Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Saint Andrew's Lake at Sunrise, August 2016.
Ask anyone who has ever had any kind of conversation with regarding backpacking- I am obsessed with hiking in a skirt. Skirts are my favorite piece of backpacking/hiking gear. And it's not because I will do anything to avoid wearing pants (even though that is true).

I played field hockey, lacrosse, tennis and I danced for years... The Skirt Sports. I think it was kind of a subconscious requirement for me to start hiking in a skirt.

Below are my top four reasons for hiking in a skirt, and 1 downside (solely in the name of being unbiased).

No shame in Hawaiian print at Panhandle Gap, September 2016.
1) Fashion
Obviously. Skirts are hella cute and you can get them in a million styles and colors. Skirts for hiking are becoming super popular, thus, more and more options are on the market. You can get them with wide, high waists and pockets, you can get dresses (less layers = less weight) or you can get bathing suit skirts (my go to). You can even get puffy skirts- a jacket for your butt! Awesome!

2) Taking a leak
It always comes back to peeing... A main reason for trying it the first time was because I was tired of hiking way off trail to find a place to pee, only to realize that I've exposed my ass to a group of hikers, not realizing that my trek off trail actually led me between switchbacks. Wearing a skirt saves you the fear of exposing yourself to the world (especially in less densely wooded areas like the subalpine meadows I've grown used to out here). Using a device like the Go Girl or She Wee makes this a million times easier, and it's a breeze in a skirt!

3) The Breeze
Speaking of breezes... There are few better feelings than not being constricted by the unbreathability of spandex/polyester blend. I will be the first to tell you about my love for a solid pair of leggings (and yes- they are pants). But it's nice to ditch the second layer of skin and let it all out in the open.

Of course, swapping shorts in favor of pants is an option if you want that nice upper thigh breeze, but (in my experience) shorts can restrict movement more than a skirt. In a skirt (given that you're wearing one made for hiking/activity) your strides can be as wide as you want.

After an hour+ slog up Asgard Pass... Had to throw on leggings once it started snowing. October 2016.
4) Versatility
My favorite thing about skirts (I know I've said this like, 8 times already, but this time I mean it) is the versatility of them. It's so much easier to add or shed layers when you don't have to take your pants off first (back to not needing to expose yourself). You can wear compression shorts, capri leggings or full length, depending on your comfort level, or you can go commando.

They're also a lightweight option. Having a pair of shorts and pants adds unnecessary weight. Plus, if you're hiking in a dress, you lose the need to bring a shirt as well. 

The downside...
1) Being told you're "adorable". Nope. I am strong and capable and agile and badass. Cute should not be the first thing a person compliments a backpacker on. Especially if I have been in the woods for six days and I'm stinky and dirty. Some hikers, seem to take you less seriously when you're in a skirt as opposed to full length pants and knee high gaiters. Yes, the skirt itself is cute. But there's so much more to a hiker than her clothing.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Look up #camprobber on instagram and you'll find lots of images and videos like these:

A photo posted by Rocky Mountain Adventures (@hiketherockies) on

These are Gray Jays (Perisoreus canadensis), or perhaps more commonly called Camp Robbers. They're cute, friendly and totally used to humans. Awesome. Not a threat, right? Wrong.

It's hard to hike any of the Washington classic hiked without being dived bombed by these guys when you're just trying to eat your lunch in peace. Leave No Trace's sixth principle is "Respect Wildlife" (my favorite principle). When feeding, posing for photos with, and approaching wildlife, you are not giving them the respect they deserve. When we are in the wilderness, we need to remember that we are guests in someone else's home. Here are X reasons that feeding wildlife should be reserved for actual Disney princesses (i.e. in cartoon movies).

1. Causes injuries to animals
Think about it- when you walk into a restaurant or see your grandma, you know that you'll be getting fed. You've been conditioned to related certain places and people with food. Similarly, wildlife makes these connections as well, which is why it's hard to eat a granola bar on a rock in the woods without having a chipmonk practically crawl into your lap.

