The best hike ever.

Who doesn’t love surprises?

J has never been able to surprise me.

I take that back. There have been a handful of times, like a few months into our relationship when he surprised my by traveling two hours to come see me. Or the time he got me a present I’ve always wanted for my birthday. But for the most part, I can pretty much read right into his awkward stone-faced diversions from our conversations that cut it a little too close to the truth of his surprise.

Then, everything changed.

On Sunday, Jan. 20, J wanted to take a few of his friends who were visiting from Wisconsin up to Camel’s Back Park. Once you see the hills in this city park, it’s fairly obvious as to where the park’s namesake comes from, but the peak of the hills give way to this breathtaking view of Boise and the foothills and mountains behind it. We made a plan to leave the house by 8 a.m., but on the morning of our trek, we awoke to blinding fog.

Now, we grew up in the humidity capital of the Midwest; fog is a weekly occurrence. But this sheet of cloud cover was thick, and I could barely see to the end of my dog’s leash.

After letting Tripp out for his morning stretch, I came in to let J know that we might want to push back the visit to Camel’s Back Park. We settled on 9 a.m., and I settled into my book, not really even rushing or moving to get ready until 8:45 a.m. Once we loaded up – Tripp in tow, too – we made the sleepy drive over to the park.

You can’t beat a view at Camel’s Back Park.

On the way up the hill, J kept asking me to slow down. Strange, I remember thinking, but then again, it had been a few weeks since we had climbed up that way. The holidays had taken more than their fair share of a toll on us, but this wasn’t anything too treacherous for any of us. It was maybe an 8-minute walk. Still, I slowed my pace.

Once to the top, I wanted to stop and snap some photos of the fog. It was just dipping below the mountains, and the scene was so serene and quiet. But J wanted to keep going. Now, he’s being very weird, I mused. I had a feeling something was happening, like he had this plan, but as we continued down the path on top of the hill, I heard J from behind me say, “Hey guys.”

Just then, the four coats in front of me turn around, and everything came into focus. I soon forgot about the “weirdness” that was J and realized this was a wonderful surprise! Suddenly my Midwestern college friends were standing atop a foothill in a Boise park, and I was so dumbfounded by the moment, all I could do was stammer out questions as I tried to get my dog to calm down.

And then I really wasn’t prepared for what happened next.

Just then, I hear behind me, “Samantha…” and as I whip around, I see friends scurrying, rushing to get their phones at the right angle. I turn around, and among some of our closest friends, with our dog going absolutely berserk, my best friend asked me to marry him. I look down at the ring in his hand, and I realize it’s the same ring my dad proposed to my mom with. And the stone is my birthstone.

Somewhere in those clouds is Boise.

J finally did it. At one of our favorite places in the world, surrounded by people we love, with an animal we’ve grown so attached to, J pulled off the biggest surprise, six months in the making.

It’s been my favorite surprise to date.

Bringing our buddy home

How we met Tripp.

I never believed in love at first sight – until I got my own dog.

I grew up with dogs, but picking your own dog, the one you become solely responsible for, is a behemoth of a feeling. J and I weren’t even technically supposed to be at the Idaho Humane Society that day, but a dog we were inquiring about online through another rescue had been adopted. We were devastated, and we were tired of being heart broken.

I can still picture his jet black shoulders shimmying up and down as he inched closer to the kennel door, prompting his paws to jut up and down as if fire ants had set up camp beneath them. I instinctively reached out my hand, sliding my fingers through the chainlink that had become his view. With barely even a sniff of my fingertips, he offered a gentle lick in return, while his big deep eyes fired with excitement, fear, and confusion.

At that moment, I knew he was ours. The look in J’s eyes told me he thought the same thing.



Filling our home with more love.

It was a busy October. So busy, in fact, that I didn’t even write a blog post that month, which means I failed my own personal goal of posting at least once per month. But I’ve been busy enjoying my new state, adventuring with my life partner, and creating a home.

One of my favorite singers, Anderson East, has a soulful, hard rock tone that captures emotions words and photos can’t convey alone. In his song, “House is a building,” he sings “If a house is a building, home is a feeling.” It’s a line that has always stuck with me, but it’s been more impactful since this move.

Back in my early Facebook days (circa middle school 2012), I posted song lyrics like my social life depended on it, but as cheesy as it may sound, sometimes there are lyrics that speak to you.

We moved to Boise because it felt right to do so. We knew we were leaving a life and a world behind, but we also knew we had to try. We’ve relied on our guts, which were screaming at us to pick up our lives in the only home we’ve known and explore ways we can create home elsewhere, lean on each other, and grow.

We know Wisconsin will always be home, or, as we’re learning, one of them. I mean, how could it not be? It’s where we fostered lifelong friendships, endured crappy situations, felt the constant love of family, and made plenty of (blurry and clear) memories.

