Hitting the road, on my way to slowing down.

Tomorrow, I’m moving to Salt Lake City.

The first time I crossed state lines into Utah was on my first big climbing trip in 2010. It was me and three dirtbag Florida boys, living out of a sputtering Jeep for a month in pursuit of western crags. Check out some of my old film photos from that trip here

The 30-day journey was a total mess, and we only climbed for like 8 days total and we all got sick after foolishly deciding that an all-you-can-eat buffet pit stop at Golden Coral was a good idea—but I still remember the dusty, dark gas station we pulled into when we crossed into Utah in the middle of the night. The stars were so bright, and there were coyotes howling in the distance, and deer kept leaping in front the Jeep as we swept through towering red rocks, and I had never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.

I don’t think we even stopped in Utah at all on that trip. It was just the connector between Colorado and the Grand Tetons– but since that moment, Utah has been my most sacred place. I find peace in the desert, challenge in the mountains, and a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt so strongly anywhere else on earth. This is my place, and it’s time to make it more than just the space I escape to.

Utah, you’re home, and this little bird flying back to roost for a while.

Summertime hiatus, solo adventures begin.


My dearest readers, it’s time to take an official break from The Morning Fresh. I am heading out on the road for a four-month solo road trip, an Outdoor Industry Association campaign we’re calling the #OIARoadshow. While I’m out traversing the west coast and living my dream job, I want to fully focus on the trip and pour my heart & soul into my work with OIA.

I’ll keep everyone updated with my antics on social media, and promise to make a full return this fall when I’m done with this next chapter of van life. Wish me luck! 

Q&A with So iLL founder Daniel Chancellor: Redefining the look of climbing

I’ve been geeking out over So iLL since I started climbing back in 2009. Back in those days, the love affair centered around their killer holds. The first route I ever put up that I was actually proud of was a V4 set with So iLL’s Appendage holds on the lead wall at Tally Rock Gym. Since then, they’ve impressed me with their bold colors, clean aesthetic, commitment to their brand’s style + community–and of course, these kickass leggings.

A few weeks ago, they once again caught my attention by launching a crowdfunding campaign to support a new journey: retro-inspired climbing shoes. Say whaaaaaaat? The goal was to offer the climbing community a shoe that combines functionality with a focus on fashion. The urban outdoorist and the rise of outdoor millennial consumers is a hot topic at my day-job running social for OIA, so I instantly knew it was going to be a success–and it was. So iLL reached 100% funding in only 5 hours.

This weekend I sat down with founder Daniel Chancellor to chat about this ambitious project, his vision for the climbing community, and what So iLL is going to dream up next:

So iLL climbing shoes (photo: So iLL)

*All photos in this post courtesy of So iLL

It’s hard to put a finger on So iLL. You’ve got climbing holds (some of my favorites from my route-setting days), crash pads, bold leggings, chalk, training tools, and now, shoes. What inspired the dream to add climbing footwear to the diverse line-up?

Climbing footwear, along with our clothing, is a direction we have been working on for years.  We aren’t trying to create the next lightest carabiner technical piece of gear.  Instead, we delivery highly designed clothing, footwear and training products.  Things that our crew can use, wear, and be proud of.

Our goal to create products that help our climbing community succeed.  Keeping climbers fashionable, and encouraging them on their journey through media, and well designed products, will be our focus as we look towards the future.

Climbing with So iLL and their new line of retro inspired performance climbing shoes. (Photo: So iLL)

Within the first 10 seconds of your promo video, we hear this: “there needs to be a fashionable alternative for the climbing community.” In the outdoor industry, there’s a growing trend of urban climbers getting outdoors for the first time, but there is also a large pre-existing climber group who simply never had fashion-forward options before–who are you making this shoe for? 

The success of this campaign has put a lot of attention toward the brand. This is great for the project, but this entire creation is not for us.  We created these products for others.  The success is motivating and reinforces us that we made quality decisions during the journey, but in the end, these shoes are for you!

