Then versus Now

Any season in the Centennial provides a challenge. For example, our remote location makes getting to the store an ordeal, if not a challenge, regardless of the season. Planning a grocery trip, spring, summer, fall, or winter, requires quite a bit of organization.

Some things never change. The following excerpt from Centennial Valley History, Vol 1 could have been taken from a recent conversation.

"Figuring out and ordering supplies . . . was quite a task in itself. Figuring out the food needed . . . ahead of time was a skill. Most women spent some time deciding on this list and gained experience as the years went along." (pg 164)

The primary difference between 'then' and 'now'? Back then, they purchased supplies for a family (and the work crew, and a few visitors). Back then, they purchased everything except what they raised, for a six to twelve month period.

Now, we purchase supplies to feed 30 people or more EVERY day. We purchase everything - no 'exceptions.' Some things are purchased in sufficient quantities for six months or so. Others, like fresh produce and dairy products, are purchased for the week.

What has really changed - and yet has changed little - is the difficulty getting in and out of the valley. Of course, a major change is the mode of transportation. We've come a LONG way from horse-drawn transportation. During the Centennial's developmental 'hayday', few had cars and no one had a snowmobile. In fact, I believe the first snow machine used in the valley was the homemade snow plane used for mail delivery.

Now, no one considers horse-drawn transportation. We ride comfortably in our cars or on our snowmobiles. But, coming in last Sunday evening, at below zero temperatures with a brutal wind adding to our discomfort, was far from 'comfortable.' In fact, I wondered once again how our fore-fathers and mothers managed to survive.

Granted, they purchased their supplies in bulk. People only moved about when absolutely necessary. In fact, one early valley resident is credited with saying the valley wasn't fit for man or beast in the winter. None-the-less, people lived here. They survived. They flourished.

Normally, I would vehemently argue the valley's lack of 'fitness' in the winter. However, last Sunday I was close to agreement. And, if I had to spend any length of time outside today, I'd heartily agree. When temperatures drop below zero, and stay there, only my very hairy dog seems unaffected.

However, season and temperatures aside, getting around the valley can be challenging now, but even more so then. Winter, of course, often brought the greatest challenges. In fact, a letter from Wm J Brundage to Donnee Stibal, dated Aug 22, 1988, and excerpted in the Centennial Valley, Vol 1, tells about one particularly hairy winter.

". . . The horses and sleighs thru the winter had packed the snow for a foot or eighteen inches in each sled track. If a sleigh got off the road with one runner on the road and one runner off, it would tip over; so when two sleighs met (which wasn't often) the driver of the empty one or with the least load would turn out. His sleigh would tip on its side. The other driver would go on by, unhitch his team, come back and hook onto the other sleigh and help to get it upright and back on the road. Then he would go back to his own sleigh, hook up and both would be on their way again." (pg 120)

Now, the only way in and out is by snowmobile. When hauling a cargo trailer behind a snowmobile, however, the picture can get a bit 'grainy and old-fashioned.' For example, get the runner of the cargo trailer off the packed trail and you can end up with a wreck much like the one described above. Fortunately, a snowmobile cargo trailer (for that matter a snowmobile) weighs less than a horse-drawn wagon!

When people look at our lifestyle, shake their heads, and marvel at our resiliance (or craziness), I look a bit further back. Yes, we live a different lifestyle. Sometimes, it's a bit challenging. Sometimes it feels a bit hard. But, I've decided our fore-fathers and mothers were the extremely tough people.

After all, although my finger tips never thawed (last Sunday), my handwarmers kept frostbite at bay and my hands mobile. Although my nose began to hurt and tingle, my helmet protected my head and face from the elements. Although the cold bit through my bibs and coat, the quality of my clothing kept me fairly comfortable. Although the wind gusted wildly around my sled, my snowmobile blocked the bulk of it.

Thus, although life in the Centennial has its own unique challenges, and although life at Elk Lake Resort isn't always fun and games, it's home. And, there really is No Place Like Home!!


