All posts in Grant Creek Neighborhood
The Saturday after Thanksgiving is always the day our family sets aside to find our Christmas tree. The USFS has a rockin’ deal on permits. $5 at the Fort and you can cut a tree, drag it to your car, tie it on and drive home. So we did just that.
Missoula has had plenty of snow already this year. The Saturday after Thanksgiving was a picture postcard for a beautiful winter snow storm. We had skis, hot chocolate, turkey sandwiches (of course) and we had to hike up into the forest. We tried chains but it was clear that even in an SUV it was better to proceed on foot. The challenge this year was that every single tree was so heavily laden with snow that it was a big puzzle trying to see a “good” tree. We covered our selves in snow as we shook tree after tree. We trudged nearly a half mile up the road.
My daughter found our ‘perfect’ tree this year. It is straight, no barren spots and it is nearly 12′ high as it fills our living room. Funny how we have this little ceremony – cut the tree, hang little bobbles and lights and let the needles fall all over the place for a month. But we had a wonderful day.
The skiers fill the parking lots below Snowbowl, the elk and deer relax as the hunting season draws to a close. Even our dog has more fun. She sleds down the snow covered hills on her side during her morning walk, snorkels in the powder and comes up with her face dusted with snow and she runs. She REALLY welcomes the snow.
Me, too. Happy December.
Hunting season ended last night. I do not hunt, but I believe that it ends at dark on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Specifics like that aren’t the mileposts I follow. Instead, I listen in the dark.
I sleep lightly; the window is open. The cold air carries his whistle. He is close. The earth is bright with a waning moon hidden behind high clouds and snow blankets the hills. I know I should rouse myself from sleep and find him.
He is close behind my fence. With binoculars, I could have seen his antlers, but tonight it is enough to see his form. One bull, then a second. They are less than 50 yards away and slowly approach the fence line. Quietly now they pace up the hill and then back down. I watch to make sure they clear the fence. It is an easy jump. But I have learned to watch.
When an elk jumps a fence, a foot sometimes catches a wire. It looked like it caught on the second wire down. As it flew over the fence a foot caught the wire just below the top line of the fence. It spun around the top wire and trapped a leg between the now taught second wire and the top line. At least it looked like that was what happened one night on my hill.
I heard the call over and over. I did not recognize the plea. Some in the herd came back, it was a dark night and I could not see why they lingered. Then slowly dawn came and there was no more call. It was a Saturday morning and something caused us to walk up to look. I can no longer remember if she called, if we saw her or if we saw birds. But she was seriously injured and caught in the fence.
My husband did what he could to release her and let her regain her strength. She did not live. But that spring, a new fence was installed that opens in the winter to let the wildlife pass across the land.
Last night, I walked to the window and carefully watched to see if the bulls would jump safely over the fence or use their gate.
So ends the hunting season. The elk need no calendar as the time of the hunt is somehow etched into their genetic memory. So begins the listening season.
This week I just can’t get enough of the music or the food. This may not be a Grant Creek reflection but I just wanted to share them with you.
Music ….there are three … Enjoy.
First Tune: Stand By Me. Some seriously good street buskers from around the world were recorded, mixed and overlaid to produce a sweet sound. Get the beat.
Second Tune: Empire State of Mind ( Part II) Broken Down. Stephen Colbert (yep- really!) rocks this tune with Alicia Keyes. It can’t help but make you smile.
Third Tune: Well actually it’s 40 minutes of Springsteen with Jimmy Fallon. Stevie Van Zandt joins Bruce and they share a few tunes at the end of the program. Save My Love…oh yeah. This is the ‘Happy’ part of the day.
Then there is the food….
These two cooks, a fine glass of wine and some tunes.
The snow is falling on the hill behind my home. The clouds obscure most of my neighbors and nearly all the of my view of town. Winter is creeping over the hill. The dark side of this change is that the sun will be hidden from view for days on end. So as I lay in bed this morning I thought of all the things that I love about winter.
Whistles. I love the sound of the elk as they whistle outside my window. Night after night, I hear them calling as they cross the hills behind my home. My ears strain to hear them call to one another. I smile.
Bird feeder. Today we filled our feeder and welcomed the birds of winter back to our yard. The bears are ready to sleep away the cold days, so our feeder should be safe for the next few months.
Gingerbread. Christmas is weeks away – like 6! My friend Kris mentioned she was listening to Christmas music today. Really? Well, good enough as my daughter has been yearning to listen to it for 2 weeks. I will take this as permission to start the holidays. Further, it is time to build our gingerbread house. This year we may choose to build a cabin, a barn or some crazy structure that requires a lot of geometry and frosting. But Ohhhhhhh……….. the smell of gingerbread.
Turkeys. Grant Creek has at least one flock of wild turkeys. I often see them on the ranch as I drive toward SnowBowl. One sunny Thanksgiving morning, as we drank hot chocolate in our sunny living room, the turkeys came to visit our yard. How ironic their timing.
