Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spring Habitat Build in Montana

Baker City to Lolo, MT
394 miles

     At 6:45am we are on our way again - but this time headed to Montana!  Seems strange to be heading southeast when our final destination is northeast.  But the Wallowa Mts do make it a little tough to just go direct!!  Our route through Weiser means freeway for about 85 miles and the rest of the 520 miles to Columbia Falls will be on two lane!!!  We are going to cross the middle of Idaho along the Lochsa River.  We are excited for a beautiful day of scenery!  

Green, green hillsides north of Weiser
     A quick stop in Weiser to gas up, as it is a long haul clear up to Grangeville and the next decent gas stop.  North of Weiser we are amazed at the lush green countryside.  The last time we drove through here was July (in 2008) and it was definitely much browner that time of year!  We spot the Weiser Bike trail at various moments (it follows the river clear from Council down) and it looks much more inviting this time of year.  We can see random snowy peaks between the highway and the Snake River to the west.  Lots of balsam root yellow dots the hillsides, as well as the white of the syringa (mock orange).  
Dogwood at Little Salmon rest area

     After leaving Council, we stop briefly at a rest area along the Little Salmon River.  The canyon walls are steep and the river tumbles along with an abundance of water.  We grab a quick bite to eat, even though it is only 10:15 our time.  We left early today!  After Riggins, when the main Salmon joins the Little Salmon, you re-enter Pacific time (the river is the boundary for much of Idaho separating the lower part and Mountain Time from the northern half and Pacific Time.  As the river heads due north from Riggins, there is this section then where you are driving along in Pacific Time Zone, and to the WEST is Mountain Time!  Weird!!  
Pacific Time on the road, Mountain time on
the other side of the river!  Weird!

Looking east as we climb up Whitebird. 
     Finally the Salmon turns back to the west and we begin the long climb to the top of Whitebird Pass.  The vistas to the east are spectacular - a full palette of green colors.  Incredible.  The Honda putt putts its way to the top.  Once we crest the summit, you suddenly view a vast agricultural panorama of the valley surrounding Grangeville.  Most noticeably we spy what appear to be canola fields - bright yellow squares of colors in the green.  And then the fields are also covered with yellow flowers.  So pretty. 
Fields of yellow near Grangeville

     We stop in Grangeville briefly for gas.  Then we follow rustic Hwy 13 north to connect with Route 12 at Kooskia.  It is a curvy road winding downhill to the Clearwater River.  Part way down we enter the Nez Pearce Reservation.  At Kooskia, we head east, still along the Clearwater.  AT the town of Lowell, the Selway River joins the Lochsa to form the Clearwater.  The river definitely narrows at this point.  The Lochsa is a popular rafting river.  At first it seems fairly tame, but the further upriver we drive, the whitewater increases. The river is also running fairly high at the moment.  Must be plenty of snow melting in the high country right now! 
Balsamroot hillsides

     Highway 12 along the Lochsa is not the fastest route in the world, but it is a gorgeous drive, nearly 100 miles from Kooskia to Lolo Pass.  We gained about 4000’ elevation at a very gradual rate as we wound in and out the canyons of the river.  We were beginning to wonder if anyone was rafting, but finally we came upon groups of rafters heading down – one group of about 8 rafts!  Fish Creek Access appears to be the most popular input location.  We stopped there for a potty break! 
Along the Lochsa River 
The Lochsa is also the Lewis and Clark route
     Only one campground along the Lochsa was open, and it was at the west end.  We wanted to get further up the road!  All the rest had their signs covered up, the entrance gated closed.  South of the Lochsa is the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Area.  This is pretty wild country! 
I loved the red willows in this area - Lochsa

Near summit of Lolo Pass
     About five miles from the Montana border and Lolo Pass, we finally leave the Lochsa and climb to the crest of the Bitteroot Mountains.  A forest fire has burned this area relatively recently and the dark spires of burned timber stood out in the white snow.  Over the summit we suddenly began seeing many more tamarack trees with their soft green spring needles.  Only they looked like they had a little shadow on the underside of every branch – it was the black moss typical of tamaracks!  Was so consistent that the trees appeared to be patterned.  Very cool.  I tried to take a picture, but it was impossible. 
Burned area from 2013 fire
     We passed Lolo Hot Springs resort and campground, one of our camping options, but we had decided to try for a place just outside Lolo.  About five miles past the hot springs, there was evidence of another recent fire – this fairly recent (we discovered later it was just last August!)  The fire burned right down to the edge of the meadow, taking a few homes, but many were saved.  The forest is ripe for such a fire – thinning needs to take place.  But the meadow area was absolutely lush with green grass.  (I read online that grass was pushing up through the coals just two weeks after the fire was over!  Mother Nature can heal when left to do so!) 

Square Dance Campground site
     We are camped at Square Dance Center and Campground, just 2 miles west of Lolo.  Sites are scattered around in a dense grove of pines (now thinned – they learned their lesson!)  A dance was going to commence tonight, but I think I will skip it!  The gal was very gracious and I loved that they ride a bike to show us our site – no golf carts here!! 

Lolo Creek behind our campsite. 
We set up and then take a walk around the area.  Find lupine, shooting stars, Oregon grape, syringe, and a couple other wildflowers I can’t remember.  Lolo Creek rushes past just 150’ from our site.  Quite nice!!  Dinner of leftover soup from the PYG dinner last Wednesday and a quiet night.  Clouds are shifting in and out, but overall, a beautiful evening.  It is still nearly 70 outside!  

SUNDAY, May 18
Lolo to Columbia Falls, MT
140 miles

Today's travels
          What a gorgeous drive!!!  Overcast skies limited the photographic quality for the day, but I still got some good pictures and it was just one rolling vista after another!

          As I sat doing my morning devotions, the rain began to fall in Lolo.  Always light and very intermittent.  We didn’t rush things this morning as we knew we only had 3 hours of driving on our agenda!  So we pulled out of the Square Dance Campground at a very leisurely 10:30am!! 

Outside Missoula, MT
          A short drive into Lolo itself where we found gas 2 cents cheaper than advertised in Missoula, so we stopped!!  Got cheap coffee too, so no complaints!  (Gas was $3.36 which seemed like a steal to the $3.65 in Baker City when we left home!  Montana definitely is cheaper – must have lower gas taxes.)

Outside St. Ignatius
          It is about 10 miles from Lolo into Missoula – the population hub for this corner of the state.  Rolling green hills and snowy peaks surround the basin.  It will be interesting to see what all this green looks like come our return in September.  Probably will be the difference we see in driving the Burnt River Canyon in May and in August!  We drive our 5 miles of interstate on I-90 west and then take off again on US 93 north toward Kalispell and Glacier National Park!  Quickly climb up and over a small pass and into another beautiful valley – Mission Valley.  We are on the Flathead Indian Reservation at this point. 
First view of Flathead Lake, south end

          The town of St. Ignatius is one of my favorites!  An agricultural area located below some of the most magnificent peaks of the Mission Range.  This range is knife thin and separates Mission Valley from Swan Valley to the east.  Gradually as we head north the peak elevations lower until the range dwindles out near the north end of Flathead Lake.  But it is a beautiful companion to our east for about 70 miles! 

          We stop at the junction of US93 and Route 35 at the south end of Flathead Lake.  We could go either way, but we chose to head to the shorter and less congested eastern shore (also a narrower road).  That meant we weren’t going to go through the town of Poulson (Karen Atchley Finegan’s home town I think!) so we were glad when we found a 4B’s Restaurant right at the junction.  We were hungry and ready to eat something! 

What gorgeous country!
Along Flathead Lake
          Armed with soup and salad bar (Ging) and a massive Southwest Omelet and pancakes (Rick), we head up the east side of Flathead Lake.  This is a huge puddle of water, about 35 miles long.  The east shore is more linear, while the west side has a big ‘thumb’ the road has to go around.  (Hence, shorter east side route!)  The skies are clearing to the west, so we even have some blue sky in that direction.  We find…..CHERRY ORCHARDS!  Hillside after hillside, fruit stand upon fruit stand.  It must be one busy place during cherry season! 

Crossing the Flathead north of Kalispell
          Each little bay along the lake has a park or village until you get to Big Fork where the Swan River enters the lake.  It is more of a major tourist area.  North of the lake we cut back across to Route 2 and our final 10 miles up to Columbia Falls.  We go through Evergreen, which is just a little suburb of Kalispell, and head north.  Our RV Park is a little south of CF and Rick spies the little blue sign that signals our turn. 

Our campsite
First Happy Hour
          This is probably the large GROUP of people we have built with!  Nine rigs, but no singles, all couples, so 18 people.  We had more rigs in Pagosa Springs, but several singles in the group.  We are located at the end of four CAV sites, and a short walk to HQs at the 5th Wheel of Clint and Kathy, our build leaders.  We enjoy a good talk with them while setting up, and then meet the rest of the group at our 5pm meeting and Happy Hour.  There are TWO other couples from Oregon (Salem and Prineville), plus one from Vancouver, WA!!  We must be closer to home!  (There is a couple, however, from Florida, too!)  Jack and Carol from Michigan travel in a 20’ trailer – no popouts!  They are definitely smaller than us overall!  (And a big dog!) We aren’t the smallest unit in the group. 

          Happy Hour and meeting covers the required waivers, payment for the affiliate (we pay our camping fee to them for tax purposes!) and visit time.  Rick and I mostly chat with Diana and Frank from Salem. 

