Saturday, September 15, 2018

Horses, Homes and Huckleberries

Yesterday morning, frost coated every outdoor surface like a fine layer of diamond dust.  It glinted in the sun, and then slowly melted into wispy mist that floated eerily through the trees.  I could imagine Summer in the vapor, inexorably disappearing as Fall gains the upper hand.  It was a fitting metaphor, as yesterday we said farewell to the last of our latest round of summer visitors.

Hence, I offer you Chapter Two of the "summer visitor series" (link to Chapter One).

On September 7, just as the dinner bell rang, six of my family arrived on our doorstep - my mother, my oldest sister, my oldest brother and his wife, and my youngest brother and his wife.  For all but the latter, this would be the first time they would step foot into our completed dream home.  Talk about excitement and anticipation!
Left: Book about successful baking at high altitude - for Spousal Unit!
Middle: Cross-stitch for my gallery wall
Right: Utah wines - yum!
Note that the Boddington's beer and Kendall Jackson wine are MIA
because they were already imbibed!
Our guests honored us with thoughtful housewarming and 'hostess' gifts.  Thanks, guys!

Captain Doug's boat moored at the beach
The next day, we wasted no time and jumped directly into tour guide mode, with a boat trip on Flathead Lake, destination Wild Horse Island.  At 2,160 acres, Wild Horse Island is the largest island in a freshwater lake west of Minnesota.  The island has been a landmark since the Salish-Kootenai Indians were reported to have used it to pasture horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes.  The park is noted for its wildlife including bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, and falcons, as well as five wild horses.  Rare and endangered species have also been found on its Palouse Prairie grasslands.  The island's scenic shoreline is a favorite of hikers, boaters, swimmers and sailboat enthusiasts.
Pictographs documenting bison kills by the Salish-Kootenai Indians
You could have this house and its island for $15 million … it's for sale!
(and this is a steal - it was built for $98 million)

Captain Doug motored his boat (a perfect fit for the 8 of us) while sharing interesting history (and probably a few tall tales).  There is no dock on the island, but Captain Doug had perfected off-loading passengers with a portable ladder.  After a brief orientation to the layout of the island, we headed out on the trail while Captain Doug went off on his own.  We had seen very limited wildlife (squirrels don't count) when we encountered Captain Doug.  Part of our group decided to work their way back to the beach, while my oldest brother and I went with Doug in search of the horses.  I am pleased to report that we found the band of 5 mares, and the other group came across the bighorn sheep and some turkeys.  A win-win for all!
Upper right: horses are hidden in this grove of trees …

Sunday brought Mass at our local church followed by breakfast/lunch at Sykes Diner.  Fortunately, our next stop - Conrad Mansion - provided an opportunity to stroll the grounds and stave off food-induced napping!  The Mansion, sited in Kalispell, is a beautifully preserved  example of luxurious living and period architecture in the Northwest.

In 1868, at the age of 18, Charles E. Conrad left his boyhood home in Virginia and traveled to Fort Benton, Montana Territory.  There he built a trading and freighting empire on the Missouri River that lasted more than 20 years.  In his lifetime, Mr. Conrad lived through the Civil War and the settling of the West, and he left an indelible mark on the history of Montana.

The building itself remains unchanged since Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter designed and built the 23-room-home in 1895 for Mr. Conrad, founder of Kalispell.  Ahead of their time, the owner and architect built in electricity, steam heat, running water and a hand-driven elevator.  Although you can't take interior pictures, the 90-minute tour of the house gives you a thorough look at the furnishings, most of which are original to the home.  Ownership and occupation of this stunning Norman style mansion remained in the Conrad family until 1975, when it was given to the City of Kalispell, which ultimately turned over the active management of the site to the non-profit Conrad Mansion Museum organization.

And what could be a better way to wrap the weekend but an inaugural fire in the fire pit, accompanied by s'mores?  (The night sky was pitch black, and my brothers helped us spot satellites tracking across the heavens, low enough to reflect the last of the sun's rays.)

