Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ROCKY MT. FALL 2014 4: Unofficial Habitat Construction

PART 4 – Unofficial Flathead Construction 
Sunday, September 15
Worship! Breakfast! Laundry! Nothing More!

            It is forecast to be a beautiful day and we considered going to the top of Big Mountain (the ski area) outside of Whitefish.  But….we are tired!! 
            So….it is a trip to the Whitefish Presbyterian Church and then breakfast across the street at the Buffalo Café.  A great morning!

Banner at Whitefish Presby
            The church is an old brick structure, commonly used for weddings in the area I gathered from the website.  The pastor reminded me slightly of the minister in Redmond, but the people were extremely friendly and welcoming.  Many very old style stained glass windows and an intimate feel to the sanctuary.  My favorite was the beautiful banner hanging on a side wall up very high, sided with two smaller ones filled with intricate flower designs.  I wondered if they changed the side panels seasonally. 
Buffalo Cafe Sculptures!
  Buffalo Café was nice.  We opted to sit at the counter for faster service which was fine.  A good meal and Rick got the pancakes for which he was hankering!  (Blueberry granola ones to be exact! )  Outside the café the shrubs alone the sidewalk were all shaped into various forms.  I liked the one that looked like a face! 
Farms along the back roads
      We drove back to Columbia Falls via the backroad route we discovered last week.  It passes many country farms and through some beautiful trees.  Not a lot of fall foliage change YET in the valley.  We are hoping our drive up to Glacier next week will be stunning!  I did get a couple pictures of the huge eagle metal sculpture we saw go up last week on Hwy 2 just north of the RV park.  A beautiful piece of artwork in what appears to be a salvage yard.  Maybe it is advertising what beauty can come from scrap! 
Giant metal eagle!
Our shady campsite at LaSalle RV Park
            Laundry, phone calls, and a lot of reading completed our very ‘busy’ day!  I joined some of the others around a campfire for awhile after dinner.  We lost several of the group today: Mike, Val and Monica, Ove and Barbara, and Gayle all pulled out.  Dick and Charlene will leave in the morning and then it will just be the four of us couples left for the next week.  I am so glad Arletta and Carl are staying another week! 
            In the 30’s again at night, but not the hard freezes!  

MONDAY, September 15
Hungry Horse Dam and Reservoir

            A morning to do a little catch up and relaxing (even finally do the dishes that are piled high in the sink!) and then we take off around 11a for Hungry Horse Reservoir action.  Dick and Charlene, Pat and Glenn both left this morning, so the empty slots in the RV park are starting to mount! 
            The Hungry Horse Dam was completed in the mid 50’s.  It is the 11th tallest concrete dam built and it IS an impressive sight.  The reservoir stretches some 34 miles behind it, with water that will eventually flow into the Pacific via the Columbia River.  The headwaters are deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, one of the pristine wild spaces in northern Montana.  (Grizzly bear country!!)
Lion Lake
    Our first stop was Lion Lake, a small lake located between the east and west roads approaching the dam.  It was so quiet and still – with wonderful reflections. 
Glory Hole at Hungry Horse Dam
Rick out on the dock
            The Dam Visitor Center, unfortunately, is closed for the season.  But we are able to walk out along the road over the dam and peer down to the power plant below, view the four intakes, see the ‘glory hole’ (overflow basin), and the two huge elevators that run to the bottom of the dam.  The mountains that rim the lake are wild.  On the west side, a fire (also in 2003 – just like the big Glacier fires) burned much of the hill, leaving a scattering of towering larch trees above the new growth of cottonwood, aspen, and baby larch.  The hillside looked polka dotted with bright yellow dots of foliage change. 
            We stopped to take pictures of the beautiful mountains on the east side of the lake and other panorama views!  In another week or so, the larch trees are going to be stunning.  We did spy ONE tree, solid gold, enroute home, but it was tucked down the hillside and difficult to photograph.  We pulled over to investigate nearly every campground or boat launch.  (For the record, Site 12 at Lost Johnny Point Campground is beautiful AND accessible for our trailer!)
Doris Creek enters the lake. 
            Once the paved road ended (around Mile 15) the pot holes hiding in the shadows of the trees made driving much harder.  Rick lasted a few more miles before turning around!  There was no point – we had NO intention of driving the 115 miles around the lake (100 of which would be gravel and poor quality!)
Doris Creek Camp Hosts
        Along the road, however, we noticed multiple trailhead signs and wondered about the hiking opportunities in the area.  So…enroute home we stopped at the HH Ranger Station and picked up some hiking information! 
The Deer Lick Saloon in Martin City
            But first, once back out on the highway, we drove another mile and took the EAST side road through the little town of Martin City.  (Think Sumpter like!)  It was quaint, to say the least!  A couple of saloons that have good reputations for the locals – Deer Lick Saloon, any one?  We drove on this road, which quickly turned to gravel, down to Abbott Bay – and turned around again! 

