Sunday, December 30, 2018

Smelly Train/Nice Bag: Winter Edition!

Awhile back, I did a couple posts using the Smelly Train/Nice Bag idea that I stole from a UK blogger. I don't remember who it was, and have lost track of the blog, so if it was you, sorry (and post your blog link).  The whole premise behind it was that if you have a negative thought, you should counteract it with a positive one.  The writer was traveling on a stinky train, but she was carrying a nice purse.  So here we go, with the winter version:

It's cold out!/I can wear cute sweaters and boots!

I don't want to shovel snow!/Now I don't need to go to the gym and lift weights!

There's not very much daylight!/You don't have to feel bad about calling it an early night with a book!

It's hard to run in the winter!/It's still better than the treadmill!

Heat is so expensive!/Now I can break out the fuzzy slippers and fleece blankets! Also, in the words of moms everywhere, "Put on a sweater."

I miss wearing my cute summer clothes!/Two words: down miniskirt. Also, jackets! (yes, I have a jacket problem. I can't stop buying them).

It's icy out!/My microspikes work great!

I can't hike!/But I can snowshoe, snowboard and cross country ski!

Winter is so long!/It really makes me appreciate summer!

What am I missing? What are your smelly train/nice bag moments lately (they don't have to be about winter)? Love winter and dislike summer? Throw some out there!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dog Days

Dear dog owners,

I know you think your pooch is the cutest, best doggy in the world.  I get this, because my cats definitely are the cutest, best kitties in the world.  I don't dislike dogs, even though I was traumatized when I was little by a huge bloodhound running off with my Barbie.  Sometimes I wish I could have one (but can't, with my job).  This isn't really about your dog.  It's about YOU.

I'm a runner.  I've been a runner for 40 years.  I've run all over the world, on trails, roads, in bear and mountain lion country, in places where I've had to turn around and retreat because of sketchy people, and in all kinds of weather.  Despite all that, dogs have been the worst of all these obstacles.  Yes, DOGS.

When running, I've learned to be very cautious when approaching dogs.  I usually slow down and sometimes even stop, depending on the pup's behavior.  I've taken other routes when I know a mean dog is there, and even cut my run short to avoid one.  I talk to the dog and the owner in a friendly way.  I step aside on trails for them.

Despite this, I've been bitten, barked at aggressively, chased, jumped up on and scratched, bumped into so hard it caused a bruise, and had my hand grabbed in dog's mouths with their teeth clamped down on it.  Meanwhile the owner usually says the dog's name ineffectively, claims "she's friendly" as it snarls at me, and refuses to accept any responsibility.

Your happy pup running up to me to say hi is fine.  I don't expect all dogs everywhere to be on leashes, or to be perfectly behaved all the time.  But let's share the trails and be courteous.  Please train/control your pooch so we can all have fun out there.


A runner
I have a "niece," Ruby.  She is very well behaved!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

more sweet than bitter

If a young girl were to read the latest stories about becoming a female wildland firefighter, she would be horrified.

Rampant discrimination.  Harassed by men at every turn.  Forced to quit, even.

This isn't my story.

I'm not saying this doesn't happen to some.  It has and it does, and it shouldn't.  But it wasn't and isn't the reality for me.  Yes, there were times when there was inappropriate talk and behavior.  When men closed ranks, shutting me out of discussions and decisions.  But it wasn't enough to make me leave.

What made me stay? Something must make this dirty, dangerous, underpaid, male-dominated career worth it.  We don't keep doing things if there is no benefit.  Even the addicts I have known wouldn't quit chasing the high, despite the inevitable low, until the negatives outweighed the positives.  The juice must be worth the squeeze.

When I think back over the last 30 years, the answer to that question doesn't come fully formed.  Instead, there's a series of flashbacks, pieces of memories, that run through my mind: the sweetness, without any of the bitter:

-My first fire, staring incredulously at 200 foot flames as they rolled over the mountains;

-The sudden surprise of a snowfall on a fire high in the Cascades;

-In Mesa Verde, the pilot steering us past an Anasazi ruin with a circular tower built in the middle of it, in the middle of nowhere;

-Spotting smoke in the distance with  my coworker Ron in the Tetons, getting on the radio and saying "we're ten minutes out," no matter how far away we were;

-Evacuating people ahead of fires and knowing we saved their lives;

-The exhilaration of climbing out of a wrecked helicopter and knowing I was alive;

-Sleeping on a remote rappel spot while elk bugled all around us;

-Lighting fire around cabins in a last ditch effort to save them, and celebrating because they made it;

-Flying through Glacier Park with Chris the pilot, looking at lakes and mountains and glaciers, both of us incredulous at our good fortune to be there.

It's been bittersweet, all these years.  But it's been more sweet than bitter.  It was all worth it.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Better get new clothes!

As if I needed another reason to love Iceland, they seem to like cats there.  Reykjavik is sometimes called "the town of cats."

Cats can often be seen strolling around; while there is a cat shelter there, most of these patrolling felines have owners and are just on walkabouts.  Someone seriously posted in an Iceland travel site that she wanted to "see cats" when she was in town.  Nobody thought it was weird or funny, and a local Icelander charmingly answered her by stating the names of streets on which cats can usually be found.

