There is a pleasant snow falling this morning in Missoula. Other than the salt truck doing its loops around Southridge Drive, the morning is ghostly calm, the visibility low. I for some reason still call the large orange plows salt trucks (the typical Eastern US method employed when I was a kid), though in Montana to protect the fisheries the standard spread is a blend of dust, sand and cinders. There are many rock chipped windshields out and about. The wind is evident as the flakes are fluttering down in a uniform slant. The weather has been a bit atypical of late with warmer temps over the last few weeks coupled with rain. The restoration of the standard February aspect this morning is quite welcome. Well, it being a long weekend and my having not written a post in quite a while, I thought I’d take part of the morning to update the ‘ol blog with a brief blurb.
As one might gather from the surrounding photographs, we’ve been up to some of our standard winter activities. This winter, however, we’ve had a welcome guest visiting with the Thayer household. Mariana, from San Fernando, Chile, has been with us since latter January attending classes at Sentinel High School with her ‘sister’ Erin, and attending a few classes with Todd at the University of Montana as well; at the University Mariana and Todd recently sat in on a two hour art lecture. Mariana indicated during an evening meal the same day that in the US it seemed there was more emphasis on grasping art history and attempting to understand art’s often deeper symbolic aspects. One student’s perspective following a US lecture… Mariana’s mother is an artist; perhaps this will be something to discuss when Mariana returns to Chile.
Erin and Mariana have been taking advantage of all that Missoula has to offer, going out frequently with Erin’s senior high school friends to local coffee shops, movies, book stores (there are many in Missoula), and restaurants. We’ve done some trekking with Ajax and Koda in the Rattlesnake and other popular sections in the valley. The Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Clark Fork are each layered with ice at the moment, though as mentioned above we did go through a warm spell for a week or two. This weekend we spent some time north of Missoula, visiting Glacier National Park and staying at the historic Izaak Walton Inn. The Izaak Walton is in Essex, Montana, situated just downstream of the bridge and Running Rabbit Mountain where Todd and I like to put in the Rogue canoe and float the Middle Fork of the Flathead. The Rogue has a whitewater keel and is a blast on the local rivers and streams. We’ve not floated the Flathead in quite a while, however. The last time doing so, we saw numerous bears and caught quite a few Cutthroat Trout in the pristine water.
Glacier’s Lake McDonald was mostly frozen over, though where McDonald Creek drains along the Apgar Village to the south, the water was free flowing and not iced over. We took a few photographs while in the area, but stayed away from the section near the creek. Saturday it rained consistently throughout the day limiting visibility; but people were still out and about, including numerous who were ice skating along the Apgar shore. When we returned on Sunday, much of the overcast had cleared and we managed a few photos where the mountains were evident; Mariana was able to take in more of the Park’s splendor. McDonald Lodge was in hibernation, though people were in the area cross country skiing the Going to the Sun road. One fellow clad in a sable aspect decided to relieve himself almost under our noses. I took a few photographs of the snow covered cabins and of a pesky, almost obscure Raven lingering in the Cedars and Firs overhead. The portentous bird blended in quite well with his environment. I needed a better lens. Do we really need better lenses? Or, are things simply there, as evident as the air we breathe? I thought of Poe’s work as I snapped the photos.
My smartphone (one of the old style with a keyboard) recently quit accepting my password. I would reenter it, but for some reason it stayed stuck on the 3rd of 5 attempts. I relented but decided to downgrade to a flip phone. The kids think it’s pretty cool their dad has a flip phone. It works pretty well, though the pictures are subpar and email is an issue. Yet, it works well as a phone, sends and receives texts; there’s a browser, too. What more does one need? We’ll see how long the flip phone lasts, I reckon.
Life at the Izaak Walton Inn was first class. Izaak Walton was a 17th century English writer who wrote the classic work, ‘The Compleat Angler’. The Inn at Essex, Montana, was built in 1939 to help serve the wants of the Great Northern Railway, about which one can learn through the link to the Historical Society. There were many historical photographs, cartoons and stories on the wooden walls throughout the place. Surrounding the lower tavern room’s pool table were many photos exhibiting the travails of the Great Northern dealing with typical winter conditions along the drainage. Mud slides and avalanches were common as they continue to be today. There are many photographs of trains being led by an engine with a great shovel on its mouth to plow the large drifts off of the tracks. There are other photos exhibiting derailed cars scattered among the mountainside and lying in the Middle Fork.
