Winter backpacking with Teton Sports’ Hiker3700

Mother Nature has apparently decided to keep us in a wintery state well into April here in northwestern Wyoming. While I am more than ready for the new growth and blooms that come with spring, I have definitely enjoyed the later winter/early spring snow that has stuck around in the mountains.

Back in January, I was talking to the amazing people from Teton Sports about a few weekend snowshoe trips Brian and I had started planning. They were kind enough to send us a box o’ goodies to use on these trips. It was like Christmas when I opened the box to find two Hiker3700 packs and two Tracker +5 sleeping bags.

After three weekends of backpacking in the snow, wind, and cold of wintery Wyoming, my love for winter backpacking is here to stay! However, I am pretty sure statements like that, after describing getting blown over on mountainsides by winds gusting 70mph, make my family think I am a bit off my rocker ;)

The last weekend of February we did a quick jaunt up to the top of Sheep Mountain for a night with our dogs. It was a calm, quiet trip to break in our winter backpacking legs. We were beyond thankful for our Tracker +5 bags when temps plummeted below zero. With all of the clothes we had brought layered on, we were toasty warm in our bags, even with icicles forming inside the tent!

Our Sheep Mountain weekend was a blast

Our Sheep Mountain weekend was a blast

The last weekend in March we headed out to our beloved Shoshone National Forest with a friend of Brian’s (also named Brian…I hereby cannot allow anyone else named Brian into my life!) and our dogs. This trip would be Brian’s (the friend) first backpacking trip on the Shoshone, so after getting everything prepped, we hit the Jim Mountain Trailhead. We headed into the mountains with the hopes of crossing the ridgeline leading up to Little Jim and eventually making it to Robbers Roost.

What a view!

What a view!

While my pack fit comfortable enough, I had meant to adjust my lumbar system on my Hiker3700 before we hit the trail, but alas, I forgot. When we stopped for our first trail snack, Brian (my guy…see already confusing, haha) helped me adjust it. Even with a pack weighted down with everything I would need for 2 days, it was such a simple adjustment to make. After moving the lumbar/shoulder strap system down a bit, we tightened one strap and I was good to go. I couldn’t believe how much better the pack fit!

An even better fitting pack & I'm off!

An even better fitting pack & I’m off!

Hitting the trail once again on a trip we dubbed the “Lost & Found” trip (inside joke), we saw new parts of the forest, snowshoed through numerous types of snow, crossed ridgelines above tree line, and were thrown around by incredibly strong winds. While we never made it to Robbers Roost, we (Brian) found more antlers, discovered not all backpacking meals are created equal :(, and had a weekend of fun with spectacular views.

Snow, smiles, sun, & lots of wind!

Snow, smiles, sun, & lots of wind!

The first weekend of April brought Brian and me another chance to get away into the forest with the pups. We headed up Green Creek and jumped on the Table Mountain Trail. The snow added some extra miles to our trip by keeping us from driving all of the way to the trailhead. High above the valley floor, we watched storms move across the mountains on the other side and knew it was a matter of time until the wind began whipping up a storm on top of us. We walked through high alpine winds threatening to blow us away (in case you aren’t getting a trend here, it is very windy in Wyoming), had very tasty meals, bandaged an injured doggie foot, got in over 10 miles and almost 3,000ft on snow that went from deep powder to slush to hard packed icy to everything in-between. 

I can't believe this is our life!!

I can’t believe this is our life!!

After three winter backpacking trips with our Hiker3700 backpacks, both Brian and I are in love with them. It amazes me that a 6’ man and a 5’4” woman can use the same pack thanks to such easy, common sense adjustment systems. The amount of strap adjustment possibilities allows this pack to fit pretty much any frame. This pack has enough padding that my hip bones weren’t rubbed raw, which is a big deal for me!

