08 December 2014

A Dry Spell

Grand Targhee delayed opening its fourth and finest chairlift for two weeks, forcing everyone to ride foggy, windy, mediocre Dreamcatcher. The rest of the mountain had been chewed up by holiday tourists and repeatedly battered by weird warm weather, but Sacajawea was untouched. I watched the resort website for news, fingers crossed for a Friday opening. My dream came true, so Tyler and I headed up early enough to snag a good chair. The lifties and locals alike were in high spirits; Sacajawea is the best. It has nicely spaced trees, bush jumps, rock hucks, cliffs, deep and resilient powder stashes, and plenty of opportunities to hot dog under the lift and get hoots and hollers from above or eat shit trying. What a day. We ripped hot laps, hopped and bounced and popped off every bush, rock, compression, and depression, rejoiced when patrol opened the cliff band. I skied fast and happy, reckless and loose, grinning the whole time.

Tyler scoring some just-opened action
The next day we went back to the Ghee, but I'd forgotten how to ski. I'd lost that ephemeral je ne sais quoi and the snow, so smooth and rewarding on Friday, was haggard by Saturday. But we hiked to some of the resort's traffic-free sweet spots and rode with a rotating cast of friends through the day and ate Wydaho nachos at the Trap and it was fine. Not every day can be the best day of the season.

That night was the GTBC holiday party. The brewery employees and their partners are all awesome people that like spending time together outside of work, on the trails, in the snow, or at the bar, so the party was devoid of those stilted conversations between ensnared work acquaintances. I sat with a bunch of friends, enjoying the familiarity of the staff trivia quiz and the belly laughs of the white elephant gift-giving, as well as the exquisite lamb and on-point beer pairings (thanks as usual to Max the cicerone). The raucous after-party gravitated to the closest employee's house and so of course Sunday morning was a slow-moving endeavor. 

Knowing all ski options were dubious, we opted to tour Oliver Peak, five minutes from the house and better known as the Valley's own personal hill (no J-holes allowed). The snow quality was sub-par as anticipated and the springlike temps warranted bare skin, but higher up the outlook was rosier; the snowpack was deep and stable and the surrounding bowls and glades and gullies were enticing and untouched. 

A lifetime's worth of backcountry opportunities

We took a northwest slide path down from the summit into Stateline Canyon, making big picturesque turns in what was probably six sugary inches on top of a firm but yielding layer. The goods. Lower down the snow became laughably bad, a thick crunchy turn-averse crust that made the sapling-dense creek banks scary. Our old roommate Bill had just taken a digger in similar terrain a couple days before and did something alarming to his knee. I took the unusual precaution of putting my skins back on for the safety of extra friction and was very pleased with the decision, arriving back at the car without any of the wallowing and sweaty frustration that low-elevation gully skiing usually causes me. 

Rare is the day that there isn't a front moving into or out of the Valley
And thus, I survived another high-pressure weekend despite being spoiled rotten by constant snowfall in the Tetons. 

14 November 2014

I Can't Function Because Snow

I was going to compose some lengthy-ish post encompassing a variety of topics:

-My sexy new bike. After a couple months of trail time it has finally revealed to me its name. The Bronson will hereafter be known as The Stag. because of the way it bounds gracefully and powerfully through the woods, but also because riding it is like going stag to a party: scary and exciting and you never know how it's going to end.
Oh baby
-The glorious Indian summer we've been in the throes of; no mud, warm temps, great colors. The crusty locals claim this autumn has been the loveliest in memory.
October gave us stellar weather
-How much I'm turning into my dad. Riding the two miles to work in various gnarly conditions, because warming the car up annoys me more than donning every piece of clothing I own in order to pedal in sub-zero temps. And listening to endless podcasts because I have run out of music to entertain me sufficiently during the mindless daily seven hours of barmaking.

-How excited I am to be going home for Christmas! All thanks to the benevolence of Tyler's employer.

Yep, I was going to turn those garbled thoughts into semi-coherent paragraphs, but all of a sudden there's a foot of snow on the ground and it's dumping and I'm overcaffeinated and severely distracted. Miraculous, beautiful, long-awaited winter is here again.
If you think I'm stoked about this weather, you should see Tyler

23 October 2014

I Voted

My mom emailed me to say she'd gotten my "voter report card" in the mail and that I'd voted in the last three out of three elections. I felt a twinge of pride. Even if the sole purpose of one of those forays to the polls was to elect Dickson (i.e. KOP) councilman.

I am woefully uninformed on the world at large. Gone are the days when I can just sit at the dinner table and absorb my parents' analyses of current events. Now I'm too busy reading articles about biking, skiing, books, and music to ever check the news (except Ebola, which has reignited my lifelong and morbid fascination with plague). But I do hold a certain naive pleasure in being a part of the democratic process, maybe because the first time I voted was the first time North Carolina skewed blue since, oh, I don't know, Reconstruction?

Politics are polarized here. You can pedal through a neighborhood and tell who you might want to hang out with; it's easy to discern the Momo houses from the outdoorsy houses by the campaign signs. I went to the courthouse to do my civic duty and realized that by wearing a brewery hat, I had basically stapled a completed ballot to my shirt. Alcohol is one of those lines in the sand. In a recent battle to maintain Victor's ability to have beer sales at the lucrative summer concert series, the predominant argument against alcohol was that it "enabled child molestation". Of course.

The race for county commissioner is really important, my friend the campaign manager tells me. Fifty votes decided the last outcome. So many of the young people that flock to Teton Valley for the deep pow and gnar trails simply can't be bothered about the future of education and the economy here, even though it could very well impact our lives. The incumbent commissioner deals in shortsightedness, idiocy, cronyism, and aggressive anti-bicycle rhetoric. Some argue that anything would be an improvement.

