Category Archives: Writing

Faux Outdoorsiness

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Early summer sunset over the Cascades

I am flipping through the Sundance catalog in a speedy staccato of magazine pages while sipping a cup of coffee. I don’t want to look at the pile of bills I’ve also retrieved from the mailbox, so instead I glance through the expensive litany of stylized offerings. A person could spend a lot of money to make herself and her home look rugged and outdoorsy. Mountain towns across the west are splattered with distressed barn wood siding and reclaimed flooring. Roofs are pre-rusted and copper gutters are pre-patinaed. Leather jackets and jeans come pre-faded now, rubbed soft by machines instead of greasy palms and cans of Copenhagen. I pick up another catalog full of Carhartt look-alikes (about three times as expensive as the originals). These, too, come pre-softened, complete with fake creases and a tool pocket just the right size for an iPhone.

I am not fooled. This faux outdoorsiness is not the same as the real thing. We want to feel rugged. But not live rugged. We just want to glimpse it from the comfort of our 700 thread-count sheets, not sleep on the ground with the dirt and the mosquitoes.

Camping in the Himalayas

Even as I write this, knowing that the sun will soon fade behind the gunmetal clouds of a PNW winter, I worry that I haven’t slept enough nights on the ground. I haven’t, yet, walked enough trail miles or surfed enough waves or flown enough bush miles. More nights than not this summer, I’ve slept in a comfortable bed. Not once has my puffy jacket saved my life, or have I drank water tinged with iodine. What’s next? Fake Carhartts?

I suppose, I could say I’ve challenged myself in other ways. Not every hike has to turn into an epic. Sometimes you make it home. I could remind myself that I’m not traveling away from my core so much as expanding it. I’m working on a new book; John and I flew to remote places in the Beaver; I rafted the Salmon River; I hiked miles and miles in the Cascades; I spoke to large groups about taking risks and getting through hardship just 15 minutes at a time; we’re saving up for that surf trip to Indonesia next month. This summer was more than just a chance to work-in those old canvas pants. It was an indoor-outdoor kind of summer. Sort of like that polyester carpet from the 70s.

But something inside me yearns for one more cool night under the stars with my hands wrapped around my faded Outward Bound coffee mug. I long to watch the sunset over jagged peaks and crawl into my sleeping bag knowing that I’ve done all that I can do–for the day, for the evening, and in the world. The weekend weather looks good for one more backpacking trip, and my down jacket could use another duct-tape patch or two.

Puffy jackets and coffee mugs

The catalog I have in my hands shows a pretty woman in a red dress and what look like very old cowboy boots that she found in her grandfather’s barn. Except they’re $450. She leans against a faded wood door hanging slightly off its hinges.  I have to admit. The dress is nice. It would be perfect for my friend’s outside wedding coming up in a few weeks. It would project that perfect mix of mountain girl and gauzy femme that my husband claims is my “style”.

By ordering from the catalog I could avoid a trip to the mall. Instead I could drag my husband out for one last night out under the stars.

I pick up the phone and dial the number at the bottom of the page, press my finger against the style number and wait to be connected.

Spontaneity Rules

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Whistler Off the Wingtip

When your husband wakes you up with a cup of coffee in bed and asks, “Why don’t we fly the Beaver to Whistler today?” There is only one answer. No matter what I had planned on accomplishing last Friday, I knew it could wait. That final rewrite of that article I’m working on? My deadline isn’t for a few weeks yet. That word document I started with the first blush of a new book idea that’s tickling the back of my mind, waiting to grow wings and become legitimate? That, too, isn’t going anywhere.

It took me less than 30 seconds to answer.

“Yes,” I said and shot out of bed. Of course I wanted to fly the Beaver to Whistler. I wasn’t even sure if we could find a room at such short notice. Or sure that we could leave our plane overnight in Green Lake. Or certain how we would get from the lake to our hotel. But these were just details.

Within a few hours, we were flying a new route. John and I sold our floating home in Sullivan Bay earlier this summer in order to make way for new adventures. Since then, I’ve been waiting for those adventures to gel. But bush flying takes a bit of research, not to mention trial and error. Flying to Sullivan had become almost routine.

A few years ago, we’d ridden bikes around Green Lake, and watched Whistler Air floatplanes land in the pristine water. It had been on our list ever since.