We opened our first flagship retail location and climbing gym in Saint Louis, MO a few years ago.  At Climb So iLL , we are deeply connected with our community there.  We have been able to learn the needs of urban rock climbers, and deliver them both an experience, and products, that make sense.  These climbers eventually move outside (like we did), and the product was designed to transition with them.

Our lifestyle products can be used by all outdoor enthusiasts, but it stars within our niche. Our hearts are with the urban climbers around the country, and the communities in which they exist.  The sport is growing exponentially, but the fire seems to start here.   

So iLL's line of climbing shoes is the first to dye high performance rubber this way. (Photo: So iLL)

Aside from their stellar looks, what makes these shoes a unique addition to an already booming climbing shoe market?

The rubber on our climbing shoes has a special story.  It was developed for the U.S military.  The Navy Seals needed an outsole rubber that was both sticky, and would retain color.  They were building an approach shoe, and were in need of this technology.  When we heard about this new “Dark Matter” rubber, we immediately were drawn towards it’s properties.  Putting color on the outsole of a climbing shoe (with real sticky rubber) has not been done before.  There is a first time for everything, and this is what we are most proud of.

So iLL’s Kickstarter campaign has been a phenomenal success–the original goal was $10k, but you’re currently sitting at well over $100,000 in pledges. What drove the decision to use crowdfunding for this project?

We wanted to accomplish two things with the Kickstarter Platform.  1) We really do believe in these shoes, and wanted to give climbers the opportunity to try them at a discount as early supports.  2) The kickstarter has helped us with production minimums.  Being such a small company, it has been difficult to build 6 models, in so many sizes, with so much inventory to start.  We needed help, and our community delivered.

So iLL founder Daniel Chancellor and his new line of climbing shoes. (Photo: So iLL)

While So iLL has a big digital presence and strong community, it’s still a fairly small operation. How big is the team, and how do you manage to build so much hype and energy while still remaining true to your grassroots values? 

Great question.  I know that we appear massive online!  People think that the company is huge, but we are TINY in the outdoor space.  We have 5 employees in the office, and interns, that’s it.  There is a blog on our site that talks about us just now moving out of my basement (a few months ago).  We finally rented a loft apartment.

We do all of our own sales, we do all of our own marketing, and we do all of our own branding.  Our entire team pulled together on this one and made it happen.  Evan packs boxes in our warehouse and also does all of our product photography.  Ryan answers the phone and does service, but shoots all of our lifestyle photography.  Paul works in house as our marketing guy.  Lisa answers all of our kickstarter questions online and has been working behind the scenes.  It’s really been a team effort.  My friends Daniel Wilson and Tennyson Tanner both helped us with the videos.  They are both local guys.

The team is small, but we are all very proud of what we are doing.  We really actually do the work of 10-15 people, and I”m very proud of what we have accomplished as such a small operation.

The shoes aren’t even in full production yet, and they’re already a success. What’s next on the horizon for So iLL? 

We are going to continue designing and producing high quality, innovative and fashionable products for rock climbers.  We are going to continue encouraging others to stay positive and to take hold.

Big thank you to So iLL founder Daniel Chancellor for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview in between a hectic travel schedule, snapchatting the brand’s adventures (follow ‘em: soillinc), and trying to change the industry with climbing shoes that look just as great as they perform. You’ve got until Tuesday evening to support the Kickstarter and get your hands on a pair of these shoes at the insane backer rate before the price goes up when they hit the broader market this summer!

Stay tuned for a full review of the shoes when I get my pair of So iLL beauties
and put them to the test in California this summer. 

Weeks 8-9: Snowstorms + Outdoor Love in Asheville, NC

Oh, Asheville. With only 20 days to immerse myself into the weird and wonderful world of Western North Carolina, I found myself literally feeling stressed out about making sure I soaked it all up. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. There was no way to properly experience all of the magic of Asheville in such a short time–but I sure did try.

Here’s a quick highlight reel from my favorite Asheville moments, sights, and sounds:

Katie Boué hiking DuPont State Forest in North Carolina.

