Swan River Trail

Today we decided to check out the Swan River Trail, also known as the Bigfork Nature Trail. It starts at the edge of town and meanders along the Swan River, overlooking the river from cliffs a hundred feet high.

The trail is very flat and easy– a hundred years ago it was the only road between Bigfork and Swan Lake.

The first stretch runs along what’s called the “Wild Mile” of the Swan River: a crazy rushing whitewater area. Right now, with spring snow runoff, it’s probably running near its high point, and I don’t think it would be navigable by anyone but the most skilled rafter or kayaker. Here’s one of the “tame” sections:

We went as far as the Swan River Dam, and decided we’ll definitely be back (with bikes, probably).

That’s a lot of daylight

I’ve never lived this far north before. And I’ve never lived this far west in a timezone. So it’s kind of an awesome new experience to have so much daylight this time of year.

According to the almanac, today the “official” day will be a hair over 16 hours long. But when you include twilight, the day will be 17 and a half hours. Going even further, considering the times when the sky is illuminated at least a little bit by the sun (astronomical twilight), we clock in at 22 hours 46 minutes… just over an hour of “true” dark.

I’m sure in future years it won’t be quite as novel or exciting, but for now, we’re commenting almost daily about how bright it is (“Can you believe it’s still light out?!”). I’m writing this at 9:30pm and the sun is still above the western mountains. Cool.

A happy Father’s Day indeed

In the past, missionaries serving from the church were only allowed to call home two days each year: Christmas and Mother’s Day. Recent changes give the missionaries more leeway in their communication, and Elder Schroeder told me this morning he’d like to call for Father’s Day. Sweet!

He showed up on our video chat munching on a bag of candy corn. Typical.

We had a great chat, and he told us stories about things he’s been doing on his mission in Oklahoma: talking with people, making videos, wearing a mask, etc. I was surprised to learn he’s been teaching himself to play the piano! He shared a few songs from memory.

At one point he launched into a crazy story about a car chase involving a Honda Odyssey, followed by some parkour stunts while wielding a samurai sword. It was a very animated story.

Turns out it was all a dream.

It was from his dream journal, which he’s been keeping since he took a psychology class in high school. His dreams are… interesting.

We talked for over an hour, which was great. It’s good to hear he’s doing well and loving missionary life. What a good lad (as he would say).

Another sunset?!

You’d think I’d get tired of taking pictures of the sunset over Flathead Lake. But you’d be wrong.

Tonight as Kyra and I were playing an intense game of Bomberman on the theater screen, I looked out the window and noticed a gorgeous orange sunset. I told her she’d have to wait to blow me up while I took out my camera.

After the March windstorm, the forest has thinned and we can see Woods Bay to the north, and the Salish Mountains on the northwest horizon. If those trees were still there, we wouldn’t be treated to this view. Not surprisingly, the sun sets pretty far to the north these days.

The photo above was taken at 9:30; within a few minutes the colors had deepened and the sky turned breathtaking shades of red and violet.

Just… wow.

Black to white

A couple of weeks ago, we embarked on some demolition work in our kitchen to remove the old countertops. Things definitely looked interesting after we’d finished.

The stone crew came in with three enormous slabs of white marble and laid them in place. Because two of them had to make the ends of the “L” shape, they had to be joined at a seam. A set of huge suction cups, and an air compressor acting as a vacuum pump, were attached so the glue between the slabs would seal everything tightly.

Our house has a very open floorplan, and sounds can be heard pretty much everywhere, so let me tell you how fun it was to have an air compressor running for 24 hours straight, including all night long. The crew said if it stopped for even a few seconds, they’d have to re-set and re-glue everything. Fortunately it didn’t, so the next day they came back to grind and smooth everything.

The end result is amazing. So long, black granite and big clunky island!

Hello, beautiful bright white marble and an island that flows into the great room!

Weekend in WA

It’s been fun exploring northwest Montana, but Pepper and I felt the need to go on a trip somewhere. It’s an easy jaunt west to Wenatchee, so we headed out for a weekend with Thom, Katie, Julian, and Sefton.

The last time I saw Sefton, he was my little buddy. This time, Pepper was the favorite. He was always calling out, “Auntie Pepper” and showing her stuff. And when she wasn’t around, he’d ask where she’d gone. Very cute.

Since we had our bikes hitched to the car after the Hiawatha Trail, it was easy to take a bike tour of Wenatchee. We took the Canal Trail one evening, and the 20-mile Apple Loop Trail a different day. Those were both really fun.

And of course we went hiking. We climbed Devil’s Gulch one day, and later went up a local mountain overlooking the area. Here’s Julian surveying the landscape:

The hills around Wenatchee are really cool.

In fact, near the top of the mountain it’s possible to see Thom and Katie’s house! Here Katie points it out to Pepper:

Again, Julian strikes a pose above the valley.

Not surprisingly, Thom pulled out his camera. I’m sure his photos are better than mine. As I watched the master at work, I wondered if maybe I should use the Raised Pinkie Method…

Off in the distance, the Enchantments were wreathed in clouds. I love that area, and I’m hoping I can snag a permit in September for a backpacking trip with Pepper.

Here’s the fam with the mountains in the background. What a great group.

Hiawatha Trail

Right on the Montana-Idaho border is the Hiawatha Trail, a bike route that follows an old train track through several tunnels and across a handful of trestle bridges. Since we were driving right past it on a trip to Washington, Pepper and I decided to take a look. We hung our bikes off the back of the CR-V and headed out.

The first tunnel is 1.6 miles long and straight as an arrow. You can actually see a tiny pinpoint of light in the distance. Because it’s dark and damp, the tunnel is also really cold– I’d guess somewhere in the 40’s. It’s interesting to be riding through 70-degree sunny weather and enter the freezing darkness.

Oh hey, a waterfall!

The trail was really easy… it’s literally fifteen miles of a 2% downhill grade. Other than the tunnels and trestles, which are flat, I think you could coast nearly the entire way. So it’s definitely not a bike trail that you’d take for exercise. But you might take it for the views, which are spectacular.

From this lookout you can see a logging road (center) and in the far distance, part of the bike trail (left):

We stopped for a light lunch on one of the trestles.

It’s cool to look down nearly 200 feet and see the trees in the valley below. This time of year, the fir trees have their “spring tips”– the light green growth of new needles.

After a leisurely two-hour ride down, with plenty of stops, we rode the shuttle bus back to the top of the trail and put up our bikes. The tunnels are all wet and muddy, so we were pretty dirty at the end of the day.

We agreed that next time, we’ll start at the bottom and ride up the trail, then turn around at the top and coast back down. We’ll get some exercise and still have a chance to enjoy the views!


I saw this astounding graph last night.

Ten years of job growth, wiped out in two months. It’s strange to think how interconnected everything is, and how fragile our society may be.