November, 2002 Progress Report

"In downtown Bozeman, Mont.,
the flashing blue light set atop the
old Bozeman Hotel has long been
a beacon for alpine skiers."
- Christian Science Monitor

"Movin' to Montana soon
Gonna be a mennil-toss flykune"
- Frank Zappa. Montana

Gary and Pauline flew to Bozeman November 7 to attend the Bridger Canyon Property Owner's Association meeting. The BCPOA owns and meets in the Lower Bridger School, which is a historic site immediately across the highway from the property we are in the process of purchasing. Lower Bridger School is featured in the first picture of the August progress report; little did we know when we took that picture that we would be having an important meeting there! The BCPOA has a lot of influence with the county zoning commission, so we wanted to get a reading from them regarding our proposed use of the property.

The BCPOA members appear to appreciate our intent to keep the 196 acres as a single unit (rather than divide it into the 4 or 5 parcels permitted by the zoning laws) and to become full-time residents rather than absentee owners. Bridger Canyon has a very different atmosphere than Big Sky (south of Bozeman), where many of the homes and property are owned by people who do not live in Montana and spend little time in Montana. BCPOA wants to keep the canyon as a true community. While there were some reservations about operating the property as a Bed and Breakfast, they appreciated that the impact would likely be lower than the potential use were the property subdivided and more homes built.

Over the weekend, we spent a pleasant afternoon with one of the owners who borders the property we are buying, and we learned interesting and useful information. Other owners offered to be available for advice. Throughout our stay, we kept bumping into the few people we know — Bozeman really is a small town with a surprisingly high level of sophistication. The picture above shows the view when we hiked up to the "M" located just outside the mouth of Bridger Canyon, next to Drinking Horse Mountain; Highway 86 can be seen heading off to Bozeman, with the fish hatchery on Bridger Creek just left of and above center.

The morning of November 8, we met with Dave Crawford (the engineer we have contracted to help inspect the property) and Ron Pike (owner of a construction company that might put in roads for us). During this extensive walk-around, Pauline was able to see what Gary had determined as possible sites during his October trip, while Ron advised on the considerations for roads. As a result of our observations, we changed our minds about building sites. The new thinking is to locate the main building (home) near the originally proposed "barn" site, but up the slope a bit so there are good views. Above, Pauline considers the views from this site, while Dave and Ron (below, left) discuss roads. Unfortunately, there were too many clouds to get a good picture. The "barn" is now more properly called the "carriage house," and will be located in the small valley formed by Place Creek near the point where the driveway will turn to head up to the main building. In the picture below, Pauline is standing in the general area where the carriage house will be. This will be an ideal location to stay while the main building is under construction, and ultimately a place for a caretaker to view any comings and goings.

The afternoon of November 8 and most of November 11, we interviewed architects who might design the buildings for us. While we immediately rejected one, we did find two that we liked and are in the process of deciding which we want to hire. The interview process included trekking with each up to the proposed sites, so we had several nice hikes on the property (though we are still far from having seen it all at close range).

On each of our hikes, we saw deer grazing. On one occasion, we saw a herd of at least 14 elk (Pauline forgot the camera), and, while we were standing quietly trying to hear road noises, all we heard was the bull elk bugling. When I lived in Colorado, locals used to make special trips in the fall to Rocky Mountain Nataional Park to hear that noise! We anticipate more deer and elk once the cattle stop grazing the land. On another hike, there was an eagle perched at the top of a tree; I tried to get a picture (above), but the lack of context makes it look like a pigeon. We also spotted some tracks that were probably made by a mountain lion (not a dog!).

The weather was not terribly cold, mostly in the 40's during the day, with some wind, occasional sun and some snow. One evening the snow was heavy enough to make driving a little difficult, but overall there were few weather problems.

The evening of November 8, realtor Dianne introduced us to Kevin Click (her husband) and took us to meet Kevin's mother and step father at the home they contracted Kevin to build for them. Since the "in-laws" were former residents of the California wine country and fellow owners of condominiums at Squaw Valley Lodge, we found many things to discuss while touring their home and sampling their wine. Kevin's style and philosophy of building appears to match our desires closely, so he is our leading candidate for contractor.

Below is a nice bench-like rock under a tree about 100 yards down from the proposed main building site. This is a good example of the sorts of spots around the property we want to find and preserve as places to take pleasant hikes. This stone reminds me of Attila the Hun's throne (which I once had the pleasure of sitting on) on the island of Torcello, just outside Venice.

Photo and dog (‘Scout’) courtesy of Van Bryan.