Hiking in DuPont State Forest

Holy waterfalls! You like waterfalls? You got waterfalls, if you make the short drive out to DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC. The area has six main waterfalls, and five of ‘em are easily accessible on a single trail. Obviously I had to hike it. It’s a wide trail, packed with people on a weekend, and not exactly a full “wild outdoors” feel, but still worth it for an afternoon adventure. Mcgoo and I hiked to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. I spotted a covered bridge higher up in the hills, but we got lost trying to find the trail out there and eventually gave up.

The fellas from Bro’d Trip have a vlog that shows a bit of the hike–I totally went back the next day and re-hiked it with them, actually finding the covered bridge this time. Check out the video here, and skip to about the 1:07 mark to get to my cameo + the DuPont hiking.

Bonus spot: Make the short drive up to Buzzard Rock right before sunrise–and you’ll get epic views of the city below like this one: 

The sunrise view from Buzzard Rock in Asheville, NC.

Caught in Asheville’s 2015 Snowpocalypse

Somehow, I always end up in the southeast when there’s an epic snowstorm. And by epic, I mean usually just a few inches of snow that shuts down the entire city. This time, however, a whopping 13 inches dumped downtown–and totally shut everything down. The resulting adventures were probably my favorite part of my time in Asheville. Cars were rendered useless, and the people took back the streets on foot. Bar hopping across town while riding in a sled? Yes please. Whiskey just tastes better when you’ve trudged 3 miles in the snow to get to it.

Sledding during the big 2016 Asheville snowstorm.

Food and Beer and More Food

You guys. Asheville has a jammin’ food culture. The best trout (hell, the best fish. period.) I ever had in my life from The Market Place. Jamaican food so good we went two days in a row at Nine Mile–and yes, I ordered the same thing both times, it was that good. I had a religious experience eating the cheese plates at Wicked Weed. Pro tip: Get a beer flight the first time you go to Wicked Weed, because you will be back multiple times for those cheese plates, so you might as well figure out what kind of beer is your favorite to accompany all that cheesy goodness.

The amazing cheese plate at Wicked Weed Brewery in Asheville, NC.

For a full dive into my time exploring the Asheville outdoor industry scene–and peeks into my visits with outdoor brands like ENO, Farm to Feet, and more–check out my OIA Roadshow: Asheville Edition story on the Outdoor Industry Association website. Here’s an excerpt:

“If you’ve ever been to Asheville, North Carolina, you’re already in on the not-so-subtle secret that it’s one of the greatest outdoor destinations in America–but for those of you who haven’t received the memo: This Southeastern city was voted one of the country’s best outdoor towns by Outside magazine in 2006, and made it to the voter’s choice list in 2014, too. It’s a recreation mecca in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, right at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers. You can hike, bike, paddle, climb–and sometimes even ski–all within a short drive of the downtown area.”

I know, I know, there’s so much more to be said to fully encapsulate how incredible Asheville is. I wish I could have stayed longer to spend more time soaking up this vibrant city and its culture–but alas, there’s so much more America to explore!

The outdoor community must step up and become advocates & activists–NOW.

Yesterday in Salt Lake City, the EPA held a public hearing on the Regional Haze Rule (think: Clean Air Act). You know, the seemingly no-brainer effort to clean up the air around Utah and some of it’s most beautiful outdoor spaces.

It came across my desk from the OIA government affairs team as something we wanted to show some support for (again, no-brainer). When I was doing some social promotion around the event, I pictured a big rally of outdoor advocates all singing the praises of cleaner air and literally thought to myself, “I wonder how much of an impact this will make since it’s basically just going to be a big hoorah all from the outdoor community. Will the opposing side even notice that this hearing is happening?

I was incredibly, profoundly wrong in my assumption.