The little village of Bigfork, nestled in an elbow of the Swan River, is a perfect spot for a walk along the Wild Mile.  A picturesque section of the river with rapid upon rapid, it is host to the Bigfork Whitewater Festival each spring.  Monday meant few people on the trail, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch before exploring the quaint shops.  The best part was the huckleberry ice cream, with whole berries exploding in my mouth.  When we arrived home, my Mom harvested the first of our Goodland apples; this tree was planted in her honor earlier this year (see post).  We all tried a piece or two, and the consensus on the flavor is the tartness of a Granny Smith, softened by tones of Golden Delicious.  Fleshy without being mushy.  We also agreed that the rest of the apples would benefit from a little more time on the tree, and a hard frost.  So watch this space for more apples!

And all too soon, departure day arrived for everyone except my oldest brother and his wife.  We shared the breakfast table and then it was hugs all 'round before we headed to the day's hike while the others went on their way.  Glacier Lake had been recommended by a friend, and she was on the money!  Radiant fall colors.  Pools formed by Glacier Creek.  Only 1.6 miles to the lake, with minimal elevation gain.  A lake cradled by mountains, unique on the west side with massive rock slabs slanting down to the water's edge.  What more could you ask?

(And we had to stop at Moose's in Kalispell for pizza and beverages!)

My sister-in-law is a superb quilter, and so our trip to Whitefish the next day had to include a stop in Whitefish Quilts and Gifts.  She was delighted to find some fat quarters with a huckleberry motif.  And the huckleberry theme continued that evening as Spousal Unit and my SIL crafted a White Chocolate Huckleberry Cheesecake.  Supreme willpower was required to wait for a taste until the following morning, but boy, was it worth it and perfectly paired with coffee!!!  By far the best cheesecake ever -- smooth, out-of-this-world flavor!

On our final day together, we shared two of our favorites with our guests - Kootenai Falls/Swinging Bridge and Ross Creek Cedars (see previous post).  In between, searching for a quiet picnic spot, we stumbled across the Dorr Skeels Campground.  

Only a bald eagle, flying along the western shore before perching in a pine, disturbed the absolute peace of the beach we chose for lunch.

And now the house is quiet. The sunrise will be here tomorrow, and so will the aspens, quickly transforming with each day of frost.  But now we are the only witnesses - at least until our next guests arrive - in 12 days!

Linking to:

All Seasons

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Rosthwaite and Buttermere (Showing off a "Small Island" Part 10)

"It is a walk in heaven."

So says A. Wainwright, waxing lyrical about Rosthwaite.  Who's A. Wainwright, you ask?  Only the architect of the Coast to Coast Walk in the UK.  And Rosthwaite?  A village nestled in Borrowdale in the Lake District of the UK.  Thoroughly confused?  Then let me start at the beginning.

From Wikipedia: Alfred Wainwright MBE was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator.  His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his hand-written manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lake District.  Among his 40-odd other books is the first guide to the Coast to Coast Walk, a 192-mile long-distance footpath devised by Wainwright which remains popular today.  (From that guide, I drew the quote above.  Yes, we own a copy!)

In reviewing the guide for this post, I was amused to note his dedication: "Dedicated to the second person (unidentifiable as yet) to walk from St. Bees Head to Robin Hood's Bay".  I wonder if it would surprise Mr. Wainwright to know that these days, more than 5,000 people complete the walk every year?  Just imagine the footfalls since the guide was originally published in the Westmorland Gazette in 1973, and since first formally published as a book in 1992.  A whole industry is in place to support Coast to Coast (often abbreviated C2C) walkers - from outfitters that will transport spare clothing and other necessities for pick-up at key points, to farms that welcome campers, and every level of service in between.  Keep in mind that the walk absorbs 12 - 14 days ….

Spousal Unit and I number among the 5,000 that traipsed the C2C in the summer of 2004; we stayed in a different B&B every night, which I think is a rather civilized way to do it.  (It should be noted that my father-in-law has ambled the 192 miles at least twice, and my mother-in-law once.  We followed in fine footsteps!)  If you would like more information about the walk, you can start at this link - or simply go on the web!

