Spring Rains and Summer in a Breeze

The spring rains came and summer has gone like a warm breeze. I got so damn busy that the last months have felt like they have passed in the blink of an eye and all of a sudden it is middle of August. I got a new job as Trails Coordinator for the local County government in my little corner of Wisconsin, and between the learning curve of the work, family obligations, travel, and trying to find time to paddle and ride my mountain bike the time flew by like the breeze. 

^Sunset on Lily Lake. This is the lake I grew up on. The whole idea of
this move back to Wisconsin was for my wife, Christine, and I to raise our boys with our families, in the place that raised us, within the village that built us. It has been all of those. My heart has been warmed by the family time and seeing my kids relish in time spent with their grandparents, uncles, cousins, and the like.

^Lake life is all part of this place and spending time on the water has been a blessing. My boys have been drawn to the water and I love watching them play in the same lakes and rivers that I did as a kid. 

^This spring Dave Maurer, of Giant Bicycles, gave me an incredible opportunity to be an ambassador for Giant. I am super grateful for the chance to do the work. I have been pumped to learn more about the mountain bike industry and prove some value to him and the brand. 

^Dan is the owner of Slow Roll Cycles in Madison, and they have built all my bikes from Giant this spring. I was really stoked to learn some gear head knowledge from him as he set me up and fitted me to my new bikes. The folks at Slow Roll have all been so great to me in getting me and my family all dialed.

^My new Giant Trance 29 2 fresh and so clean waiting for me to take her home and break'er in.

^This steed has breathed new life into my mountain biking. I am so pumped with this ride that I have been reinvigorated as a mountain biker. Not only do I have this great new opportunity, but my motivation and excitement is peaking. So amped.

^I officially became a Wisconsin resident again as the state laid claim to my "man van". I can't lie that it did not hurt a bit to remove my Utah license plates, but it's all good. 

^I went to work for the local Kenosha County Parks Department in spring in a new position that they recently created, Trails Coordinator. I had been working with a local mountain bike volunteer group the last few summers while back in Wisconsin to work on my property. I began to coordinate with the Parks Director, Matt Collins, in my venturing into the possibility to guiding mountain biking and some paddle sports in the region. While I was in Japan last winter Matt reached out to me to offer me this job. Eventually I decided that I would be best utilized in the area to help build up the outdoor infrastructure in this area through this position. The work had begun, but I felt like there was a lot more to do and that in this position I could affect real long-term influence in helping it grow more and build up the outdoor recreation infrastructure and scene. I decided to take the job. Then the work came on in a big way. I was overwhelmed by all the efforts I was going to have to put in to get the trail systems running smooth coupled with the vast amount of growth the County has in mind. I am stoked to get after it, and I am honored to be able to use my skill sets to build this infrastructure for my community here. There is a lot to do, but I think I am a good candidate to do the work. I am excited to facilitate the growth as best I can. 

^The area is beautiful. The trails are blossoming before my eyes. As I put tools to the ground and begin to build this up one day at a time the potential comes to light more and more with every day and every drop of sweat I leave to these trails. I am building and managing all the hiking, mountain biking, and multi-use trails and pathways in the County Parks system. It is a huge undertaking, but I am really taking to it. I feel like I was built for this kind of work. I am really happy with the progress I have been able to make so far. I have been so busy wrapped up in all the efforts that the time has simply flown by. Spring and summer have absolutely gone by in a flash. I have been assessing the trails as is, and then getting them up to speed. I have not even begun building new trail yet, but just getting the existing trails up to speed and draining water well. It has been a large task to start with. There are a lot of big new trail projects to come in the future so I am scrambling to get the existing trails and maintenance schedules dialed so that when these new projects begin I will have the rest of the trails running smoothly and cleanly. Little by little it is all falling into place with a lot of blood sweat and tools. 

^The trail work has meant that I have not had nearly as much time to work on my property that my wife and I hope to build a house on some day here. I put the construction off another year at least to focus on just learning this new job first and foremost and then worry about another huge undertaking in building a house as well. I keep saying that it is time I have and money I don't so I will take my sweet time to try and get things in order before I start the build. 

^This property is gorgeous and I can't help but get excited every time I do get the chance to move it further along. I don't want to wait too long, but I realize more and more the older I get how much I can handle and the pace of which I can handle things. I needed to slow down the construction process in order to be able to do this new job well. I got a gravel driveway put in this spring so the progress continues, but just at a slower pace for a little while longer. 