This is what outdoor athletes Caroline Gleich and Brody Leven experienced yesterday when they attended the meeting. Just hearing their stories digitally was enough for me to wake up and snap to attention. This is not the scene I had envisioned in my head:

On the front lines today with @brodyleven at the EPA public hearing about regional haze in Utah’s national parks. It seems like all of Carbon County fit in two busloads to represent the interests of the coal power plants. We felt like the underdogs. The outdoor/tourism industries were seriously underrepresented. I’ve never been so nervous to speak in front of a group. When I started speaking, I could feel the hostility in the air. But I shared my story and the facts. Utah’s outdoor recreation and tourism industries bring in $12.2 billion dollars per year. It’s important to clean up the air around the parks and reduce the emissions from coal burning power plants. When I was done, hardly anyone clapped. We need to get more young people and outdoor people to come to these things. We need to make signs and speak up. It’s our air and our future. It’s scary and not always fun, but it’s hugely important to protect the quality of life and the Utah we love. At the end, I gave the coal miners a smile and a wave. I came to realize our goals aren’t that different. We are both trying to protect our livelihood- our jobs and the lifestyle we know. It’s just the path to the future that we disagree on. #cleanair4utah @protectourwinters @healutah @sierraclub

A photo posted by Caroline Gleich (@carolinegleich) on

As it turns out, the pro-coal attendance far overwhelmed the presence of outdoor advocates. Folks from Carbon County (yes, that’s really the name of the county) were actually shuttled to Salt Lake City by the busload to make sure the coal industry was heard loud and clear. Inside the building, the hearing was packed with these representatives, and Brody observed that there were hundreds more rallying outside as well. Brody told me they basically had to sneak into the event. He saw signs that said “Fossil fuels are beautiful.” When Caroline finished her testimony about the importance of cleaning up the air around Utah’s beautiful outdoor spaces and protecting the health of the state’s community, she noted that hardly anyone clapped.

That scene is embarrassing. Look at the statistics for the outdoor industry: we generate $646 billion in consumer spending annually, and create 6.1 million direct jobs. That’s 6.1 million people whose livelihood is connected to the health of our outdoor spaces. In Utah, at least 82% of residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. So where were we during yesterday’s hearing? Why wasn’t there a loud and proud standing ovation when Caroline concluded her speech?

And none of this includes the much more obvious fact: this isn’t just about our parks, this is about the air you breathe every single day. In parks, in cities, everywhere. This is about the air you breathe, the air your families breathe, the air that future generations will be breathing.

Image via Unsplash

Do I have you riled up yet? Good. Here’s a place to start taking action: You can submit formal comment on this Clean Air Act until 3/14/16.

The outdoor community needs to do more than just love our outdoor spaces: we need to become strong advocates and activists for the issues that affect our industry. Not just clean air, but on a laundry list of initiatives that need our support, from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to wildfire funding. And don’t even get me started on the public lands heist.

If you truly care about the places you play, you need to do something about it. Posting beautiful Instagrams of Arches National Park won’t mean anything when the air there makes you ill, and saving up for months to buy a new ice axe won’t matter when global warming means your favorite routes never get cold enough to freeze. When your favorite forest burns to a crisp because you didn’t speak up about the importance of wildfire funding–that’s all on you. Sign those petitions, they matter. E-mail, call, and tweet your representatives–they’re listening. Attend community events, share these issues on social media, support organizations like Outdoor Alliance and Protect Our Winters.

The outdoor community has such potential to be so strong and so loud and so impactful–let’s make that happen together.

Disclaimer: Opinions here are my own and are in no way affiliated with OIA. But if you want to learn more about OIA’s stance on this issue, check out this recreation alert. For more on OIA’s climate change policy, read more here

An Open Letter to Outdoor Women on Independence and Bad Relationships

Ladies, I hope you’re ready to hit with the feels–because I am full of them today. It’s been a while since I curled up to write something raw, but when the lovely Sidni West included me on a list of 65 rad humans to follow, and described me as ‘writer’, it reminded me that I’ve gotten a little too caught up in day-job marketing and neglected my true love: honest, this-is-me writing.


