Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas then and now ~

When I was a kid, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, Bavarian-style.  I remember dressing up in my German dirndl dress and sitting with my mom and brother on the stairs while my mom read us a Christmas story from a big, red book.  We were really antsy with anticipation of presents and a special dinner.  There was a special Bavarian mountain club record that my mom would put on the stereo, with German yodeling songs and carols.

Part-way through my mom's reading of the story, my dad, who was downstairs, would ring a cowbell and yell out, "He's here! He's here!"  And we would go racing down the stairs and into the glassed in porch to find the Christmas tree, that we had cut down from our back acreage and brought across the property on a toboggan, aglow with real candles.  The lighting of the candles was always a mystery to me.  Apparently, it was the Christ Child (Krist Kindl) who lit them.  This was kind of a fuzzy image in my mind, because the image of a baby or small boy somehow got mixed up with the traditional American image of Santa Claus, and I was never quite sure whom I was supposed to be looking for as my dad called out that "He" was here and had lit the candles on the tree and brought the presents.  (Come to find out, my brother, being two years older, knew for several years that it was my dad, not the Krist Kindl who was lighting the candles, but kept it a secret as not to spoil it for me.)

The best present of all was always a large box with pink butcher paper on it, and a string to hold it together.  It was addressed in black marker, and had probably a dozen stamps on it with blue "Luftpost" stickers as well.  It was a box from my grandparents in Germany.  The other Christmas presents were great, but this box was truly special.  There was always a Steiff stuffed animal for me, lots of chocolate, some model train kits for my brother, and hand-knit sweaters from Oma.

After opening presents, my dad was of course starving for dinner after embarking on process that took entirely too long.  We would sit down at the table by the wood stove with our cozy new sweaters on and eat traditional Bavarian cold cuts, cheese, and fresh bread.  My dad always had something gross like creamed, pickled herring (which I now, of course love!) and would try to get us to drink a special drink of red wine mixed with ginger ale (like a kids' wine spritzer?!?) that was totally gross.

Someone asked me the other day, "Well, if you celebrated on Christmas Eve, what did you do on Christmas Day?"  We played with our new loot, of course!  Oftentimes, after our cousins were done opening presents on Christmas Morning, we would meet up with them and go ice skating on the lake or cross country skiing in the woods or on the golf course.  I remember the stark whiteness of the snow, the sparkling crystals, the clear blue skies, and the laughter.

Although my Christmases are quite different these days (there are no candles on the tree), I do try to keep some traditions intact.  My brother and I typically celebrate with a Bavarian meal of cold cuts, cheese, and fresh bread.  My sister-in-law's family celebrates together on Christmas Eve, so that tradition has changed for me a bit, but I think of it as an extended "Christmas week" in which the festivities are carried out for a longer period of time because the last few years we have celebrated together on Christmas night, the day after her family celebration.  This year, I won't be headed up to Idaho to celebrate with my family until the New Year, which I'm really looking forward to.  Hopefully I can get some skiing in with my brother and sister-in-law, and I'm sure the dogs will score all kinds of loot.  Kitty won't be left out from the gift giving (or receiving), but she'll be guarding the house and taking cat toys (aka ornaments) off of the tree, no doubt.

Christmas time truly is a magical time of year.  Full of thankfulness and giving.  I am so thankful for everyone in my life and the good fortune that I have had.  I am thankful for being able to give gifts to those whom I love and appreciate.  I am thankful for the people who have mentored me, especially the ones who are not physically here anymore but who live on in my heart.  I am thankful for having good friends and family who support me in everything that I do.  I am thankful to those whom have been cruel to me, because I have learned so much from them on how not to live my life.  I am so thankful for having two very strong legs to carry me wherever I wish to travel and for two happy dogs who remind me to smile, no matter what.  I am thankful for a little black kitty who reminds me of a certain little gray kitty.

I wish everyone a peaceful celebration and a prosperous New Year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking a look around ~ the Oregon Coast

Netarts Beach
Sometimes you have to step back to take a look at what just happened.  The impact of my trip to Oregon nearly two weeks ago is just now hitting me.  Looking back through the photos from my trip, I am amazed by the beauty that surrounded me and the wonderful people whom I fleetingly crossed paths with.

