This year.  Wow.  It’s been unlike any other.

For the first time in 15 years Mark & I’s professional lives diverged and we spent more time apart than we ever have before.  While I spent a lot of my time on commercial airliners, traveling for work, Mark spent most of his in a Kitfox, flying around the Idaho backcountry teaching others the art of being a tailwheel pilot.

This month is the first time I’ve even had a chance to look at the 800 and some gigabytes worth of photos that were taken of our personal life this year and it’s been interesting seeing two separate lives being lived rather than one in unison like we’d become so accustomed to.  Last week while in Kansas City a friend told me that I could look at this change as though I’m getting to experience two lives.  Our individual experiences are too many to fit in to one life right now but when we come together and share stories in great detail it’s as though we get to live another life through those stories.

This year that has encompassed everything from a new state to a new career to a new marriage dynamic has not been easy but has been incredibly rewarding and I think we get a little better at it everyday.

I’ve not thought about this website in months, but now that I have some time to breathe and soak in everything this year has been, I’m excited to fill it back up with the many, many adventures from the last few months.  To start, I thought I’d share a little recap of the whirlwind that has been 2019…

This beautiful day in February was the one and only time we saw snow stick to the ground this past winter.  Quite a change from the winters we lived through in the Colorado high country.

50 degree days in March were a welcome change from those long winters.  This spot became a quick favorite, only 20 minutes from our house in Idaho.

 

Our house turned in to a study hall for the duration of the winter as Mark worked towards becoming a CFI.

 

In March I attended a profoundly impactful photography retreat that would change the way I approached my job as a wedding photographer.  I met people that I am so happy to now call friends and in August and November was invited back to help staff the second and third editions of All You Witness.

The day Mark passed his CFI checkride was surreal.  It was the culmination of two years of questioning what we wanted to come next for us and then working towards those new dreams.  He came home to a hallway filled with letters that I’d accumulated from our friends and family.  I’ll never forget this day. 

In April I got to do my first air-to-air photo shoot.  Two hours flying around with the door open and my camera hanging out of it (while tightly secured to me of course).  Maybe one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.  

 

Two hours in to that air-to-air shoot I dreadfully had to call it quits, I had to pee… and thought that meant heading home.  Little did I know at the time, there are MANY places to land a Kitfox in Idaho.  And so was my first look at what was quickly becoming Mark’s day to day.

 

We were both pretty delighted to find that Spring is an actual season in Idaho.  Spring did not exist at 8,000′ in Colorado.

In April, before our jam-packed summer began, I took a quick trip to Arizona to spend some time with family cause these kids grow up way too damn fast.

 

As if photographing weddings without Mark for the first time ever wasn’t enough, I decided to also change my entire camera system at the same time.  Out with Canon, in with Fuji.  While my Canons had basically become an extension of my fingers and learning all new gear was not easy, I quickly fell in love with shooting mirrorless.

 

Right around the time that our year started to kick in to high gear, Kaia got sick.  It wasn’t pretty for a couple of weeks but she made a comeback that we weren’t expecting.  However, Mark & I knew she was nearing the end.  In August we said goodbye.  She was thirteen and a half, nearly the same age as Cozmo when we said goodbye to him.

 

In May, our niece Mackenzie moved out from Iowa to spend the summer with us.  Having her support thru the busiest summer of our lives was a gift I’ll forever be grateful for.  Every time Mark and I were out of town working, it gave me so much peace of mind to know that Kaia was in her care.  That and she’s generally just a blast to have around.

 

My brother and sister-in-law came to visit in May.  Here’s Mark & I slaughtering them at my favorite game…Taboo.

 

 

Starting at the end of May, the Idaho backcountry became Mark’s office and playground.  To simply say he is a “flight instructor” is a vast understatement.  He doesn’t simply teach people how to fly, he teaches pilots advanced training in some of the most challenging terrain in the country.  And he loves every minute of it.

 

In June I took my first ever solo trip in our Four Wheel Camper, spending a large part of June in Colorado for work.  While it felt quite empty at times without Mark it was empowering to know that I could take this kind of trip on my own and thrive.  Traveling back to Colorado for work turned out to be far more of a priviledge than a hassle.  I couldn’t be happier to still get to spend much of my summers in the place I love so much.

 

When we asked Mackenzie to come live with us, I promised her it wouldn’t be all work and no play.  We took any chance we could to get out and explore Idaho and the Northwest.  In June we spent four gorgeous days in Bend, Oregon.

 

It was July before Mark and I would get a chance to go camping.  When that chance finally came, we buried ourselves deep in the Eastern Oregon mountains for two glorious nights and one very lazy day.

 

Mark’s sister and kids (Mackenzie’s mom and sibs) came out for a visit in July.  We laughed a lot.

 

For Mark, the last two weeks of July were spent flying to OshKosh, WI for EAA AirVenture (the world’s largest air show).  While he was glad he got to experience it, the hottest two weeks in the Midwest left him more than ready to return to Idaho.

 

A typical day of work for me in July.  Any day commuting on a lift or gondola is a good day in my book. (Photo by Preston Miller)

 

Come August a month had passed since Mark & I last had a day off together.  We were scheduled to work a job together in Colorado that ended up getting cancelled.  Instead we drove deep in to Hells Canyon for a few quiet nights alone.

