A Wedding Outside Yellowstone (Part 2)

While we were working away preparing lots of scrumptuous food, over a dozen delicious pies, and finalizing our 'beautifying' project on the front patio, members of the bridal party, good friends, and hard-working family were busy turning Elk Lake's grounds into the perfect wedding location.

The wedding day dawned bright and clear. While June can be an 'iffy' month (weather-wise) at 7,000 feet, the adundant sunshine added to the celebratory mood. The flowers which were in the dining room overnight caught the morning light and made our early morning coffee a festive affair.

Early morning sunlight added an almost unearthly glow to the tent the crew had set up the previous afternoon. Soon this skeletal structure would take on a personality all its own as it was dressed in its wedding finery.

However, before everyone tackled their various tasks, they all settled in to enjoy the morning sunlight, a good cup of coffee, some great visiting, and a serving (or two) of a tasty breakfast. In keeping with the bride and groom's 'theme', we prepared Blueberry-Huckleberry French Toast. . .

And a heartier egg dish to accompany the fresh fruit, cereals, yogurt, toast, hard-boiled eggs and various beverages which typically adorn our breakfast buffet.

As I said, the flowers had spent the night in our dining room where, even bunched together, they added a beautiful splash of color to our morning activities. The bride had chosen not only beautiful flowers, but durable ones. Furthermore, many of her flowers looked like their wild cousins growing in the yard and on the surrounding hillsides.

Yet even beautiful flowers can be enhanced by a skilled hand. Thus Jamie set to work shaping and molding the various blossoms and greens into works of art. Here she is crafting the bridal bouquet.

While she worked, others were setting up the 'chapel' and the wedding arch.

Even here flowers were used to adds a touch of 'natural' beauty so in keeping with the Elk Lake setting.

What amazed me most was the bride's 'eye' for things which not only looked beautiful but actually enhanced Elk Lake's natural charm. Her wise choices made everything 'fit' with an amazing degree of success.

Even the wedding favors, the 'stage' upon which they set, and their unique and natural display flowed with the overall natural yet classy scheme. An old wagon, some burlap, flowers, green hills, blue sky - who could ask for more?

In keeping with the flavor 'theme', the groom's mother labored many hours to prepare the beautiful and tasty wedding favors. I really cannot imagine anything more in keeping with a Yellowstone Country wedding. Huckleberries and mountains are such a natural pair! Even the hand-crafted labels, the whimsical country-style fabric and the old-fashioned ball jars 'fit' to a 'T'.

Here, surrounded by all this spreadable love, rested a simple guestbook - again the perfect fit. As I watched guests adding their notes and good wishes, I imagined the bride and groom enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) many hours reliving the memories of this day.

The wine table - so elegant dressed in white linen and crystal - also took to the natural setting. Rough barn board backdrop; wildflower-look posies in a ball jar 'vase'; wood hand-carved chair to the side - all worked together to create that perfect blend of elegant culture and natural beauty.

Clear jars of lemonade and ice water bursting with fresh sliced lemons - sitting on a rustic wood table against a backdrop of rough barn boards flanked by the wildflower-look posies in their almost matching ball jar also fit the scene to perfection.

In the tent the tables, dressed to perfection in classy white linens, kept the ideal blend of culture and nature. Twisted willow branches and river rock in clear glass vases - ball jars of wildflower posies - rough-spun table runners, green grass floor, woodsy cabin and sagebrush backdrop - who could ask for a better combination for a Rocky Mountain wedding?

Finally everything was set up and ready to go. The wedding chapel, white chairs and burlap runner on a green grass carpet, flanked by flashing silver-green aspens rising from wildflower studded earth, blue sky overhead, and snow-capped mountains for a backdrop - WOW, I can't imagine a more beautiful beginning of the road?

One of our employees climbed the hill behind the lodge for a bird's eye view of the ceremony. As you can see, it couldn't have been a prettier day or a more gorgeous backdrop to celebrate the joining of a most wonderful couple. Nick and Sarah - we wish you many happy years together. May your road always be enhanced by nature's beauty and made more enjoyable by those touches of class.

Lady of the Lake


A Wedding Outside Yellowstone

Weddings conjure up a multitude of thoughts and feelings. Happiness. Beauty. Precious Memories. Undying Love. For many, the setting in which they place this momentous 'jewel' is just as important as all the details which circle round to enhance the day.

