NOVEMBER KALISPELL HABITAT TREK
Baker City to Kalispell, MT
A beautiful day for a drive! A scattering of clouds, enough for a brilliant sunrise behind us to the Southeast, blue skies, sunshine, and a splash of golden tamaracks along the way!
For this ‘speedy trip’ we have opted for the 20 miles further route along US 395 thru Tri-Cities. Not the most direct, but four lane which means we can put the car on cruise control, hit 70 mph, and GO!! Rick drives us up to a truck stop just north of Pasco, I take us to Post Falls, Idaho, and Rick on in to Kalispell. We left at 6:15am, arrive at 4:30pm Mountain Time, so 9:15 hours with a stop at Subway for lunch!! Not bad!!!
All through northern Idaho we marvel at the golden glow of the larch and the aspens on the hillsides. Some cottonwoods still have their color as well. Many of the aspens hill on the hills are barren. Right near Lookout Pass on the ID-MT border, we find fresh snow on some of the peaks. We stop for a restroom break in St. Regis, and end up purchasing a metal sculpture of a bear with pine trees. The price was reasonable and the colors are stellar!
Dropping down into Flathead Valley, we see plenty of snow on the highest peaks of the Mission Mts to the south, plus north of Whitefish the peaks are white. Through the gap at Columbia Falls? Heaven’s Peak and other high peaks of Glacier are mantled in snow. SOOO pretty!
We get checked into our cabin Kintla and assess our needs. A trip to Walmart is in order to pick up a few forgotten items, plus some food stuffs. The cabin has a rear window over the queen bed that looks out to the mountains - the same ridge we see from our trailer on other trips. We pull the bunk beds down from the wall, which leaves a tiny nook to park the porta potti! Somewhat private! The bunk beds store our clothing supplies. There are four chairs and a table, a mini fridge and a microwave. We brought our 2 gallon jug, so if we just fill it once a day, we have ‘running water’…(sorta!)
Habitat Day 1
Up at 6:30 in the DARK! The sun isn’t scheduled to rise until 8:20 today! I’ll be glad on Sunday morning when we ‘fall back’ to Standard time and at least it will be light before we leave for the job site! But just as we are leaving I see the sky starting to turn some awesome colors to the southeast. It is amazing how far to the south the sun is.
We work today with 5 members of the Credit Card Processing Company, NXGEN. (I’m sure the letters stand for something, but I don’t know what!) Rick and I and a gal name Lori put up the 1x4 nailer slats on the gabled ends, south side. Then Rick was sent off on a personal errand for Steve with Steve and Genia’s son, Brenton. (They were moving doors and a washer-dryer!) I went out to the north side of the house and helped with the siding there for the rest of the day.
Lunch was provided by Jimmy Johns – box lunches that were very good with sandwich, pickle, chips, and a huge cookie! Rick got back finally for his lunch also!
Three local volunteers were also in today – Pete, who Rick trained a year ago; Jim, a new local recently moved here from Alaska; and Jan, a frequent volunteer from Whitefish. Homeowner Korey Davidson was also in for the morning.
We wrapped up at 3:30 and another stop at Walmart for such items as Kleenex and hand sanitizer! Lazy evening - enjoyed a brief visit from Kathy as she and Clint got settled. We will be giving them a ride in the am!
Habitat Day 2
Today we worked with a group from Grace Church, a non-denominational church down south of town. Good workers, most of whom have worked previously for the affiliate in the past. They also provided a wonderful chili lunch with all the toppings: fritos, cheese, and sour cream! Fresh home baked cookies and some fruit.
And the hot meal was a blessing on what was a very cold morning! Rick found the roof a challenge as there was about a ¼” of frost layering everything at the beginning of the day. It took me over an hour to get my fingers warm enough to function very well ….and I was running the cut station!
Rick and two Grace partners worked on siding the gable, while Steve assigned me back to the front of the house (the COLD NORTH SIDE!) with another 2 men from Grace to continue siding there. Mike and Jacob were great to work with and we made pretty good progress over the course of the day. Had a few tricky cuts to make around the porch roof gable and the upper windows. I will probably be back on the siding crew for the front on Monday. Rick has just 3-4 boards left on the peak of his section.
