Sole Sisters to Soul Sisters

If you find someone who shares your insatiable desire to be in the forest among the trees and creeks and wildlife; listening to the river and birds; jumping back to the sound of a rattlesnake; trying to stay up late enough to enjoy the stars; someone to talk to about similar things and share ideas about life and death and spirit guides and food; that person is a gift from the universe that is not to be taken for granted.

I’ve known Heidi for 15 years but it wasn’t until we started backpacking together that we connected in a way that does not always happen in someone’s lifetime. The miles we’ve put on together, the night’s we’ve sat up by the campfire dressed in our puffy outfits, the cat holes we’ve dug, and the excitement of planning future trips are all part of this magical connection. We would stay out every day all summer if it were possible. The healing and recharge we get from spending several days in nature, carrying everything we need on our backs, never seeing another person, hoping that at least one of our styles of bear proofing our food works; this is our happy place.

We’ve dialed in our gear, found our favorite dehydrated meals and pretty much could be ready to go in an hour’s notice. We used to ask how much each other’s packs weighed, it’s basically the same every time now. Twenty-five pounds maybe twenty- six. Neither of us are talkers; unless we are backpacking. It’s amazing how much you can talk on a fourteen mile day. I mean; unless you’re chilling out in a centuries old cedar grove, then you are speechless. Lying on your back soaking in the energy of the earth, staring up at the understory of foliage in the shade of giant trees as they cradle you underneath the dirt with their roots. Listen carefully and you can hear the tress communicating with each other. Having someone who appreciates the beauty of where we are and what we are doing makes your life spiritual. People take psychedelics to have our experiences; to see the world so clearly, to have a tree wave at you while you squat next to it to pee. I hear colors and see sounds. It’s all there for the taking. No need for mind altering substances. It’s there. Open your mind. It’s all there.

Heidi is fifteen years younger than me. She’s an incredible athlete. If a rattlesnake bit her calf it would bounce off as if it had just tried to bite a metal pole. Heidi is a sponge for knowledge, constantly challenging herself on the names and identification of trees, wildflowers or constellations. She has a big heart and a sensitive soul and a shield to hide them both from those who she has not yet gotten to know on a level in which to expose that vulnerable side. A stoic armor over a soft warm person who wouldn’t hurt a wild mushroom.

She likes it when I lead. I’m slower. She’s able to focus on the surroundings going my pace. “Syringa!” I’ll hear from behind me when she spots the Idaho state flower. To be clear; when we are climbing switchbacks to a high mountain pass, Heidi is in the lead and has left me in the dust.

I told Heidi last fall that I’ve enjoyed watching her mature. Originally she was more focused on the destination instead of the journey; the physical strength instead of the mindfulness; the feat instead of the adventure. Now we’ll stop, set up our chairs (only one pound) and make a cup of tea in the middle of the day on the middle of the trail and watch and listen.

Heidi has taught me a lot. She’s taught me to journal daily. She’s taught me that a good night sleep beats a glass of red wine any day. She’s taught me to honor and respect and take care of my body. She’s taught me to listen; and I don’t mean the kind of listen where you impatiently wait your turn to give your opinion or experience about the subject. I mean really listen and ask questions and be curious; she listens with her whole body . And she’s taught me it’s ok to set boundaries. We share books, have walking book club, share podcasts and brag about what we made for dinner. We talk about food a lot. We struggle with small talk, parties, assholes, loudness, bad food, disorganization and insincerity. We are both introverts. We love our husbands and our pets, farmer’s markets and gardens, our parents and our siblings and the Apple TV series Ted Lasso. It is the first of March and we are already dreaming of crawling into our sleeping bags and sleeping on the forest floor.

I’m going to let Heidi, unknowingly, pick the book recommendation for this post. She texted me last week;

“I’m reading a book right now called “An Immense World” by Ed Yong. It’s fascinating. It’s about how animals sense the world. I think you’d enjoy it.”

