Five Reasons I’m Counting the Days to Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZ

 Five Reasons I’m Counting the Days to Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZA few months ago, I began getting involved with a mysterious event called “Overland Expo.” A true novice in the art of overlanding, I was exposed to an event and industry that gave a proper title to the art of what I love to do – traveling the world by vehicle. Sometimes by car, occasionally on my bike, and often by foot. This event is a showcase and gathering of the overlanding community, a wild group of adventurers dedicated to getting out there and experiencing it all.

So why am does my agenda now include a little countdown to the May 18-20th event in Flagstaff? Here are a few reasons, in no particular order:

1. The Adventure of Getting to Flagstaff

While I’ll be in Flagstaff for about full three days, my journey to and from Overland Expo will span across about 9-10 days of road trip travel. I’ll be making the trek solo, and am really looking forward to embarking on another one-woman adventure. To break up the trip a bit, I plan on spending a night in Houston, Texas, to visit a great lady climber friend who recently moved out there from Tallahassee.

Aside from spending time with an old friend, I can’t wait to for a few days spent lonesome in my car. Speaking of cars, this road trip will be extra exciting because I am switching cars with my wonderful sister – which means I get to drive a hybrid Honda Civic across the country. All that gas money I’ll save will inevitably be spent in coffee shops, local breweries, and probably a few pieces of new gear I won’t be able to resist at the expo.

2. Classes, Expert Panels, and Workshops

Don’t even bother reading my hype about the schedule at Overland Expo – check it out for yourself. It delivers a nearly overwhelming amount of enticing events that will keep any adventurer engaged throughout the entire weekend.

My favorite picks? Out of nearly 100 classes, I’m most looking forward to classes like “One-Pan Cooking and Provisioning (no fridge)” with Ara Gureghian, a workshop for cooking healthy meals on the road, a collection of photography and writing sessions, “Keeping Healthy and Happy on the Road,” and the survival for couples course.

3. The Adventure Travel Film Festival

Presented by Austin Vince and Lois Pryce, this edition of the festival is the fourth annual event celebrating an international community of folks who live for the thrill of getting out there. I cannot wait to get educated on the history of adventure, the inspiring stories of those who trek out into the world, and the thrilling experiences they endure and enjoy on the road. Enticing titles like “Above and Beyond Dream,” “Paddle to Seattle,” and “Salt and Gold” are only adding to the hype.home16 Five Reasons I’m Counting the Days to Overland Expo in Flagstaff, AZ

4. Meeting My Fellow Adventurers

Lately, I’ve been internally comparing Overland Expo to an adventurer’s version of Bonnaroo – minus all the substance abuse, ruckus, and dirty bathrooms. In my mind, this gathering is the ultimate meet-up for people who are like me.

Adding to the excitement, I’m going to finally meet a few of the wonderful outdoor people I’ve connected with through Twitter. While co-hosting the #ATQA Adventure Travel Question & Answer chat, I’ve joyously watched as some of my favorite friends have won our weekly giveaway – a day pass to the event. Getting the opportunity to connect with people like Dave Creech (who runs an amazing blog you can check out here) is something I’m really looking forward to taking full advantage of – especially since there have been many promises of whiskey and cigars!

5. Daily Yoga Sessions in the Morning

Does this directly have anything to do with wild outdoor adventures? Arguably not – but I am absolutely smitten on the idea of waking up in the hot abyss of Flagstaff, and starting each day with a refreshing yoga session. I’m no yogi, but I have recently begun embracing yoga as the ultimate way to stretch, warm-up, cool-down, and generally improved my flexibility for my climbing. Even aside from my training efforts on the rock, yoga has been a reviving way to get my blood flowing every day.

And I might also be pretty excited to wrangle Dave and my boss J into joining me for some yoga – purely to giggle at them when they try the downward down. (Fellas, as much as I’d love to laugh at you, I will also be so impressed if you end up whooping my rear end in yoga!)

Bonus Hype – check out this 2012 event preview video!

If you haven’t snagged your pass to Overland Expo, the clock is ticking! Click here to check out event packages, and don’t forget to join us Wednesdays at 5:00 (PM, EST) for the #ATQA Adventure Travel chat for your chance to win a free pass.

I’ll see you all in Flagstaff!

The greatest climbing meme a lady climber has ever seen

Yeah, I’m a serious climber. Yeah, I sometimes don’t shave my arm pits as frequently as I should, nor do I uphold usual ladylike standards like painted fingernails and plucked eyebrows. But does that make me immune to the glory that is Ryan Gosling? Hell no.

