Doug and I stayed up in Montana this year for the holiday season. Last year my friend Jodi flew in on Christmas day, so that was something to look forward to…this year, I got laid off from my job and we didn’t have any planned visitors, so we really tried to make it special.
St. Nicholas Day
Everyone gets a little treat in their shoes! Also, other pictures of Brodie enjoying the snow and visiting Home Depot! Watch the whole video of him running – it gets better the closer he gets to the camera.
This happens multiple times on every walk.
Brodie visits Home Depot almost every day! He has great friends and they loved seeing him in his boots and hat!
Lewis and Clark Caverns
One of the things we did to make the season special was a tour of Lewis and Clark Caverns. Our friend, Emily, came with us. During the holiday season they do special tours by lantern. It was warm in the caverns even though it was super cold outside! So cold that I believe they even canceled the morning tours (somewhere around minus 20?!?). Ours was at 12:45. Here are some pictures from the tour.
Elizabeth – looking pregnant but that is just my purse under the coat!
The view on the walk up to the caverns
Emily – on the walk up to the caverns – yes – it was as cold as it looks!
Inside the caverns – it was about 50 degrees and felt super warm! Everything was quite wet!
At the very end they had some lights up and played some Christmas music!
Christmas Day we woke up to fresh snow and went on a walk! For early dinner, we went over to a friend’s house for dinner, which was very fun and very thoughtful of them to include us. We brought Creme de Menthe brownies (except we subbed in peppermint schnappes) and potoatoes. Here are some pictures from Christmas day.
Christmas morning! Starts with a little light snow shoveling!
Snowflakes on my eye lashes!
Maybe the best gift of the season! Brodie got treats that were “made with real snowflakes!”
Doug getting ready to open a present!
The end of the day…Doug playing with his new kindle and Brodie relaxing.
Last but not least, a family Christmas caroling video.
Last year, for my birthday, a friend in town gave me an Amaryllis.
It was lovely – here is a picture from the 2016 bloom…
Never one to be wasteful, I decided to see if I could get it to re-bloom this year. I read several sites about how to accomplish this, and I will distill the knowlege from those sites down to a few key points.
Cut the bloom stalks off once they die
Keep feeding the amaryllis all year – the leaves should be alive, and they feed the bulb
Move outside as soon as possible for the light
The crucial step to get an amaryllis to rebloom is to put it into dormancy. Cut off any remaining leaves, stop watering, and move it into a dark cool place.
This is where things got confusing for me. In my mind “dormancy” = “dead.” I thought that I was trying to put the bulb into a coma of sorts, and then I would reawaken it a time of my choosing when I brought it into the light and watered it.
So I forgot about it – it was under the sink in my bathroom. I ran across it when I was getting cleaning supplies, and it had sprouted two new leaves! I was actually kind of ticked off – I say when you bloom you dumb flower! I cut off the leaves.
I thought I was failing at dormancy – in fact, the bulb was ready to grow again.
I ran across it a couple of weeks later, and saw the bloom stalk starting to grow (yes, two weeks later. I guess I don’t access those cleaning supplies as frequently as I should).
Here is a picture of the growth progression – I took pictures every Sunday.
December 4th – you can see where I cut off the new leaf growth!
Even though I felt bad that I cut off those initial leaves, I now think it might have been a good thing! The first year the leaves were so big that they took over the plant. This year the flower was the main show.
I am going to keep it alive and try again next year. If I can get it to truly go dormant I will put it in a new pot (maybe) and plant it in some fresh soil.
I did two short day hikes this year up near Big Sky with my Big Sky friend, who lives sort of “off the grid” and thinks that hundreds of people will read this post, flood to the hikes, and then they will be ruined, so I will refrain from giving the gps coordinates of the hikes!
As I write this, it is September 5th, and it snowed in the tops of the mountains last night, so I’m glad I made an effort to do a little hiking this summer before it got away from us. I took two 1/2 days to be able to do these hikes.