Animals are drawn to places where they get fed- popular pull offs, parking lots, mountain summits and popular view lookouts. The problem here begins when they begin approaching people who may not have the best intentions, or when they get a little reckless around cars. While animals make the connection between humans and food, they often don't make the connection between cars and injury (or death) until it's too late.

2. Causes injuries to you (or other humans)
A quick google search of "bison goring" will yield thousands of results. Mostly of tourists in national parks. Often, these incidents could have easily been avoided by leaving the recommended 50 yards of distance between humans and animals. Large creatures carry obvious threats- goring, trampling, maling, etc. You get the point. But our smaller wild friends can also be a threat. Lots of birds and furry critters carry diseases that can be harmful to humans.

When someone takes a selfie with a bison or bear or elk or moose or bigfoot and posts it online, they are setting a dangerous precedent. Seeing photos like this, and then reading the comments, usually full of heart-eye emojis and words of encouragement, tells the public that these behaviors are okay. It encourages others to do the same, which can create more stories like this.

3. Human presence can change animal behaviors
Just like you would most likely react poorly to a deer showing up in your house and drinking from your faucet, wildlife react negatively to human presence. By pitching your tent next to a beautiful lake, you may be causing wildlife to divert it's usual route to get water- or discouraging it entirely. Scaring a bear away from it's favorite feeding grounds may cause it to think twice about returning.

A good rule of thumb for this- if an animal changes it's behavior because of your presence, you are too close. Back up, find another campsite, keep hiking on... Just leave. Your recreational enjoyment of nature should not trump an animal's survival and wellbeing.

4. Causes wildlife to rely on handouts
When you rewarding a begging animal with a big of your granola or sandwich, you are teaching it that it does not need to find food on it's own. This can be detrimental to an animals survival once it finds itself in an area or season where begging doesn't work- think popular areas that close down in the summer.

This can lead to starvation or malnutrition of wildlife who are accustomed to handouts. Don't be part of the reason an animal forgets to fend for itself.

Gray Jays often approach humans, "begging" for food. Shooing them away often doesn't work, but feeding them is not the answer.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Day 5
I set an alarm for 7, and couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was chilly, but the sky was clear and I was in good spirits. I was packed, fed and mentally prepared for my day by 7:45. I felt strong, like I finally had my trail legs. I’d been on long trips before, but this one was different. I paced myself. I let myself take breaks when I needed and ate as many snacks as I wanted. It was nice to feel sore, but not be in pain.
This is what I look like five days in.

I hiked by Mowich Lake and up to Ipsut Pass. The trail appeared to end. I looked around and realized the trail goes down. And it drops a lot. I knew this would wreak havoc on my knees, so I popped another ibuprofen, stopped for a snack and collected myself. I made sure my trekking poles were dialed and my shoes were tied tight. I half ran-half hiked the switchbacks, letting my thighs absorb most of the impact. 

Ipsut Pass (I think.)

I reached the bottom of the pass and eventually reached a sign for Ipsut Camp. I’d hiked this section before. I knew it was fairly mellow leading into the Carbon River, so I sped up a little, in order to give myself a longer break at the river. I hung out, ate talked to two hikers that I would run into many times during the rest of my trip, and filtered water, drinking 32 oz before I left. The next section was a steady, but mellow, uphill to Dick Creek Camp. As I began hiking alongside the Carbon Glacier, I told myself that I’d take a break at the suspension bridge- probably 20 minutes or so. Not one minute later, I nearly blew right by it. I stopped for a break, and started talking to three hikers. They were really nice and we chatted for a bit before they continued on. They were heading to Mystic Lake Camp. 

I hadn’t seen anyone who was also going to Dick Creek Camp. I was a little worried that I’d be the only one at camp that night. I was getting used to the sense of community I found at camp, and after my night at Mowich, new friends would be nice.

