A Break from Building to Build Louder

What a powerful few days!

We recently paused in the construction process of the home we are building to transition into our Build Louder piece of the trip. Habitat trips are generally one week in length with five days of building, but by adding a few more days, we are able to incorporate meetings and cultural education with local non-profits and good-doers, which literally helps us Build Louder in this community and our own.

We began this section with an extra 30 minutes of sleep and a delicious breakfast in San Salvador – a great start! Then headed to the Habitat for Humanity El Salvador national office to meet with Jóvenes contra de violencia (translates to: Youth Against Violence – http://www.jovenescontralaviolencia.com/). They are a local organization working to prevent violence in children in Central America. The people we met with are truly making progress with today’s youth through education and awareness. I hope to be able to partner with them in the future. The second organization was Techo (http://www.techo.org/paises/elsalvador/). Through fundraising and donations, Techo is able to build low income, temporary housing for families in transitional periods. I’m excited to spread the word about this group and the potential relationship it may have with Habitat for Humanity.

The next couple days were spent learning about the history of El Salvador – something we tried to educate ourselves with prior to this trip, but could never fully grasp until now. We visited Monseñor (Oscar) Romero’s residence, burial site, and church where he was killed. We went to UCA (the University of Central America) where six Jesuit priests were teaching, residing, and brutally killed because of the things they believed in. We walked along “the Wall” depicting the hundreds of civilians killed during the war, listing out every single name and site that was attacked. We took time at El Mozote, where hundreds of innocent children and families were brutally murdered simply because they were there.

As a group and individuals on this trip, we have found so much love and hope throughout El Salvador. It’s been a difficult few days trying to digest all the knowledge we have learned while literally standing on the ground where it occurred.

Some people think that it’s silly for me to travel abroad to help build homes for people I don’t even know. Some question why I don’t just stay in the United States. After being here in El Salvador and learning about this history, in the end, we truly are all Americans. We all live in America. Whether it be North America, Central America, or South America, it is all America, we are all Americans, and we are all humans on this earth.

Of you’re interested in learning more about the history I El Salvador and the places we have visited, I am more than willing to share my experiences with you. But it is not meant to be shared here.

We are back in Usulutan from our long weekend away and are all ready to see our family at the work site once again! For heaven’s sake! We’ve got a house to build! 🙂

– A

El Salvador!

After 14 (+8) hours, I have made it to El Salvador. It is so exciting to be here; y mucho caliente! As this is my second trip to Central America for a Global Village trip, I’m mostly excited for our nightly reflections with our group (compiled of EC students who most of which have not been to Central America before). Our first one is tonight!

Yesterday was actually the start of my journey. It started at 4am. Missoula to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Chicago. Luckily I caught an earlier than scheduled flight from MSO, giving me more time to spend some time with Hannah. She’s turning 13 tomorrow!! I can’t even believe it. We went to Chipotle for lunch where we completed our Christmas celebrations with the annual Santa Bags, then the evening shooting arrows at each other – dodgeball style. Hannah pulled a Katniss Aberdeen and had her birthday party at this new Archery place in Elmhurst. It was super fun! Even more that mom and dad played too! I haven’t been able to be around for Hannah’s birthday for at least 4 or 5 years, so I’m very happy I had that opportunity 🙂

Today was 4am day #2 of travel for me. Our group met at O’Hare and had a layover in Dallas. We were informed at one point that our flight was delayed by 1 hour due to high air traffic congestion in the Gulf of Mexico region. After about an hour and a half, we boarded. Come to find out, 30 minutes of sitting later, we were delayed even more due to some chipped paint on the back of one of our plane’s wings. It would have been fine, but if it were to chip anymore it could expose mechanical parts in the wing… so… An hour and a half later, a signed clearance paper arrived and we we’re set to go! Just after we wait another 20 minutes for the giant plane in front of us to also get clearance!

It’s been a journey thus far and I’m thrilled to not see 4am for a while.

Headed to our hotel! I’ll update as I can! Enjoy your snow storm 😉

Thank you!

To everyone that helped me get to Guatemala, I thank you. To the ones who financially supported me, offered words of excitement, have encouraged me in the past and the present, arranged our stay and building excursions, helped out when I was sick, got me a sweet travel bag to help get along, taught me necessary Spanish words, invites me on the trip, hiked a volcano with me, had wonderful conversations with me, and enjoyed a meal with me, I thank you.

