One-Day Hit List

What a motivator... a hit list.

I've always needed lists and goals to make the most of my outdoor pursuits. Actually, these days I need lists just to keep track of what I'm thinking and where I'm supposed to be and when. Now where did I put that list...

Sure, I've done the Outside Bozeman 2013 Hit List, but it's probably taken me 20 years. Does that count? Guess not, so I'll go for the low-hanging fruit. Hiking in Yellowstone? I do that all summer for work. That doesn't really count either. Outdoor concert? Hells yes! Ten Foot Tall and 80 Proof at Music on Main? Even better. Now, to round it out and make it a major event of the summer.

My nephew Torin had been in the Bozone before, but never on his own. Last summer, he partook of that quintessential post-college American tradition: the cross-country road trip. He was on his way from Boston to St. Louis the long way 'round, via the Grand Canyon and the Tetons, and he decided to pop in to say howdy. This is one amazing kid... er, young man. At Harvard he was captain of the Nordic ski team. He's a spectacular runner, snagged himself an amazing girlfriend from Alaska, and graduated with honors. He'd spent five weeks doing geology field work in the desolate outback of Namibia and now he was coming to see us. But Tor only had one day. How could I show him, a man with so many wild experiences under his belt (Egypt, Cyprus, Ireland, Alaska, the Canadian Rockies), a quintessential Bozeman experience? Answer: the One-Day Hit List.

I let Tor sleep in after an epic day of nearly summiting the Middle Teton and then driving to Bozeman, but Montana was waiting and with breakfast in our bellies, we hopped on bicycles and hit the trails for some urban bouldering. The first boulder was mobbed with school kids so we hastened to the mother of all urban boulders, the beast at the Bozeman Pond. It's the only one of Bozeman's artificial boulders I have never managed to traverse around (challenge throwdown: try it). I showed him some moves, he showed me some moves, and having worked at a climbing gym in Boston, he had the chops to pull it off. Tips thrashed, it was time for us to hit the road for Hyalite.

On the drive up I kept flashing on Tor, an embarrassed seven-year-old at our wedding as my wife Alaina's niece followed him around. Is this young stud really the same kid? He feels more like a peer to me. I do have a tendency to think young to avoid growing up. That's why I'm still out there hacking away at hit lists, trying to keep up with crazy mountain folk half my age, and usually managing to hold my own. That's why I have a bucket list of trips to places like Botswana, the Alps, Belize, Scotland, the Boundary Waters, and Mount Rainier. In fact, one item dropped off my bucket list this summer and entered my travel journal: the Tatshenshini/Alsek River rafting trip in Alaska and Canada.

Woodelf Canyon is one of my favorite corners of one of the most amazing places in Montana: Hyalite Canyon. Don't try to find Woodelf on the map, but do go looking for it. We planned a moderate walk to see waterfalls and avoid the crowds. What transpired was serendipity. As we meandered up the minimal trail, I caught a flash of purple from the shrubs: huckleberry! Pretty soon we were crawling about, giggling in the bushes, stuffing our faces with ripe berries, fingers turning purple.

"Dang it Tor, this is sick! First huckleberries of the season, and they're huge!"

"Yeah. Wish we'd brought a bag so we could bring some to Alaina."

As it turned out these were the only huckleberries I found all summer, and we ate 'til we were afraid we'd be sick.

After some interesting off-trail scrambling amongst the crumbly rock towers of Woodelf, we hit the reservoir for a delicious swim. Then it was back to town for beers and dinner at the casa (elk steaks on the grill, of course). We scooped up Alaina and headed downtown for the outdoor show. "Toss back one of these," I told Tor, as we ordered up huckleberry daiquiries at the R Bar. I couldn't help but flash on another family adventure, when we'd joined a church group from Maine to help rebuild houses in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. Now that's a whole different sort of wilderness, and so was the French Quarter at night, where we bought 24-ounce mixed drinks at open-air stands and wandered the bars, seeking the best blues music.

Bozeman, however, ain't quite as wild as all that, but talk about a small-world experience... Tor disappeared into the crowd on the street for a bit and I started to wonder if he'd found a girl when he sauntered up with three strangers in tow.

"Alaina and Phil, this is Jesse. We ran track together in Winthrop!"

Holy cow, what were the odds? Jesse was there with his parents, who happen to be friends with my sister and brother-in-law who live in Winthrop, Maine. My sister had sent me an email a few days before, saying we should look these folks up. Jesse was working for the Forest Service hereabouts, but his folks were just in town for a couple of days, and Tor managed to find these folks from his hometown at Music on Main.

We couldn't top that, so we put a cap on it and called the One-Day Hit List a success: biking, bouldering, hiking, scrambling, berry picking, swimming, Music on Main, old friends met and new ones made.

Top that, Hit Listers!