One of the memorable features of the first hike was the drive to get there…it was very rough, and probably took a good 45 minutes of bumping along a gravel road. The hike on the other hand was mostly flat and shaded, and ended at several lakes that were “hidden.” We did not walk to see all of the lakes.
You can still see a little snow in the mountains in the middle of the summer!
First Lake – we could see a few golden trout swimming around.
Second lake – I liked this little tree and the reflection in the water.
We watched this beautiful dragonfly for awhile before it flew away.
Indian Paintbrush wildflowers.
I can’t remember this type of tree, but the bark was very colorful.
We killed a couple of deer fly that tried to bite us, and then ants came and carried them off for a snack.
This is my big sky friend – he went out on the log to get a closer look at the golden trout as they swam by.
The second hike was closer to Big Sky, and was only about 10 minutes bumping down a decent gravel road before hiking along a creek that ended at Dudley Lake. We did not make it all the way to Dudley Lake because we spent too much time picking and eating berries. I’ve never seen so many huckleberries all in one place, and it really made me nervous about the bears, but we didn’t encounter any wildlife. I would like to back and do this kike again sometime and make it all the way to the lake.
All of these red leaves are huckleberry bushes! I looked behind us several times for bears.
This was the view out into the meadow right before we turned back.
We ate huckleberries by the handful
This hike was later in the season so there weren’t as many flowers, but I liked this “harebell.”
My aunt and uncle, Diane and George Bonk, came to visit Montana this summer. They spent one day visiting Yellowstone and the rest of the time exploring the local area. In fact, we believe this was the first time they took a week long vacation since their honeymoon, so I was very excited that they chose Montana to experience such a big adventure.
I took some time off of work and we all drove down to Virginia City…from their website:
All of Montana has the deepest pride and affection for Virginia City. No more colorful pioneer mining camp ever existed. Dramatic tales of the early days in this vicinity are legion. Rich placer diggings were discovered in Alder Gulch in the spring of 1863 and the stampede of gold seekers and their parasites was on! Sluices soon lined the gulch and various “cities” blossomed forth as trading and amusement centers for free handed miners. Virginia City, the best known of these and the sole survivor, became the Capitol of the Territory.
The very much alive ghost town, Virginia City, Montana, is frozen in time. It is a remarkably well preserved old west Victorian gold mining town just 20 miles west of Yellowstone National Park (90 miles by road). When the gold ran out, there was still enough left so that homes and businesses were occupied, but there was not enough wealth to remodel the buildings. So it froze, and now represents the whole Victorian era. It is the true and original Old West. It is a gem, held within an incredibly rich area of natural beauty, recreation and history.
For me, it was a little bit overwhelming because every single building in Virginia City was historical. When we first started walking around, I tried to stop and read every plaque, but I soon got worn out and stopped.
Every building had one of these signs and a story!
The candy shop that we visited had “fun facts” like these taped up all around.
On the far right is the Opera House where we saw the play and you can see my car out front.
I’d like some “notions,” please.
After we wandered around the town we went to see “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at the Opera House, performed by the Virginia City Players. It was a very well put together production, but the highlight for me was the Cremona Photo Player…from their website:
Photo players are elaborate sound effects machines made for accompanying silent movies in the 1910s and 1920s. Our photoplayer includes a piano, flute, violin, bass pipes, xylophone, bass drum, crash cymball, tom tom, tympani, snare drum, sleigh bells, tambourine, castanets, cathedral chimes, triangle and train bell. All of the instruments are operated through a system of air tubes attached to the piano by pushing buttons, tapping on pedals and tugging on leather cords.
Photo players have a very low survival rate, because most were worn out from heavy use, and then became obsolete almost overnight when sound movies or “talkies” replaced silent films in the late 1920s. In 1950, our Photo player was discovered hidden behind a wall in a drugstore in Deer Lodge, Montana which was constructed when the original movie theater was remodeled for retail use.
