I was raised with four Labradors for most of my life. I enjoyed having one or two around and didn’t mind taking care of them too much. But my sister was always the one all the dogs loved. And she was really good with dogs and very patient…I was not! When I was younger, taking care of that many dogs was a pain. Making sure they had enough exercise, food, water and cleaning their kennel wasn’t something I enjoyed. I was what you would call a lazy kid! I hated doing my chores and would procrastinate and never do the chore right the first time. I like the dogs but it really wasn’t my thing. I didn’t like the responsibility.
As I became older I still liked the dogs and didn’t mind over much helping to take care of them but it was really not on my mind to get a dog of my own. I knew the responsibility it took to make sure the dog was well behaved and not a pain in the tush. Nobody wants to be around a dog that jumps all the time, barks, doesn’t listen and chews up all your stuff.
We had this old chocolate lab, Jake, who was so stubborn but very loving that passed away when I was about 10 years old. Jake had been designated as my dog so when he was gone, Dad, who is an avid hunter and trains all of his dogs for bird hunting, decided to get a English Pointer as the new pup. English Pointers are known for being superb bird dogs. He didn’t have much experience with the breed but thought that she would be a good dog for me as well as being a great hunting dog.
I named her Lucy because “I Love Lucy” was my favorite show! I was very excited about this dog but my excitement was soon replaced with dread. This dog was a little terror and never listened until she was good and ready. We laugh at this now because she had a good spirit and was loving when she wanted attention but English Pointers are not a sweet and cuddly breed like labs are. Lucy was eventually know as “Lucifer”! I can’t tell you how many times she ran away and would only come back when she was hungry or cold or wanted a bath because she had rolled in poo or swam in a disgusting pond. So you can imagine that once I was in college and had a place of my own, I didn’t volunteer to take her! She passed away sometime during college due to health issues. We have fond memories of her and still joke about her being a “Lucifer”!
With the experiences I had with dogs growing up, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting my own dog unless I was able to put in the time and energy to make sure the dog was as enjoyable of a dog as I could possibly train.
A few weeks before Christmas 2014 I get a call from my mom about a friend’s lab dog that was unexpectantly pregnant . I had been thinking about getting a dog because I was actually renting a house, not an apartment, so I figured I could actually easily house train this dog since I could just take it out the back door. I told my mom that I wanted one of the puppies, a black male. We had the best black lab male growing up who I just adored. He was one of the family and was just the best dog ever so I understandably wanted the same type of dog.
The adorable babies were born in December and I had a work trip in the Rapid City area so I was super excited to see the babies and pick out the one I wanted. I was home for about a week so I had a good amount of time to play with and hold these little cutie pies! As I was nearing my final day home I had to decide which one I wanted. As I was talking with my mom, I said that I just couldn’t decide on which male I wanted but that there was this yellow female that always seemed to respond to me every time I picked her up. As you may know, two week old puppies all look the same! So the only way I picked this little yellow female out was by her responding to me more than all the other ones that I would hold.
My brother in law has the best lab who absolutely adores him. I asked him how he lucked out with such a great dog and he said she picked him out! I guess she ran right up to him and he knew she was the dog for him! So I figured this method was a good place to start and decided to choose the little yellow female that was more skirmy and responsive than all the others. I am getting ready to leave for my home in Minneapolis and I have to decide on which one to pick. My philosophy with the wiggly puppy was still in my head and so I had to find this same one amongst all the puppies that looked alike and hope that I was choosing wisely. Mom helped me paint the little toe nail bright pink so I could recognize her when she was old enough for me to come back to pick her up. I had my mom take a picture to capture the moment. I hold up the puppy to my check and smile big and at the same moment the puppy licks my face! I was just delighted by that and knew she was the right choice! My mom just happened to press the video button instead of camera button, so it is really special to have that moment on video. All the puppies at that time were not licking or moving around much, they were too little. So for this one to lick me was a solid confirmation that she was the baby for me!!
Fast forward to February 2015…I got the call that my baby puppy was ready to be picked up! I had named her Pippie, after Pippie Longstocking, because she was full of spit and vinegar! The 10-1/2 hour car ride back to the Cities was an adventure for sure because my sister and brother-in-law asked if we could bring back the black male they chose as well! My boyfriend came with me and we had quite the adventure bringing these two 12 week old puppies home!
It took some time to adjust to having a puppy but her adorableness really helped with all the times I became frustrated! At the time I had a job where I was on the road a lot so I was able to bring Pippie with me in her kennel so she was not only able to be with me most of the time, but I was able to build a really strong relationship with her.
She will be turning two in a few months and as I look back on our time together, I realize I just can’t imagine my life without her. Pippie is my best friend and we just love being together. I am an avid backpacker and also love to rock climb, travel and pretty much just enjoy life! Pippie comes with my boyfriend and I almost everywhere we go. And she just loves it! She has her own pack for when we go backpacking and she rarely even needs to be on a lease because she listens to well. She just has the best personality and is so kind and loving to other animals, kids and adults. As most labs, she loves her ball and is a great retriever. I always feel like such a proud mother when people compliment her! But I just think to myself …well I just really lucked out ending up with such a great dog but then I realize that she actually chose me!
I bought my Rainbow Tarptent at least 4 years ago and I absolutely love this tent! 10 out of 10! It really was everything I wanted it to be! I got into ultralight backpacking about 4 years ago and did a lot of research and well as talking with fellow backpackers to see what features they liked about their gear as well as reading reviews online! The Rainbow version of this is great for one person and a dog or snug for two people and very cozy for two people and a very cuddly lab puppy! The floor has about 2″ sides so I don’t have to worry about rain coming in. There is pretty good airflow and there are extra features with the doors where you can allow for good airflow even when it’s raining. The set up is super easy with just one tent pole down the middle and then you either stake it down or you can just use your hiking poles.
I am only 5’5″ so my hiking poles really aren’t long enough to make the tent how I like it to be nice and firm on all the corners in case there is a storm. Since I don’t want the extra weight of the stakes I have tried just using my hiking poles but I wasn’t overly thrilled with the result because I didn’t have any more length with my hiking poles. So I think someone who is taller could make this feature work better. Now I just bring the four lightweight stakes that came with the tent and that works pretty well. In addition, there are four additional places to stake the floor out but I only do that when there will be rain. I wish I would have purchased four additional light weight stakes. Right now I just use the cheap ones I bought at REI or just go without.
I also purchased the liner option for this tent so I can use it as a three season tent. That liner really works like a charm, even though it doesn’t look like much! It also has a very low profile so it doesn’t get in the way and adds barley any weight.
The last thing I love about this tent is that I can easily pack it into the bag. I hate when I have to cram a tent, pillow, sleeping bag or pad into a super small bag that was supposedly designed for the item but it’s so hard to get in there that I am sweating by the time I am done with the packing! It is so delightful to not have to deal with that when I use my Rainbow tent!
Here is the link to check out the specs!
I bought these hiking boots a couple years ago in order to have a pair of approach shoes when I go rock climbing. I wanted a shoe that was lighter weight and a low profile on the ankle so I didn’t feel so encumbered like with my ankle height boots. I wanted a shoe that was comfy like a sneaker but offered more protection for my toes since I am a bit clumsy. I came across this shoe in the REI discount bin and since I love a good deal and I already had wanted these shoes, I bought them in a heartbeat! I would give them an 8 out of 10. They are great for hike a below 5 miles. My feet start hurting over 5 miles because the width isn’t quite right but they are great for an approach shoe! They have worn super well and I use them regularly! I would recommend this shoe!
Here is the link to the shoe!
My boyfriend, Jake, and I decided that this year we wanted to go to Yellowstone and see the sights but also do some backcountry hikes, because I mean, why not, right? I try to always face my fears and not be held back by what could happen, because that is no way to live life. Yeah, that is sure great in theory but when push comes to shove…I don’t want to get eaten by a bear! So, we decided to “wing it” on this trip and just fly by the seat of our pants. There was just too much to see and do to try and plan it all out. Thank God we didn’t plan everything otherwise it would have been super stressful.
