On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Rock Creek Montana

Burning Down the Box

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in Reflections on Life

I want to burn the box. What box, you wonder? Our new house? Well, yes, some days. But I’m actually referring to the box that many middle-class Americans live within. The 9-to-5, drive-a-sedan, own-a-home box that beckons us to join the masses that do the same.

We’ve been back in the States for almost two months now. That box is firmly overhead. It feels like we suddenly mounted tricycles and are trying to stay within the lines of a track we can’t quite find. “The Loop,” one friend calls it – a circular, never-ending track of mortgage, groceries, errands, bills, and all the income, smiles and tears that makes the wheels spin.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Missoula MontanaWe broke outta The Loop. Hell, we gleefully smashed it to pieces. The problem is that we didn’t leave much left to pick up when we returned. I look around now at our near-empty cupboards and our way-bigger-than-a-boat  living space, and wonder what possessed me to give away my cookie sheet. The paid-off car. The speakers and stereo. The really good job. Our favorite spider plant.

But mostly, I look at what we still have and am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we don’t need. Why, for instance, do I have 22 tank tops when I lived in 2 for a year? How could we ever have needed pint glasses and coffee mugs and wine glasses? Sometimes I feel like all the stuff is taunting us as we struggle with merging back into The Loop.

None of the pictures look good on the wall because I don’t like looking at walls instead of horizon. The carpet seems odd because it’s not sand. The nights are too quiet to sleep without hearing roosters calling or wind in the stays.  The Loop feels eerily desolate, even as our favorite friends pedal alongside.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Missoula MontanaLast weekend, I joined a few girlfriends for an overnight in the Rattlesnake National Forest. I packed a pad, a one-person tent, my ukelele and some food. Off I rode from the front yard, belly as my bowsprit. A mere six miles later, I stopped at a divine creekside camp spot. I rejoiced at how lucky we are to live so close to these familiar mountains. I felt light again. Free. Like Bri. It felt safer to have only the belongings on my back. To look at a panorama of sky instead of a landscape of unsatisfying walls.

When I turned home the next day, I felt stronger and more inspired than ever to trash the tricycle and burn down the box. The problem is that I don’t quite know what to replace them with. At seven months pregnant, I can’t exactly wander into the sunset with a backpack. Supposedly, that fabled “nesting” instinct is going to kick in soon. But right now, I long to be a gypsy still. To be the family that never has going-away or welcome-home parties because you never know if we are coming or going.

On the Horizon Line - Brianna Randall and Rob Roberts Blog - Missoula MontanaRob and I are learning our way back home through a thicket of expectations, new and old. We prop each other up. On good days, we find morels in river bottoms and sheep skulls beneath pine logs. We appreciate the wildflowers and have dinner with friends who listen well and hug us hard.

On bad days, we try to stagger which one of us wobbles on this new track. We alternate between who wants to burn down the house and who can deal with the daily chores. We dwell too often on “should haves,” even though we know full well that “can dos” will serve us better.

Would we take our sailing trip again? Of course. Would we have done things a bit differently? No question. Hindsight is the clearest vision of all. Now we’re working on not letting it blind our way forward.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

We bought a house! (Anyone have a car?)

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Videos

Some people might call us hasty.  Others might say impetuous.  We like to call ourselves decisive.  Rob and I put an offer on a house exactly one week after touching down in Missoula, Montana.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll move in to the new digs on May 8th, less than one month after returning to our mountain home.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna RandallYeah, sure, we only looked at one house, total, before signing on the dotted line.  But to be fair, we’ve actually had our eye on it since February, when a rainy day in New Zealand found us surfing online for real estate options in Missoula.  We found it immediately: grandma’s house.  A 1970s rancher that hasn’t been updated.  Ever.  It has wallpaper and a laundry chute and a carpeted bathroom.  It’s a perfect fixer-upper for Rob, who loves nothing more than having projects to putter through.  And the only home within our budget in the fabulous Rattlesnake neighborhood near downtown Missoula.

Why did we leap in and buy a house so fast?  Well, Rob and I have been discussing the best way to keep our cost of living low while maintaining the quality of life we’ve enjoyed the past year.  For us, the biggest monthly expense is shelter.  We wanted to find a place we could settle into while not breaking the bank.  Renting seemed like a less desirable option, since we’ve been homeowners for years.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Luckily for our budget, crewing on other people’s sailboats was an extremely affordable way to travel the world.  We were able to use the money we saved by not buying our own sailboat to buy a new nest of our own.  Sometimes I feel a little queasy about the fact that nest is landlocked.  But having a lower mortgage will allow us to travel more easily when the longing for the sea strikes again.

We feel unbelievably fortunate to have found a new home.  A place that we can rent out when we’re ready for the next big adventure.  A place our soon-to-born son can toddle down the street safely, wander the woods at will, and walk to his grandparents’ house in a jiffy.

Buying a house in Missoula - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Now all we need is a vehicle so we don’t have to move our belongings via bike.  Anyone in Missoula have an old car, van or truck they wanna sell?  Give us a shout if so!

