Why Not Give Instead of Giving Something Up?


I grew up in a devout Missouri Synod Lutheran family where the only reason you missed church, Sunday School or a church event was because you were running a 104 temperature, or we were on vacation.  I became burned out on “organized religion” at an early age and while my faith is incredibly deep, I’d rather be worshiping the Almighty while fly fishing, hiking or kayaking on a Sunday morning.  We have some great conversations out there and I have found the connection is much more clear and responsive.

As a child, I always questioned why we needed to give something up for Lent.  Why were my Catholic friends only allowed to eat fish on Fridays?  Who made up these crazy rules?  Easter is supposed to be the most auspicious, fabulous religious holiday, and powers that be made it about as much fun as a trip to the dentist.

Somewhere in my 30’s I saw a comment that made so much sense.  Instead of giving up something for Lent, why not GIVE?

Volunteer your time, donate to your favorite charity, go overboard on random acts of kindness!  Whatever works best for you, just give and then give some more.

Giving will not only make someone else feel better, but it will make you feel better.  The more you give, the more you want to give.

Giving up a steak, chocolate, your favorite bottle of wine – what does that do?  To me, it only makes me want it more when Lent is over.  I know it’s all about Christ giving his life for us, but I truly believe he would rather see us giving to others with reckless abandon, and understand the true meaning of giving without expecting anything in return.

So this Lenten season, give and give some more.  And after Easter is over, keep giving throughout the year!

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Hope Town, A Village of Smiles and Hellos

Hope Town Harbour Lodge View

Blue water and mountains are the two things sooth my soul within minutes. While the mountains are my home, after the past month of non-stop snow, ice storms and power outages, it was time to escape to the blue water.

Hope Town, Elbow Cay BahamasWhen a last minute fly fishing trip became available, the thought of warm weather, Caribbean music and rum punch were too much to pass up. (More on the fly fishing trip in my next blog entry.)

The plan was to fly to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas a few days before my fly fishing trip and catch up with friends who were supposed to be sailing in the area. Unfortunately, high winds kept them in Florida so I was on my own to explore.

Through a quick search on Hotwire, I found a fabulous deal at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge on Elbow Cay. I flew into Marsh Harbor, took a quick ferry ride with Albury’s Ferry to Hope Town and was literally dropped off at the front door of the hotel.

Hope Town Harbour Lodge ViewI took a moment dockside to soak in the sunshine, the clanking halyards from the marina and the wonderful smell of salt air. My bags were whisked away by the hotel staff and I walked up the steps, surrounded by bougainvillea, to check in. This quaint gingerbread style hotel straddles the island with wonderful views of the harbor and the ocean.

I’ve learned with last minute reservations you can end up with a fabulous room or the closet room that is always last to be sold. I was pleasantly surprised when Bernadette, the front desk manager, walked me to my room which was two flights up at the top of the hotel. An amazing view of the harbor greeted me from my front door, and the turquoise blue ocean, palm trees and the garden area of the hotel lay below my patio balcony. It was absolutely perfect.

Conch Fingers at Reef Bar & GrillI quickly unpacked and made my way through the garden to the Reef Bar & Grill where Gary, the bartender, greeted me with a fabulous smile and an excellent rum punch. When I’m in the Caribbean there is only one thing I must have – conch. I ordered the conch burger and it did not disappoint. Lightly breaded tender conch fingers were perfectly cooked and piled high on a toasted bun. I pushed aside the bun and started devouring the conch. Without question, it was the best I have ever eaten.

A group of people joined me at the bar, some with connections in Annapolis, so the stories started flowing. Before long we had become fast friends and I was joining them for the Songwriters in Paradise concert at the Seascape Inn down the island.

The Songwriters concert is in its fifth year on the island and I soon learned it is Songwriters In Paradiseone of the events of the year. Sailors, visitors and locals come from near and far to enjoy six days of country music’s top hits from the people who actually wrote and composed the songs.

