Thoughts inspired by a hut trip: 10 ideas to steer us in the right direction

Let me start by saying I have a tendancy to be a martyr and this selfish post is a series of thoughts that I need to remind myself of regularly. 

Last week I went on a hut trip, something I love and used to do fairly often, yet I easily find excuses not to now that I am a husband and father. Do you know what I am talking about all you parents out there? Well Kimberly helped me overcome all those fanciful obstacles I erect in my mind and made me go. Thanks Kim! So here is what I was reminded while nestled in a cabin in the mountains.

Firstly, what is a hut trip? Well most places you find mountains, snow and affluence you will come across purpose built cabins that serve as shelters for those so inclined to tour between on skis, foot or bike. In my part of the world, there is a host of them inspired by the exploits of the infamous 10th Mountain Division. Following the Second World War a number of those soldiers who returned from impactful active service in Italy set about amongst other things developing the ski industry in the US. Naturally, they were drawn back to the mountains surrounding their training base of Camp Hale near Vail. Now these gentlemen approached peace in the same way they did war; with liberal amounts of energy and determination along with a sprinkling of fun, cameraderie and an appreciation of a natural world that soothes the pains of hard work and trauma. One result is a chain of well appointed cabins, all placed in incredible situations; most are eyrie like with views to die for. They are simple and yet extremely elegant with everything you need to live comfortably and nothing extraneous. These places are magical because by removing the superfluous they are a reminder of what is actually important in life. As an indicator of how passionately we feel about that last statement, Kimberly and I were married at one.

What was I reminded about?

Good views are gained when you are on top. The best are the result of hard work:

The approach to the Jackal rises straight out of Camp Hale, in the winter there is little trace of the camp that once housed 15,000 men, a host of mules and the various vehicles required to service mountain soldiers both in summer and winter. The only tell tale sign is a large artifically flat valley floor that inspires sightings of imaginary ghosts and their hustle and bustle as you ski over it. After this flat you climb and climb (from 9,000 to 11,600 ft in about five miles). When you finally bust out of the trees there is the most gorgeous shelter, the quintessential log cabin whose windows oversee peaks throughout the Holy Cross Wilderness and the Sawatch and Mosquito Ranges.

When we know what we are doing life falls easily into place:

Hut life is simple. You need to cut and stack wood to keep the cabin warm and collect snow to melt for water. You get up with the sun to capture the amazing light and make breakfast. You go out to ski. You come back to make dinner and spin stories with the other people sharing the space. You take more pictures making  the most of the evening light. You sit around the fire enjoying the company. Basically, it is blissful.

People who share our values amd work hard to make them happen are the most fun to be around:

Effort seems to be a filter when it comes to convivial company. I am yet to find someone that I have nothing in common with and whose company I did not enjoy in a remote setting such as this. I attribute this to the fact that you have to work to reach a place like this, it is a real decision. I believe being pleasant is also a choice. 

Removing the extraneous “stuff” lightens the load and makes us happy:

I hate carrying an unecessarily heavy pack and while I am prepared to invest in a few luxuries; wine and decent food seems to be worthwhile, the more I consider each item I bring, the lighter my load, the happier I am. The same is true of hut life. Ridding myself of the “stuff” from urban and work life, the lighter my load, the happier I am.

Leaving tracks regardless of whether we ski or snowboard is always fun. They are just more meaningful when they have to be earned:

Are you noticing a pattern here? When I have to climb for my turns they are more exciting, maybe its the exertion, maybe it is the variety in the snowpack that keeps me on my toes. This is the same reason why I prefer telemark over other forms of riding – it is so much more complex and takes much longer to master. When I look behind me and see an aesthetic representation of my journey I feel warm inside.

Spending time learning how to navigate accurately is time well spent:

Navigation is the act of matching a plan with reality and making adjustments as necessary. To “stay found” we need to know where we are, where we are going and what we are likely to meet along the way. While it is more engaging to walk where there is no map, we have to be ready to deal with the consequences. Most of the time using a map is far more efficient and means we can travel more safely and with confidence even in a place we have never visited before. Being open to changing our route as whim and the experience suggests provides more fun potential. Good navigation steers a good life.

