Scavenger

Who needs scavenger hunts when you can hunt for wildflowers around the campground?! (Okay, maybe Squidget would have preferred candy-filled eggs, but she was still a good sport.)

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Is it camping season yet?

Mother Nature seems determined to keep us from breaking out the tent. I know, it’s a weak excuse to you four-season campers, but we’re fair weather folk and snow just doesn’t float our boats unless there’s enough to ski.

Sure is pretty, though, especially on all the green foliage.

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Opposites

Packing around two kids means that my camera has become an afterthought but I spent the morning clearing off my card. Here you go: some pictures of the prairie and the mountains.

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Spring?

Spring is officially sprung. The mud in our driveway serves as confirmation.

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Apparently, we had another notable winter. It felt mild compared to the tenacity of Winter’s enduring grip last year. Not that it couldn’t repeat itself still, but April 2, 2018, found us driving through snow drifts on the main highway.

I kept wondering when winter was going to show up in December and January — mainly because I was tired of fielding all the snarky comments from East Coast friends about how it was colder there than here.

Then February hit, and vindication that I still live in a colder state was secured.

In the past five days, temperatures have risen and snow is quickly giving way to mud.

Nonetheless, three days ago, we were walking on a frozen over Lake McDonald. (For some perspective: the lake is the largest in Glacier National Park, measuring roughly 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 465 feet deep.)

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Take that, East Coast.

28 Degrees

I made it outside three times in six days. Three times, people. Granted, I was sick for a few of those days, but I really did NOT want to go out in the -30ish temps.

Today, the sun came out, the sky is blue, the snow is melting and it’s a whopping 28 degrees.

All the thawing made me pine for spring (and a ski trip to get me excited about winter again because spring is not coming anytime soon).

Then, in the search for spring photos for new shirts, I came across pictures from a summer morning spent playing in the sprinkler. (And then I really wanted it to be spring again!)

 

Merry Christmas

This year, unlike any other year of our marriage, there was no fighting over who would write the Christmas letter.

I could not muster the cheer in light of recent events. Yet Jared, in his steady way insisted on focusing on the positive. He’s right (but don’t tell him that).

We spent 2016 pursuing our passions, receiving much love, and enjoying adventures.

So, in the spirit of having a grateful heart, Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you all:

One would think since the family pictures were taken in November that this letter would be finding you all in early December because obviously we are well-organized adults. Wrong. We haven’t found a smooth enough road yet to type a letter on. Instead, we have found ourselves blessed with the lifestyle to travel with friends and family to see more friends and family.

With Squidget being a strong-willed, red-headed cowgirl, she hasn’t allowed a dull moment. I am told that stubbornness runs strong in the ginger children and I find I am wearing down when she says, “Daddy, horsie, please.” Although her vocabulary mostly consists of the words “poop” and “undies,” we have also managed to get some ABC’s in there and the numbers 1-5, 8 and the ever-popular 9. Besides studying the English language, Squidget has also been working on mastering the art of potty training. What was going very well hit a hiccup during a two-week vacation to Neigh Grammie’s for Thanksgiving and we reintroduced “adventure undies” to avoid blowouts on the road. Now, all she wants to wear are the adventure variety.

In addition to being Squidget’s chauffeur to and from the park and friends’ houses, Alice has started a new approach to her photography by displaying it on T-shirts and note cards. She started this summer with a stand at the farmers market and has continued with a few craft shows since then. To keep her on her toes, I also call on her to help on the farm, whether it’s driving truck, shoveling grain or moving vehicles.

As for me, I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to get out of work and go play. This year we chased snow to Bend, Oregon, to ski with Dwayne, Ann, Asher and Leonie in endless powder. We hit our other favorite Montana hills too and skied well into March.

In May Aunt Sally came for a visit and joined us on our annual bike trip up Going to the Sun Road. You should try it. Come with us next time. Really. You won’t regret seeing the park via your own sweat power, especially since there are no hoards of tourists blocking the views.

In June, we spent a weekend celebrating my grandparents’ anniversary with cousins galore camping in the Bear Paws. In August, Squidget finally made it to her namesake lake for a long weekend of tenting it. She only kept the campground guests awake one night and they quickly forgave her when they found out it was her birthday.

We also made a trip out to see Knight and Leonie in Washington before they moved and were spoiled by great food and the opportunity to see the ocean from the westernmost corner of the lower 48 states. Knight and Leonie also decided they should try and kill us over the 4th of July by taking a quick, 49-mile hike in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. We may not have seen THE wall but gosh darn it we saw a BIG wall and it was great. (Alice maintains that I should never be allowed to pick the trail if we want to have fun.)

The snow is flying and all three of us have new skis to break in this winter, so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – we wish to see you and make great memories in the upcoming year!