It's estimated that there may be as many as 20,000 cats in the city, or one for every ten people.  In contrast, dogs were banned in Reykjavik from 1924 to 1984!

The most interesting Icelandic cat is the Yule Cat.  This sounds kind of nice, like a fluffy kitten in a Santa hat.  But it's not! In Icelandic folklore, the Yule Cat is giant and terrifying. It prowls around Iceland on Christmas Eve, looking for lazy people who haven't done their chores, especially children, although it doesn't sound like anyone is safe.

Supposedly if you did your chores before Christmas you were rewarded with new clothes. Some people say that this tradition was started by farmers as an incentive for workers to finish processing the autumn wool.  Those who did got new clothes. Those who didn't, well...

If the Yule Cat looks in your window and sees you with a  package that looks like clothes, it will hiss and move on.  If not, it will eat all your food before eating you!

Although I love cats, just to be on the safe side, as I bought Christmas presents I also added in a new sweater for myself.  It's just common sense!
Image from National Geographic

Monday, November 26, 2018

There's something about a trail

There's something about a trail.  I see one from the helicopter and, momentarily abandoning my mission of looking for fires, try and find out where it goes.  I glimpse trailheads when driving, and wonder what lake or ridge they might access. I try to mark these places in my memory, in case I return.

To me, these winding paths through the forest, prairie or mountains signify possibility.  Adventure, discovery, solitude...any of these could be waiting out there.  Trails have mystery, while roads don't.

I've never regretted setting foot on a trail.  While I've gotten temporarily lost, gotten minor injuries, and flirted with hypothermia at times, in the end I've always been glad I took the path rather than the road. I just wish I had time to take more of them.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Winter in my bones

I dragged out the snow shovels in a surly mood.  Now I understood why old people moved to Florida or Arizona.  It wasn't even that cold yet and I couldn't get warm.  I felt chilled to the bone.

I know people who love winter.  They should live in the polar regions, because they dislike the heat and rejoice at the first snowfall.  Those people aren't me.

I have a complicated relationship with winter at best.  I know it's the price I pay for living in a mountain town where the nearby peaks still have glaciers.  Sometimes winter and I get along okay, especially on bluebird days where the snow is all sparkly.  Other times when it's gray and gloomy and the roads are covered in ice, I think of the winter I spent in Hawaii and wonder what I was thinking to leave.

One of my neighbors hardly ever comes outside, even in summer.  I see her sometimes walking her dog to the mailbox, but most of the time she is indoors.  In winter, I go for weeks without seeing her.  Her car won't move out of her carport.  If she enjoys being inside, I won't judge. But that won't be me.

So I buy a ski pass, and find my snowshoes in the garage.  I look for northern lights while I sit in the hot tub.  And yesterday I hiked to a lake in the mountains, one that I love but avoid in the summer due to crowds.

It was about 20 degrees.  The trail only had a skiff of snow and ice, and the lake was surprisingly not yet frozen.  A few people were there, better prepared than I was with hot drinks and blankets.  The cliffs around the lake looked beautiful with a dusting of snow.  It was a completely different place than it was in the summer.

I will always love summer more than winter.  I love just going outside, without having to prep for it with mittens, hats, snow tires, and everything else that goes along with it.  I love a summer trail that is alive with flowers and birds.  But I've learned to live with winter, and I'll get along with this one too.  At times I'll even like it.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Boss Benefits

One of the perks of being the boss is that I can kick my employees out of the front seat of the helicopter if the mission is particularly good, the pilot is cool, or we are going someplace especially scenic.  Sorry/not sorry, they get plenty of lucrative assignments as it is and I put in a lot of time to get to where I am, cleaning lots of outhouses and pulling a lot of weeds along the way.

So when some filmmakers came to the area to take video for a documentary called "Your Forests Your Future," my minions didn't even attempt to ask to go.  Heh heh.  They knew I'd be all over it.

The filmmakers are two brothers with an ambitious goal to visit all the National Forests in the country.  They jumped excitedly into the helicopter, toting cameras and a drone.  I was along for the ride, helping them with their equipment and making sure they operated safely around the aircraft.  But let's be honest: I was also there for the experience.

Fall colors

Gunsight Mountain
Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall Wilderness
Frosty lookout
Sometimes I forget that it's really unusual to get to do this: to fly over two wildernesses in one day, stopping in at a remote backcountry station and a fire lookout, seeing herds of elk and snow covered mountains from above.  Then I remember, and I feel incredibly grateful that my hard work has led me here.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Listen: people go missing every day.  If you don't believe this, search "missing people" or "missing hikers." A counselor friend of mine did this.  Horrified, he had to stop.  It happens all the time.

So why am I still thinking about Connie? I don't know her.  I haven't been to the area where she vanished.  But her story has grabbed ahold of me and it won't let go.

Connie Johnson was a woman who loved the wilderness.  She came west in search of adventure, and became a wilderness ranger for the Forest Service, hiking and camping on her own for over 20 years.  She became a mentor for younger people just starting out in their careers, teaching them about navigating in the woods and about tools like crosscut saws.  When she retired she became a camp cook for an outfitter, still hiking in her beloved wilderness at age 76.