There wasn’t much time for post cards or finding a post office, but I’m publicly thanking you now. I hope you’ve had a chance to read the previous blogs and I hope your support was worth your while. If you have more questions about my trip, shoot me a message or talk to me in person. I’m always willing to talk about my experiences 🙂

So I hiked the Picaya! Well let’s see, I hiked the first half up the mountain and then gave in to the peer pressure of the horse and his merchant following my every move; asking “want a horse ride, much easier way up”… I have in. It was with throw up (probably from all the pre-medicating I did the day before to not get sick again) or pay 100 Quetzales (I totally spelled that wrong in my last post) and take the horse the rest if the way up. It was worth it. And now I can say I hiked and rode a horse up a volcano. When we got to the top, there was the “lava shop”, a very tranquil jewelry hut selling jewelry to represent the volcanoes of Guatemala. The merchant was playing an extremely Muzak-esque version of “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic… (On the way down our tour guide was playing music like “love shack” and the sorts on his phone). When we were at the top, our guide pulled out a bag of flavored marshmallows and skewers so we could toast them at the “picnic spot” (a hole of hot, hot rocks). Our guide also took a moment to dig out some of those said hot, hot rocks and let us hold them. That didn’t last long. From marshmallow land we went up just a bit more to a plateau where we could see all surrounding cities and some loco wild horses! From there we headed down and around, passing through trees for avocados, kumquats, lemon, peaches, and the specific trees that marimbas are made from. We smelled, touched, and tasted many things and we saw some incredible views! We (as in Kelly and I) also met some very nice people visiting from Germany, Australia, the US, and Spain on the hike. And now I get to check that off my bucket list 🙂

Last night we ate at a restaurant called Fork on the Hill (en español of course). You literally take a shuttle up the hill to get there. It’s associated with the Santa Domingo Hotel/museum/ruins/possible future wedding destination… I mean, it was a serious amount of beautiful. Lots of archeological finds, uncovered ruins, fountains, and parrots! I had a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc with a great margarita pizza while we watched the sun set behind the volcano. Before we went back to the hotel, Kelly, Nicki, and I stopped at a nice restaurant in Antigua for some Chocolate mousse and aqua pura, accompanied by some live music. What a great, peaceful, relaxing last night to an incredible week.

Airport day:
Today is airport day número two. Wake up 3:45am. 45 min. car ride to Guatemala City airport. GUA. LAX. SLC. MSO. Then home!! I am writing this from the LAX-SLC flight and was very excited to land back in the states. I finally watched the movie Frozen on my first flight. It was definitely a kids Disney movie (fast moving, colorful, unbelievable becoming believe able, ya know), but I really did like it. I’d for sure love to get the sheet music for a few of the songs. But what was good about it was that it brought me back to the states in a mind freeing kinda way. Not necessarily because I’m on my way back to the winter tundra of Missoula (although that also makes sense), but because watching a fairy tale movie is not something that would happen while in Guatemala. It was good to get my mind back in US mode through Disney… maybe.

Anyway, I’m back in the states and ready for the next step. Spanish and H4H Global Village Team leader investigating and training. Hold me to it, okay?!

Thank you again, a million times over, for supporting me on this trip.

Until next time.

– A

Our Goodbyes.

Saying goodbye is always difficult. Whether it be to your family when leaving for work everyday, before leaving for a weekend trip away from home, or moving away without a return date, saying goodbye is just hard. I know saying goodbye to love ones who are passing/have passed away is the most difficult of all, but saying goodbye after a week of sweat, tears, jokes, laughs, conversations, and just good times has to be the topper for me. And it’s not necessarily a sad time, but a time hope for the families working in their homes and a reminiscent time to hold in the the memories and friendships you have made. On a build trip, you generally get to know people better about half way through – the workers, your peers, the family. As the week comes to an end, you really start to ask the questions you have, talk with ones you haven’t talked with before, and really forget and barriers you might have. Although most of us on the trip from the US only speak a little English and a majority of the people from Guatemala really don’t speak any English at all, we still were able to build, joke, and have fun. No matter what your religious or cultural beliefs are, if you just let go of your barriers and treat everyone for the human that they are, I’m positive our lives would be full of happiness, countries would be better friends, and the world would be a better place.

I’m aware that those are grand statements, but being the human I am and the human you are, I ask you to simply accept my opinion for what you think it’s worth.

Like I stated, saying goodbye after a build trip is just hard to do. I felt the same way after meeting my Delaware friends for the first time and I will never forget the fun times we had. Three years in a row we did build trips together, after each one not knowing if we’d ever see each other again. Now that most of us are graduated from college and living our adult lives it’s much more difficult to keep in contact.