So, prepare yourselves for a little real talk that’s been brewing for a while–probably about two years–and now is finally being put down into words:

It’s mind-blowing to me that it was three years ago that I started living in a van, but it’s taken me until very recently to recover from a little something I’d like to call “girlfriend to a boy who goes outside” syndrome. In my case, this ‘outside’ was actually climbing–but it can apply to anyone with an ambitious partner. It started out innocently, sharing a strong passion for the same activity, but by the end of our relationship, it was toxic and damaging. Here’s my question to you, ladies:

When is the last time you got outdoors without your partner? A just-for-me, don’t-need-no-man, this-moment-is-mine adventure doing what you love? A trip that’s just yours?

When my ex-boyfriend and I started dating, he truly helped me become a climber. He worked at the local rock gym, so we’d stay up late climbing after-hours and before-hours and all-hours. I still remember the day I fell head over heels for him on our first date. He was rugged, outdoorsy, and seemingly king of a world that I wanted to be a part of. He was there during my first climbing trip (before we started dating), and took me on 99% of any climbing excursions I went on for the next four years.

He was my coach, belay partner, and trusty spotter. He introduced me to everyone I knew in the community, always pitched my tent, drove the tricky dirt roads I was intimated by. He did everything. I didn’t realize it then, but I completely lost myself in the “us” of my relationship. I loved my year exploring the USA in a van, but by the end of it, I just wasn’t having fun anymore. He picked all my climbing projects, pressured me into trying hard–seriously I still resent myself over that one–and no decisions were made based on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t climbing because I loved it, I climbed because I felt like I needed to for him to still love me. I wasn’t stoked on the situation anymore–and he wasn’t either (which is probably why he cheated on me with a younger, more motivated climber, but I digress).

Major pump the brakes, back it up, this doesn’t sound like the Katie Boué we all know, right? I know. My bad ladies, I promise it’ll never happen again.

After he left me, I was devastated and lost. I promptly packed up my bags and hauled ass out to Colorado to lick my wounds and start anew. I felt good about a new beginning–but it still felt like there was something wrong with me, and honestly, I felt ashamed to be ‘over’ climbing. I had forgotten what it was like to follow my passion. I knew I still loved being outdoors and going climbing, but I didn’t know how to do it anymore. I had to start my journey as a climber from scratch. The worst part is: it wasn’t his fault at all, it was mine.


I thought about all of this last week while I took a solo drive up into the Blue Ridge Mountains to watch the sunrise over Asheville. Looking at that toxic relationship in the rearview mirror, it’s infuriating that I let things get that way. Currently, I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had, and at first I was frustrated that my partner isn’t as stoked on alpine starts and pebble wrestling as I am–but it taught me something crucial: the value of doing things for you.

I am a stronger, healthier, happier person now that I frequently take solo trips and go adventuring without my boyfriend. I adore the trips we do take together, but I also cherish my time outdoors without him. I feel confident when I’m on a trail alone, and stoked when I pull up to a crag to meet friends on my own. When I top-out a project at the rock gym, I don’t look around seeking approval anymore. That moment and satisfaction is mine. If I want to go somewhere, I go. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t.

So here’s my call to you, ladies: ditch your boyfriend more often.

I’m preaching to the choir with a lot of you badass women, but I know more than a few rad females who tend to use ‘we’ more often than ‘me’. You’re not doing yourself or your relationship any favors by losing yourself and becoming dependent on your partner–or anyone else for that matter. If you can’t remember the last time you spent a weekend out in the woods with just your fine self and/or a few fellow female ass-kickers, change that. If your boyfriend always carries the heavy gear and navigates the tricky sections of dirt roads, you’re doing it wrong. Leave your man behind, do exactly whatever it is that gets your blood flowing, don’t ask anyone for permission, live your passion, and always pitch your own damn tent.

And if we’re going to be honest, nothing is sexier than a strong, independent woman. Don’t worry about hurting your boyfriend’s feelings by leaving him behind–there are few things more attractive to an outdoorsy dude than a woman covered in dirt and radiating from her own adventure.

