Category Archives: Missoula

Treasure and Bonk

Friday afternoons I usually cut out of work early and get out for a hike (if I’m not driving somewhere for the weekend), but this last Friday I stayed late and collapsed on my couch around 530. I had expected to drive to Leavenworth, but the weather made climbing unattractive, so my weekend was unexpectedly open. I didn’t even want to think about making plans.

About 10 minutes later I was just drifting off for a nap, when my friend Jeremy called. I was tired. “Can you be at my house right now?” [10 min away by a vigorous bike]

“What’s the gig?”

“Well it’s a treasure hunt with a historical trivia game, adventure race, and math problem inside. Oh, and there is $1000 for the winning team…”


“But I have to be there right now?”
“No, the race is tomorrow, but we gotta strategize. And there is a pre-race meeting.”
“And we’re going to win, right?”

Todd (in helmet) sprints for the opening clues.

Todd (in helmet) sprints for the opening clues.

I have a willingness to get my rump off the couch that never fails me. That willingness is also rarely wrong, which helps. The event was “Brains and Brawn” and was a fundraiser for the Headwaters Dance Company. It may also have been the most fun single event I’ve ever done.

Headquarters for "the Prize Spies" - no team with a pirate flag can be defeated.

Headquarters for “the Prize Spies” – no team with a pirate flag can be defeated.

Todd and Amanda put the team together, and we called ourselves the Prize Spies. Amanda and Jeremy locked down basecamp to handle research and communications. Joran elected to the 20km trailrun, I jumped on the 40km bike ride, and Todd blew up his packraft to get in the river. Joran left first for the clue at the end of his run while Todd and I picked up each of 4 Missoula historical clues, the last of which sent me on a trip to the Milltown overlook state park. I picked up my clue and called Todd who was waiting to put his boat in the water. All of the clues we picked up had part of a geometry problem on it. Amanda and Jeremy solved the geometry to create a map that pointed to the treasure. With Todd and I both thrashing around on the south side of the Clark Fork for 40 minutes, the second place team had ample time to eat up the lead we had put on them in the biking. At the last minute I recognized the driftwood T, and picked up the spray painted treasure chest just ahead of team #2.

Typical sample clue.

Typical sample clue.

Finding the treasure in a neck and neck race is amazingly fun. Thanks to all the participants, but especially my amazing teammates. That was a whole lotta fun.

After the race I was still feeling spunky, so I hit the climbing gym and some ugly weights. My unexpected empty weekend was getting full fast. I raced home, grabbed a shower, made dinner with Steph, and met Simon at a party with my cello. Somehow, he convinced me that joining an epic mountain bike ride on Sunday morning was in order.

We left at 10am, and climbed straight uphill until noon. The race, and the squats from the gym left me feeling gassed at the start. Needless to say I didn’t make it all the way to sheep mountain with the boys. The solo trip back down the single track got very, very cold, and I was happy to spend the rest of Sunday in a coffee shop with a hot drink. I haven’t bonked quite that hard in a while, and it makes me understand why I see so many mountain bikes here. Good thing I need another adventure sport like I need a hole in my head… Thanks for a fantastic ride boys, and thanks to my stellar roommate Paul for the loaner bike!

Tougher than me. Nick, Simon, and Jack head onwards to Sheep mountain.

Tougher than me. Nick, Simon, and Jack head onwards to Sheep mountain.


Today my team and I won an old fashion treasure hunt. This was hilariously fun on it’s own, but far better because of my teammates- Todd, Amanda, Jeremy, and Joran, thank you so very much. When else do you get to find real treasure and support a great cause? Story and details to follow!



“If you want to learn to love yourself, start by practicing on others.”

This is a very good thing.

This is a very good thing.

Last weekend I got to witness a different sort of adventure. Two close friends, embarking on the adventure of partnership. Their example seems particularly poignant in light of my own recent failures in romance. Ky and Amanda, you have my utmost respect and support for your adventure together. Your practice of love towards each other, and others, has earned at least that much. I hope this is the beginning of the greatest adventure of them all. For whatever may come, I’m here to say that your love for each other is enough- and that is an incredibly beautiful thing.

Thanks for the dance!

Thanks for the dance!

The wedding weekend was a good one. It felt good to play the cello as Amanda walked down the aisle. It felt good to dance with a bridesmaid and smile at the stunning sunset over the Bitterroot. It felt good to climb outside for the first time since foot surgery (thanks Brian!), and swing my kettlebell to the end of my grip.

