Archive for August, 2009


Obama in Big Sky!!!


The last few weeks at Buck’s T-4 have been nothing short of busy for everybody. Now that new/old owner Mike Scholz and Director of Food and Beverage Chuck Schommer have settled in, I had a chance to take a three day weekend and enjoy a little adventure but before a V.I.P. rolled into Big Sky for a visit.

We had an exceptionally special guest of great magnitude visit Big Sky last week. President Obama spoke in Bozeman about health care on Friday, and then came to Big Sky to stay. Security was tight all over the resort. I had to stop and talk with the Sheriff in order to get to my condo which is inside of the resort.  Just seeing all the police, secret service and other law enforcement organizations was exciting. A friend and I took a walk to the resort just around the time Obama was expected to arrive. There were about 50 other people roaming around hoping to get a glimpse of our leader. We saw a motorcade rush into the Summit Hotel, and never did get a glimpse.

As a consolation prize we did get an exciting moment watching the military helicopters fly in. After standing in the rain and cold wind, we were chilled and walked through the roped off parking lot to get home, just as we cleared the parking lot a large military helicopter landed. I am not well versed in military aircrafts, but I think that it looked like a Lockheed Martin US 101 which is used to transport the president. The next morning as we cooked breakfast I heard the helicopters start up. They were parked just a few hundred yards from the condo. We stood on the balcony and watched them rise above the trees and soar into flight. The other helicopter was smaller but I do not know what model. I wanted nothing more than a ride in the US101. Sadly, that is reserved for only the Commander in Chief.

Big Sky Montana can get very hot in the summer. Often temperatures reach into the mid 90’s and are regularly in the 80’s. Since the air is dry here, the heat is anything but oppressive. I welcome the hot sunny days and enjoy looking over the incredible landscapes in the bright sunlight. Most houses here do not have air conditioning because there is no need. Nights stay cool, and even during the hot days, the air is free of humidity. This summer however has not been one where anybody would be tempted to turn on the air conditioning, even if they did have it.

I have seen many summers, some filled with smoky air from forest fires, others wet, some summers have been short and cool with endless sunny days and others very hot and extending far into the season. Nothing I have seen yet compares to the fantastically odd weather we have received this summer. Temperatures have stayed in the high 60’s and 70’s and it has rained daily, although usually only for 20 minutes.

My hiking partner and I headed up the Spanish Creek trail once again on Saturday afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we were enjoying the views. About 2 miles in we reached the first fork in the trail we headed left towards Spanish Lakes. The next 6 miles were all new to us, never before had we ventured down this path. We walked though magnificent pine forests, wild flower fields and over the creek, up switch backs and through high alpine rocky landscape. About 4.5 miles in the sky turned dark and we knew to put our rain gear on. Surprisingly, it was not rain that occurred but hail! Luckily they were very small balls and caused no pain. In fact it was almost a blessing because our packs did not get wet, the hail just bounced off onto the ground. The hail ceased after about 10 minutes.

We then encountered a river crossing, the first (and only) without a bridge or some sort of log draped across. Since I was in my Chaco sandals I sucked it up and plunged into the icy cold water, slipped and slid on the rocks and almost went for a swim. My feet were numb and bright red by the time I reached the other side. I looked up and two cowboys on horseback were looking over at me.  I jumped but kept myself from screaming as I didn’t want to spook the horses. “You’re tougher than me, that water is cold!” stammered one of the men. He was exactly right too, it was frigid water, as my hiking partner soon found out. He was behind me with his socks and hiking boots on, trying to step on high rising rocks and stay out of the water, but the slippery algae caused him to slip and he dunked both his feet into the water.

The last three miles of the hike is where we gained most of our elevation. We eventually reached a picturesque basin with peaks standing tall all around us. There were still snowfields on the talus. We poked around the lower lake and eventually found a pre-established fire pit that was more than suitable. Since we were so high in elevation, it was very cool. The temperature dropped dramatically and I sat huddled next to the small flame we had started, feeding and tending the fire while trying to defrost my hands. My hiking partner set up the tent, collected more wood and made dinner. Once dinner was made the fire was going pretty good. I had both my hands and feet as close to the flames as I could bear. I was dressed in a fleece shirt, fleece vest, long sleeve sweater and a down jacket. My hiking partner took off his wet boots and socks and laid them close to the fire to dry. He also stuck his hands and feet into the flames. After we were warm, we retreated to the tent to play a few cutthroat games of UNO, which I seem to consistently lose. We spent a rather cold night up there.

