Shoulder Seasons

Twice a year they come around - the shoulder seasons. What are shoulder seasons? Shoulder seasons are those times of year when there is either too little traffic or too difficult access to make business even kinda profitable. Shoulder seasons are those times of year when we catch up on chores we have little time to address during the regular seasons. They are the times when we relax, enjoy where we live, and even take some 'me' time with family or just on our own.

Shoulder seasons are a blessing and a curse. Certainly they are a blessing because we need some time to rest. On the other hand, they are a curse (in the broad sense) because they eat up a lot of the profit from the regular seasons.

So, do I love the shoulder seasons? Yes. Are they beneficial to our business? That depends!

Contemplating how much I enjoy having Elk Lake to myself, I must admit I love our shoulder seasons. No one is there. No one to mar the quiet. No one to scare the wildlife. No one to leave tracks up 'my draw'. No one to stop me from settling down in front of the fire (or by a sunny window) and reading a good book. No one to keep me from visiting with friends who drop by. Yes, shoulder seasons are a blessing.

However, without good regular seasons, shoulder seasons can easily become a curse. There is a fine line between 'making a living' and 'barely scraping by'. Many people in our country are facing this these days. Unemployment is nice - while it lasts. But at some point, if you do not have the work, your money just won't keep up with your bills. THIS is the danger of the shoulder season.

Few people really comprehend what it means to make your living doing seasonal work. If you are a seasonal employee, chances are you either have another source of income or you follow the work. While you may start the season up north, you're likely to spend your winters further south. However, for business owners, it isn't quite that easy. Who can pick up a resort or a gas station or a rental shop or a restaurant or an auto repair shop or a hardware store or a grocery store or. . .and follow the business? Few, if any.

In other words, seasonal work is just that - seasonal. In the regular season, seasonal business owners store up for the dry season. How many of you have sufficient savings to pay the bills (which never stop coming) for a few months while you wait for work? Not many, I wager. Yet, unless a business owner in a seasonal area operates under this mentality, the business will quickly go under.

So, when organizations like "The Greater Yellowstone Coalition" (who, I believe have done many good things in and around YNP) continue to strive to break the back of our winter business, I grind my teeth. What people with regular paychecks fail to understand is: I only have a few months to make enough money to not only pay my bills all year but to allow me to upkeep and improve my business. If you take away a big chunk of my income, how, exactly, do you expect me to survive?

I know. That is my problem. After all, I bought a seasonal business. So, didn't I, in essence, ask for this problem?

Well, that presents an interesting question. Yes, I bought a seasonal business. You probably chose to go to work for an employer. I bought a business with the understanding I would have so many months of the year when the income would cover my expenses plus allow me to set aside something for the down times. You agreed to work for your employer for a certain wage.

Now, time will tell if we have made wise choices. It will also reveal who has learned to pinch their pennies and leave their nest egg untouched. However, I suspect most employees would be quite angry if someone decided your employer should only operate 4 hours a day instead of 8 because they thought your employer was too noisy. Granted, the closure will make the neighborhood a quieter place to live. Certainly it will please those who live nearby. However, what is going to happen? Yep, you are suddenly going to find your income cut in half. Don't get your dander up! It's good for the community and the environment - they say.

What we fail to take into account as we press toward our noble agendas is the trickle down effect. While your employer used to provide a family wage for say, 15 families, they can now only provide half that wage. Do your bills cut in half? Of course not. So, now you shop less. You purchase less fuel. You don't visit the hardware store except in an emergency because you cannot improve, you just hope to keep a roof over your head. Hah! Who has the money to eat out? A vacation - that becomes a memory from happier days.

Now, you may say - phooey with this. I'm moving to someplace where I can get a decent job. Good idea. But, what about your employer? What about all those other businesses who depended upon the 15 families who frequented their shops (after all, they were in business because you wanted or needed their services)?

You see, cutting snowmobile numbers in Yellowstone National Park, might sound like a good idea. It obviously appeals to the groups who hold power right now. However, I like to think those who are pushing their agenda just haven't thought about what this is going to do to all the other people - people who have lived and loved in the Yellowstone area all of their lives. People who own business which cannot move. People who stand to lose it all!

Still enjoying the shoulder seasons!

Lady of the Lake


They're Back???

It has been a memorable year for wolves in SW Montana. We just completed our first, official Montana wolf hunting season. To no one's surprise (at least the 'no ones' who live in our neck of the woods) it was largely successful. Earlier local ranchers west of here endured the most extensive sheep slaughter (around 150 animals in a two week time frame) in Montana history. This resulted in an entire wolf pack loosing their lives to FWP trappers. Closer to home, there were the wolves which were hunted by trappers near Hidden Lake throughout most of the summer season.

