The high in Bozeman was broadcast as -5 degrees for the day, but we were headed uphill and out of the valley inversion to Hebgen Lake to do a little ice fishing. The catch, no pun intended, a storm was threatening to come in. With it was the potential of high winds, which would push the temperature down to -35. We brought some extra layers. Leading the charge was my best friend Karl, my former neighbor. More to come on the nick name.

Digging out the local snowplow at Hebgen lake

Moving to Bozeman at the age of thirty came with some caveats. One of the sneaky hard things to get me was going from a lifetime of friends to zero. I like to think of myself as a person with thick skin and having the ability to be somewhat of a loner, but those are only self-proclaimed characteristics and the truth is I don’t and I am not. I guess I am more of your quintessential social butterfly, or something like that – just giving myself more false self-identity. Obviously, I had my wife and son there, but there was a different relationship that I needed at the time. That is when we happened to cross paths with Sandy.

On the way out of the neighborhood one day my wife and I saw a yellow lab cruising around without a collar on. We got out of the car and were able to get the dog to immediately come to us. By total chance as we walked the dog back to our house, we found her collar laying on the doorsteps of what turned out to be her house. The name of our fine furry little friend was also neatly sewn into the collar, “SANDY.” No one was home so we put Sandy in the backyard and left a note along with a phone message. A few hours later Karl, the dog’s owner, thanked us and we got to talking. Turned out Karl was heading over to the Big Hole the next day to do some fishing, and that’s how it happened, people. That is how I made my first Bozeman friend. And, because he was my only friend, Karl earned the nickname “my best friend Karl.”

When we arrived at Hebgen we drove down the snow laden road to the parking area overlooking the flat, white, frozen lake. The sun was shining and, honestly thought I would never say this, the 15 degree air felt warm. As we started to lug our gear to the lake the local snowplow hustled to get the parking area cleared before more people arrived. One foul turn and we found ourselves digging the local snowplow out of some very deep snow. As we got settled on the ice the wind started to pick up and it didn’t feel like a balmy 15 degrees anymore. We huddled in the portable ice house and proceeded to have a great time. And, yes, we talked about warmer days.

Punching holes throw the snow covered ice at Hebgen lake.

I didn’t realize the effect my friends had in my life. Would have been nice to have a benefit of friends report before we made our voyage to help soften blow, but, hey, no regrets. Luckily, the friend train keeps on moving and I have completely replaced all my New Mexico friends with better Montana versions. All kidding aside, it is easy to find yourself taking the people closest to you for granted until you find yourself trying to shovel two feet of snow in the dead of a real winter.

Although the wind picked up the fishing never did. We probably should have taken the advice of the locals who were fishing nearby. As they walked off the ice, they bragged about their other spot they were heading to. Said the fishing was way better. As we curiously watched to see where this amazing spot was, they setup their ice house in the parking lot, staked it down in the snow, grabbed some chairs and beer and proceeded into the ice house. Great secret spot, it was only one fish worse than ours.

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