The blog of the adventures (or mis-adventures) of an active mountain woman.

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?

 

The Greenest Grass

Wendell agrees - It's hard to beat our backyard.

In high school one teacher made a particularly profound impact on my life (sadly, he’s currently suspended because of a mismanagement of an allegation, but that’s another story). He introduced me to philosophy books that flirted with quantum physics or touted human supremacy as a cultural myth. My Midwest teenage mind was blown and I once bragged that I was reading it for the second (or maybe third) time. Like any good teacher, he responded with an metaphor, explaining that while he enjoyed his time in the Black Forest of southwestern Germany immensely, he wasn’t sure he’d ever go back because it’s such a big world and there are so many places to explore. The correlation to books was obvious.

I acknowledge there are subtleties in books and places that can only be gained with continued introspection. Also, sometimes you don’t want a brave new world experience – sometimes, you want old comfy pajamas and a bowl of macaroni and cheese. For those times, re-reading an old favorite or visiting a cherished place is exactly the right thing to do. But when do we throw in the towel on our greener grass hopes?

Right now, I have a pretty gorgeous home on the North Platte river in Casper, Wyoming. Wyoming in general is a pretty special place with lots of land, wind, animals and a few people here and there, which begs a question. What do the other people know? Certainly some people have city tastes and value 3 a.m. grocery delivery over hiking trails, but I know that city life isn’t for me. But there are other adrenaline junky mountain biker chicks in other Wyoming places and even other states. For those that purposefully migrated, what did they see in that place? While Wyoming may be home forever, I’m curious what other people love about where they live. Leave a comment below and let me know!

Get-out-there-link-of-the-day: The 20 best hikes in National Parks list from National Geographic

If You Don’t Have Your Health…

My husband and I were having a conversation yesterday when he interrupted with, “we need to call my Dad. It’s his anniversary. He quit smoking 13 years ago.”

Celebrating a new healthy habit like quitting smoking got me thinking. Do I have any heath anniversaries? I did get an email from my gym at the one year mark, but since I’ve always had an active lifestyle (often making ‘active’ an understatement), I didn’t really see this as a milestone. But then again, maybe I have mini-milestones all the time.

I had a nasty bacterial head cold funk thing going for the last few weeks and my diet suffered. I didn’t have the energy or desire to pour into meal planning and preparation and ended up eating three not-so-healthy meals a day instead of my typically stellar five meals of whole foods. After a weekend of baking fun (chocolate chip cookies and molten lava cakes in one weekend? What was I thinking?), I’m back on the wagon with a pleasant reminder- the wagon is never too far away.

It took a healthy dose of antibiotics (and a new cookbook didn’t hurt), but feeling healthy again leaves me wanting to offer support to you, my dear blog reader, in a totally cliche “tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life” sort of way. Do you have an unhealthy habit you can kick? It’s okay to start small – cut down the amount of soda before you cut it out or swap out your morning OJ for a whole orange. After all, it’s harder to get your body to do fun stuff when you put crap in every day. Pick a day, start a new health anniversary and thank me later.

Best-healthy-cooking-resource-of-the-day (I really love it): Clean Eating

Finding Beauty

Sometimes I get frustrated that my friends in Jackson will travel to the other side of the world just because they can, but won’t come vist me five hours away in Casper. They’ll travel for baby showers or even poker games but  have less interest in seeing a town nicknamed “oil city”. Then I remember that it took me five years to really start exploring Wyoming, too. When there are not one but two National Parks in your backyard with terrain for all of the sports you love, it can be hard to take the time to explore what may lay beyond. But what I have found is that almost any place on earth is interesting enough for a long weekend – even the desert.

King Snake, moving AWAY from me.

Before the Southwest starts an anti-blog campaign, let me acknowledge that plenty of folks think the best place on earth is the desert. A large part of our retired population, for one. I obviously have never been one of these people. To me, the desert feels hostile. Like life is hanging on the tenuous edge  and could collapse if a few drops of moisture don’t show their face at the appropriate time. I prefer habitats where gigantic prehistoric looking creatures like bison and moose can eek out a living and precipitation is measured by the hundreds of inches. But on this visit, I was delighted to find a strange ethereal beauty in the blooming cacti. The juxtaposition of a delicate flower balanced on a spiny cactus is fascinating. And there are plenty of creatures there, too. They may not be as big as bison, but they pack all the danger and then some. Next time I need to appreciate a new environment I’ll seek out flowers and foes.

Musical-time-suck-of-the-day: 39 songs I like (at once)

 

Ski Cheap at Winter Park

While grandma was on mountain to knit and visit, the rest of us represent three generations of skiers.

It’s no secret that skiing is an expensive sport, so any savings can be a big help when it comes to getting a whole group on the slopes. So what do you have to do to get this deal at the ticket window? Ski for a long, long time. As in, be over 70-years-old and still tearing up the slopes.

