Two trips to Avalanche Lake

One of the things I love about working the day shift in Glacier is that you almost get two days in a 24-hour period. You get the day that you work and get paid for, and then, if you don’t spend too long on dinner, you get a second day to go for a 5-6 mile hike.

Monday, my ACMNP team (almost–sorry you had to work, Claire!), one of their roommates, and a few other friends who work for our company decided to use our second half of the day to hike to Avalanche Lake. It’s one of the more popular hikes in Glacier, in part because the beauty-to-difficulty ratio is astounding.


Logjam and the Lake

This is from my first trip to the lake.

I had hiked it about a week ago. It was the perfect way to spend my day off. I got to the top and, attempting to escape the 5th-grade field trip on the near side of the lake, circled around it and found quiet refuge on a gravelly beach on the opposite side. It was close enough that you could practically whisper to the mountain above us. There was just me and a few other adults seeking quiet, including a man watching mountain goats with binoculars and two guys fishing. I sat for half an hour listening to the waterfalls ringing down the mountain and the birds calling in the wind.

This time, we found a really peaceful beach at the near edge of the lake. Still, I liked how the other beach was so close to the foot of the mountain and suggested we go to it. Everyone agreed. I fell a bit behind on the way, until I got to the spot where the trail ends and you have to cross a little creek to get to the beach.

Except it wasn’t a little creek. The snow melt from the mountain has increased significantly in the last week, and there was no way we could pass.

But, we were undeterred. A small path ran just past the “End of Trail” sign along the edge of the creek, so we followed it through the woods until we found an opening. It was perfection. At least six waterfalls tumbled off the mountainside, splitting up as they hit what looked like a staircase for giants. There was a rainbow caught in one waterfall, and I sat on a log with my friend, Faye, and watched it inch higher and higher as the sun started its descent. It was the perfect way to spend my last night as a 26-year-old.


Team photo!

Me and three members of my ACMNP team. Camden to the left, Jackie to the right, and Ethan floating on the log in the middle of the lake.

Avalanche of waterfalls

I really couldn’t decide if I liked watching the rainbow or the stairstep waterfalls more.

Photo cred: Faye Rogers 🙂

On the way down the trail we passed within a few feet of a doe and her baby. Also a bunch of the girls jumped into the lake. I was tempted, but I also love not being cold, so I stayed dry and lame, but man, I’m proud of them 🙂

Surprise! I’m becoming a barista?

I started work Monday, setting up children’s clothes and the Christmas section. We have super cute ornaments, if anyone was wondering.

Our gift shop also has a coffee shop in it, but the barista won’t be here until the middle of June. Because of that, our manager asked me and my friend, Claire, to learn how to make coffee.

I’ve never actually had a cup of coffee. The closest thing I can remember was when my sister took me to Starbucks in high school and got me a caramel frappecino. “There’s no coffee in it,” she assured me.

I took two sips before saying, “I think they forgot to clean the blender, because this tastes awful.” Thus her malevolent plans to trick me into liking coffee were thwarted.

Anyways, turns out making coffee is kind of hard, but also pretty fascinating. Our trainer went into a bit of the science behind it, and how the milk temperature needs to be about 160 degrees if it’s cow milk but 145 if it’s soy or almond, and the water is forced through the grounds at an exact pressure (9psi) (jk, actually 9 bar, which is more like 350 psi. Thanks to my friend and co-coffee-maker Claire for straightening me out 😉 ) and humidity and weather can make it so you need to change the coarseness of the grounds. A lot of it went over my head, but he left a cool manual showing how to make espresso so I’ve been reading that a lot.

So far I’ve worked 2 shifts. I always seem to be throwing out half the milk I steam, even though I swear I start with the same amount that our trainer told us to. Yesterday a guy ordered a 16 ounces chai and I ended up giving him an extra 8 ounce cup because I didn’t realize how much I poured in. I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials all morning to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Pretty sure I’m getting over-excited about the foam part of the drink. Kind of like how today I forgot to turn off the steam wand before taking it out of the pitcher of half and half I was heating up. I ended up wearing half and half all day. There are worse fashion trends. By the time the summer crowds start coming in, I should be competent at it!Also, while I may be the least qualified barista ever, the shop also has an ice cream stand with 12 flavors. I’m extremely qualified at loving ice cream and handing out samples, so it balances out.

A Tale of Two Airbnbs

I’m on my way to Montana!! After a long drive made bearable by a Burgerville milkshake and 2 naps, I got to Spokane at about 8 last night. My best friend just had a baby about 2 weeks ago, so I stopped and visited for a while. He’s adorable, nbd.

