You are a miracle.

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
— Henry David Thoreau

I recorded a podcast on Thanksgiving Day called, "You are a miracle." I cried through the entire recording. If you listen closely, I'm sure that you will be able to hear me wiping the tears off my face. You can find the link to my podcast here.

When I started my podcast, I did not know it would be so emotional for me. I did not realize that I would be sharing my heart in such a tender way. When I first conceptualized itt, I imagined myself being more "factual" - but, as I have encouraged in the recordings, I followed my heart. I did what felt good to me, and what it felt like I had always been meant to do.

I'm cutting and pasting the transcription of my podcast below, for anybody who is more of a reader of words, rather than a listener. I'm also sharing an image which contains the affirmation I shared at the end of the podcast.

Please let me know what you think - either by sending me a message or writing me a review on iTunes - both are so greatly appreciated!

I love you with all of who you areWith your tears and your pain.I see you, and I think that you are a miracle.This is your skin.These are your eyes and hair.These are your eyes, staring back at you.Not one other pers.png

You are a miracle.

Somewhere along the way, maybe you forgot that you were. But today, dear friend, I am here to remind you.

Long before you were saddled with doubt, responsibilities, expectations, beliefs, fears, and societal norms, you were free. You were free to dream. Free to be you. Free to adventure. Free to explore

Who were you then? What were you like? Think back to a moment from your childhood that stands out for you. Close your eyes. What do you look like? What are you doing? What is the expression on your face? How do you feel? What did you love then? What did you want to be? What was possible?

One moment always pops into my mind. I’m sitting on a cinder block wall at our house in North Carolina. I’m being interviewed by my neighbor who had brought over this new fangled monster of a video camera to record me on a VHS tape. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he can be heard saying off camera. My eyes sparkle. The excitement wells up in me so intensely that I can barely catch the words as they come tumbling from my mouth : A rock collector, a violinist, a ballerina, an explorer, a marine biologist… the list went on. I was SO excited about life – because EVERYTHING was possible.

I hadn’t been told that I didn’t fit in. I hadn’t been told that I needed to, “be responsible”. I hadn’t been told that I couldn’t follow my dreams. I hadn’t been told that there were expectations. I had only been told that I could be anything and everything that I ever wanted.

Somewhere along the way, those dreams were chipped away. Bullying destroyed my self confidence. Traditional views about money and responsibility permeated by subconscious – I began to believe that I couldn’t make a living doing what I loved. By the time I graduated college, I was living in my best friend’s bedroom working as a cart girl selling hot dogs at a golf course while frantically searching for jobs – ANY jobs – on monster.com. Somewhere along the way, I forgot that I was a miracle. I forgot I had dreams. The spark in my heart was reduced to a smoldering ember. I forgot that I was placed on this earth to make a difference.

IMG_3015.JPG

And yet, that dreamer was never lost – she was never gone. She is the voice that whispers in those quiet moments when your heart reconnects with who you truly are. She is there when you are standing on the top of a mountain watching the sun dip below the horizon. She is the one who speaks in those moments where you think, or rather, where you KNOW that everything is possible. She is the voice that gives you the ideas that you’ve been too afraid to pursue. She is the one who has been guiding you all along – gently allowing you to learn the lessons you need to learn along the way, while always tugging you back to her – reminding you – I am still here. I have not forgotten you. I will not leave you. You have never been alone.

You are a miracle. In a planet of over 7 billion people, there is and only will be one you. Somehow, out of the infinite possibilities of cells that could have combined to form a person, you happened. We tend to forget this, because thinking about it can be shockingly overwhelming. For some reason, we place self love on the back burner. We lose belief in ourself. We turn down the volume of the voice inside that tells us that we were meant for great things in our life. We settle into mediocrity and accept it as our sentence for not being one of the, “lucky ones”. We allow ourselves to dream only occasionally – when we buy a lottery ticket at the gas station, or when we see somebody else who inspires us. We think, “I had this idea once…” or “I always wanted to do this other thing.” We forget that we still can. That we are alive right now. We trap ourselves in a prison without walls, without realizing that all we ever have to do is step outside. We are not trapped by anything except for our own mind, our disbelief in ourselves and the fears that we use as excuses. Walking out of that invisible trap is easier said than done, but it must begin with you. It must begin with you remembering that you are a miracle. It must begin with you learning to love yourself again, for exactly who you are right now.

I still remember the first time I tried to tell myself the three words, “I love you.” I broke down crying. I simply couldn’t do it. I had spent so many years trying to be somebody that I was not, that I had lost touch with who I really was. I didn’t even know myself anymore. Gradually, I realized that if I wanted to courageously live an adventure-inspired life … and if I wanted to teach others how to do the same … I needed to start with me. It isn’t selfish or greedy – in fact, it is the kindest thing that you can do for the people you love the most, for it is only in truly loving yourself that you can bring your greatest gifts into this world to share with others.

IMG_1335.JPG

I started writing affirmations for myself. This felt silly at first, because I didn’t believe them. But I didn’t stop. Day after day, I wrote them and repeated them to myself:

I am enough. I am strong. I am deserving. I am creative. I inspire millions of people. I am creating my adventure inspired life. I am beautiful. I love who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming. I can create anything that I can dream. I am worthy of my dreams. I was born to change the world.

Consistently I wrote these things to myself and repeated them. I started imagining my friends and family telling me what they loved the most about me. Eventually, when that didn’t reduce me to tears, I started telling myself those things. Finally, I stood in the mirror and stared at myself. I love you, I said. And I meant it.

To my dear friend and listener, wherever you are right now in your life, I see you. I believe in you. Your past, your pain, your struggles, your story – those things are not you. You are an infinite being of love – you are a miracle. Listen to the voice of that dreamer inside you – she will not lead you astray. Follow the path you are being guided on, and trust. Trust that following your heart will always guide you down the right trail. Each moment in this life is precious – don’t forget that. You are precious, and you always have been. From the moment you entered this world as a screaming baby, you have been loved. Do not live in fear – trust the process.

I hope this is the start of something beautiful for you. I hope you remember who you are. I hope you know you are a miracle. Last week, I looked at myself in the mirror and said the following... I hope you can say it too:

I love you with all of who you are. With your tears and your pain. I see you, and I think you are a miracle. This is your skin. These are your eyes and hair. These are your blue eyes, staring back at you. Not one other person alive can see through your eyes or feel the touch on your skin. In each and every way, you are perfect.

You are made of love. You were born to climb mountains and explore the trails. You were born curious. Stay curious. You were born to inspire. Keep sharing your heart. You were born to change the world. Keep climbing.

This Day Includes Me.

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise
— William Blake
DSC00763.JPG

WHY is a question that I get asked a lot these days – specifically in reference to carrying my violin onto the summit of a mountain before sunrise to perform for nobody just as the sun crests the horizon. These musical mountaineering trips can be anything but fun at times – on one of our last climbs, I found myself huddled in a ball, shivering… wondering why I was standing on the summit of a peak holding my violin in 30 degrees weather wearing a dress and a pair of gold flats. Discomfort coursed through every vein of my body as I stood up to play the first few notes of music … and then… as if by some magical force, I was gone – still there, but so focused on moving my frozen fingers and listening to the notes as they left my violin, that I forgot the pain of that moment – or, rather, I sank into the present so deeply that I just allowed the experience to be what it was. A few weeks ago, I wrote the following in response to the question of, “WHY?”

For the waking up in the dark,

While the rest of the world sleeps.

The anticipation.

The cold

The sound of our feet crunching up the trail under the light of the moon.

For the feeling of our lungs burning as we breathe the air that feeds our body life.

Because we are live.

Because the mountains are a place where we can be who we are.

And for the moment when the sun’s first beams burst above the horizon,

For the wave of emotion that sweeps over us like a stiff mountain breeze

As the first notes of our music

Spill gently into the

Cold mountain air

Because,

It is only music that can speak what we feel.

For the gift of another sunrise

That includes us.

This day includes me.

This is my morning prayer of thanks.

My connection to real gratitude for the thing that matters the most – my life.

This breath.

My beating heart.

My curious mind.

I feel it most when I am in the mountains.

A place where I can only be who I am.

Where I don’t compare myself to others.

Where I feel strong

Where I notice that I am alive.

Where I feel cold, warmth, pain, frustration, joy and fear simultaneously

In the mountains, I know my prayer of thanks is heard. As if somehow the thin air allows the notes to travel more quickly.

I hear my music drift into the air but it doesn’t disappear. It is caught in the current of the world and swept away to those who need to hear it.

In the mountains, love is the only thing.

There is space out there. Space to walk. Space to breathe. Space to be.

I’m going to talk about something that is very uncomfortable for me – something that I don’t usually share, because for many years, the wounds were so open and raw that I could barely mention them. I used to use the wilderness in an extremely unhealthy way. I used my adventures to escape from my problems and to disconnect from the world. At that dark time in my life, I was in a failing relationship, for which I completely blamed myself. Looking bac, I realize now that I disconnected emotionally from my relationship and threw all of my emotional energy into climbing. Being in the mountains was the only way that I made it through the week – I felt so lonely all the time that I had to fill my days with epic trips deep into the wilderness. If I didn’t have some sort of a crazy adventure on the horizon, I would have anxiety so bad that it made it hard for me to function. Simultaneously, I was struggling with some pretty serious family issues, and to top it all off, I got laid off from my job as a park ranger. In a way, I felt like I had been completely stripped of my identity.  I felt like a failure in so many ways – I was ashamed to talk about these problems with even my closest friends, for fear that they would be disappointed in me. I hid my problems from most people. I deleted all of my social media accounts so that nobody would know what was going on with me – I couldn’t even bear to see the people who cared about me the most because I felt like such a complete failure. Eventually, the pain in my life was too great that even the most epic of mountain climbing trips couldn’t numb me. I broke down and completely stopped hiking. I found myself sitting on the couch of a therapist’s office hysterically crying and not knowing if I would ever feel unbroken ever again. I didn’t know how anybody could ever love me – I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror without feeling shame and disappointment.

DSC01055.JPG

On my 33rd birthday, I remember my dad asking me a question at dinner – he said, “What is your 5 or 10 year plan… what is your legacy going to be.” I felt a lump swelling in my throat. If you know my dad, you would know that he was honestly just trying to help me, but I felt crushed. I went back to my apartment that night and I sobbed for 3 hours straight. I was 33 years old and living alone in what was essentially a hotel room with a kitchen. I felt like I had completely destroyed my life and I didn’t know how I was going to get it back – how I was ever going to find me again? And more importantly, did I still exist? I felt like a shell of a person that had one existed. My creativity and desire to explore were shattered. I didn’t care about anything.  At my lowest moment, I was sitting on the floor in my 600 square foot studio apartment googling, “How can I forgive myself?”