I've gotten to know a lot of people who are a part of the Valley's alphabet soup of non-profits, maybe because involved, impassioned people often like to play outside. Weird. Regardless, I've never encountered such a fervent "us against them" attitude in local politics, but I suppose the dichotomy between deeply old-school Mormons and the influx of outdoor recreationalists is unusual. It's a battle between progressive, pro-education, pro-growth liberals and the stalwart, book-burning, regressive fundamentalists.

Tyler, to my bemused frustration, is a non-voter. It's odd because he's the one with a poli-sci degree and the one who used to have aspirations to be a city planner. He reads the local rag to raise his blood pressure and always rides his bike by the aforementioned commissioner's ranch to make a political statement. He had a Subaru and NPR upbringing in Boise's most liberal neighborhood. But then, as a native, he's well-versed in asinine Idaho politics and knows the futility of voting Democrat here. That doesn't change the fact that he should rally for the local race, but I think he's been harangued by one too many strident campaign volunteers who haven't spent a tenth the time he has in Idaho, and he is nothing if not a stubborn contrary bastard. To each his own I suppose...but that statistic of fifty votes still haunts me.

My intractable partner aside, I await November on tenterhooks because I do sincerely believe that local elections matter, as one who plays outside, as a local employee, as a potential future homeowner, dog-owner, parent, whatever (WHOA, words). Sometimes I like to pretend I'm an adult.

01 October 2014

Hey, You!

it occurred to me that some people post a blog every day, five days a week. fat cyclist, dicky, jill outside, goodness! i really struggle with that kind of output, to my mother's annoyance, but here's my blog post for today: if you only look at one thing on the internet, well, look at my blog. if you only look at TWO things on the internet, after you look at my blog, check out the a-line. bless their hearts, those little kids are making cool stuff.

30 September 2014

Only Thirty More Years Before I'll Be Considered A Local

About this time last year Tyler had already moved to Idaho and was settled in, while I was still doing the Camp thing. In our truncated weekly phone conversations he told me, "I love it here. You'll love it here." I wondered if he was just trying to reassure me, or both of us. I viewed the future with some trepidation; I was Committing, to a boy I'd been dating for less than a year, to a state I'd never been in, to an underhyped little dot on the map that I'd chosen on a whim. Was I suited for a Western life? Or, more specifically, a life in the northern Rockies, the last stronghold of swaggering American frontier spirit? I trolled Facebook, checking out the local places of business, getting a pang of relief with each discovery of an essential amenity: library, bakery, acclaimed bike shop with a coffee bar. I tried to ignore certain facts: average monthly temps, the percentage of the population that is entrenched, fundamentalist Mormon, the six months of winter and eight weeks of summer. I scanned Google Maps religiously, checking out the landscape and major roads (all two of them), trying to imagine the twisty drive up to the Ghee or over to Jackson. I zoomed in and walked through Victor and Driggs in Street View, noting with apprehension the piles of dirty snow, the dreary storefronts and abandoned subdivisions. But the Street View images must have been taken on some bleak January day; they don't encompass the rich farmland, dynamic skies, and inviting mountains. (I just revisited Street View and it must have been updated recently because now the Valley is a lush green surrounded by snowcaps, under a blue sky heavy with cumulus clouds. Seems about right.) 

I did as much research as possible but nothing on the Internet could've prepared me for what it's likes to be a part of this place now, to make new friends all the time because of the constant influx of young outdoorsy people, the way it smells on the ride home from work as the seasons change, the way it feels to linger in the sunshine outside the pub while all the dogs and little kids play in the grass. The Internet didn't tell me that everyone here is at least competent if not badass in a couple sports but that each person is defined by the primary one, the one he or she talks about with passionate longing in the off season. There are the Boaters, the Climbers, the Skiers, the Fishers, the Dirt Bikers, the Snowboard Mountaineer (that would be Dapper). To all our friends, I am by default The Mountain Biker, which tickles me. 

This weekend we went camping with some of the most avid Climbers to a paradise in the middle of nowhere, Idaho. (Most places of note in Idaho are lodged squarely in the middle of nowhere.) City of Rocks is apparently renowned and steeped in climbing history, and how could it not be? It's an expansive natural playground of huge freestanding towers, statues, slivers, and megaliths, all granite, crack-strewn, and jug-covered. The campsites are strewn throughout the rocks, tucked under trees at the ends of little footpaths. 

The gang was rained out Saturday and we spent the day playing cards, perfecting our tarp structures, drinking, and carousing. Sunday was dry so the Climbers set up cool routes and we all played for hours on hundred foot walls. I am a total beginner and hopeless with the gear but I climb above my pay grade through sheer pigheadedness and a healthy dose of ego. 

The drive home from the City retraced some of the roads I took from Tahoe to the Tetons, and I studied the vast empty land and remembered that feeling of being untethered and unknowing. It was so different from how I feel now.

Pretty much all of Saturday
Also, I FINALLY bought a waterproof camera! Wow! Maybe I will post more pictures. Maybe.

Tyler climbing, Dapper belaying

Some of the City

The aptly named Bloody Fingers route

24 August 2014

La Gastronomie

I spent a rainy Saturday reading a Peter Mayle book purloined from Tyler's grandparents, and it transported me back to my parents' unrelenting Provencephilia and those hard-won seven days we took in the south of France each spring for several years. The book is so evocative of sunshine and light wines and hours devoted to each meal, busy marketplaces and alarmingly narrow roads and friendly, leathery locals, each trip an experience I probably didn't appreciate enough at the time but which has stuck with me in a very sensory way.

On the same day we attended a farm-to-table beer-paired dinner, taking advantage of an absent brewer's ticket. The brewery staff and significant others took over a whole table and I was happy to be friends with all of them. Teton Valley has a Slow Food chapter and a thriving locavore scene and the dinner was hosted in the weathered but architecturally inspiring barn at Snow Drift Farm, who provided the bulk of the produce. GTBC is not of the hop-aggressive Cali or Colorado breed; the head brewer and cellar master have a firm and affectionate grasp on classic Belgian and German styles, which are far more conducive to balanced and complementary food pairings. The cellar master, twenty-four but already resembling a high school history teacher, is the wunderkind of the brewery, deeply passionate and knowledgeable about any and all genres and styles of beer, and he led each course with an insightful discourse on the offering. The executive chef of the Four Seasons in Jackson introduced the food, eyes aglow with excitement at the produce and game with which he was presenting us.

