Taste of the Trails [West Yellowstone]

Last year, a random group of friends headed down to West Yellowstone for the Taste of the Trails.  I didn’t really know anyone except the one person that invited me. No one had been to the Taste before and we didn’t know what to expect. It was so great, we came back and talked it up, resulting in a return trip with new people this year. This year the sky stayed grey most of the day and we did get snowed on a little bit, but it was still a great day to be out.

The Taste of the Trails is a 5k cross country ski event by the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation.  They have four food stations set up along the pristine Rendezvous Trails. You begin with appetizers, (elk strudel and candied bacon anyone?), followed by soup, (your choice of four different kinds), then the main course, (payaya!), finishing with dessert (too many to list but the chocolate chip bread pudding so so good).
Dessert! So many to try. 
The course was super easy. They removed the one steep hill that was before the soup station this year to make it even more beginner friendly. The course has a biathlon shooting range on it. This year there were people training as we came along for our main course stop.
The hill that took many down last year

The cabin that they serve the main course is an old ranger cabin that they moved over  to save it from demolition.Untitled

After we finished our course and warmed up in the warming hut, a couple of us went back out to do a little bit more exploring. The trails are so well taken care of and the maps and markers make it so easy to not get lost as you weave in and around the forest. I need to pay more attention to the events they have going on. They do a fun/beginners biathlon that I would love to try out and several other fun races.
One of the hills we would realize was not so bad later on

When we were done, we meet up with the others at the local Buffalo Bar before heading over to the Norris Hot Springs to finish the day off before heading back to Bozeman. I’m sure we’ll have another great crew headed down again for next years Taste!

Last year’s crew

Sunday Afternoon Coffee [sixty-three]


If we were having coffee, or tea, this afternoon we would talk about how excited I am to go down to Austin in a couple weeks for one of my very favorite person’s (who also happens to be my cousin), birthdays. She put up a Facebook invite and I declined, but then couldn’t resist looking at flights. Shockingly, I was able to find really cheap tickets, for getting out of BZN anyway. So I’m going on a weekend trip while TSME does whatever he does when I’m gone.
Bridal falls

If we were having coffee this afternoon I would tell you how proud I am of another bad-ass cousin of mine, Laura, who just published a major paper on her research on Neanderthals. And she did this one month after having a baby. Did I mention how bad ass my female cousins are? I swear, Weyrich women are gonna rule the world.

If we were having coffee this afternoon, I would tell you how proud I am of the OAC for turning one year old this month. While I am not as involved with the organization as I was with AFH in the past, I truly love what they are doing and am helping them build as much as I can right now. They are going to do amazing things. Just watch.

Complements of a friends Instagram

If we were having coffee this afternoon, we would probably discuss women in architecture. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Whether it was naivety or not, I don’t think I realized how male dominate the field was and this article is great at quickly explaining some of the imbalances in architecture so much better than I can. Have I had the same experiences as most described here? Yes, from harassment to feeling that I would think about scheduling a “good” time to have a kid that would have the smallest impact on my career. It’s disheartening to realize that there is a good chance someone who is my equal but male is making 23% more than me. That’s well over $10,000 a year. That’s crazy. And while I realize life does not have to be fair. Most of these are simple things that really should be and are not that crazy to balance and make fair.

And one more heavyish read for you if you think your up for it. I like the last line and I feel the same way, I know I’m not perfect but I’m trying. “I’m really confident that I do less damage to people of color than I used to do,” she says. “That is what I can say to you. I do less damage than I used to.”

If we were having coffee this afternoon and it was getting later, I would say let’s go get one of my new favorite drinks: A Chocolate Manhattan. Just add orange liquor.



The Bar [Home necessity]

One of the first things that The Sexy Master Electrician I set up in our new place was the bar. He was not a fan of my ladder turned bar in my old place, plus it didn’t fit in the space anyway. TSME saw a huge moving sale on Craigslist and in the background of a picture of a dining table was the perfect credenza. We got up early on a Saturday to get there when the sale started and almost lost it to another couple. For all of $60 dollars we had our bar.

Set up for our Labor Day BBQ

We have all the essentials, though we are missing a few mixers that we should add by the next gathering. We have the ice bucket, the muddler, the mixer, the strainer, openers, bitters, pint glasses, wine glasses, and high ball glasses. We need some Tom Collins glasses. The five major liquors, tequila, rum, vodka, bourbon and gin are in decanters on top and the bottles live below with the wine bottles.

The credenza is the perfect size for our little bar with the shelves above. There is plenty of room for everything you want on display and plenty of room to hid the stuff you don’t.  The decanters on top have mostly come from second hand or antique shops. One came with the the sweet high ball glasses TSME found for me on Gilt. The bar book and calendar are from my siblings one Christmas.
UntitledWe keep collecting clocks to go around the space and now we have one for each time zone. TSME complains sometimes that it too cluttered. I think it’s perfect.

