Monday, July 28, 2008

Lauren Visits Missoula

Happy Monday to all – I’m having a hard time getting started today. Lauren, our good friend from college, drove from Seattle on Thursday night to visit for the weekend. This meant a long weekend of drinking, eating and generally being more social than usual.

Friday night brought a nice dinner out and bar hopping until we got to the Mo Club (where I met Bill Clinton). I recently got my ass handed to me playing pool and, as the person I was playing with pointed out, it is very odd for me to be that bad at something since I am typically a very competitive person. If I know I’m really bad at it (volleyball, basketball, football. Team sports in general), I usually just won’t play. So, at the Mo Club, Justin was nice enough to spend a significant amount of time trying to teach me to be a better pool player. Some things I learned:

1. Jewelry tends to get in the way of making a good shot. Rings, necklaces, watches, etc.
2. It is not okay to sit on the table. However, it is allowed and, from what I can tell, ENCOURAGED, to lay on the table to reach the proper angle. Good thing I was wearing pants is all I have to say.
3. It is not okay to miss a shot, get angry at the ball (the green ball, specifically) and throw your pool stick down.
4. It is not okay to drink around the pool table. Especially if you like to use your Corona bottle to point at things.

All of these things helped Paige and me to win two games that night. I even carried the team for one of those games (Paige was distracted).

Saturday was pretty low key, but we went to a nice dinner and bar hopped again, ending up dancing the night away at Stockman’s, as usual. This big bartender from Mo Club, who we had hung out with several times, showed up at Stocks and I got way too excited and tried to make him dance with me. Yaaaa – he literally ran away. In discussing it the next day, Paige came to the conclusion that we were just on “different drinking levels.” I think that’s right up there with, “He’s just not that into you.” But I wasn’t trying to hit on him! He’s just really nice and reminded me of my brother, Will. Ah well, another lesson learned.

Sunday we went for my first float trip. Floating down the river during the summer is HUGE here. You’re constantly seeing signs for places to buy tubes and the roads are full of big trucks with beds full of tubes. So we blew up some tubes, Justin strapped the canoe on top of the truck and off we went to the Bitterroot River. Paige, Lauren and I floated on tubes, Justin and Jackson floated in the canoe and Wyatt swam alongside everyone in his lifejacket. The Black Foot River is the most popular floating river and is apparently full of groups of unruly drunks. We hardly saw anyone else on the Bitterroot, but there were definitely times we needed to paddle just to move anywhere. Definitely no whitewater here…
We ended the weekend with an evening at the Missoula Osprey game (our AAA baseball team). Bud Light, hot dogs (ya, the diet died this weekend) and a few hours scrutinizing a team of 18-23 year olds in tight white pants. Kind of a Cougar’s dream :). We ended up losing in the 14th inning, but it was still a great way to spend the evening.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! And a big Happy Late Birthday to Emily.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Grizzly Attacks

Due to my recent backpacking experience, I have become much more aware of the presence of bears. However, I still have no idea what to do if I ever saw one. So a big thanks goes to Alyson for sending me this:

It's a quiz on what to do to avoid coming face to face with a bear and what to do it it does happen. Good knowledge for everyone. I missed 5, which gives me a 60% chance of surviving. Better than nothing. Big thanks to Alyson for looking out for me in the wilderness!

Crocs are an Abomination of Footwear

This has nothing to do with Montana (other than the fact that people here wear them) but a friend just sent this to me and it is the most sage advice/writing I've read in a long time:

Before I begin, I should warn you that I know dick about fashion. It's not just a clever title to get your attention, though it's admittedly clever (I'm honest enough to admit when something is brilliant, even when it's my own writing).

You shouldn't read this article if you're a woman with low self-esteem. I don't need my inbox filled with emails from teary-eyed women reaffirming how astute my observations are by shrieking at me for ruining their lives.

Women get away with murder in our society, especially when it comes to the visual pollution they call fashion. So I'm going to do what few people—few men—have ever done by criticizing you. Sure, you may be thinking "but Maddox, people criticize women's fashion all the time!" Yes, but not men, and definitely not badasses like me.... Until now.

