Wild About Books

Wild About Books is about reading good books and sharing how they impact your life.  I’ll guide you in our monthly book selection, but there will also be references to many other books in the weekly posts.

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Thanks for the Braces and Other Montana Political Issues

Let me set the scene for you. When I walk out of my local gym, The Right To Bare Arms, and look into the neighborhood surrounding the gym, I see three flags flying in the wind. One says, “Biden is Not my President”, one says, “Trump 2024”, and one says “Fuck Biden”. I drive to work and in the parking lot I see bumper stickers that say “God, Guns, Trump”, “Straight Pride” and “Waterboard Obama”.

I could run for political office, but I would not win. I am well liked in my Montana community, but I am a not a Republican, I don’t go to church, I’m not legally married to the man I’ve lived with for 14 years, I don’t own a gun, I’m pro choice, and a vegan. But the nicest vegan you’ll know as a high school senior told me while backpacking the Grand Canyon. Annie, I said, how many vegans do you know? None, she answered, but I’ve read about them on facebook.

An employee at work was in a world of trouble for posting a racist comment on social media last year. He was supposed to complete a series of social justice tasks in order to continue working. Instead, he resigned. We were recently discussing this list as we posted the job and I mentioned that I was reading Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist”, and I imagined the ex-employee had probably not read that book. Several hours later my co-worker, who had obviously been stewing and had taken offensive to the book I had mentioned; went on a tirade. For ten minutes straight he told me that it wasn’t his fault that black people had been enslaved. He shouldn’t be made to feel guilty. That he fought side by side in the military with black people in the army. That they would have died for each other. He worked his way to where he was and they had every opportunity he had. If anything he was the victim. He was discriminated against. There was nothing I could say. I did not have the words for a defense, which was a good thing. Words would have been like salt on a wound. Saying anything would have only made the situation worse. I listened. The best thing I can do is be a person that he respects. A person that has built a relationship with this co-worker. And just like the high schooler who now actually knows a vegan, he knows someone who stands behind the statement “black lives matter”. Not just knows…..but is conflicted by the fact that they know, love and respect a person with such different views.

I was in another conversation with a co-worker who made a derogatory comment about having to “pay for braces for half the kids in this town” (as in socialist health care; as in the state’s children’s health insurance program for low income families). I’m not even sure what the conversation was when this comment was made. My response; ……”first of all, thank you for my daughter’s braces…….. and the shoulder surgery. And; just to let you know both of my children are successful and contributing members to society. They’ll even pay you back, or…… they are more likely to pay it forward.”

In another work related conversation. I was in my office working, while a meeting took place at the conference table outside of my office. Four professionals were discussing the need for a transgender bathroom. Our junior high has a boy identifying as a girl and also a girl identifying as a boy. These four people were brainstorming which bathroom to turn into the transgender bathroom. I could feel the flames coming out of my ears in anger, but I said nothing. Finally, as the meeting broke up and everyone left except my co-worker, I walked into the conference room and said. Here’s a great idea! Let’s remodel the existing bathrooms. Make four individual bathrooms, each with their own entrance, each with a toilet, urinal, sink. Each big enough that it could double as a changing room as well. We’ll call them…..wait for it……bathrooms. Genius.

Even though I feel like I can not make a difference in my republican county by voting, campaigning, or donating money, I can be a person that people listen to. I can be a person that make people think again. But I can only be that person if I have invested the time to be someone they trust, someone they respect. I can’t be an in your face raving lunatic, my way or the highway bitch. I have to be willing to listen and have a discussion in which we both walk away contemplating the others view.

I give a shit. But I do it in my own way. Maybe it’s by not putting up a “Black Lives Matter” poster.

What book am I recommending? “Think Again The Power of Knowing What you Don’t Know” by Adam Grant. I’d loan it to you, but my good friend, a republican mormon, is reading my copy.

Read about more great book recommendations and adventures on Wild About Books.

River Time

Even with this hot smokey summer, we managed to get out and enjoy adventures. Scoring a permit on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River becomes exponentially more difficult every year since the advent of the world wide web. Everybody and his brother puts in for permits for a river they’ve never been on without the equipment or skill to accomplish this endeavor. This leaves the local river rats to scramble for cancellations. And that is how we managed to float a section of the Salmon River that we had never been on.

The put in for the Middle Fork is Boundary Creek, which you drive to via Stanley, Idaho. BUT, when it is a hot dry August the water level is too low to float a loaded boat that far up river. Late season floats must start at Indian Creek put in, only accessible by plane. We reserved our plane as quickly as we put together our group.

Two catarafts, one raft, five people, two dogs. We disassembled the rafts at home. Normally you would take your assembled raft on a trailer to the put in. When you buy a raft, you assemble your raft, you never disassemble it; unless you are flying in. The frames come off the rafts. The rafts deflated, rolled up and wrapped in a tarp. The frames broken down and labeled and duct taped together, coolers full of food and drinks, dry bags full of tents, sleeping bags, clothes, arts and crafts, games, books. Oh, and oars; nine foot long oars, four per boat, two of which are spares. Don’t want to be up a creek without a paddle. Low water has been known to break an oar or two.