The whole play was accompanied by the Cremona player, and the music was fantastic!
The screen above shows the man playing the cremona below.
On September 2nd we decided to drive up to to Big Sky to watch “A Comedy of Errors” performed by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. It was Flora’s birthday, and we wanted to do something unique that she would remember. We brought Brodie as well, who as you know is a very cultured dog.
Happy Birthday, Flora!
Dougy and Doug had actually already seen this play performed in Bozeman back in June, but the two plays the company performed over the summer were “A Comedy of Errors” and “Richard III,” and we thought it would be much more enjoyable to go see the comedy (Richard III was actually playing in Bozeman later in the weekend).
We all noted how easy it was to attend the venue (compared to the crowds, traffic, and parking problems you would encounter for a similar free outdoor venue in Atlanta).
Two of the twins are tied up in the chair. They did a great job!
Here is a link to the website about Shakespeare in the Parks. They were celebrating their 44th season this year, which makes them one of the oldest Shakespeare festivals in the nation.
This is about 30 minutes before the show started.
The actors did a great job making the play easy to follow, even though at times we had no idea what they were saying. There was lots of silliness and even a little crowd interaction, and they “modernized” the story with a little bit of music. I would definitely check out the schedule next summer and try to go see another one.
We had healthy lettuce wraps for dinner…no bread for you!
It’s common knowledge that border collies love outdoor theater.
A couple weeks ago we decided we needed to hike more, while the weather is still nice. So we headed out to a peak that’s not too far from Bozeman called Storm Castle. Here is the critical info:
It a good distance at about 5 miles and has some elevation gain, but not too much. The great part is that it’s only about 30 minutes from the house. Also, part of this area was the backdrop to the movie A River Runs Through It.
Here is Elizabeth at the peak.
That’s the peak right behind me. The rocks look a little crooked there…Apparently, I’m saying something interesting.
I decided to fight my fear of heights and go up to the very top.
The uniform for hiking: White button-up hiking shirt UPF 50 and a hat.
Clematis seed! Very cool – I thought it looked like something from the muppets.
Taking in the view.
There was a little tree up at the top that was filled with these cool looking pine cones.
I decided to go on a solo hike during the work day to get some time away from the computer and other screens. There are 100s of miles of hiking around here, which is great. But some of the hikes may have 30 minutes or an hour of rough driving on “unimproved” gravel forest roads.
So I’ve been focusing on the west side of the Bridger range which is very close since we live on the west side of the range. I picked this hike, Corbly Gulch, because it was about the right distance for me that day at 5 miles. It also looked like I’d be able to see the tallest peaks from just at the foot of the mountains.
I was wrong about both the distance and the views!
It still turned out fine of course…
It was a little tough understanding exactly where to park since I was following a guide book that’s about 9 years old. I parked about a mile away from the NEW parking area that is apparently less than 9 years old. I was happy about that anyway since the road was a deeply rutted single lane. You can see in the image below.
You can see down to the Gallatin Valley and the mountains on the other side (I think the Tobacco Roots or Gallatin Range). And there is the rutted lane. There’s actually some room here to pull off if another car approaches, but most of the lane is truly one lane.
I saw some berries on the side of the road – not sure what they are. They might be huckleberries. I’m not sure…I walked about an extra mile each way on the single track lane. About halfway up I saw that people were using the road – only trucks and they all had dirt bikes, i.e. motorcycles, in the back. I believe the primary users of the trail are mountain bikers or motorcyclists. That was actually a great thing because the trail was a bit wider and a bit flatter the whole time. Other trails that are made for hikers only are more narrower and can have an grade on all the switchbacks.
I believe these are raspberries. There were lots of these throughout the hike.
The trail weaves through the sort of hillside prairie with wildflowers, dense forest, and rocky outcrops. Some places seemed really dry while others were lush and green, mostly by the creek.