Remote - ly Resort Living

I couldn't resist using the title. Elizabeth, editor of the Island Park News, suggested it, for an article I recently submitted.

Of course, our style of life doesn't appeal to everyone. It doesn't always appeal to us! However, most people really don't see the 'real picture' when they conceive of what it is like to run a resort this far off the beaten path. I think most have a bit of a rose-colored view of our lives.

They're aren't so unusual. Not when you think about it. After all, how many times do we think, "Now, if I could have a job like that . . ." or "If I could live there, I'd. . . "

Often reality is not exactly what we're perceiving. Take our resort. I can't count the times I've been asked, "What's it like living here?" I can't tell you how many women have said, "I could NEVER live here." I couldn't begin to guess how many men have said to my husband, "I wish I could live here." (with a wistful look clouding their eyes and fuzzing their otherwise clear heads)

Reality - well, reality can be wonderful. However, it is always mixed with, well, with reality! Take the trip to the store last week.

It doesn't sound like much. 27 miles. Shoot. Lots of people drive that far to work every day. No big deal. Right? Wrong!

For us, that 27 miles means 18 miles via snowmobile hauling a cargo trailer. The final 9 miles are the easy part. Even with nasty, slick, snow-covered roads, it's a piece of cake compared to what the first 18 miles can throw at you.

Don't get me wrong. That first 18 miles can be the BEST part of the trip - hands down. After all, who else gets to zoom along at 25 - 55 (or more) mph, jumping over hillocks, zooming up hills, flying across frozen lakes? But, add in a foot or so of fresh snow, a hearty wind, and a trail no one else has dared yet traverse - then add in a big snowmobile (has to be, it gets to haul in several hundred pounds with each load) and a cargo trailer to add 'spice'. Then you're starting to get the real picture.

So, out he goes, my trusty hubby, to get the supplies. He left early to avoid traveling in the dark. Dark, blowing snow, a load of supplies often equals YUK! STUCK! or WORSE!

Anyway, he heads down the trail. About 1/2 an hour later I get a call. (He calls me from the truck, but that is usually 45 minutes later. So I'm wondering?) "I'm going to be awhile," he says.

"I'm stuck. Bad!"

Seems the wind had crafted an nasty side hill with a nice cornice on top and a deep ditch to the inside. To a good rider on a powder sled, this translates into 'fun'. To a good rider on a power sled with a trailer in tow, this translates into 'Uh, Oh!' So, he takes the only safe alternative - the ditch.

Seemed like a good idea until he found the wind had curved that hillside and cornice around. Thus the end had a wonderful 5 foot straight up wall. No problem. He's on a power sled. Right?

Right! But he's towing a trailer. Translate this into "STUCK!" "BAD!" An hour, many gallons of sweat, and bucket loads of frustration later, he calls me. "I'm out!"

To add insult to injury, he got stuck again coming back. However, God was gracious. This time it only took 15 minutes to free himself.

Consider that when you next head to the store. And, if you'd like to read a bit more on our lives here at Elk Lake (in good fun and a bit tongue in cheek, of course), check out the article the kind editor of Island Park News posted this week.

Lady of the Lake


It's Wild and Wintery In the Centennial

Funny. Seems like a lot of people think winter is just a time to 'get through.' We talk about the winter doldrums. Some experience depression after days of gray skies. Many New Year's Resolutions to exercise quickly fade when faced with winter weather. But, there are some who enjoy winter.

Those are the folks you'll find on skies, or snowshoes, or snowmobiles, on dog sleds, or sometimes just snuggled by a cheery fire with a great book. I like to think I fall into the later category. However, I must admit, it hasn't always been so.

For years we lived where it rained and rained and rained all winter. On the days it didn't rain, the clouds clung to the earth like saran wrap. The wet kept me in. The clouds kept me down. But, not any longer!

Here in the Centennial, we enjoy more days of sunshine than clouds. And, when its cloudy, it's usually snowing. Who can frown when frozen particles are drifting like pieces of cotton candy from above? Not me!

Another misconception of winter is it is a 'dead' time. The trees look dead. The grass is dead. Even the wildlife seems to have disappeared leaving behind dead skies, dead fields, and dead trees.