We hit the road at 6:00 a.m., pulling trailers for the take out (no need to disassemble for the takeout as it is an easy drive home, practically in our back yard in Montana measurements). We arrived at the Salmon, Idaho airport with time to spare to walk the dogs and unload the trucks. Flying in river floaters is the main income for this airport; which was nice as they were all on river time.

What is River Time?

It’s no time; as in who cares what time it is; as in “I’m hungry, must be time to eat” or “I”m tired, must be time to sleep” or “I’m hot, must be time to take a polar plunge.”

What is a polar plunge?

Well it doesn’t matter that it is nearly 100 degrees, the water temperature is still melted mountain snow, getting in is always a polar plunge leading to loud whoops and prominent nipples.

There was other gear on the runway waiting to be taken in, just gear, no people. All of our gear was weighed before being loaded onto the plane, then we helped load the other gear onto the planes as well. The pilot had also recorded our weights. “Dogs in the back seat” he said. We loaded them as if they were children. “Lisa next, then Heidi and Brett and finally, Scott and Shannon. Two planes. We put on ear protection and our seat belts. The dogs were unsure, but both yellow labs, Molly and Zoey, knew that they trusted their mom and dad without a doubt. Although, Zoey did spent most of the flight with her head in the floor. Molly watched out the window in awe.

A thirty five minute flight, then we landed on a dirt runway, on a large flat field just above the river. There were piles of gear everywhere. Cases of water, beer, wine. Apparently some people still start at Boundry Creek and then have their heavy stuff flown in to pick up at Indian Creek. We unloaded the planes and started the task of putting the rafts back together. Hauling all of the gear down to the river. This was an arduous task, we were ready to break into the hot cases of beer. Luckily, we had reserved our first night’s camp three miles downstream. Which was damn good since we got on the river at 3:30 and the going was slow. The river was still low at this point and there was a lot of low water river dancing in the boats trying to get them unstuck without getting out.

What is “low water river dancing”?

This is jumping up and down on the boat as you try to get the water rerouted to give you an extra lift up and over the shallow area and then to do a pelvic thrust against the front tubes of the raft as if you are having sexual relations with your raft to nudge the raft in your intended forward motion. Getting in and out of the boat is easier said than done. Once you get out and literally drag your boat through the shallow section, the boat starts moving on it’s own once you have drug it to the deeper section, now you are deeper too and must jump on this loaded moving non piloted raft (and don’t forget the dog).

We saw eagles, osprey, mergansers, chuckers, big horn sheep, a family of river otters, two different bears and one rattle snake who rattled a friendly howdy to us on our morning walk on the trail. We had wonderful camps, great food, passed commercial groups of thirty people (that’s a lot of shit to haul out; refer to post “Last Call for the Grover” for more explanation). But the memorable part of this six day adventure for me was being precariously stuck on Tappin Falls.

As the middle boat in the pack, we watched as boat number one loudly dropped out of sight over the maybe six foot drop known as Tappin Falls. Loudly as in scraping over numerous rocks. We took on the falls a little more to the right to avoid the rocks. There was no avoiding the rocks no matter what route you took. It was already a narrow slot with few options to begin with. As we began to drop over the falling water we came to a complete stop. Picture this; because unfortunately no one took pictures, our 13 foot raft has started to go over the falls, so the front, where me and Molly sit are in a still frame of action. The back of the raft, where our oarsman who will remain anonymous is still in the yet to crest the falls spot. I am practically on the same plane as the falls and have no ability to do the low water river dance. I’m looking for a safe place to jump in case the raft starts to flip. The un-named oarsman is able to slow water river dance with no results, he or she, tries using the oars for leverage against the numerous rocks (we have spares) and finally gets out of the boat and onto a rock. Are you still picturing? As the oarsman stands on the wet, slippery rock at the top of Tappin Falls he is able to pelvic thrust the raft inch by inch off the rock. Remember how I said it is difficult to get back in the raft. It would be impossible in this particular situation. Ah! But also remember there is another boat behind us. Shannon has floated to shore, tied up his raft and walked to the falls. The oarsman who shall not be named, was able to climb back into the boat. At this time the front of the boat is further down the falls and the water is flowing over the front tube at such a velocity this self bailing raft is filling up with water. Shannon holds on to the perimeter line while the other person climbs back in. Shannon lets go and off we go like a stainless steel pinball ball plungered down the shooter alley we shot through Tappin Falls, bouncing off rocks as big as houses, spinning our way through and finally gaining control of the boat as we eddy out with boat number one for a breather. Whew, what a ride. And Molly trusted her mom and dad the whole time, without a doubt.

More great adventures as well as book recommendations can be found at Wild About Books.

