Winter

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.

I ski, you ski, we all ski for YurtSki!

Remember this post?  My first blog-rant about winter, plus the bonus John Denver video?  That just happened to be published the same day I left for a backcountry ski vacation.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  More than likely though I was just stoked about all of the snow we were getting….therefore all of the powder I would be skiing.  Or as John would say, I was “Dancing with the Mountains.”  (Please tell me you watched that?!)  Classic. 

And dance we did.  This winter has been phenomenal.  Incredible.  Snowtastic.  Yes I just said that.  And the backcountry?  Glorious.  Absolutely amazing.   

This was our second vacation to YurtSki….a backcountry adventure in the Swan Mountains of Montana.  A lot of people don’t understand this type of vacation.  I can relate…it’s different.  It’s not your typical ski vacation with cushy condos, fancy lodges, chairlifts and over-priced tickets (don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely room for those kind of vacations in my winter).   Instead, you haul all of your gear in 11 miles yourself, share a 20 ft diameter one-room yurt with 6-8 people of what better be your closest friends  (a yurt, that as hard as you try, will not be clean and/or organized), build your own fires for heat, use an outhouse (with no door), cook your own food (that you hauled in), and earn each and every one of your turns.   There are no chairlifts.  This is no resort.  It’s basically a building that’s strategically placed next to a huge skiable mountain.  Enter at your own risk.   And FYI….any joker can rent this thing.  But common sense is not included in the price of the yurt.   You better know what you’re doing.

I don’t really have a funny story or anything to go with this adventure.  Hard to believe I’m sure.  What I do have are some amazing pictures that I want to share.  Because there’s something about being out “there” where only a handful of people have been that is truly amazing.   The feeling you get when you’re miles and miles into the woods and you’ve worked so hard to get to the top of the mountain, and the sun is just coming out letting you see for miles.   It’s pretty much indescribable.  And then you get to ski down through some of the best snow you’ve seen all season?  Well…it just pretty much makes you feel lucky to be alive.  That probably sounds corny and perhaps it’s the two glasses of wine that I’ve had while I’m writing this.  But ironically, when you’re standing on top of that ridge it feels somewhat grounding….like all of the things you’ve been stressing about all week aren’t worth the worry.  If I could bottle that feeling I would be a wealthy woman.  Since I can’t, I’ve come to the conclusion that outings like this need to be a regular occurence so I’m reminded that life can be beautiful and simple.  It doesn’t take a heckuva-lot of money to escape from reality for a few days.  These things that we worry ourselves with (squeezing one more thing into the day, hurrying here, hurrying there….and for Gods sake work)?  They are all pressures we put on ourselves.  And for what?  All that really matters is that we’re happy, we’re healthy, we’re pursuing activities that we love and we are surrounding ourselves with good people.   Yep.  Got all that from working my ass off while skinning up a mountain.  I’m kind of digging it.   

So this post, I’m going to let my pictures do the talking for once.

 

Jenn and I headed in! What's that? A decal of two people sitting on a sled with a line through it? That must mean don't let two huge fat lazy men ride on the sled together. Not two 'lil ladies.

Don was in charge of the gear sled (Paco)

Then there's these two jokers...riding "Canadian" style. I'm still not sure if that's a real thing. Pretty sure there should be a decal for that too!

It took us about 5 hours to get in 11 miles to the yurt. Doesn't quite add up, does it? Let's just say there was some digging to be done on the "road."

Here's the yurt! Last year when we were here there was NO snow on the sides...so this was pretty exciting.

I thought this was cool with all of the skis outside.

 

Yep....that's the outhouse. Image courtesy of M. Doherty

The next morning our hike in was pretty foggy...kinda eerie

Until we got to the top of the ridge....then it was sunny and blue skies...and the fog was moving off of the peaks which was really pretty.

But we weren't done yet. We continued hiking along the ridgeline. There were the neatest cornices and wind features along the way (that's me 'n Hubs)

And even some snow ghosts that Whitefish Mountain would be jealous of

From the ridge you could look down into the Swan Valley and see Seeley Lake (the lake we ran around for the Snow Joke). It looked like a loooooong way around...I was glad I did this after the race!