The Beaver at the dock in Green Lake

Reason #557 why I love my husband so much is his spontaneity. Sure, it can be difficult to make advanced plans. Yes, we missed that barbecue at my sister’s house. Certainly, I should not cut my deadlines too close in case he makes an offer I can’t refuse. But spontaneity shakes something loose in me. It brings me closer to freedom; spur-of-the-moment decisions cut away that accumulated bathtub ring of daily noise. I’m constantly battling this noise. Balancing myself between outdoor adventures and the very inside activity of writing about them makes for an interesting dance. Too much time spent doing either one turns me limp, makes my blood sugars either too low or too high and I lose my way.

A last-minute trip brings out the best in me. I brought along exactly one change of clothes and stuffed it into my backpack. We took out the seats to make room for our bikes. Boarding the plane, I figured we could always sleep in the back. This was a Dehavilland Beaver after all.

I made a hotel reservation on my phone while John flew (debunking the cell phone interference myth), and we made our way north. Flying into Howe Sound, I noticed the long line of cars heading from Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway. Had we taken the car, the trip would have been 7 hours, depending on the border. Instead, it took us 1.5 hours.

It was glorious.

Can You Just Unplug Anymore?

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Preparing a lesson in the backcountry

It used to be that I’d only check my emails every few days. I didn’t own a cell phone and rarely checked my voice messages. I wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn until recently. It all started when I decided to write a book. Well the cell phone thing happened earlier. But not by much.

These days if you want to sell a book, you also need a blog. And a Facebook account. And a Twitter handle. And what the publishing industry calls a “platform”, which I like to think of as a really tall place from which to holler, “Buy my book!” The more connected you are, the taller the hollering place. Really famous people seemingly holler from the top of Everest.

I’m not famous. But I have a blog and a Facebook account, which is practically the same thing these days. (Actually that’s not true. Not even close.)

So I’m finding it harder and harder to unplug. My husband and I were recently surprised by how many work-related emails we received over the holiday weekend. People don’t seem to take time off anymore. Every waking moment can now be used to build one’s platform, creating an ever higher place from which to “stay on message”. Whether we are proselytizing about our book, our recent accomplishments, a product we hope to sell, or simply our cute kids, we are all out there trying to sell ourselves 24/7. It’s a tough world these days, and everyone wants to be on top.

That’s what I like about adventure trips. Before I built up my platform I worked as an Outward Bound instructor, spending nearly all summer in the backcountry without electronics. I didn’t have a phone or a iPod and only rarely carried a camera. While time in camp was busy, the easiest part of the day for an instructor was hiking the trails–when the kids were too tired to complain or bicker and we could just get lost in our own thoughts.

I’m ready to unplug this summer. I want to walk a trail and get lost in the rhythm of my feet, thinking no further than the next campsite. I’ll still be here, blogging away, but not at my earlier pace. I plan to post at least once a week, more when I think of something great to share.

It is time to recharge. And unlike electronics, humans can only recharge when they are unplugged. Take some time away from your computer this summer. You’ll be happy you did.

Join Me Today at Alpental Ski Area

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I will be signing and selling books today at Alpental. With snow in the forecast, it will be a great day to hit the slopes and meet me for some aprés ski action at 2pm in the Denny Mountain Lodge. So if you happen to be at the Summit today, please stop by my table and talk to me. Because there’s nothing sadder than an eager looking writer alone at a table with a pile a books.

My memoir, THE NEXT 15 MINUTES: Strength from the top of the Mountain takes readers on a wild ride of salvation, finding answers to a scary diagnosis on the ski slopes. As a ski patroller, I use explosives to prevent avalanches and my EMT training to save lives. When my husband got sick, it was the most important job yet: rescue him. My training taught me how to survive any crisis, even a terrible diagnosis: just calm down and breathe. During the twelve months waiting for the liver transplant that would save him, I conquered my greatest fear by returning to the mountains. I mined our lives spent skiing, climbing, and exploring the wilderness for lessons I could apply to our current dilemma. THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES offers a rare glimpse into the strange and fascinating world of ski area work, where steep terrain and deep snow, the twin fuels that run our business, can teach us how to get through the worst trials just fifteen minutes at a time.

Check out the Summit Website page for more information. Hope to see you there!

