About Bridger Canyon Lodge

The web site bclodge.com is a chronicle of our (Gary and Pauline's) retirement from the hectic world of high-tech startups and college administration to a rural life in Montana.

We call our home Bridger Canyon Lodge because it is located in Bridger Canyon and because we envisioned it as a lodge-like home where we could entertain. While we originally intended to operate a Bed and Breakfast, circumstances led us to live a more sedate life.

The property is 196 acres located 7 miles from the Main Street of Bozeman, Montana. Just 9 miles further up the road is the Bridger Bowl ski area. Our land extends up the side of the canyon and has ecologies ranging from thick shady forests to sagebrush grassland. There is a year-round creek (Place Creek) running approximately through the center. We get regular visits from hawks, eagles, owls, bears, moose, mountain lions, bobcats, elk, deer and many other varieties of wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did you find the property? Why so much land?
The first problem was to find an agent. Starting in early Summer of 2002, we used the web to locate and send email to real estate agents. Only two responded and we quickly eliminated one of the two. On our first exploratory trip to Bozeman late that Summer, we literally bought the first piece of land we looked at. We told the agent 40 acres was ideal, thinking that would provide us with the rural feel we wanted. The 196 acre property was listed for sale the day we arrived, and our agent probably wanted to see it herself. The prospect of so much land only 7 miles from Main Street was a rare opportunity, but we continued looking. Our expectations were set high and nothing else was appealing. Back in the Bay Area, we decided to stretch our budget and made an offer even though we did not plan to move for almost 2 years. The offer was accepted! Property prices sky-rocketed soon after; had we waited, we would never have been able to afford the land.

Why Montana? Why Bozeman?
We wanted to live in a place with real winters and with easy access to skiing and other outdoor activities. Gary had travelled through Montana many times in his youth. Pauline had once lived in Alberta and figured Montana was close by. And, we have a friend who had lived in the area and recommended it.

Bozeman was a small town of 30,000 with a major state university and a good hospital. With no other “large” cities nearby (the nearest larger city is Billings, 140 miles to the east), Bozeman serves as a cultural and shopping center for a substantial part of Montana. The intermixing of relatively liberal academicians with the surrounding relatively conservative ranchers and farmers make it an interesting place to live.

Although the Big Sky Ski Resort is within easy driving distance, we prefer to ski at Bridger Bowl, only 9 miles from us in the canyon.

Doesn't it get cold? How much snow do you get?
Yes, it can get quite cold. We have seen temperatures as low as −32°F, but average lows tend more to the 20's and 30's. Bozeman gets 90 inches of snow per year. At 7 miles up the canyon, we average 150 inches of snow, and 9 miles further up the canyon Bridger Bowl gets anywhere from 300 to 400 inches per year. Precipitation changes rapidly as one goes up the canyon!

Our property has a southern exposure, so snow melts quickly. We figure Winter lasts a month longer for our neighbors just across the canyon because they get less sun. We have one mile of driveway and ancillary roads to plow, so we own a 4WD truck with chains on all 4 wheels and a plow up front to clear our roads. At the end of the driveway, the state highway has high priority for plowing since it goes to the ski area.

What was on the property when you bought it?
Nothing. We had to put in 1 mile of road, bury electric and phone lines up the road, dig a well and build the house. We camped out on the property several times before we had a place to stay. We built two homes. The first we call the Carriage House, a barn-like structure built using plans Gary adapted from plans found on the Internet. It has an 1,100 square foot two-bedroom, one bath residence on the upper floor plus a three car garage and mud room with full bath on the lower floor. It was completed in December, 2003. We set up house-keeping January, 2004, and moved in late June, 2004. We lived there for just over 3 years while the Main House was built. We moved into the Main House in September, 2007. The Carriage House is now occupied by caretakers in exchange for help with odd jobs around the property.

Why Bridger Canyon?
We actually started our search in Big Sky, but quickly determined that the ambiance there was more “resort” than “community.” Most of the homes there were unoccupied for the majority of the year. Things like schools, shopping and entertainment required an hour drive to Bozeman along a dangerous highway. As a result, we did not bother to look at property there and continued on to Bozeman to look for property near the city. After looking at the property in Bridger Canyon, we did some research and determined that the canyon was mostly year-round residents with many active clubs and organizations, giving it the feel of a real community. And, Bridger Bowl is a short drive up the canyon!

Isn't yours the house that burned down?
Yes. Someday we hope not to be known as “the people whose house burned down.” The house burned on 6 December 2005. We built a smaller home on the same site, and finished it in September of 2007.

Who designed the house?
The house was designed by Van Bryan, with a lot of consultation and input from Gary and Pauline. Gary did extensive reading on architecture and created an 11 page document outlining our preferences for the design. We were fully aware that many of our goals were impossible or contradictory, so the design was a process of working out the best compromise. Once the design philosophy was established and construction began, we were careful to adhere to the philosophy as it was necessary to make detailed decisions. Many of these decisions are outlined in our “blog” and are summarized in a retrospective web page.


Other things:
weed control