There were many people cross country skiing on the groomed trails. The Inn offered trails with the principal three difficulty levels, black being expert, blue intermediate and green for beginners. My kids have grown up primarily alpine skiing (downhill). Some of us have done a bit of back country skiing (where one skins up the mountain and locks in the heels and skis down), but cross country skiing has generally not been our principal winter choice. That having been written, however, I’ve posted numerous posts of myself XC skiing with Seth and Erin off and on over the years (usually with the dogs). This trip we kenneled Ajax and Koda. Cabins were available in the area and we saw one fellow there on the porch with his dog. The Inn had gear available for rental, but we took along much of our own as well. Todd and Seth rented snow shoes and walked around as the balance of the party XC skied. Though this was her first time, Mariana quickly figured it out and was soon walking along fine and managing well on some of the downhill sections. A large, red snow cat came by at one point grooming the trail. I visited with the driver in an area where he refueled. Nice fellow.
Saturday evening it rained off and on consistently. We managed during a brief dry spell to walk on the trails under the lights. Many of the trails are lighted at night. The kids brought along a small computer which they plugged into a box and used for evening entertainment. Molly and I read books in the opposite room. I’ve recently been reading Dickens’ last book, ‘Our Mutual Friend’. It’s a long tale with a murky cast of characters ‘from all walks’. The Thames looms large in the story. An excellent work. The end notes in the Wordsworth Ed. of the book are well done; but, Marcus Stone’s illustrations are even better. For this little weekend jaunt to Walton, however, I brought along Knut Hamsun’s ‘Pan’. Actually, I’ve picked up a few of Hamsun’s works recently. Some of the psychology in ‘Pan’ is of interest. Glahn, the main character, is a Norwegian outdoorsman who desires the solitary life, spending time with his dog Aesop; but, he winds up in difficult situations governed apparently in some cases outside of his control. At one point Glahn shoots himself intentionally in the foot, but the Doc simply encourages him along. Hamsun, like Dickens, is familiar with the darker aspects of life. ‘Pan’ unfolds during the era of the Crimean War. It was a short, quick read. The artwork on the Penguin cover is of Munch’s ‘Jealousy’. Hamsun, like all writers, is unique; but, he reminds me a bit of London and Hemingway.This afternoon in Missoula the falling snow has turned to a steady stream of rain. Todd’s on the local ski hill with Kevin and Thomas, two of his buds. I’m glad I’m not skiing today. I will walk the dogs. Ajax is barking.
‘What do people do with them’? I asked the store attendant. ‘They put them in their wills,’ she replied. Earlier this afternoon we were in a local pet store and I was quizzing a clerk. I was amazed about how long the lifespan of a Macaw was. The store only had Parakeets, but for some reason the subject had switched to the larger birds. In fairness, when I was a child, we owned a blue and gold Macaw named Clarence; but at some point he was given away as he was fond of the lead pane in the windows in the solarium.
Chopin’s ‘Nocturnes’ play beneath the external distractions. Calm. Another fine 19th Century figure, Chopin. What is the appeal of the 1800s? Emily Dickinson’s poetry has been at the forefront lately as well. Fine writing, music and artwork – 19th Century.
It turns out ‘Brenny Bren’ (my mom) and Mariana share the same birthday. This was pretty nifty. Bren and Tom gave Mariana a nice UM Griz sweatshirt. It is nice that we’ve all been able to spend some time together between the traveling and the kids’ school and work schedules. Mariana likes books so my gift was a book of her choice from a local shop. Among the other b-day gifts from all of us, I gave Mariana a Missoula Sheepheads lid (some readers may recall these from the mountain bike racing days- I still have a few).We recently visited the Elk Foundation and the kind attendant took our picture. As locals know, there are many Not-For-Profits in Missoula. The Elk Foundation raises funds through local banquets and other methods to provide habitat for elk and other animals. The facility’s displays are educational. In the past, the facility has hosted the local youth hunter safety programs. Erin and Mariana hope to visit the Art Museum before Mariana heads back to Chile.The computer is acting squirrelly; therefore, good reader, I believe this will be a wrap for what’s been going on of late. Oh, I’ve been dabbling in painting with ink (calligraphy). What the heck, something different to go with learning a few Kanji characters.