For a growing number of couples, a natural location seems most fitting. Certainly for those who have chosen to take their vows at Elk Lake, this has been the case. The beautiful mountain backdrop - the aspens flashing silver and green - the wildflowers brilliant colorspots against their green relief - the singing birds - the rustling wind - the smells and sounds of pure nature manicured just enough to provide comfort without detracting from the wild beauty - these assets and more are the powerful draw which Elk Lake offers the nature-loving couple. And so, this June, we enjoyed the first of two weddings at Elk Lake this summer.

However, it seems no one involved in a wedding - even one which takes advantage of a naturally beautiful location; even one performed in such a serene location - is immune to the work involved in bringing the event together. This bride, a woman after my own pallate, chose to have pies instead of wedding cake. The groom, a man with obviously good taste, loved huckleberries. Therefore the original plan called for myriads of huckleberry pies. However, with a shortage of huckleberries last year, we ended up with huckleberry, huckleberry-blueberry, banana cream, fudgy-pecan, and dutch-caramel apple. Lots of variety. Lots of pies. Lots of work!

The morning before the wedding found Anna (my wonderfully faithful, energetic and talented helper and friend) and I to our elbows in the pie-making prcoess well before dawn. One of the benefits of rising early is watching the sunrise paint the sky. While this particular morning provided little time to soak in the beauty, I did stop for one quick photo.

Then it was off-to-the-races as we dug into our work with gusto. Note the time (we're 8 hours into the day with barely time to grab a bite - but we're making good progress!).

Part of the challenge of pie making (besides the obvious: flaky crust, perfect consistency filling, beautiful appearance) is they do not hold well. If we were making the wedding 'cake', we could have started the process days in advance. Pies, on the other hand, require much of the work to be done within 24 hours of serving. Furthermore, in addition to the wedding pies, we were in charge of rehearsal dinner. So. . .in addition to pies, Anna is preparing the fruit topping for the Strawberry-Coconut Cheesecake (yep - OH, WOW!) we served for part of the evening's dessert.

Nonetheless, pie making had to move forward. While much of the process could not be completed until the wedding day, thankfully most of the fillings - and a small number of pies - could be put together in the 24 hours before "The Day." So we prepared Apple Pie Filling.

One of my biggest fears - outside of some or all of the pies turning into total flops - was runny fruit pies. With apples this isn't such a problem. However, berry pies are another story. Certainly one can add and add and add thickener, but who likes a fruit pie which seems a close cousin (in look and taste) to colored chalk? But, if you drain the juice the pies take a LOT less thickener and the fruit flavor is not dimmed in the slightest. So. . .we allowed the berries to thaw thoroughly before putting them in a raised strainer over a bowl. The end result - over a 1/2 gallon of wonderful juice to use in future fruit sauces and syrups - AND - beautiful consistency on our fruit pies. Yipee!

Thankfully the Fudgy-Pecan pies were not as touchy. Nonetheless, they had a superb nutty flavor which provided a nice contrast to all the fruit.

However, I can certainly understand the bridal couples' attraction to the fruit pies. Not only do huckleberries add that 'touch of wild' combined with a 'touch of class' so approriate for an Elk Lake wedding, a double crusted pie topped with a light brush of butter and sprinkled with a dusting of sugar just looks - YUMMY!

As morning faded into afternoon, and afternoon waned into early evening, things began coming together. Most of the pie filling was finally finished. Numerous pie shells were lightly baked and awaiting their tasty middles. A few pies were already awaiting the knife and fork.

Were it not for the concentrated effort of many willing hands, however, things would not have come together in time to lay out the lavish (yet simple) spread requested by the bride and groom for their Rehearsal Dinner. Yet it all came together - and I must say, after our long day it looked more than good enough to eat. They must have agreed as it all disappeared in a flash.

Sunrise the next morning found us front and center - or at least bellied to the counter, the kitchen counter that is. Pies began going together in earnest. Fillings which could not be made in advance were assembled. Pies were heading for the oven (or refrigerator) in rapid succession. The finish line was in sight!

AAHHH - we made it! Pies, beautiful pies in a variety of flavors and colors, adorned our counters. And none too soon as, dinner finished, the wedding guests awaited their dessert.

