Trips

i am titanium

Man…I’m a wee bit rusty at this blogging thing.   It took me almost a day to think of a title for this post, to which I’m sure you’re thinking, “and that’s what you came up with?”

Yeah, I know.  But trust me, this was the best option.  Let’s just say that one of the options referenced Justin Bieber.

So yeah, bear with me as I work the kinks out.

Way back in the day I told ya’ll the story about how my husband tricked me into going on my first backcountry skiing experience.  It was touch-and-go at best.  But I kept at it and something magical happened:  I liked it.  I liked it a lot.   So I took an Avalanche Certification class.  I got all the fancy gear and spent some time getting my pack together and organized just-so.  We started getting out often and going on weekend trips to backcountry ski, like here and here.

And then we had a baby and my fancy skis and perfectly-packed pack sat in the corner collecting dust.

Until recently.

This past week the Hubs and I carved out some time to reconnect and spend time together doing something fun and reminiscent of our pre-baby days.   We (correction, “I”….let’s not kid ourselves, the Hubs pack has never collected any dust) dusted off my pack and headed in search of spring snow.

We found it at Trapper Peak.

Trapper is the highest peak in the Bitterroot mountain range just south of Missoula.  It’s about an hour and-a-half drive to the trailhead from our doorstep.   I’m still trying to figure out if it was necessary to pick the highest peak around because (a) it’s spring and snow is hard to find, or (b) The Hubs go-big-or-go-home philosophy.

To be honest I think it was a little of both…and I was skeeeered.  I mean, this thing is over 10,000 ft, ragged and gnarly looking!

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The Hubs planned our ascent which took us from the trailhead to the peak in 4.2 miles (basically the lower red line to the purple line in the topo map below).  If all went well we would only need to hike for a mile or so until we hit the snow line and could skin up (fancy words for “hike with our skis on).

Only 4.2 miles!  No big whoop.  I crush more than 4.2 miles in a lunch run these days.

So we make arrangements for Abby and head out bright-and-early.  We arrive at the trailhead by 10:00 and hope to be at the peak by noon…a fairly conservative estimate, we thought.    When we arrive at the trailhead I notice how lush and green everything is and take a moment to marvel at the pretty yellow daises that seem to welcome us to the trail.  There are bees buzzing and birds chirping, insects flying by.  The air smells of morning dew and spring thaw.  The weather wasn’t quite what we hoped for…the peaks are hanging in clouds and the sun is hiding behind a dense layer of fog.  But I tell myself that it’s still early and it could burn off by the time we reach the peak.

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I load up my pack and grimace a little as I heave it on to my back.  It’s heavy.  I still hike in my alpine boots (the same boots I would use to ski at a resort), not willing to make the investment in the lightweight backcountry boots that weigh half as much.  Although at this moment I’m wishing I had them (as I catch a glimpse of the Hubs practically floating around with his light-weight gear).

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After the obligatory “we’re off!” photo, we start hiking.  It’s steep.  Really steep.   And constant.  There doesn’t seem to be any break from the steepness.

And then I remember…a “mere” 4.2 miles. Well duh.  No wonder it’s such a short hike; it’s steep as hell!

Awesome.

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But I keep going…I keep trudging along…trying not to think about what torture lie ahead.   At this point I’m not really loving it but not really hating it.  I find myself doing Oula dances in my head to take the focus off my burning calves…

I’m bulletproof….nothing to lose….fire away, fire away’
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium
You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium!

Seriously.  I think that song got me up half of that damn mountain.  That and Justin Bieber….All around the woooooooorld….people want to be loved.  Do doo doo dooo….do do do dooooo….

Have I lost ya?  Sorry Dad.

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Anyways….of course the Hubs is rocking it.  He runs up a GD mountain on his lunch break so this is nothing.  PLUS his gear is so much lighter than mine that obviously gave him the advantage…right?

An hour in and we’re just finally hitting snow.  I have no idea how far we’ve come but it feels like a long ways.  The GPS says 8,000 feet…so we’ve climbed 2,000 and have 2,000 more to go.  I kind of want to die.

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I’m bulletproof….nothing to lose …..
Fire away, fire away…

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Instead I scarf down a clif bar, get my ski boots on, skin up and head back up the mountain.  We seem to be entering the cloud covered area and everything is dense and foggy.  I could really let myself get creeped out about the eeriness of it all but the Biebs was keeping me going (Baby what you doing? where you at? where you at?).

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We climbed for what seemed like forever.  And then we climbed some more.   Another hour later we were almost to tree line.  I was still in good spirits but starting to wear down.  Afterall, we thought we’d be to the top by now (it was noon) and we still had 1.3 miles and 1300 feet to go.  I think the Hubs was trying to be helpful when he said “Sweet, just 1300 feet….like climbing up Mt. Sentinel!”   I secretly gave him the side eye and said, “yep, just like Mt. Sentinel!”

This is Mt. Sentinel:

I’m not sure any amount of Bieber could motivate me up that.  (After reading this you probably think I’m a total Bieber fan….but this is actually the first time I’ve probably ever typed or even said his name…hahaha.).

