From Fire to Ice

Wow, it’s been a while.

Well I’m happy to say that the flames (and drama) you saw from my last post were doused in a downpour that brought and inch of rain in a couple of hours. At the moment, that same ridge line is looking a lot more like it should given the current time of year. If only there could be a little more crystalized water on the ranch property itself could I be properly satisfied (rain in late December? c’mon).

Let’s recap, in the past half-year I’ve done a few other things:

A week after the rains came and gave the firefighters a huge help in controlling the fire, I was out hiking in the burnt out area. It was only after I came back that I leaned there was a $5000 fine for doing so.

National Forest Service finds and excuse to clear-cut.

National Forest Service finds an excuse to clear-cut.

Huge water basin used to feed the hoses a mile uphill.

Huge water basin used to feed the hoses a mile uphill.

Survey of the crispiness.

Survey of the crispiness.

Comin' to get ya.

Comin’ to get ya.

At least it wasn't too crowded at the campsite.

At least it wasn’t too crowded at the campsite.

And somehow still standing.

And somehow still standing.

The next couple of months were then spent preparing for winter. As with most things, I saw the challenge to help split this entire wood pile before  Old Man came for his visit. Alas, this ended up with my developing de Quervain’s Tenosinovitis, essentially an inflamed tendon that connects to my thumb that I will eventually get surgery for.

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Then there was a hike to Johnson lake.

From atop Pintler pass.

From atop Pintler pass.

The lake itself.

The lake itself.

Followed by a climb to the highest peak in the Anaconda-Pintler wilderness. West Goat peak is not super impressive at 10,793 feet, but the fact that it’s summitted by probably no more than 20 people a year makes it feel that much closer to true wilderness.

Navigating our way.

Navigating our way.

Dinner

Dinner

Descending to the Lost Lakes.

Descending to the Lost Lakes.

If only I were a better photographer.

If only I were a better photographer.

We'll save that for later.

We’ll save that for later.

Grouse stew. Colon included.

Grouse stew. Colon included.

Not a bad alarm clock.

Not a bad alarm clock.

Double the sun.

Double the sun.

After spending the night at one of the most picturesque places I’ve slept in a good while, the all day hiking expedition that followed did a wonderful number on my vertebrae as we clambered over some terrain that could have ended, how shall I put it… badly.

Panorama from West Goat peak. The tallest of the Pintlers.

Panorama from West Goat peak. The tallest of the Pintlers.

The wrong way down, via cliff.

The wrong way down, via cliff.

Ben happy to be alive. I took the route to the right.

Ben happy to be alive. I took the route to the right.

Hour 10 of 12.

Hour 10 of 12.

This didn’t stop a late summer excursion up Warren peak (second tallest in the Pintlers) in which we proceeded to get lost and had to bushwack down… again.

Last snow-less picture of the year.

Last snow-less picture of the year.

I've never descended Warren without going off-trail.

I’ve never descended Warren without going off-trail.

Then fall came with some rains and it was time for brew season.

Vanilla whiskey porter in the works.

Vanilla whiskey porter in the works.

A typical autumnal bonfire.

Much more controlled than the one in August.

Much more controlled than the one in August.

Our first snow of the season came late September. It would continue teasing me with it’s petty snow/rain until just about now.

Biggest snow of the season so far, September 26.

Biggest snow of the season so far, September 26.

The dogs seemed to enjoy it.

The dogs seemed to enjoy it.

A trip to DC was in order to visit some former colleagues who had moved onto more urban environments, and when temperatures hovered between 0 and -20 for a week early December, I learned that running outside was a very unpleasant experience.

For the moment it’s back to the daily grind and searching out fresh powder while I await the influx of “winterns” to the ranch.

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Keeping up with the times

Hey all!

I promise I’m working on a new post, but in the meantime, I’ve added a widget that links to my Instagram account on the right hand side of this page. Now, those of you who are bored enough can follow a bit of what I do in the daily Montana grind!

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Fire update

Just a few of yesterday’s blow-outs.

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Fireworks

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State of the Ranch

It’s been a moon or two since my last real update here from Montana. The weather has warmed considerably since April/May and the white has turned from brown to a lush green aided considerably by the late May rains. On top of this, the group of summer interns started coming mid May and has converted the quiet wilderness into a happening place. Granted, they’re on their way out now, and as we just evacuated the place due to a fire, things are quiet again.

A few things I’ve done/ been doing.

In late March I went out to Yellowstone with some old English teaching co-workers from Chile. I usually dislike this National Park as it’s simply a tourist trap in the summer, but going back country camping in the winter left me with a positive opinion of the park.

