Eight years! Eight years equal eight totally different experiences. Like I've said before, life at Elk Lake is anything but boring. And, since you all seem to enjoy hearing about my 'non-boring' experiences in Montana's Centennial Valley, I thought I'd share the challenges spring sent our way this year.
As most of you are aware, last spring was the spring that never worked up the nerve to show its face. We jumped (or so it seemed) from winter into summer, almost overnight. However, in an attempt to keep me entertained (or so I like to think), spring decided to make up for last year's shameful performance. And so it came - early and with a bold face!
Of course one never knows what the season is going to bring until it is history. So, with no foreknowledge of the challenges we would face, we accepted a late reservation. Typically we close no later than the middle of March. This year we planned to welcome our last guests shortly thereafter. Well. . .things didn't go as planned. Our first clue plans might be changing came with the rain!
We have faced winter rains in the past. A chinook - even a little rain - is not unheard of, especially late in the season. So we watched the rain with only mild concern ("We sure hope it doesn't make the snow too soft!") Ah, ignorance is bliss!
After four days of rain and above freezing temperature, even at night, we were singing a different tune. What began as: "I sure hope this doesn't ruin their play areas" turned quickly into "I sure hope we can get out!"
The good news: We did get out, and without incident (at least that first day). The bad news: The snow was totally shot - it was more like riding in a mud derby than any snowmobiling I had ever experienced! But, of course, that is what keeps life from becoming boring. Besides, it provides for entertaining reading!
The first signs things might not turn out like we hoped were the lake's changing from white to dark grey and the dogs sinking to their bellys even on the 'packed' trails.
The snow disappeared from all the dark surfaces (cabin roofs, bird houses, trees) and bare spots began growing around the building perimeters.
The water running of the roofs and the growing 'lakes' didn't offer much encouragement either!
But the final confirmation came when hubby decided to test the lake's surface via snowmobile. Too bad this photo doesn't come with sound. While it looks quite harmless (and, in reality, he was in no danger of sinking as there was a good three feet of ice under him), it sounded quite impressive. After all, riding a snowmobile in foot deep slush changes many things - dramatically!
By the time we bid the lodge good-bye for the season, even Elk Mountain's fresh snow couldn't mask winter's demise.
We didn't have to go far to get a taste of what this trip out had in store. We'd barely left the lodge before we hit our first bog - a mass of slush and snow and water about a foot deep. Thankfully snowmobiles don't mind a little water and slush!
And that was just the beginning of the fun! The next 'bog' was more mud and water than snow and slush!
Then the snow just up and quit! No more slush and water to worry about. Now it was mud - straight mud! I told one friend we really needed a variety of vehicles this trip - a jet ski, a snowmobile, and an ATV would have done the trick! However, I have no complaint. Our snowmobiles handled the whole thing like it was an everyday occurance - even if my sled took on quite an impressive load of mud.
You may wonder why we didn't ride the ditches. After all, everyone knows the ditches hold snow longer than anywhere else. Well, the ditches just didn't look too inviting. A foot of slush over solid ice - well, that's one thing. But attempting several feet of slush overtopping mud while pulling a loaded sled - well, even I wasn't crazy enough to give that a try!
Of course it didn't seem to bother the moose. When I stopped to snap a picture of this lovely water-soaked snowfield, I noticed one moose seemingly totally unfazed by the surrounding icy swamp! (He's in the willows above the right-hand post if you haven't spotted him.)
The conditions didn't improve as soon as I had hoped. In my ignorance, I had assumed once we traversed Elk Lake Road, we'd be back to at least some snow coverage. Not! With lakes in the ditches, we decided a little rock chatter never hurt anyone.
Thankfully, by the time we reached Alaska Basin, we were back on decent snow. This is probably the first time I have been thankful this area lives up to its name in the winter.
I'd originally named this post "When 6700 feet isn't high enough"! It is amazing how much difference 300 feet can make. By the time we reached Red Rock Pass, we were plowing through 6 inches of fresh, heavy, wet snow. This is what our spring riding is supposed to look like!
That's not to say the rest of the ride was without challenge. A few more bogs awaited - but they were few and far between and true snow bogs, not mud trying to mascarade as the white stuff!
But I must admit, I couldn't help but chuckle as we scraped 6 inches of fresh heavy snow off our truck and dug piles out of its bed - all before we could begin unloading our gear. I thought we are supposed to live on the 'cold' side of the mountain!
Well, it just goes to show eight years isn't long enough! I still have a TON to learn about nature's ways. Certainly, if nothing else, I think I have finally learned not to get overly excited when things look like they are falling apart
After all, we got out. The snowmobiles handled everything like it was an everyday occurance. And, our wonderful guests (bet you forgot about them), took the whole thing in stride. (Yes, we still managed to host them and enjoyed the experience - but that is a story for another day.)
Lady of the Lake