Taking a Break!

By – Amy Q.

Need a break from winter? Unanimous, Yes! This break doesn’t include a tropical getaway and palm trees. Sorry. This Saturday at the Ranch Club in Missoula, Winter Break will consist of free instructions of ice skating, pond hockey, and curling. No, curling is not the sport of curling into a ball in your down comforter and watching tv. Think more, Olympic event. There will a bounce house for wee ones, cross country skiing, a polar bear plunge, and snow golf. Free chili and sides will be available at 11am. The even will take place from 10am to 4pm.

The best way to beat the winter blues is to get out there and play in it. Last week my husband and I, along with his brother and sister explored the trails of Whitefish via fatbikes and cross country skis. It was a very snowy, active, hilarious day. We all enjoyed the novelty of riding bicycles down snowy trails while trying not to crash into one another.

chris fatbike

After a brief lunch break and warm up we headed to the very busy Whitefish Nordic Center. We strapped on some colorful eighties-esque boots, waited patiently for sets of skis and off we went to explore the beginners loop. An hour of skiing later, with several snowy falls and laughter, we returned our skis sweaty, tired, and hungry. But I had also felt better despite the exhaustion than I had in weeks. (However I was the only one who didn’t wipe out, bonus points for Amy).

all ski

Being cooped up inside and not getting enough physical activity during the winter months really drains my spirit. And I find that there is no better encouragement than being outdoors breathing in the crisp fresh air, experiencing a new activity, with great company. My husband and I reap the benefits of date “day” nearly every week. We feel more refreshed for work, we have more patience with each other, we are more loving and have intriguing conversations because of our adventures. Dating your spouse re-energizes your marriage, it clears your relationship of stress and worries, and it helps you connect in a meaningful way each week.

But date activities aren’t just positive outings for couples. perhaps there is a friend or relative that you know could use a pick me up? Instead of sending them a card or giving flowers, pick them up literally, take them out and do something with them. Go to a movie, a coffee shop, a walk by the river, or an event. Healthy interaction and conversation can be the cure-all for many different woes. Motivate your friend, your spouse, whoever, to live a little, try something new and daring. It might just lift their spirits and give them some hope. To me, nothing sounds more daring than a polar bear plunge, I prefer plunging into hot tubs.

So for Saturday, I believe I’ll try out some curling lessons, maybe even some hockey. Although I am terrible at ice skating, so some lessons there can’t hurt. Snow golf sounds entertaining, and I am quite sure I’ll be a spectator of the cold water plunging. The rest of the days activities are left up to Christopher however, it is his turn to plan our date this week.


Winter Trails Day 2015

By- Amy Q.

What better way to kick off the new year than to get outside with your spouse, burn some calories, and try a new activity? This Saturday is National Winter Trails Day which features over a hundred different sponsored events all over the United States. You can find events to try free cross country skiing demos, free snowshoe rentals and guided hikes, and even some “fatbike” trials. Here is the list of events for Montana for January the 10th.

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My husband and I will be heading north to Whitefish to take advantage of this free event. The days activities will include trying cross country skiing for our second time ever at the Stillwater Mountain Lodge and Whitefish Trail at Beaver Lakes from 10am-2pm. Also across the street from Stillwater Mountain Lodge is the Whitefish Bike Retreat which will feature free “fatbike” demos to ride on. These “fatbikes” are essentially bicycles with large over-sized tires meant for handling soft unstable terrain such as snow and sand. Warm fires, cocoa, coffee, and soup will be provided at both locations.


Photo courtesy Anthony DeLorenzo

Whitefish Nordic Center at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course will also be hosting a free cross country skiing event from 11:00-3:00pm. Free trail passes, equipment rental, and even a free lesson for newbies. You can’t beat a date that’s not only free but is also novel and good for you, you need to move during the winter months.


After a full afternoon of gliding about on the snow we plan on hitting one of the towns most popular eateries, the Buffalo Café in Whitefish. This joint is known for its Mexican infused cuisine mixed with classic homemade Montana dishes. I know Christopher will look forward to trying their wings, and I want to taste their prawn quesadilla.

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Other locations featuring winter trails outings are Blacktail Mountain, Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell, Swan Ecosystem Center in Condon, Silver Crest Winter Tails System near Neihart, and also in Big Sky at the Lone Mountain Guest Ranch. Pray for good travel conditions this weekend after our big snow and I know you’ll be able to road trip it to one of these areas.


Winter is still a great time to adventure outdoors just be prepared and don’t overdo it especially if you’re not accustomed to a new sport or hobby. But I also encourage you not to skip this one time a year treat on the account that your nervous or have never tried XC skiing or snowshoeing, both are easy to learn and fun once you catch on. Just make sure to help each other up when you fall in the snow, kiss your mate, take lots of pictures, and put on a good attitude. I recommend finding a café or coffee shop to warm up at together afterwards, drink some cocoa, and make room for conversation about how the date went, learn anything about one another?

