Only the big things


Since we returned to Montana in early January, Little Bear has continued sleeping like a 6 month old should, which is to say not for especially long.  M and I are bumping along just fine, but smaller things like household organization, non-essential dishes, and alpine skiing are not getting done.  The big, important stuff like work, family time, outdoor time, and as much sleep as we can manage take up all our attention.


While some of the little things will eventually demand time given, for the moment the status quo is not at all bad.  Little Bear loves long rides in the woods in his ski trailer, and my legs, arms and aerobic system love hauling 40+ pounds of baby and inanimate entourage around along groomed trails and ungroomed logging roads.  We two have been averaging 10 hours a week since the new year, and I’ve only turned the Chariot on its side twice.

This past weekend, to celebrate the brightest weekend since Christmas and my impending birthday, we headed over to the east side and a ski-in cabin rental along the North Fork of the Teton River.

The Rocky Mountain Front is higher in elevation than the Flathead Valley, but also gets more sunny days, and absolutely strafed with wind.  Our afternoon trip in was in no way unusual; gust to 40 mph, and plenty of heavy windblown snow and bare ice, even though several inches had fallen the night before.  Thankfully optimizing glide with the chariot is not a huge concern, as the ski bases took a beating.


The Teton River valley, and the northern half the Front generally, has tremendous scenery and is one of the great hidden treasures of Montana, which is saying a great deal.  The limestone reefs and ridges look impressive from the highway, 30 miles distant with prairie between, but even from the higher summits in the middle it is difficult to grasp the magnitude and complexity.  Orographic loading feeds plenty of vibrant creeks in the late spring and summer, and that water has a task when it comes to finding its way out onto the flat.  The cabin is at the very end of the road, along the same Teton the pavement follows to the brink of the mountains, but our route required icy switchbacks up to the end of the plowing at the tiny ski hill, and a long ski down the other side.  The river takes the more direct route, cutting a sinuous canyon between sharp ridges, too narrow for the road builders.  I came through last May, and have wanted to get back ever since.


Those last unplowed miles are not long, but we now carry burdens measured in both pounds (over 20, in fact), ruminations, and 2am wakeups, and were glad to reach the door, go inside, and get a fire going.

Most forest service cabins were built with utility (and snow and grizzly proofing) in mind, and conspicuously lack more than a few little windows.  This cabin has big ones, on all four walls, which together with the location and cozy amenities jump it to the very top of my all-time list.

That night, and all the next morning, we were content to play with the baby, read, drink coffee and beer, eat food, do chores, and generally stay put.  It was very nice.

Little Bear celebrated his fifth cabin and new sleeping bag (5 oz Apex and .9 oz illume15) by sleeping no better or worse than he has lately, and also as he has lately, being amusing and happy as only a baby can be at almost every waking moment.  He did us an even bigger favor on the drive home, napping for over half of it and mostly entertaining himself with a few toys for the other part.



It was not a restful cabin trip, in the old sense of a vacation for both body and brain.  Words fail more often these days under the fog of a brain tired, as well as weighed down with responsibilities it has yet to fully grasp.  I do know that it was a good weekend, two exceptional days in an increasingly large pile of them, and that we will be back.



2 responses to “Only the big things”

  1. “I’ve only turned the Chariot on its side twice” Can we have Little Bear’s comment on those events? Once more, I am not being fully serious.

    1. The first time he was irritated as I woke him up. The second time he was largely unperturbed. The harness system is darn good.

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