Ali Jafarian

Backcountry Adventure in Montana

Episode Number 022
Duration 57 min

Epic [group] podcast episode with 3 fellow Front Row Dads – Dane Espengard, Jason Bronstad and Phillip Stutts. We share our experiences on a recent backcountry adventure to Montana!

This episode is filled with connection, insights from nature, plus our collective learning from fear and uncertainty. We share everything from hiking and fishing to getting lost in the dark at 10,000 feet elevation.

I’m grateful and honored to have shared this experience with these men.

A special thanks to our awesome guides as well – Chris, Dave and Howard. They were a huge part of this trip and we recommend them to anyone seeking a back country adventure in Montana. Check out their link below (Montana Country Concierge).

“To surrender is to grow.”

– Jason Bronstad


[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back folks to the pursuit of something. Ali here with a super new and special episode. I have three awesome homies, all part of a epic camping trip, to Montana, which we're now about two weeks out of. I'm still feeling the beautiful effects from.

And I say new because I've never done this before. I've never had more than one guest. I'm super excited to have three, Dane, Phillip and Jason. And I'm gonna actually let them introduce themselves outside of quick context, that these are brothers in Front Row Dads that I've met and bonded with and shared some awesome experiences with. So how would you guys like to introduce yourself?

Dane, feel free to go first.

[00:00:46] Dane: Sure. I'm Dane I reside right outside of Austin, Texas. And, father of two little ladies, a six year old, four year old and married for almost eight years to my wife, Brooklyn. I've been in, uh, a few different spaces, direct sales, some real estate stuff. And then most recently some culture stuff centered around dreams. But that sums it up pretty quickly.

[00:01:08] Ali: Awesome. Phillip.

[00:01:10] Phillip: Uh, Phillip Stutts, I'm a tourist. I'm the oldest person on the trip so far. And, uh, now I'm, uh, Phillip Stutts, married to Annie 16 years almost. And, we have a daughter Parker. We live in Santa Rosa beach, Florida. I'm an entrepreneur, got a bunch of businesses. And, most importantly on that side of the world, I'm a front row dad.

[00:01:33] Ali: Oh, yes. And Jason take us home.

[00:01:36] Jason: So, Jason live in Austin, been married to Melissa for 17 years now. I have a nine year old daughter and a six year old son. And, I've proudly been a member of front row dad since 2020. And it's really helped me to shift my focus in life to truly being a family man with the business.

And that's what this trip was about for me was about being a family man and building my network of good men with good focus in their life.

[00:02:00] Ali: You're saying we're good men.

[00:02:02] Jason: Well, there's a couple of them.

[00:02:05] Ali: Ah, beautifully said. Okay. So now some quick context, and I'm gonna let Philip give a broader overview of how this came about. But we spent four plus days in the Baretooth mountain range of Montana.

It was amazing time off grid where we were disconnected from everything, but the four of us and some, some awesome guides, Dave, Chris and Howard, which I'm sure we'll talk about. And the landscape, the beauty, the nature was just fantastic. What else, anything I'm missing before for that's enough Philip, tell us a little bit about sort of the origins of this trip, how it came about.

[00:02:48] Phillip: I think we can all agree that our two year window of COVID sucked really bad, but there's some silver linings that came out of that. For me, my wife and my daughter, and I were gonna go to Boston and, and Maine in the summer of 2020.

That was blown up because you couldn't enter those states cuz they had such crazy lock down. So we decided, you know what, when I was 18 years old, I packed, with a buddy after high school in Yellowstone. And I thought, you know, maybe it'd be cool to go to Yellowstone and go out west. And so we literally jumped in my truck from Florida, drove out west, had this epic three week road trip.

And when I was in Yellowstone in a 13 hour tour, one day, basically, I just said, you know, like I love being in the woods. And I loved seeing all this nature. And I love seeing, elk and bears and wolves and all these things. And I went, man, I'm meant to be in the woods. It just, I felt a calling.

And I think part of that's a, all joke aside. It's part of trying to figure out who I am, you know, throughout my life and what drives me, moves me and who, who I authentically wanna be in my life. So I was enamored with it. Started literally hunting for the first time in about 30 years after that trip. And, now I'm like, full born to a lot of different hunting.

And then we went back to Yellowstone in 2021, cuz I just had to like do it again. But one of the things that I wrote down after that summer trip in 2020 is I said, you know, I wanna do a guy's camping trip. And frankly, I just didn't have that many guy friends that either, well, just period.

But, but in addition they did also didn't do camping. Right. And so it's something that's sort of been on my, I wanna start doing this. I like being out in nature. I like the male bonding aspect of it. But I also didn't wanna do it with a bunch of, uh, meat heads.

I wanted the experience to be with a bunch of people I cared about. People that we could go have deep conversations and then constantly make fun of each other. Like it doesn't work for me unless there's constant, you know, uh, jokes and interaction. Thank God Dane came on this trip. Yes. So, and then I also wanted some adventure. I mean I'm 48 years old and I want some adventure and, oh, we got some. So we'll, uh, we'll jump into to that and I'm sure in a minute, but that's sort of the Genesis of it.

And then it, it led to, ultimately at the end of the front row dad retreat in Nashville this past spring, I went out for drinks with Ali and I was like, dude, we gotta do this. We gotta do this. And you know, Ali. Always up for it, but you know, everybody's always up for it until, you know, you have to commit to it.

And then, after that, Ali's like, man, I'm not sure. And then he is like, no, I'm doing this and we locked it in. And we started putting the team together.

[00:05:42] Ali: Hell yes. Thank you. That's a perfect, perfect context and something that I'll add because this came up in different parts of our experience together, not just the desire to be in nature, cuz I have that same thing. And I'm finding that I need it more and more and on more frequent cadences to really feel alive, to really feel like myself.

But there's this, aspect of being with men, which we're fortunate because front row dads provides this for us in our community. Yeah. That, like you said, you can laugh with, you can joke with, you can be serious with, you can climb with. Like, I really crave that. I don't wanna always be serious or I don't wanna just hike and be like, hey, this is just a hundred percent nature. Let's not talk about anything.

