Winter life continues to be interesting at Elk Lake.

February 21, 2015…17*, overcast, and lightly snowing
Okay, so when I say “snowing”, it’s really like very fine powdered sugar lazily zig-zagging its way to Earth.  It’s far from impressive and feels like such a tease when we were “promised” around a 4” accumulation by the local weather forecaster.  Isn’t it supposed to snow in the mountains??!
This winter the topic which concerns our life is “weather.”  Every morning and every evening Jake and I sit glued to the Weather Channel or local broadcast eagerly awaiting good news about impending snow.  It’s beginning to feel like we’re in a dysfunctional relationship with these people…blindly faithful to their reassuring words, only to be disappointed again and again by their empty promises.  Our last good snow was around Christmas and a few weeks of above 40* temps took a huge bite out of that.  The road to get to Elk Lake is bare in many places and therefore inaccessible to snowmobiles, but the Continental Divide is still inaccessible to vehicles so here we sit…marooned.
My parsley is trying to grow!
I am sitting here eating chocolate while I type to console myself.
In an effort to keep that high-pitched mosquito whininess out of my writing, let me just say…it’s the weather.  Everyone complains about it, no one does anything about it.
Really, we have been quite lucky.  The Divide Trail miraculously is snow-covered and the lake remains frozen.  That means people who desperately want to play SOMEWHERE can come our direction and hit a wide expanse of good snow “up top.”  There’s plenty of room to get up speed and shoot rooster tails on the turns; just don’t get off the machine or you will sink up to your knees (according to pictures we’ve seen and stories we’ve been told.) Given Yellowstone National Park just closed its West Entrance to snowmobiles because of lack of snow, we offer as good an option as anywhere else local to come and go wild on a machine.
Picture courtesy of our Italian guests.
Our new dilemma…(there is always something)…is how to keep feeding our guests.  You’d think if people can get in to Elk Lake, we could get out to the truck, right?  In theory, yes.  In practice, no.  Yes, Jake can snowmobile out the same way people are coming in, but remember…he’d be pulling a trailer which on the reverse trip would be laden with heavy food.  It’s remarkable how heavy a box of fries is!  Our machine and trailer, combined with the quality of snow on top, is a certain recipe for getting stuck.  And you’ve already learned how much fun that is from Jake’s trip to town the day after Christmas.
Look how high-centered the machine is from the melt.
This is why we watch the Weather Channel with such eagerness.
The last time Jake picked up a Sysco order (hamburgers, fries, buns) was before the Superbowl.  The last time he went to town, remember, he had very little room on the trailer because he was hauling in a new grill, and that trip was the last time there was enough snow on the road and in the ditches to get back to the truck. As of today, we have 21 burger patties, 15 or so chicken breasts, about as many buns, and 4 bags of fries.  One big group and we will be wiped out.  The fact we have survived this long without bringing in more food shows that we were well stocked, but now we are facing the hard truth that we are about to run out.
Sad looking freezer.
It is for this reason Jake is currently down in the barn working to get our ATV started.  We have two ATVs…a 2-wheel drive and a 4-wheel drive.  Guess which one is here and which one has been at the mechanics since last fall?  Ah, yes…our luck continues.  Our little 2-wheel drive may have to be the beast of burden, at least to do some recon and see exactly what we’re up against when it comes to the road conditions.  In a perfect world, Jake would be able to get to the truck, drive it back in to Elk Lake, we’d make a huge Sysco order, he’d pick it up on Tuesday with the truck, bring the load back to the Lodge, take the truck back out to Henry’s Lake, ride the ATV back in, and let it snow on Wednesday.  I get exhausted just even writing it!
Lesson learned: stock up even more when the going is easy!
The other thing is this: we really do have plenty of food.  It’s just not the food represented by the lunch menu.  I can always figure out “something” to feed people if they are willing to go with the flow.  I envision myself as the matron of an old-time roadhouse…slinging plates of beans and hunks of homemade bread onto oilcloth covered tables, tankards of ale and bottles of cheap whiskey awaiting at the bar.  Oops, maybe cabin fever got to me there for a moment.  Rather, I would make a nice gooey grilled cheese sandwich on crusty homemade bread, accompanied by aromatic tomato soup with a dollop of sour cream.  Now that’s a comfort classic.
Update: the ATV is running and Jake says it handles quite well in the snow.  So far so good.
On that positive note, I bid adieu and thank you for reading.  I also want to thank all the great groups of guests who have stopped by over the past few weeks.  We had so much fun getting to know you…the Wisconsin group, the many Minnesota groups, the southern-speaking Georgians, the guys from Italy, the Iowans, the locals…it has been and IS our pleasure to serve you.


