It has come to my attention over the years that mountain towns have a language all their own. Nowhere is this more true than in my beloved town, Jackson.
First allow me to clarify one important point. I live in the town of Jackson, Wyoming which is located in the valley of Jackson Hole. ‘Hole’ is an old name for valley. Jackson Hole is also the name of the ski resort (full name: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort). But please stop asking me if Jackson, Wyoming is near Jackson Hole. Just remember: locals live in Jackson, and tourists visit Jackson Hole. Some of the new kids call it “J-Hole”. They need to re-read the above paragraph or I need to get with the times. One of the two.
So in J-Hole, the bro-bras are known for dropping some pretty sick shit. Sometimes they’re just spraying, but we really do rip wicked lines with top to bottom face shots because our gnar gnar mountain IS the shit. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, see below.
Urban dictionary defines gnar gnar as: Shortened modernized version of gnarly typically used by stoners. e.g. “Dude that shit is gnar gnar.” Since Jackson doesn’t really differentiate our general population from the “stoners” (they are one in the same), I’ll go along with this one.
“Dropping” and “hucking” are ways to describe subjecting one’s body to the undeniable forces of gravity via a terrain park or just an old-fashioned cliff. In other words, jumping off “stuff” with one or two sticks attached to your feet. Incidentally, Jackson is a great place for knee operations and physical therapy in general.
Our “lines” are the routes we choose on our way down the mountain and terms like “shit” and “sick” actually mean exactly the opposite of their literal interpretation. When someone is good at sliding over the snow, they “rip”. “That chick rips” is one of the higher compliments a woman can receive in this valley.
So who are the “bro-bras”? They are the guys and gals who use insistently and excessively use these terms. When they brag/exaggerate about their brilliant gravitational defiance, the rest of us say they’re “spraying”. And nobody likes a sprayer. There is a lot of raw talent in this valley, but the coolest athletes are the ones who are secure enough with their talent to put it out there for the world to see and let the buzz build on its own- or not at all. After years immersed in this environment, it really just comes down to how much fun you’re having out there.
Amazing talented athlete video of the day: Inspired Bicycles – Danny MacAskill April 2009
Maybe it’s because I’m from Michigan. Maybe it’s my techno-geek side. Maybe it’s just sheer awe at the marvels of modern engineering. Whatever it is, I am in lust with the incredible sexiness of the Porsche 911.
It started innocuously enough. My friend was considering buying one but wasn’t sure if he was actually going to pull the trigger. Suddenly, my email inbox had a simple “he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse” message with a picture of this cute little car. And then I met the car…
If this car was a person, he would either: a) kick my ass for calling him “cute”, or, b) sneer at me and turn on his well-heeled Prada shoe with a “I can’t be bothered with you” look on his face. Probably the latter.
This car is sex on four wheels. Seriously. With a thumpin’ Bose sound system and sleek black leather interior (did you expect anything less?), it just exudes “want me, want me, want me” with every sensuous curve. Being an ’04 Anniversary Edition adds an extra touch of exclusivity with an interior plaque claiming its rank in the limited production of 1,963 cars (the number represents the birth of the 911 coupe). And yes, I want it, but adventures with this kind of price tag will have to wait for a few more years.
Fun Wiki Fact: Hoover, Alabama has a Porsche police car. “In 2007, a motorist’s 2001 Porsche 911 was searched during a traffic stop by Hoover, Alabama police, then police department seized the vehicle after the Hoover police found 10 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside two compartments. Since then the vehicle was redecorated with a wing, light bar, and rear window lights. The vehicle was unveiled in 2009 as Hoover Police Department police car.
Color of the day: Polar Silver Metallic. Need you ask why?
Book of the day: “South of Broad” by Pat Conroy. Quite possibly the best book I’ve read in years.
With autumn quickly drawing to close, I decided to embrace the last days by visiting an orchard with fresh cider and apples for the picking. Either that or I was compensating for not having a boyfriend with apple trees I could pick off of. One of the two.
I browsed campsites near Logan, Utah on the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide. The site certainly isn’t great, but the information is all there if you’re willing to look around. I was torn between Sunrise Campground in Garden City and Spring Hollow in Logan, but finally settled on Spring Hollow based on the elevation (lower, thus warmer) and close proximity to Logan. At four hours from Jackson and only 6.6 miles from the town of Logan, Spring Hollow was tucked just inside Logan Canyon and understandably popular. I doubt we would have found a site without a reservation during any other week of the summer, but the brisk weather culled a few of the less hardy campers and we were able to pull right in.