And how many people make it past age 70 at a level of health that allows them to enjoy alpine skiing? My grandpa, for one. And not just to 70 but 10 years past 70. That’s right – Grandpa is now 80-years-old, riding a train from Holland, Michigan to Winter Park, Colorado and skiing intermediate runs at altitude with enough energy left for an apres Fat Tire beer at the days end.

And if you’re no where near 70-years-old and feeling ripped-off by this blog post, I have a solution for you, too. It’s called liftopia, and I bought my lift ticket for around $70 after tax the night before I skiied Winter Park. Since the tickets typically ring in at $94 during holiday season or $85 during regular season, I thought it worth the effort to hop online and pay for it the night before. And picking up the ticket was as easy as buying one retail – I just went to any lift ticket window, gave them my name (bring your I.D.) and they cheerfully handed it over. It’s not as smoking of a deal as my grandpa’s tickets, but after introducing three kids and four grandkids to the sport (two of which became ski instructors), I’d say he deserves a little street cred at the ticket window.

How to be like Grandpa: Eat whole foods and have a varied, active lifestyle. Drink in moderation. He’s proof that it works.

Get your own liftopia deal by clicking the banner below.

 

 

Wonderful Distractions

Dean Potter on the Eiger

It has taken nearly six months to have the hindsight to blog about my wedding, but there was one particular unexpected gift that I would like to call attention to – and that would be proofreading a 30 page law school paper.

I fully realize that this doesn’t sound like a gift – and to be fair, I didn’t initially see it for what it was, either.

The wedding was family only with the exception of one friend each. As my childhood best friend is now in law school and I sometimes proof her work, it wasn’t unusual for her to ask me to take a look at this document as well. What was unusual was that it was the morning of my wedding and I wanted nothing more than to look at her paper.

The anxiety and anticipation of the day faded into a dull background hum as I pondered the context for capitalizing the “T” in Trooper. Contemplating apostrophes quelled nausea and I was struck by the similarities to what most extreme athletes already know – distractions can be priceless.

It’s no coincidence that some of the hardest climbing routes have been put up by recent divorcees or those going through trama. When “real” life gets to an overwhelming point, complete and total immersion in another activity can offer blessed relief. Since I was getting married, arguably a happy yet still nerve-inducing event, editing a technical paper suited the bill just fine. But when life really throws a curve ball, a pen and paper can’t cut it for some athletes. And there is no focus like climbing large parts of El Cap in Yosemite, sans rope (yes I’m looking at you Dean Potter). When every finger placement matters, there is no room for dull “what ifs” to run through your head, and that can a blessed silence. And fortunately, as few of us approach Potter’s level of expertise, most of us can get that bliss in the company of safety gear.

Article-of-the-day: Potter free-bases the Eiger (that would be free climbing, as in no rope, with a parachute to jump off).

Wonderful Distractions

I Caught a Fish!

Rainbow Trout from Grey Reef, Alcova, Wyoming.

“I caught a fish I caught fish I caught a fish I CAUGHT A FISH!” That was my idiot rant after, you guessed it, I caught a fish. It turns out this is easier to do than I previously suspected.

By main issue (before) was that I was wading, and it’s hard to cover a lot of river on your own two feet. This is especially true if you tend to cast erratically and thus alert the fish to your unnatural presence. But on this glorious day of fish-catching, I was in a drift boat.

I’ve been told that an important component to a successful cast is floating the fly (or nymph, in my case. More discussion on Nymphing on Mountain Kidd post “No Fish were Harmed“) downstream at the same rate as the river flows. This is infinitely easier when you happen to be in a boat that is also  moving downstream. Another bonus: when you’re drifting downstream, you don’t necessarily have to cast over and over. There’s a nifty trick called a roll cast, which I could attempt to explain here but this guy does much better.

Notice how there’s no flinging of the line behind you? This is KEY if you tend to, oh, say, hook yourself in your fuzzy hoody on your head, for example. And that’s just embarrassing. But back to the big catch.

When the fish is bigger and you’re using a fly rod, there is an art to reeling in the fish which includes letting the fish take line and run. If you try to fight this, the fish can snap your line or rod. Luckily, our friend Paul talked me through landing this guy, which involved key tips such as:

  • Keep the rod tip up.
  • If the fish wants to run, let ’em.
  • Keep tension on the line – when the fish slacks, reel him in.
  • Always keep him moving towards shore. He’ll try to run towards deeper water in the center of the river. Don’t let him.
There! Now you too, with the help of a drift-boat, advice from Marge at the fly shop (she advised rusty scuds and egg-sucking leeches) you too can land a beautiful rainbow trout. Just make sure to put it back – Grey Reef is catch and release!
Tip-of-the-Day: Go with a guide and catch more fish. They’re expert rowers and know all the seams where the fish hang out. The North Platte River Fly Shop can hook you up (he he).

 

 

Learning Humbleness

Ice

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.

 

All’s Well That Ends Well

Beware the water bottle that arrives with multi-page instructions. Read them.

