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