Connie vanished from the camp around October 3; the hunters were not there yet, so nobody knows when for sure.  Her gun and coat were left in camp; her dog was gone as well.  The search was extensive, with people on foot and horseback covering all the places she might have gone.  A friend of Connie told me she would have hated having the helicopters working low over those wild places, even if they were looking for her, but they were out there too; a pilot I know was flying.  No trace was found.

Three weeks later, Connie's dog Ace showed up, 15 miles from the camp, back at the trailhead where he and Connie had hiked in.  Thin but fine, he was taken back to the woods, hoping he might lead the searchers to her.  He has not.

Where was Ace?  Did he wander off, and roam the forest for three weeks until he found his way out? Did he stay with Connie after she had an injury or medical problem, until he finally had to leave her resting place?

And where did Connie go?  It haunts me.  I hope she is at peace, somewhere in the wilderness she loved so much and wanted to protect, and that the land holds her gently.  I hope her last hike was a good one, now that she is at the end of her trail.  Hike on, Connie.  Your memory lives on.
Ace and Connie

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cue the vultures

Some of them approach the subject directly.  "Sooo...when are you going to retire?" they ask.  Others are more indirect.  "I'm feeling lazy about doing an you think I should do one?" they say hesitantly.

I get it.  I work in an amazing place, and I have a good job.  Since people found out I'm eligible for early retirement, I don't blame them for wondering when the position will be vacant.  However, it's hard not to feel like a carcass in the desert with vultures circling overhead.

My response to these questions is vague.  Depending on who's asking, I say "I'm not sure," "Three bad days in a row," or, if I really don't want that person to get my job and screw up the program I worked so hard to build, "I think I'll stick it out till they kick me out."

The truth is, I really don't know.  I don't know if I'm ready for a drastic change in income, to stop flying in helicopters, or to lose my identity as a wildland firefighter.  Some days I am, especially on those long pointless meeting days or when faced with red tape and paperwork.  Other days, when the pilot and I fly over the national park to a new fire start, I'm uncertain.

Some people have a plan in life.  I never had one.  I moved wherever the wind took me.  I never planned to be a firefighter for 31 years, yet here I am.  And even though it's a little scary at times, I like not having everything decided in advance.  Some day I will wake up and say, I think I'm done with this job.  Maybe it will be soon, and maybe it won't be.  The vultures will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New challenge!

Did you buy a Mega Millions ticket? I did, even though I knew the odds were low. But hey, somebody won it!

If you're in the mood for taking a chance, why not enter 1st Phorm's newest 8 week "transphormation" challenge? You could win $50,000, but more importantly, you could change your body, health and life!

It's really easy. You have to sign up by October 29. Click on this link: My link and you can choose one of three options. Two of them will allow you to enter and purchase discounted supplements. One is free if you don't wish to buy anything.

Once you've done that you will get an email with instructions on setting up your profile. Now here's the scary will have to upload Day One photos. But don't worry! You won't see them on some Hot Or Not website! Only about 3 people at 1st Phorm will see them. Unless you win, of course. Then you'll want people to see them!

That's it. You don't need to buy anything (although the supplements are great), submit videos, or post on social media. You'll only have to submit photos of your amazing transphormation on the last day.

With your entry you will get diet and workout plans, access to exercise videos, and advice from personal trainers at 1st Phorm. If you don't want any of that stuff, don't use it!

There's really nothing to lose except whatever you want to change. And, new Mr. or Ms. Billionaire in South Carolina: congrats on your win. You probably will have more time on your hands now. How about joining this challenge?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What is a friend

"What is a friend,
a friend is here indeed
sitting all around me,
listening to my song..."

Laurie sang, strumming her guitar.  We were having an informal memorial service for my sweet friend Ron, who had died in a motorcycle accident.

This was over 30 years ago, and I haven't seen Laurie since then. 

Laurie, Beth, and I were very young then, and very different from each other, but, thrown together as roommates in a cabin, we worked together at a state park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  After work and on days off, we would pile in someone's truck and go hiking or what we called "looping"- driving the scenic road that circled through the park, looking for wildlife.  On the rolling hills we would find the semi-tame park burros and herds of buffalo.  We would hang out the windows, enthralled, even though we saw the animals all the time, even having to skirt grumpy bison as we walked to the Visitor Center. 

We all moved on after that summer, but every so often Laurie and Beth would pop up in a letter or on social media.  This September they met in the Black Hills where we had worked.  I wanted to go, but fires prevented me.  Next year we are going to try to meet again for a park employees' reunion.

I admit, I'm not very good at staying in touch with anyone during fire season, unless they work with me. And it really is me, not you.  After working months of 12-16 hour days, I don't have much left for anything or anyone.  I always hope that friends will understand, but sometimes they don't.  Maybe I wouldn't either.

I'm grateful for the ones who stay.
Picture from

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It's over (kind of)

Fire seasons used to have a beginning and end. You could count on taking a break and hanging up your boots for a solid few months every year.

