Now, in the “normal” realm of the blog-o-sphere (does such a realm exist?), I doubt that a trip to the grocery store is considered blog-worthy.  However, this winter has those of us on the 49th parallel in such an icy grip that what should be a routine jaunt for bread and beer has become an adventure.  As a result, I thought you might like to see what my journey to the grocery store entails these days.

First: I want to say that those of us near Babb are so very lucky to have Thronson’s General Store open this winter, Monday-Friday, for our basic grocery needs.

I am grateful to the Thronsons for staying open and therefore I try to buy at least my milk and eggs there every week.  Invariably, I also end up picking up a carton of yogurt, some vanilla puddin’ mix for rum cake, and a can of kidney beans, too, but a big grocery run is best done in Browning or Cut Bank, as each town boasts an actual grocery store.  Now, you won’t find fresh mozzarella or mangoes at either store, but that’s what Kalispell and Whitefish, 100 miles west of Browning, are for!

Browning boasts the closest grocery store to the Warehome, about a 75 mile round trip, depending on which road(s) is/are open.  Friday morning, Honeydew and I reviewed the forecast, noted the predicted gusting winds and existing heaps of sparkling snow lining Duck Lake Road and Hwy 89, and predicted that both roads would close over the weekend and that a trip to the Browning IGA was in order.  As it turned out, we were right regarding the road closure, and as I write this on Sunday afternoon, the roads are still closed.

Now, we probably have enough food stockpiled in our deep freezers, refrigerators, and pantries to last the winter through, to say nothing of a weekend, but a pregnant woman has certain needs, and mine include fresh spinach, fresh berries, fresh half-n-half, and fresh … ice cream.  It’ll’s calcium needs are skyrocketing in the 3rd trimester!  So off to Browning we went, the atmosphere in our pickup shot through with excitement: Honeydew’s, to see his beloved St. Mary valley in the sunshine.  Mine, to pick out a tempting ice cream flavor: red velvet cake? Dark chocolate truffle?  Peach?

We negotiated the first drifts of the day, which do not appear nearly as foreboding under sparkling sunshine as they do when the sky is unpolished pewter and the winds are howling like a pack of wolves.

The blacktop was in pretty good shape, all things considered, and we admired lower St. Mary Lake, Siyeh, Flatop, and Singleshot.

We took our daily detour to the post office, and I wondered aloud if mail delivery/pickup will ever be possible.  It sure would make running a mail-order business easier!  For now, I better count my blessings that we have a post office at all.  I consider it the lifeblood of the near Babb community, my portal to the outside world of Sephora, Anthropologie, and Nordstrom.

We dropped our garbage off at the dump, and debated adopting another dog.  JUST KIDDING.  Two are more than enough!  But if you need one, there are 2 good lookin’ dogs braving the negative temps with aplomb, along with a pack of non-good lookin’ dogs, too.

Finally, we got on 89S and began the trip to the grocery store in earnest.  We passed our loyal UPS driver, Harvey, whose work ethic is to be commended.

FedEx should take note, as they refuse to deliver packages to us if snow is on the ground.  So, unless you’re sending us something in July, please don’t send it FedEx.  If they do “attempt delivery,” they’ll generally just dump the package in a snowdrift near our house, anyway.  That’s hard on oranges and other Southern delicacies.  Electronics and yeast for brewing, too.  Just ask Brother Dear.

Unlike earlier this week, Hwy 89 was open, and we chugged our way up the hill to Divide Mountain, admiring the drifts on either side of the pickup.

Generally, the view into the St. Mary Valley/Logan Pass area is spectacular from this road, but the drifts are so high right now that much of the view is blocked!

Honeydew is generally pretty low key about winter, but even he kept pausing the pickup and urging me to take more pictures of the drifts, saying that it might be a while before we see them this high again.

To which I replied in my best Southern drawl, “fiiiiiiine by me!”

We stopped and chatted with the road crew, thanking them for their efforts to keep the roads open.

They’re weary of snow, too.

On the other side of Divide, the drifts were even more impressive.

As were the views south into Cut Bank Creek, Two Medicine, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Forty-some miles later, we made it to Browning, where it appeared everyone in Glacier County was stocking up on groceries.

I got my spinach, my strawberries, my half-n-half, and my Truffle Shuffle ice cream.  Mmmmm.

And then we got back in the car and drove Duck Lake Road back home, making a loop of our trip.

There’s something about this stretch of road, just north of Browning, that always makes me want to roll down the window, to let my lungs expand with mountain air and dreams of possibility.  Considering that the temperatures were hovering at zero, I resisted this urge, but I always feel like I’m getting a glimpse into a future with no obstacles when I gun it down this part of Duck Lake Road.  It is a view I never tire of.

This picture is not so much out of focus as it is demonstrative of how the winds were beginning to blow as we left Browning.  The winds generally bring a new weather pattern with their power, in this case, a warm up from -30 to zero, but they also move the snow across the prairie and plug the roads with 10′ drifts, as these pictures have hopefully shown you.

Honeydew’s eagle eyes spotted a porcupine, out chewing branches in the arctic sun:

I was mighty glad our dumber-than-rocks dogs were not with us on this trip.  Pulling quills out of a hound’s nose is not my preferred way to while away an afternoon.

This is only my 2nd full winter near Babb, and so I still have much to learn about snow, and -30, and drifts, but I know enough to realize that I’m quite lucky to live on a flat dirt road also inhabited by the post master, whose presence at work is preferred by most all near Babb residents.  As a result, the county does plow my road – not frequently, and not often well, but better than this:

Our lovely friends and neighbors ranch up this road.  Do you see how the entrance is completely plugged, and the attempt to plow it abandoned?  They tell me that when the winds and the county plows combine to plug them out of their access to the highway, they “just cut across the prairie, where the winds blow most of the snow away.”  All I can say is that these fine folks are tough as nails, and Not Whiners.  I would be calling the county every hour on the hour to discuss the necessity of my yearly tax payment, if this was all I got for it.

Here’s a shot with the pickup in it, to give you an idea of just how tall the drifts along Duck Lake Road are:

Seventy-some miles later, our loop to Browning complete, the ice cream just starting to melt in the backseat, we turned back onto our road:

And it was good to be Warehome, sweet Warehome:

And that’s essentially what it’s like to get a winter ice cream craving near Babb.

2011.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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