The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.
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Duck, Duck, BANG!

I can now cross “duck hunting” off the bucket list. Or can I?

It went like this. The day before the hunt I purchased a small game license along with all the requisite conservation stamps and a box of game-load steel shells. On the morning of, I bundled up with two pairs of long underwear (one lightweight capiline, one expedition weight fleece), three shirts, two jackets, waders, Everest-worthy mittens and a brimmed wool hat. After a few slugs of coffee, I grabbed my Mossberg 20-gauge, put my head down and followed friends into the swamp.

After placing a dozen duck decoys in the water, the boys in the group set down on the waters edge to wait it out. When I asked if our friends wife was hunting, the reply was, “No, she cries. That’s why I bring her- she brings the emotional aspect.” Since this was my first interlude into shooting anything other than a target, I decided to start by sitting back under the willows and quietly chat with our emotional aspect while I watched how things were done.

Ideally, when a duck is sighted, the barrel of the gun should have a wing on either side, which is to say the duck needs to be close. Besides the decoys, this involves extensive camouflaging and a number of small kazoo-like devices that can produce duck sounds. I found the sounds somewhat comical, but apparently this is very serious business as proper duck hunting should result in one dead duck per shot fired. With this pressure, sitting and chatting turned out to be more fun that sitting at the ready with a gun, so I didn’t move from my place in the willows except to periodically brush the snow off my rifle. I would hate to lose it. It had started snowing shortly after we arrived at the make-shift camp and was coming down hard enough to make the landscape around us look quite different.

At least that’s what I told myself later.

After a few hours, the emotional aspect of hunting and myself decided we were getting cold and wanted to go back to the trucks. Traipsing through the snow, we headed the general vicinity of the parking lot. However, as neither of us were paying much attention on the walk in, we failed to remember the dry path through the marshy cattail maze that stood between us and petroleum fueled heat. With my waterproof waders, I intrepidly decided to wade into it to ‘see how bad it was’. The black manky-mank replied by sucking the Velcro sandals off my feet. I made a mental note that my fly-fishing setup of waders and sandals may not be cross-compatible with duck hunting in the snow.

Once the manky-mank had infiltrated the miniature hooks and loops of Velcro, they were pretty much useless and only loosely stayed on my feet. At this point, we admitted we were screwed. I told the emotional aspect that if we got really lost, I did have three rounds in my pocket. She laughed at my suggestion of using bullets as signal flares, but I thought it was clever. We ended up following our footprints back through the snow to find the boys and admit defeat. They may have been slightly amused when we wandered in and asked to be walked out to the maze entrance. We did have a little hiccup coming out of the maze, but eventually made it back to the cars about 30 minutes before the boys (about 1.5 hours after left them for the first time). We ended up driving away with three small, tasty ducks and a new appreciation for the male directional sense.

Cook of the Day: Ted Nugent is a culinary genius and I highly recommend his book, Kill It and Grill It. His recipe was the first time I genuinely enjoyed eating duck.

If you don’t like the weather…

Every state I’ve lived in has claimed the following phrase as their own; “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”. While I can’t say that I was particularly bothered by kayaking in 71 degree sunshine on Saturday, the following Tuesday certainly brought enough change to make the infamous phrase ring true.

The change was snow. We went from a high of 71 to a high of 38 in three days time. Kayaking at the high was breathtaking. We loaded up the boats and drove upstream to enjoy a leisurely 2.5 hour paddle back to the house. Incidentally, I’ve decided my enjoyment of flat water kayaking expires at the two hour mark, but the real excitement of the trip came from back-paddling to avoid a very large cow crossing the stream directly in front of me. While that would have been a new and exciting experience, I will have to save it for another day. So I settled for my quota of vitamin D and wondered how long the weather could hold out. Not long.

For once, I welcomed the change. Although it is easier said than done, I find life is easier if one embraces the change instead of moaning in futile resistance. The snow was here and that seemed appropriate for November in Wyoming. It was as if my body and mind were ready for the seasonal shift that brings cozy nights reading books. It’s time to leave pots of stew simmering on the stove for the day and warming hands with big mugs of tea. For big puffy jackets and fun winter hats. I’m taking this snowfall as an official invitation to slow down, snuggle in and enjoy the shift.

Hat site of the day: Splurge for some winter cuteness at Jackson based Halo Hats. Their new skier design is a total 70’s throwback and is beyond cool.
Lift ticket deal of the day: Snowbird (Utah) Early Season Lift Tickets from $43.99 (Save 41%)

Worst. Bike. Ride. Ever.