When I see people wearing Crocs, I know immediately that we have nothing in common, and that we could never be friends or have any meaningful kind of relationship. They come in every color imaginable yet look bad with every other article of clothing ever created. The only thing that goes with Crocs is social ostracism.

To their credit though, Crocs serve as an excellent idiot barometer; you can tell a lot about people wearing them. For example, suggest products that other customers have purchased based on the item you're shopping for. Here are the suggestions for Crocs:

When it comes to shoes, there are usually three deciding factors: quality, price, and style. Some shoes are cheap and stylish, but poor quality, while others are stylish and durable, but expensive. Crocs usually go for $30-$60, which doesn't sound like much for a shoe, until you consider that what you're really paying for are melted pellets squirted into a cast-iron mold in some province in China. Crocs have the rare combination of being expensive, poor quality, and ugly. It's quite a feat for one shoe to suck this bad.

People who wear Crocs go on and on about how comfortable they are, and how it's supposedly odor resistant because it's made out of some kind of anti-bacterial foam. Great point, dipshits! You know what else it's resistant to? You getting laid. Then as if the shoes weren't disgusting enough, Crocs introduced a product called "Crocs butter" that's supposed to restore that illustrious injection-molded sheen to those gaping holes they call shoes:

You know that feeling you get when you're full and slightly nauseous and you burp and you can taste the partly digested food in the back of your throat? There isn't a word in the english language to succinctly describe it, but I will hereby refer to it as: croc-butter.
For more from this genius, visit Admittedly, I like/wear most of the other things he talks about (Mom and Dad, probably not for you :)).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jackson is still alive

I just realized that post didn't include one picture of the dogs, both of whom did FAR better than the three humans. Below is a picture of a bedraggled-looking Jackson and a video of Wyatt rolling around in the dirt:

“That hike is so easy you could do it in the dark”

So, in my quest to become more in tune with nature and learn to do more outdoorsy things, I agreed to accompany Paige and Justin on a backpacking trip to Little Rock Creek Lake, which is about an hour and a half outside of Missoula near Lake Como. I left work a bit early on Friday and headed home so we could leave right at 5pm. After changing into my “hiking clothes,” we finished packing up our stuff and headed out. We were a bit late leaving and things continued to go downhill from there. First, there was a fire in Lolo, which backed up traffic. Then there was construction in Stevensville, which delayed us even more. Then Justin realized he didn’t have any clips on the waistband of his backpack, so we had to stop by a sporting goods store (which didn’t have the right size – more on that later). By the time we found the trailhead and got our packs on, it was 8pm.

Let me add a little context here before we go any further… I have NEVER been backpacking before. My mom says that’s not true and that we backpacked when I was little near Cultus Lake, but even then they had to bribe me with Skittles the whole way and I seem to have completely blocked the entire experience. I have enjoyed camping the few times I’ve gone but, much like my good friend Katie, my idea of camping involves a roller suitcase full of beer and an air mattress. So when Paige told me we were backpacking in and then camping, I said yes more to prove to myself that I could do it than because I actually had a deep desire to lug a huge backpack around for 10 miles. Anyway – I have no experience with backpacking, but even I know that it starts getting dark at 9:30pm and is pitch black at 10:15pm. That would mean that we would need to hike just under 5 miles in less than 2 hours. Even then, we’d be setting up camp in the dark. But Justin had faith that we could make it in time so off we went.

Now, this hike had been chosen because our good friend Joe Blattner had told Justin that it was “super easy,” that he had “hiked it with his mom” and that anyone could easily “do this hike in the dark.” The hiking book classified the hike as moderate and described some pretty tough terrain. But we took Joe’s word for it. I mean, if his MOM could do it, why couldn’t we? We found out soon enough that Joe is either a HUGE LIAR or his mom is one tough cookie. This was not so much a hike, as an obstacle course. The majority of the trail is part of a Wilderness Area, which means no motorized vehicles of any kind can enter, which means no roads, no bridges, no nothing. This left us climbing steep rock walls, stepping over dozens of fallen trees and fording up to twenty or so streams and creeks. Sometimes we were on the trail, sometimes we were just off-roading it.