DSC00742.JPG

It wasn’t one thing that happened, but rather millions of things. Like climbing a mountain, reaching the summit of a peak does not happen in one leap, but rather, inch by inch… step by step. Slowly, I started to re-emerge. It started with movement – going to yoga and re-connecting to my breath. I continued to see my therapist – week after week, month after month – peeling back all of the layers and false beliefs that I had about myself. Learning to be kind again. As my shame dissipated, I started to reach out to my friends again – I started to remove myself from my self-induced solitary confinement. I started to feel worthy of friendships and relationships. I started to feel like maybe I was worthy of being loved.

Guilt and shame and anger come in waves. At first, I felt it like a tidal wave. I could make it through the day most times, but suddenly and unexpectedly, the wave would arrive and pummel me in the choppy surf. Just when I thought it would hold me down so that I would never re-surface, I would find the air and gasp in a breath. I was alive. Over time, the waves got smaller and smaller until gradually, they were gently lapping at my ankles like ripples from a stone being tossed in a pond.

DSC01241.JPG

And from that pond, I stepped onto the trail again. But this time, it wasn’t to escape or disconnect – it was to re-connect. To re-discover who I was. To find the person that I had been missing – the person that I knew I was meant to be. I still remember my first hike after my hiatus – my lungs were burning and my heart was pounding in my head… tears streamed down my face as I remembered what it felt like to be alive.  As I remembered why I loved this so much. For those few hours, I remembered who I was.

One of the things that helped me the most when I was learning how to forgive myself was the concept of seeing myself as a friend. I asked myself this question a lot, “If one of your closest friends came to you with the exact same issues and concerns that you feel so horrible about, what would you say to them?” The answer was always clear – I would not judge them – I would welcome them with open arms and listen to them and offer them my unconditional love and support. And yet, why is it so difficult for us to offer the same love and support to ourselves? It’s hard to admit when you have done something wrong or when you feel ashamed or like a failure. As the oldest of three girls, I lived most of my life with the feeling that I had to be a perfect example – that I couldn’t possibly screw up or disappoint anybody. This was the first time in my life when I had to accept the fact that I was truly human – flawed, imperfect and capable of disappointment and failure.

The mountains do not judge you because you ruin a relationship. The mountains don’t care if you think you are a failure. The mountains don’t care if you blame yourself for a family member’s illness. The mountains don’t care if you used to be a park ranger. The mountains are just there. Waiting. Allowing you to roam through them and explore – and it is through those explorations, and in that infinite space that the things we torment ourselves with, gently fall away. Think about the last hike or backpacking trip you went on – or even just the last time you were outside… what mattered in those moments? Was it trivial negativity or thinking that you were a failure at life? Of course not – the mountains bring us back to the simplicity of what matters – moving, breathing, nourishing, loving, living. When we step away from our car at the trailhead and we walk out into that vastness – we are really walking in. We are stepping inside ourselves and discovering who we truly are. In the moments when I am ascending a peak or hiking a trail, I am cautious – I want to be safe. I care for myself. I am caring – I look out for others. I am kind – I nourish my body. I am compassionate – I cry at the sight of a beautiful sunrise. I am loving – I feel that I am connected to every being on this planet. We are connected by love and light. I realize that in forgiving myself and in loving myself, I can extend that same love and forgiveness to everything around me.

Rose Freeman (piano) and I. Photo by Ian Terry, The Everett Herald.

Rose Freeman (piano) and I. Photo by Ian Terry, The Everett Herald.

Playing music in the mountains is such a simple action, but it is not a simple act. A few weeks ago I wrote, “Is this a dream? I’m in a place where I shouldn’t have my violin. It feels so delicate up here – so fragile. One slip spells disaster. On the cold, solid granite. And yet, my violin is made from a tree. So maybe I’m just bringing it back whre it really belongs. Where the notes an melt into the air of the earth that created them. Where they drift into the energy current of life. Each time we touch, I give life to that which cannot breathe, yet says so much. That which speaks to all, without knowing a single language. It is the voice of my heart. Can you hear it drifting through the world?

 This morning I woke up and it was pouring rain outside. I laid down on the couch in our living room and I covered myself with my down puffy jacket so that I could listen to the rain on the window. In my head, I repeated, “This day includes me. This day includes me. This day includes me.” This day includes you too. This day includes us. Nothing is guaranteed in life. Nothing is certain. Each day, each moment is a gift. What can we do this day to bring more love and light into this world?  Be the one to remind others that this day includes them too.

The Musical Mountaineers. Photo by Skye Stoury.

The Musical Mountaineers. Photo by Skye Stoury.

 

 

 

 

 

Blazing a trail to impact millions.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
— Edgar Allan Poe

On July 20th of this past year, I wrote the following:

My dreams are laughable. Seriously, laughable. ⠀⠀

I am going to be the much (much) smaller, female version of Tony Robbins for people who love the mountains and adventure. I am going to write a NY Times best seller about my experiences in the mountains and how they have translated into massive success in my life (NOTE: I almost deleted this sentence out of fear of failure, but I caught myself and am admitting it to be vulnerable). I am going to design an entire line of women's technical clothing/gear for hiking, backpacking and mountaineering. I am leading a 32 day trek next year through the Himalayas of Bhutan. I am going to create a Gear Library so that I can provide education and loaner gear to aspiring adventurers. With the success of my business, I am going to make a massive impact in the cause for stewardship education and protecting natural spaces in our country. ⠀

⠀I don't know every little detail of how I'm going to do this, but I can see it so clearly in my mind that when I close my eyes, I know it is real. This isn't just a dream - it's my new reality. It is my mission in life, my obsession. I have a hunger for this vision so strong that each day, I wake with an insatiable burning in my heart - an unshakeable desire to climb higher, to a place I've never been, but one that I know exists.⠀

It exists, because I'm creating it. I started on this path long before I was born. When the stardust swirled around to create me, this seed was planted in my heart. It lay dormant for many years, hoping to be discovered. Every time it tried to surface, I told it to go away - I was so afraid of failing that I hid it, even from myself. ⠀

But, no more. Every mountain, every trail, every climb, every stumble, every summit, every valley has prepared me for this: a climb to a mountain with no defined path - a path that I will build as I go. Herman Melville wrote, "It's not down in any map; true places never are." I often wondered what he meant by that, and now I know. That place you are wanting to find, that place that you are looking for - it's in you.

Me, at a fire lookout (my husband and I spent the night in the lookout!). This photo has nothing to do with the story, it just makes me happy.

Me, at a fire lookout (my husband and I spent the night in the lookout!). This photo has nothing to do with the story, it just makes me happy.

I wanted to give an update on my own progress. I do this, not to feed my own ego, but rather to share the magic of what happens when you simply let go and allow the magic of the universe to unfold. 

Since July 20th, 2017, I have completed the following items:

  • I am a trail scout and a gear tester for Backpacker Magazine
  • I have been in touch with the owner of a clothing company, and I am working to design my first, small outdoor product (I need to focus more efforts on this endeavor)
  • In a flash of inspiration, and through a curious series of events, I played my violin on the summit of a mountain, which has morphed into a lifelong dream for me of combining the two things I love the most - music and nature. I have been contacted by a few production/filmmakers and would love the opportunity to perform more in the backcountry and/or secure more adventure-musical gigs around the world - possibly a documentary about Rose (pianist) and I travelling the country, performing on peaks?
  • I had the opportunity to perform on the summit of a peak, while artists Claire Giordano and Nikki Frumkin created watercolor masterpieces, inspired by my music.
  • I am being featured in a documentary in conjunction with Working Against Gravity in November.
  • Rose and I were featured on King 5 Evening Magazine in a beautiful piece by Diane Torre
  • Rose and I were also featured on the front page of the Sunday Everett Herald in a stunning article, written by the extremely talented Caleb Hutton and photographed by Ian Terry
  • Rose and I were additionally featured on KOMO 1000 News Radio in a short story about our musical mountaineering
  • I launched my podcast, The Inspired Adventurepreneur
  • My Facebook Group, Toward the Mountaintop Inch by Inch has nearly 700 adventure-inspired members
  • I launched The Inspired Adventurepreneur Academy on Facebook to provide coaching and a collective for aspiring adventurepreneurs
  • I was featured on the Cascade Hiker Podcast (amazing podcast, you should listen!)
  • Held an in-person meetup for my Toward the Mountaintop group
  • Taught two, 2.5 day backpacking basics courses
  • I have been in contact with a guide in Bhutan and I am actively working to plan for guiding the Snowman Trek in 2018 or 2019
  • I went on A LOT of my own, personal backpacking trips with my husband (this is very important to me - my adventure lifestyle must allow for trips with my husband and friends)
  • Wrote several chapters in my book
Musical mountaineering with Rose Freeman on piano (photo by Ian Terry, Everett Herald)

Musical mountaineering with Rose Freeman on piano (photo by Ian Terry, Everett Herald)

One of my biggest goals was to, "impact millions", which at the time seemed somewhat ludicrous to me. I mean, seriously - how does one even go about STARTING to figure out how to inspire millions of people? I had no clue, only that I truly wanted to do it. Well, the violin-on-a-mountain idea that came to me in a flash of inspiration as resulted in upwards of 50k views/shares just on Facebook alone. The King 5 story reached hundreds of thousands of viewers. The story from the Everett Herald ended up getting picked up by the Associated Press, and it was featured around the country - I even saw it in the Miami Herald! So, by my estimation, at least a million people have, very likely, seen my story - even if it was just a snippet. 

When I started on my path as an adventurepreneur I had NO IDEA how to do this. I had a vision, and I have clung to that vision like a bar of gold. That vision is what wakes me up in the morning and it is the last thing I think about before I go to bed. I want to inspire people to follow their heart. I want to show people the good and the hope and the beauty in this world. I want to leave a lasting impact and a legacy on this planet - I want to prove that one tiny girl with a dream of inspiring millions is not silly - that my adventures and my dreams are beautiful things, and that your dreams and adventures and beautiful and real too. I want to create a world where people are excited to wake up in the morning because they love their life more and more every single day, because THEY are blazing their own trail and creating their own reality. This is my purpose in life, it is my calling, it is who I am. The only guide I have had along the way is simply listening to my heart - that's it. There hasn't been a secret sauce or magic recipe. I don't have a wand, just a dream to make a difference in the lives of as many people as I can. 