XC Skiing in Yellowstone [Bunsen Peak Trail]

For the 2016 Superbowl, The Sexy Master Electrician decided to give cross country skiing another try after not being too fond of it last winter. We went back to Yellowstone and rented gear at the shop by Mammoth Hot Springs. We picked up a map and advice on where to go. They had just received new snow so we were pretty excited to go. We decided to try the trail around Bunsen Peak. Thankfully, the guy at the shop told us which way to go, I was thinking it would be easier to go the other way. That was not the case at all.

We could have waited for shuttle to take us to the trail head but we decided to hike/ski up the road a few miles and not have to wait and hour or pay. Plus, this meant we got to ski through the Hoodoos. It was a bit longer than the guy thought to the trail head, but we made it. We were off on a beautiful blue sky day with no evidence of anyone being out there before us yet that day.

The road up to the trail was mostly up hill, nothing terrible, but still up hill. The trail around the mountain was pretty flat and lovely. We eventually reached a junction to a trail that continued south were you can go to Indian Creek and later we ran in to some people who were on their way back from there.


We stopped for lunch on the east side of the peak just before it started going down hill. And this was serious downhill with switchbacks and all. Something that I had no practice with on cross country skis and we both spent plenty of time on our butts. It’s hard to stop in these skis. We started to get the hang of it as the slope became less sever an there wasn’t a cliff on one side of us to worry about.

In total it was just over 9 miles long and a nice fellow skier gave me a lift back to Shorty. After we dropped off our skis we headed down to the boiling river for a lovely soak before heading home.

The Black Hills [Mount Rushmore &The Needles Highway]

Last spring I ran home for my brother wedding in the Black Hills. The Sexy Master Electrician has never spent much time in the Hills and we’ve never really spent any time at my parents, just quick trips through. We still didn’t spend much time at my parents but we did do a little afternoon trip in the Hills. (There was a misunderstanding that made us think everything was set up for the wedding, not that were were overtly excited to spend the day doing that anyway.) We did a drive from the Deadwood area down to Mount Rushmore, through the Needles Highway and ended back up in Deadwood to meet TSME’s parents for dinner.

One thing I recommend for traveling around the Black Hills, most gas stations, tourist stops, etc. have this 11x 17ish sized paper map that has all the big places to stop and ways to get there and it’s free. They’ve been doing it forever and they still are. If you’re going to run around the Hills, I highly recommend it as a go to reference. You may also want some Dramamine depending on your route, there are some pretty winding roads. We tried to avoid main tourist roads if we could and still see all we wanted. It has been probably about 10 years since I had last visited these places. It was a great little afternoon. 

Black Hills map overall

Our drive from Deadwood through Lead to Mount Rushmore took us along Lake Pactola. It is a man made lake that is named after the town that lies below it. It’s also the place we went cliff jumping way back in the old days.


We made it to Mount Rushmore late in the afternoon. There was hardly anyone there. It was perfect for a quick stop. We watched the little video and went through the exhibit about how they made the sculpture and the creator, Gutzom Borglum, and the politics behind it. For the record, I know it is a massive carving in the rock, but it does not seem that big. Especially when you see Crazy Horse. However, it is impressive.  We were pressed for time, so we didn’t do any of the longer walks up closer to the heads, but there are trails you can take through the hills that are lovely if you have time.

After that we took off to go along Iron Mountain Road toward the Black Hills Playhouse and the Needles Highway. This was basically a short cut to get to the Needles. On top of that, it is this windy, barely two-lane road that goes through a few tunnels that purposefully frame Mount Rushmore. I don’t know why, but I have no pictures of this. I don’t know what happened. It’s really cool though to drive and beautiful.  I recommend it.
Black Hills map loop
Mt Rushmore from US16A.jpg
Via Kimon Berlin, user:GribecoOwn work, CC BY 2.5, Link

Once you get to Highway 87, you have to get a park pass to Custer State Park. There are lots of things to see in there, including Jewel Cave and Wind Cave, but we’ve saved those for another trip. The needles are these amazing rock formations. Back when I was a climber, I’d been up there to do just that. It’s a beautiful area and one of my favorite drives. We also missed taking pictures of this area too.
The Eye of the Needle via
The road ends at Sylvan Lake, also the starting point of the hike up to Black Elk Peak, (formerly Harney Peak), highest point east of the Rockies in the US and and easy hike if you need one.
sylvan-lake via https://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/campgrounds/sylvan-lake/

That concludes our little afternoon in the hills. We headed back through the cute little town of Hill City and back to Deadwood for dinner. While this post may have been focused on Mount Rushmore, I fully encourage you to explore the Black Hills beyond it and other touristy things. They are a beautiful little area filled with lots of surprises.


