wildlife Refuge in my backyard. But, I must admit the elk, antelope, and moose don't seem to see it as anything special.

To listen to (and read) all the "hot air" expended by some environmental groups (or as I prefer to call them - eco-emotionalists), one would think that any kind of development is all for the worse. Any kind of 'management' is resulting in some kind of harm to mother nature. Anything but 'hands-off' and 'people-locked-out' is for the worse for all forms of nature.

However, they forgot to tell the wildlife. After driving nearly an hour through the refuge, we turned off into private and state lands. The private lands, of course, are grazed, as are the public lands. As far as I know, the private lands are also logged, on occasion, as are the state lands. However, it wasn't until we began our trek through the private and then the state lands that we began to see wildlife. And, like I mentioned above, there was a LOT to see.

So it leaves me wondering, "Just who do they think they're fooling?" Obviously not the wildlife!

Lady of the Lake


A Break From Work - A Day Of Play

After three fairly intense weeks of work on 'The Ranch House', we took a break and spent the day in YNP with our friends, Terry and Bonnie. What fun! In the past I've really focused on the animals. This time, due to Terry's and Bonnie's geological interests and background, our focus was more on Yellowstone's geothermal features.

Two books added to my deeper enjoyment of this excursion. One, "The History of Yellowstone - Vol. 1" by Aubrey L. Haines has increased my understanding of and appreciation for the early 'movers and shakers' in the Yellowstone area. Although my readings haven't even reached the formation of the area as a National Park, the sightings and journals of early visitors has added greatly to my appreciation of this unique spot in my backyard.

The other book I purchased in the Park yesterday. "Yellowstone Treasurers" by Janet Chapple was recommended by the Visitor Center Gift Shop attendent, Mary. I was looking for a book which told about the things most people never stop to see, either because they don't know they exist or because they want to see the 'important' things. Like me, many of our guests prefer the out-of-the-way, different, and off-the-beaten-path treasures. So, I thought I'd do what I could to begin educating myself on these places.

Well, apparently there isn't a book written on this specific subject. But, I suppose if there were, they would no long be 'different' and 'little-known'. However, Mary highly recommended Janet Chapple's book so I decided to check it out. Although it doesn't necessarily cover 'out-of-the-way' places, I found it added greatly to our enjoyment of the Park - if for no other reason than it told us about the 'unmarked' pull-outs and their treasures.

Of course, a day's visit doesn't begin to scratch the surface of this massive and incredibly diverse piece of terra firma. However, we explored several spots - drove many miles of road - and took a lot of pictures. Three areas we looked at in at least a degree of 'depth' were Midway Geiser Basin (between Madison and Old Faithful), Artist's Paint Pots (along the Gibbon River), and Mammouth Hot Springs (near the North Entrance).

Midway Geiser Basin sits along the road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful. This area offers views of several hot springs and some incredibly colored bacteria mats. The crowning jewel of Midway Geiser Basin is Grand Prismatic Spring. This delightfully colored spring is the third largest in the world (the only larger are in New Zealand). It measures 250' x 300' and is 160' deep. From its depths 560 gallons of 160 degree water pour into the Firehole River each hour.

The colors of the bateria mats combined with the deep blue of the spring and the rainbow colors of the steam creating a kaleidoscope of color. The ripples created by the water as it flowed across the nearby flat, and the brilliant orange-sided waterfall of steaming water pouring into the icy-cold Firehole River were added bonuses. I can't believe this was one of the spots we had driven past in our rush to get to the Upper Geyser Basin and its famous resident, Old Faithful.

After enjoying lunch and two displays put on by Old Faithful and picking up my new book in the Gift Shop, we headed back to the North in route to Mammouth Hot Springs, our next 'destination'. However, as all visitors to YNP know, between you and your next destination are many things to see - often so many it is hard to ever actually 'reach' your destination.