I’m not totally convinced that Shakespeare knew what he was talking about. Although my last foray into the wonderful world of skate skiing did end well, certain body parts are not screaming “all’s well”.

My first “not well” clue came in the form on an innocuous water bottle. I won a handheld, Ultimate Direction water bottle from a raffle of a 10K I ran on Saturday and brought the bottle along based on the fact that it was sitting on the counter. Halfway up Casper mountain, with a manual transmission and 10 mph switchbacks, I was screwing the entire lid off to get a sip of water. Beware the water bottle that comes with instructions.

I didn’t bring the bottle along for my ski or I would blame the water weight for what happened next. The flat-ish area where I first learned how to skate ski was a bit melted out and some incline was obvious, but not enough to concern me. I started down the incline and gained more momentum than anticipated. Focusing on my form, I over weighted my right ski and crashed hard. Naturally putting my hands out to catch myself (note to self: work on “tuck and roll” form), I luckily kept my semi-injured thumb in close to my hand to no avail. Instead of hyperextending my UCL (ulnar collateral ligament, aka “skiers thumb), I jammed it back hard. Too hard. It’s super sore today and a little swollen – just enough to remind me to wear the thumb brace I bought a while back to prevent such an injury. But I digress.

Pull HARD on the red nipple to drink from said water bottle. It's not intuitive.

Since my beginner area wasn’t seeming so beginner, I set off to explore. To me, “exploring” is roughly defined as “attempting to get lost while meandering in whatever direction seems like the most fun”, and is really easy and maybe more exciting if you’re directionally impaired. And this was the best kind of exploring as following a groomed track ensured that it wouldn’t escalate to a survivalist situation.

Setting off on Bishops Loop, I was pleasantly surprised at the occasional scenic overlooks and snowed in A-frame cabins sprinkled throughout the forest. Intense cardio ensured I got several lungfuls of a heady pine scent and eventually, my route dead-ended into a T. One thing was certain: the left trail went one way, while the right went the other way. I went left, ended up spotting a “Braille Trail” sign posted by the Lion’s and the irony of my semi-lost state hit rather heavy.

Eventually, by looking 360° around me at every intersection, I made it back to the car. I had spent an entire hour in cardio land and actually enjoyed myself. So maybe Shakespeare was right after all.

 

Helmets – Why I wear one and you should, too.

All helmet sales increased 23% in units 2008/2009 to 2009/2010. Junior helmet sales shot up 32%, and adult sales increased 21%.

Helmets are a big part of my life. By my last count, I own six (bike helmet, kayak helmet, climbing helmet, snowmobiling helmet and two ski helmets), and I have a nagging feeling that I’m leaving one out. But today, I’m going to tell you why you need to wear one skiing – all the time.

The year is 2002, and it’s a Colorado bluebird day. I met up with friends off and on for a few runs, but I was cruising Vail’s backbowls and enjoying the slush bumps. Towards the end of the day, I decided to make one last run before making my way down the resort and choose a blue  (intermediate) bump run, which was an easy slope for my ski ability. On my way down, I crossed my tips and predictably ate snow. While I wasn’t going fast I did bonk my head on the way down. Feeling a little dazed, I finished the run and got back on the chairlift, only to realize that I set myself up for another run before I could start to get out of the resort, which was surprising and frustrating. How could I have forgotten?

The next day I was back on campus at the University of Colorado and I got lost trying to find my next class. I called a friend for directions and started bawling. Apparently my snotty phone rant included my ski crash, feeling like crap, being extremely tired and general frustration that I could get lost a month into classes. My rugby-playing friend asked if I might have a concussion. Yup, that made sense.

“You wouldn’t play football without wearing a helmet – same rule applies for skiing. Plus helmets are way warmer than hats.”

— Lindsey Vonn

I was already out of the “danger” window for sleeping and whatnot (during which I slept – oops), but I ended up getting CAT scan, just in case. Nothing abnormal showed up (keep snide jokes to yourself, please), so I slowly coalesced at home. Going upstairs to the kitchen to get a drink of water made me winded and I slept more than when I had Mono in high school. Overall, I was lucky and the entire ordeal could have been entirely prevented by wearing a helmet.

I often see parents of young children cautiously lidding their kids while they themselves wear only a hat. This makes no sense. Part of the welfare of a child is taking precautions to ensure their parents stay alive. Even if you’re skiing well with your ability, my little analogy shows that accidents can happen – and don’t forget about the “everyone else” factor.

I had another ski instructor friend who was skiing green (beginner) runs with his class and slowly skiing a cat track on the way to lunch. An out-of-control boarder came flying out of the wooded section above the cat track, went airborne and crashed into the instructor, knocking him down with enough force to break his clavicle. His helmet cracked in two, but doctors said without his helmet, he’d be dead. Instead, he fully recovered. So wear a helmet – it may not look the coolest, but neither does a coffin.

For more helmet information, check out www.lidsonkids.org.

 

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