Every woman has her own specific strengths, and the “My Mountain Girl” series aims to capture them. Capture why she loves living in the Rocky Mountain West, and how she uses those strengths to do, and be, her best. We are all so similar, but our differences provoke a sense of wonder and awe for each other. And by telling each other’s stories, perhaps it will motivate or spark something inside of another to reach beyond our own comfort zone. To try something new. To see things in a new light.
Meet Mountain Girl Elizabeth. I first met her at a fundraising event in Missoula, MT, that she was participating in as a featured photographer. She walked into that room full of dynamic women, and had a natural, glowing, vibrant presence about her. And totally rockin’, strong arms. So I had to meet her, and since then have loved following her tender photos, daily adventures, and warm glow. And does she glow. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your energy and zest for life with us.
Tell us about you. I live in Missoula, MT with my husband and two daughters, ages 7 and 3. I am a portrait photographer who specializes in families, babies, pregnant bellies, mamas, seniors, and weddings. I enjoy documenting my own life as well, including “daily-life” photographs in our home and on the trail and self portraiture. I got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from the University of Southern Maine, and a year later I set out on a road trip who’s destination was decided by a late-night-game of rock paper scissors. It was either the Appalachian Trail or a trip out West…..and the West won! My great-grandparents were homesteaders in Roundup, MT and I was happy to retrace their steps across the country. I fell in love with Missoula in the Summer of 1997 and like many Missoulian transplants… I never moved back. I grew up in Houlton, Maine. It’s my parents who instilled a deep love for the outdoors at a very early age. My favorite and most memorable trips were the multi day canoe trips that Mom and Dad planned with my three siblings and me on the Allagash River. It was a yearly tradition that ignited my first powerful love of the outdoors. I grew up running and started mountain biking somewhere along the way… After a while I simply couldn’t decide which sport to concentrate on, and in September 1999 I entered my first adventure race. It was then I found the most perfect sport for me – all of them! My family and I enjoy these sports and the outdoors daily in adventures big and small in the Missoula area.
What is your favorite thing about living in the Rocky Mountain West? One of my favorite things about living in the Rocky Mountain West is our access to public lands. I love knowing we are raising our children in a place where there is room to roam and discover and have grand adventures!! When I took a road trip from my home state of Maine with a dear friend in 1997, I had no idea how deeply I would fall in love with Montana and start a lifelong love affair with her mountains, rivers, and forests.
What is your favorite place to visit in the region? I love the wilderness out my back door but Glacier National Park is a special place for me. We visited GNP again this year and I was brought to tears a few times with it’s spiritual grandeur, and even the freshly burned areas have a resiliency and raw charred beauty to them. It might be the closest to Heaven on Earth. It was a special place for my Dad, too, who passed away just after my husband and I got married 12 years ago. His favorite place in all of GNP was the Cedar Forest. When we walked through there this time I felt his big presence there. All of us felt it.
What is something your family loves to do together? We enjoy travel…road trips, backpacking, camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, cross country skiing, and just generally being outside discovering new things, big and small.
Who or what motivates you? I have lots of motivators, but I can name a few!
It’s the four seasons that motivate me. It’s making a small amount of time count when you don’t have much light (like after school in the Fall and Spring). We bike to a place along the river and play with sand and find rocks and just BE!
It’s the sport that motivates me. There are so many sports, so little time!
It’s my children who motivate me! They do NOT like getting into a car!!! If you ask them, they would much prefer a ride in the bike trailer over getting into the car to cross town. My older daughter Astrid says emphatically “Riding in a car is just TOO NORMAL, Mom.”
It’s my husband who motivates me. He has been the biggest support of me getting in a run, hike, or bike by getting our children off to school, or picking me and my bike up on the side of the road on the way somewhere and driving the rest of the way to our family vacation, or letting me slack on my duties working for him (marketing for his commercial real estate business) as well as my own portrait photography business and around the house so that I can get in a big day training. Being an outdoorsman/hunter himself he has always understood and supported my outdoor enthusiasm.
It’s music that motivates me. I don’t wear music in my ears, but while I’m out there on the long treks I enjoy singing….and if I have someone with me who likes to sing too, it’s fun to harmonize!
