So lucky!

I am extraordinarilty fortunate to a friend like James Bush. He is one in a million. When I need someone to talk to, he is always there. When I need someone to fly me to Reno, he’s game. When I need someone to help me program my new instrument, he is eager.

James Bush focusing on the work

Yesterday, as I was leaving Seattle to head back to 243CM, I pinged James and asked if he could help me program my new AV-30. They have had a recent software update, and since the instrument is not yet installed, I thought it would be easy to update it while I was in town. Nothing is ever easy……..

I first stopped by a retail store to find “jumper wires”……no luck. I then had to swing by my neighbor’s (Glen’s) house to pick up my mail (one of the plugs I needed for the programming update were in my mail). While there, I asked if he had some jumper wires I could borrow – voila! Yes, he had some! Glen needs his own post. More on that later, but here’s a great photo of Glen!

Glen Moore, my amazing Columbia City neighbor.

James met me at the airport with his windows laptop and we set upon the project. Stan (SW tiedowns’ resident mechanic) stopped by with some very helpful plugs and knowledge. Soon-ish, we had power on the AV-30 and it sprang to life. On the first screen we learned that the device already had the most current software and all of this was unnecessary. James just laughed.

James Bush after finding out the software was already up to date.

James is one amazing person. We met flying to Burningman in 2013. He parked his plane near us at the aiport in Seattle, but we didn’t meet until we were both in Kelso, WA, weathered out on our way south. Scott was a bit snarky to James at first, but warmed up as soon as he learned James was also going to the Playa. We have been great friends since.

I am so, so grateful to know James and to have him in my life. Everyone needs a friend like him. He’s a gem whom I treasure.

Tears of joy

When I walked into the hanger this morning there was Charlie Mike standing on new landing gear. I immediately dissolved into tears.

Back on its own two (three) feet

What a milestone in this long, painful, circuitous journey. They were tears of joy.

So sweet!

Alas, there are some setbacks with the axels. I guess that’s the process of a prototype. Tony has been great and I know he will get this fixed just to soon as possible.

Those weren’t the first tears I have spilled over this project, and they will not be the last. If I get to choose, I’ll take the joyful version every time.

Meet Josh

We are nearing the finish line! When I say we, I mean 243CM, me, Josh and Ray. My airplane is mainly getting hands-on attention from Josh. He’s a 24 year old A/P mechanic student in Spokane, who holds a PPL and commercial pilot’s license and is a very impressive young man. He goes to school Mon-Thursday and then works for Ray Fri – Sun. Along with that, he has time to ski and do other fun activities. Another fun fact about Josh is that he went to the High School at Boeing Field.

He has done a great job working on Charlie Mike. Today he is replacing the landing gear for the second time. We were ready for final assembly (of the landing gear) when we realized the gear was bent and would not line up. Tony, from TK1 racing, was kind enough to overnight us a new set. This should be the last time the landing gear need to go on and off. Once the gear is on, we add new axels the big tires and then roll the plane outside and put the wings on.

While Josh has been working away, I have been doing a couple of projects too. Yesterday, I installed VG’s to the horizontal stabilizer. They also go on the wing, but I think I’ll wait until the wings are on to install those just to eliminate the risk of damage.

VG’s installed using a super nice kit
The super nice kit.

The oil is now changed, the avionics person has begun work, and next we install the prop, and fire CM up! My tentative (hopeful) departure date is April 14. Keep your fingers crossed.

Home, sweet home

I left Missoula this morning for the last leg of this journey. Thanks to David and Leea for letting me stay. It was a treat to meet Leea for the first time. We stayed up way past our bedtime chatting about life.

Mid way back, I stopped at Lake Coeur d’Alene for a run. Spring is in the air and I’m ready.

Run along the lake

The plane made huge progress, the trailer is in ship shape, the snow has melted off the ground, and I’m ready to re-set me focus on being a pilot and flying!

Best Day of skiing this year!

Today, I skied at Lost Trail ski area in Montana. What a place! When I arrive to the parking lot at 8:00am, there were a couple dozen cars, many with lawn chairs, Coleman stoves, and camp chairs set up. It felt like a celebration! People were smiling and the vibe was happy.

Lost Trail Ski area

The sun was bright, there was not a cloud in sight, and seven inches of fresh powder have dropped on the hills in the past 48 hours. David Brown drove down from Missoula to meet up with me. I was super excited to see him, and to have a local guide for the day.