While I know the wolf population is still very healthy, I really expected all the local pressure would have made the local animals not only less in number, but less in confidence. Wrong!

Snow levels are still not sufficient for snowmobiling to the lodge. In fact, they are moderate enough we can still reach it by vehicle. However, since our snowmobiles are NOT at the lodge, we are not staying there full time. In fact, we are playing the tricky early winter game - time at the lodge without getting trapped at the lodge :-) All that to say, there has not been an uninterupped human presence at Elk Lake for the last month. However, taken in context with the facts: wolves in our area have been SHOT at and KILLED, I was amazed by their boldness.

Late last week we arrived at the lodge to find that during the last 24 hours, two elk had been killed on the now frozen lake surface not far from the lodge. The wind was blowing stiffly from the north, obscuring a clear view across the lake. Craig's attention, however, was captured when an eagle flew up from the middle of the bay. Through the binoculars Craig could see the not one, but two dead animals on which they were feeding.

At first he suspected dead coyotes. Upon closer inspection, however, he determined the dark spots were too big to be coyotes. Wolves, perhaps? After all, local frustration has been high enough we suspect there are folks out there who would shoot a wolf, regardless of the legality. The one thing we did NOT expect was a wolf kill! Not this close to the lodge! Not in the wide open!

Curiosity got the better of expedience. Bundled in our cold weather gear we treked out onto the ice. By this time of year the ice is usually quite thick. However, we tred carefully for the first hundred yards, listening for any sound which would indicate a less than trustworthy surface. No problem.

As we drew closer, the first dark spot materialized into a dead elk. With 'thin ice' still in mind, we postulated it may have broken through the ice, possibly broken a leg or gotten stuck, and thus become food for the scavengers. This illusion shattered as we drew closer.

Hair strewn across the lake and large bloody drag spots were the first clues. This animal had not died a natural death! While the cow was not yet frozen solid (with wind chills well below zero this said she hadn't been there long), most of her choice body parts were already consumed.

Between the cow (who lay in about the middle of the bay) and her calf (who lay closer to the far shore), wolf tracks, still quite clear despite the blowing snow, told the rest of the story. In fact, except for one lone coyote, three eagles, a few crows and a half dozen magpies, the primary consumers had obviously been a pack of at least four wolves.

And, so the question remains? What does this bode for our winter? Will we enjoy / endure another winter of the wolf? Are the local animals that hungry? Are there that many? Or, perhaps, is this just a chance kill committed by animals who were just following the elk herd to their winter range?

Time will tell. And, while I look forward to more possible wolf sightings this winter, I also know I will be skiing with one eye to the rear and both ears open - just in case! So continues the 'never-dull-for-a-moment' saga of life at Elk Lake!

Lady of the Lake


Special Moments

One of the benefits of living at Elk Lake (there are many, as some of you might guess) is the opportunity to observe wildlife in either places few if any go or in seasons few if any are around. And, while I do not have the camera equipment possessed by many of our guests, if I have the time, I am usually blessed with a few unique occasions to observe and record our various wild animals in their natural settings following their daily routines.

Late last fall I enjoyed such an experience. Not far from the lodge is a little known and rarely visited pond. While in our travels I have seen Trumpeter Swans floating placidly on small bodies of water bordering busy byways, I doubt they spend any of their lives in the Centennial. Our swans are still wild. They will tolerate human presence - to a point and at a distance. Thus it was with pleasure I spent nearly one and a half hours observing these birds from a relatively nearby location.

In fact, while it made for less exciting pictures, they paid me perhaps the highest compliment I have ever received from our wild friends by going to sleep in my presence. At one point every bird on the pond (and there were more than twenty) had its head tucked in its wing. Amazing!

Trumpeter Swans were obviously named for their unique vocal abilities. I have heard these large birds talking in the distance. I have heard them calling to one another as they flew. However, I did not know how vocal they are when completely undisturbed. Except when sleeping, it seemed these birds were always calling back and forth to each other.

Of course the shots every swan photographer wants are the ones with the birds facing each other, necks arched to form the distinctive heart shape. Well, I can't say I had much luck in this area. Just one hazy shot from across the pond.

The other coveted pose is with wings spread. In this area, although my shots do not begin to compete with those taken by Jerry James (which I shared in a recent post), I did have a bit more luck.