DSC01037.JPG

I know that this reality exists for me, I know that it is coming to me, and I am in the process of stepping into it as the world around me shifts and aligns to bring my ideas to fruition. My next MAJOR goal is "retiring" my husband from his current job - he works a 9-5 position (although it is more like 14 hour days), but I have created a reality where he and I can work side by side, full time. He is my biggest supporter and believes in me, very often, more than I believe in myself. The day when he will be able to join this adventure full time is very near - I can sense it - and I am so grateful for the moment when we can truly give everything that we have to inspiring others to follow their own adventure-inspired life.

Things that I am actively working to create moving forward (intentionally writing these in the present tense):

  • I am launching a coaching course for aspiring adventurepreneurs
  • I am putting more effort into my outdoor clothing/product line
  • Creating a wilderness-inspired retreat for women
  • I am going to be featured on a nationally syndicated television show (i.e. Ellen, The Today Show, etc...)
  • I am seeking more public speaking engagements
  • I am working on my book and need to determine whether or not to self-publish or to seek a publisher
  • continue work on creating a "Gear Library" to loan gear to aspiring adventurers
  • I am going to facilitate a mastermind for wilderness-inspired creative arts
  • I am purchasing a new vehicle (I currently drive a tiny Honda), which will be more conducive to 4x4 in the desert, since Aaron and I want to go to Canyonlands again in February
Dresses and mountains just belong together.

Dresses and mountains just belong together.

Blazing your own trail is not easy. It is rewarding, fulfilling, emotional, beautiful, challenging, terrifying, joyful, discouraging, frustrating, rocky, winding, tumultuous, inspiring, breathtaking, surreal and magical. Just when I feel like I'm not making progress, the universe sends me a message that I am following the right path. In the moments where I simply, "let go" and trust the process, I can feel it happening around me. I trust that things are happening at the moment when they are supposed to be happening - at the timing that is right for my life. 

I share these updates not to discourage, but rather to encourage. It doesn't matter where you are on your journey - anything you want to create is possible. I started with simply an idea - a formless dream, held tightly in my heart. This dream has blossomed into something so beautiful that, at times, I find myself weeping in gratitude. To see it take shape around me... to feel each step as I walk into this new life... to look at the lives I have impacted so far, and to imagine what else could be possible - these things are so overwhelming to think about that I can feel the joy rushing through my veins. I have never worked so hard in my life, but I have also never loved my work so hard. This isn't work - it is my mission, my calling. My love. It is what I want to give to the world - it is, quite simply, who I am.

The wilderness has given me the space to be me. In the moments where I have not felt strong, the mountains have lifted me and carried me to heights that I did not know were possible. At the lowest points in my life - the points where I thought that I was complete failure - the wilderness has cradled me and loved me for who I am, even with all my flaws and imperfections. Along the way, I have listened to the lessons that are hidden in the crevasses, creeks and valleys. I have heard the messages in the peaks and I have felt them calling me, beckoning me to blaze my own trail. All along they have known where I was meant to go, and so have I.

DSC01122.JPG

What is an adventurepreneur?

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
— Rilke
DSC00111.JPG

Freedom.⠀

Freedom to explore.⠀
Freedom to adventure.⠀
Freedom to love.⠀
Freedom to live.⠀

We were not meant to be caged. ⠀
We are meant to roam.⠀
We are designed to be curious.⠀
We are destined for the extraordinary.⠀

I wanted to create my own life because I believe these things at the core of my being. I was sick of settling for, 'that's just the way it is', or, 'not everybody gets to do what they love.'⠀

They didn't teach me this in school - in fact, they taught me the opposite...that dreaming was irresponsible and reckless. That only the 'lucky' get to do what they love.⠀

Don't believe it for a second.

IMG_5947.JPG

You created your life, whether you consciously "designed" it or not. Does any of this sound familiar:

  • you felt pressure to, "get a job" out of school - even if it wasn't what you had dreamed of doing
  • you accept your reality and start to believe that you are not one of the "lucky" ones in life
  • you look at other people who are, "living their dream" and you definitely don't think that could be you
  • deep inside, you know you aren't living up to your potential ... you were placed on this earth to do something incredible, and what you are doing right now is decidedly NOT IT.
  • you wake up one day and you don't know how you got here, and you want to do something different
  • you love hiking, but you've been told again and again that you can't get paid to hike
  • you feel like it would be horribly irresponsible to leave your "stable" job
  • everytime you try to get "unstuck" you scare yourself back into submission
  • you have a history of feeling unfulfilled in your job and you've changed jobs numerous times, only to discover that you always end up feeling the same way after a few years
  • you struggle with "grass is greener" syndrome
  • you want more in life, and you don't know how to get it, or where to start 

Here's the good news: you are COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY NORMAL. Recognizing that you are not where you want to be in your life is a huge part of the battle. How did you get here? Like a horse drawn carriage that erodes "grooves" into the hard surface of a cobblestone street over years and years, we find ourselves similarly and deeply embedded into a "rut". We build our lives around the decisions that have helped to dig this rut, and while those decisions are not necessarily bad, they are familiar and comfortable - and they are the very things which make it so incredibly difficult to climb away from a place where we feel "stuck".

DSC00391 - Copy.JPG

For most of my life, I felt a deep calling to share my love of the wilderness with others. I wanted to turn this passion into my paycheck, but I had NO IDEA HOW. I listened to the people who told me that I could not do what I loved for a living. I listened to them, right up until the day that I decided that enough was enough. That I wasn't going to settle for anything less than living a life that I created - a life that I courageously designed

Life is an adventure. Like a mountain, it is chaotic, messy and unpredictable. It is also exciting, exhilarating and devastatingly beautiful. When I decided to become an, "Adventurepreneur", I envisioned a life where my work and my mission/passion were seamlessly intertwined. For me, there is no "black and white" distinction between "work and play" - this is just my life. It is who I am, what I love, and what I want to give to the world. I want to inspire people to create their own adventures. I want to show wilderness-inspired entrepreneurs how to turn their passion into their paycheck. I want to give everybody the tools that they need to create the life that they want and deserve.

DSC00580.JPG

 

I started this journey with a dream and a belief - a belief that anything was possible. I like to say that I believe in myself at the $80,000 level - because I left a job with an $80k salary to follow my heart. I used to think I was crazy for doing something like that, but now I know that I would have been crazy not to do it. At an $80k salary, I was so limited - that was all that I was EVER going to earn. As an Adventurepreneur, my income is limitless. There is no limit to what is possible for me (and for you!). I used to think that I couldn't earn a living doing what I loved: I was wrong. This past month, I earned an ENTIRE MONTH'S SALARY in 4 days. If I can do this, absolutely anybody can - all you have to do is to be willing to take the steps... and sometimes the leap... to get out of your own way.

Adventurepreneurship is what I was meant to do. It is my purpose on this earth and there is nothing that brings me more fulfillment or joy than to have the honor of helping other like-minded adventurers achieve their own goals and dreams. The answers are inside you right now - all you have to do is learn how to listen and start climbing - everything you've ever wanted and more is waiting for you.

10 things that the wilderness has taught me about life.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
— Frank Lloyd Wright

I have been obsessed with learning lessons in the wilderness since I was a little kid.  For some reason, I sometimes struggled to make sense of the difficult moments in my life - as a child, it is hard to understand why people choose to "bully" you for the things that make you the most special and unique.... as an adult, it was nearly impossible for me to understand why I felt so unfulfilled in my life, but simultaneously terrified to make a change.  Looking at these moments through the lens of the wilderness helped me to understand the reasons that I was experiencing these challenging opportunities in my life - while at the same time, helping me to find the strength, joy and space to continue being "me" ... in a world that often encourages us to lose our individuality.  Life lessons made sense to me in the mountains.  On each backpacking trip or each climb, a theme emerged - a theme which gave me the ability to make sense of the chaotic world around me. Away from the "noise" of the world, the mountains gave me the chance to truly discover myself and my true path in life.  In my most fearful, darkest moments, the skills that I learned while ascending peaks and navigating trails, crept into my life to help guide me.

 Recently, I made a list (because who doesn't love a good list, right?) of the 10 lessons that have been the most instrumental in shaping my own personal life.  As a kindred adventurous soul, I hope that they are impactful lessons for you too.

1.        Get out of the sleeping bag.

If you are a climber, you know that getting out of the sleeping bag is sometimes the most difficult part of any climb.  I remember climbing Mt. Rainier for the very first time: we woke up at 11pm and the wind was howling outside of our tent. Thoughts like, "Why am I doing this?" and "What the heck was I thinking?" instantly swirled in my mind.  The sleeping bag was SO COZY and comfortable.  I wanted to bury my head in my sleeping bag and snuggle in the comfort and safety of my tent.  The warmth of the sleeping bag is a beautiful thing, but it allows us to do something dangerous: it allows us to hesitate.  When we hesitate, we start thinking - and when we start thinking, our brain tells us exactly what we need to hear in order to stay comfortable.  Comfort is good in certain situations, and our brain has our best interest in mind (or so it thinks), but extraordinary achievements do not happen by staying comfortable.  I still remember when I got out of the tent that day on Mt. Rainier: the frigid air was whipping through camp, and as we started climbing the Emmons Glacier, I felt my lungs burning and my heart pounding with excitement.  I looked up at the massive mountain in front of me, and I saw a bright light in the distance. It was so bright that I thought it must be a headlamp of another climber, but then I realized that it was a star.  It was a star so bright, that it seemed like I could reach out and touch it.  That moment was permanently etched in my heart forever - and so was my first experience of climbing Mt. Rainier.  

Sunrise from the upper slopes of the Emmons Glacier, Mt. Rainier.

Sunrise from the upper slopes of the Emmons Glacier, Mt. Rainier.

In those moments of hesitation, we unintentionally get in our own way.  It's easy to stay comfortable.  It's easy to surround ourselves with familiar things and places.  It is difficult to step out of the warmth and into the cold, unknown vastness of the world - but it is truly the only way that we will ever be able to witness the moments in our lives that have the ability to show us who we are.  

2.       Walk toward fear.

I used to think that getting nervous on a climb meant that I was, "weak". Now I know that it means I'm doing everything right. Being in the wilderness is intimidating and sometimes downright terrifying. When you experience fear in the mountains, it is usually warranted - things like falling or being eaten by a bear can be completely legitimate fears.  On a climb, I am usually the most terrified of falling - especially in tricky areas that have significant amounts of exposure. These fears are completely rational and normal, but part of the climbing experience is acknowledging those fears, accepting them, and figuring out how to ascend the peak, even in the presence of fear.  

In our personal lives, fear tends to look and feel a little bit different - in fact, very often we don't even know that it is there, but it still manages to completely paralyze us. Think about a person who absolutely hates their job, to the point that it is making them physically ill - and yet, they won't leave - why? Fear of poverty is likely at play - whether they realize it or not (I know this, because I experienced this exact fear, and had no clue how powerful it was).  Fear of failure also makes a strong case for accepting a life of mediocrity - it's much easier to slip through life unfulfilled but beneath the radar, than it is to be vulnerable and expose yourself to things like, "looking stupid" or "seeming irresponsible".