I replied; “Yes, I recommended it to you…..”

Heidi: “What?????? I remember now. That’s so funny. When I saw the title in the magazine it sounded familiar. That’s clearly why.”

“An Immense World; How Animal Senses Revel the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong. I have not read this yet, but it was on Barack Obama’s book list for 2022 and Heidi recommended it too which is good enough for me; Barack and Heidi.

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

Let’s Get Married

The Rings

Brett said we couldn’t get married until we had rings.

Hummmm…..that took some time. We’re not really into normal stuff, so it’s not like we would just walk into a jewelry store and pick out a diamond. No. We are more into riding a bus in a foreign country where we don’t speak the language and hoping they were honest about the rings not being from China; because; we were not in China.

The guy at the front desk at our all-inclusive resort just north of Puerto Vallarta said the bus ride was easy. First, he tried to sell us a timeshare and then gave us instructions for the hour bus ride to downtown Puerto Vallarta. We waited at the bus stop in front of the resort and gave the driver the exact change. There were a lot of stops which was why the trip took an hour. Finally, the driver pulled into the entrance to the bus garage, opened the door, and told us this was the end. We looked back and there were no other people on the bus, so we got off and walked downhill assuming that would be the direction of the beach. We walked the ‘malecon’ where there were men outside of every business trying to sell us everything from timeshares to burritos to tequila. Not really into shopping we quickly found a store that had matching silver rings. Brett did his negotiating magic (he’s not a negotiator but he’d read you should, when in Mexico; negotiate) and we came out with the rings. Task done. Next, we found an awesome place for lunch that was completely vegan. As we got up to leave, the owner told us she was bringing dessert out of the oven, so we stayed a little longer.

The bus ride back to the resort was not so easy. We stood at a bus stop that someone eventually told us was not a bus stop anymore to go over two blocks (this was in Spanish with lots of hand signals). We got on a bus headed in the right direction but didn’t know how much to pay and the bus driver didn’t have change and we didn’t understand each other anyway. And clearly, all the other tourists were in a taxi or an Uber as we were the only white people on the bus. I started to get off the bus and a man dressed in a big robe took my 100 peso bill and broke it into change, but I still didn’t know how much to pay. Another woman picked out the money from my hand to put into the slot. Then the guy with the robe started preaching to the people on the bus and then broke into song. He walked the aisle singing and people put money in his hat so I did the same with the leftover change he had given me. Eventually, the bus driver looked at me and Brett at one of the stops and pointed to the door. We got off. Now we’re on the highway at another bus stop and don’t know what bus to take next. The buses fly by and you have to flag it down if it’s the right bus. Someone else flagged one down, I got on and asked “Nuevo Vallarta?” and he said no. And it just kept happening. I started walking down the highway. Brett followed, it was hot. Our fingers were swelling around our new rings. There were multiple lanes of traffic rushing by as we crossed the highway and there we saw a taxi, sitting and waiting for customers. He dropped us off right in front of the resort.

The Marriage License

We went to the courthouse in Hamilton and asked the person at the window for a marriage license. She pointed us to two chairs and said it would take about 30 minutes. First she took our IDs and typed up our information. She apologized for the questions up front and then went on to ask us all the important questions you need to ask for a marriage license. .

“Are you related?”

We replied with weird faces; “no”.

“Are you intoxicated?”

We laughed. “No”.

“We’ll start with you” she said looking at Brett. “What’s your father’s name?”


“What’s his middle name?”

“Max” She looks up from her computer. “Let’s back up; father’s first name?”

“Carl…..but he goes by Max”

“Where was your father born?”

Um…..Minnesota, no….North Dakota…..wait….where is Rapid City…..I should call my brother”

“Counting this marriage how many times have you been married”


First name of your first wife?”

“Oh jeez! I don’t know…..give me a minute…..I’m pretty sure it starts with a J”. She looks up from her computer and I have the feeling she wants to go back to question number 2 and ask if we’re intoxicated.

