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!
|Captain Doug's boat moored at the beach
|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!