Just for reference-sake - here's the ridge we were hiking (or part of it). We ended up skiing those bowls you see here

See the fire lookout in the distance?

You’re probably wondering if we ever did any skiing….well yes, yes we did. And it was sah-wheet. I think my tracks are the furthest to the right in this pic. Just sayin’…..

That there hiking and skiin' is hard work. I would like to point out at this point that I was not the only girl this year! Thanks Jenn!!

 

If this was the view I got every morning walking back from the outhouse….I would consider having one at home.

Can you spot the yurt? Isn't that insane?? I love the little chimney peeking out from the snow.

Second day was sunny and warm. It felt like spring skiing

We were on a different ridge the second day so I was checkin' out my lines from the day before.

And making some new ones

"Yes, you're all doing a group photo! Sheesh!"

So there you have it.  A small compilation of what is probably around 500 pictures we all took. 

And now for a special little treat for those of you that hung in there…turns out even my pictures are wordy.  A little video of yours truly skiing.  I know, I know.  I’ve come a long way in the past 3 months (where I couldn’t be found in any of my pics).   What’s even better about this little treat?  I totally eat it.  Yep.  And I’m showing it to you!   Forget the fact that I would rather show you a video of me totally ripping it up….and forget the fact that it really, really sucks to fall when you’ve worked so hard for your turns.  But what the hell.  I love you guys.   So enjoy…

Please notice all of my friends laughing at me.  Thanks guys.   

I think I’ll end on that note. 

See you next year YurtSki.

Welcome to the Goat Show

I ran a St. Patty’s Day race this weekend.  Just for the luck of it.   It was a little 6 miler in Anaconda, MT that one of my girlfriends was driving over from Helena to run.  So what the hell?  What’s one more race in the cold and snow?  So the Hubs and I loaded up the snowmobiles,  got in the truck, and drove over too.  The in-laws have a cabin up at Georgetown Lake which is about 15 miles away from the raging metropolis of Anaconda.   I guess I’m a sucker for small town races; at least it probably seems that way to all of you.  Nevertheless,  I was excited to see my girlfriend and also keep up on my running.   

The race was Saturday morning.  Everyone was to meet at the Locker Room Bar to register and get bused out to the starting point.  Weird.  But ok I guess.  Neither of us were sure where exactly the Locker Room Bar was in Anaconda, but when a town has two main streets, you can bet it’s on one of them.  And it was.  Score.

Here’s about where the Goat Show begins.  I guess if I’m going to do these small town races I better just get used to it, right?   Or at least entertain all of you with it.  So let me just recap my morning for you: 