For me, the next highlight was another spot I had never bothered to stop and explore. Although not nearly as 'commercialized' as Midway Geiser Basin, and although certainly less spectacular in size, Artist Paint Pots was a little gem my new book suggested was worth the stop. So we did.

The short 1/3 mile hike delivered us to yet another area with steaming springs and flowing hot water. Our eyes were drawn to the small murky blue colored pools, the dancing green ribbons swaying in the warm stream, and the little (2 - 3 inches in diameter) bubbling 'puddles' of hot water. But, the best was saved for those willing to brave the mud and climb the hill for the view from above.

Again, the colors took the show. The combinations of red, orange, blue, and green, blended with the more 'earthy' colors to create a palette of color which delighted our eyes. And, we found ourselves fascinated with the weaving, slender fingers of green waving gently in the warm stream.

Our final 'treat' of the day - Mammouth Hot Springs. Now, I have to admit the last time I visited Mammouth, I was greatly disappointed. In fact, were it not for our friends' desire to see the famous site, I would have been glad to head in another direction. However, with my little book in hand and with a bit more walking, I came to appreciate - no, I really enjoyed - this unique hot spring.

Again, color took top ratings, but this time the unique shapes created by the calcium carbonate forced to the surface by the emerging water definitely competed for first place honors.

The reason for my disillusionment with the area lay in The Main Terrace. I had memories of it in the early 80's when it glistened and flowed - a sight to delight even the most spavined eye. However, I learned from my book that the calcium carbonate has a nasty habit of plugging holes. That along with underground changes stopped the flow to The Main Terrace in the 1990's. So, when I visited two years ago the whole thing seemed anti-climatic.

However, with a little extra walking we found a delightful spring - Canary Hot Springs - which sparkled and winked as it worked its colorful way from one terrace to the next, through the trees, and down the hill. Best of all, the walkways were built in such a way that we could experience the terracing effect of the calcium carbonate and the hot water and the colors of the bacterias which feed in the hot water from several different angles.

All in all, although we have work up to our eyeballs (I know, what's new), this trip was a rare delight. In fact, I am hopeful we will get two or three more days in Yellowstone before our summer season officially begins.

In closing I find myself echoing the words of that famous trapper, Russell Osbourn. After some time spent in Yellowstone, before it was a National Park, he penned the following:

"For my own part I almost wished I could spend the remainder of my days in a place like this where happiness and contentment seemed to reign in wild romantic splendor."

Lady of the Lake


Rain and Returning Wildlife

Our neighboring wildlife are important. After all, any neighborhood will do if you don't care what's outside your door. However, we do - so they do. Besides, who doesn't like to talk about their neighbors. Thus sightings and anecdotes will tend to pepper my writing.

This week, there were several things worth seeing (as if there isn't every week). None-the-less, it was a special thrill to see wolf sign, even though I know it probably means dead babies and harrassed ranchers. Since the cattle, for the most part, aren't in the valley, if they hang around, the wolves will most likely be looking for the young.

Since we haven't seen any sign since last December, we wondered, at first, if we were mistaken. But, since we were able to backtrack their tracks from the east end of the valley up onto Red Rock Pass, we were not only able to clearly identify these were wolf tracks, but we were able to determine three or four had come our way.

On the other end of the spectrum, I got a kick out of watching the birds this week. In addition to seeing (for the first time this season) several Red-Tail Hawks, a Bald Eagle, about a dozen Sandhill Cranes, a couple of Trumpeter Swans - I've been delighting in the smaller birds. This week, for the first time of the season, I spotted Kildeer, a couple Curlews (they'd been seen by others, but this was the first for me), and a whole flock of Pink-Sided Dark-Eye Juncos.

These pretty little birds (I'd call them colorful, but their colors are more subtle than flashy), flocked outside my window this last week, looking for seeds and bugs under the freshly fallen snow. We watched them for several moments, observing how they interacted, and how they looked for their food. What a fun 'science' class.