Need some help on the journey of ditching ‘ours’ in favor of ‘mine’? Here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a solo drive. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy going from doing everything as a couple to taking the reigns back on your she-time. Start by picking a new mountain road and exploring it for a few hours. Catch a sunset, or a sunrise.
  • Invite your favorite friends for a girls-only climbing night at your gym. 
  • Plan a ladies’ weekend of camping, hiking, climbing, whatever gets your blood flowing. Bring wine.
  • Start carving out a weekly time when you get out and do something on your own. Go for a run, spend a few hours writing at a cozy coffeeshop, head out on a mission to explore a new trail every week–whatever it takes. Form a habit that’s all yours.
  • Call me and let’s plan a damn adventure! Seriously though, I’m down. Let’s do it.

In case any of you need reminding: You’re a capable, confident, sexy, clever, inspiring, strong, badass woman. And I’m pretty stoked on you, and hope you’re stoked on yourself too.

PS: For the record, you were right Mom. Ladies, always listen to your mother’s opinions of your partners. Or at least listen to my mom, because her success rate is 100% in identifying bad seeds. 

PPS: If you need some no-nonsense female back-up to kick you in your lady parts and remind you that you absolutely do not need no man, go hit up Sidni West. She’s the shit. I strive to be as beautifully bold as she is on a daily basis. Also her dirty humor is the best.

Week 7: Exploring Asheville, NC

After an exhausting week in Salt Lake City, I couldn’t wait to slow down and get cozy at my new Airbnb in Asheville. Flying into the small city directly came with a hefty price tag, so I booked my flight into Charlotte, where Mcgoo picked me up before heading to downtown for a Brazilian steakhouse feast with my Uncle Danny (who totally isn’t actually my uncle, but he should be). By the time we made it down to Asheville, we were wiped. I hardly had time to take in my new surroundings before pouring myself into bed.

My first morning in Asheville, I promptly beelined straight for an old favorite spot for breakfast, Early Girl Eatery. Bonus points: Our Airbnb is only a half mile walk away. Wham bam! Pictured below is my grub of choice, the veggie bowl loaded with black eyed peas, spinach, and local cheese curds. I love how this city is so passionate about sustainable, locally grown food.

The veggie bowl from Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, NC.

Honestly, this week has been a lot of indoor time. Adjusting to working remotely and shifting my focus from all-social-all-the-time to more hands on outdoor industry interactions is taking a bit of time to get used to. I’m all about putting myself out there in the digital world, but I’m totally an introvert in real life. Reaching out to strangers and making plans to travel to new places is more intimidating than I’d like to admit–but I’ve got a ton of exciting mini road trips and visits to outdoor brands + shops planned in the next two weeks that I can’t wait to share with you guys, both here and on OIA’s social channels.

In the meantime, I’m doing a lot of this:


Florida: The USA’s Hidden Outdoor Adventure Gem

Here’s the thing: When I was a young adult living in Florida, I spent every weekend trying to get outside. And for some reason, I thought I had to cross state lines in order to achieve outdoor bliss. I’d spend up to 12 hours driving in a single weekend to go camp.

If only I knew then what I know now.

I went on a two-day camping trip to Ginnie Springs to film an outdoor video for VISIT FLORIDA, and it completely changed my perspective on getting outside in my home state. Spoiler alert: I’m already planning my next adventure down to Florida. It’s that good.

Here are five reasons why Florida is the USA’s untapped, entirely underrated gem for outdoor adventure:

Camping at Ginnie Springs.

 There’s an activity for every outdoorist.

At the Ginnie Springs welcome center, I saw folks hauling personal watercraft, inner tubes, scuba and snorkeling gear, hiking equipment, camping gear, BBQ supplies — the works. In just 24 hours, I managed to canoe up the river, chase fish while snorkeling in the springs, explore trails, eat steak around a campfire, hunt (unsuccessfully) for crawfish, attempt slack-lining, and get a full night’s sleep in my tent perched on a dewy peninsula overlooking the water.