This was the actual view of Trapper from that point:

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We obviously misjudged the time it would take for us to climb up 4,000 ft carrying all of our gear.  And I certainly didn’t account for the altitude.  I definitely noticed a difference skinning the higher up we got…but I wasn’t sure if it I was just getting tired (over two hours of constant climbing) or the fact that we were now around 9,000 feet.

We decided to climb for another hour and see where we got.  The Hubs took off like a bat out of hell towards the peak which we could see intermittently between fog banks.  Per usual I trudged a long behind muttering something about pacing myself.  The higher we got the more fog started to blow off and patches of sun came through.  It was really beautiful watching the peaks come in-and-out of it, but it also made it hard to judge how far we had to go.  Plus, I’m pretty sure I was missing out on what was an amazingly majestic view.

It didn’t take too long to get above tree line which I have to say was pretty cool.  Gone were the snow-covered trees and winding white bark pine.  Instead we had wide open spaces that lead to the rocky peaks above us.

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Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away

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As we approached the peak I started to wonder how exactly we were going to get to the tippy top.  It was surrounded by a boulder field (rocks as big as a car) that weren’t completely covered in snow.  There wasn’t a direct path but there looked to be a few ways you could snake through them to get to the top.  To be honest, I wasn’t convinced the effort was worth it.  Part of me thought “you HAVE to get to the peak…you’ve come this far!  You’re so close!”  and the other part thought “who the hell cares, I’m tired.”   In the end, the devil on my shoulder won.  When we got to the saddle about 300 feet below the peak I called it….”Are we done?”  I yelled to The Hubs.  “What??  You’re done???” he replies.

Yes.  Yes I’m done.   And I could care less that I didn’t make it to the tippy top.  This counts damn it.

You shoot me down but I won’t fall
I am titanium

I made my way to a small rock pile to rest, get my skins off and eat my lunch.  The Hubs wanted to climb just a little bit futher so he took off up the mountain.  Show off.

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As I sat on the rock (at nearly 10,000 ft) eating my PB&J I couldn’t help but notice how SILENT it was.  There was no wind.  No birds.  No bees.  No crunch of snow as I skinned.  No heavy breathing.  No songs running through my head. It was literally complete and utter silence that I can’t even describe.  That I’m not even sure I’ve ever truly HEARD before, because when I thought about it, it’s a fantastically rare occurrence in life.  Just me, sitting alone at the top of this giant mountain as the fog rolled in and out between the peaks.  It was almost surreal and at the same time extremely beautiful.

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Not much later I finally heard something – the familiar “whaaaa hoooo!”  from the Hubs which usually indicates he’s either skiing powder, drunk, or running a rapid.  He met up with me at the rock and we took some more photos while getting ready to descend.   I think we were both waiting around to see if it was going to clear up at all so we could take what had to be amazing views.  But it never did and we gave in to the excitement of skiing after working so hard to get there.

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15 minutes later we were back to dirt and putting on our hiking boots.   Funny how that works.  Such is the life of a backcountry skier and earning your turns.

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The decent was soooo much better than the trip up (well, not if you asked my knees).  And it was really cool to leave the cold, foggy snow and transition to the budding trees, blooming flowers and sounds of the forrest.   I was tired but I was still riding the high of actually accomplishing such an awesome feat.

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That’s the thing about doing stuff like this.  I don’t really consider myself extreme, although some of my friends may think I’m a wacko to carry my skis on my back up a mountain.   I know not everyone would entertain the idea and I’m not sure that I would seek something like this out if it weren’t for The Hubs.  But I like it, I really do.  Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that when I think I don’t have the time or ability to do it anymore.  Once I get past  the mental side of it (this is going to be hard, I may not like all of it, it could be dangerous) and just let myself enjoy it (because I have the knowledge, skill and ability to do it)….I’ve never regretted it.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get after accomplishing something that you’re a little scared or is outside your comfort zone.

Basically you feel like a bad ass.  Or something like that….hahaha.

We stopped to take a few pictures on the way down because of course the fog started to lift and the views were incredible.   I will definitely be returning to see this from the top when there’s no fog around.

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And of course we had some victory beers (and dry clothes) in the car to celebrate our outing.   Nothing ever tasted so good.

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10,000 ft (4,000 climbed)
30 lb pack
4.2 of the longest miles I’ve ever crossed
3.5 hours up
1.5 hours down
1 giant gnarly peak

Yep.  I am titanium.

Not sure what song I’m talking about?  Watch this.  The video is a little strange, but you’ll get the idea.

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carefree highway, got to see you my old flame

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

– John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley:  In Search of America

I am continuously reminded how lucky I am to live in Montana.  We may not have abundant job opportunities, enough cultural events for my liking, or even decent Indian food.  But what we do have is space.  Mountains.  Rivers.  Snow.  Wildlife.  And our famous Big Sky.  Ironically, it’s in these solitary spaces that you can slow down, take in your surroundings and connect with someone on a new level.  And maybe just rediscover yourself along the way as well. 