So that was such an important part of this experience. And I knew that my instinct was that we were gonna get that as I was leaning into committing. What about you, Dana and Jason, what gave you sort of the like hell yes to come and, and be a part of this?

[00:06:45] Jason: Yeah. So the first thing, when I got the call from Philip, it was an immediate yes.

It was, it was, it was an absolute, no questions, I'm in a hundred percent. And for me it was a more of a personal journey cuz I've been on a health journey the last three years evolving who I am as a person. And I saw it as much of a challenge. Like, Hey, I'm gonna go do something that I never thought in my life I'd be able to do.

I've been overweight almost my entire life. And, it was a hell of a push. It is the most strenuous thing I've ever done to hike in and we'll get to some of those details, but it, I knew the value of the conversation that I'd had with Philip in Nashville. That I've the connection I've made with Dane and working with him over the last year or so.

And Ali, every time your questions are so pointed, I just had to be a part of the group and go experience Montana. And it was on the dreams list. It was a state I hadn't hit yet.

[00:07:37] Dane: Cool. Oh yeah.

[00:07:39] Ali: And Dane, basically mine was somewhat, God said, Dan, we might invited you for jokes, but you can tell us why you decided to come.

[00:07:46] Dane: Well, mine, you know, seriousness, Phillip called and, and I was like, wait, is this just a me and you thing? You know, I'm not super interested in that. But then as, as I asked who else was going and, and he mentioned the guys, I said, you know, it sounds awesome.

I definitely look for and appreciate opportunities to connect just like you guys said with not just men, but guys from that group specifically.

And, my wife has some pretty amazing intuition when it comes to what I need at certain times. And so the timing of the trip, we had some family travel that was happening. I was getting outta my busy season and I said, Hey, you know, Brooke, what do you think this is when it is? And it was like zero hesitation.

She's like, yeah, you should go. And uh, I said, all right, I got the green light. You know, it just kind of fell into place maybe a little simpler than most trips do. So I, I really I felt like it was, it was definitely meant to be.

[00:08:39] Ali: Sweet man. Awesome. Okay. Let's go into the hiking.

Jason, you kind of gave a preview. This experience once we landed and got organized in Bozeman, we had a couple hour drive out to the wilderness and then there was a strenuous, beautiful challenging eight plus mile hike. So tell us a little bit more like what that hike was like from your perspective.

[00:09:06] Jason: So one of the things is our trip started with change. Our initial camping site changed two days before we flew out to Montana, right? So we went from having a 12 mile hike to an eight mile hike. So I'm like, oh man, this is perfect. What I did not have an appreciation for was a, we were starting at over 6,000 feet.

And we were climbing to 9,000 feet. Mm yep. Know this land lover in Austin, Texas had like 500 foot elevation right now, which is still a lot more than you got Phillip there at like seven foot or whatever. Um, for me it was, it was a hell of a hike. I mean, the switchbacks, that's become a cuss word in my language.

just the sheer number of oh, up, up, up, up, up. And, it was tough, but it was easy because of the conversation that I got to listen to quite frankly, cuz I didn't have the breath to talk. And Ali asked me at one point he's like, so are you a, you know, do you not talk a lot? I'm like, I can't. I'm just trying to focus on the next breath and the next step.

But it was epic and the journey and the support and the conversation. And Ali, I wanna honor you because you were the first person to say, Hey, Jason, you get the heaviest bag. Do you want me to carry that for a while? And at that point I was gased. I was done for. Her and we might have been four miles into the eight mile hike.

And that, that showed me the furthermore, the type of men that we were surrounded by on this trip. And it just, it gave me energy.

[00:10:39] Ali: Mm-hmm it gave me a ton of energy as well, dude. I wanna reflect back to you that you had the awareness and courage to be like, yo, can you take my bag please? Where most of the men, I know even men in front row dads still wouldn't do that.

They'd be like, fuck it. I'm gonna carry it. Gonna be strong. Wear the mask, which we talked a bit about masks on our trip. So thank you for doing that because I feel like not only did I learn in that moment, but more people can learn by asking for help. So that was powerful for me.

Phil, anything from your side on the big hike in.

[00:11:13] Phillip: You know, I've gotten to the point where I've done a lot of these kind of strenuous things where like, I really like the pain now. And so, yeah, I mean, it was just beautiful. The fact that, you know, we're just driving to the Trailhead and it's like, oh, our cell phones don't work anymore.

And it's like, it's game on now. Yeah. From that point on there, wasn't a moment over the next, what, 72 or plus hours or something that I thought about, oh, I'd love to know what's going on with my phone right now. Other than, you know, looking at the trail app and realizing that we were not in the right spot a few times. But, other than that, no, I loved it.

It was epic. I think the hardest part I had was the last hour, which we will probably discuss in, in more detail in a minute.

[00:11:59] Ali: Indeed. Yep. That's exactly what we need to discuss right now. So we found ourselves in a place we now call Phillipsburg. It was a result of four extremely intelligent men getting a bit confused at the end of a long hike. And let's just say that was a scenario where, we had to kind of collectively be like, oh shit. We don't know what we're doing at the moment.

Who wants to describe this? I'm not sure I'll do it the most justice. Dane?

[00:12:33] Dane: Yeah. And, and a part of it ties in when you're talking about the entry hike. I remember one of the things I was excited about was the challenge. Mm-hmm eight miles. I got a pack. 12 miles is what it was supposed to be . I got a pack, like this is gonna be hard.

And we get there and our guides have horses that are gonna bring all our gear up and they're like, well, you don't have to carry that. Throw that on the bag. And I remember looking at these guys and I was like, I think I wanna carry my bag. I wanted the challenge of that. And it was like, we're just gonna hike eight miles.

Not that that's not, it ended up being really challenging, but I wanted my pack. And then at the end of the day, I just, okay. You know, I'll send it with, and it was glorious for the hike. I'm so glad that I did that.

But what happened at the beginning is that they told us where to go. We had coordinates in an app that works offline and we relied on technology. And when they told us where to go, we were so focused on what we wanted to talk about, what we wanted to hear, which was bears grizzly. We were going into GRI, grizzly country. yeah. And I, we talked about this openly. I was nervous as hell about it. I'd never spent time in grizzly country.

