Yoga Time

It’s 4:30 pm. Time to leave for yoga class. I’m not a regular at this class, just a fill in. My friend who hosts the class at her house had texted me earlier in the day. Her husband had SARS and there was a space available. I thought he was sick. Turns out he was at Search And Rescue training (not sure what the last “S” stands for).

It is a clear, sunny day as I drove up my soggy driveway, making ruts in the snow melted wet dirt, up to the road. My road doesn’t have as much sun as the driveway and was still snow covered. It was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride meets a self driving car as the snow ruts would take over guiding me in a zig zag direction. You must be an aggressive driver in this situation in order to not drive off the mountain. No sight seeing or dilly dally-ing. Drive like you mean it…….. at least until a white tail deer or two jump across your path, at which point you must stop and take note if more are coming; leading to both deer and car being in the same place at the same time. Not a good situation for either. I watch the other deer who have not crossed, they watch me, I watch them, they watch me. I inch forward and continue down the hill as they patiently wait. My aggressive snow rut driving continues for several minutes before I’m stopped by wild turkeys meandering slowly down the road. They hear my tires noisily rolling over the half frozen snow, look back, clearly annoyed by my invasion. They cross in an obligatory fashion as more and more and more come up from below the road. It is a large family. A rafter of Turkeys. They live in the neighborhood. Finally I make it to where the pavement starts. No more rutted dirt and rutted snow. This is where I meet Julie. She is already there having had a similar driving experience from her side of the neighborhood.

We take Highway 93 to Rye Creek. Back to the dirt, snow, ice mix. It is slow going. We pass Mule Deer, the bigger cousin of the white tail, grazing on the melted south facing hill side. Elk are probably watching us too, but we don’t see them. It is seven miles to our turn at North Fork of Rye Creek. At just past the junction of Rye Creek and North Fork of Rye Creek we come to our friend’s driveway. We park at the bottom with the yoga teacher and wait for our shuttle up the driveway. The driveway is exactly one mile in length, 500 feet of elevation gain and has five switchbacks. Jen shows up in her UTV; Utility Terrain Vehicle also know as a side by side due to the fact that you sit next to the passenger, like a car, instead of behind the passenger (like a motorcycle or horse, or ATV; All Terrain Vehicle). Just to keep you up on all the acronyms, as I don’t want you to think I have SARS or something. The UTV is meant for two people. We manage to make it a four person UTV. Behind the cab is a two foot bed (like a truck bed, not a bed bed). I sit in the bed. It is a five minute ride up the driveway in the chained up UTV. If it weren’t for the two by four screwed to the floor of the bed I would have been on my ass in the driveway with no one hearing me over the noice of the UTV; it is that steep. I’m surrounded in the two foot bed with yoga mats, yoga blocks and yoga blankets as we all bounce when going over the metal water bars periodically placed in the driveway to keep it from washing down the mountain during the spring melt. One yoga block bounces out of its bag and almost off the back before I catch it and tuck it safely back into its place. The start of the ride is cold. North Fork of Rye creek is a narrow drainage that sees little sun. As we rise up in elevation, the sun peaks over Trapper Peak and adds some warmth or at least the illusion of warmth. Finally we reach the top of the driveway and load our yoga gear into the house, set up our mats and it is now 5:30, time to start the 75 minute yoga class. I’m fifteen miles from home and left an hour ago.

Yoga is delightful and practically worth the adventure to get to it. There are five of us participating as well as a four year old and a four month old. They don’t get it.