And, of course, there was the colorful bluebird and his less assuming mate who had me spilling laughter at their antics as they tried to get into our Blazer. This time of year these hearty little birds - some of the early returnees to the valley - spend a lot of time looking for nesting sites. Last year a pair got into the pickup (someone had left a window down about an inch) and made quite a mess before we realized they were trapped inside.

To my delight they stuck around for a photography session, although the male was more willing to show himself than his mate. Do you suppose she knows he's the flashier dresser?

Then there was the young Sandhill Crane which landed in the yard early in the week. Sandhills, although a large bird, are quite shy. In fact, it is a rare privilege to see one close up - a privilege I've had a couple of times this week. However, this is the first time I've seen one in the yard. This one, obviously young, came flying into the yard, calling loudly.

Now, for those of you who know me well, you know I cannot keep from looking when I hear a Sandhill call. There is something about their haunting voice which drives me to look. I looked out the window just in time to see our visitor soar past the lodge and alight in the yard. The numerous calls from further up the canyon told me there were other birds who weren't too happy with him for taking off on his own.

I slipped out the front door to take his picture. Unfortunately the dogs heard me and came to investigate. My attempts to keep them quiet were more effective than my attempts to keep them from noticing my feathered visitor. In fact, in less than a minute, Bo, our self-appointed guardian, had noticed him. In a flash he was off the porch, bounding across the yard, and barking his warning.

Of course the Crane took off, calling his protest. This brought his parents down the canyon in a rush. In fact, I watched as they glided over the yard and up the lake, calling all the while. Thankful for the opportunity to watch their interaction, I saw them circle and then land briefly on a hillside across the way, only to take off almost immediately, their two having become three.
On to other news - the ice is coming off the lake - about two weeks early. In fact, the bay in front of the lodge is nearly ice-free. And, the south end of the lower lake has open water. At our last look, however, the north end was still well covered.

For those fishermen who can hardly wait to dip their lines into the water, I haven't heard of anyone catching any fish - YET. My hubby did wet his line, but he didn't find any interested parties. However, if the sun would shine just a bit more (it has been cold, wet, and a bit snowy for the last week), I suspect the fishing would be a roaring success.

The road, if you're wondering, is muddy. Not terrible, but if you're coming this way, stay in the ruts. The slime on top can be treacherous when it's wet out.

For all the rest of the local news, check out the "The Latest News" (lower left) on our home page.

Lady of the Lake


Spring is in the air and on the ground here at Elk Lake Resort. It is with joy and excitement we welcome the greening grass, the warming temperatures, and the returning wildlife. In fact, the wildlife have taken center stage on all of our walks and trips about the valley.

Whenever we get into a vehicle I know it is going to be at least 45 minutes until we get to our destination. Most trips are substantially longer. To wile away the time, if I'm not driving, I bring along a project or two - a craft project, a book to read, information on topics I'm researching, or my laptop to get in a bit of bookwork or to write an article.

But, best intentions aside, I cannot seem to keep my eyes off the scenery as we travel the stretch from Elk Lake to Henry's Lake. There is ALWAYS something to see! And, quite frankly, I'm loathe to miss a moment. So, just for fun, I've kept track of exactly what we've seen on our walks and drives the last six days (11th - 16th) At the time of this writing (just after noon on the 16th) we've sighted:

In and around Elk Lake and the eastern Centennial Valley
3 elk (1 dead since last fall)
2 antelope
4 river otters
11 moose (1 dead calf, recently died - the rest, were probably sightings of some of the same animals more than once)
3 eagles (2 golden / 1 bald)
3 Trumpeter Swans (we've actually sighted more but I'm sure they're the same birds we've seen several times)
11 sandhill cranes (the neatest sighting were the 4 which were in the middle of Elk Lake Road - apparently a family as two were grey colored and two were in their adult plumage. The adults moved out of the road, the young flew several yards away. The adults called loudly and profusingly to their young. We got out of their way so they could reunite.)
2 coyotes
1 bobcat (at least we think it was a bobcat. It was definitely a cat - and it looked about the right size and color for a bobcat - but it was on its way to the next county!)
Numerous other birds including Mallard Ducks, Goldeneys, various other ducks, Bluebirds, Tree Swallows (I saw them the first time today), robins, chickadees, a couple of Meadowlarks (I was surprised to see them so soon), Magpies, a Kingfisher, and a woodpecker of unknown vintage (it didn't stay still long enough for me to get a good look).