My daughter, you know, had already moved on from under her second father. She was talking to mom about what happens, my wife, what happens when, if I don't come home from this trip . So I was preoccupied with this and I think most of us were, we spent more time on how do we get the bears spray out? What do we do? Hearing our guides bear stories. Yeah. And then when he told us what to do, as we found the spot, none of us listened.

We're like, whatever we got the coordinates. We're all good. Yep. And what ended up happening? We got hit with a light rain, not too bad. We get to where the trail head ends, but the trail ends on the app. And we were told we were supposed to go to a opening and there'd be kind of a pass meadow you'd see, pick your spot. They also said, we're gonna pass you about halfway up with the horses. They never passed us.

So there was a moment there of, they should have passed us. Where are they? Did we take a wrong turn? Did they go another way? And then we get there. It doesn't seem like this is where we're supposed to be.

We don't see them. And the sun is going down. We probably have 35 minutes to figure this out. And we also all as, as easy as, or hard as the hike was, we had committed to getting those eight miles and mentally we all kind of were, were here. And then we found out, well, we didn't find out. We, we decided this isn't the right.

We panicked a little bit and then made a decision to, to keep going to higher ground to the lake. We were supposed to original trip was supposed be next to a lake when they switched on us. They said we at a lake, but we, we didn't two and two together. So wed another 0.4 miles. But it was mostly up like three to four points of contact on some of it more strenuous than anything we had done in the first eight miles.

Sun's going down, we're panicking. Nobody has breath. We get to the top, can't see any fire, no smoke, nobody. And so we're basically just, Hey, we gotta settle in for the night. And I feel like prior to that, Ali and I were kind trying to lead the way we got up to the last, you know, kind of highest ground, if you will.

And that's when Phillip and Jason took over and it was, Hey, we're building a fire in. If somebody wants to take it from there.

[00:16:08] Phillip: Yeah, I feel like this is all of my prep work, like came like in, in the last, you know, 40 years of camping and being in the woods and things like that. And I was like, oh, hold on. This is like a great moment. Like, we're gonna figure this thing out.

And the one thing I'd say, Jason, you can jump in in a second from your experience. But like, I was like, guys, first of all, we were all in shorts or except for Jason. Like all us were in shorts and it was supposed to get down to like 35 degrees.

And all of a sudden the winds started blowing and it was like 15, 20 mile per hour wind. And it's like, oh my God. But, and all of the, the day packs that we brought with. Everybody had something that we could give someone else like a jacket or, in Jason's case. Cuz nobody, if you're listening, you don't know Jason's a bigger guy.

He had a sweatshirt. So Ali who's a smaller guy could wear him his sweatpants. And like, and I had rain pants. So I was like, oh my God, I could put my rain pants on. That'll keep me warm or whatever. I had an extra, some reason I brought two jackets for no reason. It was just got thrown in. So Dan's like, I'll have one.

So Dan had a jacket, it just all worked out. And then I'm like, all right, well we gotta build a fire first. And we started thinking about it. It was all out in the open. And then we found this Enlo these tree enclosure. It was like a circle of trees. And we just jumped in that and. Jason somehow brings a fire starter, on a day trip.

Like there's no reason he had three. Right. But it wasn't matches. It was literally a fire starter. It's one of those things where you're like, yeah, you're rubbing metal on metal to get a spark. And so I'm like it's so wet up top of this mountain that there's nothing that's gonna catch. We tried it for like a minute and it was like, this ain't gonna work.

So I was like, can we get a medical aid, you know, pack that we'd brought. We found one I'm like, there's gotta be, uh, alcohol wipes in there. If a spark hits alcohol wipes, boom, we're gonna get a flame. And we could start building the fire. Nobody had alcohol wipes, but they had a gauze and I'm like, okay, it's dry. That can take.

But we started doing it and it wouldn't catch. So then I pulled my chapstick out and I. Rough my chapstick all over this day and boom, it hit a flame like it caught fire. And the next thing I know, I got Jason running down with a Bible and his hand's ripping out revelations and he's throwing in the fire.

We're getting this thing started and now we're putting leaves on and, and branches and, and, and sticks. And next thing I know we have this roaring fire as the sun is now completely gone. It is dark. It is now probably in the high forties, low fifties. Wind is one at like 20 miles an hour. And I, that was like the most epic thing ever.

And I'll never forget, jason immediately says, when he gets in charge of Jason, you can expand on this, but he's like, all right, we need to like block off who goes to sleep and who stays up. And I'm thinking to myself, go to sleep. It's 40 degrees out. I'm not gonna sleep. I've gotta build this. I'm gonna be by next to the fire all night.

And we literally thought, we're here all night. And the other thing I, Brad even say was the, the conversation that we were having on top of this mountain was, did these guides that we've been working with for three months, did they just take our back and drive off and scam us?

Like what happened? Cause they, like Dan said they were supposed to pass us on the trail. They're not up at the lake. They're not in this field. They never passed us. We're like, oh my God, we got scammed. So yeah, Jason, what was your take on this?

[00:19:39] Jason: So the amazing thing, and you alluded to this, but we had exactly what we needed.

Yeah. When we needed it as. As fate had it as whatever spirituality you have, we had exactly what we needed. Be it clothing, be it fire starters, be it the med kit. Be it, the emergency blanket that we used as a, a wind stop with the branches. We had whistles. We had it all.

We could have survived there all night and the fortitude and, and your leadership, Phillip, you know, we got the fire going and then the relentless pursuit of not only firewood.

And then it's like, Dane, you had the whistle and you're out there whistling. You go into the edge of the cliff, which, what is it four, 500 foot straight up and you keep whistling. And all of a sudden you're like, Hey, I hear 'em.

Now I'm over at the fire. And I don't hear a thing that you're saying 20 yards from me. But it was really serendipitous. And that is Phillipsburg. That Cove of trees with the fire. And by the way, those embers, what, 36, 48 hours later, still existed from that fire. Yeah. So we had the fire that we needed to stay warm.