That's not the case anymore. There are fires somewhere all year round. If I wanted to, I could be on assignment every month. Fire seasons have become fire years.

That being said, it's pretty much over up here next to Canada. Days are shorter and nights are colder. Also, it snowed!

The helicopter is off contract. The minions are drifting away to wherever they spend the winter. The paperwork and cleanup season has begun.

It's time for a break.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Lookout person

There aren't only two kinds of people, as many memes and sayings try to attest.  People are much too complex for that.  If I were to say there are people who could be fire lookouts and those who can't, that wouldn't be true.  There are plenty of people who could do the job, and like it okay.  There are people who absolutely would hate it.  Then there are people who love it.

I'm a lookout person.  As the regular lookout hiked away down the trail for her days off, I felt happy.  Six days in a fire lookout, alone! This was just what I needed after a busy season surrounded by people.

At the lookout, I'm never bored.  There's always something to look at: the fires in the distant hills, deer and grouse beneath the tower, clouds racing overhead.  One night a black bear climbed the summit south of the lookout, paused and looked around, and continued south into the wilderness. I climbed the ladder onto the roof and did some exercises up there.  I hiked around, collecting firewood.  Sometimes I just stoked up the wood stove and read a book.  At night I went to sleep when the sun set, sometimes waking up startled by the moon.

Every morning I climbed down to the rain gauge and collected weather observations. At over 7000' elevation it was already autumn. Mornings were cold.  On my last day I woke up to a snowstorm.  I put on layers and locked the tower, heading down the seven mile trail.  It was time to go; I met the regular lookout at the snow survey.  Armed with extra clothes and food, she was either staying for 6 or 12 days.  She wasn't sure, but she was prepared.  I continued on into warmer temperatures, back into the real world.

I don't always like what goes on in the real world.  I'm glad there are still places to go to get away.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The fire camp life

What's it like to live and work at a fire camp, you (didn't) ask?

As a new firefighter, my first glimpse of a camp was sort of overwhelming.  Our school buses rolled to a stop outside a miniature city, complete with a caterer, showers, and 3,000 people in it.  It was bigger than the town I lived in.  Little did I know that I would experience many such camps in the next 30 years.

I soon learned that camp was not a place most people desired to be.  "I had to get out of camp," people on overhead teams are often heard to say as they escape to the fireline.  "They're moving the camp to the helibase!" helitack people often exclaim in dismay.  Camps can be noisy, with generators, vehicles, and people talking loudly on their cell phones.  They are often a hotbed of disease: the "camp crud" is well known and feared, sending sniffles and hacking throughout the crew.  Someone always seems to set their tent up right next to yours and inevitably begin snoring.  There are porta potties.  You hope the food is good, but sometimes it isn't, or it's so late you have to choose between sleep, food, or a shower.

Meetings start early at camp, sometimes at 5:30, and if you're part of the overhead team, they can go late into the night as you rush to get paperwork completed for the next day's operations.  There are meetings to plan meetings.  If you need something like batteries, there is generally a supply unit.  Beware to the crew that tries to keep a returnable item though, because they will track you down and make it difficult for you to leave until you produce it.  These days there is usually a weed wash station to prevent the spread of noxious plants, and sometimes an enterprising T shirt vendor encamped outside the gate.

For me, the best fire camps are at the helibase or on the fireline.  You miss out on hot food much of the time, and there aren't any showers or medical tents to grab moleskin or bug spray, but in exchange you can pitch your tent far away from other people and look at stars at night instead of the lights outside of the mess tent.
I was fortunate to find this place to camp once.  I jumped in the river after every shift.
 Camp has its fun moments.  When you're in charge of something on the fire and people listen to you, it's good to be there.  You often run into people you haven't seen in years.  Also, there's sometimes chocolate milk.  Fire camps are also necessary to support the operation, consolidate supplies, and feed the firefighters.  But don't look for me there! Most likely I will be as far away as I can get.
Camping by my helicopter.  I was the only person out there at night.

Friday, September 7, 2018

lazy blogger update

Except, it's now September; how did that happen?

Most of this summer has been nonstop work.  Luckily, a lot of it has been pretty fun: flying around finding fires and sizing them up, landing at fire lookouts, and getting to see some places that most people never see.
Some communications techs working at one of the lookouts we visited
The crew is hanging in there, although some of the minions are starting to dream about skiing and time off.  Although this month is also known as Snaptember, there have been no real brush fits or meltdowns (a few safety naps have been observed).

We fit in workouts when we can; sometimes it's only a short, bear-dodging run.  B., when told he had to stay in the area, puts on a weight vest and attacks an ancient elliptical machine. K. watches a ski movie and does box jumps.  The mechanic goes for a stroll; when he returns he finds bear tracks on top of his footprints.  The huckleberry crop in the high country was poor this year; the bears are staying low.

A couple trainees join us, and we send some regulars away on assignments.  It's stayed smoky most of the summer, but there are persistent rumors of rain coming.

