Woods Queerness

March 24, 2015…32* and lightly snowing
While the month has not yet ended, I’m going to go ahead and say March is going out like a lion.  It has been snowing pretty steadily since yesterday around noon and believe it or not, it’s the heaviest snowfall we’ve received since Christmas.  The entire yard was bare just two days ago and now it’s covered by 3-4” of fresh, fluffy snow.  Both Jake and I love the snow…but we were also pretty jazzed about Spring arriving early.
And indeed Spring did arrive early!  In my past post I was waiting to see if Jake would be able to get our truck back in from its winter home out at Henry’s Lake.  And he did!  But his trip out on our little two-wheel-drive quad was not without drama.  Everything was fine and dandy on the Montana side of the Continental Divide, but the snow and ice was thicker on the Idaho side.  At one precipitous point, Jake said the quad was sliding sideways down the road and all he could do was hold on and go for the ride.  By his account the sideways ride lasted only about 30’ but it felt like a mile and a half.  At least he was facing the bank.
It was a happy moment when I heard the throaty rumble of our truck headed toward the Lodge so I jumped out to snap some pictures of the homecoming.  It may sound silly to those of you who don’t live this lifestyle, but it really is like a family member coming home.  And while neither Jake nor I mind being isolated from the rest of the world during winter, it’s nice to know we CAN easily go to town any time we want.
My first adventure “out” was to accompany Jake to pick up our little trailer out on Red Rock Road.  Kanela was not about to be left behind and I’m not sure who had more fun being “on the road again.”
I had to take some pictures of Centennial Valley, of course.  Every time Jake returned from snowmobiling out for groceries, he would wax poetic about the beauty of the Valley and he was right.  The mountains far off in the distance were so pristinely beautiful with their marshmallow topping.  And closer in a couple of moose posed nicely.
But some parts of the road where downright ugly.
We finally got to our sad little trailer abandoned by the side of the road.  It looked like a really bad piece of sculpture and I can only imagine the head shaking and scratching that went on when others passed by it.  We loaded the mangled mess into the back of the truck and brought it home for some much needed attention.  The skis are toast but we don’t have to worry about that until next winter since the trailer is now wearing its summer tires.
Our next outing was to Bozeman to get a jump start on bringing in summertime supplies.  Not much of a story there except for this…a thing called “woods queerness”…”brought on by solitude and a growing awareness of the emptiness all around.”  The term comes from a wonderful book published in 1942 entitled, We Took To The Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich.  It’s a true story about a couple who lived deep in the woods in Maine for many years.  At one point Louise realized she hadn’t been Outside for four years and she wondered if she was going “woods queer.”  It manifests itself in little ways, like when you finally re-enter civilization you see hidden meanings in what people say or the way they look at you.  It can make you question and scrutinize your every thought and act.  Going to Bozeman for me was perhaps not this dramatic, but I did find myself being hyper-aware of how I was acting in the shops and trying not to overwhelm ordinary people with my propensity to be really friendly and talk too much. (I know from living in the big city of Boston for years that being too friendly is perceived as “odd.”)
I think I did a pretty good job of holding it together.  Or did I…


Yet another grocery-getting adventure.

March 10, 2015…45* and not a cloud in the sky!

Picking up where I left off on my last post…there is no “perfect world.”  Jake did make it out to the truck on our little 2-wheel-drive ATV but the Pass remained “impassable” to street vehicles.  He was able, however, to get to town for a few heads of lettuce and bags of tomatoes which he carried in a cooler strapped to the back of the ATV.  The ATV is so small that with a cooler on back, Jake has to scrunch all the way forward on the machine…he ends up looking a bit like an adult trying to ride a tricycle.
So, with the knowledge in hand that we wouldn’t be able to put in “a big Sysco order” (as we had fantasized), we decided to put in a “bare minimum Sysco order” to see us through at least a few weeks.  We can carry two large coolers on our trailer so we ordered two boxes each of the three most vital components to our lunches: hamburgers, buns, and fries.
Since Jake had to cover several miles of dirt pulling our trailer with skis attached, he decided to screw metal flashing on the bottoms to protect the plastic from the sharp rocks.  (He couldn’t replace the skis with wheels because he knew there was too much snow on the Pass to get through.)  Well, that flashing lasted about 2 miles before the screw heads sheared off and the metal went a-flappin’ down the road.  A few miles later, one of the skis decided it had had ENOUGH and twisted itself sideways and then backwards rendering the trailer unusable for a good long time.
Knowing that he had no option but to move forward, Jake unhooked the trailer and dragged it to the ditch, to be recovered when we (by that I mean “he”) could get back out to it to replace the skis with wheels.  Meanwhile, the Sysco order was already in West Yellowstone awaiting Jake’s arrival, so he hightailed it to the truck and sped on his way.  I’m sure he was doing some pretty deep head scratching during that ride trying to figure out how he was going to the our load of groceries back to the Lodge!  Well, as it turns out, he was so preoccupied with those thoughts that he forgot the month’s bank deposit in his backpack which was sitting out in the wide open on the back of the ATV back at Henry’s Lake.
You can just imagine the panic that set in.
Jake hightailed it back to Henry’s Lake, tummy rumbling because he didn’t even stop to pick up a bite to eat, all the while cursing his luck, the weather, the trailer, and anything else that popped into his mind.  I’m pretty sure I even made the list a time or two.  But no harm, no foul…the backpack and deposit were right where he left them.
After more head scratching, Jake did manage to load all the food onto our modest little quad and then sloshed his way home through the mud and the muck.  He arrived filthy and exhausted but triumphant in his success at getting provisions back to the Lodge to keep our doors open for our guests.  I wish I had pictures of this adventure to help tell the story, but then again it’s probably best I was nowhere around.  Sometimes a guy just needs to have a little space.
Freezers restocked and frig full, we have been whiling away the days enjoying a slow trickle of guests who still find their way here despite the lack of snow.  Our youngest winter guest arrived on her own machine…all of eleven years old and already brave enough to handle herself not only on the rough mountain trails, but also across the lengthy expanse of frozen lake she had to cross to get to the Lodge.

I hadn’t been out on iced-over Elk Lake all winter, partially because the idea gives me the heebee-geebees, but also because I haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time on a snowmobile.  I took at lesson from that little 11-year-old girl.  I put my big girl pants on and bravely ventured out onto the ice.

It was exhilarating.  Snowmobiling in and of itself is fun and can be breathtaking, but being out on slick ice is another thing.  The back end of the machine likes to sashay around so there is a need for correcting much like you would if a vehicle started slipping on the ice.  Of course speed impacts one’s ability to do this successfully, so I was consistently yards behind Jake who went flying up ahead.
In this case he was coming AT me!
It’s a good thing I took advantage of the ice when I did because ever since that short ride, the temperatures during the day have gotten up to the mid-40s.  I don’t think the ice is going to disappear any time soon, but it’s prudent to error on the side of caution when you live in the middle of nowhere.  By the way, we spent the rest of the evening gazing at the beautiful sky!

And with these warm temperatures comes the information that Red Rocks Road has been plowed open from the Henry’s Lake side.  Jake rode the ATV out to the truck today and called back to report that while the Pass is very iced over, he intends to bring the truck back home today.  I’ll let you know how THAT turns out in the next post.
Time to put Frosty away.