Jared, Alice & Squidget

 

 

Chance encounters

Luckily for us, they were having a crummy day too.

The storm system we had spent the last seven miles hiking in had spooked Deep Canyon Guest Ranch’s horses and riders and they decided to stop and shuttle horses and guests back to the ranch instead of finishing their trail ride.

We missed the last trail of our planned loop and ended up in the same spot at the same time — drenched, cold and several miles by road or back-tracked trail away from our car.

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Notice Jared in the background trying to figure out why we missed the trail and how far it would take us to get back to our car. Notice the Leonie popsicle in blue and me just happy to have found shelter.

Somewhere around mile 40 of 47 it had started to rain for the first time on our four-day backpacking trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, which prompted me to ask (probably for the 50th time): “What the F@#$%* are we doing?”

It all started when my brother and sister-in-law (who regularly summit mountains) suggested a 20-mile-a-day hike in The Bob during their short visit to Montana. Jared chose a different trail that only required 12 miles a day. All we had to do was make it one day at a time, he said.

And we did it, one excruciating and beautiful day at a time.

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The last morning, we all woke up grumpy and ready to be home, but cheered markedly when we reached the top of Route Creek Pass, which was the prettiest part of the trip.

Mother Nature had other plans for us than happiness, though, and delivered thunderstorms shortly after our summit.

Which brings me back to the crummy day.

Any chance we can hitch a ride with you, Jared asked the frazzled wranglers.

I’m leaving in 30 seconds, so you better hurry and put your packs in the bed of that pickup, one said.

I’ll take you someplace you can get warm while we sort all this out and then someone will take you back to your vehicle, he said.

Turned out, Dave’s a good guy to know.

And Debra, who met us at the truck (it had, of course, stopped raining by then) was a good person to know too.

First, she stole my heart when she asked if she could get us coffee or beer.

Then she gave even the best Southern Belle a run for her money when it comes to hospitality by delivering fresh chocolate chip cookies to us as we drip dried in front of the lodge fire.

As only would happen in Montana, they proceeded to loan us their pick up to shuttle our vehicles.

When Debra was gracious enough not to audibly gag from the result of four days of creek showers when I gave her a hug, I was fully convinced they are angels.

Yes, I grumbled almost the entire trip and got blisters.

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Despite the muscle cramps, the moment the bear almost ran into camp, vicious mosquitoes, the soreness, and the exhaustion, I returned rejuvenated by the natural beauty of the wilderness and by the kindness of strangers who reminded me why I don’t want to live anywhere but Montana.

 

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

Lightning from this morning’s storm must have fried my brain. Or maybe it’s confused because of a sudden and early awakening from Jared’s new weather app buzzing a warning that a severe thunderstorm was coming and the guilt of knowing it didn’t think to park the pickup under cover last night was too much to process before coffee.

Whatever the reason, I had a blog post idea, but it was fleeting and I can’t remember.

So here are some pictures that haven’t made the blog for whatever reason. (Spoiler alert: Most of them are of flowers.)

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Whose idea was this anyway?

Each year, in between desperate gasps for air, I curse Jared while pedaling up Going to the Sun Road.

The bike trip on one of America’s most iconic roadways has become an annual trip that we’ve undertaken rain or shine, sick or five months pregnant. A chance to see the park without hoards of tourists and cars is too alluring to let being out of shape, fair-weather adventurers get in the way.

Case and point, I was hoping it would rain so I could get out of it this year, but

Saturday started like this …

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We pedaled the last four miles in a drizzle and by Sunday morning, the weather was like this …

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Not only do we have a soft spot for the ride, we also have a soft spot for the park.

And by soft spot, I mean it’s my favorite spot. The spot where I fell eternally in love with Montana.

Fittingly, it’s where Jared met my family.

First, he met my parents and sister. Us girls weren’t there when Jared arrived early. So it was just him and dad. Luckily, dad offered him a beer so they were fast friends.

Then he met my brother on a backpacking trip, when it rained, and we stayed in a three-person tent. If you’re thinking that sounds awkward, you’re correct.

Wheezing up the last two miles to The Loop Overlook geared down as far as my bike allows also is awkward. But whizzing down Going to the Sun is another reason to love the park. Even if I curse about it going up.

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Last minute, best minute

When Mother Nature is your vacation keeper, your vacation schedule can be as mercurial as she is. So when it rained last week, we drove overnight to make the most of a few days outside of Seattle to visit family.

Not only was the weather in the mid-70s and sunny, the company was pretty great too. And so was the paddle boarding and the beach combing and the seafood eating.

Our visit to Shi Shi Beach, though, was my favorite part of the trip. The eight-mile-round-trip hike was worth the effort to see the most amazing tide pools I’ve ever seen.

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