I already know that after my yearlong Simply Adventure trip, I’ll be claiming that 2013 was the best year ever – but there would be no epic future without the unbelievable year of traveling, new friends, and outdoor pursuits experienced during 2012.
The year began with me residing in snowy Denver, Colorado – and now as it comes to a close, I’m saying farewell to house-living in Florida, and preparing for life as a van-dweller. Woah. To wrap my mind around how I’ve ended up where I am today, we have to take a look back at the top 10 adventure moments of 2012. The list keeps getting better as we journey towards #1:
10. Learning How to Ski in Vail, Colorado
Eager to take advantage of my temporary residence in Colorado, the elder Boués were incredibly amped when the chance arose for them to join me in the mountains for a weekend of adventure. In late February, they flew out to Denver and together we road tripped out to the Vail Ski Area for a few days of snowy bonding.
Having previously failed miserably at snowboarding, I took my first skiing lesson and conquered the bunny slopes – but the real highlight of the Vail trip was spending time with my folks, eating the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever tasted at Pazzo’s Pizzeria, and sharing my newfound love for Colorado with them.
9. Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona
Each year of my life now seems to include an epic solo adventure, and this year’s trip was my one-woman journey out to Flagstaff in late May for the annual Overland Expo event. The misadventure began with me tragically killing a young black bear while driving through the middle-of-nowhere in Texas, but quickly took a more pleasant turn as I connected with a group of fine fellas (like Dave Creech, David Croyle, Anthony Sicola, and so many more) who mocked my inability to finish a glass of whiskey, cooked up some mean tacos, and introduced me to the art of overland travel.
I gained valuable insights from the Hackney’s educational seminars, feasted on Overland Gourmet’s outstanding fireside fare, and spent over a week traveling across some of the finer parts of the country. J. Brandon, thank you for taking me under your wing and becoming a true friend.
8. My First Amtrak Train Ride
Niko and I first started dating a few days before Thanksgiving in 2009, which has led to a rather inconvenient occurrence of our anniversary falling on days when we’re typically spread across the state visiting family for the holiday. We were together last year for Thanksgiving in Denver, and this year I was determined to spend our third anniversary together – so I hopped on my very first, and highly anticipated, Amtrak Silver Star train journey from Miami to Tampa. It was an admittedly small step towards fulfilling my dreams of train travel, but I loved every minute of it – and can’t wait to embark on extended railway journeys in the future.
7. Sport Climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky
Prior to my Arizona road trip, I spent 10 days exploring a lush gorge in the depths of Kentucky with Niko and the owner of Tallahassee Rock Gym, Rich. We met up with a crew of topnotch Floridian climbers for days spent hiking through dense greenery, avoiding pesky campers at Land of The Arches Campground, and gorging on pizza at Miguel’s.
I witnessed my friend Rachel take the scariest whipper I’ve ever seen while climbing a route called Amarillo Sunset, nearly peed on a young copperhead while drunk at The Zoo crag on Cinco de Mayo, and proudly on-sighted my first 5.10a leads. It was one of the most inspiring and motivational climbing trips I’ve ever been on.
6. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City
The climax of 2012’s integration into the outdoor industry occurred during the festive chaos better known as the OR Show. Thousands of gear junkies, media professionals, and brand representatives converged upon the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City for the ultimate outdoor industry experience.
Swept up in a whirlwind of introductions, meetings, and pitstops for beer, I was entirely overwhelmed as I filled my pack with free gear, brushed elbows with Alex Honnold, and reunited with the wonderful folks at Stonelick and Columbia Sportswear. The trip was completed with a gorgeous day of climbing at American Fork Canyon with the #ClimbChat crew. I’m already planning for next summer’s OR Show.
5. The Triple Crown Bouldering Series at Hound Ears, NC
I’ve never been the competitive type when it comes to climbing, but when I heard about the annual climbing event at Hound Ears in North Carolina a few weeks before my birthday, I instantly registered Niko and I for the competition – this outstanding crag is only open one day a year for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. Situated atop a ritzy gated community, the Hound Ears boulder field is a mecca for any style of bouldering imaginable. I sent my proudest climbs to date, placed 15th in my category, and celebrated the end of the competition with apple-picking at Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.