          Back to the trailer around 7 for a quiet night drawing.  The internet at the campground isn’t operating and we have no T-Mobile connection so I can’t use the phone for my hotspot.  L  So I draw and color my pictures, chat with Mom and Luke on the phone, and we call it a day!! 

MONDAY, May 19
Relaxin’ and Explorin’

          Raindrops keep fallin’ on our heads!!  It rained off and on ALL day today, but we got occasional peeks of sunshine and a glimpse of snowy mountains every so often.

          First order of business today was a surprise birthday party for Diana, our next-door neighbor and fellow Oregonian!  Everyone brought some treats for breakfast (yeah quick cut pineapples!) while Kathy made a crock pot breakfast casserole.  I gave Diana one of the Sample copies of my Here I Am, Send Me! book.  Party only lasted an hour since it was rather cool out, but at least we avoided major raindrops during that hour! 

          Then Rick and I spent a lazy two hours.  I did a little drawing, devotions from a new book, etc.  Around 11 we headed into downtown Columbia Falls to explore and do a little grocery shopping.  Found a Smiths and gave Jed credit for the shopping (we didn’t have a Smith’s card, so used his phone number!)  Found the Habitat build site – a short little oneway street with 8 townhouse duplexes (two story), four on each side.  First time this affiliate has been able to build a ‘subdivision’.  Houses look nice.  We saw the empty concrete slab that we will begin framing on for the new house.  There is also some sheetrock mudding still to be done. 

Whitefish mosaics downtown
          More relaxin’, showers, listening to the rain fall, and then we take off for Whitefish around 3:30.  Our potluck dinner is set for 6pm at a Lutheran church there, but we want to explore the town a little.  Whitefish is only 8 miles or so from Columbia Falls.  It is right on the Amtrak train line, so the depot is in nice shape.  A quaint downtown that we check out after cruising around the lake.  We can occasionally see the ski runs of Whitefish

Whitefish Lake
Mountain Resort, the lake is shrouded in with clouds when we visit the town beach, and the state park ranger lets us drive around the area for free.  (Still raining so I think he believed us when we said we weren’t going to picnic!)  We visited about 3 shops, picking up a couple of treasures, and then head back out to the little A frame St. Peter’s Lutheran church.  It isn’t a very big building, but we discover a downstairs fellowship hall! 
Roxanne and France show off
our recycling goodie bags
          All 18 of the CAVs are in attendance, plus two of the homeowners to be and various board members and other local volunteers.  We meet Jesse, the volunteer coordinator.  “Goodie bags”, filled with local information brochures, etc. are passed out.  Lots of good salads for dinner, I brought Italian tomato bread, and Jesse made chicken.  Rick and I sat at a table with the two homeowners, Amy and Lexie.  Lexie had her two children with her, 6th grade Sam and 4th grade Cameron.  Wonderful women, both of whom work as phlebotomists for the hospital in Kalispell.  They are so excited to break ground and begin work.  Lexie is the homeowner of the ‘slab’, while Amy’s home is still an empty lot with a big hole in the middle!  This is the part of the CAVs I love – meeting and talking with the homeowners helps us to build a HOME, not just a HOUSE!!  Lexie was thrilled to hear about the ‘blessings’ CAVs write on the framing before sheetrock.  She wants to do that on her home. 
Lexie and Amy (women in back) are two of the
homeowners for the houses we are building
Rainbow coming home!
          We leave Whitefish around 7:15pm and drive through rain enroute back to CF.  But sunshine is poking through and there is blue skies ahead near Glacier NP.  So….we take an evening drive up to West Glacier to get a feel for the ‘lay of the land’.  So gorgeous with the low level sun casting bright spots and shadows.  The road was dry, so little rain had fallen in this area.  We think we spotted the campground where we will stay next fall and scoped out a couple others as potential backups when the CAV build is over.  As we returned to CF, an intense rainbow appeared over the mountains.  A faint double could also be seen.  A fitting ending to our day!! 
Beautiful cabin enroute on the way to West Glacier
          Back to the RV park to prepare and relax before our first day on the job!  

CAV Build Day 1: Painting n’ Sheetrock

          We wake up to a BEAUTIFUL day!!  Clear skies with a few fluffy clouds.  Sunshine!!  We can see the mountains!  Ah glorious!

          I am still struggling with the internet, (a problem for everyone I learn later).  So I am able to post a few things to my blogs, but never publish it.  I keep losing connectivity.  But I am a little closer than before and I finally have to get dressed and ready to go!! 

Habitat development in Columbia Falls
     We arrive at the build site around 7:40 and find a pretty good parking space – out of the way, but close!  Parking is an issue at the site, especially with a number of the homes already occupied.  Devotions are led by one of the team leaders, Clint, and we meet Steve, our supervisor.  We divide into four groups – one beginning to frame the slab, one putting together some scaffolding, another painting exterior trim, and a final group finishing the sheetrock hanging in the end unit.  Rick ended up painting (somewhat by default, but he will give it a few days!) and I opted to hang sheetrock and hopefully learn to mud RIGHT!  We have an inspector coming in the morning to check the sheetrock, so a deadline in order! 
Rick on the porch roof painting
          Rick ended up painting over half of the trim for the upper level of the townhouse.  He had to move a huge ladder over and over.  Two or three other women were helping paint as well, including Nycci and her mother.  Nycci is the homeowner for the duplex with Lexie.  Nycci is thrilled for a prospective home. 
Steve talks energy efficient homes

Raising the wall!
          Odd places in the end unit were missing sheetrock…mostly ones with cut-outs, etc.!!  I did considerable cutting and measuring, a few cut-outs, and then after lunch installed several sheets with the power screw driver, complete with the attachment that controls how far into the sheetrock you screw.  I worked with Robert a lot, who also cleared considerable scraps out of the house to clean things up.  But….we didn’t get done!! 

Blue and pink bricks!
          Right after lunch, Steve took 15 minutes to explain the energy efficiency of these homes and how low the heating costs are for the homeowners.  Pretty interesting and it certainly makes sense in this climate.  Then the framers were ready for help to raise the first wall.  A heavy sheetrock layer of fire-proofing material is screwed into place and seams sealed before the wall is lifted into place.  Rick said it was HEAVY!!!  Took a full crew of nearly 12 people to erect it, staple it to the foundation, and then secure it with braces.  As I walked back toward the truck at the end of the day, I viewed the fireproofing side and it looks like giant blue bricks with bright pink mortar. 

          Conversation with Luke enroute back to the RV park re the garden, a shower, and a pleasant afternoon in the sunshine, happy hour, and evening!!  Weather is suppose to be even warmer the next few days!
Idyllic barn scene right next to the RV Park

CAV Build Day 2: Painting n’ Sheetrock Screws!

My morning 'closet'!  
        Another beautiful day in the Flathead Valley!  The sky is absolutely clear over Columbia Mountain, the main ridge east of town (and that I see from the trailer window when I arise!)

          We are joined on site this morning by a teacher and two youth from the local high school who come and work every Wednesday morning.  They stayed through lunch.  We also had two local volunteers plus Nycci and her mom Fawn were back (homeowners).  So…. A crew of at least 24 people working on the two houses.  By noon the framers had the second firewall installed on the foundation plus several exterior walls.  By the end of the day one side of the townhouse was completely walled in with exterior walls.  Progress is visible so quickly with the framing crew! 

Putting in the baseboard screws
Diana and Frank  - Oregonians!
          Unfortunately, progress seemed to go backwards in the sheetrock work!  I spent the morning finishing up the installation of panels in the water heater closet.  Tom was measuring and cutting and turning me lose to screw.  Others were busy moving extra sheetrock out and beginning to clear the house out in prep for the tape and mud process.  The building inspector was in and passed us, perhaps knowing we were taking care of the errors (or perhaps just not that picky!)  Screws are supposed to be every 6-8” along all sheetrock perimeters (when possible), but whoever hung this house had missed screwing in the foundation or the line at the ceiling stud.  An additional 2-3 screws needed every two feet or so.  I couldn’t reach the top easily, so I spent most of the day wallowing in the dust on the floor trying to anchor the bottom of each panel to the floor base stud.  Dirty work….I swallowed a lot of dust! 
I found sheetrock with my birthday date!

          Rick was again painting.  An older volunteer from the community was up on the top level of the scaffolding with him and they finished much of the exterior trim up high.  Tomorrow morning should ‘do it’!  Nycci and her mom were working in front of the house we were sheetrocking, as well as other CAV women out back painting.  I love the colors they are using on the whole block.  Combinations of subtle moss greens, tans, and soft red-browns.  Very natural, very pretty. 

          Our lunch today was provided by the Cimarron Café and Catering!  A huge tossed salad, flour tortillas, a pan of rice, and a pan of chicken-taco-tomato blend.  The max of spicy for me, so it was perfect for most of the group.  Very good.  Unfortunately they aren’t open for dinners, so we will have to patronize their business on the weekend. 

          Steve loves to tell stories…most of them make excellent devotions as well!  Today at lunch he shared the story of the boy who has moved into one of the first houses down the street.  Because of the permanence of a home, the 10 year was finally able to participate in organized youth sports.  He was beaming and excited the day Steve talked with him, proudly wearing his uniform to a game.  The energy efficient homes put a little extra cash in the monthly budgets of these families (a February heat bill of $40 in a mountain climate!) so some extra possibilities exist.  Pretty cool. 
End of Day 2 progress on the framing

          I was exhausted by the end of the day.  I pulled a muscle in my back trying to push in the upper level screws, and my whole back is just tired and stiff from the work.  I’m not sure what kind of wood was used on the base plates, but it was HARD to get the screws in!!! 
Butt print on my chair!

