A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a few days in snowy Montana with Rex’s cousin, Jan. Since we have the same name, we refer to each other as Jan, Jr. (her) and Jan, Sr. (me), or more typically, we call each other “Junior” or “Senior”. This proved to be pretty hysterical on some of our mountain activities, as the cute young men assisting us with dog sledding and zip lining had a hard time calling us Junior and Senior initially, but after a while, they just gave in and humored us.
Junior had been in Montana for about five weeks as she was on a short sabbatical, and she was kind to invite me up for a few days of playtime. Unlike Jan, I am not a snow skier, so we had a blast doing all of the non-skiing activities that we could think of. Every day, we worked hard to get a walk or two in, so that I could get my 12,000 Fitbit steps in – I could sure tell I was at altitude and on a mountain! Of course, we had a few basketball games to watch, as it was the best weekend in college basketball (opening rounds of the NCAA tournament), but we still found time to get out and try new things.
The first afternoon I was there, we went dog sledding. Since the temperature was in the teens, we had to layer up. Thankfully, Jan had plenty of cold weather gear for me to borrow – ski pants, bubble jacket, scarf, hat, gloves, ear muffs, wool socks, boots, long johns, hand and foot warmers, etc. – and I think I gained about 30 pounds once it was all on me. I felt like the Michelin man and looked like a stuffed sausage once I was suited up and waddling in the snow – let’s just say I was none too mobile and I was definitely not a fashion plate, but I didn’t get cold! Once we arrived at the appointed site, we were greeted by scores of friendly huskies and several dog sleds. There were about a dozen other people who were sledding that day, and thankfully there were plenty of young men helping us. We learned about the different positions on a sled team – lead dogs, swing dogs, team dogs, and wheel dogs – and we learned how to hitch the dogs to the towline. One of the dogs with us was an Iditarod champion – we even got to see his medal! Once the dogs were hitched up, the barking began. Oh, were they excited and anxious to run!! Next, Jan and I had to get into our sled – no easy feat for this overweight old lady in tons of extra clothing! Our driver was the adorable Caleb (with gorgeous eyes!) from Vermont. By the time we got going, the dogs were in a frenzy, but as soon as they started running, all barking stopped. We learned that you don’t say, “Mush!” – you say, “HIKE!” and off they go! What a rush – we were flying down the path through the snow. Big Sky had had a huge snow just a few days before I got there, and there were massive amounts of snow already there. This trail took us to parts of Moonlight Basin that most people don’t get to see – the views were spectacular, and the snow was pristine, except for the path we were on!
Soon, it was Junior’s turn to drive the sled – she did a great job! Caleb was really good about coaching her when to brake and when to lean one way or another to steer. At the halfway point of our ride, we stopped for hot chocolate, cookies, and photos, and then it was my turn to drive. Driving the sled was an interesting experience. You stand on the runners, and on these sleds (designed for novices to drive, I think!), there was a board in between the runners which served as the brake and the steering system. The runners are not very wide, and since they are snowy, they were a bit slippery. When the dogs are going downhill, it’s very important to brake so that the sled doesn’t catch up to the dogs, but then it’s important to let off the brake while there is still momentum so the dogs don’t have to work so hard going uphill. The hardest part was when the dogs got a bit tired and didn’t pull too hard going uphill, because then the driver has to jump off the runners and RUN while pushing the sled to help the dogs a bit. Of course, when I had to do that, the dogs decided to run before I did, so I was being pulled along behind the sled while not on it! So, I did what any thinking person would do – I let go! Caleb jumped out and got the dogs to stop and I picked myself up and got back on. It was hysterical! Thankfully, we have no photographic evidence of that incident, and I probably should be grateful that I had plenty of extra padding.
Once we got back to the starting point, we got to unhitch and unharness the dogs. To do that, I straddled the dog, held its harness, unhitched the back tether, unhitched the front tether, slipped the harness off, and then lifted the dog by its collar to carry it over to the kennel with the dog’s front legs in the air. That was a workout in itself, since Jan and I had a dozen dogs to unhitch! The whole outing was really a fun experience, and I highly recommend it if you get the chance to try it!
