Daily Journal: Montana Winter Challenges

The last week has been one adventure after another in Busby YurtLife. An epic powder day led to a handful of snowmobile issues (Read: our primary access to the yurt digging itself into our road’s new massive snowbanks). I resorted to one mode of transport up that never breaks down. 

 
Meanwhile, Sean was busy cleaning out our chimney after the swinging temps blocked it entirely! He writes, “Yurt life = DIY. Maintenance on our chimney cap after record breaking snow and a freezing rain event. Over the past two days we have noticed our highly efficient stove was acting sluggish and backdrafting smoke into our living space. A sketchy ladder climb up the side of our chimney revealed a gummed up chimney cap caused by mixing hot fire gasses with cooled air and precipitation. A call into one of our chimney cleaning friends revealed the same situation for many other people across the valley. This photo reveals all the creosote that built up from this recent weather event on our chimney cap. I will now clean it all out before reinstalling. If you notice drafting issues - it is wise to seek out and resolve the problem immediately. Creosote buildup can lead to devastating and potentially deadly chimney fires!”
 
 

YurtLife as a Classroom — AIARE Level 1 Montana

Yurtlife just reached a new level. I (Mollie) completed my American Institute for AIARE Level 1 course this weekend, based out of the Great Northern Powder Guides local backcountry yurt! There’s nothing quite like classroom in the AM, field observations and a ski tour to follow, and good times with new friends in a yurt to cap off the evening. Bonus points to Mother Nature for keeping us safe but allowing us to see snow instabilities firsthand.

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Remote triggered D1 storm slab avalanche near Stryker MT. Glad to be traveling with smart folks, and grateful to learn from a safe distance.

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Daily Journal: Seeking out the Snow

The temperatures have been telling us that winter is surely here in NW Montana. However, for some of winter’s prime activities - you still have to actively seek it and really earn your turns. It was a great day of finding winter in the backyard and being able to see our yurt across the lake in the distance.

Daily Journal: Share the Sun

Another fine ending to a day here in NW Montana with another beautiful crystal clear big sky which brought plenty of solar power to our Goal Zero solar panels and Yeti 1250 generators and batteries. We will now have enough power in our yurt for nearly two weeks as long as we remain conservative. Feeling refreshed - WooHoo!

 

Daily Journal: Montana Larch Trees

This photo is shown looking up to our yurt through the golden needles of our Larch trees (also known as Tamaracks). Last Sunday, we were completely fogged in as frigid arctic temperatures and heavy snow approached. That Sunday—November 9th—marked the last of our beautiful fall-colored Montana Larch trees until next year as our temperatures dipped into the teens and negatives. Winter has arrived in NW Montana.

I used to call the Aspen my favorite type of tree because of the brilliant colors their leaves produce in the fall - but not anymore. My new favorite tree is the Larch which is a conifer tree that goes through a similar cycle that the Aspen does each season with its leaves. However instead of leaves, the Larch has needles that change colors. Their needles fall off before winter and regrow into a brilliant bright green color each spring before transitioning into the beautiful yellow and gold color each autumn. Will surely miss this color, but it’s time for snow now. 

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Daily Journal: Montana morning light

With temps dipping into the 20s at night and highs only in the 40s, we are becoming more engaged with our wood stove. One special perk is you get to see some really amazing sunrises and Montana morning light when restocking the wood stove for breakfast. This sunrise was captured from our yurt looking into Glacier National Park as another storm front moves in bringing more rain and snow to NW Montana.

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Daily Journal: Montana Sunrise

The Montana sunrise peeks over the Bob Marshall Wilderness each morning, lighting up the east-facing side of the yurt, illuminating the yellow larches, and warming the earth for a new day. Finding beauty in our surroundings grounds us daily into this new life.

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Soaking up simplicity — One of the best hikes in Whitefish

One of the things that worried me most about moving into an off-the-grid yurt in Montana was time. It would take us more time to access our home. It would take us more time to do dishes by hand. It would take us more time to bring up water and transfer it into various buckets and bins for usage every week.