 

Book Signing at Crystal Mountain This Weekend

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I will be signing and selling books this Saturday, December 17th in the day lodge at Crystal Mountain. Come join me during the apres ski hour. If you already have a copy, bring it so I can sign it. And you can buy another one!  The Next 15 Minutes will make a great gift for those of you who went skiing instead of finishing up your holiday shopping. Just saying!

Hope to see you there!

Date: Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where: Crystal Mountain Day Lodge

Time: 3:00pm-5:00pm

 

Can Cat Videos Sell Books?

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Ever since my book came out, I’ve been aflurry (is that even a word?) with promotion and book-selling mojo. To be a successful author these days you pretty much have to sell the book yourself. And by sell the book, I mean press it into everyone’s hand that you’ve ever met and beg them to buy it.

The other day I saw a guy at Starbucks. He looked vaguely familiar.

“Hey, didn’t we know each other in fourth grade?” I asked him.

He looked at me and narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think so.”

“I do. I’m pretty sure. Mr. Rochester’s class? Margaret Mead Elementary?”

He shook his head and ordered a grande latte and turned to go.

“Oh, cuz I thought we knew each other. I was going to tell you about my new book.” I reached into my wallet for my business card.

“No thanks,” the guy backed away slowly, keeping his eyes on my card like it was a gun or something.

“You’re a writer?” The barista asked when I ordered my earl gray latte. She smiled at me with a pitying look.

“Yes! I just published a book,” I started to say. Then she turned on the machine and smiled vaguely through the hissing smoke. She wasn’t interested.

So when I came across this video over at The Bloggess, I thought they might be onto something here. Everyone likes cat videos. Maybe I should change my book trailer to a cat video. What do you guys think?

Live for Today: Winter Speaker Series and Gallery Opening

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Join me December 1st along with skier and mountaineer Greg Hill and artist Jim Jickling on the Seattle Waterfront for two lively presentations and artist gallery opening at Blink. The winter theme of the evening is Live for Today, focusing on how to attain your goals, stay focused and be motivated. I am very excited about this event, and hope to see many of you there. Information Below:

Appetizers, beer & wine will be served. Please RSVP.

Agenda

  • 4:00pm Artist Reception: Canadian Painter, Jim Jickling
  • 5:30pm Kim Kircher Presentation & Book signing
  • 6:30pm Greg Hill Presentation

Presenter

Kim Kircher: Crystal Mountain, WA

Author of The Next Fifteen Minutes: Strength From the Top of the Mountain

Kim Kircher, photo by John Kircher
Photo credits: Chris Morin & John Kircher

THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES (Behler Publications, October 2011) offers a rare glimpse into the strange and fascinating world of a ski area professional, where steep terrain and deep snow, the twin fuels that run the business, teach patrollers how to get through the worst trials just fifteen minutes at a time. Kim seized the EMT training that helped her avoid panic when a fallen skier had to be delicately lifted from a tree to manage the life-and-death situation facing her husband.

Ski patroller, author, traveler, Kim Kircher is still learning how to get through life in small increments. Sometimes just fifteen minutes at a time. She has logged over six hundred hours of explosives control, earning not only her avalanche blaster’s card, but also a heli-blaster endorsement, allowing her to fly over the slopes in a helicopter and drop bombs from the open cockpit, while uttering the fabulously thrilling words “bombs away” into the mic.  An EMT, she has received both a National Ski Patrol Purple Merit Star for saving a life as well as a Green Merit Star for saving a life in arduous conditions.

Before working in the ski industry, she received her BA and teaching certificate from the University of Washington, and taught high school English for five years. Her articles have appeared in Women’s Adventure, Couloir Magazine and Off-Piste Magazine, among others.  She is a current member of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association and the North American Ski Journalists Association.  Kim also writes about her job at Crystal Mountain Ski Area at www.blogcrystal.com.  Kim starred in a reality show about ski patrollers on the cable channel TRU-TV.