4. The Last Rocky Mountain Adventures and Leaving Colorado
At the end of 2011, I experienced a few career hiccups, and realized that in order to live my dreams of a life of adventure, I needed to leave Colorado and return to Florida to save up for the Simply Adventure trip. Before departing from the mile-high city, Niko and a few buddies flew out to Denver to spend their spring break climbing, hiking, and exploring. We traveled out to Horsetooth Resevoir near Fort Collins, made one last visit to my favorite sushi spot in Boulder, and ended my time in Denver with an excellent week of adventure.
During the first week of March, Niko and I packed up my little Scion hatchback, and drove me back down to Florida. It was a bittersweet moment, and I’ve been dreaming of the Flat Irons ever since.
3. Building, Renovating, and Expanding at Tallahassee Rock Gym
If you follow me on Twitter, gander at my Instagrams, or read my Facebook statuses, you know that one of the most important things in my life is the Tallahassee Rock Gym. It’s my home, the birthplace of my climbing lifestyle, and the spot where Niko and I first met. I’ve laughed, cried, and crushed there – and this year, we bought the warehouse space next door and began construction on an epic expansion effort. Everything was paid for out of pocket, every piece of wood was put up during long hours of volunteer work, and every inch of the new climbing area is loaded with love and dedication.
We’ve nearly completed the renovations, and on January 12th, we’ll host a grand reopening celebration. It’s the proudest project I’ve ever been a part of, and it breaks my heart to think about leaving this place for an entire year.
2. Joining Columbia Sportwear’s Inaugural Omniten Ambassador Team
I still remember the day Adam from Columbia Sportswear sent me the first e-mail; he nonchalantly asked for my shipping address, claiming to be interested in sending me a few pieces from the new spring line. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was speeding back to Florida to open up a mysterious package – which I quickly discovered was my invitation to join a group of ten outdoor influencers selected to become a team of gear-testers and adventurers. During my six-month Omniten experience, I was introduced to nine people who I now think of on a daily basis.
We met in Phoenix, Arizona for a press trip as complete strangers, and by the time we left Havasu Falls five days later, we all cried upon departure. During our Arizona adventure together, we were spoiled in Sedona with prickly pear margaritas and vortex yoga on Bell Rock, spent three days exploring the Grand Canyon and jumping from the waterfalls around Havasupai, and grew into an unforgettable little family. I can’t thank Columbia Sportswear enough for blessing me with the Omniten opportunity – it truly changed my life forever.
1. Buying The Big Yellow Van
Niko and I dreamed of it all year, and finally in October, our fantasies came to fruition – we took the biggest plunge of our lives thus far, and bought a used 2005 Sprinter cargo van. We gutted the interior and built ourselves a little home within the cozy cargo area. Niko crafted an amazing bed built entirely by hand, and we installed a kitchen cabinet and countertops. In a few days, we’ll officially move into the van – and our ultimate treasure from 2012 will guide us towards unbelievable journeys in 2013.
The BEST Part of 2012: The People
Even harder than trying to condense this year into just ten stand-out moments was attempting to somehow address each person who came into my life during 2012 – and it’s impossible, so my top moment isn’t so much a moment as an overall experience. From the Omniten crew and the folks in the outdoor industry to growing closer with my sister, the ultimate gift of 2012 didn’t come in the form of mountains or climbing gear – it’s all about you.
I connected with, met, and traveled the country with strangers who quickly became family. We passed a bottle of whiskey around the campfire (in a can) at Overland Expo, led climbs in American Fork Canyon, hiked up and down the Grand Canyon and slaved over the renovation of Tallahassee Rock Gym. My adventures would have been incomplete without the people who helped create moments that I’ll carry for the rest of my life. Thank you, I love you all, miss those of you who are far, and can’t wait to adventure with you in 2013!