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Ski Yellowstone …or Thereabouts

LWe spent all last Wednesday driving to West Yellowstone in the hopes of finding some serious snow as the glacier in our front yard retreated in 40 degree weather and the trails on Mt. Spokane seemed increasingly icy.

We were NOT disappointed in the West Yellowstone snow scene as viewed from our motel window.
Last summer we stayed at The Dude which is not open in winter.  Searching mainly by price and location, I chose the Stagecoach Inn. Reading the reviews I noticed that vegans and vegetarians were uncomfortable at the Stagecoach.  If you find taxidermy off putting it would be a problem.

Our first day of skiing was at the Rendezvous Ski Area.  (Sorry no pictures but the site links to a map and web cam.)  We were worried about cold as the wind chill was 10 degrees but we worked up a sweat especially during our afternoon ski when the sun came out.  The trail system is a series of loops with cut offs and links between.  We skied the Rendezvous loop in the morning and Deja View loop in the afternoon.  There were some views of the mountains and the hills and curves of the trails were fun but I wouldn’t call the course scenic unless you absolutely LOVE Lodgepole pine.  Day two we bought an Idaho Park n’ Ski pass.  It’s $ 7.50 for 3 days but we opted to do 3 skis in one day.  We did two loops along the Buffalo River. We didn’t see any other skiers but we  saw two moose who swam across the river in front of us.  Most beautiful was the panorama of the Tetons as we drove to our final ski Canyon Rim which was about an hour and a half southwest of  West Yellowstone.

No amazing wildlife sightings but a huge trailer pulled into the parking lot and two couples hopped out, hitched two beautiful horses to a wooden sleigh, and rode up


Two-horse sled on Highway 47

Highway 47 which is closed from this point for winter.  It looked like fun!

The Dude saved our lives in July when we arrived in West Yellowstone without a reservation

Saturday morning we did a quick ski to the Madison River.  The trail started at our summer  refuge The Dude.  The shorter river loop was too narrow and icy for our mediocre skills so we skied a bit along the top of the river canyon.  We extended  our vacation a fourth night by heading to Missoula and taking our favorite walk along the Clark’s Fork river.  They seemed to be a bit short on snow in mountains around Missoula but we woke up to a dusting of new snow.  We drove to Lolo Pass where we skied in a full fledged snow storm so conditions were the opposite of our icy West Yellowstone ski. After an hour of breaking trail and finding a trail in the snowstorm at Lolo we headed back to Spokane.  Dennis won’t trade in his gray ski coat for red but he says he will let me buy him an orange fleece hat for photographic purposes.  It will be easier to follow him in heavy snow  too.

Dennis blazing a path on Lolo Pass



An Early Labor (Labour) Day Weekend

Sawmill Beech Kootenay Lake (East)

Sawmill Beech Kootenay Lake (East)

We took an early Labor Day weekend in Creston, British Columbia. Creston is the home of a huge wildlife (mostly birds) sanctuary. It used to be a bird/duck sanctuary but they changed the name to Creston Valley Wildlife sanctuary.
Cynical me I’m sure the name change was a political decision. I suppose maybe they thought “bird sanctuary” was not sufficiently inclusive.

Creston Refuge, Goldenrod, Smoke & Dennis

Creston Refuge, Smoke & Dennis

We had hoped to escape the smoke in Spokane but unfortunately they didn’t stop the air pollution at the border. We took five hikes in 3 days. Our walk in the sanctuary was disappointing The highlights were watching a large heron land on a pine branch, which was pretty impressive, and a glance at 3 otters fleeing into the mud. Dennis suggested most of the birds were laying low.  Who wants to chirp and fly around in the smoke.

We pretty quickly figured out that “climb to a beautiful view of the valley” was not our best destination. Walks through the forest to beaches were much more rewarding and seemed better for the lungs.


It might have been psychological.


Pilot Bay Lighthouse (1907)

Pilot Bay Lighthouse (1907)

We found a great and very reasonable motel in Creston and we had some good dinners at the local restaurants although I wouldn’t suggest making the trip for Thai food. We also enjoy discovering new Canadian beers.valleyviewm

Sadly the Valley View was not quite so green or so clear when we were there

Sadly the Valley View Motel was not quite so green or so clear when we were there

A hard rain on Sunday morning make it easy to leave and cleared out the smoke in Spokane.

Christmas 2013

treeretouchWe are having a cold,dull gray winter without enough snow so I haven’t felt very enthused about Christmas or holidays. We spent Christmas with just the two of us old fogies, pretty dull but relaxing.   Leigh spent Christmas in Indy with my family. She and Dennis had only 2 days off but we had Leigh here for Thanksgiving.

We had two vacations together this year.  During my Spring Break we flew to Indianapolis (there was snow!) to see my Dad and met Leigh for a Hemingway/Frank Lloyd Wright pilgrimage in Oak Park, IL outside Chicago.

In July I reluctantly agreed to a camping trip to the Canadian Rockies (Lake Louise & Jasper) We also took in Calgary so we could have showers & do laundry. For Dennis one of the real purposes of the trip was to see real dead dinosaurs at a fantastic museum they have in the middle of nowhere Alberta. In the middle of nothing is of course where dinosaurs always lived.  I have to admit the museum was way cool if you didn’t get knocked off your feet by a wild heard of 9-year-olds and could peek around the Japanese tourists posed for pictures in front of the signage.  There were also a couple of tourists walking from exhibit to exhibit reading all the information, which was very extensive, into their cell phones. blk-beauty-gi The museum experience has certainly changed but it was well worth the slight detour to “North Dakota, Canada.” They have some real bones and great exhibits.