The $15 campground was minimal but adequate- vault toilets, water spigots and picnic tables with fire rings at every site. Although the web sites referenced mentioned no tent pads, almost every spot had a beautiful flat area for a tent.
Paradise Valley Orchard was a 30 minute drive the next morning. It was small but the trees had copious amount of fruit and the owner was friendly. An old ski bum, he had done the original land survey at my old stomping ground of Eagle-Vail and Beaver Creek in the late ’70’s. He went on to explain that he did “this” because he got January and February off to ski. When I mentioned I wanted to get some fresh eggs, we headed out back to the chicken coup to see if the ladies had laid a few more to round out the dozen. The cider he sold is the best I’ve had since I left Michigan, maybe even the best I’ve ever had.
The cider alone was worth the trip, but the stunning fall colors and wonderful fresh food made the drive worth every minute. Highly recommended, although I would strongly suggest a reservation for the campsite, which can be made online. We just got lucky, which is always nice.
A week after the autumnal equinox, I also found myself in a transition. Repeating what is proving to be a pattern in my life, I coped with my emotions through physical activity.
I decided to hike in Death Canyon inside Grand Teton National Park. Though I felt some guilt at leaving the dog at home, I’d given him great 7.5 mile bike ride the day before. Besides, this was about me. I choose Death Canyon for several reasons:
1) An intermediate trail, there was likely to be a few less tourists than other trail heads on a beautiful Sunday,
2) The name seemed fitting,
3) A character by the name of Black George lives in the Grassy Lake Ranger Station and dispenses free root beer floats while he hits on you.
I borrowed my sister’s Jeep for the 1 mile of potholes that lead to the trail head. I was in no mood to be hiking along a dirt road while tourists kicked up dirt in their rented SUV’s. I was on a mission to get away from humanity as quickly as possible. I optimistically pulled into the parking area closest to the trail head to watch four people unload from an SUV with rental plates. They were parked like idiots. If they had moved 3 feet to either side, I would have been able to fit. Fighting the urge to roll down the window and ask them why the hell they parked like dumb asses, I reminded myself I was there to walk and drove back about a quarter of a mile to the next available dirt plod. Getting out of the car, I noticed a pretty stream that I had missed while driving over the bridge twice. Trying to change my mood, I silently thanked the dumb ass parking people for making me walk by the stream. The effort was half-hearted. My overwhelming feeling was that they were still dumb asses and I still resented them. I turned the corner to find a mule deer just 10 yards away, looking at me with mild interest. I quietly said, “hey buddy, you’re okay” as I continued down the road. Slowly continue along his grazing path, we half-circled each other and I finally let go of my resentment towards the dumb asses.
Still, I tore down the trail like a woman possessed. I had invited several people to accompany me, but everyone had plans. Now, in my solitude, I realized I was glad to be going my own pace and I had only invited others to avoid being alone with my thoughts. I set a brisk, unmaintainable pace with the goal of driving myself into exhaustion. Sleep, usually a sweet refuge in stressful times, had been elusive. I wanted tonight to be easier. I didn’t slow down for the steep uphills and adopted the style of passing I’d seen my mountaineering friends employ. When people approached heading the opposite direction, I resolutely started at the ground and didn’t move in inch, shoulder-ramming several ignorant tourists who assumed I would yield. With an “f-them” mentality for not learning the rules of the trail (the uphill hiker has the right-of-way), I pounded down the trail as if distance from the car would create emotional space as well.
Cursing my endurance, I started to relax four miles in. However, a glance up the steep canyon walls showed that I was almost at the top. With a “why quit now”, I resolved to go to the top. At the saddle, I enjoyed a homemade brownie I’d packed and enjoyed some well-earned exercise endorphins.
On return, I ambled over to the ranger station with a “hello hello!” only to be greeted by snoring. Though the screen door was propped wide open (much like the photo), I didn’t have the heart to wake him up. Making note of the the mice fatalities Black George was tirelessly tracking (98) and root beer floats consumed (534), I left the park with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the powerful beauty and its calming power that lie just 30 minutes from my doorstep.
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Saturday, September 19th marked the 5th Annual Horseshoe Challenge, a 10K and 20K race in Driggs, Idaho. Because I had decided to participate on Wednesday night, I had no time to “train” for my first competitive run ever.
