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.  

 

 

 

10 adventure-inspired ways to get unstuck in your life

You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.
— Isadora Duncan

I am so eternally grateful that I know what it is like to feel "stuck" in my life.  At the time, I hated it.  I was miserable, unfulfilled and sleep-walking through life on autopilot.  I made decisions based on what I thought I, "should do".  I didn't listen to my heart.  I recoiled in fear at the slightest tinge of discomfort and growth.  I retreated to "stucked-ness", even though every cell in my body was screaming for me to do something else.  As difficult as this was, it needed to happen.  Without this experience, I wouldn't have the slightest clue how to relate to others who feel the same way.  I also wouldn't have the skills to help others get "unstuck" from their own lives. 

So, what happened?  I had been tip-toeing around making changes in my life, when I very literally found myself in our truck, sliding sideways on black ice across a highway on a direct trajectory with a semi-tractor trailer.  I wasn't fearful, I wasn't panicked - I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was about to die.  In that moment, I felt three things:  disappointment, shame and sadness.  And then, without warning, our truck came to a screeching halt mere inches from colliding with the semi truck.  To this day, I have no idea why or how I am still alive.  I went home, and for the next two weeks I spent a lot of time crying: crying about what could have happened, crying for joy that I was still alive, and crying because I knew in my heart that I absolutely was not living up to my potential in life.  

I am so incredibly lucky that I was in that near-tragic car crash.  When you have a life-changing experience like that, you can choose to see it as a mere coincidence - something that happened "to you", or you can choose to see it as a miracle - something that happened "for you".  Obviously, I chose the latter. 

This is going to sound a little bit freaky, but a few weeks after the near-crash, I was meditating in my bedroom and I very clearly heard a voice say, simply, "The power of the one."  Startled, I jumped up from my meditation - was I dreaming?  Imagining things?  I thought I might be going crazy, but I knew that I had heard a voice.  I calmed myself down and closed my eyes again.  In that moment, I saw all of my potential swirling around me, lifting me up into the sky.  I saw the millions of people in the world that I am going to impact and change.  I saw every little piece of my life that is going to unfold.  It was the most scary, most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life - and the only thing more terrifying to me than seeing such an exciting vision, is not living in to that vision and making the difference that I know I was placed on this planet to make.  As I contemplated, "the power of the one", I realized what it meant:  the power to do anything, be anything, change anything lies within every single one of us - we only have to have the courage to dig deep and release it to the world. 

Please, do not have a near-fatal car wreck on your journey to becoming unstuck in life.  While I am blessed by that incredible experience, it was absolutely heart-wrenching.  The good news is that you can have a breakthrough moment at any point in your life.  You can have one right now if you want to - it is literally a conscious choice.  With that being said, I am going to give you some concrete, tangible tips that will help you on your own path.

1.  Visualize.  I absolutely cannot stress the importance of visualization in your own transformation.  If you want something specific (i.e. to lose weight, have a new job, build your dream house, climb a mountain, etc...) you absolutely MUST visualize exactly what you want.  What do I mean by visualize?  I mean, sit down, close your eyes and see it.  See exactly what you want like it is real.  Taste it.  Feel it.  Know that this reality is available to you.  Talk about it in the present tense - don't just wish for it.  Write down exactly what you want and read it/obsess about it every single day.  Create a vision board.  When I first started on my path, I did crazy things like taking photographs of myself in front of my dream house.  I am not kidding about being obsessive (in a healthy way, of course!) - you have to want this so badly that you have a constant hunger in the pit ofyour stomach.  It needs to be the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to sleep.  Live it.  Eat it.  Breathe it.   This is your new reality, and you are going to stop at nothing until you make it happen.

2.  Meditate.  This sounds like a lot of "woo", but it doesn't have to be.  We live in a technology-based society, where it is so stupidly easy to "compare and despair".  It is so difficult to see other people who are successful and/or achieving goals that you want for yourself and to convince yourself that, "somebody has already done it" or "I'm not good enough."  You are good enough.  You do deserve it.  Meditation will help you connect with your heart and will help you connect with the energy in the universe that places you into a state of, "flow" - that magical state of mind where all things are possible (before your brain starts trying to convince you otherwise).  I love using guided meditations - Meditation Studio and Insight Timer are two of my favorite apps for meditation.  Meditation is as much of a priority to me as eating and drinking water - do not skip a day

One of my favorite ways to meditate is to set a meditation timer and to close my eyes and visualize the feeling of being on the summit of a mountain (for me, I always imagine being on the summit of Glacier Peak).  You can do this with any of your favorite hiking/climbing locales - pick a place that is special to you, and really see yourself in that place.  Focus on your breath, and when your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to your breath, over and over again. 