In honor of our 5 year anniversary, the Hubs and I planned a road trip.  A 900 mile road trip of epic proportions!  A trip that celebrated the two-lane back roads of Montana through country that we’d maybe seen on our own when we were younger, but not for a looooong time and not together.     Our destination?  Red Lodge and the Beartooth Highway….the long way.

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I’ll admit.  I was 98% excited, 2% terrified (or vice versa, depending on the day) because we were taking Abby.   Abby has never been a huge fan of her carseat, so of course the best thing for us to do is plan a 900 mile road trip that requires her to be in it the majority of the day.  Right? 

Obviously.

We left Thursday after work and headed South from Missoula down Highway 93.  Our first stop was at Bitterroot Brewery for dinner and to fill up a few growlers for the trip – Single Hop IPA for the Hubs and Huckleberry Honey for me.   (Sorry, no pictures of this stop, I was too excited about the beer I guess).

After dinner we headed back down the highway with the Wise River (through the Big Hole Basin) as our final destination of the evening.   I’d never been through here and I was blown away with it’s beauty (and its mosquitos).

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The Big Hole National Battlefield lies here – the largest battle fought between the Nez Perce and the U.S. Government during the Nez Perce War.    Good to know, eh?

Our first camp was along the Wise River.  We borrowed Grandpa’s camper for this excursion (1) because our last tent camping with Abby was torture and (2) we were going through Yellowstone, and momma is bear scared.    What?  And you aren’t?

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The next morning we continued down the road through the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway.   I can’t believe I’d never been here before, it was SO amazing.  We will be going back for some hiking.

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The big mid-day stop on Friday was Dillon, MT where we found the Patagonia Outlet store and a taco bus.   Score! 

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We’ve heard a lot about the taco bus in Dillon.  It’s one of those places you’re kinda scared to go to….because the old painted school bus is just a titch sketchy looking…but wow.  It was delicious!   You can Fiesta Me anytime.

The rest of the day took us through Virginia City (a touristy ghost town where Hubs wouldn’t let me stop at the candy store.  I know!  He is adamantely against small town candy stores…so rude), Ennis and finally just outside West Yellowstone.   We made camp for the night and despite the crazy Thunderstorm, Hubs cooked up an awesome Chile Verde in the dutch oven while I played with Abs.

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On to Saturday!   We got up bright and early to enter Yellowstone Park a little early, and I’m glad we did.  I love our National Parks, but they sure can be a cluster in the summer.

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We may have caused a small traffic jam ourselves when we noticed these “buffalo in the mist” as I like to call it.  We however, pulled over like smart people.  I don’t even know what the people behind us were doing.  At one point a few cars were perpendicular on the highway.   wth?  I should have taken a picture of that hot mess.

And now for the opposite of a hot mess, Lower Yellowstone Falls.  This was my favorite part of the park:

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…and now for the classic Yellowstone photo:

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Once we left the park, we were finally on our way to our final destination:  the Beartooth Highway and Red Lodge.   We stopped at Beartooth Lake along the way for a little break. 

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The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Highway 212 between Red Lodge and Cooke City, Montana.  It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks to the 10,947 ft high Beartooth Pass. The approximate elevation rise is from 5,200 ft to 8,000 ft in 12 miles in the most daring landscapes.  The Beartooth Highway has been called “the most beautiful drive in America,” by late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt.  Because of heavy snowfall at the top, the pass is usually open each year only from mid May through mid October, weather conditions permitting.  (via)

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thank goodness for self-timers, eh?

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After another crazy afternoon Thunderstorm, and descending the loooong, windy, nauseating pass…we found our way to Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co.   How conveeeeeenient.  Get the Hefeweizen….mmmmmm.

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Our last night was spent camping near Red Lodge on Rock Creek.  It was a great end to a long day of driving and exploring.  

Our happy little camper:

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We buzzed home on the Interstate.  A whopping six-hours.  Oy vey.  We both agreed that after traveling at speeds of 45-65 and taking in our beautiful surroundings, the Interstate seemed lightning fast and ugly.  

We stopped about halfway home at Three Forks at the headwaters of the Missouri River State Park.  (BTW…this is an AWESOME place to stop if you need a break on a road trip!  We will definitely be going back).  We had a little picnic lunch and the Hubs and Summy jumped in the river.  

Have I not mentioned Summit yet?  Whoopsie Daisy.  Yeah, she was there too, of course!

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I’m sure you’re wondering if I was rightfully terrified about the trip with Abs?  Well, yes, I probably was.  A mom should worry about those sorts of things to some degree.  But you know what?  She was a rockstar.  She slept quite a bit and even played quietly by herself a lot of the time.  She lost her bananas twice, but it was really only because she was hungry, so we just took our time, stopped when we needed to and didn’t get in a hurry.   It really wasn’t a big deal.   I wish I could high-five that little stinker.

And there we have it.  Four days.  Three nights.  900 miles.  A dog.  A baby.  A camper.  Wide open spaces. 

Priceless.

Weekend in Glacier

As you all know, I’m a bonafide hunting widow come September.  I can pretty much count on The Hubs being gone every weekend, and often during the week, from September – November.   It’s not something I entirely realized when we got married, but it’s something that I’ve come to accept and can actually enjoy.  Fall becomes my time to work on projects, stay at home and take some time for myself. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t miss him while he’s gone and I do sometimes get frustrated with it.   I mean, usually he’s home just long enough to mess up the house and then leave again! 

