The beginning of the first full week of 2010 found me soaking in a hot-springs pool with my brother. Our Monday visit was my third to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, and one of the previous visits-Christmas morning 2007-was also with my brother, so it seemed fitting that we might return as a way of sort-of ringing in the new year.
First we stopped at Lolo Pass to walk the snowshoe trail, where I used Neale’s camera to snap the above picture of him on top of the ridge.
He returned the favor.
Then we drove over the pass into Idaho and counted off the 22 or so miles to the Jerry Johnson parking area.
To get to Jerry Johnson from the parking area, you cross a wooden foot bridge and then walk a couple of miles along the banks of the Lochsa River.
The ground was still snow-covered, but it had that drizzled-on, acne-scarred appearance that snow gets after being rained on and then refrozen, and the trail was such a sheet of ice in places that it forced us off into the still-soft snow in the underbrush so as to be able to negotiate the steeper sections without slipping.
The first pool, which lies 30 or so feet down a steep slope from the trail-basically in the river-announced itself with a big cloud of steam hanging over the trail. In a first for me, the pool was empty, and we clambered down to claim it for ourselves.
One advantage of this pool is that it lies so far from the trail. As a result, once it’s occupied, there are psychological barriers that are likely to keep others away. The other two pools are on the trail, so people can stroll right up to you and decide whether you send out a serial-killer or sex-maniac vibe before stripping down (clothing is optional!). If they decide to just keep walking, it won’t be obvious that it’s because they’re having second thoughts about being naked in public near you-they might just be hiking around.
But with the waterfall-fed pool, they will have climbed all the way down from the trail before noticing how weirdly close together your eyes are, or the Mortal Combat knife you have positioned close to hand on a nearby rock.
So despite occasional traffic along the trail, we had the pool to ourselves and spent about two hours soaking, eating a late picnic lunch, and sharing a thermos of hot chocolate before making the drive back to Missoula.
By the time Neale left for North Carolina on Thursday morning, Missoula was in the grip of a terrible cold snap, with overnight temperatures around zero and days of bright sunshine that still only brought us up to fifteen degrees or so. I’m usually not very sensitive to cold, but this was bad enough that I actually wore long underwear and took to letting the car warm up for a while, empty, on the mornings that I headed down to my branch office at Break Espresso to get a little work done.
Bad enough that-as I walked back to the car from the Break, facing into the bitter winds funneling out of Hellgate Canyon-I wondered whether I really do want to stay in Missoula.
This week, Coen continued his slow adjustment back to the routine that was sort of in place before Christmas. To delay the point when she will have to return to work full-time, Amy has been working half days, so I’m home with Coen from a little after noon until around five thirty.
The keystone of this arrangement, of course, is Coen’s taking a bottle from me, which he decided in the week after Christmas he wasn’t going to do anymore, instead screaming and writhing away as if I were trying to pour acid into his mouth.
On Wednesday, as on several preceding days, I had to call Amy home from work early, but on Thursday he finally cooperated and drank down a bottle, in addition to taking three naps.
On Friday, he outdid himself and took two bottles, although he refused to take one of his naps unless I held him upright against my chest and lightly patted his back while he slept. This is no exaggeration: I was reading the New Yorker while he slept, and every time I turned a page, he would start to stir awake until I raced my hand back to his back and returned to the patting.
It’s a see-saw, I guess: bottle-feeding gets easier, but napping gets harder. Adherents to the Babywise brand of baby-raising philosophy would say we erred by not putting Coen on a “schedule” in his first weeks for both eating and sleeping, and letting him cry himself out if he didn’t like it. I regard Babywise with the same skepticism I have for libertarians, Marxists, and other ideologues who claim to know how to make everything perfect if you’ll just follow their program to the letter, but I suppose second-guessing comes with the parenting territory.