It's been a matter of discussion at Elk Lake for years - does presentation really matter? Well, it obviously took more time, but after all that work we couldn't resign ourselves to just throwing a piece of pie on a barren plate. So, in spite of our rapidly dwindling time, we plated our pies with caramel and chocolate sauce, paired many pieces with creamy homestyle vanilla ice cream, and sent them out - a beautiful finish to a beautiful wedding, even if I say so myself!

In part two we'll look at all the other things going on while we were sweating over a hot stove. Against Elk Lake's beautiful backdrop, several other people labored to personalize the setting for a very special couple to enjoy their once-in-a-lifetime day.

Lady of the Lake


Spring Projects

If it isn't one thing, it's two. At least that is how I've heard it said. Certainly our 'to-do' list every spring has more than one thing on it. And, like most 'to-do' lists, we finish the priority items but often fail to get around to those less pressing. However, this spring, thanks to some SUPERB workers and some generous friends, we managed to get to a couple of items which have always been relegated to next year.

Those who have been visiting Elk Lake over the last few years have noticed the cabin remodels which have been underway for quite some time. This year our 'to-do' list had finishing the lastest three on the priority end - and re-siding another a little farther down the list. We finished the latest three, and even managed to begin re-siding the fourth.

Regular guests will recognize this photo of Cabin 1 - USFS dark brown paint, white trim, and uncovered wood deck off the front. This was the only cabin without a covered porch. As a result, the deck needed replacing. That we accomplished before the season began with the help of some wonderful friends. However, there was more on that to-do list - and we made a good stab at finishing the rest the first couple weeks of June.

Note the new siding, new deck, and covered porch. What you may not be able to see clearly are the new door and windows. So, thanks to some willing hands and a little extra time, we are now about 1/2 done with another cabin. Yipee!

Another project I've been hoping to accomplish the last few months was what I call 'firming up' the theme in Cabin 7. Each of the remodeled cabins has a distinct theme. Cabin 7 is our moose cabin. However, finding quality yet reasonble moose decor has been somewhat difficult. Thus when my good friend, Gary, offered to let me enlarge and hang one of his moose photos, I jumped at the opportunity. However, finding time to matt and frame this beauty became a challenge - especially as I am still quite slow (I've learned speed comes with experience). However, it is done and now hangs above the bed - a beautiful photo to help 'set' the theme.

It always frustrates me to find I have not taken an adequate 'before' picture. This is one of those times. However, at least you can get an 'idea' of what our project would require. The rock patio is clearly defined. Yet up against the lodge in front of the dining room and to the right of the entry steps was the grassy, nasty, unfinished 'rock junk pile'.

THIS was one of our biggest non-priority projects for the spring. While the main part of the patio is a beautiful work completed in the early 80's, there were sections in front of the dining room which were anything but beautiful. And, as we learned tearing it out, it had once had a 'life'. A small fish / bird pond resided in one spot. However, part of it looked like it had never passed the 'vision-in-its-creator's-eye' point. And so, once again, with the help of our hard-working crew, we set about to beautify another spot in need. This time, the impetutus (besides the obvious) was a wedding planned for the end of the week (which I hope to cover in detail in the next couple of blog posts).

In this photo you can see the project in its early stages. The loose rock which used to fill the 'rock dump' has been removed and stacked on the existing patio and walk-way. A flowerbed is in progress - and even the youngest worker is helping spread the sand which will serve as the base for new pavers where the fish/bird pond resided years ago.

This was definitely an 'all hands on board' project. Everyone had a job and everyone contributed in a major way. From laying the pavers to filling and packing the sand and soil around them to

Creating a new flower bed for the sheer pleasure of adding beauty to an already overwhelmingly beautiful landscape. Here is Anna, one of our faithful 'slaves' with her "tool of choice" - a very large screwdriver.

Like most projects, we were getting down to the wire. The wedding was TOMORROW. We HAD to get this thing together. Unfortunately the rocks we'd pulled out of this 'mess' had mostly been smaller (I suspect the area we were reconstructing had been the 'catch-all'. Anything too small. Anything which broke. Anything which just didn't 'fit' with the layout was tossed over here. So. . .once we'd used everything large enough for our purposes, we had to go looking for more. Thankfully we have a tractor because Craig found some MONSTERS lurking along the road. These we used to finish up.

