Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowmobiling Seeley-Swan, 2016

We were three days in the Swan Valley, snowmobiling out of the hamlet of Seeley Lake, a short ride at first, a medium ride the second day, both on the east side, and an inadvertently longer ride the third day on the west side. The snowmobile map of the area leaves a bit to be desired, signage rather more to be desired (many unmarked yet groomed intersections), and ditto the grooming itself. Ever heard of adverse camber? Overall, it was a very good initial experience of the season, everything working, with good snow, cloudy, and day-time temps in the mid-30s.
Our campsite at Morrell Creek parking lot; turns out it's a day
use area, sans signage

Riding on virgin groomed trails; the first two days we saw only
seven other sleds, but it got a bit busier Saturday

These are the Swan Mountains, up to 9,000 feet, east of the

Ditto; no, I did not take these pix in black and was
really cloudy

Panning a bit south

Crossing the ridge and looking west; beneath the cloud bank is
Seeley Lake, both lake and town, and beyond, totally hidden
in the clouds, are the Mission Mountains; the Missions, which
we could see from the porch of our home west of Missoula,
are the more impressive range, up to 11,000 feet, lots of
exposed rock, very alpine; access to them is pretty much
barred by the Salish-Kootenai tribes; they have their reasons...

Now on the west side of the valley, looking east, a pano of the
Swan range


And thus

Trail #10 was indicated as groomed on the map; but it wasn't;
we'd hoped to follow it to the highway and cross over to the
east-side trails; but even when we got there, the east-side trail
was completely ungroomed and inaccessible, thanks to a
mountain of snow deposited presumably by the MDOT plows

One of three trees downed across the trail

Not a happy trail-rider...but eventually we got back to the main
west-side trails and across the highway, south of town, and to
our little encampment; snow fell lightly all the rest of  the
afternoon and evening; we had business to attend to in Kalispell
on Monday, so headed north up the Swan valley and crossed over
to the Flathead Valley; the clouds continued, so there will be
no pix of Glacier NP (where snowmobiling is wisely verboten)

PS...the Missions from our house on Horseback Ridge, west of
Missoula, c. 2007; Llazy Ll Lland and Llama Company, LLC

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snowmobiling Yellowstone, 2003

So we're parked, alone, in the Morrell Creek parking lot, near Seeley Lake, MT, waiting for it to warm up a bit. Having gotten everything affixed and adjusted Wednesday, we drove up here Thursday morning, parked, and went for a 20-25 mile shake-down snowmobile cruise. Alles in ordnung. The weather is relatively balmy for here, in the high 30s Thursday, and similar forecasted for today. Unlike our last visit to Seeley-Swan, in 2015, there's plenty of snow, and last night the groomer passed us on the way to doing the east side trails. Often this parking lot is loaded with mushers, but there are neither dogs nor sleds in sight. Which is a good thing.

Anyhow, in the interim last weekend, I was digitizing some new-found prints, and came across a set from 2003, when we'd first bought the Blue Wanderer (our snowmobile), and were riding in Yellowstone. In those days, you could just drive your machine into the park, pay the admission, stay on the roads, abide by the 35 mph limit, and enjoy one of the world's ultimate winter-lands. Oh yes, you could also poison the atmosphere and terrify the residents with your 120 decibel smoke- and fuel-spewing two-stroke. Ours was, and is, a four-stroke, 72 dB. But I digress. We visited Yellowstone a few more times in the early 00s, but, since the Park now requires "current technology," it's unlikely we'll be going back on our own any time soon. It was fun to look at these pix again, a decade or more later, and I thought I'd share them as a prelude to this season's snow-trekking campaign.
Bison, thermal basins, and geysers

Cow elk, pretty much oblivious to human presence after 140
years of protected status

Old Faithful

Also relatively oblivious, but don't push your luck

Me, before Old Faithful Inn (is that trade-marked?!); it was on
this trip, incidentally, that we learned (and later witnessed) that
Yellowstone ravens can open zippers and untie simple knots
("Spies of Saruman!"); historical note: I wore that same hat
yesterday and am wearing it now; is this a sign of aging?

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,
Yellowstone Falls

Vicki in geyser-land; still have that red
parka, too...

Moi, ditto

Yellowstone in the winter is compelling for a variety of reasons,
but nothing tops having a herd of bison saunter past you

The bison use the roads to move from site to site (hey, they're
groomed); the protocol, if you encounter such a thing, is to stop,
turn off your motor, stay on your snowmobile, and keep calm;
apparently (the rangers say), if you stay on your machine, the
bison think you're just part of the machine, and they do not feel


They do tend to herd their young away from the machines

On several occasions they'd pass so close as to actually brush up
against you

Frozen lake and distant mountains

Winter wonderland; a special place among all the most special

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dear Missoula, 2016

We spent a couple days with the Rotts, got the propane bottles unstuck, and then headed on to unloading the camper, sorting and loading the snowmobiling goods and equipment, starting up the snowmobile (yes! first crank, never sputtered nor stalled!), picking up the trailer from storage, affixing it to the truck, loading the snowmobile onto the trailer, continuing the sorting, loading, affixing, installing, etc., until we are now, January 20th, ready to head on out and up into the Swan Valley for our initial snowmobiling adventures of the season. Amidst all this, we were able to enjoy our last best home, dear Missoula.
At Bretz RV, me rehearsing for bit part auditions
for Revenant II

Fighting back; Michael Punke was a member of
my board at Humanities Montana, very briefly;
nice guy, but way over my head

"Ummm...the pepper spray's great, but would you
happen to have any Sriracha?"

