The Return of the Four Muskateers

To all my faithful readers: My apologies! I am sorry it has taken me so long to update my blog posting. It wasn't for lack of fodder, believe me. I have been delayed on two fronts: one good, one frustating.

On the good side, business was booming last week. We enjoyed (and worked like crazy to keep up with) what may turn out to have been one of the best weeks we've ever experienced, business-wise, in the winter. We are very thankful, but tired!

On the frustrating side, our internet service has had us pulling our hair, literally. However, I believe the issues are taken care of (at least we hope they are) and we are back on line. It takes 'burps' like this to remind us how much we appreciate and depend on our 'connection to the world'.

So for the latest news - I suspect the photo and the title may have given you a clue. Yep. The wolves came back. In greater numbers!

Monday morning early, just after daylight, Craig looked out toward the lake to see four wolves trotting in our general direction from Elk Mountain's saddle. While Bo headed that direction barking like crazy, Rosie sat in the yard obviously intrigued.

This was just too many, too close. Craig grabbed his gear and headed for the snowmobile. I grabbed my camera and begged a ride. By the time we hit the lake the wolves were rounding the point heading north. We decided to give them a boost, in hopes it would discourage these repeat (and frequent) visits.

While three of the wolves left the lake quickly, heading for the hills to avoid us, one wolf seemed to enjoy loping along just ahead of the snowmobile.

What amazed me most, in retrospect, was the animal's lack of fear. Granted he was running. We were chasing him. However, he glanced at us several times and while his expression was not one of aggression, it was also definitely not one of fear.

Since then I have run across the tracks of four more wolves heading north. They crossed Narrows Creek just above the pond. Otherwise, while moose sightings are down (just one cow with a this year's calf seen all winter!), the wolves seem to have moved back a bit. Hopefully chasing them gave them a little more respect for getting that close to 'civilization'.

Other than that and many guests to fill up our days and even some of our evenings, life continues much the same at Elk Lake. The sun shines brightly. The snow is beautiful (although we are still praying for one more good dump). Life is good, and I am blessed to be the

Lady of the Lake


"The Winter Of The Wolf"

I know the Chinese are famous for determine the year. The year of the dog. The year of the horse. The year of. . .

I am not connecting with my Chinese ancestors. I do not think I even have any. However, the last two winters and this past summer have been so obviously 'seasons of. . .', I can not overlook the obvious.

Last winter was the "Winter of the Moose". Excursions to and from our pickup often found us stopping for moose in the road, moose close beside the road, moose in the distance. Several times we counted 30 to 35 moose along Elk Lake Road. That was without 'really looking'. Looking back I remember it as the 'Winter Of The Moose'.

Last summer was the "Summer of the Bear". Bears. Bear tracks. Bear spray. These dominated my thoughts far too often. With Grizzly sightings near the lodge, bear tracks up Horse Creek, a large Grizzly strolling down the road just past Elk Lake, bear tracks along the lake trail, and cub sightings near Hidden Lake - I was left with two options. Walk the road near the lodge only. Buy bear spray.

Not being one to enjoy confinement, and not being one to walk just to kill time (I walk to see, to explore, to get away from civilization - ha, civilization Elk Lake style), I opted for the bear spray. However, the numerous bear tracks and sightings in the area flavored the entire season.

This winter is turning into "The Winter of The Wolf". For those of you who have started following Elk Lake's Facebook page, you will have noticed the snippets I've added about recent wolf activity nearby. Sometimes TOO close!

In a recent blog post, Making Tracks, I discussed recent sightings. Wolf tracks in my ski tracks just up Narrows Creek behind the lodge. This was amazing. At the time we had seen wolves on the refuge and near Elk Mountain (just a few miles away) in both summer and winter. We'd also seen wolves nearby our first summer. However, we had never seen wolf sign this close in the winter.

Since that post, I have seen more tracks, seen some wolves, and heard of numerous track and/or wolf sightings.

Last Friday some Bozeman photographers who were staying with us while working on an upcoming documentary on winter range saw and heard wolves while filming moose near the lodge. That night four wolves came to the gate but did not enter the resort. The dogs threw a fit which probably encouraged them to move on.

Over the next few days wolf tracks were sighted at both ends of the lake, up the hill and out on the refuge.

The 'fun' doesn't end there. Yesterday, about noon my hubby hollared up the stairs, "Something is on the lake!"

Now this is not an unusual phenomenon. In the winter we have seen moose. Of course it was lunch time so snowmobilers crossing the lake would have been expected. We've seen coyotes out there. Shucks, look at the right time and you will find me out there on my cross country skies. However, the tone of his voice indicated something unique.

My first reaction is always to reach for my camera. Thus camera in hand I headed for the large dining room windows which offer a panoramic view of the yard and the lake's bay. Sure enough something large and dark was on the lake. In fact, it looked like a very large, leggy, black dog!

