The Blind River

I’ve floated many rivers.  The Salmon in Idaho, the Owyhee in Oregon, the Smith, the Missouri, the Flathead, the Yellowstone in Montana and the New in West Virginia.  These were all in rafts, canoes or inflatable kayaks.

This past Christmas holiday I got to float the Blind River in Louisiana.  In a motor boat.  A totally different experience and one I’ll never forget.

Lesa and Jed LeBlanc invited us all (a family of 10) to their camp on the river.  They called it a camp, but it’s a structure.  A house.  A house on raised footings to keep it above the swampy river’s edge.  Everything in the camp has to come in by boat.  They picked us up at the St. James Boat Club, a happening spot for weddings, reunions and blood drives as well as a boat launch to a multitude of camps.  It was rainy and overcast on this winter day in Louisiana as we walked onto the boat.  We were offered beer for the ride, the boat owners having already cracked one open.  The Blind River must have been named due to the continues S-curves this river takes as it flows though the swampy cypress trees.  You can never see past the next curve.  We passed many camps on the way to Lesa and Jed’s.  You could see the old ones that were no longer kept up slowly being digested by the river.  Many different stages of houses being swallowed by the water.  Other homes were alive and well and thriving  with the vegetation and wildlife.

We pulled up into the covered boat slip and walked the dock towards the modified doublewide, careful not to slip on the slick wet wood.  Everyone was offered beer as Lesa passed out Michelob Ultra to the group.

“Y’all like any of those fancy beehs?” Lesa yelled.  “We got a couple of those fancy beehs in heh.”  She held up a sample she’d dug up from the bottom of the large cooler.  It wasn’t an IPA or a Wheat Beer as we were hoping, but an orange flavored Coors.  No one was interested in the fancy beer.

The dock was clearly the place you hung out even in the drizzle.  Being wet is just part of the package whether it’s drizzle, humidity or because you are walking through the yard. Lesa brought out her double basket deep fryer, a fancy Tupperware breading colander and a large bowl of just caught, cleaned and cut up catfish. We were having a fish fry.  I popped open my Michelob Ultra and watched Lesa in action.  She could start her own cooking show right here on this dock.  She breaded, fried and talked; never stopping; dumping a basket of hot fish onto a paper towel covered plate as we all grazed and picked and ate.

The Louisiana accent is a character in itself.  Not always easy to understand but definitely distinguishable. A combination of fast southern, French and black and a dash of a Boston accent.  Don’t pronounce the r’s as well as a few other choice consonants and there you have it.  A deep Louisiana accent.  Oh, and don’t pronounce the g’s either, but that is redundant since I already said “southern”.

“Zach, get me a beeh bo, I need a beeh.”

After a few good batches of fish, Lesa fried up a few bags of onion rings and french fries.  I have to say that this vegan, who rarely eats fried food and watches her alcohol consumption for fear of a migraine imbibed on this Louisiana breakfast; every single bit of it.  And it was good.

As we were feasting on fried foods, the neighbor pulled up to the dock in his motor boat.  I believe that is life on the Blind River; fishing, eating, beer and visiting.  The neighbor had been deer hunting and came face to face with a very large alligator.  He brought out his phone to show us the pictures of the alligator coming at him.  “Unusual to see one that big this time of year.”

After getting our fill of fish, onion rings and fries, we got back into the boat to go visit other neighbors.  Everyone was very gracious and proud to show their camp to outsiders, especially the ones who came from the mythical state of Montana.

We came back to Jed and Lesa’s visited and fished, passed around more beer and then packed up our stuff to boat back to the St. James Boat Club.  Everyone hugged and thanked each other.  “Come back again”.  “Come to Montana”.  Everyone genuine, happy, comfortable.

I realized while I was writing this post that you may wonder how me and my children came to spend Christmas in a small town in Louisiana; a place where Hannah used a large reusable grocery bag full of just picked kumquats as her personal bag on the plane ride home.  Well, that is a story in itself and a future blog post idea.  Stay tuned.

Spending time in Louisiana made me remember a book that I have already recommended in a past blog and a worth mentioning again.  A non-fiction book, “Strangers in Their Own Land” by Arlie Russel Hochschild.  And for this post I am recommending a historical fiction “Island Beneath the Sea” by Isabel Allende which takes place in the eighteen century and early nineteenth century.  The first half of this book is in Haiti and in Cuba.  After a slave revolt, boat loads of refuges make it to Louisiana where we follow plantation life and the creole culture.

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

May Creek Cabin

One of my favorite adventure spots in Montana is Highway 43.  This is a two lane road that starts (or ends) at Lost Trail pass on the Montana/Idaho border. A place where the Bitterroot National Forest, the Beaverhead National Forest and the Salmon National Forest all come together. It winds east down from the pass through The Big Hole Valley and along the Big Hole River.  This 82 mile highway passes through the tiny towns of Wisdom, Wise River, Dewey and Divide where is ends at Interstate 15.  There are year round recreation opportunities off this road of frost heaves and orange 15 foot tall poles to help guide you where the road is in a snow storm.  Cross country skiing, snow mobiles, dog sleds, fly fishing, hunting, rafting, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, skijoring, hot springs, downhill skiing and cattle.  That is what you can find via Highway 43.  What you will not find is too many people, a mall, stoplights, stop signs, cell service, a fast food restaurant or even a high school.

There is also access to two forest service cabins.  Hogan Cabin and May Creek Cabin.

When I used to reserve one of the two cabins, I had to wait for the “day” that the permits were open, then start calling the Wisdom Ranger Station starting promptly at 7:00 am and dial, busy signal, redial; over and over until I would get through.  By 8:00 all the Friday and Saturday’s would be taken.  Usually I was lucky to get a Sunday night.  Now it’s all online.  I’m not even sure the procedure.  If I happen to think about it in the fall, I’ll go to and see what is available.  This year I scored a Sunday night.  Sunday February 2nd.  It wasn’t until a week before my reservation that I realized why that Sunday was open.  Super Bowl Sunday.  Well.  In my book; The Big Hole trumps the Super Bowl.  Sleeping in a cabin with no electricity or running water, heated with a wood stove on a February night in Montana beats watching four hours of television.