Bear guard.

Bear guard.

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Morning steaks.

Morning steaks.

Yellowstone the way it was found. Person-less.

Yellowstone the way it was found. Person-less.

Rock climb from time to time.

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Camp a bit.

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Hike a bit.

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Warren Peak. 10,400 or so feet.

Parties in Pburg.

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And at the moment, avoiding getting burned. A forest fire started about 5 miles from us from lightning and grew pretty rapidly. We’re not in harm’s way but the problem is the road we take to get here might be hit. We “evacuated” the interns off the ranch (minus one who decided to stick it out) and they will be staying in Philipsburg. Some might be crashing on the floors of various staff members while others will likely occupy the high school gym. Don’t worry about me, we’re situated in a good spot with a meadow, lake, and a few fire crews. I’ll keep you updated as long as the fire doesn’t burn down the power lines.

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Thursday afternoon.

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Sunday at noon.

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Sunday at 4.

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Another look back

http://sarkspot.blogspot.com/2011/08/get-your-rocks-off.html

To think this was almost 2 years ago…

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Crushing Pow

Here’s a glimpse at what some weekends have brought.

Crushing Powder

Warren Mtn.

Warren Mtn.

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Knee deep powder isn't as fluffy as it seems

Knee deep powder isn’t as fluffy as it seems

Partially up Senate Mtn.

Partially up Senate Mtn.

Hot rodding ®Emma Clohessy

Hot rodding ®Emma Clohessy

Noble steeds

Noble steeds

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Flashback

As I’m not particularly busy at the moment on the adventure front, I’ve decided to share with you a bit of what really happened on my trip last year. Now you’re wondering “Did Sark just lie to us the entire time about his trip?”, let me explain. As I was tramping around down south, there were a few things I wanted a few people (my Mom and Grandmother) to not know about. Not because I wanted to hide the truth, but because I wanted them to sleep more comfortably at night. For the next few week’s I’ll share some stories from my “real” blog. It’s a bit more “artistic”.

From Buenos Aires to Ushuaia.

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The Project

My last note probably left a few of you wondering “what is this Project Vote Smart place?” allow me to explain:

In a few short words we are a political information database. Our system has info on all candidates and officials down to the local level for every state in the union (and basic info on the colonies). Believe it or not, we are completely non-partisan. As we don’t accept funding from any organization with a political agenda, we are almost completely dependent on personal memberships. If we were taking money from any organization, I can assure you my paycheck would actually weigh something. As well as doing things in the research department, I’m currently running day-to-day operations at the lodge, which usually entail cleaning a lot of dirty dishes making sure residents are on top of their chores, and taking Costco trips to Missoula.

Here are a few more winter wonderland pictures I’ll leave you with.

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Gonna be a Dental Floss Tycoon

The day after I got home from Louisiana I was off to 46.049N 113.529W. I had never been to Portland so decided on the straight North then straight East route. With more than a few miles of road debt to repay, I found a few good souls to share good conversation, talking of everything from Neitzsche to Ninkasi (the brewery not the Sumerian goddess of beer).

My last stretch from Portland to Philipsburg, Montana was going well but by hour 11 and 4 miles left to my favorite dive bar in the States, the tachometer started bouncing down to zero. I coasted into town and out of cell range because Cingular is fond of keeping the atmosphere free of it’s service. A few $3 craft beer draughts and whiskey chasers later, I was re-inaugurated to small town Montana life.

My car ran long enough to take my junk out to the ranch and a one-way run into town before the ignition coil decided to crap out and left me less auto-mobility. Not to worry, things were quite busy with the election upon us and nothing felt better than casting my vote with the most value it’s ever held (it feels satisfying not voting with the crowd).

The election party…was the election party.

Let me break the ranch down for you. This place is usually populated with interns and a few staff but now there are only 5 of us inhabiting the place with a cat (Cleo) and a few horses in the pasture. Come January there should be a good crop of new interns to explore with and stir us out of “Wilderness Fever”. There is a stocked fish pond and natural lake that have now frozen over and will soon be the stadium for our curling league.

As of late I’ve been getting accustomed to snow, rain, ice, repeat, but judging Friday’s storm and temperatures in the teens it seems to have finally settled in. We warm ourselves with a boiler, going in shifts of seven hours to face a pine-fed inferno. Running has been mostly treadmill monotony but I bundled up and took a jaunt down the snow-covered road today without much problem, just a few frozen beads of condensation on my beard.

We escape to a few nearby cities and towns on the weekends and I’ll get some profiles on the Montana denizens and development as I learn more. Here are a few photos of the neighborhood.

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