Brian says this pack is “the most comfortable pack I’ve ever put on.” With plenty of pocket options, you can put things within easy reach for trail snacks, photo opportunities, fluid replenishment (fact: bladders are not the best water apparatuses in the winter!), and quick shifts in the elements (i.e. extra layers in outside pockets). We never ran out of room and in fact could’ve carried more if we needed to. We were able to easily strap snowshoes onto the pack and then back off and then back on.

This is what we think of time in the mountains, snowshoes, & Teton Sports gear

This is what we think of time in the mountains, snowshoes, & Teton Sports gear

At $90 on Amazon.com, this pack will blow you away. I can’t wait to hit the trail with this pack, sans snowshoes, for a bunch more backpacking trips this spring and summer!

As I sit here writing this during a quiet weekend at home, my face has finally recovered from severe wind burn and the subsequent peeling, Sydney’s paw has healed, and I cannot help but think that I am living the perfect life for me :)

A slip, a fall, a softball: A backcountry mistake

Chances are if you enjoy backcountry adventures, you have learned some lessons thanks to a mistake or two.  I would like to think that my past mistakes of mine have made me wiser, so I share this with the hope of making you, the reader, wiser as well!

In June 2010 my sister and I met in Jackson, Wyo to run a half marathon and then head into the Grand Teton National Park for a three day backpacking trip.  After being cheered on by our mom during the half-marathon (my first one ever!), we rested for a day before setting out on our adventure.

Our trip began with taking the gondola from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to the top of Rendezvous Peak where we met up with a trail that would take us to Marion Lake and the Teton Crest Trail.  We had done our research, talked to rangers, and brought our ice axes and yak-tracks because we were told there would definitely still be snow, which was confirmed when we picked up our backcountry permit the day before.

Renee & I getting ready to take the gondola up!

Renee & I getting ready to take the gondola up!

We got off the gondola with our backpacks and headed for the trail, which we got on and began moving through some snow.  We quickly lost the trail and also learned that the snow was not even close to being hard packed, like we had been briefed.  Not to be deterred, we got out our map, oriented ourselves, and figured out what direction we needed to head in.  It was at this point that we began bushwhacking down and up sides of mountains. 

This was the last time we saw the trail

This was the last time we saw the trail

As we continued to posthole through snow up to our waists, we learned that we could take our packs off, slide them down the mountain to each other and move a bit more efficiently.  We were definitely getting a good workout and knew we were headed in the right direction; suddenly we saw a trail (on dry ground!) and were stoked!  We looked at the map and knew that trail would intersect our desired trail.  As we pushed our way through the snow and down the side of the mountain towards the trail, we realized that we were going to have to cross a fast-moving stream that was very full due to runoff. 

This was the stream we had to cross (taken post crossing)

This was the stream we had to cross (taken post crossing)

Let me take a break at this point and say that we were both experience hikers but both relatively new to backpacking (it was my 4th trip and my sister’s 2nd). Ok back to our story…

We got to the bottom of the mountain where the creek was flowing; we looked for the best area to cross.  When we thought we found it my sister began to cross.  She was weighted down with her backpack (which we now know to either throw across the creek or at least unstrap the waist and chest belt of) and the rocks on the bottom of the steam were slick.  Before I knew it, she slipped on a rock and was floating downstream face first!!  I was able to reach her pack and help her pull herself back to the bank of the stream.  We decided that the only thing for us to do was find a way across this stream as going back up the mountain wasn’t possible and the drainage was too narrow for us to simply follow the stream, plus we were trying to reach that darn trail!

After finding a good, sturdy stick, I was able to stay on one bank holding an end and she could slowly walk across holding the other end (we have since learned proper stream crossing techniques).  We crossed the stream easily and were beyond joyous, that is until we realized that Renee had landed hard on her shin during her first attempt. 

We were very thankful for this stick!!

We were very thankful for this stick!!

We took a look at it, let the adrenaline of the situation wear off, and realized that she had a lump that was swelling to the size of a softball on her shin!!!  After getting up a short hill to the trail, we reassessed and decided that our original plans for the trip now had to be scrapped due to her injury, but she wanted to continue on with something.  Taking the map out we found other options that would give us less elevation changes but still allow us to enjoy our trip.

The bump swelling up on my sister's shin

The bump swelling up on my sister’s shin

We set up camp that night and I begged her to be honest with me and that if it hurt too much or looked worse in the morning we could just hike out. After that promise, we were able to still have a great trip and see amazing sights, to include our first bull moose and an elk watching us sleep during an afternoon nap (but those are entirely whole different stories!).

One of many unexpected but spectacular views we were treated to

One of many unexpected but spectacular views we were treated to

Want to learn from the adventure missteps of others?  Join me, some other bloggers, and the fabulous staff of Sierra Trading Post for #STPLive on Twitter this Thursday, March 27 at 4pm MST. 

“David Copperfield” & #OmniGames Team 8

So what is up with the title of this post?? Well, this week-long final challenge for the #OmniGames has been called Charles Dickens.  If you haven’t already figured it out, I have used titles from some of his books for the titles of my posts. I feel that they have all worked pretty darn well. This post has David Copperfield in the title because, much like the book, it tells a story of how Team 8 has found our individual places in the world.

Yesterday my #OmniGames teammate Weston Shirey told you a little bit about himself and that #TryingStuff is not just a saying but is woven into the fabric of his life (check out his post What does #tryingstuff mean to you?).  He is an adventure loving man who has seen great chunks of the world but is always ready for the next journey to come along. 

Today, I would like to tell you a story about a little girl; a girl whose parents always told her she could be and do anything she wanted; a girl who grew into a woman who, regardless of the scar on her chest, will give anything a try, at least once.

Meet one year old Kristie Salzmann

Meet one year old Kristie Salzmann

I kind of think this may have been my cutest stage in life, but underneath the cute face, is a heart that has a hole and will undergo two surgeries to repair it. This heart will cause many tears and fear for her family as her young, then 25-year-old parents, do everything within their power to help her live a life they couldn’t have imagined at the time.

Fast forward 13 years. Meet 14-year-old Kristie.

14, awkward, and happy!

14, awkward, and happy!

She is a bit more awkward than at one, and by this point she has discovered that some people will try their hardest to tell you can’t do something or that you aren’t good enough. Lucky for her, she has a strong family of three surrounding her and still telling her she can do anything she sets her mind to.

Almost two decades later, this same girl has proven her critics wrong by continually #tryingstuff. She has taken leaps of faith by moving across country without knowing anyone, putting herself out there to make the best friends she can ever think of, and always being up for something new, something unknown to push herself further physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Team 8 busy #tryingstuff

Team 8 busy #tryingstuff (courtesy of Gina Begin)

At points, the #OmniGames were physically, mentally, or emotionally taxing for me, but I knew that I had to keep trying; I had to keep pushing myself because I didn’t want to let down my teammate. Along the way I realized that even more so, I wanted to be proud of myself for trying my hardest; to be able to look in the mirror and know that my parents and sister would be proud of me. I know I have once again succeeded :)

 

As I said earlier this week (“Hard Times” bring out the best in #tryingstuff), Columbia developed the #OmniTen program to challenge themselves, but what they may not have planned on is the family that has come out of it.  All I can say is, THANK YOU for expanding my family…the rest is just icing on the cake of life!

Portland & Park City – “A Tale of Two Cities”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  This is one of the most famous lines ever written by Charles Dickens.  It is something that epitomizes life in general.  Our struggles as individuals, families, friends, companies, you name it, we go through a series of ups and downs throughout our lives.

Portland – In this town Columbia Sportswear has seen struggles and successes.  It has seen the company fight to stay afloat, and it has also seen the company become one of the most innovative outdoor corporations in the industry.  In this city, Columbia has created great technologies for the everyday adventurer and amazing world-class athletes alike.  In this city the motto of #TryingStuff hasn’t been reserved for the elite few but continues to be spread as a way of life for outdoor loving folks everywhere.

This is just one example of an amazing new technology that will hit the streets from Portland this September:

Columbia's Omni-heat, Omni-freeze, & Omni-dry technologies have taken me around the world

Columbia’s Omni-heat, Omni-freeze, & Omni-dry technologies have taken me around the world

 Park City – This town saw 30+ outdoor loving, social media crazed individuals converge for a few days of competition and saw them leave as a family.  The mountains of this town saw friendships forged and beginners battle to stay upright.  This town has been home to competitions long before the #OmniGames were even a glimmer of an idea and will remain so long after we have gone back to our normal lives.  For three days, we reigned supreme (at least in our own minds!) as we fought, often neck and neck, for 10 spots for the adventure of a lifetime.

Taking the fierce competition by storm

Taking the fierce competition by storm

 But why stop at two cities?  Why not bring a third one into the mix…Petra!  This amazing, historic city will no doubt be on the agenda for the 5 teams who are victors of the #OmniGames when they travel to Jordan this coming spring.  Petra saw hills and valleys throughout its existence.  Founded as a capital in the caravan trade during the 6th century BC, this city later became a hub for many trade routes linking China, India and Arabia with Egypt, Greece, Syria, and Rome.  It saw riches until it became what we now call the “Lost City” in the 18th century AD.  For more information on a place I hope to visit this spring (but definitely will within my lifetime!), check out the Jordan Tourism Board’s website.

My sister visited Petra in the past few years

My sister visited Petra in the past few years

Team 8 is battling our way through this last and final challenge.  As we have been telling you a variety of stories over the past week, we are still competing for those top 10 spots, so stick close as Wes & I make a final push!  You won’t want to miss out on what is coming tomorrow!!!

In “The Battle of Life” be #InspiredByGreatness

Over my life I have been lucky to draw strength from various sources of inspiration as I battle tough times. Beautifully written words by poets and authors, the mystery of the ocean, the unbridled beauty of nature in its purest form, and people have all brought me motivation and encouragement to be the best Kristie possible. 

How can you not be inspired by the work, determination, & passion shown by world-class athletes?!

How can you not be inspired by the work, determination, & passion shown by world-class athletes?!

That last one, people, is what I find inspires me most; the greatness of each unique individual.  While I have been inspired by the works of many famous people, it is those who do things not for fame or glory but for the simple reason of pushing themselves beyond their own comfort zones that inspire me most.  Those who try new things, who face their fears, and who bolster others through unbelievable acts of kindness, those are the people who inspire me, and I am dang lucky enough to call them my friends and family!

Over the course of the Columbia Sportswear #OmniGames, I was inspired by my #omnifamily again and again.  The amazing smiles and upbeat attitude of Katie Boue and Aleya Littleton kept me happy and light.

Aleya always makes me smile :) (courtesy of Anne Carney)

Aleya always makes me smile :) (courtesy of Anne Carney)

The compassion shown by Gina Begin  & Ann Driggers  (as well as many others!) when they learned of my emotional struggles during the week, reminded me that love surrounds us at all times.

Gina, one of the sweetest, kindest hearts I have in mylife

Gina, one of the sweetest, kindest hearts I have in my life (courtesy of David Creech)

The ability to remain humble, even when clearly dominating the competition ;) is something that few people do well.  Beth Bault and Justin Lukasavige reminded me that true champions see themselves as normal people.

I dub Beth & Justin "Team Awesomesauce"

I dub Beth & Justin “Team Awesomesauce” (courtesy of David Creesh) 

With their try anything attitude, Eric Eagan and Heidi Henry pushed me to step outside my normal comforts.  They reminded me that you never know if you like something or are good at it until you have fun trying it!

Skiing is "fun"??

Skiing is “fun”?? (courtesy of David Creech)

If I had been delayed multiple times in my travels to Park City, I am not sure that I would have been as determined to complete every task thrown my way, but Michelle Eady sure was…and she rocked them!