With our backpacks packed, the car full of of equipment, we load the dog and head the 30 miles south to highway 43.  But before going to the cabin we stop at Lost Trail Powder Mountain for some downhill turns.  We stop for three reasons.  One, fresh powder and still snowing, two, we have a season pass and three, it’s on the way and what we usually do on Sunday mornings.  I’ve been skiing this mountain for 27 seasons.  I raised my kids on this mountain, learned to snowboard on this mountain.  The line for the women’s room is always a reunion of some sorts.  Women hugging and catching up while waiting in line to pee.  And lunch in the lodge is three tables deep of friends.

“Did you put in for the river?”  Have you been over to chair four?”  “Loved your blog this week.” “Lisa, I’ve got a book for you to read.”

We say hi to the owners when they walk by.  They also grew up on this mountain, taking over the business from their dad.

Our legs are done with downhill by two o’clock and we head to the car.  It’s too blustery to change into our cross country outfits so we get in the car and drive the 10 miles down 43 to the pull out for May Creek Cabin. It’s much nicer off the top of the mountain for a change of clothes for the next adventure.  Fourteen degrees, but no wind or snow.  One car passes as we get ready and put on our cross country skis.

The May Creek trail runs along the creek and in the trees for most of the two and a half miles to the cabin.  Right at the end it opens up into a big beautiful meadow where you can see the small cabin tucked up next to the mountain on the edge of the meadow.  Serene. So serene with the untouched white snow, the occasional glimpse of the creek flowing, the falling snow starting to slow down as dusk comes unnoticed looking so similar to an all day of snowstorm.

We arrive at the cabin, unlock the combination lock and immediately start a fire in the wood stove.  The thermometer reads 10 degrees outside. The cold has already settled into the logs, nothing is sealed very tight in this historic cabin.  The cabin was built by miners in the 1900’s and was restored in 1993 for recreational use (the year I moved to Montana).  There is a coleman stove for cooking, pots, pans, plates and silverware.  There is a shelve with games, jigsaw puzzles and a cabin journal for guest to write in.  There are four bunk bed style wooden platforms for sleeping, a table with benches and about 100 yards up the mountain there is an outhouse.

After dinner and several games of cribbage we climb into our sleeping bags to read before falling asleep.  Brett is up several times in the night to keep the fire going in the small, inefficient wood stove.  I’m up at 6:00 am, it is still dark out.  I heat up some water for tea, make some yogurt and granola and trek up to the outhouse.  It is dark, in the middle of the forest and it is 10 below zero.  I climb back into my sleeping bag with my tea, my breakfast, my book and my dog. Outside the dark starts to fade away.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  The morning brings clear skies and bright sunshine to this pristine meadow.  Paradise.

The book I’m reading is about a woman mountain climber.  Climbing mountains in the early 1970’s before “woman mountain climber” was a term.  As I read in the cold cabin, she is on Denali, having just completed the first all women team of climbers to reach the top.  But she is now just below the top with one of her climbing partners who has altitude sickness and is unable to continue as she comes in and out of consciousness.  It is night and 30 below zero and they are out in the elements.  Waiting.  Waiting for her friend to recover.  Or die.  You’ll have to read the book to see how this adventure turns out. “Breaking Trail” 

by Arlene Blum is the book recommendation for this post.  A memoir about Arlene climbing peaks around the world, making historic first accents on many of the mountains, the group dynamics wit

h her climbing partners and the dysfunctional home life that molded her into the person she is.

I highly recommend the book “Breaking Trail” as well as May Creek Cabin and Lost Trail Powder Mountain.

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


Wild About Books Frequently Asked Questions

  1.  Lisa, you are such a good cook, why aren’t you writing a food blog?

While it is true, I am an excellent cook, I have yet to dabble in food blogging.  I really enjoyed the 2009 movie  “Julia and Julie” about a food blogger who attempted to cook everything in a Julia Child cookbook and blog about it.  Look what happened to that blogger, they turned her blog into a movie.

I’ve had people text me “what should I make for dinner tonight”, and I quickly text an easy and healthy dinner.

Put half a jar of green curry paste and a can of coconut milk into a cast iron skillet.  Add chopped up veggies cook for 15 minutes.  Serve over brown rice.  Cook a piece of meat on the grill to go with it if you want.  The End.

I’ve thought about a blog called “What’s for Dinner?” People talk about trying to come up with new dinner ideas, having gotten into a rut.  I have never had that problem, well, not since having people 18 years and younger living in my house with me.  The only thing better than cooking is eating.  Tonight I had butternut squash soup with roasted chickpeas; three big bowls.

I’m also the group cook and menu planner when I’m on Adventure Based Learning trips with High School students.  Word gets back to me through their mothers that I am a great cook.  To be fair; when you are on the road or in the wilderness or eating outside in a snowstorm; all food is amazingly good.

This past summer I did all the menu planning and most of the cooking for our annual  7 day river trip on the Salmon. These two group cooking jobs made me think about creating menus for groups as a blog.  All of my meals start out as dairy free, meat free and gluten free with options to add any of those items to the meal.  For example;  fajita night; sauté lots of mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash and onions.  Heat up some black beans with onions and cumin.  Warm some corn, flour or gluten free tortillas.  Meanwhile on the grill cook some chicken breast.  Then serve with condiment bar consisting of green onions, cilantro, shredded cheddar, avocado and salsa.

People love it.  My menus  would have correct portions for groups of people and a grocery list and a few more instructions so that anyone in the group could be the cook.  Not sure if there is a need for this.  So, you bring up a good question that I have thought of.  Perhaps when I become a professional blogger I will add food blogging to my repertoire.

