Archive for February 7th, 2008

by Rebecca Schmitz

How’s everyone surviving the winter? It’s amazing, isn’t it? I haven’t been able to shake this chest cold and nagging cough for over a month now, and I think the Upper and Lower Clark Fork Basin snow pack levels are 110 million percent of normal. I know some of our readers are in remote areas of Missoula County. I’m sure you guys are dealing with more snow than us effete city dwellers. I absolutely adore it.* I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow in town since the infamous snowfall of Christmas Day 1996, when I woke up to find my Subaru buried somewhere beneath a six-foot high snowdrift. Travelers across the state today had to deal with some major inconveniences because of our winter weather: both I-90 from Superior to Lookout Pass and I-15 from Dell to Monida Pass were closed to traffic for a few hours. That just goes to show how Mother Nature ultimately has control over Montana’s economy; without an extensively developed transportation system on the ground and in the air, our contact with the outside world can be interrupted for periods of time, even in the 21st Century.

One of the news stories I’ve been keeping an eye on in the past week (Mitt who?) is the closure of Highway 12 from Lolo Pass west to Lowell, Idaho due to several avalanches. This stretch of road is one of my favorites in America. From cheeseburgers at the Lochsa Lodge to blackberry pie at the Middle Fork Cafe, I like to drive down Highway 12 several times a year. The scenery is breathtaking, and there are a lot of things I love: watching the rafters and kayakers brave the Lochsa River’s Class IV whitewater rapids around Memorial Day weekend, visiting the Lochsa Historical Ranger Station during my annual camping trip that includes a hike or two into Jerry Johnson Hot Springs and a drive to Selway Falls, and, at the end of the summer, picking blackberries and wild plums between Syringa and Kooskia. One of the best beaches in this entire region is Three Devils on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. After a long day picking blackberries in the hot sun, it’s the perfect place to wash the thorns and purple berry juice out of my pores.** The swimming hole is deep and wide, the current is gentle, and the white sand is soft underfoot.

Anyway, for all of you tired of winter, I wanted to post a photograph I took last Labor Day weekend of a special place along Highway 12: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. Many of us from Missoula go there year round. Right now, however, with a few feet of snow on the ground and Highway 12 closed to traffic, it’s nice to remember it during the final lazy days of summer.

jerry-johnson.jpg

I don’t know about you guys, but despite what I said above, and as much as I enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, I think I’m ready for spring.

*When you grow up in the San Francisco Bay Area, you grow up with only two seasons: summer, and bone-chilling rain and fog. After nearly twenty years here, I’m a big fan of four seasons.

**Let’s not all go on the same weekend, okay? You can usually find me swimming in the river there the last week of August and the first week of September. You’re welcome at any other time.

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by jhwygirl

Demonstrating his ability to build consensus across the aisle, Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee guided a stimulus package through the Senate that expanded benefits to seniors and disabled vets, and kept a $75,000 income cap in place.

After an initial failed vote on the first compromise package (which, in part, increased the now infamous income cap to $150,000), the Senate overwhelmingly passed a stimulus package which amended the House’s version ($75,000 income cap) to include disabled veterans and senior citizens.

Baucus had said from the get-go — before the original package had even made it out of the House on its way to the Senate — that America’s lowest income individuals, who needed the money the most, should be getting stimulus checks.

Checks for seniors, veterans and veteran’s widows will be reduced to $300. This measure received overwhelming support with a vote of 81-16, including 33 Republicans. The House then followed through with an approval of the Senate’s amended House version with a vote of 380-34.

If Americans are going to get checks then some of that cash absolutely needed to go to those that would spend them.  That’s the idea, right?  Spend it and keep the economy upright?

Max Baucus, doin’ Montana good.




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