Winter Magic

While the winter does tend to keep me inside more than I like, there are times when I just have to escape - even if it does not look too inviting outside. Like the other day. The wind was blowing (at hurricane force it seemed) from the south. However, I was determined to do my four mile ski. So, off I went headed into a wind which, literally at times, pushed me to a near standstill and kept me from looking up for more than brief glimpses. Those first two miles were HARD work. However, the same wind which hindered my progress heading south, aided it greatly heading north. Let's put it this way - my big hiking buddy had to trot rapidly to keep up with my wind-enhanced pace. And, as if in apology for making the southern journey so difficult, I even enjoyed a brief 'kite ski' (without the kite) as the wind sent me flying down the trail, arms outstretched and grinning from ear to ear.

Most days, however, the trip is a little more tame. Cold. Sure, sometimes it is cold. However it is surprising how warm one can feel when exercising, even at 5 to 10 below zero. In fact, as long as I dress for the temperature, I rarely feel the cold.

As in summer, one of my favorite winter hikes / skis is up Narrows Creek. I have yet to make it past the rocky scree (about 1 1/2 miles up). The snow piled in too deep and too fast. Before I knew it I was sinking to well past my knees - sometimes to my hips! - in snow. Even with snowshoes or skies.

As you can see, even with a packed trail (this part was actually packed by a snowmobile although that was done after I packed it with snowshoes), things aren't staying open very long! Obviously this has been a wonderful snow year.

In fact - even a close look shows no sign of the snowmobile tracks left just weeks earlier. That suits me just fine. After all - while I'm no glutton for punishment (and believe me, wading through waste deep snows with 30-inch snowshoes strapped to one's feet is nothing short of Chinese torture :-), I still enjoy the feeling I've entered a world untouched by time, a feeling I enjoy every time I head up this way.

Obviously I'm not the only one who enjoys a 'hike' through these woods. While much of the snow is pristine white, apparently undisturbed since time began, there to my right I spy a trail winding up the hill. I suspect these tracks were left by our local fox - the one who walked, bold as a lion, across the hillside above the dog's kennel. Talk about funny!

Alerted by the dog's bark, I looked out the window this morning to see what the dogs were fussing about. Then I saw him. A fox, calm as could be, strolling across the hillside with an ease I envied. Was he concerned about the proximity of the dogs? Obviously not! To show his complete disdain (and to reinforce who 'really' owns these hills and dales) he stopped, not once but twice, to deposit his 'leavings'. As if to say, "Lest you think you scare me - watch this." What a hoot!

The fox wasn't the only one leaving his 'tracks' in the snow up Narrows Creek that day. While the lighting did not allow for a good image, I couldn't resist snaping a picture of these prints - all grouped together as this little critter pounced or bounded or traveled in some other way which caused all four feet to hit the ground in virtually the same spot.

Then there were these tracks headed up the hill. I've seen these kind of tracks before. I think they are weasel tracks - or some little animal of this family. I really do need to research this as the tracks are very distinct and can not be confused with the other 'critter' tracks seen along this trail.

One thing about my 'treks' in the Centennial. The beauty and intrigue is never limited to one thing. Tracks. Shadows. Scenic Vistas. Wildlife. They all catch my eye (and my breath at times) and add to the pure joy I find in my own backyard.

What could be more awe-inspring than Narrows Creek, surrounded by deep pillows of snow, criss-crossed by old critter trails, bordered by pristine hillsides, backdroped of the majestic Centennial Mountains, and resting peacefully under the incomparable Montana blue skies?

"And there I was. Munching on my power bar. Minding my own business. Enjoying the quiet. Not bothering anybody. And along came - a DOG! A human! What???"

No - I did not see another person up the trail. However, I suspect this is what the moose thought when I rounded the corner and entered his world! This is only the second time this winter I've seen the moose up Narrows Creek - although I have seen his tracks on every excursion up that direction.

Of course animals and their tracks aren't the only things I notice on my excursions. While some might think I've gone off my rocker, I see nothing wrong with slowing down and noticing the simple things - like snowball trails coming down the hillside.

I don't know what important questions you've faced of late, but I recently found myself contemplating the question: "Do snowballs always roll straight down a hill?" And, for that matter, "Are all snowballs round?"

