Adventures in Backcountry - Just the Beginning

  Backcountry skiing is not something to embark on cavalierly. Unlike resort skiing, backcountry is unforgiving and, for some, deadly. To enter into the backcountry safely requires training, gear and acute gumption.

This winter my goal is to rock backcountry terrain.


For me, this is a goal that three years ago would not have been remotely possible. Now it is pretty much all I think about. To the extent that it is not uncommon for me to watch a single ski clip multiple times throughout a day and with each iteration my muscles twitch for action. In reality, my body nor skill set are at the level needed to be successful.

So how does an individual begging prepping for the backcountry experience? First, educate yourself! Learn as much as you can about safety, terrain, avalanche risk assessment and rescue techniques. This endeavor has, admittedly, been a bit difficult for me as I like to learn by doing and that is not safely possible. If you are unsure of where to start I recommend, http://www.americanavalancheassociation.org/.

Conditioning is also immensely beneficial for a positive backcountry experience. Conditioning should include three things in my opinion: cardio, weights, and more squats than thought to be generally rational.  Also all conditioning should, if possible, start way before you begin dreaming of skiing.  I swiftly learned on my first day in “side country” that although I think I am in decent shape; I am not.

Next, get people involved with your quest. Especially those who have experience and don’t mind spending time helping you figure stuff out. Work out, skill practice and generously thank these people as they are your Virgil in your ski purgatory.  Most important: share the stoke! Outdoor experiences have a keen ability to create lasting relationships. Embrace it, these people will likely be lifelong friends.

Another necessary step is to inevitably get the appropriate gear. No longer will just skis, boots, bindings, polls, water resistant jacket and pants suffice. In order to be safe/capable one must now acquire beacon, shovel, probe, skins, touring bindings and possibly different skis and poles. These items are not cheap but can be bought through Craig’s list or eBay at a fairly low-cost.

Once you have completed aforementioned steps it is then time to start practicing skills on undeniably safe terrain. This is my current juncture. Over the weekend I took my first steps into the realm of backcountry terrain. It was fantastic and very educational. In a short amount of time I learned that I have a good bit of knowledge to obtain before being remotely proficient. Best of all though, I was able to demonstrate to myself that my crazy season goal is obtainable. It will take a lot of time, energy and patience but it is obtainable. I can’t wait. Bring on winter 2015-2016!

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Weekend Update: Last Hurrah at Underwood Ranch

Last Hurrah at Underwood Ranch Jarrod's days living in Houston are quickly winding down, so this past weekend we took up trip up to his family's land outside of Austin.


J went up early, as he usually does and I rode up with his Hess roommate Greg. We got in around 11 p.m. Friday night and found all of the guys sitting around the fire, drinking beer and having a good time.

There something about a fire and cold night. It gets people talking. We stayed out til 2 a.m. just catching up on life and shooting the shit.


We all slept in a bit Saturday, but when we finally did get up one of the guys had prepared French toast. J and I then went for a nice drive around the land in the buggie. We went and saw the cows and baby cows, the llamas and the donkeys. We were stopping for a moment so I could drink my coffee when all of the sudden we heard running behind us.

We'd left the little dog with Greg, but apparently when he went outside she ran away. And ran and ran, until she located us in the middle of a field of cows.


We fished for a while, but that didn't produce any fruit because we weren't using bate. Then it was time for the ATM game. So all activities shut down for the next several hours as the guys sat in front of the TV.

Later that evening, one of our buddies allowed J and I to try our hand at the dating app Tinder. I found a nice, cute girl for our friend and started a conversation with her, but it wasn't long before J said that I wasn't doing it right and took the phone away from me.


Afterword, we all got into the ranch truck and drove around the ranch with spotlights. J has always taken gun safety seriously and tonight was no different. We each took a few shots at some targets near the back pond.


Sunday we woke up early and began packing up. It was a beautiful day, so before it got too late, we took to the field and did some clay pigeon shooting.


Recipe: Underwood Ranch Chili

10268450_10203688316426972_7138828356168750405_n I adore this recipe and I've made it several times.

I enjoy cooking for guests when we go up to the farm, and I've found that meals that are simple to throw together are the best.

The first time I made it, I decided to augment it by adding some chipotle pepper. So, I added a whole can of peppers in adobo sauce. That chili could have set your face on fire. Since then, I've reduced the pepper number to 3-4, based on spice preference.

