Outer Circles in Utah


A Lake Powell conversation

Writing for UtahOutsider means meeting new folks and asking questions. These are enjoyable tasks, but even with a few decades of newspaper reporting, they don’t come naturally.

Turns out they don’t come naturally for most of us. Utahn David Sturt wrote in Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love, “we talk to the same five or ten trusted confidants, allies, and buddies about 80 percent of the time.”

While this inner circle is important, it’s also vital to keep an open mind and engage an outer circle.

“Our outer circle, in great work terms, simply means those people that we don’t normally talk to …That’s where we’ll find divergent thinking, unexpected questions, novel ideas, differences of opinion, and added expertise. “

Redmond, Incorporated is one Utah company embracing this idea. They invited me and several other outsiders (non-employees) to their Leadership Retreats at Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

On houseboats, over four sun-filled days, 60 of us met to discuss approaches and philosophies for improving oneself and seeking a greater good. It was a rich time, full of thought-provoking conversation, lots of physical activity, and sumptuous food.

They invite an outer circle.

IMG_2536But why?

What’s the catch?

Some of us were waiting for a timeshare pitch.

Redmond’s Mike Mumford explained their corporate culture:

“If all of us work on being better people, we not only become better mothers, better husbands, and fathers, but we’re probably better work associates…If an associate’s potential rises, the whole tide rises and that makes a better company.”

By inviting outsiders, Redmond “adds value,” said Vance Barrett, who works in the company’s Best Vinyl division. “The books we read and the people we associate with are main determinants of who we become in life.  At Redmond, we like to rub shoulders with people who have something to add.”

Years ago, the retreats began with one or two boats. Now, the company uses four houseboats, hosting more than four hundred employees and associates annually.IMG_2740

The program sounds idealistic and a big stretch for typical Return on Investment parameters. But it’s hard to argue with success: in the last decade, Redmond has grown by about 15 percent annually and is now worth $55 million.

In his recent TEDx talk, Sturt challenged his audience to engage that outer circle and be more open-minded. UtahOutsider accepts the challenge. And it looks like Redmond does, too.


Gear for Good is Pleasant Burden

cotoPiggybacking philanthropy on what you buy is a popular trend. Theoretically, that’s what you do when buying something with a ribbon on it. From breast cancer (pink) to veterans (black), there are more than 50 colors and ribbons for awareness and support.

It’s a feel-good gesture, but can we really quantify our efforts?

And what if we don’t like pink?

A new Utah company is putting some serious zest and accountability into the giving concept. Cotopaxi, named after Ecuador’s second-highest mountain (and an active volcano, to boot), sells directly to customers. Every purchase has a specific humanitarian cause.

Buy a Cusco pack and you’ll send funds to help educate street children in Peru.

Buy a Nepal pack and you’ll help children there with medical and educational needs.

Cotopaxi makes that feel-good gesture wonderfully quantifiable with direct links from each item to the program it supports.

I checked out the Nepal 65 liter pack on a few overnights in the Oquirrh mountains. I was prepared to be charitable, so to speak, and make IMG_3225some compromises in fit and performance for the sake of the more high-minded element of Cotopaxi’s Gear for Good.

I was wrong.

A good pack needs to have enough features and options to accommodate different wearers, their build, and their backpacking habits. But those bells and whistles need to be useful and reliable, not clumsy and thoughtless.

The Nepal has smart, functional features.

For starters:

  • A long zipper gives you access to everything that’s in the main compartment. No tossing all your food and clothing to get the flashlight that’s worked its way to the bottom.
  • Small, zippered pockets on the hip harness and shoulder strap let you keep trail stuff (camera, phone, Kleenex, snacks, dog treats) at the ready.
  • Hip and shoulder straps let you shift the load and adjust for comfort mid-stride. Your settings stay put and don’t loosen unless you ask them to.
  • Nepal pack comes with its own summit pack

    Nepal pack comes with its own summit pack

    There’s a nifty, ultralight day pack included. Once you get to your campsite, toss in a water bottle, book, and snacks to use it for a shorter excursion.

  • Getting rained on? No worries, the Nepal has its own rain cover.

What impressed me the most?

With all its options and features, the Nepal is the quietest pack I’ve ever worn. No jingling or jangling will unsettle your meditative hike. No swishing or brushing will warn wildlife of your pending arrival. If it weren’t for the extra forty pounds on my back, I would have barely noticed it. And, for someone like me with back pain issues, that felt pretty darn good.


Welcome traildog Peeko!

IMG_3082We welcome sweet Peeko to the UtahOutsider family. She may not be great at writing or marketing, but she’s certainly livening up the place.

Peeko came from the wonderful folks at Ruff Patch Rescue, a foster-home centered rescue organization in Riverton, Utah. Led by Stacy Ward, a veterinary technician at Stone Ridge Veterinary Clinic, the non-profit has a team of fosterers who care for incoming dogs and begin basic training.