Recently I ran across a snowball which looked more like the Michelin Tire Man than any snowball one might expect to see. Yet, until this walk, I'd never noticed that snowballs do NOT always roll in a straight line. In fact, after hitting a tree further up the hill, this one rolled (or waddled or swaggered) down the hill like a staggering drunk! However, no drunk I've ever watched left such a beautiful pattern in his wake.

In fact, on closer inspection I find most snowballs seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to 'where' they are going and 'how' they'll make the trip. Some prefer to hop along. Others roll down in a neat and straight line. Others curve. Others 'wiggle' their way along. And others seem to zig and zag this way and that. I guess it shouldn't come as surprise. Obviously snowballs are individuals too!

They say, "All good things must come to an end." And thus it did. I came to the end of the trail without enough steam to forge ahead into the un-tamped snow. Thus my hiking buddy and I turned back - leaving behind us a re-packed trail which know we won't stay that way long.

Back toward the setting sun. Back through the willows. Back past the snowball trails. Back past the silent pond which, before I know it, will be home to mamma ducks and papa ducks and baby ducks. Yet for now everything rests, quiet and peaceful under its downy snow blanket. Ahhh! What an incredible place to live!

Lady of the Lake



The ONLY thing I do not like about winter at Elk Lake is, it finds me indoors more than I like. Granted, I do not take advantage of every opportunity to get out - thus I turn into my own worst enemy. But, due to the shorter days and the traffic pattern, it does become more difficult to get out of the lodge.

Another aspect which can impact my winter outdoor activities is the temperature. While I have found one stays quite comfortable - and it is even possible to get uncomfortably warm, even hot, exercising outdoors at 10 below zero, when I see that little minus sign in front of the temperature, it slows my move to the door after a busy day. Lately, we have had a few of those days. Bright. Gorgeous. Inviting. COLD!

Considering I waited until after daylight to take this photo - that thermometer is not making seem very inviting outside! And, lest I doubt the thermometer, other things were verifying its testimony.

From the beautiful ice crystal patterns on the bar windows

To some serious ice on the inside of an old window - it was just plain COLD outside. However, that didn't slow down the moose or the dog!

That moose has been hanging around the lodge all winter - actually we've seen three moose in the vicinity most of the season - in spite of the dog who barks and carries on every time he spies him.

And, before you start feeling sorry for my 'frosty-faced' hiking buddy, let me assure you, he turns his nose up at even the slightest suggestion he should come inside to escape the cold. You couldn't PAY him (well, maybe with a steak but he'd be begging to get out as soon as he'd devoured his 'pay') to come inside. He adores cold weather!

And, just in case your sympathies align more with the moose than the dog - he was back the next day just up Narrows Creek from the lodge

And the next day just outside the front gate. So. . .he obviously would probably prefer the dog keep his opinion to himself, but he doesn't really let it get to him.

Of course, at Elk Lake, the moose aren't the only entertainment. In fact, if one is creative, you never know what they might come up with next to keep them in shape. (And, since the youngest tends to be the most creative, he typically comes up with the most unusual ideas!)

I bet YOU never thought of that! Of course it is not a sport I would recommend except the most youngest (and most foolhardy) amongst us. However, he didn't let something like a few feet of snow slow his progress!

So - how do you escape cabin fever? Try taking pictures of ice on the windows - or watching the moose eat - or watching the dog watching the moose - or try bike riding in the snow! How's that for a little clean (and sane - we really are still sane :-) fun?

Lady of the Lake


Winter Projects

One of the things which makes Elk Lake such a lovely place to work (you all know how much I love living here, but, perhaps you did not know I also like working here) is the job variety. Not just the day-to-day variety of cooking, cleaning, chatting with guests, etc. but the seasonal differences.

One of the most obvious differences in the ebb and flow of our lives at Elk Lake is the indoor - outdoor split which occurs from season to season. Because winter can make outdoor projects a bit more challenging, we strive to do them in the summer and fall. However, this means summer and fall can be difficult times to get to the indoor projects. So. . .yep, we relegate them, if possible, to winter.