As expected, come 9:30pm it starts getting dark. I’m a little concerned but Justin keeps telling us that if it gets too dark we’ll just set up camp in a clearing by the side of the trail. About 9:45pm we head into a forested area. In my mind, this forest was a straight-up Blair Witch, Princess Bride, completely FREAKY forest. I was already creeped out enough by the “trail markers” (i.e. Blair Witch rocks), but to make matters worse now I can’t see, we’re wading through fast-flowing creeks, I’m having to carry Jackson (who so far had been a ROCK STAR) and then the worst of the worst happens – Justin goes DOWN. Justin is our leader, our captain. The only one who knows at all what he’s doing and all of a sudden he’s laying on the trail with horrible leg cramps. Justin had the heaviest pack by far and was carrying all the weight on his shoulders since his hip strap was broken. Paige, being an excellent wife, took control (while I’m fighting back tears for the 3rd time) and switched packs with Justin so we could keep moving and get out of the trees.

Once we were out, we found a clearing and immediately set up camp. I had been warned that this was bear country (there was a sign about it at the trailhead and Justin always has bear spray on him, but it was really put into perspective for me while we were hoisting all our food into the trees and peeing half a mile from camp so the bears wouldn’t smell us. So now there’s the Blair Witch AND bears to worry about. So we all pile into the tent with the dogs and try to sleep. But of course I can’t sleep because 1. I’m terrified 2. I’m sleeping on the ground 3. It’s freezing cold 4. Animals are walking around outside our tent. Do I sound like a baby yet? It will get worse. I took a picture right before we went to sleep just to prove that we had made it and were still alive so far...

So the morning finally arrives. Justin has been up for a long time, has purified some water for us and is cooking breakfast. Everyone feels much better in the daylight and we were all pleasantly surprised to find that we had set up camp in a gorgeous location next to a creek and surrounded by mountains. After we ate and packed up camp, we hiked the remaining quarter of a mile to Little Rock Creek Lake. The lake was incredibly scenic and spilled over on one side in gorgeous waterfalls that almost looked man made. Paige and I changed into our swimsuits and laid out by the waterfalls with the dogs while Justin did some fly-fishing. I wanted nothing more after a few hours of relaxation then to get dressed, get in a car and drive home. But NOOOO, we have a five-mile hike ahead of us to get home.

The hike back was long, but was mostly downhill and was light the whole way. We didn’t really talk much – all of us just wanted to get back to the car and have it all be over. Justin’s back and shoulders were really hurting him and Paige was in serious danger of losing a toenail. I had rolled my ankle upwards of 10 times and was weaving dangerously along the trail. Finally, we think we’re getting close but what we all forgot was that to get into the valley that led to Little Rock Creek Lake, we had to hike down a steep hill for quite a while. And that means we had to hike back UP that hill to get out. This wasn’t a normal hike up hill. This was a fricking alpine trek. Paige is very good at just walking steadily along uphill, whereas I have bursts of energy and then have to rest every 20 feet or so. She eventually left me and, as I turned to look uphill for the 40th time, I felt ridiculously nauseas and vomited on the spot. It was kind of like red water, which concerned me. I mean, I’d had red bell peppers earlier in the day but it just as easily could have been blood. We’ll never know for sure…

Three and a half hours later, we were back in the car with the air conditioner blasting, drinking gallons of water and checking the dog’s breathing to make sure they were still alive. Overall, there were some good moments. There were also some frustrating moments. And some terrifying moments. Definitely a memorable 24 hours if nothing else. My goal for the next few weeks is to find a book entitled “Super Easy Montana Backpacking Trips.” Then maybe, MAYBE, we’ll give this backpacking thing another go.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hunter and his Fish

Happy Friday! One of the office dogs, Hunter, today discovered that there were fish in the fish tank and has now become obsessed. I took a short video so you could all enjoy it:

Too bad Jackson's not tall enough to see them! :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The M Burns (not really)

So I forgot to mention that while I was gone, a 7 and 8 year old were playing with matches on the hill near the M and ignited a fire at the bottom of Mount Sentinel. The fire quickly spread up the mountain, but no homes were burned and the M is still intact. The kid’s parents now have to pay over $225,000 in fees because their stupid children decided it would be fun to light a phone book on fire. Riiiiigggghhhhht – anyone rethinking that whole kid thing yet? Some amazing pics below…

Portland friends!

