How’d you like to be at the Swiftcurrent Lookout this evening?


Swiftcurrent Lookout, 11-20-15

The sunset this evening was pretty fantastic!  I tried to snap a few photos, and as per usual, they don’t really do justice to the array of colors present.  It’s not all orange and purple, I swear.  Plus, it’s hard to get much definition when the snow is swirling everywhere but I hope ya’ll get the gist.


Mt. Wilbur (behind, on the right) looks a little dramatic as well.


The Backbone of the World

Other than ogling the views, Curty and I have continued prepping for winter by getting the four wheeler tuned-up and ready for ice fishing season and doing a little maintenance on the tractor and snowblower.  We of course went for a chained-up cruise of the fresh snow to make sure the atv was in good shape.

Churned out a couple of frames, too!  Check ’em out at

Looks like below-zero windchill for the next few days…and then a bunch more snow.

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First Snow


We finally got our first appreciable snowfall this week!  NOAA was predicting a couple inches but we got around six.  This is a pretty tough area to accurately predict as we are so far north and so close to the mountains.  Sitting up on a plateau overlooking the St. Mary Valley, Duck Lake is actually at a higher elevation than the Many Glacier Hotel and is a solid 500 feet above St. Mary.  So a lot of our predictions are for the “foothills” but we often get the snowfall of the “mountains.”  Sometimes it’ll be snowing like crazy up here, but a quick jaunt down the hill to Babb and you’ll be in rain before you know it.  Sometimes the reverse is true as well.  Keeps us guessing!


What a difference a couple days can make!

Right before the snow, the weather was absolutely lovely so I took one last trip up to Many Glacier before the gate was closed (presumably for the season.)

I took a quick jaunt up around Swiftcurrent Lake to the Josephine boat launch and basked in the sunshine for a few minutes.  Boy does that sun set quick this time of year!


It was a pretty nice way to spend my last easily accessible afternoon in the “Heart of Glacier” which is apparently the name given to the view from the Many Glacier Hotel.  Learn something new every day!

Outside of yanking the UPS guy back up the just-plowed driveway and assisting with a roadside car retrieval, it’s been a quiet couple of days.  Pictures frames and secret projects and some research and computer work and fire feeding have been the norm for the daylit hours.  More on the secret projects when Claire returns for visiting her family in beautiful Wisconsin.


Home, Sweet Home!

Hopefully the temps will get back up above freezing by the end of the weekend…but for the immediate future it looks like more snow plowing for me!  The first couple are actually pretty fun…so remind me that I wrote that come February.

Always, check to see what’s been coming out of the shop recently:


Hidden Pass Goat, framed in Aspen

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As the seasons churn

November is always interesting up here on the borderline.  Not always pleasant, but certainly varied and interesting.  Some years the temp is far below zero and the snow is already measured in feet.  Not so much in 2015.  The temps have been pretty mild, and just last week Gretchen’s Mirror finally got its first full coat of ice.


Curtis didn’t seem much interested in the Mirror reverting to the form it enjoyed when he first arrived here.  Which is good, because the ice wasn’t very thick.  We’ve enjoyed temps in the 40s for the last day or so, accompanied by some pretty terrific winds.  The highest my anemometer measured was 59, but I suspect there were a few in there around 70mph.  Sustained winds of 45 made going outside rather unfortunate so I waited till today’s  mild 30mph breezes to get a photo of the Mirror.


Breaking back open pretty nicely!  Probably will be quite a bit more water by tomorrow…but it’ll freeze back up again soon, I’m sure.  Cold is just fine with me….it’s the 90+mph winds that knocked over several big rigs near Browning the other day that can stay away till later in the season as far as I’m concerned.

For those curious, the highest wind gust I’ve ever recorded here at Hillhouse was 119mph.  That was the last recording for that particular anemometer….as it blew away later that evening.  The Snowslip, just south of here, measured a 164 mph gust the same day.  That’s the same as a class 5 hurricane.  No thanks.

The old set up....the new one is a steel pipe bolt down through three feet of truss members

The old set up….the new one is a steel pipe bolt down through three feet of truss members

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A rare November drive-by through the Many Glacier Valley

From the MGHP

From the MGHP

In most parts of the US, the chilly breezes of fall have begun depositing the colorful deciduous flowers of the season about your lawns and driveways and perhaps forced the first fire, the first hot chocolate, or at least the first closed-toe-shoe of the season (I’m looking at you, Charleston!  Enjoy your oyster roasts.)  Winter is still five or six weeks away…and so it remains near Babb, at least as far as the calendar is concerned.

But winter, like so many ideas that we can quickly grasp via a mental screenshot, is not exactly a fixed target.  It’s fluid.  Frozen, frozen fluid.  Regardless of the date, the season generally arrives early on the Rocky Mountain Front, and likes the spot so desperately that it is seldom in a rush to hurry on down to other hemispheres.  Just today a pair of semis got blasted and flipped over by 90mph gusts a few miles south of here outside of Browning.  So it begins!