As soon as class is over we don our coats and muck boots (boots designed for muck)(muck=half melted snow and ice and mud). And Jen grabs warm blankets for the ride down. Julie volunteers to ride in the bed this time which is an unfortunate choice and a fortunate choice. Unfortunate as in the sun is down and it is colder. Fortunate in that we are going downhill, so she is leaning against the cab the whole way and not having to put her knees in her chin with her feet on the two by four in order to stay in the bed as I did. I ride bitch (middle seat) and have to have my head in the wind shield as there is a gun rack in my back. The UTV is not enclosed, the windows are zipped to the open night air. We are frozen solid by the time we reach the bottom of the driveway. Julie and I jump in her car and get the heat blasting. We drive back to my car. I pull into my garage at 7:30; get the fire roaring in the wood stove, make hot chocolate and read my book. What am I reading? Always a loaded question. I’m reading “Cracked Pots”, the sequel to “The Clay Girl” by Heather Tucker; “Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari and “The Healed Empath” by Kristen Schwartz.

I’m not going to recommend a book this post. I’m going to recommend a series on Netflix, I’m going out on a limb here, but I enjoyed this series so much that I want you to try a season and see what you think. This was recommended to me by my children and it took at least a whole season to have a relationship with the characters, but then we were family. It is a comedy with heartwarming life stories. There are six seasons and I just watched the last episode. Then I watched the documentary about the making of the series and how this sleepy unknown sitcom became an award winning series. I’m recommending the Netfix series “Schitt’s Creek”. Try a season.

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

Wild About Books 100 Posts Celebration

Hooray! We are celebrating our one hundredth post here at the Wild About Books Blog World Headquarters in Darby Montana.

I have a very special celebration book recommendation for you, I’m so excited!!!

But first, let’s reminisce:

August 4, 2014 was the first post; over seven years ago, and it was just a short introduction into something I had no idea how it was going to play out.

I had to teach myself how to use WordPress; took two online classes. WordPress has progressed a lot since then and I need to take another class. “The Invention of Wings” was our the first book recommendation. The original intent of the blog was to be a bookclub in which others could contribute. It then evolved into a venue for me to recommend books and to write about life in Montana and other adventures. As my long ago friend Bannister Allen used to say “If you don’t have adventures what do you talk to people about”. Adventures don’t have to be epic backpacking trips. They can be as simple as going to the grocery store or post office, especially in small town Montana.

Every day is an adventure; every friend a king.

Seventy two people follow my blog. You can follow too by clicking on the “follow” button to ensure that you never miss a blog post ever again. A number of these people I don’t even know. I have not figured out how to make money with my blog, but probably not possible with only 72 followers. Really not the point anyway. I started writing seven years ago hoping to write myself right out of my current job.

Haahahaha.

I’ve gotten lots of comments on my blogs, 90% of them from my mom, which are all appreciated. My favorite comment was from Heather Tucker:

Thank you for the ‘spectacular’ review of The Clay Girl. I’m delighted you ‘saw’ that the book was more about everyday heroes: a few good men, kind teachers, loving aunts, sisters, a solid friend… than about the abuse.

A little imagination, creative work and a companion that will roast brussel sprouts for us is how we survive and thrive, isn’t it:)

I read that comment and had to google the name of the person who wrote it. Turns out; it was the author of “The Clay Girl”. That was super exciting.

My proudest moment of the blog was when I wrote a letter to Barak Obama and then actually printed and mailed it to him “Dear Barack“. Four months latter I got a hand written reply from the White House; “Reply from the President“.

By far the most viewed post was “The UPS Man“. That one is worth reading again.

Quick note to the reader; you can click on the blog titles in this post and it will take you to the original post in a new tab in case you want to read it.

I’ve been a guest speaker several times in the Darby High School senior government class to discuss my blog and always read, out loud, my “Last Call for the Grover” post. Adults pooping in a can seems to get 18 year old’s attention, even if they don’t act like it.

The post most likely to make you cry “Guest“. The post most likely to make you smile “Wedding Week“. One of my favorite adventure posts was “Canoeing the Missouri” and snowboarding with my buddy “Burton Deja Vu Flying V“.

And now for the big news. Our 100th post book recommendations. Yes, it is two books. One by John and one by Jon. Both Darby, Montana residents. Both friends of mine.