I’m not a person that “loves” to run. I appreciate it for its simplicity and efficiently. A pair of shoes is remarkably little gear compared to the majority of my athletic endeavors and just 30 minutes can be enough to get your heart rate up and feel as if you accomplished some sort of exercise. I think that’s brilliant, but the activity itself is, well, boring. One foot in front of the next, plod, plod, plod. Despite this, I was interested to try it in a competitive environment and spend time with the women that invited me along, so I signed up.
The $25 registration fee went towards Teton Valley Trails and Pathways and what they called a “trail 10K” proved to be 7.5 miles instead of the standard 6.2. It was well-marked with a water station between the two significant hills. With sections of steep single-track, I truly enjoyed exploring an area I would have never ventured into on my own and although I was running without others in sight, I felt comfortable enough with the amount traffic to wear my iPod. But between tracks, I heard a steady rustling quite close and ripped my ear buds out while I spun around for the approaching moose, elk or deer. Seeing nothing, I started running again only for the rustling to also resume. It was the number pinned to the front of my shirt. Oops.
Other then the dangerous rustling sounds, the lack of anxiety over “which way is the car” was fantastic and the last two miles of downhill opened up some fantastic Teton views. They were so fantastic that I forgot to look where I was running and tripped over a menacing 1/2″ rock.
This wasn’t a slow “oh no I’m falling” type of fall. It was a “how the hell did I end up on the ground?” fall from which I jumped up and examined myself for signs that I had fallen more than signs of injury. Quickly dusting myself off, I realized that I had not only skinned both knees but my right shoulder as well. I’d gone down hard. As another runner passed me, I muttered something about “watch out for the killer rock” to which he asked if I was okay. “Just my pride, just my pride” was my sheepish response.
When my friend (who happened to place second overall) saw me approaching the finish, she jogged out to cross the line with me and my first comment was “I tripped- can you tell?”. She made sure I was okay and we laughed a little before I attacked the delicious table of yummy treats and water. The organizers waited for everyone to finish and started drawing entry forms for some pretty sweet raffle prizes. I won a Patagonia Capilne shirt right before a hornet stung my forearm.
Driving away from the trail head, I had dried blood on my knees, right shoulder and my left forearm was mottled with red and swelling considerably. But I don’t think it will be my last 10K.
Summer in the mountains is much too short and Friday was much too beautiful to stay inside, so I skipped out to play in my kayak on the scenic stretch of the Snake River. While rafting and kayaking was once my singular obsession, it has given way in the past 5 years to mountain biking, climbing, hiking and the like. As such, I was not as practiced in strapping my kayak on the car I’ve owned for the past 1.5 years. Apparently, this is something worth practicing.
As I put on the brakes to pull into the takeout and set the shuttle, my kayak abruptly slid forward. Jutting my right hand through the open sunroof, I gripped the kayak tightly while reaching across with my left hand to shift into neutral as my knee directed the steering wheel. Unsure of my ability to stop the kayak from bouncing off my hood, I came to an awkward stop while my friend drove by, looking at me quizzically. I got out of my car, face red, and explained that I usually strapped the kayak on in the opposite direction. Now I knew why.
This friend had never been kayaking with me. In fact, we had never shared any sort of outdoor adventure together. Having randomly intersected paths after some amount of time just a few days before, I was somewhat self-conscious of coming off as a total dumbass. Strike one.
My friend mentioned that his dog liked to ride along on the back of the kayak if I didn’t mind. I was more intrigued than anything by the idea (as were all the fishermen and drift boat occupents along the way). However, he had discounted my mention of “low water” and not realized that the lowest water he had ever seen meant some serious maneuvering and a few decent size waves.
The poor dog proved herself to be worthy of the adventure. After falling off, she would bee-line it for the nearest bank and run down until her owner could eddy out (pull over in slack water) and cajole her back on the kayak. For my part, I shouted out a few helpful “she’s falling” or “you just lost her”. The photo below is posted at a large size so you can read the clear expression on the dog’s face. It’s not photoshoped, I swear.
At one point we decided to stop and have a little swim in a large, calm pool. I gathered the courage to submerse myself in the not warm water and dove down with sunglasses on. They immediate floated off my face and I went ass-up, feet kicking in the air and knowing that if I didn’t find them in seconds, the river gods would claim another pair.