I hiked up and up and up past the Carbon Glacier and crossing Dick Creek before reaching camp. Scott and Robin were there, taking a break. I set my pack down and talked to them a bit. I found out we’d be at the same camp for the next two nights. They pushed on and I hung out at camp for a bit, exploring the area, filtering water and doing laundry in Dick Creek. My campmates arrived around 7pm... Right around bed time for me. My site was right on the edge, over looking the carbon glacier and river. It was cool to hear the rockfall and rushing water all night.

Camp at Dick Creek

Day 6
7:45. I was up and anxious to get moving. I was a little cold and antsy. I was hitting Sunrise tonight. I was looking forward to a real bathroom and access to a phone to give my parents a call. I had three miles to go before hitting Mystic Lakes camp. This stretch of the trail was beautiful. I hiked through meadows and wooded areas and finally came across a beautiful lake which, after consulting my map, could only be Mystic Lake. 

En route to Mystic Lake.

I reached mystic lake camp and took my break. It was around 9:30, and Scott and Robin were packing up to hit the trail. We played leap frog for the remainder of the afternoon. I took a break by the Emmonds Glacier (I think) and shoveled banana chips and a clif bar into my mouth. Snacks were becoming the highlight of my days. Not much different from my everyday life.

The trail kind of dragged from the last campsite to Skyscraper Pass. I didn’t realize how close I was to Sunrise until I arrived there. I briefly considered hiking up Skyscraper, but I was four miles from camp and a bathroom. I’d come back and do it later in the season. 

I ate lunch with a view of Mount Baker (according to some random hiker) and the ever present Mount Rainier. It was weird seeing so many people on this section. As I ate my snickers and EPIC bar, I looked towards the trail and saw white spots in the grass about half a mile down. Mountain goats. Finally!

I hadn’t seen a goat yet, and I saw twelve all at once. My hike into Sunrise was a mellow four miles. I practically skipped the rest of the way. I got to the visitor center and called my people- to reassure them I was alive and well. I filled up on clean water at the bubbler and hiked back to the trail to camp. I set up, boiled water, soaked my Ramen noodles and chugged some water and electrolytes. It was really hot today and I was definitely dehydrated. I wasn’t too sunburnt, but my lips were chapped and I wasn’t peeing nearly enough. 

I wandered over to Scott and Robin’s site. We ate dinner together. Mine was surprisingly good. Chili ramen, with thai style tuna, dehydrated peppers and peanut butter. I wish I packed more of that. We drank some wine (!!!) they had put in their cache and enjoyed some chocolate. The sun began going down and I started to shiver a little. I retired for the night and listened to Serial until my phone died.

Day 7
I decided I needed to let myself sleep in. I hadn’t done that since Klapatche, and my body needed it. I woke up around 9, ate half a snickers bar and a chia bar and started towards White River. I had Muddy Buddies in my food cache. I hadn’t been so excited for Muddy Buddies since my college late-night-snack-run days.

The switchbacks out of Sunrise were pretty rough on my knees, but the three or so miles went by quick... because muddy buddies. I opened by food cache, stoked for everything I had packed myself. I had more tortillas, which were my favorite thing on the trail. I ate my Muddy Buddies in record time. It was pretty warm and very clear, but I was finally getting to explore the East side of the park. 

I passed a big group of familiar faces- park employees and volunteers who were hiking counter clockwise together. We chatted for a bit and I hiked until I reached the Frying Pan Gap Trailhead, where I ate two tortillas with tuna and hot sauce. I hadn’t had such a satisfying meal since Klapatche. 

The hike to Summerland was nice. There were lots of people on the trail. It was a mellow, but steady uphill. When I reached Summerland, I relaxed at my site and did some exploring. I saw more goats and ate dinner with Scott and Robin again. I heard a few big rumbles from the mountain. It’s weird to be so close to the action, but feel so far from the summit. We watched the sunset from the creek outside of camp and I fell asleep to rock fall, yet again.