The rest of my week was filled with visiting friends and wedding stuff. I will share with all of you my HORROR at realizing that my bridesmaid dress for Jenny’s wedding no longer fits. One year ago, I fit happily into the dress in the store:

Two Sundays ago I had to lay down on the bed so Jenny could attempt to zip me up (like when you’re too fat to zip up your pants) and then it was so tight I couldn’t bend to get up and she had to pull me up like a mummy. I look like a stuffed sausage waddling around like a penguin. I am going to be SO HOT walking down the aisle. So, because it obviously can’t look like this for the actual day, I’m going make you all suffer with me as I hardcore diet for a month. And that means no drinking! NOOOOOO.

Good thing I fit in enough of it over the last couple days… below are some friend pics. Miss you all already!

Cultus Lake

The second week in July always brings the same thing: the annual family vacation to Cultus Lake. Kim and Brian finally returned from Peru (for those of you not keeping up on their travels, their amazing blog can be found at and it was so great to see them. After making the long drive from Montana on Sunday, Jackson and I got back on the car on Monday morning and headed out. Cultus, for those of you who don’t know, is about 30 minutes past Sunriver along the Cascade Lakes Highway. I haven’t missed a year at the Lake in all my 27 years.

The week brought lots of skiing and wakeboarding, reading, swimming and hanging out with the family. In addition to the five Bennett’s and Brian, my Aunt Karen and Uncle Bill were there, along with my Uncle John and Aunt Tammy. I decided to up my wakeboarding game this year and use my brother’s fancy wakeboard with no scags and a very wide stance. Needless to say, there was a large learning curve. Good thing Brian was there with him new fancy camera to capture it in detail:

Good times. But as bad as I can be, other members of my family are amazing:

Jackson, as always, had a great time swimming and chasing the ball. He ended up running the skin off his paws by the end of the week and could hardly walk around. Poor Pantsy. I’m just bummed it’s already over!

4th of July

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, but so many things have been happening! So there will be a rash of blog entries today and we’ll start with the 4th of July…

My second friend to visit, Danny, flew in to Missoula on the 3rd. My friend and client from Autodesk, Noah, and his wife Elizabeth and their dog Glacier soon joined him, along with my friend Sarah who was on her way to Flathead Lake to visit friends. I only have one guest room in my house so it made for some crowded living, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if it weren’t 103 DEGREES. Thankfully, no one is living in the basement apartment at my house right now so we just took the dogs down there, sat on the floor and drank Coronas in the nice coolness.

Thursday night, Paige, Justin and I took my guests out on the town for dinner and some drinking. Friday we woke up, grabbed some breakfast and made the drive to Seeley Lake. From there, we did one of my favorite hikes, which ends at a large waterfall. The walk was SO HOT and full of mosquitoes (I already looked like I had scabies on my legs because of all the bites – I know Deet is bad for you, but sometimes it’s necessary), but it was totally worth it once we got to the waterfall. The water is running so high right now that the waterfall was much larger than usual and cooled the air at least 40 degrees.

Saturday morning Noah and Elizabeth got up early to make the long drive to Glacier National Park and Danny and I met Sarah and her friend Dominic at Flathead Lake to go whitewater rafting on the lower Flathead. The float would usually take about 3 hours and include class 3-5 rapids. But the water was running so high that a lot of the rapids were washed out and we finished the trip in under two hours. Still a really good time, though. REALLY hot raft guides. And, in sticking with my dedication to Cougardom, they were all around 18 years old.

Sunday Danny was nice enough to make the 9-hour drive with me and, as usual, I got turned around in the Tri-Cities and added an hour to the trip. Danny also put up with the book on CD I bought that I thought would be good for both of us, Are you there, vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. Turns out it’s a lot of women-focused dirty stories about drinking, sex and midgets (sometimes all three at once) but Danny was a trooper and even laughed along with me sometimes…
Thanks to Danny, Sarah, Noah and Elizabeth for making the long trip to Montana. I love having friends visit!