Tag Archives: friendship


(I’m behind on posting, welcome to catching up on the adventure)

A few weeks ago I met some people at the Bozeman Ice Festival that really know how to have fun.  Despite going to Australia this week (oh yeah, didn’t see that coming did you?),  a spontaneous visit to Salt Lake City was on order for Christmas weekend.  A huge thank you to Sarah, Peter, and Brit for being amazing hosts.  While Salt Lake is known for Mormons and the Wasatch front, elves are apparently a big deal too:

Cousins Peter and Brit show off the latest fashions.

Cousins Peter and Brit show off the latest fashions (exterior door shown for scale).

I rolled in on Saturday afternoon, and after a quick hike to check on ice climbing conditions, Sarah and I joined in the Santa pub-crawl mayhem.

Well... someone needed to step up and be Pimp Santa.

Well… someone needed to step up and be Pimp Santa.

Despite a great outfit, I bailed on the pub crawl relatively early with thoughts of ice climbing on my mind.  The ice was surprisingly poorly formed and thin, and while Sarah and I ticked 3 of 4 pitches on “The Great White Icicle” (WI 3, 4p), eventually my judgement won over, and we headed for Brit’s hot tub and a fun little jam session with a few other folks.

Thinner than it looked.

Thinner than it looked.

Sarah isn’t as into backcountry skiing as I am, but fortunately she’s got some great friends.  Matt C, Hasen, Tyler, and Matt X, thanks so much for letting me join the fun.  It was dumping powder in the Wasatch, and while that pushed us on lower angle slopes, we still had an amazing day of skiing.  Sarah had lunch on the table when we rolled home, and suddenly my cello was in hand while Matt C sang Talking Heads.

Doing due diligence in the avy pit.

Doing due diligence in the avy pit.



Christmas Eve finished cooking a stellar meal with Sarah, then a small gathering of friends hosted by one of her former professors.

My drive home featured dry roads, and clear skies, so the hours passed quickly. Even with all of the outdoor sports centered in Salt Lake, I’ve spent very little time there.  With friends like these, I suspect I’ll be back soon.

Somewhere south of Dillon, MT.

Somewhere south of Dillon, MT.


It is my favorite season.

“I like your life here Skander.”
“Yeah, me too.”
Margaret and I were driving back from a perfect day of rock climbing in Mill Creek, and her observation, like her visit, helped flush away some of the chaos that I’ve been keeping at bay lately.  How do you describe a weekend that encompasses every conversation, every part of yourself, all of your past, all of your future?  Well, it was Friday noon through Tuesday morning, but everything is a lot.

Home grown tomatoes at the PEAS Farm

Margaret and I met at Northwestern while working to push sustainability into the engineering school agenda.  Her intelligence, tenacity, and unlimited joy were obvious from the start, but I never suspected how our friendship would grow.  After Northwestern, Margaret moved to Alaska and my subsequent expeditions were always bookended with homemade bread, midnight sunsets, and time with her and her amazing boyfriend in their cabin in Palmer.  We share common dreams for sustainable business, social services, and food systems.  We pursue common goals for introspection, self-enrichment, and service to others.  She was the last of my summer visitors this year, and early October celebrated her visit with clear skies and perfect temperatures to enjoy the best of Missoula.

Topping out one of Margaret’s first real rock climbs.

First Friday, climbing at Mill Creek, hiking on Mt. Jumbo, visits with farmers, were a perfect introduction to Missoula, but under all of it, the real highlight was in the conversation that never seemed to stop.  Margaret doesn’t mince words, pull punches, or let questions go unasked- and neither do I.  More than anything else, our friendship is rooted in a clear deep openness, and we didn’t waste the short time we had together.  The questions she is able to ask helped me verbalize some emotions that I haven’t been able to express, and to admit some feelings that I haven’t been able to face.  Some visitors I’ve had have made me wonder why I’m making life happen here, but showing Margaret around Missoula made me realize how well this place fits my life- or perhaps, how well my life fits my life, here.

