Our New Year's Trip

We all travelled to Bozeman starting the day after Christmas to get housekeeping set up at the Carriage House and to do a little skiing.

Listening material for the trip included Angels and Demons, a rather absurd mystery, and Horatio's Drive, a very entertaining story of the first man to drive across the continent (very appropriate for a long road trip). Reading included Foucault's Pendulum, best described as an attempt to use every word in the dictionary at least once and make up a number more.

We arrived 2pm Saturday (Dec 27), having stopped to get our 4WD pickup at the contractor's office. There had been so much snow that Bridger Bowl did not open (71" of snow in one day). We found a plowed path up the drive not quite as wide as the van in places. The pickup made it up after Gary and Arthur widened a place snow had drifted, then Gary walked 1/4 mile back down the drive to find Pauline and Kendal so firmly wedged they could not open the doors to get out. With a bit of effort to get unstuck, we put chains on (a first) and plowed through the drifts to the Carriage House.

Once up the drive, Neko took a running dive into a snowbank and completely disappeared. She must have thought she was going to run up the hill! In this picture, Kendal probes to find the propane tank while Neko perfects her dog paddle technique for getting through the snow.

This was the first time we were all together at the Carriage House. Kendal had not been up since early July, when the site was being prepared; Arthur had not been up since mid-August, when we signed the slab; Pauline had been up in early November, when the drywall was up. Gary had been up just over a week before to take up some furniture and buy a bed.

Now we are on the "punch list" items, so the place was quite habitable once we retrieved things from storage in Bozeman. We had stopped at the storage unit and loaded as much as we could into the pickup and (already overloaded) van on the way, then we roughed it with what we had the first night since we did not want to make the trip back down and up the drive.

Having the "formal" entrance on the north side might have been a mistake, since that side was more than waist deep in snow and will not get any sunlight. However, having two large garage doors on the south end may be more practical anyhow. Clearly we are going to have to get some good snow removal equipment.

Early Sunday, George Christie plowed the additional 8" of snow that had fallen since the previous afternoon. Here, Neko runs away from the plow. George told us the snow accumulated in one day was about as deep as he expected it to get all year. It fell so fast he had to plow three times on Saturday to keep up and finally could not push new snow over the banks he had created (hence the narrow lane). Afterward, we went into town for breakfast. When we went out to the van, it would not go — the transmission had given up! We had it towed to a shop and prevailed upon local friends to take us back to the Carriage House where we at least had our little truck.

Meanwhile, Bridger Bowl did not open until noon due to avalanche control. Once opened, a local skier went head first into the deep powder on one of the lift served runs, was unable to dig out and suffocated.

Without the van, we were limited to our two-seater pickup. We managed to get most things out of storage by making four trips. It had been long enough since we packed these things that opening them was like a second (third, fourth, ...) Christmas. Well, at least for Pauline; Arthur was mainly interested in when he would get to ski and Kendal played with her computer graphics program. Arthur also managed some activities with his local friends

Skiing was a bit of a problem; we either went two at a time or ferried people up (and down) one at a time — a 20 mile round trip. After the van had sat in the shop for nearly a week waiting for parts, we rented a small car and all went places together for a New Year's party, skiing and eating out. We kept that car parked at the bottom of the drive just in case there was another big storm!

We bought 2 pairs of snow shoes and took turns hiking around the property. Even with snow shoes, we were sinking over knee deep and sometimes more when we encountered a submerged bush.

Gary and Kendal took a 2 hour snow shoe trek around the property. We did not see any large animals early in our visit, but did see where they had plowed through the deep snow. Most of them had headed to lower areas where they could more easily get to the vegetation below the snow. However, as we were leaving on Tuesday, we saw that a herd of 50 or more elk had returned to the area just below the Main House site. Arthur says he saw one large bull with a nice set of antlers. Other bulls were younger, with spikes or at most 2 points.

This photo shows the Carriage House (lower left quarter) and Main House site (just above and right of center) looking east from the West Ridge.

The colder temperatures were at the end of our extended stay. It was too cold to ski and the good powder was gone, so we puttered around the Carriage House and went on short hikes.

Neko insisted on going first whenever we went on a hike, which meant that she exhausted herself trying to swim through the snow. Furthermore, she often buried herself trying to find small animals in the bushes. She had to be rescued from deep snow more than once. Here, she takes a rest. Temperatures down to about -15°F did not seem to bother her, but when it got to -32°F, she did not dally when going out to pee.

Due to holidays and difficulty of getting parts to Bozeman, the van was not fixed until Tuesday, Jan 6. We had planned to be back home by Sunday (the 4th), but wound up driving all night (and waiting over 1 hour in a snow storm in the Sierra for an accident to clear), arriving at 5:50am on Wednesday. At 6:50am, Gary reluctantly got back in the car to take Kendal to school, and again at 8:30am to take Arthur. Pauline left for work shortly after 9:00 and Gary finally got a little sleep!



Parting Shot

Pauline uses snow shoes to get up to the Main House site. By this time, the snow had consolidated somewhat, so the going was easier than our earlier hikes. This picture is taken from the Main House parking area, looking north.

Bonus Shot: Snowed In!