But home has never been a place for me; it’s where I’ve felt safest, happiest, and loved. My parents did a great job of creating one, and my college friends and I were able to create our own through all sorts of situations.

Many people months ago kept asking us, “Why Boise? Why Idaho?” We’ve always said, “Why not?” We have practical reasons, like it’s affordable, beautiful, and the mountains, but really Boise and Idaho had nothing to do with our choice to move. We knew that if we left, we’d always have a home to return to, but if we didn’t take a chance on exploring a new home, it’d get harder and harder to try.

In the last two months since moving, we haven’t been disappointed. We’ve missed some big things back in the Midwest, but we’ve also been on countless hikes up the mountains, tried food and places we never knew existed, put ourselves out on limbs we didn’t know were necessary, and learned more than we ever thought.

But the last three weeks have felt more like home than ever, and the reason why is simple.

Meet the guy who has been making this city feel more like our home. Meet the buddy who we would have never met if we hadn’t moved here. Meet our new love and the reason why October has been so busy.

Meet Tripp – you’ll read more about his story soon.

We’re not hiking experts

…though we’ve certainly tried to be.

The mountains were the main pull out west for J and I. When we were still musing about leaving the Midwest, the mountains were the only stipulation we had.

Living near natural wonders is nothing new for me; I grew up in Driftless Area among bluffs that were a natural phenomenon. I would never compare the beauty of two areas that are gorgeous in their own right, but the mountains took my breath away when we visited in February. Everyone who had settled into this mountainside city lived among this beauty, and I wanted the opportunity to really experience them the way only locals can.

In the last month J and I have been in Boise, we’ve spent about half that time hiking in the foothills. We have a weekly dinner date with Table Rock, and we spend many evenings exploring the back of Camel’s Back Park. It’s been fun, tiring, and breathtaking (sometimes quite literally). This past Saturday, we decided to explore more of the state we’ve begun to call home.

A mountain rainstorm makes its way through Boise.

Continue reading “We’re not hiking experts”


The life of two Midwesterners in the mountains

Well, here we are.

We’ve set up camp in the high desert, and we could not look more Midwestern if we tried. Ice white skin, nasally accents, white knuckling the steering wheel as we navigate across five lanes of traffic. We haven’t exactly blended in just yet – but we’re trying to.

J on one of our many hikes in Boise since moving here.

We’ve been on countless hikes. We’ve sampled local brews. We even started saying “the connector.” (For our Midwestern pals, it’s a fancy way of saying “the interstate in town.”) We’ve been welcomed in to a community of “last frontier” explorers who are towing the line between wanting to show everyone the natural and manmade beauty that is their town and wanting to close its gates from outsiders forever.

Niceness isn’t just an export of the Midwest.

But it hasn’t all been excitement and fun. Friends back home continue to make plans. Families grow and evolve. Life goes on.

(678) 363-9281

My journey to becoming an IdaMinneSconsinite: Welcome to the new Driftless Journalist

Goodbye, Midwest – Hello, Last Frontier. 

So, J and I are moving to Boise, Idaho.

Let me answer all your questions real quick. (That was such a Midwestern phrase, and after announcing this move, I’m way more aware of how much I sound like a Wisconsinite.)

We did tons of research on mountain towns, we love potatoes and actually a lot of people live there. It’s a evolving scene of change mixed in with tradition in the middle of high desert mountains.

But that’s a topic for another post.

I’m diving into what I’m doing now. Here. With Driftless Journalist.

Continue reading “My journey to becoming an IdaMinneSconsinite: Welcome to the new Driftless Journalist”


Life is cruelly hilarious. 

I had a hard lesson to learn recently, and its resolution is something I’ve been struggling with. 

This month I decided to challenge myself to tell stories in a new way. It’s part of a series of “new” that I am starting with this blog and Driftless Journalist, challenging myself each month to try, do, write or just be something new. 

I’ve always tried to improve my writing, so coming up with a new way to tell a story was a natural extension of that, hence my December challenge to myself. 

But I’ve always tried to find new and thoughtful ways to tell a story in my work as well. It can be mundane to write the same kind of story, and I feel some stories are deserving of a more oomph and my time.

Keeping up with work in the driftless.


Navigating Winona’s café scene

A food exploration through downtown Winona. 

A panoramic view of Winona from Sugar Loaf Bluff. Somewhere in there, all four cafés can be found.

At first drive through, Winona’s food landscape seems relatively flat. Chain restaurants and fast food digs line the streets tourists and wayward travelers pass through, and while those eateries have their own convenient qualities, following the stomach to downtown Winona will leave a diner’s palate satisfied.

As a recent official Winona townie upon my graduation from Winona State University earlier this year, I have found four of Winona’s cafés worth writing about, with each having something different to offer to satisfy a quick local thirst and hunger.  Continue reading “Navigating Winona’s café scene”