Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Trainer Tuesday: Personal Trainer Problems

Hello and welcome to Trainer Tuesdays!  So, I've been a certified personal trainer for a few months now and have yet to make one cent from it.  This is mostly my fault, because:

A.  I have a pretty demanding full time job already, and:
B.  I have a hard time asking people for money, even though I've given advice and designed workouts for free.

But there is also:

C.  A lot of people THINK they are trainers.  I've had people disagree with me on exercises, nutrition, etc, even though what I'm telling them is backed by research.  I blame the internet: there is a ton of information out there, but not all of it is right.

But anyway! Someday I'm sure I will figure it out.  Until then, I've decided to start Trainer Tuesdays on this blog, and feature free advice/workouts/supplement information! I'll try not to miss a Tuesday, but if I do, it's because I'm on a fire or a big adventure.

I'm also an independent rep with a company called 1st Phorm, which makes muscle building, fat loss, and health and wellness supplements, so occasionally I'll post about the products I use and like.  These are NOT sponsored posts.  I do receive a very small commission if someone buys from my link, but my purpose is not to shill stuff (that's annoying) but to inform about products that might help.  The link is here.  If you don't want to hear about these things, skip the posts.  They will be bonus posts, with plenty of hiking/fire posts still to come.  More on that later!

I'll also be adding a way to contact me, so if you have any questions about workouts, personal training stuff, supplements, etc, please do so.  Please no meanies or bots.

My trainer tip today is about planks! Planks are a great exercise when done correctly (no saggy butts or teepee backs) but if you are holding a plank past 30 seconds congrats! It's time to move on and challenge yourself further.  Just holding a plank is an isometric exercise which is great, but in order to get the most from it, add some movement.  Lift alternate legs, or tap your opposing shoulder with your hand.  By the way, I think the world record for holding a plank is 8 hours.  This seems truly crazy.  And boring.

Have a great Tuesday!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Carpe-ing the diem

There are a lot of reasons not to do things, especially if they're difficult to do, there are obstacles, or you have a strong sense of work guilt (as in, "I should be at work right now").  I ran these through my mind on Friday. It was a work day, and I hadn't put in any extra hours that week.  There was probably still a lot of snow on the trail.  I might not even be able to get to the trailhead. The road up there is typically washboarded and annoying to drive, especially if you meet someone coming the other way and have to back up.  There might be bears.  It would have been easy to just admit defeat and drive to work instead.

But it was sunny when I woke up, and I threw some stuff in my pack and grabbed my bear spray.  I drove anxiously up the approach road.  A few cars were pulled over about a half mile from the trailhead, signaling the start of the impassible snow.  I put on some microspikes and started following some tracks, not sure how far I would get.

A fresh deer carcass with a bloody gouge in its side lay just off the trail, but there was no bear sign around; a wolf kill, I guessed.  A couple of spry older men hiked in the distance; we ended up leapfrogging each other up the trail.

I climbed higher.  Patches of bare trail were interspersed with solid stretches of snow.  The basin below the ridge was buried, and the lakes were frozen.  Skiers were still boot packing up here to get some turns.

I realized I was going to make it to the top of the mountain.  The two guys soon left, leaving me there on my own.  No mountain goats were there today, but the view was incredible.
I made my way down the ridge.  The snow was turning slushy.  I looked back to see where I had been.

Things at work had gone on just fine without me.  The road was bumpy but manageable, and the snow was negotiable.  In the end, a lot of things we stress about aren't that important! Go climb that mountain! You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Living the normal life

Some years I get a glimpse of what a "normal" life, with time to hike and play in the summers, must be like.  This year is one of those, at least so far.

After a long, snowy winter, May was surprising. Sunny days! Temperatures in the 70s and 80s! The snow melted rapidly. Hiking has been amazing.

I'm not in a hurry for fire season.  My employees have been out, mostly to the southwest, some multiple times. Let them go! I'm happy to be here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Life is short. Jump in the lake.

I hesitated, looking at the lake.  Snow had just come off the trail a few weeks earlier.  The day before, at a different mountain lake, we could only bear to put our feet in for a few moments.

It was hot, though, and despite other people on the trail, I had snagged the prime shoreline spot, on an outcropping of rocks in the sun.  I had never been to this lake before, and it was warm out. 

I waded in.  It was cold.  It didn't matter, really, what I did.  But sometimes in life I tend to hesitate, trying to decide, instead of taking the leap.  Sometimes I did take the leap, and it was a mistake.

Oh well, I thought.  I half-jumped, half sat in the water.  It took my breath away, but I floated on my back for awhile.  Then I climbed out and lay on the rocks like a lizard, soaking up the sun.  I read a book until some horse riders showed up, looking disappointed that someone was in the best spot.  Then I packed up and hiked back out.

It wasn't a life changing decision, jumping in.  But it will be a perfect memory: floating in a cold mountain lake at summer's beginning.