Sunrise from Summerland

Day 8
I woke up at 6:30 to catch the sunrise on the mountain. It was absolutely my favorite morning on the trail. It was quiet and the mountain glowed and the sun rose. I ate breakfast (two poptarts and two packets of oatmeal... my hiker hunger was certainly settling in) and filtered water by the creek before the hike up to Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the trail. I reached Panhandle Gap, took out my phone to take photos. I swiped up and my phone promptly died. Thankfully Robin had her camera and could take a few for me.

Messy braids, obnoxious hiking skirt, knee tape... and yet I feel prettier than ever. Panhandle Gap, 71 miles in.
I ate some jerky and a trail bar and started the descent to Indian Bar. Word on the trail was that some weather was moving in. My last day was supposed to be Sunday, but I decided that I would hike my final three miles tomorrow. I noticed the clouds creeping in and began to get nervous. When I’m anxious, I am also cranky. The hike to Indian Bar was miserable for me, for no reason other than the fact that I knew it was going to rain tomorrow, and that I needed to pee, but was in a giant meadow, with lots of people around. No privacy.

My mood improved once I reached Indian Bar and ate my lunch. And peed. Funny how food can be such a mood lifter.

My good mood quickly disappeared as I continued climbing up. I thought for sure that my hike to Nickel Creek was mostly downhill. I was very wrong. I stopped every few minutes, huffing and puffing and cursing myself for building myself up with false hope. This was probably my lowest moment on the trail. I took an hour long break before the real downhill began. I started running into people that I saw in my first few days. It was nice to see familiar faces, even though I didn’t know their names. I saw the father and daughter duo I ran into on my way to Mowich- the father was still wearing the KT tape I gave him. Hearing that it was actually helping him made me feel better.

Reaching Nickel Creek, I almost cried tears of joy. I immediately threw my pack on the ground and made myself a tuna tortilla with parmesan. I enjoyed my last day of sun by Nickel Creek while I filtered water and ate my second dinner of the night (Alpine Aire BBQ Chicken and beans... it was okay).

I was excited that tomorrow was my last day. I was looking forward to a beer and a shower. I laid my stinky clothes out on the branches surrounding my site.

Day 8
I woke up to rain.

Shit. I wasn’t supposed to start raining until 11am.

I left all my clothes outside to dry over night. I didn’t know what time it was. Early, I think. I wasn’t ready to get up, but I needed to get my gear before it got too wet. I don’t know how long it had been raining at this point, but enough for me to realize that my clothes were not drying out in my tent anytime soon. Since it was my last day, I ate breakfast in my tent, not caring at all about the crumbs from my pop-tart spilling onto my sleeping bag and tent. I mustered up the energy, put on my soaking wet rain jacket and began my final day. 12 miles.

I was cranky. I don’t enjoy hiking in the rain. But I was glad that I wasn’t missing anything too great. I had hiked parts of this section before. There were only a few views of the mountain, and a lot of the trail was near the road. 

I cried for the first time. It wasn’t because I was tired, or in pain, or homesick. It was because my hands were so cold and wet that I couldn’t open my clif bar and I was really freaking hungry. I threw it on the ground and let myself cry for a few minutes before collecting myself and picking it back up. I opened it with my teeth and was successful on my third try. I was still cranky, but at least I had food in my stomach and only 7.4 miles to go.

I passed more people that I had seen in the beginning of my journey. It was pretty cool to talk to them, but all I could think about was a burger and a beer. I was counting the rain as a shower. I couldn’t be nearly as stinky and dirty as I had been twelve hours before.  I reached Reflection Lakes. 4.5 miles to Longmire. The rain was coming down hard at this point. 

Finally, after passing Carter Falls, crossing the Nisqually, and reaching Cougar Rock, I realized how close I was. 1.7 miles. I speed hiked my way to Longmire, where I dropped my bag on the front stairs. I thought I would feel differently. Maybe it was because of the rain. I expected to be more... something. Stoked? Relieved? Mostly, I just felt tired. And hungry.