The binoculars and the camera's zoom lens confirmed what we already knew. A wolf! No doubt about it. I immediately looked for the dogs and the kids. The kids were skiing about half way between the lake and the lodge. The dogs were nearby. Rosie oblivious. Bo quietly watching the large black animal.

My hubby grabbed his gun. While we would rather NOT shoot at a wolf - after all, even if they were not protected, they are incredibly beautiful and wild animals - this wolf was far too intent on the children and the dogs. While he watched them, we watched him. After a lengthy debate, he began moving slowly away. At this point the gun was set aside in favor of the snowmobile. If the wolf was content to retreat, we wanted to make sure he kept moving AWAY from the kids and dogs.

I must admit looking out the window in the middle of the day and seeing wolf just a few hundred yards away is an awe inspiring sight. However, when you add in his intense inspection of our children and pets, it becomes a bit fearsome. And, when you realize the reason he left was, most likely, some incoming snowmobiles (he barely made the other side of the lake before they entered our yard), you realize just how serious wolves at the back door can be!

I continue to love my backyard. There is no place on earth like it - at least in my humble opinion. However, for those who see us 'western hicks' as backwards, dumb, animal haters - let me challenge you to consider what 'your' children and pets face when they step out your back door. Most likely not anything quite as potentially dangerous as mine.

Nonetheless, while I would shoot to protect them, if I had to, I must admit I love my wild backyard!

Lady of the Lake



The winter finds me with a little extra time on my hands. Thus, every winter, I plan some 'big' project. Well, that is every winter except this one. This winter I planned a lot of smaller projects. One, in particular, photo organization, has consumed much of my time.

Anyone who has spent much time on our web page or reading this blog knows I have taken TONS of pictures since moving to Elk Lake. In fact, I had to purchase a large external hard drive to hold them all.

While all these pictures add color to our web page and blog postings, they have also evolved into a massive, overgrown, overflowing mess. Thus, it was way past time to get them organized, sorted through, and catalogued for future use.

Of course, as you know, going through photos is a trip down memory lane. Thus I have relived many memories in the past few weeks as I've sorted away (no, this alone has not taken 'weeks', I have mixed a few other things in too :-) Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share some of these photo memories with you.

Take Narrows Creek with fresh snow. There is something so serene and beautiful about ice cold water flowing silently beside, under, and through newly fallen snow.

Then there are the ice crystals I spoke of last time. While I did not manage to get a picture of them at their best, I did capture this cow parsnip with a few remaining 'decorations'.

I really should carry my camera with me every time I ski. I suppose I am a little too cautious. I honestly do not like exposing my camera to the cold. It tends to create moisture problems when I bring it back indoors. However, it seems like everytime I leave it, I wish I had not.

So, after missing the fantastic ice crystal display last week, I debated with myself a few evenings ago. Rush back to the lodge to get the camera before all the evening sunlight left the lake or kick myself for days thereafter? The desire to capture the image one out! What had captured my eye? Only the most amazing snow designs I've ever seen.

No, that is not sand! That is snow on the lake's surface. The results of a very cold, light snow which came accompanied by a brisk wind. I have never seen snow anything like it. Large sections of the lake looked like a desert landscape. And, when skied across, the snow felt and sounded quite different from 'normal' snow!

While I did not manage to get a good photo of the ice crystals the other day, I did get a few pictures of some beautiful snow 'flowers'. What is a snow flower? Well, it is my term for an ethrial collection of snow flakes, arranged in the most intricate pattern on a dark background - which, for these photos, Narrows Creek provides the backdrop.

I am awed and amazed so often when I take time to really look around me. The intricate designs. The breathtaking beauty. That something so 'simple' could be so 'beautiful' always leaves me in awe. To see God's hand upon the creation out my back door is quite humbling.

By the time I reached this next 'simple thing', my camera battery claimed it was dead. Well, I've learned I can usually 'milk' one more photo from a dead battery if I fool the camera into thinking I replaced the battery. So, I tried my trick and was able to capture this image.

There is SOOOO much more I could share. Sunrises and sunsets streaked with color. Ski tracks on pristine snow. Moose bathed in an evening glow. Bo with his face powdered white. Treasures. Tidbits. Thanksgivings. Treats!

I hope you are enjoying excursions into your backyard, too. I've learned carrying a camera is a great way to teach yourself to 'see' more. So, even if I can't share it all - some pictures will have to remain in my head - I hope you enjoy these treats from my back yard!

Lady of the Lake

PS - For those of you who have a Facebook profile, why not become a 'fan' of Elk Lake Resort's Facebook page. If you love Elk Lake, share it with the world. Not only will your friends thank you, we will too. After all, in these challenging economic times, Elk Lake is a perfect place to escape the pressures of daily life and rejuvenate.