I’m Afraid Too.

Would you rather die having not lived at all, or take a risk and live life to the fullest?

I don’t think I’m a brave person.

I’m anxious, I over-analyze and spontaneity is usually reserved for late night Waffle House runs.

I constantly kick myself for living life in fear.

My boyfriend and I were recently talking about how we feel were not “that outdoorsy” or “that adventurous” compared to some of the crazies we see on Instagram. But when I really started to think about it, we are pretty outdoorsy and adventurous compared to a lot of people. I’m shocked when I run into somebody who’s lived in Colorado for a couple years and has never made it up to the mountains. I can’t believe it when someone says they’ve never camped or been to the top of a 14er or snowshoed or skiied.

But then, I have to back myself up.

Fear is nothing to be ashamed of.

Continue reading “I’m Afraid Too.”

Take the Road Less Traveled 

Why road tripping is the best way to see the world.

When I turned 16 and go my first car, my life changed.

That maybe-blue-maybe-purple ’98 Jeep Cherokee with the killer sound system was freedom.

I was an angsty teen in the throws of my parents divorcing and having a car meant freedoms I had never experienced before; like going to parties, dating and doing extracurricular activities that sometimes required staying out until one in the morning.

But more than the normal teenage freedoms wheels provided, that Jeep meant total freedom. I was perfectly aware that I could get anywhere I wanted to on two different continents in that leaky chariot. Within months of getting my license, I was driving all over Colorado and southern Wyoming. It was less than a year later that I took my first real road trip and drove from Denver to LA.  I’ve been hooked on road tripping ever since.

Since the day I got my license, I’ve never felt trapped. I’m always the one to offer to drive because I love the feeling of knowing that I can go anywhere at the drop of a hat. Home, the grocery store, Peru. It’s all accessible.

I’m always surprised at how many people think that travel is unattainable. If you have a car, you can get to some pretty amazing places. Between my boyfriend and myself, we’ve had five cars in varying stages of age, mileage and crappiness that have carried us on some of our favorite adventures.

Last summer, our epic 7,500 mile road trip was done in a ’98 Subaru Outback with over 100,000 miles on it and we were patching it up the entire way.

There’s no excuse not to go when you have a car.* Pack a loaf of bread and some peanut butter and jelly, Google Map some WalMarts or National Forests along your route and go have an adventure.

ProTip: Invest the $7 a month your insurance wants to add roadside assistance to your policy. That’s less than two trips to Starbucks and it will save your ass if you get stranded and will give you the peace of mind to enjoy yourself.

I’ve been lucky enough to have gotten to fly a lot in my life and see some pretty incredible places, but honestly? Some of my favorite memories have been made on windy back roads, the destination reached my own hand with the help of a Redbull or two.

So, what are you waiting for? There’s some pretty incredible places within a totally doable driving distance. Here are some suggestions from Denver:

  • Moab – less than 6 hours
  • Las Vegas – a long, but doable, day
  • Grand Canyon – if you leave during a summer sunrise, you can make it there in time for sunset
  • Yellowstone/Grand Tetons – ~6hrs

*Unless you have a car like my ’91 Cherokee that lacked power steering, power brakes, interior lights, heat, took a quart of oil a day, had an alarm that went off every time you opened the door and a shot suspension. That’s probably a valid excuse.

Road trips are Kenzie dog’s favorite.
Take the road less traveled.

Travel Diary – Moab, Utah

The best places to hike, camp and drink coffee in Moab, Utah. Fisher Towers, Dead Horse State Park and camping on HWY 128.

One of my very favorite things to do is to throw some camp gear in the car, take off after work and drive through the dark to find what we hope is an epic campsite, stumble around with headlights and then wake up the next morning to discover where we ended up.