The highlight of my day today was the visit of Jen and Mahrias Schultz. Jen and EJ will be working on Monday, but Mahrias will be in school all week and wanted to see me. I finished up some cuts and then ran to the car to get the two pieces of mail we had for the kids (I tried sending them to the wrong post office number). Mahrias gave me a tie-dye half heart, one of the ‘Best Friends’ sets where each of you get half. I have the Friends half and Mahrias kept the Best side. Wow. How often do you get to be ‘best friends’ with a 9 year old girl you met on a Habitat build?? I was nearly in tears as I hugged her and thanked her for the honor. They are such a gracious and wonderful family. But then again, all the families that have been selected for this project have put in OVER the hours required and are such caring, loving people.
Rick worked with a young man knowledgeable about the Glacier wilderness and he finally identified the peaks we see through the gap for us! The big one in the middle is indeed Heaven’s Peak and the one barely visible to the right is part of the Oberlin complex.
When we returned to the campground with Clint and Kathy, we found the Hinkles just finishing their connections and set up! A little reunion time gathering and then time for showers! I went back over for some Happy Hour time later in the evening, taking pippernutters to share. They were a hit, especially after we warmed them up in the microwave.
We are in bed before 10 – even with the time change we can’t stay awake any later!
Wow. I forgot my phone would automatically adjust for the time change, so I kept subtracting an hour when I looked at it this morning. The result? I was in bed for over 10 hours!! Unheard of!!
We spent a pretty lazy day. I caught up on some computer stuff, went ahead with my scripture meditations (getting the actual verse onto the page), finished yesterday’s prayers and did today’s, posted to Facebook. Rick took a short walk, watched the Steelers to a loss, and took a short nap! I went to JoAnn’s and the grocery store!
We all gathered at the Hinkle trailer for dinner. Delicious casserole from Diane, salad, from Kathy, and I brought some fancy breads. Mostly lots of laughter, reminiscing, and tall tales!
While the weather was a bit overcast and a few drops of rain in the morning, by afternoon we had some sunshine and blue skies! Can’t say it warmed up a lot (maybe hit 50 degrees!), but not a bad day of rest!
Americorps Habitat Day 1
We are given a slight reprieve today to arrive later as the Americorp group will have a longer orientation before their 6 week stay. A good thing as it put us still in the cabin during a stellar morning sunrise from behind the Mission Mountains.
The 10 member Americorp crew looked so clean and trim in their brand new pants, sweatshirts, and boots. They all have white hard hats. This is their first day on their first assignment. REAL rookies! But what a great group of young people – one from Utah was the furthest west, the rest scattered across the east coast and southeast from Minnesota to Texas, Massachusetts to the Carolinas. Steve had already broken them up into some ‘teams’ assigned to Rick, Clint, Pete, and myself – they just didn’t know who we were at the time! Rick had two gals up on the roof to help him finish up the gable siding and then they tackled caulking and eventually painting later in the day. Pete and his helper were working on the gable end just below Rick. Clint had one young man helping him with the porches and in the afternoon, the installation of the sheetrock window.
My crew was big – three Americorp guys plus homeowner Mary. Our task was to finish up the siding at the front of the house. We had two trickly boards to cut, with windows to go around and the gable peak to deal with. After that, clear sailing between two windows to the top of the second story windows. Then the sheetrock truck came with a load of rock to drop off. We cleared out of the way, moving to the back of the house where a few boards still needed to be put up over the backdoor. Basically we got some good advice from Steve after lunch and with a little input from me I turned two of the boys loose to figure out the piece! It took them two tries and a lot of ‘honing’, but they got it! Mary and I prepared the side of the garage for siding and got three layers of boards up. Tomorrow morning…the front of the house will get finished because Clint got the window installed so we can return and do our thing!
By the time we cleaned up and Steve visited with our crew, it was 4:30 when we left the site. We were to be at Mackenzie River Pizza at 5pm to meet Katy and Erin from the Habitat staff. We both wanted to shower, so ….we didn’t get there until 5:25!! Oops. Great dinner, though, with the pizza compliments of Habitat. We all split up the drinks and tip.
Americorps Habitat Day 2
Another beautiful sunrise today, only this time we are enroute to the job site so I can’t get as good a picture. Still…what a glorious way to begin any day! I am going to use yesterday’s sunrise for today’s prayer picture.
Steve isn’t here to begin the day, so we are under the leadership of Clint and Tom to open things up. I get coffee made and straighten out the service area somewhat. The corps kids arrive a little after 8 and we quickly get signed in and back into our work teams. My crew is responsible today to FINISH the front siding! Rick’s team just keeps getting bigger throughout the day as more and more youth were put to caulking and painting.