But as I sit here, savoring a cup of french press coffee that I put time and care into making, I realize that through this yurt, I’m learning to slow down and embrace the pauses — to embrace the moments of extra effort and extra time spent in nature.

In mid-July, our friend Brit came out to visit and we took her for a hike up the Danny On trail at Whitefish Mountain Resort. So simple and close to home, and yet long enough to make a day of it with the dogs. Whether for exercise, to refresh our stash of huckleberries, or for some impromptu yoga on the trail, this hike is what we consider one of the best hikes in Whitefish as an “Intro” to the town when friends come to visit.

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These big white flowering stalks are called Bear Grass. Their beautiful bulbs are seeing flowering all over Big Mountain throughout the summer, and I’ve read that their flowering cycle is every 5-7 years. Historically, Native Americans used the sturdy stalks of Bear Grass for basket weaving.

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Here is Sean, stopping for a water break with our herd of dogs: Daisy, Glaicer and Brit’s dog—who you might remember from last summer when we had her for a few months—Ava. This spot on the hike is one of our favorites. A little more than halfway to the summit, there are expansive views of the Flathead Valley and a nice bench to sit on.

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…or, do yoga on. Brit is an incredibly talented yogi, practicing in Denver. She found solace in and a bit of yoga bliss at our favorite spot on the hike. (Find her online here)

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And when it comes to simplicity, there’s nothing more pure than picking berries. I love seeing Sean — like a kid, so excited about such a simple task of picking huckleberries. As evidenced below, the huckleberries were MASSIVE this season:

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Yurt in Montana Update - Demolition Complete!

During the past few weeks, Sean and I (along with a number of extremely generous friends and neighbors) finished the disassembly of our yurt from it’s former home, just 15 miles to the south of where we live. It currently resides in six parts: the first in our basement, the second in our home office, the third in our living room, the fourth in our storage shed, the fifth in the other storage shed, and the sixth in a storage container on our property. It’s hard to believe we finally own it, and it’s also hard to believe that someday it will sit on our land looking out across Whitefish and the Flathead Valley into Glacier National Park. And to answer the question I get from just about everyone: Yes, we intend to LIVE in the yurt. Full time. Seriously.

Find more about Montana life and our yurt journey by following our Instagram feeds: Mollie & Sean

Sean, working on the demo of the bathroom closet:

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When you purchase a second-hand yurt and are responsible for disassembling it, you have to label everything — literally EVERYTHING — so that when it comes time to put things back together, you can connect A to B and VOILA! Yurt happens.

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The view outside from the bathroom window:IMG_1949

The yurt interior after our first major demo day. Living room/bedroom walls and closets are completely gone. Drywall is still on the outer walls. Things are looking more empty.
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After everything was out of the interior, it was time to demo the exterior. Off come the layers:IMG_1861

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The Busbys, hopping on ladders to grab the canvas:IMG_1867

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Dave, manning the top of the scaffolding solo as we removed the roof rafters, one by one:IMG_1887

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Johnny, Beth (who we purchased the yurt from), Sean, Dave and Shelby. I would have been in the photo to make Sean look less awkward, but someone had to click the button:IMG_1930

Folding up the roof insulation:

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Rolling up the canvas “roof.” This thing weighs a TON:IMG_1954

We’ve probably taken 25+ trips from the yurt home with STUFF. After demo-ing the exterior, we had two large trailers full of goodies:

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After taking down the yurt piece, we had to take down the deck, which is made up of insulated panels:IMG_1956

 

After the panels were off, then we had to disassemble the foundation. Here’s Sean and our friend, Andrew drilling and crow-barring:IMG_1998

 

All that was left were the concrete footings:

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So long yurt. Till we meet again:IMG_9985

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And of course, apres yurt activities were in full swing. Like axe throwing. How Montana of us: 1926099_10152277946155804_9258107_o

Special thanks to Beth and Johnny, Dave and Shelby, Andrew, Emily, and Hank for all your help during this process. Hopefully you’re all not sick of hot dogs and beer — we’ve still got a long way to go!