We are all hanging in there.  Thanks for the support!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Almost every summer this happens: the time when I have to give up on most hiking, running and gym plans because of my job in wildland fire.  I don't make it to the fireline as much as I used to anymore.  I tend to end up managing helicopters and helibases, a position which could lead to the dreaded "helibutt" if you let it.  I'm not letting that happen but what is a person working 12-16 hour days to do? Enter the maintenance phase.

When at home, fire crews allegedly get an hour a day to work out.  However, it often doesn't happen, because the phone is ringing, pilots are showing up, and fires are lurking.  If I get to exercise, it's more often than not cut short.  Some people just give up, and it would be easy to do.  If you are used to exercising for an hour or more, it's hard to adjust to half an hour or less and feel good about it.

This is where I have to take a step back and look at the big picture.  Sure, a 3 mile run isn't going to burn a lot of calories or improve my fitness at this point.  Lifting weights sporadically instead of on a schedule won't build muscle.  But if fitness is a journey, this is just a little while spent at the station.  As fall approaches and then as winter comes, there will be time to get on the workout train again.

So if you need to, embrace the maintenance phase.  If you can only run for half an hour, really enjoy that half hour.  Look at everything around you (I surprised some bears the other day on my run).  If you can only lift weights once in awhile, try a new exercise.  There will be time to go back to more intense exercise when you can.  Enjoy the break!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

RIP Mollie

Run free, Mollie. I'm so sorry that this is the world we live in now, where a young woman like this can't go for a run and be safe.

Mollie found

Mollie Tibbetts

Friday, August 10, 2018

Cissus what?

I looked at the web page skeptically.  The joint supplement on it had great reviews, but would it work for me?  What was cissus quadrangularis, its main ingredient, anyway?

I turned to Dr. Google.  Apparently I was late to the party on this plant.  It's a vine that grows in parts of Africa and Asia, and has been used for years in traditional medicine for speeding up healing of fractures, reducing inflammation, and pain relief.  Some studies suggest it also helps with menopause symptoms and with weight loss.  I clicked and bought it.

I've been pretty lucky; with my career and all the hiking and running I do, I've had relatively few joint problems.  Still, I've had two knee surgeries, and I get aches and pains here and there.  I've tried glucosamine and MSM in the past, and I *think* they worked, but I could never be really sure.

One day this winter I limped home from a short hike in the snow.  An odd knee pain had surfaced.  It was intermittent, never showing up when I ran or used the elliptical, only during hiking, and not every time.  Some people would go to the doctor, but I like the wait and see method.  I took some of the supplement, not expecting anything. 

In about 3 days I could tell the difference.  I went hiking and backpacking.  My knee didn't hurt.  In fact, my whole body felt a lot better.  When I stopped taking it for awhile, I felt the twinges return.  

Now I have some other firefighters taking it, and they report the same experiences.  I give out samples from my stash, because I believe it works.

The supplement I use is called Joint Mobility, from 1st Phorm.  I'm a rep for this company, but this isn't a sponsored post.  If you buy from this link here I may get a small commission from your purchase and you will get free shipping.  

If you start using cissus quadrangularis, let me know what you think!
this is what the plant looks like.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Trainer Tuesday: Working out (when you really don't want to)

I get it.  Some days I just can't face the gym, and a run seems much too arduous.  Excuses are easy to come up with: it's too hot, too cold, too rainy, something hurts.  Sometimes it really is time for a break.  Other times, it's just laziness and inertia.  Here are some ways I work through it.

1.  I lift weights, but it's not my favorite thing.  Sometimes I get to the gym and try to think of reasons not to do it.  When that happens, I tell myself I'll just lift for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, I know I can keep going and I rarely stop. 

2.  I move to a different part of the gym or use machines I rarely use.  This really helps with boredom and motivation.

3.  I decide to run for 30 minutes.  I know I can do just about anything for 30 minutes.  After that, I allow myself to stop, but by that time I sometimes decide to keep going.

4.  I make plans with somebody.  For a few months this spring until we all got busy, I met two women twice a week to work out.  There were times I really didn't want to go, but I didn't want to let them down.  Once we started exercising, my motivation returned.

5.  I put my workout clothes on in the morning.  If I'm already wearing them, I pretty much have to exercise, don't I?

6.  I do something that doesn't require a lot of space or props, like a circuit or card deck workout.  I don't have to drive anywhere to do this, or commit a lot of time.

7.  I watch TV or read a Kindle book while using the elliptical or stationary bike.  If it's a good book, sometimes I'll go longer than I planned.

8.  If all else fails, I go for a walk.  It's still exercise. I'm doing something, even if I'm not going all out, and it's a good mental break.

Any other good tips out there? I hope everyone has a great workout today, no matter what you do (or don't) do!
I don't feel like running...but I'm going anyway.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

psychic connection

"Be careful of bees today," I told Cindy as our squads parted for the fourteen hour shift.  "I dreamed you got stung by some."

"Whatever," she shrugged, grabbing her pack.  It was early, and we had been working this fire for a long time.  Every day we would dig line, and every day it would blow out.  We would fall back to the next ridge, and do it again.

