Easiest Recipe for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (ever!)

For some folks, the winter season is just an excuse to crank up the heater and indulge in an endless supply of homemade pumpkin spice lattesbut for those of us who live in a house full of dirtbag climbers, the winter months are all about survival.

You see, we don’t run the heat, so at this very moment, it’s about 55º in my kitchen – which means everything is cold. So cold, in fact, that when my housemate poured fresh coffee into his tall cup, the glass was so cold that it shattered upon contact with the hot liquid. In a world where everything is cold, hot food becomes a dietary staple.

My favorite way of warming up with edibles? Homemade soup! Stew a giant pot of hearty liquid warmth, and you’ve got instant heat to last up to a week. And while I love a fancy soup just as much as the next gal, there’s nothing better than an easy, simple soup. Plus, the entire house seems to warm up with the smells of stewing veggies and simmering broth.

This homemade chicken noodle soup recipe yields 10 mason jars worth of goodness – plenty to last you at least a week – and this may just be one of the easiest soup recipes, ever. The most difficult part of making this soup is merely the effort that it requires to patiently wait for your soup to reach optimal soup-age – but there’s no shame in sneaking a spoonful or two during the cooking process.

What you need:

  • 50 ounces (6 ¼ cups) of 100% natural chicken broth | Since I’m on a dirtbag budget I used the 99% fat free canned version from Swanson.
  • 3 cups carrots  *
  • 2 cups celery *
  • 1 yellow onion *
  • 12 ounces of wide egg noodles
  • 1.25 lbs of chicken breast * | We get ours from Earth Fare; it’s ‘local’ chicken from Springer Mountain in Georgia!
  • 2 cubes of bouillon/seasoning of your choice
  • 4 cups of water | Purely to add to the soup as it cooks; additional water will be used to boil the noodles.

* Bonus Points if you get these items from a local farm or market!

How to make the easiest homemade chicken noodle soup (ever):

1. In the biggest pot you’ve got, start boiling some water. Chop your chicken breast into smaller pieces (think about 8 per breast), and toss ‘em into the water to boil.

2. While the chicken is cooking, begin preparing your vegetables. Dice the onion; slice each celery stick in half, and chop; slice and halve the carrots. The size and thickness is up to you – I prefer to make my veggies in a variety of sizes to make each bite a surprise.

3. After about 10 minutes, check the chicken – if there is no pink left in the middle, drain it and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.

4. While you’re working on the chicken, toss your vegetables and two cups of water into the pot. I added a small amount of chicken broth, to soak up some flavor while the veggies softened. Add celery and carrots first, then onions later. Now is a good time to add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pot.

– At this time, you should also set a separate pot to boil, and cook your package of egg noodles.

NOTE
: I do not cook my egg noodles all the way; I leave them al dente because they will continue to absorb the broth in the soup (this is a great way to avoid getting them too mushy during storage).

5. Once you can handle the meat, begin to pull the chicken apart with your fingers (or a fork). You’ll quickly find that what began as a small pile of chicken chunks will grow into a rather large heap of shredded meat.

6. Add the chicken, remaining broth, noodles and any other leftover ingredients, to the pot (I didn’t drain the noodles, I added the water along with ‘em). Once the soup reaches a bubbly brew, toss in the bouillon/seasoning cubes. Continue to season to taste, if necessary.

7. Begin the waiting game. Set the soup to a simmer, and occasionally stir and taste for at least two hours. The longer, the better – but it may be hard to resist the temptation of pouring yourself a bowl.8. Ladle your soup into mason jars, and set some aside in the freezer (not completely full), and some in the fridge to be eaten quickly.

After an afternoon spent tending to my vat of homemade chicken noodle soup, I was left feeling almost eager for all the mason jar rations to be devoured so I could cook up another big batch of soul-warming soup. I’m thinking loaded baked potato soup may be next up on the schedule…

Do you love soup, too? What’s your favorite flavor?

I reckon I’ll be making quite a few more kinds of soup this season,
so let me know which variety I should experiment with next!

For more foodie fun, check out my “For The Foodies” board on Pinterest.
And if you liked this recipe, add it to your boards – and give it a ‘thumbs up’! 

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Trip Report: Southeastern Climbers Coalition Trail Day and Climbing at Boat Rock

During the planning process of the Simply Adventure trip, Niko and I felt strongly inclined to explore the ways we could make our adventure more than just a climber “vacation” – we wanted to give back to the climbing community. After meeting the two fellas of the Access Fund’s Jeep Conservation Team at Red River Gorge last spring, we realized the most obvious way we could contribute: trail days.

While the Simply Adventure journey will take us across nearly every state in the country, our hearts and souls will forever remain in the southeast – so we wanted to kick off our year of trail days with our local climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. This weekend, we loaded up the van (for its first climbing trip ever!), and headed out to the Atlanta area for a trail day at Boat Rock.

After a night spent sleeping in a Walmart parking lot, we arrived to an empty gravel lot at the base of the Boat Rock crag. Within minutes, the entire lot was filled, and cars overflowed along the streets beside it. I had envisioned a dozen or so dirtbags lined up with shovels, but the scene I was greeted with was far more impressive: Upwards of 30 kids showed up to do their part in preserving Boat Rock.

It was incredibly humbling to witness the community spirit that was demonstrated during the Boat Rock trail day. Young people lined up with buckets to shuttle an enormous pile of mulch up to the boulders, and they eagerly tromped through the woods filling up garbage bags with half-decomposed trash – including two rusty tires, a broken mirror, and heaps of discarded metal.

What had been planned as a lengthy trail day turned into an affair that only lasted a few hours – the dedicated crew of trail day goers managed to accomplish hours’ worth of work in half the time. It’s absolutely amazing what a group of hard-working climbers can accomplish when we rally together and focus on cleaning up our crag.