            Back home to enjoy some more of Bortz’s deer sausage for dinner.  I put it on salad and Rick enjoyed with baked beans.  Quality eating around here!  Wrote postcards and caught up on pictures.  Tomorrow….back to work!  

Tuesday, September 16
Drop-in Build Day 1!

Sunrise as we drive in to job site.
            Another brisk morning, but the forecast is into the high 70’s!!  We woke to the alarm clock today….even me!  I knew I would be in trouble when I slept until 7:15 yesterday morning!!  But….we got ready in time.  The pressure is off somewhat as we are now officially a “Drop-In Build” – just four random couples who will show up everyday and sign in on the volunteer sheet!  No devotions, no demand to HAVE to be there at 8am (even though we were!)
Diane wears her 'restored' shirt! 
            Rick went to work this morning finishing up the painting on the upper front of the house – the part he and Carl got sided last Saturday.  He was finished by lunch and spent the afternoon helping out with the sheetrock inside Lexie’s house.  The upstairs is almost done, except for closets.  All the BIG walls have to be done first and then the scraps get used in the closets!  Rick joined Clint, Diane, and Arletta who had been working there all day.
Rick fixes some sheetrock screws.
            I went back to work with Kathy installing the last of the ‘forms’ around the perimeter.  These are three layers of work, totaling 2” in depth, that must be right along the level line around the circumference of the house.  They will be used to level the concrete foundation.  It took us until after lunch to finish, as we encountered odd corners, special cuts, etc.  I don’t even want to count how many times I climbed up out of the foundation ‘pit’ to use the chop saw to cut the boards to size.  Up, down, up, down.  Guess it was good exercise because I had lost a pound when I got to Weight Watchers this afternoon! 
            Right after lunch I got stung by a bee or wasp (not sure which!) on the back of my left arm above the elbow.  Ouch!  Quick trip down to the truck to get the Sting-Eze and rub!  Not sure I hit the right spot because it didn’t neutralize as well as it should!
We installed the horizontal boards
around the upper edge. 
            We worked late today – leaving the site at 3:45.  We were trying to get the foundation ready in time for a 2pm concrete pour tomorrow afternoon.  Steve has the inspector scheduled for 1pm, so we have a lot of work to get done in the morning!  Tom has been oiling the boards so the concrete will release easily.  We started installing the outside edge of the foundation framework at the end of the day.  Will finish in the morning.  Sooooo much prep work for the concrete slab!  Steve says he thinks there is more work to be done in the slab than any other part of the house.  Still insulation to be installed before the final top slab is poured! 
            I stopped at Dollar Plus enroute home from WW – they were advertising a 30% clearance sale as the store will be closing.  So much inventory!!  I picked up just a couple things.
            Dinner around the campfire with everyone as we ate up the leftover BBQ ribs from Diane’s Saturday night party.  A few salads and Arletta had chicken and taters to share.  We didn’t bring much as we didn’t have much to offer – Chex Mix! 
            Just as I came in to review the proposals for the Program Committee for EOP, my internet died again.  Maybe I will go up to the laundry room to handle the call and have good access.  (Hour and half later, call is done!  Whew!)