  • 10:05  Arrive at Locker Room Bar in Anaconda. 
  • 10:15  Register for the 6 miler.  Learn that it is in fact a 10k.  Excuse me, but that is 6.2 miles.  Not 6.  Why do race officials feel like it’s ok to skimp over extra mileage?  When you’re running anything extra  makes a hell of a lot of difference.  For example, I signed up for a 1/2 marathon trail run a couple of years ago only to find out it was actually a 14-miler.  Excuse me?  Really?   Even the shirt said “Half Marathon finisher.“  I’m sorry, but a half marathon is 13.1 miles.  I ran 14 miles thankyouverymuch.   Maybe no one else cares.  It’s just a pet peeve of mine.  Give me credit for all of the .2 and .9 miles I’m running!  Sheesh.
  • 10:16  Learn they “ran out” of race t-shirts.  Mine will be coming in the mail when they receive more.  That’s the risk you take with race-day registration….but looking back, there’s no way this shirt is ever getting to me. 
  • 10:20  Attach the “race tag” to my coat.  It’s not your typical race number tag.  Oh no.  We have a special little 50/50 looking ticket that you’re supposed to safety pin to your coat zipper so it can flap in the wind against your face for 6.2 miles.   
  • 10:30  A guy walks through the bar proclaiming “Finish your drinks (um what?) the buses are leaving for the starting line!”
  • 10:40  Board the school bus
  • 11:00  Arrive at the starting point….which seemed like a very, very long bus ride by the way.  Are you sure this is just a 10k?
  • 11:05  Really have to pee, but decide that since the race was supposed to start at 11:00, I won’t stand in line at the bathroom.  Besides, we should be starting any minute now. 
  • 11:15  Hmm.  Weird.  Why aren’t we starting?  Really gotta pee here.
  • 11:20  Decide “to hell with it!”  I’m going to the bathroom!  And why haven’t we heard anything about starting?
  • 11:25  Notice some sheep looking down on us from a nearby mountain.  I think they’re wondering why the hell we have all been standing there for 30 minutes jumping around in the cold.  Stupid humans.   
  • 11:35  Ok really starting to get cold here people.  The sun may be out, but I’ve been standing out here in 20 degree weather for about 35 minutes now.  Just waiting.  Doing nothing but having to pee and wondering when the race is starting.  In fact, starting to get a little angry about this.
  • 11:37   Hear mumblings through the crowd that we’re waiting for another busload of racers.  OH.  Well nice to finally hear something.  I was beginning to think that this was just a mean trick.
  • 11:47  See a group of people take off.  Yep.  Just decided for themselves that they’d had enough and were going to start.  Part of me was longing to go with them because this is ridiculous! 
  • 11:50  The bus arrives!  Yahoo!  Get those people off and LET’S GO!  I’m cold and maybe have to pee again!
  • 11:51  One person exits the bus
  • 11:52  A second person exits the bus.  Then a third.
  • 11:53  A fourth person gets off the bus.  The bus leaves.  That’s right.  The bus leaves.  We waited fifty three minutes for four people!  I’ve never been so annoyed in my life!  More than likely, these four jokers were drinking in the bar…missed the first bus and then had to make the bus driver take them out again.  It was unreal.  A real fricken treat.   Wow. 
  • 11.55  See the four newbies running down the road to warm up
  • 11:56  Restrain myself from tackling the four people that made me wait an hour to start this race and then have the audacity to think they get to warm up
  • 12:01  I see some commotion around me.  People are moving forward.  What’s this?  Are we going?  I didn’t hear anything?  What the heck?  I turn to The Hubs and he says “GO!”  Oh.  haha.  I guess we’re fricken starting.   As I run past the start line I finally hear this old man saying “Goooooooooo!”    Awesome.   I can’t decide if this starting technique is better or worse than Seeley’s Sarah Palin with the rifle (read about that here).
  • 12:50  Get offered a beer by a group of people walking and wheeling a keg from the 5K start.  Politely decline. 
  • 12:51  Cross the finish line. 
  • 12:55  Redeem my free beer damnit. 

Oh.  And the flyers for this race said “Very fast downhill course.”  I’m pretty sure I counted at least three hills in there.   Can you tell I’m slightly bitter? 

But you know what?  Goat show or not….I guess it was fun.  I mean, Anaconda is a town of about 6,000 people….and this was their biggest race ever with about 780 registrants.  What do I expect?  This ain’t no Bloomsday.  Besides, I got a good run in….got a free beer….saw some old friends….and it was sunny!  Gloriously sunny.   Living in Missoula you don’t see the sun much, so it was just a real nice surprise.   (That was for you Kirt). 

I didn’t get too many pictures this time, but I wanted to get you a shot of the Locker Room (the Bar the race started and finished at).  Gotta love those dive bars. 

Yes we are dorks.

Anyone else have a small town race I can sign up for?  Just let me know if I need to show up on time, or if I can sleep in a bit.  Mmmmkay?  Cuz next year I’m certainly not going to be rushing to Anaconda for the St. Patty’s day run!

Oh, and yes I did mention snowmobilers earlier in this post.  Here’s how we spent our Sundee:

Don't take me literally....we didn't just "sit" on our sleds all day. Ha ha. But YOU tell me a way to take pictures while snowmobiling that's safe!

I also took a shot from the road as we left Georgetown Lake.  This is one of my favorite vantage points….I think you’ll see why.

Gorgeous!

And my house still isn’t clean.  Sigh….

Reminder: It’s Winter.