Django Walker (Jerry Jeff Walker’s son), Wyatt Durrett, the writer behind many of the Zac Brown Band’s top hits, Kristian Bush of Sugarland, and Mark Bryan, lead guitarist for Hootie & The Blowfish were just some of the talent showcased.

The concerts are free and hosted at various hotel properties across the Elbow Cay. Dinner tables are available for each concert, but as the wait staff are quickly overwhelmed, I would recommend eating dinner before the concert and just come for the music and drinks. While you may not know these names off the top of your head, when you hear the songs they have written, you will quickly have an “aha moment” and start singing along.

Dornan's t-shirt in the BahamasWhile the weather went south my second day, negating swimming or snorkeling, I rented a cruiser from The Bike Shop and explored the island. Hope Town Canvas also as located in The Bike Shop, offering fabulous bags made from recycled sails and fabric. I headed to On Da Beach, just south of Hope Town in Turtle Hill, for lunch and a drink while soaking in the sun. The most hysterical part of my trip was walking in and seeing a gentleman at the bar with a Dornan’s t-shirt on – my favorite hangout in Jackson Hole. The world has become so small. Located on a beautiful beach, On Da Beach is a great little hideaway, but look closely for the sign at a bend in the road or you’ll miss it.

Hope Town has many cute shops and restaurants you can stroll to if you are staying in the downtown area.  There are boat shuttles across the marina to the Hope Town Lighthouse and Hope Town Inn & Marina.  If you want to explore further afield, rent a golf cart from one of several outlets.  Carts and bikes are the main modes of transportation on the island.

The one thing about Hope Town that made such an impression was that everyone says hello and greets you with a smile.  It was refreshing!  Although my visit to Elbow Cay was quick, I will undoubtedly return for a longer stay to further explore the island, snorkel, sail and just unwind in this beautiful community.







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10 Things To Do In Jackson Hole When JHMR Is Closed

Epic snow storms, wicked winds and a closed ski resort make for some unhappy campers in Jackson Hole these days, but never fear.  Here’s my list of “must-dos” to experience in our fabulous town. There’s so much to do in Jackson Hole during the winter!

SKI SNOW KING:  There is still a mountain you can ski in Jackson Hole.  Snow King is Wyoming’s first ski resort and it’s right in town.  Don’t miss this chance to ski the King.  Snow King is offering a 20% discount to all Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Mountain Collective valid pass and ticket holders through this weekend.

SNOW KING COWBOY COASTER & KING TUBES: If skiing isn’t your thing, or you just want to have some outrageous fun, head over to Snow King and take a ride on their Cowboy Coaster.  The Cowboy Coaster takes riders 456 feet up Snow King Mountain, and then lets you loose down twists and turns as high as four stories tall for an exhilarating roller-coaster thrill ride.  King Tubes has snow tubes, three smooth groomed lanes, and a rope tow to pull you and your snow tube up the hill. All you need are some warm clothes and a need for speed.

NATIONAL ELK REFUGE SLEIGH RIDES:  Curl up under warm blankets on a horse-drawn sleigh as you explore the National Elk Refuge and get up close and in person with the massive herd of elk that gather for the winter in Jackson Hole.  Learn about these beautiful animals, as well as the nicknames the drivers have for some of them.  Tickets are available and departure is from the Visitors Center on N. Cache

DOG SLEDDING:  An experience you won’t soon forget is being pulled by a very happy and energetic set of dogs as you glide through the wilderness on a sled, view wildlife and if you choose, take a dip in Granite Hot Springs.  Pick the dogsled adventure that is right for you.

SNOWMOBILING:  Think warm snowsuits, heated handle bars and spectacular scenery.  There are so many snowmobiling options available in the area, whether venturing in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, exploring Togwotee Pass or Yellowstone.  You can drive your own snowmobile or share with a friend or family member.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see some of the beautiful wilderness surrounding Jackson Hole.