Find more about Montana life and our yurt journey by following our Instagram feeds here: Mollie & Sean

 

#TBT (Throw-back Thursday) — Bye, Winter. It’s been real.

Just as suddenly as it came, winter in northwest Montana has gone - seemingly for good. Although the snow-capped peaks of Glacier National Park line the eastern wall of the Flathead Valley, the majority of the valley floor is becoming lush and green again. Birds are chirping, turkeys roam our yard, the daylight last longer and we find buds on the branches of larch trees and the lilac bush outside our home. While at one time, we dreaded the return of summertime while living in the hot, desert, today we welcome the changing of the seasons. As Sean says, it’s the only time in his life when he can remember looking forward to summer. As we ring in springtime from our corner of the world, I was stoked to find some photos on Sean’s computer from adventures to Glacier National Park and Tamarack Brewery in Lakeside, Montana with my best friend Lisa, and her hubby Dave taken last summer/fall. The weather was sunny and crisp that weekend, and the four of us ventured out in the Greasecar for a hike in Glacier and a tour of Flathead Lake.

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A #WhitefishMoment with the Agnews

Moving to Whitefish, Sean and I quickly learned that there were “locals” and there were “tourists.” But unlike many places we’ve visited where tourists are considered outsiders, we love how the Whitefish community embraces the folks who visit and yet still maintain an authentic, western ambiance. Sean and I know all too well that Whitefish has an uncanny ability to permanently capture some visitors with its abundant outdoor activities, friendly locals, and unique character… it captures them — like it captured us — and we end up becoming part of the community.

Larry and Connie Agnew fall into that category, too. The pair has been coming to Whitefish since 1992, and calls Calgary, Canada home. A short 5-6 hour drive south, Whitefish started as a weekend destination for the pair, and soon, they realized it was harder and harder to stay away from all the town has to offer. Today, the Agnews have three kids, Riley (22) Jack (10) and Gabrielle (7), and each embraces Whitefish in their own way. We’re thrilled that Connie took some time to chronicle the Agnews’ journey to Whitefish, and how they’ve made this magical place more than a destination… it has become their home away from home.

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Here’s Connie…

Larry introduced me to Whitefish the winter of 1992, when we first started dating. He had been there with friends on a ski trip and had friends from Calgary who owned a home close to downtown. It became a place where we could leave the city behind. We began “borrowing” our friends’ home, mainly in the winter, so we could spend our afternoons at Big Mountain soaking up the rays on the deck at the Bierstube. Eventually, our friends decided to sell their home and we were not willing to let that opportunity pass us by.

Occasional Whitefish weekends quickly evolved into any-time-we-could-get-to-Whitefish weekends. We were there for the spring skiing, the furniture races at Big Mountain on closing weekend, an entry into the Corn Cup, and jet skiing in May with ice still floating in the lake. Summer welcomed the happiness of an afternoon spent at City Beach, hours of fun at the playground (which is still the nicest playground we have ever seen!), the fireworks on the 4th of July (which are just as impressive as the first time we saw them), and plenty of picnics on the mountain. Whitefish quickly became our “happy place” and we couldn’t wait for the next long weekend to visit again.

It was the summer of 2000 and Larry and I were at our favorite lookout on the old Big Mountain road for a picnic. It was always quiet and breathtaking, and there were a few picnic tables that overlooked the lake and the town. It had become tradition to stop there to share a glass of wine and catch our breath before heading back to Calgary. It also became the perfect spot for him to pop the big question, and apparently, the perfect place for me to say, “Yes!”

Marriage brought children, and when Jack and Gabrielle were babies, our trips to Whitefish became less frequent. We rented out our home in Whitefish, but occasionally visited to camp at State Park. It was on a camping weekend that we were in visiting a neighbor’s home, looking at our house (and the renters inside) and we realized it was time to take our house back!

