All posts by The Smiths

Table Mountain – Teton Mountains

Our first day playing in the woods after finishing up in Boise happened in Jackson Hole, Wyoming which is located on the in the shadows of the Grand Teton and Grand Teton National Park. Originally we planned on going into the park for a day or two and then heading up to Glacier National Park in Montana for a 5 day backpacking trip. Well… while I finished up getting our back country camping permit for Teton it just occurred to me to ask about the dog, which is when the Park Ranger informed us he was not was not allowed anywhere in the National Park that an automobile couldn’t go. While this came as a surprise, it is understandable when you think of the Parks as a museum that you can loot but not touch. So Plan B it is!

Tetons from the Park Road
Tetons from the Park Road

After that,  we ran into Teton Mountaineering in Jackson, WY, to pick up a map and a couple necessities (like shoes for Lindsay, who sold hers for drug money in Anchorage) and decided on a 12 mile day trip on the back side of the Tetons to a peak called Table Mountain. We started nice and early, waking near the crack of dawn which allowed us to get to the trailhead at a brisk 11am. The first couple miles were a pretty easy nature walk through to forest… until we arrived at 1.5 miles of switchbacks, starting at 9,000ft above sea level. Coming from sea level in Anchorage and sitting in a car for four weeks we were in less than stellar 11,0000ft mountain climbing shape. Nonetheless, after a pretty brutal trip up the hill we ended up at a breathtaking (bad pun… I know) view of the back side of the Tetons.

Lindsay and the backside of the Tetons from 11k'
Lindsay and the backside of the Tetons from 11k’

As opposed to the view from the park road, we gained an additional 4,000ft and had a “backstage look” of the awe inspiring Grand Teton and his fellow compadres to the left and right. We sat on the plateau of the Table Mountain summit, only a half mile of horizontal distance to the Grand, for all of ten minutes before a storm quickly came rolling in on top of us with an unpredictable broil of high altitude showers and hail. We ran straight to the trail that lead from the summit down the face and dropped 2,500ft(+) in just over a mile, basically a controlled fall to the parking lot. This was great an all… except the 68 year old couple we met on the way down kept chasing us down the hill and a little bit of pride kept us from taking a break. Yep, they were 42 years our elder and chased us down a 1 mile scramble, kudos to them, I guess…

Last 1.5mi of open bald trail from the summit
Last 1.5mi of open bald trail from the summit
Hunter impatiently waits for his bipedal counterparts
Hunter impatiently waits for his bipedal counterparts
Clay and Hunter at the peak of Table Mountain
Clay and Hunter at the peak of Table Mountain
Storm clouds swallow up the Grand Teton
Storm clouds swallow up the Grand Teton

Oregon or Idaho?

As you may or may not know, one of the main reasons for taking this road trip in the specific direction and with the specific stops (and we’ll have maps of our road trip on the “itinerary” page at some point –   someone had to go and break their computer so we can’t edit screenshots) is so that I can look at potential graduate schools to attend after we finish our year of travels. I intend on pursuing a masters degree in Exercise Science/Human Performance/Exercise Physiology so that at the end we can continue to grow our own business and become fully self employed in the sports performance/coaching world. Well with that, we have to find the place that works best for both of us.

We broke it down into three separate criterion: the best fit as a graduate program for me, economic opportunity and feasibility to grow Forged Fitness, and a good match for the lifestyle we enjoy. Having a place with access to mountains and snow also ranked very high on our priority list,  setting the search to primarily be around the Pacific Northwest. After a substantial amount of online research, talking with friends and family and some e-mail correspondence, the situation manifested itself into one of two options, either Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR which is in the western Oregon area or Boise State University in Boise, ID.  Our last ten days have been spent not only meeting the professors and walking the campus but also taking in all that the surrounding area had to offer to try to help us make our decision.



Which one will it be?