We didn’t go quickly, but we got ‘er done by the end of the day. Some trickly cuts to maneuver and a little more teaching to be done on measuring and cutting! Then we ran out of siding, but needed to finish the job so the caulkers could get on it. Had to be creative, but we finished! I released two of my guys to Rick mid-afternoon and Tyler and I nailed in the final pieces up on the top layer.
We ate lunch in the 50 degree delightful weather on the picnic tables with the kids. Discovered their home training base is McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento!
We were beat by the end of the day at 4pm! Back to cabin to shower, do laundry, and kick back, trying NOT to listen to election coverage!!
Americorps Habitat Day 3
FOG!! We wake up socked in! Rick spies a deer grazing in the meadow behind us, a gray shadow. By the time we get to the job site, we have risen above the low lying fog. Today is forecast to be the warmest of the remaining year – nearly 60 degrees. PAINTING!!
We get the group started, having heard that Steve will be a little late. Rick gets most everyone working on the paint process. Tom, Kathy, and Diane are still working in Ben and Davida’s house to be ready for today’s dedication. I bopped around painting, touchup caulking, pounding in nails for awhile. Then Rick asked me to work on some soffits at the back of the house. I painted soffit for a bit, then transferred to the door frames. Shortly before lunch, Steve asked me to put together a crew to finish the siding on the garage wall. (More siding has been delivered.)
And then….the day took a turn for the worse. At the beginning of lunch, Tom called Rick and I over to the garage across the street to tell us that Katy Branston, our vibrant and enthusiastic volunteer coordinator, was found earlier in the morning deceased in her garage. The group is stunned and in shock. We had to hold it in until Steve was able to return and quietly share the news one by one with the other local volunteers and the Americorps leader.
In spite of the news, my crew finished the garage wall. We struggled at times, but we got the job done!! Thanks to Pete for helping us finish up with some trim at the top to cover up a wide gap left in the soffit at the top.
By days end, Rick and a team of Americorp boys, plus homeowner Korey, had disassembled 80% of the scaffolding from the house, leaving just enough to finish up the back upper gable paint. Rick was tired! We were all a little emotionally drained. Before leaving, Rick and I walked out to the front of Davidson’s house to take a look sans scaffolding….and the day took a turn for the positive….
Jen Schultze and the kids pulled up and Mahrias ran out of the van to give me a huge hug. The next thing I knew Rick was hugging someone enthusiastically and I suddenly realized it was….Sarah Swanson??? What in the world?? Then I remembered that Sarah was driving down from Fairbanks to Los Angeles!! In a crazy detective effort between Sarah and Shelli, they found Rick and I on the job in Kalispell! Wow!
We were ready to leave anyway, so we invite Sarah and Jared to follow us down to Five Guys Burgers for an early dinner. (They were hoping to trek several more hours before stopping for the night, enroute to Yellowstone.) We spent a wonderful hour plus visiting, getting to know Jared, Sarah’s boyfriend, and catching up on each other’s lives. What a bright spot in an otherwise low day!
Good phone visit with Shelli when we got back to the cabin.
Americorps Habitat Day 4
God blessed us with another sunrise this morning. The fog that came back in early evening disappeared during the night and the sky was vibrant with color today.
Steve spoke with the group at the beginning of the day on grief and allowing everyone the chance to grieve in their own way today. And then…time to get to the task at hand! Landscaping crews, paint trim and wall crew, Clint is doing porch work with an Americorp helper (Rayne) and Tyler is helping Tom. I grab a caulk gun and spend the morning caulking all the missing spots on the back porch and then doing the soffit and wall that we put up yesterday. It took longer than anticipated – and three tubes of caulk! In the afternoon, I painted some and caulked some more!
Rick didn’t paint very much but bustled from one spot to another assisting his crew with ladders, brushes, etc. so they could get the job done! He had youth on the roof, on ladders, everywhere! But by days end…MOST of the painting is done. We have a few touchup places to do on Friday, plus the second coat on garage west wall siding (it hadn’t been pre-painted when we put it up). The yard got graded and ready for the sod turf to be delivered on Friday am.