WILDLIFE TOURS:  The snow won’t stop you from seeing wildlife and the incredible guides who offer their tours know exactly where to find that moose, fox, elk, big horn sheep and maybe even a wolf for your viewing pleasure.  There are a number of excellent guides available but two of my favorites are Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris and Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: There is endless cross country skiing to experience while visiting Jackson Hole.  Grand Teton National Park’s inner road is groomed for cross-country, skate skiing and snowshoeing.  Teton Pines Golf Club offers groomed trails to the public and Hole Hiking Experience provide guided tours.  The JH Nordic website provides area trail maps and information. Nordic ski packages are available for rent from Skinny Skis and Teton Mountaineering.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WILDLIFE ART:  Celebrating it’s 30th year, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is just north of Jackson Hole across from the National Elk Refuge.  Come in from the cold and meander the finest wildlife art collection in the United States.  Have lunch or a bite to eat at Palates and the children will find a special room just for them to explore their creativity.

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY:  You know you want to put on those cowboy boots that sit in your closet most of the year.  Slip them on tonight and go two-step at the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar or the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Wort Hotel.  Other music venues are also available at The Pink Garter Theatre and The Town Square Tavern.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP:  Jackson Hole has a vast array of boutique shops and art galleries.  Start your Christmas shopping early or just treat yourself to something special.

For more information on Jackson Hole, activities and shopping, visit the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce website.

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The Bee Sting

You know that hot searing pain immediately.  You feel a red hot needle piercing your skin and wham, with the slap of a hand you’ve obliterated the wasp and you know what’s coming next – more pain.

It was a beautiful Sunday evening out on the patio, catching up with long-lost cousins from California and JT’s siblings from Boise.  We were enjoying a nice glass of Jackson Hole Wine and soaking in the last rays of the day.  We’ve always had bees flitting around the patio and yes, I’ve been stung a few times, but outside of your typical reaction, I have never had a problem.  So I grabbed the Benadryl cream and pills, popped and lathered and sat back down.

Within minutes I knew something was wrong.  My leg was burning, my hands started to swell, my ears and my neck itched.  My sister-in-law who is a nurse took one look at me and asked if my tongue, lips or throat felt weird.  Nope, I was just itchy.  A few minutes later I couldn’t stand it anymore and went upstairs to look at my torso which was itching like crazy.  Hives, welts, red stripes, dang it…

I said good-bye to the company and JT whisked me away to the hospital.  By the time we got there my heart was racing, I was having trouble breathing and the room was spinning.  The medical team plopped me in a wheelchair and back I went to my cozy room for the next few hours.

Epi-pens, more Benadryl, fluids, and all sorts of fun stuff started pumping into my veins.  The room continued to spin and I answered questions through a fog.  The medical team did their best to keep me laughing as the tremors from the EpiPen started to kick in.  Somewhere I remembered to breathe and do my best to get my heart to stop racing.

My leg was KILLING me!  That damn stinger was still buried in there somewhere and every time I moved, it sent another searing shot of pain through my calf.  My fabulous nurse Dave came in with some lidocaine, rubbed it in and told me to be patient for 10-15 minutes until it kicked in.

Somewhere along the line the shaking and the tremors stopped, the hives started to go away and I drifted off to la-la-land.  The team continually came in and checked on me and JT was an angel keeping my spirits up.

I hate hospitals.  I think it all stems from having my tonsils out at the age of 4 and waking up to a sheet covered in blood from the draining and absolutely freaking out.  JT couldn’t believe that I had only been in the ER once before in my life.  I had a severe asthma attack back on the east coast and after they left me in a room for 2 hours with no one checking on me, I walked out the door and went home.

That being said, Dr. Nelson and the team at St. John’s were fabulous and I couldn’t have received better care.  They made a very scary situation “comfortable” and got me home to bed at a reasonable hour.

Epi-pen in hand until I go through my desensitization shots in a few weeks, I’m ready to do battle with those little bastards if they come at me again!

On a serious note, even if you have never had an allergic reaction to a bee sting, it can still happen later in life.  If you have the slightest symptoms of tingly or swollen lips or tongue, or have problems breathing, get to the doctor immediately.

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It’s not about catching fish, umm right?