I’m getting a little tired of people complaining about the snow.  And since I just happen to have my own personal soap box that I can use to rant about whatever I deem appropriate…I’m deeming this appropriate and I’d like to take a few minutes to remind people of a few things:
  1. You live in Montana.   It snows here.
  2. It’s March!  A completely appropriate time to expect snow.  Do I need to remind everyone of that ‘ol saying?  The one about “how it comes in like a lion?” 
  3. It isn’t always like this.  Remember last year?  How we got no snow to speak of and everyone complained about how “it just isn’t winter without snow?”  Well!  You’re prayers were answered people!  We should all be rejoicing Hallelujah!
  4. You live in Montana.  Might I suggest you take up a snow sport?
  5. I’m sure there’s a neighborhood kid that would shovel your driveway and sidewalks for around $10 a pop.  Consider it a good investment.
  6. They sell fancy remote starters for your vehicles now.  I’ve been known to start my truck from bed.  So “having to start your car” and “clear off the windows” everyday is really not an excuse to complain.  Turns out this is one of those problems money really can solve.
  7. You live in Montana.  Buck up.  We’re supposed to be tough, remember?
  8. Live in the moment!  Quit wishing winter away.  Soon enough it will be spring with all of it’s rain and mud that you’ll be complaining about.
  9. The mere fact that we have a winter means that we are lucky enough to have seasons.  If you want it warm and sunny all of the time you should consider moving to Arizona or Florida.
  10. You live in Montana.  I really don’t know what you’re thinking if you don’t expect it to snow during the winter.

There you have it folks.  My first real rant on the blog.  I just couldn’t contain myself anymore because I-for-one am like a kid-in-a-candy store when I see the big fluffy white stuff comin’ down.

I’m just sayin’.

Snow is fun!

Snow is pretty!

Snow is awesome!

But don’t take my word for it.  Take John Denver’s:

You’ve come a long way missy

There was a time in my life (not so long ago), that I didn’t even realize you could ski off-area.  Why would you want to?  Ski areas have lifts that take you to the top.  They have lodges with fires, hot chocolate, cheeseburgers and beer.  They have groomed runs.  Why would anybody want to go off-area

So when I was dating then-boyfriend-Hubs, I didn’t blink an eye when he asked me if I wanted to “go skiing up Lolo Pass.”  Sure!   I said.   I heart skiing.  I’ve been skiing since I was six years old.  I’m sure there’s nothing Lolo Pass can throw at me that I can’t handle.   I guess I didn’t let it worry me that I’d never heard of a ski area called Lolo Pass before…I’m sure it was just because it’s a cutesy little local mom-and-pop shop.   And somehow I didn’t blink and eye when he told me to bring my backpack.  Um…ok.  That’s weird.  But ok. 

An hour later we pull in the parking lot and our conversation goes a little something like this:

Hubs:  Ok, get your boots on and strap your skis to your pack.
Me:  Excusemewhat?
Hubs:  Put your ski boots on and I’ll help you strap your skis to your backpack
Me:  So I did hear you right the first time.  You’re serious?
Hubs:  Um, yeah?  How else do you think we’re going to get to the top of the ridge?  
Me:  You want me to hikeIn my ski boots?|
Hubs:  <sighs> Yes!  Is there a problem??

Oh buddy.  Is there a problem?  Yes there’s a damn problem!  Have you ever tried hiking in your ski boots with 30 lbs on your back?  Because up until 3 minutes ago the thought had never (in all the years I’ve been on this earth) crossed my mind.   Ever

I took this opportunity to make a few mental notes about this so-called-boyfriend of mine which probably included:  “blatant disregard for other’s feelings.  Extremely poor communicator.  Fails at setting expectations.  Willing to throw me into situations that I am extremely uncomfortable with.  Bat-shit crazy.”  

I’ve since discovered most of those aren’t true.  Although I still to-this-day do not rely solely on his accounts of skiing, rafting, hiking or mountain biking.  I choose to do my own research and decide for myself how “extreme” it is, because he apparently has more confidence in me and my abilities than I do.  Bless his heart.

Anyways, I digress.  I guess I still had some of the “I’m-a-cool-girlfriend-and-I-want-to-try-and-impress-you” attitude in me.  But silently I felt as if I had been slapped across the face with the harsh reality of backcountry skiing.  I was still trying to convince myself that it was a “real thing” and not just some crazy form of torture as I trudged up the ridgeline.    But I made it.  Not without a few tears; but I made it.  And here’s proof. 

Now everyone will know that I was holding back tears in this picture. Even if it does make me look bad ass.