Ruff Patch rescued Peeko from a rural shelter in Roosevelt, Utah where she was turned in as a young stray of about six months. Because of what initially was considered an injury, the slight, white pup would likely have been euthanized had it not been for the efforts of Ruff Patch.

FRONT EXTREMITY - LATERAL RIGHT copyPeeko, a small cattle dog/border collie mutt, has a birth defect in one of her front legs. It bows in, making her little paw toe out a bit like a flipper. According to an orthopedic specialist, the abnormality makes one leg shorter than the other but shouldn’t slow her down or cause her pain.

Already Peeko is giving our Ride Along Dog, Kip, a run for her money. She’s fast, super smart, and friendly. She has a natural sense to steer clear of the horses but keep close enough to be part of the party.

Thanks Ruff Patch for rescuing and finding forever homes for hundreds of dogs every year. You make it easy for folks like us to (as your motto says):

Save A Life and Enrich Your Own!”

ruff patch

Best Pancakes Ever

Some of the fine folks at Redmond's Lake Powell retreat.

Some of the fine folks at Redmond’s Lake Powell retreat.

One could say I grew quite a lot while on the Redmond leadership week in Lake Powell.

Above the neck, for sure. But in the waistline, too.

The food, prepared by a team from Redmond’s Real Foods stores and full of their premium products, was restaurant quality. Or better. (After all, I tend to think home-cooking is much better than dining-out fare.)

With permission from Redmond and cook Tana Besendorfer, I share this recipe for the best pancakes you will ever taste:



2 cups oats

2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

¼ cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ to 2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon Real Salt

1 ½ tablespoon sugar



  1. Combine oats and buttermilk in a large bowl, cover, and let sit overnight on the counter. (Don’t worry it won’t spoil. Don’t have buttermilk? Add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to each cup of milk as a substitute.)
  2. In the morning, combine remaining ingredients and mix well.
  3. Cook on a medium-hot griddle with butter or oil. (Note: they cook much more slowly than most pancakes.)
  4. Bon appetit!

Try Maddy’s Allgood Summer Salad


A trek to Big Sky country

view around dillon

Dusk outside of Dillon, MT

Last week, we headed Outside of Utah to Bozeman, Montana, to visit with Unbranded’s creative team and to see bits of the film. The team is busy with last minute details before submitting it to major film festivals.

The trip allowed for some quick detours to favorite places. My folks lived in Montana for a decade and I worked two summers on a Montana ranch. The Big Sky state is dear to me.

Three Forks, population 1,852: The town is named for the nearby confluence of three major Montana rivers, the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison. They meet and form the Missouri, the longest river in North threeforksAmerica at 2,341 miles.

Three Forks Saddlery: a working cowboy store, for sure, set along Main Street. There are walls full of ropes, reins, stirrups, and bits. They carry jeans, vests, hats, and wild rags and other essential gear. They make saddles here, too. And when you have a horse gear question, they know the answer. Ask ‘em anything and they are super helpful.

wheatWheat, Montana: a bakery, deli, and farm just of Interstate 90. They were doing non-GMO before it became popular and buzz-worthy. Wheat makes mammoth cinnamon buns, plate-sized cookies, wicked sandwiches, and, of course, 50-pound sacks of flour if you’d rather make it all yourself. Their interstate sign says it all: “Feel Good After You Eat. Stop Here.”

Bozeman has changed enormously since I frequented there years ago. It’s growing at a 20 percent clip and, as Ben Masters told me, “No one living in Bozeman is from Bozeman.” It seemed a bit like Park City, Utah’s richest mountain town. There were lots of Patagonia-clad women meeting for coffee, etc. etc.

But there are still plenty of regular types, working stiffs, and cowboys.

Fabric at Main St. Quilting, Bozeman

Fabric at Main St. Quilting, Bozeman

I found fine cowboy boots at Carter’s Boots on Main Street. Jeff and Lisa Carter have run it for many years, stocking the shelves with custom boots, fine leather purses, and more. I picked up a lovely silk scarf for the upcoming cold months.

The Country Bookshelf, also on Main Street, is a fine place to lose yourself. It’s a big independent bookstore with a rich, diverse stock. I picked up a copy of The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, one of my recent favorites.

Main Street Quilting had dozens of western and horse themed fabrics for my next quilt. Another place to get lost in hundreds, thousands of choices.

On the way home, I took Route 41 through Dillon, home of Randy Rieman and on this night, a pep rally of sorts with a ginormous, house-size bonfire. (see photo below)

The route took me through the Targhee National Forest and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests. All told, they encompass more than six million acres. Yes, folks, there is space to ride here.

Stay tuned for more on Unbranded.

Read current Unbranded interviews here.


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