Occasional Annual Letter – 2012

Starting the skison right near Lost Trail Pass, Montana

2012 was certainly a year of change, to put it mildly. I left my job in Astoria in January, Katt and I moved to Montana, and I’m still on the longest vacation of my life. For a detailed look at our activities, check out Katt’s blog: http://journeyfromself.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/2012/

Instead of a month-by-month recap, however, I’ll attempt to “concisely” summarize the year by subect, and mostly in pictures. 2012 was chacterized by travel, camping, caving, skiing, family, and friends.

Our 2012 game plan. Overall, we managed to get most of it done! But of course, we left some stuff for 2013….

We did a lot of caving in 2012. I scored a contract with the Forest Service doing bat surveys and deploying data loggers. One of the highlights was caving with my brother Mike and Katt in the Little Belt mountains. We visited Lick Creek, Old Dry Wolf Station, and Whitaker’s Sink caves. Whitaker is a Montana classic, since it sports an open 160-foot entrance pit, followed shortly by another 160-foot pit, where we counted 200 bats!!

Daryl Greaser rappels into Whitaker Sink Cave, Montana

Rappelling into Whitaker Sink’s 160-foot deep entrance

We stayed a night in the cabin at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Montana’s only show cave. Even though I had been in the cave several times, I had never taken an official guided tour. We didn’t identify ourselves as cavers and had a couple of chuckles at some of the embellished facts about the cave. The cave is family-friendly and should be mandatory for Montana residents!

We started the year with our 2nd annual “Ride-N” the New Year by camping on Mt. St. Helens for three days and skiing. Coverage was unseasonably light, so the skiing wasn’t that great, but snow camping is always fun. I made a short video of the trip you can see below.

Hauling a sled to our Mt. St. Helens basecamp.

Katt kicks steps on Mt. St. Helens, Oregon

Prior to leaving Astoria, Oregon, we were fortunate to receive some rare coastal snow and took the opportunity to ski on Saddle Mountain near the ocean, which may be skiable 2-3 days per year. We didn’t summit due to the late start, but the skiing was awesome!

Daryl Greaser and Nick Worden ski Saddle Mountain, Clatsop County, Oregon

Nick and D at the trailhead to Saddle Mountain

Nick visited from Portland in March, and we planned to ski St. Mary or Trapper Peak, however the roads were horrible, so we settled for a couple days of camping behind Lost Trail Ski Area and “sidecountry” skiing.

Katt and I did several backcountry trips, including Trapper Peak (10,157 feet), and Galena Summit in Idaho. Backcountry skiing is probably my favorite activity, tied neck-and-neck with caving! Good thing they don’t compete for seasons in the Rockies!

Daryl Greaser and Katt McClaine backcountry skiing

Near Galena Summit, Idaho

In July, Katt, Nick, and I spent five days camping on Mt. Adams (12,278), Washington’s second-highest peak, a glaciated volcano. We camped for three nights at over 9000 feet, waiting for a weather window for our summit bid. One day, Nick bided his time by flying a kite!

Daryl Greaser Nick Worden and Katt McClaine on summit of Mt. Adams Washington

Katt, Daryl, and Nick on the summit of Mt. Adams


Daryl Greaser Katt McClaine skiing on Mt. Adams

Katt and Daryl skinning up Mt. Adams


Flying a kite at 9000 feet on Mt. Adams, Washington

Nick’s kite flying high on Mt. Adams, Washington

In October, I got my first turns of the year in Glacier Park on the Grinnell Glacier.

Don Gisselbeck surveys future possibilities


Daryl Greaser backcountry skiing in Glacier National Park

Approaching Grinnell Glacier for the first turns of the season, October 2012.


Grizzly Bear in Glacier National Park Photo Copyright Don Gisselbeck

This Grizzly was only about 40 feet off the trail when we saw it. SCARY!! It checked us out, then went the other way.

This year I got the BEST pre-season turns EVER!!

GNAR GNAR!! That’s me behind the POW POW!!


In February, I made my first trip to Alaska with Doug and Aiyana (Doug’s 15-year-old daughter). Aiyana is a musher who raced in the Junior Iditarod this year, and we drove from Missoula to Anchorage on the famous Alcan Highway. (2500 miles one way!). Although we suffered the usual southeast Alaska weather, we managed to sneak in a drive up to Talkeetna for a “close” look at Denail (20,320 feet, highest in North America). One day I will climb her. I also got to be an official Musher Handler for the Iditarod, and led Kirk Barnum’s team down Main Street in Anchorage for the ceremonial start.

Aiyana at the start of the 2012 Junior Iditarod in Alaska.


Daryl Greaser and Mt. McKinley, Denali, Alaska.

Yours truly with Denali in the right background.

Daryl Greaser Musher Handler 2012 Iditarod

Guess this means I’m official!