Monday, May 28, 2018

This is why we can't have nice things

It was a magical place, known only to locals and park employees.  There wasn't a real trail to it.  Whenever we hiked to it, my friends and coworkers Beth, Laurie, Jim and Mark, we would look around to make sure no tourists were passing by on the main trail.  Then we'd duck into the woods and make the short climb.

It was called Poet's Table.  About 50 years ago, a man calling himself the Vagabond Poet carried a table and chairs up there and nestled them in a serene spot among granite cliffs and ledges.  Ever since then, people have hiked up there and filled journals and notebooks with poems, essays and thoughts.

I don't remember what I wrote there, but I have a picture of myself sitting at the table writing away.  I spent two summers working at Custer State Park, when I was 20 and 21, and Poet's Table was one of my favorite places.  After my friend Ron was killed in a motorcycle accident, I hiked up there, my heart hurting.  A butterfly landed on my shoulder as I walked, and stayed there as I reached the table.  I like to think it was him.

My friends loved the place, too.  They would sprawl on the rocks, looking for mountain goats.  A free spirited couple got married up there.  It was one of those places I thought would never change.

This past Saturday, two women hiked up to the table and sawed it in half.  Then they carried the pieces down the trail and put them in their truck.  Another hiker saw them and took a picture.  When asked why they did it, the women said that nobody was taking care of the place, and it would be better now.
The perps
Apparently the suspects have turned themselves in and will probably be charged with something like vandalism.  The park has retrieved the pieces of the table (and it sounds like they stole the chairs too) and plans to put them back.

It won't be the same.  Since it's national news, more people know about Poet's Table now and will try to find it.  Maybe more vandals will be among them.  Some commenters on a Facebook post about it scoffed, "It's just a table."  It wasn't just a table to me and to my coworkers.

I have lost a little more faith in humanity.  Why do people do these things?

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Prisoner in Paradise

K. is pretty quiet, which is often a good quality in a crewmember.  When he speaks, people tend to listen, because he usually comes up with good one liners that stick in your head.

Some of us were chatting yesterday about people who live here but have never been to some of the spectacular sites that tourists from all over the world pay lots of money to come see.  Sometimes we get days off in the summer, or can escape after work to the national park just a few miles away, but it's harder for some people.

K. came to us from a hotshot crew.  During the summer, these firefighters must dispatch to fires within 2 hours of being called, even if they are on days off.  They have to stay in cell service all the time, or risk missing the assignment, which is not looked upon favorably.  Most of the trails and mountains around here are in areas outside of cell service.

He listened wistfully to our conversation.  "You're a prisoner in paradise," he declared.

And it's kind of true.  Flying over in the helicopter, or driving down the road en route to a fire, we see happy vacationers rafting, climbing, kayaking, and heading out on the trails.  Although we usually get one or two days off after 14 days of work, sometimes we are just too tired to muster up the energy to do much of anything, and neglected house and yard chores can take precedence. Or, unluckily, it rains.  We usually try, though, or else summer passes us by.

Most people compensate.  They are backcountry skiers, or they travel during the winter.  We snowshoe into the popular summer places and march up trails in the spring as far as we can go until stopped by snow or avalanche danger.

Usually  the guys who spray noxious weeds stop by our base at the end of the day.  When asked what they did that day, one of them will invariably say, "Doing the people's work."

In the end, although we might be prisoners in paradise, we know we are providing a needed service.  And we get to sleep on a nameless ridge in the middle of the wilderness with a million stars overhead, putting out a small fire with a couple friends.  We get to fly over places that nobody gets to see.  That's what we will remember after the summer is over.
My summer view of life

Monday, May 21, 2018

Staying Here

I looked at the detail announcement.  It was for a temporary promotion to a grade higher than mine.  It looked like it would lead to an actual job.  The description of the duties was somewhat vague, but I was sure I could do them.  It would mean a higher hourly wage.  I probably wouldn't have to supervise anyone.  The announcement even hinted at the possibility of working "virtually," which could mean a cubicle in the closest agency office, but could also mean the holy grail of office working: working from home!  No more commute! Strolling to the kitchen instead of packing a lunch! Seeing my cats ALL DAY!

I started to fill out the application.  But I kept hesitating.  My current job definitely has drawbacks: lots of supervision responsibilities, working lots of hours, and fairly low pay for what we have to do and risk.  But even though this opportunity eliminated these issues, I didn't feel passionate about it.  I already spend a lot of time at the computer; I didn't want more.  I didn't want more meetings or conference calls.  And I just can't give up the best part of my job:
Hole in the Wall Basin, Glacier National Park.
In the end, I didn't apply.  And I don't regret it.  It's been hard at times to do what I do, but it's also been amazing. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Lost and Found

On a powder day in February the doctor left his friends at the top of one of the ski lifts.  He wanted to do one run through the backcountry, out of bounds, he told them.  None of them wanted to come; it was getting late, there was a storm expected later.  But he skied there all the time.  A lot of people do: they drop down into one of the back bowls, and then it is a short hike back up to a lift and civilization.

