The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.
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Mountain Baby on the Way

Have you noticed that the adventures have been a little light-core lately? That’s because there’s a bun in the oven. Yup, I’m pregnant.

“But pregnant women can still be hard core!”. Of course they can. But not everyone, and especially not in first trimester, otherwise known as the exhausted puking days (at least for me).

Clearly, this was not “normal for me” and to make matters worse, some women couldn’t wait to tell me how they “were never sick a day of their pregnancy”. This fueled a myriad of not great emotions. If I was completely honest, I would say I felt lazy and had guilt about my laziness, but my body left me no choices. Then I had a heart-to-heart with an ultra-runner mom.

For those of you that don’t know, ultra-runners run 50 or even 100 miles at a time, and not on nice smooth pavement. They run up mountain passes and through mud. For one. hundred. miles. This friend had ran 50-miles when she was unknowingly 4 weeks pregnant. But a few weeks later, symptoms like mine started.

To quote her awesome blog post: “I found myself completely and constantly exhausted. For the first time in my life, allergies seemed to be an issue, making the simple act of breathing laborious. Food also became a difficult teeter-totter between consuming enough of it to sustain myself and my rapidly growing baby, while not taking in too much at once, which inevitably ended in a horrible sprint to the bathroom… Life became a bleak routine of waking up in the morning, going to work, coming home, falling asleep by 7 p.m. and taking care of the most urgent matters on the weekends… I basically abandoned thoughts of sneaking out for a run or taking a week off to backpack in the Wind Rivers. Sometimes I would have to sit down to take a break while walking our dogs around the block.”

Whoa. I couldn’t have said it better. I did occasionally hike and practiced some Pilates and yoga, but I spent a lot more time in bed than ever before. And while I’m feeling better now, it’s not normal Michelle and won’t be for a little while. But not to worry- I’ll just have to get a little more creative with the outdoor adventures while a big new adventure grows in my tummy.

Hurt-Yourself-Product-of-the-Day: It’s a motorized snowboard… for the streets. Probably as much fun and dangerous as it sounds. Check it out here.

Tiny Houses and Hungry Ghosts

Manufacturer and provider of floor plans for tiny houses.

What would you be willing to give up to ski/bike/fish/hike/play five days a week and work two days a week? Your daily latte? Sure, that’s probably a no-brainer. But unless you drink really, really expensive lattes, that’s probably not enough to make up for the three (or five) missing workdays. What about your house? Your car? Would you share a $3,000 car with your spouse if it meant a significant lifestyle increase? Now we’re getting into the hard questions.

Like it or not, our default pattern for the American lifestyle is not to “give up” things. In fact, it might even be focused on getting more things. But at what cost? Do we have a choice? I say we do, and I would like to promote more of us exercising our choices (including myself).

The biggest investment most of us will make in our lifetime is a home, and our homes are getting bigger by the decade. Home theaters, once the bastion of the rich and famous, are now commonplace in middle-class American homes. Homes are bigger and families of five can easily spend weekends “together” in one home not interacting with one another, much less the larger community outside the front door (if a nearby community exists at all).

This phenomenon is sometimes known as the lack of the “third place”, a point where Americans in particular seem to lag. We have work (where we spend A LOT of time) and home, but community gathering places like cafes, pubs, bookshops, etc are on the decline as we spend more time in our spacious homes. One of my least spacious fixed homes (this does not include summers in cars/tents) was a cabin on Fish Creek in Wilson. It was probably all of 600 sq. feet and I had a neighbor on each side in a similar size abode. Because of the tight quarters and scenic location, we often had inpromtu gatherings based on the fact that we were all meeting in the yard, which was basically a share public (or “third”) place.

What if we all had smaller homes that encouraged us to get out in the community AND saved us a ton of cash with lower utilities and, of course, a lower total cost. There are a few companies peddling houses as small as 65 sq. feet to as large as 874 sq. feet (check out some tiny houses here). For less than the cost of a new car, you can get a complete house, which begs the question: what would you do without a mortgage or rent payment?


Learning Humbleness


Image from my photography class, offered through the Continuing Education department of Casper College.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say if you’re an ‘expert’ at, well, anything, and find yourself in the teaching capacity (even if it’s an informal situation), you owe it to your students to learn something new. Why? Because it’s incredibly humbling/frustrating/rewarding AND it will make you a better teacher.