Sunday Afternoon Coffee [sixty-two]


If we were having coffee this afternoon I would tell you I wish it would snow. We got dumped on a couple weeks ago and the skiing was awesome. Then it decided to get warm. Too warm and everything is melting. This is ruining my downhill and cross country ski time. The Sexy Master Electrician and I have 10 passes to Bridger this year so I really want the last month to be amazing!

While we are on the subject of skiing, TSME and I skipped the Super Bowl again to go cross country skiing in Yellowstone. When we got there, we wanted to do a trail in Lamar Valley but the wind was so bad we opted to go back to Tower Falls. The trail is protected and it went 100 times better than our previous trip up there. On our way back to the Boiling River, we had a coyote come right beside us. He could have cared less. The river was amazing. We had it all to ourselves for quite awhile. The best.

If we were having coffee this morning, I would tell you that TSME decide to surprise me on Valentine’s Day and actually get me something and not even just one little thing. I came downstairs to flowers, wine, a Yellowstone Pendleton Blanket and chocolates. A late arrive hedge hog print arrived the next day. I don’t expect this to happen again any time soon but it was super sweet and he was pleased with himself for surprising me.


If we were having coffee this morning, I would tell you about the second year studio crits I did on Friday. It’s so great to go back to the School of Architecture and see projects unlimited by scope, money, everything. Makes me want to do a random competition again.

If we were having coffee this morning, I would tell you that everyone in my office is about ready to snap. We are currently stuffed in a job trailer behind our actual office while it’s being remodeled. We’ve been in there since around Thanksgiving. We were suppose to move back in the office a week ago. We can’t move with out the trailer moving or bumping into someone. We’ve started compensating with too many cookies/candies/doughnuts and alcohol. At least the rooftop was open on Friday for happy hour since it was so nice.


Design Control

20161108 CHAIR DWG

This past fall I was asked to help a graduate student at MSU with her thesis project. She need a control for her experiment. She was testing virtual reality as a design tool against tradition design tool, drawings and 3D images or models. I agreed help her out by going through the same design process with middle school students but she would use virtual reality and I would use traditional drawings and images.

It was a pretty cool idea and process. We had two groups of middle school students that we meet with once a week. After our initial meeting we did share what we were doing with the kids. They were suppose to act as our client asking us to design an piece of “furniture” for their classroom. And it had to be something the GS could actual build to see how close the drawings vs virtual reality came to what they expected.

Chair and desk
The First Model Step

I will admit that I may not have given this 100%, so my renderings were definitely not on par with what I would show a real client. I definitely cobbled together various chairs in SketchUp at one point,  but it got the point across to middle school students, who,  I’m pretty sure, forgot whatever I told them within a 10 minute time span. We started with random images of different pieces and when through what they wanted. One idea was a double decker sofa. Another was a table that made me think of King Authur and the Knights of the Round Table. We moved down the path of a simple desk and chair that had a lot of moving pieces. One of the key features was that they could tip back in the chair and hook their foot on the desk to not fall. As we progressed I felt we need to pick just one and the chair was it. The key feature that had to remain was the ability to rock back. So I came up with a spring idea on the back legs. Once we had that idea in place, they wanted more privacy, so people couldn’t cheat. I didn’t question this, they are the client. The professors at her review were concerned with what that meant in terms of social interaction as cell phones. As I stated above, I was not in this to get a social experiment out of it or looking for one, but I’m sure it would be very interesting.
chair final round
The Frankenstein Step

The end result was a chair with rotating arms, a parachute or tent like material that could pop out of the back and fold over the top on to a desk and, of course, it had springs on the legs. I couldn’t be there when the GS took the finished products back to the students to test out. The main take away was that, for both teams the items looked like it was suppose to but the the traditional route expected it to be bigger, they didn’t understand the scale of the chair, even though we talked about it in relation to other chairs and even went and tested other chairs to see what they liked.

final chair
Final Model (final 2D instruction at top)
Actual chair

It will be really interesting to see where virtual reality goes in the design field. I got to try on the head set and it was pretty cool, though a bit dizzying, to walk through a space and see the desks her students created. I think the disadvantage for someone in the field is that we inherently understand scale and space, so we don’t realize when someone may not understand how big or small an object or space is in drawing. This gives us the opportunity to really understand what we are creating. It might be awhile before it is common practice to use in architecture firms, right now it is a bit clunky, but I think it will provide great advances when it does between the client and architect.



Chiar desk Grad project