Another fun option, if you are feeling a little bit adventurous, is to try something like a sound bath.  My friend Kate Towell is an Ayurvedic Coach and Yogi, and Aaron and I went to one of her healing sound baths at Twist Yoga in Edmonds, Washington.  It was incredible.  I had never experienced anything like a sound bath before, and I highly recommend it. 

If I can meditate in a grass field, you can too.  Hint:  it doesn't even need to be in a field.

If I can meditate in a grass field, you can too.  Hint:  it doesn't even need to be in a field.

3.  Move.  You absolutely need to move your body and exercise.  It doesn't have to be an epic hike or an intense weight-lifting session.  Even a walk will do!  Just make it a priority, and do it.  It will clear your mind and invigorate your body.

4.  Nourish.  Putting junk into our bodies might temporarily feel good, but in the long run, it's going to hurt.  I truly believe in the power of positive, daily compounding actions.  So, eating cake today won't kill you ... but eating cake everyday for the next 10 years might.  When your body is nourished properly, your brain will function properly.  I cannot stress the importance of good, sustainable nutrition (not "dieting").  Hire a nutrition coach and figure out what works for you, but get your nutrition under control.  Your life, literally, depends on it.   

5.  Sleep.  For two years, I neglected my sleep.  I worked night shift, and I woke up ridiculously early in the morning to try and fit in my gym workouts.  What I didn't realize is that getting 4 hours of sleep per night was completely counter-acting any progress that I was making at the gym.  When you don't sleep, your cortisol levels go up, which hurts your health in a big way.  When you make your sleep a priority, you will start thinking more clearly and you will be able to make better decisions, be more creative, and, in general, live a happier life (seriously, just prioritizing my sleep completely changed my life).

6.  Believe.  You have to believe in yourself.  This is a really hard one, because when you start on a path to follow your dreams or change your life, it is going to make other people uncomfortable.  Listen to your heart and believe that you deserve this.  When I first started, I recited affirmations to myself over and over again.  In particular, I said, "I believe in myself.  I am enough.  I do not compare and despair".  Over.  And over.  And over again.  You are about to embark on something that you have never done before - so, chances are, you have no idea how to do it.  Do not let that stop you.  You can absolutely do anything that you put your mind to.

This is exactly how you will feel about yourself when you aren't in the compare and despair abyss.

This is exactly how you will feel about yourself when you aren't in the compare and despair abyss.

7.  Inch by inch.  If you've been following me for more than 10 seconds, you know that "Toward the Mountaintop Inch By Inch" is the theme of my life.  As you embark on this new trail in your life, be gentle on yourself, but keep moving.  If I had a dollar for every time that I had a great idea or wanted to follow my dreams and never actually did anything about it, I'd be a gazillionaire - I'm sure you can relate to that feeling too.  Like I said before, you don't need to know all the steps that you are going to take to get where you are going - all you have to do is take the first one.  Once you take the first step, the next one will reveal itself to you.  Just keep taking, "right-feeling" steps - and be open for new opportunities that might present themselves to you in new or unexpected ways.  A mountain is not climbed in one giant leap - it is climbed in thousands upon thousands of tiny steps.  Love yourself through the process, and just keep taking steps.

Trust me on this:  every step matters.  We are so good at not giving ourselves a chance and quitting before we even have the opportunity to succeed.  We get so easily frustrated with not reaching our goal immediately.  It took you millions of steps to get where you are right now, and it is going to take millions more steps to get where you are going.  With your vision in mind, just keep taking steps. 

Every step matters, trust me. 

Every step matters, trust me. 