The night before, I had a fireline dream.  In it, Sean was chosen to run a saw.  This wasn't always his job on the crew; we had three primary sawyers, and he wasn't one of them.  If we needed a fourth saw, there were several guys who could be picked to operate it.  Sean was one of them.  Our sawyers always picked their own swampers, rotating through crewmembers.  This person followed the sawyer all day, clearing the brush the chainsaw cut, and carrying the sawyer's gas and oil. In my dream, Sean chose Cindy to be his swamper.  She turned over a log, and bees swarmed out, stinging her. 

Cindy appeared at the crew buggies at the end of the shift, a glare on her face.  "Don't ever dream about me again!" she ordered.  "Sean ran a saw today and I was his swamper.  I turned over a log and there were a bunch of bees there.  I got stung a bunch of times!"

Coincidence? Or something more?

Recently, a young woman who lived near me went missing in our town, along with her vehicle.  There was a lot of speculation.  Did she run off, or was she taken by someone? "She's in the water," I said to my coworker.  "No, she went off the road somewhere," he said.  This was a far more likely scenario.  There are lakes and rivers around here, but it would take some effort to drive into them.  It was more probable that she had driven off one of our many mountain roads.

The next day, her car, with her inside it, was found mostly submerged in a murky pond.  Coincidence? (RIP Alex).

Everyone is probably a little bit psychic.  I've had other experiences I can't explain, other dreams that have come true, things that I just "know."  I'm sure this isn't too uncommon, but I'm interested: what about you? Have you ever had a psychic experience?
I don't have a picture of me being psychic, so here's a mountain goat.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Trainer Tuesday: The card deck workout

It's that time of year where fire crews can't wander too far from their transport method, whether it's a helicopter, engine, or crew buggy.  We all try to have a quick getaway time, so the days where we could do long runs or go for pack hikes are pretty much over.  But just like circuit workouts, the card deck is always an option, and even if you aren't a firefighter, you can do it too.

Here's how it works:

Take a standard deck of cards.  Discard the jokers.  Give each suit an exercise.  For example, spades = squats, diamonds = crunches, clubs = lunges, hearts = pushups.  Shuffle the deck and perform the exercise on each card according to its number, such as 5 of spades = 5 squats.  Kings, Queens, Jacks, and Aces count for 20 reps each (or 10 if you prefer).  Try to rest as little as possible between exercises.

This is a fun, easy way to get a workout in when you have little space or equipment (i.e. a hotel room) but still want to get some exercise.

It's also harder than it sounds! There's a reason it's also called The Deck of Pain.  Give it a try!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Food is not just fuel

I ate a tomato.  Ugh, it didn't taste good at all.  They must have gone bad.  I tried a piece of cheese instead.  Yuck! What was going on?

I slowly realized that I couldn't taste anything.  I had a coppery, salty taste in my mouth and all flavors were missing.  Even a candy bar tasted something like gasoline.

What was going on? I turned to Dr. Google.  Sinus infection, gum disease, brain tumor, early onset Alzheimer's? That didn't sound good.  However, there was one other possibility.  Some people mentioned that they had burned their taste buds by chewing cinnamon gum.  The day before, I had eaten some particularly strong cinnamon gummy bears (don't judge. Everything in moderation).  My tongue and mouth felt like it was burned afterwards.  This could be it.  Supposedly, taste buds take 10-14 days to grow back.

I decided to wait it out.  "I wish I had that," people said, alluding to possible weight loss benefits.  No. No, you don't.  It's miserable having everything taste terrible, even a simple salad.  It's hard to force yourself to eat, knowing you need the energy, when everything tastes disgusting.

"Food is fuel," is a popular saying.  It's obviously true: you need food to fuel your body and energize you for your workouts and your life.  But sometimes this saying is used in a somewhat superior way by people, almost as if they look down on people who enjoy eating. 

But food isn't just fuel.  Now that my taste buds are starting to return (it's taken 3 weeks, and sugar is still lagging), I realize how important it really is to experience a good meal.  If food was just fuel, we would be happy with a pill every day instead of eating.  Meal replacements like Slim Fast would work forever and we wouldn't crave anything else. 

I'll never be a "foodie," but I'll never take the sense of taste for granted again.  I had tacos with friends last night, and they were delicious.  Food is meant for nourishing our bodies but it was also meant for enjoyment.  If we make good choices (with leeway for candy or whatever it is for you), we get both benefits.
image from

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ready for a change?

Hello blog peeps,

I'm still assigned to a fire but I'm popping in to announce a challenge that the folks at 1st Phorm are having.

It's only 8 weeks long.  If you sign up, you get access to free workout and nutrition plans, and also advice from certified personal trainers and nutrition specialists.  Best of all, if you win, you get $50,000!

The last winner was a middle aged guy with a full time job.  It is totally possible for anyone.

This challenge isn't just for folks who want to lose weight.  People who want to gain muscle and tone up can benefit from it as well.

You only have to register and take a pic on day one and on the last day!  Don't worry, the whole internet won't see your photos...unless you win! Only a handful of people who work at 1st Phorm will see don't even need to share with me!

You don't even have to use 1st Phorm supplements...but they do say that if you choose to use any supplements, you must use 1st Phorm ones, since this contest is sponsored by them.