We lingered over five courses with flawless pairings, light yeasty wheat beer with crisp vinegary greens and pickled turnips, Oktoberfest lager with 2-row barley (culled straight from the brewery's supplies) and the richest, most delicious rabbit I've ever had, warm raisiny Scotch ale with bison that tasted like the flame it was seared in as a dedicated sous chef crouched over the fire in the drizzling rain. The plates were beautifully arranged but not precious. Dessert was a sweet and sour Berliner Weisse paired with honey lavender panna cotta and a couple pieces of various fruit, each candied, grilled, or frozen to achieve its full flavor potential.

I love good meals for the food, but I also love good meals for that first forkful of each course, where eyes around the table pop from surprise and delight. A meal undiscussed and unappreciated is not nearly as wonderful. It occurred to me that most gustatory experiences I've had up to this point been have been with or enabled by my parents. Even if they weren't at the table with me, even if they were separated from me by hours or an ocean, I would still scurry back to them, literally or figuratively, and give them a play-by-play. My food upbringing has had such an influence on my life, and it is gratifying to know that I have found another place that celebrates food with people that are open to the experience.

18 August 2014

Pierre's Hole 50K

I had originally planned on doing the 100k but summer got away from me and even 15+ mile rides were few and far between. The Kate hooked me up with a free entry because she is a sponsor/awesome, so I went out to the Ghee one weekend, rode most of the course, and did some race visualization. And by that I mean I visualized riding those fun twenty-five miles of singletrack, coming through the base area sore, dehydrated, and probably cranky, and having to continue out for a second lap of the same. 

I sat myself down for a talk. 

"You are not doing the 100k." 
"But people will think I'm not tough!"
"You know what's not tough? Falling apart with twenty miles to go. Remember the last 100k you did? And you were in shape that time. You're a starter, not a finisher. Your MO in all races is to get enough of a head start that when you implode, not too many people pass you. You're doing the 50k."

I went to sulk in a corner, smarting from my brutal honesty, but secretly relieved to be off the hook.

Race day was blessed by sunny skies after a week of rainstorms. The cool morning reminded me of collegiate, those first couple of weekends at ETSU and LMC when it started to smell like fall but before the rains came. I reverted back to usual race form, swaggering around registration feigning confidence, whining when it was time to kit up and warm up, sipping week-old water from a five-year-old bottle while everyone else carefully spooned electrolyte drink mix into clean, labelled bottles. Team Fitzy was out in force and the camaraderie on the start line made me feel almost like a local. 

The first half of the lap was a long climb and a long descent. I watched Fast Jackson Woman Amy take off and was content; I knew I could only catch her if she had a catastrophic mechanical. I simply enjoyed myself and actually listened, for the first time in my life, to the voices of Squirrel and St Marie in my head. Maintain. Race your own race. Use the descents. Stay loose on the greasy rocks. Drink. Eat. Better five years late than never, I guess. The course was in incredible condition: hero dirt, tacky switchbacks, no dust, phenomenal views. I was in heaven. I saw a moose and said, "Hey moose." I got to the first aide station and told the Fitzys I was having so much fun. 

Local pro Amanda Carey crushing it in picturesque high meadows
Pic courtesy of TMTB
The second half of the lap consisted of mellow ups and downs through meadows and aspen groves. That's where I saw that I was being chased. In races I prefer that the chips fall early and firmly. I don't like chasing and I hate being chased. One might argue this is the point of racing. Yeah, well...

I tried not to panic and worked to build a gap on the descents, but they weren't long or technical enough and she gained on me. Finally, on the bumpy and seemingly interminable trails of Rick's Basin, she caught me. 

"Nice catch. You're (expletive removed) tenacious," I said. 
"Good riding, girl. Robin's coming up right behind us too," she said. 

With that info I had my inevitable inner temper tantrum, but tried to keep going, alternating between pushing myself and wanting to sit down among the wildflowers and NOT race bikes anymore. A detached part of me was amused by how bad my attitude was, how bad it always is

I emptied the tank on the last couple of miles and collapsed after the finish line. Robin crossed the line only thirty seconds after me in fourth place. Tyler seemed at a loss; he has never seen me race and doesn't know how to deal with Broken Julia. After getting out of chamois and drinking a beer, I recovered and got my stoke back. The race organizer and trail builders absolutely killed it and the day couldn't have been nicer. I raced a little smarter and a little harder than I used to, so maybe experience and maturity is worth something? Blah blah blah, lessons learned (maybe) and if you ever want to do a really awesome endurance race on great trails with incredible views: Pierre's Hole. Do it.   

The only bummer was that there didn't appear to be a dedicated photographer on course, which is a shame because a: it was crazy beautiful and b: everyone knows that all bike racers are narcissists (me included). 

08 August 2014

Just a Day

The other day I posted a gravel ride on Strava and Jenna commented on it, "Mandating a blog post." I thought about replying that it wasn't a very exciting ride and that I didn't have much to say about it, but today reconsidered. I have nothing else to write about, so those of you who expect updates can see how mundane (but pleasant) life is these days.

It's been raining this week, so a combination of cabin fever and curiosity compels me to ask for the morning off. I usually have Wednesday afternoons free for activity but rain seems inevitable so I figure I'll explore a gravel grinder in the weather window. Will says yes to most of my requests now because this summer the heroic number of bars I make daily has been the only thing keeping the company from a serious shortage.

I want to ride to the wilderness boundary and back in the three major canyons on the eastern side of the valley, on dirt roads that cut almost to the heart of the Teton range. It will be at least a minor improvement on riding on the flat straight roads of the valley floor. I don't know how long it will be and don't pack food, but I do anticipate getting wet and cold so I wear a jacket and leg warmers. (In early August! What??)

I pedal the bike path to Driggs and start poking into each canyon in turn. They are very pretty, if understated, those dramatic chunks of rock in the range's interior obscured by the canyons' walls. Collars of mist ring the cliffs, the dust from the gravel roads is tamped down, and the greens of aspen and pine are enhanced by gray skies. Hikers in SUVs peer at me as they drive past, their destinations mellow footpaths through meadows. I hum to myself and say Ow when I go over sharp rocks and harsh washboard surfaces. On the road that straddles Idaho and Wyoming I remember there was a mean dog who chased me once. That time I was going the opposite way and had a downhill to save me, but this time I am climbing. Heart hammering, I prepare for him, bottle poised, eyes scanning. Here he comes, barking ferociously. NO BAD DOG, I yell and squirt him in the face with water. He stops abruptly and looks nonplussed. That was easy. I am only rained on once and it feels nice. It ends up being a fifty mile ride but not a very hard one, aside from the discomfort of the Deutschbike, which I stubbornly refuse to alter.

When I finish I am wet, achy, and hungry. I wolf down some pasta and cold coffee, fail to find any houses for rent on the Internet, and walk over to work. The advantage of evenings is that I get to listen to my own weird music, cranked loud. My coworker's Pandora station has, through six straight months of airtime, become completely unbearable.

The new part-time barmaker is still there. It's her fourth day and today for the first time she is slogging through a full batch (thirty sheets) of the big bars. She is weary and didn't bring enough food, but is chipper even after eight hours. We chat about how great it will be to shred the Pass with another chick, once her new bike arrives.

Making bars is a grind today. I chug water and munch on Handle nugs (dark chocolate cherry almond) while making sheet after sheet of Tiki (coconut mango cashew). My back and arms hurt, but intermittent storms drum on the warehouse roof and make me deeply grateful that I already got out to play.

After six hours I finish, clean up, walk home, pour a glass of Sweetgrass from the ubiquitous growler in the fridge. Tyler walks in right after me. He has been at the brewery for twelve hours. We heat up a pizza because between work and play, we're usually too busy or tired to go grocery shopping, much less cook. We talk about beer and bikes and where the hell we're going to live in a month. He is plagued with skier's syndrome, dying for snow, while I am dying for summer to never end. We watch House of Cards and complain that no TV show compares to The Wire.

This is what I do. It's not compelling, but life doesn't have to be blog-worthy to be wonderful.

17 July 2014

Verdant Verdant Verdant

The word has been stuck on repeat in my brain on all recent outings.

There is an upside to living in a place where the mountains are covered in snow eight months a year.

Every ride takes you up to high alpine meadows. Thick wildflower heads thwap against your shins and the air is redolent with the vegetal smell of stems and leaves shredded under rubber. Lower down, bench cuts along creek banks are choked with waist-high greenery so you feel like you're swimming in a plant river and the visibility is about two feet in front of your tire. You ride by instinct and hope there are no bears or big rock drops around the next corner.

SSC Adventure Team reunited!
Pic courtesy of Rebecca
Rebecca, one of my absolute favorite adventure partners, hiked and hitchhiked to my little abode from Glacier National Park with her like-minded friend Kali. I tagged along on their town errands, we went to free music in the park, and then went for a run of sheer joy and beauty. Still buzzing from that one. I dropped them off at a trailhead outside of town so they could meander through the Tetons to Jackson, and I was so close to dropping everything and joining them...how tempting, to walk for hours and feed on the beauty around you, and drink coffee at 9000 feet staring at a face of the Grand that people don't usually see...
Verdant! Run of joy and beauty
Pic courtesy of Rebecca
From the ladies' campsite. So, so, so jealous
Pic courtesy of Rebecca
It's okay though. Instead of traipsing off into the wilderness I went riding with a bunch of friends; local advocacy groups were offering shuttles on the Pass all day so we got in thirty miles of (mostly) downhill, some smooth, some rocky, some puckersome, all delightful. Tyler, grinning hugely after one long descent, almost deigned to admit that the death marches I drag him on have some benefit, seeing as how endurance applies just as much to sustained downhill as uphill.
Doing Pass laps with the gang
Pic courtesy of Traci
An eight mile descent overlooking Jackson Hole and the mighty Snake River
Pic courtesy of Traci
I've thrown a leg over some very nice bikes recently and quite enjoyed each experience, but came to the surprising conclusion that I love Lisa too much to give her up just yet. Like I mentioned before, skiing and bar-making have had the unexpected benefit of transforming my riding style--I now have the strength to just stand up. All the time. So it's even more to my advantage to have a light-as-air, tiny little bike to flick and muscle around everywhere, as opposed to anything longer, heavier, more cumbersome. Riding other bikes just makes me want to beef Lisa up further--wider handlebars, meatier tires, dropper post. Plus she just loves frolicking in the wildflowers, and who am I to deny her that?

20 June 2014

The Scene

My lack of updates this time around can be blamed on the enticing diversions of a thawed-out Teton Valley, as well as the mighty timesuck of The Wire streaming on Amazon.

But after the blessings of a dry spring, on the doorstep of summer we were hit with more Teton-typical June weather. All week the clouds hung pregnant with moisture and bipolar storms rushed in from the northwest and got trapped in the horseshoe of the south valley. I was going to race bikes on Wednesday (!) but with intermittent rain, snow, and hail showers, the organizers postponed it. The trails here are delicate flowers and etiquette dictates that everyone gives them ample recovery time after weather. It's not Pisgah; here we don't have those beefy pre-IMBA fall line trails, weathered by decades of erosion and covered with loam as absorbent as a dark, organic-smelling sponge. Fortunately it's also not Tahoe; ample tree canopy and a lack of decomposed granite makes me a happy bike rider. 

We rode this the other day. It's hard to find a trail without views of the Grand.
Pic courtesy of MBT
Work is heavy: cranking out as many bars as possible and then transitioning straight into the ordered chaos of the bike shop. Talking to customers about gear makes me sweat--I'm always second-guessing myself and wondering if they can see through me. But I love the vibe and the crew. The crusty mechanics accepted me into their club and I feel totally at home in my new position. Here I don't have to brave the turbulent currents of over-familiarity and politics I encountered in my last (beloved) shop. It doesn't hurt that now I get my own sweet, sweet deals, unreliant on the negotiating power of boyfriends or the whims of the KOP. My only employee purchase thus far (insane self control) was a bell, which I merrily ring through verdant corridors, calling out conversationally, "Hey bear," and hoping any large mammal, ursine or cervidae, will be alerted and will mosey away. 

After work rides are great when the sun doesn't set until 10.
My bosses (one from each establishment, both muscular, short-haired, and ageless women, badass life-juggling entrepreneurs) have showed me rides all over the valley. When left to my own devices, I'll plot something questionable on the map and drag Tyler along. The trail-building community is strong here, and when we're not riding it's fun to attend a dig day and ingratiate ourselves with the local hoe-owners by applying McLeod to dirt for a couple hours. The Valley is also dotted with Fight Club'esque unofficial trails that are well-ridden, spoken of in hushed tones, and rad as shit. This article explains the Teton Pass trail history, but here on the Idaho side the ranchers and ATVers have a much stronger presence, so guerrilla trails stay that way. Last week The Kate took us back by her house to shred some of these unpolished, steep, log-strewn joyrides. I felt like I was in Pisgah, if Pisgah was moon-dusty and moto-rutted. 

It doesn't suck. But summer begins tomorrow and already I'm panicking that the snows will come before I fully reap the recreational wealth this valley has to offer.

28 May 2014

Thus Spoke Baker Bill

My father sent me a terribly endearing email that made mention of this here blog and I felt it would do the missive an injustice to simply leave it moldering in my inbox. Voila: 

I do continue to enjoy your blog posts although the alarming situations described have your mother and I welcoming the inevitable onset of warmer weather (and melting snow) in parts west.  That said, there seems to be another disquieting trend appearing in the blog entries that could well complicate your literary prospects.  I always suspected that following a requisite period of some sort of existential misery, you would emerge with a pithy but amusingly engaging memoir cataloging the indignities you had suffered.  Sort of Ben Folds meets Nanny Diaries.  The success of the publication would provide you and perhaps your parents with the financial windfall that we are probably entitled to.  Particularly after the movie rights sold.  Instead we are treated to this onslaught of in vita optimum so relentlessly that one feels the need for a firm tooth brushing after reading lest decay take hold.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm delighted that you are so piddling puppy happy, I just think it might require some recalibration to achieve the anticipated literary success.  So I'm thinking self help book.  By quantifying and formulating your happiness you could bring fulfillment and richness to lives otherwise untouched with the incandescent joy of Just Being Julia.  In addition to selling very well the whole experience of writing and marketing such a narrative would probably make you so miserable that you could then write a second and probably more entertaining book following the original formula outlined above.  Just saying.

20 May 2014

Skip This Post If You Get Sick of My Obnoxious and Repetitive Joy Spewing

I was interviewing for a job, sitting at ease with the macchiato the owner had made for me perched in my lap, when she asked, "On a scale of one to ten, how lucky do you feel?" I suppose the question could've meant either statistically fortunate or endowed with a great life, but without hesitation I interpreted it as the latter and said with a laugh, "Right now? 9.5." 

See what I did there? In media res: starting a story in the middle to draw in the reader (all three of you). More about the job interview later. I just need to explain why I'm operating at a 9.5, and every time I sit down to write this post I'm distracted by another awesome thing in my life, so now instead of any kind of cohesion, I'm just throwing out bullet points.

1: Everything is green now. Except that which is still snow-covered. The snow is receding daily and the talk of the town is which trails are clear, which trails are about to clear, which trails are THE BEST and will probably clear within a month.

2: Eastern Idaho has a huge quantity and variety of raptors. I almost wreck the car every time some broad-winged bird of prey soars overhead or preens on a fencepost. I swear I'm going to buy a book to identify them.

3: Trail running! My favorite drug!
Other sports???
4: Tyler, while frustrated and stressed out by his job, has gained the reputation of being one of those priceless above-and-beyond employees. Everyone at work loves him. He is great.

5: Mountain biking! After some digging on Saturday we had an afternoon of good old fashioned dirt jumping/pump tracking at the town bike park and I finally remembered how to ride a bike. I went out with The Kate on Sunday and between the dirt jumps, the leg strength from six months of skiing, and the arm strength from aggressive bar-making, I was feeling pretty fantastic.

Riding bikes in beautiful Swan Valley
6: I went back to Tahoe for a hot second and got to catch up with some very important people. It made my heart happy. I also successfully got Camp out of my system after having pined for it all winter.

Same as it ever was at SSC
7: New job! I'm still making bars of course, because I would never ditch such a great company, but over the course of a couple group rides I chatted with the owners of the LBS (not to be confused with LDS) and they're hurting for help. They're a really cool couple and I hate to see good folks overwhelmed by the trials of owning a business so I offered my free afternoons to them and after a couple conversations and semi-formal interview the general consensus was hell yeah. I'm starting at the shop tomorrow as salesperson, barista, and token female.

I might have forgotten a couple points in there, but no matter. Living the dream, as usual.

28 April 2014

Front Page

I found this nice little write-up in the Jackson Hole Daily today: 

Group of Skiers Almost Summit Middle Teton

On Sunday April 27 history was made as three Idaho residents made it almost all the way to the top of the third tallest mountain in the Teton range. Julia Tellman, Tyler Nelson, and Dan Rogers climbed for over seven hours, skinning and then bootpacking up Garnet Canyon and the Southwest Couloir, until ferocious winds, negligible visibility, and crippling fatigue forced them to turn around within three hundred feet of the summit. 

Rogers, a veteran, homeowner, future public official, and snowboard mountaineer, was the strongest of the three and probably would have gone for a second lap on the Middle if not hindered by his colleagues. "Tyler and Julia were riding the struggle bus, for sure," he remembers. "The wind was really blowing and the altitude is always tough to cope with." The Middle Teton is 12,804 feet tall. Says Tellman, professional granola maker, "I've never been so high!...I didn't mean it like that." 

The walls of Garnet Canyon loom over Tellman and Nelson
Photo courtesy of Dapper
Crusty Idaho native Nelson said, "We all put in a lot of preparation for this mission. Julia learned how to ski, which is really an integral part of skiing the Middle. Dan has been playing croquet almost every day to stay limber. And I've been hunting down all the good session IPAs, because when you're on the mountain, you need a beer that's high in flavor but low in alcohol." 

The action started before the group even hit the trail. As they left the house at 4 am, a cop pulled Tellman over, mistaking Sunday morning adventurers for Saturday night carousers. The drive over the Pass proved treacherous, with almost half a foot of snow on the road--the most accumulation the area has seen since mid-April. The voyage stayed exciting even after the turn-around: in Garnet Canyon Meadow, Nelson was caught in a small slab slide but lived to see another day. When asked if he had any good pointers on avalanche safety, he said, "All you really need is an airbag and a GoPro. The rest will take care of itself." On the exit stretch, the group's progress was halted by a mother moose and two yearlings, who crossed the path at a very leisurely pace. 

When the three adventurers, weary and wind-battered, made it to the local brewpub, all of the grizzled skiers at the bar stood up and applauded*. This reporter spoke to filmmaker Todd Jones of Teton Gravity Research over shots of vodka. "They are really pioneers of the sport. It's been at least a week, maybe even a week and a half since anyone got that close to the summit." When asked if he would consider any one of the three to be the newest athlete at TGR, he said, "I think another production company has already picked them up...Poorly Planned something-or-other." This claim could not be verified.  

*Added for dramatic effect; did not actually happen

10 April 2014

Job Satisfaction

I love my job for a lot of reasons. I get to wear a hat to work. On powder days my boss tells me to come in late. I get an unlimited supply of lifesaving nugs, the best possible insurance against bonking. I arrive, I work nonstop until finished, and I leave--I'm not at the mercy of the clock or the whims of customers. Every afternoon my arms and back ache, which convinces me that I'll somehow become a rock climber this summer. When I asked for a couple of days off to go to Cali, my boss bent over, touched his toes, and said, "Look. I'm flexible."

All great, sure, but one of the main reasons I love my job is the constant sensory input. As I lay waste to fifty-pound bags of oats or shredded coconut, the smells permeate the air. I hated arriving home from the restaurant reeking of fry oil; I even had to designate a jacket and a scarf as work-specific because I didn't want the rank odor on any other clothes. Now I come home smelling like granola and forget to even wash the spots of honey and peanut butter off my forearms. Measuring and mixing are agreeable tasks. I dole out scoops of hemp seeds, their shells clinging to my shirt. ("Before you get any ideas, they're not viable," joked my boss on the first day, and I, the naif, totally didn't get it.) When I'm wrestling with dried fruit, apricots and tart cherries are the best, because they're delicious, and bananas are the worst, because they're sticky and cloyingly sweet. Once in high school I let a banana squish around in my backpack for a week and now the smell of ripe bananas kind of repulses me. I drag a hand through sunflower seeds with their husks like exoskeletons, flax seeds with their beetle shine, and sesame seeds, which like to congregate at the bottom of a mix bin. I work a paint stirrer through buckets of nut butter, the hateful sheen of oil floating on top promising a layer of cement on the bottom. Once I was in a hurry with a measuring cup and splashed peanut butter oil in both eyes, but escaped with only bleary contacts, thus proving that I'm probably not even a little bit allergic (a big plus in the industry). Between rolling sheets I dart away to drink lukewarm coffee and nibble the trimmings from the previous day's labor.  We alternate between listening to my eclectic and sometimes embarrassing iPod shuffle and the "butt rock" Pandora station preferred by the others, sneaking the volume up in increments until Kate emerges from the office to turn it down. The atmosphere is decidedly chill. Sometimes I fondle the finished product in its matte plastic packaging and fancy labels and think in wonderment, I made this.
Granola porn
Courtesy of our website
And then when I've finished rolling out 105 dozen bars, I stroll home and try to decide what to do with the remaining four hours of daylight. Bike ride? Make dinner? Mail some more nugs to loved ones across the country? Or just mosey over to the pub and see how many friends are there today? 

29 March 2014

A Word From the Soapbox

We were over at a friend's house the other night, eating enchiladas and enjoying the usual good-natured bullshitting. One of her neighbors was there too, a local wrench, fellow North Carolinian, and dude of whom I think (thought?) pretty highly. We were talking bikes, of course, and he asked what I ride, of course, so I told him but added that I'd just joined the local team, and before I could reveal the possible new bike purchase that that entailed, he cut me off with a sharp, "They're just letting anyone on that team now."

My friends who know me as a cyclist visibly stiffened. He backpedaled and clarified that he meant they were loose with their pro-form, but the jab still stung. I spent the rest of the night engaged with him in some kind of lame attempt to establish my legitimacy, talking brands and builds and numbers, and the climbers' and skiers' faces showed bemusement then boredom. I love gear talk for gear's sake but I cringe at myself when I fall into these conversations that are all posturing and name-dropping.

Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like that's the only way to convince recent acquaintances and new shop folks that, yeah, I'm a chick but I'm also a competent mountain biker. I don't think that I'm overly sensitive, but it is kind of a drag moving somewhere and doing the slow, elaborate dance of a new shop patron: hi, your kneejerk reaction to my entrance into the shop is wrong, I don't need dumbed-down service, please don't condescend to me. It's tricky to convey all that without outright bragging or obnoxious bike nerd talk.  If you don't get what I'm saying, imagine walking into the bakery for the first time. Based on her immediate visual judgement of you, the nice lady behind the counter explains to you the difference between a baguette and a danish, and asks if you've ever eaten bread before, and if so, have you ever purchased it all by yourself?