WEDNESDAY, September 17
Drop In Build Day 2

My one picture of the closet! 
            What an absolutely beautiful day weather wise!  Still a little hazy in the morning (we heard that we slash or prescribed burning somewhere in the valley), but blue skies and a few clouds later.  The high was over 80 degrees.  We were joined today by about 6 women (one guy for awhile) from Parkside Credit Union.  Hard workers!  Plus we had three local volunteers and an additional drop-in older woman who came to work.  Good to have more because we had a lot of foundation work to do before 1pm to be ready for the concrete!
            Poor Rick….such a pretty day and he was inside most of it installing sheetrock with Clint and Arletta.  They were joined by Ingrid, the additional drop-in.  Good news is that much of the upstairs of Lexie’s house is sheetrocked.  Still some small pockets to do, but largely done. 
            I worked all morning, mostly with Carl and Kathy and Tina, a new local volunteer (found out later she is a retired CIA agent!)  We were installing the outside foundation boards – harder than it looks!  It was dirty work at times as I was crawling around at the bottom of the trench while rocks cascading down from the edge as we wrestled the wires into their holes.   Then our crew began working on the ‘whalers’ – the long support boards that hold the walls in place.  I stayed ‘topside’ and cut and delivered boards to order – both 1x4’s and 2x4’s. 
I helped Steve2 set up this pillar form. 
            After lunch (provided by the credit union!) I had some odd jobs while we finished up and then had to wait nearly a half hour for the cement to arrive.  I helped clean up the site, transferred boards, covered the siding piles, and helped Steve2 install the boards that hold the circular forms for the porch pillars in place. 
Waiting for the concrete to arrive...
I was given a 'hose' job, then switched
to photographer!
            The concrete boom truck (with the huge arm) arrived around 2:45 and TWO mixer trucks shortly after.  Steve had everyone planned out for jobs….I got to be photographer!!  We called the sheetrockers down to watch, but Rick eventually took over a cement job for a Parkside guy who had to leave.  He even got to level and smooth….not easy within the narrow foundation confines.  I started handing some of the ‘J bars’ to be installed into the top of the concrete as it set, but I didn’t know they were coated in grease.  So….my hands (no gloves at this point) were a MESS at the end of the day and I had wiped them on the front of my jeans. 
            We didn’t leave the site until 4:15, but Steve was ecstatic that we actually got the concrete ready AND poured today.  We don’t have to feel guilty about a short day on Saturday now since we’ve worked late for two days! 
            Showers felt OH so good this afternoon!  Tom was grilling some Polish Sausages and Rick added four of the Jalapeno Venison sausage we had from Bortz's – he and Carl really enjoyed them!  Hot!  A very casual group dinner and campfire time.  We invited Ingrid to join us but she didn’t show up.  
Concrete boom and mixer truck
Rick helps Steve with pour job.  
Rick is smoothing out the top.  Awkward!
THURSDAY, September 18
Drop-In Build Day 3

            Wow!  What a difference the prescribed burns are making!  The whole valley is overcast and smoky again this morning.  No sunrise pictures today enroute to the job! 
Rick is still sheet-rocking! 
   Small crew today as this is usually Steve’s ‘paperwork’ day.  But another couple does arrive, Whitefish residents who appeared last Wednesday when Steve sent us all home and ended up sheet-rocking all afternoon with him!  Richard and Kathryn – retired federal workers who moved to Montana from Washington DC.  They ended up joining Rick and Clint inside sheet rocking.  Diane went back to painting a second coat on the fence and then cleaning and organizing all the paint supplies.
Sheet rock truck arrived at lunch - amazing to watch
it loaded through the window! 
The rest of us were outside back in the ‘pit’!  Time to UNDO everything we had worked so hard to DO over the past few days.  In others words, all the foundation supports and framework now needed to be removed.  Lots of unscrewing, prying loose, hammering the ‘shoes’ off, etc.  Before break I mostly moved lumber out of the way as others knocked things loose.  We had to clean the boards of concrete and then stack them out front.  Then the base support had to be removed which was a little more exciting as they were partially buried in rock and cement!  Got that done before lunch! 
The 'shoes' for the foundation 'whalers'  - I learned so
much vocabulary! 
After lunch our crew started removing the main wall boards, which then had to be edge cleaned, scraped, and reoiled before being matched and stacked on the Form Trailer (Foundation Equipment).  None of this was light weight!  I also moved all the ‘shoes’ and other metal pieces back down to the trailer.  That was the heaviest load ever on the wagon – I could hardly make the wheels turns! 
What a beautiful foundation! 
We stopped right at 2:30 today.  Kathy and Diane had left earlier to go to a toy store in Whitefish as we wanted to get a gift for Malachi.  Lisa Littlefoot had invited the group to her house for light snacks, a glass of wine, and foot massages!  Ended up only the gals who got the massage (the guys felt awkward, but we convinced them to go for Lisa’s sake!).  She seemed so delighted that we came and accepted her offer.  Malachi loved his new magnetic toy  and play dough (good choices Kathy and Diane!) and showed off his new room with all the penguins!  Lisa’s Mom was there to massage as well.  It was a Win-win: Lisa really wanted to say thank you, but we benefit from seeing the completed home with furniture all moved in.  Especially neat since these are two of the houses we worked on last spring. 
Rick plays with Malachi
Skies are clearing a little, so maybe the smoke will go away!  Not so hot today, however, which was really nice!  
Lisa Littledog and her mom 
Ginger enjoys her foot massage!
Malachi loves penguins.  He would call these HAPPY FEET!!!
FRIDAY, September 19
Drop-In Build, Day 4

