New Years 2007/2008

We promised a writeup of the festivities this New Years - so here it is!

The Hartman family drove to the lake on Thursday afternoon, a few days before New Years Eve the next Monday. This gave us a chance to get things ready. There was a lot to do, because we were in the midst of several decent winter storms. Neither the road into our lake place, nor its parking area, had been plowed recently. Given that we expected 20+ people for the evening, we had a lot of supplies to take along - so we drove both the truck and the minivan. We parked them on the main road, above our property, until we had a chance to survey the driving and parking situation. We were reasonably certain the four-wheel-drive truck would get in and out, but the front-wheel-drive minivan can have problems if the snow gets too deep.

We parked above and walked down to the house to find some 8-10 inches of snow on the road and parking area. We fired up the loader/backhoe and got to work, first clearing the parking area (by picking up and dumping the snow over the hill) and then the driveway and road (by pushing the snow to the sides). Near the end of the plowing things got a little thrilling because the actual road surface - below the freshly fallen snow - was covered with packed snow and ice. This surface was very slippery and the loader started sliding sideways when the road was sloped.

Sliding sideways toward a dropoff in an 18,000 pound loader/backhoe was definitely not anyone's idea of fun. Richard had been researching tire chains for the loader anyway, and after slipping around like that we negotiated a bit with a local Les Schwab tire store and they shipped in four sets of chains for arrival Friday. (Tire chains for tires that size are not something most places normally have in stock!)

We drove both vehicles back to Spokane on Friday, leaving the minivan at the Spokane house and using the 4WD truck for the rest of the weekend. A minor crisis erupted at Richard's work which necessitated him spending a few hours there, then we all headed back to the lake with the tire chains and remaining supplies.

Saturday morning was consumed getting the chains on the loader. This might sound easy, but only to someone who wasn't there! The front chains weigh 50 pounds each, and the rear chains double that. The front chains weren't too difficult because the front tires are out in the open with all sides easily accessible. The rear tires, on the other hand, are shrouded in wheel wells and have exceedingly close clearances between the tire and the machine's frame. It took several hours of both Mary and Richard struggling with the chains to get them installed on the rear tires, and our arms were worn out for the rest of the day.

Finally, however, the chains were on and Richard plowed the road and parking area again (it had snowed another several inches overnight). The chains worked great, slippage was nonexistent, and all that effort suddenly seemed very worthwhile. The only drawback to the chains is the tight clearances on the rear tires, which means the chains rub on the frame as they come around. Normally, on a car or truck traveling at highway speeds, this spells certain destruction as the chains whip around and beat the metal to death. However, the loader doesn't move very fast (especially on snowy roads) so the damage is basically limited to some scraping.

Next on our get-ready list was rearranging the "wall of fame" where Mary hangs the photos of all our events at the lake place. We're going into our third year at the lake and we're delighted to have a growing collection of photos documenting all the family, friends, good times, and memories that are being created and shared there. In addition to rearranging the photos, Mary had acquired a sign she wanted to post at the top of the wall.

Lately Christmas seems to bring a few tools to the Hartman home. Last year we added a chainsaw, compound pullthrough miter saw, and air compressor - all of which saw plenty of use at the lake place during the last 12 months. This Christmas brought one of those articulated ladders that can be bent and twisted and arranged to form an extension ladder, step ladder, scaffold, etc. Such a device is really the only practical way to work on the photo wall because it's right next to the stairway between the upper and lower floors of the house. Last year we borrowed an articulated ladder from our friend John Carter, but now his ladder is safe [grin].

The first step when working high on the wall is to arrange the ladder sections into a sort of L shape so that you can have a base of operations on the floor, yet get across over the top of the staircase to access the wall. Imagine opening a step ladder to about 90 degrees, then leaving one side on the floor while you tip the other side across, over the stairs, and against the far wall. The result is a ladder that leads up to a sort of scaffold platform. It works, but it's none too reassuring to be hanging 10-12 feet above a staircase on a ladder that is basically trying to slip down the wall. As usual, Richard did the climbing but he insisted that Mary plant her feet solidly behind the back end of the ladder to insure it didn't slip away as his weight bore down on the horizontal section.

Once the sign was in place, we rearranged the ladder again to form a scaffold that was level with the upper floor of the house but extended along the length of the staircase so that Richard could basically walk level above the stairs and hang the photos. This was quite a bit more comfortable since he was able to walk and stand on the platform rather than crawl on his hands and knees.