All the Habitat staff and the four homeowner families were on site at lunch today, along with the pastor of one of the local churches. He led the Habitat family in some words of encouragement and hope, and then we circled up as one big group hand in hand to join in prayer and a celebration of Katy’s life. Erin and Vicki from the office are truly in shock. Vicki is due to deliver and take maternity leave at any moment. I’m sure Erin is wondering how in the world she is going to handle all the details that must be done to close Ben and Vida’s house, as well as the Davidson house. But mostly they loved working with Katy and her presence in the office, her spirit, and her life. As the homeowners left, I took the opportunity to say goodbye to each, as we would be leaving after Friday…until next June!
Jen Schultze brought Ethan and Mahrias by the RV park at 4:30 today to ‘play’ with Rick and Ginger for an hour. I invited Norrells and Hinkles to come join us at the gazebo and they visited with Jen as well while Rick played tetherball and more with Ethan and Mahrias and I visited all the little western village buildings! A quasi Happy Hour time!
Showers, dinner, and a quiet night, plus early to bed!
Americorps Habitat Day 5
This is to be our last day with the Americorps kids, so Rick and I leave the park early to stop at Walmart and pick up a couple dozen donuts to take to the build this morning. We arrive shortly before the Thrivent volunteer who ALSO brought two dozen donuts! The kids will be in bliss!! Thrivent is also sending 5 volunteers and lunch today. Wow. (Incidentally learned more about the organization and the $75,000 grant they have invested in the Davidson home – the grant with the end of the year stipulation for completion!)
It is a foggy morning, and unlike the other foggy morning this week, this NEVER burned off. It was a day of 100% humidity all day long. Cold and damp. Painting was miserable, especially on flat horizontal surfaces because nothing ever dried. I had a crew of two boys, Thorne and Calvin, who finished the second coat of wall on the side of the garage, touched up a few spots needed, and then I excused them to the sod crew. I worked alone rest of the day on spot caulking and trim touchups …. Marginally successful on the latter!
Rick worked all day on laying down the vinyl flooring in the utility room and bathroom of the Schultze house. Lily was his helper! Clint had Rayne helping him finish up the trim work on the front porch. I caulked for them as needed, but we weren’t able to get the paint on the posts by day end.
The rest of the group, under Tom’s direction, leveled and raked the yard, got the front flower beds marked out, and then laid all the sod, which was delivered around 9am. A perfect damp day for that task! God may do all the watering necessary over the weekend!
Mid-afternoon everyone but the Americorps kids wrapped up work and met in the Schultze house to visit with Jack and Anne, Katy’s brother and aunt. Rick and I said our Corps goodbyes first, as they left before we were finished. Homeowners were again gathered, a few local volunteers, and we just had a time to remember Katy and meet some of her family. It was good for both parties. Lots of laughter, memories, lots of tears.
Back to the cabin to do some initial packing, take showers, etc. At 6pm we drove down to Los Corporales for dinner with Hinkels and Norrells. A good time with some good food. Back to Tom and Diane’s trailer to visit until 9:30pm!! We have to drive tomorrow! Time to hit the sack! P.S. Fog is still just as thick tonight. What a gloomy day. Steve said this is typical winter weather for Kalispell. YUCK!
Kalispell to Baker City
Left Kalispell at 7am, still mired in a thick fog. Left the thick stuff when we drove out of the lake basin, but still foggy until St. Regis. I drove from Regis to Post Falls, which was through some rain, but nothing too heavy. Rick took the sunny stretch of Eastern Washington. I drove from Richland (temperature 69 degrees!) to Dead Man’s Pass, and Rick took us home, arriving at 3:15 Pacific Time. Yes, we picked up an hour! Good to be home.
A week of heavy emotions. We were glad we were there to establish some bonds with the Americorp kids, which should make it easier for Tom and Clint in the next two weeks. Definitely glad we were there to help out and be support during the chaos of Katy’s death. It was a tough medical week for Genia, hence also for Steve. Biggest regret is we didn’t get to see Genia. Her white cell count is soooo low, Rick and I didn’t want to take ANY chance of giving her a bug that might cause her problems. We would have had to mask up totally, etc. But…if we helped Steve, I can consider that a hug for Genia. Steve can deliver it.
I will close this blogpost with a collage of Katy pictures....in memory of an awesome, talented, vivacious, and brilliant young lady...gone way too soon. May we learn and reach out to all those who suffer from the hidden disease of depression. May we spread her sunshine with every home we build. May we work with her enthusiasm and zeal, and may we treat everyone with the love she shared.