2.  Sometimes, while reading your blog, I can’t tell if you are a liberal or a conservative; which are you?

Hummm…why does this matter?  If you enjoy my blog and my writing, I’m not sure if this is an issue.  And I’m surprised that the answer to the question isn’t evident in my writing as I don’t try to hide who I am. I read an article about how we purposefully avoid talking politics when spending time with family over the holidays.  But, as the article said, why are we avoiding these conversations?  How can we understand each other if we don’t communicate and share ideas and reasons for these ideas?  If you recall Wild About Books recommended “Strangers in Their Own Land” about this division and trying to understand where everyone is coming from.  Each side strongly believes they are correct and the other side is wrong.  I listened to the senate impeachment trial last week (periodically) and I see no one budging.  53-47 every single time, no matter how many words are spoken, no matter how many people testify, no matter how much evidence is brought forward.  53-47.  If we don’t talk about politics with family at the holidays how will we ever understand? Living in a bubble with like minded people creates a delusion that the world agrees with you.  It doesn’t.  For example I often think how can we be divided about climate change?  Shouldn’t that be a 100% everyone in?   I guess not.  People believe God has a plan (read “The God Delusion”).  People believe it  is made up.  What??  They believe this as strongly as I don’t.

I believe I’ve answered your question.  I think you would all agree…..  See!…. some progress.

3.  Lisa, I’ve noticed that your writing has improved over the years.  Have you taken classes?

No, well yes.  I have taken a couple of great Adult Ed classes in Darby with Julie.  The classes themselves are more than just instruction, it’s a writers heaven in character development, dialog, and, for some, a great place to grab a quick nap. I think my writing has gotten better with classes, reading books on writing (“On Writing” by Stephen King, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott) listening to podcast on writing, but most importantly just writing.  Remember the Malcom Gladwell book “Outliers” that talked about doing something for 10,000 hours will make you better?  I believe that.  I think it took me that many hours to become a competent snowboarder.  My body does the work to self correct and stay upright without having to think about it anymore.  As for writing, my fingers fly across the keypad with not much thought to what might come from them.  I often surprise myself when I re-read a blog post.  “Who wrote that?” I’ll say.

4.  Lisa, I noticed that you have a giant painting of an eggplant in your office. Are you aware what that is referencing?  

A Penis.

5. Lisa, you lying sack of shit; I thought you said these post were coming out weekly now.  What’s up with the empty promise?

Oh jeez, you are correct.  I did say that.  And I even intended to act on it.  I started this post over a week ago.  And it seemed like such an easy task.  I will not give excuses.  But I will say that I will never let my writing be a stressor in my life.  It is meant to be enjoyable.  As soon as I post this one I’m going to start the next.   I was trying to make a measure for accountability.  It didn’t work.  I cook dinner every night, I make tea every morning.  Why can’t I write a blog post every week.  I’ll keep trying.  Working on once a week, but that may not happen.

6.  What are you reading now?

I am currently reading Isabel Allende’s “Daughter of Fortune”.  Really loved her books “The House of Spirits” and “Island Beneath the Sea”.  Also reading “Breaking Trail”  about a woman mountain climber who was climbing in the 1960’s and 70’s and not recognized as a climber since she was female.  Good story recommended to me in the ski lodge.  And also reading “The Incomplete Book of Running” by Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Host Peter Sagal.  And finally, I just started “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Feel free to send any questions to me for the next installment of WAB FAQ.

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





New Decade New Book

Oh man, where have I been?  It is definitely time for a blog re-boot. I need this.  And I’ve made a commitment to my followers to keep their book shelves full of good books to read.  I’m slacking on the job.

I’m giving the blog a new look, I’ve updated the list of books that have been recommended over the years (each book in the list links to the post about it), and I’m committing to a weekly post.  The weekly post is just to get me back into writing (Selfish? Maybe, but in the end, it is giving back to my readers as I spark my creativity and practice my writing).

Please feel free to share my blog with your book reading friends, book clubs and fellow adventurers of life.  It’s easy to  click the follow button and never miss a post as they will show up in your email. You can read or delete and move on.

A little history about the “Wild About Books” blog.

I started this blog August 5, 2014.  As with most projects I start, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to evolve.  I had to choose a theme to blog about, something I was passionate about.


That’s what I’ve done all my life with a vengeance.  I found that when I had conversations with people and hear about their life I would always end up recommending a book for them to read.

I gave my friend Heidi the Barbara Kingsolver book “Animal, Vegetable Miracle”.  Heidi, who was not even 30 years old at the time, finished the book then started a garden, built a greenhouse, purchased dozens of chicks and turned her old barn into the chicken condo.  She will not commit to any fall activities with us as she is busy canning and seed saving. The book changed who she is.  When you drive by her house in the summer, you’ll see her big gardening hat working it’s way through the garden spreading love and goodness as she tends to the plants and pulls the weeds.

My long time friend Debbie told me about her husband allowing his old dog to keep living when he was long past due to be put down.  I told her he should read “The Art of Racing in the Rain”.  He put his dog down when he finished the book.  That was the moment I decided I needed to write my blog on reading books.

I’ve written 81 posts (this will be 82). I’ve recommended 34 books and 1 magazine.  I’ve written about adventures from kayaking in Belize to backpacking the Grand Canyon.  I have 57 followers.  I’ve written 63,561 words.  My post with the most views was my letter to Barack Obama.  The UPS man post got the most shares.  My proudest moment was when I got a comment from Heather Tucker author of “The Clay Girl”.  The most fun I had writing a post was the story of my son’s wedding.  It was a great time and fun to write about.  The one I have the most fun re-reading is the mindfulness while cross country skiing post.  And the post I’ve read out loud the most is the post about the river groover.  I read it to the senior government class each year as a guest speaker on blogging.  You have to read it with a British accent; like you’re hosting a BBC special on PBS.