This past week, our destination was just outside Moab, up Utah State Highway 128. We rolled into a campsite at 2AM, the sucking blackness hiding any hint of a landmark, and awoke the next morning to this view:

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Waking up at first light and making coffee on the camp stove while Topher sleeps is another one of my favorite activities. I love the smell of hot coffee and damp grass, watching the sun touch our little corner of the universe, feeling the warmth of the coffee seep through the tin mug into my numb hands and the steam warm my cold nose.

This trip to Moab was focused on hiking. On Thursday we explored Dead Horse State Park and hiked the East Rim Trail, from the visitor’s center to Dead Horse Point. Its an easy 3 mile round trip hike with stunning views the entire way. After thinking it looked familiar, and texting my dad a picture, I realized that I’d rafted that section of river and hiked up the mesa at the point when I was 15, long before the Instagramification of the scenic spot. Yes, I am a hipster.

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On Friday, we got up early and did my favorite hike to date. Fisher Towers feels like stepping onto another planet. The trail immediately takes you down into a canyon and keeps climbing in and out of various canyons, along ledges, on top of cliffs, all while being shadowed by the most amazing red rocks spires. At just over 5 miles round trip, the hike was definitely strenuous with all the elevation loss and gain, but well worth it. There are many epic views along the way and the scenery is incredible. There’s a point where you have to descend an approximately 10 ft metal ladder into a canyon, which was definitely a feat with the dog. It took both of us balancing precariously and a stranger pushing her over the ledge to get her across.

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Kenzie and I enjoying the views

 

This is a trail that I would definitely not attempt in the heat of the day or at all in the summer months. With no shade or running water, once you’re out of the spires’ shadows, you’re pretty much being cooked. Bring more water than you think you could possibly drink, sunscreen and a hat. If there’s even a chance of rain, don’t attempt. Much of the trail winds in and out of canyons that are prime territory for flash flooding.

While we’re not normally “campground people,” we did choose to stay in one of the BLM campgrounds along HWY 128 because we knew we’d be coming in late and didn’t want to have to search for primitive camping. At $15 a night, these plentiful campgrounds are a great option. Note that they were completely full by a Friday night in March, so finding a spot on weekends may not be possible.

While we spent most of our time hiking and reading in camp, we did stop at Moab Coffee Roasters on our way to Dead Horse State Park and were pleasantly surprised by their coffee being roasted in paint buckets in the side of a Life is Good store. Give them a try if you’re in town and in need of a cup of coffee.

I love the stark beauty of the desert. Beaches and rain forests and bustling cities are beautiful, but sometimes all that amazing-ness coming at me is overwhelming. I love the simple colors, the harsh landscape, the marvel of a teeny tiny flower blossoming under a rock or nothing but red rock and scrub brush as far as the eye can see. Somehow, that simple beauty is more beautiful to me than the busiest landscape.

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I love Utah, I love Moab and I love the desert. Go visit for yourself.

Stay tuned for why you should go take a road trip there 🙂

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We are human beings.

“We are human beings, not human doings.”

I was in Washington D.C. this weekend and saw this quote on a napkin stuck to the wall in Baked and Wired, a crazy amazing coffee shop and bakery (seriously, go get one of their cinnamon rolls and prepare to have your mind blown.)

The distinction between being and doing is one that’s been made very apparent to me over this past year. When you’re traveling, I think it’s one that needs to constantly be on the forefront of the mind.

It’s really easy, especially when you’re in a place with so many things to do such as Washington D.C., to make a list, take a selfie and check things off.

Selfie at the Washington Monument? Check.

Picture of the kids in front of the White House? Check.

Elbow a hundred other people aside to get a picture of the changing of the guard at Arlington? Check.

It can be tempting when on a trip to do, do, do. I’m one of those people. I don’t want to lounge in a hotel room and read a book or sleep in. I’m up with the sun and want to make sure I’m making the most of my time in a destination.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do and do it all. But the motions, the pictures, the hopping in and out of the rental car will not be what you recall about the trip in ten years. If you take the obligatory Snapchat and race on to the next stop, you’re going to miss the being. The being in the moment and letting it engulf you. Whether that’s cracking up with your friend over your horrible Uber driver or taking a few minutes to actually read the Emancipation Proclamation and letting the goose bumps appear on your arms.

