The Black Hills [Mount Rushmore &The Needles Highway]

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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. 

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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The Eye of the Needle via
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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.
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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]

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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!

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Final Model (final 2D instruction at top)
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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

Women’s March [Time to Stand Up]

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For most of my adult life I have been afraid to voice my opinions that relate to politics. Because quite frankly, I fucking hate politics. I refuse to select a party. I don’t fully buy into one or the other and think we probably need more than two parties to define the melting pot that is the United States. I understand why we have government and laws. I pay my taxes, I might complain at times, but I know why its necessary, so fine. It’s politics I hate and you know what I mean.

I have a sneaking suspicion this is also rooted in the fact that I grew up conservative in a rural area of a red state and then left it. After I left home and had many different experiences. Experiences that proved things are not so black and white. That put me somewhere in the middle because I knew where both sides were coming from and I agree with both sides on a little of this and a little of that. And those changes or opinions did not always align with most of my family or friends back home. I gained many great values and learned a lot as a farmer’s daughter. I would never, ever disagree with that and my change in ideas felt like I was a traitor. As someone not huge on arguing, (though, I will if I am confident I know what I am arguing about), I have mostly kept my mouth shut. I did what I could to move my ideas and thoughts forward through various volunteer actives and organization support and did not broadcast it on social media.

For the record, I hope our 45th President is so great that I happily vote for him again in four years. I’m not kidding.

But for that to happen, it’s time for me to stop being afraid. It’s time for me to tell my father his “joke” that we knew the first place to check was the only black family’s home on our block if anything was missing the night we forgot to lock the door, is not funny or okay. It’s time to stop pretending that the times I was sexually assaulted (it may have been in small ways, but it doesn’t matter, its not okay that I rationalized were fine, because it wasn’t a big deal, because I wasn’t hurt. And no. those incidents were not in the big scary city of New York, it happens right here in Montana), was something that did not need to be acknowledge. because it does need to be. It’s time for me to stand up for my friends who are gay or bi or whatever they identify as, because they are some of the nicest, most wonderful people I know and I don’t understand how anyone could think they are less human and therefore don’t deserve equal treatment. It’s time for me to stand up for the environment. Its time for me to fight for equal pay and opportunities in employment as my male counterparts that I equally matched. I care about job in this country. I care about agriculture, the land, the way of life I was raised in. I don’t really give two shits about guns. I care about all the violence we see because of them. I believe its time to stop blaming and start taking ownership over these systematic problems and make it right. No one can claim we have some sort of great solution for a lot of things. I’m pretty sure we all want safe communities, support our children’s education, want our children to grow up in health environments and want to see jobs increase in America. And no not everyone is going to be completely happy all the time. But that’s why it’s time for me to speak up, because the only way we will find resolution is by talking and meeting in the middle. And so I went to the Women’s March in Montana.

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Some have poo pooed it and ridiculed it, as if they didn’t have the opportunity or, in fact, do the similar things years ago. I’m guessing it’s because they don’t actually understand what is was about. I want to know why you felt the need to publicly to make fun of it, instead of asking someone why they were marching. Some have said, we need to accept who the president is. We have. Don’t worry. That’s why we marched, it wasn’t us throwing a fit. It was us reminding the president we are here and we are not going away, that our issues matter too. Some have assumed those who marched think they are lesser citizens with out voices. We know you have voices and know you’re intelligent and passionate too. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with you or that I have to shut up. We also have voices and we also have the same right to use them for what we believe is right and we might, just might, be using them to voice for more that ourselves, our needs. Some think it was a man bashing session. I don’t think I heard one bad word about men. Bottom line: we were not “just stomping around in little pink hats” (but I wish I had a pink hat!) and doing nothing more. You are grossly underestimating us.

The Women’s March in Montana was so uplifting, so hopeful, so exciting. The mission of the march is: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” It was not meant to be a march against the president. There was dancing, there was singing, there was no violence. The march was invigorating and a call to action. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many women and men who feel the same. We were encouraged by our state’s first lady and our senator, Jon Tester, telling us to keep marching, keep fighting. I hope they do the same. The march was our way of reminding everyone that we care about so much more about what we leave for our children, (well maybe your children, let’s not pretend I have intentions of going down that road). It was us saying  that we are going to work tirelessly for change important to recognize and honor the melting pot that this country is. It was our way of saying that we are not going to let fear win. Diversity empowers us. Diversity of every kind.  So I am going to voice my thought, prayers, whatever, and I’m going to try to not be afraid of the backlash I might get from those closest to me.