In addition, the refuge manager and his wife dropped by for a visit on Saturday after a trip to the north side of the valley. The mentioned seeing numerous antelope and a variety of waders - in addition to many of the same species I've already mentioned.

Henry's Lake Area
The west shore of Henry's Lake is absolutely teaming with bird life! A brief drive along the west side road today yielded the following:
9 eagles (on the edge of the ice - apparently the fishing isn't half bad)
6 pelicans (I was surprised to see them so soon)
several Canadian geese
6 sandhill cranes
numerous ducks
a flock of seagulls
a variety of smaller birds

Obviously life is returning in full force to the area. I feel extrememly blessed to be able to experience its return!

Lady of the Lake


Life in the 'Real World'

On our off-seasons we visit family. That's just the way it is. Well, more than that, that's what we promised we would do when we up and moved way out to Montana. However, every time we do, I find myself forced to wake, again, from my 'dream'.

It's this way. I chose not to watch much TV. I rarely listen to the radio. In fact, my primary contact with the rest-of-the-world is through our guests. Since most of our guests come to escape the rest-of-the-world, current events are rarely discussed. Of course, all this adds up to my hearing next to nothing about what's going on in the 'real world'.

It doesn't bother me. I figure if something major happens, I'll hear about it from someone. If I don't, well, I don't. When we visit family, however, I get large doses of reality. I see the news (on occasion). I listen to the radio (rarely). Mostly I 'see' changes - changes which have occurred in style, new developments carving away at the open spaces, or little things which I don't pay much attention to on those quick runs for supplies which constitute my 'trips to town' in the busy season.

Take the traffic. One hour of traffic on any major thoroughfare in the city is more than we see all summer at the lodge. I find myself feeling sorry for my fellow travelers. Then I remind myself, most of them would find my home far to far off the beaten path for their enjoyment, let alone their comfort level.

Without fail I'm reminded how blessed we are to live where we do. Without fail I'm anxious to return. Without fail I realize how quickly things change. Mostly, I guess, I'm thankful our children are growing up close to nature and far from the city.

None-the-less, Elk Lake never looks better than it does when we return from a few days (or a few weeks) spent in the 'real world'.

Lady of the Lake


Home Sweet Home
Funny how traveling adjusts ones perspective. I know every time I leave Elk Lake - whether for a day or a month, I can hardly wait to get back. However, with my recent reading and research effecting my 'view' of things around me, I'm seeing things a bit differently (I'd like to say, 'more clearly', but I'm not that confident yet).

According to some studies I've been reviewing lately, today's children are negatively impacted by their lack of contact with nature. Now, that's not really the point of where I'm headed here, but I see it as a by-product of other issues - bigger issues. Because many of these children are growing up in homes where their parents love them and seek to nuture their development in positive directions.

Most researchers have chaulked it up to fear - fear on the part of parents. While I don't think, as a people in general, we consider ourselves a society of 'chickens', the signs of our all-too-abundant fear are abundantly obvious. Take the 'normal' home in the 'typical' subdivision:

Locks and usually deadbolts on all doors
Additional sticks of wood in any sliders
Alarm systems common place in many homes
Curtains and blinds closed against any prying eyes
High solid fences surrounding most yards

And the list could go on and on. Then add the 'typical' actions of the 'usual' dweller in suburbia:

After morning routine they head to their garage, get in their car, lock the doors, start the car, open the automatic garage door, back out, close the garage door, and head for town. Returning to their home they reverse the routine. And the result - not only are they, often unknowlingly, controlled by their fears, but they lose out on other levels as well.