I’ve recently been involved in a book club start up.  I mean an actual get together, face to face with people kind of book club.  A social activity with food and drinks.  The first book we read was “Know my Name” which I recommend that everyone read.  We had a great discussion and immediately set up another book and book club date.

Our current book is also the new book selection for Wild About Books.  “The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See.  This is a very engaging book and in Lisa See style, well written.  This book is a historical fiction that takes place on a Korean island.  You learn about a society where the men stay home to cook and take care of the babies and the women work.  You learn about the beginnings of the Korean war.  And you learn about the atrocities, inhumane activities and unimaginable hardships that war brings.  I highly recommend “The Island of Sea Women”.

Hope you enjoy my blog.  Don’t forget to check the “book list” tab if you are in need of a book to read.  Also, please share my blog, follow my blog or even comment on the blog.

Wild About Books


Mamaw and a New Book

I remember sitting in the metal chair with a bowl of beans in my lap in the backyard.  It was hot and humid in North Carolina, even in the shade.  Papaw had picked the beans at his farm that morning.  It was up to me and Mamaw to shell them so she could cook them for dinner.  The metal chair had a small rock to it with it’s u-shaped design that held it up.  Mamaw’s had a cushion.  My feet didn’t reach the ground, but I could make it rock with my body; a fine balance between rocking and not dumping my bowl of beans on the ground.  We shelled the beans, the shells going into a compost bucket, the beans into a metal bowl.  The sound of the beans pinging against the metal.  There was no plastic.  These sounds are nostalgic.  When was the last time I heard beans pinging against a metal bowl?   Sometimes we’d mix up the bean bowl and the compost bowl and throw the item in the wrong bowl.  We’d know it as soon as we released the bean or shell.  The other one would stop, look; we’d both grin and laugh. 

Mamaw was faster than me.  Refilling her bowl of beans;  two to my every one.  She could sit upright in the metal chair; nap and still shell more beans than me.  She wore what she called her house dress, her hair had been done on Friday, a standing Friday appointment.  Her hose, nylons, stockings; I’m not sure what you call them. I always called them pantyhose; whether they were knee highs, thigh highs, footies or actually went all the way up to your waist.  I never put the name together with their actual function.  To me they were all pantyhose.  Kind of like when I used to call my younger sister “dick breath”.  I had never contemplated how one would come to be that name.  Mamaw would roll her knee high panty hose down to her ankles.  They were too hot.  She always had on hose.  Whatever beauty the hose were meant to bring is detrimentally lost when rolled down to your ankles. 

Mamaw would try to make conversation.  But I was shy, didn’t talk much to anyone.  Just observed.  From day one; just observed.  She would ask me if I had any playmates.  I said no.  I said no for two reasons. One, I didn’t know what playmates were and two I was hoping that she would get me some for my birthday.  She never got me any playmates; just gowns and robes.  A set.  Always pale light colors of pink or green or yellow.  Always a sticky itchy, probably flammable material that would drive my highly sensitive senses crazy.  Wrapped in a box from the department store where Mamaw’s friend worked, folded in tissue paper.  I hated them.  Almost as much as I hated the beans we shelled.   Mamaw was of a different time.  A time where your hair was “done” and you wore hose while you shelled beans with your granddaughter.

Mamaw and Papaw’s bathroom smelled like old people. What was it that could make a nine year old label something as smelling like old people? Noxzema? Aqua Net? Dove?  What would a nine year old say about my bathroom.  “Hippies”? The smell of patchouli.  Maybe that’s the new old people smell.  Patchouli.

Mamaw and Papaw had puzzle books everywhere.  Mostly crossword puzzles; word puzzles.  There was usually a jigsaw puzzle in the works on the card table.  Unless it was bridge night, then the card table was needed for its intended use and the puzzle went back into the box.  People don’t have card tables anymore.  Where do they play cards?

Me and my sister got to have snacks in the living room.  Bugles and Fresca while we watched Lawrence Welk or Hee Haw.  Things that we never did at home with our mom and dad, where the beans came in cans and we slept in old cotton t-shirts and watched Laugh In.

Family saga is a great genre to read.  Especially when it’s in another era.  The book selection  is “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” by Luis Alberto Urrea.  A family saga in Mexico in the late 1800’s during the Mexican Civil War.  This is a great story. It follows a well to do ranching family with a hint of ghostly spirits and shamanic healers; grandmothers and granddaughters and panty hose.  (Or, I believe it was actually petticoats).  Don’t let the over abundance of characters scare you off.  Just keep reading and using the chart to refer to who is whom.  It will all fall into place.  Great book.  I highly recommend.  Pantyhose and butterbeans I do not recommend.

More great book selections and a few fun adventures can be found at Wild About Books.

Working Vacation and A New Book Selection

If you’ve been reading my blog on a regular basis you will notice that there are a lot of adventures.  Probably more than your average person.

It occurred to me recently that I am on a permanent working vacation.  Having this epiphany has changed my attitude about my job; in a good way.

Who doesn’t mind going to work when you know that in just a few hours you will be on your mountain bike in the forest on a single track trail system that is both challenging and thrilling and usually empty.  A trail system that is only minutes from the office.

Who can’t go into the office in the morning when they just walked a forest service trail IMG_1681 (1)accessed from their back door.  A trail whose wildness evolves over time from trillium to glacier lilies, to shooting stars, to paint brush and lupine to beargrass.  All of this happening in sequence while watching the huckleberries grow and ripen for the grand finale.  Huckleberries for breakfast.  Picking on the fly.

And the weekends are for floating the rivers which are full of water fowl, herons, osprey, eagles or climbing mountain peaks where the paint brush are bright red lipstick red.  Where the views are three hundred and sixty degrees, where there are patches of snow in July.

