Pepper and I wanted to go to the downtown Bigfork trick-or-treat event, as we did a few years back. But it’s a little awkward just wandering around as adults, and more to the point, we can’t get much candy that way.

I joked that we should rent a couple of kids and take them around town. Pepper laughed and then promptly called our friend Brandi, who happens to have a couple of kids. We offered to take them trick-or-treating and give her a break for the evening.

And so it came to pass that we went around town with a little Transformer and princess in tow, getting candy (and popcorn, and hot dogs) from the various shops.

I managed to score a few treats myself, although Lily and Will ended up with the lion’s share. It was a good time, and fun to be reminded of the joy that free candy brings.

Budding Monets

This looks like a strange psychology experiment…

… but in fact it’s Kyra’s “class” at the daycare where she works. These are her four toddlers, and for Halloween she brought in some small pumpkins, foam paintbrushes, and some (hopefully non-toxic) paint. Although one of the babies is working on painting his masterpiece, I can’t help but notice another is already eating the paint, and two more are considering it.

At the end of the day, Kyra said everyone had a good time, they managed to get some amount of paint on all the pumpkins, and no one barfed from injesting it. So I guess it was a success.

For me, the really fun thing about this is how much Kyra adores these little kids. She truly enjoys spending her days with them, and is always thinking of fun little activities like this.


This spring, we burned our brush pile. It had accumulated over a few seasons, and had become quite the mess, so we enlisted the help of our friend Allen to torch it. He brought his handy flamethrower, which is basically a metal tube connected to a propane tank.

This fall, we’ve accumulated another big pile of brush. Our summer yardwork, and the fall cleanup, left us with a lot of plant debris. Obviously we’re going to be burning this stuff every year (twice a year, in fact), so we decided to invest in our own flamethrower.

Today was the day. October is open-burn season in the county, so we went to work. I connected everything, lit the end, and stepped up to the pile of somewhat wet brush.

Although it looks like all that grass and little twigs would go up in a huge inferno, there’s been enough snow and rain that everything was kind of damp. It took a bit of work shoving the flamethrower into various parts of the pile, but finally the flames caught.

We felt like we were becoming true Montanans when we bought a chainsaw, and now with the addition of a flamethrower, we can feel even more like the natives. How cool is it to stand next to a huge pile of flaming grass holding a twenty-pound tank of explosive propane?

Now that’s just dumb

Apparently AT&T overcharged us on a recent bill. I have no idea how, since we just use auto-pay every month, but whatever. They “refunded” us the overage by sending us a prepaid credit card. It’s a MasterCard that we can use at any store, and it’s been loaded with the amount we overpaid.

There’s just one problem: the amount on the card.

Yeah, it’s worth eighteen cents. This is ridiculous on so many levels. First, the postage required to send us this 18-cent card was over three times its value. There’s also the cost of the plastic and printing for the card itself. Whenever you use a credit card, MasterCard and the rest of the cabal charge merchants twenty cents plus some percentage of the amount (typically around 2.5%). So the fee to simply swipe the card is greater than the amount on the card!

Why AT&T couldn’t simply credit the money to us on our next bill is beyond me. Ugh.

Not quite Cheba Hut

Cheba Hut is my favorite sandwich shop in the world. A month ago, when I was in Colorado, I was thrilled to be able to eat there twice in a day. Last year in Las Vegas, I was also thrilled to discover there was one in town. Naturally we stopped.

Since the closest Cheba Hut is literally a thousand miles from us, I thought maybe I could make one of their sandwiches myself. I toasted some French bread, added some deli ham to the grill, threw on some bacon, sliced a few pickles, melted cheese, and slathered mayo and seasoning over everything. The result was…

… not that bad. But it definitely wasn’t Cheba Hut. The bread was all wrong, and frankly the bread is a major part of the experience. So it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe I can come up with a concoction that’s a little closer to the real thing. Until then, I just have to wait for another trip to Colorado or Nevada…

First backpacking trip

“Dad,” Kyra said a few months ago, “I’ve never been backpacking. Can you take me sometime?”