Ryan Gosling is the sexiest slice of man, ever. I said it. Enjoy.

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My lovely friends over at on the STONELICK Facebook page posted this a few days ago (Diana, I know Arone had nothing to do with this, ha), and I couldn’t help but share it here for all you wonderful climber ladies. It’s originally from the what-a-climber tumblr, which has become a soul-sucking source of procrastination for me.

Can you imagine how much harder we would crush if Ryan Gosling was there to spot us? Or maybe not, because who wouldn’t want to ‘pop’ off a crimper and go crashing into his arms? 

Hope you all enjoyed that brief glimpse into me as a cheesy, starry-eyed girl. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go file my callouses and try to find a razor – I wasn’t joking about those unshaved armpits.

My first foray into ‘Trying Stuff’ – testing out Columbia Sportswear’s newest outdoor gear

When I received my first package from Columbia Sportswear as part of their inaugural OmniTen team, I was immediately blue omni ten My first foray into Trying Stuff   testing out Columbia Sportswears newest outdoor gear overwhelmed by a box full of gear that beckoned me to get outside and put it to good use. All this mountainous gear delivered to my doorstep while I’m stuck in flat Florida? Absolute torture.

Unable to contain my excitement, I immediately jumped into my Powerdrain shoes, a sneaker-style water shoe that promises to keep explorers trudging onward through even the wettest terrain. Unfortunately, the forecast was sunny and clear the day I received my package, so I decided to test out my shoes with a bike ride to Tally Rock Gym.

Having not owned a proper pair of sneakers in years, I was immediately pleased with my Powerdrains. They are extremely comfortable, feel very light, and yet offer great protection and stability. The grip on their sole is impeccable; I initially struggled to get my feet fully into the bike pedal clips because the soles kept catching the little metal arms. Plus, I totally love the easy cinch lace system; makes it super convenient to tighten or loosen.

The true test came when I took my gear out during my climbing excursion to Little River Canyon in Alabama. As soon as we approached a sputtering cliff that leaked water all over the trail during our hike to the climbs, I was in heaven.

The shoes served ideally as boulder field romping sneakers. I’ve grown accustomed to slipping and sliding all over slick rocks and steep dirt inclines in my faulty footwear, but this time I bounded from boulder to boulder without a moment’s hesitation. Perhaps these Powerdrains improve balance too?

 My first foray into Trying Stuff   testing out Columbia Sportswears newest outdoor gear I found a small creek in which to splash around and get my gear wet, and learned that Columbia’s hype about the extreme draining power of these shoes is no joke. Even after fully submerging my feet in water, they were instantly drained as soon as they touched dry land. Impressive.

My only qualm? I totally thought they were going to also have some sort of Omni-Dry technology – but they don’t. So as blissful as I was to get my shoes soaking wet and see the water rush out, I then had to let my shoes sit in the sun for an hour to let the materials dry. But you know me, getting my toes dirty while I hung out barefoot for a bit was no biggie.

On the other hand, my Compounder shell jacket passed the waterworks test with flying colors. I stood directly under the small waterfall with my hood up and my zipper zipped – and stayed completely dry. Except for my leggings, which were definitely not waterproof. (Hey Columbia, help a climber lady out and make us some warm, water-proof leggings!) My first foray into Trying Stuff   testing out Columbia Sportswears newest outdoor gear

My lower half was drenched, but my upper half was perfectly dry thanks to the shell. It’s light, easy to shove in a pack when it’s not being worn, and it’s rather comfortable. When the shaded cliff line grew a bit cold with a brisk breeze, the shell provided protection from the chill, but I wouldn’t say it did much to warm me up (but that’s to be expected, it’s a shell for a reason).

* There may or may not be a video of me standing under the waterfall – and I may or may not upload it to YouTube, depending on how many people ask me nicely to make a fool out of myself.

Overall, I have been quite pleased with my Columbia Sportswear gear this far. Aside from a snowboarding jacket that I snagged at a thrift shop for $12, I have never been particularly aware of the brand, nor have I had the budget to allot for the investment of a $300 dry shell – but I am now a woman converted. While I have no doubt that my shoes will quickly be worn until their death, I truly believe that my Compounder shell is an item that will remain in my wardrobe for decades. I guess it costs $300 because it gives you $300 worth of use, wear, tear, and general grooviness.

85e9d16088b111e192e91231381b3d7a 7 My first foray into Trying Stuff   testing out Columbia Sportswears newest outdoor gear

I most recently received this package from Columbia Sportswear, featuring their Peakfreak trail shoes, which I do believe offer the Omni-Dry technology I was looking for in my Powerdrains. These modified hiking boots were named “Best Trail Shoe” by Outside Magazine, so I’m really looking forward to taking them out for a spin when I head to climb at Red River Gorge in a few weeks.