“It will come to me; let’s keep going…I’ll call my brother…….Joni!…..I knew it started with a ‘J’; I told you I’d get it”.

“What was her last name”

“Oh my gosh, I didn’t know this was going to be so hard, I’m calling my brother.”

Brett dials his brother and looks at me; “I think it was Mitchell”

I shake my head and say; “YOU were married to Joni Mitchell?”

The woman looks at us again and says; “this might take more than 30 minutes.”

“What year did you get divorced?”

“Oh……let’s see….in the 80’s, yep I’m sure it was in the 80’s;”

Eventually with the help of Brett’s brother and some computer research from the county employees about Brett’s first marriage we were able to get our marriage license and go have lunch.

The Ceremony

We had six people to coordinate. Our long time friends; 1. Jennifer; who happens to be a Justice of the Peace; 2. Don; Husband of Justice of the Peace who doubled as the photographer; 3. Deborah;Witness number one who doubled as the best woman; 4. Mark; Witness number two who doubled as the best man.

The wedding party was super excited about this ceremony. They were hugging and smiling and singing wedding songs.

The Lunar New Year; January 22, 2023, 5:00 pm; there is snow and ice on the ground, it’s about 20 degrees and the sun is going down. There is no way that this couple was going to get married inside. We were going to get married on the neighbors property with Little Tin Cup Peak in the background. To be clear; the neighbors property is just property, no house, no people just land and land with a view. Perfect.

We repeated the parts we were told to repeat and pronounced husband and wife. Whoop! Whoop! Let’s go have dinner and watch some NFL playoff games.

Two books to recommend with one theme. “Breathe” by James Nestor and “Breath In Breath Out” by Stuart Sandeman. Both of these books are about the seemingly effortless task of breathing, yet how breathing is the very thing that we should work on for our health and wellness. “Breathe” is more scientific and “Breath In Breath Out” more practical. I’m currently reading “Breath In Breath Out” for the second time and taking notes. Just reading the books makes you breath more deeply and slowly and through your nose. I highly recommend both of these books and marriage. More great adventures and book recommendations can be found at Wild About Books.

Salmon Bread and a Drive Through Farmer’s Market

“OHHHH……is that Salmon Bread?”

My analytical, literal brain spends several seconds contemplating what this question means……… Salmon bread? Bread with salmon? Lingering over the question and the long pause makes for an awkward moment….a common situation for me. “What ARE they talking about?” my brain asks.

Finally, I answer “yes”. Yes, this is yummy salmon bread just as it hits me; Salmon bread not salmon bread. As in Salmon, Idaho; Odd Fellows Bakery in Salmon, Idaho. It is fantastic and a highly sought commodity in my circle; particularly the 80 mile seed loaf. It’s so amazing; you’ll never be able to eat any other bread.

It’s great for sandwiches, toast, french toast or just ripped free-handed apart from the loaf and eaten plain in the car after picking it up resulting in your spouse freaking out that our bread has been attacked by a rodent. No….no; just me driving with my knees and ripping bread apart on the way home; no rodents involved.

It is a bit of a trek to drive to Salmon, Idaho for a loaf of bread, even if it is the best bread ever. No worries. My ‘drive through’ winter farmers market gets a delivery most weeks. Not every week, not even on a regular basis; this is the rural western United States after all; we have different priorities. Sometimes it snows and everyone goes skiing instead of making bread. Or sometimes all of your friends are going to spend a day floating the river; it’s easy to flip the sign to closed. I appreciate this business model and remain a loyal customer even when they are too busy enjoying life to make bread for a Hamilton delivery.