Plus, the supplements really work.  I use several of them, especially the protein powder (the key lime flavor is delicious)!

If you're interested, the link to join my team is here.  Feel free to email me at the address in my profile or leave a comment with questions too.  I've started a private Facebook group where people who join the challenge can chat about fitness, workouts, nutrition, etc...if you join I'll get you the link.

If you've been waiting for an incentive to make a change, here it is!  Just be sure to sign up at the above link by July 30.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Beware of...Goats?

I hiked happily along the trail.  While an occasional grizzly bear might wander through this area, they weren't permanent residents.  This was one of the reasons I picked this place to backpack. One less thing to worry about, I thought.  Then I came upon this sign:

Mountain goat safety? Sure, I had heard of the rare aggressive goat that didn't want to share its space, or was protecting its baby.  But surely that was an anomaly.  Plus, I love mountain goats.  They're my favorite wild animal.  How bad could it be?

I set up my camp and headed up the trail toward a series of lakes.  A flustered man soon appeared.  "Those goats were chasing us!" he claimed.  "We had to detour off the trail." 

I could have turned around, but I wanted to see the high lakes.  As I turned the corner, a goat peered at me from a rock.  It didn't look happy. 

"It's ok, goats!" I yelled, ready to flee or pull out my bear spray.  The goat looked disgruntled, but disappeared into the brush.  I continued on.

There were no other hikers as I passed two lakes and climbed up to the high point on the state line.  I headed for a snow patch, but noticed it was occupied.  A goat and baby were hanging out there.  Giving them a wide berth, I walked over to a viewpoint.

Mama wasn't having it, however.  She started walking toward me with a purpose.  I backed away, but she kept following me.  I wasn't really scared, but I beat feet down the hill until she couldn't see me anymore.

"Coming through, goats, " I yelled as I passed the rock where I had encountered the first one.  I felt kind of ridiculous, but then looked up to see one eyeing me from a nearby rock. 

In the end, I wasn't really in danger. They just wanted their space.  And after spending a couple of days in their territory, I could see why they wanted to keep it for themselves.  I would, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Trainer Tuesday: It's OK to be (a little) lazy (sometimes)

I know people who overtrain.  They rarely take rest days from exercise, and feel guilty when they do.  They push themselves hard in almost every workout.  It's impressive, but they eventually pay the price.  Injuries, sleep problems, feeling tired all the time, and decreasing performance are all problems that can occur with overtraining.

I confess: I can be a lazy adventurer.  I wake up early, but sometimes don't leave the house for a hike until (gasp) 11.  Some days I only run 3 miles.  I've been known to blow off the gym even though I know I should lift weights.  There's days I will just go for a walk.

I used to be much more obsessive.  I turned down time with friends because I had to exercise.  I once went running before heading out on a backpacking trip.  I ran circles in an office building when it was too icy and snowy to run outside.

Now, I'm a lot more moderate.  I still exercise a lot, but I've learned to listen to my body.  If I have aches and pains, or feel desperate at the thought of a weight workout, I modify what I'm doing.  I go for a walk in the woods instead.  I can be happy with a four mile hike.  On rest days, I just try to eat less (sometimes I succeed).

While I don't advocate lying on the couch all day watching 90 Day Fiance PBS Specials very often, not every workout needs to be epic, as long as you get up and move.  Every body needs a break once in awhile.
Hiking in Patagonia, just because I loved this trip.  We made sure to take breaks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Trainer Tuesday: Run for Life

I've been a runner for 40 years! That means I'm 1. old, and 2. pretty successful at it. I haven't had any real running injuries, so I must be doing something right.

Running is great exercise.  All you really need is a good pair of shoes (but please put on some clothes too), and it can be done pretty much anywhere.  But, like anything else, there can be too much of a good thing.

If you love to run, or are just getting started, here are a few strategies you can employ so you can run for life.

1.  Invest in a good pair of shoes.  I see people trying to run in cheap shoes, getting shin splints, and giving up, or running in the same shoes for years.  Running shoes break down eventually; replace them every 300 to 500 miles or so.  Your feet and knees will thank you.

2.  Try trail running.  I abandoned the roads for the most part several years ago for softer terrain.  It's easier on the joints, and it helps your balance.  Bonus: there's usually a lot more to see out on the trail.

3.  Cross train.  Taking a break from running will work different muscles.  Weight training will build strength, while running increases endurance.  So go for a hike, bike, or whatever else you like.

4.  Notice aches and pains.  Your body is trying to tell you something.  Don't try to run through pain; it will catch up to you eventually.  If something hurts, it's time to slow down, take a break, or see a doctor or physical therapist.  You may just need to do something simple like work on your flexibility, invest in foam roller or orthotics, or change your shoes.  If it's serious, it's time to find out, so you can get back to running as soon as possible.

5.  Give yourself a break.  I used to run 6 days a week, and would feel inadequate if I didn't do a long run, had to stop on a steep hill, or ran slowly.  When I had to take several months off because of knee surgery, I thought I wasn't a "real" runner.  But you want  to run for life, remember? That means it's OK to only run a couple days a week, to walk if you need to, or never run another race if it's not fun anymore.  If you're out there running, you're a real runner!