Her husband’s family owns and operates ten ski areas in the United States and Canada, including Crystal Mountain, where she has worked for twenty-one years. Kim’s book will be available for sale at the event by The Elliott Bay Book Company. Learn more at Kim’s site: www.KimKircher.com


Presenter

Greg Hill: Revelstoke, B.C. Canada

“2 Mill Hill”. Ski Touring & Mountaineer, Film maker

Greg Hill. Photo credit backcountry.com
Photo credits: T.Chandler, Backcountry.com, Brian Goldstone

With just two days left in 2010, Revelstoke-based ski mountaineer Greg Hill has completed his quest to climb and ski 2,000,000 vertical feet (609,600 metres) in a calendar year. Hill’s feat was the skiing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest every five days for an entire year. Or ascending the stairs of Toronto’s CN Tower four times per day, every day, for 365 consecutive days. It’s exhausting to even think about.

 

Greg Hill is a modern day explorer who skins his way into the unknown. He has skied in Alaska, New Zealand, Europe and all over North America but will mostly be found exploring his home range; the Columbia mountains. He lives in Revelstoke and has been pushing the backcountry boundaries ever since he moved there in 2000. With limitless mountains at his disposal Greg is always searching for a new line, or a new peak he has not skied before. In 2003 he traversed the Northern Monashees a 250km, 100,000 foot epic traverse. Energized by being the first to traverse this range, Greg managed to summit 21 peaks over the 21 days of the traverse. Over the years Greg has toured 20,30,40 and finally 50,000 feet in a day. Setting the standard for what can be done in the backcountry, and also earning him a world record in “most vertical climbed and skied in 24 hours.”

In 2004-05 Greg toured a million feet of backcountry skiing over the course of 145 days. In 2006-07 he toured 80 ten thousand foot days, totaling 990,000 feet for the season.
Since then Greg has changed his focus a bit and started to film and document his adventures, instead of selfishly shredding powder he is using his energy to film and capture the essence of what he and his friends get up to. He runs a blog on which he shares his adventures which can be followed on his website: greghill.ca.

In the summer of 2008 he compiled his best footage from the winter 2007-08 and created “The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing” which won best short movie in the New Zealand Mountain film festival and also made the Finals in the Banff International Mountain film festival and is also on their World Tour.

“So often the only stories we hear about backcountry skiing in the mainstream media are negative ones that deal with avalanches, rescues, and deaths. I think that by skiing two million vertical feet – much of it solo – I can show that with the proper knowledge and equipment, people can safely enjoy the mountains in the winter. I’m gratified that people from all over the world have posted comments on my blog and that even non-skiers are inspired by my goal setting and achievement.” – Greg Hill


Artist

Jim Jickling: Mill Bay, Canada

Acrylic, oil, watercolor and guache paintings will be on exhibit at the Blink Gallery until March 1, 2012.

Jickling Art

Over the past six decades, Canadian artist, Jim Jickling has produced an extraordinary body of work, most of which has focused on his Victoria and Mill Bay home, his favorite sports and European travels. Water color, acrylic and gouache are his most common mediums, mostly abstract expressionism in style with bold color.

Jim started his career as a teacher in a small rural school on Lasquiti Island in 1957. Soon after his marriage in 1959 he and his wife Mary moved to North Vancouver B.C.  to teach at a number of schools on the North Shore. In 1970, the new family of 5 moved to Victoria where Jim accepted a position in the faculty of education at the University of Victoria. For 11 years until his retirement in 1988, Jim taught high school art and coached rugby at Cowichan Secondary School. Since his retirement, he has continued to paint at his Mill Bay home on Vancouver Island.

Jim received a BEd from the University of British Columbia in 1963 and an MFA from the Istituto de Allende, Mexico in 1965. Jim has exhibited in Seattle, Victoria, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Whistler. Jim’s paintings have been chosen for the art leasing program in the Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Vancouver Art Gallery. His paintings are held in many private collections.


Event Details

Space is limited, RSVP early

The event is open to the public and free of charge, however a donation at the event is encouraged to help cover food and drink costs. Thank you.

Please click the green button and RSVP at our Eventbrite page. Guests are welcome, please list each name on the RSVP page.

RSVP Now

Location: Blink, Waterfront Building. 1011 Western Ave. Suite 810, Seattle, WA 98104

Interview with Lizz Sommars

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Radio personality Lizz Sommars of “Conversations” interviewed me on KMTT The Mountain this weekend. If you missed the live version, here’s the podcast. Thanks Lizz for excellent interview. Just click on the link below to open KMTT’s podcast page and play it from there.