Our main activity on day two (other than walking and watching basketball) was a sleigh ride up to a cozy cabin for a prime rib dinner. We arrived in time to go to the saloon for a beverage before the ride. Our horses were Curly and Larry (very appropriate, we thought!) and we shared our sleigh with two cute young couples. The four of them had all gone to Clemson together, and one couple had moved to nearby Bozeman and the others had come for a visit. It turned out that we shared a table with them at the restaurant, so we had a great time chatting with them. They were even younger than my kids, so I was really feeling old!! On the ride back down after our delicious dinner, the stars were absolutely spectacular! It was a crisp, cold, clear night and we saw several shooting stars as well as locating lots of familiar constellations. It was a perfect ending to the day!
On my last full day at Big Sky, our big event was zip lining. I was so excited about that! Rex and I had done zip lining here in the summer, but this was a totally different deal. Since we had sort of overdressed for dog sledding, we didn’t put on quite as many layers for the zip line. Once at Basecamp, we got harnessed up (thankfully they did not weigh us on the giant scale there!), and then we hopped onto a ski lift and went WAY up the mountain. We had amazing views of Lone Mountain and the Spanish Peaks, and it was so quiet and peaceful on the ride up. It was a lot easier for me to get off that lift without skis, but everyone else was a little nervous about that! From the lift, we stopped for photos, and then we had to hike through the snow to our first platform. That was a little disconcerting – not to the children, of course, but to those of us who are old enough to have AARP cards. It was a bit slippery at times, especially going downhill on a turn! We had to be sure to stay on the packed down path, though, because the powder was about 12 feet deep! Our first zip line run was the fastest one, as we could reach speeds of up to 40 mph. Oh, was it a rush!!
The second run started where the first one ended, and it was the shortest one, but it was also the highest – 150 feet above the ground. Once all ten of us were safely across and on the next platform, we had to rappel down to the ground and hike to the platform for the third line. The third run was the longest at 1500 feet, and by this time, everyone was pretty comfortable and we were able to pose for photos as we zipped. Our final run was a double line, so two of us got to go at a time, so of course we raced! I felt sure my mass would carry me down the line faster than Jan, and I was right! Our adventure was almost over, but we did have to hike (or slide) down the hill to Basecamp. Although it was nice to be a little more mobile for the zip line, we were pretty chilly by the end of the day (three hours later!), so we stopped off at a nearby bar to warm up.
What a fun break that was for me! I had never been to Montana in the winter, and I surely had never seen that much snow, but I’m really glad I went. It was so interesting to me that not only did all that snow not even slow anyone down, but it was welcomed. A good bit different that what I’m used to! One other kind of funny thing about being someplace that is cold but not humid – it’s not as cold feeling. On the morning that we zip lined, we went to breakfast and then went for a six mile walk. Although it was 14 degrees when we started out, it was sunny and clear. After about 15 minutes, we had both taken off our gloves and our hats and unzipped our jackets, and that’s how we walked the rest of the way. Go figure. Must be like that ‘dry heat’ I keep hearing about!
Through the magic of digital scrapbooking, here are a couple of pages of my favorite photographs to give you an idea how much fun we had on the zip line:
For these quick pages, I used the pixels2Pages Blueprints called Beach Panorama (#p2PBeachPanoramaBP).
Kits used: Graham Crackers, Honey, & S’mores (Little Feet Designs by Janet Carr), Winter Solstice DK & Overlays (CM)
Fonts used: smiley monster, second breakfast
Click HERE to check out digital content from the Panstoria store via our affiliate link. It doesn’t cost you extra, and commissions and sample products that we receive help us enhance p2P offerings. (Note: For p2P to receive credit, please click through our affiliate link each time you purchase. You must click the link before you buy – it will take you straight to the Panstoria website.)