Puppy Love

By – Amy Q. The silence as we left the dog yard was magical. Anxious howling, yipping, and whining of 140 sled dogs muted as our sled raced into the forest. Dogsled Adventures in Olney, Montana gives people the chance to experience a once in a lifetime winter journey. Christopher and I gifted our selves a dogsled ride for Christmas, and God graced the tiny town of Olney with the only snow in western Montana.

dogs rule

Arriving at Dog Sled Adventures we were warmly greeted by Jeff and his enormous number of employees (aka dogs.) Jeff has been in the business of mushing and leading dogsled tours for 35 years. After getting acquainted I got the go ahead to wander about the yard and meet the dogs, all kinds of breeds, colors, and sizes. The sheer volume of 140+ sled dogs crying out, “pick me, pick me!” was deafening, yet hilarious.


Scott, our musher harnessed up ten squirmy, excited dogs for our sled. Three other sleds were loaded up and departed with us. Our team consisted of ten dogs, Venus and Mercury at the lead, Rudolph and Comet the huskies next, Beemer and Benz a set up puppies followed, then another pair of puppies Molly and Creedence, rounding out with our strong dogs Saucer and Cosmo. Christopher and I loaded into the sled him in the back, me sitting in front, being his windshield. The sled was lined with a heavy sleeping bag, and then we were topped off with an elk hide for needed warmth. We were fortunate enough to borrow goggles from Jeff. Bundled up we departed for our 12-mile trek.


The speed of our ten-dog team was impressive. As soon as our musher unclipped them from the hitching tree, they immediately knew what to do. These dogs were born to pull, to work as a team in unison and emit their natural strength. Vocal directions such as “gee” and “haw”, left and right, commanded the dogs. Going down steep inclines the musher can apply hook like brakes into the snow to slow the sled and avoid tangling the dogs in their lines. The pace of the tour was just right, bursts of fast pace mixed breaks for the dogs and leisurely stretches.


Snow covered trees whizzing past our sled, me snuggled up close to my husband, the smell of pine trees, and this was a Christmas gift I’d always remember. The tour followed a well-traveled trail used only by Jeff and his sled teams by use of a special forest service permit. So we had the pristine forest all to ourselves.


During our ride we chatted with our musher, Scott, and asked questions about the dogs. The rest of the time we just looked straight ahead with our heads nuzzled close and tried to take in every aspect of this trip. The bitter chill on the exposed skin of our faces, my warm toes, Christopher’s arms wrapped around me, the snowy meadows we passed through and the agility of our team.


Our sled team had two pairs of puppies, 6 months old that had only pulled a sled 4-5 times. So it was entertaining to watch these newbies learn the ropes, and literally not get tangled in the ropes. One set, Beemer and Benz couldn’t run unless they were both on the same side of the tow rope. And the other puppies whenever we’d stop for a break would snuggle against each other resting their heads on each others backs. We came back to Jeff’s property about an hour and half later, with tired dogs, and happy hearts. Climbing out of the sled we snapped more pictures of each individual dog, thanking not only our musher but also this team of sweet, hardworking animals with pets and belly rubs. huskies

We headed back to a log cabin where we warmed up by a fireplace, shared our experiences, drank hot cocoa, and helped ourselves to some cookies. Jeff thanked us for coming and then he had to go back out into the yard and do it all again with a different team of eager dogs, you could tell this man and his pups love what they do. Each winter Jeff estimates that they do around 500 tours from November to early April depending on conditions. They do three tours times each day, with as many as four sleds at a time. Reservations are a must.

This adventure is a bucket list item. I had wanted to do this for several years and I am grateful and blessed to have had the chance to afford it financially. Novelty is the spice of life, and your marriage; do something that scares you, or do something you’ve talked about forever, life is short and opportunities are rare. Live life to the fullest with your spouse, share grand adventures, spontaneous escapes, and daring dates. It’s worth the expense, the travel, and braving the elements to be able to say to someone “I’ve been dogsledding before!”

Delightful Dates in December

By- Amy Q.

Having a regular date night in December in Montana is challenging. With treacherous roads to travel on, and unexpected winter storms, making plans requires a bit of flexibility and courage. Between marveling over the grandeur of our states winter beauty, the snow capped mountains and peaceful scenery this season is about so much more than snow.

It’s about a baby that was born in a manger, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior who came to earth to be our Redeemer. Christmas isn’t about overpriced electronics, toys, and presents, this season marks the love that God has for his people. Jesus was born on Christmas Day to one day become the sacrifice for our sins, so that we can be forgiven and the crimson red sin can be made as white as snow. It’s only appropriate that love should be spread abundantly this season amongst family, friends, and those in need.