If you look past the notion that Florida is nothing but beaches and retired folks, you’ll see that the Sunshine State is home to an abundance of outdoor opportunity. There are 3 National Parks, 161 State Parks, and more public recreation spaces than I can count. Bike paths stretch for miles, unique ecosystems beg to be explored, and a lack of mountains means you’ll always find a flat spot to pitch your tent.

The wildlife feels like you’re on another planet.

Lizards that can walk on water, birds waking you up with a cacophony of sound, manatees munching on sea grass, bejeweled beetles, and masked raccoons peeking out at you from the mangroves? Yes, please! I’m a sucker for creatures, and Florida knows how to deliver.

During my camping trip to Ginnie Springs, our crew was woken up in the middle of the night by two dueling owls who had taken up a battle of hoots in the trees directly above our tents. Sure, it interrupted my slumber–but it was worth it to get a front row seat to pure nature.

The water temperature in the springs stays at 72º all year.

Swimming at Ginnie Springs.Swimming at Ginnie Springs.

In the summertime, it’s the perfect way to seek relief from the heat–and in the winter, the water actually feels warm when the temperatures drop at night. I was expecting to jump into the spring and immediately want to bail, but I ended up snorkeling for hours.

And this isn’t just Ginnie Springs–I’m talking about every spring in Florida. Find the nearest one, load up your snorkel gear, and get psyched to make a splash off a rope swing–they’re everywhere.

You don’t have to be a hardcore adventurer to enjoy Florida’s outdoors.

Camping at Ginnie Springs.

I like to challenge myself outdoors, but I don’t always need every outing to be the kind of trip I need to train six months and buy $1,000 in technical equipment for. Florida’s outdoors is accessible to anyone who wants to experience it. Just want to car camp and spend a weekend under the stars with your family? Easy. Want to go on a multiday cycling and backpacking trip along the coast? Done deal.

When I lived in Colorado, we used to spend hours looking for an open campsite on the weekends–and once had to turn around and drive home after giving up on finding a spot. In Florida, you aren’t battling massive crowds to find your own slice of outdoor heaven, and many sites are easily reserved online.

This is what winter in Florida looks like. Seriously. Cue the mic drop.

Camping, swimming, and exploring at Ginnie Springs.Camping, swimming, and exploring at Ginnie Springs.Camping, swimming, and exploring at Ginnie Springs.

I’ve been around the USA block a few times, and I’ve experienced just about every type of seasonal weather from heat waves to blizzards–but nothing compares to a winter in Florida. While folks are waiting hours in lift lines and scraping ice off their windshields, you can be basking in sunshine and wearing sandals.

Disclaimer: If you’ve been following me on social media, you already know–VISIT FLORIDA sponsored this trip and provided compensation for me to get out and explore Florida’s outdoors. As usual, all thoughts, #LoveFL vibes, and opinions are my own.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.

Weeks 4 & 5 – Sunburnt: Winter in Miami

I used to love the long haul between Colorado and Florida. I’ve driven it over a dozen times, and it used to enchant me. These days, I’ve become a road trip curmudgeon. How do both Texas and Kansas stretch for so long? Why are southerners such awful drivers? And who the hell put KFC at every highway rest stop instead of the clearly superior Popeyes? 

The drive from Boulder to Miami wasn’t romantic. Mcgoo and I caravanned across the country, stopping only to pee or fuel up. We spent the night crammed in our driver’s seats as we attempted to sleep at a rest area right on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. This is what I looked like in the morning:

The reality of a nomadic lifestyle.

Not cute.

Ultimately, the decision to press through and just drive straight down to Miami was an excellent choice. I pulled into my familiar driveway just before midnight on Sunday evening, was greeted by hugs from my ma and a lit up (fake, ugh) Christmas tree, and quickly collapsed into my old bed.

Being in Miami for the holidays is a bit unconventional. The only white Christmas you’ll get is a sandy one, and on Christmas Eve I was out getting sunburnt while kayaking. One thing is universal though: the joy of being with family. My ‘people’ are a bunch of loud, borderline insane Cubans + Mexicans, so things tend to get a little rowdy when we’re all in the same room.