Not even close to the highway I was on. But the question of what about 'highway' associates with 'recreation' remains.

I thought of this title on the mentioned bike ride, but then realized I was being a bit melodramatic. After all, wouldn’t the “worst bike ride ever” involve major bodily harm to your person or someone around you? So maybe it wasn’t the worse ever, but a couple of items led to my extreme dissatisfaction. The first of which was that fact that I was not on single track.

I know that the term ‘road biking’ implies, well, a road, but I failed to really absorb how BORING a road can be. You’re either sucking exhaust (mmm), pedaling uphill (groan), hoping the 3500 diesel doesn’t hit you or speeding downhill while praying no surprise potholes exfoliate off your face or any other body part that goes skidding along the surface. Surpisingly, none of the aforementioned items are listed as ‘fun’ in my book. And in Casper, there’s one extra little tidbit of joy- hurricane speed winds. I could actually feel alternate surfaces of my tire interfacing with the pavement as the wind gusted me heavily to one side. When I commented that I felt like I was going to get blown over, the reply was, “you’ll know when it happens”. You don’t say. And lest you think the downhill sections are a bright spot, my only thought nuking down a two-lane highway is “great, that’s another hill I’m going to have to pedal back up.”

Which brings me back to the title. On single track, my mind is in the moment. If I’m not paying attention, a crash is very likely. On a road bike, I just pedal and my thoughts wander to subjects like, how MUCH bodily harm is okay for a little bit of fun. As in, would I rather take a 95% safe road bike ride* with little probability of crashing and little probability of a good time OR would a rather incur small amounts of bodily harm like minor scrapes and stiff hips from my topple-over and have a super-sweet fun mountain bike ride? The answer of course, is ‘bring on the pain’. This is how I know I’m not getting old. This is also why I’ll use my road bike for exercise but my mountain bike is where my heart lives. Casper is going to need some more single track to hold me down.

*all statistics are purely speculation and subject to the daily mood changing of Michelle.

Invention of the Day: A bicycle airbag helmet. Yes, I’m serious. Watch the video- it’s rad.

Wildlife before Breakfast

My new backyard

At 9 o’clock at night, getting up at 5:45 am to kayak the river the next morning sounds like a good idea. At 5:45 the next morning, it sounds like I want to throw something (anything) at the person who is waking me up. Did you know it’s still dark then? As in, middle-of-the-night-pitch-black dark? I didn’t. But I did get up, pull on a layers of clothing, hat, headlamp, and pogies (kayak mittens and incidentally, a key invention in the evolution of man) and proceeded to put my tired self into the front of our tandem kayak. Let me tell you what I saw.

I didn’t really ‘see’ the flock of geese as much I heard them. We weren’t 10 minutes into the paddle when a commotion sounding a bit like a Mack truck started immediately on my left. The Mack truck grew louder as we approached and started furiously honking for us to get out of the way before it decided to take flight and relocate downstream. A narrow miss.

The low water allowed for a more leisurely Chai-sipping pace and at one such interlude, I spied something moving along the bank towards an obvious den. The masked critter heard us and froze to assess the new bright orange creature on the river. Not often seen in this area, the raccoon decided we were more curious than threatening and we were allowed to safely observe him in his entirety with a comforting distance of water between the two of us. Cool.

Finally, I saw what I had been waiting for- a beaver! Although their dam-building can make them a serious nuisance for river recreation and to homeowners, it is super neat to see them in action. This one had its head above water and was swimming upstream straight at us. We spotted each other around the same time and he promptly dove underwater to resurface later closer to the bank. By this time we were downstream of him and he boogied to shore with amazing swim skills. He was probably breaking curfew as it was getting fairly light out. If this amazing Fall weather holds, I’ll try to find his dam and see if I can catch him in construction mode. But as that will require multiple 5:45am mornings, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Super Cool Video of the Day: Tagging bears in Canada- the three adorable cubs are worth the watch (it’s funny, too).

A New Range for Mountain Kidd

Downtown Casper and Casper Mountain

After six full years in the valley of Jackson Hole, Mountain Kidd is relocating to the second biggest city in Wyoming. Since very few people know the second biggest city in Wyoming, I’ll just spill the beans; I’m moving to Casper.

Casper, Wyoming has a population of 53,500 according to the 2010 census.  This is a significant number for Wyoming. And yes, I’ll still be “Mountain Kidd”. Casper is located at the north end of the Laramie mountain range. In this range is Casper Mountain, rising 3,000 feet above the city to a total of 8130 feet. 8130 is no Grand Teton. but that’s okay- I’ll adapt.

