Sanford’s day:

Once you spend some time wintering in Montana, you learn how important it can be to abandon plans.  Out here (up here?) our plans revolve, generally to a significant degree, around the weather…and for a little while now the weather has stunk.  Or maybe NOAA has stunk at predicting it.  Either way, it’s been cloudy and snowing and cold and then cloudy and less cold and raining.  RAINING.  Rain is the opposite of oysters, you never see it in months with an R (okay except April, but I really don’t want to think about April).  Rain and clouds and seasonal-affective disorder are for the west side, for the Whitefishians and their ski hills and single girls and shopping centers and other assorted examples of nonsense.  Babb is supposed to be sunny and clear.  Yes, the wind will be blowing 20-120mph but that doesn’t totally eliminate the most awe inspiring part of living in the mountains:  being able to see them.

Today was different.  NOAA predicted more snow and clouds and misery…but they were wrong!  In a good way, for once!  It was gorgeous all day, and then the wind even dialed itself down to zero for the afternoon.  I had plans for the day.  I abandoned them.

I set off for St. Mary, where I worked for the Johnson family for six years as a prep cook, cook, and maintenance man (  I drove by “The Lodge” in St. Mary, but didn’t stop for drinks as it seemed rather inaccessible.

I drove across the flats toward the besieged and boarded-up visitor’s center.

I made it to the end of the line to discover that nobody had been back that way in a while.

I head back towards St. Mary and noted some fabulous signs.

(Drifting snow may close road at any time)

Not low?  Really?

I drove through the bustling burg of St. Mary and stopped to look back down Main Street.

I headed down the snow covered “back road” and soaked in the view from the KOA bridge.

The day was still young, the skies still blue, and the sun as warm and comforting as it can be at 22 degrees.  I headed for Many Glacier, herding some deer along the way.

I reached yet another “end of the road” and trekked up towards Sherburne Dam.

The one set of tracks besides my own stopped here, but I clambered over the drifts to the park entrance.

I found more amusing signs.  The upper left indicates that you can’t discharge a firearm.  The bottom right is blacked out, but once declared the illegality of firearms in general, back before the wild Credit Card + Guns in Parks bill.  Now it seems that you can possess a gun, just not fire it?  That’s fine, grizzlies are terrified of the mere sight of a pea shooter.

I paused and watched the snow drift about the frozen surface of Sherburne Reservoir.  The mountains looked…well here, this is what they looked like.

I saw the same herd of deer on the way out.

After spending my afternoon rambling about a couple of the most gorgeous spots on earth, I decided to head back to THE most gorgeous spot on earth.

You can’t beat that.