Saturday mornings are saved for the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, so much local food.  So many beautiful vegetables.  The longest line isn’t for the lattes, it’s for the strawberries.  Strawberries that are red, red to the center; with so much flavor you feel guilty of treason if you do anything with the strawberries besides eating them just as they are.  But my favorite thing about the farmer’s market has nothing to do with the produce.  It’s the community.  The energy. IMG_1817 Having to walk around groups of visiting neighbors to make your way to the vendor’s stand.  Makes me smile.  Then I’m in a group.  Taking up space in the street as the group grows exponentially.  If you time your shopping right, you can make it to one of the local breweries for a ginger wheat beer and more locally produced food for lunch.

Last week we took a quick two day road trip.  We were never more than three hours from home, but found new places we’d never been.  Pony Montana.  Kind of a half ghost town at the foot of the Tobacco Root Mountains.  We drove into the forest found a campground and set up our tent.  After dinner we hiked a trail for about a mile looking for an undeveloped hot springs that we’d researched.  It was bigger than a puddle, but not big enough to be called a pond.  Maybe a little bigger than our pick up truck.  Let’s call it a pool.  We found a pool of water in the middle of a meadow with a log post fence around it to keep out the cows.  It was 8:00 at night and no one else was there.  We climbed in.  The warm water bubbling up from the earth and then trickling over the rocks into the meadow. potosiThe rocks were slimy with life that thrived year round with the help of the continuous source of warm water.  An oasis.  All to ourselves.  A before bed soak.  Magical.

And that brings us to our book selection.  Thanks to my friend Carol for not letting me not read this book.  She’s been raving about it for some time now and even plans on reading it again.  I started reading this on my kindle as a sample and thought this is not for me.  But what I needed was the book, the actual physical book in my hands.  I needed the social act of going into my local bookstore, seeing the book on the shelf, appreciating the cover, the title. Feeling the texture of the cover.  As much as I love my kindle especially when traveling or backpacking; owning and holding an actual book is far superior.  You see the cover every time you pick it up.  You remember the title because it makes an impression on you.  You can see where the bookmark is placed, how much you’ve read, how much is left.  It’s like eating corn on the cob instead of out of a can.   The book we are reading is “Braiding Sweetgrass; Braiding SweetgrassIndigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  This is a book about weaving our lives and the natural world into one.  Living in a culture of gratitude and creating a reciprocal relationship with the nature that surrounds us.  As soon as I finish this post I will continue reading “Braiding Sweetgrass”.  I’m sitting on my deck in the forest as a thunderstorm settles in, a cool breeze sending the summer bugs on their way for a while.  The echo-y deep sound of thunder reverberating in the Tin Cup drainage.  The sounds of rain hitting the ground  and the metal roof.  A working vacation.  This is the life I’ve created.  I’ll take it.

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

Owyhee River and a New Book

I just went on my first river trip.  My first camping trip.  My first road trip.  I’m only nine months old so there are a lot of “firsts” happening.

I had no idea where we were going.  All I knew was that the bags were packed, the truck bed was so full you couldn’t see out the back window and Lisa kept looking at the giant book of maps telling Brett where to turn.  I could only assume they’d never been where we were going either.

The road trip was uneventful.  Lots of sleeping, listening to podcast.  Our longest stop was in Salmon, Idaho at the bakery.  If you haven’t been to Odd Fellows Bakery  you need to make that a destination.  Located in an historic building; just park your car and follow your nose.  That’s what I did; but then they wouldn’t take me in, tied me up to the bench outside while they enjoyed croissants, ordered sandwiches, coffees, teas and loafs of bread for the five days of camping.  I kept busy meeting people on the street as they passed by.  Not too many people can resist stopping to pet a friendly, energetic, yellow lab tied up outside of a bakery.

It took all day but we finally arrived at the boat ramp in Rome, Oregon on the Owyhee River.  I didn’t know it until I got out of the truck, but Brett and Lisa had just delivered me to the best place on earth (that I’ve experienced in nine months anyway).  There was a wide, slow moving river for swimming, people to greet and other dogs with whom to play.  I never got tied up; free to roam and swim and run.  And then, to top it all off, Lisa and Brett slept on the ground with me.  I was so excited at the end of the night that I went for a quick swim.  I was soaking wet for the tent so Brett took me for a walk under the stars before bed.  We came back towards the tent and I went for another swim.  Then Brett seemed mad and we went for another walk.  Dog heaven.  I didn’t sleep all night.  I sat up and watched.  There was so much to watch.  Sometimes I’d have to bark, unsure of what was moving in the darkness.  IMG_1574

The next morning was warm and sunny.  I spent the whole morning chasing other dogs and swimming.  But this time I got to try out my new personal floatation device, all the other dogs were wearing theirs too.  There were people all over the boat ramp putting their boats together, blowing up their rafts,  loading coolers, dry boxes, fire pans, groovers and dry bags.  By the time we were ready to go all of the other dogs and most of the people had already left.  I had dug a hole in the dirt and laid down in the cool earth for a much needed nap.   Brett finally called me to load up.  What!?  Do you mean get on that boat?  No.  I’m not too sure about that.  Using the handle on the back of my life jacket he lifted me onto the boat, shoved us off while jumping in too.  Yeah.  This was a bit too unstable for me.  I jumped out.  Once again Brett hauled me back into the boat.  I paced back and forth as much as one can on a 6 1/2 foot wide raft.  Then I saw the birds.  So many birds.  Geese, ducks, hawks, sparrows; constant movement.  And the smells, my nose never stopped twitching taking in all the smells.  It was sensory overload.  I finally had to lay down and take another nap.  I was exhausted.  IMG_1592 (1)