I’ve lived throughout the Rockies for over ten years and each town has pushed me to develop one skill set or another. In Vail, I was young and made bold job choices. Working full-time as a ski instructor Beaver Creek allowed me to become a technical, proficient skier very very quickly. When summer came around, I paid $200 to take a two-week training course as a whitewater rafting guide. At the end of the two weeks, everyone was granted an interview with the promise that about half of us would be hired on for the summer. With a customer service personality and a deep passion for water in all its forms, I got the job and spent the summer swimming rapids on the Eagle River (not on purpose) and guiding tourists down the Shoshone section of the Colorado.  I also bought a whitewater kayak and found that I enjoyed the solidarity of kayaking even more than rafting

There was a brief stint swimming flood-stage whitewater on the New River in West Virgina, but it was clear that I needed to find my next mountain town ‘out west’. Vail was fantastic but I knew the fur coat party scene wasn’t for ultimately for me. I told people I wanted another ski town without so many people and more laid back. Those in the know all said “go to Jackson.” And to Jackson I went.

While Jackson has whitewater, it’s not near as plentiful or accessible as it is in Colorado. But we do have epic mountain biking. Armed with a tricked out Kona mountain bike as a college graduation gift, I took to the trails with vengeance and let whitewater fall to the wayside. I dare say the shift in focus fit my aging process as well. When things go ‘wrong’ on whitewater, it’s game on. The situation instantly becomes exponentially more serious and a rapid set of decisions needs to be made to ensure the continuation of life. As a raft guide, you may need to flip the raft, which involves climbing on top of an upside-down raft, attaching a rope to the side and pulling it on top of yourself as you go back into the water. After this, you need to collect your guests. There’s no question that it’s a high pressure situation. But with mountain biking, a wrong decisions leads to a glorious stand-still. Assuming your friend isn’t about to run you over, a crashed mountain biker can luxuriate in lying on the ground and doing a mental once-over before acting.

Of course, the winter months in Jackson are all about the skiing. I went from a good skier in Michigan to a good skier in Colorado (a considerable jump) during my time at Beaver Creek and I consider myself lucky to have had the time to cut my teeth before coming to Jackson. When people call it the best skiing in the lower 48, they’re right- if you can ski it. Jackson is steep and rugged with limited beginner and intermediate terrain. It’s one reason we’ll never get the skier numbers of Vail- which is fine by us locals. On drops where other resorts would issue series of flashing lights and multiple rope lines, Jackson puts a pole with a small orange “cliff” sign. Skiers that wander off the groomed trail, ski at your own risk. It’s fantastic skiing, but a minor knee injury and the cumulative effect of many long, hard winters has me thinking I may be able to live without flinging myself down mountains on two narrow sticks.

Casper does have world-class Nordic skiing. The Casper Nordic Center has 42 kilometers of groomed trails with a 1.2K lighted loop. So I’ll buy some Nordic gear for the winter months. Maybe I’ll help develop the mountain bike trails in the summer, but Casper does have a whitewater park on the downtown section of the Platte river- it’s fun without the consequences of class V rivers. And Jackson is an easy five-hour drive away. Maybe a mountain lifestyle has more to do with the person than the geographical location.

Nonprofit of the Day: Teton Valley Hapi Trails

Ode to Trailer

The land yacht an earlier weekend at Miracle Mile.

No, I didn’t give up my cabin on the creek for a ‘mobile home’. Rather, I’ve been camping in a 21′ Outback trailer, most recently at 9,500 feet while the boys took ‘armed nature walks’ looking for that seasonally elusive animal, the Elk. And trailer life is good.

Although certain things need to be borrowed from the house (pots and pans, for one), the trailer has become host to the stuff we don’t really like but, for some reason, still have. Threadbare towels, plastic wineglasses, ugly potholders and knives that rap knuckles on the cutting board have all found a home in the drawers of the trailer. With a three-burner propane stove top, a temperamental oven,  extremely conservative water use, and no electricity (we haven’t gone the generator route… yet), cooking easily takes three times as long as home preparation. And that, I have found, it a wonderful thing.

