The winter routine.

January 20, 2015…22* and overcast
Jake is gone for the day making a grocery run into West Yellowstone so the dog and I have the place to ourselves.  It always feels strange and lonely when he goes out and I wonder when I will ever not worry about him making it back safely to Elk Lake.  Luckily we haven’t had any major snowstorms and the wind has been almost non-existent so his ride should be without any troubles…knock on wood.
The past few weeks have settled into a routine of sorts, as work has a tendency to do.  My first task of the day (after a requisite cup of coffee!) is to sweep and mop the dining room floor.  So much snow gets tracked in that it’s impossible to clean it after the lunch groups leaves so I just mop up the big puddles and let it go.  And I certainly don’t blame people for keeping their boots on because if they didn’t, they would be walking around in wet socks!
Then it’s on to prep.  It’s a very different thing to do prep during the winter months than it is in the summer.  In the summer we have a pretty good idea of how many people we’ll be cooking for so you know how much salad to tear up, how many tomatoes to slice, how much broccoli to cut up.  Not so in the winter.  One day we could have two guests, the next twenty-one.  So I have learned to prep on the fly during lunch service.  Why?  Well because the vegetables last longer when they aren’t processed and we need everything to last as long as possible.  A tomato is precious commodity when you have to take it on a rough snowmobile ride and have it arrive unbruised. So we’re figuring it out and Jake and I have a pretty good rhythm of working with each other.
On the "to do" list. Paint and organize the pantry!
Since veggies are not a priority to get done right away, I focus on what I consider the “fun” things…breads, pies, homemade soup, spaghetti sauce, pulled pork…anything that lets me be creative and makes the Lodge smell good.  Jake and I are trying out offering “Specials” this winter and so far they have been well received.  Currently we’re offering a bacon jam and bleu cheese burger…some people look at me like I have two heads when I tell them about it and others (the obvious foodies) just nod and usually order it.  Jake is in the first group.
I will admit to a mishap on my end, though.  I pulled a beautiful peach pie out of the oven, set it on the flat top of Bertha (the old iron stove), and the next thing I heard was the glass pie plate splintering into a thousand shards.  Lesson learned.  You can’t put a hot pie plate on cold iron.  Luckily I had more pie crust dough and more peaches so I just rolled up my sleeves and got at it.
When guests arrive, it’s go-go-go grilling burgers, dropping fries, trying not to burn the buns, and before you know it we’re wiping down the tables and flopping onto the couches in the living room.  Usually we try to grab a bite to eat and I would say 90% of the time we just get settled in and we hear the whine of snowmobiles pulling up.  That part of our schedule needs a little work!
But it’s not all about work during the winter season.  We still have ample time to enjoy Nature’s artwork and ooh and aah at the moose that seem to love our willows.  I still cannot believe that I live in a place where moose are our next door neighbors; a group showed up yesterday and said they saw 20…yes 20!...on their ride in.  Amazing.  Here’s a little of what we see:
In closing, I give a nod to Green Bay fans.  Your team played a heck of a good game last Sunday and I’m still incredulous the Seahawks won.  Now we look forward to the Superbowl and taking on the Pats.  I’m serving soup if anyone wants to join us while we watch the game.
PS.  Lerrina is still writing a blog so please keep in touch with the Collins' at: the-sustainable-lifestyle.blogspot.com


Happy New Year...Elk Lake Resort is open!

January 5, 2015…35* and overcast

The weather feels balmy today after the sub-zero temperatures we’ve been enduring for the past month or so.  It’s strange to step outside and hear the drip, drip, drip of snow melting off the roof.  We’re used to sticking our noses out the door and feeling them “crackle” from the immediate cold slap in the face.  Enjoy it while we can, indeed, for there is a lot of winter ahead of us!
Let’s do a little recap of the past few weeks.  Jake and I enjoyed a very low key and mellow Christmas here at the Lodge.  We slept late, watched too much TV, ate greasy food that typically you’d find in a gas station, and talked on the phone with loved ones.  There was nary a gift under the tree, but Jake and I shared what we feel are our blessings with each other and even though they didn’t come with bows, they were the best gifts ever.  Health, happiness, togetherness, many good friends, loving family, survival of our first summer as business owners, a good dog, plenty of propane to keep warm, and an exciting future ahead of us.  May we never take any of it for granted.
The Friday after Christmas saw Jake on our snowmobile heading to town for the first time since we parked the truck out at Henry’s Lake right before Thanksgiving.  Of course there was trepidation.  What will the drifts be like?  Can you get over the Pass? Will the truck start?  Well, Jake made it to the truck just fine.  He said he had to “bury the machine” (which I think is guy speak for really giving it the gas) while going up the Continental Divide but the rest of the ride was easy-peasy, if a little cold.
Photo taken earlier in December.
It was the return trip that turned into a bit of a nightmare.  There is an area through what we call “The Flats” known as Hell Roaring Creek.  It was there Jake got sucked down into the 3’ of snow in the ditch, perhaps because some other snowmobilers had been playing and messed up the snow, or because Jake was going too fast, or a combination of both.  No matter what the reason, He. Got. Stuck.  After a quick call to me to let me know his predicament, he got busy with the shovel.  He shoveled for a long sweaty hour before he was able to get our beast of a machine back on the road.  By his admission, it’s a good thing there wasn’t a daycare center or playground nearby because the words flying out of his mouth were just about hot enough to melt the snow.
I sighed a huge sigh of relief when I heard the snowmobile approaching in the distance.  I peered out the window and to my amazement spied a young bull moose loping along inside the jack fence that surrounds the Resort.  He was none too happy there was a noisy machine pushing him along, and when he got boxed into the corner of the fencing, he simply sprung up and over.  I was amazed.  I had no idea an animal that huge could jump so high!  Ever the one to make lemonade out of lemons, Jake commented later that had he not gotten stuck, we would never have had that moose experience.  That was moose number two for me here at Elk Lake.  The first was a big ‘ole bull just hanging out in the trees next to the Ranch House.

It was in the next day or two that the phone started ringing off the hook with people wondering when we were going to reopen for lunch. Jake and I had been scratching our heads about that very question since we knew the Collins’ used to open about a week into January, but we had been given feedback from some locals that we should open earlier.  The clamoring public made the decision for us.  We firmly decided New Year’s Day would be the perfect day to reopen.  It makes sense, then, that we served 18 lunches on December 31st.  Flexibility is the name of the game and we were happy to have the business and company.

It was so bright outside!
After three days of snowmobilers coming out for a burger and a beer, Jake and I made the startling discovery that we had not stocked up with enough supplies!  A bottle of Jack Daniels disappears amazingly fast when you have a bunch of thirsty snowmobilers, and I (in my ignorance) hadn’t even considered how much cocoa we would go through.  Ah, the learning curve continues.  So Jake made an impromptu trip back into West Yellowstone to get us closer to being ready for all our winter guests.  (For those of you who haven’t been to Elk Lake, there really is nothing such as an impromptu trip” to town, even in the summer.  Every trip is based on necessity and is a commitment, especially in the winter when there are 25 miles of snowmobiling on either end of the trip.)
Fingers crossed, we are now better prepared!

~ Laurel