Big G

‘Tis the season to head to Glacier National Park! The Merrills are our first visitors of the summer, and of course they wanted to head up there. I’m not one to complain about it, so we packed into their van and drove north on a hot day. There were heat advisories in the park, with temperatures expected to hit 100 degrees. And it’s only June! Fortunately it didn’t get nearly that hot; I feel like it might’ve touched 90 at worst.

As always, the views of the valley were amazing. I can see why they call this Big Sky Country.

Our friends kept remarking about how green everything is. We’ve had some recent rain, and this area of the state isn’t experiencing drought like other areas in Montana and the West in general.

We snapped some pictures up at Logan Pass.

A family of bighorn sheep pranced by while we were eating.

Their kids really dislike hiking, so sadly we didn’t go on any hikes during our visit. We stopped at several waterfalls, and I was able to practice my long-exposure technique.

We even discovered a secret waterfall behind a massive wall of ice!

The highlight of the day was a stop at Redrock, where we walked down to the water. Two of the kids and I donned swimsuits and dove in. WOW. The water was ice-cold, and I mean that literally because it’s draining right off the glaciers this time of year. It was the kind that almost takes your breath away when you first jump in. Of course, on a hot summer day with the sun beating down, it was fabulous.

I don’t think there’s ever a bad day in Glacier.

Holland doesn’t disappoint

Although we attempted to find some local hikes that aren’t Holland Lake, when our friends the Merrills showed up on our doorstep, we decided to go to Holland anyway. It was a scorching hot day (in the midst of a Pacific Northwest heat wave) and the sunny parts of the trail were a little rough. While Matt and the kids played on the lake, Pepper, Heather, and I headed up the mountain.

We were rewarded with a refreshing reward at Holland Falls. The air temperature was probably 20 degrees cooler, with a fine mist from the water. It was exhilarating after a hot hike.

It was fun to edge closer to the falls and get drenched in ice-cold spray.

After cooling off, we had a snack. The chipmunks in the area must be well-fed by tourists, because they have no fear. This little guy climbed right into my backpack.

(No, we didn’t feed him anything.)

The view from the top was, as always, spectacular.

After hiking back down, we joined the others on the water and spent the rest of the day swimming and boarding. Gotta love lakes on these hot summer days!

Loon Lake

Some friends asked if we’d like to “do something”, which in Montana-ese means “something outside”. We suggested kayaking, and decided to head over to Loon Lake. It’s a (relatively) small lake near us that’s really quiet and still. As we got on the water, we had to navigate through a maze of lilypads:

But once out on the water, it was like gliding across glass. A few gentle nudges with the paddles, and we’d coast ahead. It was wonderful.

As we explored the lake, we spotted some turtles sunning themselves on a log. (There were quite a few, but when I edged closer to get a picture, a bunch of them slipped silently into the water and swam off.)

With such a peaceful lake, we were able to paddle around and chat. After a couple hours on the water, we packed up and headed over to Burgertown for some dinner. A great summer day.


Today I learned about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a psychological phenomenon wherein people overestimate their competence at tasks where they have very little experience. This helpful graph sums it up well:

I particularly love the names of the different areas of the graph. And although it would be easy for me to say “Hah, that never happens to me”, I’d be lying. It happens to everyone. I’ve climbed Mount Stupid, claiming with confidence that I could do something when in fact I’m completely inept at it. When it comes to house projects, I feel like I live in the Valley of Despair. I have a bit of experience with things like electrical wiring, so I think I can take care of a “simple” project, and an hour later I’m throwing tools in frustration. Luckily there are times I’ve climbed the Slope of Enlightenment, recognizing my growing ability at something and increasing in confidence. And there are, I admit, only a very few things in my life where I rest on the Plateau of Sustainability…


Pepper and I have been going on some short hikes lately. We’re doing it for a couple of reasons: first, we just want to explore the area a bit, so we can seem knowledgeable about local hikes. And second, with a series of visitors coming this summer, we want to have some options in our back pocket, and know some different “levels” of hiking to suggest. We picked a lesser-known hike in the Swan Valley, and headed out.

It was so green. Grass, ferns, flowers, trees… everything was a brilliant green and damp from recent rain.

The trail wound through this tall grass. Kind of cool!

But things kind of went downhill from there. As we continued, the trail became much harder to follow. The underbrush grew thicker, the trail became narrower, and after a bit we were picking our way through huge plants.

And with all the water came the mosquitos. They were swarming around, and if we’d stop for even a few seconds, there would be a dozen of them on our arms and legs. We’d sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellant, but it didn’t seem to do anything at all. Even as we walked, we were slapping our arms and swatting at the little buggers flying around us. It was really bad.