          I had to have Rick and others clean me off before I could get in the truck to go home.  At lunch I sat down in my green chair and left a perfect ‘butt print’ of my jeans on the chair surface.  We took a broom and swept me off at the end of the day.  When I shed my clothes at the RV park, I took my jeans and beat them on one of the pine trees to get the dust out.  My shower felt ‘oh so good’! 

          We had happy hour at 4:30 today for about an hour or so, and then regathered at 7 for S’mores and a brief birthday celebration for Bill.  (He had ‘failed to mention’ his birthday was yesterday!)  Bill is only 56, but he and his wife France have been on the road for the past 12 years organizing and leading builds, especially disaster ones, all over the country.  They were the main force behind the Jersey Shore Relief Habitat provided last fall after Hurricane Sandy.  Bill had a major accident to his foot 10 years ago and walks with a slight limp.  He knows his framing.  (They are the couple in a huge semi-tractor pull vehicle with a complete Habitat tool area in the back! Custom designed to match the trailer with their names painted on each door!)  Good people. 
Campfire fun!

          Seemed like everyone brought their dogs to Happy Hour today.  Boxer Jasmine who drools incessantly, Spirit a mini Akita type (beautiful!), Maggie a shaggy little lover, and Molly, a little dog with long ears and a fluffy tail.  Good dogs.  And then….everyone brought chocolate bars to the campfire!  Thankfully, Diana finally showed up with some marshmallows and we managed 3 sticks for cooking among the 9 rigs!  Good time.  France also brought ice cream for Bill’s celebration. 

          Internet is still sketchy.  I post when I can, wait when I can’t!!  The office is working on it.  G’night. 

THURSDAY, May 22, 2014
CAV Build Day 3:  Framing &….More screws! L

Lifting a wall into place!
          Dare I say another gorgeous sunshine filled day?  Weather is supposed to shift tomorrow, but it nearly hit 80 something today, and the trailer was 92 inside when we got back this afternoon! 

Rick with his baby blue hard hat!
Rick got to shift jobs today!!  After he spent time getting the scaffolding all ready for painting, Steve grabbed him and said they could use him on the framing and he had a group of young people coming on Tuesday who could do the painting!  He was thrilled and spent the rest of the day working on the new house going up, building walls, etc. 

End of Day 3 - more walls! 
My baseboard screw seemed unending!
          I quickly finished up the bottom level of screws necessary in one side of the townhouse, but then had to shift to the two story side.  We thought just the bottom level needed to be finished, a job which nearly lasted until lunch.  (Closets add considerably to the linear footage of a room.  Especially closets that disappear under an elbowed staircase.)  At times I had to screw by hand, or finish a screw by hand.  Just when I would get frustrated, a few would go in very smoothly and I would say, “Thank you, God!  I needed that!”  Just before lunch I moved on to mud and tape on the mid-level horizontal seams.  Got three pieces applied and lunch break.  I was working upstairs, and unfortunately noticed that Steve was mistaken, the upstairs had NOT had the additional baseboard screws put in.  So….after lunch I was back on the floor upstairs, working in and around all the mud and tapers, trying to stay ahead of them and get the screws in place BEFORE they applied mud to the wall!  By 2:15 I was BEAT!  My shoulders and back are so sore and tired.  Whatever I do tomorrow, I need to use different muscles! 

          Other big headlines of this afternoon?  I FINISHED MY MICHENER BOOK!  All 1078 pages!  The last 100 were pretty interesting in light of Luke’s sermon on Sunday and the current situation in Israel/Palestine. (The book was The Source.)

          We’ve had some nice visits with Frank and Diana prior to Happy Hour as we all sit out in the shade once we get home.  Good salmon treats tonight!  A beautiful evening.  It is still 75 in the trailer as we near 10 pm.  I am going to bed earlier tonight!!  Tired! 

 FRIDAY, May 23, 2014
CAV Build Day 4: Framing and Mud!
          Today is supposed to be warm!  In the 80’s.  Goodness!  I only brought two pairs of shorts with me!  That’s ok….jeans for work.  I am doing messy work and wouldn’t want to wear shorts for that anyway! 
Rick cuts some firewall
 'rock' for stairwell

          After devotions today we got started on our ‘jobs’.  Rick is still framing, working mostly with Jack.  Today they did framing for the area around the stairwell, building the landing platform and other supports.  Just about finished both sides of the townhouse.  Others finished up the interior walls on the first floor.  Trusses are coming in tomorrow for the second floor supports.  They had to cut and install some fireproof sheetrock in a few areas and Rick says it is very hard to cut! 
End of  Day 4: You can see the stairwell!
          I finished up all the horizontal mud and tape in the two-story unit, then switched to the cut joints (mostly small and above windows, doors, etc.), and finally to corner joints.  I only got one corner done before we broke for the day.  I anticipate mudding all day tomorrow, but should be moving into the one-story half of the unit. 
Steve introduces
homeowner Heather
Mudding in a closet!
          We met Heather and her mother, Clara, today.  They were busy painting on the two-story unit which is Heather’s.  She said she was excited for the August anticipated dedication and move-in date. That means we have met just about all of the remaining homeowners.  The gal who lives in the one-story unit is disabled and works her hours in the Re-store in Kalispell.
          We got a team picture this morning before we started work:
          There is another two week build here right after this one.  They have had several cancellations, so it is down to 6 couples now instead of the 10 scheduled.  One group here has already promised to stay another two weeks.  Rick and I discussed it, and we are going to give them three extra days.  We will work through his birthday on the 5th, and then drive home on the 6th and 7th.  The plus side is this will give us another weekend to explore before heading home! 
Jesse with Robert's dog Maggie
          Jesse joined us for Happy Hour tonight.  He is the volunteer coordinator.  We will have a crew from his church here tomorrow, as well as a few of the homeowners.   Leon, the campground owner, also stopped by.  The group is going to try and sand and stain some of the picnic tables as a way to help him out and say thank you for his hospitality.
          A storm is coming in!  Clouds in the sky, a few drops of rain, and windy!  Sure!  Just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.  The campground is going to be full.  
View up the gap toward Glacier National Park - from the development

SATURDAY, May 24, 2014
CAV Build Day 5: Framing and Mud…Again!

          So much for our idyllic weather!  Last night a storm blew in, a few sprinkles, but then a pretty steady rain in the early morning.  A somewhat restless night as our ‘next door neighbors’ for the weekend pulled in around midnight and were busy setting up until 2:30 am or so.  You hear everything in a tent walled trailer! 

Homeowner Lexie in her doorway
with CAV Dave

Rick and Jack on the stairwell!
          I worried the rain might hold things up this morning, but it stopped just before devotion time, rained once more lightly during the morning, and that was it for the day until we were back at the RV park.  The sun even came out for much of the day with scattered clouds. 

          We were a larger group today….joined by members of Crosshill Christian Church in Big Fork (Jesse’s church including Jesse’s parents and girlfriend) by a couple other local volunteers. Lexie was there to work today also.  Most of them worked on putting up the sheathing on the outside of Lexie’s unit. 

          Rick and Jack continued to work with Pam installing the framework for the stairwells on both sides.  Bill has been cutting the risers and actual stairway ladders.  It was looking good.  The trusses were delivered to the site, but nothing was installed yet on them. 

One of my 3 corner outside a closet!
    Our goal for today at the other end of the street was to finish the preliminary mud and tape on the two story unit so it could dry over the weekend and be ready for sanding on Tuesday.  Unfortunately we came close, but….there are still 6 vertical corners to be taped and mudded.  I spent all day doing corners, abandoning the corner trowel as I found it easier to just use the regular mud knife for the job.  I got faster as the day wore on, but the joke is that I never really got to come out of the closet!  Of the 21 corners I did today, all but 3 were in closets!!  The 6 left to do are all in the main living room area, so very visible! 
This was the coziest corner work:
in the closet under the stairs!

          Jesse, his girlfriend, and his parents brought our lunch today.  It was wonderful!  Cookies at break, and then veggies and dip for lunch, rolls, and either chili or ham and potato soup (or both!)  The soup was really good and Rick liked the chili (although he said I wouldn’t have liked it as well – it was pretty spicy).

End of Day 5 Progress....You can see stairs and sheathing on left side!  
   Back to the RV park to clean up and head into Whitefish.  Frank and Diana go with us – the rest of the group ended up at the Brewery as well, but we didn’t spend much time with them.  We went upstairs, ordered a few drinks and a nacho to share.  The nachos were a mountain!  Good time as we also visited with Chris, a local volunteer (he has been there every day) who teaches ski to handicapped kids in the winter.  Quite a character and wanted to know all about the trailers, etc.  After the brewery we walked around town and ended up at the ice cream shop for dessert.  A great dinner!  Appetizers and dessert! 
Rick and Diana and our Nachos Mountain!

          It has been fun having people from Oregon on a build!  We all agreed that this is the first for all of us – to have someone else from our state!  And to have three!  (And that doesn’t count the Vancouver, WA folks!)  More people to visit as we cruise around the state!

