Down Came The Snow

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Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but we’ve been pretty busy the past few days dealing with winter weather. You may have heard about it. Actually, when all was done and dusted, we had about 32 inches of snow in a little over 24 hrs, which is quite a bit. Now the media were going beserk as usual and predicting the end of the world, but everyone has dug themselves out pretty well. I was off work Friday for another reason, but ended up using the time to prep the storm and work was closed on Monday and Tuesday to allow for clear up.

The storm began friday afternoon and by 4 pm, we were hunkered down. There was no where to be, but home and stay put. It snowed all night and all through Saturday

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Storm in progress on Saturday. Birds at feeders, which we had to replenish regularly, and my car on the right disappearing below a snow bank.

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View over the back garden Friday evening. Grover under cover and becoming a snow bank

Saturday continued in the same manner

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Ion watching the birds at the feeder

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Whilst Stewart gets pole position in front of the fire.

Fortunately we didn’t lose power this storm, so were able to get on with various things.  Diane decided to clean the house and proceeded to whirlwind through it, dispatching me upstairs to get out of her way (“No, I don’t want any help”!). So off I went and built a boiler for a locomotive commission I’m working on. Actually, I hadn’t planned to get to it until next week, so this was a bonus. Maintaining electrical supplies was also a bonus, as although we have a generator hookup, we don’t have a generator….yet! The biggest problem for us when we lose power (and it happens frequently at the best of times) is that the well stops working, which means we don’t have running water. This can be a bit awkward, particularly in summer….. At least with the fire, we have heat and can use it for cooking (we frequently do anyhow) and we also have oil lamps for illumination.

Anyhow, Sunday morning came and it was time to start digging.out. Fortunately the snow had been the light powdery stuff, not the wet slushy kind, but it had been blown in to drifts which meant that it was packed fairly solid. We have a long 50 foot drive and a large area at the back of the house to be cleared. I had prepositioned my car (the Scion) at the top of the hill, but Diane’s was entombed in the garage and the Land Rovers were gigantic snow drifts. In the past we had dug this all out by hand and let me tell you, that is a LOT of digging. I’d always resisted going out and buying a snow blower, as they are expensive and don’t get a great deal of use. However, two summers ago I found a second hand one that was about 25 years old for dirt cheap, so I bought it. What a godsend! Wish I’d done it earlier. My back thanks me. Diane thanks me! I must listen to my wife in the future. Anyhow, I call this thing “The Beast” as it is old school engineering with a Tecumseh engine and is a bit of a beast to control. I’m not sure if you drive it or it drives you. However, it really does the job and by noon on Sunday, we had cleared the drive out to the road. It was by no means easy, but by taking turns to drive and one person knocking down the snow to more manageable chunks, the thrower could clear a passage way.

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The beast after completion of operations on Monday

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Libby under cover and covered in snow

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Diane snow throwing – this is actually Monday morning

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Once we got out to the road, the world looked like this.

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The main road through the village. Road is open but not full width.

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One of our Neighbors houses

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Our house (the blue one), as well as our neighbors, showing the drive and the depth of snow)

Diane Snowshoe

We were taking care of our neighbors cat whilst she was away (sensible person) and for the first day, we had to snowshoe over to her house (even though it is just next door – the snow was just too deep). Here Diane returns from a feeding expedition.

Once we had gotten out to the road, we got a distress call from the barn. Beth had been going for nearly 2 days solid on her own taking care of the horses and was trying to keep things together. She was running on empty. So we threw The Beast into the scion and headed over there. The roads weren’t great, but I’m not bothered about driving on snow. It’s amazing how well my little Scion copes in bad weather.

We couldn’t get up the drive in the Scion as it hadn’t been plowed, but a friend with a humongous pickup truck met us and got us up there with the snow blower. Once there, it was a case of digging out paths from the barn to all the gates, so we could get the horses out of their stalls. They had been cooped up for 24 hours inside and normally they are outside 24/7, so they were eager to get out to the pastures. Plus a horse in a stall for 24hrs generates a LOT of poop! Using the snowblower, Diane and I dug out the gates so we could open them and carved paths from them to the main barn doors. Then the horses went out, which was the funniest thing I’d seen for ages and made it all worth while. They were kicking and jumping and rolling and galloping around in it. Great fun to watch.

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Isabel galloping around like a lunatic

A couple of other volunteers also managed to get in and help out with the horses, whilst Diane and I took hay bales out using snow shoes to the horses in the furthest fields whom no one had been able to reach. Under these conditions, snow shoes are not sporting equipment, they are an essential mode of travel. The horses didn’t seem very concerned about the conditions, but were happy to see fresh hay coming! Apparently, according to Beth, even at the height of the storm, they preferred to be at the hay bales rather than undercover in their run-in sheds. Daft creatures!

