Happy New Year, p2P friends!
I’ve just returned home after a couple of weeks away – we spent a week at Christmas in North Carolina with our son, David, and his family, then from there we flew west for a week in Big Sky, Montana, with Rex’s siblings and cousin and their spouses. I think we covered a temperature gradient of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we’ve seen sun, rain, snow, wind, and everything in between. Best of all though, we spent time with family, and that’s always priceless. I also spent a couple of days at my daughter’s house just before going to NC, and the week before that, I was with my sister for a few days plus getting to see some cousins. It’s always fun to catch up with those we love the most!
Our week in Big Sky was fun-filled and fabulous! Rex’s cousin, Jan (we call her Junior) and her husband, Ed, have built a gorgeous mountaintop home in the Big Sky resort, just north of Yellowstone and south of Bozeman. They graciously invited Rex and his brother and sister (and spouses) to ring in the New Year with them, and somehow, we all made it happen. Even though my brother-in-law, Kyle, just had rotator cuff surgery a few weeks ago, we all got there. We were not disappointed! Kyle, Ed, Rex, and I were sniffing and snorting from icky winter colds, but we had enough hot toddies and such to get us through. Hopefully we didn’t infect the rest of the crowd.
Jan had been making arrangements and reservations all year long in hopes that this time together would happen, and we reaped the benefits of her good planning! Our first activity was an afternoon of dog sledding, which was a first for everyone but Jan and me. The two of us had gone together about four years ago, but I have to say it was even more fun this time. The course was different – longer and more scenic – and being with a big group was extra special. You can read all about my first Big Sky winter experience HERE, and click HERE to see a video of this year’s run. Once home, we shed our many layers of clothing, watched football, and then went to a fabulous dinner at Olive B’s down in the Meadow.
The next day, we slept in and savored the delicious breakfast Jan prepared, and we hung out, visited, watched the snow fall all day, watched football games, and stayed warm. There was lots to explore in the new house, and it was great to have a lazy day. Some of Jan and Ed’s friends came over for happy hour, and then we all headed down the mountain for our evening activity of dinner in a yurt. In case you’ve never heard of a yurt, it’s a circular tent of felt or skins on a collapsible framework, used by nomads in Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey – or in this case, I’d say it was canvas and used by people in Montana for a fun night out! We drove down to Basecamp at Big Sky, where we boarded a Snowcat for the ride up the mountain to the yurt. Jan and I chose to ride on top of the Snowcat – it was chilly, even with blankets, but fun. Once at the yurt, we were ushered to our table where we can a bowl of French onion soup waiting for us. We had brought several bottles of wine with us, so those were opened and poured, and then we were free to go outside and sled or watch sledders and stand by the bonfire. Jan and Kay did a sled run or two after the rest of us had gone back inside (no witnesses!). Dinner was delicious – beef tenderloin for all but Jan (the skinny one had salmon) and the most incredible garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. We were warm and cozy inside, and since the light was dim (just lanterns and candles), no one could see which rowdy table was singing along with the guitarist. But you may have guessed who that was… On the way down, Rex and I rode on top and stayed warm even though the blankets had a layer of fresh snow on them!
Driving home, we were inspired by the sled run at the yurt and decided that the street in front of Jan and Ed’s house would be a perfect sledding hill, so you can probably guess what happened the next day. The guys went down to the Ace Hardware and the girls did some other shopping (I stayed home and scrapbooked a bit). The highlight was that the girls saw Jennifer Garner at the grocery store! Rex and Ed took the sleds out, and they were soon joined by Jan, Lee, and me. Kay came out when Jan came in to get the Jeep so that we didn’t have to walk back up the quarter-mile hill. You talk about fun! That was the best sled ride ever!! Unfortunately, I broke one of the sleds (a la Christmas Vacation) when I ran into a boulder (cleverly disguised as a big blob of snow) at the end of the neighbor’s driveway. No injuries, thank goodness, other than a bruised ego. Unfortunately, it was too cold for the hot tub, but since it was New Year’s Eve, we had a lovely meal prepared by Jan and Ed, followed by the most yummy chocolate martinis ever! We had to welcome in the New Year on Eastern time, because we had to be on the road by 6:30 AM the next day.
There aren’t many things that can pull me away from the New Year’s Day football games, but the opportunity to go snowmobiling in Yellowstone is one of them! The park is closed in winter to normal vehicular traffic, with only snowmobiles, skis, and special winter tour vehicles allowed on that roads, so there are not many people who have experienced the winter splendor of Yellowstone. I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance! When we left Big Sky, the thermometer read -30 degrees F. It was so cold that by the time we got to West Yellowstone, they had delayed all snowmobile departures by 90 minutes (I could have used that sleep!). We drove over to the Running Bear for a little oatmeal and hot chocolate to fortify us, then headed back to Two Top to check in and clamber into our rented onesies, boots, balaclavas, helmets, and mittens. Now THAT was a sight! Finally, we were ready for action!
It was a COLD ride from West Yellowstone into the park, but the sun was starting to peek through the clouds and we knew that would warm us up. We stopped at Madison Junction for a warm-up and pit stop, then we were off to Gibbon Falls. But wait – our guide was having issues with his snowmobile, so we all stopped along the road. By the time we got his machine going, most of the rest were ‘frozen’ up. Grrrr. We waited a LONG time (what guide has no tools and no form of communication?) until another group came by and their guide was able to help us. Finally we made it up to Gibbon Falls, which was pretty cool. Since my sister and I were just there this summer, it was interesting to see the difference! We drove back to Madison Junction for lunch, then went south toward the Fountain Paint Pots. We hiked around there – it was so gorgeous – truly a winter wonderland! We had seen several herds of buffalo along the way, as well as some elk and lots of birds. The snow on the trees looked almost fake – for someone who rarely sees this much snow (and almost never snow like this), it was a treat! We went on the Kepler Cascades, then turned around for one last pit stop at Madison Junction. We were going to stop to see the swans, but it was getting late, so we had to just enjoy them on the ride. If I could have changed anything about this experience, it would have been to stop more often for photos! It was impossible to take pictures while riding, because it was too cold to have the camera out long. What an awesome day it was!
We rolled in to Big Sky about 6:30 PM, just in time for the Sugar Bowl and a hearty dinner of chicken pot pie and salad. We thawed out quickly and knew we would all sleep well – and we did! Our last day was meant to be another lazy one, with more sledding and the hot tub being the only things on our agenda. The guys went and bought more sleds and the girls did more shopping, but we mostly enjoyed sitting around. Ed took a great video of the sled run as he did it – you can view it HERE. The hot tub was perfect, and it wasn’t even bad getting out!
We had such a fabulous trip, full of winter activities that are a rarity for me, and full of family fun. It was the perfect way to end one year and begin a new one! Best wishes to you for a prosperous, healthy, and happy new year!
Here are a few of our dog sledding and snowmobiling photos: