Sunday, September 30

National Alpaca Farm Day: September 29

Did you know that Saturday was National Alpaca Farm Day? First annual, in fact! I made a trip to my friend Julie's alpaca farm on Saturday to support her and her husband Kirk, in their new alpaca farm endeavor. I even talked a few of my new Bozeman friends into making the trek to Livingston with me. We had a blast learning the ins and outs of alpaca farming.

Fun facts about the strange animal that we call alpacas:
  • the young alpacas are called crias

  • alpacas are social creatures, they don't like to be alone

  • they even poop together in a circle, jockeying for the best position

  • they come in 39 different colors

  • their fur is called fleece

  • their fur is spun into yarn for hats, sweaters, gloves, scarves

One Box: Leslie Size, Please

So Friday night I slept in a box. Not because I had to, though I am homeless, but because I was joining with a group of Bozeman folks who were raising awareness and funds for a group called Family Promise. This organization helps the homeless of Gallatin County. The event, "Box City", was the first annual for the region. Great turn out, lots of money raised, and quite fun to boot. Prizes were given out for most creative box, and a couple of others. I didn't get creative at all, but the box was quite comfortable and warm. I slept like a baby. Check out my box.

Thursday, September 27

Sawyer Leslie

I've been quite blessed to learn many new skills over the last few weeks working on trails in Yellowstone. One of my favorite skills to aquire has been the use of the chainsaw. Felling trees, bucking and limbing fallen logs are traditionally what we think of when we picture the chainsaw at work. But one skill that I learned this past week was how to use the chainsaw in a much more artful, delicate manner. I was taught how to make lap notches, block notches and circular notches using the saw. This process takes many attempts to get it just right, and a little finesse to smooth the notches with the chewing beast of a saw!

Check out this sawyer in action!

Perfect fit! It only took me all morning to get it just right. I'm glad my teacher was patient.

Hitch #2: Mystic Falls Trail

September 25th, the Geology Crew (our crew), rolled back into Bozeman after spending another eight days in Yellowstone National Park working on Mystic Falls Trail. This hitch varied from our first hitch in a number of ways.
  • Much colder temperatures (even snow on our seventh day)
  • Learned new trail work skills (including constructing rock steps, retaining walls, and crib walls)
  • Used a grip hoist capable of moving 4,000lbs to move boulders from a talus field to our workzone

  • The crew was split into two, working on two projects in different locations

  • We were tired of each other by the end of this hitch and did not suggest a backpacking trip on our days off

John and Cager (our National Park Service Crew Leader) watch as Maggie pulls a boulder uphill on the griphoist to her staircase work zone.

Maggie's Staircase at completion - eight steps that took seven days to build.My first attempt at dry stone masonry (no mortar used). This step took Maggie and I four hours to complete from start to finish. Derrick is trying to claim some of the glory as well, probably because his step wasn't finished yet. Dry stone masonry is very frustrating because it takes so long to get perfectly matching rocks, to chink off any outcroppings to ensure the rule of "high and outside" contact points, and to get the correct angles. It is a dying artform but one that is quite historic. Many of the Roman Aquaducts and ancient buildings were done using dry stone masonry skills.

Wednesday, September 26

Better than a homeless person

Since arriving in Bozeman a month ago, I've either been out on hitch in Yellowstone National Park, backpacking in the mountains, or sleeping on the floors of two friends I have in town. A conversation with one of my gracious hosts the other day went something like this.

Leslie - "I really appreciate you letting me crash on your floor again."

Host - "No really, it isn't a big deal."

Leslie - "It is a big deal. I mean you are letting a homeless person stay at your place. That's huge!"

Host - "Whatever. You are much better than a homeless person. You are way safer."

Tuesday, September 25

A year ago today...

...I found myself at the top of Mt Katahdin having reached the final white trail blaze of a trail that had led me through fourteen states, numerous river crossings, countless mud bogs, clouds of biting insects, frightening lightning storms, backwoods eastern american towns, hundreds of picturesque vistas, meadows full of wildflowers, and a wild roller coaster ride of emotions. That journey chiseled into my soul a deeper understanding of living each day to the fullest, of making each moment count. Truthfully, I can't say that I follow those guidelines always, but my heart always comes back to that little "jaunt in the woods", the lessons I learned while there, the freedom to walk and to think and to be.

This week I counted down the days, remembering the final moments of last year's journey. I could almost smell the damp, cool air of the last few miles of the 100 mile wilderness. I could almost hear the excited murmurs of the thru-hikers as their insane dream became a reality. I could almost feel all of the emotions that ran deep that day; the sadness, the joy, the weariness, the triumph.

A quote from Henry David Thoreau that has been an inspiration to me: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined".

Sunday, September 16

Hitch #1: Yellowstone National Park, Mystic Falls Trailwork

Though the first hitch with my new Bozeman crew has been over for nearly a week and I'm soon to be headed off for my second eight day hitch, I wanted to post a few great moments from last week.

  1. our hike each day passesd by Mystic Falls, a fifty foot waterfall, along with a dozen or so thermal features of various colors (hotsprings, hot spots, geysers)

  2. coconut shrimp curry (prepared by Joe our youngest crew member, age 20)

  3. meat-fest twice during our eight day hitch (consisting of elk burgers, beef sticks, smoked ham, bacon, and redneck sausages)

  4. ravens methodically picked apart our bagged trash that we had stashed on top of the rig for disposal, later (oops, good thing the park rangers didn't see that! Would have been a hefty fine!)