David on our first Run of the Day

A few quick details about Lost Trail: They are closed Mon-Wed, so THE day to ski, if you want fresh powder, is Thursday. Tickets are $41 for the sixty-plus set, $48 those under 60. The Lift operators were super fun and enetertaining. The top of Chair #1 has snow sculptures out front, which they feature on their dedicated FB page. The chair #4 crew posts their playlists on Spotify, they have a prayer wheel and burn incense.

Sculptures at the lifty booth
Lifty booth at Chair #4

After doing a couple of groomers on chairs #1 and #2, we headed over to the later-opening Chair #4. We were probably among the first 20 chairs and the fresh powder was untouched. David knew just where to go, and we glided down the untouched snow, through the trees, and then more trees, and then more smooth snow….. WOW! I said to David “Let’s do that again!”.

Freshie in the trees

We skied that area many more times, choosing a fresh line on each run. The sun was out, but it was cold enough to keep the snow light and smooth. We finally took a break for lunch about one and then finished the day when the lifts were closing.

Today was my best day of skiing of the year! And that is saying a LOT!

The Tetons!!

A short note: I posted this earlier today and then just had to go look for images to go along with my story. I had all of my photos digitized before I hit the road. Voila! I found a photo for each of my trips to the Tetons. Sorry for reposting…..

This part of the world continues to amaze me. I started my day skinning up White Pine ski area. At the top I was looking at the Wind River Range.

Wind River Range. Looking East from the top of White Pine

I then drove NW to Jackson. The drive continued to take my breath away.

Bridger Teton National Forest

Then, I arrived at the Tetons. What makes it so special?

The Grand from my ski route

My first visit was in 1982 when I was a Yellowstone Park employee. I drove down from Mammoth Hot Springs (where I was working and living) with Al from St Louis and Bob from Chicago. They were two inner city kids. Bob’s dad was a City of Chicago bus driver and Bob had never left his neighborhood before coming to Yellowstone. We were all equally blown away by the Tetons. Jackson, at that time, was a small town. We partied at the Million Dollar Cowboy bar and The Mangy Moose before heading out to Teton Village (where there was almost nothing other than the ski area) where we rolled out of the car, and slept in a ditch.

Al meeting the Tetons for the first time
Bob and Al in the Tetons

My next visit was in the late 90’s for a Kili reunion. This photos says enough…’s a long story and we didn’t get to do the climb we had planned (not the Grand).

Scott’s helicopter ride out of the Tetons.

In the early 00’s I was back to climb The Grand Teton. I was with my usual climbing partner Kevork. He flew in and was on a tight timeline. We decided to play it safe and climb the Owen’s Spalding route. When we got to the top, we were both really disappointed, the route was just too easy. We juggled our plan, and figured out that we had enough time to climb the classic Exum Ridge. We had to really be efficient in order to get Kevork to his flight, and we made it! We were so happy that we didn’t settle and went for it!

Kevork with our Permit

My fourth trip back to the Tetons was in 243CM with Scott. We flew into the Jackson airport. I remember being surrounded by lear jets. Airforce two was also on the ramp. Dick Cheney was VP at that time, and was “home”. We were treated as though we had arrived in a jet. By filling up with fuel, they let us tie down among the many jets. We thought it was hilarious.

243CM in the Tetons

Scott and I pulled our climbing packs out of the plane and headed to the road to hitchhike into the park. It was easy to get a ride and the women who drove us kindly let us out just short of the park gate. When we arrived at the gate, the ranger was so impressed we were on foot, he gave us free entry for a week! We went around the corner from the toll booth (the ranger said hitching in the park is illegal) and stuck out our thumbs and had a ride to the Teton Climbers Ranch in minutes.

Our climb was uneventful, and we summitted well ahead of the threat of thunderstorms. We had so many laughs on our way up the peak. I thought of those moments over and over today, laughing out loud a couple of times.

Jenny Lake

Then, as I was skiing to Jenny Lake the song that always makes me think of this place came on. There is something so special for me here. I will always love The Tetons.

“The really happy person……

is the one who can enjoy the scenery, even when they have to take a detour.”

― Sir James Jeans

This is how I felt today when my phone directed me to a dirt road today. The directions said to go this way for 75 miles. At first I thought, “oh no……what if?”