We started at Oregon State with it having a slight advantage over Boise State in our pre-visit research. Of course we show up to our meeting with the Department Head fifteen minutes late because we couldn’t find parking (remember the never being on time post…) but end up having a very promising meeting with all of the faculty members met there. We expected the university to be all that and a bag of chips, which it was.  The town of Corvallis, however, caught us completely by surprise with both the opportunities in the town and the unquantifiable’ feel’ you get from a place. We had all the plans set in motion to live in Eugene (45min south of Corvallis) and I would commute to school everyday and Lindsay could work in Eugene. Well after a shorter visit to Eugene than planned – we’d allotted two full days and had only spent 6 hours there – we realized it just wasn’t for us. The biggest problem with Eugene, aside from me having two hours of commuting each day, was that we want to live within walking distance to the downtown and the communities surrounding downtown Eugene are either million dollar homes or seedy projects.  Corvallis might be a sleepy little hick town with a smaller downtown in the middle of farming and logging country, but then again Lindsay is from farm country and I’m from the sticks… so maybe these are in fact our people.  What happened with that extra two days for Eugene?  We went back to Corvallis!

The “new” lead singer of Foreigner climbs the scaffolding at our kick ass $8 concert!

After a couple days on the road we made it to Boise and actually have spent four days in the area seeing the school. The school was great, but most importantly we were able to see Foreigner live in concert at the state fair and go white water rafting. Hey, we’re still on vacation!Boise is 4x bigger than Corvallis but still retains the small town feel which is nice. It has a bigger downtown with all of the stores and things you could want in life all in one town, as opposed to Corvallis which would require a trip to any one of the neighboring towns for this, that, and the other thing. But Boise does have lower priced real estate. Yes, both locations have a Costco…that was our first Google search before even finding a campground.

We came to Boise to do our due diligence before settling on the first place that we looked at;  it seemed too good to be true that Corvallis and Oregon State would be the place for us. Across the board, in all three of the factors that we will base our final decision on, Boise was just one step behind Corvallis. “We could make that work” would probably be the most said phrase from our time in Idaho, meaning that Boise did not have a single thing ‘wrong’ with it but it also did not seem to be the perfect fit that Corvallis had been.

In closing Corvallis is a true College Town with a great research based program, a gym that would be a very good partner for us on the business front, and this unmistakably quaint feel. Boise is a city with a true downtown and lower real estate prices, with a graduate program that is still a good fit that is more practical and application based, and a creeping feeling of being on an ‘island’ as the Boise metroplex is the only population center in a 4 hour drive. The decision has not been made yet, but as you can tell we are likely leaning towards Corvallis for one simple fact; if you’re buying a house, starting graduate school and starting your own business all at the same time why would you choose to swim up stream and “make it work.”

2.5hrs Late – Right on time

Well if there is one common theme from when Lindsay and I travel – or do anything actually – no matter how hard we try we are always late! Ask Dustin Gray, he can write a thesis on how much our tardiness pisses him off. Well this pattern of non-punctuality didn’t stop when we left Alaska, no sir!

2013 Alaska Travels 643
Our normal set-up at a campground in British Columbia.

I don’t know if it is a product of lofty goals and unrealistic expectations or just the fact that we LOVE hitting the snooze button, but it is impossible for us to get on the road when we are supposed to. In the first 7 days of driving we got started on time just once. The other 6 days? Oh let’s just say that if the car is headed down the road by 11am it’s a good day. Seriously, it’s like a plague that we can’t get rid of. Neither Lindsay nor I are morning people. We’d much rather drive until midnight than get up at 7am to get on the road. Some days it was just damn ridiculous! By the time we get up, eat breakfast, pack up the tent and subsequently pack up the car it’s been at least an hour if not more since we actually dragged our sorry butt’s out of the tent. I’ve seen Afghan day laborers work quicker and more efficiently than we do some mornings, it really is that bad sometimes. Oh yeah, our goal was to be driving by 8:30am.

I sit here writing this post knowingly defeated. No matter how much I’d love to be like my parents when they travel; wake at sunrise, eat breakfast at 7am and start driving soon thereafter, I have to accept the fact that the only thing that is going to actually make us get out of our sleeping bags is the dog freaking out in the tent because he either has to pee or there is squirrel outside that needs to be taught a lesson, whatever that lesson may be.

I guess on the bright side we will have headlamps for the Appalachian Trail…

July 31st – One Journey Ends and Another Other Begins

It seems only fitting to begin a blog that covers the journey from being an Infantry Officer to a Dirty Hippy, of one who travels the world on the day that the transition officially began.