When I made the decision to leave my job and launch into full-time entrepreneurship, it did not happen overnight.  It took me A VERY LONG TIME to recognize, name and become aware of all the fears and limiting beliefs that were holding me back from living the life of my dreams. Through it all, I held the belief close to my heart that walking towards fear was the right direction of travel. Each time that I felt uncomfortable, I would experience that urge to rush back to safety - and that became my cue to push onward. Truly, every exciting opportunity and experience has been waiting for me just on the other side of fear. The most amazing thing of all is that on most occasions, the "thing" that was so terrifiying, was merely a blip on the widescreen of life. When we climb, we often look back on the scarier moments and we reflect on them as the most enjoyable parts of our experience. Just remember - most fears in life are based on the illusion of stability - and the only thing constant in life is instability. Don't let fear hold you back from doing something incredible.  

 

3.       Nothing good happens at the trailhead. 

Trailheads include horrible parking, smelly pit toilets (if you're lucky), and seemingly endless amounts of dust (please tell me I'm not the only one who has noticed this?!).  I love trailheads, because they are the start of an exciting adventure, but you have to leave the trailhead to actually get started.  Yep, that's right: you have to lock your vehicle, utter a quick prayer that you didn't forget anything in your pack, and hit the trail. 

It's cool to have all the gear and the fancy boots and trekking poles, and yes, you do look incredibly awesome with that curvy ice axe - but you need to actually go use it.  Which means that you just have to start.  This is about going for it, whether you are "perfect" or not.  In fact, don't be perfect.  Maybe your pack is a little heavier than you would like it to be, or maybe you're nervous because it is your first backpacking trip.  Here's the thing: if you wait for the stars to align and everything to be completely perfect, you'll be waiting the rest of your life.

I have wanted to start a podcast for a long time - and I delayed recording my podcast because it wasn't going to be "perfect": I don't have a recording studio, I don't have fancy music or a voiceover introduction, and I didn't have a graphic designer who could configure some gorgeous art. You know what? I finally realized that I was holding myself to an unachievable standard of perfection, and so I just went for it. I made my own art, I bought a microphone that I barely knew how to use, and I recorded it sitting in a closet in my mountaineering gear library. Was it perfect? No. But it was beautiful, because I created it and I didn't wait around for things to be exactly right.

Don't get caught in the waiting. The adventure does not happen at the trailhead (unless you get stung by a bee in the pit toilet - but that's a completely different story altogether).

4.       Mountains crumble.

The mountain analogy is overused, in my opinion, and quite often by people who have never climbed a mountain. Which, is totally fine, but I want to clarify something. I often hear metaphors that talk about mountains as being serene and stable, etc... but if you've ever climbed a mountain, you know that mountains are anything but serene and stable. Mountains are dirty, messy, moody, and crumbly. The biggest mountain in the world is eroded by the tiniest raindrop, or the smallest gust of wind. 

What does this mean for you? It means that stability is an illusion. There is nothing stable in life except for instability and change. Do not build a box for yourself and limit the possibilities in your life.  Everything, and I mean everything, can change in a fraction of a second.  Your life is beautiful and you are infinitely powerful and capable of absolutely everything that you can visualize in your wildest dreams. Don't paralyze yourself by trying to control things that are out of your control - go with the flow and trust that the earth will support you and love you back, no matter what.  

5.       The world is a good place.

This one is so important to me.  The wilderness has taught me this: what you focus on, is what you attract more of in your life.  When you spend time as a friend to the mountains and the trees, you have a deeper connection to yourself, others and to the planet that we live on.

When you focus on negativity and "bad" things in life - not only do you only see and attract those things into your own life, but you lose the ability to notice the incredible miracles that are taking place each moment before your eyes. "But Anastasia," you might say, "That's nice that you are Miss Polly Positive, but there are so many atrocities occurring right now." And, yes, I agree with you - but by allowing those atrocities to distract you from seeing the love in the world and by distracting you from sharing your own love and creating a ripple effect to the rest of the world - aren't you inadvertently giving those things power over you, and thus not actually helping the situation? When was the last time that becoming angry over something that you had zero control over had any tangible results or effect, other than to make your life more miserable? 

24415_10150181196450161_3815621_n.jpg

This planet is a miracle. Go outside and touch the ground, feel the wind, sense the sun warming your face. We are spinning on a ball through space, being warmed by a giant star. We have a moon that orbits us. The world is covered by an ocean so vast that we can't even comprehend its existence. The world itself is a living, breathing, pulsating orb of life - of which YOU are a part. Do not miss out on the ability to connect with yourself and others because you are so focused on searching for things to be upset about. I am not suggesting that indifference is a good tactic - what I am suggesting is that when you are a good, deeply connected individual, the ripple effect that your positivity and love will have on this world is FAR greater than the effect that you will have by fighting hate with hostility.  If you fight with hate, you will lose. But if you fight with love, you will always - ALWAYS win.  Visit the wilderness - absorb the love and the awesomeness on this planet - bring it back and share it with everybody you meet. Inspire others to be the change. 

6.       The earth does not judge.

I was bullied as a kid.  Do you know how most kids go through an "awkward" phase?  Well, let's just suffice it to say that I went through an "awkward decade and a half".  Starting at age nine, I cut my hair off (i.e. think: it was shaved in the back) and I thought I was Huckleberry Finn.  I had a southern accent and I spent most of my time playing outside.  I moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, and apparently those things were not accepted by my new peers.  As a result, I sustained some pretty horrific treatment for several years - to the point where my parents actually removed me from school and homeschooled me from 8th-12th grade.  

Officially was not lying about being awkward (I'm the one on the left).

Officially was not lying about being awkward (I'm the one on the left).

Around this time, my mom started taking us hiking and my family started camping and taking vacations that involved hiking.  Almost immediately, I was addicted.  Yes, I loved seeing new places and experiences, but I mostly loved how I felt in the wilderness.  The rocks and trees didn't care how I looked - they didn't try to make me feel like a failure at life because I chose to wear overalls, long before overalls were cool.  When I was climbing and exploring, I felt strong and confident - I felt proud of who I was. For many years, the mountains imparted their own strength into my heart, until I learned how to find that strength within myself. 

Me (on the right), howling wolf sweat shirt and fanny pack. At Glacier National Park.  

Me (on the right), howling wolf sweat shirt and fanny pack. At Glacier National Park.  

It doesn't matter if you wear make-up, don't wear makeup, have expensive hiking clothes, have cheap hiking clothes, are an expert, are a beginner - the wilderness doesn't care.  It just is what it is, just like you are who you are.  It allows you to be you.  In a world that can be cruel and judgmental, finding a place who accepts you for exactly who you are can give you the space that you need to accept yourself - so, in turn, you can share your heart and purpose with the people who need to hear your story.  

7.       Everything is better with the people you love.

I am the most extroverted-introvert that I know. I love being "on stage" and talking with people and inspiring them, but I am equally as happy being home, writing on this blog or recording a podcast in the closet of my mountaineering gear library. When I first started hiking, I did a lot of solo adventures - and I loved them, but I would always return home and try to explain my experience to others. If you've ever hiked solo, you know exactly the "glazed over" look that can sometimes surface as a result of these conversations, i.e. "Uh-oh, here goes Anastasia talking about another one her hikes." 

The wilderness is a special place to me - and when I share it with somebody else, it almost feels as though I am letting them see a vulnerable part of my soul - a part of who I am that can be stirred to tears by watching the sunset over an alpine lake. The places I've been and seen are, "secret places" to me - because my deep connection with those places unlocks my heart. It is an exquisite experience to share that with somebody else. When I met my husband and when we went on our first hike together, I watched him gawking in awe at the shadow of the mountain at sunrise on Mt. Adams. Each time we explore together, he always stops at every creek to watch for trout. I love that curiosity. I love that we can fall asleep watching the stars and, no matter how busy our lives might be at home, we always hold a moment like that in our hearts together.

Summit of Mt. Maude.

Summit of Mt. Maude.

I have climbed and hiked with my mom and with my sisters and with my dear friends. When I think back on my life and the moments that are special to me, those are the memories that immediately come to mind. I cherish them more than anything in my life.

8.       You can always see the next step.

When you have a big goal or a vision, it is so easy to get lost in frantically trying to figure out how to make it happen. Using myself as an example of this: my mission is to impact millions of people using my experiences in the wilderness to inspire others to pursue deep change and lasting fulfillment in their own lives. That sounds crazy, right? I have no clue how in the HECK I am going to impact millions of people (because that's a lot of people) - but I have this unbelievable vision of being able to do so - in fact, I KNOW that I can do so - and I know that I am 100% caprable of being able tomake a massively positive impact in the world. 

Don't get lost in the how. You cannot possibly know how to do something that you have never done before, and so you have to focus on the things that you do know how to do. What do I know how to do? I know how to write - I know how to share my heart - I know how to ask others to help me on my mission - I know how to climb mountains and hike - I know how to love and how to give. I know how to see things in people that they cannot yet see in themselves. I know how to connect with others. I am deeply emotional and vulnerable and I am not afraid to share those parts of my life with others.

18268552_10158479444255161_9077947463288225246_n.jpg

On each climb or backpacking trip, you have a goal or a destination in mind. If you've done your homework, you know a lot of things about that route, but until you actually set foot on the trail, you have absolutely no idea what it is going to look like. Sometimes, when I climb, I find myself incredibly nervous about the more challenging sections of route finding - my mind instantly starts swirling with fear of the unknown. In those moments, it is critical to pause, and realize that I can always see the next step. It's right in front of me. Maybe I have to take a detour or go somewhere a little different - maybe I even have to backtrack a little bit - but it's always there. If you get caught up in your mind and become fearful of the "how", it will paralyze you. Instead, you have to focus on just taking that next step.