Three Arches Wildlife Refuge, Netarts, Oregon
On Tuesday, November 12th, I loaded up the car and the dogs and headed north.  Much farther north than I have been in quite some time.  I drove 10 hours, and after a nice pit-stop to walk through a park in Boise in the 5th hour of our journey, I found myself topped out in the Whitman National Forest, heading for the high plains of the Columbia River Gorge.  The sun was setting just as I was headed down I-84 and the switchbacks which lead to Pasco, Washington, where I would overnight with my friend Jamie and her husband Shane.  On the way to see them, I had gassed up the car in Baker City, Oregon, which is absolutely worth the side-trip just to see the quaint Main Street in town.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony was taking place just as I arrived, and I chatted with the gas station attendant about my awkwardness with letting someone else pump my gas, which is the law in Oregon.

Cape Meares Lighthouse
I spent an all-too-short night in Pasco at my friends' house, and upon awakening the next morning, I found that the entire Columbia River Valley was encased in thick fog.  I drove west to the Oregon Coast, another 5 and a half hours, and marveled at the thousands of wind turbines along the cliffs above the Gorge that were not there 10 years ago when I traveled this way.  I stopped off along the Wilson River Highway (OR-6) and went for a nice trail run with the dogs in a mossy, dense forest.  The place looked, sounded, and smelled just like the forests in Germany where I love to run.  It felt good to stretch our legs after a day and a half in the car.  After a little over an hour on the trail, I ate a quick Nutella sandwich and headed towards Tillamook.  Leaving the trailhead, I couldn't help but feel a little lucky that I hadn't seen a soul on the trail as I passed a prison work camp and work-crew logging truck.
The walk to the Secret Beach at Cape Meares
I stopped in Tillamook just long enough to by some groceries and continued on to the town of Netarts, Oregon, a tiny, sleepy little fishing town just 30 minutes west of Tillamook.

The next 2 days would be spent reading books by the crackling log-fire, walking along the beaches in the rain, and exploring trails through the forests and capes.  The dogs had luck on their side as well, as Artemis tried unsuccessfully to drown herself in the 10 to 15 foot surf and also avoided getting swept out to sea in the riptide.  Her instinct to chase seagulls and cormorants is impressive, to say the least.  The cormorants (smartly) dove underwater when she got close to them and she was perplexed by their sudden disappearance.  After the near-drownings, she spent a good amount of time on the leash and we still had a wonderful time exploring despite being tethered together.

I hiked down a mile and a half trail to a small (100 yard-long) beach at Cape Meares one afternoon to find starfish, anemones, and red crab in the tide pools.  Not a soul around on this rainy afternoon, although Franklin did find a porcupine along the trail (no quills!).

Another day, I hiked along Cape Lookout, with 300-400 foot cliffs just off the trail to the side.  As songbirds darted amongst the cliffs, I could only imagine a yellow dog chasing the bird and suddenly finding only air beneath her feet instead of the mud and slippery rocks.  I kept the dogs close on the leash, to avoid a 300 foot drop which certainly would have ended in a lengthy swim along the coast back to a beach in the best case scenario (I tried not to think of the alternative).  I could see the big black rock of Cape Kiwanda from the overlook off the end of Cape Lookout, and resolved to head that way after the hike.  Along the Cape Lookout trail, I chatted with a 50-something old couple from Layton, Utah and a guy my age who tried to convince me to drink a "craft" beer at the Pelican Pub in Pacific City (it was only 2pm.  If I had drunk the beer that early in the day, I would have been asleep with the dogs in the back of the Subaru before making it back to the cabin).  I smiled to myself at his reference to craft beer, which I'm pretty sure most of the rest of the country calls micro-brew.  (See reference here.)

Driving the Whiskey Creek Road to the south, we stopped at Cape Kiwanda and went for a nice run along the beach in the rain with the receding tides (I didn't drink the beer at the Pelican Pub).  I found a good keeper sand dollar (most of the ones I found were broken due to the rough surfs) and a broken scallop shell.  I stopped at the convenience store for a latté, which was likely one of two worst lattés I've ever had in my life (the other being in Three Rivers, California) and scalded my tongue.  I did get some really great smoked halibut dip for a snack in the afternoon and decided that the owners of the store should stick to seafood, not coffee.  The dip was salty, smoky, and delicious.