The trail joins up with a large trail system, Bridger Foothills National Recreation Trail, and that goes all the way to the tallest peak in the range. That one is called Sacagawea Peak and we hiked there last year. I wasn’t planning on going that far since it’d be 12 miles or so.
I planned on going about 5 miles based in the hiking book recommendation for the turnaround point. The turnaround point was right in the middle of the forest with dense trees and brush. There was no view. So I decided to keep going until it opened up a bit.
Eventually, I reached this…
I found a bigger opening and a nice rock to sit on to have a snack. The trail was amazingly quiet most of the time. I passed 1 other hiker, 1 mountain biker, and 4 dirt bikers.
You could hear the motor bikes very loudly, but I don’t think the noise carried very far. I think I could only hear them while they were in direct line-of-sight… Here is what it was like when they went by:
The other part that I mentioned before was the view. So I guess I was too close to the peaks to actually see them. I should have suspected that since you really can’t see the peak that you’re hiking to until you’re at the very top. And I didn’t think about the fact that I was only about 2+ miles from the biggest peak. I thought I might be able to see some of the adjacent peaks, but I was in a gulch! Duh! So I couldn’t really see beyond the gulch that I was in.
Overall, it was a great hike and I ended up going about 8 miles instead of 5. I’ll probably seek out some of the other gulch hikes that are further to the south by a few miles and I should be able to see the peaks better.
Mountain Biking on the Corbly Gulch Trail
Here is a random video of some mountain biker on the same trail…
It’s an old school motel with external doors. It was clean though and the people were very nice.
I think the springs are very busy in the winter during ski season, and in the summer when all the tourists are in town visiting Yellowstone. Luckily, we were there at a bridge time, and the town and springs were super quiet.
It was a very nice quiet weekend – we walked around and ate at a few restaurants, soaked in the springs at least twice a day, walked Brodie, and read books.
Yes – Brodie can find a stick anywhere!
A word of caution, the sulphur in the springs turned Doug’s silver ring green! We have been to several other hot springs and had never experienced this before! We had to do some work when we got back into town to get his ring back to the right color.
This is where we ate dinner our first night…all fried food for us!
Eat! Enough said!
Brodie waiting for his treat at the coffee truck
Here’s what the springs looked like…
102º is nice and warm. 105º is seriously hot and they said it creeps up to 106º occasionally. They adjust the temperature by altering the flow of different water supplies which have different temps. The lady we talked to said it takes a few months for new employees to learn how to dial in the temperatures for each pool.
Doug ate more than beer and ice cream. It wasn’t “heart healthy” or anything…But it was filling and greasy which is all you can really ask for. Courtesy of Dory’s Diner.
That’s an open faced chili cheese burger. Yep, that’s “diced” American cheese – a rare delicacy.
Great job on the hashbrowns! Golden Brown and delicious. They didn’t match Waffle House…not by a long shot.
My parents taught me to clean my plate (and anyone else’s plate sitting near me).
On Sunday Doug and I decided to do a day trip down to the park. Actually, May 1st is approximately the one year anniversary of the selling of the Dunwoody condo and the move to Montana.
This was also the first trip in all this time that we didn’t bring Brodie with us. The past week had been very rainy, which is atypical for us, and we hadn’t seen much sun. Sunday, however was beautiful. Still on the chilly side, but nice and sunny.
Norris was an area that we didn’t get much of a chance to explore on our previous visits. The one time we did really try was last June. I was very sick, and it was very hot out. We had Brodie with us as well, so couldn’t leave him in the car.
Below are the pictures from Norris. There weren’t a lot of active geysers, but it was a beautiful area with lots of fumaroles and hot springs. There was also some surprising colors in the hot springs and water run off. I am definitely glad we took the time to explore it at our leisure, and it was a great time to do it before the summer crowds.
The boardwalk at Back Basin. Nice green trees!
This green grassy stuff came out of nowhere!