Take the cookies, for instance. With chilly weather and a tired body, I thought some fresh cookies might be just the thing but had no brown sugar. I was also without cell phone reception and thus unable to Google substitutions. Panic! Not really… Out came an old dog-eared copy of the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The Classic Peanut Butter Cookies had a handy line item: “ 1/2 cup  packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey”. I was in business. Creaming the fats and sugars with a wooden spoon instead of electric beaters was a wonderfully slow process. Instead of a noisy whir, I watched over the course of about 10 minutes as the batter gained air pockets and slowly turned  into the light, fluffy deliciousness that only real butter and 0ld-fashioned sugar can make. My arm was getting a bit tired by the end and I thought about how much more physical energy people had to use in the past to produce a meal. Depending on the decade, a lot, lot more.

I baked off all the cookies with a constant eye on the oven thermometer that now lives in the oven. When they were done, I threw in a classic midwest-worthy chicken and biscuit casserole. It’s like a giant chicken pot-pie without the hassle of the crust and the perfect one-dish meal for meat and potato kind of guys.

Later, the small counter space necessitated that one person dry and stow dishes while the another washes. Standing in the little trailer side by side with no cell phone interrupting for an entire weekend, I enjoyed ‘doing the dishes’ for the first time in a long time. And the Elk? Let’s just say they’ll live to see another weekend.

“Awwww” Site of the Day: The Daily Puppy. It’s all fun and games until somebody pees on a strangers leg…

Dumb Activity of the Day: Browsing the shelter site for dogs in need- anybody need a husky?


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To Avoid Hand Mutilation

Climbers in a Classic View of Vedauwoo

15 miles west of Laramie in the southeastern Wyoming is a climbing area known as Vedauwoo (pronounced vee-da-voo). The name means “Land of the Earthborn Spirit” to the Arapahoe Indians and “insanely sharp rock” to rock climbers like me.

The climbing crag is a fantastically short 20 minute hike from the campground, and as I watched my friends put on tape gloves (which is exactly what it sounds like), I commented that I had never worn them. The guys in the group casually mentioned that I would probably want them while the lawyer in our midst quoted the guide book with something like “wear tape gloves to avoid certain and severe hand mutilation”. Point taken, I received one assembling tape glove lesson and proceeded to do a crappy imitation on my other hand. Oh well.

I can’t say my first climb was stellar. Vedauwoo is primarily a crack area and there was no subtly to the first few cracks we explored. Some climbing features intricacies involving delicate weight balancing and sequential movements. These cracks were nothing like that. As I repeatedly shoved my hand past cheese grater rock and contorted my ankles to shimmy my body up that stupid wall, I questioned why I ever said that I enjoyed crack climbing.

Frustrated and pumped out, I called the first day quits after just four routes and headed back to the camper to drink beer, which was delicious. Although the second day featured a better classic climb, I have come to the conclusion off-the-couch crack climbing at Vedauwoo is crap.

Running for Tin

2010 Tin Cup Half-Marathon Map

I’ve been so busy having fun that I have neglected to blog about my fun. My apologies and promise that there is quite a bit of fresh new content on the way!

I ran a half-marathon, which is 13.1 miles. Bear in mind that the last time I ran competitively (and I use that term loosely), I was partially motivated by the fun of eating bacon while running. Not shockingly, the half-marathon didn’t involve any bacon. Bummer.

I decided to do the run on my dear friend Niki’s birthday. I will shamelessly admit that she was less than sober when she agreed to accompany me- thus committing me as well. The run was six weeks out and although we had just completed a 10K called Shirly’s Heart Run, neither of us had ran much further than a 10K. Ever.

I started training with some beta from other distance runners- they said if I ran 5 miles, 5 times a week, I would do fine. Later someone added that I really should include a 9 mile run in there, so a week before the big day I ran my happy dog 9 miles. We were tired. Wendell (my dog) asked if I was sure I could run further. I wasn’t. Damn dog.

However, on the day of the race, the weather gods smiled down and bestowed their greatest running gift- overcast skies with the slightest of showers for the first 30 minutes. Having never run so far in our lives, we started with a conservative pace and maintained it throughout the race. After one hour, we both ate a Gu shot. I personally think they are delicious (especially the espresso love flavor- caffeine bonus!), but many would disagree. What people don’t disagree on is that after 45 minutes, your body needs something. Taken with water, these go down quick and are nicely balanced to keep you performing at the top of your game.

So the final results? We finished and helped a good cause (Teton Valley nonprofits raise money from donors and all monies are matched). The course was great; it started out on the highway but happily included quite a bit of dirt-road running. Race supporters are amazing people and I plan on giving back someday. We weren’t fast, but we felt good when we finished and made some happy Saturday morning memories together. That’s really all that matters, anyhow.