We started our trip by leaving the Black Hills on Thursday evening, July 28th. We drove through Billings, MT instead of through Cody, WY because my dad said getting through the Big Horn Mountains at night would be really dangerous with all the animals along the road and of course the curviness of the road. He was very much right BUT there were a ton and I mean a TON of deer on the side of the road as we drove to Billings. There were quite a few trophy bucks that were pretty cool to see! Sure glad we didn’t hit any! We didn’t get to Billings until about 1:30am and at that point, as we stopped at the only gas station that was available after our 5 hour drive that wasn’t sketchy, we debated if we should just power through to Red Lodge, MT. My boyfriend, who is a very manly man, and of course would never stop to ask for directions and tries to push the limits for all he does, said we should just drive that last hour so we are at a good resting stop to finish the last leg of our journey.
Pulling into a trailhead of a national forest just outside of Red Lodge at 3:00am, we decided to sleep in the back of his ’05 Ford Escape because I saw a baby black bear about a ½ mile from the trailhead. Once we parked, we moved all our gear from the back into the front two seats and piled it high. We then set out our sleeping pads and bags and were ready to get some shut eye before we conquered the Beartooth Mountain Pass. Luckily we like to snuggle because holy buckets that is a bit tight for leg room and I am only 5’5”! Jake is such a good sport though and when I said we like to snuggle, I of course meant I like to snuggle! He was definitely ready to stretch his legs in the morning!
Friday morning, day two of our adventures began with a full body stretch as we got out of the very cramped SUV! We could see the gorgeous Beartooth Mountains all around us and we were super pumped to start the next leg of our journey! We drove into Red Lodge, MT for a yummy breakfast at Red Lodge Café & lounge, the local diner, and took a look around town. I would suggest checking out this adorable candy store called Montana Candy Emporium that has barrels of candy that you can buy by the pound! The other must stop is the outdoor store called Rocky Mountain Market. They have a great selection of gear and accessories to buy that you might have forgotten for your trip. AND they have pasties! I learned from the owner that the mining villages used to always have pasties while they worked in the mine! It reminded me of our trip from last fall to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan! The Yopper!!
We left Red Lodge with the anticipation of the drive on the Beartooth Highway but nothing could have prepared us for the beauty that we saw! That place is by far the most awe inspiring I’ve seen in my life to date! Between the massive mountains to the crystal clear lakes and peaceful valleys, it is completely indescribable. Jake and I kept on saying that pictures just can’t do it justice. If you are looking for a place to go on your next outdoor adventure I highly recommend checking out this region!
As we made our way out of the Beartooth Mountains we didn’t have too much farther to go until we entered Yellowstone National Park! I was super, duper excited and was really hoping to start the vacation off right by seeing some wildlife. Well, the park didn’t let us down. We didn’t get too far in before we saw hundreds of buffalo and little babies too, they were just too cute! We saw a couple rough-housing and they were kicking up dust, adorable! As we went further on we saw an osprey nest. They were too far away, even with binoculars to really see them. But it was still pretty cool!
We had hoped to get our backcountry permits on Friday but by the time we got to the ranger station they were closed. Thus we had another adventure in the vehicle. We found this trailhead off the beaten path of the main road. We had quite the ingenious idea to put up mosquito netting on the open windows so we could get some air but not the bugs! It worked like a charm! We woke up to the sound of a couple young backpackers coming in from the trail. We asked how the hike was and they said they came across a bear while hiking to their campsite the night before. The guy thought it was a grizzly and they both looked pretty freaked out. Also at that trailhead there was a posting for a missing 23 year old boy who had been out backpacking by himself. Stuff like that really puts things into perspective, that we can be easily taken out by so many things. The vastness of the wilderness and ruggedness of it all is pretty intimidating.