          A little TV and an early bedtime.  We are heading into Glacier tomorrow to take a drive and a hike!!  (We bought bear spray tonight in Whitefish….we are ready!)  Hoping the weather holds – at least partly cloudy.  Maybe we’ll get a view here and there! 

Closeup of a Whitefish downtown mosaic....pretty awesome. 

SUNDAY, May 25, 2014
Avalanche Lake Hike

          A day off to explore!  The weather is forecast better today than tomorrow, so we skip a visit to the Whitefish Presby Church and are on our way to Glacier NP shortly after 9am.  There isn’t any blue sky showing, but at least it isn’t raining and we can see almost the top of the higher peaks! 

          Through West Glacier and on up the Road to the Sun along Lake McDonald.  We pull off at a few of the turnouts to photograph the hills across the lake.  A fire rolled through here in 2003….the hillside is recovering with grasses, small trees, and the tall spire of larch trees stripped barren.  Fortunately, good fire fighters saved the lower McDonald valley and many of the buildings around Apgar. 
View across Lake McDonald to the Howe Ridge fire area
Our route to Avalanche Lake.  You can see the
shadow of the 'wall' all the waterfalls were cascading off.  
          We decided to stop at the Visitor Center, etc. AFTER our hike, to take advantage of the better weather while we have it.  We drive about 6 miles up McDonald Creek past the end of the lake to Avalanche Creek Campground.  This is the end of the driveable road at this point.  Logan Pass and the rest of the Road to the Sun is still closed with snow at the top.  However, the lower portions of the road, while gated to automobile traffic, are open to bicycle traffic.  And is it busy!!!  Experienced bikers with all the official ‘gear’ probably riding clear to the top as well as families out for a Memorial weekend ride with little kid bikes.  Parking was a nightmare!  But the campground isn’t open yet, so all the campsites were available for parking as well.  We finally found a spot. 

          Rick had found this 4 mile RT hike up Avalanche Creek to Avalanche Lake at the base of several glaciers.  The canyons are steep with hanging rock walls everywhere and waterfalls like a regular set of white lines on the gray rock.  SOOOO much water roaring down the creek right now.  Incredible power. 
Outlet end of Avalanche Lake

          The trail is quite gradual with only a few steeper sections of uphill – total elevation gain in the 2 miles is about 500’.  Nice!!  Toward the lake the trail was pretty wet and muddy in places, but overall it is one of the more popular hikes and hence in pretty good shape.  Rick had our bear spray strapped to his belt (it comes with a handy little carrier) – I noticed several others with spray, and one hiker with his 357 strapped to his chest.  However, the trail was SO popular today with hikers everywhere that any sane bear was miles away!! 
Broken trees along the trail

          Lower portion hillsides were a maze of downed timber typical of western Oregon ecosystems: cedars, yew, hemlock, douglas firs, and a Rocky Mt. maple that looked very much like vine maple.  It was obvious that avalanches of some sort crash through here regularly – so many trees broken off with the tops pointing at right angles to the trunk.  The debris in the creek was amazing in places. 

          Our surprise flower for the day?  Trilliums!!  We haven’t seen them since leaving Portland area it seems and they were everywhere in the damp earth!!  As we neared the lake we found more and more common plants just emerging from the snow pack – glacier lilies, Solomon’s seal, Devil’s club, and more. 
Glacier lily covered fields!
New growth shooting up!

          We approach Avalanche Lake and are spellbound with the beauty of the cirque – a series of peaks and snowfields with waterfalls dropping hundreds of feet down the headwall.  Gunsight Peak at around 9200’ is in the distance behind Sperry Glacier – the peak is on the Continental Divide.  A mini Matterhorn peak on our right.  The outlet of the lake is filled with logs and debris.  Multiple creeks pouring water into the lake from all over.  We stopped trying to hike around the lake – the trail was just too messy.  But we did go far enough to come upon a field covered with glacier lilies and tiny white flowers.  Trilliums were nearby.  Sooooo pretty!!! 
At Avalanche Lake

          Rick spies a mountain goat lying in the sun up on the rock face to the east, and we then find two nannies and kids on a narrow ledge of rock.  (No pictures, sorry!!  Too far away!)
I did take mountain goat pics....white dots on the ledge!

          We grab a little snack at the lake and head back down, passing MANY more people just heading up to the lake.  Lots of families out for the day and it is a perfect kid hike.  Not too hard and not too long with plenty of water!  Coming down we also saw a harlequin duck couple along the creek! 

          We finish our day with part of the Trail of the Cedars hike down near the campground.  The part we traveled was all on boardwalk – handicap accessible – through a grove of cedars and water seeping and falling from a rock ledge to the east. 
Rick along Cedar Trail

          Back down the road to Apgar and Fish Creek Campground.  We check out the campground and read the brochure which suggests it would not be wise to camp there with our trailer setup.  Another picture from the end of the lake toward the east, and then we decide on a whim to drive to Fish Creek CG.  Glad we did as there we saw our black bear and cub for the day!  Right off the side of the road. 
Black bear...cub was nearby!

          A quick visit to the Visitor Center to get my passport stamped and then back down to Columbia Falls!  A good day that just whetted our appetite to explore more of the park!  

McDonald Lake views 
MONDAY, May 26
LAUNDRY…and not much more!
          Well, today will be a fairly short entry!!  We did considerable relaxing and resting!  Our major accomplishment of the day was two loads of laundry!  We headed into town around 10:30 with the idea of hitting the City Cleaners (across the street from Smith’s grocery), possibly eating lunch at The Cimarron Café (restaurant that provided lunch last Wednesday), and maybe taking a short drive before we did a little grocery shopping.  The City Cleaners we found closed on holidays.  I ran into Smiths and the clerk told me there was another Laundromat out near The Cimarron.  We went there….it was absolutely packed with people.  Not a machine to be found.  So….
          We went across the street and ate!!  Just a few minutes too late to get breakfast, so we each had the quiche and a side.  (Rick had home fries and I ordered tomato bisque soup).  Meal was really good and only $6 each!!  We made sure to tell them we were from Habitat and we appreciated the good meal last week.  But all was not for naught as our waitress recommended the Laundromat up in Hungry Horse.  We figured it was closer than Kalispell, so….on our way!  We like the 5 mile drive along the river anyway! 
Flathead Valley design
          Five dollars and just over an hour later, we are all done!  The waitress was right – it WAS cheaper!  We stop at Super 1 Grocery for a few things and are back at the campground by 3pm. 
          The day was rainy and cloudy in the morning, but it has improved as the hours passed.  By afternoon, patches of clear blue sky can be seen and some warm sunshine.  Still storm clouds hanging around, though. 
          Rick got a haircut today, a call to his Mom, and I started a Habitat mandala design for Flathead Valley.  But….when I went over to see if there was any sort of Happy Hour, Pam was producing BBQ ribs and inviting everyone to dinner!  I went back and grabbed the pineapple to offer and Rick and I joined 4 other couples for dinner.  Three others had gone to Kootenai Falls for the day, and Frank and Diana were horseback riding. 

          Another week of work ahead of us….hopefully a second floor on the framing job and perhaps a duplex ready for texturing by the end of the week.  

NO PICTURES TODAY (other than the mandala!)

Rick instructs his paint crew

          What a beautiful morning to start out a new workweek!  The skies cleared a little over night and it is a sunshine blue sky day!!!  Yeah! 

Up on the scaffolding...with the 18 yr olds! 

          We are a very full crew this morning!  About 12-15 high school girls from a boarding school (somewhat an alternative school) south of Kalispell are here for a day and a half.  They came with several adult chaperones.  Rick ended up with a paint crew of 5 to supervise, which also involved the scaffolding, etc.  They got a lot done and Rick felt good about their progress.  Another group of girls made new scaffold ‘foot pads’, others helped with the framers (they moved all the floor joists from the pile to the roof!).  A good experience for the girls. 
More quality time in a closet!

          Sadly (perhaps!) none of the girls came in to help with the mud and tape process!  So our crew just kept plodding away.  The 6 vertical corners necessary to finish the 2 story unit morphed into more when I realized the back ultility room hadn’t been done!  But….I had that house finished by break time!!  Basically, Diana, Clint, Scott, Robert, and I worked the rest of the day in the one story half.  Another good day and we should be finished in that half! 

          Once the stairs are finished, the framers will be able to start putting the floorboards on the joists.  I expect by next week the second floor walls will be going up.  Wow!  When you consider they are making two houses at once, that is pretty good! 
Progress: End of Day 6
          I showered and drove back into Columbia Falls to weigh in tonight.  Can’t say the results were that favorable, but at least now I know!  Happy hour include more edamame pods which I have fallen in love with!  Tomorrow night Steve and his wife are going to join us! 

          A beautiful evening.  We can’t believe how late the sun sets (or how early it rises in the morning!)  