Those are the moments I’m going to remember the most. The moments where I wasn’t worried about fitting everything in, or getting perfect pictures or making sure my companions were having a good time. When you let yourself truly be in the moment, the moments stop being items on a list and start becoming a memory.

If you feel that you might be doing more than you’re being, if you’re tired or stressed or just want to get on to the next sight, stop for a moment and close your eyes. Take a deep, yoga breath (inhale through your nose to the count of four and exhale out of your mouth to the count of four.) Ground yourself and make sure you’re really present in the moment. I guarantee you’ll start to notice more. I guarantee you’ll start to feel more.

Be mindful. When we stop doing and start being, we start to see. We start to smell. We start to breathe and to laugh and to feel. We start to live.

Serena, enjoying the cherry blossoms
Letting the Emancipation Proclamation sink in

An Ode to Copper Mountain

As ski season draws to a close  (sniff!) And camping and climbing seasons fast approach, I want to take a minute to celebrate my favorite ski area.

Copper Mountain has been the terrain under my skis since I was two years old. It was here that I skied my first run, conquered my fear of skiing without leashes, learned to ski moguls, did my first Jager shot and skied backcountry for the first time.

While I’ve skied many other resorts in Colorado, and hope to experience many more, Copper will forever have my heart.

Here’s why:

1. The mountain has all levels of terrain EASILY accessible from anywhere

Unlike some Colorado ski areas *cough* Winter Park *cough* Copper has everything from greens to double diamonds, easily accessible from anywhere on the mountain. Painful catwalks and multiple chairlifts aren’t necessary to access your favorite runs.

2. There’s still so much relatively hidden terrain

Even on the busiest of weekends, you can head to Resolution Bowl or A-Lift and find abandoned runs and lonely chairlift operators.

3. Plenty of sunny and sheltered terrain

On those cold mornings, or blustery days, the back side of the mountain offers sun, and sheltered chairs like Timberline offer a break from the wind.

4. Views for days!

You can access postcard worthy views from the top of the main lifts and if you’re willing to go into the bowls, you’ll experience the MOST breathtaking views

5. Despite being corporate, it’s still got a homey vibe

Sack lunches still come first at Solitude Station, the same guy’s been running Flyers Soup Shack for seasons and JJ’s patio still feels, somehow, like a gem.

6. Easy access

While i70 is NEVER fun at rush hour, Copper is easily accessed without having to navigate a pass. It’s shuttle system also deposits you right at the base of the mountain, minimal walking in ski boots involved.

Skiing Copper is being #RaisedOnColorado

Thanks for another great season!

All pictures from this season:

Stormy day

My dad, waiting for the lift to open
Pre first-tracks

Why I Chose To Be Homeless

Last summer, I chose to be homeless.

Last summer, my boyfriend and I quit our well-paying jobs, chose not to renew the lease on our apartment, packed our lives into a 10×10 storage unit and took off across the country with nothing but a Subaru, our dog and a 2 person tent (you can read about our adventures under the Two and a Half BAMFS in Banff tab).

For years, I had scrolled jealously through the feeds of wanderers on Instagram. I had longingly devoured articles with titles like, “Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel the World.” I saw all these people, these perfect internet people, living the dream, living my dream. I saw that it was possible. For them.

“I could never do that.” I would scoff to myself.

There were a million reasons why I couldn’t. I was a broke college student, a broke young adult, I had a life, a job, family and a dog counting on me, my boyfriend, college to graduate from, careers to start. We were too young, the world was too vast and scary.

As I scrolled through my Instagram feed with my increasingly long list of “can’t”s, I started to see all these beautiful images of Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.

I had graduated from college and still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and was working an unsatisfying job, my boyfriend had decided college wasn’t for him and was working a manual labor job.

Slowly, an idea began to form in my mind.

Maybe quitting our jobs to travel the world was too lofty, but maybe it didn’t have to be the world. Maybe it could just be Canada.

Once I got up the courage to have that first initial thought of “maybe I could”, every “can’t” started to melt away.

If we pinched our pennies and saved, and weren’t paying rent on an apartment, we’d have enough money to spend a few months on the road. We could camp and sleep in our Subaru to avoid paying for lodging. And Canada wasn’t that vast and scary, was it? Even at 21, it seemed attainable.

And what was the worst that could happen? We’d break down, we’d be stranded, we’d have to go live with my parents for awhile.

Once I actually let myself start to believe that I could live my dream, nothing else was that scary. Saving money came easily. Quitting jobs we weren’t passionate about wasn’t hard. There were more apartments we could rent when we came back. Our friends and families understood; we weren’t leaving forever. Just the summer.

So, we packed our 1998 Subaru Outback to the brim and headed North. I don’t think it occurred to me until the first night we were on the road that we were truly homeless. It was a little scary, but also exhilarating.

We were on the road for over 40 days and didn’t pay for a single night of lodging. We slept in our car, pitched our tent or stayed with relatives every night. A couple grand got us through the summer, including unforeseen expenses, and held us over until we found jobs upon our return in August.

Was it all rainbows and butterflies?

Hell, no.

The radiator in our Subaru started to go on the fritz several days into our trip. We ended up having to replace it in a parts store parking lot in the middle-of-nowhere Montana and the car continued to overheat every time we’d go less than 25mph for the rest of the trip.

We found ourselves in a town called Fort McCloud, Alberta and realized our credit cards didn’t work outside the US and that Canada has hardly any free camping. We called my dad in tears in a Tim Horton’s parking lot. After buying donuts and poutine with the last of our Canadian cash, we headed back to America after less than six hours and changed trajectory.

One night, after scouring the Washington and Oregon coasts for hours looking for an open campsite, we ended up sleeping (or at least parking for the night) in a Fred Meyer parking lot and brushing our teeth in their bathroom.

Showers were not plentiful. I did an 11 day stint without bathing and had to get pretty creative with trial passes at gyms to get clean.

Some nights were terrifying. Some nights were cold. Some nights were hot. I was grumpy at times. He was grumpy at times. The dog was grumpy at times.

Our tire went flat on a 4wd road, we almost got stuck more times than I can count. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes and ate hummus for at least 1/3 of our meals.

We found ourselves in Redding, CA in August and the heat was oppressive, even at night, the car was protesting, the dog ran through a burr bush and had thousands of burrs stuck in her fur and we were homesick. We cut our trip a few weeks short and lived with my parents until we found a new place to call home.

The worst happened.

It wasn’t that bad.

The trip was actually the best experience of my life.

We saw amazing things, we bonded, we laughed, we turned our Subaru into a home.

We lived our dream.

I chose to be homeless because it was my dream to cut my ties and just go.

I’m telling you this story, not because I want to be another one of those perfect internet people who are living your dream life. I don’t want to be another “can’t”. I want to motivate you to find your “can”.

Whether your dream is to travel, or to pursue a freelance career, or to publish a book, my advice is this: find your “can” and just do it.

Things will go wrong. It won’t be what you expected. But if you’re living your dream? That’s all any of us can ask for.

Here’s a picture of Lake Louise. This was the start of my “can”. I never made it there, but was that really the point?

Just do it, you won’t regret it. I promise.

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Respect.

Being able to get out and enjoy public lands is one of the things I hold nearest and dearest. With public lands coming up in the news this month and several personal experiences in the last few weeks, I felt the need to write about a topic I’ve always felt was just common knowledge; respect.

My last few hiking experiences have told me differently.

I was raised on the Great Outdoors. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been on trails, on ski slopes, in back country campsites, hanging off rock walls, splashing in rivers and lakes. My dad and mom have been doing it since they were kids and my grandpas before them. I was taught at a very early age to respect the mountain.