Absurd, sure, but the experience has repeated itself in several shops and parking lots across the country. There are so many lady rippers out there that it seems unwise to just assume a woman that shows up at a trailhead or walks into a shop is a beginner or casual rider. I'm curious to hear other opinions on the matter--if you're a chick, do you notice an initial lack of regard from shops and industry folks? Or is this issue unrelated to gender and does every new kid on the block have to prove him or herself? Or (quite possibly) am I just paranoid and too aware of how others perceive me? Pleasantly, I haven't encountered any of this bias in skiing, maybe because there's no organized competitive aspect to the kind of skiing I do. The scene is way more mellow and joyful, which is one of its huge appeals.

23 March 2014

A Poorly Planned Production

When you arrive at Grand Targhee, the front of the resort is very unassuming. It's mostly broad runs interspersed with avoidable nontechnical tree groves--for anyone seeking more bang there are a couple of respectable cliff lines and tight powder trees to be found but for the most part it's a solidly intermediate mountain.

Once you crest the resort boundary and drop down the other side, towards the Grand, away from ski patrol's purview, into no-man's-land...Targhee is a completely different beast. The peaks that make up the resort appear to have been bluntly bisected along their north-south axis and its east faces are a multi-storied stack of increasingly massive cliff bands and stark faces. Now that the snowpack has far surpassed a hundred inches, everything previously rocky or bushy has filled in and while the resort is clogged with Mormons and young rippers, we prefer to partake of the Playground, the very accessible but very daunting area below the initial huge cliff band, where the record is held for the largest cliff jump, where (if you are so inclined) you can easily huck ten foot wind-established cornices or fifty foot dun and tan diving boards that loom above the supple powder field. 
Behind the resort...take one lift, kill yourself
As I said, we've been down there plenty of times, but on Saturday we came with a burlier objective; the cliff band below the Playground, where hundred footers are the minimum, is breached by a single couloir, the Tube, a 700 foot drop that seemed to contain no mandatory airs, according to our aerial guidebook. 

We brought a span of rope (along with our friend Dapper Dan who actually knows how to use rope) because, why not? Ambitious lines require ambitious precautions, right?
After a week of moguled, sun-baked, wind-scoured snow, the powder in the couloir was a delight--each aggressively charted turn on the 50° slope was joyous, if a little nerve-wracking. We reconvened halfway down to take inventory and consider the narrow chokepoint at the bottom. Tyler, being the best among us, took the initial path as usual, and straightlined the choke with aplomb. I followed but was bogged down by hesitance, inexperience, and poor form. A sharp turn found me minus a ski and being dragged down the Tube by my own slough, and the seconds slowed as I plunged my fists and boot into the deep snow hoping to self-arrest before the narrowing of the rock walls. I managed to stop finally and dug deep into my little shelf to calm my rattled nerves. So that's what a slough slide feels like.
Ben eyeing the crux
Pics courtesy of Dapper Dan
After a quick pow wow the guys behind me finished the couloir. Tyler had unearthed my wayward ski at the bottom so I had only to wait, growing colder in the shadows as they made their way back up to begin the difficult ascent. I hugged the slope for a long time, curiously watching them mill around at the choke point. Finally Dapper booted up to me, using my errant ski as an anchor, and let me know that our slough had uncovered a head-tall cliff at the bottom of the couloir and that he had clambered up with Ben and Tyler's help and now would attempt a rescue by rope. 
The boys stranded under a newly-exposed cliff
 I had nothing to contribute to the alarming situation below so I directed my energies upward to establish the bootpack. I falteringly strapped one ski to my pack and used the other to hoist myself inexorably up the Tube. Dig ski into snow above head, kick four times into powder with left foot, hope step will hold, weight left foot, raise right foot, repeat. It was brutally slow and scary but I had flat land and sunshine to look forward to and the couloir was still beautiful--rock pinnacles surrounding me, tiny determined pine trees reaching heavenward away from the snow-choked chute, the wind-stirred powdered sugar sifting down the slope in the late afternoon luminescence.
The climb out into the sunshine
One last gasping lunge through hip-deep snow and I had cleared the couloir. Then I sat and waited, watching big mountain skiers hit huge lines in the Playground, oblivious to our crisis just below, and tried to quell my panic and make a game plan just in case. After twenty minutes, to my enormous relief, I saw Tyler's ski tips bobbing above his pack as he crested the pitch, and Dan and Ben followed. The jerry-rigged rope rescue had succeeded thanks to Dan's know-how, they'd survived the cold and the bootpack, and now all we had was a strenuous but familiar exit and we'd be back on groomers in no time. We hugged and high-fived, jittery with adrenaline, knowing that'd we'd gotten away with it, and that soon this would be just another one of those superlative-filled, wide-eyed skiing stories to be told around the campfire. 

12 March 2014


I am at the present stoked on others' successes. A great ski buddy just penned an essay on dawn patrol that really resonates with anyone that pursues life's minor (and/or major) victories. One of my dearest friends Morgan is achieving great intellectual fulfillment at a literary journal after years of menial waitressing, and another BFF is with child after years of documented womb throb. Miss Tuttle is going to KILL it at motherhood. Ella Bella is supporting her man as he delves into the rewarding world of CSAs. Right now I'm reaping life's little bonuses and am very excited for others to experience the same. I'm afraid that satisfaction is stifling my own creative bug but at some point I will start writing again and hopefully the product will be worth reading.

28 February 2014

Reneging on Retirement, Part IV or So

Remember those multiple times I said I was over bike racing?


