Saturday, February 24, 2018

Can it be real?

Pinch.  28 days to delivery of household goods from storage.  Pinch.  50 days to final move-in.  Pinch harder!

Balcony railing overlooks the
kitchen, complete with over-
and under-cabinet lighting,
island pendants and
refrigerator (stove on right
is out of position awaiting installation)

It's been 306 days since excavation began, our lodge cabin shed log home is almost finished, and I can't quite grasp that the end is in sight.  Just the thought makes me tear up - this keyboard is suddenly blurry.

I haven't counted the names (yet) but at least 40 talents have contributed to our dream - each time we visit the house, we meet new people and I am overwhelmed at the activity that is for us, our house, our dream.  Of course, we are paying for every minute, but how do you REALLY thank them for creating beauty from trees, metal, concrete, drywall, paint, tile?

Some members of the team have been with us throughout, and finding them at the house is like running into an old friend at the bar - hugs are exchanged, and we talk about our families (and, if it's in season, hunting.)
View from screening room toward basement family room and into
the guest bedroom beyond.  Carpet installed. 
I am in love with the deep wood trim around walls.

I can't wait for our first open house, when we can welcome them back, and honor them for the treasure they have built, bit by bit.  In the meantime, let me showcase the latest on our palace home.

In my last post about the house, I wrote about railings.  Well, I am tickled to tell you that we are as happy with them inside as outside.  Check it out.
Looking from loft toward great room windows; cables in railings
ensure a clear view
Looking from great room toward
loft and front door

So, what do you think about light fixtures?  Should be simple, right?  Well, it turns out that the word 'center' is all a matter of perspective - center from what?  Thank God our lighting guy is patient and WANTS us to be involved!  Spousal Unit and I chose all of the lighting fixtures in May 2017; how thrilling to finally see the porch and dining room chandeliers in place!

Left - before installation
Right - installed; note stove is out of
position awaiting installation
Stairs to basement; note trim
along entry tile on left, as well
as trim along the steps

I have bragged before about our general contractor and his prowess with woodworking.  As we go on, we have a growing appreciation for his approach to trim.  If you've never built a house, you probably take it for granted.  But when you've seen a project from the ground up, those finishing touches are the proverbial icing on the cake.

OK, time to talk about water closets (loos, bathrooms, restrooms).  For 306 days, it's been the gray porta-potty near the driveway.  Always stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  And the lid and seat are always down (thanks, guys!)  But, you know, it can be cold here in Montana (as my sister in San Antonio likes to point out, it was 68 degrees there on February 19 and minus 1 in Whitefish!)  So, I am hyper-pleased to tell you that the toilets have been installed and they FLUSH!  Of course, on our most recent visit to the house, I still had to go out to the porta-potty to nick some toilet paper! 

If you're going to put on a hat, ski coat, gaiters (for deep snow), and two layers of gloves in Montana, you make sure it's worthwhile.  So, as long as I was making a dash for TP from the porta-potty, I checked the trail camera as well.  And soon wished I had my snow shoes; in places, the snow rose halfway between my knees and hips!  But I knew my blogging buddies were relying on the latest camera captures, so I trudged on.  Here are the best shots from the last six weeks.

I think the folks staffing the registers at Lowe's and Home Depot recognize us by now; my sense is we are gracing their check-out lines at least once a week!  Or stopping in to pick up items ordered on line.  Here is a selection:

So, the last time we built a house (in Texas), the carpet was the last material to be installed.  You can imagine our joy when we arrived on moving-in day (the United Van Lines truck due to arrive in less than an hour) to find that our general contractor had not met his commitment from the day before to ensure that the carpet would be installed overnight.  Needless to say, we have had a special relationship with carpet ever since.
Character log chosen for its
resemblance to a climbing
frame; carpet will cushion
any falls!

Stairs to basement; bar and
bar fridge in view behind
extra rolls of carpet

Well, as I said, the clock is ticking down.  Hallelujah!  Especially when you consider that the clock really started 8 years ago, when we bought the property.  To dear Spousal Unit (a.k.a. Man with Hat; a.k.a. Head Chef): thank you for finding the parcel, and for shepherding this process from start to finish.  You are the architect of our dream, and I can't wait to join you in walking over the threshold to our castle home on April 14, with numerous new adventures ahead!

Why is this keyboard blurry again?

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Patience and Hope: Our Journey to Easter

After over five decades on God's Earth, contemplating Lent can be an exercise in creativity.  What to give up this year?  Coffee, tortilla chips, wine, cheese .. done them all.  Or in reverse, what can I do more of this year?  Volunteer at the food bank, sing in the church choir, start resistance training at the gym ... check those off (with varying degrees of success!)

