Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lone Mountain Ranch

I'm here!

I rolled into Lone Mountain on Wednesday, worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and finally got a break today to get myself together, explore the place, and brew some beer (a chocolate/cinnamon porter).  So far, it has snowed at least a little bit every day.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of the beauty I am surrounded by, starting with where I live, in the upstairs right-hand apartment with the two other dining room managers.

Basically, I live in a winter wonderland.

Above is the lodge, and below is the pro shop with employee housing on the upper level.

And some more pictures of the cabins and the ranch in general.

Oh, and we have a couple of yurts on the property.  Crew live in them in the summer, but I am not sure about the winter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Update

I am "home."

It is strange to be in a place where you can have pizza delivered to your doorstep, there is cell reception, and going somewhere-anywhere- does not involve half an hour in the car.  Oh, and there is television, too. No more driving to the Old Saloon just to watch a football game.

Overall, it is good and bad.  I do not watch television except for the Colbert Report on occasion and football on the weekends.  One person has called me on my cell phone in the six days I have been home, and there have been no pizza deliveries.  Montana wilderness is just as comfortable, and potentially prettier (Lake Michigan gives the mountains a run for their money).  It is my second home,

For the winter, I will be working at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.  It is 20 miles west of my summer job at Mountain Sky, as the crow flies, but is two hours drive by car because there is no path over the mountains.

I will be one of three dining room managers, and will work as a lead server when on duty.  Check out the website for some pics and to see what it is all about.  Due to the two hour drive from Mountain Sky, I have not even been there yet, since an in-person interview would mean four hours of driving, but I am confident it will be an excellent place to work and play.  There are 85 km of xc ski trails to explore, and the resort was named the #1 xc resort in North America a couple of years ago.  Sweet.

Oh, and fall in Montana was gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An update: nothing to update on

Alright, so my plans for this winter are still up in the air, although I am leaning toward working at a ski resort.  It just would not be a regular year without all four seasons, so instead of heading south I am going to stay north, and preferably in Montana.  This sparsely populated state, where cattle outnumber people, never ceases to amaze me with its amazing scenery and wilderness.

As long as my ceiling looks more like this...

...and less like this.

Oh, and a little something for your enjoyment.  Click here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Livingston Peak

Here are some photos from my latest peak, located of course right above Livingston.  This gives you a view of Paradise Valley and a bunch of mountain ranges: Abasarokas, Crazies, Bridgers, and Gallatins.  Pretty cool.

Check out the rock bands on these hills.
Here is the view of Livingston.
And the entire view.  Starting from the left are the Absarokas, followed by the Gallatins, Bridgers, and Crazies, and finishing again the the Absarokas.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tetons

I get two days off every week, Thursday and Friday, and am done by 3pm on Wednesday-enough time to get away for a couple of days.  This weekend that meant a dash south to the Tetons.  Although they are only 160 some miles from me, it is quite the trek.  Yellowstone itself takes about three hours to get through thanks to buffalo jams, tourist jams, and the 45mph speed limit on the winding roads.  Oh Yellowstone.  At least it you are surrounded by beautiful scenery as you creep along behind motorhomes and gawking tourists.

The Tetons are nuts.  There are no foothills leading up to them-there is a perfectly flat valley, some lakes, and then mountains rising up out of nowhere.  Bam.

I arrived after dark, catching only the silhouettes of the Tetons as I snaked along the shore of Jackson Lake.  The next morning I awoke to the beautiful sight of the first picture.  Awesome.

Day 1 I climbed to Amphitheater Lake, nestled at 9 thousand-some feet right below the highest peaks in the range, the Tetons themselves.  Gorgeous.  I met a some nice people, and one of my conversations even went like this:
-Hope College-are you from Holland? (I was wearing some Hope gear)
-Well St. Joseph, but yeah, I went to school there.
-We're from Holland and I've done some work in St. Joseph at Brown Elementary and now the high school.

These people even knew one of my professors from Hope.  Small world.  Anyway, here is the view of Amphitheater Lake.

If the view was not enough, I ate huckleberries all the way up, and got to see a yellow bellied marmot.  The berries look pretty much like blueberries, eh?  Tasty.
Oh, and here is the view of the valley.  I figured I might as well add this in.

Day 2

My second day I opted for a bit of a longer hike-just under 20 miles as opposed to the 10 of the first day. Paintbrush Canyon over the continental divide to Cascade Canyon (which is L-shaped and curves around the back of Paintbrush) and back down to where I started, at Leigh Lake.
I even got the chance to see a pika-a mouse-like creature that is actually in the rabbit/hare family and only lives at high altitudes.
Here is a view looking down the Paintbrush Valley.
And another from farther up, on the continental divide.

There is something about mountains that captivates me.  There is nothing else so awe-inspiring that I have yet encountered.  Here is a view of Cascade Valley, the one I hiked out of.  I will leave you with that, as the pictures say more than any words could.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pine Creek, Huckleberries, and such

Another week, another hike.
This week took me to Pine Creek, one of the most popular hikes in the Paradise Valley area.  Everyone has been raving about it, so I figured it was a must.