There is the window in the spring when every fisherman or woman in the mountains grabs their gear and tries to fish as much as possible.  It’s between when the weather warms up enough not to freeze your keister off standing in or floating down the river, and before the river blows out with runoff.

Blowout: when the snow starts to melt quickly, running into rivers and streams, bringing with it dirt, crud, muck, etc. that turns the river mocha.  The fish go to the bottom not to be seen until run off dissipates and the water clears – usually around July here in Jackson Hole.

This past week the Snake River in Jackson Hole went mocha but we had heard fishing on the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho was still good.  So Sunday morning we threw the kayaks on the Highlander and headed across The Pass to see if we could find some trout.

When we stopped at Rendezvous Fly Shop in Irwin, our hearts sank when Gary the owner told us they had opened the flow from the Palisades Dam.  Alas, it was a gorgeous day for a float and maybe the fish gods would be with us.

They weren’t…..but it’s not about catching fish right, it’s about the experience?!

Kayaking the South ForkThe river was a little murky and extremely cold with all the fresh water from the reservoir.  Our other clue fishing was not going to be good – we only saw one osprey and two eagles surveying the river the entire day.  Typically on that stretch, the birds are waiting for you to catch something so they can swoop in and steal it away!

So down the river we floated.  The sunshine felt glorious on my back, the green grass poking through the muddled browns of deadfall and deteriorating leaves were like microbursts of paint.  We stopped at various gravel bars and tried our luck in seams, riffles and pools that should obviously be holding fish.  Let’s just say it was a good practice day.

As we passed other fishermen we all asked the same question and got the same answer. Nothing happening.   At least it wasn’t just us.

Fall Creek FallsAs we approached Falls Creek Falls, our spirits lifted based solely on the beauty of this spot.  While I have floated past the Falls a number of times later in the year, I had never seen them early on when the water is gushing over the rocks.  A favorite place for fisherman and hikers to take a break, we stood and took in everything around us and were thankful we had the place to ourselves.

Five hours later we arrived at Conant boat ramp, a little dismayed at the lack of catching, but happy to have had such a beautiful and serene float down the river.  There was plenty of time to clear our heads, chat about life, make plans for our next fishing trip to Montana and just take in all that was around us.

I’ve always said, fly fishing is a great excuse to stand someplace beautiful and do absolutely nothing.  It was the universe’s way of reminding me, it’s not always about catching fish.




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The Cutters Run So Children May Walk

Each WinterFest Week Jackson Hole residents and visitors can enjoy two very exciting and unique events benefiting the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City: The 44th Annual Cutter Races and the 3rd Annual North American Ski Joring Championships.


Hosted by the Jackson Hole Shriners, the Cutter Races, are held Presidents Day weekend.  The races were originally on the streets of downtown Jackson, but the event has grown so much that it is now held just south of Jackson, off of South Park Loop Road and Melody Ranch. The Ski Joring event was created several years ago as a bookend event to wrap up Winterfest Week in Jackson Hole.

For those not familiar with cutter racing, think Ben Hur, but instead of a colosseum, imagine two horses and a carriage moving at top speeds across the snow! Skijoring gets a little more crazy as skiers are pulled by running horses through an obstacle course filled with jumps and speed runs.  Click here to watch exciting videos from previous events.

The locals know to show up early and park their trucks, flat beds and RVs, then proceed to set up elaborate tailgate parties complete with grills, music and specialty flags so their friends know where to find them.

Calcutta betting is used to raise additional funds and create further competition in the events.SkiJoring

The net proceeds from the events are donated to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake which serves children of the Jackson Hole community. The hospital is committed to providing the best care for children in their specialty areas of orthopedics, burn care, spinal cord injury and cleft lip and palate, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

The Shriners and the hospital have helped countless children and their families in the Jackson Hole area receive care they may otherwise have never been able to afford. This care changes lives, brings hope and smiles to the faces of children and parents, and simply is priceless.