  5. rogue coyote stalks into our camp one night searching for food...and the soon there after howl right outside of my tent (I almost peed myself)

  6. retrained in the art of felling trees and fell two myself, as well as a good days work of bucking and limbing fallen trees

  7. our Yellowstone Parks technical advisor suggested a sweet backpacking trip in southwest Yellowstone, got us the permit, and lent us his personal map

  8. lost my camera at the Old Faithful Inn, discovered it two days later, and it had already been found, catalogued, and shipped to the resort office 65 miles away (Blast, that will be a half day trip for me to get it back)

And that, my friends is a brief to do of last week's events.

Advertising at its Best

A billboard I spotted today on my drive back into Bozeman from a four day backpacking trip in Yellowstone National park:

Friendly. Loyal. But won't lick your face. - First Interstate Bank

There was a picture of spunky border collie with its tongue lolling to one side of his open mouth next to the slogan. It was at that moment, that I knew I picked the right bank to house my meager living stipend. I love it!

Tuesday, September 4

Here I Am

And here I have found myself in Bozeman, Montana. For the next 2 1/2 months I will be leading a crew of four others with the help of a co-leader in Yellowstone National Park. We will be working on one project for those six weeks - Mystic Trail. The last two weeks of my term of service will be a weatherization project for the impoverished of MT. We will be visiting the reservations and other low-income housing locations to help folks get their homes ready for the long, cold Montana winter. And then I'll be moving on, I suppose. To where? Undecided as of yet.

I won't have a mailing address for the rest of the year, I'm guessing. So if you feel the urge to mail me anything, squelch it. Feel free to email me if you want or call. I will most likely be moving from couch to floor to Jimmy when I'm in town (which will be minimal), and of course tent when I'm on project. So I've been trying to talk my back into being okay with the fact that I will not have a bed for a few months. I'm not sure how accepting it will be...not that it has a choice.
Bozeman sits in the Gallatin Valley, surrounded by four mountain ranges: Bridgers, Madisons, Spanish Peaks, and the Gallatin Mountains. Yellowstone is a mere stone's throw away from the valley, aiding in the fact that this is an outdoorsmen's playground. This valley was the first settled part of Montana due to the discovery of gold nearby. Lots of history here: vigilantes, battles with local Indians, off shoots of the Oregon trail, highway robbers, corrupt politics (whats new, right?).

Monday, September 3

An Ongoing Blessing

I am so richly blessed. Not too many people feel at home with their own family, let alone an entirely different family. My 2001 move to NC from IN impacted me beyond measure. Though I gained much through my five years of living in the south, the greatest gift of all has been the friendship and unconditional love of Tommy, Tracy, and Calli Edwards. And what beats all odds is that they love every member of my family as they do me. What a testament of Christ's love.

I'm so glad that Concord, NC was my home for five years. Thank you for inviting me into your family withouth reservation.

Sunday, September 2

The Incline

A challenging opportunity in Manitou Springs (just west of Colorado Springs).

The Incline is an old railway bed for a cable car that used to take folks part way up Pikes Peak to a view at approximately 8,000 ft. In 1990 the cable car quit running and the railway bed has been used by hikers ever since.

Thursday I decided to attempt the incline while Calli was in class at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. From where I was staying in C Springs, I could easily see the incline cutting it's way up the mountain.

Basic Incline Statistics:

  • Beginning Elevation: 6,574 feet

  • Ending Elevation: 8,585 feet

  • Elevation Gain: 2,011 feet

  • Mileage: 1 mile

  • Steepest Grade: 68%

  • Average Grade 41%

45 minutes after I started I had made it over the last step. Somehow I made it up the incline. Climbing over every railroad tie, gasping for breath, dripping sweat, and taking frequent breaks.

...on comfort zones...

Vacations are great, aren't the? Its like a little break from the normal grind, the everyday routine. I have to admit though, sometimes I like the routine, whatever it may be. And stepping away from the routine puts me outside of my comfort zone. What good is this comfort zone anyway? Is it really that 'comforting'?

When I'm in my comfort zone, I often don't even realize it. It is only when I am out of the zone that I become conscious of it. And then it is not comfortable at all. So what is the point of the zone?

I say we kick it to the curb. Let the zone comfort others. For me? I'll deal without it!

Reality...In a Big Way

The last ten days spent in Colorado Springs have been a much needed break. Not a break from reality, more like a break into reality. A reality that I have been avoiding. Sometimes the twists and turns my life takes end up further from reality than I like to admit. The path I've followed as of late has been full of much fun, much learning, and has generated many great stories. But I've been living far from reality.

  • God loves me and has a plan for me (laid out prior to my first breath)
  • God's plan is way better than my life plan
  • God is waiting for me to seek him in everything
  • God calls me to be a witness for him

I have lots of troubles. But my main stumbling block is my dang pride. I like to think I have it all together, I may even be sly enough to trick most people into believing that. I've always been slightly leaning to the devious side of things. Ask anyone in my family. Control is another issue for me. I like it. I like having it. I like using it for my benefit. And I usually can justify it's various uses in my day to day life. So when it comes down to surrendering to my Savior, I waver. I bob and weave. I smile and wave. I crouch and hide. But surrendering is not what I do.