Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Home on the Range: Mountain Logging

Home on the Range: Mountain Logging: It already looks like dark snowy clouds are blowing in and it's only mid September, but then again it's mind September in Wyoming ...

Mountain Logging

It already looks like dark snowy clouds are blowing in and it's only mid September, but then again it's mind September in Wyoming so really anything is possible. With the coming cold weather  and the possibility of an exceptionally cold winter it's time for an ago old tradition to take place; the gathering of fire wood. The idea may be lost on many American's throughout the country with the invention of electricity and the use of natural gas to heat most homes. There are not many people now who have to worry about gathering and storing the right about of wood to burn to keep there homes warm this winter. I can thing of a few states where that is an exception, Wyoming being one of them.

When we first moved here I was surprised to find out that people actually still used wood burning stoves to heat there home. The first thing that came to mind was Laura Ingall Wilder's  Little House on the Prairie  books. I mean that's how they heated there home and they were pioneers. I had the impression that people had moved on from that. I thought electricity had replaced our wood burning stove a long time ago. 

Call me a romantic, but can I just say that I'm so glad to be wrong? Now I'm sure some people are raising their eyebrow at that and that's fine. For whatever reason I like to do or at least try out the "old fashioned" ways. I mean if it ain't broken why fix it?  

Just over a week ago our friend Josh took James and I out the mountain to teach us the ticks of trade. Unlike our pioneering ancestors we are not using axes or hand saws to fell our timber, but we are using a very usefully modern machine; the chain saw. While I appreciate the efficacy of chainsaws they still make me nervous and while I'm sure swinging an ax is just as dangerous I might almost prefer to use it instead. Anyhow, Josh got James dialed in on the chainsaw and that's were the fun begins.

When we're looking for fire wood were looking for dead trees that standing or  fallen. Which, here in Wyoming isn't to hard to come by since we've seen an infestation of Pine Beetles. You'll see large section of mountain sides covered in dead timber. It's rather sad to see, but the beetles are here now so the least we can do it clean the forest and make a pace for the young trees to grow up. 
Alright, so we find a section of dead wood and the saws begin to fly.  There is something wonderful about the sound of a tree when it falls. I'm not quit sure how to describe it. Since the "green" movement that has swept our country a lot of people I'm sure would be offended that people are cutting down the forest. Let me remind them, they're dead. If left alone they'd fall over and create great fuel for a wildfire, and don't get me started on that point. 

Falling dead wood is– I don't know liberating? To here the dry trees fall with a crash and to smell the sweet pine is all together something else.  Just to be able to work in the woods is amazing. I don't care what any environmentalist has to say. It is good to clear away dead wood. It is conserving our natural resources. I'm not for just cutting down, it all needs to be done in a cycle and when it is, it is beautiful. 

Whether people will admit to it or not the dead wood will be fuel for one type of fire or another. Using it to heat your home is economical while just letting it be burned in a wild fire is a great waste of one of America's greatest natural resources. Did you know that there are more trees in the US than there was 70 years ago? Roughly one third of the United States is forest land. That's a whopping 747 million acres! 

Sorry, here is another crazy fact to leave you with. It has recently been discovered that there are 3.04 trillion trees in the world. That's 422 trees to every person. I think our forest are just fine, don't you?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Home on the Range: Less is Sometimes More

Home on the Range: Less is Sometimes More: It's the day you've all been waiting for! The tiny house, which I've named Fremont is is finally, after many months, finish...

Less is Sometimes More

It's the day you've all been waiting for! The tiny house, which I've named Fremont is is finally, after many months, finished! Yes! Can you believe it? I know I find it hard to believe, but just over a year ago my husband James and I talked with our good friend Luke Anderson about the idea of building tiny. When we got the go ahead from Luke we started to design this tiny house. Looking back at our first sketches I'm so excited that the finished house looks so similar despite some changes that had to be made for engineering purposes.

The house is nothing short of a master piece, a true work of art. We started building roughly the first week of January and finished in the last week of August. Time is time, some may think it was a long time to build while others might be impressed with the speed but what matters is that it was time well spent. Time used to craft something beautiful. We all felt that it was important to fill this 230 square foot space with top-of -the-line, beautiful appliances and fixtures.  When you're living space is the size of some peoples walk in closet it is imperative to fill it with all things lovely, as you'll see it up closely every day.

 The home is built with standard 2x4 construction in which the studs are placed 16" on center.  When we were looking at insulation we chose to go with spray foam verses the typical fiber glass stuff. This is important because it doesn't allow for any air flow within the wall or ceiling. Oh, and the floors are insulated with EcoBat and reflective insulation and had an R value of roughly 30.  No need to worry about freezing pipes in the winter months.

The exterior siding is tongue and groove cedar which we sealed with a clear coat so you keep the natural color of the wood.  For the roofing we choose to go with tin because the idea is that this home is made to move down the highway. Who has time to deal with shingles blowing off your house as you pull it down the highway?Moving to the interior, the walls are covers in locally grown and milled, beetle killed pine. We wanted to use beetle killed pine because it gives the wood grains these fantastic colors. It is usually a grey blue, but we also had planks with orange, green and purple in them. This livens up the interior and provides a bit of visual interest. So you won't ever find yourself thinking that you live in a wood box. Instead you'll be thinking that your walls are a work of art.

Okay now let me tell you about all the cool features we put in to this house to make it a home. Living small can defiantly be a challenge. I'm sure most people won't even entertain the thought. After all, who would want to come home to a tight, cramped house? I wouldn't. When we came up with our floor plan our goal was to make it functional and livable. Livable for anyone. We wanted to challenge the idea that living small had to be uncomfortable.  Another goal we had that was instrumental in the design was the concept (and hopefully practice) of hospitality.

Most tiny homes are not made to comfortably house more than the one or two people who live in them. That didn't work for us. We wanted people to feel like they could have their friends over without worrying about were they would sit. So when you come into the house you step into the living room, if you will, where we built-in an L-shaped cushioned bench that will fit at least eight people comfortably. Oh, and you can sleep two adults on it so you can have people spend the night too!

Unlike the average tiny house we gave this home a galley kitchen. This allows clear passage from the front door and living space to the back of the house where the bathroom and loft are. This way the linear space is most effectively used. Moving left to right we have a full sized gas range, with about a foot and half counter space before you come to a mammoth white porcelain sink. After another section of acacia wood counter is a full sized stainless steel refrigerator.  Above the counter tops we have five floating shelves.

The lower cabinets and drawers are custom made by a  local cabinet shop to perfectly fit our space. All the drawers are equipped with the soft close feature. To switch things up we choose a gorgeous cherry wood and a soft warm finish and it's not just a vainer, but these are sold wood cabinets. They will not fall apart on you like an average cabinet which is made with partial board. Like I said above it was crustal to have high-end, well-made finishes in this house.
Past the refrigerator we have an compact dryer unit. Yes! It's true, you will be able to do laundry in this house. This single unit compact wash/dryer is the perfect size for this house and give yet just one more functional feature making it more livable. Above this unit is an amazing Rinnai instant gas water heater. With a flow rate of 4 gallon a minute this heater is more than capable to fill all the hot water needs of this house.

Moving past a hand made sliding barn door you come to a spa-like bath room. On the far wall you have a built-in utility closet and a small wardrobe. We left a space for a standard sized toilet at the end of the house. Some may thinks it's odd not to have put one in, but you know toilets are pretty personal. We felt that it was important to let the buyer decide what kind of toilet they want to install. Originally we were planning on putting in a composting toilet since this would allow the owner more freedom as to the location they may end up in. It could also be plumbed for a septic system.
Personally I would prefer the composting toilet. To me  it allows for the most freedom. It frees you from having to dispose of black water and I can park my home anywhere with out having to worry about hooking up to a septic system, but I'll stop there. Their are pros and cons to any type of toilet you pick.

The shower-I love this shower. Now we're facing the front of the home. In the corner is a full sized shower. I chose white sub-way tile because it's clean and classic with a gray grout to make it feel warmer. The floor is covered in small river rocks. Are you starting to feel relaxed yet? If you're not, just wait, you will.  For a shower head we chose a rain shower.
This way you don't have to worry about water spraying all over the place.Yes I know, how luxurious, right?  Exposed copper piping transports the water and to wrap up this super relaxing shower are glass walls!

Now moving to the right from the shower we have the vanity. The cabinet is made just like the ones in the kitchen with a dark walnut stained birch butcher block for the counter top.  On top of the counter we have a white porcelain bowl sink and a sleek stainless steal faucet.  Next to the vanity is another closet, for added storage.  

Are you ready to go up in the loft yet? Going along with the theme of livable tiny home we choose to give you stairs  instead of a ladder.  The stairs are made of angle iron and each step is welded on. The idea for these steps was to make them feel like they were floating. So you can see through them and it gives you the feeling of openness.  This loft is roughly 8' by 9'; large enough to fit a queen sized mattress.   Flanking each side of the bed are reading lamps with individual on/off switches.  Since we love big space in our tiny house we made sure that the slope of the roof was tall enough so you could sit up comfortably in bed without worrying about hitting your head.

Coming back down to the main floor a few feet for the end of the stair we have what is probably my second favorite thing this is house. I call it my coffee table. Basically it's a fixed table coming off the wall which looks through a huge picture window.  I can just imagine myself sitting there with my cup off coffee writing or working a sketch.  This space was also built to double as extra counter top space and a kitchen table.  Or for any other reason you can think of.

To heat this space we chose a Dickinson boat heater, which also runs of propane. This heater is a real space saver since it is mounted to the wall. I was a little worried that it wouldn't fit in with our rustic modern look, but it fit right in with everything else in the home. It sits on the wall to the right of the door as you walk in.

Congratulation, you just finished the basic tour of the Fremont. What do you think? I hope it challenged your perception of what it means to live tiny. We wanted to prove that living tiny could also mean living well, even luxuriously.  As you see it doesn't have to be cramped or uncomfortable. You don't have to give up your social life to live in one of our tiny homes.

Living small is one of the best ways to live large. Once you realize it isn't the amount of materialistic things you own that makes you content it allows you to focus less on yourself and more on others. It allows you the freedom to spend time creating experiences rather than just taking care of all the stuff you've collected over the years. After seeing all the amazing features and hard work we poured into this house the price shouldn't shock you. The starting price of the Fremont is $95,000. This house is an investment that will not deprecate like a luxury fifth wheel RV does as soon as you drive it off the lot, this is a home. If you are interesting in living tiny but aren't sure this floor plan will be your needs please feel free to email Luke Anderson at or call (307) 714-7505

Home on the Range: Tallest Ridge

Home on the Range: Tallest Ridge: Our first day was behind us and a 1,800 foot elevation gain before us.  Lizard Head trail was where we where headed.  Knowing most of t...

Home on the Range: First One Step Then Another

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Home on the Range: Home on the Range

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Home on the Range: How It Began: I suppose it all began back in 2010 when I was first exposed to backpacking through the National Outdoor Leadership School .  It woul...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Home on the Range: Washakie Pass

Home on the Range: Washakie Pass: We woke yet again to a kind of quite that can only be expressed by wilderness. It's a soft calm silence. It's gentle with nothing ...

Washakie Pass

We woke yet again to a kind of quite that can only be expressed by wilderness. It's a soft calm silence. It's gentle with nothing harsh about it. It eases you from sleep beckoning you to see what's lying just  outside your tent. This is the best way to be woken up by silence and sunlight peaking into your tent. This morning went smoothly as both James and I fell into our roles.

James went to go fill up our drom and began to heat up water for our oatmeal. While'll I started start to pack up the tent. After breakfast James went to back his stuff up while I started to divide and pack up our food. By day three we'd really become quite efficient. It was great to wake up and be ready to go in 45 minutes verses an hour to an hour and half.

Today we both started off with a trekking pole, since the common consensuses among the other hikers that we meet along the way seemed to be that this section of trails were especially hard on ones knees, despite how in shape you were. We were off. Our first  mile and a half was down hill through woods which was big change from most of yesterday's hike. It was very pleasent. It had been about a half hour before we left that a group of boy fly fishes pasted our camp site all waves and smiles, we weren't too worried about running into them since they had a whole half hour on us. Sadly I was wrong.

Once we came all the way down we had our first river crossing. And there we came upon the group of young fly fishers. Now it was very apparent that we'd be play leap frog with this large group; which, to say the least is very disheartening for a few reasons. For one it slows you down a considerable amount and two it takes away from the remote experience of the hike.  Our solution to the problem was to out hike this larger and slower group.

Our plan worked until we had to stop to take off a layer of clothes and apply sunblock. As we were doing this 20 boys along with 3 adults passed us. Our only hope was that they would not be going as far as we were.  Thankfully  having this large group in front and sometimes behind us didn't ruin the hike like we had anticipated.  We were soon distracted by all the lakes.