Of course! We talked about some options, and given her limited time off work, we settled on “something in Utah”. Last year’s epic Canyonlands trip with Thom came to mind, and I worked out a route through the Needles District (which he and I hadn’t explored). I scouted campgrounds, presented my plan to Kyra for her approval, and went to make arrangements for the backcountry permits. I was dismayed to learn that permits for Canyonlands are available in the spring, sell out almost immediately, and thus weren’t available for an October trip. Back to the drawing board.

Zion, it turns out, has a completely different reservation system (why?) and permits are available a month prior to departure. Again, they’re snatched up immediately, but I managed to get in the three-minute window and snag the ones I wanted. We were set for a trip to Zion.

Our first morning dawned with a crystal-clear blue sky and temperatures in the 50s (it would warm up later in the day) so we headed to the Zion shuttle station. Only the official NPS buses are allowed to run up and down Zion Canyon, so you have to wait in line to jump on a bus. And what a line it was! It felt like a morning at Disneyland…

This photo doesn’t even do it justice– the line snaked back and forth well outside the frame. We made our way through this morass of people for about 45 minutes before finally boarding a bus. That adjusted my plans for the day a bit; we’d have to take these incredible crowds into account when considering the timing of everything. I guess I’m used to smaller crowds on my backpacking trips in late September and early October, but in southern Utah the temperatures hover in the 70s and the days are beautiful, so people gravitate there (much more than, say, the North Cascades).

As we wound our way through the canyon and eventually hit our first trail of the day, I was in awe of the scenery. Glacier has incredible vistas of valleys and mountains, and Zion mirrors that with canyons and sandstone cliffs. Here’s a view south through the canyon:

These sheer orange cliffs are stunning…

… Especially when you’re at the base looking up.

We’d originally planned to hike the Narrows. Thom and I made that hike nearly twenty years ago, and I brought the whole fam on our 2015 road trip, so I was hoping to repeat that awesome trek through the water. However, the water was running high: nearly three times its normal flow, with a water temperature around 50 degrees. So instead of ankle- or perhaps knee-deep cool water, the Virgin River was a torrent of chest-deep frigid water. In the words of the park ranger who’s navigated the Narrows hundreds, of time, the hike was “outside her fun zone”. Instead, we took a few smaller hikes in Zion Canyon.

As the afternoon waned, we had to make our way to our first campsite. It was in a neighboring area called Wildcat Canyon, which was advertised as having “outstanding views of Zion Canyon”. However, as we traversed the trail, we were disappointed. Large outcroppings of rock blocked our view of that area.

Nonetheless, we found a good site and set up camp. It was a cool area, despite the lack of views as promised.

Kyra did well hiking that day. I think we covered around eight miles.

The night was chilly (probably around 40 degrees) but we were both cozy in our sleeping bags and tent. It was Kyra’s first night in a tent that wasn’t in a campground, and as we enjoyed some breakfast and hot cocoa in the cool morning air, she remarked that it was pretty awesome.

Our backcountry permit for the next night was in Kolob Canyon, but we learned that part of the road had washed out and we weren’t able to get to the trailhead for the area. There’s an alternate trail that goes “the long way around”, but it was something like ten miles each way, and wouldn’t fit in our schedule. Instead, we decided to hike a different part of Kolob Canyon and then head home a bit early.

But first, we donned our eclipse glasses.

The annular eclipse occurred while we were driving up to the Kolob area, so we pulled over at a little roadside stop and spent about twenty minutes admiring the celestial phenomenon. It was funny to see other people stopped alongside us, or just along the shoulder of the road, staring through their eclipse glasses.

Kyra was impressed.

Although we weren’t in the area where the full “ring of fire” was visible, we were close. It was cool to watch, and I’m looking forward to next year’s total solar eclipse.