Yeah. I I'm interested Ali. And what you thought of the situation. And then I think Dan, if you'll close this out on like, Your process of finding the guides.

I think that would be super cool to know.

[00:21:01] Ali: Mm-hmm yeah. Well, you guys all just gave really nice description on this situation. In the moment, I definitely felt at first, like tying this back to feelings, I felt some confusion, some uncertainty. But, in helping us at least find the lake, I recognize one of my strengths is to like keep going and keep the hope, which I did just to get up to the lake and screaming lake.

And then we had a burst of excitement cause like, well, at least we found the thing that we thought was part of where we need to be. But then I'll confess that some fear started to set in cuz I quickly realized after that burst of joy, I was like, oh shit, they're not here. And I don't think they're coming immediately.

And that's when, like Jason said your leadership kicked in. Especially as I reflect back on it Phillip, my instinct wasn't like, boom, let's figure this out. My instinct, as I even stated to you guys, I actually questioned. I was like, well, we're here. Is this the best place to be? Or should we turn around?

And luckily you guys had some good feedback. Be like, we're not fucking turn around. Like , that's a long hike back. It's dark. So it's good to just like, get that grounding. But it was definitely one of those moments that in it, I felt some of the fear, the uncertainty, which can be healthy. Like, of course we don't like that.

And it goes back to what you said earlier, Philip, about pain suffering. But it taught me not only like, Hey, this is real. Like, you don't have a phone, you don't have something like, you gotta figure this out yeah with your buddies, which we did. And it's also the way I like to look at this stuff in, in sort of a, more of an active surrendering it's exactly where we needed to be.

Right. It was a really interesting way to kind of start our experience remote as opposed to like, oh, it was exactly like they said, here's the site we'll just set up. Like, it kind of pushed us all to get a little bit uncomfortable, to experience a bit of uncertainty, which now we can laugh at and learn from.

What about you, Dan? What did you think in as we are at the top?

[00:23:05] Dane: I mean, when we got to the top, I also like, in my mind, I'm like we gotta get to the top cause we'll have a better point of view. Can, you know, can we see, are, is there smoke? Are they somewhere else? And so I agree, like we got there and there's an excitement of like, man, we made it to the lake, like that was intense.

But then there was also a moment of disappointment of they're not here. Like we, we don't have anywhere else to go. This is it. And so I I'd say for probably like five, 10 minutes after that, I was sitting with the whole, like, and I voiced it to these guys where I was like, what the Hells gonna happen. And I finally felt comfortable enough to ask or fearful enough.

And I was like, guys, I just gotta ask. Cause I can't get it outta my mind. What's our survival rate tonight? And I still remember clear, stay kinda laughed. And he goes hundred percent. I'm like, good I'm then I'm good. But I just, I needed to ask it. And the reassurance made me shift my focus from that to say, cool, how can I be of value?

Let me go get some more wood, let me go, you know, whatever, let me poke fun at, I think that'll help or something.

[00:24:07] Ali: That's really important not to cut you off, but cause you can be in an environment where people question that. And there is no one that quickly, and with conviction, he said a hundred percent. Cuz I felt some peace in that too.

I'm like, cool. Phillip's gonna at least do the things, you know? And he was sharing these awesome stories, how he had been learning survival tactics. He has experience in this realm.

But I wanna honor and share that I had similar thoughts of not just being like shit, we're up here. It's cold. It's dark. We're not as prepared as we like to be. But I was thinking about the bears too. I was like, are the bears gonna come out? So I wanted to just add to that. Did you have anything else to finish your thought?

[00:24:50] Dane: Yeah. And so that all, you know, helped shift the focus part of me also is thinking, I think there's a small chance that Philip asked them to strand us the first night.

So it was part of our experience. But we clearly, we got that resolved later. So , I kept going, as Jason mentioned, I kept going to the edge and like, you know, blowing the whistle, coming back. I was just thinking like, this is gonna ruin their careers if they lose some hikers. Right. So there's this element of mm-hmm they have to come sooner or later.

Right. And so when I heard them, we were by the fire and I thought I heard something, but I wasn't quite sure. And I said, Philip, come with me. We ran to the, and I blew the whistle and I thought we heard something again, but it was pretty faint. Blew the whistle again, we're, you know, covering our light because it looks like we can maybe see a light. All of a, we hear, and we just start telling where we're at, you know. In, in it's Rocky, where they're at.

So they're moving slow, trying to get back to us. All the while we're at the ledge. Ali and Jason have no idea what's going on. Right. We just are gone for 10 minutes and they come back over. They come to the edge. They say to us, where the hell have you been? We say to them, we're like, where the hell have you been?

Yeah, we've been here, you know, you were supposed to pass this whatever. So all that happens and, and then they're like, well, you guys need to come down. Philip was so happy with what we had created that his response was, he looks down and he goes, I don't think we can make it down tonight.

And he was dead serious. And really, he didn't wanna let go of Phillipsburg that we had created over here. And the guys like you, you gotta come down. And then I was, you know, we're kind of sitting there and we're like, let's go talk to the guys. We're over there talking to you guys. They make it up up hill and, and are basically like, you guys need to come down.

So we packed it in and we're able to go down after that. But I told my wife when I got back, I said, you're never gonna believe it. I actually heard something that nobody else heard cuz she always accuses me of not be not listening. And so I'm like, I just want you to know that was a talent of mine.

Yeah. You

[00:26:55] Phillip: were definitely the one you did. You did. You're the one that listened. None of us, none of us. It went all over our heads. We were all focused on bears. Mm-hmm

[00:27:04] Dane: Oh, but it was awesome. That first night was, was because of how it ended was exactly I think what was needed on a trip like that, to give us that adventure, risk, uncertainty, all the stuff that we were really after.

Right. And we even stated on the calls with the guides, like, Hey, you know, we don't want this to be some like glamping thing where we're just hanging out. Like we wanna experience some stuff. And we got to experience some stuff, maybe a little different way than we ordered up.

[00:27:34] Ali: Well said, then a hundred percent.

And then this segued into the next, basically three days of setting up camp. So we had this beautiful spot, uh, a hundred yards, right. About 30 minutes from the lake.