Cape Lookout
Day three found us, sadly, packing up to leave the small cabin that had been our cozy home.  The time went by so quickly, and I wished I could have stayed longer (I would have had to buy more firewood).  Before driving up the Coastal Highway 101 to visit Cannon Beach, I stopped at the Tillamook cheese factory and watched the Saturday crew packaging cheese.  They all waved and smiled.  I watched the video of the history of the Tillamook Valley and how the dairy cooperative of family-owned farms started over 100 years ago and continues to this day.  I think it wouldn't be a bad job to retire to that little town, and spend a day or two a week working in the Tillamook factory.  Everyone was so nice and friendly and the scenery reminded me of Germany with the green cow pastures and rolling hills of coniferous forests.

Cannon Beach was beautiful in between surges of small storms that were coming off the Pacific.  On the way there, I passed through the idyllic fishing town of Garibaldi and put it on my list of places to visit in the near future.

I spent the night again in Pasco, Washington at my friends' house, but not until again passing through the incredible Columbia River Gorge.  I took a bit of a scenic route, taking old US Hwy 30 from Moser to the Dalles, and was rewarded with magnificent views of rolling vineyard hillsides and a rainbow out over the Columbia.
The view of Cape Kiwanda from Cape Lookout
Despite the rain, it was a wonderful, relaxing time on the Oregon Coast.  I didn't run a ton of miles, but was able to heal up some nagging injuries and mental fatigue from the long summer of running that I had this year.  The dogs and I were absolutely exhausted when we got home to Salt Lake City.  It's a long drive to the Oregon Coast, but absolutely worth the effort.

Cape Kiwanda Beach

Cape Kiwanda

Packing up ~

Crab Avenue ~ Netarts, Oregon

Cannon Beach

Secret Beach at Cape Meares

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You can't have rainbows if you don't have a little bit of rain.

A lot of people have already heard about what I did for my birthday this year.  And I have to say, it was absolutely fabulous.  Surrounding myself with people who share the same ideals in life in a beautiful mountain setting made my day, quite possibly, the best birthday yet.

Running literally all day gave me time to reflect on birthdays past and think of my family and friends for whom I am so grateful.  Lots of memories flashed through my head:  driving in a rainstorm to Red Lobster with my immediate family, looking at my new sticker book in the back seat of the car.  Carving mini-pumpkins with my friends on the front porch of our Michigan farmhouse.  Sharing yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and adorned candy-corn pumpkins (to this day, my favorite) that my mom had made for my 4th grade class.  Going to my brother's house in Salt Lake where he had baked me the exact same themed cake:  yellow cake, chocolate frosting, and candy-corn pumpkins on top.  Hiking with my first dog, Roxie, at Park City Mountain Resort and taking in the fall colors.  Hiking to the top of a Salt Lake mountain peak with my dogs and returning to the car to receive the last voicemail I would ever get from my ailing father, who had always in the past forgotten my birthday.  Running 40 miles in the mountains near Pocatello, Idaho with one of my best friends, both of us in our hunter-orange safety vests.  Tracking down the mailman in my neighborhood who had a ten-pound box of chocolate for me from my best friend in Germany.  So many good adventures.

October can be a tricky time to have a birthday, in part because of the weather.  But sometimes that weather can be the most glorious of the year.  This year, it meant perfect running temperatures, golden foliage, snow-capped mountain peaks, and of course a little bit of rain (rarely does it NOT rain on my birthday).  But the lesson I learned this year, is that you can't have rainbows if you don't have a little bit of rain.  A metaphor for life, really.

42 miles of running in honor of my 42 years on this Earth.  Quite symbolic.  Quite simply ~ fantastic.  Friends, cupcakes, cocoa, cookies, and running on the trails.  I'll be looking back on this one (fondly) for a very long time.

11 hours, 5 minutes.  42 miles. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Bear that would not be ~

I didn't plan to DNF at the Bear 100.  No one ever does, I think.  But when the weather forecast was looking like it was pointing to signs of an early winter, my thoughts raced back to March at the Buffalo 100, where I dropped at mile 50 because my knee seized up and I couldn't run.  I was able to walk 15 miles to the start/finish aid station back then and get credit for a 50-mile race finish, albeit a slow one.

You'd think I would do well in the cold.  I grew up in Michigan in the 1970s when it seems that we had record blizzards every winter.  But I do remember back in high school and once after college, playing soccer so hard in the cold that my quad muscles were strained so badly that I couldn't lift my foot from the gas to the brake pedal in the car.  In Germany, the second time it happened, I hobbled into my surrogate Oma's house and she reprimanded me for playing so hard, then wrapped my quads in herbal tincture.