8.  Give.  We live on the most amazing, abundant planet.  Our world is filled with the most incredible, kind and loving people.  If you have the opportunity to give to others, take it.  It doesn't have to be much:  a smile, a compliment, a coffee, or just a helping hand.  We are all in this together, and connecting with other human beings is the most deeply rewarding act of love on the planet.  As you gain more abundance and give more, more beauty, positivity and joy will flow to you in ways that you cannot even imagine. 

9.  Focus.  What you focus on you find.  Here's a good litmus test:  go read your last 10 Facebook status posts.  Are they negative?  Are you complaining a lot?  Or, are they positive?  Inspirational?  Think about what energy you are giving off to the world.  What you give to the world is what you are going to get back.  What you focus on in life, is what you will create.  If you are shocked to discover that you are a slightly negative person, try changing it up for a few days: see what happens when you only focus on positivity.  What new opportunities arise in your life? 

Another helpful tip:  Do not watch the news.  You are on a mission in this world to do good, be good and spread good.  This is not about being indifferent - it is about protecting yourself so that you can be your best self and make the most impact.  Being negative and propogating fear-mongering and negativity does not help anybody else, including you.  Sharing negativity that you have no control over serves no purpose, other than to attract more negativity to you. 

10.  Outside.  When in doubt, go out.  Get outside - even if it means sitting on your back porch and feeling the sun on your face.  The wilderness has the magically ability to give us the reality check that we need at exactly the right time.  Feeling a bit too arrogant?  It will put you in your place. Lacking confidence?  Climbing a mountain will empower you.  Don't use the wilderness as mere recreation time - look for the lessons that it has to offer, and then try applying them to areas of your personal life that you want to improve. 

What other tips do you have for getting "unstuck" in life?  Any advice to share with others?  What has worked/not worked for you? 

 

How to make (the best) superfoods coffee for hiking!

I am a complete and utter coffee snob.  I am the person who travels with a French press, because I refuse to drink, "sub par" coffee.   

What am I drinking right now??  Currently, I'm sipping on J5 Emperor's Espresso Blend

J5 Coffee is THE MOST ADORABLE little coffee shop in Leavenworth, Washington.  It is owned locally by a husband and wife, who also roast their own coffee.  My husband and I found this spot on our last trip to the east side of the mountains, and it is amazing.  I 100% recommend an Americano with almond milk + some of the 5 Sparrows brand white chocolate blended in.  Pretty much the best coffee drink that I have ever experienced. 

How do I make my coffee?  Lately, I have been making drip coffee in my Ninja coffee station, but I also switch it up between my French Press and my Chemex.  My husband got me a Rancilio burr grinder as an extremely generous gift as well.  Did you know that you can spend THOUSANDS of dollars on burr grinders for coffee?  When I move into my dream house in a few years (because, it's going to happen), my plan is to purchase a commercial espresso machine so that I can feed my obsession even more. 

But I digress... let's get to the coffee. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

My coffee evolution has gone something like this:

A little bit of coffee with my creamer and sugar.... to 6 pumps of vanilla and a quart of milk and a splash of coffee + foam... to americano with about 1/2 cup of half-n-half... to coconut milk and coffee ... to ghee and coffee ... to black coffee... and now, finally, to superfoods hiking coffee.  I really feel that this iteration of the progression is essentially the ultimate combination of my entire coffee drinking life - with the added benefit that it supports my recreation time in a somewhat productive manner (or at least I pretend that it does).  

And so, I bring you my recipe for Superfoods Hiking Coffee - which is basically a dumbed down version of Bulletproof Coffee - but without the ultra-excessive price tag, and significantly less fat, and quite a bit less aloofness.  

Yes, there is a cat on my slippers.  

Yes, there is a cat on my slippers.  

The Laird superfoods creamer is a brand that I found online.  If you look for them on Amazon, you will notice that the price is almost embarassingly high - I would definitely not recommend purchasing it on Amazon.  You can get it much cheaper through Thrive market online or through their own website.  

My favorite brand of ghee is 4th and Heart Vanilla Bean infused ghee.  Try it, and I promise you will not be disappointed.  It is also completely decadent on pancakes.  And yes, I'm a pancake snob too ... if you are also a pancake snob, I highly recommend Birchbenders Micro Pancakery.  They win an award in my book, simply for calling themselves a "Micro Pancakery". 