Anna planted a nice variety of beautiful plants to releave the starkness of the rocky path. We were able to find a several which 'they say' will survive our winter lows. However, the love of cooking did sway us a little - we had to add a few herbs which, sadly, will not survive winter. Nonetheless they'll be put to good use this summer!

I must say, I am extremely thankful for Anna's green thumb and artistic eye! She took a pile of dirt and turned it into - well, as you can see - a thing of beauty. Furthermore, to give credit where credit is due, she's the one who got this project rolling in the first place. Thank you Anna - and the whole crew!

The final result is definitely something of which we are all proud. It not only finishes off what I have always considered an 'eye-sore' outside our front door, it makes the front patio larger and more functional. Furthermore, I am already enjoying those herbs! I guess this just goes to show, even a 'mile from heaven' we still find little things which enhance the beauty of our special 'spot' all the more!

Lady of the Lake


Centennial Valley Spring

While the sun is shining, the air is warm, a friendly breeze blows, and summer appears to have finally arrived in the Centennial, it took its time coming this year. In fact, a few folks were beginning to wonder if we'd fallen off summer's 2011 list. However, the view outside my window confirms it has arrived!

Nonetheless, before it came calling, we enjoyed / endured (depends on the day and one's perspective at the moment) a wetter than normal late winter and spring. Thus when the time came to haul a load of junk to the Dillon dump, we knew we were looking at a long trek along some less-than-perfect roads. And it was - a LONG trek. Nevertheless, the roads were not nearly as bad as I'd anticipated.

Granted, things were obviously wet enough this Pin-Tail pair found the road as inviting as the nearby river. However, puddles like these are pretty well the 'norm' for the Centennial. Besides that, the local puddles always look worse than they are.

The adventure began as we turned down the Northside Centennial Road heading west. This is a road we rarely travel. First because we rarely head west. Second because we usually use the Southside Road. However, on this particular day the Northside Road seemed the better option. Certainly the view is inviting, even with the low-hanging clouds.

One of the reasons we prefer the Southside Road is the journey across the valley on Elk Lake Road and then the next 15 miles or so along the Southside Road almost always provide abundant wildlife sightings. The Northside Road, perhaps because it crosses the Sand Dunes and open sagebrush flats, just doesn't produce as many sightings. However, as you can see from the opening photo, the views are certainly spectacular. Furthermore, things picked up a bit as the road drew closer to the Red Rock River.

The waterfowl were thick along the river. Innumerable ducks swam in flocks or pairs. Several Swans graced the view. Even a few pronghorn grazed nearby (note the Pronghorn in the top left of the photo).

However, for sheer concentration of numbers, the Pelicans definitely won out. Because the river is running so high, this flock look to be standing on an island.

While wildlife sightings were scarce, the cattle were fairly abundant. The west end of the valley is big ranch country. Several ranchers from the Dillon / Lima area summer their cattle up here. Thus while the grass wasn't even beginning to look hospitable for cattle on our end of the valley, here cows and calves grazed peacefully against a stormy spring sky.

Traveling the Southside Road leaves one few options. It runs east and west with few junctions or side roads. The Northside Road is a different story. Once one gets beyond the Refuge boundary, several options open up. You can head up over the Ruby (although that road doesn't open until July). You can head along the north side of Lima Reservoir and end up in the town of Lima. Or, you can head due south across Stibal Lane to the Southside Road.

It would have knocked miles (and perhaps an hour or more) off our journey if we could have taken the road along the north side of Lima Reservoir. However, unless one had 4 inch cleats on their tires, I do not think it could have been done. That road looked like a mud slick! So, we turned south across Stibal Lane.

I have to say, the west end of the Southside Road was about as bad as anything we covered that day. And, as things go, we met the only other vehicle that morning along one of the worst stretches. And, to make matters worse, we were both pulling trailers. Nonetheless, everything ended well. Neither of us ended in the ditch. No one got stuck.

Finally the end came into view - well, at least the end of the paved road. I'm not sure anyone (except, perhaps, the dozen or so folks who call this ghost town home) would say they'd reached 'the end' when the came to Monida. However, at least we could say we'd survived the roads and reached the Interstate. While we were still about 60 miles from Dillon (and the County dump), the journey at least picked up speed at this point.

No one would ever accuse us of living a dull life. That's how we like it. Living in the Centennial is an adventure - and the best kind at that!

Lady of the Lake