It’s my committed early morning running/hiking partners who motivate me…if I know that they’ll be waiting for me at the trailhead it’s easier to drag myself out of bed on those hard mornings.
It’s a race I have on the horizon that motivates me. In the type of racing I thrive in (Expedition Adventure Racing) I have 3 other teammates, and I don’t want them waiting for me, and that’s enough to motivate anyone.
Do you have daily rituals? Right now I’m training for an expedition race in Chile so I have lots of rituals and most of them occur in the two hours before my family even wakes up. My alarm goes off at 4:25am five days a week and I usually start my day off meeting a friend at Mount Sentinel and climbing 2,000 feet….and if I’m feeling extra perky sometimes I climb it twice. I like to be back by 7-7:15 am to pack lunches for my girls who are 7 and 3 years old. Three days a week I commute across town and back sometimes up to twice a day (13-15 mile round trip) lugging them to activities and preschool. If I have extra time (and my daughter falls asleep in the trailer) I do some extra laps on the plowed bike trail before I pick up my older daughter at school on the other side of town. My daughters have played such an integral role in my training this time around (I haven’t done an expedition length adventure race since just before they were born). Up until the temperatures dropped below freezing in November I carried my 30 lb 3-year old in an ergo on my back and my 7-year old on a tagalong. They have encouraged me at every turn (literally). My 3-year old happens to be about the weight I’m expecting to be carrying on my back during my upcoming race, and she’s a great coach as we burn up the trail on Mount Sentinel.
Tell us about your style. Oh my goodness, I’m not sure I can really answer this. My style lately has been almost completely activewear….Is it possible I don’t truly have a “style”? I know what I like and what feels best when I put it on. I’m all over the place. Sometimes when I go out on a date with my husband I like to wear hip bellbottoms (that are actually long enough for my long legs), sometimes my skinny jeans and tall boots, and other times a strapless dress! I dress for comfort and when I want to feel a certain way.
Any beauty essentials? The outdoors is my beauty essential. The only extras I wear are mascara when I go out, and I almost always have a coat of ruby red toenail polish.
What do you do to feel your best? I feel my very best self when I have balance. I guess what I mean by that is having time for all the roles I have on a daily basis, plus making the time for myself. I need to move to feel happy, but I also require a creative outlet. I am a local portrait photographer in Missoula (www.ebethphoto.com) and I usually have some sort of self-imposed project brewing. Like, one year I did a 365-project taking one photograph per day for a whole year. I also love to write and photograph about my life and form connections with others through these outlets. I love singing and playing music, knitting and making art. I am lucky to be surrounded by encouraging, positive and wonderful friends and family that help me be a better person, and I can only hope I am the same for them. *I have a neglected blog that I have been getting some severe nudges from friends lately to start posting more regularly again. I may actually get my act together one of these days and if I do my writing can be found here: http://www.artemisadventures.com
And finally, our Speed Round with Elizabeth:
- Tent or camper? Tent!
- #1 beauty product? I’m not a makeup person, but I do love love LOVE my essential oils and Robins Egg Organics face cream.
- Favorite book? “Explorers of the Infinite” by Maria Coffey
- Current favorite song? Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars (something that my girls and I go dance crazy to!), and I love The Cup Song – Anna Kendrick because I love to harmonize.
- If your friends used a word to describe you, what would it be? This is a tough one… I would hope it was “genuine”, “trustworthy”, “supportive” or “loving”… these are some of the qualities I look for in a friend.
- Comfort food? Popcorn on the stovetop using coconut oil, and topped with lots of butter.
- Exercise of choice? It’s a tie right now. Running and Biking. Loving them both so much!
- Trip you want to take? I want to do a long distance mountain bike tour with my daughters in the mountains someday…. each of us on our own bike carrying our own gear.
- Guilty pleasure? It used to be buying a trashy mag in the airport to read on the airplane, now (with girls that notice every little thing you read or look at) I buy colorful yarn and knit fun projects on long road/airplane trips and let my husband do the driving.
- Favorite spot in your house? In our bed. Ever since the gals were born we’ve made lots of memories, reading books, having breakfast in bed, and allowing them to crawl in and snuggle with us…
- Mountains or beach? Mountains