Monday, July 30, 2012


Two weeks ago Laura and the kid took off for points south, leaving me to my own devices. I wouldn't ever say my schedule is too full, but their sudden absence meant all I had to really do each day was manage eight hours of work (which I now call 'rest'), leaving me free to follow my whimsies to a point of wretched, indulgent extravagance.

To wit: In the past 12 days I've biked 284 miles, hiked 44 miles, and flatwater kayaked 12 miles. I swam in the Clark Fork 5 times, and once each in Cresent Lake (cold) and Glacier Lake (significantly colder). I had Mexican food every night and drank my body weight in beer (OK, exaggerating). I cleaned the garage, the basement, and under the bed. I planted 36 annuals and 12 perennials, transplanted another eight perennials, dug two new landscaping beds, and transplanted 30 flower seedlings (yeah, still getting the garden going here). I trimmed three maples, watered the periwinkle every night, and washed both vehicles twice. I caulked the soffit, painted two windowframes, rotated the tires on Laura's bike, and determined once and for all that the tire chains hanging in the garage will NOT fit any car made in the past 25 years.

This entire time I also house/dog sat for very good friends who live a few doors down in what passes for a mansion in these parts; it was like staying at the Sheraton, except the Internet was free. With Katie and Shirley I went back to the river swimming and stick chasing, up Pattee hiking, and over to the park. They also kept the deer at bay while I painted, caulked, and cleaned.

So while Laura and the kid were on vacation, I was on a vacation, too. It was like fun, just different.



(Sunrise Glacier, Turquoise Lake, July 28)


(Glacier Peak)


(Icefloe, McDonald Peak (the main glacier is around the corner on the right) and Cliff and Disappointment lakes, July 29)

Friday, July 27, 2012


I like to listen to the radio -- I much prefer it to CDs -- and usually have the stereo on all the time at home or in the car. I've always had a radio with me, too, when traveling, and have found some incredible music in unlikely places. The persistent reggaeton found across the dial in Panama enlivened a lot of already-fun bus rides there. And few stations can compare to Radio One in Dar es Salaam, which played a heady mix of East African pop, Lingala, and soukous.


(Mid-dawn, Missoula, July 20)

Topping all of those, however, was Triple J, an arm of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the down under equivalent to PBS or NPR. Triple J has two channels, one of which is heard in most of Australia's bigger cities and towns, and focuses on alternative, independent, local, and unsigned music. As they do with a lot of things, the Australians have music figured out pretty well, and this shows on Triple J; perhaps it's because, unlike most American radio stations, they play music that sounds good, not music that comes from a person who is socially popular at the moment. Even an hour of Triple J, after days of commercial radio, can be revelatory.


(Mid-morning, Cleveland Mountain, Sapphire Mountains, July 21)

Anyway, because of the time change I listen mostly to a show called Mid-Dawn, which I like for a lot of reasons. You can have a listen at (though the main station will not broadcast internationally during the Olympics, I see, we may still be able to listen to Triple J Unearthed which, by the way, makes all the music they play available for free download).


(Mid-afternoon from Bird Island, Flathead Lake, July 22)

Monday, July 16, 2012

A quiver of one.

My Cannondale has more than 30,000 miles on it -- almost as much as the truck. I've had to replace nearly the entire drivetrain this summer, which has had me in bikeshops a lot, where the Cannondale looks fatigued among all these shiny toys. There are a lot of bike shops in Missoula, and competition is fierce. In the shop I was in on Saturday the guy told me, 'Based on your riding profile, I don't think you're going to be happy on anything other than carbon fiber'.


(Biking puts the babies to sleep.)

I started the conversation by telling the guy I wanted a 'quiver of one'. You have to start the conversation like that. A lot of outdoor junkies have a different tool for each condition -- think a pair of skis each for powder, mixed, resort, and early/late season. Besides meaning you have a lot of skis, it also means you have a lot of skins, boots, and bindings. But I want one pair of skis and one pair only; same goes for a bike, hiking boots, and bug spray (though I do admit to having two tents and three backpacks).


(New tire!)

There's a real satisfaction in having a single piece of gear and using it until it is used up. So goes with these tires: for several years now I've been in a rut of buying Continental slicks because a store I was stuck going to offered nothing else. I have never really cared for them, though, and recently went outside the box for a new set. Safe to say these are all used up:


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lolo Peak: no lifts equals better skiing.

(Oddly, I think the area as it is now -- with the addition of a lift, of course -- would make a more sustainable ski area business model than what is planned. This decade, the success stories in ski area management have been small, community, and often non-profit areas, not destination resorts.)


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The heart of the awl.

The kid's first camping trip unfolded in the municipal campground in Harrison, Idaho. Harrison is a cute town along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, America's longest paved pedestrian trail. It's also a town overrun by power boaters. Boaters, and I guess I just learned this, apparently just drive around in big boats all day and get drunk.


(Root beer time in Plummer, Idaho.)

The trail follows an old rail bed and is remarkably flat and often straight. When it's not following the edges of lakes it's cutting across sprawling meadows and marshes using bridges and causeways. This stretch of northern Idaho is remarkably waterlogged -- a fact you don't appreciate until you exit the freeway and poke around a bit.


(Chacolet Bridge)


(Chacolet Bridge)

In two days we pedaled 73 miles, which in all is about half of the trail. The 73-mile figure, however, underestimates the effort involved as I was pulling the Chariot the entire time. When I unhooked the trailer to pedal ahead and find a store, what had been a comfortable plodding at 13 mph suddenly sprung to a comfortable plodding at 18 mph.


(A $15 lakeside tent spot on Lake Coeur d'Alene.)

Laura spotted three moose along the trail, which the kid took absolutely zero interest in. There were also deer, walkers, bikers of all ages and descriptions, and more than a few quiet spots to sit in the shade and watch the river. All told, nice.


(Learning about mesh. Harrison, Idaho, Sunday, July 8, 2012.)

Friday, July 6, 2012


One last run for the season up around Graves Peak, and that's it. There's still plenty of snow out there, but I'm bumping up against the Law of Diminishing Returns. Plus, 'somebody' claims it's time to pursue other activities.


(Trying to find an entrance to Colt Creek Cirque. July 4)

Back home, I emptied a season's worth of pine needles and food wrappers out of the stinking daypack and set my disgusting boot liners up for a long soak. I cleaned and dried the boot shells, shovel, probe, and other odds and ends, and took stock of things: scratches on the skis, worn buckles on the boots, sap on the skins. Backcountry skiing is hard on gear, and patrolling proved to be even harder. I try to have just one piece of everything, so each piece gets used a lot.


For the last 20 or so years I've kept track of my seasonal skiing. This year totaled 69 days -- six more than last year and 18 more than the year before. So good times all around.

We're taking the kid on his first camping trip this weekend.

A season's parting shot:


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The last refuge of the working class.

Some people making the argument against wilderness say it's a refuge for the wealthy with time and money to burn. Anyone making this case has obviously never been to Montana on the Fourth of July weekend.


(Eagle Chute, June 30)

Even out-of-the-way trailheads feature truck-hauled BBQ grills, smoking campfires, shirtless boys on ATVs, 24-packs of disgusting beer, and enough hip-holstered guns to start a revolution.


(A dual sport day: Diamond Lake)

I don't go climbing to seek solitude. I'm usually pretty happy when I see someone out on the trail (especially given my propensity for getting lost). But I'm still content to find crowds like the one at Diamond Lake last weekend never make it more than 50 yards from the trailhead pit toilet before turning back.


(Waiting to trade kayaks, Diamond Lake)

Anyhow, summer's well underway, guns and all.


(Bonner Park, July 1)