Stay tuned for the next gear review upon my return!

My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama

Last August, I journeyed up to Steele, Alabama for my first sport-climbing trip to a crag known (by some) as Sandrock. Despite the graffiti-drenched boulders defaced by locals, and an ungodly amount of broken glass strewn about the trails, I had an amazing time leading my first routes – but the most lasting impression from this trip was left by a small metal sign on the drive towards the mountain. It read “Little River Canyon,” and pointed towards the north.

After a few seasons slipped by, Niko and I finally made plans to check out the mysterious Little River Canyon. Perfectly timed with the release of the new Dixie Cragger for Georgia and Alabama, we were able to embark on an informed journey to the new crag. I practiced my light packing skills, tossed our gear into the trunk of our buddy Bo’s car, and spent the seven-hour drive up to Alabama dreaming of sandstone. My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama

Naive about any camping situations available in Little River Canyon, our crew decided to stick to the free, and unbelievably scenic, camping at the top of Lookout Mountain, deep in the rural bits of Alabama. Things got a tad interesting on Easter morning, when we woke up to a passionate sunrise sermon held a few yards from our tent.

It must be noted that the small metal sign beckoning climbers to detour towards “Little River Canyon” is slightly deceptive. What we had imagined to be a quick hop, skip, and jump over to the crag from Sandrock was actually a 30-minute haul – but I enjoy leisurely mornings, so I had no complaints.

I was pleasantly surprised by the ease at which we were able to locate the climbs at Little River Canyon. Our main haunt was The Gray Wall, which is accessed via a discreet trail that sits right off the winding mountain road that runs through the preserve. Given that we were in a canyon, the approach involved a bit of scrambling, down climbing, and getting dripped on by miniature waterfalls. My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama

At The Gray Wall, we were introduced to a crew of southern climbers who demonstrated a keen passion for Little River Canyon, which is actually a national preserve. The boisterous group welcomed us to ‘their’ crag with enthusiasm, and offered to let us use their draws on a few warm-up routes.

And by warm-ups, I mean a wide row of 5.11 climbing.

I hear there is just one 5.9 hidden somewhere in Little River Canyon, and a small handful of 5.10s are strewn about – which basically means that this crag is a destination reserved for more advanced climbers.

dsc 8580 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama dsc 8555 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama
In my honest opinion, I believe the more demanding level of climbing is what has kept this crag as well preserved as it is. I saw nary a single spray of paint on the sandstone, nor any piles of wayward trash. Unlike Sandrock, this crag has evaded traffic from the masses, and retains its pristine natural glory.

It’s such a pure area that I honestly hesitated to feature it on the blog. So if this post inspires you to visit Little River Canyon to bask in the beautiful climbing, I implore you to exercise the utmost respect and land stewardship.

As for the actual climbing, this canyon delivers such phenomenal lines that our crew all agreed we’d probably never visit Sandrock again if we were in the area – Little River Canyon trumps it tenfold. I climbed my first 5.11a, a pumpy ledge-filled route called “Obsession” – admittedly on top-rope, and it was not a red-point. The boys climbed a handful of 5.11s at The Gray Wall, and then Niko briefly jumped on a burly overhanging route called “Tension.” We also fooled around on a quirky, short slab route that no one could conquer. Check out the photos:
 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama The main event of our adventure was our time spent on the hardest section of The Gray Wall. The star of the show was Lion, a 5.12c sport route with stout movements and burly demands. The boys were eager to hop on it after watching a local climber, Rob, barrel through the cruxes. (Did I mention that Rob is about to turn 60, and crushes sandstone harder than I ever will? He was such a cool dude.)

 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama

dsc 8943 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama dsc 8918 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama       In true Katie form, I hardly climbed as much as I should have. Instead, I busied myself by climbing up one of the 5.11 routes, clipping myself into a bolt using long runners, and hanging from the sandstone while waving my camera around at the boys as they climbed.

The trip was a huge wake-up call for me – it mercilessly reminded me that as a boulderer, I seriously lack endurance. Both Bo and I were pumped out every few moves on our climbs, and we both left the trip determined to improve ourselves. Thankfully, while we were totally shut down by lengthy climbs, we managed to not be conquered by chiggers (unlike my last trip to Alabama, when I ended up with chiggers nesting in my belly button, true story.)