And we had this amazing view into the valley. We could look in different directions to see the, the, the cliffs of Montana.

These are all roughly about 10,000 feet elevation. So the spot that we ended up camping at was just beautiful. And one of the things you just sparked as it relates to like when we were planning this, I remember being intentional in the dialogue and being like, wait a second, wait a second. Like, we need to catch our own food to this, which did add to it.

Right. Did add to the element of like catching our own fish, you know, setting up stuff. But I will say that a part of me was thinking about that up on that cold, uh, the first night in the lake, I was like, oh shit, you asked for this. Right. Like you asked for the wilderness experience.

So I think I'm just emphasizing that there's this really healthy dose of fear I continue to pay attention to that. Like when I choose something that I know is gonna stretch me a bit and then kind of surrender to it, it just works itself out. Right. As opposed to trying to control and trying to make everything be exactly like a vision. So into the camping, into the fishing, who wants to talk a little bit about that?

Cuz that was a magical part of the experience.

[00:29:09] Phillip: Well, I'll just lead off and say this. One of the requests I had when I was working with the guide was like, I wanted to fish, and I wanted to, you know, go fish on top of mountain. We had spent some time over the last two summers in Montana, actually very close to where we camped and at the hotel we stayed at, they had these excursions like three, five day excursions where you could take Alma to the top of this mountain that had lakes and you get to camp by the lake. And I just thought, that's the coolest thing I've ever heard. And I like to fish all the time. And so I'm like, I'd love to go on top of a mountain and catch some trout.

Like, that sounds like an amazing adventure. Mm-hmm and they were like, yeah, let's do it. So they were game for it. Right. Even when we changed the location, they're like, look, we're gonna find another location and you're gonna be able to fish on that.

So yeah, the lake we were on, which I'm sure we'll post pictures or whatever yeah um, for this podcast, but it, it was a glacial runoff lake. Mm-hmm. And they just brought a fishing guide, like Howard, the fishing guide, and he was amazing. I'll let the guys kind of get into that. I just wanted to kind of set that up. I wanted to hike and have day hikes or whatever, but I wanted to catch some food and I wanted to eat the food that we caught. And I was super pumped about that.

And frankly, I credit Ali because, initially I was asking you guys, Hey, do you want 'em to cook food for us? Or do we, you know, what are we gonna do? And Ali's like, no, let's be uncomfortable. And if we, we bring our own food, like freeze, dried stuff like MREs, but if we catch our food, then that'll be epic.

And I'm like, I love that. So that's how it all got set up on that end.

[00:30:53] Ali: Heck yeah. If only Dan would've caught some fish, then we would've.

[00:30:56] Phillip: Yeah, I know to, but, well, I mean, but GI bro started the credit. He's the one who caught the first fish. He just indeed didn't get it all. Well, like Jason, what was it like for you on that? On the fishing side?

[00:31:08] Jason: It was therapeutic. It was absolutely therapeutic. As you're sitting there looking at this beautiful rise and this mountain behind you turn around and you've got this beautiful meadow back behind you. It was peaceful. It was calm. And as Ali opened, I was with my homies. And it was the most relaxing thing.

And that's one of the things I was looking for in the trip. Ali, one of the things that you said that, that sparked something for me is trust. The word trust was so such a part of the trip for me in trusting each other, trusting our instinct, trusting our ability to survive. Trusting, you know, everyone took a different time in leadership and, uh, everything became a competition which leads into our ultimate fish catcher.

And I'll pass it over.

[00:31:56] Phillip: Yeah. But by the way, you won the contest for the best wood on the fire pit. Just so you know, like.

[00:32:03] Jason: It wasn't even a contest.

[00:32:05] Dane: It really wasn't. It, it, it wasn't, it wasn't at all. Yeah. The fishing Howard was fantastic. And the whole fact that like, he was just added in, he was friends with our guide.

He happened to be, you know, if you wanna get into details, there's bronze statue of the guy in California. Uh, he's quite the storyteller. But the lake, you know, these guys have all referenced the lake. If you picture a, a football stadium, right, with stands all the way around. It was like one end zone was open and that overlooked, maybe 4,000 feet down of this amazing meadow and the other 80 was just, you know, these awesome peaks around. It was unbelievable just to sit and look the, we were all the way around the right.

So first day we just kept moving all the way around the which awesome. Howard was fantastic. You know, he helped get us all set up and then he just fished along with us. And it was, you know, like these guys said therapeutic. We had some fun competition, but at the same time, it was like, we were, you know, catching our dinner, which I think is a totally different element to it as well.

It was great fishing with somebody that had the wealth of knowledge and experience that Howard did. Yeah. And you know, you could engage him on all sorts. I mean, we were talking about family and kids , and intentional parenting at one point. And then we were also talking about, you know, the types of fish in the lake and what makes him different and preserving the, the stock.

And, you know, I'm in this situation where I've never caught the amount of fish that we caught. So in my mind, we're keeping everything. And there was, there was a point where he caught his real big one and before I could be like, put it on the line, he threw it back in and I'm like, what are you doing?

And he's like, you have enough to eat. And I'm like, that's a good point. We have plenty to eat. So, I mean, I was a different shift. Yeah.

[00:33:56] Phillip: Yeah. I may interrupt you, but it's like, we caught, we kept like 13 fish and they were at least 10 to 14 inches each, you know? I mean, these were, it was an awesome hall.

[00:34:08] Ali: Definitely, definitely more fish than I thought. And yet we're joking about it. But Dane caught a ton of fish.

You know, on the topic of Howard who was just a old soul, just a really cool guy to be with. And Dave and Christie. It's like, what is interesting to me? In some ways they're very much part of our experience cuz they kind of packed us in, took some of the stuff, packed us out. They were around. But I was learning from them. Yeah. And it's just like what you guys were sharing. Like I was learning from Howard. I became a better fisherman. I became a better, let's just say camper and observing like, oh shit. I didn't know people like brought stand up kitchens when they spend days in the wilderness.

So that was a really cool part of the experience. I just wanna express gratitude for them, for you finding them Philip, because they were the perfect people for that experience for me. Just to be like, okay, I don't feel equipped to go completely off grid alone with you guys and with nothing but just backpacks.

