Well, it’s about time, right? Time for me to stop procrastinating and write the first update in over three months! I know I’ve said this before, but time really goes too fast. Last time I checked in we were getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July and now that and Labor Day have both passed without a chance to look back on how far we’ve come! I hope you’ve been watching our Facebook Page for our occasional posts and photo updates.
Whew… Yes, we have been busy. BUT that doesn’t mean we don’t take some time every once in a while to enjoy ourselves and take on new adventures outside of the winery. In September, we hit the road for a week out west for some extreme hiking and canyoneering in Utah and Wyoming. I really do believe we saw some of the most beautiful places on earth!
We hooked up with Rick and Amie from Excursions of Escalante to take a two-day Canyoneering course and learn the basics – and they were beyond awesome. Really – they went out of their way and made our trip even that much more memorable. Check out the photos. Even though we ran into a little rain (other parts of Utah had some very serious flash flooding the week we were there), it wasn’t enough to stop us from having a great time and learning a ton about how to explore and stay safe in the canyons. Thanks Rick and Amie – you guys are the best!
Before and after our canyoneering adventures, we were also able to spend some time in Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.
After spending a night in Salt Lake City and checking out some of the sites there, we made our way north to Jackson, WY to take on our hike in the Tetons that defeated us when we were there in 2013. Our ~20 mile round trip hike up Paintbrush canyon, over Paintbrush Divide (elevation 10,700 feet!) and down Cascade Canyon was… challenging, to say the least. And the photos absolutely do not do it justice. We left the hotel on a brisk Friday morning before sunrise to take the short drive to the trailhead and begin our ascent. We stopped a couple times (ok, maybe more than a couple!) to catch our breath and capture the views. It took us until about 3p.m. to follow a single set of footsteps up the last mile or two through knee-high snow and make it to the divide, so we were very thankful to be camping just down a bit on the other side and not making the trek back that same day.
We set up camp, cooked a well-earned supper, and were in our sleeping bags by 7:30 to warm up and rest up for another long hike in the morning. Our jeans and shoes were wet from the snow, so we set them outside hoping they may dry a bit before we needed them in the morning. But, with the below freezing temperatures, we woke up to find them still saturated and now frozen almost completely solid. We made a quick breakfast around 8:30 (yes, we slept for 13 hours!) and decided we might as well begin our down to Jenny Lake, where we would take the ferry back to the car.
Both canyons were absolutely beautiful - with the changing falls color in contrast with pine and spruce trees, and the snow at the divide fit in just like a cherry on top. But to me, nothing tops the view we caught of a mother black bear with her two cubs by the mountain stream, eating roots to get ready for winter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bear in the ‘wild’, and I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or excited, but they were so content, even graceful as they wandered and ate. You could just tell they truly felt at home and were paying no attention to the small crowd of hikers that had gathered to observe.
I’ll admit - all throughout the trip my heart ached to live in a place where all those parks and beautiful views were right there at your fingertips, but something hit me on that hike down (maybe it was the cold weather, wet feet, blisters, and hunger for good Iowa beef), but I realized that Iowa was where I belonged and I was ready to get back home. The ‘Backcountry’ (however you define it, and wherever it is that you are) is what inspired us to follow our dream and build the winery. When you’re there, feeling like you can accomplish anything if you just take one step at a time, you feel so motivated and inspired - it’s a feeling you want to capture and never let go!
So now we’re back in Iowa, and I’m already reading up and planning our next trip to the Backcountry, but it feels good to be home and continuing to chip away at projects in the process of making our dream a reality!
Preston and Amber both grew up on farms in Northwest Iowa. They share a passion for the outdoors and enjoy taking on new projects to see what adventures will be discovered. As high school sweethearts, they attended Iowa State University together, and now are continuing to pursue their dreams at Backcountry Winery.