Puff n Stuff Geyser
Green Dragon Spring
Chin out, Doug! Good job!
I liked this little bird in the center.
There is always time to stretch
I’m not entirely sure! Ha!
Vixen Geyser – it looked very fuzzy.
Interesting blackish run off.
Colorful run off
Colorful run off in the other direction
At the top of Porcelain Basin
The colors were amazing! Notice the snow capped mountains in the background.
Doug – trying to get a great picture! Porcelain Basin seemed like it had a lot of pressure built up! It was angry!
I loved the green and orange in this water! Porcelain Basin was so colorful.
And the lone, strong, tree in the middle…
The dark color in this water looked almost like seaweed. The video below shows the bubbles moving.
Crackling lake. Sounded like Rice Krispies! Also very colorful.
See the pile of snow in the center?!? What is that doing there? Right next to Ledge Geyser.
Roaring Mountain. Covered in fumaroles. It looked much more dramatic when it was cooler when we drove in.
This year for Christmas we decided to do “experience” gifts…we were each supposed to plan a “winter” outing. My “winter” outing was watching cattle dog herding trials (maybe not really a winter activity, but it took place in January, so I think it counts). Doug’s activity was snowshoeing. We’ve done both of these so here are the updates!
The Cattle Dog Trials were at Belgrade, the town near the airport, at the Saddle Creek Equestrian Center. We didn’t really know what to expect.
Also, if you forgot Brodie does have some experience herding…here is our link to his sheep herding video.
The cattledog trials were very interesting! The cattle had a lot of attitude, and even fought back – the dogs were so tough! We really got to see the border collie stare; sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but either way it was very cool.
We saw one dog get stepped on pretty badly, but I think she was okay, and there were definitely a few other close encounters.
My favorite was the “nursery” competition…these were border collies that had to be under 30 months, and some of them looked very small compared to the cattle, but they were not intimidated! As soon as they brought the cattle out those little baby border collies perked right up! It was what they were born to do, and they knew it!
The handlers getting their instructions…it was a close knit group! Everyone knew each other.
This guy was just sitting in the front seat like a good boy!
There is a little glare because we were watching from inside – that Border Collie is not messing around!
Waiting for the cattle to come out…
A couple good looking dogs waiting outside.
This was the viewing area…
Doug saying hello to another border collie…he looked really smart (the dog) – like he was trying to understand what Doug was saying.
Border Collies everywhere!
Here is the prize! I’m not sure if this is a belt buckle or not – I sure hope so!
It was a very fun way to spend the afternoon!
Doug’s planned winter activity was snowshoeing, which we ended up doing in Yellowstone National Park up near Mammoth. It was actually a very snowy and windy day (though not too cold). We rented the snow shoes from MSU in Bozeman for the weekend.
It was a nice activity to do outside in the cold! Moving around kept us warm, and the snow and the wind made it fun. There are lots of great trails around Yellowstone, but we left Brodie back at the hotel so we did the one that was easiest and closest, and luckily we only saw one bison.
At the top of Mammoth Hot Springs
The upper loop at Mammoth – you can see the cross country ski tracks.
It looks cold, but as long as you bundle up it isn’t so bad. In fact, once you get moving and walking, it gets pretty warm!
The ski & snowshoeing trail (the loop we were on) is actually just the road that goes around the Upper Terrace loop. In the winter, they groom the snow for winter stuff.
Overlooking the valley and Mammoth Hotel below
Everything was covered with snow like you’d imagine. And the wind made the snow form cool shapes.
There is the one lone bison that we saw.
So, it’s a little hard to tell, but the four images below show the snow getting whipped around by the wind. You’ll just have to take our word for it that it was seriously windy.
And, you deserve a beer and a snack after a 1.4 mile hike. We caught the last 15 minutes of lunch service at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room.
The beer was cold and the Mediterranean platter was great. Go there.
The CRV looks like a Montana native with all that winter dirt and grime all over it.