This is where I’m truly thankful for Facebook. If you’re my friend in Facebook, you’ve probably seen that I’m already friends with two of the people that work for habitat in Guatemala. Once I get bcc to the states, I look forward to posting my photos and tagging my new friends. Through these connections my Guatemalan friends might some day need a place to stay in the US (although most of them are quite discouraged to come to both Montana and Chicago – at least in our winter time. *see fun fact below). And maybe one day I’ll bring a group to Guatemala to work on more homes or just to see our new friends.

Saying goodbye is just hard to do.

For the future;
What does this mean for me for the future? I need to learn Spanish. I learned it in grade school, then switched to French for two years in high school. Growing up in Bensenville, Illinois I was a silly girl to think that was smart. Sure, I had my reasons at the time that I still think are valuable and I got an awesome trip to France out of it with my bestest friend in the world. But, being the realist that I am now, I really regret not keeping up with the Spanish. I’ll take a class and/or gets some learning tools when I get back home.

I’d love to be a Habitat for Humanity Global Village leader. I’ve been talking with Connie (Nicki’s mom) about all the details and I think it’s totally do-able. Ever since my first work trip with my church, I’ve wanted to do work like this. Also, H4H is literally my most favorite organization. I’m so thankful for my experiences at Elmhurst College for introducing me to them.

I’m interested on going on a trip like this with a group of friends. Anyone really who want to go. This is just an idea that will be spinning in my brain. I know it would be difficult to find a date and place that would accommodate everyone interested, but one day I hope to figure that out.

Those are my thoughts for now on goodbyes. Thanks for joining me on “Life Lessons with Amanda” 🙂

We’re on our way over to Antigua for the rest of the trip – the “old capital”. Going to a restaurant called the Sky Bar – called Sky Bar because it’s the only restaurant on the roof of a two story building in the city. Before sunset you can see all of Antigua – I’ll take pictures. I’m hoping to have enough energy to hike a volcano tomorrow, then up at 4am on Sunday to start the journey home. This has been such a great trip. Hopefully I’ll have time for one more post after the volcano hike.

Thanks for reading,

– A

* Apparently Chicago had its coldest day in history while we were here. Missoula has a legit blizzard watch. Not “winter weather warning”. Blizzard. Watch. Also, so sad to hear about the avalanche in Missoula’s Rattlesnake area. I hope everyone is found and doing well.

