February: backpacking the Heaphy Track
March: early, early season packrafting on the South Fork of the Sun
April: animals everywhere in the North Fork of the Sun
May: my favorite route across the Bob, yet
June: M is really, really pregnant; and it’s hot
August: we sleep less than we’re used to; eventually leaving the house gets less scary
October: we drive from home to southern Utah, with Little Bear, in less than 24 hours and with minimal drama; we take him backpacking for the first time, and he sleeps for nine hours straight
November: I find that deer hunting with an infant is totally possible
December: life, at home and abroad, gets easier and more fun
2015 in one sentence is easy; we took a spectacular hunting and backpacking trip to New Zealand, and then had and became accustomed to parenting our first child.
And some other nice stuff happened, too.
When you add on visiting family before leaving the country we were out of Montana for almost a month in Jan/Feb, and weather could not have highlighted the passed time more. The two largest (and indeed only) storms of the winter bracketed the week before we left. They made parking dicey, had cars getting stuck in the middle of the street downtown, and had us worried about delayed airlines schedules. In our absence it hardly snowed at all, and only got warmer as February wore to a close. The one multiday ski trip I attempted got cut short due to lack of snow, and I went nordic skiing exactly once. There was skiing to be had in the high mountains well into June, but with the rivers up and trails dry hiking, mountain biking, and packrafting were far too tempting. I once again struck out in my attempts to shoot a spring bear in the Bob, but the gorgeous sights I saw in lush and very empty places reaffirmed my conviction that sticking to ideals, however difficult, is the most satisfying way to hunt. The route for the Bob Open proved to be the best yet; varied, aesthetic and long, with just enough adverse weather to make the crossing feel earned. It easily jumped into my top 5 all-time list.
Summer proved to be a good one to for outdoor purposes largely miss, though strictly weather wise a bad one to be pregnant and then raise a newborn in. June was suffocatingly hot, and the heat waves kept coming through July and August, until the inevitable fires got going and we had several memorable weeks when I worried about how long I could take Little Bear out for walks without harming his health. The haze which was a feature for most of August well mimics the one which still envelopes my memory. I can recall plenty of time late at night rocking Little Bear back to sleep, standing by the door and examining the Cairn map of the Bob Casey gave us; in the process quite inadvertently cementing that place in yet another way as one of my most significant landscapes on earth.
Our world clarified and grew along with the autumn, which proved to be long and gorgeous. M’s parents came to visit and I got to go hunting, which was intense first and foremost because it was the first time I had not slept next to the little noisy lump in almost two months. On the first trip I did not sleep through the night, but that was also because I brought a tiny tarp and the weather ended up worst than forecasted. While the various trips further afield proved rewarding and instructive, hunting in the Bob was again the best. Dead animal with smiling white man pictures are deservedly controversial, but I’m determined to claim them back, because joy won in accomplishment is appropriately represented in them. My September deer hunt, where a plan perfectly executed with ideal luck had me back at the truck with a full pack within half a day of setting out, will always be a peak moment.
Reclaiming favorite parts of our old life would not begin in earnest until we had managed to take all of our new family on a road trip to backpack and camp, which we did in October, with far less stress than expected. Our miles were modest, but when we got back home and our only regret was that our days entirely together were for a while at an end we felt that we had really accomplished something. That sense of achievement has only grown since, right though the recent holiday season, which was the best I can recall in my life. Not only does the evidence suggest that we can do this parenting thing, it seems that we’ll be able to do it sustainably and with a margin of error, we will in short be able to thrive. And that is something to look forward to.