I went into the WIC and talked to the rangers a bit before going to my car and realizing a planning mistake on my part... I didn’t pack dry clothes. I found some jeans in my trunk, and a sweatshirt. I somehow shimmied into fleece lined skinny jeans in the front seat of my car, still completely damp, and put a zip up on over my drenched sports bra. The thought that someone would probably judge me for going out in public like this flickered across my mind for a fraction of a second. All I could care about was food.

Friday, February 3, 2017

When I first got the job out here, my dad did a bunch of research, as Meleedy’s do, and forwarded me some articles and websites about the Wonderland Trail. It looked cool enough, but I pushed it to the back of my mind until I was settled into my new job and apartment. I revisited the idea in May and became obsessed. What better way to wrap up my time in Washington than to hike 93 miles around the mountain that I’ve worked on every day for the past 7 months?

Day 1! Excited to get moving.

Day 1
I set out on the Wonderland Trail on Friday September 9th, around 4:15pm. I had been anticipating the moment for months. Something drew me to the trail. Maybe it was the just long enough distance of 93 miles, the 22,000 total feet of elevation gain, or the fact that I’d be walking around the biggest volcano in the lower 48. It might have also been in part because I knew I’d see a bear on the trail at least once, and I hadn’t seen a single one all season.

I began hiking clockwise from Longmire, 5.7 miles to my first campsite at Devil’s Dream. When I arrived, all the sites were full, cueing one of my largest anxieties about backcountry camping. I ended up walking into site 4, where a nice older man had set up camp. I started to explain my dilemma- that despite having a permit, I was site-less. Before I could finish, he let me know that he was the one without a permit, and that he’d leave if need be. Turns out, his plans changed a bit, causing him to link up with another group for the night. That group changed their minds once they arrived at camp and told him to find somewhere else. Rude.

I set up my tent and chatted with him while making my dinner of tuna tortillas. Maybe sharing a site wouldn’t be so bad after all- although I did set out on this trip solo, I was hoping to make friends. I borrowed a sharpie from him because, like a weenie, I brought my journal but no pen. I settled into my sleeping bag around 8 and wrote a little before falling asleep.

Waking up with my hiking partner.

Day 2
My 6am alarm woke me up. I slept well that night. Little anxiety and only woke up when my campmate had a sneezing fit around 1 am and my ear plugs kept falling out, but I was nice and warm in my bag. I boiled some water for my morning oatmeal while I broke down camp. I had 10.9 miles to go and wanted to get to camp relatively early. I was headed to Klapatche, where I had been twice before. I really wanted site 1.

I filtered water on my way to Indian Henry’s, and stopped at the cabin, where my roommate was sitting on the porch. We talked while I repacked my pack for the 7th time that morning. The subject turned to bears. I’d lived in the park for 7 months, hiked tons of trail in the area and hadn’t seen any bears. I wasn’t bitter or anything. I was just convinced that I was the anti-bear. Maybe my sweat glands produced bear repellant, rather than sweat.

I looked out into the meadow and saw something black. I didn’t want to get too excited so I looked over and said “Hey Sarah, is that a bear?” while pointing in the direction of the indistinguishable black blob in the meadow. She looked, gasped and said “And it has a cub!” before darting into the cabin to grab some binoculars. We sat and watched the mama and cub eat berries until I decided to head out. I made my way through Indian Henry’s and down to the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. I noticed some clouds forming, including a lenticular above Rainier (a telltale sign that it’s going to rain in the next 24 hours), but the forecast was promising and I wasn’t worried. 

Just before reaching my destination, I passed a male and female pair. The dude proceeded to warn me “Hey, there’s three bears at Klapatche. Be really careful. There’s three of them”. This rubbed me the wrong way. I knew there were bears. It’s the wilderness after all, but I soon forgot about it upon the sight of Saint Andrew’s Lake. I soaked my feet and was far too lazy to filter water, so I continued the .8 mile up to Klapatche Camp, where I came across not one, but two, notes written into the dusty
 trail, again, warning me that there were three bears at Klapatche. 

Bears in the woods? No way. I was kind of irked again. I kicked dirt over the writing.