Safety skills are worth acquiring:

Safety is a simple formula; managing risks is about recognizing the consequence and liklihood of any action. When travelling in avalanche terrain, knowing what the snow pack consists of will give us a pretty good understanding of the consequence. We manage the liklihood by choosing the pitch we are going to ride. 38° is the angle of repose of snow, so skiing a slope of 38° means there is a high liklihood of a slide if there is something to slide and a weak layer that can fail. The thing is we have to balance the risk of loss with the risk of gain. When safe, skiing a 38° slope puts the biggest smile on my face.

Helping others makes us feel good. Allowing others to help us is a gift:

The time spent doing chores from which everyone benefits makes me feel part of something bigger than myself. When I can be there for someone else I feel proud. How good is that? When I allow someone else to do the same for me then I am providing an opportunity for them to feel proud.

Nature truly is snake oil:

Being in wilderness is the one thing that can be gauranteed to lift my spirits and put me back in touch with myself. St Augustine said it best “solvitur ambulando” – “it is solved by walking” and this is a phrase that resonates with me. When I walk / ski surrounded by trees, birds and mountains the recovery seems to be that much more complete.

Good company, good views, good simple food and sweat; the residue of a good day out, really is what life is all about.

Well that is my belief anyway. Time in huts always brings it back to basics, remove computers, phones and tv and replace with conversation and a guitar, yet maintain the warmth of your home while swopping out the vista and it quickly becomes evident what we most enjoy. The family vacation by the beach, the shared Sunday meal, catching the sunrise on an early commute, the evening run through the park. These are the moments that lift us, bringing more of them into our daily life lifts our potential for happiness. What a warm fuzzy thought.

Where do you find your inspiration? 

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Brian & the Perfect Job Hunt

One of the things that I really enjoy about Coach Joan’s Career Cafe is meeting some great people and hearing their stories.  These are certainly interesting times when I meet so many smart, erudite people brought together in a room because they are looking for work. The wonderful thing about this group is that it is a safe and nurturing place to share the tale of my search process which I confess has ups and downs. By sharing I formulate a better plan and I know my peers want to hear fun stories with happy endings so I focus on making some each week. Another great thing is that others bring their success stories to the (breakfast) table and I want to share the most inspiring of these as a model for job hunting in the current climate.

Brian is in the process of demonstrating the most important skill of the modern job hunter; reinvention. Leaving Michigan to relocate was only one part of the equation, he has also left the automobile industry and is now working in wind energy. Brian is an engineer; close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine what these folk do on a daily basis. For me it is summed up when we take notes side by side. Brian, captures all the details. His writing is a testament to the benefits of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; you can read it from 5 miles without glasses. At the cafe he knows (because it is written down) everyone’s name, what they do, what leads they are looking for and he graciously sets out to help them.

With regards to his job search he used the meticulous attention of an engineer and chose exactly what he wanted his end product to be. He broke it down into component groups and then worked on each carefully making sure that each part was ready before bringing it all together.

I confess to being glad to meeting him a number of months into the process; he is only human and like most of us, it took a while to define a vision of his end result. Once he had the concept drawing on the wall and a list of the features he wished to include there was no stopping him. He mapped out all the component parts he needed to put in place and consequently everything he did took him closer to his picture, every action was intentional.

So what were these component parts? It started with a lot of research, what skills did his target industry require? Trust me when I say Brian is extremely skilled, he packs more into his career in 5 years than many do in 20. He is also smart enough to know that looking at what a company wants is far more productive than selling what he has already.  Brian went back to school to make sure he catered to the needs of future employers, he also cataloged skills he already had that fit their criteria and promoted them.

More importantly he recognized that he was in a new town and he needed to meet people. This former wall flower practiced until he became the consummate networker. Brian connects with people and gives of himself, he comes from a place where he knows a relationship is made by finding what he can offer that will be of use to the person he is getting to know. He makes sure that he comes through and he follows up. The other thing I love about Brian is that he does not judge whether someone will be useful because he knows some of his leads have come from unexpected places. He looks for the best in people and gives of himself to everyone.

These tactics helped Brian to find his dream job with a salary to match. I know I am now closing my eyes and daring to dream about what I really want my job to be and I am putting these simple steps into play.

Thanks Brian, you have modeled a wonderful, humane approach to moving forward in difficult times and I want you to know I appreciate it a great deal.



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