So they were a really nice supplement from everything from the fishing to just hanging out and being around if we needed them. And like I said, it was just so natural that we could talk to Howard about things, outside of just fishing. Like he was a really cool guy to talk to.

[00:35:24] Phillip: But they were all great storytellers.

Yes. And so like, is there anything better on a camping trip than being around people that just tell great stories, right. Like that was epic for me. Like, and good, honest, eh, really hard work and knew what they loved about life, which was being outside and being in the woods with the people they care about.

And, I feel like we were so blessed to have those guys helping us.

[00:35:50] Jason: And, and Philip, the only build on that is their love of nature and preserving nature. Yes. Yeah. So there was, you know, you didn't litter. If they saw litter, they picked it up. I mean, incredible stewards of the land mm-hmm and they just set an incredible example. And the way they utilized the resources, you know, they moved their camp closer to the stream that we haven't talked about yet. There is just a couple hundred yards from our camp.

That was one of the most beautiful views in the Meadows I've ever seen with this stream, running through it, and this nice meadow full of wildflowers, where their horses were out there grazing. You know, they set the environment with not only their horses, but they also each had one of their dogs with them.

Yep. Yeah. And that was the biggest challenge to fishing with me was the fact that sunny kept wanting to try and eat the fish before he ever got it on the stringer.

[00:36:36] Ali: Yep. Well said, man.

[00:36:39] Phillip: Well, and now like we're talking about all the fish we caught, but there's a downside to all the fish we caught, which is now we're gonna bring down all this fish. We did at two days in a row. We caught over 50 fish, but we only kept about 26, 25 fish.

And we had to clean them. We had to cook them over a fire. And then we had to eat them. And then we had to destroy anything that was left. And the smell that must have been coming because, you know, they told us and I mean, I've studied this and read this before, but like Grizzlies can smell up to 20 miles away.

Right. So now we have a stinky camp besides Jason. I'm not just talking about what Jason, but I'm talking about, we had a stinky camp of fish and like, now the worry is, oh man, we're gonna eat like Kings. Oh shit. We're gonna attract bears. Mm-hmm mm-hmm . So that was always in the back of your mind, although we never saw 'em, but that was always in the back of my mind.

[00:37:36] Jason: Chef Phillip, I just want to compliment you on how amazing the fish was. Cuz you took over the cooking duties. Yes, but I wanna go back to the cleaning part. You know, we were all properly equipped with a K bar knife. Thank you Dane. Right?

And then Howard sat there and literally taught us all how to effectively gut the fish. Make sure you get the guts way out in the lake so it sinks. And so it's proper that we can take it back to camp and cook it and enjoy it. Yeah. So that was an awesome lesson and we were properly equipped.

[00:38:09] Phillip: Well, that's why we never saw bears. We had people helping us understand the kind of precautions we had to take.

Mm-hmm .

[00:38:16] Ali: Yep. So something I wanna share on this, which I kind of mentioned while we were camping guys, is that when you look at those days. So the two days that we've fished. Like there are a bunch of micro events that happened throughout those days. But macro events, it's kind of like, we woke up, we had some coffee, we hiked up, did some fishing, came down, Phillip cooked it for us, ate the fish, talked for a bit, went to bed.

So I'm saying it that way because it's like, oh wow. That's not a lot of things, but think about how full those days felt, at least for me. And being like, yeah, yeah, that was a day. And by the time the sun was setting, I was ready to rest. I was ready to sleep. And then we got up and did it again. And then to your point, Philip, I'm like.

There's an argument that could be made that this is the way that humans were essentially designed to live in harmony with nature. Whereas something as simple as going to the grocery store and buying packaged fish, just removed hours of a more natural day. You know what I'm saying?

But we earned it, everything from hiking up to that beautiful lake. Casting in, bringing the fish, learning how to gut 'em and then cooking them, which was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. You know, that's cool.

[00:39:44] Dane: Okay. Ali, what, what was better though? The fish on the, the guts on the, on the stick that you were cooking, like on a game show or Philips filet?

[00:39:54] Ali: Oh, Phillips filet, for sure. It's funny. I was infatuated with cooking fish on a stick, cuz we've been watching this documentary with his guy went in the wilderness with his dog and they did ice fishing and he cooked fish on his stick. So. Fixated. I'm gonna cook fish on a stick and I'm sitting here fumbling around for almost an hour, cooking this fish on a stick.

It's falling off. It's not fully cooked. In the meantime, I'm just like smelling Phillips, you know, gourmet filet. It's watching you guys eat it. So like, I'm glad I did that just to kind of get on my system, but I don't advocate for cooking fish on a stick after that. Especially if you have a nice stove like we did.

So, but I will say I was sharing with my dad guys. Like that fish was fantastic.

[00:40:36] Phillip: Yeah, it was good. I mean, it's hard to be when you catch it, the fish that alive within two hours, you're eating it like within probably sometimes sooner, uh, for some of those fish mm-hmm.

[00:40:50] Ali: Okay. Any other, any other insights on.

[00:40:52] Phillip: Well, one other thing think about this. Like we live in an environment now where let's say you live in Minnesota or live in South Dakota, which I've lived in South Dakota and you go buy fish in the store, it is farm to fish. It's not like you're getting a lot of fresh seafood there. Right. And not only was it fresh and tasted great, but that's like pristine water.

There is no pollution in that area. There are no chemicals or fertilizers being dripped into that lake. It was an organic fish experience. And I think, again, this is kind of like how I like to hunt, right. I don't wanna hunt around a corn feeder, if I'm hunting deer or, or something, but like I want it to be wild and free and organic, and that was super important.

And, and I'm really glad we got that opportunity.

[00:41:37] Ali: That's a great point. Yep. I agree wholeheartedly. So guys, we talked about camping, fishing, anything left unsaid before we kind of jam on what we took away from that trip, especially now that we're home.

No. Okay. So who wants to lead us off Dane? What'd you take away from the experience?

[00:42:08] Dane: Sure I can start. I think one was jumping into the fear. You know, I talked a little bit about I had some fear around just like the bears in general of what's this gonna be like, I'm not experienced in the wilderness.