We floated and camped for five days.  Sleeping under the blanket of stars, eating by the fire.  The camps were full of fun things to do.  I chased butterflies, chewed on great sticks, napped.  The first night out the wind blew and blew pushing our tent to a constant unnatural angle while whipping it loudly about.  That was my second night in a tent in which I didn’t sleep.  The wind brought in a cold front leaving a chill in the air for the rest of the trip.  Luckily we had sun every day and I have a thick coat of hair.  Lisa wore all of her clothes on the boat unable to stay dry as we paddled through the white water.  The four people in our group huddled around the fire every morning and evening.  After those first two nights I was able to sleep soundly in the tent and by the last day I was so comfortable on the raft that I climbed onto it and napped on Lisa’s river princess seat as Brett loaded the boat with all of our stuff.  IMG_1606

As usual, Lisa read a lot.  She read in the morning after getting the fire and hot water going while everyone else slept, she read before going to sleep, even though her bare hands were freezing and when there was calm water she read on the raft while we floated down the river.  She was reading a suspense novel on the trip.  I’d never seen her read a suspense novel, full of blood and gory details.  “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store” by Matthew Sullivan. Not her kind of book, why was she reading it?  Turns out she is reading the Chapter One Book Club book in which the book club will Skype the author on Saturday May 25 at 11:00 in Hamilton.  Lisa likes hearing authors talk about their work and how they got there, so….she’s reading a suspense novel.  I probably won’t be able to go.  She’s having to rush through it since it’s a 14 day loaner from the Darby Community Library, her favorite library.

Lisa’s book recommendation is not the suspense novel.  She’s recommending  “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”  I don’t know what it’s about but she sure seemed to enjoy it.  And it came recommended by her daughter Hannah and her reading soul sister Carol.

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

Rainy Days and Stacks of Books

I just listened to a podcast on writing in which the podcaster said that she reads 50 to 100 books per year.  This got me wondering how many books do I read per year.  I’ve never recorded my book reading.  I just make sure that once I finish a book there are others waiting to be read.  Or; safer yet, always have a stack you are reading and you’ll never run out.  In this blog; Wild About Books, I recommend 10 or 12 books a year.  But I probably read three times that many or more.  It is my commitment to you to share only the very best of the books I have read.  Here’s my research going on right now.IMG_1560

My stack today consist of:

  1. River Teeth by David James Duncan;  a collection of short stories.  Short stories is one of my least favorite things to read in a book, but David James Duncan is my favorite author and I had not read this book yet. I’m enjoying his writing but I should just re-read “The Brother’s K”; the best book ever written.
  2. Five Year Journal:  This is my night journal for jotting down items of the day such as; it rained all day and saw the first glacier lilies of the season.  The cool thing about this journal is that you go through the year and then go back to the beginning of the journal for a new year, for five years.  You can see five April 20’s all lined up on one page.  I’m only on my second year so I can only see two April 20’s.  I can see important information from last year like when I planted the garden or that I played some office pickleball with Loyd.  (Office pickleball is played in the office, you are allowed to play off the furniture, filing cabinets, copiers, etc.  There aren’t any rules and you’ll know when you earned a point).  No office pickleball this year. Sad. But a fun memory to read about in my five year journal.IMG_1558
  3. Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann:  I’m taking “young” writer to mean novice or emerging writer.  This book has quick chapters with writing advice that I can read in a couple of minutes.
  4. The Sun Magazine, May 2019 issue.  The first section is always the interview.  This month they interviewed Ralph Nader.  It’s very long but I’m enjoying it and read a couple of pages each night.  Ralph Nader is almost as ragingly upset as my mom over our current political situation.
  5. Composition Notebook Journal:  This is my morning journal to ensure that I get 15 minutes of writing a day.  It’s just a normal journal where I talk myself through things, bitch about things, or feel grateful for other things.  It’s not just any composition notebook.  It’s’ a 2 subject college ruled 9 1/2 x 6 inch 100% recycled, heavy weight paper composition notebook.  This is also the same style of notebook I used to hand write my novel.  I write with a 9mm mechanical pencil.  All of these details are very important to the writing process.  I could never write on loose leaf, wide ruled paper using one of those ass wipe pens they leave out for customers at Farmer’s State Bank.
  6. Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker:  I’m really enjoying this book.  The front cover says it is “The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress”.  Basically it is an optimistic view of the world and its progress through a variety of subjects from heath to the environment to democracy.  Through the use of scientific data, statistics and charts he makes an argument for things such as GMO’s and for immunizations as well as many other subjects.
  7. Sense of Style by Stephen Pinker.  Yep, two by Stephen Pinker.  This one is on the kindle.  This is a writing style book.  It’s not easy to read.  But the information I’m able to grab every once and a while makes me keep reading.  Slowly but surely.
  8. diy MFA; Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build your Community by Gabriela Pereira.  This is another writing book. Also on the kindle. I believe I do write with focus and read with purpose but I am lacking in build my community.  So, this past week I’ve reached out to two different resources, unknown people, about what the next steps are with my novel.  I’m emailing the first chapter to one of them next week.  Some things happen in life to propel other things in life.  It all works out in a timely manner.
  9. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel:  A novel.  Yay.  Reading for fun.  It’s all fun for me, but a novel is a great get away.  Novels are my favorite.  This is an interesting novel about a family whose youngest son’s transgender personality is quite obvious at a very early age and how the family deals with it.  This is a heart warming story, funny, sad and well done describing the trials of how society accepts or doesn’t accept this girl with a penis.

And to further confess my obsessions;  I got on the library website on this rainy Saturday afternoon and put four books on hold.  Is it a sickness?  Is it a personality trait?  Well, actually, I read a book once about personalities and my INFJ personality’s desire to learn is insatiable.  And the more I read the better I’ll write.  The more I write the more chance I’ll write myself into a new career; a career that fits this INFJ.


I love lists.