And so it is that we often take visitors on short sections of the C2C, especially those that are picturesque and within reach of my-in-laws' house.  Or in this case, a short drive from our B&B in Keswick (see previous posts about this trip to the UK - last summer - with my sister and her husband - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9) .
Middle left: a swimming hole that has hosted our kids on more than one
occasion, as well as one of my nephews
Bottom: Spousal Unit communing with a dry stone wall

On the same day as our visit to Rosthwaite, we sauntered 4.5 miles along the fern-and-moss festooned shores of Buttermere, a scenic lake also found in the Lake District.  We have brought other family guests here, given that the route around the lake is fairly flat, and offers views of fells in every direction - notably the High Stile to the southwest, Robinson to the northeast, Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks to the southeast and Grassmoor to the northwest.

When we are hiking in Montana, Spousal Unit and I often quip "Where is the pub?  Where is the tea shop?" which springs from the quintessential English walk, which always has a tea shop or a pub (or both) at the midpoint of the hike, and certainly at the end.  This day, I was not disappointed when we encountered an ice cream truck halfway through our walk.  I just had to have a '99'.  

The origins of this name for a scoop of vanilla with an inserted flake of chocolate are uncertain.  According to Wikipedia,  one claim has it coined in Portobello, Scotland when Stephen Arcari, a shopkeeper at 99 Portobello High Street, would break a large "Flake" in half and stick it in an ice cream.  Hence the name originated with the address.

Another possibility - Italian ice cream sellers were honoring the final wave of conscripts from the First World War, born in 1899 and referred to as the Boys of '99.  The chocolate flake may have reminded them of the Alpine Regiment's hat, with a long dark feather cocked at an angle.

The Cadbury website says the reason behind the name has been 'lost in the mists of time,' although it also repeats an article from an old Cadbury works paper, which states the name came from the guard of an Italian king which consisted of 99 men, and subsequently "anything really special or first class was known as 
'99' ".  

Well, then - our outing in Rosthwaite and Buttermere was '99', don't you think?

Linking to:

All Seasons

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Wednesday Around the World

Friday, August 31, 2018

Adventurous August

Oslo Gardens
Three countries.  Five major cities and three towns.  Highs (mostly) and (one) low.  All in 31 days of August.  It seems impossible.  But as Winnie the Pooh says, "People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day."

ONE: Over the pond

We began August in Norway, covered extensively in a previous post.  I offer you a few 'leftover' pictures from that trip - I love leftovers, don't you?
Upper left: Lillehammer Commemorative Piggy Bank
Upper right: Horse and Cart at Folkemuseum
Lower left: Oslo bench
Lower right: Crochet projects at Folkemuseum

Oslo zinnia
Do you ever wonder how airlines price their tickets? We have traveled extensively, and yet we still had a bit of an education when planning our Montana/UK/Norway/Montana trip.  Booking on the web (as you do) was turning up truly exorbitant flight prices.  To cut to the chase, after spending several hours on the web, we made a phone call (imagine that!) and found out that the airlines were considering each leg of our trip as one-ways.  By adding a stop in Newcastle on the way back from Norway, it would qualify as a round-trip, much less than a one-night hotel stay near the Newcastle airport.  Done!  What does this mean for you?  Pictures of our 'last supper' in Newcastle before returning to the US.
Port and a cheese board - hard to resist

TWO: Back home again  

Red Columbine  in our garden
As much as we enjoyed our three weeks of vacation out of the country, it was sublime to return home.  Having left our new landscaping and our two cats in the care of our neighbors, I was anxious to return and relieve them of these tasks.  Maggie and Josie had adapted well to the female teenage caregiver, and the landscaping was thriving.  It was a pleasure to watch our friends open their gifts from our travels abroad.

During our vacation, I finished the last of my tea towels, and I was able to join "Sunday" with the others for a picture of the full set.