How do I use this coffee?  Honestly, the "hiking coffee" is a little bit of a misnomer, because I drink it almost every day - it's really that creamy and delicious.  BUT, it has a special place in my heart for a pre-hike beverage ... it's warm, creamy and nutritious, plus, caffeine.  Is there any other way to start a hike?  

One quick note - blending in a blender is absolutely CRITICAL to maximize the creamy, frothy, foamy deliciousness factor.  I HIGHLY recommend blending it.  If you stir it, you run the risk of clumps - consider yourself warned.  

Let me know if you try it and what you think!  

Simple DIY food ideas for an overnight hike.

You better cut the pizza in four pieces,
because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
— Yogi Berra

Packing for an overnight trip can be intimidating.  When I first started backpacking, I was a compulsive over-estimator of how much food I actually needed to bring.  I packed my food out of fear, and I was usually dismayed when I returned to the trailhead carrying an extra 2-3lbs of food that I didn't need.  

After nearly two decades of climbing and hiking and backpacking, I'd like to think that I FINALLY know what I'm doing - although one of my favorite parts of this sport is that my knowledge is continually improving and evolving.  

Packing for a simple overnight doesn't have to be difficult or overwhelming, and you most certainly don't have to eat disgusting food.  I try to bring as much "real food" (i.e. non freeze-dried) as possible for day 1, even though it is slightly heavier - I feel like the nutritional value of eating a banana, or an apple or a sandwich far outweighs the disadvantage of carrying a little bit of extra weight (although if I'm going for a SUPER fast/light ascent, I would most likely stick to things like protein bars, etc...).  

Over the past few months, I've been taking a nutrition course that is specifically designed to cover the essentials of sport and exercise nutrition.  Naturally, my particular interest is in nutrition for endurance athletes like mountain climbers and hikers.  During this process, I've upped my carbohydrate intake significantly in order to fuel my body for optimal performance on the mountain.  While I used to follow a more, "paleo" lifestyle, I have found that an increase in carbohydrates has DRASTICALLY improved my performance.  I also consume a relatively high (for my size) quantity of protein - I aim for around 122g per day.  I have also found that consuming the protein really reduces the length of my recovery time.

Here is my food haul for a recent overnight hike:

For context, this hike was approximately 6 miles and 5000' elevation gain on day one, and about the same (except descending) on day 2.  

Food for day 1:

Pre-hike:  Stopped at 5b's Bakery in Concrete, Washington for a breakfast sandwich and a blueberry muffin.  5b's is a dedicated gluten free bakery and the food is BEYOND delicious.  Even if you aren't gluten free, I highly recommend it - it is 100% worth the stop (note: they are closed on Tuesday).  

Food for day 2:

Backpacking dinners/hot breakfasts tip:

I really like to keep it simple, and I usually make my own backpacking meals and place them in a quart sized ziploc freezer bag.  You can pour boiling water into a freezer bag, and it won't pop or spill - I've been doing this for YEARS, and I have never once had an incident.  I use a Big Sky International insulated food cozy to keep my food warm while it is re-hydrating, but if you didn't want to carry a cozy, you could place it into a hat or a jacket.

One other tip:  pick up a long handled spoon at REI... not only are they lightweight, but they prevent your hands from getting dirty when you are scraping for the last bits of food at the bottom of your freezer bag!  

If you don't feel like making your own backpacking dinners, I highly recommend the Good to Go brand of backpacking food.  Their Thai Curry is good enough that I would eat it at home - seriously, it's that delicious.  I like to bring freeze dried chicken along and add in some extra rice for more carbohydrates (I usually empty the package into a quart freezer bag, just so that I'm not carrying the heavier bag that it comes in).  I am also a huge fan of Packit Gourmet Meals - their Austintacious Tortilla Soup is one of my all time favorite backpacking meals.  With the Packit Gourmet meals, I remove all of the extra baggies and paper instructional pamphlets.  I use a sharpie to write the instructions (i.e. 1.5 cups of boiling water) on the bag so that I'm not carrying excess garbage. 

Not a very exciting photo, but this is how I bring my oatmeal on a backpacking trip - no need to pack a bowl!

