An average of 10 days of sunshine between November and April seems daunting, but activity cures cabin fever. I committed to explore no matter the weather.
Until the snow falls too deep reach them, the mountain roads are travelled by folks looking for firewood. Dan was up on Crane Mountain harvesting large dead trees when I met him. "You taking my picture for the newspaper?" he asked. I felt like I stepped back in time 20 years.
is a tradition we never skip. Most often it involves a few day trips coming home empty handed, but with smiles from spending the day outside. We searched over 100 miles of mountain roads and saw thousands of almost perfect trees. The special tree is waiting, if you look long enough.
Is there a better place for a Christmas tree? I don't think so. Call me bias, but the rock on the Swan River won't be topped by any location. It doesn't hurt that I can see it from my window.
Mornings when the snow falls
I hurriedly dress and slide my canoe into the water. Living next to the water convinces me to paddle when I should be doing more responsible things. I'll do more responsible things when I'm older...
A evening fire in the cedars of Krause Basin.
I don't check the weather forecast that often.
I think most the time it's wrong in the mountains. When the sun shines I'm always surprised. The gold winter sunsets feel new every time.
Montana and cabins go hand in hand. While out on a solo drive I came across this red doored, one room cabin. I knocked hoping an old woman would come to the door. followed by the smell of fresh baked cookies. Sadly there was no answer and no fresh tracks in the snow.
When temps dropped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit ice formed on the swiftest parts of the Flathead River. Pushed by the current, ice lodged on the riverbed creating tropical blue water against the white base.
My Brother and I explored a few railroad tunnels just across the river from Glacier National Park. They sneak up on you, the trains. We beside the tracks when we heard a low rumble. Seconds later the train burst out of the tunnel and roared past us. A cloud of stinging snow and ice followed the train and froze my beard instantly. A few blasts of the train horn and it was gone through the next tunnel.
We rented a cabin
in Polebridge, a remote area near the border with Canada. No phone service, no electricity. Just propane lights and a wood stove.
When we arrived it felt below 0 degrees. No way to tell without phone service. With nothing to read I browsed the front page of the newspaper I brought to light the fire. In headlines across the front page it read "Coldest weather in history today in Polebridge". The temperature was -49 degrees Fahrenheit.
The river rarely freezes.
When it does the conditions are almost never right for skating. The ice might be too thin, too much snow, or my schedule is full. The ice was perfect this year, but fearing I'd fall through I was too chicken to go skate it solo. A few days later it snowed. When my friends arrived we were not sure it would be skate-able. The powder like snow turned out to be no obstacle, flying from under our skates like dust.
We skated for miles until we saw bare ice on a small creek. The creek had flooded on top of the already fallen snow, then frozen perfectly. A coursing ribbon of ice through fields and forest.
The ice was so good
I needed a second round. I called my friend Eli and we drove to the north end of the creek in his VW Beetle. The defrost vents underperform in the cold, but Eli makes do with his frost wiper.
The sun peaked through the clouds for no more than ten minutes just as the last light fell. We watched it go wishing it would stay a little longer.
All the ice melted, froze again and then melted. This year it happened more items than I can remember. Clear days the freeze happened so fast I could hear it.
Out all day
in the never ending snow. This year the snow never stopped in the mountains. A record snowfall that we haven't seen in Montana in over 10 years. Of course thats an excuse to get out and see what all the familiar places look like buried in white.
We built the fire on a packed bit of snow and stomped out the circle around it. Stepping away from the fire would make you sink up to your arms in unpacked white.
Most nights at the river house.