29 January 2010

Skywatch Friday: Rosy Fingered Dawn and other myths of my day

Each morning, Eos rises from her Oceanic home. With rosy fingers, she opens the gates of the sky for Apollo's sun-chariot (as with this view from my front porch):

In Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, he uses repetitive phrases such as: "Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared..." to open each day of the tale. It was a mnemonic device to help the Bard stitch togehter the many parts of the long story.

And in Homer, a "mountain" is never merely that. It is a "high mountain," a "mountain precipice," or a "mountain top." Yes, they are (as with this view from behind my home):

And so each day, I tell the tale of my life by the rising sun, mountains high, and (in winter) snow so slick for skiing. How would Homer describe Butte, Montana, this little city tucked into the Northern Rockies? I don't know, but it would have to be good:

The Moulton Cross Country Ski Trails

Cross country skiing is a real terroir recreational feast. Historically, at least, trails tended to fit the local culture and terrain. I've enjoyed skiing a few different places from Maine to Montana, and I love the sense of place that comes with differences in terrain, viewscape, trees & other vegetation, and even trail width & turn radius.

At heart I am a total provincial: the closer to home, the better. The narrow, twisting trails of The Moulton (just 5 miles north of my home in Walkerville) are the finest classic trails I know. Whether a gentle warm up loop like In Vein (double entendre when spoken) that begs to be skated on a "first tracks"in fresh snow morning:

Or a trail like Big Nipper that drops precipitously away from the gentle grade of the Orphan Girl. Very precipitously--it's easy to miss the little  "Widow Maker" sign that marks the entrance:

The finest I save for last: the Yankee Boy. It begins with a steep climb to test your wax and lungs. And there are two more steep climbs to come, along with some delightful downhills where the radius tightens as you speed into the turn at the bottom:

Each narrow trail and each winding turn reflect the character of the place, as well as the character of Paul Sawyer, the Vermont emigre who (along with local Olympic-caliber skier John-Mike Downey) established these trails. For the final flourish on this morning's taste of terroir, here is a tiny, elegant ice crystal that grew as the sun warmed a bit of snow, raising moisture that quickly froze in the 0 deg F air:

The Moulton: Montana's finest classic cross country ski trails.

Friday Fiction: Pardner, Everyone's New Friend

We all have had the experience. You befriend a man, let's call him "Pardner." Perhaps Pardner is a new neighbor, you work with his spouse, or he simply seem like a guy in need of a friend. But then someone who initially seemed normal enough destroys every shred of good will you might have felt for them. And it's not just you: one after another they alienate everyone they deal with.

I know a man like that. We all do. Or have. When people meet Pardner, he is initially friendly and outgoing. Oh, perhaps a little too obsequious or ingratiating. And there's that business of asking rude personal questions or removing a woman's shoe at a party in order to "study" her feet. Certainly those are just little eccentriticities. Nothing terribly harmful, right?

You invite him to a party at your place. And he invites several other of his acquaintances to your party. Or you take him hunting or fishing to some special place. And next time you go there, you meet these other acquaintences that tell you how their new best friend Pardner told them all about it, as if he had discovered it himself.

Of course, these are the mild symptoms of dis-ease in your new frienship. When Pardner tells you about killing the neighbor dogs because they "trespassed" on his property, things begin to feel, well, ah, downright creepy.

Pardner has told you about his family, and yet there are no photos on the mantle or walls at his house. Hmmm... "And why is it," you ask yourself, "that he has moved five times in the past six years?"

He meets John (an old friend of yours) at some public function, and tells John what a great guy you are and how he and you are best buddies who do everything together. Yes, Pardner tells John all about your wonderful virtues. He also tells John some wild tale of how your parents abandoned you as a child, or of a mental diagnosis derived from some pop seller on psychoanalysis. John tells you about this as if it's funny, but you don't laugh.

At this point, even for those of us who (as my therapist spouse likes to say) are "clinically clueless" in our easy trust of others, the creep-o-meter is in the red. You suddenly sympathize with women that talk about certain men as "stalkers."

By this time, when you invite friends to a party they ask, "Will Pardner be there?" When you say, "Sure, why?" they politily explain they'll be out-of-town that day.

Even as you distance yourself from Pardner, it's hard to contain the creep-factor. There are emails. Never one for paranoia, still you wonder who is sending you these cryptic bizarre notes about your colleagues or disparaging criticism of your political interests. They come from senders with names like "Forest Green" and "Justice."

Gradually, time and distance make the whole Pardner thing feel less threatening, more distant. Still, there is that vague queasiness when you go past his drive and see it piled with snow. The retired neighbor up the road no longer plows it, though he continues to confer this small favor on everyone else. When your other neighbor tells you yet another of his family's pet dogs mysteriously disappeared, you decide to sell your house and move.

15 January 2010

Help for Haiti: Plea from an Orphanage

Mrs Rover is a licensed MSW therapist. As part of her private practice, she helps with adoption certification. She has certified a number of adoptions for the nonprofit, A New Arrival, Inc.--an adoption agency located in nearby Twin Bridges, Montana.