Of course there were numerous other photo opportunities so I took a lot of pictures. Many look like repeats of other shots. Many are too tame, too calm, too predictable or just plain poor. However, I will share a few more which are, at least, interesting. In these two shots you get a glimpse of the birds' curiosity.

While the famous shots are beautiful, these graceful birds tend to look good no matter what they are doing.

In fact, their actions often appeared synchronized.

Yes, I live in a beautiful place, surrounded by beautiful creatures. I trust I never take it for granted or begin to see it as common place. I have learned, however, there is beauty wherever one goes - if we will but look for it. I hope you are enjoying the beauty in your area, too.

Lady of the Lake


The "OFF" Season

Part of what helps us regain our sanity after a particularly long or trying or busy summer / fall season is our off season. In fact, having owned a hospitality business for several years during an earlier time in life, we knew the value of time off. However, when you are self employed, you pay at least twice for time off. One - you pay someone to take your place. Two - you lose business or you get behind (because you aren't there to do the work). For this and other reasons many self-employed folks often deny themselves badly needed breaks.

So, when we went looking for another business, we kept this factor prominent in our minds. Anyone who has visited Elk Lake, anyone who knows us at all, can testify the truth when I say that is not the primary reason we chose Elk Lake. However, it definitely made the place more attractive.

Anyone who has the ability, the opportunity, and any pride at all has a job. Quite frankly, I have little time for folks who chose to sit around when they can and should be serving in a productive role in society. However, as everyone with a job can testify, no matter how much you love your job, there are times when work is, well, work!

So it is with Elk Lake. While we live in the most wonderful spot anyone could ever ask to live, while we have the privilege of working with, serving and meeting some of the most wonderful people on God's green earth, while we enjoy what we do most of the time, even Elk Lake can sometimes become 'work'. Thus, when those rare days dawn - those days when I'd really rather not go fix another breakfast, prep for another lunch time, do another load of laundry, clean another cabin, greet another guest, serve another dinner - and, in all honesty they come, rarely, but they do come - knowing a time of rest is coming helps me face the harder days.

Unless you've worked in the hospitality business you probably do not know the estimated average time to burnout is five years. Well, I'm glad to say we've soared right on past. And, frankly, I contribute our continued love for Elk Lake to the wonderful guests who have enriched our lives and the forced down times which allow us to really relax, relish and strengthen our family unity, and enjoy the wonderful place we live.

One of the best things about living and working in such a wonderful location is the grandeur, beauty, and recreation which sit right outside our back (or front) door. One of the hardest things about living and working in such a fantastic place is the work which keeps us from enjoying the wonders outside our doors. Thus, it is the down times which allow us to enjoy what our guests experience the rest of the year. And, just to set the record straight, we NEVER begrudge our guests their all-too-short time to indulge in the glories which surround us. Never for a day have we forgotten they are the reason we can live at and enjoy Elk Lake. Never have we lost sight of the privilege we have in facilitating their short stay in our part of God's country. Never have we failed to realize how short their time here as compared to ours.

Yet, when our days come, we treasure and relish them. For, not only are we enriched and delighted to enjoy the special treasures Elk Lake has to offer, we are also refreshed and rejuvenated so we look forward to the guests who will soon arrive.

Thus as we take our break and enjoy Elk Lake a little selfishly - all to ourselves - know as each day passes we are growing more and more excited about sharing our wonderful location with 'you'!

Lady of the Lake



In my opinion, there is no place as grand or as beautiful as Elk Lake. I believe many, if not all, of our guests would agree. While some places can be replicated elsewhere or at least you can find a close facsimile, Elk Lake has some unique qualities which cannot be found together in one place anywhere else. It is the rare combination of quiet, serenity, an almost 'other worldliness', a wildness which allows one to feel close to nature yet without giving up the comforts of home. All this combined with the glorious beauty of our setting makes for a completely unique and not-to-be duplicated location.

So, when I even think of ever leaving Elk Lake, I feel a bit hollow. Once you've lived in such a special place, everything else seems a bit - well - second class. Nonetheless, the Greater Yellowstone EcoSystem and its surrounding countryside does take in some of the most unique and breathtakingly beautiful landscape in the lower 48. So, when we take some time away (never to escape Elk Lake but sometimes to escape Elk Lake's enthusiasts :-), we search for other special, off-the-beaten-path, and beautiful places.