So, recently, I was pleasantly surprised to discover another perspective - a list of behavioral habits that could be subject to fasting.  But best of all, the list presented the opposite behavior as something to FEAST ON.    For those of us who prefer positive action rather than avoiding a negative, this idea struck me like a lightning bolt, and I feel compelled to share it, together with various photos from the last 12 months.  I hope you find something in it that can inspire you through the 40 days of our journey toward a blessed Easter!

Imagine ... Peace and Unity
By William Arthur Ward (American author, teacher and pastor, 1921 - 1994)

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Big Mountain Jesus
In 1949, the Big Mountain resort hosted the U.S. Ski Championships
and many of the competitors were WWII veterans from the Army's
10th Mountain Division.  They teamed up with the local Knights
of Columbus to commission the statue in memory of their
fallen comrades.

Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

Mid-term care packages for #1 Son and his girlfriend

Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.

Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Grand Cayman Sunset, March 2017

With my Mom at the 
Huckleberry Festival
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
                                              (Columbian ground squirrel at Logan Pass
                                                in Glacier National Park; you'll hear my
                                                voice and that of my Mom)

Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Scott Kelly spent a year aboard the International Space
Station: "There is a lesson here ... about risk and
resilience, about endurance and trying again."

Streep and Hanks do it again in this
poignant story about women in
leadership roles and the importance
of the free press in our society
Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Snow shoeing Montana style - with temps ranging from -3F to 8F - 
'cause that's just what Montanans do on Sunday afternoons!

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
View of Glacier National Park from summit of Big Mountain

(During Lent, I am working on patience and hope, while embracing meals free of meat and fish.)

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Coming Full Circle - the Final Day of our Canada Road Trip

Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus
Dreams fulfilled.  Bighorn sheep and a bear.  Free entry into Parks Canada.   Staggering vistas.  Time with my Mom and my eldest sister.  In so many ways, our Canada road trip in August 2017 had already delivered (Day 1 post, Day 2 post, Day 3 post).  What could the final day bring?

As mentioned in the Day 2 post, our final day included deliberately re-tracing part of our outbound route - the Icefields Parkway.  We held back a few stopping points for the return journey, starting with Mt. Edith Cavell.  The Cavell area offers fragrant sub-alpine forest, new growth where a glacier recently retreated from the valley, flowery alpine meadows and spectacular views of Mt. Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier.

Edith Louise Cavell (1865-1915) was a British nurse during World War I.  In 1907, she went to Brussels as a nurse, but by 1914 was put in charge of a unit whose main purpose was to help soldiers trapped behind enemy lines rejoin their units.  To the German army, this was treason, and she was executed by firing squad.  Today she is remembered as a heroine, and to some a martyr.  In 1916, the snow-capped face of this peak was renamed in her honor.

In 2017, access to the Cavell area was by permit only due to construction at the parking area; only 180 vehicle permits were issued each day at staggered times between 8.30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The "Path of the Glacier" Trail takes you toward the great north face of Mt. Edith Cavell, across a rocky landscape recently covered with glacial ice. 
Cavell Glacier with Cavell Pond below

At the end of the trail, you get the best look at Angel Glacier, which forms in a large cirque, or bowl, largely hidden from view.  Very slowly, it flows out of the cirque toward you.  Some ice breaks over the vertical cliffs, forming the angel's 130-foot thick wings; the remainder plunges down a steep gully, forming the body.  This constant movement sometimes causes an ice avalanche, which makes it dangerous to climb beneath this hanging glacier.
Angel Glacier

In 2012 an ice avalanche fell into Cavell Pond, upstream from the end of the trail, displacing huge volumes of water.  The resulting 'flash' flood carried ice, rock and debris downstream, washing out the trail, deeply eroding the stream bed and littering the area with rocks.
Fireweed by the stream

Nevertheless, nature has a way of making a come-back; new growth of trees and flowers are reclaiming the landscape that was washed clean just five years ago.  We were so grateful that we were able to secure one of the daily permits to visit this unique mountain.

Our next stop was a layby offering an inspiring outlook on Stutfield Glacier (you see, the problem is not finding a glacier, it is trying to decide which ones are worthy of a stop for a photograph).  The smoke from forest fires still hung in the air, especially as we drove south.  So, this picture is not as crisp as I would like ... but it is a reminder of the true conditions during our visit.
Stutfield Glacier on top of the mountains in the distance
Glaciers form where more snow falls in winter than melts each summer.  As the snow gets thicker and heavier,
it compacts into dense glacial ice that slowly flows downhill, like a river of taffy.