            What’s that falling from the sky?  We heard rain during the night and more this morning as we arrived at the job site.  Where did all these clouds come from?  But it is WARM – over 60 degrees at the Super One! 
Our crew scraps, brooms, and oils the form boards. 
            Steve gets two crews at work in the house doing drywall.  Rick is still upstairs with Clint finishing up the bathroom, but they had a challenge as the outer walls had been done making it impossible to get a full piece of sheetrock into the bath.  They were creative, however, and solved the problem! 
            A crew from Starbucks was supposed to volunteer today, but Steve got the call last night they weren’t coming.  So….the muscle we were hoping to have for the heavy form walls wasn’t there.  I guess we should take it as a compliment that Steve figured we had the muscle for the job when he assigned myself, Megan, and two new volunteers, Katie and Tamara, to the job of moving the boards, cleaning them up, oiling them, and stacking on the form trailer.  These are heavy thick plywood 4x8 foot boards, now saturated with soy oil.  But….we worked together as a team (a well-oiled machine I said!) and almost had the job finished by lunch time. It was, however, HARD work and I was sweating as we hoisted the boards on to the trailer.
Ginger cutting foam board
            One of the new volunteers today isn’t really a volunteer!  Katie is newly hired by the Habitat Office for a part-time job as volunteer recruiter.  She will work two days a week on site and another two days in the office getting volunteers.  Megan will shift to more of the program coordinator aspect – family selection, meals, etc.  Katie just finished the Bike and Build ride – 8 teams of around 30 each that bike across the country and build at various Habitat sites.  She said it was a 75 day ride, 15 days building, 3 rest days, and the rest biking days.  Her group went from Portland, Maine to Santa Barbara, CA. 
            Our last assignment for the day as a crew of four was to start applying the insulation on the foundation.  Both sides of the foundation are layered with 2” blue foam insulation, glued to the concrete.  Tamara and I cut while Megan and Katie used the liquid glue (in a caulk gun format) to apply the foam to the wall.  We only finished about 15% of the outside wall before quitting time. 
Steve and Genia Tartaglino

            We invited Steve and Genia to Happy Hour tonight, as well as Megan and the others.  Megan came, delivering the payment check to Leon at the campground office, Steve and Genia came bearing gifts for the four couples – a little reminder of Montana (Tamarack Brewery beer, huckleberry taffy, and Montana Coffee Traders Glacier Blend Coffee.  Really nice of them!  
Friends around the fire. 
Arletta shows us how its done!
            Happy Hour tonight lasted until 8:30!!  And it was HAPPY!!  We laughed long and hard at an absurd variety of topics.  Schaffers had ordered pizza, we brought veggies and hummus and Diane had put some ravioli in a crock pot.  Kathy made dessert treats!  And then we brought out the marshmallows and things degenerated even more!  Arletta had read about making a ‘cup’ from the marshmallow and filling it with Kilua.  She brought Irish Cream instead.  Let’s just say early experimentation was a little sloppy (it didn’t work!) and Kathy and I ended up a mess!! 
            I offered one of my books to Genia and Steve as a thank you and they took a copy of “Here I Am, Send Me”.  Genia also bought my last two packages of God-text cards!  