9.       There is depth to life.

When I first moved to WA, I remember seeing the mountains from the highway - they appeared as a flat, two dimensional series of bumps on the horizon. When I climbed Glacier Peak, it was the first time that I truly took a journey into what felt like the heart of the wilderness.⠀

From high on the slopes of Glacier Peak, I not only experienced the sense of accomplishment from ascending an spectacular mountain - but I also felt the vastness and the depth of the mountains for the first time. I was no longer in a two-dimensional world - I was smack dab in the middle of layers upon layers of peaks, valleys, rivers, forests, glaciers and rocks. The tremendousness of the experience - the truly infinite expanse of the world around me was so overwhelming, that I was unable to hold back tears.⠀

You can't understand the mountains by looking at the horizon from a distance. You have to journey inward. You have to feel the ground beneath your feet, smell that sulphur rising from within the crater of a volcano, touch the icy skin of a glacier or sip from the crisp water of a mountain stream.⠀



In discovering ourselves, we also must journey inward. Like the wilderness, we are incredibly complex - we are made of billions and billions of regenerating cells and each fold in the gray matter of our brains holds memories, thoughts, ideas and dreams - some painful, some wonderful, all unique.⠀

Too often, we drift though life on auto-pilot ... trying our best, but never quite understanding why we aren't finding fulfillment. We convince ourselves that we don't deserve it. To find yourself, do not look to who you think you are supposed to be - a two dimensional copy of somebody else that you are admiring from the distance. Instead, journey within and look at who you are - which is something that nobody can duplicate. In the overwhelming vastness of this planet, you are the only you that will ever exist.

10.   Mountains are not climbed in a single leap.

This seems so obvious that it is almost ridiculous to say it - of course mountains aren't climbed in a leap (unless you have freakishly long legs). For some reason, we forget this lesson in life. We set a goal or decide that we want to accomplish something, and we get so impatient and frustrated on the journey that we quit or become discouraged - instead of realizing that the journey is the process. You have to take all the steps to get to where you are going: you have to plan your trip, pack your bag, drive to the trailhead, hike for miles and miles, be OK with pooping in a hole, become disgusted by your own stench, and still make the decision to keep on ascending toward the summit. In the mountains, this makes perfect sense, because you know that in order to get to the top of the mountain, you're going to have to keep moving. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to forget this in our own lives - and when we don't have immediate results we end up being unkind to ourselves or we incorrectly assume that we are doing something wrong. 

You aren't doing anything wrong. 

If you look back on your life right now, you will see that you took billions of steps to get to the exact place where you are standing. Which also means that you need to take a heckuva lot more steps to get where you want to go. Trust in the process, take that next step, and realize and trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be and that each part of the journey is absolutely critical in order for you to achieve your goals. Don't be dissuaded by little nudges off your path - those are merely trail blazes that are guiding you in the right direction.

We are all in this together. Let's make the most of it.  

20170717_090654.jpg

What lessons has the wilderness taught you?

I am a strong, adventurous woman.

I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest, I like
that they’re ladies. As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
Don’t you want to believe it?
Don’t you want to tug my shirt and see
the huge beating genius machine
that thinks, no , it knows,
it’s going to come in first.
— Ada Limon, How to Triumph Like a Girl

It's never mattered to me that I'm a woman who loves adventure.  I don't mean that in a negative way - I just never saw it as a limiting factor or as something that was even remotely out of the ordinary.  As a young girl, I spent my days exploring the creek behind our house - digging up crawfish and searching for snakes, and, once, even outrunning an alligator (true story).  I dangled from tree branches, watched anthills for hours and scampered over rocks - falling in love with the sensation of pushing my body further and higher.  In 4th grade, I was the only female on a boy's soccer team, and I easily outran everybody on the team.  I remember hearing one of the parents say, "Wow, that girl is fast!".  At the time, I thought, "Of course I am, I'm a girl."  For me, it was always an advantage.  

When I started climbing mountains, it never even crossed my mind that being a woman had anything to do with it. It was always as simple as a question existing: Do you want to climb a mountain? And then, answering it: Well, then go climb it!  It wasn't until other people made comments to me that I even gave it a second thought.  After a successful climb of Mt. Shuksan in the Cascades, a park service employee looked shockingly at my friend Brenda and I, "It was just the two of you ladies?".  Another time, while descending Mt. Baker, a male climber remarked, "Oh, two ladies?  Nice!"  Naturally, I took both of those comments as compliments (because, indeed, I believe that was how they were intended), but I was still struck by the fact that other people noticed our woman-ness on the mountain... when it was something that never even occurred to me.  

I've always felt that just being me is all that has ever mattered.  I'm small, fast and tenacious.  I have an insatiable hunger for altitude and a deeply emotional connection with the wilderness - that combination elicits a powerful drive to push myself to new heights of exploration.  Adventurers are born, not made.  You can't force somebody to love hiking for 10 hours on loose talus slopes.  You can't force somebody to love climbing out of a cozy sleeping bag at 1 AM to ascend a peak in sub-freezing temperatures.  You can't force somebody to subject themselves willingly to the physical misery that sometimes coincides with wilderness exploration.  And yet, adventurers always come back.  It is in the deepest part of our tiniest cells, neurons and synapses.  The call for adventure pulses through our veins with each pump of our heart.  We cannot ignore the call - it is who we are.  

Experiencing the wilderness isn't just about peak-bagging.  More importantly, it is the place where we find ourselves. As an awkward adolescent and young adult, I used to hide my body underneath oversized t-shirts and baggy sweatpants.  I was ashamed of my "bubblebutt" and my muscular thighs. Becoming a mountain climber changed everything.  Now, when I look in the mirror, I don't see thighs that can barely fit into a pair of jeans - I see strong, powerful legs that have climbed mountains (while carrying a heckuva lot of gear).  I don't see dimples on my buttcheeks - I see the figure of an endurance athlete.  I don't see scrawny arms - I see sinewy muscles that have pulled me up and over rocks and gripped tightly on precarious, "veggie belays".  I don't see unkempt hair and a lack of makeup - I see grit, determination, confidence, and the freedom of my braid blowing in the wind as I ascend the next peak. 

Mountain boo-tay.  Complete with sock lines and bruises.

Mountain boo-tay.  Complete with sock lines and bruises.

The wilderness has helped me discover a new depth to the strength that I feel inside.  As a child, I was bullied and tormented - I drifted through my middle school and highschool years in zombie-mode, feeling like a complete outcast.  My parents pulled me out of school and homeschooled me from 7-12th grade.  In college, I struggled to fit in.  I attempted to go to frat parties, but apparently showing up at a party with your own KitKat Bar and Dr. Pepper does not earn you any "cool" points.  I tried my hand at drinking in order to fit in, but very quickly realized that Zima was not very refreshing in reverse. My only true connection was with other students who played music in my orchestra.  At one point during college, I was actually referred to by the majority of the students on campus as, "weird girl", because I sat alone and read books during dinner. 

Our lives are so unbelievably crowded with clutter that we are "told" is important.  Stories that have absolutely no bearing on our lives whatsoever are forced into our brain at such an alarming rate, that it is no surprise to me that most people do not feel inspired and/or fulfilled. Mountains give you the space to be yourself.  When I first started climbing, I felt like my creativity had been locked away in my heart for so many years.  As a child, I had written poetry and stories freely, but as my individuality had been, "punished", I stopped sharing those parts of my soul.  I was living in a world where I compared myself to others and desperately sought approval - a world where I did not believe that everything was possible.  Standing on the summit of my first peak, surrounded by infinite space and abundance,  I realized that I had the key.  I unlocked myself from the confines of feeling trapped into who I was, "supposed to be", and I started to reveal who I was - a vulnerable, strong, emotional, adventurous woman.  In the heart of the wilderness, you can be yourself with no judgement, no comparisons and no limitations.  You can sob, overwhelmed by the vast beauty surrounding you ... or you can laugh at the hilarity of subjecting yourself to eating freeze dried foods and burying your own poop.  There are no mirrors, no filters and no expectations.  In short, the wilderness allows you to be you, just how you are.  

Me, just being me at Alpine Lake, Trinity Alps Wilderness (photo by my talented husband Aaron).

Me, just being me at Alpine Lake, Trinity Alps Wilderness (photo by my talented husband Aaron).

My true calling in life is to teach other women how to use the lessons of the wilderness as a vehicle for change in their own lives.  Each woman has such a unique and special story, and I also believe that women with adventurous souls have a deep-rooted need for wilderness-inspired fulfillment.  When you have spent time in the mountains - even if it's just for a moment - something inside of you changes. Rene Daumal wrote, "What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”  

When you've truly felt a genuine connection to the energy of the mountains, you can never un-know that feeling. For the first time, perhaps, you've touched the key to your own heart. Deep, in the cavern of your soul, you know that you are a woman destined for adventure, whatever that looks like.  Once you know that part of you exists, you simply cannot live your life in the same way ever again: you've started the process to unlock who you truly are at the core of your being.  Those answers are waiting for you in the wilderness - in the whisper of the wind through a lofty pass, the ripple of the water on an alpine lake, and the last rays of sun on a snow-covered ridge.  All you have to do is go there, be you, and listen.  

Smith Lake, Trinity Alps Wilderness  

Smith Lake, Trinity Alps Wilderness  

 

 

 

Inspiring Adventurer Ep. 3: Taryn Simpson

We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.
— Henry David Thoreau

I used to hate social media.  In fact, in the midst of a difficult time in my life, I completely retreated from the internet in general.  Most devastatingly, I stopped writing and I stopped connecting with other adventurers.  It took me a few years to emerge from my own darkness, and in the process, I learned how to use social media as a tool for inspiration, rather than negativity.  Instead of jumping down the rabbit hole of news, I put my efforts toward sharing my heart and meeting other, like-minded adventurous souls.  

Taryn Simpson is one of those adventurous souls, and absolute proof to me that there is a beautiful side to social media.  We, quite possibly, would not have crossed paths without the existence of the internet.  I could roam around a crowded shopping mall for days looking for women who want to spend their weekends sleeping in a tent on the side of a mountain, and I might not find a single one.  

Taryn is inspirational, genuine and has a deep love of the mountains.  I am so blessed that our trails crossed, and I know that you will be inspired by her story as well. 

Taryn on Mt. Saint Helens (photo by Sonia Mededovic).

Taryn on Mt. Saint Helens (photo by Sonia Mededovic).

 

1. Tell us a little bit about you and your hiking/outdoor interests!  

A few years ago I started getting into hiking – I was involved in sports my whole life (gymnastics, soccer, track, snowboarding) but was never a hiker. A little background: my parents were avid backpackers for years (my dad was an Eagle Scout) and they basically spent their first 10 years together exploring the PNW on foot, so I always heard stories from them and loved learning about their adventures. At age 24 I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), a (usually) hereditary autoimmune disorder in which the immune system doesn’t recognize the fluid that lubricates my joints as belonging to my body, and attacks it as if it were a foreign invader. This causes pain, severe inflammation, and a whole slew of other symptoms. At 24, I couldn’t walk up or down a flight of stairs despite “looking healthy”. After being diagnosed, my world changed. I was finally able to make changes that helped me rehabilitate my body, decrease my inflammation, and not only walk up and down a flight of stairs, but up and down mountains. These days, I try to hike at least twice a week during the summer. Fall through Spring I’m in school full-time and work weekends, so getting out is much harder, but I try to make it work. Sometimes I try to trail run, but I’m REALLY bad at it… I still try anyway. Meh. For the last year or so I’ve also been indoor climbing and want to make the jump to outdoor soon. After summiting Mt. St. Helens in May, I’ve become more confident in my abilities in the snow, and plan on learning more about alpine climbing in the near future, with my sights on Mount Rainier by 2020.