Special (beer-drinking) friends, the Rotts pour their bottles
of Westvleteren, direct from St. Sixtus Abbey in Belgium; we
probably owe them a case of Veuve Clicquot for all the hospitality
they've shown us

Local fare

Finally, over-nighting in our favorite East Missoula truck stop,
we are ready to head out and up into the mountain snow

Saturday, January 16, 2016

On The Road Again To Montana

So after just one more tea party, and a whole lot more sorting and packing, we headed north, mostly via I-5, then the Columbia Gorge, and then I-90, to Missoula, to do more sorting and packing, in preparation for this season's (final, last, ultimate) snowmobile adventure.
Grandma's new scones recipe is so good even I
like it

In my princely regalia

Sometimes the sorting and packing requires difficult choices;
I wore this self-designed T-shirt more than 100 times between
2011 and 2016; alas, only two people ever even smiled at the
humor, much less commented (I was ready with, "Oh yes, it's
the former Castle San Angelo, at the corner of Conciliation
Avenue and the Tiber"); maybe there are more Catholics out
there than I thought; anyway, Vicki despises it, and, I admit, I
have out-grown it, so to speak; so it is now gone...

Our drive north included two extended visits at RV shows and
dealerships; here, our dream vehicle; but we are coming to the
realization that, with our travel plans in the next 3 years, we
probably don't really need an American RV after this coming
spring...of course, as I have often said, we make plans only
so we can change them...

Camping somewhere in deepest Oregon

Mt Hood, in Portlandia, majestic as always; alas, although we
got to Missoula just fine, our propane system stopped working...
no furnace, no hot water, no cooking, etc.; for the moment we
are OK, parked and plugged-in in the Rotts' driveway, everything
freezable drained or brought indoors; but we've got to get this
fixed before heading out and up into the mountains...PS, turned
out to be just a propane bottle lock-out...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Camping Again In Middle California

In a few days, Aunt Rachel and Uncle Will had returned to DC, and Mama had embarked on her 10-day trip to India (a school field-trip), so, to give Daddy a respite, we took P on a short camping trip, first to Casa de Fruta, near Hollister, and then on to Pinnacles National Park, which we are getting to know quite well.
Riding the narrow gauge train at Casa de Fruta (a very large
old orchard/vineyard/ranch/amusement park/RV resort) 

Casa de Fruta's impressive double-decker carousel

Riding with Grandma

On the big slide

Coloring in the camper; she's getting really
good at Go Fish!

On the Cave Trail hike at Pinnacles NP

Largest Buckeye yet found, two inches in diameter; I am still
grieving for my Buckeyes...

The camping trip did not end well; our truck suffered a total
electrical failure; Daddy had to come rescue P and me, her for
school and me for a doctor's appointment; above, the camper
is being towed to the Dodge Ram dealership in Gilroy, where
defective parts were replaced, and we were back on the road
in a couple days; thanks to the warranty and Chrysler road
emergency service, there was no cost, except for time,
aggravation, and J's mileage to and from Pinnacles; the service
advisor at the Dodge dealership in Gilroy, Emily, was the best
ever; memo to self: next time the vehicle's electrical system 
shows signs of being possessed, head immediately to the 
nearest dealership

Fun Old-Fashioned Family Christmas, 2015

It was another very special Christmas for us, with both daughters and sons-in-law, and, of course, the grand-child. Nothing beats a Christmas with a four-year-old in full. Also, the sweetest child ever.
Going over her Christmas list with Santa at Stanford Mall;
Santa was impressed that I knew the name of the Other Reindeer

Baking with Grandma

Decorating the ginger-bread house with Aunt Rachel; Mama
and Daddy in the background

Drum-roll, please!

Selfie with Uncle Will and Aunt Rachel

As with last year, we spread the Christmas
Fondue Extravaganza over two days; here a bit
of the meat and seafood course; not pictured,
the cheese course (my favorite)

A bit of the dessert chocolate/fruit course, next

'Twas the night before Christmas...cookies and
milk left for Santa, together with another sweet
hand-written note

Christmas morning helping with Mama

And Daddy

Opening presents

Still firmly in the Princess Phase, here she is in
her new Merida costume; one of several...

Grandma's traditional Christmas morning
cinnamon bun ring

Christmas brunch

Family portrait (following performance of favorite episodes
from the Nutcracker)