Monday, April 26, 2021


 I've been vaccinated for about a month now, so I've been out on the town, hugging strangers and...just kidding! I didn't do that before the pandemic! 

For me it's a relief though.  I can now hang out with vaccinated friends. Travel doesn't seem so daunting. We can now carpool to trailheads instead of driving several separate vehicles (aka the "Montana car pool:" one person per car). I'm not quite as grumpy when I encounter an unmasked person where masks are required. The gym is not as much of a minefield now.

Sometimes I feel like I'm "wasting" whatever period of immunity that I have. Places like Iceland are now letting vaccinated travelers in; tickets are cheap and I think about buying one and just going. I'm hesitant, though: people there are conflicted. They rely on tourism but are aware that they live on an isolated island; an undetected covid case brought in by a visitor could lock them down again. I don't want to be a cause of annoyance for them. Plus, I don't feel like touring around the country in a mask and having to get a covid test to get back in the U.S.

"I'll pick you up," I say to my vaccinated friend as we plan a hike.  I'm so happy that this is possible. Thank you, scientists!

Monday, April 19, 2021


 There is a trail that is only known to a few locals, although more people are discovering it. When D. showed it to me last year, it was faint in places. Now it is more defined and wide. I even saw three mountain bikers on it yesterday. Regardless, though it is near a popular, crowded trail, there is abundant solitude here. 

Recently we found something new on this trail. Several signs warned aggressively of no trespassing, and several stakes decorated a section of the ridge. Orange flagging was lettered with words like "garage" and "living room." Someone had obviously purchased this plot of land right on the trail, and was determined to build a large house there.

In order to build, they will have to extensively level the ridge that they have staked out. They will bring in heavy equipment, tear up the hill, and cut down the trees. Our trail, and our access, will be gone.

Over thirty thousand people moved here during the pandemic. They aren't coming to work at Wendy's; the majority of them are remote workers or self-employed, fleeing their crowded states. Most likely whoever is building up there is one of them.

I know that the economy marches on, and real estate is at a premium. I'm not from here either, despite having moved to this state fifteen years ago. This ridge we traversed must have been private land to begin with, albeit with no signs or owners around. It was probably only a matter of time. 

For now, I slip past the signs, a small act of defiance.  Soon this won't be possible; this gorgeous, quiet ridge will be off limits. I can't help but feel sad about it.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Hiking in the time of corona

A little over a year ago, I stopped trusting some of my friends, and they probably stopped trusting me.  Being a first responder, I didn't have the luxury of working from home.  I tried my best to avoid the dreaded covid, but I had to interact with other firefighters, pilots and the public every day. People at work were getting the virus all around me (I'm proud that my fire crew stayed covid-free). 

As for my hiking buddies, I knew some of them were embracing a hermit-like lifestyle, but others weren't quite so careful. As the pandemic wore on and restaurants and bars were opening, they started going out. They posted pictures on Facebook of themselves hiking in large groups. They frequented unmasked places, like church. 

As hard as it was, I had to avoid them. People in the next tier, the mostly cautious, I would meet at trailheads instead of driving together. This once resulted in four cars, each with one person, traversing a long, snowy road, which was pretty silly, but virus-free. A few people stayed in the inner circle; I  sometimes drove with them, but often met them at the trail too.

Now that I'm nearing my vaccineversary (I made that up), I'm ready to let go of this stress. I'm aware that no vaccine works 100% of the time, but the people I hike with are also now vaccinated or planning to get it soon. Some things won't change ( I'm still not a fan of big groups) but it's definitely a relief. The bears are coming out too, so it's time to hit the trail with friends.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

(more) dumb stuff I've done in the woods

 Just when you thought it was safe to go in the woods, here I am again, doing more dumb stuff! Actually, you're pretty safe: most of these things happened awhile ago. However, you're sometimes just one forgetful moment away from having a silly moment in the forest. In reality, I remembered more things I've done, so here we go, with some of the dumb stuff I've done out there:

Believed a guy when he said he knew the way out of the woods. Much floundering ensued, accompanied by mirth on the part of the rest of the crew when they had to come get us almost a mile away from the vehicles.

Believed a map and didn't check with locals, leading to crashing through brush at two a.m. in bear country and an illegal campfire in a national park.

Accidentally sprayed myself with bear spray.

Almost caught a fire lookout on fire by putting a piece of wood into the stove that was too big, then having to pull the flaming wood out of the stove and throw it off the catwalk.

Was sure the big, angry buffalo that I drove by would be gone after I parked and went running back the same route. It wasn't.

Took a potty break behind the Land Rover in the Serengeti, neglecting to see the leopard perched nearby in a tree.

Saw a mountain lion while running, continued running in blissful ignorance.

Didn't seam seal an old tent; it rained.

Didn't want to carry a sleeping bag into the Grand Canyon, figured it would be hot, carried a sheet and rolled up like a burrito on the beach; froze.

Succumbed to peer pressure and skied down a big hill instead of taking off skis like I wanted to; broke my ankle.

Told my group of hikers that I knew the way; ended up at the wrong lake.

Neglected to properly vent a can of chili on a campfire in the Yellowstone backcountry, causing it to burst and my companion to yell "bear bait" as we picked up beans from the dirt.

I'm unlikely to do most of these things again; however, dumbness in the woods is always lurking. In fact, I confidently told my friend that she wouldn't need snowshoes or hiking poles the other day; as we postholed through the forest, she may have been thinking, this is dumb!

Hopefully not about to do something dumb