 

sunset over mount jumbo in missoula - on the horizon line blog

My Place in Space and Time

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Traveling

rainbow over Mount Jumbo in the Rattlesnake Valley of Missoula, Montana - on the horizon line

Picture yourself right now.  Close your eyes and visualize where you’re sitting, standing or lounging.  Now zoom out.  Do you have a map in your head of where you are located on this big, beautiful earth?

I do.  I’m a visual learner, and I feel disoriented if I can’t picture my place in time and space.  For instance, when Rob and I went to Philadelphia last month to visit his family, I had absolutely no visual map.  I was in unfamiliar terrain with no landmarks to guide me, and couldn’t have found north if my life depended on it (good thing it didn’t!).

For the past decade, the map in my head has been framed by mountains and rivers.  My place in space right this moment is bracketed by Stuart Peak to the north, Mount Jumbo to the east, the North Hills to the west, and Lolo Peak to the south.  I follow Rattlesnake Creek as my north-south axis when I’m navigating from home to downtown Missoula.  I’m guided by the Clark Fork River as I head west or east out of town.  My body can sense which knobby ridge the sun kisses as it rises, and as it sets.

sunset over mount jumbo in missoula - on the horizon line blog

But my body is about to leave the ridge lines, rivers and creeks that create my central axis.  My frame for pinpointing the cardinal directions will be fuzzy and out of focus as we shift between new horizons and new shores.  I’m going to have to accept the fact that I won’t always have a map in my head of where, exactly, I am — physically or mentally.  That feels overwhelming.  Exhilarating.  Terrifying.  Liberating.

Luckily, I know we will always have a well-marked and special place waiting for us in Montana, nestled squarely between the hills and creeks that so clearly define space and time.

rob paragliding with rattlesnake mountains in background - on the horizon line blog

 

Sweet House for Rent!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture

** Note: Our house is currently leased through June 2015.  Thanks for your interest!

Our house is ready to lease!  We’ve made many improvements to our house, in preparation for sailing away for a year or two.  Click on the pictures below to see  close-ups of this charming home, located in the mid-Rattlesnake area. Here are the details:

  • 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with a bonus room and small garage.
  • Brand-new efficient washer/dryer and refrigerator. Dishwasher included.
  • Brand-new furnace, windows and hot water heater.
  • Large, fenced vegetable garden, chicken coop, and storage shed.
  • Front deck and fenced-in back patio with amazing views.
  • 2 miles from downtown Missoula and the University, and only a few blocks from elementary schools.
  • Trails out the back door allow you to access the North Hills, Rattlesnake Creek, and Mount Jumbo in minutes.
  • $1,350 per month + utilities.  $1,000 deposit.  One-year lease.  Dogs negotiable.
  • Available March/April 2013.  Email us here to come check it out!

Solo Backpack from Our Home to My Headwaters

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Fishing, Hiking

Bear hangs in the wilderness are like anchors at sea — it’s what let’s me sleep comfortably in the middle of the woods.

I made this connection during a solo journey into the Rattlesnake Wilderness the first weekend in August.  Rob was busy driving a forklift and playing with power tools, helping our friends build a cabin in Southwestern Montana.  So, I seized the glorious summer weekend, threw some gear in a backpack, threw a trailer on my bike, and headed out the front door at 3pm after work.

I ride my mountain bike up 5 miles of pavement, and then 16 miles of bumpy trail along Rattlesnake Creek, towing my heavy pack.  Around 7pm, I reached the Wilderness boundary, locked the bike to fir tree, and strapped on my backpack.  I hiked up Wrangell Creek about 5 miles, and reached Little Lake, a gorgeous high mountain lake, just as night fell.  Which meant I had to HURRY to set up camp, make dinner, and then get dinner hung out of the reach of hungry bears and curious critters. 

For me, I have to hang a rope right away, so I know my food will be out of range of hungry bears.  That way I can sleep more soundly, especially when I’m all alone in the middle of the woods.  Plus, I suck at throwing, so I figure I should get the dreaded (but critical!) chore out of the way first.

I finally found a good snag halfway around Little Lake (high elevation areas = subalpine firs = tiny branches that don’t hold the weight of my hefty food bag).  Whew.  Food safe for the night.  I settled in my sleeping bag to read, and fell asleep as a lightening storm gave way to gentle rain in my cozy tent.

The next morning, after retrieving the food from it’s bear-proof spot, I decided to hike to the next lake, Glacier Lake.  The first day alone in the mountains I’m usually jumpy, clapping and singing to scare away lions, tigers, and bears (and moose).

But then I settle into the rhythm of silence. By day two and day three, I almost forget I’m not a part of the forest, and rarely make noise.  Maybe this is just because I feel slightly invincible by not getting killed on the way in.

On the second night, my comfort level was tested by 5 mountain goats that interrupted

the silence of sunset as the scrambled over a sheer cliff about 100 yards from my tent.  Awesome creatures.

On the hike out, I catalog what I forgot in my rush to leave my home for the headwaters of my backyard creek: a compass, a utensil (good thing twigs make good chopsticks), a bandana.  And what I was most glad to have with me: a fly rod, my bear hang rope, and a good book.


The reason I love backpacking–and sailing, for that matter–is that you must live in exactly that moment.  You’re only mission is to survive, to plan the next meal and find the next shelter.  There’s a beauty in that, a simplicity and a purpose that leaves me satisfied…and ready to do it all over again.

 

 

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