Never Overplay Your Hand

When I go places in my personal rig I keep two things in mind “is this within your skill level?” and “can your truck handle this?”   In my personal rig, I always keep a shovel, sand, a tow strap  and even cable chains no matter the season.   I have ended up places in snow that I did not imagine it would be there.  I always try to be prepared for the worst case scenario when I drive out in the more remote areas I visit.

Last week we had lots of unseasonable rain and it caused lots of problems for the staff not only trying to do our job of doing surveys, but getting places that we needed to complete the surveys.

The sun came out after a day of unseasonable rain, but I was still driving  in roads with water and mud.

The sun came out after a day of unseasonable rain, but I was still driving in roads with water and mud.

There was occasion where I was doing a survey and watched a guy drive up the road pass where I was working.   His truck threw up a big splash telling me that the water flowing over the road was more serious than I had thought.    He backed up and took a second run at it before he came out the other side.    I technically need to drive up the road another six miles and do a second survey  but the water wasn’t just sitting on the road as a puddle, but a ditch, gully, stream or small creek was flowing over the road.    There may have been enough ground for the man to get through, but there was no telling what was flowing away under that water and how fast the erosion was happening.  There was no guarantee if I got to the site the conditions of the road when I returned would be suitable for getting out.  I passed on the second survey site up that road.

Later that day I found myself making my way slowly down a road in four-wheel drive with the road getting progressively worse.   In the end I made the decision that if I was going to get to the survey site, I was going to need to be in four-wheel drive low rather than four-wheel high.    I had always been taught 4WD low was for a dire situation, a “rescue me” if you will.    I knew at that moment that using 4WD low to get into a place left me with no options if I needed them to get back out.   It was time to turn around and mark this as a site not safe under the day’s current conditions.

In both cases for me it was a case no sense in over playing your hand.   Sometimes you have to gamble, and other times it makes no sense.   Life is about more than the ability to do something but also about the ability to continue on afterwards.

The High Point and A Low Point

Last week it seemed was rainy everywhere, and Montana was no exception.    I blogged earlier about the rain and my field work last week.    As I was taking one last look over the photos I had taken before I packed up again to head out again this week.  I noticed that there were two photos that reminded me of the dramatic difference that a day, an hour or a minute can make.     Most of the week I was rained on in some form, from a light mist to pull off and stop because the rain is so hard you can’t see.    There were a few photos taken when the rain stopped and most of them still had grey clouds and threatening skies.    Yet I did have one photo where the sky was blue, the clouds were white, the grass was green and the road was calling for me.  Life was pretty amazing.

The road is calling my name.

The road is calling my name.

The other was a photo that grabbed me was the one I took sitting in the cab of my truck on my last day.   I had been driving down this road that was getting progressively worse while the rain continued to fall.    I stopped in the  middle of the road and mentally regrouped.   Though I could see for miles in all directions, I was alone,  I had been praying to not meet anyone on this road because to get off the proven tracks was soft mud. I would drive down this road for another few miles with it getting progressively worse and began to look for a place to turn around.  At eight miles from the paved road I would finally come to place to turn around without risking getting stuck and having to walk out.   I wrote off the last gypsy moth trap as impossible to safely set.    It was a low point to admit defeat, to be so close and not make it.  Yet maybe it wasn’t.   I did not get stuck.   I did not have to walk out in the rain and I got all but one of my traps set.   Maybe there are no high points or low points, just points of view.

Miles from anywhere or anybody.

Miles from anywhere or anybody.

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

Right now the south is experiencing some record-breaking rain amounts.    I have been reading about the amounts they have received and the damage it has been causing.   Everywhere so many of us have been praying for rain, as much of the country is dry.    Our prayers are being answer, it seems we did not specify how much or when the rain should come and now it is coming in quantities we are not sure how to deal with.

I spent last week in a rural county in Montana that only gets 12.99 inches of moisture a year.   It is bunch grass and sage country with a lone hearty tree found once in a great number of miles.    They too were getting their rain in an unseasonable amount at one time.   When the rains broke it was some wonderful open spaces with breathtaking views and I knew that this job was what I was suppose to be doing this summer.


Driving in the rain on the two lane highways one could almost imagine that they were somewhere else. like the rainy Oregon coast, because it the clouds were so low and the vegetation crawled up close to the edge of the highway.    You could not see the Montana landscape.

I grew up in the Midwest where snow fences were common place to catch the snow as the wind blew it around.   Snow fences were rolled out each fall in fields off the highway each fall, nothing like they are in Montana, where they are build and stay in place year-round.   I have been here 13 years and the snow fences in Montana still strike me with awe.    I don’t think it is the snow that is the problem.    It is the wind that blows that causes problems.     I swear snow can fall at my house and the wind will carry it to the next county.    The rain was starting to break up for a bit when I took the photo of this fence, with a little snow still left that collected in bowls in the background.

As you can see we have monster tall snow fences that are never put away. The trees there give you some scale how tall they really are.

As you can see we have monster tall snow fences that are never put away. The trees there give you some scale how tall they really are.