Since my knee surgery in 2007, my left knee has always been a bit sensitive to the cold.  It gets achy quickly and feels stiff, making it hard to bend.  I ski tour in insulated ski pants even on the warmest of days.  I would rather sweat out gallons than be cold.  I wear my Patagonia puffy coat everywhere.  I relish the end of summer and the day that I can wear my puffy coat again, inside the house sitting on the couch as well as outside when I am walking the dogs.

The Bear 100 this year would not be what it was last year:  75 degrees and sunny, finding me at my second 100-mile finish.  I'm consoled this year by the fact that I did finish the Bear last year and was able to prove that my Wasatch 100 finish of 2011 was not a fluke.  I finished the Bighorn 100 this year, too, and am so grateful for that painful, well-earned finish.

I won't go into the details of my Bear run this year.  Suffice it to say that I was surrounded by people who love me and care about my welfare.  I am humbled by the fact that people will comfort me when the run brings me to tears.  In that respect, I am very lucky.

My mind turns now to redemption.  Several runs are lining up in the next 3 to 4 weeks and I am holding myself back from registering for any one of them.  Maybe I'll run, and maybe I won't.  For now, I will relish in my past finishes and think of how many good runs I had this year, trying not to let this one bad day over shadow the others.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wasatch 100 volunteer report ~

Wasatch 100 race start in Layton, Utah ~
A lot of people asked me prior to the race if I was running the Wasatch 100 this weekend.  They asked me on Monday if I had run it, then looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re walking too well to have run 100 miles this weekend, I guess.”  Which is true:  it takes a few days for me to be walking normally again after something like that.

On Friday, I worked at the clinic until about 3:30, then went home quickly to change my clothes, feed the dogs, and eat a sandwich, and I headed up to Lamb’s Canyon aid station to volunteer for the race.  What I took part in was one of the most rewarding experiences I think I will ever be involved with.

Runner steps on scale at Lamb's Canyon ~
I knew over 50 runners who were taking part in the race.  I thought back on how many years I have been involved with this race in one form or another (volunteering, pacing another runner, crewing, running it myself, or just plain spectating) and it has been 15 years.  The race itself has been going on for 33 years, and I know runners who have been racing it for over 20 years:  one person I know got his 29th finish this year.

Local legend Brian Harward
with pacer John Wheelright ~
In volunteering on Friday night, I employed a technique that I had learned from the volunteers at one of the aid stations at the Bighorn 100.  When a runner would come into the aid station, the volunteers quickly took his or her pack off their back, had them weigh in, got the racer’s drop bag from the pile, and sent them on their way.  I kept an eye on runners coming in, to see if they had a crew or not.  Most or many of them did have someone helping them, but some did not.  As I mentioned before, I knew over 50 runners this year, so I ended up helping them (even if they had crew).  Basically, I served as the runner’s personal “gopher”.  I’ll give you an example.

My friend Steve came into the Lamb’s Canyon aid station.  He had been weighed in and had been given his drop bag by several volunteers and was headed for a seat in the corner.  He looked up and saw me, and said, “Hey!  Missy!  How are you?”  (I was thinking, after the extreme, unusual heat and humidity on race day, “How the heck are you?!?”)  He looked good.  As good as you can look after running 53 miles on a bum knee in 90+ heat with 40%+ humidity.

Local legend Roch Horton steps on the scale
with aid station captain Steve Westlund
assessing his condition ~
“I’m not sure where my crew is...” he continued.  I replied, “No worries!  I’m your crew now.  What can I get you?  What do you need?”  Then his crew (Lexie) showed up, and Steve said, “Oh, you can help someone else...”  “No way!  I’m here for you right now,”  I replied.  And Lexie and I proceeded to help Steve wash his feet, change his socks, change his shirt (I talked him into that...), got him food and drink from the buffet, emptied trash from his pack, loaded his pack with new food items, his jacket... I think we got him in and out of there in about 20 minutes, and we got a lot done!  I think I even talked him into taking his Jamba Juice with him (Lexie got it for him and had it ready and waiting.  So good!  I remember getting one of those a time or two from my crew as well, when I was racing) because there was a trash can located a quarter mile up the road at the check-out area.