SATURDAY, September 20
Drop-In Build, Day 5; Big Mountain
            What a full day!  And a beautiful fall sunshiny day as well!  The build site was busy with a group of girls from Summit Academy, a team from a Lutheran Church down in Kalispell, and a few other odd volunteers locally.  Steve had to leave at 11am, so he got everyone going, told a story or two at break time, and was on his way to Butte, MT, by 11 for try-outs for his Montana Girls Ice Hockey team. 
Status of foundation by day's end. 
            A crew from the church tackled the insulation of the foundation and they made fast work of it!!  (I think they had a building contractor as their boss and he knew what he was doing!)  Rick and I both worked downstairs at Lexie’s house doing drywall.  One of the first things we had to do was cover up my house blessing on the closet wall under the stairwell!  L  Ah well!  We had a second portion of the wall all measured and discovered we couldn’t get a 12’ section of panel into the opening until we moved all the sheetrock stacked up in the way.  That led to installing a different wall first, which had a lot of cuts to make.  The room was a bustle of activity as Steve sent another 4 workers in to help us!  Clint had to redo a section of stairwell wall he had put up, but it was a good thing as he discovered a light switch that had been covered up!  So….a good mistake as in correcting it we corrected another. 
Our sheetrock achievement for the day. 
            Anyway….we’ll finish up what we started on Tuesday morning hopefully!  Lunch was provided by the church and then we all left!  No afternoon work today! 
            We shower and relax for a couple hours before taking off for Whitefish and Big Mountain/Whitefish Ski Resort area.  We have been invited to dinner at the condo home of Rich and Kathryn, Habitat volunteers who worked with us last Wednesday.  They live up in The Village near the lifts on the mountain, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine a trip up the Summit Scenic Lift with our dinner invite. 
Back road to Whitefish
            The fall colors are starting to appear throughout the valley.  Shades of golden yellow, orange, and a few reds – especially the huckleberry bushes, etc.  We take the back road up to Whitefish enjoying the colors along the way and then wind our way up Big Mountain Rd. to the ski area.  The tickets to the top on the chair (or gondola, but we didn’t opt for that!) are just $13 round trip, cheaper for seniors but we weren’t old enough to qualify!  Well worth the price!  The hillsides were a quilt of green, gold, red, and orange, laced with white lines of bike trails and hiking trails.  The ski area caters to the mountain bikers in the off season and it is popular.  Other outdoor activities include zip lines, alpine slide, tree-top walks, etc. 
Mountain bike action
Hillside colors as we ride up the lift. 
        From the top the view is panoramic.  The jagged peaks of Glacier National Park and surrounding ranges form the skyline.  Whitefish Lake is visible in sections below us, and the Flathead Valley with its patchwork ranches and farms spreads out from the base of the mountain.  Flathead Lake is barely visible in the distance (it’s a little hazy to the south), and at one point we can see just a section of Hungry Horse Reservoir in the gaps between ridges.  We spend some time enjoying the vistas, perhaps a little more than necessary since we are a half hour late in arriving at Rich and Kathryn’s place!
Panorama to the East from top of Big Mountain.  The peaks are Glacier NP
Kathryn and Rich
            This couple moved to the Flathead Valley two years ago from Washington DC where both of them worked for the federal government in the transportation and treasury departments.  They are quite ‘down to earth’ for two people in a socioeconomic class more than a step above ourselves!  Kathryn is an accomplished hostess and we were served drinks, hors d’ovres, pasta, chicken parmesan, salad, bread, and chocolate mousse.  She had told Clint, “I’ll just throw a little pasta together – don’t bring anything!”  Wow!  They stay in Whitefish for 6 months of the year, mid July to January, but are officially residents of The Virgin Islands where they maintain residency 51% of the time!  (January to July!)  Conversation was lively and fun.  We felt very comfortable with them and look forward to their help again next Thursday at the job site. 
            Back to wind down and prepare to hike on Sunday.  The weather reports look much more favorable for a hike up at Logan Pass tomorrow rather than Monday, so it looks like we'll be heading to God's Cathedral tomorrow! 
Toward Columbia Falls from Big Mountain.  Columbia Mt. is the main ridge in the middle.  The 'gap' at the left. 

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