As for me, I'll be out there on the trails, for life.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The people you meet on the trail

Sometimes I don't want to talk to anybody when I'm hiking.  On those days, everybody kind of annoys me: the slow hikers who see me coming but don't get out of the way, forcing me to squeeze past them, the people blasting music as they walk along, subjecting everyone to their favorite songs, and the unprepared, who look about ready for a rescue. 

But usually I'm not so surly.  Saturday was one of those days.  I was asked at work if I would be willing to pack a few boxes up for the volunteer who would be staffing one of the fire lookouts. My ears perked up.  Getting paid to hike to a fire lookout? Sign me up!  I stuffed the boxes into a large pack and drove two hours to the trailhead.

Getting ready, I saw two men and a little boy starting out on the trail.  I knew I would reel them in, but today it didn't really bother me: I was being paid to go to a lookout! Sure enough, they were sitting on the trail about a mile and a half in.  I left them in the dust and climbed up the lookout stairs, unlocking the hatch in the catwalk and opening the door.

The inside of a lookout is a happy place for me.  It's a small space.  Everything has a purpose and a place.  You're surrounded by windows.  Your whole purpose is to watch the mountains.

The little boy burst into sight far below.  I leaned over the catwalk and invited him up.  He was shy, and forgot what town he lived in, but looked around curiously.  Later his dad and friend appeared.  They turned out to be ham radio enthusiasts, who broadcast from every peak they climbed.  They busily set up their equipment below the tower, excited to have "registered" a peak.  Soon people all over the world would be listening in.

A young woman and her parents climbed the stairs.  She worked at a nearby, remote saloon and her mom and dad were visiting.  We discovered that she had been the bartender at my employee's recent wedding.  Her father was almost irrationally afraid of bears. When they described the hike they had done the day before, I informed them that area was full of bears.  "Thanks a lot!' he said, looking pointedly at his daughter.

Looking down from the lookout, I saw a loud family approaching.  As much as I liked showing people around the lookout, I knew I'd be there all day if I didn't lock up.  I shut the door and took one last look around.  I pictured the volunteer arriving, happily unpacking and settling in.

I met more people hiking up the trail as I headed down.  They all seemed happy.  Like the ham radio guys and the adventurous bartender, they all had their own stories.  Today our stories all intersected for a short time, at a tower in the sky.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trainer Tuesday: Try a circuit workout!

As a helicopter fire crew we are attached to a big metal anchor for most of the season. This is great, because it beats walking, but it has its drawbacks.  For one, working out.  It's hard to go for a long run or hike when you might have to jump in the helicopter and be airborne within five minutes.  Hence the circuit!

You don't need any weights or props unless you want them.  A circuit can be done in a small space, and can be done for as long as you want. It will keep your heart rate up and challenge your body in new ways.

A rappel spotter introduced me to a circuit called "Billy Big Arms." Who is this mysterious Billy with the huge biceps? Nobody knows, but his legacy lives on in this workout. 

Start with a light warmup and dynamic stretches for about 10 minutes.  A 2 minute run, jumping jacks, jump rope, or even marching in place will get your heart rate up.  Moving stretches like arm circles, walking lunges, and cat/cow will activate your muscles.

Have several stations you work through.  For example: 1. Crunches, 2. tricep dips, 3. pushups, 4. squats, 5. Lunges.  Set a timer and see how many reps you can do with good form for a specified amount of time, for example 45 seconds.  After 45 seconds, use a 15 second rest to move to the next station.  Run through the circuit twice, then do some cardio for 2 minutes: a run, jumping jacks, etc,  Return to the stations and run through them again twice.  Finish up with cardio and then cool down with some static stretches for about 10 minutes.

This circuit workout will take you about 45-50 minutes.  You can expand it or make it shorter, by eliminating some of the circuits.

If you have any questions, my email is now in my profile.  And if you see the legendary Billy, send him my way!
Well, what else are you going to do? It's going to be gone for 2 hours! Do a circuit!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Lookout Season

The fire lookouts are going up to their cabins and towers at the beginning of July.  Then, they will be busy taking off the shutters, hauling water, and setting up their houses in the sky.  Boxes of food and supplies to be transported to each lookout are piled up in the fire cache.

As always, I'm a little jealous.  To me, this is the best job ever: living in a fire tower, gazing out across the forest, and learning to know every mountain you can see.  Sometimes I get to fill in, when the lookouts need days off and fire danger is high.  It's a little taste of paradise.

The next best thing is hiking there, so I set off walking up a dirt road toward a lookout I hadn't been to before.  I arrived to find the gate open, so I could have driven, but I wanted the workout.  The road wound for several miles through the forest before breaking out onto a subalpine ridge full of flowers.  The lookout tower stood at a high point at the end of the ridge.

I climbed up to below the catwalk, where the hatch was locked.  A lonely old chair sat out in front of the tower, a perfect place to observe the reservoir and mountains.

A storm was blowing in, so I didn't stay long.  I hiked back down the road, thinking of the lookout who would be here soon, excited to make a home up here.  Maybe someday that will be me.  But if not, I can always visit.

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.