Despite the cold, it was all well worth the trip. There is nothing I love more than getting outside and enjoying the immaculate surroundings that we are so lucky to have here in Big Sky. As we walked back down the trail, we reminisced about several week long backpacking trips we had done in the past, and planned on getting away for a while in the future. If you have never had the opportunity, I would highly recommend taking at least a week and learning to live a little differently in the woods. It truly does something amazing to the spirit.

With great appreciation,



Idyllic days in Big Sky

With Buck’s reopen with previous owner Mike Scholz back and Chuck Schommer (previous chef) returning as our Director of Food and Beverage the locals have flooded our doors to get a taste of our new menu and say hi to old friends. As a result our restaurant has been extremely busy, and I have spent my nights helping out. I am excited and proud to tell you that business has been great both at our restaurant and hotel. With peak summer season in full swing we are meeting many travelers from Nebraska to France.

One of the best perks of my job in the hospitality industry is that I get to make the acquaintance of so many people. Just last night I enjoyed a glass of wine after work and chatted with a couple bikers that were staying with us at the hotel and dining in our restaurant. We exchanged travel stories and notes on destinations. The men, who have travelled in a group together for years to several different locations and have returned to Montana two years in a row; it goes to show you that if you come to Montana, you will fall in love with it.

There is nothing that compares to the breathe-taking, wide open spaces that make up this beautiful state. I was lucky enough to experience some of this last weekend. My hiking partner and I headed down the Spanish Creek Road which meanders through the gorgeous country belonging to Ted Turner. I have to hand it to Ted; he really knows how to pick out a striking piece of land. The green rolling hills were picturesque against the clear deep blue Montana sky. Mountains in the distance towered over the creek. Ted Turner owns a herd of bison which were scarce that day, but often times I have seen them roaming the grassy landscape as I have driven through.

At the end of the Spanish Creek Road is the Spanish Creek trail head. The trail departs both North and South. The northern trail heads to Ennis and the other is a loop. Since my hiking partner’s knee is still healing from some overuse during ski season (trying to beat me to the tram in the morning has rendered him wounded all summer), and since I am out of shape due to working most of my days (and being fed too well by formerly mentioned ‘hiking partner’), we decided to take the South Fork trail to the 40 foot, full-bodied Pioneer Falls. The 2 mile stretch has a very mild incline and the last sixth of a mile is switch backs. The waterfall is beautiful to say the least. The rocks that the falls cascade into look as if they were man-made, but clearly they weren’t. The pool below looks ideal for swimming except for the rushing falls that come crashing into it.

We were pretty hot and sweaty once we reached the falls, so we climbed down to the bottom and let the spray fall all over our bodies. It was incredibly refreshing and relaxing. I couldn’t help but think that we looked as if we were in some sort of vacation commercial, or advertising some product such as ‘Natural Mountain Bottled Water’, or even energy bars, a dating site or a “green” cleaning product. We blissfully basted in the sun and then ran into the spray of the falls to cool off. Eventually we decided that dinner was in order and we headed back towards the car.

As we descended we passed through endless fields of wildflowers. Each section of the hike seemed to have a different type of flower. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Although this is my eighth summer in Montana, I have never ceased to be totally amazed by the beauty in this area. Being that this has been a rather chilly and exceptionally wet summer, the landscape has remained incredibly green and flowers continue to bloom. I am looking forward to some really amazing fall colors. The beauty was so incredible we decided that we must return as soon as possible for a two day excursion through the entire South Loop of the Spanish Creek trail which leads to high-alpine mountain lakes.

That night we dined on enormous lobster tails. We sat in a one room apartment, still draped in the original décor from the 1970’s and packed wall to wall with camping equipment, skis and more. We giggled over what an incredibly rich and wonderful life we live, even if a decent condo or apartment is out of reach. We still can dine on lobster (which was a gift) and share idyllic days in stunning places most could not even imagine.

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