Trees, Backpacking and a New Book Selection

Selway River

I woke up on day five of my 2021 backpack of the Selway River and pulled myself out of my cozy sleeping bag. It was daylight, the river, within rock throwing distance, was still flowing. First order of business; pee. I find my glasses and my flip flops, unzip the tent and pull myself up from the ground. I walked a short distance, out of view from my fellow backpackers and squatted to pee, that long morning pee, sweet relief. I took in my surroundings. The tree right in front of me waved. I looked to each side, in search of an explanation. Looked to see if a breeze was blowing all of the trees. Having found no explanation, I waved back as I stood up from my deep squat. I assumed it was an adolescent tree and had not been taught to stand perfectly still in the presence of moving creatures. I went back to my tent happy to have experienced this tree interaction. Happy that I was in the wilderness, carrying all the possessions I needed on my back and walking on my own two feet for over 50 miles. I think if I had been driving up my driveway and a tree had waved at me, I would never have noticed. Maybe trees are waving at us every day.

Actually it was a book that has me noticing trees more. The book I’m recommending (after a long ass hiatus) is “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. This novel reads like a non fiction. It flows like poetry. The first several chapters read like a collection of short stories. I googled the book eight times to check that is was not a collection of short stories. I also recommend taking notes so that when the stories weave together you are able to remember who is whom. This book is a work of art and is now one of my top ten. I highly recommend “The Overstory”.

My backpacking trip to Kerlee Lake this year was a tree bonanza as well. We stopped to smell the vanilla of the Ponderosa Pine. We stopped to study the needles and how they grew and felt on the different species. Some needles are soft, others are pokey. We studied the bark and the many different patterns and colors. And as we walked my backpacking companion, Heidi, would tell me where she was in the book “The Overstory” allowing me to experience the book again as we hiked through the wilderness.

Trail to Kerlee Lake

My backpacking trip to Boulder Lake was a new adventure. I had been as far as the falls, but never to Boulder Lake. We headed out after work on a Friday afternoon. There was one car at the trailhead and we passed those people heading out as we hiked in. We had three good hours of daylight to get to the falls where we would set up our base camp for the weekend. Me, Heidi, my yellow lab Molly and one can of bear spray. We stopped to enjoy the views of the fall colors of the changing aspen and larch. We followed the creek with the canyon walls on both sides of us. The one to the north, the backside of Trapper Peak the tallest peak in the Bitterroot Mountains. When we arrived at camp, we quickly set up our tents, sleeping bags, pads, pillows and collected firewood. We set up our chairs and found our Jet Boils and backpacking dinner choices (dehydrated meals, which are very tasty). Heidi, being the always prepared thinker aheader that she is, also went to search out a tree for her p-cord (nylon parachute cord). She would be ready to hang her bear bag after dinner and would not have to find a good tree in the dark. The toughest part about hanging your food is finding the right tree in a pine forest. The second toughest part is getting the p-cord up in the tree without knocking yourself out with a rock. I didn’t have to do this as I use an Ursack (a virtually puncture proof kevlar bag) that you just tie to a tree using a figure eight knot. It is a lot of trust in a product, so far so good.

Boulder Creek

We made a fire, boiled water for tea and our dinners and waited for our meals to rehydrate while watching the stars come out. After dinner we cleaned up, brushed our teeth (toiletry bag has to go in the bear bags). As I was loading my extra food, toiletry bag and dog food in to the odor proof bags Heidi came out of the darkness, headlamp shining my direction, having been gone for a while, holding her food bag. She looked at me and said “I can’t find my p-cord…..I don’t know which tree it’s in.” We laughed and laughed and scared all of the wildlife, including the bears deep into the forest and far away from our camp. “Do you have room in your ursack?” Of course I did, it’s an extra large ursack for those long Selway trips. I too am a always prepared thinker aheader. This is why we adventure so well together. We both went to sleep laughing.

Good Gravy. Where have you been?

Good Question. Where have I been? Not writing blog posts, that is obvious. I did have have my son and daughter-in-law here for almost 3 months. They managed to hit Montana just right; able to play golf and tennis and go snow shoeing all in one visit. We celebrated birthdays, births and COVID. Maybe we managed COVID, not celebrated.

Mask on. Mask off.

We tried out new board games, ate in an outside bubble…….

Mask on…Mask off.

I’ve also been busy being a grandmother. Now THAT is a good time. Little Olive Poe is a huge ray of sunshine in our lives, a game changer, a keeper, a loud pooper; I mean that girl has noises coming out of her ass like a 70 year old man. She doesn’t appear to realize those noises are coming from her.

So….that’s where I’ve been. And now it’s ski season, cross county skiing, snowboarding.

But you know I’ve been reading a shit ton between all of this. So many books, so little time. My book club had four books to choose from and I read all four. “Little A Novel” recommend; “The Book of Longings” recommend; “The Vanishing Half” don’t recommend and finally the book recommendation for this post “Anxious People” by Fredrik Bachman. This book is highly entertaining. Amazing characters and lovely dialog. Countless lines worth highlighting. You could highlight this whole book. I’m enjoying it immensely.