2.  What is your favorite trail food?     

Dried bananas, Hi-Chew, those gluten-free Stinger stroopwafels, and for longer days the Good To Go meals (Thai Curry and Herbed Mushroom Risotto). I pretty much always carry coffee of some sort as well. (I legitimately ate instant coffee powder and washed it down with water yesterday on a hike… no shame).

3.  What is your favorite outdoor experience?                 

I have two that really stand out. Disclaimer: one of these included poor preparation but served as an immense learning experience and had a huge impact on my life in the mountains (and everywhere else, honestly).

The first was last May; my boyfriend was visiting (he lives in Canada) and prior to his flying back home we decided to go out to the mountains to try to catch the expected meteor shower and do a sunrise hike. So I did a LITTLE research and we decided on Mount Pilchuck as our destination. I checked WTA.org for some info on the hike and it sounded pretty easy (begin poor-preparation/bad decisions here) based on the main entry for the hike (I still think this needs to be changed, this is NOT a leisurely stroll through a hill of wildflowers), but I failed to read any of the recent trail reports. Fortunately, we overslept our morning alarm and didn’t make it to the trailhead until around 5:00 am, missing the meteor shower – in the long run, a very good thing.

We both were wearing running shoes and what probably equated to cold weather running gear. I’m 99% sure there was a decent amount of cotton involved. We carried daypacks stashed with TONS of water (thankfully), snacks, breakfast for the lookout, and a blanket in case it was cold (good thinking). What we planned on being about an hour/hour and a half summit was more like three. Not even halfway up the trail we hit snow, and lots of it. The remainder of our ascent was a slippery, slidey, postholey, foot-soaky, exhausting laugh-fest. We had no traction and no poles, aside from a giant walking stick my boyfriend had fashioned out of a fallen branch for me. We managed to scramble up narrow, rotten sections of the snow-covered trail by clinging to tree branches; my boyfriend postholed only about a million times. When we finally reached the summit, we rewarded ourselves with coffee, breakfast, and a nap in the sun.

This sun, however, only proceeded to make the snow conditions worse and snow bridges collapsed over (what I know now after returning in snow-free conditions) over a trail that is essentially a pile of boulders. We warned ascending hikers we passed on our way down of the deteriorating conditions, and people passed us in droves. Sadly, as we would later find out, one of these hikers would fall down a tree well, breaking his leg and necessitating an emergency rescue. On a lighter note, we learned the art of glissading from a group of high schoolers (we had no idea this was a thing at that point), without the use of an ice axe (please, just don’t). We made it down in one piece, laughing about the whole experience, exhausted, and thankful to be safe.

This served as the beginning of my education in outdoor safety and preparedness, proper gear, and trip planning. It also was the first time I summited a mountain in the snow – I don’t care if it’s little, it was HUGE for me – and was truly a testament to how far I’d come in battling my arthritis. I went out the next day and bought hiking poles (a total game-changer for my knees that still aren’t 100% functional), followed by boots a few weeks later. After that, my hiking and my confidence took off, and I haven’t looked back since. However, that tough little pile of rocks will always hold a very special place in my heart. 

My second favorite experience occurred just this May, a fitting anniversary to the Mount Pilchuck adventure. A friend invited me to join her on her Mt. St. Helens permit, and I agreed but let her know my hesitance since it would dominate any gain I’d previously done and my work and school schedule would limit my training to pretty much only the gym. But train I did, and come summit day I felt moderately prepared but determined to summit that volcano, even if it took me all day. We hit the trail at 3:45 am and hit snow a few hundred feet from the trailhead. The speed difference between the faster members of the group (four of whom are Mountaineers Alpine course members, beginner and intermediate) became quickly apparent. We decided early on to split into two group of 4, and my group consisted of a friend I had hiked and climbed with before, and two people I had only vaguely interacted with online. Man, was I lucky. Helens is no joke. Especially when you’re 5’1” with disproportionately short legs. From the beginning I vowed to summit and I was determined to do so no matter what (as long as it was safe to do so, just no giving up because I was sore or tired). We took a break at the weather station about halfway up for a snack, then pushed on. The weather switched from calm and sunny to vicious, biting wind every few minutes. And the whole way, one of these near-strangers encouraged and supported me. Turns out this girl literally runs up mountains and basically walked up Helens without traction (besides mountaineering boots) or poles. I was panting and burning and aching the whole way, and honestly, feeling slow and incredibly self-conscious about it. I hate being that person in the back of the pack. Always. So this mountain angel and I get to talking (between panting breaths) and it comes out that I have arthritis. Her response? “You have arthritis and you’re climbing a volcano? That’s amazing! Give yourself a little more credit!” Additional words of encouragement basically summed up this one idea: If you’re too busy killing yourself trying to keep up with others and you don’t even get to enjoy your climb, what’s the point? Go your own pace, enjoy your hike/climb, and be confident and proud of your own abilities because if you’re getting outside and working your way up mountains, that’s pretty incredible in itself.

Taryn near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington (photo by Skye Stoury).

Taryn near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington (photo by Skye Stoury).

That summit was brutal. My hip decided it wanted to scream at me and not really work with a little over a mile and more than 1,000 ft. of gain to go. I could only step up some giant’s kicked snow steps with my left leg and meet it with my right. I could see the rest of my team at the summit, and hear their voices encouraging me. I honestly had to try so hard to fight that self-conscious voice in my head, trying to make me feel slow or stupid for being the last one up. But I made it. And I stood atop a volcano after climbing 6,000 vertical feet (2,000 more than I’d ever done in one day) and took in the surrounding peaks and laughed and smiled with 7 amazing people (one of whom was wearing a Jedi cape. No joke). I then got a crash course in PROPER glissading and self-arrest technique and flew down a volcano, hitting 18 mph.

Taryn on the summit of Mt. Pilchuck.

Taryn on the summit of Mt. Pilchuck.

 Looking back, I realize I was summiting with a group of 6 mountaineers, 4 of them who regularly had to complete timed, weighted hauls up Mailbox Peak and Mount Si for their programs, and two more who basically run up and down mountains more frequently than they are on flat land, and another who runs, hikes, and climbs every day possible. And I basically kept up. I was safe, I summited a FREAKING VOLCANO, learned to glissade and self-arrest, got to dig my friend out of a hole when she punched through the snow near an outcropping of boulders, had a round-trip time that probably no one would brag about, and I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF. I made friends who I didn’t feel like I was holding back and who have taught me that I should be proud of my abilities, and putting those abilities into the perspective of someone who 7 years ago couldn’t even walk without pain isn’t an excuse, but pretty powerful motivation and a point of pride. And now, on to more summits and even more challenging adventures, because I know I can!

4.  What have you learned from the mountains that has had a "ripple" effect into other areas of your life?

With education, preparation, and discipline you can do just about anything you set your mind to. I believe we are our own worst enemies and often defeat ourselves before we even try because we think something may be too hard, too technical, require more knowledge or experience than we have, etc. But no one reached the top by jumping from the parking lot. Everyone who has succeeded in their goals started at square one and worked their way up over time. Don’t sell yourself short, you can do just about anything. Also, please never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Rather than saying you “can’t do something,” try “I don’t know how to yet” or “I’m working my way up to _____”. At 28, I returned to college to pursue a degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Physics, and plan on pursuing a Master’s in Genetics (or Materials Science/Engineering… we’ll see where the world takes me). The discipline I’ve learned through honing in my diet and self-care for arthritis (primarily in order to be active again) has carried over in all aspects of my life. I wouldn’t have been able to stand up off the couch and meander up Mt. St. Helens, but by implementing a training regimen in the months prior and putting in some form of work almost every day, I was able to summit without throwing in the towel short of my goal. This has taught me to be patient with my studies and to remind myself that I won’t be trying to learn Linear Algebra, Physical Chemistry, and Thermodynamics without first building a solid foundation that slowly prepares me for these much more challenging subjects. Just keep working toward that goal, and enjoy every step.

Additionally, the people I have met on the mountain have inspired me to be more kind and supportive toward those around me and have shown me how powerful words can be. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are valued, loved, and awesome just as we are. This support can be more powerful and influential than you think.

5.  What's your favorite piece of gear?

 I don’t have just one, but there are a few that I love and never (or almost never go without). The first are my Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots. From the moment I put them on they felt like heaven on my feet. I’ve worn them hiking, scrambling, trail running, and trudging up knee-deep snow on a volcano. The day I have to retire them will truly be a sad day. My big piece of advice: LOVE YOUR BOOTS.
 

Number two are my Black Diamond folding trekking poles. Trekking poles changed my life. My knees bear the majority of my arthritis pain and inflammation and will likely never function at 100%, so poles allow me to go farther and higher than I was able to before, and they especially help on descents when my knees are screaming and that little help can get me down a few thousand feet that would otherwise be nearly impossible. These specific poles are lightweight and fold up small enough to fit in the side pouch of my pack so when I don’t need them or decide to go scrambling, they don’t add much extra weight and don’t get caught or smashed on brush or rocks.

Item three is my fiercely-loved MSR Pocket Rocket mini stove. It’s tiny, lightweight, and I take it on almost every outdoor adventure (minus really hot and/or short day hikes). I’m a huge coffee lover and I burn through calories like crazy when I’m active (rough life, I know) so this little gadget goes with me so I can boil water for pour over coffee and meals on the go. The weight and size sacrifice is minimal and the performance is great for such a tiny little stove.

6.  What is your absolute passion in life?  What lights you up when you talk about it?

 Science. Space. Mountains. Wellness. I’m a huge science nerd and there isn’t much science-related that doesn’t cause me to instantly light up. In the last several years, advancements in scientific fields that benefit the earth and our future are high on that list – renewable energy, reusable materials, sustainable business practices, etc. Also, don’t get me talking about health and wellness, especially related to food and how we fuel our bodies because I probably won’t stop. My arthritis first became controlled through a dietary overhaul, and I’ve since become mildly obsessed with diet and learning all I can about food sensitivities and inflammatory foods. If you or anyone you know ever has questions in this realm (inflammation, diet, fatigue, joint pain) please feel free to ask! I love sharing all I’ve learned and helping people brainstorm ways to improve the way they feel and get more out of life (I’m not a coach or part of an MLM company or any of that, I’m not trying to sell anything, I just like to share).