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

The Grand Canyon 2019


“Education is an admirable thing but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”  Oscar Wilde

I woke up this morning in a warm bed with sheets; surrounded by walls. I  dressed and went downstairs to the lobby where breakfast was available.  This was where we would all meet before loading the bus for our last leg home.  The lobby had the TV on. Some random show that no one was watching, just background noise, along with the beeping waffle maker, the beeping microwave. The Monday morning traffic picking up outside the window.  Everyone in the lobby looking down at their phones.  I sat in a chair thinking about my previous morning.54799455_1927024640757313_2707050640365846528_n

I woke up the morning before in my REI quarter dome backpacking tent on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I was tucked in my down sleeping bag and covered in another sleeping bag and covered in my big down coat.  It was below freezing but I was cozy, only my face was cold.  The moon was shining in my tent as if someone were standing outside with a headlamp. There were no noises.  It was 4:30 a.m., which sounds early, but I’d gone to bed at 7:30 p.m.  I felt around in the moonlight for my glasses, found them, put them on, but they were frosted over and I was better off without them.  I laid there hoping that the seven students I’d brought on this trip to the Grand Canyon were warm enough in their tents.  I could feel the stretch receptors in my bladder signaling to my brain that it was full.  (This is what I learned while overhearing the students ask questions to their science teacher; the other adult chaperone.)  I  put on my boots, laced them up, put on my stocking hat and gloves and headed to the bathrooms.  But first, I had to get up off the ground.  I spent the last three days backpacking the Grand Canyon.  Most of my body is stiff and uncooperative.  I went for the all fours method, standing to a walking position, trying not to take my small tent up with me. It was a feat as my calfs screamed and retaliated for having to be put back to work.  The moonlight was enough to see my way on the short walk to the bathrooms.  It was too early to get the kids up, so I came back and crawled slowly into my sleeping bag.  Not long after, I hear Nate, the science teacher, whose stretch receptors were talking to his brain too, I hear his foot steps head to the bathrooms. That was my signal to get up for real.  I found my Jet Boil, tea and tea cup and joined him in the red bus for some warm beverages and quiet time before waking up the kids.  Nathan is like a human muti-tool.  He repairs, fixes, bandages, encourages, listens, teaches, drives, and occasionally disciplines.  Once daylight hit we woke the kids and packed the bus.  Charging phones being their number one priority.  I sat in the front seat thinking about the morning before.54256426_1927025274090583_4567345072416227328_n

The morning before, we woke up in Indian Gardens Campground, half way between the Colorado River and the Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I’ve camped here twice now and it is one of my favorite spots.  It is tucked in a tree covered oasis with views of the upper rim on the south side yet tucked into a tight canyon.  It’s very quiet. Some of the trees are already budding out into leaves.  I woke up twice.  Once at 11:00, having gone to bed at 7:30, got up to take a migraine pill.  The moon was shining on the cliffs to the west.  The entire wall was lit up like a drive in movie theater.  It wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t warm.  I read for a bit and then went back to sleep.  I woke up again when I heard Nate stirring.  Then it was quiet.  I got up, walked to the bathroom.  It was 5:00 and the moon was just setting over the rim of the Canyon wall, the wall it had been lighting up earlier.  Nathan was sitting on a bench near the composting pit toilets, bandaging his blistered feet and having some breakfast.  He didn’t want to wake us in the camp.  I sat next to him while he dry shaved his face. We talked as the moon disappeared.  I quickly got cold and went back to my sleeping bag to wait for daylight.  The kids were up with the sun and pumped for their last day of backpacking.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them this would be the hardest day.  We averaged just over one mile per hour on our final climb out of the canyon.  I took the lead, Nate the rear.  Every time I saw him, his pack was bigger as he took on more weight from one of the student’s backpacks. The two boys on the trip were not happy about having to stay behind me, but they had proven to us that was far better for their safety to stay  sandwiched between Nate and me. Their sense of self preservation having not yet fully developed.  Although, mostly, the boys were breathing down my neck with the anticipation of being done instead of the appreciation of the trip.  It was a hard day. We were climbing and resting at every switchback and I was thinking about the morning before.55594223_1927024527423991_5870964622818803712_n

The morning before I woke to the sound of Bright Angel Creek as it flowed by the campground of the same name.  The Colorado River flowed nearby as well.  The creek noise was loud enough to drown out even your neighbors sleeping noises and most of the talk from next door camp sites.  Nate was still asleep.  He had hiked the seven miles with us from the rim to the bottom.  Then after some snacks and water he started up the trail towards the North Rim.  He hiked in six more miles and came back after dark, after the rest of us had eaten our dehydrated backpacking meals.  He’d hiked 19 miles that day and slept in a little the next morning.  We all ate breakfast sampling each others rehydrated eggs or biscuits and gravy, packed up and walked the trail out along the Colorado River before heading up the next canyon to Indian Garden Campground.  It was a good climb and we were feeling it. I was so happy to not be going down which is tough on the legs too.  The highlight of the day was our picnic dinner out on a point.  We walked another mile and a half out to a three hundred and sixty degree view to have dinner and watch the sunset.  We carried the Jet Boils, the backpacking dinners, water and our titanium sporks. As we ate, one of the kids asked me why I had chosen to become vegan.  I told them I read a lot of books about the benefits of eating a whole foods plant based diet and it was a way of eating that worked for me.  Another student said that I was the nicest vegan she knew.  I asked her how many other vegans she knew.  “Well, none.  But I read the comments about vegans on social media.”  We took lots of photos, talked to the few other people and watched a California Condor perched just below us on a rock until he soared off to join his buddy when he flew overhead.  After the sun set we walked back to camp, turning to take more pictures as the setting sun lit up the canyon into a surreal picturesque panorama that has to be experienced in real time as photos don’t do it justice.  This was my favorite day and a much warmer morning to wake up to than the morning before.54523781_2202851346444014_2392399669813575680_n (1)