We continued up to Kolob and started our hike of the canyon. The trees were in full autumn color, and it was an absolutely beautiful hike.

We covered about six miles, stopping frequently to admire the sandstone and the leaves.

As we approached the end of the out-and-back trail, it looked like it might slip into a slot canyon. Kyra was excited because she’s never hiked in a slot canyon, but it turned out the trail simply ended abruptly. We hefted our packs, turned around, and returned the way we’d come. By the end of the hike, she was pretty worn out. We’d done nearly twenty miles in two days, which is far more than she’s accustomed to walking. Good for her!

We hopped back in the car and headed north, stopping for dinner at Olive Garden and absolutely gorging on breadsticks. It had been a great trip, and hopefully one that convinced her we should go backpacking again. Although the scenery was stunning, my favorite part was just spending time with my favorite girl.

Sunday Night Popcorn

I’m always looking for excuses to invite friends over to the house, but Pepper is usually hesitant because it means planning a meal or something. It’s a little weird to invite someone just to hang out and chat, so food needs to be involved somehow. A meal is a lot of work, and there are food allergies and picky eaters and whatnot. But everyone likes popcorn, right? So we decided to start a new tradition called Sunday Night Popcorn, which is exactly what it sounds like. Each week we’ll invite someone over for an hour or so, and munch on some popcorn while we talk.

For this to work, we need amazing popcorn. Enter the Atom Popper! Recommended by my friend Mike, this lightweight, funny-shaped aluminum (titanium?) pan does a great job of popping every kernel quickly and easily. Douse it with butter and salt, and we’re good to go.

We’ve been doing some testing to dial in the oil and salt just right, and then we’ll start hosting Sunday Night Popcorn. Woo hoo!

Fall’s alive on 35

I love the change of season as we shift from summer into autumn. Although I really enjoy a hot summer day on the lake, there’s something special about the crisp, cool days that follow. The mountainsides come alive with brilliant shifts in color as the trees prepare to drop their leaves. There’s always a wonderful mix of yellows, oranges, and reds against the constant backdrop of dark green in all the pine, fir, and spruce trees.

So, as always in October, driving down good ol’ Highway 35 is a treat. Here’s a shot out the car window at 50 mph:

There’s one tree in particular perhaps a mile north of us that has a fantastic mix of colors. I haven’t seen any other tree in the area act like this one, changing color in stages:

Soon the larch surrounding our house will change to their signature golden hue. It’s always a treat.

Bigfork’s newest bike trail

Bigfork just opened a new trail system on the outskirts of town. This is the second official trail in the area, so it’s a pretty big deal. (Unlike the Boulder area in Colorado, which is riddled with biking and hiking routes, there’s not much of that around here.)

We decided to give it a go, so we loaded up our bikes and drove to the trailhead. It was a beautiful, crisp fall day, and we started off pretty cold– around 50 degrees. But as Thom says, “Be bold, start cold”. After about a mile, we were definitely warm! The first few miles were almost all uphill, and at one point we snapped a shot on the trail.

There were quite a few hikers on the trail, although we only saw one other group of bikers. It’s popular because it’s brand new, and of course the nice weather helped. The trees are gradually turning, and there was a lot of brilliant yellow peppered throughout the forest.

We covered about six miles in all, and really enjoyed it. A pizza at Rosa’s afterward was a perfect end to our little adventure.

Yard work and fall colors

Pepper and I have been working hard in the yard for the past few days. Well, if I’m being honest, she’s been working harder than me because I really don’t enjoy yard work. She’s been trimming bushes, pulling weeds, and raking pine needles. For my part, today I was cleaning the gutters. As we were working, we commented on how pretty some of our bushes are as they cruise into fall.

Although the larch aren’t a brilliant yellow just yet, it’s fun to see these other plants turning color. Stay tuned for the inevitable photo along Highway 35 as the trees reach their peak colors.