Well, TOMS shoes at least! The lady who delivered our lunch to the work site today was wearing a pair. I was very much hoping she received them from a shoe drop from the company, but she actually bought them down the road for 200 consuelas (about $25 a pair). As Nicki and I were talking with her about the shoes, with the translation help from Ben, she said she would take us there in the tuk tuk (3 wheeled rickshaw, just like India). You better believe Nicki and I went with her! I’m not exactly sure where these TOMS shoes came from, but they were in a shoe store just down the road. In the little Spanish I have, we both got some TOMS. I hope we have something to do with the one for one movement, but if not, it was a fun adventure, we took a ride with some new friends, and helped support the local economy (and got some great shoes on the cheap)! Yesterday we started the day by stopping at Maria’s house. Maria is a Habitat volunteer who has also received a habitat home. She was telling us that she is a single mom with two kids, and when her kids were in school she would work to support them. She rented a home for 21 years before applying with Habitat for Humanity. She had little faith in the organization as she had tried to work with others in the past and it always fell through. But within the first 6 months of working with H4H, she and her son had their homes built and were living inside. She felt so truly thankful and has been actively volunteering with Habitat ever since. It was very neat to see her home and the home of another family whose home just got the front door attacked last week. The work day was pretty much more of the same. We found out that instead of 14 rebar ladders, we actually need 20… and instead of 90 carefully hollowed out cinder blocks, we need 150… We definitely made a dent in the work, but have many more to go. That’s what we’ll be doing today a well as some more brick laying and concrete mixing. Thankfully there’s at least a little cloud cover today. Cultural adventure: The Guatemala Habitat affiliate has two architect interns working on our work site a couple days throughout the week; Juan & Edgar. They go to the one public university in Guatemala. Fun fact: it only costs 12 US dollars to attend the university for one full year of schooling!! How crazy sweet is that?! So last night Carlos (the director of H4H Guatemala) and his mom, sister, and sister in law made us a common dish of chicken, potatoes, and rice in broth – very tasty – with corn on the cob and a simple bread with a difficult to say word en español. We had the dinner at Juan’s house because it was a bigger space. It was a great time getting to know him and his two room mate/architect friends who are my age. Juan and Miriam speak a good bit of English, so we were able to talk with them about what their typical day is like, their favorite music, and what thy hope to do with their careers in the future. It was SO incredibly hot in the house with all the people there (maybe 20-30). I’m pretty sure I made my dress turn a darker shade of blue after sweating through dinner. Anyway, Carlos tagged a picture of Nicki and I with our new friends on Facebook. Looks like We’ve gained some Guatemalan Facebook friends (WIN!). Despite the heat last night, getting to know those kids was probably my favorite part of the trip so far. That’s always my favorite part of these trips – getting to know the people. Poor Kelly (our room mate and one of the Americorp vistas that works for the Northern Fox Valley Habitat affiliate) is so sick right now. Lucky her, gets to have a trip to the clinic today. Hopefully a little saline drip will help boost her system back to normal. There have been 9 of the 16 of us that have gotten sick on this trip so far. We’ve been trying to decipher the cause, but really can’t pinpoint the source. I was sick first, on Sunday, but only for about 5-6 hours and have been great ever since. Everyone else has something like a 24 hour flu or something. We’re all getting to know each other in ways you don’t really anticipate getting to know each other… yes, I’m talking bodily fluids 🙂 Have I mentioned all the animals on our work site?! I don’t think the illnesses and the animals (or the food or water) are in any way related, but my allergies are going ape shit crazy! The family has chickens, birds, dogs, puppies, kittens,and a random dove just roaming around the house and a pig and some horses next door. The allergies have been better the past couple days and yes, the puppies are so cute. I can barely handle it. Sometimes all the animals just pile together an cuddle. My goodness. Adorable! Today, again, was more of the same. I did a lot of the stacking of the cinder blocks in each of the rooms to make it easier for our team to reach then for the walls. As we would move a section of blocks, the chickens would come frantically searching around for little bugs that have been hiding. We found a HUGE black spider in one of the blocks (about the size of my hand). Steve flipped the block and shook the spider out right in the middle of the chicks and it turned into chaos!! One little chicky got his meal for the week out of that bugger! He snatched it and booked his tail feathers! We were all going to take a trip to the very popular tourist site of the water park after work today, but we couldn’t find any thing suits in town. So a shower will have to do (and sounds better and out of the sun anyway). After talking with some locals from Guastatoya (where our hotel is) and San Sare (where we’re working), we’ve found out that it jut turned into Guatemala’s summer season. Even the locals can’t handle to be in this heat for more than an hour or two at a time. Made us all feel not so bad about taking so many breaks on the work sort too. Just one half day more of work, closing ceremony, an adventure in Antigua, and back on the plane. This week is seriously flying by. Until next time, – A


375 C-clips later…

Upon arrival at our job site yesterday, I had no idea what our Mesa (construction leader), Julio, was going to have us doing.

We have split our group up between two different work sites. We heard rumor that one site’s foundation had been previously shoveled out and the other had yet to be. Luckily, we ended up at the ready to roll foundation site. Don’t let that make you think it would be any easier though.

Yesterday, I spent most of my morning bending thick wire into rectangular shapes for the horizontal support beams for the first layer of concrete on the house (four bends per wire, about two minutes per rectangle). My tools: work gloves, rusty wire, a “grifa” for bending, and a wooden block nailed to another wooden block multiple nails half way inserted for proper measurements of your rebar pieces. Still with me here? I made about 52 of those and definitely have the blisters to prove it. After those were complete, we were able to create the rebar for the first layer of cement. That was a project that multiple people worked on throughout the day.

The next bending project was for the vertical rebar – the C clip (en español: el eslabón). I made a good portion of the 375 eslabóns that were needed. From there, we would take two (about 6 or so foot long) wires, lay them across 4 stacks of spaced apart cinder blocks, slide on 25 c clips (alternating the side where the opening is/top vs. bottom), tied a figure 8 knot with thinner wire (el alambre) on both sides of the clip to hold it in place, then twist el alambre with wire cutters (la tenaza) until the extra ends fall off. As of yesterday we needed 14 of those… Now it’s looking more like 20.

Other jobs to do on the job site: water the trenches where cement will be placed; chopping specific chunks out of cinder blocks with machetes for the layer of blocks where electrical wires are placed; reading Spanish books with the kids; mixing concrete; cutting wire ties; …and many more!