Colors. My yard and the surrounding hills are covered in warm fall colors. Red, golden brown, grey green and today the first snow.
Ski wax. I smell it as I clean the breakfast dishes. Just as gingerbread conjures memories of the holidays, the smell of the hot iron melting wax on to my skis reminds me it is time to make sure that we have plenty of cocoa and marshmallows in the pantry. Skiing requires hot chocolate just as surely as it requires ski wax.
Winter is here. Let the good days continue.
Once upon a time, my child was 4. We had spent previous Halloween nights in Wyoming and Colorado. In the beginning, the costumes on the children at our front door frightened our child. The next year I bought a witch that popped out of a plastic pumpkin. She removed the battery to make sure that the witch would not emerge. By year 2, she graduated to a pink bunny suit, then on to Snow White.
By year four, 1997, we were spending our first Halloween in Montana hiking up and down the hills of Grant Creek.
In those days, less hiking was involved because fewer homes had been completed in Prospect. That first night, the air was crystal clear from a rain storm earlier in the day. The air was warm enough to make it a pleasant walk.
As we turned to head down the hill and back to the car with a plastic pumpkin full of candy, the city sparkled below. It was that night and that moment that our little family of three decided that our ‘right spot’ in Montana would be in Grant Creek.
Yesterday I set out over 50 candles and all the accumulated decorations. Over the years our little ‘witch pumpkin’ lost her motor. We bought candy for the children and food for the church. My now grown child and her friends made carmel apples in our kitchen and hiked up the hills of our neighborhood laughing and visiting. After what must have been over 150 costumed children wandered up our steep steps for their treats, my husband and I walked outside to watch the candles flicker in the quiet night. The air was clear and warm, the city glittered below … and again, I was reminded why our little family chose this wonderful ‘right spot’ in Montana for our home.
Jackie Corday, our open space program manager told Bert:
“Well now it’s time to celebrate because ALL of the trail easements have now been signed by the landowners – I just got back from hand delivering them all to City Hall for the Mayor to sign.”
What great news for our town and those in Grant Creek that will soon be able to enjoy an off-road experience traveling up the valley. Now the hard part begins. The last hurdle before the trail can proceed is funding. We must raise matching fund for grants. We are still 18 months out from trail construction, but we have only one last hurdle.
Enjoy the last of our fall weather with a hike up the neighborhood trail in Prospect. Last weekend we had flocks of Meadowlarks passing through the neighborhood. Sunday afternoon a good friend called to alert me to the 16 Sandhill Cranes circling above my home. They steadily gained altitude and headed southeast. I really had expected them to head down the valley and into Idaho above the Bitterroot River.
My garden harvest continues; the tomatoes are extremely late this year so the long fall is a great treat. Enjoy the beautiful color in our trees this year. Hopefully we will not have another sub-zero October surprise again this year.
If you are looking for pizza in Missoula, Grant Creek may not be top-of-mind. Certainly not Snowbowl. However, Snowbowl has some rockin’ good pizza baked in a wood oven. Summer hours are available on their web site. Watch the sun slip behind the mountain and enjoy a pizza from the deck.
Or……Mackenzie River Pizza is located at I-90 and Grant Creek Road. If you want great pizza and don’t have time for a mountain drive, stop in at Mackenzie River.
I just received a copy of the update from the August 31 meeting of the neighborhood groups, Washington Corp., Missoula Parks and Rec., Pam Walzer and the leaders from the Grant Creek Trail Association. I am unable to insert a link here and cannot attach a PDF, so if you would like a copy, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will gladly send you the entire document. A short summary:
Half of the trail easements (total of 8 easements) have been recorded and the other 4 look like they are close to recordation. In order to complete the trail, slightly over $300K will need to be raised in matching funds in fall/winter 2010/2011. There is a projected schedule that was included in the notice. The hope is that the trial will be completed during the summer of 2012 for the 2 miles that are within the city of Missoula. The 1.3 miles that extend out into the county may be ‘re-prioritized’ and could push that portion of the project into 2015 or beyond.
If you missed the picture of the bear on the front page of the Missoulian, be sure to check their web site. A young male black bear wandered into town and ended up in a tree near the Missoula Children’s Theater. He was darted and eventually fell asleep; when he slipped from his tree he fell into the waiting nets below and was unharmed.
The photo should serve as a reminder that this is the time of year bears get ready to hibernate. Last year, the Missoulian published an article about the bears who visited the Rattlesnake and Grant Creek valleys in search of food. GPS collars tracked their movements into these neighborhoods usually at night.
Remember to watch how you handle your trash, your cat and dog food, your fruit trees and gardens, your garages and your cars. All can be attractants to bears. It is a good time to pull the bird and hummingbird feeders, too.
Good neighbors, remember to keep your trash inside until the morning of pick-up. Take down your feeders. Keep the pet food inside. As I drive in on Wednesday evening, I see the trash bins at the end of many driveways. Last night I drove home at 8 p.m. There were a number of homes that had the trash out already. The bears suffer if we are not responsible for our human trash. Problem bears? Problem humans?