And I mentioned this to you three. I think it was the second when we were talking around the campfire, but I was intentional about when we got there leading right away. And so for me it was okay, I have this fear and I wanna face it head on. I wanna be right at the front. And, nobody had an issue with it, which was great for me. And, it helped me kinda be more at ease as I was in that role to begin with.

And then I also think one of my takeaways was the second thing shifted, you know, that first night, my worry about bears and that type of stuff completely dissipated mm-hmm . And it was, there was a new fear which was, what are we doing tonight? Are we even gonna make it.

Uh, in, in, even for the rest of the trip, I'd say I was far less worried about any bear encounter because of what we went through in the first evening. I think that was really important. And then also just the fishing, gutting our fish, cooking our fish. That whole process felt really good to me. You know, they call it survival, call it, getting back to basics, whatever. That resonated with me in a different way.

[00:43:28] Ali: Awesome, Jason.

[00:43:29] Jason: There are, there are five words that summed up the entire trip for me. And as I was journaling about it on the flight home and it's to surrender is to grow. And I'm pretty sure I stole that from you, Ali, but that's great. That's good. Those five words to surrender is to grow really captured everything for me with the trip.

I feel like I was able to grow and challenge myself internally. I was able to grow in connection. And, in the lives, each one of us lead, you know, we're leaders in our organizations, we're leaders in our families. And each one of us surrendered that the onus and the burden of leading. To be together as a team. As a group of four men going out to experience life.

So I walked away with this feeling of growth emotionally, because of the experience, the challenges that we took on at each other. The way that we pushed each other and the conversations. So it was to surrender to the questions. It was to surrender to the elements. It was to surrender to the physical challenge.

And that is what I'm gonna hold close to my heart every time I think and talk about this trip.

[00:44:37] Ali: I love that. Philip.

[00:44:40] Phillip: For me, I struggle with connection to maybe God. I think it's a struggle I've had for a long time. And in that experience in Yellowstone two summers ago, I felt like I was closer to God in nature.

And it's kinda like I needed that hit man. And, the second day you guys started fishing and I just stayed back and just stared and journaled and read. And just felt grateful that I was in nature and feeling closer to, to god.

And, um, you know, that was super impactful for me. And all kidding aside, maybe the next thing we should do after this Ali is the blooper side of this. And we all just tell inside jokes. I, think's probably not a bad way to end it. Right. So, but if you're bought in this way, you should, might as well hear our inside jokes that you don't understand, but.

[00:45:32] Jason: 50, 50 good idea.

[00:45:33] Phillip: Yeah, exactly. But, um, to be able to do it in a place that you feel safe and comfortable and loved by the people you're with. The thing that I need more in my life is a lot is laughter too. And I felt like Danes ability to just make you smile, brought out humor that I had in me that I hadn't brought out in a while.

And I just feel like, Jason, you know, there was just so many different things like that booming voice, you just feel comfortable. And, and, you know, I just care so much. Yeah. You wanna give a big bear hug of the guy. And then Ali's got these unbelievable questions. And so, I just feel like there was things that we all brought to the table that made the experience purposeful for me.

And I'm really grateful for that.

[00:46:20] Ali: Thank you for that, man. I felt you when you were sharing. Sharing and being vulnerable. And there's a lot of truth in that for me in what you just said.

I journaled a little bit when I got home and fully processed this. And aside from the connection with you guys, which is invaluable, and the time and nature, one of the things that is pretty aligned with what Philip just shared is that experience was another example of me feeling my soul.

And as I've learned more about myself, and so my patterns, I've started to create this categorization where I feel like my mind knows where I think I want to go. My heart knows where I really want to go, but my soul knows where I belong. And I belonged right there with you guys at that time, it was perfect. You know, if there's a description for perfect.

And that's one of the things I've just really been paying attention to, which also speaks to what Jason shared about surrender. Is like, it's just rare for me to find these instances where I feel like my soul emerges. And that was a beautiful example of it where I couldn't think my way through it. I couldn't even feel my way through it, but it's just like there in the moment the soul came out. So whether we call that God, whether we call that finding ourselves, I definitely feel a lot of similar energy, Phillip.

So I'll.

[00:47:46] Phillip: Tell you what else I felt. I felt that IPA I had at the end of four days. Was like the greatest beer I've ever had in my life. And I had two of 'em and I pretty much couldn't have another drink the rest of the night because I was just so hammered off two beers. Like not, yeah.

That's also something I felt.

[00:48:03] Ali: Felt for sure. Yes. Yeah. Jumping into the fun. We had a nice day to celebrate. Same thing. I drank three or four and the next day had a headache. I even felt in a while, but it was worth it. It was like the trophy, the pain of going through such a wonderful experience.

Did you guys feel a sense of like that last day the celebration was icing on the cake, a nice way to bring closure to it. Instead of having another day in nature and then just going home?

[00:48:36] Dane: A hundred percent. And also we weren't rushed with it. So it allowed us to have an evening, you know, be refreshed.

I don't know about you guys. I felt like the second we got down to the car and then it's still an hour drive to get outta the mountains with no cell service. It was like, when I hit the car, my body was just like shut down. And so we had time to, you know, get back, relax, still enjoy a great dinner, more great conversation.

And then end the trip without I thought it was a great way. Plus when Philip found that IPA, we happened to also find, and this is so perfect. They sold it as a four pack. Come on. There's not what most six, four pack in this gas station in the middle of nowhere. And the beer was called Phillip, just to, with listening, we did not name our little area Phillipsburg, the guides did.

And they said, we visited your area of Phillipsburg today. And so it's it stuck for us, but the fact that we found a four pack of those. So we celebrated when we got back to the Airbnb in Bozeman with a four pack of Phillipsburg.

[00:49:45] Ali: Totally man, that was the universe just working itself out. So that was a pretty cool moment when we spotted that.

[00:49:53] Phillip: All right. So before we jump outta here, come on, we got, we, we got

[00:49:56] Jason: a can, can I ask a question real quick? About how much longer do we have on this podcast?