So our Saturday started with being very thankful that we slept in the vehicle! We decided to head to the town of Mammoth Springs first off so we could get our backcountry permits all set and ready to go for the next two nights. We decided to have a couple nice smaller trips into the backcountry rather than doing a 10 or 15 mile loop. It was really for my peace of mind if anything did happen with the bears or other animals that we were only about 3 miles from the vehicle rather than 10! We picked two great spots and then headed out to enjoy Mammoth Hot Springs. The springs themselves were pretty cool but my favorite part of the whole trip was enjoying a swimming hole where the Boiling River and Grainer River met, Boiling River Trail. To get there from the trailhead it’s only about a half mile and oh let me tell you it is SO worth it! Like hottub water! And after not having showered for a couple days it felt great to get some of the grim off. Though they don’t allow any sop, even if it’s biodegradable, so that wasn’t ideal for the hair situation.
After that we enjoyed a nice lunch and got our gear ready to start our hike at the Lava Creek Trailhead. We started out on a clear trail and then as we continued on the book we had said to go one way which we ended up finding out was the wrong way. We had about a ½ mile detour and realized that the book had us entering at a different trailhead. Also, there were quite a few wide, well worn trails which made it confusing which way to go. Our detour was pretty cool though because it took us through neck high sage bushes where we saw a handful of elk about 20 yards away. I was surprised to see how small the elk where in Yellowstone. The ones I saw when I was elk hunting in New Mexico were huge.
I was pretty nervous about our first hike in the backcountry and made sure we made lots of noise between the bells and having music playing as we were walking. The wind was so strong that the noise didn’t carry very far so I would yell out every now and then “hey bear.” It was so very remote where we were and it is super intimidating going into the backcountry where you only have yourself and your hiking buddy for rescue if anything happens. We played it pretty safe so we didn’t have any issues. Each of us also carried bear spray so that was nice too in case something did happen that we had a way to defend ourselves. There is that joke people always make about grizzly bear poop smelling like pepper spray and having bells in it…essentially the joke is the bells and spray don’t really do much if a bear really wants to get you. Well, it’s true…which isn’t really the thing you want to hear before you go into bear country! But we at least took every precaution we could and luckily didn’t come across a crazed bear!
We made it to our campsite at a reasonable hour and enjoyed checking the site out and seeing the serene creek running through the area. It was quite a relaxing spot and we picked a great space to set up our tent. We enjoyed a cold dinner of granola bars and tuna packs because I was scared to cook anything in case it attracted any bears! It was actually pretty funny looking back because I made Jake keep on talking loudly to me as I went to the bathroom or to wash my hands in the creek. They had a bear pole set up that hung between two trees where we could string up our packs. Those bear poles are pretty nifty; it’s so easy to spring up your food when it’s all ready to go. I’ve never experienced that before. Normally I have to figure out a good spot and then either set up a rope and whatnot and it always seems to take forever, so this was great!
We were in the tent relatively early so I ended up reading for a good bit before falling asleep at dusk. I woke up periodically to listen if there were any animals nearby and about two in the morning I heard something and woke Jake up. We learned later that morning that is was elk after we saw about three different herds of them during our hike back to the car. We awoke to another beautiful day that was already starting to be warm. We packed up pretty quickly and headed out. It was a treat to not have the wind blowing and we were able to enjoy the quite of the wilderness. We essentially followed the creek back for a couple miles and because of that we saw a ton of elk. It was really fun seeing them in their natural state, just hanging out. The babies were cute too! Unfortunately we didn’t see any big bulls, just some young ones.
We crossed this narrow metal suspension bridge and headed back to the car. We figured as we were cresting the ridge of the last hill that we would figure out where we went wrong with the trail during our hike in. But nope, we still took the wrong trail back. It wasn’t a big deal since it was just a big hill and we knew which direction the car was in. It was more annoying because I hate getting messed up with trails.
By the time we made it back to the car it was already hot out so we were happy to drink lots of water and change into shorts. We headed back into the town of Mammoth Springs for a quick breakfast and we were excited to hit the road and head to the town of Old Faithful.
