May, 2003 Progress Report

In 1995, cattle outnumbered people in Montana by more than 3 to 1.

Gary traveled to Bozeman May 16-22 to review progress on the driveway, review estimates on the Carriage House construction and review more design concepts for the Main House. Although the plan had been to start work on the driveway immediately after Gary's April trip, rainy weather (and a little snow) prevented work from starting until May 9.

(click on pictures below to see a larger version)

This picture recreates Pauline's shot from our August 2002 trip.

I arrived May 17th to find that the "middle" of the drive (from the Carriage House site down to 300 yards from the highway) was nearly complete. The weather was finally looking good. The grass was very green, but the trees were not yet leafed out.

The original track can be seen at the left of the picture, and a crude version of the drive is seen to the left of the two vehicles. It was just possible to drive the van up off the original track up a steep slope onto the slanted crude road. The were a couple of places where the bottom dragged on the loose clumps of dirt. Once past this, the drive was quite navigable.

Here, the van is parked at the Carriage House site among the heavy equipment used to scratch the drive into the side of the mountain. Scrapings can be seen across the slope in the background where the drive switches back around the CH to go up to the Main House.

The logs at left were removed to make way for the drive. They will be hauled off once the drive is finished.

The weather looked so good that I decided to camp out at the CH site that night.

Compare this picture to the one of Kendal approaching the elk in February.

The weather took a surprising turn that night. Sunday morning, I awoke to find very wet snow everywhere. I had only taken the kids' old polyfiber sleeping bags, and had wound up stuffing one inside the other to keep warm.

Worse yet, I knew the trip down would be treacherous in the mud. Going down the almost finished portion of the drive was no problem, but on the slanting traverse the van kept slipping sideways, and on the very steep part I just pointed straight downhill and hoped the front end cleared the flat as it slid down to the original track. I later discovered that the right rear tire had picked up a puncture that rendered it unfixable. Good thing the van has a full size spare!

Saturday afternoon and at various times Monday through Wednesday, I got the chance to wander around the property and see more of it.

This is a picture taken as I followed game trails up Place Creek (the creek that cuts the property approximately in half). The nature of the geology is such that there are many little staircase falls like the one shown.

Several times, I surprised deer (mule and whitetail), and almost stepped on grouse several times (they are difficult to see and always wait until the last minute to fly away). Kevin thought he saw a wild turkey.

We met with several groups at the site; it seems to be a common theme that anyone who works in Montana is looking for an excuse to get outdoors, so they all wanted to take a walk around the property. Things were still wet, so all our hikes had to start from the very bottom. I think I did about 5 complete circuits over three days.

The people from Bridger Fire Inc. tell me they can reduce the fire danger and restore the forest to nearly that of a true old growth forest at no cost (they pay for it with some of the lumber they harvest).

The people from Montana Ponds and Streams have just about convinced me that putting in a large (20-40,000 gallon) pond is the cost effective way to keep the fire department and insurance company happy. The pond would be located near the Main House. They also assure me that one can stock it with trout that will grow to 18" or more.

As I prepared to leave on Wednesday, I took this final shot of the compactor/grader starting to clear topsoil for the final approach to the highway. Highway access will be at the road sign right of the man in the red jacket. The road sign will be relocated. Hopefully, this will all be done, and power and phone will be installed to the CH site when we return in June.

Once construction is finished, the drive will be given a layer of gravel and the last 75' leading to the highway will be paved.

We're finally satisfied enough with the concept drawings of the Main House to go ahead to the stage of developing more detailed plans. At right is the concept drawing of the exterior, as would be viewed from above and from the SW (looking NE).

The entrance (and drive) is on the north side, while the south side (shown) is completely free for the views.

Click here to see a few more pictures