The hotel is just around the bend there

I took advantage of a relative lull yesterday to adventure up to Many Glacier.  It was still blowing around 50mph, but you seriously get used to that, as long as it isn’t too icy.  Also, I wanted to see how the brand new shoes on my truck would handle the conditions.  Not quite as well as snow….but c’mon the Many Glacier Road is practically Armageddon so I thought they did pretty well.  Here are some pics:


Checking out the approach to the hotel proper


Everything appears to be intact, and I love the (almost) new cedar shake roof on the entrance gazebo deal


Happy to report that the hotel has a fresh coat of NPS brown paint, after earlier photos indicated the blue primer they were working with


“The Heart of Glacier” or parts of it


Swiftcurrent Camp


Look! A Dinosaur in Glacier!


Looking back at the hotel


I didn’t see a single person or vehicle, other than the caretaker’s pickup


One last taunt as I leave the valley. Head to a hunting district!

Pretty neat to get drive up to Many in mid November, as it is generally closed due to the weather this time of year.  Sure hope they keep it open as long as possible!

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In regards to Curtis, on the first anniversary of his birth

Claire and I enjoy the company of a fine gentleman of a dog up here on the borderline…most of the time.  Occasionally his over-inquisitive border collie roots or his overly-friendly labrador genes get the best of him and he stops by the neighbors to see what in the world they’re doing  in making whatever cacophony it is that they are innocently creating.  And by cacophony I of course mean that they have simply pulled into their own driveway.  Darned dog thinks he runs the place….and everybody knows that Courtney’s dog Roy runs the place.

Curty's first evening at Hillhouse

Curty’s first evening at Hillhouse

Curtis was born in a snowstorm under a porch just north of Babb on, or about, November 9th of last year.  He was lucky- his mother resides at the Burns spread and so he was guaranteed a good shot at the world just due to the goodness of his owners.  The Burns family owns and operates the Cattle Baron Supper Club in downtown Babb, as well as their ranch just north of town.  Best steak this side of anywhere I’ve ever been.  Curty’s pops is believed to be the neighbor’s lab.

Nap time

Nap time

From a very early age, Curtis has disdained traditional sleeping patterns.  Who says you can’t sleep on a pile of lumber surrounded by power tools?  To this day he alternates between periods of frenzied activity and nappytime.  More of the latter than the former, in general.

With Roy

With Roy

Other than napping, his favorite thing to do is eat Roy’s face.  He’s actually taller than his gentleman-lab neighbor now, so he doesn’t need to get on his hind legs for the face eating,  he just latches onto a cheek and starts chewing.   Roy, fine dog that he is, takes it with only the barest pleadings of suffering.


Curty also enjoys patrolling the perimeter, including the Glacier County Honey Company World Headquarters….


Doing his best to blend into to his oft-changing surroundings….


…and looking for a new place to sleep.

He’s got a pretty good gig, even for a dog.  He has free roam of the place, a couple of dog houses, and hardly ever gets penned or chained up.  He finally figured out that he can jump into the back of a truck.  Even knows a few tricks.  Doesn’t seem to mind the cold or the heat or the snow or the wind- as long as Curty has something to chew on (shocking enough, never anything inside that doesn’t belong to my sister) he’s a happy little termite.  He enjoys herding horses and children, finding new detritus to drag into the yard, and at the end of the day gets to curl up on his landing, or at the foot of the bed, and eventually crams himself into his now-too-small puppy crate.  Thanks so much, Bob and Char Burns!

Curtis, though just a year old, is a big part of my life up here.  He’s been my constant companion since he was six weeks old, and he’s a huge source of happiness and comfort for both me and Claire.  Probably because he gives the best hugs:


Curty, humbly requesting a birthday hug

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The Bunkhouse, More or Less Today

As I’ve detailed previously, and also before that, I spent a little time and few bucks fixing up the old cowboy Bunkhouse here on the -X6.  Most of the detailing thus far involved the generally deplorable condition of the collection of buildings, as well as the cleaning up and demolishing of parts of ’em.  I’m happy to report that the foxes have moved out from under the floorboards (and I haven’t gotten a solid family of fleas on me for two years!).  Unfortunately, they just moved into the next barn on my list, the Half-barn…, shoot.


Shoulda kept the curtains


You can see the lovely teal corkboard used to cover the walls at the time


ALMOST DONE shoveling out shakes! Still have the bedsprings, if anybody needs ’em!

The entire roof of the Cabin (among other things) was piled inside the sleeping part of the Bunkhouse.  It was piled seven feet deep.  I removed the window casings, parked the bucket of the backhoe next to the openings, and got to shoveling.  It took at least a dozen trips.  Wonderful lead-based-paint kindling now, for sure.


Doubling a rafter that was a little worse for wear.

Having removed one roof from the floor, it was time to take a second off of the rafters!  Another not-really-all-that-fun job, as the roof was a very steep.  11 or 12 in 12, I forget which, for all you roofers out there.  It was also the teensiest bit rotten- go figure.  Anyways I eventually got it all off, and replaced or doubled-up a few of the rafters, which are the members that diagonally support the roof.


New decking….and a new window!