Did you say “winter drive through farmers market”? In Montana? Yes; it is amazing as well. Each Tuesday I receive an email from The O’Hara Commons that the market is open. You can order online from Sunday until early on Wednesday for a Thursday pick up. Lots of great items to chose from. Potatoes, beets, winter squash, kale, chard, carrots; kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha; herbal salves, local coffee beans, lentils, farrow, chickpeas, barley and homemade soups from Homestead Organics and sometimes a large selection of baked goods from Long Fellow Bakery. All local. This is also a wonderful business model that connects local businesses to customers during the long winter months when most of your business must depend on locals. I love it and highly recommended shopping there if you are living in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana.

O’Hara Commons Mission Statement: Utilizing and developing available resources to benefit community through education, resource sharing and demonstration gardens in a manner which builds local economy, promotes healthy food options and develops regional self-sufficiency

On Thursdays from 3:00 to 5:00 you drive through the driveway of O’Hara Commons where you check in, drop off your empty jars that you picked up in a previous order and pick up your CSA (Community Supported Agriculture; another genius business idea). Then drive around to the back side where a member volunteer brings you your order all boxed up and ready for pick up. Super simple. COVID friendly and actually it was COVID inspired. I love all of the COVID inspired businesses and work arounds that are now common place.

Sam is the inspiration of this business and the smiling friendly face that usually greats you dressed in her skirt, leggings, puffy jacket, stocking hat and muck boots as she directs traffic and calls into the house for your order. She is an inspiration and a woman full of goodness. I watched her stop in the Walgreens parking lot and unload a box of food to a mom sitting in her car with a handwritten sign asking for help.

This week I picked up bread, a gallon of squash soup, potatoes, onions, spinach, and a jar of Tim’s Tomato Sauce. My heart is happy to have all of these local goods in my fridge. Tea, did I mention tea. And I’m trying to get my daughter’s friend to sell her frozen dumplings there too. And chapstick. No need to shop nowhere else. You should just go to the website and place an order on Sunday.

No Salmon bread this week though. Now if you’re like my friend Carol (who gets mentioned in this blog more than anyone else), you have a pick up planned while the Salmon Bread driver is coming through on her way to the drive through farmer’s market. It’s like some kind of drug deal happening, Subaru hatchbacks raised on the side of highway 93, cars zooming past, bread and money exchanged and they both drive away after the deal.

In the summer months you can enjoy an actual Farmer’s Market every Wednesday afternoon on the lawn of the O’Hara Commons. You’ll find an ample supply of local produce and even a pizza cart and live music. And Salmon bread, the longest line at the market.

Now if you’re on a hike with me or cross country skiing and we stop for lunch, you can ask; “Is that Salmon bread with homemade hummus and kimchi and spinach from the O’Hara Commons drive through farmer’s market’? I’ll say; “why yes…… it is”.

Looking for a book to read while you enjoy that sandwich? I highly recommend “The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot” It is an emotional roller coaster and well worth the ride. Thank you Carol for the recommendation.

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

It’s About the Focus

The mosquitos were relentless. The sun had baked us like a microwave from the inside out. We were coated in a think film of sweat and dirt. The climbing was endless. We had 25 pounds of gear on our backs. I could feel the start of a migraine. I was excited to strip off my clothes and walk into the cold mountain lake; our destination. The mosquitos were excited for that as well.

The lake water was cold, almost too cold. We walked in 6 inches of muck sinking with each step, struggling to keep my flip flops from being eaten by the mud beneath the water. The struggle led to me falling in which was probably the only way I was going to get all the way submersed. The cold took my breath away. I headed back to the shore and attempted to get dress as fast as possible before being eaten alive.

We were in our happy place.

What is it about the outside, nature, the physicalness, and the social bonding with humans and dog that not just trumps the uncomfortable aspects, but creates a desire for more?

It’s winter now, a time to reflect on a wonderful season of backpacking and plan for the next one. I’m sitting in my favorite writing spot, Big Creek Coffee, having a golden milk steamer with oat milk. It’s 20 degrees out, the inversion of fog frozen on the bare tree branches. I have my stocking cap on inside. People are studying, drawing, visiting and collaborating. A group of grey haired women have their seed catalogs open as they plan their gardens. The buzz of humanity enjoying itself is where I like to write. The golden milk soothes my sore throat.