Now I don't know about you, but generally when I think about mountains I don't associate lakes with them. The longer we hiked the more lakes we saw and they were large lakes. Each lake fed the lake below it like some giant water feature. With each step higher the view of the lakes became more astonishing.

while we did drink the water right out of the stream I would not recommend anyone do this unless they are able to verify that it is all snow melt and even then it can be risky. 

 We were fast approaching Washakie Pass. The closer we got the more we would see the slope of the land. It was as if it was all slanted down creating the masse movement of water down this side of the Continental Divide.  The lake at the top just before what looked to be like an almost vertical assent spilled over it's edge and slipped though a low bolder field where it filled the next lake. Which in turn fed the lake below that and the cascade effect continued it's way down unlike you lost sight of the water in the trees.

There were small glacier like in the picture above which fed the streams all the way down the ridge. I know I keep saying it, but I don't think that I'll be able to say it enough. The views were so fantastic!  I mean just look at that! The pass started out lush and very grassy and the grass was sprinkled with small white flowers.  To say the least it was enchanting.  It went from enchanting to desolate quickly with the elevation gain. Washakie Pass stands at a  height of 11,611ft. which isn't quit as high as were were the day before but it still quite high.

It was one of the best things to come to the top of the pass and cross the Continental Divide and see the word just open up for hundreds and hundreds of miles around you. It was like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time - jaw dropping. I'm not usually an emotional person, but when we crested the ridge and saw mountains and range land that was hundreds of miles away I had tears in my eyes. You're looking at what you know is real, but your mind is unable to comprehend it.

You know it will be beautiful, but you are unprepared for how beautiful it actually is and you're left there just trying to grasp it's vastness so you can put words to what you're seeing, but you're simply unable to come to terms for what your eyes are telling you. This photo will not bring tears to your eyes, but if you could be there and see if for your self the view just might bring tears to your eyes.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tallest Ridge

Our first day was behind us and a 1,800 foot elevation gain before us.  Lizard Head trail was where we where headed.  Knowing most of today would be up hill left me with mixed feelings.  I love ridge hiking, where you're walking on the tippy-top of the mountain.  I love being able to see glaciers, and myriads of mountain tops poking their heads up in the distances. I love feeling small in comparison.

Usually the first mile in a hike is a good warm up for the rest of your day. This however; was not the case for this hike. The first mile was very pleasant as we walked away from the Cirque. The terrain was green and lush making the surrounding mountains look very harsh and powerful in contrast. There was no gradually gain of  elevation. One moment it was like a morning stroll in the park and the next you got slapped in the face with the reminder that, no, this is not a walk in some quaint tame little city park, but this was a hike through a wild place. A place not made for the faint of heart.

The sign in the photo to the right was also a good reminder of this. You may or may not be able to see, but the sign is no longer informative. The words have been scrapped off either by wind and snow or animals. Though I'm sure both have worked together to leave the hiker questioning for a moment as to whether or not they should proceed with their intended route.  We of course decided to continue full speed ahead.  It would be hard and most likely we'd each take turns attending our own pity parties, but they would be very short lived in light of what we had the privilege to see.

I could continue to write about how extremely heavy my backpack was and how it really cramped my style during this extreme uphill climb, but I won't waste your time by going into so much detail about that. Instead I'd like to tell you about all the amazing flowers there where the  higher we got.  

It was truly incredible. Who would think at once you were above 11,000 feet that the ground around you would explode into so many colors.  We saw columbine, ox eye daisies, buttercups, Indian paint brush, queens crown, common fireweed,  mountain lupine,  monkshood, alpine for-get-me-nots, and marsh- marigolds. I'm sure there were many more, but this helps give you an idea.  Here we where in a harsh environment with thousands of delicate flowers blanketing the mountain sides.

Another thing we found as we continued to climb was water.  And this wasn't visible snow melt which is so common, but spring water.  Water so clear and cool bubbling right up out of the ground. Being on top of the ridge and seeing water flowing everywhere around us was amazing. I thought by August everything but the glacier produced streams and drainages would've been dry.
This is Lizard Head Peak and the lake closest to it is Bear Lake.