So what have I been learning? Oh, where to start? I took my first Pilates class a few weeks ago. It was a mat class, which means that the only equipment used was a yoga mat and, of course, our bodies. Confession: I kinda expected to be “good” at it. After all, I’m relatively young, in very good shape with a strong core and I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years. I was wrong. From my limited, one-class experience, Pilates is an exercise in subtleties and micro movements that are learned, not inherent. While the same could be said of yoga, I’ve committed much of it to muscle memory to the point where many of the less-obvious yoga movements are blissfully ‘built in’. It will take a while to get there with Pilates.

And I’ve blogged about my recent escapades skate skiing. It still strikes me as odd that I can transition from a scenario where I’ll turn around, fish out chapstick or generally not pay attention to an adrenaline-inducing OMG-please-don’t-fall-scenario based merely on the type of skis underfoot.

Now, there’s a third scenario on the scene. It’s a sport I know and love in a new format. My favorite sports (skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, etc) are decidedly individual, but I’m struggling in my new home to find places to bike (I get lost) and trails to run (again, I get lost). Enter Windy City Striders and Fat Fish Racing. The Striders have running races pretty much every Saturday and I enjoy having a preset distance to run and the subtle peer pressure from running in a big group, as opposed to my typical “run until I feel like turning around” style. Fat Fish Racing is a group of mountain bikers with a monday night race series running throughout the summer, and quite frankly I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into. My biggest rides to date have been in groups of eight friends that typically involve more margaritas than ribbons at the end of the ride. I entered myself in the intermediate “sport” category based mainly on the intel that the people in the beginner “rec” category can get a little agro. I am opposed to agro, unless it’s me versus hill. But me versus other bikers sounds like a losing proposition based on body mass. I’m just hoping my times will be a mild lesson in humbleness rather than a severe smack in the face. The first race is May 21, so stay tuned.

Over and out.


Transitioning Lifestyle: The Gym Debate

Yoga at Prana

Last fall I left my beloved Tetons in the name of love and moved to Casper, Wyoming. Just five hours from the valley of Jackson Hole, Casper seems a world apart. Of course, Jackson is a world apart from any town that doesn’t wear the ubiquitous title of ‘ski town’. But the part of Jackson I miss most are my recreation options.

Let’s say I worked on the computer for the morning and early afternoon and wanted to get out with my dog for some quick exercise before the evening (or another job) began. From my home in Wilson (7 miles down the road from the town of Jackson), I could jump in the car and in 5 minutes be at the trailhead to hike old pass road to Crater Lake. The road hasn’t been used since the new highway went in over Teton Pass in the 70’s. Paved on the ascent, the hike is a great loop with a calf-burning up and meandering single-track down. The top of the trail has a small blue lake perfect for thirsty or swimming dogs (mine would be thirsty type only). And if I was really ambitious, I could even ride up to the trailhead safely on a sweet bike path. If I was in the mood for a longer hike, I could opt for picturesque Ski Lake (which I have blogged about before here). Or maybe I was after great single-track biking. Just a few miles higher reside a number of trails like Blacks Canyon, Jimmy’s Mom or the Ridge Trail.

If I was more into a pavement-pounding mood, I could run on Wilson bike path with striking Teton views and horses braying in the neighboring fields. And there was always a chance to see some Wilson flair, like the resident I spotted walking her goat on a rope. What, you don’t have a goat on a rope?

But maybe I didn’t want to get all sweaty but spend some outside time with a girlfriend catching up while our dogs ran themselves silly – then I would go (again, in less than 5 minutes) and walk on the Snake River dyke. And I haven’t even gotten to town.

Seven miles down the road in the town of Jackson another world is waiting and in it another blog, but suffice to say Cache Creek along has a weeks worth of single track. But enough about Jackson – what are my options in Casper?

In Casper, I can hike Rotary Park with Garden Falls and the 4.5 mile Bridle Trail. There are also a number of hiking and biking trails on top of the 8,130 tall Casper Mountain. None of the trails have posted signs for directions or mileage. I’ve heard there are a number of bike trails on Muddy Mountain, but by that point we’re into an hour drive from home and that’s tipping the scale towards more car time than recreating time, which is definitely not MountainKidd style. So what do I do? I’ve been hitting the gym.

Less than 10 minutes from my new Casper home is a great fitness studio called Prana Fitness. I’ve been enjoying classes like Bootcamp, Pylo-Kick, Kettlebells and Yoga Sculpt with some pleasant surprises. In just 45 minutes, I can get my heart-rate up in a major way and work on enough muscles that my reduced mountain-biking schedule doesn’t mean reduced strength. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that even though I’m not riding often, I can ride as hard as I did when I rode four+ days a week. And another advantage? At the gym, you can go HARD. There is no slowing down to listen for bear or moose or terrain evaluation to avoid avalanches. It’s just you and your body – and the guy running the class who missed an illustrious career as a drill Sargent. And while I will always miss my breathtaking Teton views, I suspect this adaptation is the key to lifelong fitness and the happiness that comes with it.