The Selway River, Bear Creek to Bryan Lake, Little Rock Creek, Watchtower Creek and Boulder Creek.

It started with our annual trip of backpacking the Selway. Six days, 56 miles, five of us started at the trailhead, but only three made it to the finish. The weather was perfect, more clouds, rain and cooler weather than previous times. The days were still long, but we had added in a layover day this year. A day off between two 14 mile days. The weather and the lay over day were game changers and noted in journals for the next time.

Rattlesnakes, a black bear mom and two cubs, Osprey; just to name a few who shared the days with us.

The trail is sometimes down by the river and other times climbs high above for amazing views of the drainage, surrounding wildnerss area and the rapids. The Selway is known more for its world class white water rafting than hiking. We arrived at our camp on the evening of day two at Moose Creek Ranger Station and Moose Creek Air Field, a back country landing field.

There are camps along the airfield, but no water and camps on the river that you have to share with the rafters. I can’t tell you where we camped because we were sworn to secrecy by Ranger Ronnie, a seventy plus retired ER Nurse, who now volunteers as the Moose Creek Ranger and hosts the trail crew that stay on the property.

Serendipity. Jen arrived first and had arranged this secret spot that had drinking water, a fire pit, a stack of split wood and even a dilapidated old outhouse. Heidi and I arrived an hour later where Jen was set up to watch for us and take us to our special camp. It was late and we had not seen Amy and her daughter Mattie, since we left them that morning at camp. Amy and Mattie were well equipped with new gear that they’d never used before. They shared a tent and other supplies to make their packs lighter, but Amy still had the heaviest back of all of us. It’s a tough lesson your first time out of what to bring and what to leave. Heidi and I set up our tents. I went to relieve Jen and ran into Ranger Ronnie. She was out walking the area with a jelly jar of red wine. Amy and Mattie arrived while I talked to Ranger Ronnie. It’s two days before the summer solstice so daylight is not an issue, but arriving into camp at 6:00 pm is not ideal.

Amy walked up to us in a make shift cast and sling. She had fallen and broken her wrist. It was swollen and fifty shades of purple. We had to get her out. There were some pretty good drugs and tequila to help Amy get through the night. We used a Garmin “in reach” to text Jen’s husband, Ravi, and see if he could fly into Moose Creek the next day to get Amy. The weather was not conducive to flying due to the clouds and rain, otherwise Ravi would have already been there with fresh fruit and cold beverages. But now he had to come in or call in a rescue helicopter. Ravi sat at the Hamilton airport all morning waiting for a window, it’s a twenty minute flight up and over Lost Horse and along the East Fork of Moose Creek. At 11:00 he landed next to our camp. He brought wine, beer, big apples (you really miss the fresh fruit on a long backpack), and a bubbly water and salty chips for me. One bottle of wine and some apples went to Ranger Ronnie for her help communicating with Ravi on the satellite phone and nursing our patient and just because. We packed up Amy and Mattie into the plane which was too small to haul out their backpacks too. The next morning the three of us continued our trek, a fourteen mile day to Bear Creek.

Some may look at this as an unfortunate adventure. We did not. There were so many good omens. So many serendipitous series of events. One broken wrist was not the focus. People helping, good attitudes, raiding Amy’s backpack after she flew out, visiting with Ranger Ronnie after dinner, cool rains, and the healing energy of the forest. That was the focus of the adventure.

What are we reading? I’ve read so many good books, but right now I’m reading a great novel “The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn. An historical fiction during World War II. A team of code breakers, making the best of a difficult situation with good people. Humanity is good. It always has been. It’s our focus that needs work. Fun book to get lost in. I highly recommend it.

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.


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.