While you probably don't care where I spend my free time, occasionally Elk Lake guests will ask about other areas to which they can make a day trip or where they might spend a day or two at the beginning or end of their stay with us. So, for those of you who have ever wondered, here are some photos of a couple of my favorite spots - within a day's drive, yet, quite honestly, worth a day or two (at least) of your time.

Anyone who has visited Yellowstone National Park, has gone hoping to see at least two things - animals and geysers. The geysers are predictable, stuck in one place, and easy to view. The animals, like all animals are quite the opposite (some in every aspect). Thus visitors to Yellowstone can 'plan' to view the geysers but must 'prepare' to see the wildlife.

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park (Yellowstone's neighbor to the south) plan to see the geological wonders but rarely do I visit with anyone preparing to search out the Park's wildlife. In fact, having spent a few days in the Park, I would say it is rare to find anyone who is focusing on the wildlife. Of course, with such a majestic backdrop, visitors can't exactly ignore the grand landscape. However, as we have found, the landscape is the icing on a potentially fantastic wildlife cake.

Like anything else of value, even the geological wonders do not give up their best to the casual bypasser. Yet, if you are willing to get up before the sun and head for the most scenic spot you can find, a typical sunrise will provide you with numerous photo opportunities. These Park rangers paddling toward Leigh Lake added just the right amount of action to Mt. Moran's morning face.

If you just can't drag yourself out of bed that early, all is not lost. While, personally, I believe the sunrise photo opportunities in Grand Teton National Park are the best, a good sunset photo is still a possibility - especially if you can manage to get some good reflections. The photo which follows is of The Teton Range (from the north end) reflected in Coulter Bay.

The Tetons are so spectacular you really don't need water to set them off. Granted a good reflection never hurts (like this morning picture of the Cathedral Group reflected in String Lake):

But gorgeous country is gorgeous regardless - whether viewed across a sage brush covered field:

Seen through Jackson Lake Lodge's windows at mid-day:

Glimpsed through the trees on a cloudy, wet day:

Or even looking the other way:

But like I mentioned above, the scenery in Grand Teton National Park, as grand as it truly is, is not the only reason - for me not even the primary reason - for visiting the area. It is the wildlife which bring me back time after time - particularly the elk.

I have mentioned in previous posts the thrill I get whenever I hear a wolf howl. There is truly nothing like it. And, while the wolf may be the supreme definition of 'wild', the elk (oddly enough the wolf's favorite prey) will always be another major symbol of wildness in my mind. Just thinking about an elk's bugle can send goosebumps up my arns.

If you have never had the privilege of standing in the woods, listening to a couple bulls scream their challenges back and forth - you have missed something incredibly wild and incredibly special.

While Yellowstone is home to numerous elk and while I have heard them bugle there as well, Grand Teton is the place I head if I want the supreme experience. Perhaps it is the lack of wolves. Perhaps it is the geographic formations which amplify the sound. Perhaps it is the geological format which forces the elk into a central area. I do not know the reason, I only know if I want to hear a LOT of bulls make a LOT of racket - Grand Teton National Park in the fall is the place to be.

Of course wildlife are harder to photograph. That is why the best wildlife photos I possess were taken by someone with more time, more patience, and better equipment than I. However, I did get a few shots - not the best - but proof the animals were there in abundance. This photo is of two bulls who were screaming their defiance at one another (and any other bull who would consider responding) just across the lake from our location:

This bull had already made his stand and, by the time we wandered his way, appeared to be making his way toward a nice cool spot where he planned to spend the day.

Of course there were the bull moose, but they were not nearly as visible nor as vocal. However, we did manage to glimpse a very large bull courting his lady the evening we arrived (but where does one put a big RV when they want to make a quick stop along a busy road?)

Anyone who has visited this beautiful section of the country south of Yellowstone probably has seen and experience much the same. In fact, I know some of you have better photos than I do. However, we are the exploring kind (go figure - we live in the middle of nowhere - how, exactly, did we find Elk Lake Resort anyway :-) So, it comes as no surprise we took a day to explore.

Sometimes explorations lead to something one could have done without. Sometimes they leave you saddle sore and uninspired. However, our explorations that day may have left us saddle sore, but we were definitely NOT uninspired by our find.

On the north end of the Wind River Range, tucked up on the Continental Divide, is Togowetee Pass. Now, I must admit, I wasn't overly impressed with that area. However, just to the east lies a beautiful group of mountains called "The Pinnacles". Tucked at the base of these unique mountains just a few miles off the main highway we found a lovely little lake in a pretty little meadow surrounded by beautiful mountains. Next time you take a trip to the Grand Tetons, I'd recommend a side trip to Brooks Lake.