 My first sport climbing adventure to Little River Canyon in Alabama

Despite the harsh realizations, this trip got me incredibly stoked on sport climbing. My silence on the blogging front is a direct result of my newfound passion for training. Little River Canyon motivated me to dive into hardcore endurance training, and I have since spent every single day climbing to my limits. Last night, I red-pointed my first 5.11 in the gym, and practiced my lead climbing on a few easier routes. Today, I’m indulging in a rest day, after seven straight days of training.

Stay tuned for more updates on my training efforts as I prepare my body and mind for my upcoming trip to The Red River Gorge.

A preview of my sport climbing adventures at Little River Canyon in Alabama

For Florida climbers, three-day trips to northerly crags are our vision of a weekend warrior’s victory. With the closest (decent) outdoor climbing sitting five hours away in Alabama, our short visits to sandstone wonderlands provide a highly anticipated escape from our usual indoor rock gym musings.

This past weekend, I ventured to a new crag with three of my climbing buddies. During recent trips to Sandrock, we had all taken notice of signs for “Little River Canyon.” Curious about this destination, we did a bit of digging, and discovered that the area was a prime sport climbing spot. Armed with the recently released Dixie Cragger’s Atlas for Alabama and Georgia, we journeyed to this new wall.

I still have 435 of my own photos to sort through and edit, but I couldn’t wait to share this amazing crag. Little River Canyon is a pure, unsoiled, gorgeous slice of exposed cliff faces and lush forest landscapes. The climbs are organic and challenging, the trails well-maintained through appreciative land stewardship, and the locals are eager to share their love for the area with fellow climbers who approach the area with respect and love for the climbs.

 A preview of my sport climbing adventures at Little River Canyon in Alabama

To tide you over until I complete my photography edits, check out a few excellent shots captured by my trip companion, Bo Durham. Shooting with an AE-1 film camera, he snagged some sweet images of our excursion – including a photo that instantly became my favorite picture of Niko and me of all time.

Enjoy!

 A preview of my sport climbing adventures at Little River Canyon in Alabama A preview of my sport climbing adventures at Little River Canyon in Alabama

This trip was a particularly great adventure for me. I climbed my first 5.11a, called Obsession, while we were roped up at The Gray Wall – and while I wasn’t gutsy enough to lead it, the positive experience I had on this route skyrocketed my determination and motivation. My next trip is out to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky during the first week of May, so I’m ready to dive into some endurance training to prepare for the next sport-climbing journey.

Stay tuned for my complete trip report  and the best
climbing photos from my visit to Little River Canyon in Alabama!

The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

Living in Denver introduced me to a lot of things, but the biggest culinary revolution I experienced was being exposed to the liquid paradise that is pho. A Vietnamese tradition, pho is arguably one of the best dishes of all time that combines broth and noodles. Returning to Tallahassee after indulging in the rich cultural offerings of Denver brought disdain to my tummy, until I happened upon a sign advertising for Pho 7.

I was instantly intrigued.

Niko and I vowed to try it out, but we weren’t fully committed or convinced until our foodie climbing friends Barbara and Andrew tested the waters. Their report on Pho 7? It was authentic, and it was delicious. Delighted by their positive feedback, I made a dinner date with some friends for the next day.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Pho 7 is their walls; they’re painted my favorite shade of marigold. The casual seating is reminiscent of an adult cafeteria, and I appreciated the no-frills layout of the restaurant – plus, each table is adorned with enormous bottles of sriracha and hoisin sauce, my favorites. It took our group a few minutes to survey the menu, and then we ordered a true feast.

20120409 103056 The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in TallahasseeWhile my companions took their taste buds on an adventure with Vietnamese subs and meaty rice platters, I stuck with what I came here for: pho. I ordered a tofu pho, cheese and crab wontons, and vegetarian spring rolls.

Everything was amazing. 

The beefy pho broth was easily the best I have ever tasted. It was richer than any other broth I’ve tried, and offered the perfect balance of spices. My soup only came with one slice of lime, but the meaty pho hardly needed any fixings anyways. Our entire table was satisfied with their meals, and we all agreed to return soon.

 The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee  The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

While chatting over our scrumptious Vietnamese grub, my buddy Juan mentioned the Latin Xpress eatery that sat at the opposite corner of the strip mall. I had heard good things about the joint, and my input peaked Juan’s interest – so we decided to pop in to “just check out the menu” after pigging out at Pho 7.