Interesting list of the day: Money Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Live.

Hairy Yoga

The GiGi wax warmer- friend or foe?

Disclaimer: If you’re male, you may not want to read this post – but the ladies sure will.

Hair depletion and I haven’t always gotten along so well. Like much of my life, I’ve taken a shotgun approach to the issue. One blade irritates my underarms just as much as four. Electric razors are too harsh. And then there was the one waxing incident involving the microwavable wax. To make a long story short, I touched the wax container in the microwave and said wax exploded all over kitchen and a large area of skin. Burnt skin continued to worsen under a layer of tacky wax and the on-duty RN at the local ER (consulted via phone, thank you) was initially at a loss advice on a non-candle type of wax (hint: cold shower and use oil to remove. Take pain pills). This incident spurred the purchase of my own mini at-home waxing kit.

While somewhat barbaric, good ‘ole waxing is incredibly effective. In my mind, its biggest drawback is the simple fact that the wax needs something to grab onto. For underarms, this means a vicious cycle of careful planning to estimate the exact date when the hair is long enough to be pulled but not so long one is left waiting for the appointed day feeling like Sasquatch. Pull a week too early and an awkward stubble is left. And too late? Read on, my hairy friend.

I’m pretty sure that the wax pot at a salon gets plugged in when they open for the day. Not so at home. The wax kit must be brought out from under the counter and plugged in for at least 30 minutes to get the wax nice and gooey. I had plugged the wax in, but got distracted by email, phone, work and life in general. Before I knew it, it was almost time to go to yoga class and I wanted to wear a cap-sleeve shirt (as most full-coverage yoga shirts were hiding at the moment).

Reasoning that I had just enough time to do a quick underarm wax,  I began with gusto only to realize halfway through that if I was going to be on time (and you should not ever be late for yoga- just skip it), I had to go NOW. So, with one underarm pink and hair-free and one wax-ready hairy, I jumped in the car with a plan.

The plan was to go in the back corner. I began walking to my space when a woman in the second row asked me a question and we started chatting. A few new faces entered the studio, and that was the beginning of the end. Helping out the newbies, the instructor came up with two mats and asked the chatty woman and I if we would mind moving to the front of the class (‘so others can watch’, she mouthed). Fan-tastic. Watch away.

I have no idea if anyone objected to my one hairy armpit. In my mind, they did and were appropriately horrified/curious. In reality, they probably didn’t notice. If anyone has looked into laser hair removal for the underarms, I’d be interested in finding out more.

Funny-ha-ha-of-the-day: Graphic help for “Can I skip class today?



Karma’s Real

Kulae, you had me from your tagline. I too believe “Karma’s Real”.

I was lucky enough to test out an eco yoga mat from a new (I think…) company called kulae. Isn’t a yoga mat a yoga mat, you ask? Apparently not.

The most obvious difference is that their mats are long- 4″ longer than a standard yoga mat. Because I’m not exceptionally tall at 5’6″, I didn’t really know if this would matter. However, when the mat was in action at a yoga class, I felt like I had just moved into a King-size bed from the Queen. There was just so much room! My whole body was on the mat in pigeon pose.

The second difference was the smell- or lack thereof. Anyone who has opened a conventional new yoga mat knows that there is a distinct plastic new mat smell. Not with this one. I’m not sure which ingredient is the usual culprit, but Kulae spends a fair amount of advertising on their lack of certain ingredients- namely that their mats have no PVC, no latex, no cadmium, no lead and no rubber. They’re also 100% biodegradable, 100% recyclable, which is in line with yogic thinking itself. The mat also has two colors with two patterns- which I like to flip depending on my mood. That’s right- I accessorize with my yoga mat.

And now for the gross germy part. Their mats are ‘closed cell’, which apparently means that bactaria and germs don’t get trapped like open cell rubber and PVC mats. Eww. I put my face on that.

That’s my plug for the day. With some studios charging for mat rentals and the whole cleanliness issue, I highly recommend bringing your own yoga mat to class. Kulae makes a top-quality product that you won’t regret. Buy their stuff here.

Crafty-lady link of the day: Make your own mini pocketbook tutorial