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The kids enrolled in ski lessons at Whitefish Mountain Resort and what started as a few runs and an afternoon at the ‘Stube so many years ago, became a race to the summit and afternoons of fun on Grey Wolf and Moose, which are still our favorite runs. We have now discovered the T-bar and love the new runs back there and we are super excited to see the new terrain that will be opened up next season. On a clear day, the views of Glacier National Park can’t be beat, and a run down Moe Mentum still takes my breath away.Whitefish has become a major part of our lives. Gabrielle is certain that this will be the year that she is tall enough to ride the Alpine Slide by herself, and yet still the perfect size for hours of fun on Spider Monkey Mountain. Jack looks forward to advancing to the next level of challenges at the Aerial Park, and when Riley celebrated his 21st birthday, it wasn’t about having a burger and a beer at the Bulldog downtown… it was that he could finally visit the bathroom at the Bulldog! (Editor’s Note: For any adults who haven’t experienced the restrooms at The Bulldog, just take our word for it… it’s an experience, to say the least!)

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Whitefish is where we spend Christmas morning, Easter Sunday and our entire summer vacation, with Larry commuting on weekends. We have our mornings at Montana Coffee Traders and breakfast at The Buffalo Cafe, and the occasional evening at The Great Northern Bar. Sometimes it’s lazy summer days on the front porch swing, and endless hours of UNO! We are now season pass holders, kayakers, hikers, geocachers, bikers and boaters and have several neighbors that we call friends.

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Our friends here in Calgary don’t always understand how we justify the time away, and wonder why we don’t miss the city… until they come to visit. Until they spend a Tuesday night at the Farmer’s Market, participate in one of the many festivals, spend an afternoon at the beach, a weekend witnessing the splendor of skijoring, or — of course — an inverted bluebird powder day on “The Big”. Only then do they truly understand. Only then, they realize why Whitefish is our happy place.

To Connie and the family: We couldn’t agree more!

Two Sticks and a Board is proud to partner with Whitefish Mountain Resort on this series of posts focused on the community of Whitefish, and how the mountain and the town bring together so many fantastic people from places near and far.

The Quest for the Perfect Butcher Block

My love for finding treasures dates back to elementary school, when I would go to rummage sales with my neighbor, Ally. It was so exciting - the thrill of the hunt! Sometimes for a purpose, and sometimes for nothing in particular. I bought so much junk… Caboodles, doll houses, trapper keepers, books, T-shirts, jewelry—the list goes on and on. Today, garage sales might be the only place 25 cents goes a long way. But yet, I was inspired then just as much as I am today when I shop for decor for our home at vintage shops.

There’s something so satisfying about browsing through vintage wares, selecting an item for your home and then actually seeing it come to life in your house as a recycled treasure—and it’s not something your friends will have. It’s completely unique to your home. Nearly all the furniture in our home is from vintage/thrift stores or things that have been handed down to us from family. I feel this is one of the ways I satisfy my love for decorating, and my new-found desire to recycle things (like our waste veggie oil-powered cars!).

When I went to the Vintage Whites Christmas Market recently in Kalispell (one of my favorite events that comes around a few times a year!), I wanted one thing, and one thing only: A butcher block. When I found it? It was like a movie where the clouds part for a moment and a beam of sunshine illuminated the butcher block of my dreams. Lo and behold, it was handmade by a man in Bozeman and fastened to a frame of recycled barn wood. So much more satisfying than buying one in a big box store:

These white jars for flour and sugar are also thrifted from the Vintage Whites Market.

In the spirit of Christmas shopping, I wanted to share more photos from this great event. If vintage shopping isn’t your thing, maybe these photos will inspire you to try it… You never know what you’re going to find! Whether you have a purpose or none at all, the thrill of the hunt is the object of the game. Happy holiday hunting, and more importantly, happy holidays!