I spotted them through the filmy water and surfaced with them in hand, triumphant. Gasping for air, I explained that I had lost my sunnies when I went under. He answered that he thought I had taken them off before diving, which would have been the smart thing to do. Dumbass strike two. Luckily, we were close to the takeout (end of a river trip) and I managed to hold it together for the next 20 minutes (I think). I’m still in the game.
On what we deemed to be one of the last days of warm-enough weather, three girls set out on a relaxing afternoon float on the frigid but calm waters of Fish Creek. At least, we thought it would be relaxing.
The problems started when we left the car. Being a former raft guide, I own a pair of Chaco’s (sandals with multiple straps to stay on your feet). I did not wear them. Instead, I wore flip-flops. Not wanting to lose them, I left them in the car and the others followed my suit. This would later prove to be a problem.
About 10 minutes into our 45 minute float, I spied a small stick protruding about 2 inches above water. I lazily scooped water with my right hand to move my sluggish tube a bit towards the right bank. However, as I was floating by said stick, it reached out and poked my tube. And my tube stuck and violently pivoted on said stick. The “burble burble burble” and vibrations of air rapidly leaving my tube began immediately. I calmly looked at the others and said, “I just popped my tube.” To my dismay, Trisha responded, “me too.” If we were wearing shoes, we could have gotten out and walked along the road back to the car. That silly saying about hindsight comes to mind…
Thankfully, Morgan had not popped her tube as she had also invested in the grand daddy of all tubes. Her Michigan background came into play when she went to KMart, the logical place to purchase a tube (Trisha and the more seasoned population of Jackson Hole buy them from the tire store). The selection was slim, and she got one that is suitable for towing behind a boat. This is a large tube, but is it large enough for three? We were about to find out.
Doubtful of our ability to all cram onto one tube, I attempted to delay the inevitable by rolling the problem section of my tube and gripping it tightly to slow the air flow. This bought me an additional five minutes of tube time, all the while slowly floating lower and lower in the freezing water. Finally, I threw in the proverbial towel. Morgan and Trisha were lying side-by-side, stomach down on her tube. To accommodate me, Morgan suggested we all jump on the tube, back-in and proceed sitting up. Almost capsizing on the count of three, we somehow managed to all successfully get the majority of our butts on the tube. And then the bridges came.
I took a friend from Florida tubing on this very creek once when the water was higher and she began panicking when she saw a low bridge. I told her to lay back on the tube as I demonstrated. Her comment was that was all well and fine for me, but her D-cup was likely going to get her stuck under the bridge. It didn’t, but it gives one an idea of the amount of space we were dealing with.
Morgan, Trisha and I decided the best way would be to lay over our knees and be as small as possible. Somehow, it worked. Our adrenaline and initial excitement over fitting 3 girls on one tube slowly numbed to… numbness. 35 freezing minutes later, we arrived at the cabin and stumbled into the house to get shoes, which brings me to an interesting charity.
Shoes are pretty important. Here in the U.S., most of us can legitimily say that we have too many shoes. Imagine not even having one pair. It’s a problem. Which brings me to Tom’s Shoes. While their style isn’t for everyone, there generosity should be – for every pair purchased, TOMS gives a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Check it out. And next time you float a creek, make sure someone wears shoes.
Interesting news article of the day: Hard exercise makes you smarter. Read full NY Times article here. (and thanks to Carson Stanwood for the link on Twitter)
When a friend offered to show me and my sister around Cody this weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape the Jackson labor day crowds and explore Yellowstone’s east gate. What I hadn’t expected was the rich history of a small town that felt pretty secure with its real-deal western roots.
Cody is located outside the east gate of Yellowstone that I have somehow managed to miss until this point. I’ve frequented West Yellowstone both by snowmobile and car and even walked several days to reach Gartner, Montana (the journey being the destination, of course) out the northeast gate of the park, but somehow have skipped Cody. And I’m not the only one.
Cody was (gasp!) filled with locals. Wyoming license plates begin with a two-digit county designation that makes it excruciatingly easy to identify where a car is from. Teton county plates boast “22” and are a prime target for small town speed traps all over the rest of the state. Incidentally, “small town speed traps” is a fair description for the majority of our nation’s least populated state. But in Cody, all I saw was “11”. 11 on the RV’s at the campgrounds and 11 outside the local Silver Dollar Bar (never to be confused with Jackson’s Silver Dollar bar- they still allow smoking in this one). We were utterly surrounded with that rarest of breeds, the Wyoming local.