Ogden Speedgoat Jim Skaggs
(me in background) ~
To give you a little background history, Steve had been my crew two times at Wasatch 100 (the time I dropped out with a knee injury at mile 62 in 2010 and the time I finished in 2011).  He also paced me from Lamb’s Canyon to Millcreek (mile 62) in 2011, the year I told him to stop looking at his watch (he was looking at how fast [slow] we were moving and I grumpily told him, “I’m going as fast as I can!”).  I felt I owed him so much from helping me those years, I couldn’t not pay back a little at this year’s race.

Female runner at Lamb's
stepping on the scale for weigh-in ~
The heat was a huge factor in this year’s race.  As they say, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that will get you.  Indeed, we are accustomed to 10% humidity or less in these parts, but the recent rain has caused the humidity to increase dramatically, to between 40 and 50%.  Not as bad as the South, the Midwest, or even the East Coast, but pretty tough still.  The finish rate for this year’s race was about 67% whereas typically it is near 80%.

And in true Wasatch 100 style, the race ended with thunderstorms and pouring down rain.  The finish venue was changed to Soldier Hollow this year from the Homestead in Midway, which afforded a great pavilion and grassy area with big shade trees and I think everyone really enjoyed it.  Drinking beers and visiting with friends at the finish line and watching the last of the racers come in in the driving rain, especially after enduring such awful heat the day before, was inspiring to say the least.

Founder of Altra shoes, Brian Beckstead,
attended to at Lamb's Canyon by family and friends ~
I was humbled by this year’s race.  The number of thank you’s that I heard was innumerable.  After all, they would have helped me if the tables were turned and I was racing.  Watching the perseverance of over 300 people; all of their crews and family members encouraging them on or consoling them if they were having troubles; watching runners helping runners through tough times; watching the smiles along the way certainly made this experience extremely rewarding.  The ultra-running community is very unique to say the least.  And the amount of love that is shared is extraordinary.

I can’t finish this post without shouting out a special thank you to Steve Westlund and his family, who were the core crew of the Lamb’s Canyon aid station.  They coordinated all of the food and supplies, set-up, and clean-up and were physically present at the aid station with smiles on their faces for what I estimate to be 16 hours.  Everything was clean, the food was good, and things were organized.  For this half-German girl, I think those are the basic necessities of life.  Special thanks to John Grobben, John and Joan Moellmer, and Claude Grant who have directed this race since the very beginning:  the fact that you keep coming back every year is a testament to your own perseverance.  This year’s race will not be soon forgotten, and I will assuredly be involved in some way with the event next year.  You can count on that!

(Many thanks also to Mark Kreuzer, who gets photo credit for all of the amazing images in this post.  If you would like to see the full collection, contact him at and he will send you a link.)

Wasatch sunrise, day 2 ~

Local runner and 2nd place female
finisher, Andrea Stevens ~

Local runner Amie Blackham with race director,
John Grobben ~

Boise runner Dennis Ahern takes a sip
of well-earned champagne after finishing
the Grand Slam of Ultra-running (the four oldest
races, all completed in one season) ~

Well said, Carter Williams ~

Local runner Jill Bohney breathes a sigh
of relief at the finish line ~

Local runner Josh Greenwell~

How many finishes is that now, Deanna McLaughlin?

Craig Lloyd gives his mom a hug at the finish line

Me with Steve and his pacer, Mike

Steve Luker and Lexie ~

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's not a cliche to call the Wind Rivers magical

I had been promising to get up to the Wind Rivers for a backpacking trip for several years.  When I say promising, I mean to myself and to my dogs.  And before you call me a "crazy dog-lady", I will be the first to admit to you that yes, I probably am a crazy dog-lady.  I love my dogs.  And I had been asking them, "Do you want to go to the Wind Rivers?  Do you want to go backpacking?" To which they would respond, no words necessary, with wagging tails, sparkling eyes, and smiling thoughtful panting, that yes, they were game for a trip.

The last trip I went on to the Winds was gorgeous and was four years ago (August, 2009).  It's hard for me to believe that it's been that long already since I was there.  There is something very special about the range.  It's almost indescribable, the draw that this range has once you have been there.  People whom I know who have spent time in the Winds know exactly what I am talking about when I say that  it is no exaggeration, nor is it a cliche, to say that this is truly a magical place.