I’m so stoked on this jewelry from Poisonberry. It’s made in Montana (obviously) and there are so many cute pieces. I met owner and artist, Britt McGillivray at the show and was blown away by all her merchandise. If you live in Montana, you probably need one of these necklaces. Just sayin’. Click here to view the Poisonberry Jewelry website.

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Sorry, I know these aren’t vintage wares, but these cake pops were so cute!

Top 5 Reasons to Ski Whitefish Mountain Resort

It’s official. I wrapped up my first “Opening Weekend” at Whitefish Mountain Resort. For those who don’t speak ski-town, that’s code for “the weekend the resort opens.” Unlike Sean, Whitefish is the first resort town I’ve ever lived in. He’s lived in Steamboat Springs, Whistler, and grew up in Southern California, near resorts like Mountain High and Big Bear. Me? I grew up on Nordic Mountain—a whopping 265 vertical feet of sweet Wisconsin “powder.” (Emphasis on the quotes.) Whitefish Mountain Resort’s 2,305 vertical feet provide a bit of an upgrade as my “home mountain.” The entire mountain was open for the big weekend due to the heavy winter weather we’ve had in the last month. Although Sean and I do a ton of backcountry, it was fun to ride the steel horses to the top instead of relying on our own two feet.

Here are the top 5 reasons we love to ski Whitefish Mountain Resort:

5. The Snow Bus. No ride? No 4WD? No motivation to drive up a mountain road? Whatever your reasoning, the Snow Bus is for you. Making stops across Whitefish before heading up to the resort, the Snow Bus is a free ride to Whitefish Mountain Resort for anyone who needs it. With the last bus descending after 10pm through April 5th, you can ski all day, have some brews at the Bierstube and head down to town without having to get behind the wheel. Click here to see this season’s schedule.

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4. Beards feel at home. In other places, children may say “Stranger danger!” to this man. In Montana, children envy this man. In all seriousness, the Montana crowd is incredibly welcoming, interesting to chat with, and facial hair abounds. As Sean says, snow is an insulator. So are beardsicles.

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3. Less crowds. More to ride. Northwest Montana is like America’s best kept skiing secret. Don’t tell them we told you… but the resort has all the personality and terrain of Colorado or Utah, and none of the crowds. Couple that with double digit negative degree temperatures for opening day, and we practically had the mountain (and all its sweet terrain) to ourselves:

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2. The Views. I know everyone probably thinks their home mountain has the best views, but Whitefish actually does. No other resort can say their Summit House looks directly into the Crown of the Continent—Glacier National Park. And when the snow covers the trees and the clouds lift for a day, GNP is in full majestic force to the east. You’ll also hear the trees referred to as Snow Ghosts, because as the winter progresses, they are covered by layers of snow and rime (ice) from the humidity in the climate here. Eventually, all green is covered and they’re big, billowing ghosts scattered across the mountain.

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1. The après ski scene is rad. Whether you stay up at the mountain to experience the glory of the Legendary Bierstube, or you mosey on down Big Mountain Road into town for a brew and some french fries at the Bull Dog Saloon, your experience post-ski is going to be a good one. Cheers to a great season!

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The road to the Polebridge Mercantile

The snow is falling in northwest Montana, and we’ve wasted no time getting after some deep powder turns. Whitefish Mountain Resort opens this weekend and the incredible local backcountry scene beckons with each inch of snowfall. A few weeks ago, after one of the first snows, our friend, Emily and her dog, Daisy (yep, same name as our dog), made the journey with us to Polebridge and the Polebridge Mercantile.

The word “journey” is no exaggeration. Polebridge is a remote, off-the-grid (literally, electricity-free) town on the western border of Glacier National Park, along the North Fork of the Flathead River. The sleepy town can be accessed through Columbia Falls, toward Glacier, then veering off toward Canada on a windy, gravel road—in our case, snow covered road. One hour and thirty five minutes from Whitefish, it’s a worthwhile investment to go to Polebridge in the summer. In the winter, it’s a darn-near commitment. At some point along the road, your cell phone loses reception completely and at the same time, you can taste the sweet Huckleberry Beer Bread, fresh Meatball sandwiches, and sweet pastries that await at the generator-powered Polebridge Mercantile. It’s become one of our most favorite places in Montana.