Looks like lots of winter weather out there in my blog following world. Good time to read. Or ski. Or hold your daughter’s daughter. It has just warmed up to 3 degrees above zero here. We’re waiting for it to be 5 before we head outside and get some exercise, walk the dog. Cleaned out the spice drawer, then the pantry. I’ll do the refrigerator next. It’s that kind of day. Valentine’s Eve. It’s a hot chocolate kind of day. Brett says we don’t have to have Hot Chocolate rules when it’s this cold outside. Everyday’s a hot chocolate day. Especially with my recipe. I’ll share it with you.

Lisa and Brett’s Everyday is a Hot Chocolate Day Recipe (ours is vegan, but you can make it not vegan). This recipe is for one hot chocolate, you’ll have to multiply by the number of people who want some.

10 or 12 oz Non Dairy Milk, 1 T Cacao, 1 T Sugar, a bit of salt, pinch of cinnamon, splash of vanilla, 1-2 tsp chocolate chips; all of this is heated up in a pan, whisk it some while heating. Then add to a mug with mini marshmallows and/or peppermint schnapps. Takes about 6 minutes to make. This is so good you’ll have to make hot chocolate rules, unless it’s really cold, then; no rules. Although my sister’s theory is if it’s that good why do you limit it? Limit the crappy things not the good things. Do MORE good things. Like writing blog posts. I’ll be more on top of it now. Read. Write. Read. Write. Write about reading. It’s what I do.

Drink hot chocolate.

It’s a good thing.

More great book suggestions, adventures, and good things can be found at Wild About Books.

Pledge

I:  the nominative singular pronoun, used by a speaker in referring to himself or herself.

Pledge:  to promise solemnly

Allegiance:  loyalty or devotion to some person, group, cause, or the like.

To

The

Flag:  a piece of cloth, varying in size, shape, color, and design, usually attached at one edge to a staff or cord, and used as the symbol of a nation, state, or organization

Of

The

United States of America:  a federal republic mainly in North America consisting of 50 states and the District of Columbia: colonized principally by the English and French in the 17th century, the native Indians being gradually defeated and displaced.

And

To

The

Republic:  a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them

For

Which

It

Stands

One

Nation:  a large body of people, associated with a particular territory, that is sufficiently conscious of its unity to seek or to possess a government peculiarly its own

Under

God: (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

Indivisible:  not divisible; not separable into parts; incapable of being divided

With

Liberty:  freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control

And

Justice:  the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness

For

All:  the whole of

Relentlessly Exhausting

There is so much to write. Books. Adventures. Due Date.  

Books:  Let’s cut to the chase; what are we reading now?  I have two books for you. 

Thirty years ago I read Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth”. 

How do I know what I was reading thirty years ago?

It was a memorable  time for me.  I was spending the days and nights nursing my new baby girl.  And in true book lover fashion, I nursed my newborn and read my book simultaneously.   “Pillars of the Earth” was a great choice for reading at 2:00 a.m. as it is not only an engaging page turner with a “soap opera” style family saga, it is also over 900 pages.  I found a copy of “Pillars of the Earth” at a used book store in Missoula and gave it to Hannah to read while nursing her baby at 2:00 a.m.  (Assuming the baby daddy has finished as he started it first and it is on the list to be packed in his hospital bag.)

Ironically, Ken Follett, published the prequel to “Pillars of the Earth”  thirty years later.  How did he know?  Now, thirty years later I am reading “The Evening and the Morning” as I wait for the arrival of my baby girl’s baby girl.  This prequel is also a good read.  A book that you can get lost in and even lose track of time or forgo your bedtime in order to read twenty more pages.  There are lots of characters with odd sounding names, but you must push through that and believe in your brain to keep it all straight.  Trust me.  

A two book recommendation.  It works.  Stay home. Vote. Read.

“Pillars of the Earth” and/or “The Evening and the Morning”;  I highly recommend them both.

Adventures:  As horrible as the pandemic has been for our world, it has proven to be a good thing for my outdoor adventures and a huge boost in my backpacking career.  Nothing says quarantine like a four day backpack or a seven day white water river trip in wilderness areas with few to no people. 

The season started out with a shake down one nighter up Boulder Creek where I learned about the new and updated gear for making backpacking lighter and easier on the knees.   All of my gear was clearly outdated and needed an upgrade.  New gear is exciting and not cheap.  I’m gradually transitioning to the latest and greatest gear to make my backpacking doable and keep my body happy.  

The summer epic hike was a five day 50 mile through hike on the Selway River.  Next, an evening at an historic fire lookout located 8000 feet above sea level.  Then, later in the summer, a three day 21 mile basecamp hike up Big Creek.  Followed by a four day through hike up Fred Burr and out Mill Creek, where we took a side hike up to a high alpine lake in which the trail description in our hiking book included “relentlessly exhausting”.  This was followed by a late fall, 90 mile white water rafting trip on the Salmon River. And finally, my hiking partners and I planned a mid October four day through hike; pending the Montana weather.  Ah…..”pending the Montana weather”.  