Michelle is all smiles

Michelle is all smiles (courtesy of David Creech)

Again, I was inspired by the greatness that was the Columbia Sportswear.  You all never cease to amaze with the trips you put together, but more importantly with the true level of caring that you have for each person involved in those trips. 

Throughout the entire competition I was inspired by my partner Weston Shirey.  He had fun with everything he did; he cheered on everyone, not only me.  He was always willing to offer a smile, fist bump, high five, or hug.  As he flew by me on the slopes during a challenge to gain the most vertical feet as a team (basically ski or snowboard the most), he would whoop, give me encouraging words, and let me know he recognized how hard I was trying.

That is how I am #InspiredByGreatness.

This is how I am #InspiredByGreatness (courtesy of David Creech)

How are you #InspiredByGreatness in your everyday life?

“Hard Times” bring out the best in #TryingStuff

In 1938 two German nationals, who had fled what was then the embattled country of Germany, bought a small hat company with the hopes of making a better life in the United States; to be more specific in Portland, Oregon.  This company did well built upon the idea that “success comes to those who try” and was later taken over by their daughter’s husband.  While I can tell you the rest of the story, why not see it for yourself!

As you can see, Columbia Sportswear is a company that has long been about #TryingStuff. As was said in the video, Columbia Sportswear is determined to “out try” their competitors.  

It was in this way of thinking that the #OmniTen program was created.  The company decided to push their own comfort by getting reviews and opinions on new technologies from real people who live an active, outdoor lifestyle.  People who would actually be using their company’s gear for everyday adventures in #TryingStuff.

#TryingStuff in Columbia gear way before my #Omniten invitation

#TryingStuff in Columbia gear way before my #Omniten invitation

After three seasons of amazing trips centered around new technologies such as Omni-Freeze, Omni-Freeze Zero, Omni-Dry, and Omni-Heat, the company added one more group of ten and has taken it a step further with the #OmniGames.  As you may have seen in many blog postings yesterday (like some from Joshua and Katie Boue), the games were intense and such a blast.  For Weston and I, it was all about #TryingStuff.  

Team 8 trysing dog sledding!

Team 8 trying dog sledding!

We had never met in person until the morning of our team pairings yet we instantly became friends who not only helped each other through each challenge but had so much fun doing so, that we couldn’t help but share our excitement by causing crazy scenes while loudly cheering on other teams.

For us #tryingstuff not only meant pushing ourselves to new levels in a competition filled with things one or both of us had never done (like archery, building an emergency shelter in the snow, a ropes course over 50ft in the air, & dog sledding), but it also meant testing out amazing new gear like the TurboDown jackets (expertly described here by Katie Levy) and making or strengthening friendships that will no doubt last a lifetime.

Team 8 got busy #tryingstuff & pushing our limits (picture of me on the ropes is courtesy of David Creech)

Team 8 got busy #tryingstuff & pushing our limits (picture of me on the ropes is courtesy of David Creech)

Stay tuned for more about Team 8′s adventures in #TryingStuff during the #OmniGames and what it means to be #Inspiredbygreatness!!!

Great Expectations…the #OmniGames

My life has been a bit of a hectic whirlwind lately.  A big part of the reason?

 omnigames

That’s right!  I was honored to get to be a part of another Columbia Sportswear event.  If you will recall, I had a life-changing trip on the Rogue River this summer.  Well in true #tryingstuff style, Columbia Sportswear brought all four seasons (including the brand new crew) together in Park City for a few days of adventure, playing in the snow, testing new gear, and competing for a chance to be part of the Spring 2014 crew; this crew will get to go to….JORDAN!!!

Over the next few days, my awesome partner Weston Shirey, and I will recap our adventures in a unique way that we hope will help you feel like you were right there in Park City with us for #OmniGames. Here is a preview of things to come!

#TryingStuff video preview (courtesy of Wes!)

Wes & yours truly on a snowmobile on day 1 of #OmniGames

Wes & yours truly on a snowmobile on day 1 of #OmniGames