After fueling up at the Merc, we fastened on our skins and headed out along the Forest Service road with the dogs (Daisy, Daisy and Ava) for a ski-jour. It’s amazing to experience the beauty of a remote, mountain escape like this one. Sean and I laugh when we refer to Polebridge as our “escape” because generally speaking, Montana is our escape. But sometimes, even when you live in paradise, your mind craves a day away in the mountains in a place like Polebridge. (The lure of a fresh-baked huckleberry bear claw helps, too!)

Along the road to the North Fork, the tips of the baby trees were dotted with tiny snowballs:

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During the drive, Emily noticed a wolf in the distance headed to the river. We were lucky enough to pull over in time to snap photos.

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The snow covered road proved to be too much for our low-riding veggie-oil VW Golf (free fuel = easy trip). We had to turn back on the first attempt with the Golf because of the deep snow drift in middle of the gravel road. During the short time we drove along it, the VW’s undercarriage surely got a nice snow scrub! We turned around and headed home to get the Durango, and then headed all the way back to make the full trip to Polebridge. That shows you how dedicated we were to accessing this special place!

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Fuel for the day (and the coming week!)…

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The Mercantile is the heartbeat of this tiny town—featuring not only the baked goods, but necessities and Montana trinkets for tourists and locals alike.

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The Merc is well-known for the aforementioned huckleberry bear claws:

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Although most of the day was cloudy, we could see the tips of Glacier National Park in the distance on our way out.

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In the excitement to warm up after a long tour, Daisy and Ava were slightly tangled in the back of the car. A good laugh for the end of a great day.

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Our First Snow - a lesson on appreciating the forest & cultivating the trees

Well, it’s official. Our first snow in our new home has come and gone. It’s November in Montana, and dare I say it…winter is here! And while our hometown has changed since last year, Sean’s giddy feelings about the “first snow” have not. It’s like watching a kid on Christmas… except “Christmas” isn’t a set date. Christmas could happen any day—so when it does, it’s that much more of a surprise.

If you know Sean, you know he was SnapChatting the moment it started to dump:

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For the past two weeks, northwest Montana’s forecast has been calling for “snow” every other day… but until this Sunday, NOTHING came. Sometimes it would say a 90% chance of snow in Whitefish—and still, nothing would happen. Seeing Sean on those days is like seeing a kid on Christmas who gets the wrong Lego set from Grandma. Angry, but not really angry because Grandma’s just trying to do her job, and Grandma does what she wants. So when the snow finally started coming down in earnest, Sean was as happy as could be. You can’t see it in the photo above, but he’s got a massive grin on his face.

I walked around the perimeter of our home the morning after, snapping photos of our first Montana snow. Looking at all the beautiful, snow-covered trees and seeing the sliver of morning light coming from the east, I recalled a lecture I heard recently, and I reflected on the forest surrounding our home as it applies to life.

Oftentimes, the day-to-day gripes overshadow our “big picture.” We feel obstructed from achieving our mission in life because we’ve got a bunch of seemingly meaningless stuff to do first. Metaphorically speaking, we focus on the forest, when we miss the trees standing right in front of us.

I believe we should know what the forest looks like, meaning our “greater picture,” or our “purpose” in life. Not our job, but rather what is the true talent we were put on the earth to do? We should never lose sight of that, and similarly, allow that forest to change as our lives change with us. In the meantime, our day-to-day focus shouldn’t be on that forest, but rather on each tree, one at a time… cultivating each with love and kindness. We must pay attention to the small things—our trees—that put us in the right place at the right time. Because in the end, when we look back, we will see that it was the trees (however meaningless they seemed at the time) that got us to where we are.