A farm we pass each day ....such a perfect setting and in pristine condition.
CAV Build Day 7: Painting & Mudding

          Raindrops keep falling on my head!  All night long it rained!!  A wet morning, yet….God is good!  Once we got to the Habitat site, it didn’t rain again all day!! 
Diana works on the ceiling corners
in my favorite closet!
          The crew of girls was back from Montana Academy, looking a little worse for the wear after their night in the cabin.  We had the two boys and their instructor from the high school present, plus several local volunteers, two homeowners and their moms.  It was a full day at the build site!!!  The circle for our lunchtime prayer was huge! 
Half of our lunch time circle!
      Rick spent the day helping Frank with scaffolding, supervising girls painting, and then a relatively quiet afternoon painting himself on the south side of the house.  (The girls only worked until lunch.)
          In the meantime, I was back inside slinging mud!  We had 22 ½ vertical corners still to mud and tape in the one-story half of the house, plus several ceiling corners which Diana was doing.  Others began sanding in the two-story side.  We were finished by lunch time with all the preliminary mudding!! 
Masked up for the sanding can I see
through those glasses?
          After lunch I went seeking a new job….reluctantly.  Roxanne offered to let me help her make stairs, which sounded very appealing.  But….I knew Clint couldn’t sand (dust issues), and Tom was down there alone tackling the job.  So….I grabbed a dust mask and headed up the stairs to learn how to sand the sheetrock.  Tom was having trouble catching the ceilings (shoulder issues), but with a bench I could reach, so I worked on ceilings and closets (again???)  However, we began to realize the number of small places here and there that hadn’t gotten the first mud and tape!  So I took care of those as well.  However, I was very glad when the 2:30 hour sounded and we could call it quits for the day!  I need more protection on my eyes as the dust was falling into them (my glasses were covered and I could hardly see!)  I put eye drops in when I got back to the trailer! 
End of Day 7: safety railings going up, all the floor
decking loaded to be installed; stairs on right finished!
Steve shows off his cartoon - captain of
his sailboat (which he never gets to sail!)
      Excellent Happy Hour tonight as we had some of the leftover enchilada casserole with chips served!  We brought out a bunch of veggies and dip.  Steve and his wife Gina joined us around 5:45 pm (Steve had to drive down to Kalispell to pick her up, then back up to CF, and then back to Kalispell as that is where they live!)  Clint presented Steve with a cartoon that we all signed.  Clint is a marvelous cartoonist - way beyond my primitive attempts!  

          HH ended with a good downpouring of rain which drove everyone back into their respective trailers.  Next two days should be decent, and then rain on the weekend (naturally!)  

CAV Build Day 8: Painting & Drywall Sanding/Mudding

Beautiful rays of light in the gap. 
          Brrr!  About 10 degrees cooler this morning with dark clouds overhead.  However, enroute to the site, a window in the clouds opens and beautiful rays of light illuminate “the gap” east of Columbia Falls.  Soooo pretty. 
          After the crowd yesterday, it is an intimate little group today!  Pam and Nancy have stayed home (it is Pam’s birthday and Nancy has business to attend – she is a writer and her publisher is a calling!).  Diana and Frank and Steve will be at a safety training all day today and tomorrow.  No high school students and just a couple local volunteers.  Definitely a small group! 
          It is windy and cold during devotions, but I pass my phone around to show the picture I drew while I read my poem on The Ripple Effect.  Several asked for copies of the poem which I need to send out (Please work internet sometime soon!)  Then it is back to work!! 
I sneak a peek of Rick through the back window. 
          Rick will be painting all day long, probably by himself.  He is cleaning up some of the work done by the girl’s crew and then moving on to finish up the house.  He was armed with his little i-pod, but the wind was blowing so much he couldn’t keep his hat on which was holding the headphones in place! 
Back in my stairwell closet to mud some more!
          Tom and I worked to finish the sanding downstairs in the two-story unit.  We finished by morning break.  I had to quit at one point because my eyes were hurting – so much dust in them.  I put in some drops and looked for some googles to wear, but all the safety glasses are made to be worn SANS glasses.  Go figure that out….they need to get some of the ones that fit OVER glasses! 
End of Day 8: Safety rail and floor decking done. 
          But…it proved to be unnecessary because rather than sand the one-story unit, we decided to help the mud team get the place finished.  So I spent the rest of the day learning and improving my second coat drywall mud technique.  I don’t like it as well as the first coat!  And we didn’t get the house done by the end of the day!  L 
Lexie poses by the front door
of her house!
          Happy Hour tonight was a celebration of Pam’s birthday!  Robert had bought a couple of cheesecakes and blueberries (Pam’s favorites!).  I took a bowl of dried fruit which proved to be very popular.  We built a fire which felt really good after a rather chilly day.  But….good news – tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and much warmer! 
Pam shows off her cartoon card!
          I worked this morning and afternoon on a prayer design which includes all the CAVs, homeowners, and affiliate staff, as well as a number of personal prayers.  It celebrates the rainbow we saw the other night in ‘the gap’. 
Care-a-Vanner Prayer Drawing

          We might have to get the heater out again tonight.  It is forecast to be in the high 30’s tonight as the skies clear.  

Here is a copy of my devotion poem and the Scribble that accompanied it.
Toss a pebble into a pond.
Ever widening circles of impact
Delight as the surface shifts and changes
Below the water we cannot see
Yet growth happens here as well.

Toss one Habitat house into a community
and the ripples begin.
The house becomes a home;
A source of safety, security and stability.
Improved education, jobs, and health. 
Community pride, involvement, participation.
Self respect. 

One pebble.
One home.
Multiple lives changed.
Ripples we can’t even foresee.
With each swing of hammer,
Each sheetrock screw,
Every stroke of paint,
Every swipe of drywall sander,
We are tossing pebbles.
Simple, small actions….
Results beyond our wildest imagination.

May we all keep tossing pebbles,
Knowing God is at work in each one
With ripples of changing lives.

FRIDAY, May 30
CAV Build Day 9: Painting & Drywall Sanding…Again

          What a difference 24 hours makes!!  What a beautiful morning!  Not a cloud in the sky, but it is BRISK!  The thermometer outside our window registered 33 degrees when I got up at 6am!  We had the heater going, however, so the trailer was around 49 degrees.  Not too bad! 
Is that Rick way up there painting?
          Another day without our leader Steve.  He stopped by for devotions and our morning job assignments, and then was heading down to the Safety Class taught by Frank and Diana.  Our CAV crew is joined by regular volunteers Chris and Jivon and homeowners Lexie and Lisa (after lunch).  Rick worked all day on finishing up some key painting on Lisa and Heather’s house.  No big change for him other than some good planning to get the exposed west side done this morning before the warm sun hit in the afternoon.  By then he was under the scaffolding on the south side in the shade. 
Lexie gets started sanding in a closet.
          Steve asks Tom and I to head over to the one story unit to sand while Robert, Cliff, and Scott finish the second coat mud in the two-story.  I don’t balk, but do request some safety googles that I can wear over my glasses.  Steve agrees that would be a good thing and returns 20 minutes later with three pairs!  He also has Lexie and Jivon come down to help us out.  So while Tom and I work on the ladders and do the ceiling corners and ceilings, Lexie and Jivon sand the lower portions of the walls and the flat surfaces there.  Lexie isn’t too excited by the job, but she is willing to do her part.  (She had way too much fun yesterday using the power hammer on HER house!) 
Back at the ceilings!
          I can’t say yet that sanding is the highlight of my Habitat experiences, but it is a job that has to be done and many in the group have respiratory problems that prevent them from doing it.  Lexie did say she has some asthma issues after awhile and after lunch she went to work painting with Rick.  But the good news was the arrival of Lisa Littledog, homeowner for the one-story at lunch!  Lisa has difficulty navigating stairs after a serious car accident several years ago.  She nearly lost both legs, but is walking fine at this point.  It will be a small home for her and her nephew, but adequate and she is so excited to move in during August.  We had a really good opportunity to visit while we sanded.  Meeting the homeowners like this and hearing their stories is a highlight of the Habitat experience. 
Lisa Littledog helps sand in HER unit.
          Lunch today was provided by Taco Del Sol in Whitefish.  Lots of yummy fat burritos!  Both Rick and I had chicken and black bean.  We took the leftovers home to cut up for the appetizer potluck this evening. 
End of Day 9: second floor firewall going up! 
          Executive Director Erin, Steve, and Jesse (plus his girlfriend) joined us for the farewell potluck this evening at the campground.  We made a fire, roasted marshmallows, and enjoyed good food!  Jesse presented everyone with t-shirts and certificates, while Clint had a thank you card with a team picture on it for everyone.  Clint also had a cartoon for Jesse.  A nice evening that included a trailer tour of Bill and France’s place! 

          Tomorrow wraps up the build.  Pam, Robert, Clint, Kathy, Tom, and Diane will be staying on for the next two weeks.  We will stay for 5 more days.  We should be joined on Sunday by at least 3-4 new couples.  Should be good!           

CAV Build Day 10: Painting, Sanding; Concrete Prep!