Summer isn't summer without a picnic; a neighborhood couple invited us to their ranch for supper and kayaking.  Although the picnic had to be moved indoors due to the vicious yellowjackets, the winged ones didn't keep us from paddling around Lone Lake.  Much to his delight, Spousal Unit hooked a large Northern Pike.

Smoke, not clouds!
Summer in the Northwest increasingly means forest fires, and this season has been no exception - hence the low point in this post.  We joined friends for a hike to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook (subject of a future post), and as we drove along the Going to the Sun Road at 7 am on August 12, we could see a small plume of smoke on a northern ridge above Lake McDonald.  A lightning strike the night before had ignited the forest.   Twelve hours later, as we re-traced our way west, the plume had expanded into a raging fire that scorched everything in its path, right down to the water's edge.  For us, it was almost inconceivable how rapidly the fire had grown in such a short period of time.  Standing on a south-side Lake McDonald beach, we watched tree after tree suddenly flare like bright torches.  We could hear the 'boom' of propane tanks exploding as seven private residences on the north side of the lake were destroyed (many were historic buildings more than 80 years old.  One of them had recently been renovated by our general contractor …)  We could feel the heat of the fire, from 600 yards away.  Below is a video of our view of the fire.

The small crowd gathered on the beach was mostly silent.  What could you say when your heart is breaking with grief over the destruction?  (As of last evening, the fire has consumed 12,432 acres and is 12% contained.  Cooler temperatures and some precipitation have considerably slowed its growth.)

THREE: Colorado
Evening sun dapples the hills of Glenwood Springs; view from the 
home of my brother and his wife
After 7 days at home, we jetted off to Aspen to visit #1 Daughter (see previous post).  My youngest brother and his wife live in Glenwood Springs, an hour from Aspen, and they generously opened their house to us during our stay.  After a day of rafting on the Colorado River, expertly guided by my brother, we soaked in the pools of Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

Later in the week, we savored the tasty offerings at the Riviera Supper Club in downtown Glenwood, and walked a bit of the town at night.

All of our wildlife sightings occurred on our last day in Aspen/on our way to Denver.  On our hike to Maroon Bells (see previous post), we saw a pika by the trail but I was not quick enough to get a picture.  I had more success with a video of a family of pine martens - check out this short clip.

View eastward from Independence Pass
And then, on the east side of Independence Pass, we came across a bull moose grazing less than 25 yards from the 2-lane highway.  Amazing!

FOUR: Back home again (reprise)

This time, I could put away the suitcases - our next trip in December is a long way off!  We caught our breath, and started planning for family who arrive on September 7.  Two big projects loomed:  the screening room and the outdoor fire circle.  Our new couches arrived on August 9, and in the last couple of weeks, Spousal Unit has installed the screen, projector and speakers.  For many of you, it won't be a surprise that a Bruce Springsteen concert will be the first show to be viewed on the 135" screen!

The fire circle is coming along well, especially now that Spousal Unit found a company willing to deliver 7 cubic yards of yellow gravel without charging us an arm and a leg!  And today, Stage 2 fire restrictions have been lifted - we won't have to use our imaginations while sitting around the fire pit, or make s'mores in the microwave and bring them outside!

FIVE: In the rhythm

Top: Josie and the box
Bottom: Maggie and the sun
Despite the projects, life has begun to fall back into its normal rhythms.  Morning coffee.  Lovin' on the cats. 

Running the back hills - fall is on its way.

Gardening.  Cleaning.  Checking the trail cam - the badger is STILL AROUND!

Volunteering.  Blogging.  Evening walks with Spousal Unit.

P.S.  If you haven't seen the Christopher Robin movie, I highly recommend it.  The bear with little brain has some remarkably profound things to say.

"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."  
August 27 - a stroll by our lake with Spousal Unit - priceless!

Linking to:

All Seasons

I Like Thursdays

Mosaic Monday

Nature Notes

Our World Tuesday
Our World Tuesday Graphic

Saturday's Critters

Sharon's Photo Souvenirs

Skywatch Friday

Wednesday Around the World

Willy Nilly Friday

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