Instead of having your average PB&J brown bag lunch, we have been having full on hot lunches. Guatemala Habitat has contracted with a local restaurant to deliver our meals to us on the work site everyday. Today we ate our meal off real, porcelain plates. It was a thinly sliced pork chop (we think) with a tomato sauce/salsa topping, cooked carrots, delicious macaroni salad (kinda like home), and fresh guacamole. Seriously, guacamole doesn’t get any better than fresh from Guatemala. We had some tamarin juice with lunch. Yesterday we had super delicious pomegranate juice. Just like eating a pomegranate minus all the work!

So I was definitely dehydrated on Sunday. Stomach pains, yellow fluids (I’ll spare you the details – you’re welcome). Only last a few hours, but it was awful! I literally haven’t been sick in about two or three years (since moving to Montana) so when Nicki asked if I was okay, all I could respond with was a “mhm, yeaup…” Nicki’s seen me sick before – she knew. All was done though. Ready to eat and work by Monday morning. My lucky friends though; Nicki had an awful fever, the works yesterday while on the work site and through the night. She got whatever it was out, slept it off and was her cheery self by this morning. Now it’s Kelly’s turn! We may have been passing around some kind of virus, but no ones really sure. We’re all just happy to get it out and continue with our work. DRINK YOUR FILTERED WATER ALWAYS!! Don’t get dehydrated. Ever.

Last night we got a quick Spanish lesson from one of our guides, Ben. He taught us a lot of the names of the tools we’re using on the work site (hence my references earlier in the post). It was tremendously helpful on the work site today.

We’ve got some fun things planned for the next couple days including (but not limited to): group bathing suit shopping, traditional meals from locals, tours of previously built habitat houses, possibly trip to a local water park…

Stay tuned!

– A

I may have sipped the water…

Granted, it was in Horchata (rice water, nutmeg) and at a restaurant that uses filtered water. Just wanted to grab your attention 🙂 Mama, sorry if I scared you… The drink was delicious!

All my flights were really great yesterday. I could smell the new plane smell of the leather seats and fresh plastic on plane #2 and was seriously loving Delta’s 80’s themed informational video, featuring Alf, Nintendo, and ridiculously large hair-dos. My flight in to Guatemala arrived 45 minutes late after being delayed in LA, but it was half full giving all passengers plenty of room to spread out. Guatemala City customs was a breeze and barely anyone in the airport. It was wonderful to see Nicki and her mom waiting outside the airport for me. I mean I very much love to travel, but the comfort of familiarity in an unfamiliar environment is a rewarding joy after a long day in the air.

Driving to the hotel from the airport brought back many memories of India, too. The driving, the people, the look of shops on the street. Although, Guatemala City doesn’t seem to have nearly as many cows roaming about… I’m told the animal to count while driving about is stray dogs – seems much more intense than cows!

The hotel we’re staying at tonight is straight out of America. Filtered water, TV, free WiFi, super cozy beds, ice machines, the works. To give it that Central America city vibe, the parties outside the window lasted all night long…

Dinner was your typical Mexican food (not Tex-Mex!) with the freshest guacamole I’ve ever had and the most delicious carnitas tacos I’ve encountered. They look so tiny on the plate, but filled me up just fine. This is where my Horchata adventure occurred. All is well 🙂

So here starts the Habitat building adventure. We’ll be on the road for just a couple hours today to reach our destination of El Progreso, Guatemala. I was informed that the hotel for the week will not be anywhere near the standards of the first night, but it is safe and has a shower (and maybe a small pool) and that’s all that really matters. We’re not here to be pampered, we’re all here to make a difference.

I’ll be writing blogs throughout the week in note form on my phone so they’re ready to loaded to my website when the time arises.

Until the WiFi & I are reunited…

– A

Guatemala, here I come!

It’s been a busy week, but I’ve been packed since Wednesday and am ready for a weather change and break from my 7-5 work day.

I suppose I can’t right out say I’m taking a break from work, because in all reality I’ll be physically working harder everyday this week to help improve the lives for at least one family with Habitat for Humanity International. Nicki and I will be reunited in another country (where we tend to be better at being friends anyway – see all previous India blog posts) doing the things we love to do.

17 hours of waiting/traveling today. MSO. SLC. LAX. Guatemala City. I was the first traveller at the airport this morning, making for a relaxing walk through security. I’m excited to be sporting my Osprey Porter 45 bag as my only bag for the trip, making my sprints through the airports today a breeze. Hopefully I’ll be able to snag a latte somewhere along the way 😉

First flight of my adventure boarding soon. Stay posted for updates throughout the week!