Not a very exciting photo, but this is how I bring my oatmeal on a backpacking trip - no need to pack a bowl!

Minute rice re-hydrates really well, and the combo of the tuna + the "chickenish" soup is surprisingly good.  

Minute rice re-hydrates really well, and the combo of the tuna + the "chickenish" soup is surprisingly good.  

On the way home we stopped at Cascadian Farms in Marblemount for homemade ice cream (espresso + raspberry chocolate chip is my favorite combination!).

Remember: don't overpack food!  If you find yourself frantically throwing things into your food bag, I can almost guarantee that you are bringing too much with you.  Take the time to lay everything out onto the floor or a table so that you can visually picture exactly what you are bringing and when you are going to eat it.  In other words, have a plan.  I once went on a climbing trip with somebody who brought several pounds of chocolate covered espresso beans.  You will have a much more enjoyable trip if you are fueling yourself effectively and efficiently, and not carrying 10lbs of extra food. 

What are your favorite, easy backpacking meals?  Any additional food tips?

 

How to Find Adventure Everyday (a Guest Post by Laura Stevenson)

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.
— John Muir

I'm so excited to feature Laura Stevenson from Learning to Adventure today on the blog.  Laura is 28 and she lives in Northwest England (England, as in, the United Kingdom ... not New England).  Laura initially caught my eye because she writes about two things that inspire me:  adventures and life.  Her entire blog and personal philosophy is centered around finding adventures and surprises, even small ones, in everyday life. 

After writing back and forth a few times, we decided to do a blog-post swap.  I wrote a post for her blog about my own mountain-inspired philosophy on life, and she did the same for me.  I am so excited to share her story and to continue to follow her journey and adventures. 

So, without further adieu, here is Laura's post:

Laura in Yosemite. 

Laura in Yosemite. 

Adventure doesn’t have to be big. It’s not the size of the adventure that matters, it’s the impact it has on the adventurer that really counts.

You might think that’s quite a controversial statement to open with when guest blogging for a mountain-loving, wilderness-seeking adventure woman… so let me explain.

I’m Laura and I’ve recently decided to make my quest for adventure public on my new blog – Learning to Adventure. Without delving too far into history, a few months back I found I was really struggling with life and I wasn’t allowing myself to be happy. I was letting things get me down too much, struggling with loneliness and in all honesty I felt lost. One evening I sat down and gave myself a talking to. I had to turn things around and start enjoying life again. I started to think about what it was that really made me happy, and the answer was obvious. Adventure. I’m at my happiest when I’m adventuring.

Adventure is defined as “an unusual and exciting or daring experience”. Adventure is a state of mind. It’s the excitement of trying something new, getting out of your comfort zone, opening your mind and embracing the world around you. Adventure can be found all around us, but we have to be willing to let it in. But then there’s the catch… I work 45 hours a week in a job I truly love. That doesn’t leave me a lot of time for travelling to far flung places in search of new experiences. I try to travel as much as I can but it’s just not enough to quench my thirst for adventure. Why should we hold ourselves back to only live an extraordinary life once in a while? Why can’t we just look for the extraordinary in the every day?

That’s where everyday adventures come in and that’s why I’m focusing my energy on finding that feeling of adventure in a short space of time, in a place that’s not a million miles away. It’s hard to define what an Everyday Adventure looks like – because if the very meaning of adventure is something unusual or exciting – then surely the reality of that will be different for every single person.

All I can do is speak from my own mind and explain how I can make my world a little bit more exciting every day. If you’re in a similar position to me, maybe my adventures will strike a chord with you. If not, don’t be afraid to define your own Everyday Adventures. It doesn’t matter what you do. It matters that you do something. Something you’ll remember. Something that excites you. Something that will make you feel alive.

The first step to adventuring is to open your mind. You won’t be able to embrace adventure if you always see the bad in things, if you’re a glass half empty kind of person. You must first learn to see the good in life. See a rainstorm and be excited about dancing in it. Look at a long journey as a way to see the world around you. Embrace everything as a new opportunity for adventure.

That sense of adventure you get when you head to the airport for the holiday you’ve been dreaming of. The feeling of adventure when you head out on the road to discover a new place. The adventure of stumbling across something that makes you smile. Oh, and of course, the adventure of heading out into the wilderness in search of mountains.