Anyway, I just made this for Bible study yesterday. This recipe tastes like Fall to me. It fed enough to fill five or six adults.

Also, I had an extra 1/2 zucchini and red bell pepper and carrots in my fridge, so I diced those and threw them in. Get creative. This is  a great recipe to clear out the fridge with.

Make it and love it. I promise it's make-a-million-times good.

Underwood Ranch Chili 

3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds lean grass-fed ground beef

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika

1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

3-4 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

About 1 tsp. salt

1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed fire-roasted tomatoes

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can or bottle flavorful, medium-bodied beer, such as Anchor Steam

1 teaspoon Worcestershire

1 can (14.5 oz.) pinto beans, drained

Optional additions: Bell Pepper, Zucchini, Garbanzo Beans, Carrots

To serve: Sour cream, sliced green onions, and/or coarsely shredded cheddar cheese for topping


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 7 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer, and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.
  3. Add beans and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.

See original recipe: myrecipes.com/recipe/smoky-beef-and-bacon-chili

Dearest Dad - Happy Birthday

Dearest Dad,

Today is your birthday. Today you are 61 years young. Today I want to tell you how grateful I am to have you as my father.

I know you may read this and roll your eyes. But after you roll your eyes I hope you smile because you have one of the most infectious smiles around and on your birthday you should smile. When I think of your smile I envision that picture of you Mom has in her old Pi Beta Phi frame where you are grinning from ear to ear. It is one of my favorite pictures of you.

There are so many aspects of my life that are a reflection of you. From my endless love for the outdoors and adventure to my affinity for singer/songwriter music you have contributed to all of it. Even my inability to tell a joke comes from you. Yeah, Dad, you may think your jokes are super funny but I’ve found that most people give nothing but a blank response after I attempt one of your jokes.

My life is more beautiful because of you. It was my memory of your love for Colorado that brought me here 4 years ago. Every day I appreciate this beautiful state because you taught me to revel in natural beauty for all it has to offer as one day it may be gone.   Really though, there is nothing like hanging off the side of a cliff with the Rockies stretched out before you or finishing a class III rapid boat in tack to make you appreciate life.

I am a stronger person because of you. Growing up you always encouraged us to try new things and even if we weren’t the best at them to keep trying.  You never hesitated to offer tough advice even if we didn’t want to hear it. These are just some of the things that have made me stronger.

In no way is this an exhaustive list of how you have influenced me throughout my life.  All I hope to accomplish by writing this is to begin to demonstrate how grateful I am to be your daughter.

I would not be who I am today without you.

I love you.


'It is well with my soul'

J and I just finished the most wonderful weekend camping trip to Garner.

It was our first camping trip as a couple. And we survived! It's been years since I've camped and so I'm happy to report that not a lot has changed.

My friend Chelsea's boyfriend served as the master of ceremonies as he was the expert camper. Due too one of our campers backpacking experience, we cooked for our semi-large group on his one burner attached to a half-sized propane can. It was all good, but still laughable. I remember the days when we used to "car camp" and used out totally legit camp stove! Oh the good days... Anyway, I think you live and learn and no one died along the way.

J and I even hiked up to the summit of a small Texas "mountain." Yea, it was pretty much a vertical ascent and the outdoorsy boyfriend pretty much jumped up the mountain at a speedy clip leaving J and I to kinda bumble up the mountain at our newbie, untrained pace. Either way, we made it! When I get the pics I'll be sure to post.

On the top of the mountain, there was a stack of rocks to mark the highest point of the formation. Like people do on Everest, past hikers had left rocks indicating the date they had climbed and words of encouragement. It was neat that the time we arrived there was also a trail now-dried flowers that led up to the hill of rocks and apparently were a part of a marriage proposal. We deduced this because there were a couple of rocks at that said, "and I want to spend the rest of my life with you." We assumed that the "Will you marry me?" rock was carried back to the bottom as a keepsake, but the other nice words were left behind. These rocks were fairly large..small boulders..so I don't blame the happy couple for leaving some behind. I do give major props to the young man (I'm guessing) who  secretly hiked up the mountain to set up the romantic scene only to hike down and do it all over again with his wife-to-be.

Anyway, the picture has nothing to do with all this I just typed. Mom took this picture at the Antique Rose Emporium weekend before last and I like it. Reminds me of a favorite hymn, "It is well..."

Listen to 'It is Well in my Soul'