Clay receiving his first salute as a 2nd Lieutenant from brother, Phil Richardson
Clay receiving his first salute as a 2nd Lieutenant from brother, Phil Richardson

I say officially because the transition started in one shape or another at least 12 months prior to the 31st of July, 2013. I’d also like to note that the two writers on this blog, Lindsay and Clay will post from their point of view exclusively, so if Lindsay has something on this topic – or any others – she’ll put it in her own post.

(Caution, next three paragraphs are slightly boring)

For a brief history lesson, the transition started in August of 2012 while Lindsay and I enjoyed a little mid-tour Rest and Relaxation (R&R) in the UK over the period of the Olympic Games.

Lindsay and Clay after the Spartan Race in Cambridge UK
Lindsay and Clay after the Spartan Race (obstacle course) in Cambridge UK

Between burning our candle at both ends to take in the live Olympic events, the British culture, major landmarks like the cliffs of Dover or Stonehenge, traveling to the Highlands of northern Scotland and a trip to Dublin to reconnect with a long time friend, we were able to talk in person for the first time in 8 months. We chose to talk about the future. When I took my commission as a Second Lieutenant in 2009, I only incurred a 4 year requirement which left a lot of options open the summer of 2013. I recently found out a month before the London trip that I had been selected to attend Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), the 4 week tryout for Army Special Forces which had been my end goal from the day I joined the Army.

AAR Gardez AUP
Clay on deployment to Afghanistan with local police

Well nonetheless, after some long train rides and a lot of soul searching we made the decision to turn down my slot for SFAS and when the time window came I would “drop my packet” to end my commission and leave the Army. It really came down to a pro’s and con’s list and a reflection of my personal bucket list and a list of things Lindsay and I have dreamed about doing before we get old and decrepit. If I went to Special Forces I would’ve checked one block off mybucket list but put my career ahead of my marriage for at least 5 more years. I wouldn’t be able to get out of the military until at earliest the age of 30. This meant that we wouldn’t be able to hike the Appalachian Trail, travel the world or go back to school before we started working on a family. The pro’s for leaving far outweighed the cons. I asked Lindsay to go through the first couple years of this journey in the Army and take an admittedly back seat to my career and now it was our turn to be a couple and do what WE wanted to do. I kept my decision a relative secret until after the Captain promotion list came out, I didn’t want any politics to affect a very important promotion and if I wasn’t in the 9 month window of submitting my paperwork, they didn’t need to know. So technically, the mental transition started about a year ahead of the day I signed on the dotted line.

Clay Sleeping
Resting in a tiny room with the Scout Platoon during a winter patrol

To spare the boredom of explaining military paperwork inefficiencies and bureaucracy let’s just say getting out of the military is a much more difficult process than joining. To the dismay of my superiors, peers and subordinates I made the paperwork official around Christmas of 2012 and started the official transition out. This included teaching my replacement my current position of Company Executive Officer; consisting of a miserable combination of paperwork, babysitting grown men, excel sheets and PowerPoint, reading thousands of serial numbers and most importantly, putting out a daily fire that for some reason no one else could. Also involved in this transition was a lengthy process administered by civilian career counselors that could set someone up to go into the job field, into the world of academia or an entrepreneurship route. Of course, being difficult, I took all three paths and got my full money’s worth out of these advisors over a three month period.

(Boring part complete. Congrats on making it through!)

Now I realize this blog post is not that interesting but the history is a necessary part of why I am writing a blog post on Lindsay’s computer on the floor of an unfurnished Calgary condo at 11pm. Now, let’s return full circle to July 31st, 2013 when I signed on the dotted line and received my discharge paperwork from the US Army. I expected music to sound from the heavens, angels to fly and the weight of the world to be lifted off my chest. Not so much. You see, as a privilege of my rank and job performance I did not have much supervision over the past month. I took care of the things that needed to be taken care of, I showed up on time when I had to be at work and no one really cared what I did. Signing my discharge papers transformed from a culminating moment in my career to just another digital signature in someone’s office. I already mentally checked out a month prior.

So we start this blog series on this great journey that Lindsay and I are going on when in reality… the first day of the journey was just the same as any other day in July…except that I didn’t have to shave.

Yes, a slight let down, but you know what? I don’t have to shave or cut my hair if I don’t want to. And that’s good enough for me.