Perfect sunset, before a perfect moon.

Perfect sunset, before a perfect moon.

Just a week ago, life was good. This weekend, I’m not so optimistic. Work has been intense, I’m feeling sick, and I’ve felt depressed since Monday. I don’t get it.  This body of mine just doesn’t want to cooperate with summer adventures. My foot is starting to feel good again, but my throat is swollen shut, and I’ve had a headache for 3 days. Questions around simplicity and consistency come up.  Why does my mood swing? Why does my optimism wane? I’m still not going on the adventures I’d like, and that makes me sad.  At the root of it all, my value system is broken because I believe that what I do determines my worth as a person. Whether or not I’m a good person, or this is good blog post depends on whether I had a sweet climbing adventure versus spending a perfectly good Saturday on my couch (or in my office). It’s not supposed to be this way, but changing that is up to me.

I’m pet sitting for some friends this weekend, and they have a beautiful habit of leaving notes for each other on their mirror. When I got home this morning, I took their queue.

See yourself for who you are, not who you aren't.

See yourself for who you are, not who you aren’t.

I am fit enough.
I am smart enough.
I am talented enough.
I am handsome enough.
This is enough.
I am enough.

Let’s set a better tone for this week.

Portland #6: A Look Back

(written Sunday night)

Driving down I-84 into the Columbia River Gorge Friday night I felt my chest rise and breathe a little more easily. Portland feels like a stable vantage point to look back at the course I’ve plotted since the spring of 2011. A step back from the (suddenly insignificant) concerns I choose to carry in the day to day of Missoula.

Hello Oregon.

Hello Oregon.

Life seems nice here. Maybe it’s the options for breakfast, but more likely it is the deep relationships that have already weathered time and distance. The bigness of the city reminds me of the smallness of my life, like my brother that reminds me not to take myself too seriously.

Mark and George. Trouble.

Mark and George. Trouble.

My foot is healing.  I’m back in regular shoes, but walking with a limp. Workouts still aren’t a priority, and some of the nerve ends still aren’t firing correctly. Many cups of coffee and brilliant Portland food accompany a description of my life that plays on repeat, every two hours meeting a new old friend. David has an xtracycle that makes riding around town feel even more familiar (I still miss that bike). Being back here seems to lift the self imposed limits I’ve put on my life in Missoula.

Many cups of coffee.

Many cups of coffee.

A little too much fun?

A little too much fun?

I mostly made it back to spend some time with Mark and Kylee before they move to Philadelphia. Upon arrival, my priorities seemed to multiply, and I filled every possible minute seeing people. The farther I am from living there, the more I realize how that place affected my adult life.  Thanks to everyone there that continues to support me, David for putting me up (with a real bed and everything), and George for putting up with me.

Barb, the Doctor, and Gleb (if he weren't in Mongolia).

Barb, the Doctor, and Gleb (if he weren’t in Mongolia).


I’m excited to be back in Missoula. In many ways, this is the harder path, but there’s space here for consequence. Space to try and fail and success and explore. Maybe I didn’t challenge myself to take my Portland life to the next level, but it seemed obvious. I left to follow my journey, and I’m glad to come back here and find I’m still on it.

Reaching for Home

I went to my first ever city council public hearing tonight, because it mattered. I’m pleased to say that I was there to witness the Missoula City Council adopting a 10 year plan that targets the end of homelessness. I didn’t bring prepared comments, but found myself at the podium anyways.  While I enjoy public speaking, tonight was not one of my better performances.  I came home and organized my thoughts more coherently.

To the Missoula City Councilmen&Women

“As we talk about long-lasting affordable housing, I feel compelled to talk about long-lasting affordable buildings. Worthy visions of affordable housing solutions have time and time again been implemented as low-cost construction projects resulting in housing that is of low value to both the occupants and the surrounding community.

Montana state codes are deficient in addressing ventilation standards that support occupant health, these codes do not reflect the modern state of energy efficient design and construction (leading to high energy bills for occupants), and these codes do not encourage the use of sustainable, durable materials.

As a contractor, I am certain that we can do better.  I urge you to forego many of the often repeated assumptions in building design.  Challenge your working group, design teams, and fundraising teams to strive for more than code minimum construction. Consult with design experts that truly believe in your goal of sustainable housing, and have demonstrated it in their own work. Developing cost effective, durable, and low energy use buildings demands rigorous dedication to these goals, from the beginning of the fundraising process to the moment we hand keys to a tenant. I believe that sustainable buildings are instrumental in providing sustainable housing. I am proud to be part of the the community that is willing to take this on, and eager to help see this vision through.”