I got to my airbnb around 10 and was surprised at how nice it was. I only paid $30 for it, and there was Wi-Fi, my own bathroom, a zillion pillows on the bed, and complementary gift cards to a local salon. The only weird thing was that, on the welcome board, it said “Billy.” I double checked my email to confirm I was at the right address, and when I saw the key was still in the door I showered and got ready for bed.

I was just about to throw all the pillows from the bed when I thought, “I should look at the check out instructions.” That’s when I saw a follow up message to my original, telling me that she’d given me the wrong address initially and I needed to be in the house next door. I was sorely tempted to sleep there anyways, but then i thought of poor Billy coming in after midnight and finding his room locked–I sent an apology message and moved. (Also, there was no sign ghat anyone was still staying there. No luggage, and all the towels were folded still–I’m 98% sure he’d already checked out 🙂 )

The new place was better than the old. No Wi-Fi, but it was warmer and smaller, with a heated mattress and not as many nooks that my imagination could have monsters into. I slept great. Moral of the story: read all messages thoroughly before checking into your room. Even so, I would totally stay there again, or recommend it to anyone going through Spokane. Adventure!!

To Glacier I go!!

Wednesday I leave for the summer, so I figured I should write a blog post about it instead of clean my car or pack. Here’s a direct transcript of every conversion I’ve had for the last couple weeks:

Wow, Glacier?! Where’s that at?

Montana, right where the Rocky Mountains meet Canada.

How far of a drive is that?

According to Google, 11 hours. But I feel like I remember it being more like 16. In any case, I plan to stretch it out over 2 days.

And you’ll be a ranger, building trails and doing other…rangery… stuff?

Actually, I’ll be selling souvenirs at the Cedar Tree Gift Shop. I’ll also be volunteering with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.

How did you find that job?

About 7 years ago I found out about the ministry and thought, “Wow, I’d love to do that.” I’ve actually filled out the application several times, but due to student loans, being in wedding parties, and other family things, it’s just never been the right time. Then I quit my job in January for my New Zealand trip, I figured I’d do this this summer as well.

*Interested sound* That sounds cool. So you’re not getting paid?

I will be getting some mula, no worries. The ministry will be volunteer work. My team of 5 people will host 5 worship services (I’ll be at 3 of them) every Sunday in the campgrounds of West Glacier. I’ll be playing the violin and doing some preaching as well. They seem like awesome people and I am so excited to get to know and serve with them this summer!! However, ACMNP partners with concessionaires in the park to help us get jobs. I’ll be working in the gift shop, for which I will be paid.

Where are you going to live?

They have employee housing there for us. I don’t know what it looks like–dorms, cabins, other–but since I just spent 2 months living out of a van, tent, or hostels, I think I’ll be able to survive 😉

What hours are you working?

No idea. I’ll find out when I’m there.

Have you been to Glacier before?

Yep! I was there July 6 and 7, 2015. I’m sooo excited to go back and hike the trails there!

How long will you be gone?

I’ll leave May 8 and return September 23ish.

What does your boyfriend think of this?

He’s the best ever. He’s okay with it and even plans to visit me a few times 🙂

Well, cool. Have a great summer!

Thanks, you too!!

Tongariro Northern Circuit: 3 days on Mt Doom

It’s been a while since I posted. To refresh: Before setting out on a 3 day circuit that crosses the shoulder of what is known in Nerdom as Mt. Doom, I had high tea at the Chateau Tongariro. It was delicious, made it so I could pack one less meal, and also made me slightly nauseous because apparently hiking an hour after you’ve had enough sugar for 4 people isn’t the best. #WorthIt.

Day one was glorious. I was the only person I saw on trail until I hit the Mangatepopo Hut and Campsite. There were moments when I was literally crying because I was so in love with life, and also probably all of the sugar loosened my leash on my emotions.

164.JPGI met a Canadian named Kate, and we nerded out a bit over the fact that we were camping at the base of Mt. Doom. The Hut Warden was also from Canada, and told us a bit about her job.

“In North America, my job in conservation is to save the animals. Here, if it’s a mammal, I’m pretty much trying to kill it.” She asked us to please pack out our trash, “Unless it’s an apple core. We’ll roll those in a cinnamon-poison mix and it will make a possum very happy for their last meal.”

So that was cool.

I woke up early the next morning to try to beat the 2,000 people who do the Tongariro Crossing each day. The Crossing is a 5 hour-ish long section that crosses some of the lava fields and craters of Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom) and doesn’t require a permit. Because of its popularity, there were many times when I could have reached out my arms and formed a conga line with the people in front of me. But I try not to get mad at other people who are enjoying the same thing that I do, and in the end, it was still a fun day.