[00:50:02] Phillip: 10 minutes, five minutes, 30 minutes, 10

[00:50:05] Ali: minutes. You missed it.

[00:50:08] Phillip: I've went to Ali.

[00:50:10] Jason: Let's go back.

Let's go back. All right. Philip. That's usually my role. Hey Philip, I have, I have a question for you. About how much longer do we have on this podcast?

[00:50:18] Phillip: Oh, about 30 minutes.

[00:50:20] Dane: 50, 50

[00:50:22] Phillip: God. Well, Ali would say 20 minutes, but I'd say 30.

[00:50:26] Ali: I'd fuck it up. And then I'd, I'd tell you guys how I wanna move to New Zealand and you make me feel like an idiot for it.

I'm still recovering from.

[00:50:37] Jason: Oh man, you hope we inside jokes and I put the ball on the tee Philip.

[00:50:43] Phillip: I know, I'm too removed. I'm too removed. I screwed all up. I mean, it, it may be that I don't have as light a load as you do right now, Jason. You know, we did have this contest while we were on the trip and it was various things.

And Dane was the one who started all these contests. One of them was treasures, who could find the most treasures. Yes. One of them was bowel movements, who could have the most bowel movements. And I'm, you know, I'm just gonna give everybody, you know, one guest, Jason, who won that contest.

But other than Jason, I don't know who else it would be.

[00:51:15] Ali: Clear winner three to one.

[00:51:18] Jason: Three to one.

[00:51:21] Ali: One to one, one, right? Nature points for spotting animals. Who officially won that? I think Phillip cuz of the mountain goats, where he got at least six points for that.

[00:51:30] Phillip: Yeah. Dane tried to win it by noticing squirrels and I'm like, no, no.

[00:51:35] Ali: They're like a quarter of a point.

[00:51:37] Phillip: Dane won for treasures. Dane won treasures.

[00:51:45] Dane: What, what all treasures I found. Yeah, I found a little, I found a little used a rusted out knife. Um, I can't I found one other thing and then I found what we thought was a sex toy. Ended up being I'm a up being. You ever seen those truck?

The things that you hang on the back of a truck, those truck nuts. So we found one of those randomly.

[00:52:07] Phillip: Oh, is that what that was? It was truck nuts. Oh yeah. Oh my.

[00:52:10] Ali: God. Mm-hmm . Truck. Nice. Mm-hmm

[00:52:14] Dane: So yeah, I won that and then I did win most fish, but then that was vetoed cuz I forgot to get my license.

[00:52:19] Phillip: Yeah. Yeah. Well now you've just track it. Yeah, that was smart. That was good.

[00:52:24] Dane: Hand up. Hand up.

[00:52:26] Ali: Yeah. We haven't decided we're gonna turn you in, but thanks for.

[00:52:29] Phillip: Uh, Ali always wins fastest up the mountain for sure.

[00:52:33] Ali: I'll take that.

[00:52:33] Jason: And best questions.

[00:52:35] Phillip: And best questions. Mm-hmm yeah. Yeah. And the one thing we didn't talk about, where we did the last day, Dane and Ali and I scooted up a, a mountain that when we got to where we were heading to go, so it was about halfway up. We go, man, how long we been calling two hours and we looked at the clock and it was like 20 minutes. Yeah, like 20 minutes. We were so gasped from it.

[00:52:57] Ali: Yep. That was a good view though. I'm glad we went up there.

[00:53:03] Jason: The, uh, the other thing we didn't hit on, you know, the fact that Ali and Dane, they might be the cleanest and most refreshed after taking the cold plunge in the lake.

Oh yeah. So honor to the two of y'all for diving all in and just loving the nature side of it. I got to my knees and I splashing water on me. I'm like, eh, that's good.

[00:53:22] Phillip: Mm-hmm yeah. And I did not participate. Look, I weigh a buck 48. If I got into 20 degree weather with no heat near me, there's a good chance I get frostbite. Cuz like, you know, it was like 60 degrees outside wind. So that was my excuse. At least.

[00:53:39] Ali: That's fair. That's fair. It was great. Cold plunging is part of my nature. I learned from my dad. When I've been able to jump into cold lakes, like in Norway and other, uh, countries. So I don't pass that up. Just another form of light suffering, but that was an awesome part.

Yeah. There's so many things that perhaps we didn't say, but I think we did this trip justice. I'll also say that we are taking applicants for the next one. Come 20, 23 to be determined by the committee. And I suppose it'll stay an inside thing where we'll let people know is that is available.

[00:54:19] Phillip: Huh? Yeah. And you know, another thing that would be a good idea. Right. So obviously we talked about this, like, I was inspired and I recruited and, and put this thing. It'd be really cool if someone takes that next time and says, all right, I'll get the feedback from everybody, but I'm the one. And then every year it just sort of rotates to somebody else.

Yeah. And that way everybody gets to have their own authentic experience to what they're excited about. And then we get to participate in that. Cause you guys participate in something I really wanted to do. And I'm really grateful for it. Like, I mean that from my bottom of my heart. But there's probably some pretty cool stuff you guys are like, no, no, no, I wanna try this.

And I'm like, cool. I'm in, let's go. And I, uh, embrace that.

[00:54:57] Dane: Yep. Ali was talking to me about how he wanted to go to Harry Potter world. Would that, would that

[00:55:05] Phillip: You missed a keyword again? I wanna go again. Yeah. That's next time.

[00:55:12] Ali: Oh, beautiful. Yep. No, I love that though. To end on a fun, but semi serious note is that we talked about making this a tradition. It definitely feels like something I'd love to recreate with you guys.

So on that topic, on that final note, I'm super grateful that you guys created time for this, that we were able to document some of it and share it with others. Hopefully it will inspire them to go to Montana or just get outside, maybe do some camping. And ,you know, mutually excited for future adventures with you guys, as Phillip said, however, we design them. So thank you guys for all showing up.

[00:55:51] Phillip: Yeah. Thank you guys. Love you guys and appreciate everything.

[00:55:55] Dane: Likewise.

[00:55:57] Jason: Great experience with great men. Let's keep on going.

[00:56:01] Ali: Boom.

Ali Jafarian

Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.

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