First, I want to thank John Phillips for being my inspiration to get my ass in gear and start writing again. I realized that we both have a lot of Montana stories, some in common, that need to be shared with the world. I also realized that John’s book is a collection of stories, as my blog is a collections of stories. I plan on working on my second book, which will be all of these blog posts. Maybe John will help me get that together.

After reading John Phillips book, I know why he is such a recluse, holed up in his house on a mountainside with no phone. Now I understand why, when John Phillips comes into town to workout at The Right To Bare Arms Gym, he wears his dark sunglasses on the elliptical machine. The whole time John Phillips has lived in Darby, he has been collecting anecdotes for his book. And everyone is fair game. From our town marshal, Larry, to haircutting icon Hope, to Right to Bare Arms trainer, Heidi. Mostly John tells stories on himself. Sometimes I think he must just set himself him in ridiculous situations for the story alone as no one can be this, um…….well……. let’s just say……read his book. It is a hilarious rendition of small town life in rural western Montana and the people and animals that live there. John can sound a bit pretentious and maybe somewhat cynical, but that is his style and it just adds to the book. Although, some may take it as a slam to their community and character, hence, the dark glasses at the gym. At times in the book, you may feel stuck while contemplating his obscure and dated analogies, but persevere, shake your head and keep reading. And I guarantee your vocabulary will improve by the end of the book. My first book recommendation for our celebratory post is “Four Miles West of Nowhere” by John Phillips. (If you are closely related to me don’t buy this book as it is waiting for you under the tree.) I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Jon Turk makes his second appearance in Wild About Books blog. I’ve already recommended his book “Crocodiles and Ice” in a previous post. Jon says he lives in Darby Montana, but this 75 year old is actually a nomad. He never sits still. His travels and adventures are a life this writer dreams of. He moves with the seasons, choosing to live in a ski town in Canada for the winter, mountain biking in southern Utah for the shoulder seasons and back in Montana for the summers. He has been nominated by National Geographic as One of the Top 10 Adventurers of the Year. “Crocodiles and Ice” was about his time circumnavigating Ellesmere Island in a sea kayak. His new book, which is the second book recommendation in this celebratory post; “Tracking Lions, Myth and Wilderness in Samburu” is about his time in Africa. Jon’s books should be read with a highlighter. There are many good lines worth noting. Jon’s travels are conduits to spirituality as I believe all adventures are. Jon’s writing makes you love the earth and its people, makes you believe in humanity and makes you want to care for it all. And then it takes a reality turn and makes you question our ability to care for the earth and its people. Jon takes a hard look at the climate crisis. His book is a plea for everyone to wake up and take responsibility for our selfish use of the earth and its resources. I’m only half way through as I write this, so I’m not sure of the final trajectory of this book, but my friend Carol says it is a wonderful ending and Jon’s best book yet. Like John Phillips, Jon is one to tell stories on himself as he stumbles through the harsh terrain of Africa with his new friends and guides. So many sentences in Jon’s book are not just a statement to move a story, but a life lesson worth contemplating.

“My fear and my weaponry are not only unnecessary; my fear has been creating an emotional and situational environment that might create danger and require fear.”

I highly recommend John and Jon’s books, and not just because I know them; they are both really good books.

Thank you followers and readers and commenters of my blog Wild About Books. Thank you for reading my posts even with the typos and grammar mistakes. Thank you for letting me use you as my audience as I practice my writing. Thank you for accepting my thoughts and sharing my adventures.

More great book recommendations and adventures can be found at Wild About Books. Click the link and hit follow.

Grand-parenting 101 in 2021

I’ve written about both of my grandmothers in this blog, Mamaw and Orphans, and today I’d like to write about my experience being a grandmother as well as giving some advice to new grandparents.

First of all, I can’t work any of the baby gear. I can’t get the car seat out of the car, I can’t open up the stroller, I can’t open the safety bar to the stroller and every time my daughter mentions turning on the “hatch”, I have a deer in the headlights look trying to remember what the “hatch” is.