And while I'm usually a lot more fond of rocky, rugged, 'majestic' mountains like the Centennials or Madisons, I found the painted hills near Dubois, WY beautiful in their own right.

In reality, there are just too many beautiful places to see. However, the real proof of how well you like where 'you' live is: how anxious are you to go home? I must admit, even in the face of all the natural grandeur and beauty we enjoyed on this trip, I could hardly wait to get home. And, when all my excursions are compared, my favorites are those I take out my back door - just my two hiking buddies and me!

Lady of the Lake



After six summer seasons I have grown to anticipate our seasonal traditions. Each year, the end of summer brings the departure of our summer help. The end of the year always signals the start of the winter season - and the return of guests we only see that time of year. The sun's return to the northern hemisphere, signals the end of the winter season and the anticipation of the coming green! And, of course, as spring begins to color our world, we anticipate the return of warmer temperatures and oru special summer friends who grace us with their company year after year. And, of course, we look forward to meeting the new folks who will find their way to our door.

One tradition, however, which doesn't really affect us - and yet affects us a lot - is the arrival and departure of the cattle which graze around the resort. Cattle grazing on public lands has been a controversial topic. Some see cattle as leeches up the land, depleting our natural resources without adequate compensation. Others see cattle as beneficial to the eco-system.

While sometimes I address topics trying to present a balanced view of both sides of the subject, that is not the purpose of this post. Today's post is first and foremost a support of cattle grazing on our public lands. This is one Elk Lake tradition I greatly appreciate. Why?

Especially in a dry year, I look forward to the cattle's return. Granted, cattle are not the best respectors of private property. And, with Montana's 'fence out' law, the burdon of keeping these critters (who often epitomize the old saying 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence) falls on us.

None the less, the service provided by these sometimes too friendly animals far outweighs any frustrations their presence may cause. What service? You may ask. Grass removal. Or, more properly - grass removal and fertilizer application.

In a political climate where we no longer manage our forests, the fire danger gets higher and higher with each passing year. If, to add to the fuel load created by the dead, dying, and overcrowded trees, we add a heavy grass fuel load, we are guaranteed the forest (when it burns) will burn hotter and longer and to more devastating effects. So, with each passing year, the presence of the cattle around the resort, consuming at least some of the fuel, is more and more welcome.

Furthermore, as wildlife refuges in some areas(such as Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge) have found the cattle grazing helps the smaller mammals and birds by depleting the heavy grasses which actually limit or even prevent their ability to survive in the grasslands. Thus, by simulating the activity of bison, or by just doing what they do best, the cattle grazing our national forest lands are doing us a favor (at least in the vast majority of cases).

I have probably already given away this point - but I have spent considerable time in the past around cattle operations. I appreciate the perspective this has given me - not only as to the value the cattle provide, but also to the difficulty and challenges the rancher experiences.

As I've said in previous posts, there is little which gives me a greater thrill than hearing a wolf howl up the draw. However, that wolf's howl can be a precurser to the death of some rancher's stock.

Perhaps your response is, "Serves them right. After all, their cattle are trespasser's on the wolf's territory." Well, that is a point which could be argued. However, as the recent kills just outside of Ennis and Dillon, Montana prove, the wolves are opportunits who will each wherever and whatever is easy and 'good'. So, location is not the only key.

However, this is one risk the cattle rancher takes. And it is not just wolves which provide them a challenge. There are wolves, but there are also bears (Grizzly and Black), and cougars to prey upon these slower moving domestic animals. Furthermore, there are noxious weeds which poison numerous cows - some years being worse than others. Tall Larkspur has taken a heavy toll in our area the last few years.

Another challenge few people who have not been involved in this business can comprehend is keeping track of and caring for cattle who are running on such vast sections of land. I doubt there is a much more practical example of the proverbial 'needle in a haystack' than that of the rancher seeking to watch over his cattle on these vast areas of land.

My finally reason for enjoy the traditional cattle which run around Elk Lake is: cattle come with ranchers. While these hard worker, peace loving (at least the ones I know), quiet folks tend to get a bac rap from the more liberal side, I have yet to meet a 'real' rancher who didn't work twice as hard and twice as long for about half the pay of his / her city counterpart. So, when it comes to making friends worth keeping, the farmers and ranchers of this great country are some of the best.

So, while the cattle have gone and the ranchers are back at their home places buttoning things down and stocking things up for the coming winter, I wish them all the best and look forward to their return next year!