Unfortunately, halfway through the work day at the clinic on Monday I came down with a nasty sore throat.  I saw two patients with head colds on Monday and both of them complained of it starting out with a sore throat, so I am certain that I caught a virus from one of them.  One of the hazards of the job, and a total bummer given my plans for the week.

I tried to burn the sore throat out with copious amounts of hot tea and soup and was quite successful, except for the fact that the virus decided to then move into my sinuses and produce copious amounts of clear snot.  Major bummer.  I also was feeling quite wiped-out energy-wise, and had a bunch of errands to do that no responsible adult could avoid, so my Tuesday of imposed rest before my trip turned out to contain much less rest than I had intended.

I woke up Wednesday morning, packed and ready to go, except that my body wanted to stay in bed.  Those happy, wagging, smiling doggie faces eventually won out and convinced me to get out of bed, take some Sudafed and Ibuprofen, and toughen the heck up.  So by noon we were on the road to Pinedale, Wyoming and by 5pm we were cooking dinner in the parking lot of the trailhead, loading up with kibble, and hitting the trail.

We hiked just an hour and a half in, and camped at Miller Lake.  Of all the beautiful places in the Winds, this was not one of them.  Forests of beetle-kill trees surrounded the lake, but I was happy to have a flat camping spot to set up the tent and rest my weary head.

I don't know why I was surprised when at about 11pm I awoke to flashes of lightening and rumbling thunder.  The Wind River Range is known for its frequent thundershowers.  Indeed, the last time I visited in 2009, it snowed on us (in August) and was quite cold and miserable.  I counted the thunderstorms this first night out, and they passed through with the accuracy of a Swiss watch, precisely on the half-hour with a half-hour breaks in between.  I must have counted at least 6 showers passing through although I think I was finally able to doze off for a bit of rest somewhere around 4am.

Something else that kept me awake was the constant dripping of rain through my leaky rainfly covering my 18-year old tent which had finally given out.  I would spend the rest of the trip (with each drip of rain that hit me in the face) reminiscing about all of the trips I have done with this amazing little tent over the years. Needless to say, between being hopped-up on Sudafed for the head cold, camping at 10,500ft of elevation, and the thundershowers all night long, I did not get a whole lot of sleep.

Next morning the storm had cleared, and I made a quick cup of black coffee and ate a Larabar and some dried apples (I'm not a real breakfast person and while camping I think "making breakfast" really only delays a good, early start on the day).  Packing up my gear, I was not surprised that my pack had gained several pounds of "water weight".  I decided to hike through Sweeney Lakes, although it would add a mile or so on the day, because I had wanted to check them out after seeing them on the map.  Not a mile down the trail and hiking through a boggy area, I did a quick head count and realized one of the dogs was missing.  After several calls, I heard some splashing in the bog, and realized that Vernon, not as accustomed to traveling with a dog pack, was trapped in a bog and could not pull himself up over the over-hanging brush.  He was panicking, and thrashing.  I believe he thought the dog pack was trying to pull him under, and he was not used to the added weight on his back, although only a few pounds.  I could see he was scared and I quickly dropped my pack and ran over to the bog.

I tried to convince him to change his game-plan and come over to my side of the bog and I would pull him out.  I tried a coaxing-soothing tone of voice, then got more demanding, and finally pleading and he simply kept thrashing and panicking, all the while thinking that he was going to get pulled underwater and drown.  My only choice (and it was quite instinctual) was to jump into the bog and help him.  So I did.  Little did I know that the mud was going to try and pull my shoe off (thankfully I did not panic and I slowly eased my foot out of the mud) or that the water was going to be chest-deep.  Woo Hoo!  What a way to start the morning, standing chest-deep in the cold water!

I successfully pushed Vernon out of the water and pulled myself up (shoes intact) and looked at Vernon, calling him a silly dog.  He looked back at me and wagged his tail and genuinely looked quite embarrassed about the whole thing.

We proceded on our way...

Passed Sweeney Lakes that were quite delightful and I would highly recommend them as a camp spot to anyone going that direction in the future (and a note to self).  We stopped at an overlook of the 13,000ft peaks and took some group photos with the camera on self-timer setting.

It would probably be too much for me to write about our entire trip in the amount of detail that I have just used for the high-mountain dog-bog rescue.  Suffice it to say that I will bring it down to the top three high and low points of the trip, and will leave it to you do decide which group is which.