I somehow ended up with site one, which is by far the best site at Klapatche. Probably because this site is the closest to the meadows... where bears usually hang out. But you get a killer view of the mountain through the trees, and it’s closest to the trail. I made the best trail dinner I had all trip, mashed sweet potatoes with yellow coconut curry tuna on tortillas. 

The clouds began to roll in around 6, so into my tent I went. I journaled and listened to some podcasts. I’m not sure if it was the bear concern (despite not seeing any near Klapatche all afternoon), or the wind and rain that pounded my tent all night, but I didn’t end up falling asleep until 4am.

View from site 1 at Klapatche.

Day 3
When I woke up at 6, I felt like garbage. My body wouldn’t let me get up, so I closed my eyes and fell back asleep for 3 more hours. When I got up, I haphazardly tossed my gear into my pack, ate half a poptart and started on the trail. I ran into a fellow parkie and her partner, who told me that they had seen a mama bear and some cubs on the switchbacks out of North Puyallup. It was misty and cold and I just didn’t have the energy to worry about them.

I made it down to North Puyallup and had all but forgotten about the bears. I took a break at the camp, ate some real calories (probably about 700, considering I’d just hiked 4 miles on 100 calories) and started up the switchbacks towards Golden Lakes Camp. I was about 4 miles in and I was feeling good. About 20 minutes later, I rounded a bend and saw a black bear about 75 feet in front of my on the trail, staring. I froze. I knew I was supposed to do something- yell, look big, hit my poles together- something... but instead, I locked eyes with the bear and took a single step back, before it bolted off up the slope. 

I approached cautiously, as I couldn’t see how far the bear went, while talking loudly and asking the bear how it’s day was going. No more sign of it. I wasn’t necessarily scared... I knew bears were just big raccoons, wanting your food, not wanting confrontation. But I was a bit spooked after seeing a bear, alone, for the first time while on the trail.

By 2pm, I knew that I had to be getting close to Golden Lakes. I passed a group of four, who told me that they had seen a bear just off the trail “about 200 feet back”. I hiked on apprehensively for about 10 minutes. No bear. I was pretty bummed, but figured I shouldn’t test my luck and that there would be other bears on the trail for me to see. Maybe a minute later, something stopped me in my tracks. It’s like I knew it was there before I saw it. I poked my head around a small tree, into a clearing and there was a bear, not 10 feet off the trail. I hid behind the tree for a moment (and took a photo real quick) before taking a deep breath and yelling “Hey bear, how ya doing?”. It wasn’t startled. It didn’t even look up. It kept munching on the berries in the meadow. I stepped out from behind the tree, waved my arms and yelled again “Hey bear, get out of here!”. He looked up this time. I made myself look big, just like all the pamphlets and blogs tell you to do. I can only imagine what the bear was thinking.

“What does this girl think she’s trying to accomplish?”

After a few minutes of talking loudly and waving my arms, the bear made a few steps deeper into the meadow- not because of me, but because he ran out of berries- and I shuffled quickly down the trail, facing him until he was out of sight. This was the last bear I would see all 93 miles.

I reached Golden Lakes, adrenaline still pumping a bit and set up for the night. My dinner of mashed potatoes and snickers didn’t sit well. Maybe it was the weather, and that I hadn’t seen the sun once. Or maybe it was the bear encounters. I dozed off and hoped tomorrow would be better.

On the way to Mystic Lakes.

Day 4
I woke up feeling a lot better on Day 4, glad to see the sun again. I started hiking around 8:15, excited to get to Mowich, where my first food cache was. It was a bit of a climb out of Golden Lakes, with a steep downhill leading into South Mowich River. I filtered water and ate a granola bar and drank a liter of water before heading to South Mowich Camp, almost exactly halfway through my day. I stopped here for lunch, which was a depressing combination of mashed sweet potato and sweet chili jerky on a tortilla. I hiked the last uphill section to Mowich Lake Camp, meeting lots of day hikers shocked that I was hiking the trail- and that I was hiking it alone. I don’t exactly know what I was expecting out of Mowich, but this was not it.