I’m also in love with photography. My camera goes everywhere with me. 

7.  Do you have any DREAM trips that you'd love to take?  Where?  What would you do?  

I basically want to climb everything in Switzerland… and live like a hobbit in the mountains there.

More realistically, I’d love to backpack through The Andes – Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina.

10 years ago I spent a month and a half in Nepal and roughly a week trekking through the Annapurna mountain range, but more as a tourist than as a hiker/climber. I would love to return, carry my own gear, and undertake some lower-level climbs. Nepal and the Lower Mustang region (below Tibet) are quite possibly the most breathtaking, humbling, and inspiring lands I’ve ever encountered, and are filled with generous, genuine, kindhearted, hearty individuals whose lives are beyond comparison. If you ever have a chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

8.  Through the lens of your own life, if you could give one piece of advice to others, what would it be?

              You can do anything you put your mind to. Find what motivates you and use that to drive you towards your passions, toward greatness. Personally, I know I someday may not be able to walk very well, or run, or climb up mountains, or grip cracks on a wall, so I plan to do as man of those things as frequently as possible and to the most challenging degree I can while my body is still capable. Maybe someday modern science will cure rheumatoid arthritis (or maybe even I will!) but for now, I’m trying to live my life to the fullest and do everything I can while my wee little body lets me. If pain is guaranteed, I’d rather be in pain from climbing a mountain than from doing nothing.

              Additionally, everyone starts somewhere. I used to cling to handrails with all my weight just to traverse a flight of stairs, and I could barely write because my hand was in so much pain. I would drop things constantly because my grip wouldn’t respond when my brain told it to hold things. My hip would dislocate when I walked. Through discipline, awareness of my own body and wellness, education, and lots and lots of practice, I have built my body up to do more than I ever thought possible. You can honestly do more than you give yourself credit for; bodies are absolutely amazing if you just let them do what they were literally made to do. Practice, set goals, work toward them, and don’t forget to let yourself rest. Your body will only continue to grow more powerful and capable; focus on your own growth and goals rather than comparing yourself to others. Someone will always be faster, stronger, leaner, whatever – don’t get caught up in that comparison game, it’s toxic. Do what makes you strong, healthy, fulfilled, and most importantly, HAPPY.

Taryn, ascending Iodine Gulch.  Photo by Katherine Scheulen

Taryn, ascending Iodine Gulch.  Photo by Katherine Scheulen

The Adventure-preneur Diaries, Episode 1: How I am going to get paid to hike (and, in general, have adventures).

If you dare nothing,
then when the day is over,
nothing is all you will have gained.
— Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

I have a confession to make:  I've been playing it safe.  All along, I've known that I wasn't living up to my true potential, and I was too afraid to change my situation.  I was too afraid to leave my job: my fear of poverty and of being "irresponsible" was oppressively restricting.  I was worried about what people would say - that I'm being silly, ridiculous and reckless.  I was terrified of failure.  These fears kept me trapped in a very small, personal prison for nearly two decades. 

Two decades. 

Twenty years of wanting more, but not knowing how to get it.  Twenty years of wishing and dreaming, but believing that I was, "not lucky", and not destined for greatness - even though I felt within my soul that I could accomplish so much more.  Twenty years of believing that my dreams were foolish.  Twenty years of believing that I couldn't earn a living doing what I truly loved. 

Almost dying in a car accident woke me up.  It happened in a flash - one moment we were driving down the highway, the next second we were spinning across the road on a direct trajectory with a semi-tractor trailer.  In those few helpless seconds I felt three things:  disappointment, shame and sadness.  I wasn't done living yet, and I couldn't believe that my entire life was about to be snuffed out in the blink of an eye.  Suddenly, our vehicle came to a screeching halt, missing the truck by merely inches as it sped by going 60mph.  To this day, I have no idea how we didn't die - other than the incident itself was meant as a wake up call.  A message sent to me from the universe: Life is short ... are you doing your best?  Are you making the biggest difference that you can in this world?  Are you fulfilled?  That night, I cried - not only because of how scared I was, but because I knew that the answer to those questions was, "no". 

That's me. 

That's me. 

It was in that moment that I made a decision.  It didn't come easily - I had to claw, fight and climb my way through a thick bushwhack of limiting beliefs, fears and self-doubt.  Everyday was a struggle - in fact, it still is a struggle, but I felt a deep calling that this was my path.  I knew that I had to jump in with both feet - if I tried to dip my toe in the water, the universe would know that my faith in myself was not strong enough.  I became obsessed with my mission - absolutely driven, determined and hungry to make my dream a reality.  I had to be bold:  after nearly 15 years serving as both a Park Ranger and a Police Officer, I quit my job.  I invested money in myself and devoured personal development and training for my mindset.  In short, I created a new me.  It was not impulsive or easy, and yes, I am absolutely still terrified.  But I am more terrified of living a life below my potential.  I am more terrified of waking up in 10 years and wondering what I could have accomplished or how many lives I could have changed. 

New and improved version of me looks shockingly similar to the other version of me.

New and improved version of me looks shockingly similar to the other version of me.

I am an adventure-preneur.  That title didn't exist until I invented it, but it is my new job.  I am on a mission to change as many lives as possible using experiences in the wilderness as my guide and as a teacher for others.  I have massive dreams and a massive vision - so massive, in fact, that people have laughed at me.  People have rolled their eyes at me.  People think I'm crazy, and you know what?  That's awesome.  Because it means I'm on the right track. 

What's my mission?  I want to change lives - not just a few lives, but millions of lives.  I want to write a NY Times Best Selling book.  I want to be the Tony Robbins of the outdoor community.  I want to design a women's specific line of technical outdoor clothing and products.  I want to inspire people to incorporate adventure and the wilderness into their lives on a regular basis ... I want them to become stewards of the natural spaces that we have on this amazing planet ... and I want them to use those experiences in order to achieve a deeper sense of fulfillment in their own lives.  I want to create a Gear Library so that I can loan gear to aspiring hikers and backpackers, in order to pay homage to the people who helped me when I started on my journey.  I want to plan and host outdoor events so that people from around the world can not only experience the adventure of a lifetime, but also learn how to apply those lessons to, "normal life".  And finally (and most importantly), I want to be a good wife to my husband and a good sister and daughter to my two sisters and parents, and a good friend to my friends. 

I'm writing these Adventure-preneur Diaries to document my progress: my triumphs, my success, my joys, my failures, my sadness, my struggles, my worries.  I want to share the good and the bad.  I want to show exactly what this path of entrepreneurship means and what it looks like.  Along the way, the mountains will be my guide:  reminding me of my strength, urging me to walk towards my fears, challenging me to push myself and humbling me at all times. 

As I sit and write this post, I am overwhelmed by the gratitude that I feel towards the people who have supported me, encouraged me, and cheered me on thus far in my journey.  I am about to embark on what will likely be one of the most exciting adventures of my life.  I don't know exactly how to get where I'm going, but I can see the summit of the peak in my mind - I've been dreaming about this my entire life, and for the first time, I know that it is real.  For nearly two decades, the theme of my life has been, "Toward the Mountaintop Inch by Inch".  Each moment in my life, each lesson, each stumble has been guiding me on this path.  It's time to leave the comfort of the trailhead and do what I do best: start climbing. 

Whereby I introduce myself to the world as an adventure-preneur. And, of course, cry like a baby.

Inspiring Adventurer Ep. 2: Diana Dunnell

The beginning is always today.
— Mary Shelley

Have you ever met somebody and immediately had the sense that your life was about to be forever changed?  That was the feeling that I felt when my friend Diana Dunnell first e-mailed me.  We had never met in person - she only "knew" me via my blog, and one day - on August 11, 2016 to be precise - she decided to send me an e-mail with a few questions about fitness and healthy eating.  I can't describe what I felt that day - only that I knew she had been placed in my life for a very important reason.  

Over the past year, I've had the great fortune to call Diana my friend.  We have hiked together and spent hours chatting.  I've told her my crazy dreams and ambitions, which, at the time, I felt ridiculous revealing to most people (thankfully she has confirmed what I already knew, that I am, indeed, nuts).  My husband and I were even fortunate enough to secure an invitation to her infamous, "Pie Night" (yes - it is as good as it sounds - over 20 pies of all different flavors were consumed).  And, in a true twist of serendipitous fate, Diana introduced me to another woman who would become a transformational mentor in my career and personal life. 

Maybe Diana doesn't realize all of this - and I know that I had to do a lot of work to get to where I am now - but her one simple e-mail message to me on August 11, 2016 set about a chain reaction of events that ultimately snapped me out of a 20 year fog and helped me re-awaken my hibernating creativity.  While she might feel partly responsible for, "creating a monster", the level of gratitude that I feel towards her for the gift that she has given me is something that I cannot put into words.  She was able to see something in me that, at the time, I was unable to see in myself.  I am so thankful for our continued friendship, and I am so honored to share her as this week's TTMIBI (Toward the Mountaintop Inch by Inch) Inspiring Adventurer.  

Me, Aaron and Diana at Perry Creek Meadows.  

Me, Aaron and Diana at Perry Creek Meadows.  

1. Tell us a little bit about you and your hiking/outdoor interests!

 I was raised in Seattle, but was not part of a ‘hiking’ family.  My first opportunity to go backpacking was with my church’s high school youth group.  You could go the summer before you entered 9th grade.  I couldn’t wait!  That summer could not happen fast enough for me.  We would go for a week long trip each summer.  This was the mid 70’s.  (That’s right, there’s dirt younger than me.)  We hiked with rental backpacks from REI, leather hiking boots, and… wait for it….Levi’s!!  It was heaven and I loved being out for a week at a time.  Because of these backpacking trips, I decided to major in forestry.  Eventually I did work as a ‘grunt’ on some inventory and cruising crews for the Forest Service,  but, ironically, I did not do much hiking in those years.  Unless you count hiking around in the woods five days a week, measuring and marking trees.  Forestry jobs became scarce, so my husband and I left Montana, and headed back to Washington, with one kid already.  Over time, we added two more to that, and I found it very hard to get out hiking and backpacking with three kids.  We did do a little, so at least our kids got a taste of it.  Then in 2009, with my boys involved in Boy Scouts, the Venturing Crew (a BSA affiliated group for boys and girls 14 to 20) that was associated with the troop was forming and they needed a female leader. That turned out to be me.  But the funny thing was, I had somehow over the years of raising kids and working, managed to get pretty out of shape.  This group was going somewhere every month, be it hiking, snowshoeing, rafting, something.  So I had to start training.  I just did things at home - youtube videos, lifting weights I had purchased at Goodwill, and - this proved to be the thing that helped the most - doing set after set of the stairs at Golden Gardens in Ballard.  It worked.  I got in decent shape, and made it to the top of Mt. Adams in August of 2009. 