^My grandfather passed away this summer. He joined his bride in the afterlife. We will all miss him, but he was ready to go. He had a long and blessed life and seeing him deteriorate in his last few months was more difficult than the thought of him going to grandma. If I am blessed with half as long and successful run here on earth as he had, then I would consider myself a fortunate man. 

^The summer carried on with family bike rides, lake time, and all sorts of adventures.

^The 4th of July cam and went. Here, in this picture above, Amos enjoys the local parade with his cousins in Twin Lakes, and below the fireworks light up the night from a friends beach house party. 

^My wife and I bought a new vacation rental condo in Utah this summer as well after selling one of our other Utah rental properties. We took the chance to go out and work on the property as well as spend the weekend with my late dear friend Ben Geiger's family for the one year anniversary of his passing. It was an emotional weekend. It is hard for me every time I go back to Ogden, Utah because I see him everywhere I go in those mountains. Ben and I grew together in those mountains for twenty years. He was a huge part of the path that my life has taken becoming a mountain man and backcountry ski guide. Ben and I became the best of friends in those mountains on skis, bikes, and scout hikes scouring for more ski lines and exploring the vast corners of these mountains. In the picture above a few of his family members are stopped along the hike to James Peak to admire a heart shaped patch of snow that came into view as we climbed the peak. It seems every time we do something like this there are signs from Ben that he is watching over us and showing us some love. It never fails. He shows up everywhere. 

^I snapped this picture above of Ben's dad looking out over the valley and watching his large family laughing and carrying on below him from his perch on the peak. I could not help but admire him looking out over all of us. I can't imagine his heartache. I nearly lost my young son, Amos, to cancer a few years ago, but I still have him. I lost my buddy Ben when the tragedy struck, but he lost his youngest son, his baby boy. His wife Kamie and him are constantly in my thoughts. My heart aches for their loss. I am consistently amazed at how they lead their family from the front through this whole ordeal. They have taken me in like one of their own throughout this whole thing. I am forever grateful to them for their kindness, generosity, and love. I miss Ben every day, but it feels a little easier having them to lean on. His brothers have treated me like a sibling, and the entire family has brought me in and held onto me in such a way that I will be forever humbled and grateful. I try to spend time with Ben's wife and kids every chance I can. I want to impart the aspects of the things Ben and I shared with them in our lives in the mountains. I know Ben would have done the same for my family and my kids. He and I shared a lifestyle and kindred spirits in the way we approached and built our lives in the mountains. I think he is smiling down on me every time I spend time with his family. I feel him so strongly when I am in those mountains and even more so when I am there with his tribe. 

^The Gieger clan atop James Peak.

^I also lost my puppy this summer too. Murphy was my wife and I's first baby. She taught us how to come together to take care of a life. She taught us about unconditional love. She was my little girl. She grew old over the years like all of us, and this summer at nearly 13 years old she could not resist time any longer. She gave us her best dog's life, and we think we did the same for her. She was such a blessing to our family. Our boys grew to love her much the same as she did them. She was so patient and kind with our young boys tugging on her ears and piling on top of her all the time. She never once snapped at them and simply loved them no matter how much they crawled all over her. Our house feels more empty without her in it. We really miss her, but similar to losing grandpa we can't be too sad for her life lived so well, so long, and so loved. I will never forget being with her in her last breaths as she laid her head in my lap and moved on. It was a difficult thing to do. I whispered to her as she passed on how happy I was to raise her, how thankful I was for her love, and that her Uncle Ben would be waiting for her to take her skiing again in the afterlife until I got there. 

^My old girl just a few days before we had to swallow the bitter pill of letting her go to ease her pain and suffering from the cancer throughout her old body. She was such a sweet girl all the way through and will forever be my little puppy girl. 

^I took this picture of Ben and Murphy on a peak many years ago at this point, but it has been a great comfort to me since she passed. I look at it now and it holds so much more reverence than when I took it. I feel like it is a glimpse of heaven and of the two of them now watching over me and all of those they love. I feel comforted thinking about him taking her hiking and skiing in the spiritual beyond. I like to think of him petting her head the way he used to and getting nose to nose with her calling her by his own pet name for her, "Durphy Durph" like he always did. She loved following him and I in the mountains. I like to envision them doing the same now until the day comes that I can join them too. I believe they will both be waiting for me when I do.  