Rick is all smiles during devotions
          Last day on the job!  And it’s a good thing.  The group is tired.  You can just see that people are lagging.  We have a good final devotion by Roxanne and then off to work.  A few local volunteers, including Lexie and a friend of hers. 
          Lexie and Beth join Rick painting.  “Old” Steve (a former construction supervisor) is also on the job down at that house working on painting and scaffold moving (sometimes too soon on the latter….Rick said he was removing it while they were standing on it!)  Rick had hoped to finish the house and they came close, but it was a taxing day trying to finish and keep Lexie and Beth going.  Next week he hopes to return to framing.  Please …. No paint! 
Back in my favorite stairwell closet

Rick out on the scaffolding
          I went back to sand with Tom.  Jivon, a local volunteer, also came in to help as we were sanding the two-story unit for the second time, preparing it for the final coat of mud.  Lots of ceilings, nail holes, etc, but overall, each sanding gets a little easier.  Shortly after break we were pretty well finished with the house.  Steve suggested we start in on the third coat of mud, but…..I think he saw my doubts and said, “Ginger, would you like a job outside?”  Having been inside the house for two weeks, I said, “YES!”  So I cleaned up a little and reported for concrete prep duty!  The front stoop, steps, handicap ramp, and back stoops all have to be checked, gravel leveled to 4” depth in the middle, 6” by the framing.  Overall drop of about ½” from back to front edge for drainage.  Repair and retie all the rebar.  Dig out down to the footing on the pillars.  It was work, but…it was in the shade and it was outside!!!  Jivon eventually came out to help me and we got the job done. 
          Pizza was provided for lunch, but I think I either ate too much or it was greasier than I am used to because I really developed an upset stomach after lunch.  But Jivon and I worked through it and finished the concrete prep.  The cement will be poured on Monday by a friend of Steve’s who is donating the work to Habitat.  Anyway…we were done a few minutes early and I took the opportunity to lay down briefly in the trailer shade to get my act back together. 
          Lexie has adopted Rick and I!  She said she wants to take us rafting when we come back in the fall.  She really liked working with Rick and said he was such a good teacher and so patient!  She is quite the extrovert, but a good gal. 
Our framing progress after 10 days: second story walls going up!
          Steve shared another story during lunch of a little girl who stopped by the site one day with her family, ran past all the CAVs up to Steve, wrapped him in a big bear hug and said, “Thank you for building my house.”  That’s why he builds for Habitat and not as a contractor putting up multimillion dollar mansions.  He is an exceptional supervisor. 
          Amid much chaos of organization, we end up having dinner with just Frank and Diana at the Mexican restaurant.  We tried to coordinate to have Carol and Jack join us, but they texted back they weren’t sure of their plans.  So…we sat in Los Caporales for 2 ½ hours visiting with the Peccias.  Good time. 
          I am ready for a relaxing and lazy morning.  And early to bed tonight!  

SUNDAY, June 1
Goodbyes & Hellos
North Fork Flathead & Bowman Lake

          I was in bed for nine hours last night!  Unheard of, but I sure felt better come Sunday morning!  It is a glorious day not to be wasted!!
Our wanderings for today. 
          As we heard voices outside, we saw Jack and Carol hooking up.  As we didn’t make connections for dinner last night, we wanted to be sure to do so today before they left.  Well, eventually it ended up with a group of 10 down at the Montana Coffee Trading Company for breakfast!  We did say quick goodbyes to Roxanne & Dave, Bill & France before they all headed off to church before they left.  A good meal down at the coffee place, although Rick couldn’t get any pancakes.  L  But the conversation was more important! 
          Back to load up!  Frank and Diana must still be at church as their rig is still here, but they will be gone by the time we return. 
          Our destination today is Polebridge and then Bowman Lake, following the ‘Outside’ North Fork Flathead River Road.  This road follows the west side of the river and is ‘outside’ the national park (the river being the boundary).  We were able to cut up a back way to the Camas Creek junction with the road, directly out of Columbia Falls.  An interesting drive, much of it through parts of the 2003 burn.  I lamented the burn at one point, but then realized I wouldn’t have anywhere near the gorgeous views across the valley toward the panorama of peaks if all the trees still lined the road!  And once we joined the Flathead road itself, the vistas across to the northern part of the national park were stunning.  This is the more secluded and less visited part of the park – a series of glacial finger lakes running from east to west out of the mountains. 
Just north of Columbia Falls, area of 2003 burn. 
Flathead River winds through the broad valley
west of Glacier NP
          But first, private ranches and vast pastures of lush green grasses prior to Polebridge.  These are homes ‘off the grid’, living on solar, wind, or generator power.  When we got to Polebridge itself, the main restroom was a beautifully maintained outhouse, painted bright red, and ventilated with screens all around the top.  The inside was lined with posters of the area!    Behind the famous mercantile was a sand volleyball court, but the view of the mountains in back would be quite distracting for my game!  The pastries and baked goods at the mercantile are touted and Rick and I purchased a huckleberry bearclaw, another huckleberry treat, and a loaf of huckleberry beer bread to take to the potluck tonight.  We ate the treat for lunch at Bowman Lake and the bearclaw will be a breakfast treat.
Ranch fields just south of Polebridge
Classy outhouse in Polebridge
The Mercantile in 'downtown' Polebridge, MT
On our way to Bowman Lake out of Polebridge
          After Polebridge we cross the river, enter the national park again, cross Bowman Creek and find the narrow, windy road that travels 6 miles up to Bowman Lake.  The road goes through burned areas ripe with tamarack trees and baby aspens, thick forest, and lofty views.  We take our time on the drive so Rick can absorb the vistas! 
Crossing Bowman Creek
          Bowman Lake is stunning.  Peaks of the Continental Divide rim the 7 mile long glacial finger.  The water reflects the snowy summits and the puffy, building clouds.  We are also greeted with mosquitos!!  But some quick spray takes care of that problem!   We parked and wandered down around the lake end trails for a little while, just soaking in the beauty.  Found the ranger station and decided this would be a pretty posh assignment for a national park worker!  Just carry your bear spray’!  (The only wildlife we saw today was of the deer kind!)
Bowman Lake vistas
Along the lake rim
A posh ranger assignment!
Deer near Apgar
  We left Bowman Lake around 1:20 and the return trip was much quicker!  The weather has also deteriorated with the storm clouds coming in.  It even sprinkled a little on us as we drove back out to the main road.  Since the ‘inside’ road is still closed, we head back through Polebridge and down to Camas Creek entrance station.  Here we take the Camas Creek Road into Apgar and West Glacier and back to Columbia Falls.  A beautiful drive!!! 
Meeting the new CAVs...
          Our evening is spent with meeting and dinner with the new Build group.  Two RV couples from Texas and a single gal in a tent from British Columbia have arrived.  Another couple is due in tomorrow.  Jesse and his girlfriend brought lasagna (LOTS of it!) and plenty of salads and our bread round out the meal (no desserts!).  My disappointment is the bread was apparently mis-labeled because it was a raisin bread, not huckleberry!  Nothing purple about it!  L  But good enough! 
          Phone calls with Luke and Moms, the latter toward late evening.  Ready for bed! 
Bowman Lake Panorama
MONDAY, June 2
Drive to East Glacier (173 miles RT)
Two Medicine Lake Hiking

Our trip for today! 
          Another beautiful morning!!!  Wow!  How lucky did we get??  We are up and ready to go by 7:45am – we want to be on the east side of the mountains while the sun is still on the east side shining on them, not behind them!! 
          Quick stop for coffee at the Town Pump and then it is back up to West Glacier (we’ve done this road several times now!) and then new highway!  We are following US Route 2 around the southern tip of Glacier National Park, over Marias Pass, and around to East Glacier. 
Middle Fork of the Flathead River
  The canyon of the Middle Fork of the Flathead is fairly narrow leaving West Glacier.  The river is running brown and dirty from the off and on storms and all the snow melt.  The railroad follows this route over the mountains as well, so it is a constant companion on one side of the road or the other!  Scattered snowy peaks point through here and there through the gaps.  We decide to just ‘plow through’ to East Glacier and make our other stops on the way back. 
          South of Essex, we leave the Flathead and follow Bear Creek up to the pass.  It is a fairly long haul up another forested canyon.  But near the summit, the panorama suddenly opens up and we find a long ridge of narrow cut peaks along the north side of the highway!  Hard to take pictures from the passenger side of the road, but Rick pulls over a couple times to help me out!  Once I stopped for mountain pictures and took shooting stars as well! 
Railroad, highway, and mountains near the Continental Divide
Shooting stars....the mountains are back there!
Panorama of the peaks just East of Marias Pass
Between East Glacier and Two Medicine - green! 
          Once over the pass, we are amazed at the vegetation change.  It is like summiting the Cascades and suddenly finding yourself in Eastern Oregon.  Wide open grasslands, open ridges, scattered trees.  Once on the trail up at Two Medicine, the terrain is much like the Elkhorns – more open and none of the typical west side pacific plants. 
          East Glacier is technically on the Blackfeet Reservation.  We are awed as we drive through town and see the East Glacier Lodge, built by the railroad back in the ‘heyday’ of rail travel.  Pretty posh place with a rustic feel. 
Dam and mountain reflections in Lower Two-Med Lake
          It is about 10 miles up to Two Medicine Lake – which is actually a series of THREE lakes.  Lower Two Medicine is dammed, while the other two are natural glacial ‘ponds’.  The road goes to the middle of the lakes.  During peak season, a boat will take you up the lake nearly 4 miles to a trailhead for the Upper Two Medicine Lake.  That is a four mile RT hike from there and puts you right in the middle of the peaks.  Unfortunately, the boat won’t start operating until NEXT weekend, and there is still a lot of snow on the upper portions of the trail.  We take some pictures and then visit the General Store to find a hiking guide to give us a little advise! 
View southwest from end of Two Medicine Lake 
Shooting Stars and Mt. Sinopah
Quick photo of map in book! 
     We decide to follow the South Shore Trail and then take the spur to Aster Falls and perhaps on up to Aster Overlook.  There are very few people on the trail (we see two other groups all day), but Rick has his bear spray and did an awesome job of shouting YeeOhh! Every two minutes or so just to let the critters know we were coming!  (While we didn’t see any bear scat, we did see a lot of moose droppings.  We had already seen a young moose in the bushes before we got up to the main lake!)  The trail wound through some dense forest, bogs, and meadows.  We met a gal from Hepner, OR who knows John and Pat Edmundson, but I can’t remember her name! 
L  She was hiking alone!  We missed the spur to the falls, but finally had to turn back on the overlook portion because the snow was getting pretty deep on the switchbacks since we were on the shady side of the mountain.  We got a few good views, however! 
Vista of peaks from the South Shore Trail
          Since we missed the spur to the lower portion of the falls, we found one that brought us out to the top and a ridge of snow along a crashing chute of water.  On the way back we found the spur (we had been distracted by the Oregon sweatshirt earlier!) and checked out the rest of Aster Falls. 
Rick and I from top of Aster Falls

Looking up at the snowy chute of Aster Falls. 
Lower portion of Aster Falls

         Along the way, we were greeted with Spring Beauties (a little white flower), purple shooting stars, yellow buttercups and glacier lilies – in the meadows and down the middle of the trail.  So pretty. 