But we’ve kind of started a new tradition of stealing one weekend together in October to spend together.  I hesitate to say tradition because depending on how good the season is, I know this tradition is in jeopardy.  But for the past two years we’ve done it.  I wrote about our trip last year to Magruder Corridor here

This year we decided to head to Glacier National Park.   The Park is just a few hours from Missoula, but it’s so busy with tourists during the summer months that we find spring and fall during the off season is much more enjoyable (for us at least).  And after this trip, the fall just might be my favorite.   While it’s a bit chilly this time of year, the colors are views are amazing.   So here’s a taste for those of you who don’t live nearby!

We arrived late Friday night and camped at Apgar, which is just past the entrance to the park near West Glacier.   It rained the entire way there and ALL night long.  It rained so hard in fact, that it was no longer peaceful for me and I had to put in ear plugs to go to sleep.   I know, I know….I was there to celebrate nature.  But nobody is happy if the pregnant lady isn’t happy.  And that requires sleep. 

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The next morning we took a walk by Lake MacDonald. 

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Not for long though, because we had to drive up the road to Avalanche creek to meet my sister and her family.  We hiked into Avalanche Lake which was a beautiful little 2 mile hike.  Thankfully the rain let up and we didn’t get too soaked. 

How cute is their little bean in that pink snowsuit?! 

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Avalanche Lake:

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Look how much fun we were having!

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Here’s what the trail  looked like most of the way, it was really pretty.

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After a quick lunch with their family….

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they headed home to Kalispell and we headed out of the park to drive around to the East entrance.  The famous “Going to the Sun Road” is already closed for the season on the West side, so if you want to get to the top of Logan Pass, you need to enter from the East.

I was really glad we did drive around because the East side of the park is just as amazing, if not more so, than the West side.   And sunny!

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The East side is really where you can see a lot of the fall colors come to life.  It really was spectacular!

We camped at Two Medicine Lake…which is where I always read about bear encounters so I was genuinely freaked out a little bit.   I mean, aren’t bears fattening up for winter right now??  And technically I’m a two-for-one, so even more appealing.  

Regardless…Two Medicine is bea-u-ti-ful!  I would highly recommend it, even though we DID run into a black bear while walking down the road that night.  

(Told you so, HUBS).

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Can’t really complain about this camping spot, can I??

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That night we cooked chili and cornbread in our dutch ovens.  Perfect for a frigid evening!

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Sunday we left Two Medicine and headed to St. Mary, which is the east entrance to the park for Logan Pass.  We lucked out and got another partially sunny day, so I was excited for the views!

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At the top of Logan Pass, we weren’t too surprised to find lots of fog and some fresh snow.  It was quite chilly up here…in the 20’s somewhere.  In fact I had TWO puffy coats on.   That’s how I was measuring the temps that day…”is it a single, or a double puff?”

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Here’s my best “Lewis and Clark.”   Clearly demonstrating that the now-famous stance would not be nearly as popular if they had mittens back then.

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The fog didn’t give us any views into the West side of the park (which are some of my favorites), but it’s pretty typical for this time of year.   But I certainly can’t complain about the views we did get!

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From the east side, our drive home was a good 4.5 – 5 hours.  Which is a looooooong time to sit.  Pregnant or not. 

I was happy to get home, but also so grateful that The Hubs and I got to spend a weekend together just the two of us.  There aren’t many of those left with our little sprout on the way, so I’m learning to cherish the time we do have.  Even if I do get crabby on the way home, ok? 

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

for the birds! and you know how I feel about those things…

Oy vey!

I certainly didn’t mean to fall off the face of the earth. I mean, I’ve got good material to be sharing with ya’ll, including progress on the nursery, a dresser revamp and a new Indian meal. Plus, I still owe you my dimmer install post and that darn window box tutorial. So my absence is not due to lack of topics, rather lack of time. And as my friend Kaely would say…that’s for the birds.

I don’t mention it much here, so unless you know me personally or have read (and remember) my “about” page, you might not know that I’m an IT Project Manager by day. I like to say I moonlight as a blogger. Because it sounds cool and it gives you the impression that I stay up later than 10:00.

The reason I probably don’t talk about it much is because it’s not all that exciting. Would you rather hear about Citrix implementations, iPad testing, setting up network access controls, architecture revamps and hear a blow-by-blow on how our bank is planning to enter the world of mobile banking…..OR….find the perfect cookie recipe, watch my DIY successes and failures, see the nursery progress and hear a blow-by-blow of my current emotional state?

I thought so. Otherwise you’re obviously reading the wrong blog.

As with most “professional” jobs, there are professional organizations for Project Managers that exist to submerge people with similar jobs together. You know, to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a project manager, or to offer comfort that everyone struggles with scope creep, schedule lapses and uncooperative team members.  All of the important stuff that keeps us PMs up at night.

Another aspect of these professional groups is that they offer certifications that aim to “move you along in your career, bolster your résumé, and improve your skills.”