Oh, and let me just say, if you've never gotten to see a glacier, you need to. Now these glacier are not as big as they once used to be, but they where no less impressive in my mind. Just look at this! As you look at all the rocky ridges around you, you see that at one time they all house glaciers of their own. You could see where the glacier slid down out of the mountains carving a path for themselves and the water to follow.

All day my mind was being blown by the astonishing creation surrounding me. I still can't understand how most people can look at these incredible works and attribute them to chance. If you listen you can hear them screaming out that they were hand crafted. Chance could not ever make something so inspiring. The beauty of this place was hard to take in.  I wish these photograph did their reality better justice. I almost hate photographing these mountains and glaciers because the photographs are completely unable to capture their immense majesty. I am humble by such landscapes, it makes me ask the question, "Who am I?"

Cathedral Peak 12,000ft high

The river in the picture is the Wind River. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

First One Step Then Another

This past Monday night flew by in anticipation of our backpacking trip the following morning. It had only been the pervious week that we decided to make this trip work  in conjunction with our 3rd wedding anniversary.  I was feeling a bit overwhelm or maybe over packed and terribly excited. It had been four years since I'd gone backpacking.  All I could think of was being over 11,000 feet in the air and seeing oceans of mountain tops and ridge lines.  

Tuesday morning dawned, we grabbed our packs and jump in our truck. We were off!  Because the short planning time frame of this this trip I neglected to look up the distance to the trail head. All I knew was that is was down highway 28 going toward Farson, (wy) and that from the highway we'd be making a right turn. For the future I will be figure out the distance from the ranch to  the trailhead. We had no trouble finding the turn off for the Big Sandy Opening Camp ground, but what I wasn't counting on was the fact that from the highway it was another 36 miles back to the camp ground. 

For some reason I was figuring on the camp ground being only a few miles off the highway and if it had been it would've taken just over any hour to get there and we'd be hiking by 0900. As it turns out we didn't start our hike till 1100 . . . and we had 9 hard uphill miles to hike our first day, not that either James or I really cared. We were actually going on a trip we'd talked about for the last 3 years.   

The parking lot at the Big Sandy was packed to over flowing with vehicles from all over the country; there were people everywhere.  It was an easy enough hike to start off with. This part of the trail was wide and very well traveled, with ventrally no elevation gain. Big Sandy Lake was our first stop and that was about 4 miles into the hike. By the time we reached the lake I realized that I over pack our food,(by 20 pounds) and that my backpack was not made to comfortably support the weight I was carrying (my pack weighed in at 50lbs).  

My feet were already protesting with a few blisters; which is frustration when you're wearing a pair of very broken in boots, but no worries we had a couple of foot kits on hand. We stopped by the lake side where I pulled off my boots and James whipped out the map. Our first real elevation gain was just around the corner! I could feel my excitement growing, it's that feeling that sits low in your stomach, making you take deep intentional breaths. It was about to start really looking like the beautiful wild wilderness I loved.  This hike was about to get real, real hard that is. 

The funny thing is that the higher you climb the more your body protest the weight on your back and the lack of oxygen in your blood. You can feel it in your legs with each step upward, you can feel in the your heart as it beats in fast, short pulses and in your erratic breaths that fight to be controlled. It's worth all that uncomfortableness and more when you reach the top; you start to see the world around you falling away and beginning look more like painting than something tangible. 

Our goal for our first day out was to hike to the Cirque of the Tower. I'd been there before, but I'd not gotten there from crossing Jack-Ass Pass. The name of the pass should have been enough of a warning. I'm not sure that I need to say more on that, it's should be pretty obvious. Unlike most mountain passes, Jack-Ass pass was not a switchback but it went straight up and over. This was defiantly not the easiest way to the Cirque. The trail presented one challenge after another with no break in between. 

Before we actually made our final ascent into the Cirque of the Towers we crossed a tremendous boulder field and I mean it was tremendous. As I looked as the boulder field before us I couldn't help think of Mordor in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Each step you took had to be thoughtful. Falling could not be an option. The consequence for a fall had a high possibility of ending the hike before it's even really begun. There were a few times I found myself thinking about how I would hike out with a crack skull or a broken ankle. Thankfully though, we were able to toil through this almost half mile of rock with no accidents.  