There it is.  Let’s get to work.


If you’ve followed the site for a while, you might notice a few changes today- is now  You can expect to see some custom layout changes, some video content, and soon- an updated professional page for friends and small businesses.

Elke lays it out for our group.

Elke lays it out for our group.

Last year, I wrote a lot about New Leaders Council – Montana and the important relationships the group has helped me cultivate in the Western Montana community.  This year, I’m on the board and have been coordinating speakers for the seminar series and setting up mentorship for our fellows to foster some of these awesome relationships for other people.  One of the notes I took during last years seminars was to continue to build the strong personal brand that I started here in 2011.  Part of that is owning this domain, and committing to keeping the content fresh and growing.  No, building my brand does not mean slighting my work at Energetechs- if anything, my work there is only growing deeper, stronger, and more meaningful.  I think having a strong personal brand will only compliment that work.

While facilitating the NLC sessions has certainly absorbed quite a bit of my discretionary time, we’ve had a weekend full of amazing presentations with leaders from the following folks.  A huge thank you to the following people:

Stephanie from The Truman National Security Project
Bryan&Erin from AERO & WVE
Russ & Tynille from Energetechs and Monkey Bar Gym Missoula
Susan from United Way of Missoula
Gen&Josh from Garden City Harvest
Elke from MamaLode

Many people complain about the economic environment in Missoula, but I am continually blown away by the quality of leaders and entrepreneurs that we have met with.  Please check out the awesome things happening at each of the above organizations.


There was a photo I took in December that I chose not to publish here- it just wasn’t the right time, but now probably is.

Christmas morning.

Christmas morning.

That’s Sarah.  I took this photo on Christmas Day, just before I kissed her goodbye and drove 510 miles back to Missoula.  This weekend, Sarah made the opposite trip to see Missoula for the first time, and that made me happy in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  Call it as you see it.  To me it’s fun, solid, and exciting, but the title doesn’t really matter- I’m just stoked to think she might show up in my life with increasing frequency.

Despite my month away, life in Missoula has fit back together quickly, and in some ways I’m already fighting to avoid bad habits I was hoping to break away from.  Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of help.  My boss called off work on Friday and bought us lift tickets to enjoy the 3 feet of fresh snow in the mountains around town (which also meant Sarah had a chance to sleep after driving all night to get here for the weekend).



Saturday though, I was more than happy to get back in the habit of finding good ice climbing in Finley Creek.  My friend Tess joined Sarah and I for a perfect day under blue skies and many top rope laps.

More belay.

More belay.

Mostly importantly, Sarah reminded me how awesome it is to break my busy habits, go for a walk, and get to know someone.  Along the river, around my neighborhood, through First Friday, and up the Rattlesnake we enjoyed learning just a little more about who we are welcoming into our lives.  I can’t wait to see her again soon.

Skander and Andy Go to the Beach and Break Shit

This trip has been in the making for a long time- I’ve never spent this much time with my brother and his family, and it’s been nothing but good.  Beyond that though, I’ve spent the last week with another wonderful friend, mentor, and human being.  I haven’t written about Andy Lemann very much, but he’s probably been one of the most important people in my life in the last year.

On the way down from the Blue Mountains.

On the way down from the Blue Mountains.

He got me the job that I work and love at Energetechs.
He showed me around Missoula when I didn’t know anyone else.
He’s taught me more than anyone else about architecture, dancing with beautiful women, and simplifying my life.

This is Andy's country, and he knows all the best parts- Kangaroo Valley.

This is Andy’s country, and he knows all the best parts- Kangaroo Valley.

And in September, he taught me quite a bit about family when he left Missoula and moved back to Bowral, New South Wales, to take care of his aging parents and reconnect with the community he left almost 25 years ago.

Apparently, a big deal.

Apparently, a big deal.



Rural towns are eager to have something to be proud of.  In Robertson, that's a giant concrete potatoe...

Rural towns are eager to have something to be proud of. In Robertson, that’s a giant concrete potatoe…

Bowral sunsets from the kitchen sink are not to be missed.

Bowral sunsets from the kitchen sink are not to be missed.