Now that temps are hovering around freezing (balmy!) and the snow thickens into slush and melts almost as fast as it falls, and now that I am a weekend warrior with limitless access to delicious on-the-go sustenance and encouragement from my bosses to go play whenever possible, I can't help but think about...bike racing. Maybe it's because I'm getting closer to that magic age of peak female endurance, the prospect of which has for years deluded me into thinking I'll crush effortlessly when I'm older. Maybe it's because the summer calendar is packed with cool races within a thirty minute drive, and the local map is packed with enticing loops. Maybe it's because I just got accepted onto a local shop race team that's very pro-community involvement and all that good stuff that I've missed out on since the westward expansion. Maybe it's just because I want an excuse to buy a new bike (sorry Lisa). Regardless of the reasoning, this Wednesday on a rare sunny warm afternoon, I rode around on muddy disgusting roads on my poor neglected Lisa, toes frozen and lower back splattered with grit, deeply excited once again about bikes.

In other news, the snow is still good and I really love my job. Instead of trying to fill the yawning chasm of weekday free time, I'm back to cramming in the fun stuff around the serious stuff, which is always preferable. Tyler just got handed a managerial position at the brewery, and while he's less than thrilled at the promotion away from the brewhouse, I am crazy proud of him. After several months of waiting in a holding pattern, I am thrilled to feel integrated into the community in all the essential ways: job, pub, bike shop. And it's only going to get better.

23 February 2014

Life as a Weekend Warrior

Saturday was reflective of the new norm: wake up earlier than a work day, drink enough coffee to cause nausea and the shakes, eat a nail-ass-to-seat breakfast of brisket and eggs at the BBQ joint, hit skin track with a verging-on-too-big group of guys.

It snowed all day, it snowed all month. We caught a window of stability in the wearying avalanche cycle. We're lucky to live on the quiet side of the pass where the bottom parking lots are a quarter full on Saturdays; all the Jackson Holers are busy seeking Glory at the top. 

We climbed, descended, climbed, descended, sought mellow glades of stupid deep hippie pow, ate snow, drank whiskey, had photo shoots, heckled. Someone found a little cliff band where I could stand at the top and peer over and stop breathing and jump and land, that addictive rush. The glue on my skins gave up on the fourth climb but I was sated and merrily made it back to the car. A pub interlude came as usual, and then Tyler took me home to show me the fruits of his day: a fun jump in the plow pile at the end of our apartment complex. The neighborhood kids had discovered it and were testing their mettle and throwing partially-realized 180s. I forgot my chill, hurriedly put my boots back on, and tried to show off for a bunch of preteens. We played until dark. 

Not me but you get the idea
Pic courtesy of Dapper Dan

Some friends were hosting a birthday party for a dog so we outfitted ourselves in finery (sleeveless tees, denim) and headed to the big city (Driggs). It was a party typical of anywhere, with a keg, beer pong, loud reggae, Cards Against Humanity, but alas the guy to girl ratio hovered around 7:1. I don't envy the throngs of pleasant, mustachioed single dudes in the valley, waiting in vain for some imaginary boatload of ladies to wash up on our snowy shores. Fortunately I've had better luck than them; at this point I've found some available girls for ski dates and wine nights, to break up the monotony of the perpetual mountain town sausage fest.

17 February 2014

Greener Pastures

I did promise an update on my employment status, and I come bearing good news. I applied for a very promising-sounding job posting but after I jumped through a couple hoops they let me down gently. Fast forward several weeks of quiet desperation and the company contacted me with a new availability, so I walked over to the facility...a block from my house(!!!)...chatted with the owner, and after a couple painful days of waiting I got the call! I gave the Idiot Bosses a final weekend of my time and rather than braving the likely interminable and hostile resignation conversation, I left a painstakingly polite letter in the office and snuck off into the night.

So I've worked a full week at the new job, and I'm stoked. Go check out the website and you'll realize it is the perfect company for me. I am one of the two people that churns out energy bars five days a week. I make over a thousand bars a day. It's monotonous and laborious work but it feels great to create such a wonderful product, and I get paid by output so I have a lot of flexibility in a work week. Kate, who rides bikes, uses organic ingredients, and is invested in whether her employees get to play outside enough, is a very cool person indeed. I now share weekends off with the housemates, which opens up potential for all the trips we've been wanting to take: back to Sun Valley, up to Montana, down to the desert. And did I mention it's a three minute stroll from my front door? I'm not quite sure how I got so lucky.

21 January 2014

Status Quo

Our neighbor has again cut us off from the interwebs...steps have been taken, but I am for now disconnected, hence the lack of communication.

These days have been a quiet, pleasant malaise with a schedule dictated by the reliable weekly snowfall. Each Saturday morning I go to work aching from a couple days of powder skiing or backcountry missions. Aside from the Idiot Bosses, work is great. The clientele in Victor is the absolute friendliest, most low-maintenance group of folks I've ever had the pleasure of serving--I don't know what it is about the working class frontier mentality but invariably it results in easy, omnivorous, understanding, well-tipping customers.

We've had over a week-long dry spell, meaning crystal bright days and chunder-busting at the resort, and glimpses of the elusive Grand in its heavily-rimed, unfathomably huge glory. The sky here is the most evocative and expressive I've ever lived under. Weather systems send advance scouts days ahead, brushing the sky with altostratus, clumps of cumulus clotting the horizon, wisps blowing fast off the most prominent Tetons. Snow storms rest heavily at 7000 feet and obscure everything above. The colors defy description. Early morning shows shale and coral and sunset leaves the hills glowing for hours. Not to complain about great weather, but Tahoe skies are almost always a lovely but nondescript blue.

My social life lacks dimension, but there's something so lovely about cooking dinner and watching a ski movie or listening to my other roommate rhapsodize about fly fishing or sitting in a cluster of brewers catching up on work gossip. And not to be a total girl, but cohabitation has been perhaps the biggest upside of this new existence. We just get along so damn well.

I haven't figured out any long term aspirations but for now, skiing pow and working every once in awhile seems to be doing the trick.