The mountain can kill you.

I don’t care if you’re on a day hike, in bounds at a ski area, or climbing a 14er. The mountain can kill you.

The goal of this post is not to instill fear, but to bring about an important realization. Acknowledging the mountain can kill you is Step 1.

With more and more people moving to Colorado, I’m seeing more and more people out on the trails that don’t have a clue what they’re doing. I think its great that they’re getting outside. I hope everybody gets the chance to experience Colorado’s mountains like I do, but I also see that lack of respect and say a little prayer every time I see one that they don’t end up as Search & Rescue’s next target.

Step 2 in having a healthy respect for the mountains is being prepared. If I’m going more than a couple hundred feet from the car, I always have a water bottle and a jacket with me. It doesn’t matter if its the middle of July, or the middle of January. Dehydration is real and the weather can turn on a dime. It doesn’t matter what the weather report says, its the same reason you carry and ice scraper with you all winter long in your car, or the same reason you carry insurance. Anything is possible. If I’m going more than a mile, I stick a granola bar in my backpack.

I grew up getting packed squished Clif Bars for school lunch; my dad’s climbing rejects. Did he ever actually eat the Clif Bars? I don’t know. But I do know that he was always prepared. If you end up out longer than you expect, or god forbid, in a bad situation, a granola bar can be a lifesaver. Literally.

We were snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park a few weeks ago and there was over 60″ of snow. I was up to my knees in some places wearing snowshoes and the weather was threatening to turn all afternoon. I was shocked at the number of people I saw trying to hike in skate shoes. Was it likely ignorance? Yes. But with the capabilities of Google in your pocket, its not hard to check weather conditions. These guys lacked a basic respect for nature.

Step 3 is realizing that you can’t dominate nature. I don’t care how much weight you can lift at the gym, or how many marathons you’ve run. I don’t care that you’re a 22 year old guy and nothing can stop you. Neither does the mountain.

Nature is not something man can dominate. Man builds a sidewalk, and the grass still finds a way to grow through the cracks. Man builds levies and nature destroys their city.

I could direct you to hundreds of stories of athletes, incredibly smart people and even seasoned mountaineers that have died at the hands of nature. Am I being dramatic? A little. But I’m not just talking about Everest. People have died on that 14er you day-hiked last summer. All I had to do was Google “Rocky Mountain National Park” and hit “News” to find this story of someone who got bested by nature there last weekend.

On the same trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, a group of younger guys, who I overhead later were all doctors, thought it would be funny to count to 3 and yell “Avalanche” at the top of their lungs. I would have hit them if I could have gotten there quick enough in my snowshoes (snowshoes, while practical, are not very good for running).

Was there avalanche danger at Emerald Lake that day? I don’t know. But I do know what they did was blatantly disrespectful to the back country skiers and boarders continuing up the ridge.

Being prepared wraps up into realizing you can’t dominate on the mountain. Leaving your ego in the car and grabbing a jacket. Recognizing the weather and realizing when its time to turn back. Realizing that you are NOT in charge and you have to respect Mother Nature or suffer the consequences.

So many outdoor activities seem like domination is the point, don’t they? Let me tell you a secret. Not one of those activities actually dominates Mother Nature. When you raft a section of rapids, did you dominate that river? Or did you successfully navigate the rapids to make it out alive? Do you dominate a mountain when you summit? Do you dominate a route when you send it? The river doesn’t change because of what you did, neither does the mountain or the crag. It’s not domination. It’s symbiosis, which requires respect.

Every outdoor activity holds some danger. Should you stop participating because you might die? Hell, no. You should acknowledge the danger, prepare for the danger and undertake the activity with a mindset of symbiosis, not domination.

Respect the mountain. Be prepared. Check your ego. Don’t ignore posted signs. Pick up your trash. Respect your Mother.

It seems simple, but I guess not everyone was raised on Colorado.