^My family and I have been going to the Northwoods of Wisconsin for nearly my entire life with the same family from Green Bay, the Schaetz family. My brother and I grew up with their boys one week a year for going on 30-plus years at this point and now-a-days our kids are doing the same. It is a joy to watch them all play together the same as we did all those years ago. The Schaetz matriarch, Sally Schaetz, left this earth far too soon a few years back and I always miss her on this trip each year as she was the spark plug of the group. She was such a presence of joy and laughter and I would be lying if it always feels like there is something missing from this trip each summer now, but I believe she is always there. I know she would want all of us to keep making this trip together. I believe she smiles down on us seeing all of her grandkids and my brother and I's kids becoming friends much like we did. I am blessed for people like these in my life and in my family's lives. It is such a wonderful trip I look forward to each summer. It is part of what I think of when I think of summer. 

^These pictures we do every year have grown so much in recent years. I warms me up to look at it. I am fortunate to have people like these in my life. I always go back to something my big brother said about this group years ago by now, "Families full of friends, and friends like family." I love that saying. It is steeped in so much wisdom and so much gratitude. 

^I recently was invited by Dave Maurer from Giant Bicycles to attend the Giant and Liv 2020 Product Launch Dealer Show at Snowbird, Utah. My wife and I needed to make another trip to work on our vacation rental condo at the base of Powder Mountain road some more and this event lined up perfectly with that as well. I jumped on the chance to take part. I am a sponge for mountain bike industry knowledge. I was really stoked to get to see behind the industry curtain even more with this dealer show where all of the national bike retailers came to see the new product lines that Giant and Liv Bicycles are rolling out for 2020. I was enamored with gear knowledge and pumped to get to take out the latest bikes on the trails at Snowbird. 

^I was happy to snap this picture of some new friends I met. I was even more excited by how welcoming the entire Giant family was to me throughout the days I attended the show. From staff, to dealers, to legendary athletes, everyone was really kind and cool. I learned a lot, and I fell more in love with the whole mountain bike scene. I have always loved mountain biking, but I am invigorated even more recently than ever. 

^I dragged out my old friend and photographer, Steve Lloyd, to shoot some pictures of me on the new 2020 bikes and meet and greet with some of the folks at Giant. I was really excited that Steve could find some time to come up and work with me. He is such a great photographer Steve and I have worked together a bunch over the years in the ski world and he is also really stout in the mountain bike world as well. I know he has a lot to teach me in the bike game much like he has in the ski game for me over the years. I was really grateful he made some time to come up and shoot with me. 

^Steve is a photographic magician that always makes me look good. This picture he took of me in the high alpine above Snowbird says it all. Dude's got game, and I am really happy that he plays that game with me from time to time. I was feeling really good to be able to get some saddle time in Utah again too. It felt really good to get up in the high alpine and rip some laps off the iconic Snowbird tram. I do still miss living in Utah, but I do get back there relatively often to quench my thirst for the mountains. I am fortunate to be able to still spend most of my winters there guiding. My wife and I got a bunch more work done on our condo as well despite having our boys with us too. It was fun to get to share the new spot with the boys. We are really excited for this new place we have in the Ogden valley now. I am happy that I have a great place to bring my boys back there too that we can share for many years to come. My Wisconsin hometown is always going to be home for me, but Ogden Utah is a really special place to me as well. I am glad that I can continue to share this place that is a second home to me with my sons more so now with this new place there in the Ogden Valley at the bottom of those mountains that are so special to me. 

^The Kenosha County Fair always kind of marks the end of summer for me. We made it home from Utah just in time for the fair this summer. We had a great night with my brother, Tyler, and his family. My boys and his boys had so much fun at the fair. The smile on my youngest son Walt's face in this picture above kind of says it all. This spring and summer have been packed with plenty of busy, plenty of emotion, and plenty of love. The time has flown by faster than ever it seems to me now writing this all. The old timers in my life have always told me that the time will only move faster and faster as I age and my sons grow. I feel that now. I always thought I would see it coming more, but this summer has gone by now faster than the spring rains run off the trails, faster than the warm summer breeze through the trees, and more fleeting than my dear old grandpa and my puppy girl's last breaths. I have lost, I have gained, and most importantly... I have loved every moment of this summer that breezed right by.