Check out that powder though…knee deep!  Seriously.  This is why people love the backcountry.  Fresh tracks.  Untouched powder stashes.  No lift lines.  No out of control snow boarders whizzing by.  No crowds.  Just you, the outdoors and some sweet snow. 

We skied one run and traversed back to the parking lot.  And to this day, I’m not 100% sure what made me say “let’s do it again.”   So up we hiked for the second time that day.

Fast-forward 4-5 years.  I didn’t kick the Hubs to the curb like I thought I might in those first few hours of my intro to backcountry skiing.  And as you know (if you’ve read previous entries like this and this),  I’ve actually continued to backcountry ski and invested quite a bit of money into making sure I never have to boot pack again.  Now we’ve got fancy powder skis with special bindings, and skins that allow you to hike on your skis. 

And you know what?  Two weekends ago we went back to this exact same area up Lolo Pass for a tour.  I’m glad to report that I’m all grown up now:  there were no tears this time and I actually had an amazing time.  I can still hardly believe that in just a few short years I’ve done such a 180, but it just goes to show you that “you never know where you’ll end up.” 

Here are some highlights from the trip two weekends ago:

Lolo Pass is located on the Montana/Idaho border and is getting pounded with snow this year. It has just under eight feet!

There is an “official” visitor’s center at the Pass that has restrooms, hot chocolate, a fire and a little gift shop.  So I guess it’s kind of like an official area.  Kind of. 

Said Visitor's Center

The hiking begins....no tears this time! At least that I saw.

Strangely this doesn't intimidate me anymore.

Look at that beautiful pit!

Using the snow saw to isolate my column

 

Ok I’m going to fast forward here cuz no one really cares about my pit test!  Bottom line…..we deemed it fine to ski.  Pow pow!! 

I told you I would get better at putting me in pictures. I didn't say they would be close! But I promise that's me!

Here’s a little bit better one:

Ah yes.  How I do love backcountry skiing.  I love the isolation.  The lack of lift lines.  The lack of anything other than me and a mountain that has stayed the same for hundreds of years.  I guess I am turning a little hippie Don.  I hope you’re proud….but don’t tell anyone.

And you know what?  I even like the touring.  The climbing.  Because when you work for your turns it makes them that much better. 

So yeah.  I’ve come a loooong ways in just a few years.  And I’m kind of proud of myself.  Tear….

And guess what? When you get to the bottom you "skin up" and do it all over again. Here the Hubs and I are getting ready to head out for round 2.

Ok, I forgive you Hubs. But I'm still not sure why you tricked me into doing this!

So another glorious day at Lolo Pass.  And no day at Lolo is complete without a trip to The Lumberjack Saloon on our way back to town.  If you love dive/country/in-the-middle-of-nowhere bars.  This one is for you:

We really were having fun...I think everyone just looks angry because we were out of beer.

Here are the bathrooms. I'll let you figure out which one is which.

In the end…I have come a long ways.  Don’t you think?  In fact we have a ski vacation planned this winter that will be purely backcountry skiing.  Can’t say I would have been too thrilled about that 4 years ago (what, no condo?  No big fancy lodge?  No high-speed quads?  The horror!!).   Don’t get me wrong, I still dig real ski vacations….but when in Rome….bring your own beer.

It’s Snow Joke

Sidenote:  Remember when I said I would “post five times a week as long as life didn’t get in the way?”  Well, life work got in the way last week.  Sorry for being MIA!  This week will be much better, plus I have a lot to catch you up on!

This past weekend was the Snow Joke Half Marathon I’ve been training for since December…remember this post of yore where I was nervous about missing some long runs?  I’m glad to report that missing those runs didn’t seem to hurt me too bad; but there were certainly some other obstacles/signs/omens (whatever you want to call them) that tried to deter me from finishing.  Take for example:

  • Working 70 hours (out-of-town) the week just prior to the run.  Not only was I mentally exhausted I was physically exhausted as well….missing two of my three weekly runs.   Yes, they were just my tapering runs, but it doesn’t help me mentally to miss runs that close to the race. 
  • Forgetting my running tights.   Since I returned to Missoula Friday afternoon, I had to madly unpack and re-pack to leave for the race.  You see the race was in Seeley Lake (about an hour drive from home), and the plan was to drive up Friday night.  Seems that in the frenzy of packing I forgot my tights (and temperatures were forecasted to be sub-zero)!    Lucky for me Stephanie had brought a spare set. 
  • The fact that the only food I packed with me was a bottle of wine.  Forget carbo-loading and protein; apparently red wine is my pregame fuel of choice.  I guess Stephanie had to go and save-the-day again with her bagels and peanut butter. 
  • We spent the night in a sauna – or what might as well have been a sauna.  Turns out Monica and I build a killer fire in a wood stove.  Sorry girls. 
  • The thermometer said MINUS twenty-one degrees when we woke up in the morning.   Enough said. 
  • The starting gun rifle was handed to a woman dressed like Sarah Palin to start the race.  Seriously.  She had a red skirt suit on and a Sarah Palin mask.  The scary thing is I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or serious.  You just never know in these small Montana towns; but it was certainly a deterrent to me, no matter what the meaning.     

View into Seeley Lake

In the end, I decided that I couldn’t let work be the reason I missed the race no matter how tired I was!   That’s just silly.  And I couldn’t let the fact that my pre-race meals weren’t exactly up-to-par deter me either.   I’d been training for 12 weeks for this thing!  So the last and biggest deterrent?  That minus twenty-one degrees?  I decided that Old Man Winter can suck it.  I didn’t work my butt off to quit the day of the race.  Luckily the temp was a balmy negative one by race time.  A real heat wave.

Luckily the other girls decided the same thing.  Here’s some of us waiting in the school gymnasium prior to the starting gun.

Me, Stephanie and Monica looking a bit to excited prior to running 13 miles in -1 temps

I’m sure ya’ll wanna see the rifle I mentioned earlier, eh?  I apologize there’s no Sarah Palin to go with it..it was a “surprise.” 

You can't make this shit up people

Look how many other crazy runners there were!

I don’t have any pictures from the race (hello, I was running)…but I’ll tell you that it went fairly well.  At one point I got passed by a man wearing a skirt…and it brought back memories of my first 1/2 marathon where I got passed by a man running barefoot.   Right.  With no shoes on (and this was before the big barefoot running craze).  At that point I didn’t care if I passed out right there on the course; a man with no shoes was not beating me…oh hell no.  I found myself starting to feel similarly about the man in the skirt, but I decided to let it go.  Besides, around mile ten I passed a dude wearing jeans…so I considered it even.   But seriously, what is wrong with people?  Isn’t running thirteen miles hard enough?

The Snow Joke is a funny little race.  According to the lady at the local coffee shop it was started by a “bunch of drunks.”  Not sure what that means because drunks don’t usually moonlight as distance runners.  But it is kind of a light-hearted race (see Sarah Palin bullet above).  People dress up.  There’s no real “finish” line except for two orange cones you run through.   This was the first year I’ve noticed an official time clock.  I asked for water at the end and they were out.  haha.  You run down the highway for about five miles and the whole time a dude (the race director?) drives back and forth yelling at people to “run single file or get disqualified.”  Dogs are allowed. Your race tag gets you a beer at the local bar.  There are funny signs along the whole course; for example:

  • Jokers do it once a year
  • Rhino crossing:  Do not molest
  • Vulture hang out:  Stop and be eaten alive
  • Safe Water:  The water at mile six was unsafe

I wish I could remember more.  I tried. 

Anyhoo…I finished:  2:09.  I was hoping for under two hours, but given the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures; I’ll take it.  Take that Old Man Winter.  And here are some pictures to prove it:

Notice the Peach smoothy I got in place of water.

The obligatory beer at the Filling Station

All the girls; plus one random creeper in the back. haha

In the end?  I’m glad I didn’t let anything deter me.  Was it freezing?  Heck yes it was freezing.  Was it fun?  I haven’t decided yet.  Was it worth it?  Heck yes it was worth it.   Now to find the next race…perferably without snow.

Now for a random pic I thought you would enjoy:

Found this in the restroom (registration was in the local middle school). Hmmm. So middle schoolers really need to be reminded to "leave?" I just picture kid after kid piling up in the bathroom because no one told them to leave. Weird. But it has also inspired me to post my own "bathroom expectations." If that ever comes to fruition you know you'll hear about it. :)