Afterwards we went home and straight to bed – we were knackered!

Monday was more of the same. We dug out the rest of our house and then went with the Beast to help a friend who was still stuck in. The only problem was that the temperature had warmed and the snow had compacted, making it heavier and more difficult to shift, even with the thrower. However, it allowed our house to sprout a great set of icicles.

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Icicles at the front door of our house

We saw a great sunset out at our friends as the sun went down and all the starlings were congregating in the trees. It was quite warm whilst the sun was up, but got damned cold once the sun had set.

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Tuesday – guess what? More of the same! First finish helping friend dig out and then over to Graham to help dig the barn out. By this time, someone had managed to clear the drive with the tractor, so I could get up there with the Scion. By now, several volunteers were in, so we were getting on top of things. The tractor was in full operation ploughing wider access paths so we could get the big round hay bales out. We were also able to get to the manure pile and get all the accumulated manure out of the barn, and I trekked out and opened up paths to replenish the water supplies for the horses in the furthest fields and to check on them.

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Canyon dozing in the sun with his purple sheet – doesn’t he look regal?

 

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The herd in Canyon’s paddock. Canyon on LHS with purple sheet. Shaggy (who belongs to / owns Pat) on the RHS without a sheet.

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Shaggy. He looks (and acts) like an aging hippy, but has a great personality and is incredibly friendly, especially if you have a carrot

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Bordick, Domino and Cheyenne in the far field – supremely unconcerned with matters!

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Yardly, with Dolly behind at the fresh hay bale

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A final picture of Canyon when we’d finished and went to give him a carrot – he was most happy with me!

So there we are, we made it through. I have to say that the state and county snow clearance was really top notch, as most roads were passable, if not fully open by mid day the day after the storm. Over the past few days they have been gradually expanding the open areas, but we were never marooned except during the actual storm itself. Of course there were some idiots as always who drove like complete morons oblivious of the conditions and managed to get themselves nose down in the ditch. Frankly I have little sympathy for them they are a danger to themselves and others.

Some sections of the media have been going crackers about how bad everything is and how we’ll be digging out for weeks. Well, today is Wednesday and I, along with almost everyone else is now back at work. The residual snow is now just a nuisance, but it will go away in it’s own time.

However, I do think that tonight, I will not do anything involving horses or shoveling. A hot meal, a bath, some iboprufen and some TV is in order I think!

Montana and Glacier National Park (Pt 2)

Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmot

I’ve been a bit delayed in finishing this part of our holiday write-up, so my apologies.

The following morning, we set off north again heading for Essex, MT. It was a pleasant drive and we meandered our way north, stopping at various interesting places and small towns. I love small town North America and it is even better in the west. The weather was good, with a deep blue sky and not a cloud to be seen. It was hot too. Our destination was the small town of Essex, which was where we would be staying for the next few days. There is nothing much in Essex except the hotel, a few houses, lots of trees and a rail-yard – perfect!

Issac Walton Inn

Issac Walton Inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Issac Walton Inn was originally built by the Great Northern Railway as a hotel for people arriving at Glacier National Park. It was meant to be a grand entrance for the soon to be built southern entrance to the park. Sadly, the war came along and the southern entrance was never built, but the hotel is still a lovely place to stay, overlooking the railroad, with sitting on the porch watching the trains go by being a favorite pass time. They also have a collection of cabooses that have been turned into hotel rooms and we were able to stay in some.

Montana Rail Link Caboose hotel Room

Montana Rail Link Caboose Hotel Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a good nights rest, we set off for Glacier Park.

Road over the mountains

Road over the mountains

Problems you may encounter on the road

Problems you may encounter on the road – Free range cows. They will sleep in the middle of the road too.

 

Lake McDonald and Lodge

Lake McDonald and Lodge

The first day we went horseback riding up in the mountains. It was spectacular and a great way to see the scenery. I didn’t get many pictures (not safe to ride and photograph at the same time, but here Diane and I are with our horses for the day, Firestone and Pepper. For Mrs Mud’s information, these are Belgian Half Draft crosses, big sturdy, hardy horses with a very gentle temperament.

Diane and Phil with Pepper and Firestone

Diane and Phil with Pepper and Firestone

It turned quite cold whilst we were out and so we stopped in at the lake MacDonald Lodge for a hot tea afterwards. After heading home, it was early to bed as the cold and altitude had made us extremely sleepy.