Fast-forward about an hour, and you’d find our little crew slouching in another cafeteria-style booth. This time, we weren’t surrounded by chopsticks and bean sprouts. Our table was littered with tiny mugs that were once filled with sweet, strong Cuban espresso shots. We drank ten total, unable to resist continually ordering more rounds.
20120409 103108 The foodie gods answer my edible prayers with Pho 7 and Latin Xpress in Tallahassee

Displeasing my already bursting belly, I was unable to shake the temptation of Latin Xpress’s surprisingly affordable menu. Cafecito shots were just 60 cents, guava and cheese pastelitos ran under $2.00 each, and a dry-erase addition to the menu hanging over the counter lured me in with mamey shakes for only $2.50.

My stomach aches just thinking about it.

Needless to say, the strip mall that I previously knew solely as the place where Planned Parenthood resides has now taken on a new identity. Within a single visit, it was reborn as my go-to destination for cheap, tasty eats with unique cultural flair.

Tallahassee, you never cease to amaze me with your hidden gems.

Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gym’s ‘Save the South’ climbing competition

What began as a 36-hour rock gym transformation overhaul commanded by a sleep-deprived staff armed with an enormous shipment new holds somehow blossomed into Tallahassee Rock Gym’s most successful Save the South climbing competitionso hats off to you, climbers.

We labored over creative new routes, celebrated the spirit of our humble climbing community, feasted on delectable Momo’s pizza, and had ourselves an amazing event.

All while raising over $1500 for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gyms Save the South climbing competition

Those are record numbers, folks – and we couldn’t have achieved it without you. I also recently found out from the head honcho’s at the Southeastern Climbers Coalition that our event has become one of their top fundraisers. For the staff at TRG, our goal has always been to hit $1,500 in fundraising, and we owe it all to our amazing climbers and generous community. Reaching our previously unfathomable goal means only one thing - it’s time to raise the bar for next year’s event! 

I couldn’t be more proud of the participants, staff members, spectators, and everyone who had a hand in making this fundraiser a true success. We came together to share our love for this adventurous sport, and showed our support for one of our favorite climbing organizations. Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gyms Save the South climbing competition Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gyms Save the South climbing competition

And we couldn’t have done it without our sponsors. A huge ‘thank you’ and heaps of gratitude are owed to the wonderful companies who stepped in and contributed to our cause. We deeply appreciate the support from climbing businesses like ClimbOn!, PMI Rope, Pro Balm, and the always wonderful Kurt Smith. As a local facility, we also extend many ‘thank you’s to our local community sponsors, including BagelHeads, Trail & Ski, Tasty Eats, and Momo’s Pizza.

 Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gyms Save the South climbing competitionBut I know what you’re really here for – the final score listings.

In similar fashion to last year’s competition, a few of our favorite climbers from Gainesville made the drive up to the panhandle to sweep our high scores and crush our hardest routes. With tireless effort and friendly determination, they once again earned some of the highest rankings during the event – and Gator boys, I better see you back again next year! Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gyms Save the South climbing competition

Below are the official scores for participants who turned in score sheets at the conclusion of the competition.

WOMENS

Arieanne DeFazio – 2410
Rachel Putman – 2290
Cassie Newman – 2035
Chelsea Boetcker – 2025
Montana Napier – 1645
Barbara Ellis – 975
Maryanne Shaw – 880
Tessa Bullington – 755
Kristin Kozelsky – 635
Madeline Rosenfeldt – 635

MENS

Louie Talacay – 3185
Usman Bashir – 3150
Brian Huang – 3125
Mike Stanton – 3045
Bo Durham – 2995
Bryan Cox – 2980
David Valdivia – 2970
Thomas Bowers – 2805
Spottswood – 2705
Joshua Larsen – 2705
Max Kruse – 2710
Vinny Medina – 2680
Sam Raley – 2640
Colton Peters – 2585
Brandon Iglesias – 2370
Dakota Lundeen – 2365
Tom Patten – 2315
Jacob Stalder – 2475
Chase Pedersen – 2455
Charles Carbiener – 2265
Alex Woo – 2210
Dominic Delgado – 2130
Lucas Larson – 2085
Alex Griffel – 2060
Bob Rosenbaum – 1890
Smiley – 1860
Kris Long – 1855
Zach Stivers – 1855
Brian Drewke – 1825
Doug Walters – 1815
Ray Uzonyi – 1560
Isaac Bakan – 1425
Girish Ramachandran – 530

NOTE: Through the chaos of tallying score sheets, announcing top competitors, and drawing raffle winners, a small handful of men’s beginner score sheets found their way out of the stacks – but top climbers David Miller and Andrew Young certainly earned their mention, congrats fellas!

 Official scores and results from Tallahassee Rock Gyms Save the South climbing competition