But how can husband and wife share in the Christmas spirit as a couple without being overwhelmed by the customs of this world? Make this season about time, and giving of yourselves rather than money and lavish gifts. Dating your spouse all year round is so important but this time of year you can make some truly meaningful gifts out of some creative adventures. So here is my list of top Christmas/winter dates you can try out this month to take the edge off and enjoy the holidays more.

This Saturday December 6th Wallace and Kellogg over the mountain in Idaho are both hosting an array of Christmas festivities throughout the day. Kellogg’s Christmas Celebration will begin with a craft fair, small business shopping, free admission to the Staff House Museum, Lunch with Santa and cookie decorating at the Bridge Community Center. That evening stick around for a lighted parade through uptown ending at the Village with hot cocoa, and caroling. A Christmas in the night sky fireworks show presented at Silver Mountain Resort will be a perfect end to the night.

Don’t forget to pencil in a few activities down the road in Wallace on the 6th, starting with breakfast with Santa, a local vendor craft fair at the Depot, a Christmas movie at Sixth Street Theater, Yuletide Tea at the Silver Tea Room, and rounding out the schedule are Hay rides through town from 6-8pm. Our plan is to watch the fireworks in Kellogg at 6pm and then sneak on over to Wallace and have a hayride before we head on home. The best part of this date is the small town atmosphere, less crowds and less commercialized. And best of all its cheap and affordable, date night doesn’t need to be expensive to be memorable.

What’s a traditional winter date without some ice-skating? Head on over to the Glacier Ice Rink to try your luck on some skates. Public skate times vary throughout the week so check their website. Mondays are bargain days with admission of just $2.00 and skate rentals $1.00! Cheap dates are so hard to come by and this one is novel and exciting. Afterwards go warm up at Café Dolce in the Southgate Mall, sip on a steamy cappuccino, order a bowl of one their decadent soups and cap off your date with some window shopping.

Perhaps you’re looking for a little more adventure, how about some dog sledding? At the Paws Up Resort near Greenough, you can find a team of dogs and experienced mushers who will show you the ropes and give you a ride of your life. Call the resort at 406-244-5200 for rates and reservations. Or head up north to Olney near Whitefish where Dog Sled Adventures is based. Christopher and I have reservations for a dog sled tour on the 20th this month, I can’t wait to fill you in on all the details. Another timeless winter classic is going for a horse drawn sleigh ride. Haven’t we all sang the tune, (dashing through the snow…) and wished we could really partake in the magic. At the Double Arrow Resort just outside of Seeley Lake a rolling meadow offers the perfect venue for this serene activity. The sleigh rides depart from the main lodge every evening where you can warm up on hot cocoa before or after the trip. Between the beauty and strength of the horses and the tranquility of the mountainous backdrop its impossible not to make this a romantic memory. And before returning home reserve a table at the resorts Seasons Restaurant where the dining room is impeccably decorated for Christmas and the food is just as savory.

For those who would rather partake in Christmas spirit that occurs indoors I highly recommend catching a performance of the Garden City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Shows will take place on December 12-14 with afternoon and evening performances. Get tickets early as this is a very popular Missoula event that sells out quickly. So dress up for each other and go enjoy this unique holiday tradition. Tickets are available by phone at 406-243-4051.

One authentic Montana winter experience I would love to partake in is the annual Holiday Candlelight Tours of the Lewis and Clark Caverns near Whitehall. I have done the regular tour in the summertime and it was absolutely breathtaking, I’m quite sure I said “Wow!” over a hundred times. And this version of the tour I imagine would be all the more magical and exhilarating. The caverns are cold in the summer time, so it’s safe to say you’d bundle up even more so on this tour. The two mile walking tours go from 10:00am-2:45pm on Saturdays and Sunday in December from the 13-28, (no tour on the 14th) and one tour on Monday the 22nd. Check their website for pricing, pick a weekend that has a good travel forecast and hit the road.

Lastly, one of Christopher and I’s own traditions is going out for a Christmas dinner date to Finn and Porter at the Double Tree in Missoula. We have ate there for our Christmas date since our senior year in highschool so this place has quite the sentimental value. One of the reasons we fell in love with Finn and Porters restaurant is the breathtaking view. We always request a table by the windows because that puts you right on the bank of the Clarkfork River. Some years the river has been iced over, others its still flowing with ice chunks peppering the water like diamonds. The ambiance of the restaurant is palpable, and often they have live musicians playing on their piano or guitarists serenading the diners. Surf and turf is their speciality and they have incredible desserts as well. Get a reservation after dark to truly take in the spectacular view.

Give the gift of quality time this month to your spouse, maybe you’ll start a new tradition that lasts for years. I encourage you to pick one, pick several of these outings and go be husband and wife, go live out your love.