Andy picked me up in the Blue Mountains last Tuesday, and we celebrated his father’s birthday on Wednesday in Bowral.  I found a cello, cranked out a performance of a Bach Suite and Andy and I quickly re-arranged a bunch of the tunes that we had performed together last summer- his father couldn’t be more pleased.  More than anything though, Andy loves the beach, so Thursday afternoon we hitched a dinghy to the truck and headed for Shell Harbor- at which point we started breaking shit.

Surf! For a little bit.

Surf! For a little bit.

Andy gave me an awesome surfing lesson, until I got washing machined on some rocks and cracked a fin off his brand new surfboard (but not before I finally, finally got to stand up on top of a wave).  Friday morning we went sailing, until we jibed south, and the mainsail boom snapped in half like a toothpick.

Sail! For a little bit.

Sail! For a little bit. (Photo – Andy Lemann)

The cockpit cover tore, the bilge pump gave out (momentarily), and we managed to almost overload the dinghy (twice).  I only narrowly avoided driving on the wrong side of the road… twice.

"Bloody hell the boom broke!"  It's a unique feeling that...

“Bloody hell the boom broke!” It’s a unique feeling that…

We had hoped to sail and surf more, but with our toys in disarray we got a box of wine and hopped a train to Sydney.  Andy’s grandmother owns a place in Double Bay, one of the most desirable parts of Sydney Harbour and Andy was eager to share their little slice of heaven with me.  While it was truly a rare opportunity, my body had the last laugh because I spent the one night we had at the house writhing in pain from the wisdom tooth that decided to erupt through my gumline.  Andy naturally, took care of me with utmost compassion, and sent me on the way with family Sunday afternoon.  Thank you my friend, for amazing times here, and wonderful friendship always.

Two men, each more than worth traveling 16,000 miles to see.

Well worth 16,000 miles of traveling. (Photo- Lynley Wagner)

I’m back in Turramurra (north of Sydney) for the last few days of holiday, eating liquid food, and sorting out what other fun I can have while clutching an ice pack to my jaw.  I’ll be trying to get some larger photo albums posted on my Picasa site, and will post links shortly.


Despite a dismal forecast on Saturday, I coerced Ky into heading out to check on ice conditions in Finley Creek, just north of Missoula.  Last year, this area provided an important training ground for getting regular time on my tools.  It’s been really warm this fall and while I was hoping the north aspect would hold at least semi-formed climbs, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  The photos tell it all-


The black streak is where the GrainEater is supposed to be- taken yesterday December 2, 2012.

This is the GrainEater in early season, but fully climbable conditions- taken Nov. 27, 2011.

This was taken from the same vantage point (approximately), on Nov. 27, 2011.  While this is thin compared to what the climb would be, it was fully climbable at this point in the season last year.

There was almost no trace of ice in Finley Creek on Sunday- a few wisps of ice hinted at the location of the climbs, but nothing that even resembled a “route”.  It seems reasonable to say that we are 3-4 weeks behind last season in route growth.  We spent most of our time hiking in a 40 degree rain storm.  Ski conditions are marginal, and “unseasonably warm” almost seems like a misnomer because it’s hard to be sure what season we are actually in.  It sure seems like the planet is telling us something.


Several hundred vertical feet and a two miles up the canyon we finally found some semblence of winter, but only barely. I made it to the lake in trail running shoes.

Whether or not there is ice in the hills around Missoula in December isn’t alone an indicator of climate change- I won’t pretent that for a minute, but with plenty of other evidence around, it seems plausible there might be some connection to my little backyard ice playground.  The lack of societal concern about climate change is thoroughly frightening to me.

Last night I saw a I saw a short piece from the Rachel Maddow show that aired just after the elections last month (really, click the link).  I couldn’t agree with her more.  For all the junk science, and political posturing we’ve been exposed to, and which I’ll try not to propagate here, I think she hits the nail on the head- “There are real problems in the world. There are real knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there.”

(Ed. note- This was not the post that I had aspirations of writing, but I wanted to get the photos up.  More on this train of thought hopefully later this week)


Today didn’t feel special, but I had the notion that it was supposed to.

I did not appropriately prioritize my time today.

I did not accomplish anything of particular note.

The adventures I would like to be having remain far away.

I started paying rent at an apartment in Missoula on November 10, 2011.  The ordinari-ness of today rests uncomfortably at the back of my head, as it seems to be another in a string of ordinary days.  This is not acceptable.  I look forward to making tomorrow different.