Not true! I'm finding the more I get out, the more I see. My New Year's resolution, actually my resolution before we left for Costa Rica (back when I got envisioning myself in a swim suit on the beach - and didn't exactly like the picture), was to get some exercise at least 6 days a week.

I bought a stationary bike for those nasty, in the house, curled up by the fire days. But, cross country skies are much more fun. So, on those nicer days, I'm trying to get a couple miles or so on the skies.

Fortunately, cross country sking is great exercise. Here in the Centennial, we get a lot of lovely days. Consequently, I've gotten out quite a bit this winter. Guess what I've found? Lots of birds and animals are making a living just fine, in spite of the less than friendly looking landscape.

Granted, there is less variety. I suppose animals are like humans. Some just haven't got what it takes to tough out the colder months. Can't say I blame them. Seems like more and more humans are following their lead. Heading to warmer climates during the cooler months. Maybe that's why we call them 'snowbirds'? But, I digress.

Just in the past four days , we've enjoyed the following (we being four sets of eyes):

46 moose sightings (several were young to moderate aged bulls)

2 coyote sightings (tracks elsewhere in addition)

2 fox sightings (tracks and scat found along lake and near lodge as well)

25 trumpeter swan sightings

numerous ducks sighted (mallards and a smaller black-headed duck I have yet to identify)

3 bald eagle sightings (one with lunch in its tallons)

1 couple of flocks of grey birds about the size of a sparrow hawk (I need to look them up, too)

2 shartail grouse

1 set of fresh cougar tracks

1 black-cap chickadee singing its little heart out right outside my window

All in all, not bad for such a brief time period. It makes me sad to think there are those who haven't yet learned to enjoy winter (or maybe, like me, live someplace where winter is made to be endured). I'm glad I live here, where winter is alive with things to see and do.

Lady of the Lake


IMAGINATION: creation of the mind; fancy

Where does it come from? Why does it seem so lacking today? Is there anything we can do to trigger it? Does it really matter?

Today we enjoy many benefits our forefathers and mothers couldn't even dream about. However, we seem to be loosing an important element at an alarming rate - imagination. Rarely today do children make their own games with whatever is on hand. Sticks. Water puddles. Empty Cardboard Boxes. Tin cans and rocks. I'm convinced a large portion of the blame can be laid at nature's door. Or, rather our lack of contact with nature.

Today we (adults and children alike) are used to being entertained. We wile away hours in front of the TV or the computer screen. More time with other electronic medium. Our children often spend even more time glued to a screen!

Take the 'typical' child of today. Although blessed with the benefits of electronic mediums (and I do believe they have made our lives easier), we're seeing an alarming rise in childhood 'issues' such as ADHD. Interestingly enough, there are studies which suggest ADHD could better be termed 'Nature Deficit Syndrome'.

Like sugar, too much of a good thing can be dangerous to our health. Instead of mixing our electronics with healthy doses of the 'real world', we are leaning heavily on the 'virtual' to shape our reality. It shouldn't be that way!

Take my 5 year old. Although his speech is a bit delayed, his imagination is going full-force. Not to suggest he doesn't enjoy watching a movie, but he knows how to play.

Growing up at Elk Lake, he's enjoyed a daily dose of pure nature. In fact, he's a much happier little boy if he's spent an hour or two outdoors, regardless of the weather.

He's active, but with time outdoors, he has an outlet for his natural curiosity and abundant energy. In fact, as he matures, I can see his imagination stretching and deepening. Take today.

Was he a karate kid with duck feet? Big foot battling forest invaders? Or an ocena diver spearing sharks? To the casual eye he was just a little boy with flippers and a stick. In his mind he was much much more!

I encourage you to take a look at where you spend your leisure time. Are you challenging your mind? Are you enjoying time in nature? Are you using 'your' imagination? Just as important, what are you doing to ensure your children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews aren't loosing the ability to see with their mind's eye - to create a world of fancy - to expand their horizons?

Lady of the Lake