2015 Summer Journal

Wood Day + Winter Plans

Wood Day

We spent much of our weekend preparing for winter. I can’t even believe that – it’s only August! It’s amazing how time flies. To catch you up: the bus isn’t fit for winter use (our tanks + pipes below are exposed to the elements, and our windows are incredibly drafty) so staying in it over winter would mean that we need to either do a ton of work or move to a warmer climate. We love to ski, so moving to the desert isn’t an option, and we aren’t too keen on starting another building project so soon after finishing the last one. So, our plan is to continue our bus trip until early November, then stow it away at an RV storage facility in a warm weather climate, and spend the winter at Will’s grandparent’s place in West Yellowstone, Montana.

West is a great place for us to land because we’ll be living rent free, except for a few utility bills, it’s fully furnished, and there’s great skiing nearby: we can do a ton of backcountry at Targhee Pass, and Big Sky and Bridger Bowl are just a short trip north.

The Hitchcocks have owned the property here for over 20 years, but nobody has ever lived in it through the cold months. We’ve been here for the past few weeks, getting all of our ducks in a row so that we can set off for the rest of our road trip (WY, CO, UT, here we come!) and come back to a cozy winter nest.

With an average winter high around 25º it’ll be a bit colder than our past two Colorado winters, but the amount of snowfall looks about the same as Winter Park so I think we will be pretty comfortable with the weather. West Yellowstone and Fraser/Winter Park both have about the same full-time population as well, around 1200 people, but Winter Park is such a huge tourist destination that the number is regularly inflated to many times that.

I think our biggest challenges will be with the remote setting. West Yellowstone is a huge tourist destination in the summer, but the number of visitors going into the park in the winter slows to a trickle. Many of the businesses close, and those that stay open are in the middle of town. Our place is a good 15 miles out of town! We’ve made special arrangements with our neighbor to keep the road plowed, since the county doesn’t clear this area.

There’s a lot for us to do before we take off again: the truck needs to be serviced, have a block heater installed, and get the windshield replaced. The biggest item on the to-do list is wood. The house has an electric heater, but the wood stove is far more efficient cost-wise (we think) so we plan on using it as much as possible. Will originally wanted to get a tree permit to get “free” standing dead firewood from the forest. I talked him into buying it from someone instead, and man are we glad we did.

We bought 3 cords (4x4x8′ or 128 cubic feet of stacked wood) from a guy who had it in his garage in Island Park Idaho, about 40 minutes away. We borrowed a 14′ dump trailer from a neighbor and headed over on Saturday morning to load it up.

We worked from 8am to 6pm, loading, transporting, unloading, and stacking our wood. All in all it came out to just over 4 cords, which is a ton of wood! I can’t imagine how long it would have taken if we had to go out into the forest, find and cut down a tree, bring it back, cut it into rounds, split the rounds, and then stack it.

On Thursday we’ll head to Bozeman to get the truck squared away, and then this bus is heading to Wyoming.

Wood Day

First truckload of wood stacked in the background, second load ready to go.

Wood Day

Second load of wood, + the dump trailer. That thing was a lifesaver! 

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  • Dale Borgeson

    Your wood story reminded me of the year we spent in Northwest Ontario, Canada. We were there for the year on a teacher’s exchange. Our exchangee’s home was heated by a wood burning boiler system. The fire had to be fueled twice a day to maintain a livable temperature inside. This went on from early October through May. We went through 15 cords of wood that winter. Now, I just go over to the wall and flick a switch.

    • 15 cords – incredible! Luckily we will have electric heat to fall back on, but we’re hoping to not use it much. I can’t even imagine where you would store 15 cords!!