Lake Louise after the rain

Lake Louise after the rain

Hiking at Jasper and Lake Louise was fantastic. I was dubious about this camping trip because I thought it would be cold and crowded. I got the cold right although it warmed up to a nice hiking temperature during the day.  There were huge crowds at Lake Louise but they also have a huge campground which is surrounded by electrified barbed wire to keep the grizzlies out.   The camp gives you the feeling of being kept in a prison camp with lots of trees. (We forgot to snap a picture.)

Jasper also has a mega-size campground and this one had an actual black bear in the neighborhood of our tent but we never saw him.  It’s quite the cultural experience camping in Canadian parks.  There are people from all over the world.  Luckily they don’t all hit the trails and there is a lot of room up there.  We hope to be in shape enough to go back and explore Jasper some more in a couple of years. We got caught in a couple of heavy rains while hiking and it will take me a year to forget cold, wet and muddy. Yoho Lake hike

The job Leigh loved in Madison with a non-profit fell apart but she was only unemployed for a month.  She now has a state job with the Dept. of Natural Resources finance department.   She is verifying bills and payments and making sure all the state paperwork is done correctly.  “Mom have you heard of a computer system called DOS?” After having 3 non-profit jobs in three years since her college graduation her comment was: “I sold out and I haven’t regretted it yet.” Leigh is devoting the time she formerly spent in meetings & on angst working with “Progressive Dane” (county).  She says it’s all good and she is very happy in Madison.  P9y1zKKR8mQnEsg59ubKhLHTegnJgT_tmxwy-wS03kY

Dennis & I can’t boast anything so productive with our non-work hours but all is well.

Last Days at the Lake


Failure to Thrive?

I can’t remember what I did yesterday.  I read and responded to a weeks worth of work e-mails.  It was a beautiful day so I did it all on the front porch.  I indulged in a morning kayak to get in the mood.  Dad noted that I was wasting a beautiful day so I went for a run before fixing dinner.  I thought about going for a swim after my run.  I jumped in with my running clothes on inspired by the fact Holly was taking the plunge.  I only got up to my waist. The water is still COLD!

Today Dad and I went kayaking to the Point, we returned my rental car, made the obligatory stop at Walmart for groceries.  After that exhausting morning Dad took a nap, while I tackled more e-mail.  The highlight was a visit to the Gingko tree at Greenwood Cemetery.  We took a bucket in case Gingk needed water but they seem to be taking care of that.  Dad was pleased with the planting spot but Gingko isn’t thriving.


View Little Traverse Bay from Greenwood

rowsunset sunsetThere was an appropriate picturesque sunset for my last night.

Madison, WI –Gardens-Gardens–Church–Garden

I’m having a great time in Madison.  Friday was the zoological garden

I guess they weren't interested in us.

I guess they weren’t interested in us.

and biking along the lake to Muir Woods and Picnic Point.


Saturday was a the very crowded downtown Madison Farmer’s MarketFarmer's Market, a solo bike along the lake and the Olbrich Botanical Gardens with butterflies in the conservatory.

Julia butterfly Madison Olbrich Garden Conservatory


Today we toured the Frank Lloyd Wright designed First Unitarian Church of Madison

wrightchurch (2) - Copy

and Allen Centennial Gardens at the University of Wisconsin. AllanCentenial Gardens

ACG houseandgrassThe Madison finally was walking to campus and having a beer at the Memorial Union on Lake Mendota.


Wisconsin Capitol Building

Wisconsin Capitol Building


Drive to Madison

Reststop newton MI

Rest stop Newton, MI

It took me about 9 hours to get to Madison.  I did make three stops: one rest stop, one lunch stop and one gas/coffee stop.  I arrived in Madison about 5:30pm.  It was like a replay of last year: find parking, find Leigh, find dinner. We did visit the most high-end Target I’ve ever been to. lunch cedarvilleMI


It’s nice to be here and Madison is very fun and beautiful at least in the summer.


Sailboats on Lake Mendota

Sailboats on Lake Mendota




Homeless Owls, Batteries and a Boat


Non-standard Owl House

Typical “What did we actually do today at the lake?”   Kris and Dad relocated two rejected owl houses making use of the new extension ladder to place the potential homes higher and on different trees. Pictured is the house not built to owl specifications.  The corrected owl house is in the woods.

The twins called, as I was in Petoskey, and asked me to join them for lunch at the Foot. (Walloon Village)   There is a new place that no one can remember the name of.  Fifteen minutes after I put in my order our waitress told me that they were out of whitefish! 😦  I ordered chopped salad with quinoa which turned out to me pretty uninteresting.  Everyone else’s sandwich was good.  The place itself is nice, too bad no one can remember the name.

foot table

Table at the Foot

Kris & Holly un-named restaurant

Kris & Holly un-named restaurant

Kris suggested we go for a boat ride.  I was dubious because we already had the battery charger employed.  Dad’s battery was dead when we went to drive to town.  This is a family where we seem to need a lot of battery chargers and miles of utility cord. Amazingly I got the boat started the third try.  The problem came when we tried to move it out of the lift.  The lake is so shallow that all of us couldn’t push the boat off the lift even though it was fully down. Dad finally jumped in the water and pushed from the back and that along with the large waves from other luckier boats rushing past was enough to set us free.

The Boat that Loves the Lift Too Much

The Boat that Loves the Lift Too Much

Once we got out in the lake we noticed we only had a quarter tank of gas.  Since it was after 6pm we didn’t think we would be able to find a marina open to fill-up so we took a short cruise down the lake towards the North Arm.  On the way back Kris took a picture of the Fenstermaker cottage from the lake view.  We think they will want to consider a forestry management plan after the house is completed.  cottage2