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge

Inside the Lodge

Inside the Lodge

Driving home, we saw the most beautiful sunsets over the mountains. As we drove, we passed through several small towns and Native American reservations. This is a real eye opener, as the poverty is abject. There is a real disconnect as you have this magnificent scenery, wide open ranges and tourist areas located hard up against areas of dreadful poverty and substance living. We were quite quiet on the way home contemplating how this can be in this day and age. It does make one think.

Sunset at Dusk

Sunset at Dusk on the way home – this is at Marias Pass

The following day we drove over the continental divide on the “Going to the Sun Road”.

heading to the pass - we are going over these mountains!

Heading to the pass – we are going over these mountains!

Driving up the pass through an area ravaged by forest fire

Driving up the pass through an area ravaged by forest fire

More burnt trees - Forest fires are incredibly intense but part of the natural forest cycle and regrowth starts within a matter of days

More burnt trees – Forest fires are incredibly intense but part of the natural forest cycle and regrowth starts within a matter of days

Climbing the pass

Climbing the pass

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Spectacular scenery

Spectacular scenery

And into the mist

And into the mist

This is a steep mountainous road and crosses Lolo Pass at about 7200 feet altitude. At the pass we went hiking up to Hidden Lake, and passing a herd of mountain goats on the way, and some hairy marmots, which are like large gophers about 20 inches long. The goats were wary of us, but the marmots couldn’t have cared less and waddled right up to us. The weather did the typical mountain thing, varying between rain, bright sunshine and snow / sleet, all in the course of an hour. It was a pleasant walk, but I was feeling the altitude a little, the higher we went.

View back down the valley towards St Mary from Lolo Pass

View back down the valley towards St Mary from Lolo Pass

 

Starting the walk up to Hidden Lake

Starting the walk up to Hidden Lake

Friendly Hoary Marmot

Friendly Hoary Marmot

Herd of Mountain Goats

Herd of Mountain Goats

Another Mountain Goat

Another Mountain Goat

 

Busy Chipmunk

Busy Chipmunk

 

 

 

Hidden Lake - Our destination

Hidden Lake – Our destination.

 

 

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Scenery at Lolo Pass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold, but happy, we headed back to the car and descended the other side of the pass. This was real mountain roading and fortunately I have driven in the mountains before, so know how to do it. However, even I found it steep and twisty and it was plainly obvious that many others hadn’t a clue about how to descend long steep hills. There was a pungent smell of hot brake hanging about the road from other cars riding their brakes. The better way is to lock the transmission into low gear (most North American cars are automatics) to restrict the speed and just use the brakes occasionally to adjust speed when necessary. It is also a good idea to pull off occasionally to allow brakes and transmissions to cool. (Pulling off also has the added advantage in that you can lose the idiots who think it is fun to ride my tail all the way down). Unfortunately, as I was driving, we have no photo’s of this part of the trip. Note to those who are thinking of doing this trip – it is better to go east to west, as that way you are mainly against the mountainside and not the edge of the abyss! And no, in many parts, there is NO safety barrier…

After a gentle ride home, it was early to bed again.

The final day was a gentle hike to Avalanche Lake. This time we started from the west side and headed to the trail head. On the way we saw a couple of young moose playing in the river.

Bull and Cow moose

Bull and Cow moose

Moose are the biggest deer in North America and have a reputation for being dangerous. But really, that is only because they have extremely poor eyesight and will run at the first sight of danger. being so big and basically blind, they tend to run through things rather than around them. But it has been show that it is perfectly possible to tame them and train them to work.

The hike to Avalanche lake took about 2 hrs each way, through the trees. There was plenty of wildlife around, but my camera had flat batteries. However, the destination was spectacular and Diane managed to get this panorama with her phone.

Panorama of Avalanche Lake

Panorama of Avalanche Lake

At the far end, we could see the waterfall, which was the outflow from Hidden Lake, which had been our destination of the previous day.

Waterfall

Waterfall

The road down the other side of the pass can be made out as the line crossing the picture from left to right. Note the sheer drop!

Hidden Lake is, well, hidden up there!

Tired and contented, we made our way back to the car and headed for the hotel. As it was our last night, we had dinner in the hotel and very nice it was too. A nice steak, and a great desert, whilst watching the trains go by. Being off season, it was very quiet and we had the place to ourselves.

The following morning, it was an early start and a long drive (500+ miles) back to Bozeman for the flight home. No pictures but I did spot two series land rovers (both 88’s). Sad to leave, but we know that we will return here again. It is very different from the Yellowstone which we are familiar with and well worth the visit.

Happy New Year

Just a quick note to say Happy New year to everyone.

I realize that it has been a while since I last posted and for that I’m sorry. I have a number of unfinished posts that need to be published. Quite honestly, I’ve not felt up to it over the Christmas break. However, I will get to it shortly.

in the meantime, a happy 2016 to everyone.