I guess the sunsets are nice…?

For the past two weeks, we’ve had a thick haze hanging over the lake. It’s smoke from fires in western Montana and central Idaho, and without much wind or any rain, it’s just stuck. It’s a drag not to be able to see across the lake, and our guests haven’t been excited about going out hiking since there aren’t any views to speak of.

That said, the sunsets have been very orange of late…

Keeping up with the Johnsons

Sarah and Grant came to visit this week. I’ve known Sarah since college, which makes her a friend of some thirty years. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, so it was great to spend our days doing Montana stuff.

There was Glacier, of course.

We tackled a couple of hikes, totaling around ten miles. Unfortunately it’s been smoky this week, so the views in the park weren’t as impressive as they usually are.

We hit the lake– another must-do activity around here– and they both learned to paddleboard.

Grant spent a bit more time in the water, if you know what I mean. But eventually he was looking good on the board.

Another day, another hike… this time in Jewel Basin, where we covered about six miles to Twin Lakes. We all wore swimsuits on the hike, planning to enjoy a nice cooldown when we arrived at the lakes.

As it turned out, the air temperature was comfortable for hiking, but not really hot enough that we felt the need to take a plunge to cool off. Also, the water temperature was maybe 50 degrees. But hey, I’d worn my suit all that way, so I figured what the hey and jumped in. Sarah sat on a rock and watched, probably thinking I was crazy.

We played games, shot pool, watched movies, and had a grand time.

Next year we’ll take a backpacking trip through the Boundary Waters with them. Until then…

Asphalt FTW

We’ve lived here almost three years, and I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about our driveway a hundred times during that span. There are just so many frustrating things about it. When it rains, there are huge channels and ruts that develop:

So we end up out there literally raking the gravel, which is tedious and exhausting. Then it rains again, and the ruts are back, and our car bottoms out as it bounces its way through them.

Over time, the gravel washes out and wears away and we’re left with exposed bedrock, giving quite a bumpy ride:

Of course there’s also the issue of snow and ice, which can’t really be helped, but plowing the driveway is difficult and has occasionally required us to shovel almost twenty tons of snow just to prepare for the plow.

It’s actually funny how literally everyone who comes up our driveway for the first time– friends, neighbors, contractors, deliveries– comments about what a nightmare it is. Many can’t believe we spend the winters here.

After three years of frustration and comments and complaining, we finally decided to look into paving the entire thing with asphalt. I was shocked when I found out the company I’d contacted could do the job a week after I talked to them! We signed on the line and the crew went to work.

The first step was laying gravel on the entire driveway. Because it was such a mess, and had eroded so badly, they laid a lot of gravel. I think it was six inches deep in places, and wider than what we’d had. After that, they spent two days with a steamroller, compacting it down to a nice smooth (relatively speaking) road of crushed rock. Here’s Johnny coming down the hill in his steamroller:

As we walked along the gravel, we wondered if maybe that would’ve been good enough. No need for the extra expense of asphalt? Earlier I’d spoken with a different contractor who recommended gravel but admitted it would require maintenance every few years, and would probably erode to the point where it would need to be redone after a few more. Seeing what this crew did, though, we wondered if that would’ve been a better choice.

Then it rained. And sure enough, even this six-inch-deep compacted smoothed gravel washed away. Once again we had ruts and runoff. Clearly gravel just isn’t the right choice for us. Asphalt it is.

The next day, the dump trucks started arriving and unloading piles of hot, steaming asphalt. The steamroller was back at it, this time with the foreman, Chad, at the wheel:

It took two long days, but they finished the driveway and headed off into the sunset. The blacktop looks amazing!

Snow plows should be able to clear it much more easily. Heck, because it’s black it should stay slightly warmer in the winter sun, maybe keeping snow from accumulating as much. Cars and delivery trucks should be able to come up with no trouble. Cruising down it, we don’t have crazy bumps and careful angles to avoid bottoming out. Nice! Naturally we wonder why we didn’t do this years ago…