I thought it was mighty time that I get myself one of these certifications. And why start at the bottom? I’ve got the hours, experience and background to go ahead and get the highest level of certification available to people with my same career. Holla Holla! Of course I’ll just go ahead and do that. Duh. Why start at the bottom when you can start at the top!

So I signed up for a 4 day boot camp in Seattle, submitted my insanely long and complicated application to take the test, got my application approved, paid for the test, found a testing center in Seattle, reserved a spot for the end of my 4 day boot camp….and sat back to wait for the glory to be bestowed upon me. Bonus, the class was being held in the Seattle Hilton downtown. Immediately I imagined myself shopping after class, eating amazing food, visiting the waterfront and Pike’s Place….meeting up with old friends and by-the-way, getting a certification at the end of all of it that would hopefully warrant a decent pay raise. Pretty sweet deal right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Turns out this boot camps main goal is to shove 3 years worth of information into your head in 4 days. The class went from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m everyday, with a 20 minute lunch that had to be eaten onsite with our class. At least you’re done by seven (ha) and can go back to your room and rest your weary brain, right? WRONG. There’s homework and studying that needs to be done by 8:00 a.m. the next day. All of those nice dinners I thought I’d be having? Yeah, they came in the form of room service salads. And I couldn’t even enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a long day! That may have been the final twist of the knife. Yeah, good idea Janna! Take the highest level of certification offered for your career when you’re 23 weeks pregnant, tired and can’t remember shit. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea!

So instead of spending my time here:

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I spent most of it here:

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With no time to shop. No time to blog. No time to eat. No time to think. No time to do anything really, but think about the 42 knowledge areas of the PMBOK (that would be the Project Managers Book of Knowledge for those of you who don’t know. A.K.A. The Bible).

By the way….that thing is for the birds as well.

The worst part of it all? I still do not know if I passed that darn test. The four hour, 200 question test that I took Saturday morning. And believe you me….I took all 12,000 minutes available for the test.  It was not easy. In fact I have no idea if I passed. And won’t for 5-6 weeks.

The best part of it all?  If I pass, I’ll have my PMP Certification.   Is that, or is that not the same as my PIMP certification?  Because that’s what I’ll be calling it. 

I admit, I was brain-dead for several days after getting home. I kinda walked around like a zombie muttering phrases like “earned value analysis, configuration management, improve competencies, marginal analysis, quality control and risk avoidance.” I still can’t get it all out of my head (which I guess was the goal, right?! ha).

So in 5-6 weeks I’ll be sure to let you know if I passed or failed the darn thing. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Until then, I promise not to bore you with work related mumbo-jumbo.

In the meantime, me thinks I’ll be turning my attention back to the nursery. Because….confession….I did fly in early on Sunday just to make a trip to IKEA (is that admirable or a bit sad?  I can’t decide). And I found some splendid inspiration and even purchased a few items that would fit in the extra empty bag I packed for the occasion my bag.

Here’s just a few of the pictures I snapped while there.

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And ONE of the purchased items I’m most excited about…fabric for the nursery curtains!

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You try packing 10 yards of fabric on your back through the airport.  It’s not what I would describe as fun, especially when your back already hurts due to your expanding belly.  The things I do for love…

So excited to get started and fill you in on some of these projects!  Stay tuned…

Sisters Weekend 2011

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sentimental girl, but I my not have mentioned that I love traditions.  So….I guess that makes me sentimental about traditions, er, something like that.

Anyways, one tradition that I look forward to every year is our annual Sisters’ Weekend.  This is typically a weekend that involves no husbands or kids.  Just sisters.  It gives us a chance to reconnect and spend some much-needed (and too infrequent) one-on-one time together. 

In the past we’ve taken turns visiting each other in our respective cities/towns.  This ensured we got a trip to Seattle, Missoula and Polson once every three years.  And let me tell you…we’ve had some fun.  See for yourself:

This year was a little bit different however.   My sister Amy and her family had just recently moved back to Montana from Seattle…with their 7 month old daughter in tow.  Needless to say, life is a little bit crazy for them.  In addition, Cousin’s Weekend (another much-loved tradition with the only cousins on our mom’s side) had been scheduled for Fall this year (typically a spring endeavor).   So….calendars were booking up fast.  But knowing we didn’t want 2011 to pass us by without getting together, we decided to make it a family event this year and get together in Polson at the lake.  I’m not sure what The Husbands thought of being included in sisters weekend, but to be honest they aren’t sure about much when all three of us are together.  Sorry Husbands.   I can’t see how they can complain about being on a boat all day long however!  Plus, they even took a little “brother-in-law” raft trip down the Flathead River one day.  

Here’s a little snippet of this years festivities:

I’m still learning how to put these collages together…so sorry about some duplicate pics!  If you click on the whole collage it will open up a bigger version.

I’m so grateful that we make the effort to do this each year.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own busy schedule that before you know it too much time has gone by between visits.   Inevitably our lives will change and as our families grow this may be harder to do…but it’s so important to make time for it.  And I suppose if the Husbands and kids have to start coming more often…I’m ok with it.   Thanks for the great weekend everyone.  Already looking forward to next year!

