Rob's Blog Archive

May 18, 2014

Silly Lake










I moved from Silicon Valley to Montana eleven years ago.  Prior to moving, I had never lived outside of spitting distance of a metropolitan area with more than a million people.  Montana’s population just recently crossed the one million mark, statewide.  I moved so that I could live in a place from which I could learn the art of running sled dogs.   I found Silly Lake just short of a year after I arrived.  When I moved in, I was the third musher on the block. 

Prior to closing, I had walked the boundary of the land, twice.  I had looked over the house and had had it inspected.  The house was a bit strange, but felt livable.  The inspector said it was a nice little house.  More than anything, the location looked great.  I had twenty acres, including a pond big enough to show up on topographic maps.  The previous owners’ grandchildren had named it Silly Lake, and that worked for me.

The first summer that I lived here, I settled on my kennel’s name.  My friend, Jacques Porter, had suggested “Silly Lake Siberians.”  The macho part of me objected, but the poet in me said it had a nice ring to it.  The poet won out and I became the owner of Silly Lake Siberians. 

I got a bunch of lessons my first fall here.  My truck slid on an inch of glare ice and off of the driveway.  The faux wood surrounding my chimney caught on fire.  During that October, I stepped outside and watched the best set of auroras I’ve seen anywhere, either before or since. 

Along with these, I owned a real kennel for the first time, six racing dogs and my two show stock wimps—Jake, Jag, Sima, Tok, Fondue, Vixen, Dawn, and Tenaya.  Jake, Tok, Fondue, and Vixen are still with me.  Pups when I got them, Jake will turn twelve in two weeks and Tok next November.  Fondue and Vixen were and are the old farts of the kennel. Vixen celebrated her fourteenth birthday in January and Fondue will turn thirteen this week. 

Most local mushers called my first winter at Silly Lake the worst they had seen in terms of snow coverage.  It was still the first during which I could run my dogs from my house.  With only six, I did both dryland training and sledding directly from my hook-up yard.  I loved my first winter here.  Spring came early and definitely too soon for my taste. 

I’m now finishing my tenth spring at Silly Lake.  As usual, the work during the first part has consisted mostly of fixing anything the snow had damaged and carting to the dump garbage that the snow had hidden.  Some of the platforms on which my doghouses stand need maintenance, mostly some new screws and replace a couple of 2x4’s, but not a lot of work.

I did lose Ghost, Zappa, Otter, and Sima over the past year and there are three empty doghouses in the yard that I’m not sure what to do with.  They’re not where the dogs had been, so the fact that they’re empty doesn’t throw my loss in my face.  They’re also not in the way, so I’ll probably just leave them where they are. 

I spent an hour next to my pond yesterday.  It’s been ice-free for several weeks and a pair of hooded mergansers were floating around.  I expect to see chicks in the not too distant future.  That’s been a nearly annual event, too, though last year it was mallards rather than mergansers.  The turtles, for which my pond evidently has a townwide reputation, haven’t yet emerged from their mud encased hibernation.  That will happen any day.

The pond itself is higher than I’ve ever seen it.  We’ve had several years during which the meadow that surrounds the permanent part of the pond has remained flooded until very late in the summer.  This past winter, while I was in Alaska, was the “best” year in Seeley Lake since I moved to Montana, both in terms of the amount of snow and deep subzero-nights.  With the wet season and Silly Lake as high as it is, I expect it to remain flooded until late in the summer, and it may not dry out completely.  There was one summer that it didn’t and this summer may be a duplicate of that one.

My trees are either in full leaf or quickly getting there.  The larch were the first to do this, followed by some stands of aspen.  Now, all of the buds have opened and most of the leaves and needles have grown to full size.  This includes aspen, larch, and poplar.

Last year at this time, I was preparing to host the Yom Chi Taekwon-Do Association summer camp, nursing Ghost through his final days, and starting to plan to skijor the Iditarod Trail.  Additionally, Otter and Sima were on drugs for their ailments.  I noticed the seasonal change, but could only savor it for a moment at a time. I didn’t have a chance to sit by my pond for a full hour.  In all fairness, I liked the stress.  Of course, I knew that in a different year I would be able to sit and wonder when I would first see turtles sunning themselves on my logs or the mergansers’ chicks following their parents around my pond.  I guess that’s this year.






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