“Don’t focus on the mountains all the time. Focus on what makes the mountain whole.” —Levi Lusko

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Fall Colors at 114° West

Having moved to Whitefish in March, I’m still in that phase of awe as we transition through new seasons in our new home. Although I took these photos weeks ago, the fall colors in this part of the country are still spectacular, and the crisp, cool air is a refreshing change, preparing us for winter—which is just on the horizon. Not much longer and we’ll be on skis again!

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These trees are called larch trees, and while they look like pine trees, this breed sheds their needles every fall. Before that, they turn a blazing shade of yellow. It’s like being surrounded by yellow Christmas trees! (Brittany: Not as good as hot pink Christmas trees, but close.)

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Fully recovered from her incident with the bear, Daisy enjoys every opportunity to soak up the season: DSCN0047

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This view is from our bedroom—straight into Glacier National Park.

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I gave a tour of our 10 acres to my friend Courtney a while back, who writes a Montana style blog called 114° west (www.114-west.com—as Whitefish sits at 114 degrees longitude). As a style blogger in my former life, the fashionista in me envies Courtney for her ability to put together stylish yet incredibly Montana-esque ensembles. Born and raised in Whitefish, Court is one of the most genuine women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in this new chapter in our lives. Plus, her outfit in these photos is the perfect compliment for fall in the northwest and the changing of the season.

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Adventures in our own backyard: Picking for Huck Pies

One of the reasons Sean and I were initially drawn to Montana was the abundance of outdoor activities at our disposal. At any given moment (in any given season), we could be paddle-boarding in Whitefish Lake, backcountry skiing in Glacier National Park, cycling the hundreds of road biking routes through the lush valley, mountain biking the muddy paths of the Whitefish Trail, or hiking up Big Mountain. I’ve got literally hundreds of photos of various activities we’ve done—I’m determined to post them here to showcase Montana’s magnificence!

In the last few months, we’ve hiked at Whitefish Mountain Resort a number of times, and about halfway to the summit is a vast clearing where the bushes are absolutely packed with massive huckleberries. Our friends mentioned how they’d never seen huckleberries that big—even after living in Whitefish for many years. When our friend Chloe visited from across the border a few weeks ago, we couldn’t resist taking our Canadian friend on her first huck-picking mission. In return, she baked us some delicious huckleberry hand-pies. We begged her to stay and continue baking for us, but alas, she retreated to Canada where she is currently perfecting her recipes.

In these photos, you’ll notice Ava—the black and white dog—who belongs to our friends Russ and Britt. They are currently teaching abroad in Beijing (you can read their stories here!) and we’ve got little Ava in our care for a few months. The best part is Ava came with a dog pack from Ruffwear (find here). She’s a bit of a mountain beast with an endless supply of energy—carrying her own water, snacks, frisbees, and poop bags. Sean’s pack is the Osprey Kode pack (find here).

Our happy Canadian friend, enjoying some classic American berries.

These bushes were literally weighted with berries!

This jug looks empty here, but we managed to fill the entire thing that day, plus two more containers! Visor by Mountain Khakis (find here). Top by Polarmax (find here).

Although Ava looks slightly annoyed in this photo, she is growing accustomed to getting her picture taken frequently in Montana. And she knows that a good photo session is typically followed by her favorite activity in the entire world: Frisbee.

Snacktime with a view at Whitefish Mountain Resort:

Mmm… huck pies! So good we couldn’t even wait for the camera before digging in:

Daisy the Weim and the Cone of Pride

When we arrived home from New Zealand/Australia a few weeks ago, we were greeted by a Super Highway of bear activity, right out our front door. It was sort of like being at the zoo—except the house was our cage, and the bears were in the open, roaming as they pleased and picking apples from our apple tree to store up for winter. We would take our ceremonial photos, and then run outside yelling and banging pots to scare them off. After a week, we counted five different bears that had made our property a regular stopping point on their daily jaunt. Even after picking all the apples, the bears still saw something magical about coming to visit the Busbys.