I’m in a park!

No, not me.  I’m not lucky enough to be in a park yet this year.  In fact I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately.  June is a bit crazy for me this year as I’m working several weekends (which turns out to be 19 days straight with no days off).   Truth be told:  June can’t pass soon enough for me. 

When I travel for work, people often ask me “how does The Hubs do while you’re away?”   I usually just roll my eyes smile and say…”oh just fine.”

You’re all aware that he’s not one for staying home on the weekends, and me being gone doesn’t change that.  He still embarks on amazing adventures and always has plenty of stories and pictures for me when I get home.   This past weekend was particularly epic (as he would say) so we decided it was a good one to share with ya’ll.   So for the second time this week, please enjoy a guest post.  This time from non other than The Hubs. 

And don’t mind me…I just had to interject at a few points along the way.  You’ll notice those instances by the pink text.  

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So it seems the “Hubs” has been given full access to the wheel house. In the past I’d suggested I do a guest post but finally Janna must have taken me seriously, plus she had to work all weekend while I went to Glacier National Park. I could at least capture some of the adventure in a post.

As the weekend approached those “full sunny icons” stayed on the National Weather Service page. I think it was Thursday and realizing I didn’t want the weekend to go by without a solid plan I emailed the usual crew to see if they wanted to ski Lolo Peak or Sheep Mountain. Don got back quickly and suggested we could pull off a trip to Glacier Park and Joe had some ideas of ski tours we could do. This is probably the latest I’ve made it into the spring without a camping trip, so with enthusiasm building, we planned a Friday departure. We finally settled on the west side of the park and planned a first day tour into Granite Chalet.

There were two “required” stops along the way due to past favorable experiences. First was dinner at El Topo where I had a smothered burrito the size of my arm. Next, just before entering the park we stopped at the iconic Frita’s Bar. Don and I discussed for some time why we called it that as the only name we see is the West Glacier Bar. No doubt what the locals probably call it or something.

The plan was to camp at Sprague campground along Lake McDonald. We rolled into a campsite with plenty of time to plan the next day’s adventures. The length of the days in June is amazing.

 

Still lots of light to setup and enjoy our camp.

I quickly realize why I can’t wait to get camping in the spring. We’ve got a fire going and as evening comes on the birds are going nuts. One bird in particular, the Varied Thrush, might be my favorite bird. Below is a picture as well as a short video of Lake McDonald. At the end of the video you can hear the high-pitched call of the Varied Thrush.

 

Its shrill erie call is common in the spring in Western Montana.

Video of Lake McDonald with call of the Varied Thrush.

In the past I’ve been accused of being a birder which I quickly deny. Basically when I hear or see something that is unfamiliar to me I tend to want to know more about it. Being tuned into your surroundings often allows you to experience much more of what is going on. On this trip I also heard several Ruffed grouse drumming. Later we were able to see a Blue grouse strutting and blowing up the red sack on the side of its neck.  Wouldn’t want to forget the bush growing through the mushroom. Spring time is a good time to be out.

Crazy ass mushroom and bush.

The next morning we proceed to Avalanche Creek where the road is closed to vehicles. From there we gear up for the 7 mile ride to the Loop where we will hike/ski to Granite Chalet. We chose this tour to get in on some great views while assessing the snow conditions.

 

My setup with skis on the backpack.

Just as we pass the gate we see a sign indicating the road is closed 3 miles ahead. Having made it this far and a little late to attempt another tour we decide to ride up and see where we get. Maybe half way up Ranger Rick comes down the road and announced over the PA for the “skiers to stop” and “he would like to talk to us.” We pull over and he proceeds to tell us that there is construction going on and we won’t be able to get to our intended Loop. He then begins to say that it isn’t safe up there and he doesn’t like us being up there. Supposedly 6 skiers had already foiled him earlier that morning and he was looking to ticket them all as soon as they got down. It’s obvious now Ranger Rick isn’t so much concerned with the construction but rather his preconceived notions of what is safe and how others should enjoy the park. This isn’t the first time I’d thought about safety and risk. Both my mother and wife had expressed concern about “skiing in Glacier” but followed up by saying I probably knew what I was doing. So do I know what I’m doing?

Now Ranger Rick in in my face, Joe is not happy (the park website had mentioned nothing about the road closure) and Don is explaining to the Ranger how search and rescue takes safety into account first when doing any rescues.  <<Eric is currently on Missoula Search and Rescue and Don has been involved in the past>> The discussion continues about the recent rescue on Stanton Peak just a few days earlier. A couple of park employees had climbed the peak and while glissading down one of them was unable to self-arrest went over a 30 foot cliff. Ranger Rick quickly explained how irresponsible it was to put the rescuers at risk. This is a common argument that often plays out after an accident has occurred in the backcountry. In an attempt to experience the backcountry you must accept some risk. Through experience and training you hope you can reduce the risk. Ultimately we are trying to experience some absolutely amazing places first hand. Skiing off peaks, bow hunting for a week in the wilderness and spending 7 days running whitewater are first hand experiences I feel fortunate and lucky to have experienced. Can things go wrong? Yes, but we manage that risk constantly and for most of us it’s worth it. My guess is Ranger Rick isn’t very educated on avalanches and doesn’t understand the specific risks.  His retirement portfolio probably sucks too.