For those of you who bothered to make it through I leave you with these three things.
One, an apology for getting so heavy, but it’s my blog so I get to do what I want.
Two this quote, I don’t know where it came from, but it resonates:

“If you are a woman that does not believe that there is a reason to protest, you should be thankful that you have never been discriminated against. But there comes a time when you will have to realize that this isn’t all about you– that there are women fighting every day for equal pay, affordable birth control, and low cost healthcare provided by PP. That there are women who may never feel safe again because the men who sexually assaulted them were not given jail time. The fact that you have never been faced with hardship does not mean that it does not exist, in the same way that just because you ate today doesn’t mean that world hunger has ended. Be aware that this is about ALL WOMEN. One day, when you are faced with this discrimination, we will be there and we will stand by you.”

Three, this NYT Video about talking to the people you love and who voted for the other side.

Domestic Dispute Retreat [Bozeman Office Bonding Experience]

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Last spring, our office was getting pretty tense. We decided we needed to “air our grievances” and “do some bonding.” Or something like that. So we went to  cabin at an undisclosed location near Pony, Montana, former home of the Duck Races, for our Domestic Dispute Retreat. At least that’s the story we told the bosses.

The cabin is one of my coworkers little hideaways and it was effing adorable and perfect. The location is up a dirt road along a little creek. There is no internet and terrible, if any, cell service. No one is anywhere near you. There is a main cabin with a kitchen, living room and bathroom and then three sleeper cabins down a little boardwalk.

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Look at that stove! And the farm sink!
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Required fireplace
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And that bath!
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Sleeping Cabins

We had ribs that were being smoked with a secret recipe, lots of booze and bobcat cornhole. And that was basically what we did all afternoon until dinner was ready. I did whip up a quick Raspberry – Rhubarb Tart for dessert.
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Note a hydroflask is an excellent rolling pin in a pinch
After dinner we headed down to the famous Pony Bar for a few drinks and pool. We stopped by the horse on the hill for a required team building exercise: getting J on the horse and in the correct photo position.
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Watch your step
Once we made our way back to the cabin, the guys stayed up playing poker and the girls crashed. The next morning our host made an amazing egg bake thing in a dutch oven over a camp fire before we all headed home with our hang overs. All grievances cleared and ready to head back to the office on Monday, until the snow clears this spring…
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Some of the Things that Happened Between Then and Now

So… I’ve been MIA for almost a year. Not for lack of thinking about it. Not sure I can blame it on lack of time, though that is probably part of it. Lack of motivation? Maybe? I definitely do not come home and turn my computer on every night like I used to do. I’ve spent more time reading books in bed than reading blogs or fussing on my phone. I’ve been outside. A lot. And I love it. I also loved this record of recipes, things I’d done, places I’d gone and people who’ve done it with me. I do come back here with frequency to tell someone where I was or what I did on a trip or a project. I guess I set a New Year’s goal, with out thinking about it, to return to this place and continue on so I keep having a place to return to and get lost in the fun of the past from time to time.

Here are some of the things that happened in the last year that stick out. Some of them will be flushed out in real posts later on. Consider this a really long over due Sunday Afternoon post in no particular order.

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I guess the biggest event of mine for 2016 was the fact that The Sexy Master Electrician and I decided to co-habitat. After a long and stressful search process we finally found a place we could both agree on with minor concessions on both sides. We are currently in a three bedroom condo with a garage. I had to send Princess Chunk home to live with my sister for the time being, (we were having little to no luck finding pet friendly rentals), and he had to keep the garage clean enough so that I could park in it during the winter. “The garage is too small anyway” so TSME has a storage unit for all the crap that I still have no understanding of how it fit in his previous one car garage.

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Thanks to this change, I refinished a lot of furniture this summer. We are talking two tables, a dresser, a desk turned TV console, a side table and other random items here and there. There were several lessons learned and things left half finished for months until my parents came to visit and I kept my dad busy finishing them up. I am pretty proud of how some of them turned out some could be better, but they work just fine now.

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We also decided to purchase a grown-up couch with help from our friends at The Architect’s Wife. It looks awesome. I am so happy we finally landed on this one.

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And we had to get lots of plants. I potted them. TSME is responsible for keeping them all alive. My spider plant is doing so well I was able to give a “baby” away to a friend and it actually made it!