The story of the grill.

February 5, 2015…41* and overcast
We just got done with the sprint of lunches and Jake is outside burning the mountain of garbage that somehow accumulates in a very short time.  We try to recycle and compost as much as possible, but during the winter the Waste Management place is not open on Tuesdays, the day Jake goes to West to meet the Sysco truck.  To avoid huge piles of garbage stacked around the place (and wouldn’t the winter critters love that!), we crush cans, put bags of “trash” in the two bear boxes we have outside, and burn everything else…including compost.  Hey, if you build a big enough fire, it’ll even melt glass…right?
This week seems to be about wildlife, as much as anything else.  We have been regularly seeing moose on the hillside and down in the aspens; those who follow my paparazzi-esque picture posting on Facebook have seen these pictures.  Jake and I have been intrigued by how white their hind legs get.
Then yesterday while cleaning up the dining room, I glanced down at the lake and saw two brown spots way out on the ice.  Two brown spots where there have never been brown spots before on pristine whiteness sticks out!  So I dropped the broom, grabbed the binoculars, and saw two fox.  Well, to tell the truth I didn’t stop to figure out what kinds of canines I was seeing before I dashed up the stairs to let Jake see. (“Dashed” may be a stretch, but go with it.)  I quickly handed the binoculars to Jake, exclaiming “look at what’s on the lake!”  “Hey, a couple of fox…good spot, baby!” was my reward.  Jake and I play this game all the time…who can spot an animal first…and he usually wins.  Not today, buddy…not today.
On days when I get overwhelmed by the decision Jake and I made to purchase Elk Lake Resort, I remind myself how blessed we really are to be HERE having the experiences so few have the opportunity to enjoy.  I did my time tethered to a phone in an office.  Jake did his time working in the elements building other people’s dreams.  Now we are on this adventure and the moose and fox are part of our reward.  I guess it’s all about balance and taking one day at a time.
Perhaps the last paragraph is leaving you scratching your heads…what?  Overwhelmed by Elk Lake?  But it’s such a dream come true!  Okay, let me give you another example of a day in our life at Elk Lake.

Winter is the season that the Resort really turns into a lunch destination for the snowmobile crowd.  That means lots of burgers, chicken, and bacon cooked over the grill.  When the grill goes down, the lunch crowd doesn’t get fed.  As you can guess, that’s what happened.  I don’t know how old the grill was, but I do know it had seen a lot of use even just over the two summers Jake and I worked here and certainly since we took over this past June.  It was bound to happen at some point, but why…oh why…now??

First things first.  Jake got on the phone and called up to Bozeman to see if anyone even still had grills in stock.  Luckily Home Depot still had a few and the rep was able to walk Jake through which models he had which might suit our needs. They had one, a KitchenAid 4-burner, larger than the one that died on us (important) and quality enough that it would last more than a few seasons.  Yeah!

This past Tuesday saw Jake up early to make the trek to Bozeman, first 17 miles of snowmobiling to the truck, then another two hours to Bozeman.
Part of Jake's "fun" commute.
Then the same in reverse.  It’s a long trip, made even longer when you have to do it alone.  He arrived home mid-afternoon, towing a big 100 lb.  box of grill and one large cooler full of provisions.  After unpacking and storing the food, we rolled up our sleeves and started assembling.  What was supposed to take 20 minutes took us four hours.  And that’s not even the head-shaking part.
They had loaded the wrong grill.

Yes, you read correctly.  As we unpacked miles of cardboard, plastic, and parts, we quickly discovered that the main front of our four-burner grill had only three knobs.  Hmmm.  Our eyes wide (especially Jake’s), we went back to the big box and looked at the picture on the front.  Sure enough, three knobs…and the words, “Three Burner Grill.”  Aaarrrggghhh! In essence, we just paid $500 for a grill we didn’t want, had to use, and couldn’t take back.  (But it sure is pretty.)

The next day Jake called Home Depot and expressed his frustration and disappointment in the whole situation.  TO THEIR CREDIT, out-of-the-gate Home Depot offered to 1.) take back the used grill in the spring when we can easily make the trip and swap it out for the bigger 4-burner model for no additional cost, or 2.) sell us the 4-burner for the price of the three-burner even if we decide to keep the smaller one.  Our faith in all things good restored, we are making it work with the smaller grill and will probably just buy the larger grill in the spring.
I just read in a book a Yiddish phase I will carry with me forever.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”