This topic of risk sparked several conversations throughout the weekend. I couldn’t help but think about the documentary 180 Degrees South. I’ll probably have to watch it for a 4th time. I’ve added a link to the trailer below. There are two quotes in here that I particularly like. The first is when Yvon Chouinard says, “Any mountain at certain times is safe and at other times its super dangerous.”  The second is when one of the climbers yells that “finishing the climb doesn’t seem worth risking his life for.”  The crew has already traveled thousands of miles sailing, climbing, and surfing and just a few hundred feet from summiting Corcovado the climber realizes the risk and decides it not worth it. I supposed some would have just said the whole trip was too dangerous and left it at that; I disagree.

After the ranger finally decided that he couldn’t tell us not to go up the Packer’s Roost trail (instead of our intended Loop) we proceeded on up the road. We figured the distance would be a bit far for carrying the skis, however no one would complain about just getting in a great hike. We stashed the bikes and skis and proceeded up the trail.

 

Don breaking the law.

 

Trail was covered with mountain lion, black bear, wolf and grizzly tracks.

 <<This is where Janna would turn around>>

Lots of water.

 

Clouds broke to reveal Heaven's Peak

 

Towards Logan Pass

 

Road on the way back.

On the way out we played slalom with the hordes of tourists making their way up the road. Other than one flat tire, it was a smooth ride out. We finished with a stop at the Lake McDonald lodge for a Going to the Sun IPA and time at the lake. Back in camp I was able to pull off lasagna in the dutch oven for the first time (no you really don’t need to cook the noodles first). While I don’t have any pictures I can assure you that it was outstanding. I guess Ranger Rick did stop by to make sure we made it back to our campsite safe. It’s probably best he doesn’t know where we are headed tomorrow.

Sunday starts at 5:30 am as we load up the vehicle and head for the Trout Lake trailhead. Joe had decided the night before, after looking at Stanton Peak from the lakeshore, that it would be a hard hike and possibly not worth it.  But we’d better give it an attempt anyway.

 The Trout Lake trail climbed quickly but at least had been cut out this year. I knew I should enjoy the trail as we’d be off of it soon. We came to a large avalanche chute that would be our route. Still piled up at the bottom were huge piles of snow from avalanches during the winter. I certainly brought up the question of traveling up the avalanche chute but later realized just how far we were from the snow at that time. Wet avalanches had been sliding when we reached higher elevation and had not progressed far down the chute. The reason for leaving early in the morning was also to beat the wet slides with the heating of the snow pack later in the day. The plan was to make the summit around 11am.

 

Avalanche Debris

The climb to the top would be about 4000 vertical feet.  After an eight mile hike and 6 miles on the bike the day before it certainly seemed steeper than it probably was.  We reached snow around 9am where we starting skinning up the rest of the slope.  We quickly found out that the snow was softer than expected.  While we didn’t have substantial ski penetration we figured it probably hadn’t froze during the night.  On the route up we saw some tracks that were most likely the where the group had glissaded down a few days earlier.  We reached the ridge about 700 feet below the peak around 10 am and decided the snow had softened enough and we did not need to proceed any farther.  Views in all directions were spectacular.

<<So, they were within 700 feet of the peak and decided that it wasn’t safe to continue if they wanted to get some skiing in.  Do you know how hard it is to stop at that point?  After working so hard to get that far?  But it’s one of the things I truly admire and respect about the Hubs and his friends; they are constantly analyzing risk and making decisions based on the conditions around them.   No they didn’t make it to the peak, but they made solid, safe decisions and probably had a good time out there sliding around.  And that’s what it’s about>>

Stanton Peak behind me.

Lake McDonald

 

View over the ridge.

Skiing down, the snow conditions were better than expected and we got some outstanding turns.  Ending right at dirt, we put the skis back on the packs and continued down slope. 

Sweet spring turns!

I spent the afternoon back at the shore of Lake McDonald with another Going to the Sun IPA that was particularly tasty.  Sitting on the shore you can look directly up at Stanton Peak where we had been earlier that morning.

Stanton Peak

It was unanimously decided that the steep hike was more than worth it for the turns and views from up top.  My only interruption to a sunny afternoon was Don showing up saying we needed to go pick up Jenny.  Turns out she was about 20 plus miles away and had broken her derailer on their road bike ride on the Camas road.  After we “saved” Jenny we headed to the Garden Bar in Bigfork for cheeseburgers. 

Sunny Weather Service icons were fully taken advantage of this weekend.

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So what do I think about all of this?   Several things.