Glacier Lily

Wildflower in the trail

   Forgot….before we arrived at Two Medicine Lake, we stopped at Running Eagle Trailhead to take the short walk to Running Eagle falls.  Running Eagle was a Blackfeet warrior woman, one of the few to receive ‘medicine’ from the Great Spirits after going through the fast and purification rituals.  She was killed by Flathead Indians at the age of 30 and buried at the top of the falls.  The pictures we saw show a much more passive waterfall than the crashing water we saw.  Behind the falls is Rising Wolf Mountain, which at 9513’ is the highest in the area. 
Running Eagle falls and Rising Wolf Mt. 
Today we also saw a snipe bird, a spruce grouse, as well as the young moose.  We’ve done pretty well in animals over our visit, just not all at once!  Bear, moose, deer, etc.! 
Young Moose
   I drove back as far as the staircase waterfall along the highway on the west side of Marias Pass.  We stopped to admire the falls and then stopped again at the Salt Lick after rejoining the Flathead River.  Sadly, no mountain goats or sheep were feeding on the mineral deposits along the river there, but it is a popular place for the animals to gather.  Our last stop was at Essex, a railroad town built for much the same reason as Helper, Utah.  The rail yard is fairly extensive because in Essex the trains would get a ‘helper’ engine to provide the push up and over the long pass.  Many of the old caboose cars are now rental cabins, and the Isaac Walton Hotel is still used to house railroad employees. 
Staircase Falls near Marias Pass
A fun rental 'cabin' near Essex
    Back to the RV park around 4:30p.  A long day, but a great one!  We are tired, and I had to stop driving in Essex because something was irritating my left eye horribly.  It bothered me until I took a LOOONNG shower and the water seemed to help.  Still tender, but I’m not conscious of it all the time this evening. 
          We need to do laundry, but after borrowing detergent that we could use in the front loader machines here at the park, we found we didn’t have the requisite quarters and the office is closed.  We shall handle it tomorrow.  Just going to do enough to get us home! 
          The last two CAVs arrived while we were gone: Carrie and Bob.  We stopped by Happy Hour briefly to give our regards, but didn’t stay.  Too tired!    G’night!  

CAV BUILD: Scaffolding & Firewalls

          Raindrops keep falling on my hardhat!!  Wow!!  The internet this morning said SUNSHINE until afternoon thunderclouds and 50% chance rain.  That was the forecast at 7am while the raindrops fell!!  And then continued to fall, fairly steadily, until noonish!  (Later Steve confessed that June is their wettest month, but they don’t advertise that on the build!)
Check out the sidewalk I helped prepare!
          We gather as a new group just prior to 8am where Kathy leads devotions, based on a series of quotes about giving back!  Just after 8, the Thrivent Lutheran group arrives – about 10 in number wearing bright red shirts!  They are staying at a Lutheran camp about an hour away – lots of driving every day, but cheap accommodations!  Before devotions I wandered down to the end house (Heather and Lisa) to see how the concrete looks that was poured yesterday.  It looks GREAT!  Those houses will be so much safer going in and out now.   
Lexie and Leigh set some footings for scaffolding
          Tom and I have been relieved of dust duty!  Rick has also been cleared from painting (the rain is preventing that possibility anyway!) and the three of us are grouped together, along with Leigh (our Canadian CAV) and Lexie, homeowner.  Our job is to build the scaffolding necessary to finish the firewall sheetrock, which must be completely prepared, but can’t be raised into place until an inspection takes place.  Since this wall is along the stairwell, we must have scaffolding on the outside of the house to put the wall into place.
Handing Rick the railing supports. 
          So….we build scaffolding in the rain.  Rick and I both have just a lightweight shirt on over our t-shirts and we are soaking wet within an hour.  It is cold!  But we persevere!  (I am thinking….I could still be working down at the end of the street in the house toasty and warm as the heater dries the mud!  Silly me!)   Rick takes the lead in teaching us what to do, as he gained a wealth of scaffolding experience last week!  It doesn’t take long to become an ‘expert’ on a CAV build! 
Rick and Tom as they install firewall sheetrock.
        After break I put on my quilted flannel shirt, removing the outer cotton shirt that was soaked.  That helped the warmth issue considerably!  It also helped that the rain let us a little between 10 and noon. 
          The other framing crews were building a wall and checking all the sheathing nails on the exterior.  The second half of the duplex cannot be exterior walled until this firewall is in place, so we needed to keep moving!  But….long story short, by the end of the day we are just about finished!!  I taught Lexie and Leigh how to cut sheetrock, and we supplied both Rick and Tom as well as framers on the otherside with some special cuts.  The firewall sheetrock is extra heavy and harder to cut than normal.  Fortunately, the rain completely stopped at lunch, so conditions were a little more productive afterwards!  Lexie, Leigh, and I carried scaffolding pieces, extension ladders, sheetrock, and located various tools and materials as needed!  We also had to remove the safety rails around the stairwell, which meant screw removal.  Lexie had a ball doing that!  She likes power tools!  J 
Thrivent 'red shirt' crews as well as Rick and Tom on the blue firewall.
Rick, Lexie, and Ginger
          The exterior siding paint crew spent the day inside Trailer #2 (I always feel like ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ when we say this!) repairing old electric cords and extension  cords.  Not very fun according to Diane, as they couldn’t repair with electric tape even slight dings in the outer rubber.  Wasteful she said! 
          The Thrivent group split up and worked in many places, but a large crew moved scaffolding from the paint job Rick had been doing to the house across the street that still needed a second coat....after the homeowners have moved in!  Weather prevented it from happening any sooner.  
Lexie and Ging in front of our
'blessing' on the closet wall
          After work, Rick and I got our laundry done – just one load or enough to get home with!  Showers, reservations made for Friday night, Weight Watchers renewal call, Bountiful Basket ordered, AND a chat with Luke about the garden!  Whew!  I then drove back in to weigh at the local meeting (No gain this week!) Finally time for Happy Hour! 
          This evening we survived a roaring thunderstorm and hail.  I keep thinking of Leigh out in the tenting area.  I hope she is staying dry!  She is a trooper to spend her two weeks vacation doing this!  But the sky is lightening up and hopefully we will have some improved weather for tomorrow!  Rick and I did just remember we have some raingear in the back of the truck if we need it tomorrow! 

CAV Build: Firewall Up!!  Framing

          The forecast today looks very promising!  Still clouds up the gap, but we should be done with the rain!  Hurray!!
Rick prepares to lead devotions
          Rick has devotions this morning – using his James 2:14-17 passage on Faith Without Action.  It’s always a good one and people appreciated his message.  Then….time to get into action!  Our job is to finish up the firewall by lunch, as the inspector is coming at 1pm.  That means finishing all the sheetrock, lining up the two wall sections, putting up the remaining pink firetape, and caulking the seam between the two levels with a fireproof caulk.  I had no idea there was this much involved in protecting the two sides of a duplex from each other!  But it makes sense….just a lot of detail stuff.  I did a lot of ‘fetching’, trying to leave Leigh up on top so she could get a chance to hammer, tape, etc.  Once we had the last wall section ready to raise, the stairwell was blocked, so I had to get an extension ladder so people could get up to the second floor.  We put it onto the scaffolding.  I also swept water out of both levels as their were deep puddles after last night’s storm.
Rick and Tom finish sealing the wall with pink firetape.
          While we were working on the firewall, another group was finishing up the opposite exterior side wall.  It got raised and into place around 10am, and then Chris and his crew continued framing some of the back wall section.  Once we had the firewall ready to go and waiting for inspection, we worked on a front wall section.  Our team was Tom, Rick, Leigh, and I. 
          A good day for painting progress!  The Thrivent team finishing painting one end of the unit that needed it’s second coat from last year, another group work to strip the copper from the electric cords (yeah!!!), while others were helping frame.  The Texans (Don and Carolyn, Tom and Peggi) worked on the stairwell front wall, which has to be built in place as you can’t lift it in place with no stairwell floor to lift from! 
Finished walls in place
          Our lunch was brought in by a couple from a local church I think.  Tuna sandwiches, chips, grapes, and cookies.  Very nice.  There were lots of extra sandwiches so I took a couple home.  (Rick ate his for dinner, but I’ll take mine for lunch tomorrow as I am out of salad!) 
          The inspector showed up right on time and the inspection lasted about 10 seconds.  Ah the hoops you must jump through! 
Leaning Tower Art...
digitally 'fixed up'
          Robert and Clint finished up the sanding process in the end unit.  The walls feel so smooth and ready for the texture man tomorrow.  I am anxious to watch a little of him at work. Kathy and her crew of painters continued painting the siding pieces.  At one point their stack slid to the side creating a Leaning Tower of Blocks.  I told them it was artwork! 
          I pounded a few nails in to frame, but also went up and down the ladder to cut some boards, cut sheetrock pieces, etc.  By afternoon the sun was shining, the clouds were puffy, and it was almost humid!  Very nice! 
Last part of Happy Hour...with Therapy sign!
          Clint and Kathy made a fire again tonight and everyone was actually gathered around it this evening.  Good stories told and I laughed when Robert brought out his little lawn sign that said “Group Therapy”.  Nice.  Back to the trailer to draw some pictures, including a Habitat Prayer picture for our short time with this group.  
Build 2 Team: Carey, Bob, Leigh, Diane, Tom, Kathy, Carolyn, Don, Rick, Peggi, Clint, Tom, Robert, Pam, Steve
Ginger in front
My June CAV Build Prayers....
CAV Build: Walls!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Rick!