We entered what appeared to be the epicenter of the native habitat with lunch at Pete’s, more formerly known as Peter’s Cafe & Bakery. I ordered the egg salad sandwich and the grandmotherly lady scooping it up commented, “the only problem with this sandwich is that it’s messy.” I answered “that’s what makes it so good” and she affirmed with a “this one’s really good. I made it myself an hour ago.”
I took that as a pretty good sign. Anytime someone that looks like a grandma is selling food she made herself I get pretty excited. And she delivered.
Cody is named after William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody and the legends fully live up to his colorful name. The first story came from my raft guide friend (so you know if must be true) as we approached the Buffalo Bill Dam. Old Bill wanted the people that lived in the canyon to move up to Cody and increase the population of his town. The people of the canyon said “no thanks”, so he built a massive dam (the tallest in the world on its completion in 1910) and proceeded to flood the canyon. The people moved to Cody. Nice guy, that Buffalo Bill.
I’m not sure how big Buffalo Bill dreamed Cody would become, but it sits at a grand total of 9.5 miles today. It calls itself “The Rodeo Capital of the World” and depends mostly on tourism. It’s always, always windy and either crazy hot or crazy cold. Money flows in off and on from oil but it seems like a large part of what keeps life simple is the notorious Buffalo Bill Dam. It irrigates over 93,000 of farmland in the Bighorn Basin. Maybe that Buffalo Bill wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
You Tube of the Day: cover of Taylor Swift’s Love Story This guy re-wrote the lyrics from Romeo’s perspective and sang/played them on You Tube. Taylor Swift tweeted and posted on FB about it. Interesting to see if the kid gets a record contract from this. Social media and old-fashioned “anyone can do it” American opportunities at their best.
So I’m paraphrasing a little. What the August 17, 2009 issue of Time actually said is “The Myth about Exercise – Of course it’s good for you, but it won’t make you lose weight. Why it’s what you eat that really counts.” What the article goes on to say- and I’m not even pretending to be unbiased with my summary of this- is that if you exercise, you’ll get hungry. Hungrier than if you didn’t exercise at all. And the author (John Cloud) touts a fair amount of research arguing that you’re more likely to choose pizza than a salad after exercising. This is because you’ve weakened the self-control muscle by forcing yourself to exercise. If he’s right and “…self-control is like muscle…”, Jackson Hole has some big ones. (read entire article here)
Jackson is an extremely active community where “exercise” happens outside the great majority of the time. Surrounded by like-minded people, we think nothing of an 8 hour hike with significant elevation gain and loss. That’s called Saturday. And when we get home, we eat. But the difference is we’ve discover the great dieting secret that has managed to elude the majority of the American public for decades: If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll get fat. If you eat less calories that you burn, you’ll lose weight. Want to stay the same? A novel idea… just eat as many calories as you burn.
You don’t have to memorize caloric charts for your favorite foods to do this; just use your noggin. Blueberry muffins the size of your head with cinnamon and nuts on top have a lot more calories than an apple (250 more, to be exact). Both are a reasonable mid-morning snack. If all else fails, choose whole foods. Even if they’re calorie-rich like avocados, you’re body is getting plenty of healthy yummy nutrients and will thank you for it later.
If you’re in Jackson, take a look around the town square. Those big beer guts? Those are tourists from Michigan. The guy with the 6-pack behind the counter at the t-shirt shop? Yeah, he lives here.
Quote of the day: “In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless.” -Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and prominent exercise researcher.
I was designing a postcard for a sort of travel agent company. They asked for a identifiable, classic Jackson Hole ski shot on the back. I found an image with two 20-something women drinking beer on a deck overlooking the ski area and thought “now THAT’s a ski vacation”. The agency I was working for also loved it, but said I needed to provide further options as the company had something different in mind. My rationale for using the beer image was the following:
“Skiing, especially at Jackson, is a challenge. By their very nature, challenges are uncomfortable. But skiing is about more than strapping on two sticks and sliding down the hill. It’s about reliving the challenges of the day with a great excuse to drink beer at 3pm with people you just shared an amazing experience with. The beer image invokes the nostalgia of relaxing and the entire experience of ski vacation; not just the mountain. It’s also a part of the ski experience that non-skiing family members can participate in (Jackson is often criticized for not having many non-skiing activities).”
The client bought the image.
If you’re looking for my graphic design business site, click here.
Website of the Day: www.apres.org, “A Singles Club for Active Adults”