My job this week was setting out gypsy and other invasive species moth traps.  I am given a book with a map with dots on it, along with hand-drawn site maps, where we are to set the traps out.    These take you to some of the most remote locations in the county.   When you are setting traps a sparsely populated county you can go for hours and miles and not see a sign of human existence except for the barbed wire fence and the cattle.   It also meant that I saw this sign often when I was  setting traps.   The rain made these roads a challenge to navigate, but there was only one time when I said this has reached the top of my 4-wheel drive skill level and turned around.  The rain was pouring, the road had miles ago turned to mud, there were blind hills and curves and I was about ten miles from the paved road.    There is one thing you don’t want to do is get yourself stuck miles from the last ranch house you saw in the pouring rain.


I got a break on the first day with the rain and am so glad I took this picture of one of the seasonal roads I traveled to set traps.  On this road I found more than mud and puddles I experienced something the locals call gumbo. I am not sure even how to explain it, but it grabs on to your tires and truck and doesn’t let go. It builds up inches thick on everything, making driving one nasty slow going experience.

I did capture one picture of the one of the three mountain ranges that surrounded me this week.   Even with the clouds and the distance there is always something that takes your breath away when you look up and see natures amazing handiwork.


Spring in Montana

Oh this week has been a classic spring week in Montana.   We have had unseasonably warm days and now we have had snow and ice.

Taken Tuesday.   Things were starting to green up, though Mt. Fleecer will have snow until August or September.

Taken Tuesday. Things were starting to green up, though Mt. Fleecer will have snow until August or September.

Tuesday was absolutely a beautiful Montana spring day.    Friday we had rain all day and I could see the snow line slowly creep down as the day passed.   By dinner we were above the snow line.   Saturday we woke with overcast and by late afternoon we were back in the snow belt.   Sunday It was winter again no holes barred.

By Friday we had rain and then snow.   This was taken Saturday on my walk.

By Friday we had rain and then snow. This was taken Sunday on my walk.

In Spite of It All Life Goes On

This weekend here is suppose to be nasty. You can read between the lines for that to mean rain, snow, wind and temps in the 30’s.   Yesterday I curled up and stayed in all day when Mother Nature dealt me a crummy hand.      Today I when I woke up to snow/rain I  said “UP YOURS” and went on about life.     This morning I did my first 5k of the season.

This one was a special one as it was a charity walk for the local shelter’s animal fund.   Albert’s Angel Fund is a local charity  that helps pay for medical expenses for adoptable animals that the local shelter might not otherwise afford.   I love the idea of the partnership of the shelter and the AAF.    Years ago our rescue dogs, Max and Charlie, used to get pledges and annually complete the Walk for the Animals, a fundraiser for the shelter they came from in Minnesota.   Today’s  walk  was a natural fit for me.

If it had been nice weather there would have been no question about participation, but with the rain/snow mix, the wind and the thermometer screaming 34 degrees I was not sure what the turn out would be like.   Heck I was not even sure if RangerSir would participate or not.  We got ourselves ready and out the door before we could change our minds.  The field was full of hardy souls dressed for spring in Montana, the rest of you may call it winter clothing.   There were folks of all sizes and ages, just the dogs were.   Probably the most interesting dog we saw was a Komondor, which I had never seen in person before.    There were also Corgie, Dachshund. Bloodhounds, Yorkies, a 3-legged Pomeranian, Giant Schnauzer, and any thing else you can imagine in between.  The family who parked next to us captured the essence of the field.   They had a little teeny tiny dog of Chihuahua  origin, a large elderly dog of Golden origin, a very young infant in a stroller, a short small mom, and a very tall dad.  See them unload from their rig  and make their family race ready made me glad I had not been a wienie and stayed home.

We finished our first 5K in 55 minutes.  Love that snow in the background

We finished our first 5K in 55 minutes. Love that snow in the background

Here are a couple more pictures taken during the race.     This was the 5th year for the race.   In the first four years of the race it has raised over $13,000 for Albert’s Angel Fund.   Not sure if the turn out will allow us to stay on target, but every bit helps and the race helps to raise awareness.   It was fun to watch the faces of folks in cars to see a mass dog walk.

Look at the puff winter coat.   The rain/snow made focusing a little difficult.

Look at the puff winter coat.


We walked in a wide right-of-way.

Now as I sit here blogging at home four hours later we are getting the snow that they predicted and yes they might be right it could accumulate an inch before it is done.   Sure am glad the walk is over, but glad I was part of it.

Looking off our deck to our shed and chicken coop.   The snow is coming down.

Looking off our deck to our shed and chicken coop. The snow is coming down.


Rainy Day

Today I slept in for some reason.   As a person up at the crack of dawn and starting my day full tilt when I jump out of bed this was unusual.   I attribute it to rain.   I awoke to the sound of rain on the roof.   It is one of the sounds of spring I love.    A grey, cloudy, rainy day perfect for sleeping in a bit.  Since today’s rain appears to be an all day affair  you will find me curled up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.   After all it is a spring rain in Montana.   Rain is only a few degrees from snow so it  is a damp chilly  day even in cuddled under a blanket in a warm house.

Rain on the window

Rain on the window