Once that agony was completed it was time to hike straight up a mountain. Our pace had slowed considerably, but that just gave us more time to admire all the flowers that began to appear as we continued to gain elevation. By the time you reach the top your muscles are feeling every pound in your pack, but once you crest the pass all that weight feels like it slipped from your shoulders and all you could do at that point is gawk at the grandeur towering around you. 

 Now that we made it to the top it was time to come down. I've decided it is considerably worse than going up. It makes me feel three times my age. This trail also looked suspiciously like an old donkey path. It'd be fine if we had a donkey with us to carry the weight down the mountain, but with every step down my aching knees where  making me wonder why no one had thought to redesign it for human feet.  

  9 miles 7 hours, not to shabby when you consider that more than half our hike was up hill on some pretty brutal trails; which, quit honestly were probably originally made by donkeys for donkeys.  Dinner, of course, was amazing and please don't even get me started about my sleeping bag.

Side Note
 I just wanted to give a short note about food preparation and backpacking: A good rule of thumb is for food while your backpacking is one pound of food per person per day. I think I must have packed 3 pound of food per person per day(which is just ridiculous). I can't stress enough about the  important of having enough time to adequately plan your backpacking trip. It really makes a noticeable outcome in your trip.  I took time to make sure I had the right gear: i.e. sleeping bag, first aid kit, cooking stove, fuel, maps, compass, R.A.D plan exedra . . .  but to be honest I really slipped on the food preparation. The hike would been much easier will 20 less pounds of weight. Another important thing to take note of is the weight limit of you backpack.

All backpacks are not made equal. I have the Gregory Sage women's backpack which is only 45 liters.  It's max carrying weight is 30 pounds, anything much over 30 pounds will be uncomfortable. I'll talk more about my pack problems in the next few posts, so I'll just say that you'll save yourself a world of hurt it you take the time to know the in's and out's of the gear you're using. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Mountains are Calling . . . Part 2

I'd grown up with people telling me that I was leader, but I never really believed them or wanted to believe them, at any rate.  It was so much easier and less messy to just do what you were suppose to and not worry about what anyone else was doing. This course challenged me to step up and take responsibility for my piers as well as my own actions. NOLS strives to teach leadership skills through adventure. The definition of adventure being: an event or series of events that the out come is uncertain. Being in the backcountry with the highly unpredictable weather of the mountains as well as a number of high to low risk situations that are handed to you daily, such as: river crossings, sloppy navigation, dehydration or hypothermia set the stage for the perfect classroom, where the students were not given the luxury of falling asleep in class unless it would be to detriment of themselves, or of their fellow class mates.

All of these hazards if you will, helped to fine tune all number of leadership skills. As a part of the curriculum each of us had a turn being a Leader of the Day or a L.O.D. Here we were really front and center.  As the L.O.D. we were responsible for getting our hiking group from point A to point B. We had to write a R.A.D plan which stand for Route And Description. This would entail figuring out how many miles we'd have to walk to our next "home" and how long it would take us to get there. As well as how we would go about making our way to the next point. All this was to ensure that we would not become lost.

I loved reading the maps, it felt like the world was at your finger tips. All the topography lines looked like works of art. It might of helped that our R.A.D plans were suppose to sound like a letter or a story, it played to my romantic side I suppose.  So along with the writing of a R.A.D. plan it was your job as the leader of the day to give your team a hiking brief so everyone was on the same page.

While we hiked we could ask someone to navigate and lead, or if we felt competent enough we could do it ourselves.  We had the right if you will as leader of the day to make final decisions (unless of course one of our instructions felt the need to intervene). It was hard learning that there was a fine line between knowing when it was prudent to take advise and prudent to stick to your guns.  If you were open to learning from others and  were willing to trust what you were taught the learning was endless.  To end your day as the L.O.D. you have a debrief of the day, which would include asking your team how they thought you did as their leader and how you could improve in affirmation of your performance. As well as a general discussion of how everyone thought they did and how it effected the team in a positive or negative way.

This was the leadership skill I was most afraid of. For whatever reason I'd grown up alway doubting my decisions and choices. It was so easy for me to second guess myself. I didn't approach problem solving the same way most people did, so I was always comparing myself to everyone else to see how they did it and my conclusion was almost always that I was somehow doing it wrong.