So that’s what Learning to Adventure is all about. I’m going to find adventure in the everyday. I’m going in search of those little moments of discovery and happiness that take us by surprise. It’s my journey of self discovery and the search for happiness. All I can do is hope that my journey will inspire others to do the same, to find adventure in their everyday lives.

If my words have started you dreaming or imagining how you can live a more adventurous life, or if you’re just intrigued to see what it is I’m rambling on about and how you too can learn to adventure, please follow my journey on my blog – www.learnigntoadventure.co.uk – or on Instagram @learning_to_adventure.

 

 

 

 

9 reasons why you should hike with trekking poles

Confession:  I used to think that trekking poles were for old people.  I incorrectly assumed that the only reason that people needed poles for hiking was to compensate for their lack of fitness and ability.  I thought of them as, "crutches for the weak".  I saw myself as the ideal specimen of hiker:  the speed of a gazelle, with the stability and surefootedness of a mountain goat - surely I didn't need the help of overpriced carbon-fiber sticks. 

My favorite poles:  Black diamond alpine carbon cork

My favorite poles:  Black diamond alpine carbon cork

I was wrong. So, so wrong.

My very first backpacking trip was an ascent of Mt. Baker, a 10,700' glaciated volcano in Washington.  Nevermind the fact that climbing Baker as my first backpacking trip was idiotic - my lack of gear and preparation was pitiful.  My backpack was weighed down with clunky, barely passable gear... it was a chiropractor's dream and a lumbar-pain nightmare.  When I arrived at the trailhead to meet my group, I was stunned to see a few members carrying poles - particularly because these people were my co-workers at the time, and certainly did not fall into the, "old and frail" category.  I couldn't possibly understand why they would have wanted to bring poles with them - after all, didn't they realize that it looked dumb?  (author's note:  didn't I also realize that I looked dumb wearing shorts with tights underneath them, pink ski goggles and a jacket that didn't have a functioning zipper?)

On my first ever backpacking/mountaineering trip: carrying a stupidly heavy pack and no poles.

On my first ever backpacking/mountaineering trip: carrying a stupidly heavy pack and no poles.

A few miles into the hike, we arrived at a sketchy stream crossing.  I watched as my friend, using poles, confidently rock-hopped across the raging waters.  Then it was my turn.  I looked like a drunk version of Goofy attempting to rollerskate on an ice rink.  My friend handed me one of his poles - I took a deep breath, regained my balance and crossed the creek without incident.  I gulped hard and swallowed my pride. 

So, without further adieu, I bring you my 9 reasons why you absolutely need to hike with trekking poles.  Why 9 reasons?  Because everybody does a list of 10 things, and I wanted to be different.

1.  Poles reduce compressive forces on your knees by up to 25%.  If my own personal experience doesn't convince you, this should.  There are lots of actual scientific studies out there, so if you are a data person, just spend a few hours reading publications in sports journals.  My type of research?  My knees hurt SO MUCH LESS when I use poles.  I seriously cannot imagine descending without them.

2.  Hand swelling.  Have you ever been hiking (without poles) and noticed that your hands mysteriously swell?  Wedding band choking your ring finger?  I'm not sure how it works, but poles magically prevent swelling in my hands.

On steep ascents, poles are your best friend. 

On steep ascents, poles are your best friend. 

3.  Warding off rogue hikers or wild animals.  As a preventative measure, I like to smack my poles together while I'm walking if I think that I'm in the near-vicinity of a bear.  I've also waved my poles (read: frantically waved my poles) to dissuade a bear from approaching me.  There is no research on this, but I think that poles probably make us look like strange pack-carrying aliens, which is most likely very intimidating for a bear or a cougar.  Also, my mom once saw a nude hiker.  I'm not adverse to nudity, but you can never be too careful, and crossing your poles into an "X" is the universal sign to nude hikers that you don't want them to approach.

Using poles to cautiously descend a tricky scrambly section. 

Using poles to cautiously descend a tricky scrambly section. 