177.JPGThe descent is about a quarter-mile of volcanic sand covering a steep slope. It took a long time and I was passed by a lot of people, so I was grateful to reach the turn-off where the Crossing splits from the Circuit.


I descended into a plain covered with dozens of fins of black pumice. The trail wound through these, so I ate lunch in the filming site of the Emyn Muil. By the end of the day, I was feeling very sorry for the hobbits, as it was hot and I was tired even without the great burden of the One Ring. Luckily, when I reached my campsite, I found a spot just feet away from a little creek that had been dammed enough for a bath.


I was just beginning to be sad that I only had a few days left in New Zealand, when I woke up on day three and found my whole view shrouded in gray clouds. I hiked out, waved goodbye to where I thought the mountains must be, and headed north for one last adventure before my plane took off.

Two Months at Home

In the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee, “Well, I’m back.”

I’ve actually been back almost a month, but have been so busy getting used to the fact that YouTube now puts ads at the end of videos (among other tiny changes in the world) that I haven’t gotten around to writing a blog. Also, I wasn’t sure what to write. I came home almost 2 weeks earlier than I’d originally intended. I had a great time those two weeks at home and honestly wouldn’t have traded them for another 12 days of getting rained on in New Zealand, but I think I still felt a bit of fear that I would be perceived as a failure, even though I don’t feel like one. You feel me? (Sorry, had to get the word feel in there one more time. #writing.)

Last day with Olivia.PNG

Anyways, any posts you see from here on out about New Zealand are actually being written from the comfort of my room. Or possibly the library. It depends on whether I want to channel my inner hobbit or inner Hermione that day.

What now? Glad you asked. Until May 8, I’ll be hanging out mostly at home, doing freelance editing and writing work. (If you have a project you would like help with, let me know!) On May 8, I’ll be driving to Glacier National Park, where I’ll spend the summer working in a gift shop, helping lead worship services, and maybe doing a bit of hiking. If I feel like it 😉

Tea Party for One

The next few posts may be a but jumbled as far as their chronology. I did name my rental car the TARDIS, so let’s use that as an excuse, okay?

I got to Tongariro National Park late, set up my tent in the dark, made some pretty awful rice, and went to bed. The next morning I decided to go to the visitor center to see about hiking the Tongariro Crossing. It’s a trail that runs over the shoulder of Mt Doom, so it felt like a necessity.

As I drove to the visitor center, though, I was enthralled with how gorgeous the area was. There were two main mountains–the black cinder cone used in Lord of the Rings, and also a mountain with a long, jagged peak that reminded me a lot of Mt. St. Helens. They were glorious.

As I came up the road, I caught sight of a huge brick hotel with a blue rooftop. I love beautiful old buildings, and the Chateau Tongariro instantly caught my imagination. Perhaps it was the blue roof, or the fact that they use the word chateau in the movie, but it reminded me so much of Cinderella. I decided to have hot chocolate there if they didn’t mind a somewhat smelly camper.

Looking around, it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be okay with just one day in that park. I thought of the other things I had tentatively planned for the next few days, and decided none of them sounded at all as fun as getting one more backpacking trip in. I managed to get the last set of permits for campsites, and spent the day getting supplies and doing short hikes in the park.

I also saw a sign advertising high tea at the Cinderella Chateau. I found myself asking, if the hobbits had been able to have high tea this close to Oroduin, wouldn’t the last half of the Two Towers have been a mite easier to read? That settled it. The next morning, I wiped the mud from my face (most of it), put on the only dress I brought, and had high tea at a table facing Mt. Doom. There were 2 scones, five tiny sandwiches, a bunch of desserts, and enough sugar to propel me through the first stage of my hike. Also, they let me substitute hot chocolate for tea, so I didn’t even miss out on that. It’s officially my favorite way to start a backpacking trip.

Auckland Night Market

Tonight I’m in Auckland, preparing to turn in my rental car and go home in a couple days. As usual, my goal was to spend as little time in the city as possible. They’re gross. Until they’re awesome.

Like tonight. I found the cheapest hotel room I could that still offered free parking and got in around 9. This is the first time I’ve had a whole room to myself since leaving home, and yes, I promptly flung my stuff all over it. Then I remembered that I have zero food. I mean, I have a bag of trail mix that I ate all the chocolate out of today. So, zero.

Luckily, Google said there’s a supermarket just around the corner. I went and found that it’s in a mall, and the only access at this time of night is through the underground car park. As I walked through, I could see a huge crowd of people to my left. There were tables set out in what looked like a giant garage sale. It was crowded and noisy, and I figured I would just avoid it.