On the road again, the Parkway soon whisked us to the Athabasca Glacier, one of the six principal 'toes' of the Columbia Icefield.  Easily accessible, it is the most visited glacier in North America.  
(Internet - my photos of the area are dim due to smoke from fires)

The glacier currently recedes at a rate of almost 16 feet per year and has receded about 1 mile and lost over half of its volume in the last 125 years.

Glacial scratch marks in the limestone

At times, you are walking on glacially smoothed limestone surfaces that were under the ice in the 1950s.

The leading edge of the glacier is within easy walking distance from the parking lot; however, travel onto the glacier is not recommended unless properly equipped.  Hidden crevasses have led to the deaths of unprepared tourists.
Leading edge of the glacier is just across the stream

The glacier is approximately 3.7 miles long, covers an area of 2.3 square miles, and is measured between 300 - 980 feet thick.  In the area abandoned by the glacier, many people have built rock cairns.  All in all, it was a stark, barren landscape that I found a bit depressing.

So, time to move on.  Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake just west of the Parkway.  It was named for Bill Peyto, an early trail guide and trapper in the Banff area.

During the summer, significant amounts of glacial rock flour flow into the lake, and these suspended rock particles give the lake a bright, turquoise color.

Shortly after Peyto Lake, we passed the location on the Parkway where we had spotted the black bear on Day 2.  Since I have now learned the technique for loading videos, here is footage of the bear from that day.  It represents coming full circle, returning home ... with a carload of new memories that will last a lifetime.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

My Hiking Journal - Entry 8

Monday, May 29, 2017 - Echo Broken Leg Trail - 9 miles out and back

Yesterday morning, I was sipping my coffee and working up the motivation to get out of bed.  (Nothing bad - just nowhere particular to be, and my window offered a view onto the snow falling heavily outside.  So, why get up?)  My mind turned to my next blog post, and with amazement I considered that in 16 weeks, it will have been a year since we roamed this trail.

Wow.  That means Montana has been home for almost 8 months.

Starry False Solomon's Seal
That means we will soon be hiking again (without Traxx or snow shoes)!

That means spring flowers ARE under yesterday's snow, slumbering peacefully.

While we are waiting, let's pretend it's May, and go for a stroll.

In my hiking journal, this trail earned a couple of exclamation points. 

For the first time in the 2017 season, we saw bear grass in bloom!

Bear grass is an iconic symbol of Glacier National Park - you will find it on postcards, t-shirts and mugs everywhere.  A unique aspect of this plant is that its colonies typically only bloom every five to seven years.

Since you see bear grass every summer, it means that there are always colonies in bloom while others are 'resting.'  The plant is found mostly in western North America, from British Columbia south to California and east to Wyoming, in subalpine meadows and coastal mountains.  My heart exploded with joy when I saw the ethereal blooms along the path!

Payette Beardtongue - only found in Idaho, Montana
and Oregon
This trail was an easy trek, as it roughly winds along a hillside without gaining much elevation.  And the south-facing aspect delivered a proliferation of wildflowers relatively early for the time of year, hence another exclamation point!

Upper left - Western Meadow Rue (male); Upper right - Heartleaf Arnica and Oregon Grape
Lower left - Coreopsis; Lower right - Fernleaf Biscuitroot

We crossed three major streams along the way.  Given the spring run-off, we were grateful for bridges over each of them.  Here's a video near one of the crossings.  Don't you just love the sight and sound of running water?

The last half-mile of the trail, trees became sparser, opening vistas to the valley and even more wildflowers on the rock screes above and below the path.  I was beside myself with the variety and quantity of the flowers - I couldn't wait to get home and identify all of them. Man with Hat was very patient as I snapped away with my phone camera.  Can you see him waiting for me, ahead at the turn of the trail?

Middle - Yellow Violets; Lower left - Fernleaf Biscuitroot and Chokecherry
Lower right - Thimbleberry
The track continues over Wolf Creek; without a bridge, your choices are to
1) get your boots (and more) wet, 2) take off your boots and slip your way across mossy rocks while withstanding the bone-chilling water, or 3) attempt to use a fallen log for the crossing (only recommended if your last name is Wallenda).  Look how fast the water was running here ...

Left -  Biscuitroot and Larkspur; Upper right - Wood's Rose
Lower right - Foothill Death Camas
So we followed the spur above Wolf Creek, which led to a rocky outcropping, an ideal location for our picnic lunch.  Flattened plants and signs of a recent campfire let us know that someone had taken advantage of the spot for camping.  Come May 2018, that might be us!
Left - Arrowleaf Balsamroot; Right - False Solomon's Seal

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