It started out looking nearly perfect.  Four sunny, somewhat warm days, sandwiched between rainy cooler weather.  But this is the Rocky Mountains.  There are no weather guarantees.  We soon changed to a three day in and out, but were still happy with getting out for a few nights before winter puts the kibosh on our backpacking.  Just before we were ready to leave we changed again. Not only changing our number of nights to one, but changing our trail to one with less elevation gain in order to stay below the snow. IMG_0526

We met up at the designated time and place as it continued to sprinkle rain from the storm that was soon to be over.  We drove north towards our trailhead watching the dark storm clouds engulf every mountain drainage we passed.  “Maybe we should stop and have a cup of tea in town.” I suggested.  Everyone was game.  We didn’t really want to start out our trip cold and wet.  We stalled for at least an hour at a local coffee shop.  Mostly, the rain had stopped but the dark heavy clouds were all that we saw over the Bitterroot Mountains.  At the trailhead we strapped on our packs and rain gear.  It did stop raining.  It turned to snow.  More like graupel.  Yep,  it graupelled a lot.  IMG_0529 (1)

We arrived at the three mile point which had several good camping sites.  We made note of these sites just in case we had to come back and camp here.  Our goal was nine miles in.  At about four and a half miles we were hiking in a good inch of snow.  We knew that nine miles in was not going to be a good place to camp.  At mile six we turned around.  About an hour later we were taking off our packs at the three mile campsite we had passed earlier.  The wind had picked up and was coming down through the canyon from the snowy, wintery high elevation.  In other words, it was not a warm breeze.  Quite chilly on our sweaty wet clothes.  We were not excited to set up camp AND we were only three miles from the car.  I had a quick snack, added another layer of clothing and we headed out.  It was a beautiful hike.  A twelve mile out and back with a fully loaded backpack.  And in that twelve miles  we planned several more backpacking trips for next year.  

More great book suggestions and epic adventures can be found at Wild About Books

Base Camp Hiker

In the last few posts we discovered the idiosyncrasies of thru-hiking and discovered the weight of everything that went into my backpack.  Ounces make pounds; as the saying goes.

Just recently I I did a base camp backpack.  In this scenario you backpack in for several miles and set up camp for the night.  The next day you just take a little day pack and go explore sans heavy backpack.  This is truly a wonderful way to enjoy a backpack adventure.

My two friends and I hit Big Creek Trailhead a couple of weeks ago.  We hiked up seven or maybe eight miles where we set up our base camp along a wide lazy section of the creek.  I was so excited to not weigh items or even care about the weight of my pack that I took everything that would stuff into the Osprey Xena 65 liter pack.  On this trip I took a chair, a hammock, my phone, my kindle, a cribbage board, a pocket shower and my knitting.  I even took a dessert.  This was luxury backpacking.  I highly recommend it.

On day two I just took some snacks, a rain poncho, a warm shirt all into a day pack and took off for Big Creek Lake and Pack Box Pass.  We easily hiked 14 miles round trip with some serious elevation gain to the pass.  It was a spectacular 360 degree view as we straddled the Montana Idaho border.  Then back to camp where our tents and hammock were waiting for us all set up.  If we had wanted to stay an additional night we could have day hiked up to the south fork of Big Creek to some more high alpine lakes.

The forest and surrounding area was not just beautiful, it was magical.  The pictures we took don’t do it justice.  Trying to write about it lacks the holistic experience. I laid in my hammock staring up at the extra tall pine trees that created a high canopy for the forest floor.  The wind blew the trees back and forth as if they were made of rubber.  The trees made no sound in the wind, but the birds were in full symphony mode.  From sun up to sun down the birds were singing to each other and not in an annoying manner like squawking crows, just a beautiful accompaniment to the sound of the creek.  My friend Heidi commented that she didn’t know why she even brought a book.  Being in this magical forest was too engrossing to try to read.  The walk out took us though a dense cedar grove where the sun light and dark shadows created a mosaic on the cool earth.  You could hear the earth echo with each foot step.  The trail is so old or the trees so healthy that all the tree blazes had grown together and looked more like scar tissue guiding you through the forest.  This well worn trail hardly needed any direction though.  If you’re thinking of starting to backpack or taking the family, basecamp backpacking is the ticket.  And if you live in the area, Big Creek is a pretty spectacular hike.

I’m going to quote John Steinbeck one last time from “Travels With Charlie” (see previous posts for other quotes):

“The next passage in my journey is a love affair.  I am in love with Montana.  For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, and even some affection, but with Montana it is love and it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it. It seems to me that Montana is a great splash of grandeur.  The scale is huge, but not overpowering.  The land is rich with grass and color, and the mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were ever put on my agenda.  It seemed to me that the frantic bustle of America was not in Montana.  The calm of the mountains and the rolling grasslands had got into the inhabitants.”

Me and John; totally connecting.

And….what am I reading now.  As always; it’s an eclectic mix.  On the kindle I’m reading “A Confederacy of Dunces”, a very entertaining and hilarious read.  I am also reading “The Medicine Bag” by don Jose Ruiz about bringing out the shaman we all  have hidden in our being. A step by step guide of rituals and ceremonies.  And in hardback I have my book club selection, a non fiction, “Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe.  A story of a life time of Northern Ireland during the seventies, eighties and even to present day about the IRA and the division of a country.  This book did not go backpacking as it is heavy.  Heavy in every since of the word.  And a little too close to the division I see in the United States.  We may have to rename our county to just States.