It did not disappoint.

The hike begins at a campground of the same name, and zig-zags across Pine Creek, following it up into the mountains.  At a couple of points there are falls you cross, and the path is full of switch backs, making what would be a pretty steep climb much easier.  Here are the first set of falls and second sets of falls, respectively, which I actually visited with my parents.

From the second photo you can see the bare rocks at the top of the canyon-the endpoint of the climb.  It is only a total of 5 miles, but it took quite a while.  Along the way there were ripe berries everywhere, which was nice since I did not pack any food besides some peanuts.  Thimble berries, raspberries, and the elusive wild huckleberry gave me a nice energy boost and also made me nervous since Mr. Bear absolutely loves berries.  Luckily he was absent, or maybe talking to myself and whistling scared him off before I could even see him.

Along the way I disturbed a family of grouse.  The babies were distressed since they could not really fly yet, so they just ran around and cooed.
And finally, I neared the top.  It is kind of hard to see, but that is a waterfall on the left side of the picture.  It empties into the first of three lakes at the top, this being the lowest one.
Here's the second lake.
The third and highest.  At some point I need to come up here to camp for a night and catch some fish.  How cool would that be?
On the way out I stopped for a while just to check out the valley.  This is why it is called Paradise Valley.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


The biggest news of late: family season is over.  All the kids, adorable as they are, have left, and thank goodness.  Our numbers have gone from over 80 to 25-35.  For those of you who are teachers out there, think of it as taking two-thirds of the children out of your classrooms.

To celebrate, all of the employees had a bonfire and cooked ribs and pizza on the rocks around it, along with peanut butter s'mores, under a blanket of Montana stars.  Life does not get better than that.

Now I am looking to the fall and winter-my contract here us up the 31st of October, so I am on the job hunt again.  Right now there are two general areas on my radar: ski resorts in the West, and Costa Rica.

I could work at Big Sky, a ski area about 20 miles from my current location in Montana.  People here are bound to have connections, and there are a number of resorts.  Flying through cold smoke (what they call dry powder out here) and blazing x-country ski trails would certainly be sweet.  If I felt adventurous and a little crazy it is also possible to fly fish year-round out here, too.

Costa Rica is a dream of mine-to experience the laid back life, explore tropical forests, and learn to surf.  It is definitely possible, as people who speak English are valued down there, and it is a relatively rich, developed, and safe nation for Central America.  Looking online, there are numerous opportunities, ranging from work/trade arrangements to selling Segways and working at yoga retreats-all of which could be fun.  Compared to working in the US, it would be a little more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, but I suppose having something a little more unstructured could be good, and would challenge me.

As of now I am going to apply to jobs all over the place and see what happens.  Something will come up-that I am sure of, just as a trout will eventually rise to a fly after enough casts and the right one is presented.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ramshorn & the Beartooth Highway

Montana is full of places to explore, and this week I was lucky enough to see two amazing places in the same day-Ramshorn Peak and the Beartooth Highway.  In the morning I climbed Ramshorn peak (10,289 feet) with a friend.  The climb was relatively easy, and beautiful as usual.  The Indian paintbrushes along the path were a great bonus, along with the meadows of sunflowers.
We even saw some mountain goats at the top-about 20 yards away.  As soon as they saw us they scattered and absolutely tore down the mountain.
The view from the top was pretty excellent, as always.  How could you ever get tired of this?
We ran part of the way down, flying past meadows of sunflowers and zig-zaggin through winding forest paths, running as fast as our legs could go.  Step.  Step.  Leap over a rock.  Step.  Bounce off the side of the trail in order to take a turn at an angle.  Brake down a steep part.  Accelerate at the bottom.  Whoosh!

We call it technical trail running-if you have to be surefooted or else you will not make it.  One wrong foot placement in a rocky section can land you a twisted or broken ankle.  A slip on the mud can mean biting it hard.  Putting your weight on a loose rock could mean both.

I never want to run on flat sidewalks again.

The Beartooth Highway

In the 1930s someone decided it would be a good idea to build a highway through Beartooth pass in the middle of the Beartooth Mountains.  Then they said "wait, that's not challenging enough, let's build it over the mountains."  Well at least that is how I imagine it must have gone.  Perhaps they had leftover stimulus money they just needed to spend since it was built in the Great Depression.

Anyway, the highway goes over the mountains, zig-zagging up the side with countless switchbacks, and eventually reaches a top height of 10,947 feet.  At the top, the mountains actually turn into a grassy plateau of sorts.  I imagine it is the plane on which the Greek gods battle, seeing as it is the top of the world.
Just look at it.
If there is one thing I learned from our 322 mile road trip to the Beartooths, it is that I need to go back and do some hiking and exploring.

We ended our day by driving back through Yellowstone, encountering the classic buffalo jam, as an entire herd decided to cross a bridge in front of us.  Gotta love'em.