The morning before we had camped on the rim before the start of our backpacking trip.  I knew there was a chance of rain or snow for the morning, so the night before we’d set up the Big Agnes tarp over the table that was the kitchen.  We made sure the kids had their tents secured and rain flys fully zipped.  I woke up to the sound of the wind whipping through the trees.  The sound of grapple snow hitting my tent.  I tried to go back to sleep as I listened to the tarp flapping about, the metal pole falling from its spot that was holding up the center.  Nate woke up too, but I didn’t hear him as he pulled the tarp over the table tying the ropes lower on the trees.  The two person tent that held three girls had three pairs of boots sitting outside of their tent in the snow.  He found a trash bag and put them all in the bag.  I don’t know what time it was.  I slept off and on.  When I finally woke up for good I could see from the inside of my tent that it was covered in snow.  Nate and I always manage to add extra adventure to our Adventure Club trips and this one was no exception.  I got up to start some breakfast and get out the lunches and snacks for the kids to pack for our three day hike.  I had to untie the tarp, lift it up to get all of the snow off and find the kitchen.  The tarp was done.  I packed it up wet.  Just as I got everything swept off and ready for packing, another storm came through and covered everything with an additional layer of wet heavy snow.  It was a tough cold start.  But there was nothing to do but carry on with our plans. It is what it is. We managed to pack everything, get backpacks ready to go, load the bus and head to the back country office to park the bus and catch the shuttle bus to the trailhead.  The trail was icy and muddy.  The rim was snow covered.  We headed down and down and down.  We watched the rain storms come across the canyon.  We’d get rained on and as soon as we put on our rain gear the sun would come out.  We hiked through this weather cycle the whole day, capturing outstanding photos with each passing system.

Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up early.  I’m a week behind at work.  I’ll sit at my desk pumping out tasks on my computer as fast as I can so I can leave, get outside and go for a walk in the forest.

More great adventures can be found at Wild About Books, where you can also find some really good books to read.

Dear Michelle and A New Book Selection

Dear Michelle,

I read your book, I’m pen pals with Barack and I miss you.  I would love to have you over for dinner.  I feel like I know you, like you are a good friend, a kindred spirit.  I’m so proud of you.

But who I’m I?

Some kind of backwoods stalker?


Well, maybe.

But in a good way.

I loved your book.  What a wonderful story and so transparent, no filters.  Oh sure; I caught the quick reference to a little pot smoking in the car with a boyfriend.  Or sleeping at your boyfriend’s place since you lived in an upstairs apartment in your parents house.  I appreciate the full disclosure.  It makes you even more real and authentic.  Qualities I admire most.   I received your book as a Christmas present from my daughter, she bought two, one for me and one for her boyfriend’s mother.  My mom was reading it at the same time.  My best friend was reading it as the same time.  My other friend, who I promised to give my copy to, couldn’t wait and downloaded it on her kindle.  I may donate my copy to our local library.  I live in a  conservative county located in a red state that is slowly turning purplish;  I believe; or hope.  It will be nice to see you displayed on the “new” bookshelf right when you walk in the door of the library.

Yes,  it’s true.  Not sure if Barack has told you, but we have corresponded by mail.  He can come to dinner too.  I wrote a letter to him as one of my blog posts and decided I might as well print it and mail it to him.  Several months later, my work phone rang, I answered, and it was someone from the office of the President of the United States.

“Hi, is this the Lisa Poe who wrote a letter to President Obama?”

“Um, well, yes….I did write a letter to the President.”

“Great.  The President receives thousand of letters a day and selects ten to read each night.  He hand writes replies to some of them and has written to you; we need  an address to send it to.”

Who writes to the President of the United States and doesn’t include contact information?

Me! Apparently.  I gave my information to the person on the other end of the line.  She emailed me a copy as well.

I was so excited.  I shared the email with my family, my co-workers and even included it in my next blog post.POTUS Response-01

Clearly, I’m the one to drop the ball as I have not written back to him.

And yes,  I miss you.  I miss you so much and Barack.  I so enjoyed the part in the book where you tried to be as gracious and eloquent in your transition with the new first family as George and Laura Bush had been to you.  I’m not sure how you pulled that off.  I’m not sure how you didn’t call in sick that day.  Is someone still looking after the garden?  Or was that turned back into a fertilized green lawn?

I work in a school and was part of the optimistic drive to see the new school foods policies you implemented enforced in an atmosphere full of fear in the changes.  Lunch ladies across the state fighting to give our kids more chicken nuggets and white bread so  they would be full.  Our school  received a Farm to School Grant and hired someone to over see the program.  The lunch ladies were happy that we hired a local graduate from our school.  A neighbor. As they told this new young hire; “We were afraid they’d hire one of Lisa’s flower smelling hippie friends”.  I don’t believe they meant this as a complement.

Thank you for sharing your life with us.  Your thoughts.  Your past.  Even intimate details. I made your book one of my book picks in my blog “Wild About Books”.  Which is a great resource for book lovers in case you find yourself without a book.  If you’re like me, that is one of my biggest fears.

In conclusion, we need to pick a book for this post.  This past year Montana Public Radio participated in the Great Montana Read in search of Montana’s best-loved novel.  Thirty-one books were potentials and the winner is our new book selection.  “Perma Red” by Debra Magpie Earling takes place in the 1940’s on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  The author’s writing makes the reader feel as if they are in a dream or in a spirit world.  Guided by something bigger or a belief in something bigger to get through the suppression; shame; “Wash the Indian out of you”.  Why do we do this to people?IMG_1390

This book will be part of my live book club.  Where people actually get together after having read a great book and share a pot luck meal while discussing how the book affected them.  Friday April 5th at 6:00 at my house.  Dinner theme to be determined.  So far in the book, there is a lot of fry bread and beer, we can start with that.   Please let me know if you will be coming.  If Michelle comes, we might have to rent the clubhouse, no worries.  Oh, and Michelle I’ll have my daughter pick you up at the airport on her way.  Hope you don’t mind being labeled as one of my flower smelling hippie friends.

See you soon.