A New Arrival works with orphanages, including the Children's Center abd BRESMA -- in Port Au Prince. Miraculously, the Children's Center was relativley undamaged in the big quake. They are taking in other children but are in dire need of supplies. Here is more information for those who want to help  (click to enlarge); feel free to forward this to others:

14 January 2010

Skywatch Friday: Skyblue Pink

When asked his favorite color, Gramps would always reply, "sky-blue pink." Though he may have first heard about this color in a children's story about Uncle Wiggily, he was serious and, if pressed, would describe that magical moment some mornings just before the sun rises above the horizon, when it lights up pink clouds against a vivid blue sky. Like this:

Return to SkyWatch Friday.

Back on Skis

My nasty knee cut came at a really good time. The snow wasn't too good yet, there was some intitial tear-out/plumbing/electrical work to be done on the kitchen, and I had a major report due to a federal agency (website to launch soon!). But ten days after my wreck, I couldn't stand it anymore. So, outfitted with new boots:

And kneepads (my backcountry/tele skier friend Rick has told me for years I should wear these):

I was ready to go. The road we ski to get to The Moulton's trails is icy, so I am glad for the kneepads! I think the water is springing from the ground because of the logging and widespread lodgepole pine die-off in the area. Those trees used to drink a lot of water:

I am taking it easy, sticking to some of the intermediate trails. It's been nice to rediscover the joys of some of the trails that I just haven't skied much in recent years, like the aptly named Nugget loop:

Feels good to be back on snow. Mrs Rover uses a treadmill in winter, and lots of folks just don't like to exercise in the cold. For me, the feeling of being outside is the feeling of being real, alive, and part of the natural world.

Our Old Yellow Kitchen

Poor Mrs Rover. When we bought our house in Walkerville, Montana, the only thing she REALLY didn't like about it was the kitchen. Our yellow kitchen. Every house we had ever owned or rented had a yellow kitchen. What's with that? Adding insult to injury, it was an old, drab, yellow kitchen. Don't even ask about the wallpaper. The cookstove was original to the house (1914) and that was cool:

But check out that washer and dryer next to the stove--our only "counter" space. Cupboards? Oh yeah, one: a little tin box above the cast iron sink:

We made do, in part with a nice old cupboard that was also original to the house:

In the 20 years we've been in the house, we did some major improvements. To other rooms: carpeting & wallpaper for the parlor; a new hardwood floor & tilework & cool patterned paint job for the dining room; some paint & TLC upstairs; a new parking pad in the backyard; a new roof... But the kitchen? Nada.

So bring it on, 2010. Our friend Ben is custom building solid hickory cabinets and will install them & the countertops (which Mrs Rover is gradually zeroing in on). He'll do whatever else is required for the walls, too. Plumbing, gas and wiring are my job (there goes my weekend skiing for the next month or two). Floor tiles and lighting will be my job (there goes my May/June troutfishing!).

Losing a few weekends of skiing? Forty-three units of EcoRover pain. Losing spring troutfishing? Seventy-eight units of EcoRover pain. Making Mrs Rover happy with a new kitchen? PRICELESS!

08 January 2010

Skywatch Friday: Mountain Town in Winter

Nighttime temperatures have been around -20 deg F (-30 deg C) in the small Rocky Mountain city of Butte, Montana. After the first cold spell one is used to it. Typically, the colder it is, the more clear & sunny (and windless) it is, so even -20 can feel downright pleasant. And beautiful, as the sun rises above the East Ridge in a cold, clear sky:

Lighting up the frost crystals on a pane of glass:

The morning light makes a study in contrast as it falls on the peaks of the Pintler Wilderness west of town:

Mountain skies are endlessly changing, deeply fascinating. The next morning dawns with a thin cloud cover, a colorful sunrise:

And yet another study in contrast looking west:

Walking down the hill from Walkerville to my workplace, I approach the lovely Immaculate Conception Catholic church:

And find that the cold weather has brought some mule deer down from the hills during the night to feed upon the lush shrubs of the townsfolk:

Before the light of day is on them, the deer return to their hiding place on Big Butte, the landmark hill that stands over my little city in the Rockies:

03 January 2010

Happy (Ouch!) New Years!

[Caution: if you're averse to seeing wounds, please skip this entry.]

The Moulton ski area just north of Butte, Montana, has been picking up a little snow. By New Year's Eve there was enough to ski some of the trails.

I like my Fischer "E99" backcountry skis. They are waxable and skinny, which means they are fast (much faster than waxless models) and adapt to a broad range of snow conditions. The steel edge makes for good control when the hills and trails get icy (skis shown sandwiched together):

My boots are by Karhu:

In their "X-Adventure" model:

With a wide, heavy duty "backcountry" style toe bar (SNS BC) that locks into the ski binding:

The boots are in pretty good shape (I thought). Though maybe I should have looked more closely? Are those cracks developing in the front of the boot?

What might happen if a toe bar breaks out of the boot, say while skiing down a moderately steep incline and in the middle of a turn?

What might happen when a knee meets a steel edge? Ouch. I just found out:

When I fell onto the ski, my weight combined with my downhill sliding motion sliced through the skin and into the fascia:

My first thought was "I can do this job myself," but the cut into the fascia layer gave me pause. Luckily, I was on the return loop of my ski tour, and not more than a half-mile or so to the truck. Holding some snow against the wound and tying it with a clean bandana stopped any bleeding, and a few wraps of duct tape kept my ski on the failed boot. A short drive to the emergency ward and a few stitches later (including a few inside, dissolvable stitches to repair the fascia) and I was good to go:

Thanks to the good ER staff at St James Hospital in Butte America!

[PS: I've contacted Karhu about the "problem" with their boot, and will let readers know what comes of it.]