Thanks for reading!

Backpacking Adventure: Operation Anaconda Pintlers

Happy September! Here begins my favorite time of the year: scarves, hot tea, board games, and homemade soups. Too bad it’s still coasting at 90 degrees.

For the past year (at least) Jake and I have been talking about doing a backpacking trip somewhere in Montana. We didn’t want it to be too many days or just an overnight trip, nor to be too hot outside. So this weekend was the perfect time!

Read on to hear about some fun things that happened on the trip or scroll down to view my list of the foods we ate and everything we packed!

We headed up to the Anaconda Pintlers for a three day, two night backpacking trip; just the two of us. As we approached the trailhead, we were the only car in the lot. This made us super pumped as we were looking to just have a nice weekend away together. Each of us had just one pack filled with only the necessary items we would need to survive in the Anaconda wilderness – as well as the Settlers of Catan card game (I removed all the extra player cards to lighten our load).

About one and a half miles in a big gust of wind blew through and all of a sudden we heard what sounded like an old man trying to burp while gurgling… think about that for a second. I don’t think it was an old man. This stopped us dead in our tracks – Jake’s hand on the bear spray, my hand reaching for my knife. Then we heard another “old man” further behind us. We are pretty sure this was a certain type of hairy, clawed old man… THEN, if that weren’t enough, the breeze got bigger and it sounded as if the trees were now Ents roaming about the woods! The trees were so dense, we could not see anything, but walked slowly – and intensely – past the strange noises and continued our trek.

We gained 1, 670 feet in elevation in about 4-5 miles up to Warren pass. Then practically floated down another 2-3 miles and landed a super sweet camp spot just beach side of Carpp Lake. After brushing away some rocks and dead pine leaves, I made a flat surface for our tent. There was already an awesome fire pit, plenty of logs for firewood chopping, and some great sittin’ rocks. After establishing our campsite, we explored for a “bathroom” area and found a large three sided boulder “room” good for digging holes 🙂 We then picked a rocky spot next to the lake to cook dinner and hang our packs for the night. We were in bed pretty early.

Day two consisted of just 4-5 miles, all uphill! Just a few weekends ago, a group of us did the Grizzly Medicine Lake trail in Glacier National Park. That was a 14 mile round trip hike that we completed in just 6 hours. So, to say we only did 4-5 miles on day two may sound pretty weak, but keep in mind the following: the previous day we hiked nearly 1700 ft up in about 7 miles, we had an extra 30-40 lbs strapped to our backs for three straight days, the whole day was uphill.

Our destination was Tamarack Lake and we booked it to another sweet lake side camp site with an already established fire pit and some great “couch logs” – quite cozy. Since we were now professional backpackers after one and a half days on the trail, we unloaded all our gear, set up camp, and took a much needed nap! If was I slightly more rebellious, you better believe I would have killed a fly to create a makeshift fly rod to put in that lake. There were SO many fish popping up. Next time, I will bring my fly box no matter where we hike to – just in case.

Day three: our calves were pulsing and standing first thing in the morning was quite difficult. We were both sore, but it felt so good. After breakfast, we packed up and headed out. Whenever I am on the trip back from either a couple mile hike, fourteen mile hike, or overnight trip, I tend to seriously truck it back to the trailhead. Sometimes I even get so excited that we’re on the way back, a throw in a couple seconds here and there of running on the trail. I know it’s crazy, but it’s so true. Jake even had to lead multiple times this day because I was just going too dang fast. Also, I don’t run because I’m excited to be out of the woods, I run because I’m so excited from the fun that we have had and the fun that we will have after the fact.We took one stop for a water fill up and made it back to our car from Tamarack Lake in just three and a half hours. Pretty sure that was a record for that stretch of land.

The best part about ending a long hike (or many days of hiking) is getting back to your car, taking off your sweat soaked t’shirt and big, heavy hiking boots and throwing on an old pair of TOMS shoes. Next best thing, hitting up the first available gas station for a coca cola from the fountain machine and some classic lays potato chips. What a great weekend!