But the doctor never came home.  A blizzard blew in that night, a big one.  Cars were stuck in drifts all over the valley.  Temperatures dropped.  Feet of snow fell in the mountains.

They started looking as soon as they could: a helicopter, expert skiers, dogs.  The weather was against them, but they went anyway.  They wouldn't stop looking for him until they found him, the sheriff said.

They had to stop for awhile, of course.  Time went on, and there was no sign of him.  More blizzards dumped snow; clouds covered the hills.  He probably went in a tree well, people thought, and was buried.  Everyone knew he was out there somewhere.  He wasn't the type to run away and start a new life.  He had a family and a job he enjoyed.  In the valley, he was beloved.

I didn't know him.  I had met his wife years ago but didn't really know her.  But our community is a small one.  A tree in a downtown park became a rallying point.  A bucket full of pens, note cards, and yarn hung from one of the branches.  People wrote notes of hope and love and hung them on the tree.  The family visited and left mini Snickers bars with a note asking those who left cards to take one of the treats.  It was Jon's favorite snack, they said.

I left a note.  Months went by.  The search resumed on sunny, warm days.  Three days ago, word came: the search for the doctor was over, after almost three months had gone by.  Apparently he had been caught in a small avalanche the day he had gone missing.  Jon could now come home to his family.

Sometimes life isn't easy in this mountain town.  It can get overrun by tourists.  It is expensive.  Winters can be long and cold.  But when it matters, people come together.  They will leave messages hanging on a tree in the middle of March, saying how much they care.  They will look for you if you are missing.  They will try to find you and bring you home.
Photo by Peregrine Frissell/Daily Interlake

Monday, May 7, 2018

Hello Spring, are you there?

It seems like summer is on the way.  The minions (seasonal employees) are all hired.  A few fires, caused by people burning brush and grass, have happened lately.  We even burned the grass around the base, racing greenup to get it done.
But even though there have been some warm days in the valley, in the mountains the snow still clings to the hills.  The rivers are running high, and flooding is predicted.

I decided to hike a trail that is usually mostly snow free by now.  It climbs steeply up a south facing ridge, gaining 2500' of elevation in 2.5 miles.  Having forgotten my ice axe and trekking poles, I optimistically tackled the first switchbacks, which were dry.  But soon I ran into solid snow, and started kicking steps up steep snowfields.  I noticed bear tracks and looked around, but saw no animals or people on the open ridge.
The top seemed like a long way away.
This picture doesn't make it look very steep, but it was.
But I finally made it to the top and the site of a former lookout.  It was starting to melt out, but no flowers yet.
Spring always comes, but some years it takes longer than others.

Is it spring where you are?

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Idle hands

I walked onto a temporary helibase, looking for the crew.  It was drizzling and cold, and nobody was flying, so they hunkered in a wall tent.  As I entered, they looked up briefly from their phones and then returned to staring at their screens.

Firefighting is hard work, but there's occasional downtime.  Maybe you're waiting for a helicopter, for overhead to show up, or for a new assignment.  Maybe you haven't seen smoke for days, but are still out there, just in case.  While there's still plenty of areas without cell phone coverage, it's becoming more rare.  What did we do before we had these devices to stare at?

Everyone carried a book in his or her line gear, despite the weight, and traded them when finished.  One of the smokejumpers toted a small NOAA weather radio and would listen intently to the forecast.  When a Game Boy made an appearance in Tammy's pack in 1992, everyone was fascinated and had to borrow it to play Tetris.  Lively food bartering went on.  Whittling and hacky sack were common.

"Moose Horn Lounge," tripod for coffee, and people making things out of parachute cord
We made furniture for camp: elaborate couches and chairs, wash basins, and pullup bars.  We had lively discussions about anything and everything.  Any stray magazine got read from cover to cover.  Russ found a bike at an airstrip and loved to ride it, so we decorated it with pink flagging. 
Russ and his beloved bike
We also took naps whenever possible, the ultimate solution to boredom.  If there was a break in the action, someone could usually be found snoozing.  Although the work/rest guidelines hadn't yet been developed, and we often worked 36 hour shifts or more, we actually probably got more sleep back then, undistracted by glowing screens.
Note the amazing couch.
There's a lot of advantages to our devices: accurate mapping apps, communication with people back home, something to occupy rookies' time instead of the inevitable and hazardous Pulaski throwing contests that used to occur.  But despite being an introvert, sometimes I miss the days when we would sit on a hillside, eating lunch and talking with each other.  If we liked each other enough when the fire season ended, we would exchange addresses and write letters throughout the winter.

Those days are gone, and it's almost time for me to hang up my boots as well.  The new people I hire now grew up with technology, so they don't miss the old days when we didn't sit in individual bubbles looking at our phones.  But I remember, and sometimes I really miss it.