Eventually we reached what you might call a “lake”, but I’d probably describe as a “muddy pond”.

It wasn’t exactly picturesque. As I stood there taking this picture, I was probably bitten four times by mosquitos. We agreed to hoof it back out, and made good time back to the car. I’m sure the little blood bandits were sad there was no one left for them to bite.

Oh, and we’re not going to recommend this hike to people who visit.

Lake sunset

For a few days now, I’ve been wanting to take some sunset photos at the lake shore. Although I love the view from our house, there are always trees in the way. I was hoping to snap something on the solstice, but the sky was completely cloudless, and sunset photos tend to be better with clouds. Tonight was the night. I drove a couple miles north and hiked down to the shoreline, where I waited as the sun sank.

My timing was pretty good; when I arrived the sun was almost on the horizon.

I experimented a bit with lenses, and I like this shot of an old gnarled tree root at the water’s edge:

I managed to get a shot just as the last bit of the sun touched the distant hills.

And then it was gone. But the fiery orange light continued for a while, illuminating the clouds from beneath. A couple of boats passed slowly by as people headed home for the night. It was almost 10pm when this last boat cruised north:

Hello? Hello?

On our trip yesterday, we stopped at a rest area that had an honest-to-goodness pay phone. I thought there were only like three left in the United States, and apparently we found one of them!

Before we left, Pepper checked the coin change slot at the bottom to see if there was a quarter. Because that’s what you do with a pay phone.

Our new car

Today we picked up our fun new ride.

It’s important for me to emphasize that it’s our car, not my car. For the twenty-five years of our marriage, Pepper has always ended up driving the “practical” vehicle. She had the Eagle that we crammed everyone into, and the Odyssey for carting kids around on trips, and then the CR-V so we can haul our jet skis to the lake. At the same time, I drove my sporty little two-door Saturn, then my sporty little two-door Civic. So I had the “fun” cars (even though she hates driving stick).

Fast forward to Montana, where we’ve discovered that our driveway is nightmarish in the winter and simply doesn’t suit a front-wheel-drive vehicle. Since we plan to sell the Civic to Zaque when he returns from his mission, we started looking around for a new car. At the top of the list is all-wheel drive. I’d love to just get another Civic, but they don’t come with AWD. Nor do the Accords. The only Hondas with that feature are the CR-V and Pilot… well, we already have a CR-V, and the Pilot is a big lumbering tank. So I looked at Toyotas, another great line of cars, but I didn’t want a Rav (too big), and the Camry and Avalon aren’t really exciting.

With our imminent installation of solar panels, and a state with one of the lowest costs for electricity in the country, I started thinking about a Tesla. Of course they have a reputation for being pretty swanky and expensive, but the Model 3 is a little more affordable. With no Tesla dealerships anywhere in Big Sky Country, we had to test drive one in Utah. We liked it. A lot. So we ordered one. But with chip shortages and supply-chain problems and Tesla doing things differently than, well, everyone else, we wouldn’t be able to take delivery until September. Sigh.

But yesterday, on a whim, I called a sales guy at the Spokane Tesla dealership and asked if they happened to have a car with the same specs as what I’d ordered. They did! I asked if I could pick it up… immediately? Sure thing. So we hopped in the CR-V and drove four hours out to Spokane, spent literally five minutes signing two pieces of paper, and drove four hours back home in our slick blue electric car.

Remember: it’s not my car. It’s our car.

Flowers, flowers everywhere

One thing that’s fun about living in a forest is there are wildflowers everywhere. They surround us, scattered through the forest… and there are also many “intentional” flowers planted in various places around the house. The previous owner really enjoyed flowers, and actually had a gardener who took care of the beds. (We’ve let them “go native” a bit, so it doesn’t look as nice as it did back then.)

Because it was such a pretty day, I decided to wander the property a bit and photograph the variety of flowers. Here are some samples.

Okay, the one above is probably a weed. But it’s still pretty! And I spotted a spider sunning himself:

While not technically flowers, I like the tufts of tall grass we have along our driveway. Flathead Lake is in the (fuzzy) background:

Finally, another non-flower but what I thought was an interesting photo. We have pinecones scattered everywhere in the grass… they’re a menace to the mower, which chews them up with a satisfying crunch and then spews bits everywhere.

On a whim, we bought a bag of wildflower seeds at Lowe’s the other day, and we keep telling ourselves we’re going to scatter them along the driveway and see what comes up…