The 2014 Cutter Races are held February 14th and 15th at 12:30 pm. The Ski Joring event is February 21st and 22nd at 12:00 pm. There is a $15 entry free for the Cutter Races and $10 for Ski Joring.  Children under 12 are free. For more information on the events, visit www.jhshriners.org.

This post was also published on 3 Creek Ranch Golf Club’s public blog.

Photo credits: Ted Adams Photography

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Don’t Feed Da’ Bear!


Growing up in Iowa, the only bears I encountered were the Chicago-type on Sunday afternoon.  Ditka, the Fridge, McMahon and Singletary.  The two-legged kind who were much more approachable than the four-legged kind who reside here in the mountains.

Meet Ralph.  Don’t ask me how I came up with that name, but 10 minutes into my up-close and in-person bear encounter a few weeks ago, Ralph just seemed to fit.

As I sat working at my dining room table I heard several noises outside.  At first, I ignored them thinking our cat, K2, was outside getting into trouble of some sort.  However, the third time raised the hair on the back of my neck.  I turned in my chair to look out the window and found myself literally face to chest with Ralph who was standing on his back legs, holding my hummingbird feeder in both paws and euphorically pouring the sweet, wonderful syrup down this throat, while the rest splashed all over him and my deck.

DrinkingbearWith a start, I jumped up, fell back on the table and then stupidly (thinking back on it) pounded on the window and screamed at him.  I’m not quite sure what I would have done if he had decided to pound and scream back at me.  But Ralph was oblivious.  He was completely focused on getting every last drop of sugar water out of the feeder and could have cared less about the screaming lady on the other side of the window.

I ran next to the sliding door and screamed and pounded again. No response, just more chugging.  My next thought in looking closely at him was oh crap, where’s Mom?  He was small and yes, cute, so I initially thought he was one or two years old.  I closely scanned the yard around the house, but thankfully, no Mom.

I became enamored with the little guy and caught myself laughing as he would stand up, pour more juice, sit down, lick it off him and the deck and then start the process all over again.

It quickly became apparent Ralph was taking up residence and had no plans of leaving anytime soon.  It was also concerning that he was not scared by my screaming, knocking and presence at the window and door.  Time to call Game & Fish.  Reinforcing the “small world” of society, it just so happens that the head of Game & Fish in Jackson Hole, is one of my high-school classmates from Iowa.  Go figure.  One quick call to Doug and a team was dispatched to check out my sticky, gooey, furry friend Ralph.

WindowbearBy now, Ralph had drained the feeder of every last drop of sugar water and was looking for more.  He stands up, places his paws on my window, looking in as if to say, “Lady, this thing is empty!  Would you please come out here and refill it?”  I was laughing hysterically at this point.

Next, I learned that Ralph was a very considerate bear and he confirmed an old wive’s tale for me.  He trotted off my deck and started sniffing around the yard.  I was concerned he would disappear before the Game & Fish team arrived.  But then he stopped at the edge of the woods that border our lawn, squatted and did his business.  Yes, bears do @#$% in the woods!  He then meandered back to the deck and proceeded to play with the wind chimes and lick up every last drop of syrup on the deck.

The Game & Fish team arrived and instead of running, Ralph was mesmerized.  He literally sat on my deck and was intrigued by these three “creatures” who were loading up the tranquilizer gun and who were equally intrigued by him.

And then, it was nap time for little Ralph.  He did a lap around the neighborhood before the tranquilizer took effect, and then was loaded into a trailer and moved south of Jackson into the mountains.

Upon further inspection by the Game & Fish team, it was determined Ralph was in fact, three years old, had probably just come out of hibernation and was starving.  They too were concerned he showed no fear of humans and hence, relocation to a new home.

While I would rather watch bears from AFAR, it was a fascinating afternoon with my little buddy.  The hummingbird feeders were hung higher, the deck was washed down, but I left the bear prints on the window for a few days just for fun.

I hope Ralph’s hangover wasn’t too bad and that he has found a big hive of honey somewhere in the Wyoming Range to satisfy his sweet tooth!