More great adventures and book recommendations can be found at Wild About Books.

Thru-Hiker Through and Through

I’m a thru-hiker,  I backpacked the 50 miles of the Selway River river trail from end to beginning. A Wild and Scenic River located in the Bitterroot Selway Wilderness.  I celebrated National Hike Naked Day and I destroyed a library book (see previous post).  And…..I’d do it all again.  It was pretty epic.

Most people would consider my starting point the end point since I hiked upstream.  I don’t think it would matter too much which end you start on.  The Selway river loses 4000 feet in elevation from the ‘put in’ to the ‘take out’.  But that’s in 50 miles and with all of the up down and down up of the trail, you hardly notice the difference of upstream vs downstream. I would have to assume.

My group started at Race Creek.  Two of us got an early start and the other three started a few hours later only due to some logistics and mostly due to me trying to get a cooler start for optimal migraine management (OMM).  Jenn and I hiked from 9:00 to 5:30.  We got caught in one rain shower which made the afternoon cooler and was one reason we hiked for so long on day one.  My fitbit said I went 17 miles.   My new Topo Trail Runner Shoes were light and comfortable.  It was totally not their fault that I slipped on a wet rock while filling my water bottle, soaking both feet.  Walking in wet socks and shoes for two more hours did bring on a few blisters.

We spent the first night at Tango Creek.  A group of rafters were camped across the river; their groover in direct line of sight of our camp.  (See “Last Call for the Groover” post for explanation of “Groover”).  The next morning was chilly.  But in a light weight one person tent I could stay in my sleeping bag, tie back my tent door and operate my jetboil.  From the comfort of my down sleeping bag I was able to make tea and breakfast and read some of my destroyed yet lightweight library book.  The sun finally peaked over the mountain and warmed up our site but everything was covered in dew.  I packed my damp sleeping bag, wet tent and put on my wet socks and shoes.  We hit the trail, our other group had not caught up with us yet.

Day two was hotter and sunnier.  My fitbit clocked us at just over 10 miles.  The skies were clear.  The river and creeks were raging and the mountains were a deep forest green.  It was beautiful.  I was surprised how high the trail could be over the river.  Having a birds eye view of the rapids made it easy to pick the line I would take if I were in my inflatable kayak. We stopped in a cool shaded cedar grove for a break from the heat and and a break from carrying our packs.  We continued on the hot trail and I finally saw my first rattlesnake.  It was not as I had imagined.  The snake said, “oh, sorry, just crossing the trail here; pardon me.”  We replied, “no hurry, we don’t mind waiting for you to cross.” She was very cordial.  Not threatening or scary.  I think I must have watched Mattie fall into the rattlesnake pit on “True Grit” at an impressionable age.

My blisters had grown.  I felt new ones forming.  But, help was on the way.  We arrived at 2:30 at the Moose Creek landing strip.  At 3:00 our husbands (mine and Jenn’s) landed on the grassy wilderness runway.  There are no roads in the wilderness, but there are several landing strips. There were already about 10 other planes there with people camping out.  We happily greeted our men who had taken 30 minutes to arrive.  We had driven 4 hours and hiked 2 full days to get to the same location.  They brought cold beverages, cheese, smoked salmon, fruit, presents and my boots.  Dry boots.  Not just dry boots, but water resistant boots, boots that had hiked the Grand Canyon with no blisters.  And presents?……  Yeah.  Call me spoiled.  Brett bought two different kinds of gaiters for me to try and a rain poncho that fits over a backpack.

The rest of our group caught up with us that afternoon.  There was plenty of cold drinks and snacks for everyone.  The guys packed up and flew out as we were getting our camp set up for bedtime.

Day three brought a nice early start.  I bandaged my blisters with mole skin and medical tape.  We trekked through the wet grassy landing field to the historic Moose Creek Ranger station and back onto the trail heading to Bear Creek; our camp for the night.  Fitbit recorded 14 miles for this day.  We also met our down river group around 11:30.  That was the plan. We would swap keys when we met and drive each other’s cars home.  The shuttle for this trip is 255 miles on winding mountain roads many of which are gravel.  It costs $390 to hire a shuttle driver.  Creating two groups to meet and swap keys cost nothing.  It was genius.  We talked briefly.  Mostly about the injured mountain lion that the other group had seen an hour before on the trail.  Two hours later, the mountain lion was still on the trail.  Our group determined that she was old and looking for a place to die.  She didn’t move off the trail for us either.  We bush wacked our way up the mountain and around her continuing our way up river on this overcast, hot and humid day.  Bear Creek was a beautiful camp.  We made a big fire, had dinner and when the clouds started to sprinkle rain at 7:30, we hurried to our dry tents and fell asleep.  Not much of a celebration on the longest day of the year.