4.  Balance.  We only have two legs (sorry), which makes things like rock hopping, stream crossings and walking on narrow ledges somewhat unstable.  When I climb big mountains, I always have my ice axe in one hand and a pole in the other (unless, of course, I need both hands to climb).  Poles help you feel 87% less tipsy (no, that isn't based on any science, it's just a number I made up). 

About to descend a steepish snow slope on Snowking Mountain in the North Cascades: pole in one hand, ice axe in the other. 

About to descend a steepish snow slope on Snowking Mountain in the North Cascades: pole in one hand, ice axe in the other. 

5.  You can use your poles to build or stabilize a shelter.  If you find yourself having to spend an unexpected night out, you can easily use your poles to help build a shelter - either with a trash bag, a bivy sack, or even with debris from the forest.  In addition, there are many ultra light shelters that actually depend on the poles for their primary support system in order to reduce the weight of carrying a set of tent poles (like this one from Hyperlite Mountain Gear). 

You can also use your poles as stakes while snow camping.  Asking for a friend:  If your tent almost blows off a cliff while snow camping, can you use your poles as stakes so that something like that never happens again?  Answer:  Why, yes you can.  Secure your poles to the four corners of your tent and dig down - bury the pole so that your small snow basket is at least 6 inches down, and then bury the end of the pole in the snow. 

Securing a tent with pole stakes. 

Securing a tent with pole stakes. 

6.  Laundry.  Nobody likes to do laundry, but you can use your poles to dry your dirty, disgusting, sweaty socks after a long day of hiking.  Plant your poles in the ground, remove your socks and turn them inside out and slide them down over the grips on your poles - bam!  Instant laundry rack for socks.  You can also string a piece of cord in between your poles and use them as a laundry line.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder:  a backcountry washcloth and a pee cloth blowing majestically in the wind. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder:  a backcountry washcloth and a pee cloth blowing majestically in the wind. 

7.  Poking at things.  During the spring when boulder fields are melting out, poles can be used to poke at potential snow bridges in order to assess their collapsibility factor.  When in doubt, use your pole to poke at things in the wilderness, rather than your leg or your ankle.  I've also used my pole to poke at unidentifiable globs of goo while hiking.  I couldn't tell if it was bear poop or alien vomit, but I certainly wasn't going to poke it with my finger. 

During the spring, poles maximize safety while meandering through melting boulder fields.

During the spring, poles maximize safety while meandering through melting boulder fields.

8.  A stretcher or a splint.  Accidents happen, and in a pinch you can use your poles to construct a makeshift stretcher or a splint for an injured leg. 

9.  You are awesome.  Remember when you used to think that it was uncool to carry poles?  Well, now you're in the club of elite hikers that can give other elite hikers a "knowing wink" on the trail.  Kinda like how people riding motorcycles and driving Jeeps always wave at each other?  Yep, us pole-carrying members of the elite hiker's society give each other a secret wink too.  Ok, but seriously, I'm not kidding.  Well, actually, I am - but it is now your duty to spread the trekking pole love and share them with the people you love the most.  I promise, your hiking and backpacking trips will be 91% more enjoyable (and, yes, that is a proven fact). 

Tips for purchasing a pair of poles:  I like the "quick lock" poles, rather than the "twist lock" poles.  The twist lock poles tend to fail pretty quickly.  In addition, I really like poles that collapse in 3 sections, rather than two sections.  Three section poles are much smaller when collapsed, and they are easier to attach to a pack or to fit into a suitcase for traveling.  I avoid poles that claim to have a 'shock absorber' inside.  The shock absorbing properties of poles only make the poles heavier, and I'd rather carry less weight.

Over the past decade and a half, I have used one pair of poles, and I only have ever replaced them once (and it wasn't because the poles failed, it was because I gave them away).  The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles are, in my opinion, the best poles that money can buy.  They are virtually indestructible, lightweight and sturdy.  If the metal carbide tip breaks off, just buy a pair of replacement tips - no need to replace the entire pole. 

For a more budget friendly option, I recommend Cascade Mountain Tech poles.  I have a pair of these that I use as a "loaner" pair.  They are not as high quality or durable as the Black Diamond poles, but the price is fantastic.  Skip using the ridiculous "pole tips" that they include in the kit. 

What are your experiences using poles?  Do you even use them?  Any helpful tips?