In other news, if your pops ever asks you to wake up before the sunrise to go kayaking on the bay with him in hopes of catching a huge flock of birds waking up and taking flight–go with him.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but hot damn, what an experience. I was groggy and slow dragging my kayak out to the water, but watching the sun crest the horizon and trigger a wave of seabirds to come flying overheard was one hell of a way to wake up.

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Just before New Years, I took a solo road trip up to Ginnie Springs to shoot a camping video–sponsored by Visit Florida (#LoveFL, y’all!), the state’s tourism board. They let me invite two lady friends along, and it ended up being the perfect two days of snorkeling in crystal clear springs, canoeing down a river, eating steak around a campfire, hunting for crawdads, and reconnecting with two friends I can’t believe I went so long without seeing. But there will be another blog post about this trip on the 14th–stay tuned!

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I made it back down to Miami just in time to head out to Coconut Grove for an Indian feast at Bombay Darbar before hitting the water to watch fireworks from the boat. I had a moment while the boat skimmed along the black sea–I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so present. It was one of those heart-swelling, body tingling, shit-eating grin kinda moments.

My peace was quickly interrupted by honking party boats and my attention quickly turned to whiskey gingers, but the good vibes remained. 2016 is going to be one for the books (or rather, one for the blogs?).

Weeks 2 & 3: Boulder Life and Leaving the Office

The last few weeks–err months, arguably the last two years–have been a series of transitions. First there were the purges, then turning in the keys to my house, and now a new phase of kinda-on-the-road but mostly still-in-the-office. My personal life has been completely upheaved, but everything was business as usual at work. I still went into OIA HQ each day, still sat in my cubicle–with a view of the Flatirons, so I can’t complain. Honestly, this was a weird week for me.

I’m ready to go, and somewhat already gone, but also still stuck.

Katie Boué of TheMorningFresh.com

Another big­–and very positive–change came about this week. Mcgoo and I couldn’t handle another night in our fly-ridden, mold-lurking Airbnb, so we bit the bullet and cancelled our reservation. I felt awful leaving the nice fella who owned the property, but we hadn’t slept a full night since arriving and Mcgoo was starting to get sick from the funky smelling air.

Let me tell you, our new Boulder Airbnb was a palace. Beautifully decorated, owned by a young climber couple, and full of everything I love: photographs of Indian Creek, old bones, polaroids from Yosemite, posters from musicians like The Black Keys & TV on the Radio, you name it. I mean, look at this place:

Our Airbnb in Boulder, CO. Another photo from our Airbnb in Boulder, CO.Our Airbnb in Boulder, CO.

We got hit by a huge snowstorm this week, which was the perfect farewell to winter. I’m constantly torn between loving the cozy vibes of a wintry wonderland and just plain ‘ole hating being cold. The struggle is real y’all.

One last photo from the backyard of our Airbnb in Boulder, CO.

On Thursday, the OIA staff did our annual hike up to the Boulder Star, then we all went out for dinner and drinks to celebrate my departure. Friday was a normal day–until 4:00 rolled around. I said my farewells, rode the elevator downstairs, then slid into my car and promptly felt my eyes well up with tears. I wasn’t expecting to get so choked up.

Ultimately, I want nothing more than to never be in a cubicle ever again–but also, I’m going to really miss the camaraderie and damn good vibes the OIA crew has. I still bug them every day with e-mails and video conference calls, but there’s nothing like popping your head into the kitchen and messing around with your colleagues. Plus, now I miss out on all the beer.

Hiking to the Boulder Star on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, CO.

Mcgoo and I had our final Colorado dinner at Under The Sun, the sister restaurant to our beloved Southern Sun brewery. If you’re ever in Boulder, you must go eat at Southern Sun. Best nachos on the planet. Those cheesy, gooey, never-gonna-finish-‘em nachos are probably one of the only things I’ll truly miss about Boulder.

Before the sun rose on Saturday morning, my Scion tC was already on the highway heading east. And so begun the 2090 mile journey down to my hometown, Miami.