Day four was long.  The sun came back out as we hiked another 14 mile day. Our average age was 61.  The range was 55 to 70.  Our average weight (without packs) was 120 pounds.  You can tell the miles were getting to me as I spent time creating and calculating math problems.  I was enjoying the break from electronics, news, emails, facebook and the threat of Coronavirus.  Left to my own devices.  My brain.  Telling stories to the others.  Listening to their stories.  We passed Selway Lodge and Running Creek Lodge until we arrived at Waldo Bar our final camp.  Oh, and…. two of us hiked naked.  I recommend it.  Just boots, gaiters and a hat.  Our lone, token male stayed behind a respectable distance and did not celebrate National Hike Naked Day (Or…. maybe he was).   Would I do that again?  Actually, we are thinking about publishing our own hike naked calendar.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

On this last night one of the women in our group had run out of reading material for the night. (I would rather run out of food).  I took out my library book in which I had ripped off the front and back covers to make it lighter.  I tore out pages one through 19 and gave it to her.  I also read, out loud, the introduction of the book to those who were still by the fire.  The next morning, she read the introduction out loud again.  It’s that good.  I highly recommend John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley”.  This non-fiction book takes place in 1962 and is about his travels across the United States in a camper with his dog Charley.  Very interesting to read his take on the state of the United States in 1962.  I recommend “Travels With Charley”.

Day five was a short 5 mile hike out.  I stopped at every point on the trail and watched the river; not wanting our hike to end.   Happy that I had completed this dream hike with just a few blisters and a few mosquito bites on my ass from hiking naked.  Happy of the dynamics of my group and the new stories we now had to share.  Happy to spend so much time outside and so many nights sleeping on the ground.  It is my happy place.

In the last blog post, in which I told you I was not going on the Selway backpacking trip, I  gave you a taste of the introduction to “Travels With Charley”.  This time I’m giving you the whole thing.  Enjoy.

Steinbeck’s intro from “Travels with Charley”

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.

When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. And last he must implement the journey. How to go, what to take, how long to stay. This part of the process is invariable and immortal. I set it down only so that newcomers to bumdom, like teen-agers in new hatched sin, will not think that they invented it.

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only when the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand.”

More great book selections and adventures can be found on Wild About Books.

National Hike Naked Day

Didn’t want my readers to miss out on the fun.  National Hike Naked Day is coming fast; Sunday June 21, 2020; which also happens to be Father’s Day.  Nothing says Father’s Day like a bunch of penises flapping freely on a warm summer day.  And where will I be?  Backpacking the Selway with rattlesnakes, maybe not such a great place for the unprotected penis.  So far though, it’s the women who are excited about Hike Naked Day, the men, not so much.

I know I left you in suspense after the last blog as to what reading material I’ll take on my 5 day 50 mile backpacking adventure.  Here is the solution:

I’m leaving the Kindle (10.93 ounces), leaving the phone with Kindle app (7.62 ounces), leaving the paperback I bought for the trip “Virgil Wander” (11.64 ounces) and the winner is:

Taking a small paperback that I found in the Darby High School Library while waiting for a board meeting to start.  The assistant librarian is a loyal reader of Wild About Books, so I’m going to whisper this next part.  Listen closely.  I’m going to take the library book (5.61 ounces). I’m going to (shhhh) rip off the front cover, back cover and extraneous pages which saves over two ounces!  Then as I read the book, I’ll rip out the pages and burn them, making the book lighter each day.  Genius.

This book is heavy in the covers since there is lots of tape and a checkout card and card holder glued to the back cover.  Remember that system.  You check out a book, sign the card then the book and card get stamped with a due date.  And oh boy, if you owed for an over due book, at least in Darby High School, Mrs. Parker would chase you though the halls; “Noah! Noah! you owe .10 cents Noah!  Ten cents!”

According to the card, this book was last checked out by T. Johnston.  And based on the due date of May 7, 2007, I’m assuming that’s Tyler Johnston and not his younger sister Tori Johnston.  Before that is was checked out by my assistant daughter, Shelby Rogala, due May 8, 2006.  She actually checked it out twice in a row.

The book I’m packing is John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”. First published in 1962, two years before I was born.  I love John Steinbeck’s writing (“Of Mice and Men”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “East of Eden”; all of which I recommend).  The introduction to “East of Eden” is one of the best examples of writing that I have ever read.  I had forgotten about that until I

       Canyon Creek Lunch Break

read the introduction to “Travels with Charley” yesterday while on my practice hike up Canyon Creek during my lunch break.  Here is an excerpt.

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.  And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.  We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.  Tour masters, schedules, reservation, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.  Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it.  Only then do the frustrations fall away.  In this a journey is like a marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

Bravo Mr. Steinbeck.  That is beautiful.  “….we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”  Just makes you want to scream “Fucking A!” or “Amen Brother!”; depending on your preferred show of “damn that’s good shit” joy pulsing from your inner being.  Read it again……you should read it again.  It’s poetry.  Every word is a poem.