I knew it was a drive up site. I knew it was a popular area. But after days of not seeing a single car or having a conversation longer than five minutes, the sight was stressful. The campsites were gravel pads in a parking area. I could see the parking lot from my tent. The bees were annoying as hell. But there was a bathroom (with toilet paper!!), and my food cache was here. Plus it was nice to know that if I wanted to bail, I could.

I got my food cache and sat with my bucket of dehydrated food on the picnic table at my site. I made myself a tuna wrap... Two actually. This was my second lunch. Or my first dinner. I ate, then took a nap in my tent. It was only 2:30 and it was chilly out. I woke up at 6 or so, emerged from my tent, grabbed my stove and heated up some water for tea and dinner. I had a questionable mountain house type dinner that I got from the hiker box at Longmire earlier in the week. I ate the semi-rehydrated goop that was supposed to be a chicken enchilada. It was gross. And wasn’t fully hydrated after 20 minutes, but I was hungry. At least it was warm.

I retreated back to my tent and listened to Serial and drifted in and out of the coldest night sleep I had all trip. It was tough to sleep when I heard car doors slamming and someone playing an acoustic guitar well into the night.

Indian Henry's on day one.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It's over when it's over.

The journal I used on the Wonderland Trail.

I write. A lot. Way more than it may seem, based on the frequency of my posts. I have 6 posts sitting in my drafts right now. Some are messy outlines of thoughts that will probably never amount to anything other than that, and some are fully flushed pieces with photos and everything. I used to think I was scared to post since I don't have an editor and often catch errors after I post them- no matter how many times I review it on my own- but I've realized that's not totally true. Sure, that's part of it. But I've realized that putting my experiences onto paper makes them feel final.

It's kind of silly. I go on plenty of adventures. And I write about them all the time. Writing brings more out of the adventure than just the action. It allows me to dig deeper into how I felt, what I saw and reflect upon it once I'm showered and in my bed. 

If I want to call myself a writer, I realized that I need to get over this silly limit I put on myself. 

Just because I put it into words and put it online for the world to see, doesn't mean it's over. The experience itself was over the moment I moved to the next. But part of the experience is the reminiscing that happens after, the words I write about it, the doodles I draw. It becomes part of everything I do, even in a subtle way. Sometimes even I don't realize it.

Once I leave the trail, the experience goes on. Other people can experience it through my words and photos.

And I think that's why I write in the first place.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

For the past few weeks, I've been giving myself big goals. First solo overnight, first solo multi day, first solo 10+ mile day, first trip on the Wonderland Trail and lots of training. I love having big goals, and it feels awesome to complete those goals.

Sun set near Lower Crystal Lake
I gave myself a break this weekend and I headed up to Upper Crystal Lake (7 miles RT) with a fellow adventurer. The plan was to hike to Crystal, camp, and head out in the morning to cross country hike to Crystal Mountain and take the gondola down.

Wildflowers and alpine lakes at camp.
It was forecasted to be super nice, and I was excited for new adventures, and some off trail exploration through the backcountry.

Upper Crystal Lake

Waking up this morning, to the sun bright and warm through the tent, we scanned the ridgeline and reconsidered our plan. It would be warm all day, with little shade. We could try our luck, strap on our big packs and hit the dusty non existent trail to Crystal Mountain... Or we could drink beers and hang out in the gorgeous alpine lake that sat maybe 100 feet from our tent.

View from Site 2
 We chose the latter, and it was beyond rad.

Big goals can sometimes take the fun out of going to the mountains. I've always been in strong support of Type Two Fun -the type that you hate while it's happening, but afterwards you're like "hell ya, lets do it next weekend" - but this weekend reminded me that going to Trader Joe's and enjoying an easy hike (classic Type One Fun) is just as rad and fulfilling. Type One Fun is like hitting the reset button on your mountain mindset. I often need to remind myself that I don't need to be pushing my limits, climbing hard grades or hiking big miles to have fun and feel accomplished. Life is more fun when you don't kick your own ass all the time.