Pause to discuss our next move on the wall. 
          Our last day on the job!  It has been an amazing two plus weeks with some great people.  Steve is an exceptional supervisor and can keep MANY people busy at once!  After a wonderful “Mr. Roger’s” devotion from Pam, our team of Rick, myself, Tom, and Leigh went back to work on the front exterior wall for the upstairs of the duplex.  We had to finish the actual framing, sheath it and cut out the window openings, and then raise it into place, adding connector headers and braces.  We did it all by hand – no power nailers for this crew!  But….by the end of the day I was pretty sure a 16 penny nail meant it takes a MINIMUM of 16 hammer hits to pound in!  (More like 20 or more!) 
Rick nails down the top plate 
    After lunch we built two interior walls for each side of the unit that border the stairwell and connected to our front wall.  Those didn’t have to be sheathed as they weren’t exterior!  We finished the day by putting a missing piece of sheathing on the exterior of Lexie’s unit.  I also took that opportunity to take pictures of Lexie’s blessings on the floor boards – boards Lexie herself got to put into place last week! 
Peggy & Carolyn line up a wall
          Other groups were cutting siding panels, painting siding, painting on both houses, building walls, applying sheathing.  Small crews were everywhere, but when a group needed help, all they had to do was ask.  It was fun to watch.  And Steve bounced from one group to another, answering questions, demonstrating something, or explaining the next step of the process.  We got A LOT done today! 
Our End of Day 13 Picture: We personally built and put up the arrowed walls today!  
Our Thrivent friends
  During lunch a couple of women from the ‘Nurturing Center’ in Kalispell came to accept a donation of cute little t-shirt dresses from Thrivent and explain their mission.  It was interesting to listen to them.  I hope to find out more on the internet and possibly bring some donation when we come back.  I wish I had looked closer at the dresses, but I think I can figure it out! 
          Rick has ordered PIE for his
Rick cheers when he sees Clint
has made a cartoon for him!
birthday treat!  So we stop enroute home to purchase pumpkin, marionberry, and peach pie.  And two tubs of Cool Whip!  The group decided to bring a little ‘heartier’ Happy Hour entrees so we could call it dinner and thus eat our pie guilt free!  Clint presented Rick with his cartoon while we all sang.  It is pretty cute with Rick as an old man with walker still involved with Habitat!  Clint drew it last week in time to get all the previous CAVS to sign it before they left.  Pretty cool. 
Rick with his birthday 'Clint-toon' -
signatures from BOTH CAV groups!
      Supervisor Steve came by and joined us for the second hour which gave us a good opportunity to say goodbye to him. 
          Beautiful weather today.  Montana blue skies, puffy clouds, sunshine and about 20 drops of rainfall right after lunch!  It got warm, but not too hot. 

          Heading out in the morning!  G’night.  

FRIDAY, June 6
Columbia Falls to Pinehurst, ID
356 miles

          Homeward bound! We actually pack up, say a few more goodbyes as the CAVs leave for the job site in front of us, and pull out just 5 minutes after most of them.  Only difference, we are heading south! 
Steeple of Kalispell
Presby Church
          Note:  Last night as we were saying goodbye to those we had just barely met, Hinkles (Prineville folk), Clint & Kathy, Rick and I lingered a bit.  We suddenly realized we were the six who would be back in September!  At that point I gave Kathy a copy of my Habitat devotional book.  Clint looked at Kathy, winked, and headed into his trailer.  I looked at Kathy puzzled, and she said, “I think a book trade is in the works!”  Clint had written a fiction book called Tug’s Volunteer!  I think it is based on their Peace Corps experience.  Should be fun to read.  Anyway, we got additional hugs this morning from them! 
Flathead Lake from Hwy 93 on west side
    A beautiful morning for a drive.  We did momentarily lament that we drove the east side of Flathead Lake in the afternoon enroute up with the sun in our eyes for viewing the lake, and today we drive the west side of the lake heading south and the sun blurs the outline of the snowy peaks of the Mission Mountains!  Oh well, the lake is still beautiful! Rick drove down to Rollins, about midway down the lake, and then I took the wheel until Lolo.  Realized I didn’t particularly want to drive the Lochsa, so this should be my stretch for the day! 
Devoto Cedar Grove along the Lochsa
          Seems like the lupine has blossomed more in the three weeks, but still lots of yellow of a variety of types.  More everything is still VERY green, although the further south we went we found patches of brown starting to creep in (especially past Grangeville!)
          The Mission Mts. east of St. Ignatius are stunning peaks!  So rugged!  I love the valley, but with all its potholes, lakes, and bogs, it must be a mosquito paradise in the summer season. 
          A surprise flower as we drive down the Lochsa which we didn’t see three weeks ago: the beargrass has bloomed!  Still early as the clusters are rather short and conical.  So pretty to see patches of the white plumes along the road.  We stopped at the Cedar Grove Nature Trail and ate a bite of lunch before wandering the short path among the cedar trees.  So pretty and the trees are majestic.  We learned a healthy cedar can live for 3000 years!  Puts a new light on the term ‘old growth’ forest! 
A two foot high dandelion
at the cedar grove
    We gas up in Lolo and Grangeville.  Whitebird Pass is spectacular as usual and the hillsides are still very green for the most part.  As we near Riggins we see more and more boats in the river (this section is the main Salmon River).  I couldn’t get an RV spot in Riggins itself, and I learned it is because the salmon run has started.  Tonight the owner at our site said it is forecast to be the biggest salmon run since 1938!!  Wow!  No wonder everyone has a fishing pole in the river!  Pinehurst Resort is located a few miles PAST the salmon fish hatchery so not as busy.  Hence we were able to reserve a spot here. 
Heading down Whitebird Pass
Salmon River between Whitebird and Riggins
           Pinehurst itself is unincorporated – a side road strip about 200 yards long along Highway 95 and the Little Salmon River, about 12 miles south of Riggins.   We are given site #3, (there are only 8 sites to choose from!) which proves to be a wonderful spot backed right up to the river.  We will sleep tonight to the sound of rushing water! 
Right behind our trailer
          I spent over an hour finishing a book while sitting right on the edge of the river bank in the sunshine.  SO NICE!!!  I think Rick read and napped in the trailer! 
Old mailbox
          After dinner we walked ALL of Pinehurst.  (It didn’t take long!)  I did enjoy a basketball hoop attached to the front of the oil tank, as well as an abandoned mailbox, still with mail inside, but now filled with wasp nests!  Rural America! 
Basketball hoops can
go anywhere! 

    We have no cell service here in the canyon, and internet only in a common room.  So I will get everything written and then amble over to the room for awhile, long enough to post! 
          Tomorrow HOME!   

Pinehurst, ID to Baker City, OR
165 miles
          A beautiful drive home to Baker City today!  We have a leisurely start (waiting for the sun to finally come down into the canyon and warm things up!) and don’t pull out until 8:45.  We know we have the advantage of an hour time change at the Oregon border! 
Dropping down into New Meadows
          Quick stop at a Conoco in New Meadows to fill up on some coffee and head down the road toward Weiser.  Wow – what a difference three weeks has made in this section of Idaho in terms of Green.  Much more brown to the hills now, although still plenty of green in the low draws, etc.  Still some good patches of balsamroot, however, just looking a little more wilted. 
Massive early hay field - all baled! Near Weiser
     We hit the same Maverick in Weiser for a final gas-up and the final 80 miles into Baker City.  I send Rick into the restroom while I finish getting the receipt, etc.  About 15 miles north of Ontario, once we are on the freeway, a car passes us with the man shouting something is wrong.  Rick pulls over and checks the trailer, tires, etc.  We can’t see anything.  We continue driving, and we hear a faint flapping.  Rick pulls over again.  Neither of us put the gas cap back on the truck in Weiser!  (Really MY fault…I told Rick I would finish up!  Oops!)  Actually we are relieved it was nothing major, although driving with an open tank isn’t particularly a good idea!
          Burnt River canyon hills are very brown compared to our departure.  How quickly those lush shades of green wither and die!  

          Arrival in Baker City around 11:30am….with the time change.  About a 3 ½ hour drive from our camp 20 miles north of New Meadows.  This was a great trip to a new area – an area that felt very much like home!  
The Elkhorns welcome us home as we crest Pleasant Valley summit!!  

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