A good gauge is our interactions with the great outdoors. Except for the person to whom yardwork is a delight, a hobby, a relaxation (and boy can you tell 'who' they are as you drive through the neighborhood), time outside is a 'chore', a 'job', an 'interruption' in their precious leisure time (and precious it is in today's fast paced society) if we're talking yard work.

And, time outside enjoying a physical activity such as camping, hiking, biking, and the like, is relegated to those rare three-day weekends or the annual family vacation (if the kids don't demand another theme park). How sad!

Another area we're loosing touch is with our neighbors. Having lived several months with my Mother-in-law - in downtown Salem, Oregon - a few years ago, the realities of city life hit me hard, right between the eyes. As a general rule, these people don't know each other. Most know few if any of their neighbors (even by sight - and even after several years in the same neighborhood). People don't look at each other, even in the aisles of the grocery store. And, heaven forbid you speak to a stranger. This just isn't done.

Now, I know this a generalization, and based on my own experience, but I found it interesting to read the following excerpt in Tony Hillerman's book, "Hunting Badger". Through his character, Joe Leaphorn, Tony says,

". . .Where I came from people didn't even know who lived three houses down the block."
"Lot more people in Baltimore," Leaphorn said.
"Not a lot more people on our block."
"More people on your block, I'll bet, than in a twenty-mile circle around here," Leaphorn said. . ."I have a theory. . .You city folks have so many people crowding you they're a bother. So you try to avoid them. We rural people don' have enough, so we're interested. . .Out here, everybody looks at you," he said. "You're somebody different. Hey, here's another human, and I don't even know him yet. In the city, nobody wants to make eye contact. They have built themselves a little privacy bubble - hard to get privacy in crowded places - and if you look at them, or speak on the street, then you're an intruder."

Our break with nature is sad - very sad - and it is bound to have negative impacts not only on us, but on the world around us, and more importantly, on our children. But our break with people is worse, for, in the end, no man is an island unto himself. We need each other, and if we don't know each other, we WILL fear each other, and this, is the ultimate society breakdown.

So, once again I am reminded how blessed I am to live in a place where people who live in a 50 mile radius are considered 'neighbors' - and neighbors, where I live, are always considered friends.

Lady of the Lake


News and Musing from Elk Lake
Although it is officially the 'off-season' life does still go on here in the southwestern corner of Montana. In fact, while life has slowed to a casual pace in the valley, things are heating up in some of the surrounding areas.

Wolves and Bison seem to be the 'hot' issues right now. A long standing argument may finally be reaching something of a compromise as a 6,000 acre piece of property just north of the YNP boundary owned by the Church Universal Triumphant may become available for bison habitat.

The agreement which is 'very close' to reaching the final stages according to the Billings Gazette, would clinch the bison's grazing rights on the land owned by the church. Seen by proponents as an answer to the continued killing of bison which wander outside of the Park's boundaries, the plan is being praised by many.

In other news, wolf numbers in the tri-state area continue to rise as covered by another article in the Billings Gazette. In fact, the wolf population has grown at a whopping 26% per year for the past decade. With at least 1300 wolves now roaming the area, conflicts with livestock owners are sure to continue to rise. This, of course, will increase the conflict between the two parties.

And, if the animal conflicts aren't enough, the USFS has announced its decision to move forward with its controversial travel plan for the Gallatin National Forest. This, in face of 112 appeals which requested the USFS rethink its position. However, according to a March 22nd article in the Bozeman Chronical, Forest Supervisor, Becki Heath, has said she will implement the controversial plan this summer, unless ordered to do otherwise by the courts.

Sadly, the plan has closed more USFS land to motorized public access. As much as I love the wild wide open spaces for which Montana is famous, I still find it hard to understand why it is necessary to close off more public land to motorized public access. I guess I'm just one of the few who still define public as 'owned by the people' and still think the public should have access to the land for which they pay taxes.

I realize closing roads does not necessarily remove public access - in theory - but, closure of public roads into public lands DOES remove public access in reality. Think about it. If only the tax paying public which 'could' access the public lands closed to motorized access were required to pay for those lands, the tax burden upon the young and healthy in our nation (under 50 - with all their limbs attached and in good working order - and a healthy infastructure to support their body) would be attrocious.

Just look. How many people do you see walking, driving, sitting around who could actually 'walk' into these public lands? I know many in my family who could not. And yet, their tax dollars go to support these lands to which their access is now denied. And, we are ALL going to end up in their position, at some age or another.

Although many 'say' we are doing this to 'save' the land for our children, how many are actually taking their children (on foot) into this sacred territory? Remember, the children have to be able to walk (if there is more than one child) and carry at least a little load. I suspect there are very FEW families who are actually taking advantage of the existing wilderness and roadless areas.

Why? I suspect at least two reasons. One, the parents, themselves, are uncomfortable getting off the beaten path. Two, the difficulty in taking a family camping into an out of the way pack it in and out on your back place (when the children are young) is daunting. And, by the time most modern children reach an age they could actually contribute to lessening the challenge of such a trip - and are of an age their parents might feel it safer to take them in - their interests are directed in other directions. Thus the 'purpose' for such a trip is greatly diminished.

As much as I enjoy getting away from the crowds, and as much as I wish to see the large sections of our beautiful countryside which remain unchanged, I challenge anyone who would say otherwise to the above - for they are proven facts! So, who are we saving it all for, anyway?

Lady of the Lake


Winter is coming to an end!
Time is running out for those last minute stragglers as our winter season quickly winds down to its final day. As usual, we will close on Saturday of Expo Weekend (visit West Yellowstone's Chamber of Commerce for more details). With all the activity and crowds in West Yellowstone, Elk Lake Resort is a great place to be. However, as the crowds fade, so does the snow, and so does the interest in snowmobiling. In fact, it will soon be that time of year the locals await with great anticipation. Mud season.
I'm not joking. In fact, I was visiting with some regular guests and full-time Island Park residents the other day, and that is exactly what they said. "We can't wait for the mud season. It is our favorite time of year. The tourists all leave, and we get to enjoy the area without the press of the crowds."
Actually, I can sympathize. As much as I enjoy our guests, we, too, look forward to spending time alone at Elk Lake Resort during the off season. After all, we live here because we love it. However, when our season is at its peak, we get little time to enjoy all the amenities our guests come to experience. But, the off season. Ah, then we get to experience a little bit of heaven ourselves.
Spring is on the way. In fact, although we had about an inch of snow this morning, the south-facing slopes are already getting bare. This afternoon we took a hike up one of those south facing slopes, and although there are patches of snow, and although there are muddy spots around those patches, those south facing slopes are amazingly dry! However, find a shady spot or a north facing slope and you can loose yourself in the drifts!
These days I find myself scanning the hillsides for wildlife. The fox was teasing the dogs last night - sauntering past their kennel without a care in the world. The elk have been making regular appearances just above the lodge. The moose are moving out and away - but are still visible on our snowmobile rides. The eagles are returning, and the local pair of Trumpeters which nest on Shambow Pond are back. All in all, it not only feels like spring is in the air - the animals confirm my suspicions.
The web site continues to consume WAY TOO MUCH of my time. However, I think I'm getting to the 'end'. That is, if there really is an end to all this stuff and nonsense. I'd actually be worried about my sanity (or lack of it) in regards to this whole project if it weren't for two things. 1. I do have obvious goals which I am slowly but surely attaining (the only problem being I keep adding new goals to my list - and to think I wasn't sure if I could make a big enough, interesting enough web site to fit the required amount of content for SEO - ha!). 2. I am quickly approaching that time of year when I'll have mini-bites of time to spend doing anything but the day to day caring for the needs of guests type of jobs. Therefore, if for no other reason, I will be coming to an end - ready or not - all too soon.
In the mean time, I'm enjoying (really I am) the time I have spent. I've learned a lot (not only about web design, but also about all those info-bites which I'm including on our site). I've also been gratified by the increasing visibility we're developing - and the positive comments from friends and prospective guests.
Lady of the Lake


Children and Nature
I find it interesting that in a day and age where we are concerned with many things - including 'saving nature for our children' - we find ourselves with a bigger problem most of us haven't even recognized (or at least acknowledged). Our children, for the most part, are afraid of the nature we are saving. Why? Because, for too many of today's children, nature - the wilderness outside their own backyard, or even outside their back door - is a foreign territory.