Sun setting over Upper Crystal Lake.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I often get asked how I still managed to play outside, despite having an office job. It's pretty simple. I chose the kind of job that give me the opportunities I want. Granted, I'm making a percentage of what minimum wage is, but I'm living in a National Park and getting housing paid for me. I'd say it's a fair trade off.

Since graduating college and getting thrown headfirst into adulthood, I've done tons of research on how to pick a career that will allow me to do what I love, without making me grow sick and tired of it. Here's a few of the opportunities that I've taken advantage of, plus some I hope to dive into someday.

I know, I know. Retail sucks. I'll be the first to tell you that. But picking the right retail job makes the suckage significantly smaller. I worked at a large outdoor retailer. The culture was awesome. The discounts were incredible. And the days off were often weekdays.

Having the opportunity to head into the mountains when your weekend is Wednesday and Thursday is amazing. Trails are empty, campsites are quiet, and traffic isn't bad.

Being the first of your adventure crew to hear about the newest backpack lift system or waterproof technology is fun. Testing out brand new gear and (if you're lucky) borrowing gear from either your stores stockpile or your equally adventurous coworkers is an added bonus.

If I could be an intern forever, I would. I've scored internships at Climbing Magazine, AMC Outdoors and now, I'm working as a media intern for the National Park Service.

All of my internships have given me opportunity to play in new places and get others excited about the outdoors. Sure, the first two were unpaid, but they have given my resume a step up, as well as given me incredible experience and insight into what working in journalism is like. Not only that, but I get to write and take photos of the stuff I love - the outdoors and people who love the outdoors.

I've been fortunate enough to be able to travel to Colorado and Washington for my internships, as well as one at home in Boston. Some internships will paid for your relocation expenses, housing and give you a small housing stipend. Plus, if you land an AmeriCorps eligible position, you might qualify for an education award, which helps with your student loans. 

Being a weekend warrior has it's perks.

Get sponsoredYou might be passionate about accounting or basket weaving or real estate- something that might not necessarily allow you to be outdoors when you want to be... and that's okay. You don't need to be outdoors 24/7. But the important thing is making sure that when you do have your days off, that you're getting after it in the woods. And documenting it.

Do you know how easy it is to score free/discounted gear, just by asking? Super easy. You don't even need to have 180k followers on Instagram. Good content and an even better personality is all you need. I sent out almost 80 letters when preparing for a big outdoor venture. Most were ignored. Some responded with a no. But I did get lots of positive responses.

Even if they couldn't provide a true sponsorship, many companies were stoked to send out samples to me. Some sent gift cards (thanks, Chacos), some sent t shirts and ball caps (you rule, Backcountry Ninjas) and some offered a 6 month supply of meal bars (ProBar, I'm looking at you).

It never hurts to ask. Companies want people who are enthusiastic about their product and are willing to put themselves out there to prove it.
Mountain naps are the best naps.

Oof. This one's tricky. And I have no real advice on how to do this, as I haven't gotten to this point, but if you're motivated and skilled enough, you can work for yourself. There are lots of bloggers and photographers who get paid to travel and do their work.

Some live out of their trucks or airstreams. Some have a home base and travel internationally taking photos for big name brands and publications. 

Freelance isn't for everyone- you have to be extremely motivated, self sufficient and creative. Not having a boss telling you what to do can be hard, but the benefits and flexibility freelancing provides far outweight the negatives if you want that lifestyle.

So now what?
The bottom line is that if you really want to get outdoors, you can. Getting paid to play might ruin the fun of it- I've definitely found that with my photography. When I'm out on my own, I rarely want to take my camera out. It feels like work. And I try to avoid bringing my everyday life into the mountains with me. That being said, it takes discipline, heading straight to the mountains after the work week and those always fun late Sunday night drives can be a total bummer. If you want to turn your passions into your career, or even use it to bring in a little spending cash, I can tell you that it's totally worth it.


My photo
I like to play in the mountains with my friends.
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