Basically, the baby, is still the same as always. Eats, cries, pees, poops, poops, poops, poops. The diapers are grandparent friendly, with the back clearly labeled “back”, assuming you are changing the diaper with your glasses on, which I recommend. I also recommend not skipping the quality control step of the diaper operation in which you check that the elastic around those cute chubby thighs is not folded under itself leaving an escape route for the many different varieties of poop consistency or lack of.

There is an app for everything parenting(expect for diaper changing, that remains the same). There is an app that tells you how long your baby slept and that there is movement detected in their bed as well as the temperature and humidity of the room. There is an app for the bassinet that manages the rocking intensity and womb mimicking noises. There is an app showing you how to cut up food for each baby age. There is an app to control the “hatch”, a white noice and night light machine, that travels with the baby like a diaper bag. Also………. I broke the Bumbo and I forget to put on the sleep sack at bed time.

“Where’s the sleep sack?”

Having heard “sleestak” (from Land of the Lost); I put my arms out straight perpendicular to my body and start making sleestak noises; SHEEEESH SHEEEESE……..whereby my husband, shakes his head having not grown up watching Land of the Lost and constantly asking if I make this stuff up and there is a pandemonium of generational confusion. This is to be expected and I recommend laughter as a general next step to the confusion.

New grandparents, if you are like me and have a serious streak of not getting sick; you can kiss that shit goodbye. My granddaughter is a crawling petri dish. She brings things home from daycare and distributes them around like a Scott’s weed and feed spreader. From stomach flu to colds to hand foot and mouth; we’ve had it all. That kid has copious amounts of mucus that never stops. I’m surprised we haven’t wiped her nose clean off her face.

Olive and I are famous for doing our dueling impression of Animal from the Muppets. We bobble our head back and forth and go AHHHHH, with our mouths wide open. One day, as I was holding her, I started the AHHH assuming she would follow suit, but instead, she decided to do our other favorite mimic game and did a raspberry, spitting into my AHHHH mouth with millions of specks of baby spittle landing in my vulnerable mucus membrane. I was doomed and ended up visiting the Walk in Clinic for my “weird rash”.

And, holy cow can this kid eat. She went straight from breast milk to pancakes, avocados, bananas, lentils, sweet potatoes, ravioli, and peanut butter yogurt. Like her mother and her mother’s mother (me) she never misses a meal. As her mother says, “second breakfast is the meal before first lunch”. My granddaughter also feeds herself. Food is everywhere and some of it ends up in her mouth. Some of it ends up in the trough in her bib and lots of it ends up on the floor where there are two dogs willing to endure an occasional wack on the head from a heavy duty plastic flying drink bottle in order to have first dibs on all the food ending up on the floor. Solid food has also led to the diaper pail moving from next to the changing table to the back porch.

But here’s the secret…..even with all the sickness, mess, diapers, random fevers and car full of baby supplies that I can’t seem to work, this is one of the very, very best times of my life. I love this baby so much. I’m so lucky that she lives only 70 miles away. I can easily go see her for the day or the weekend. And she comes to visit me just as much. We stack blocks, play with the busy zoo, read books, wrestle the octopus, walk laps around the kitchen table, hacky sack, watch Waffles and Mochi, and even hiked to remote Hawaiian beaches. When I catch her eye in a group of people, she grins this shit eating grin and starts to bobble her head back and forth and I bobble my head back and forth and we both know that this is a special connection we will have for a long, long time.

Olive and I would like to recommend two books. Our very favorite is “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith a really fun book for both the reader and the listener (I also recommend the song) and “B is for Bicycle” by Scott and Jannine Fitzgerald; an alphabet book in which B is for Bicycle, Q is for Quick-release and V is for Valve (presta and schrader).

And I would like to recommend a book that is on my shelf waiting to be read. “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell you She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman. If you haven’t read Fredrik Backman, I also recommend “Anxious People” and “Brit Marie Was Here”.

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

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.