I remember one family which came to visit the Trumpeter Swans at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge here in the valley. Nothing unique about that, necessarily, except they came from Manhattan. When they first arrived, not only were the children afraid to get away from their cabin - or the lodge - or their car - but their mother (and maybe even their father) appeared to be terrified to let them.

After a day or so, and with the prodding of their own desire to play with our children, they began to stretch their horizons. As they made their 'baby' steps into the 'wilderness' (the resort yard), their mother tied bells to their pants legs and watched with obvious anxiety - clearly afraid of the unknown.

By the time they left - several days later - these concrete and asphalt children were running and playing in the 'wild' - with great abandon and overwhelming joy.

For me, it was like watching a butterfly come out of its cocoon. However, in light of my recent research on the benefits children derive from spending time in nature, this metamorphosis has taken on a deeper meaning.

My own children have been blessed, for extended periods of their growing up years, to spend hours in the vast and wild outdoors. We have lived in uniquely wild and natural locations. First in a place where our nearest neighbor was over a mile away and the great USFS was out our back door. More recently at Elk Lake Resort where our nearest neighbor is over 15 miles away and we are surrounded by undeveloped pure nature. In fact, my youngest knows no other life.

Such privileges have skewed my viewpoint, I think. It wasn't until I watched four young men (nephews by marriage) at a recent family gathering spend their entire time 'playing' with gameboys that I woke up to the rest of the world. These young men, all healthy (physically) and bright, had nearly no 'conversation'. They didn't spend ANY time out of doors. In fact, they showed their strongest skills were quick thumb reactions. What a shame! I got to wondering if we aren't raising a new generation - with quick thumb reactions!

That led to the remembrance of an article I read several years ago. Written by an old cowboy, this article lamented this very fact - but from a different perspective. The cowboy writer told of traveling into the back woods one busy summer holiday weekend. He covered nearly 100 miles - and saw nearly no one (and found all the backwoods campgrounds empty). He wondered to his wife where everyone was.

The next day he went to the local 'tourist trap' - the lakeside resort area near town. And - he found everyone. His sad conclusion: we are working so hard to 'save' our lands from development for our children, and yet, we are afraid to get out and enjoy the lands we are saving.

Personally, I think we've got a two-generation problem. We've got the 'parents' generation which are aware of nature, have probably spent time during their formative years in at least large back yards if not large fields or nearby woods, and realize (at least in a back recess of their brains) the need to 'protect' our natural areas from development. However, in reality 'we' are the problem.

We 'protect' the land, but we aren't really comfortable in the 'wild' anymore. Therefore, we don't come to the land. We don't bring our children to the land. We don't enjoy (and teach our children to enjoy) the land. We foolishly think by 'saving' the land, we somehow have done our duty. And, yet, will our children thank us?

As we 'save' this land, we close more and more land to public access. What have we gained? We are raising a generation which is afraid of the 'wild' because we have never taught them to enjoy it. And, we have created more 'wild' areas which won't be used (they are to foreign to our children) by the vast majority - and we've closed them to the generation who still remembers and would use them (our parents' generation).

I'm beginning to wonder if our future problem isn't the urban sprawl which is eating up our rural lands - but the great dichotomy which we are creating. The asphalt and concrete world where our children feel comfortable, and the 'wild' places we are protecting. From whom? For whom?

Lady of the Lake


Resort Living!
"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