Lady of the Lake


Gifts From Friends

As I promised in my last post, I am going to share with you some 'gifts' I have received from our guests. All my readers know I take LOTS of pictures. I guess I feel that, to a point, a picture really is 'worth a thousand words.' However, if you have spent any time at the resort, you also know I spend the vast majority of my time (during season) inside. I cook. I clean. I answer the phone. Then, when I'm done, I start all over again. Thus you will understand why the photos taken by guests who are here enjoying the glories of a Centennail Valley are such gifts!

Furthermore, many of our guests are better photographers than I am - and many have much nicer camera equipment. In addition, many of these photos share aspects of life at and around Elk Lake which I enjoy but cannot capture due to schedule constraints. Thus I thought our blog readers would probably enjoy these offerings and recognize why I consider them to be more than a nice gesture but a real gift.

The Centennial Valley is beautiful. It is wild. It is pristine. It is home to many more people than animals. Thus most of these photos have wildlife as their subject.


The top picture and the first few which follow are courtesy of my favorite wildlife photographer, frequent winter (rare summer) guest, and good friend - Gary Pumplin. As you can see, Gary is a talented photographer. While many of his photos are not taken in the Centennial, they nonetheless, portray animals and birds which call the Centennial home.

Moose are year round residents in the Centennial. While they are seen most frequently in the winter, a young bull moose found his way into the yard just the other day. These guys, however, weren't in the back yard!

While less frequent than last year, bear sightings or track sightings are the norm around here. These beautiful, large predators are a thrill to see - from a distance!

Another illusive Centennial resident, badgers are not easy to spot - but they are extremely photogenic if you get lucky.

Another generous and talented photographer we were privileged to meet this year is Jerry James. While Jerry and his wife reside in California, during their week in the Centennial they proved to be more comfortable in a 'my' environment than I would be in theirs. Please remember, the images which follow are NOT public. They belong to Jerry James, San Mateo, California.

During their stay, Jerry and his wife, Sue, spent quite a bit of time pursuing the Centennial's wild inhabitants. All the pictures which follow were taken in the valley. And for those of you who wonder where the wildlife are in the middle of summer - these were all taken in the middle of summer.

On one of the last days of their stay, my hubby shared the location of our favorite 'swan viewing' spot. Jerry and Sue spent about an hour and a half enjoying the birds and capturing some wonderful shots.

While I have captured a few shots of these beautiful birds, nothing I have compares to the beauty of these. Thank you, Jerry, for sharing with us!

However, swans were not his only subject. He managed to capture a pair of pronghorns:

A beautiful young Swainson's Hawk:

A couple of young Grebes:

And a fantastic upclose of a pair of Sandhill Cranes:

Not every photo we receive is taken in the summer. Some are winter shots, like this one from Brian Holliday. This is definitely a shot you will NOT see coming from my camera. In fact, were it not for Brian's willingness to walk out to the far end of the front yard and take this photo, I'd have no proof that once in a while we get mighty busy!

With 49 snowmobiles in front of the lodge, you can imagine how many people we are trying to serve inside the lodge!

Not every photo our guests share with us involves wildlife. Not everything centers around the resort. In fact, our wisest guests (in my opinion) are those who take the opportunity to spend a night packed up into the Centennial's high country. The LaFay family (our French-Japanese friends who have spent more than one summer day in our company) took such a trip. And, in spite of less than perfect weather, they are already vowing to repeat the experience next time they visit.

This photo is courtesy of the LaFay family.

Of course not every fantastic horseback trek has been taken in the Centennials. Just saddling up and taking off from the lodge can be fun, too. This next fantastic photo of Bugs and Tina crossing The Narrows at Elk Lake is courtesy of Russ Johnston.

As you can see, we have been blessed with MANY beautiful photos and our guests have been blessed with MANY wonderful sightings and experiences here at Elk Lake. However, lest you think the wildlife sightings stop when winter comes to call, I have two more photos to share with you - one from my friend Gary whose photos I've displayed above:

And one from Len Tillum - another local, talented photographer who enjoys visiting the Centennial, but makes most of his treks in the winter.

I hope you have enjoyed this photo tour as much as I have enjoyed receiving these 'gifts' from friends. These are just a sampling of the many photos we have received over the years. If you have photos you'd like to share with us, please, send them along. If these images have sparked your interest, check out everything the Centennial Valley and Elk Lake have to offer. For now, I've got to get my camera. I see another photo opp coming up!

Lady of the Lake