Here is the result:

The topmost photo is Thanksgiving 2005, our only event of that year just after we had acquired the lake place. The next row down is 2006 with Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. Next is 2007 with Easter, July 4th, August, and Labor Day already in place and Thanksgiving yet to be posted (hence the asymmetry). 2008 will start its own row with the group photo that you'll see at the end of this writeup. Obviously we are having more numerous events as time passes and we gain experience with what works at the lake place. The day will come when the wall will need to be rearranged again, but we welcome that "problem" because its arrival will mean we will have shared that many more days with our loved ones and created that many more fond memories.

Finally, New Years Eve day (Monday) arrived. Our first guests were supposed to start arriving around noon. When we got up New Years Eve morning, this is the view that greeted us:

The sky was clear, and the sun was just touching the distant hill on the other side of the lake. We are well aware of the beauty at the lake and yet it continues to surprise and amaze us with images such as this one.

Richard spent the morning trying to get one of the ATV's up onto the parking area. This requires a bit of explanation. The two larger ATV's live on the patio just outside the back door on the lower level of the house. Normally we just back the ATV's off the patio and drive up the road which runs alongside the house up to the parking area. However, two things conspired against that this New Years: The aforementioned snowstorms, and the fact that the lake house has a metal roof.

Metal roofs are common around the lakes in this region. Many people seal up their lake places during the winter season, and the snow can pile quite deep. Left in place, deep snow can generate some enormous forces and actually collapse the roof. For this reason, slick metal roofs are used so that the snow will slide right off if it gets too heavy. This system works quite well and does a good job of keeping deep snow off of the roof.

However, all that deep snow has to go somewhere - and so it falls off the roof and piles up right next to the house, completely burying the road that the ATV's and loader/backhoe use to get from "below" to "above". There were easily 2-3 feet of compacted snow there, and no chance at all that the ATV's - even with four wheel drive - could get through it.

Once again, the loader/backhoe came to the rescue. Equipped with chains on all four corners, the loader just sliced into the packed snow and hauled yard after yard away from the side of the house. Eventually we had an eight foot wide path with 2-3 foot walls of snow and ice bordering either side.

That gave access alongside the house - but we still needed to get the ATV from the downstairs patio up to the newly cut path. The snow was just as deep over there, and this was on a rather steep hill that is right at the limit of the loader/backhoe's operating range when things are dry. Even with chains, Richard was absolutely not going to drive the loader down that road. That left just one alternative: Manually shoveling a path to connect the patio to the path.

That took a while but eventually the snow was down to the point that the ATV would probably make it. Richard's ATV has mediocre tires that don't do all that well in snow, and there was some spinning and slipping and sliding, but eventually the machine clawed its way to the top and we had an ATV available to drive on the roads.

You may be wondering: Why all this effort to gain access to an ATV? The answer is because everyone was looking forward to sledding on all that snow, and the road we normally take down to the lake place is steep enough to create a great sledding hill. However, the snow was light and fluffy on the road - and good sledding needs packed snow. This was a job too big for manual labor... we needed horsepower to get things started.

In the early afternoon, the "Zolezzi crew" (Tom, Michelle, Aaron, and Cameron) were the first to arrive. Richard immediately enlisted Tom's assistance to begin grooming the sledding hill. Why are two people needed when only one ATV is used? The following picture will give you a hint!

That's Richard on the ATV and Tom twenty feet back on the tube. What we do is drive the ATV "around the loop" to the top of the sledding hill. Then we slowly drive down the hill, using the tube (weighted by its rider) to pack the snow. We go around and around and around, grooming another section of the hill's width with each pass. The most thrilling part of this process is the ride on the tube as we drive back up to take another pass. At one point Tom asked when it was going to be his turn, and Richard responded that it looked like it was already Tom's turn [grin].

We used the loader to make a decent jump at the bottom of the sledding hill. A couple of cubic yards of compacted snow formed into a nice bump, which we then reshaped during the day with shovels depending upon what kind of "launch" was sought.

with the sledding hill prepared, it was time for some action. Various people brought various "snow toys" and each found his favorite in the mix. Sometimes the choice depended upon the desired outcome. Sometimes the outcome wasn't anything close to what was desired!

We found that the inner tubes were somewhat slow going down the hill. But the Skidoo sleds and plastic disks were fast. The sleds could be controlled to a degree, but the disks - being symmetrical - would spin the rider around so that their orientation going off the jump couldn't be predicted.

