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January through March, 2009

How Dry I Am

The months of December, January and February are by far the driest months in the Bozeman area. The good news is these months usually produce light, fluffy snow with low moisture content referred to by locals as cold smoke. In March, precipitation begins ramping up and peaks in May and June.

March brought tragedy: four historic downtown buildings were destroyed by a tremendous explosion early in the morning of the 5th. Incredibly, only one person was killed and other injuries were light.

Marcus and Samantha brought granddaughter Lauren and friends Matt and Maggie for a visit the week after New Year's. At 19 months, Lauren was not quite old enough to enjoy the fresh snow, but the rest of us had a good time skiing. Temperatures moderated into January, causing the elk to depart for the other side of the canyon and melting much of the accumulated snow; several nights did not go below freezing. Meanwhile, people on the northwest coast, along the east coast and in the middle of the country were "enjoying" the snow and cold that was rightfully ours.

Kendal and boyfriend Andrew were able to come for a long Martin Luther King weekend and there was so little snow we were able to take a long hike around the property without snowshoes. Here, Kendal and Andrew pose by our 'landmark' tree, recognized by many who live in the canyon. The same tree is shown from a different angle in the August 2006 Parting Shot.

The Spring-like weather caused an increase in coyote activity. Two coyotes were bold enough to invade the field south of the Main House; Pumpkin gave chase and got into a fight. Gary had to thrash through almost a mile of snow and brush to get her back. She spent the next two days nursing a nasty nip on her hind quarters.

For those interested in the new lift at Bridger Bowl, Gary accompanied Arthur for a couple of runs and reported on the skiing there.

In early February, we went cross-country skiing in Yellowstone. In this photo Jennie, Dan and Pauline stop next to bison relaxing in the snow. At this time of year they are too concerned with conserving energy and finding food to take notice of humans. We saw elk, a pair of bald eagles (it's mating season), mountain sheep (see below) and a lone coyote. Along the trail were what appeared to be wolf tracks and scat.

After skiing, we hiked to the confluence of the Boiling River (140°F) and Gardner River (35°F) to enjoy a soak in the waters. It was snowing hard by then so we did not take out the camera, but this link captures the experience well. The strategy is to find a comfortable spot in the confluence and get warm enough to dry off, dress and hike ½ mile through the snow before getting cold.

A big treat was sighting 6 mountain sheep so close we were able to take a short movie of one digging for food. Winter has been mild this year and healthy animals have found sufficient food in the park. Even the bison have stayed in the park; in bad years, they wander outside and cause problems for the ranchers and farmers. This sheep looks healthy, but another nearby looked like it will be a Winter kill.

Dan and Kristina came for a long weekend in late February. A 10" snowfall at Bridger Bowl on Wednesday had improved conditions and we skied good snow in flurries at Bridger on Friday. On Saturday, we went with canyon friends to ski in the sun at Moonlight Basin. By Sunday, the weather was so sunny and mild we went for a hike around the property, then relaxed on the back patio to review family photos. The large piles of snow we had accumulated were almost completely gone.

After Dan and Kristina left, a 2" snowfall predicted for February 26 turned into a 15" dump with temperatures in the teens. Bozeman shut down as snow-starved skiers headed to the slopes. The BBC hung around as the storm cleared on the 27th, resulting in the unusual experience of skiing in the sun during a snowstorm. Heavy snows continued into the first week of March; Bridger Bowl received 3' of snow in the first week of the month. A sunny day turned a trip down the drive into a Winter wonderland tour.

The weather soon switched back to Spring and small groups of elk cows started hanging around in anticipation of dropping their calves. The dogs hate this time of year: either they stay indoors and watch the elk from the windows, or they have to stay out all day, get muddy and have a bath before coming in. And, this is the time of year they locate and bring home parts of Winter kills.

March begins the burn season, and the recent snows offered a good opportunity to do a safe burn. The snow-covered slash piles were difficult to start. The recommended method is to pour on one gallon of diesel and light it; we save our cardboard and use it as kindling. The interior was dry and burned hot enough to melt away the snow. Soon after this picture was taken, we started the pile in the background. When they are close together, it is easy to do multiple burns, but it is safest to start them an hour apart because the first hour requires close attention. These burned a long time, so Arthur camped out to make sure they burned safely through the night.

We burned more in the weeks that followed. Check out how we do a burn here.


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