After buying my orange and a deal of yogurt, though, I realized that there was a shortcut to my hotel leading just past the crowd, so I decided to sneak towards it. Which resulted in me walking slowly past the stalls. Which resulted in me braving the crowd (spoiler alert, it was fine). Which resulted in me sampling Hungarian sweet bread (the looks of an elephant ear with the flavor of an Olive Garden breadstick), South African pork (the salesman had to coach me on how to eat it…there’s a bone in there, apparently), pizza (okay, I’ve had that before, but it would have been rude to refuse), and Korean honey crispy chicken. It was the last one that got me. I had to run back to my hotel through the extremely useful shortcut, grab some cash, and return for my very late dinner. She gave me a deal–2 meats for the price of one. Okay, she was actually just trying to close shop, but it was still nice. In a move unlike anything that I’ve ever done, I decided to go with whatever she asked. (For those who have never had the misfortune to eat with me, just know that I can be a bit of a high maintenance eater. That’s all you need to understand how rare of an event this was.) And yes, I was praying that she wouldn’t choose the spicy chicken that was simmering in a sauce so red it would have made lava jealous. She didn’t. She went with teriyaki chicken instead. #blessher

So that’s how I ended up in my last-minute hotel with a bowl of Korean food. It probably doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was one of those moments where I can’t stop smiling and thanking God that I get to experience this. I’m in freaking Auckland eating Korean food at 10 at night–that’s not something I ever expected to be doing, but I love it.

Abel Tasman Coast Trail

I’m gonna skip literally everything that happened with Olivia and I. We laughed, we drove, we ate ice cream, we occasionally broke the van…it was a good time. But, since my blog is now 3 weeks behind, I’m gonna make like a tardis and time travel to the much more recent past.

Like, this week.

I spent 3 days hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Trail. It was gorgeous. Turquoise water that was warm enough to swim in, golden beaches covered in purple oyster shells, and green rainforests with not a terrible number of sand flies–how could it get more perfect?

Answer: by having a freaking pirate ship moored outside your tent on the second night. Okay, maybe they weren’t literal pirates, but it was a three-masted ship and they were just chilling there. Luckily, I just reread Treasure Island a few months ago to help me get in character for Halloween. Yes, I was the person tramping along the beach yelling, “By the powers, Jim lad!” and singing the Muppets classic, “sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing.” Oregonians don’t get that chance too often, okay?

Also, the people who were camped next to me made too much food, so they gave me a heaping plate of risotto about 3 seconds after I got to camp. Glory.

My final day of hiking, I arrived at Totaronui Campground around 1 in the afternoon. I spent the rest of the day napping in the sun, swimming, collecting sea shells, and then repeating the process. It’s the first time I’ve slept through the night while camping since arriving in New Zealand.

Instead of hiking back, I got a water taxi. What took me three days to hike took about an hour to sail back to. Honestly, the taxi was nearly as fun as the hike. We stopped to watch birds at Paradise Island. This is one of the few places in New Zealand that is untouched by non-native species. It’s also where one of the last seal colonies in the area was before they began conversation efforts to rebuild the population. It was pretty awesome.

When the boat got back, the tide was low. Did we have to walk through the mud? Nope! They towed the boat out of the water with a tractor, along the road, and back to the car park. And thus concludes the tale of how I rode in a boat on dry land.

The Legendary Niceness of the Kiwi

We dropped Trevor off at the airport and picked up a smaller van. Then we drove to Lake Tekapo to camp. Upon arrival, we found that it was so rainy that we decided to drive until we found a clear spot. That’s how we got to Queenstown a full day earlier than planned.
Pros of the new van:

  • Smaller, so it didn’t feel like it would tip over on corners
  • Accelerated without having to push the pedal all the way down

Cons of the new van:

  • Battery dies easily
  • So much mildew we could trace constellations in it
  • Produces such a smell when going uphill that people will get out of their car when stopped at a construction site to tell you something is wrong
  • Sliding door gets stuck open.

We discovered that last one when we got to Frankton, a few miles from Queenstown, and made awesome plans for the evening. We would go for a walk in the sunlit lakeshores, the rain an hour behind us. It wouldbe beautiful.
And then the sliding door wouldn’t shut.
As we struggled with it, we acquired a team of random kiwis to help us. One guy stopped to help work on it. Another guy saw him pulling on the door and ran to his truck to get tools. This prompted another to find even cooler tools. A fourth had a van just like ours, so he took a picture of his door and compared it to ours to see if we could find any differences. A fifth had no tools but did have a hilarious wife who told us the password to the WiFi at the pub…”not that we’ve been to the pub, mind!”
They ended up hitting the door a few times until it slid shut. We cheered. We high fived. We vowed to never open it again.
We didn’t exactly keep that last vow, but that’s okay. More on that later. For now, here’s a picture that Olivia took of the dream team.