Aaron came up with an innovative way to control things on the disks:

He could actually steer to some extent with this setup. It was pretty impressive. However, Coral decided he didn't need two disks and that he was being greedy with the equipment!

Christopher couldn't just lie down on his stomach like everyone else:

...and eventually he moved on to this (look at the expression on his face, and the fact that someone behind him is now trying his knee position):

Mom and Dad couldn't really tell him not to do this, because he was really good at it. He had an amazing amount of control and went over the jump just fine. We think he's practicing for wakeboarding next summer, since his stance and hold on the rope mimic that sport.

As usual, as the official "Project Puppy" and de facto proprietress of "Coral's Cove", Coral watched over everything:

When Christopher, Mom, or Dad would come down the sledding hill Coral would run right over and "check" on us to make sure we were OK. She also scouted up the hill a couple of times to review the quality of the grooming work. She's always on the job!

The antics got wilder as folks gained confidence. Here's a shot of Emma coming off the jump, with Cameron "judging" in the background. The lip of the jump is many feet behind her, so Emma has flown quite a distance at this point.

As it got darker we eventually brought the ATV to the jumping area, started its engine, and shined its headlights at the jump and landing zone so the fun could continue. But eventually it got so dark that it was time to head indoors for our potluck dinner, munchies, and games.

After a hearty meal of various and delicious soups, stews, chilis, and side dishes, we separated and rearranged the dining room tables so that multiple games could be played simultaneously. Here's a shot of folks playing Rail Baron:

...and another of folks playing "Killer Bunnies" (yes, that's actually what it's called!):

Meanwhile, others took advantage of the distraction to avail themselves of the snacks. For example, Marv:

...and Pam:

Near midnight, the teenagers announced they were headed outside in the pitch darkness for some, as they aptly put it, "suicide sledding". Eventually this turned out to be a ride down the snow-covered stairs to the beach. They would start at the top landing, slide down the upper flight, and hit the middle landing which would launch them right over the bottom flight and into the snow on the beach itself. We didn't get any pictures of this because we were too busy monitoring for injuries.

Then the teenagers grabbed the snow shovels and (yikes!) went out onto the ice of the frozen lake. They used the shovels to write messages in the snow. Upon his return, Tyler mentioned that some of the darker patches where he had been standing were a little "mushy" (!!!). Remember, where they were standing the water under the ice is probably 10-12 feet deep and around 34F degrees.

Everyone except the Zolezzi clan stayed overnight. In the morning, we welcomed the new year with this view:

We also got a good look at the teenager's handiwork from the night before:

Everyone settled in for a relaxed morning in pajamas and Mary started whipping up batches of waffle batter. Meanwhile, John got his laptop and showed everyone his Christmas present - a flight simulator that teaches you how to fly radio-controlled planes. It wasn't long before Christopher got into the action:

...and, since he's accustomed to being the the pilot's seat in commercial aircraft, it wasn't much longer before Christopher had managed to evict John from the chair!

With Mary's delicious breakfast fueling the fun, everyone suited up for another shot at the sledding hill. The following photos don't need a whole lot of commentary, so we'll mostly just identify the victims, er, "participants".




As people got more confident (read: foolhardy), the results got a little less predictable. Consider this move from Zach:

...or this lovely exhibition by Dale:

Christopher set off into the woods trying to find a higher, steeper, faster approach to the jump:

...and NOBODY knows what Dallan was thinking here.

The Wagners brought along some interesting toys, including a snowboard and things called "snowskates" which are essentially skakeboards with no hardware underneath. With a little quick repair to one binding, the snowboard was tested by several people including Ben, who got some serious air:

Another event involved grouping folks together on every available sledding device and sending them all down the hill, and over the jump, at once. We called this a "train". Each person had to hold on those in front and in back. It had the dual characteristics of slow speed and high momentum. Take a look at some of those facial expressions, and the fact that Christopher got completely turned around at the rear.

Christopher also tried different things. For example, he would climb up the hill on one side, and then jump from the top to the soft snow at the bottom - often a distance of 6-10 feet. In this shot, he's completely airborne coming down from that horizontal "shelf" above and behind him.

The bottom line: Everyone tried, invented, and experimented with ways of having fun in deep snow while surrounded by lots of friends and family.

Eventually, folks started to depart - but not before we got the "money shot" for this first New Years Day event:

This will be the first 2008 photo on the wall. We look forward to adding more, and having as many family and friends as possible in each one.