Life in the mountains is never dull, but when it comes to wildlife, keep your distance and always, always, have your bear spray handy.



JuliAnne H. Forrest

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The mythical season they call Spring

Spring is a mythical season in Jackson Hole.  You hear stories about it from friends and old-timers who talk of the year when the grass was green and the flowers bloomed in April.  In your heart you know it happens, but on days like today when you wake up to a fresh coating of snow, your heart sinks and you covet the glorious Spring days everyone else is enjoying around the country.


We know there is hope.  We also know Mother Nature has a habit of keeping us in “mud-season” and then, with the flip of a switch, the next day you wake up to 70-degree temperatures and summer has arrived!

A few weeks ago we left the gates of the castle and took a road trip to Idaho to find Spring.  The good news is we found it in Boise while visiting John’s sister. However, along the way through Salmon, Stanley and Sun Valley, the snow was still blanketing the hills and mountains. Despite waking up to a coating of snow on our tent our first morning, fun and fishing were still accomplished, and as always, gourmet camp cooking was a requirement.

Salmon camping

I had never traveled through the Sawtooth mountains and have to admit my jaw dropped at the stunning beauty.  Let’s face it, I am more than biased Jackson Hole with the Grand Teton Range is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but I have to give credit to those Idaho mountains. Wow.

Sawtooth Mountains

Upon arriving in Boise, lush green grass awaited us, along with tulips, daffodils, flox and cherry blossoms.  The warm sunshine was welcome medicine after a cold winter and too many gray Spring days.  I felt like a kid laying down on the lawn and just enjoying the welcome smells and sensations of the grass.

Returning to Jackson is always wonderful, snow and all, and we tried to keep our thoughts positive.  The allusive Spring will arrive, if only for few days before Summer makes its entrance.

On Easter Sunday I pulled out my camera which had acquired too much dust over the winter and decided to go for a drive and see what I could find to shoot.  It was a glorious afternoon to take it all in.

First on my target list was the Kelly Road where you almost always can find wildlife.  Sure enough, hundreds of elk were making their way off the National Elk Refuge and back into the mountains.  Then, as I came around the corner, the bison had returned to their grazing grounds.  The large, impressive animals lumbered and posed for the paparazzi who lined roads.  Of course, there is always the jerk who goes speeding by and not only scares the animals but everyone else.  Seriously, grow up!

Bison and Elk

Further up the road, and unfortunately too far away to get a shot, I counted 12 moose.  Rarely do you see that many moose gathered together, but sometimes in the Spring I have seen this happen and it’s amazing.

But then, I saw it – Spring in its ultimate form.  Two buffalo were off standing alone while the rest of the herd was on the other side of the road.  When I looked closer, I saw something on the ground next to one of the cows.  I quickly dug for the binoculars and yes, a FRESHLY born baby bison!  Mom was cleaning the little one and was more than a little wobbly on her own legs.  I quickly looked over to the other bison and sure enough, a calf was laying beside her as well, but a few hours older.


Growing up on a farm, one of the coolest experiences was watching the birth of a baby animal.  You may wrinkle your nose, but seriously, it is incredible.  We would always keep an eye on things just to make sure nothing went wrong, but it was a thrill to see within the hour, these little ones start to get their legs under them.

I waited for a good bit hoping I would get to see these calves take their first steps, but they decided on a nice long nap.  As I pulled away, almost on cue, the rest of the herd began to cross the road and join the cows.  The team circled up, ready to protect their newest members throughout the evening from predators who would undoubtedly be checking in.

Spring in Jackson Hole requires patience. During those times when the gray skies and damp, dreary days get the best of you, it is important to pause.  Pause and remember the incredible winter of skiing and other winter activities you just enjoyed.  Then remind yourself this too shall pass, and before long, the green grass will return, the lupine and balsamroot will bloom and you will be enjoying majestic views of Grand Teton National Park from trails, valleys and lakes which will unwrap like a welcome present in a few weeks.

Spring, it may be mythical, but it is a time of rebirth that is simply magical.


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