Boulder, Colorado

My mind is not on getting this posted tonight, but more on that towards the bottom.  Participating in the PassiveHouse conference last week left no time for writing.  My trip was sponsored by the fine folks at Zola European Windows, and I had a very good time both at the conference (in downtown Denver), and romping around more colorful places, like Boulder.

Zola- the only folks I know that can make a R-10, triple pane, 19′ wide sliding glass door (thanks to my boss for modeling).

Surprisingly, I’ve never spent much time there, but Boulder is kinda hilarious.  The outskirts feel more like most little western mountain towns- copious outdoor recreation, lots of very fit people and fancy bicycles, and a Walmart here and there.   But downtown is more unique- trust fund hippies play guitar next to the Gucci storefront, and the smell of gourmet, organic, fresh ground coffee is overwhelming.  There is public bike sharing, and an amazing vintage theater.  Half of me wants to move there, and the rest of me knows to stay away- but probably just because I wouldn’t feel unique anymore.

Classic (damn street lamp ruins my photo).

The theater architecture was nice, but the line-up was unbelievable…

There is something about being in an unfamiliar place that allows me to step away from myself.  My view of things around me becomes more detached, and more objective- my normal introspective investments drop away in pursuit of new-ness.  Seeing new people in new places, reminds me that we are just people- doing whatever it is that we do.  Our individual heartbreak or triumph becomes far less important in a crowd of strangers.  Part of this blog is about the search for the most authentic version of ourselves, and when no one around you knows (or particularly cares) who you are- its fun to take the opportunity to be exactly who you want.

In between professional responsibilities, I enjoyed a session with some like minded outdoor folk at the Alpine Training Center, and caught dinner with my friend Jen, who drove all the way from Greeley just to make it happen.

Home away from home.

The conference was certainly valuable- lots of practice talking about what I do, seeing some really cool projects (the Marshall project), learning new stuff, and making new connections.  It was also hilarious to realize my own cousin was also presenting- we had a very good time catching up on the past 5 or 6 years since I’ve seen him, and I really appreciated his presentation on the Thousand Homes Challenge.  It always takes a while to see what shakes out of these sort of things, but the vibes were good, and some of the interactions were… unique.

5 people debating the merits of a window detail. Only at a PassiveHouse conference.

Stand and deliver. My cousin gets it done.

By Sunday afternoon I had as much PassiveHouse as I could actively take-on and was grateful to meet a good friend and former co-worker from Portland for dinner and a local jazz jam.  It’s been a while since I put my name on a list and sat in on bebop tunes, but it’s amazing how the changes still come back.

The previous commentary about feeling detached is at odds with my mood tonight.  I went to invite some friends together for this weekend on facebook, only to notice that one of them seemed to evaporate.  Just like anything else, the social utility is just as good at taking people apart as putting them back together.  With all the traveling and dedication to task at hand, it’s pretty obvious I’ve got a fair amount of work to do at home as well.

Pack It In

I’m catching up on my adventure stories tonight, because frankly I’ve been packing it in this summer.  Per my previous post, my good friend Dustin was in Missoula from August 16-22, and per our usual style, we packed it in.  Highlights included rock climbing at Kootenai, floating the Clark Fork, and rad 3 day backpacking trip between Kootenai canyon and Big Creek Canyon- covering ~37 miles in ~48 hours, with a 6 mile technical ridge scramble in the middle.  Dustin has a way of compelling me to step up and be a better version of myself in a way that few other people do- and he usually does it just by being himself.  I’ll let the photos tell the story:

It’s been a while since Dustin’s been on the ropes, but his knots still look good.

Clear views of some sweet faces on night 1.

Psyched to be in the Bitterroot high country- just such a fun place to play.  We spent most of the day scrambling the ridge on the left.

Yes, we have matching visors. My old one went missing, and Dustin wanted a piece of Montana… (photo by Dustin).

Big Creek Lakes may hold some first ascent possibilities- if you want to haul your gear 14 miles…

Dinner was just that good.

On the way out (photo by Dustin).

A huge thank you to my dear friend for making the trip out here, and continuing to be a driving force for many good things in my life.