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We had guests for our usual Forth of July celebration in Livingston. TSME’s sister and boyfriend came to visit with one of the most adorable dog ever. Before heading over the hill, we did some hiking and brewery hopping around Bozeman. We stayed at Chico this year and went over to the Natural Bridge before the rodeo. The only hiccup was the rock that found it’s way into one of the wheels and made a terrible sound. The tire had to come off to get it out. Dang gravel roads.
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The rest of the summer was filled with kickball and flag football league, hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, some biking and boating, and a few longer weekend trip around the state.
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Oh and a trip to New York City for Kurt and Melissa’s wedding in Brooklyn. I love that city. It was a great week to be there. TSME had a great time. We stayed with friends and also got an AirBnb for a few nights. The wedding was lovely and we spent time in the Wythe Hotel, at a lot of my favorite pizza, Fornino’s and took TSME to some of the places I didn’t have the chance to our first time there together.

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We made a little trip to Pine Creek Lodge to see Diarrhea Planet in person. My friend K and her boyfriend are groupies and convinced us that we needed to go see this band since they were going to be so close. The location is great. I want to stay over next time I go out there. And the band was super fun. I would go see them again.

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I also went to Missoula to see Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. So. Much. Fun. Would love to see them again.

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#bestdressed
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Still snow in May…
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In other big news, though it’s not mine, just family related, my brother got married this Spring. My cousin, Rachael, my little sister and her boyfriend all came to Montana to hang out after the wedding. They went down to Yellowstone. I took them up to storm castle. It was super fun. And I was able to enlist them to help me move out of my tiny apartment into the condo.

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Our office had a “Domestic Dispute Retreat” in Pony at one of my coworker’s cabin. He smoked ribs, I made pie, we played cornhole and went down to the Pony Bar. Yes, there were horses and dogs at the bar. A very successfully weekend sort of off the grid. Great “bonding” experience for our little office.

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At the end of the year, we hosted Thanksgiving. TSME and his bestie had a smoke-off to see who could smoke the best turkey. They both turned out amazing and it was a fun day with friends and my parents. After that is was rush, rush, rush to the end of the year.

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We went out and cut down a tree for Christmas. My first Christmas tree since some time in college. It was adorable.
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Bozeman office and the big man
Then I had my company party in Billings one weekend. I wasn’t sick this year or the newbie so it was pretty fun, minus terrible weather.

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Another was reserved for my annual candy and cookie party, which my sister was here for with a friend. There was the Christmas Stroll. Downtown and in the “Northside” neighborhood. Plus we had to go skiing.

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We went to South Dakota for Christmas. We had to run to Rapid City one day, so we went up to Dinosaur Hill. I found out is on the National Historical Registrar and has been there since 1936. I remember them always being up there and going once or twice when I was little. but hadn’t been up there in a very long time. It was kind of neat. Kind of sad since they clearly need to repair work done if they are going to survive another 80 years.

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My parents got a new puppy, Belle. Cutest thing every. It was so fun to play with her and almost made being stuck at home an extra day, due to a storm snowing us in, worth it.

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We made it back to host Kurt, Melissa and Aubie Katz as well as TSME’s other sister and boyfriend for New Year’s. Kurt and Melissa stopped on their move to Portland and TSME sister and boyfriend were up here to ski. We hit up the hot springs, breweries, downtown, and of course, Bridger Bowl.

And that, I think, is a wrap. For the most part.

B Bar Ranch [Get outdoors for MOSS]

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Right now, in Bozeman, ski season is long over, but this is the first of a few skiing posts that I will eventually get up here.  Last year I came across a fundraiser for Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS) that was a day of cross country skiing and lunch and all proceeds go to the school. I wanted to go, but for some reason it didn’t. This year when I came across it, I sent out a message to some friends and signed us up. 

None of us had heard of B Bar Ranch, but we had heard that Tom Miner Canyon, where it is located at the southern end of Paradise Valley, was gorgeous. As we were driving out, there was very little snow on the ground in the valley. Meanwhile, Bozeman had a bit of a storm the night before and we saw several wrecks on the way over the pass’ and there was plenty of snow in Gallatin Valley. Once we turned off into the canyon we started climbing up and by the time we got to the ranch you wouldn’t believe there was no snow five miles north. 
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The area is definitely beautiful and we all want to go back for either hiking or skiing in the future. The ranch is several miles in and is a retreat of sorts in the summer for larger groups. In the winter, you can ski their groomed trails for $10. There are three locations that you can ski into and stay the night. That is next on the list, especially since it’s only two to three miles in on easy trails.
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We did a four to five mile loop before grabbing lunch in the Nordic tent. It is an old canvass tent with a wood stove in the center. One of the “cabin” you can hike/ski into is also an old tent. It was super cozy and lovely to hang out in. We talked about going out for another short run, but after resting realized we were a bit more sore than we thought, it was our first time out this season after all.
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MOSS was doing guided tours for those interested, but we had more fun out on our own and definitely plan to go back next year if it works out. Hopefully we get out there doe more than just the fundraiser.
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