This has resulted in various indoor projects which keep our winter days full but still allow us to relax a bit. This winter is no different. And, since I've never covered this aspect of our life at Elk Lake, I thought I'd share a couple of projects we've tackled thus far this winter.

Typically my winter projects have centered around our web page. However, after finishing a complete overhaul last spring, I felt safe to just do some seasonal updating. Thus I set aside the computer and pulled out the sewing machine.

For those of you who have been coming to Elk Lake for years, you probably remember the arrival of our lovely log furnishings. What you may not know is they came without cushions.

The previous owner, being a resourceful person, decided to make her own cushions. Together with a friend she gathered the supplies, pulled out her trusty sewing machine, and went to work. The red, Indian-print cushions seen the photo above were the result.

What she did not know is some foam man took advantage of her. Although I have no clue what she paid for her foam, the foam in those cushions was not worth what she paid. While in the photo above, the material is just starting to 'roll' and wrinkle (signs the fabric is no longer snug), the 'real' issues were already taking place 'behind the scenes'.

Thus this past year we started finding small piles of yellow stuff on our floors. It took us awhile to realize these 'piles' were our cushions. They were disintegrating into what you see in the photo above. Obviously this made a mess - but, worse yet, the more we swept off the floor, the less there were on the chairs and couches.

Thus, by the time this winter rolled around, I HAD to do something. One couch was down to nearly nothing and the chairs had no back cushions!

So, like my predecessor, I gathered my supplies and pulled out my handy-dandy sewing machine. However, I believe I had at least one advantage. I have done some upholstery projects in my past thus I KNEW good foam and I also knew how to make an 'overstuffed' cushion.

And, the end result not only felt better (a soft chair beats a hard one any day of the week in my book), but they looked better too. Of course that, too, was not hard to accomplish because a cushion really is only as good as its stuffing!

Once the backless-chairs were taken care of, I started on the couches. While one still appeared to have some life left in it (when the covers were removed, however, the foam literally crumbled in our hands), I chose to take care of them both while I was at it.

Next on my list was the old rocker. While its seat had been 'covered' with a piece of fabric to match the couches and chairs, under cover things didn't look too good. This chair is much too comfortable to toss - and, I suspect, it is an antique as well. Thus hubby and I set about removing the fabric cover and then the old, worn upholstry it hid.

It was more of a project than we had estimated, but we managed to whip it into shape. In the process we contemplated reupholstering the whole thing but decided finishing the seat, for now, was the better part of valor.

Of course, having gone this far, I couldn't see stopping without a few more updates. Thus I replaced the oldest pillows with some newer versions.

And, in preparation for a wall hanging I'm planning to make for one of the cabins, I decided to do a bit of practice. Thus I created a diagonal 9-patch for a table runner.

However, right now it is serving its time as part of the revitalized living room decor.

I admit I'm prejudiced - but, I figure, with good reason - however, I am pleased with the total effect. While the Indian print was a bit more 'striking', I like the lodgey look created by the new fabrics and the few odds and ends we pulled into the decor.

Another project, not a 'necessary' one in the obvious sense and yet necessary if I was to save and display some of the gifts received from this summer's guests, was a short project I undertook one afternoon. One repeat guest (who, like the rest of our repeat guests has become a good friend) brought me a lovely doily she had made. Another couple who comes every year brought me a huge bouquet of beautiful roses. So, I combined the two and made a keepsake (which I may be hard pressed to ever move as it is extremely fragile!).

While I was busy with my sewing machine, hubby was busy on projects of his own. One which was a nice improvement to our living quarters was the replacement of our shower surround.

Last spring he updated and improved our living quarters dramatically - not the least of which was the work he did on our bathroom. However, he ran out of time before he ran out of chores. So the shower surround ended up relegated to another time - and the time came.

The end result was worth the wait - at least in my opinion. So, now when you wonder what we do to avoid cabin fever, well, you know - at least a little of what we do. However, even without the projects, Elk Lake is not the kind of place where I can imagine anyone getting cabin fever. After all, cabin fever suggests a desire to go - somewhere, anywhere. Yet, for this lake dweller, that feeling rarely ever comes, and when it does all I need is a walk!

Lady of the Lake