Then I thought, well, this looks beautiful! I will just head this way and see how it goes. Within a mile, a very special canyon started to take shape. It was beautiful! Then, I came to this sign:

Rock Springs is 75 miles from here.

Well, this sounds super cool, so onward! The canyon just kept getting better and better.

Irish Canyon

The road was hard packed dirt for about 30 miles. At that point, the road shifted from Colorado to Wyoming and pavement began. I passed two cars in those 75 miles.

What a gift to see this part of the world. A lucy break by choosing the route that was 8 minutes longer when given the option. Not really a shortcut, but you get the idea.

I fell in love today

This morning I said goodby (see you later) to Cha Cha, Linda, Aldo, Alfred and Chama. Time to head back northwest.

Cha Cha opening the gate.

The drive was stunning. I was in a valley surrounded by snow peaked mountains the entire way. Wow.

Cha Cha suggested I stop in Salida, so I did. What a quaint, hip, active, happening place! There were thrift stores, art galleries, breweries, distilleries, bike shops and a huge waterfront park. The town sits beside the Arkansas River, and given it was a warm sunny day, kayakers dotted the race course running through downtown.

Art in downtown Salida

Next to the river was a large parking lot nearly filled with mountain bikers. Adjacent are acres of mountain bike trails. Sweet!

Sign in the parking lot

Such a great energy, in a beautiful place. After spending an hour or so walking around twon, I headed onward. My stop for the night: Leadville. My Airbnb host let me check in early, so I changed into my running clothes and headed out the door. I had learned of The Mineral Belt Trail that circles the town from someone I met in a parking lot in Red River Valley. The trail is about 11 miles and is groomed in winter for skiing. I thought skiing would be marginal at best, given the warm weather, so running seemed like the better choice.

Mineral Belt Trail

After running the trail for about 3 miles, I found the nordic trailhead, which was groomed and had great conditions. Could have skied, and running on the trail was great. I ran about half the loop, and then headed toward downtown. It’s a small, quaint, beautiful, bustling, old, well maintained, mining town. What a treat.

Wow, What a day! Leadville is lovely, and Salida is my new love. Both have nice airports. I will be back, soon.

Frijoles Canyon trail run

Scott, his dad, and his brother once met at Bandelier National Monument for a multi-day backpacking trip. The trip was a way to connect, spend time together, and visit a place none of them had been before.

I went there, for my first time, yesterday. It was a sunny, nearly 60 degree day and I was game for a trail run.

I chose Frijoles Canyon for my run and it was beautiful.

The trail starts at the visitor center and then heads towards an ancient village including cliff dwellings. It reminded me of a mini Machu Picchu.

Looking out from a cave
Cliff dwellings

After climbing around the village and caves, I headed up the trail.

Ancient graffiti

The trail is popular, but after about two miles, I was alone. Along the trail, there were patches of deep snow, and a meandering creek that I crossed dozens of times. Mostly, it was quiet and beautiful.

Walls of the narrow canyon
Can you see the face?

Running the canyon plus the rim as a loop would have been amazing, but I started late in the day and didn’t want to push finishing at dusk. I settled on an eleven-ish mile out and back. Much to my surprise, the trail back was downhill.

I enjoyed spending the time thinking of Scott and how much laughter he would have shared with his Dad and brother on this trail. It filled my heart with joy.

Come ski with me :-)

I will be leaving New Mexico on Sunday, March 7 to ski my way home. Please accept my invitation to join me at any of the ski areas along the way. I have rooms (and one house) reserved the night prior to the ski date. Join me!

The route

Sunday March 7 – Leadville, Air BNB – whole house! Skate ski in Leadville

Monday March 8th- Ski Cooper ski lifts

Monday night March 8th – Pinedale, Wy

Tuesday March 9th – Whitepine skin up, ski down

Tuesday Night March 9th – Jackson Hole, Wy Air BNB

Wednesday March 10th – Ski Jackson Hole! ski lifts (yes, super expensive, but my favorite place in the USA to ski)

Wednesday night March 10th – Salmon, ID

Thursday March 11th ski – Lost Trail I have one friend meeting me here.

Thursday night March 11th – stay with friend in Missoula

Friday March 12 – Home.

It’s a fast trip. Ski, ski, ski, drive, drive, drive. I want to be to Lost Trail on Thursday, because they are closed Mon-Wed and you get the best freshie by landing there on Thursday.

Send me a note! Hope you can join me!