After getting the framing of the roof more-or-less in the shape I was looking for, it was time to re-deck the roof.  Decking is the term for covering the framing members with a solid layer of wood.  Some folks use planks, some use CDX plywood, and in this case I used OSB (Oriented Strand Board).  It is made in 4×8 sheets quite similar to CDX, but it is a little cheaper up here.  A little heavier too, and you have to be really careful to make sure it doesn’t get wet, but that’s the whole idea behind the roof, right?  I believe I did it right, as I haven’t had a leak yet in two and half years of rain and snow and wind!


Next up was covering the decking with roofer’s felt or “tar paper” (the black material).  It goes on top of the decking, but is referred to as an underlayment because it goes under the actual final roof surface.  The idea is that if you have some relatively minor issue with your roof covering (be it metal, shingles, whatever) that the water will still run down the roofer’s felt and off your roof without warping my precious OSB decking, which provides a lot of the strength of the roof, and indeed, the building.

I usually use 30# paper because it only costs a couple bucks more than 15# and I like the extra thickness.  I was using leftover stuff here from another project so I’m not sure what this is.  Normally up here in the colder areas of the world any eave or valley in the roof gets a special type of underlayment designed for snow and ice.  It is much heavier and is a rubber-and-asphalt mixture that acts to seal itself both to the decking surface and around any nail/screws that penetrate it.  Some folks even use it for the entire underlayment, although it is a bit more expensive.  In general, it helps to prevent leaks that form due to ice dams, which perhaps I’ll get into a later date.  I’m not anticipating any ice dams on this roof as the building won’t be heated, plus it is darned steep.  So I skipped that step on this outbuilding.

The next step was applying the final roofing material- in this case some beautiful brown steel roofing panels.  Steel is nice and strong, fairly light, and when screwed down it can add a fair amount of structural stability to a roof surface.  Plus it gets fairly close to matching the ole shakes and in short lengths isn’t too hard to put up all one’s lonesome.  Not easy, but with a low-to-the-ground structure like this it is pretty easy to pull ’em right out of the bed of a truck.


Getting close!

After finishing up the roof (which thank goodness was just about as short as it was steep) I turned my attention to the south wall.  The above picture shows the original window casements to the side of the new door.  I wanted to be able to access the Bunkhouse from both sides, particularly as THIS side is the GOOD side…now.  I happened to have an extra door laying around, so I cut and framed an opening and in it went.  I replaced the other two windows with modern vinyl single-hung windows which were the same width as the existing openings, just quite a bit shorter.


Still haven’t gotten around to trimming out the new windows!

The western and southern walls were missing a huge amount of cedar shake wall-covering, so I replaced them as best I could with the best used shakes I found as I cleaned out the building, and the best ones that were on the roof.  The result is a green-gray-brown frankenstein sorta deal, but it keeps the snow out!


After two and half years, the colors have blended together….slightly

I’m still not sure what the final, ideal purpose of this building is.  When I was fixing it up, I needed a place to store my tools out of the rain and to charge batteries and make phone calls.  It worked great!  Now it stores a lot of my “extra” tools and motor oil and basically stuff that I won’t get rid of but no one is likely to be able to make off with and pawn.


Storage for tools that I don’t use very often….or don’t work that maybe I’ll fix someday


This is the tiny “joining” shed between the two parts of the bunkhouse



It’s not much, but is has electricity now!  Nice step up from the tiny solar system that was in there when I was building my house.  Perhaps one day I’ll fix it up even more.  Guest house?  Artist studio?  Dog Mansion?  I’m not sure what these buildings were before they were hauled up here to Duck Lake….and who knows what they’ll be in the future!

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Badger-Two Medicine

I try to get out  and do a bit of hunting this time of year when we get a little snowfall.  Makes tracking a lot easier!  We’ve had very little precipitation thus far this season, but I did manage to get out for the morning earlier this week.  I’m not a tribal member, and therefore can’t hunt here on the -X6, so I usually go down to Marias Pass and hunt up above Summit near Elk Calf Mountain.

I took a couple of nice, long, lovely walks in the high country snow and kept coming across bear tracks.  I actually do have a bear tag….just not much interest in actually shooting one…and especially very little interest in breaking my back trying to extract one from the woods by myself.


So I headed down the hill aways to the heart of the Badger-Two Medicine to look for deer.  This is an absolutely gorgeous area butting up against Glacier Park, the Blackfeet Reservation, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  It’s rugged and remote- I was in one of the more easily accessible areas and still didn’t see anyone.  The Badger-Two Med has been in the news quite a bit lately as Oil and Gas developers seek to drill exploratory wells under lease rights granted in the 80s.


The Badger-Two Medicine area, looking south towards the Bob

This nearly-pristine oasis on the Rocky Mountain Front  is sacred to the Blackfeet and the efforts to develop it have thankfully been met with stiff resistance from the Tribe as well as an alliance of local and national organizations and individuals.  Thank you!  Learn more about the Badger-Two Medicine Alliance at and about drilling on and around the Blackfeet Reservation at Tony Bynum’s very informative and photo-rich webpage.


It was very nice to be home and warm and dry again after many wet and snowy miles.  Crazy to say, but a couple years ago there was a fracking site visible just south of this spot

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