I can’t even begin to express how cool the drive was from Mammoth Springs to Old Faithful! We saw such diversity in the landscape between geysers, springs, lakes, waterfalls and completely burnt forests, it was amazing to see so much in a relatively short distance of 50 miles. We made it to the town of Old Faithful just in time to see the geyser erupt. It was super cool and we were thrilled we didn’t have to wait around a long time to enjoy seeing the eruption! Afterwards, we headed to the backcountry office to get the down low of our next hike to Shoshone Lake. We were happy to hear they had seen no bears in the area since it is a pretty popular trail!
We had to stop at the post office to mail another postcard to ourselves so we can remember that leg of our trip. We had also mailed one during our time at Mammoth Springs. We then had to stop for some ice cream and I was so hoping to enjoy the huckleberry but they didn’t have it. It was sad news bears. I didn’t even get any huckleberry ice cream the whole trip because no other store had it that we went to except Mammoth and they weren’t open yet when we were ready to have some. I will have to get some the next time I am there!
As we were driving to the trailhead of Shoshone Lake I was complaining a bit because my feet where just aching. I am not used to hiking for hours a day. But I powered through and we hiked the three miles to our campsite. The lake was just beautiful but it was another very gusty evening and the lake had whitecaps on it. We made camp, ate a quick meal and hit the hay.
I then thought it would be a good idea to read, in detail, the instructions that came with the bear spray to learn more about how to be safe while in bear country. So, we are laying in the tent together as I am reading this manual in the dark and the manual starts to get pretty detailed about different types of bear encounters you can experience while in the backcountry. For example, what to do if you encounter a bear on the trail, a mother and a cub, if you surprise a bear, if one is in your camp, etc. The manual describes what to do in these different situations and how to best handle yourself. The last section then goes on to say what to do if a bear attacks you while in your tent. It pretty much says that you are screwed and to fight with everything you have. Supposedly if a bear attacks you in that situation it is pretty much crazy and you have to do anything you can to survive. So yeah, that was great to read before bed!
Due to exhaustion from not getting much sleep over the last three nights, we both slept like logs and felt pretty refreshed by the next morning. We hiked out bright and early and actually saw people on the trail for the first time during our backcountry adventures. We made it back to the trailhead and immediately took off our shoes and slipped into something more roomy than our hiking shoes. I had to massage my feet since they were so sore to get some blood moving. Wow, did that make a huge difference. I was moaning in pleasure from the pain subsiding while I was massaging them and Jake was making fun of me. But I don’t care, it felt amazing!!
Monday was turning out to be another great day! We stopped at a picnic area to enjoy our breakfast and saw some elk out on a peninsula of Yellowstone Lake. We also saw a couple of trumpeter swans while we were driving which was super cool! Deciding to stop at the small town of Fishing Bridge was a great decision because they had a museum there of a ton of animals that are in Yellowstone Park. It was so interesting to see the detail of the birds that were stuffed rather than just a picture. The general store there was pretty great too. I thought they had the best t-shirts out of all the stores we went to in the park.
The drive out of Fishing Bridge was just beautiful. Yellowstone Lake is so huge! There were a ton of burned trees from the fires in ’03 so that was really interesting to see the super tall burned trees next to the new growth. As we were coming around a curve in the road we saw that all of these people were stopped. After looking around we saw a baby grizzly and the mom! That was a treat because I had really wanted to see a grizzly bear before we left and we did about 15 miles from the east exit! The drive out of the park was very cool because you go through these huge mountain passes.
Other than that the rest of our trip was uneventful. We did some sightseeing in Cody, WY and took the back roads to Buffalo which was cool to see all the small towns! We were happy to make it home safe and sound after five days fulfilling one of the items on our bucket list! I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to spend my vacation with!
As I just got back from quite the adventures in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park, I decided it was time I start a blog to share some of my experiences not only as a woman, but as someone who has only been backpacking for a handful of years. I did grow up camping and hunting with my dad. But sleeping out in the great outdoors miles from anyone or any help…it sure opens your eyes to not only the danger that is present when you step off the grid, but the amazingness of getting away from everything! It is a truly liberating feeling and brings me great peace. It is my church!