  • I think The Hubs is not your typical guy.  Perhaps it’s fair to say he’s a bit more ambtious than most people.
  • I think he does a lot of cool shit.
  • I think I would have a minor panic attack after seeing Grizzly bear tracks “all over” in the snow where I was hiking. 
  • I think everyone can be reassured after reading this, that much thought and anlysis is put into decisions when we’re out on trips.   The Hubs has a lot of training and experience that help him mitigate risk (for himself and us). 
  • I think the answer to his question…”So do I know what I am doing?” is “yes.”
  • I think “epic” surely is the word to describe his weekend.  And did you know that when you text the name Eric in T9, the first choice that comes up is Epic?  Coincidence? 
  • I think I need to stop working so much so I can take part in these amazing adventures. 
  • I think (at over 1600 words), The Hubs just surpassed my longest post.

Now do you understand why I say The Hubs gets along “just fine” while I’m away for work??

Altoona Ridge Lodge

This past weekend was bittersweet.  We were at Altoona Ridge Lodge for what was our last backcountry ski trip.  It was our first time to this particular area and our first stay at the lodge. 

Altoona Ridge Lodge is located about 90 miles from Missoula  in the Flint Creek Mountain range.   

I love how the map point is just out in the middle of nowhere!

The experience was similar to our Yurt trip, where you haul all of your gear in by snowmobile…think ski gear, food, beer and this time around, a small child.  Fortunately the trek was only 5 miles and used an old mining road that still had several old abandoned mining claims along the way.  It was really cool to see some of the old buildings.  Unfortunately, old mining roads aren’t exactly what I would call maintained, so the ride in (even on a snowmobile) was pretty sketchy.  But we made it despite a small dramatic episode by yours truly.   That is, if you call fainting after crashing your snowmobile with you and your best friend on it a “small dramatic episode.”  I kinda do.  But that’s another story for another day when I can devote proper time to explain my fainting condition issues.     

So yes, despite a pretty banged up knee, we all made it in safely (yes dudes, the snowmobile is fine).  The Lodge was perfect…just big enough for the six of us with one of the most amazing views.  Which, after winding up, down and around through the trees for five miles it was hard to believe that we’d ever get to a clear vantage point….but wow.  Here’s the view from the deck of the lodge.

I took this picture on the second night. Unfortunately we missed the sunset the first night!

I wish you could see the mountains in the distance more clearly…it felt like you could see forever.

The lodge itself was great.  It was three buildings that were all connected by a large deck and wooden path.  The first building housed the kitchen, small living room and dining room.  The second was essentially a bunk house that could sleep up to 8 people.  The third building had a sauna and several showers.  I’d never seen anything with that sort of setup, but it actually worked out great because people could go to bed early or late and not be disturbed by people who did the opposite. 

This is a shot of the lodge from the south....you can see two of the three buildings here, along with the deck that is directly off of the main cabin area.

Here's a shot (from the deck of the main cabin) of the bunk house and the far building that houses the sauna, etc.

The kitchen/dining area in the main cabin

The rest of the main cabin

I have a picture of a couple of the boys enjoying the sauna…but don’t think they’d appreciate me posted them on the ‘ol blog.  Just take my word for it that the sauna was indeed enjoyed as well.

Some of you may have noticed that I mentioned a small child earlier…haha.  And in fact I did.  Our friend’s 21 month-old son Tor joined us on the trip and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.  Truth-be-told, I’m not sure what we would have done for entertainment without him there!  He’s quite the charmer.

Trying on The Hubs slippers. Maybe a titch too big!

But I digress.  We were there for skiing right?  Right.  Too bad we woke up Saturday morning to the storm or all storms….and not the good kind.  It was the kind that started out with fog, lots and lots of fog.  Then rain.  Then wind.  Then snow.  Lots and lots of snow.  Big, wet, heavy snow…and more freezing cold wind. 

We held off until about noon and decided that we couldn’t wait anymore.  So we headed out in the rain/snow/wind and started touring up the ridge behind the Lodge. 

Made it to the top...unfortunately no views this time, which is a bummer after hiking all that way.

I was pretty bummed to get to the top and miss out on what I know would have been some amazing views.  Plus, the wind on top of the ridge was incredibly cold…so the best thing was to keep your head down and keep going!

I really was trying to smile....I think my lips were frozen at this point. Along with my face, coat and hands!

We hiked up the ridge a ways until we found a slope that looked good to ski back down towards the lodge.  Two turns into the run and I realized this was not going to be easy.  It’s too cold to be spring skiing but not cold enough to be powder skiing; so what you have is a weird mixture of new “spring-like” snow on top of a crusty layer filled with snow snakes.  You know what snow snakes are right?  Little critters that grab your skis when you’re turning and try to make you fall.  Yeah, this snowpack was full of’em.  And it turns out that the only thing that gets rid of snow snakes is whiskey – so we decided we best head back to the lodge and get some. 

So in the end…bittersweet it was.  An amazing and beautiful place, which actually would have some sweet terrain in better conditions.  It’s just unfortunate that we hit it when we did.  I mean, who woulda thought that we would have anything but spring skiing in April?   If you’re The Hubs, it just means that there’s that much more skiing to be had this year.  If you’re me…well…it might mean I just don’t get any spring skiing this year. 

P.S.  Anyone interested in learning more about Altoona Ridge Lodge can look here.  They do book the lodge year-round.  In the summer you can drive straight there, so no need to worry about fainting episodes.