 As the course continued I learned to be comfortable with making decisions and feeling sure of them. I even became comfortable with apologizing for my mistakes and whats more I began to really enjoy taking care of my fellow teammates.  Instead of not taking action because I was afraid what might happen or being worried about how someone else would handle the situation I was able to weigh the risks of what might happen to the likely hood that they would. For the first time in my life I was really start to feel comfortable with the person God made me to be. I was feeling confident and competent in my ability as a leader. I wasn't really afraid anymore.

The Mountains are Calling

In a week or so me and my husband will be heading up into the Wind River Mountains to celebrate our third wedding anniversary (my how time flies).  It's been so long since I've gotten to go back packing that it's getting hard to contain my growing excitement.  It was in my first post that I mentioned being a part of a National Outdoor Leadership School (or NOLS for short) expedition in the Wind River Mountains which are located in Central Wyoming. This expedition has had such a profound influence on my life that it deserves a second and maybe even a third post.

I was nineteen years old and like most nineteen year olds I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself. It was just about a year earlier that my family had moved from south Florida to Lander, Wyoming a town of roughly a 7,000 people (talk about a huge culture shift).  For the last six years I grew up in Homestead which is about an hour south Miami. The most I did outside was surf and play soccer. It was a fend for yourself kind of world, while Lander is the opposite.

We made the move in the month of January not an ideal time to move out west, but we did it. Once I was able to look past the mountains and blue sky that surround the town I noticed that everyone walked or rode their bikes everywhere. As the year warmed up it became even more apparent and I began to hear the word Nolsie tossed around.  I learned to associate it will hippie, yuppie types of people around town.

"Disheveled, yet put together",  as my dad would later call them, because of their paired patched thrift store pants and general sloppy unshowered appearance with expensive big-name outdoor brand

sweaters or jackets.  It's a look I've learned to embrace and even love in its own way, but enough of that for now. How did I get get mixed up with this group? Someone mentioned the school to my mom because they thought I might be interested, though I'm still not sure how they knew.

I was curious about a school that was completely conducted outdoors because I never got along with traditional education. My hopes where quickly crushed once I saw the tuition price for a month long course. There was just no way that I or my parents could afford a course like this.  My worrying was in vain thankfully. They had a specific scholarships for the people in my county since it was the headquarters of the school.

I quickly applied for the Paul Petzoldt Scholarship and waited to receive the letter that would tell me whether I was a recipient of the scholarship or not. It felt like such a long wait, though; I'm sure you've already guessed the outcome. I got the scholarship! and it wasn't just a partial scholarship put a full ride, everything was paid for.  Now it was time to start preparing for a month in the mountains.

A whole month! I really don't know what I was thinking since the longest hike I'd ever done had been three miles with only a water bottle to carry. I would just have to love it, because if I didn't it was going to be one long miserable month.  The day finally came and I was introduced to the "gang", which; consisted of three instructors and ten other students. There were only three other girls.

As an introvert I knew it was going to be a challenge to be around people all day and not really be able to get away for some good quality quite time. I was so nervous after our first meeting. I didn't really seem to fit in, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I wanted to see mountains and wild places I could only imagine. It was a Monday morning at the NOLS Rocky Mountains branch that we bagged tons of food (literally) and were issued all our gear. Needless to say it was all a bit overwhelming and I was trusting that my instructors knew their stuff. Which could be a challenge when you're told you could only have a couple pair of underwear and no deodorant for the next month.

 By three'o clock we were bused out to Sinks Canyon and dropped off for the night. It was actually happing! We camped that night in the Canyon and were given three very vital lessons, how to purify water along with why it was important, how to properly pitch a tent and last but not least . . . . how to poop in the woods,(I'm sorry there is just no nice way to say it). With these three vital skills we laid down in our tents under the cool starry skies and fell fast asleep.

Day two was one of the hardest days for me, which as I look back makes me laugh since our second day out really wasn't as hard as many of our future days turned out to be. Day two for me was the measuring rod. If I wasn't able to hike up this ridge with 65 lbs now I just knew that I wouldn't have what it took to make it the rest of this trip. Every step was painful, my knees hurt, my back hurt, the backpack dug awkwardly into my shoulders. Oh my goodness! 65 pounds was so heavy!

Every step was hard, but it was also beautiful. Each step up the ridge was one more step away from everything I was familiar with. I was entering places which where completely unknown to me and it made the pain worth every step.  With every step I took the mountains unfolded before my feet urging me forward to see what was over the next ridge. I was hooked or perhaps more appropriately I was in love.