Group A:

1) Meeting up on two separate instances with two different groups who were thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail (two guys in their late-twenties/early thirties, and a guy and woman who were in their late-thirties/early forties).  Upon light pressure for information, one group had started in Glacier National Park (in Montana) and were planning on going "all the way to Mexico".  I suspect the other group was doing the same.  Both groups took time to hitch rides in to Pinedale to re-supply and have a day of rest.  They took time out of their 25-mile days to chat with me and pet the dogs.

2)  As the dogs were swimming in Senaca Lake and imbibing in some quick liquid refreshment, a clattering of horse-hooves could be heard coming down the trail.  Never in my life have I witnessed a pack-train move so quickly, and I was afraid on the narrow trail that we were going to be mowed-over. After letting the train pass and reconnecting with the pack train in a larger meadow area, I learned that the 62- and 67- year old riders were on vacation with their horses and mules all the way from Colorado, because they really "just like the Wind River Range".  Amazing.

3)  On the last day of the trip, meeting up with a half-dozen septuagenarians (that's right:  they were in their 70s, and one guy was actually in his 80s) on a week-long backpacking trip.  They were from the East Coast, and one of them had been to the Winds each year for the past 20 years.

Group B:

1)  Realizing that my 18-year old Sierra Designs tent, the one I got after my Alaska NOLS trip, would likely need to be retired after it couldn't keep up with the pounding rain showers produced by the Wind Rivers climate, resulting in three nights of very little sleep and resorting to covering my face with my waterproof map at night.

2)  Waking up (on night number three) at 4am to the "hurk-hurk" sound of one of the dogs beginning to puke up what turned out to be the largest grass-bezoar I have ever seen in my life (and I've seen a few).   Don't worry, I did not take a picture.  I was unsuccessful in getting the tent unzipped to get her out the door, but was able to keep her from puking on my sleeping bag.  Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice my one handkerchief that I had on the trip for blowing my drippy nose and was relegated to farmer-blowing the rest of the trip.

3)  Not figuring out until the third night that when the Backpacker's Pantry meal says "mix well before allowing to sit for a full 15 minutes" that they really mean it, otherwise you will end up with crunchy bits of pasta and clumps of sauce in the bottom of the packet.  Eating on solo-backpacking trips always seems like such a chore to me and I always tend to eat much better when I am on a group trip.  The dogs were more than willing to eat my leftovers, however.

With that, I will simply say that my trip, at times, seemed more like a 4-day long dog walk in a quest for hunting the elusive, yet noisy, Wind Rivers red squirrel.  I'm entirely Ok with that and quite pleased with myself that I was able to completely render useless three very energetic canines.  Some of the photos turned out to be "Christmas-card worthy" and that speaks to the beauty of the mountains and the happiness that was had by all.  I consider myself so lucky to have been accompanied by what might quite possibly be the most delightful group of backpacking partners I have ever had the pleasure of sharing company (and tent space) with.  Even if they do eat horse-droppings and pass nostril-burning gas at night.

First night in the tent ~

Vernon overlooks 13,000ft peaks
after an embarrassing rescue out of the bog

Group shot ~ beginning of the trip

Franklin taking advantage of a
lunch-time nap opportunity

Happy tails before the pack-train hit

A refreshing dip in Senaca Lake

Left-center is the pack train

Artemis, very tired after day 2

Franklin and Vernon,
resting in camp after day 2

Artemis, fully rested, hunting
squirrels before dinner

Vernon is really never too tired
to hunt for squirrels

Morning of day 3, Franklin
scouting Lester Pass

Vernon was the first to reach Lester Pass

Nearing Lester Pass, and looking
North to the 13,000ft peaks of upper
Titcomb Basin, the gem of the Wind Rivers Range

Group shot at Lester Pass, 11,560ft elevation

Artemis comes back to the pass to see
what's taking me so long:  I was just enjoying
the beautiful view!

Taking in the view to the South of Lester Pass

Descent through Pole Creek Lakes

Chain lakes through Pole Creek

Tired dogs in camp, after day 3

Morning glories, Mary's Lake
on day 4

Vernon sporting his sporty-sport
coat at Mary's Lake

Eklund Lake on the hike out, day 4

Vernon surveys his domain at
Photographer's Point

Group shot ~ end of trip.  We bonded.