FOOD WILL HELP YOU LIVE! With Marla’s recent visit to Missoula (finally), she left paleo thoughts on my mind while creating our meal plans for the trip. not everything is paleo friendly, but I think she’d be proud as to how much actually is 🙂

Friday Breakfast: everything bagel w/ cream cheese, bacon, red onion and scrambled eggs, Tipus Chai tea

Friday Lunch: 1/2 Reuben from The Good Food Store‘s deli and half a small bag of sea salt kettle chips (breakfast was quite filling)

Friday Dinner: Jasmine rice mixed with Campbell’s Coconut Curry Soup with chicken and shittake mushrooms, few pieces of jerky, 1 twizzler each, dark chocolate, and 1/2 Turkey/Bacon/Avocado sandwich from The GFS (we bought two sandwiches for lunch that morning before we left, thinking we’d both eat one at lunch. Since we weren’t that hungry then, we were Super hungry for dinner – but had plenty of food)

Saturday Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal w/ cinnamon sugar, banana chips, dehydrated apple slices, and scoop of almond butter, Jake had some coffee, I had hot tea

Saturday Lunch: Flour tortilla filled with almond butter, chocolate hazelnut butter, banana chips/dehydrated apple slices and an assortment of snacks including: jerky (original & teriyaki), salted rice crackers, twizzlers

Saturday Dinner: Mountain House Pasta Primavera with an addition of a can of chicken (this was DELICIOUS! – in a pinch, I could eat that package dry. It was Much better after sitting in boiling water, like the directions say, but seriously super good). We kept our bear vault around and ate a few snacks a bit later around our camp fire – after playing some card games on our rock table we made.

Sunday Breakfast: Coffee (J), Tea (A), Mountain House Breakfast Skillet pouch served in flour tortillas – again, DELICIOUS! If you know Jake and I at all, you know that we LOVE food – and not just fast food or microwavable meals, but we love delicious foods. If you’re looking for some yummy pre-made backpacking meals, I highly suggest Mountain House’s meals. So far, we’re impressed.

Sunday Lunch: Last of the jerky, 1/2 Sierra Trail Mix Clif Bar

Sunday Dinner: @ Tamarack Brewing Company in Missoula (paid for by a sweet gift card) after applying mole skins to our blisters and cleaning our bodies! Success!!

The things we packed: Here’s a list of everything we packed. As far as clothes go, we brought the sames things, but I list those as if for one person.

  • Two Osprey backpacking packs
  • 3 person Marmot Limelight tent
  • 2  zero degree sleeping bags (mine is synthetic down material due to allergies, but I’m a warm sleeper so it does the trick
  • 2 headlamps
  • 1 topographic map of the Anaconda pintlers
  • Primus ETA Power camp stove (includes lighter and pot w/ lid)
  • 1 small canister of fuel
  • 1 – 48 oz plastic water bottle
  • 1 – 3 liter water bladder w/ straw mechanism
  • 2 Sporknifes
  • 2 Therm-a-rest sleeping pads
  • 1 camp pillow – folds up nice and small
  • 2 water purifiers – It’s a good idea to have an extra, just in case your main purifier breaks
  • 2 plastic cups from the REI Nesting Tableware Set – We didn’t need any other plates/bowls because we both just ate out of the stove’s pot for our one pot meals
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses
  • 2 rain shells (both were from REI and fold up into their own stuff sacks)
  • 4 trekking poles (2 each) – these can double as a splint or makeshift crutch in case of an emergency
  • bear spray and holster
  • 1 camp knife and holster
  • 1 50ft rope
  • 1 hatchet (mainly for fire wood chopping)
  • 1 hand shovel (for digging before you squat… And many other uses)
  • a wee bit of fire starter and small box of matches tightly secured in a sip lock baggie
  • camp soap
  • body towel
  • kitchen cleaning towel
  • bear vault (see link above)
  • Food (kept in the bear vault – see above for details)
  • iPhone – kept on airplane mode for 3 days, my iphone only dropped to 79% battery to be remaining and plenty of picture taking room
  • 1 card deck/Settlers of Catan’s Struggle for Catan card game (see link above)
  • small bug spray
  • sun screen for Jake’s paste-y skin
  • 2 toothbrushes
  • 1 small tube Tom’s of Main tooth paste
  • 2 travel size deodorants
  • contact case and travel size solution (glasses & case for emergency)
  • albuteral inhaler
  • small plastic container of aleve and ibuprofen
  • 1 stick Burt’s Bees chapstick
  • 1 roll toilet paper
  • hand sanitizer
  • compact mirror
  • floss
  • first aid kit included: 6 mole skin bandages, butterfly bandages, normal bandages, rubber tourniquet, safety pins, needle, 2 extra buttons (floss would double as thread), triple antibiotic, neosporin, tiny scissors, tweezers, 2 alcohol swabs
  • 2 bandanas
  • change of underwear for each day
  • 1 extra t’shirt
  • 1 pair long underwear (top and bottom – doubled as pj’s in the night)
  • 2 pair wool socks
  • 1 fleece sweater
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 pair mittens
  • 1 fleece headband (I am not a hat wear-er, so this worked out well)
  • 1 pair old TOMS shoes (to wear at the camp site)
  • 1 pair hefty hiking boots
  • 1 tank top and sports bra (started off the trip with these)
  • 1 pair outdoor zip off pants (zip off to be capris, pants, or shorts!)