 

In August, after moving around to a few different hangars, we found a great home for our airplane.

 

It was August and our airplane was starting to collect dust.  Then we got a free day to do a little exploring.  I had yet to really see what Idaho has to offer in regards to mountains.  The Sawtooths blew me away.

 

My friend Beth came out from Kansas City for a visit in late August.  We did all the exploring we could manage in a four day period.  This was about the time that I was starting to figure out that Idaho has no shortage of beautiful, pristine rivers.

 

I was heading back to Colorado for work when Mark was slated to attend the Kitfox fly-in in Eastern Idaho.  Mackenzie, being the lucky roommate that she is, was able to fill the empty seat in our airplane and join him.  Ever since then she’s had a craving to be in the sky.  It turns out you can’t live with us without being bit by the aviation bug.

 

The photography retreat that I attended in March was being held again in August, this time at a gorgeous ranch in Wyoming.  I was over-the-moon by the invitation to come help staff the event.  The people that come together to teach this retreat are some of the most gracious, kind-hearted people I’ve ever met.  I could not be more humbled to be a part of what they’re teaching. (Photo by Nate Kaiser)

 

We made it to September!  All year I kept telling myself, if we can just make it to September our marriage should be able to resume some sort of normalcy.  Mark had 12 days scheduled to be off work and we were ready to take full advantage.  There were no set plans…we just figured we would go hide in the wilderness somewhere.  We did that and then some.  To start, Mark took me on a little backcountry flying tour to give me a taste of what he’d been doing all summer.  Below is Sulphur Creek, one of the ranches he stayed at often while on Backcountry Tours with clients.

 

We flew to Stanley for the second time.  I quickly fell in love with this tiny mountain town that reminded me of where we lived in Colorado.  Below is the trail from the airport to town where we would walk for breakfast.

 

I got to experience four backcountry strips on this particular day.  A very small sampling of what Idaho has to offer.  Watching Mark transform in to the pilot he has become and fly a plane as easily and confidently as he drives a car has been incredible.

 

A few days in to Mark’s scheduled time off we got in the truck and pointed ourselves North.  Our second stop was this beautiful spot North of McCall.

 

We got as far as Coeur d’ Alene before making a quick change of plans and deciding to fly our plane down to Arizona.  I think this is the only photo I got of the two of us.  Raise your hand if you think this should be our Christmas card ; )

 

Doing a little trip planning before taking off for AZ.  Also, Mackenzie learning what a sectional is.

 

Our trip to Arizona was the longest trip I’ve ever taken in our plane.  Traveling the length of Nevada and seeing next to nothing in regards to civilization was one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever done.  Below is our lunch/fuel stop somewhere amidst the nothingness of Nevada.

 

The end of September crept up on us quickly.  I’d been itching to take Mackenzie to Stanley and was determined to make it happen before fall was over.  The six hour roundtrip drive in one day was totally worth it.

 

Mark joined me in Colorado and stepped back in to his wedding shoes for a day.  He may no longer be interested in shooting weddings every weekend but we had a blast spending a few days of work and play together.

 

Before we knew it, it was October.  That happened fast.  One random day as Mark was walking out the door to work his client cancelled their Backcountry Tour, in turn offering us the accomodations that were already paid for at Minam River Lodge in Oregon.  I quickly packed a bag and we were off to this wildly secluded backcountry lodge.  We woke up the next morning to a nice layer of frost and enjoyed a lazy morning while the sun thawed the planes.

 

It turns out Mackenzie is just as much an explorer at heart as we are.  The Owyhees, not far from where we live, have become her playground.  The three of us have had many conversations to ensure that she is safe while exploring on her own.  A flat tire one afternoon may have rattled her a bit but it was a great opportunity to discuss how best to handle such situation and to make sure she was always traveling with all the resources she may need.  We ended up thanking her for getting a flat and calling us because it led to us having a relaxing night around a campfire in the desert.

 

Having wrapped up work in Colorado, I was able to find more time for continuing to get acquainted with Idaho.  In October Mackenzie and I took a day trip to Sun Valley.  We found snow!  And I learned that Mackenzie can’t jump without sticking her tongue out  : )

 

And all that brings us to November.  Last week Mark & Mackenzie flew out to Seattle to check out a college that offers an aviation program that Mackenzie is interested in.  They may have run in to a few hiccups along the way and the weather may have kept them there longer than planned but all in all it was a fun trip that they won’t soon forget.  Below is our plane getting a tow after learning that a broken part left the starter inoperable.  Luckily the repair was simple and they were back in the air in no time.

 

While Mark & Mackenzie were in Washington I was in Kansas City for the third edition of the All You Witness photography retreat.  I never would have guessed that a retreat I attended in March would become such a large part of my life this year and bring people in to my life that I am so grateful to call friends. (Photo by Nate Kaiser)

So here we are, a mere six weeks away from a new decade.  As if everything you just saw wasn’t enough, Mark & I aren’t far from embarking on two glorious months on the road.  No matter where we are or what we’re doing, when we get in our truck it still feels more like home than any roof we’ve ever lived under.  Before Mark embarked on this new career path, we made certain there would still be time to take to the freedom of the road, to slow down, to simplify.  With that, I cannot wait to get in the truck in a few weeks and see where the road takes us.