Bannack Ghost Town
For Montanans reading this, if you haven’t been to Bannack, you are missing out! This is the state’s most perfectly preserved ghost town. You can go into all of the buildings, and it’s a real ghost town in the since it is preserved almost like everyone just got up and left on the same day!

Bannack, Montana ghost town

Bannack, Montana – a ghost town you can’t miss!

Sawtooths, Idaho
In May we visited friends Brian and Hadley for some recreation and a couple of days working on the Alpine Karst publication. During our visit we checked out the “Bird Museum” outside of Shoshone Idaho, which is a taxidermist’s (and/or ecletic hoarder’s) dream. The Sawtooths are one of America’s most beautiful mountain ranges. On the way home we stopped at the “Stanley Snake Pit.”

Sawtooth Range, Idaho, Stanley Snake Pit

Katt next to Stanley Snake Pit with the Sawtooth Range, Idaho.

In July we hosted our friends’ daughter for two weeks. During her visit we took her rock climbing for the first time, where she levitated up the rock, went tubing on the Blackfoot River, and toured Glacier National Park. Glacier is the Crown of the Continent and another MUST SEE park.

Floating the Blackfoot River, another Montana classic

Lake McDonald in an rare tranquil mood – Glacier National Park

Bearhat Mountain from Hidden Lake overlook – Glacier National Park

In August, Nick and I attempted Oregon’s Three-Fingered Jack but darkness set in while high on the exposed ridge, so we bagged it. Later, Nick would remark, “Aren’t we cavers? What, we can’t come down in the dark?” Touche! The ridge has tremendous exposure and I was “gripped,” meaning I was so scared I was afraid of making a mistake a falling to my death. I was practically hugging the rock. Nick said, “I’ve never seen you like this.” He was right – you have to be in control of your emotions or you are a liability. Next time, I’ll have recent experience on rope, we’ll leave much earlier, and I won’t be so gripped!

Three Fingered Jack, Oregon

Nick (white helmet) on Three Fingered Jack, Oregon

Hot Springs
We spent about a week camping at Goldbug and Panther Creek Hot Springs. Goldbug is a popular spot, we saw about 40 other soakers in three days! Panther, on the other hand, is very remote and seldom visited, except by locals.

Primitive Goldbug Hot Springs

Family and Friends
We started the year hanging out with Doug and Jen Ferraro and camping in their RV for a few weeks. We are grateful to have such awesome friends with great hospitality.

Jen and Aiyana at the Jr. Race to the Sky Finish

Doug and Aiyana at the Jr. Race to the Sky

We got to re-aquaint ourselves with my niece and nephews, who are the cutest kids on the planet! Fisher, Issac (“Ike”), and Elsie are such wonderful kids. These are my brother Mike’s kids, who live in Great Falls (3 hours from Missoula). We’re happy that we get to be involved in their lives as we watch them grow up!

Elsie plays keep away with Uncle D’s hat (she’s SO cute!)

My nephew Ike is cute!!

My nephew Fisher is cute!!!

Uncle D proves to Elsie that he’s not too big to ride her tricycle!

Mike’s kids love him so!

Our good friends Jessie and Adam got married at Luebrecht Forest near Missoula. It has been renowned as the best wedding ever, and many of us plan to emulate many aspects of it. Jessie and Adam are great friends, cavers, skiers, and devout Montanans!

Jessie and Adam at the reception

We met Amy Ahlin in Westport, Washington for a few days of R&R. Unfortunately, the weather conspired to keep us off the beach, however we managed to visit the Westport Brewing Company and a local winery. Good times!

Amy tries and IPA at Westport Brewing, Washington

Hanging out at Mt. Tabor, Portland, OR in June

At the beach with Rita who was visiting from Missouri.

Spencer and Sasha visited from Astoria in October. The boys climbed Ch Paa Qn (Squaw) Peak while he was here. Spencer strikes a stoic pose.

Over the summer, good friends Liz and Tommy hooked us up by allowing to pitch our massive “circus tent” in their yard for what seems like months in retrospect. They truly bridged the gap between traveling and our new home in Missoula, and we can’t thank them enough.

Liz hams it up for the camera at Poison Peak, Idaho

The Syko brothers Tommy and Jamie at Kelly Island, Clark’s Fork River, Montana

Katt, Tommy, Lori, Conner, Nick, Jamie, Daryl on St. Mary Peak, Bitterroots, in November. Debo and Ozzy dawgs round out our crew. Good friends, good times!

This is but a “short” synopsis of our year. Another big change was shaving my beard of 18 months. You can see by the photos. In the next several months, I’m going to try and catch up with some trip reports on some of last years’ highlights. I know some of you are already saying, “yeah right!”

Here’s some more photos. Click on the main image and it will take you to the next one, in order. Thanks for visiting!

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