So there it is! Everything we needed to survive for 3 days in the wilderness.

What types of foods do you like to eat while backpacking? What is your favorite gear to bring along on your backpacking trips? Where is your favorite place to backpack?


Where Are You Now?

Yes, I’m still in Montana! Missoula, Montana as a matter of fact.

It has been a good 7 or so months since my last blog. I think it is about time to catch you all up on what’s happening in my life.

My Work: I am currently/still a medical receptionist at Missoula Bone and Joint. It is an orthopedic clinic with eight doctors and four PAs. I work a full schedule of four days a week and get free health insurance (my card just came in the mail about a month ago)! Jon – one of the eight Chicago area school go-ers that moved out here with us – recently landed a job as MBJ’s cashier. It’s a great job and I get a three day weekend, free health insurance, many free lunches, I work with great people (that give free medical advice), and I am learning something new everyday. One the receptionists’ son has a ranch an hour or so up north, so we get great farm fresh eggs and grass fed/finished ground beef whenever we need it. It is simply the best.

Weekends: I HAVE WEEKENDS! Ever since working at Egg Harbor Cafe in Elmhurst, IL at age fifteen, I had never been able to really experience a weekend. They are so great! Jake and I like to spend our weekends going climbing at the University climbing gym, taking bike rides, renting movies from Crazy Mikes Video (where Dan currently works), making delicious dinners, going on hikes/bouldering/snow shoeing/floating down the river (depending on the season), and playing The Settlers of Catan and Agricola. We’ve also been checking out the record stores and like to stock up on incense, coffee and tea from the local Butterfly Herbs. I seriously never knew weekends could be so great.

Music: My personal music scene is currently dedicated to The Missoula Community Chorus. I have been with this group since last Fall singing in their large, non-auditioned group as well as their auditioned, chamber group. It’s nothing like the EC Concert Choir or the Glen Ellyn’s Children’s Chorus, but we have a lot of fun and sound great. I am also a board member of this group serving as their PR and Marketing rep. So I am finally getting my foot into the world of non-profits! This Saturday we have our annual GALA event at the Keep Restaurant. It is renaissance themed and therefore I will be dressed in a big yellow dress, prancing around the restaurant singing “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” while jingling my tambourine! Go ahead… laugh. I allow it 🙂 Our concert is going to be on Saturday, April 27th at St. Anthony’s Church.

Arts & Crafts: As far as arts and crafts go, you can see what I’ve been doing based simply on my new website! Tooth fairy pillows are my current craze and they’re really pretty popular with some Missoulians. Right when I started making them, I made a few hundred bucks, but they started to die down after the holidays in December. Sarah – Jon’s girlfriend and another of my Chicago area school go-er friends – is currently working at The Learning Tree in the mall and said her boss would love for me to bring in some of my pillows! So after I get my labels made and a few more pillows put together, I’ll hopefully be selling them in a real store! I am also going to plan on getting a table at the People’s Market (which is combined with the Farmer’s Market) every Saturday morning starting Saturday, May 5th. I’m really planning on selling a lot of pillows there. I’ll keep you posted.

Other than that, life is sweet – if you couldn’t already tell. Marla and Jeff have finally gotten me interested in the Primal way of life and sent me a copy of The Primal Blueprint. So after I read through the whole thing, I might be taking a twenty-one day challenge. I’ve already starting cutting out breads and sugars (which has helped with getting rid of some unnecessary headaches I’ve been having) and have been feeling great. Jake, Pete, and I are also getting really into this whole outdoor climbing business. Before Jake had a silly incident with his hand and our new Cutco knives, we were going to the gym about twice a week. Now that his hand is about healed, we’re going to start going back sometime this week. Outdoor bouldering is the second part to that experience. I’ll have more stories about climbing as the weather warms up and as busy scheduled with choir and Jake’s school wind down.

Hope you all had a nice Easter! Until next time…