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Scared away:

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When you have so much wildlife activity outside, one must be very strategic about how and when she lets the dogs outside to run and play and take care of business. (It’s dogs, plural, because we have our friends’, Russ and Brittany Hopkins’ dog, Ava, with us for a few months during their year-long teaching trip to China—which you can read about on their blog here.) Every morning, I walk outside before the dogs and clap loudly, listening for that familiar rustling. I peek around corners to check the bears’ favorite places. Once the coast is clear, I release the dogs and they dash outside to chase the nearest squirrel up a tree and all is well.

But last Sunday, we weren’t so thorough—partly because we’d been outside all day. We were desensitized to the “safety” one feels in their own front yard. We had been outside with the dogs painting furniture, playing frisbee… you know, the things you do on a Sunday afternoon. Unbeknownst to us, a sow and her two grown cubs were slowly approaching out of earshot.

It was about 5:30pm and we were preparing for the arrival of some friends for dinner. Daisy wasn’t outside for more than a second before her instincts kicked in and she took off running, ready to defend her family and her territory. Ava started to follow but retreated on our call. We didn’t see the incident with Daisy happen around the corner, but Sean could see two cubs in a tree across the street while the mother was guarding them at the base. He instantly called to me. We screamed for Daisy and soon, she came limping around on the other side of our house—her chest slashed by the mother bear, and her right front “wrist” slashed through to the tendons. After she darted inside, we stopped her in the middle of our black and white checked kitchen floor where bright red blood began to pool from her leg wound.

This was our first “tragic incident” together dealing with blood. I will say it was a bit like the TV shows when someone arrives in the ER—GET ME A TOWEL! WE NEED TO STOP THE BLEEDING! GET THE NUMBER FOR THE VET! HOLY S*&% THIS IS HAPPENING! Meanwhile, Daisy was sitting on her back haunches, teeth clenched, not making a sound. It was almost surreal, like it wasn’t actually happening. But it was.

Once I identified the worst of the wounds and saw Daisy being so strong, I calmed myself a bit and focused on stopping the bleeding with the nearest paper towel and a multi-colored beach towel. The drive to the 24-hour emergency animal hospital was probably the worst part. I was in the back, holding Daisy’s leg above her heart, trying to stop the bleeding… trying to keep Daisy from sliding clear across the trunk of the Durango around every corner. Poor Sean—completely frazzled at the wheel—was convinced that we were behind the slowest people in Whitefish… the entire 20 minutes to the hospital. I think the Universe put those people on the road to keep us from recklessly speeding. It wasn’t until we arrived that I realized I had taken the trip without any shoes on, while wearing paint-stained yoga pants, a grubby sweatshirt and a faded denim hair scrunchie circa 1998.

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The vet came out to our car to assist in getting Daisy inside. The bleeding had stopped and she was able to limp herself into the hospital. Remembering that part, her strength still amazes me.

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Throughout the whole process—including a 3 hour surgery to stitch up her wounds and re-fuse a vein in her leg—the doctors kept saying how lucky she was. Despite how wild her leg looked, her chest wounds were actually worse than they thought, being only held together by a thin layer of skin. Lucky for Daisy, that skin held on tight and the stitches will make it like new (aside from a gnarly scar she’ll have). Shout out to Dr. Dean Aldrich for taking such good care of her. He said they typically see about two bear incidents per year, and sadly, they’re usually fatal. Although Daisy was given a “Cone of Shame” to wear for two weeks until her stitches get taken out, we’d rather call it the “Cone of Pride.”

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Our dog—at age nine—attacked a full-sized mother bear and survived to tell the story. What a girl… Thanks everyone for your well-wishes during her recovery. I assure you, aside from the cone and a slight limp, Daisy is still the same happy dog she was before!

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She may have a cone on, but her hunting instincts are sharper than ever. ‘Merika.IMG_3947