Caffeine tidbit of the day (from the Gu site): Caffeine helps the body produce more power, reduce the pain of hard efforts, and may even tap fat for fuel during exercise. All of this prolongs your ability to exercise at a high intensity.

Licorice Keys and Cross-Training

My new buddy (bike), Jake

Some people can observe the way the majority of the world completes a task, evaluate the method and successfully mimic it. I am not one of those people. Professional life aside, I would say I’m not really one to think the little things through. It is more my style to plunge in head first with little to no forethought and later say something like, “you know, there may be something to this one-leg-at-a-time method of putting on pants.”

Take my recent revelation regarding cross-training. As an athlete I acknowledged the similarities between mountain-biking and downhill skiing. After all, the upper/lower body separation and mental component to evaluating the rapidly changing terrain is pretty undeniable. But here in Wyoming, there tends to be a bit of a lag time between ski and mountain bike season (unless you’re a die-hard “hike to wherever the snow is” skier- I am not), which means by the time I am pedaling up a steep hill, my legs no longer have the ski spirit. And then I got a road bike.

Technically, my Kona Jake is not a road bike but a cyclo-cross bike (thanks Andy and crew at Wilson Backcountry), but for me it’s close enough. During our crazy long spring that finally concluded at the end of June, I was able to pedal my bike on the dry-ish concrete rather than feverishly checking the trails to see if they were dry enough to pedal (it’s bad karma to bike on a muddy trail and a good way to ruin it for everyone). When the trails finally dried up, I set out solo for my typical early-season huff-and-puff on my favorite little trail, putt-putt.

Early season biking, even on putt-putt, is tough. Typically this first few rides are accompanied by an inner monologue going something like this:

“Is this the big hill? It better be because this is hard. Oh crap, that was the little hill BEFORE the big hill. Was it always this hard or do I forget how much it hurts over the winter? Why do I like this sport again? Keep riding and the next ride will be that much easier… don’t stop don’t stop you big chicken- it’s only putt-putt…”

But this time, the inner monologue was silenced. It seems that all the pedaling on the concrete translated to cardio-strength and leg muscle for the mountain bike. I virtually flew up the big hills with September like strength. Whoa. If I had known that road biking would help my mountain biking season start off with a bang, I would have bought one many moons ago. But I didn’t think it through. Just like I didn’t think through playing the piano while eating licorice last night. School of hard knocks, I am ready to graduate.

Sloshing around Taggert Lake

By now, I should know better. It was an identical thought to the morning after one-too-many drinks, but this time, it dealt with a massive calorie intake minutes before a short but fairly grueling trail run.

With a few extra hours on my hands, I had decided to take my running up the road and around Taggart Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Suddenly very hungry, I had to make an unplanned stop for a little pre-run nourishment. While I was waiting for the deli to make the sandwich, I spied my favorite salt and vinegar kettle chips. Yum. Then those clever retail people put mini-Snickers for .25 cents at the register. I rationalized that I would eat the Snickers as a post-run treat. Yeah right.

Driving while eating doesn’t exactly equate to mindfulness, and before I knew it the chips and sandwich were gone. The Snickers was feeling awfully squishy so I was forced to eat that before it got any warmer and completely melted. It was the responsible thing to do. 15 minutes later I set out for a 4 mile trail run with a fair amount of up and down in 90 degree heat. While hindsight is always 20/20, I do feel I should have recognized that I wasn’t setting myself up for success.

I hadn’t drank enough water with my food and the bulbous mass in my stomach had decided the best way to deal with the dire circumstances was to condense into a small, compact hardened mass. It was an odd sensation. The mass figured that with its combined momentum, the side-to-side motion would make my stop running sooner than if it had been more evenly distributed. Different from running cramps, my stomach muscles were actually getting sore from holding the mass inside my body. I would slow to a walk on the steep, full-sun uphills to have the pain temporarily eased but fantasized about how much better I would feel if the mass decided to retaliate by making me throw up. My only concern is that I might traumatize some tourists into never, ever trail running. It would also attract bears to the trail, which is never a good thing. What to do?

I’m happy to report there is no new bear attraction on the trail to Taggart Lake. I kept running and cursed my lack of thought knowing that every run after this would be much, much easier.

HILARIOUS Ad of the Day: Old Spice “Smell Like a Man” (click to view)

Embarrassing Tidbit of the Day: I saw Eclipse, the newest movie in the Twilight series last night at midnight with a bunch of teenagers. And I liked it.

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