Savasana on the summit of Mt. Adams.  

Savasana on the summit of Mt. Adams.  

Fast forward to today, and I am sort of back at square one.  I no longer help with the venturing crew, so I’m not getting out as much as I would like.  And I broke my ankle this past February while skiing.  My recovery has been much slower than I had anticipated.  It’s going to be a ‘take it easy’ summer, but I hope to get back into the swing of things and by next summer be in ‘hiking’ shape again.  

For better or worse, my favorite kind of hike involves going up, up, up.  I want to be up high, so I can see all around.  I don’t necessarily like steep trails, but they get me where I want to be.  

2. What's your favorite trail food?

Snickers.  (Sorry, Anastasia!)  But only if I’ve been hiking up some brutal trail for miles and miles.  Then I feel I deserve a Snickers.  If it’s not a kick-your-rear hike, then I always have a couple Lemon Bumble Bars in my pack.  Those things are the bomb and give me the energy I need to keep going.  (I once hiked 6 miles in Hells Canyon having only had a cup of coffee, a Bumble Bar and a lot of water.)  

3.  What's your favorite outdoor experience?  

That’s a tough one because I have a lot of ‘favorites’.  Standing on the summit of Adams, having had to work pretty hard to get in shape to make it up there at the age of 48, definitely gave me a sense of achievement.  The beauty of places like Sahale Arm is very special.  I once went backpacking in the mountains north of Pemberton, BC, and the sheer ruggedness of the area was jaw dropping.  And watching shooting stars out in the wilderness at night never gets old.  There’s always something about each hike I go on that makes it my favorite… at least until the next time I go out.  

On the Sahale Arm, North Cascades.  

On the Sahale Arm, North Cascades.  

4.  What have you learned from the mountains that has had a "ripple" effect into other areas of your life?

 I really feel like I didn’t get into backpacking and hiking until about 8 years ago.  I had hiked before that, but trips were few and far between, very sporadic.  So starting to get back into this in my late 40’s - and now I’m 56 - is a bit harder.  But definitely doable.  So if getting back into hiking is doable, other things must be doable as well, no?  Yes, they are!  I started going to Bikram yoga.  Hard, but doable.  I took up a new musical instrument.  I guess I feel a bit more confident in my abilities.  But that being said, I also feel that being out in the mountains has also taught me that I am not in charge.  Nature is.  Humans are funny.  We like to think that we’re all that and a bag of chips.  But really we’re not.  When I’m out in the vast wilderness, I realize how small I am.  And I’m okay with that.  It’s comforting to know that I’m not 'large and in charge'. I’m a very, very tiny part of the universe, not the center of it.  

5.  What's your favorite piece of gear?

Favorite piece of gear is one I haven’t had the chance to try out yet.  At least not on the trail.  In the mid 70’s, the stove to use was a Svea 123, a classic backpacking stove from Sweden.  I didn’t own one, but they were what we used on those week long backpacking trips.  Several years ago, I found one at a garage sale.  The woman practically gave it to me, telling me she didn’t think it worked.  But that’s the thing about a Svea, you can take the whole thing apart and put it back together, and it should work.  A friend helped me take it apart and we put it back together, and sure enough, it works!  I can’t wait to take it backpacking!    

Testing out the Svea stove.  

Testing out the Svea stove.  

6.  What is your absolute passion in life?  What lights you up when you talk about it?

I’m not sure if I can say I have an absolute passion in life.  I’m more of a generalist.  Which I’m grateful to be.  I like trying new things, and I’m willing to give most things at least a shot before I write them off.  I will say that I really love looking at maps and planning hiking trips.  But I also try to enjoy the trip while I’m out there.  I like to soak up the views, breathe that fresh mountain air and drink that cold, cold water.  In other words, I try to be present in the moment, especially when I’m out hiking.  

7.  Do you have any DREAM trips that you'd love to take?  Where?  What would you do?  

I use to want to hike the entire PCT, but after being the support person for two of my friends who hiked it two years ago, I’m not sure if I want to do it.  (I mailed all their resupply boxes, bought new gear and shipped it, tracked their progress, met them twice, etc.)  Maybe someday.  Right now, I guess my dream trip would be a backpacking trip longer than 4 days.  I haven’t done a trip of much length in a long, long time.  And a non-hiking dream trip is in the works for next winter.  It involves a sandy beach, drinks with little umbrellas in them, and a lot of time spent studying the back of my eye lids.  

One of Diana's favorite hikes - the view from Perry Creek Meadows.  

One of Diana's favorite hikes - the view from Perry Creek Meadows.  

8.  Through the lens of your own life, if you could give one piece of advice to others, what would it be?

I saw a quote from Teddy Roosevelt not too long ago:  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  So very true.  In this age of Facebook and instagram, it’s easy to get caught up in making sure everyone sees what you did last weekend, what you ate, etc.  Why?  Is that important? And if it is important, why is it important?  Roosevelt isn’t just saying don’t compare yourself with others, he’s saying that comparing yourself to others robs you of your joy.  Don’t even compare yourself with yourself.  Don’t be discouraged that your 50 year old body can’t do what your 30 year old body did.  Be grateful for your 50 year old body.     

Inspiring Adventurer: Angie Regensburg

This above all, to thine own self be true.
— William Shakespeare

One of the coolest things about being a part of an online community of adventurers is that I get to meet the most amazing people.  I wrote a message to friend the other day and these were my exact words in the message:

It's funny, but I used to hate social media - I retreated from it for so long, but I am so grateful for it now and for the opportunity to connect with such amazing people.  I know I'm corny, but sometimes I think about all the people in our TTMIBI (Toward the Mountaintop Inch by Inch) group, and it makes me so emotional and grateful that my life is blessed with knowing that such beautiful people exist in the world. 

As a part of our group, I like to feature one member per week and share their unique story and have them talk about their personal relationship with the wilderness.  This practice not only helps to build camaraderie in the group, but it also serves as an incredible way to connect with and be inspired by other like-minded adventure-loving people. 

So, without further adieu, I am so honored to share the story of Angie Regensburg on my blog.  She is a beautiful, adventurous woman who has truly inspired me - last week she completed her 45th hike of 2017, and I know that she isn't slowing down anytime soon. 

1. Tell us a little bit about you and your hiking/outdoor interests!

I began hiking when I was about five. I remember climbing to the top of a mountain with my dad and reaching the summit and there was snow and glorious views as we sat and he shared sips of his hot coffee and sandwiches with me.  Sundays were filled with outdoor family adventures and summers were filled with long backpacking trips to alpine lakes.  

As an adult, I continued to hike the occasional summer hike and explore the outdoors locally and beyond.  I found there were no resources in my area for places to explore outdoors so I wrote a book called "Explore Olympia, Tumwater and Lacey" about the area surrounding our state capital to encourage others to also get out more and explore. 

Over the last few years, I have been hiking more, attending more classes and acquiring better gear. In an effort to push myself to overcome some challenges in life, I set a goal for myself in 2016 to hike more and feel better.  I set a goal of 141 miles which seemed high but within reach.  I met and passed the goal and hiked 213 miles last year.  This year I increased my goal to 242 and also added a goal to try to expand my hiking adventures to locations I have never been.  Currently we are in July and I have tracked 280 miles over 45 hikes!  Each mile hike I feel stronger - mind, body and soul!

Besides hiking, I love being at the beach - exploring tide pools, kayaking in the sound or in lakes, nature painting and photography, researching and identifying plants in the forests and so much more.

You can follow my adventures on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/naturegirlangie

2.  Favorite trail food?

I love to eat.  I like having first breakfast at home then second breakfast on the trail and maybe a first and second lunch as well.  I have a dehydrator that I have been playing with and creating some real food for the trail.  Recently I made a meal with quinoa, black beans, veggies, chicken and some spices and salsa.  I also love olives and avocados on the trail.  I love the extra healthy fat for fuel.

3.  Favorite outdoor experience?

Last summer I backpacked into lower Lena Lake and got up early in the morning to day hike to upper Lena Lake.  I climbed the first small hill from the lower camp to the rock that overlooks the lower lake.  as I stood there watching the light morning fog touching the lake, I turned around and caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and I was surprised that someone else would be up there so early on the trail.  Then I realized it was a mountain goat.  I had just been talking about mountain goats on the hike up and how much I love them. My first thoughts were the cliff to my back side and stories that they can be aggressive.  It calmly made it's way to my right, glancing at me and not seeming to be bothered by my presence.  Then a  baby mountain goat comes skipping up to mom and mom pauses and the baby nurses and they look at me and both walk a bit more then nurse again and then they both walk over the cliff.  The calm of the morning, birds chirping, mountain goats.  It was so peaceful and thankful for this moment.  I have been to Lena Lake many times each year and I have never seen a mountain goat there.  

4.  What have you learned from the mountains that has had a "ripple" effect into other areas of your life?

I have learned to be more mindful.  When I have some negative self talk going on when things get hard, I pause and I think about my senses.  I take note of what I see, hear, feel, taste, smell... and it brings me back to the present moment so I can enjoy more of what is around me on the entire journey rather than being too focused on the end goal / summit.  I think about the positives and how blessed I am in this moment to be here. This works well for life too - rather than wishing for the weekend, focusing on this moment and everything good about it is more rewarding.

I have also learned how to better manage fear of the unknown and anxiety that goes along with it.  The more I explore new places, the more comfortable I am with the unknown.  Life is full of unknown. 

5.  Favorite piece of gear?

This is a hard question because there are so many... Probably my MSR gravity filter for water, my microspikes because they got me out on the snow and ice this year, my nalgenes that are covered in stickers and probably my newest "gear" which is a small watercolor paint set which I am learning to use while I am backpacking.

6.  What is your absolute passion in life?  What lights you up when you talk about it?

Kindness, compassion and adventure.  Life itself.

7.  Do you have any DREAM trips that you'd love to take?  Where?  What would you do?  

I have been checking off a lot of them here in Washington this year!  I would love to hike Mount Kilimanjaro.  My dad hiked it in 2011 with Parkinson's disease with a group that had Parkinson's and MS and the group was about overcoming the odds.  He inspired me to make a shift in my own life back then and continues to inspire me today.  Doesn't matter what life throws at you - own it, get back up and do what brings you joy!  

I also want to hike the Wonderland Trail and the El Camino Santiago trail in Spain. 

8.  Through the lens of your own life, if you could give one piece of advice to others, what would it be?

Live life your life today.  Don't put life off until the weekend or retirement. None of us know if we get tomorrow.  Spend your time doing those things that light you up and bring you joy.