Not sure what the universe is trying to tell me as I sit here writing this blog.  It is 4:30 am.  I’m unable to sleep due to the pain of another migraine.  In the past 24 hours I have taken two prescription migraines pills, one muscle relaxer and three Aleve.  I’m on day three of this migraine.  Yesterday’s practice hike was more than a practice hike.  It was an experiment.  I hiked with my fully loaded pack for six hours.  I struggled to make it back to the car as the migraine went from a headachy pain to full blown pressure and pain. I do not have a headache, a headache has me.  Unable to eat or drink.  Eighty degrees.  Direct sun.  A beautiful day to everyone else.  I drove home.  If I had not had my dog, I would have driven to the emergency room (I’ve already met my deductible and the insurance company turned down my doctors prescription for preventive medicine).  Anyway, I’m not one to tell you about my pain and suffering,  but I wanted to explain to you the why.  The why I’ve backed out of my 5 day 50 mile backpacking trip on the Selway River.  I still plan on hiking naked on June 21st, but in the early hours of the day before it gets too hot and with no weight on my back and just for a little while.  Maybe I’ll turn it into “National Knit Naked on the Screened in Porch with the Ceiling Fan On and an iced tea and a good podcast Day”.

And the library book is saved from destruction ( I don’t think I could have followed through with that plan anyway).

More great book suggestions and adventures can be found at Wild About Books.

 

 

Ultra Light Weight and the Avid Reader Dilema

A few weekends ago I participated in a practice backpacking trip up Boulder Falls for one night. My friend and hero, Carol, who you’ve heard me reference several times in the history of this blog and who just turned 70 last month, was on her first ever backpacking excursion.  Carol had all the newest in gear and everything was in the category of Ultra Light Weight.  In other words her pack weighed half what mine did.  Half.  This is a smart woman.  Me….. not so much.  But who knew?  It’s not your grandma’s backpacking (well….unless Carol is your grandma).

Word on the Ultra Light street is that your pack should weigh 15 pounds before you add your food (food weight would vary depending on the number of nights out and your appetite).

I got home from Boulder Falls and weighed my pack (there was no food; even my emergency back up food had been consumed).  Twenty Six point eight (26.8) pounds total including the backpack.  I needed to get rid of 11.8 pounds of gear before my five day 50 miler on the Selway River.

As I unpacked, I weighed every single item that I had carried.

Our Boulder Creek practice hike was five miles in for one night and five miles out.  Our upcoming Selway River hike is going to be an average of 10 miles per day for five days straight.  Shedding 11.8 pounds is crucial.

Some people may think that a Kindle (11.11 ounces; 7.3 ounces without the cover), camp chair (10.76 ounces), and journal (5 ounces) are not required backpacking items.  But my blog followers know where I’m coming from….. (jeez…. I’m not taking my knitting 6.42 ounces).  The paperback book I bought for the trip, “Virgil Wander”, is 11.46 ounces, more than the kindle, I’m considering ripping off the front and back cover along with the non essential first and last pages to try to save an ounce or two.  Or skip it and take the kindle without the cover.  Maybe….see all the turmoil I’m going through with this.

My idea of being out in the woods for a week is to get into camp, set up a tent, take off my boots, find my book then set up my chair in a shady spot and read or journal for the afternoon.  That to me is the perfect day.

Some solutions to my weight dilemma  include taking my phone (7.62 ounces); which has a Kindle app and would double as a book, camera, headlamp (3.28 ounces), and I suppose I could take enough notes to count as a journal.  But how long is the battery good for on airplane mode?  I could leave the camp chair and just use my Therm-o-rest (27.9 ounces) leaned up against a downed log and make a lounge chair.  I could leave my tent (3 POUNDS) and sleep under the stars.  But, I wouldn’t sleep well thinking about the rattlesnakes wanting to cuddle with me.  I haven’t mentioned the rattlesnakes.  It’s the only thing people point out when I tell them I’m backpacking the Selway River.

“Ohhhhh….. lots of rattlesnakes on the Selway”.

I have purchased a few things. I’m saving 2 ounces on my new Jetboil; saving 1.88 ounces on a titanium cup; 5 ounces on a new pillow; new therm-o-rest sleeping pad is a savings of 11 ounces.  I’m also looking at ultra light weight backpacks which could save over 2 pounds; which is a lot of ounces.

I just finished a hardback book.  Although I have been known to pack in a cribbage board and a can of wine or two; I would never pack in a hardback book.  But, having finished the hardback; I’m ready to call it the new book pick for Wild About Books.

“The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

This is an excellent and very different book.  A new perspective on slavery and the underground railroad with a hint; no more like a splattering of magical realism.  I love the books with supernatural out of this world experiences.  I often see it in American Indian folklore books, Mexican heritage novels such as Isabel Allende and African American books. Making magic happen. Through water, the protagonist can transport himself (and others). I”m sure I’ll want to tap into that superpower on the Selway with all of my gear.

Oh! And the Ursack with odor proof inserts to protect my food from bears is another 9 ounces.

More great books and adventures can be found on Wild About Books.