After running out of mulch to haul into the boulder field, I joined Urban Core Climbing’s Emily Taylor, and her impossibly adorable daughter Milo, for an impromptu tour of the crag – and we were hard-pressed to find even a single piece of litter leftover. With nothing left to pick up, I enjoyed meandering through the woods and snapping way too many photos of adorable little Milo. 

The crew gathered for a gear toss, with swag provided by event sponsors like Access Fund and REI, then we settled down for lunch before the group dispersed into the crag for some much-earned climbing.

Niko and I gave a few folks a little tour of our van, then threw our new Stonelick pads on our back and trekked towards the climbs with a fellow trail day participant, Jordan, who would become our guide for the day.

Let me tell you, Boat Rock is easily one of the most humbling crags I have ever climbed at.

Suddenly, V3s feel like V5s, arêtes lose their edge, and it’s nearly impossible to find a top-out that includes actual holds. And foot holds? What foot holds? Boat Rock don’t need no foot holds. Climbing at Boat Rock is both frustrating and empowering. You don’t ‘get’ sends; you earn them.

Our first stop was the Spiderman boulder, one of the ultra classic climbs at Boat Rock. This hunk of rock also happens to be one of the few with features and deep holds – so don’t let it fool you. After sending every line on the stand-alone boulder, we headed for Paint Can, a V5 climb that flows like butter until you hit the barren, bulging top. I watched a few locals run through the problem, and was quickly discouraged when I attempted to pull myself up on the “crimpers” the fellas had tugged on – there was literally nothing up there.

I quickly abandoned any attempts at sending problems at my limit, and refocused my efforts on finding sweet problems that suited my style. This led me to discover my new favorite style of climbing: cracks. Jordan suggested that I hop on a sweet V3 finger crack called “Lost Digits,” and after a frustrated series of attempts, I nailed the most bomber foot jam of all time – and was instantly hooked.

We immediately hiked over to another easier climb called “Blues Crack,” which I may or may not have climbed three times in a row. There’s just something about the methodical nature of climbing a crack, and that satisfying moment when you’ve locked your fingers into a solid section, or jammed your toes perfectly into the wedge of rock. It’s an entirely unique style of climbing; and I’m obsessed. 

Have I mentioned yet how much I love climbing cracks?

Next to Blues Crack sat a funky problem aptly named “Tough Guy.” It was one of Jordan’s projects, so we all got stoked on working out the beta. It’s rated at a V3, but I’d easily give the top-out at least a V4. As with most climbs at Boat Rock, the key is to trust non-existent foot holds, and make hand holds out of nothing. Jordan and Niko made it look easy, while I ended up spending no less than five minutes on the top-out – but it was a send, folks.

We ended the day at Yellow Arete, a towering boulder problem that offers inviting features until you get to the committing top-out. Naturally, Niko crushed it effortlessly, although even he admits that the finish was bleak. It was one of those climbs that’s tall enough to force you to finish the problem, purely because you really, really don’t want to come back down.

Jordan hopped on Yellow Arete next, projected it until his fingers were ready to shred, and then our little trio hiked back to the parking area to conclude our day.

As Niko and I fueled up for the drive home with instant mashed potatoes and avocado, we reflected on the impact of our first trail day. Yes, we had pitched in to help ensure that Boat Rock access is preserved for climbers – but far more importantly, our eyes were opened to the vital future of the climbing community. The kids from Urban Core and Adrenaline Climbing are setting the stage for the next generation of climbers. These young people aren’t just getting into the sport of climbing; they’re fully embracing the lifestyle and responsibilities that accompany the true meaning of being a climber.

I think we all could learn a thing or two from the kids who came out to the Boat Rock trail day – and I hope the Simply Adventure journey can continue to spread the hopefulness and genuine appreciation demonstrated out at that Georgia crag. I had a blast with everyone who came out, and will be posting the complete set of photo on the Simply Adventure Facebook page – so stay tuned!

Did you hear? I’m the new voice of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition’s revived Twitter account! I don’t think it’s rocket science to calculate that Niko is much more helpful during trail days than I am (c’mon, he could carry 10x more mulch up a cliff than I can), so it is truly meaningful to me to be able to use my social media skills to help the SCC. Give @SEClimbers a follow, and send us a Tweet!

Want to help the Simply Adventure team successfully spend a year traveling around the country to spread the good tidings of land conservation, and work with local climbing communities to preserve the future of our crags? 

Donate to the Simply Adventure fundraiser – and help equip us with the tools we need to make our mission a reality. We’re running out of time, and still have over $4000 to raise within the next two weeks. 

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The story of how a giant yellow Sprinter van became my home

From the moment Niko and I declared 2013 as our road trip year, we began dreaming of the vehicle that would serve as our home during our adventure. Living in a car is no simple subject, so naturally we explored multiple options.

The first “that’s the one!” idea was a Honda Element equipped with Ursa Minor’s E-Camper pop-up extension. It turned a standard adventure mobile into a livable space – perfect. I was able to play in the Jeep version during Overland Expo, and felt pretty smitten with the concept of turning it into my home for a year. But the price tag proved a bit too reachy.

And more importantly, we realized we needed some space. Niko and I are great at living together and sharing everything, but the idea of residing in a small car for an entire year started to feel a bit suffocating. I quickly realized that the more space we had, the higher the likelihood of us not wanting to throw each other off a cliff within the first two months of our Simply Adventure trip.

After storming up new ideas, being haunted by Niko’s proposal of living in his pick-up truck, and many conversations with Beth from 3Up Adventures, the choice was clear: We needed a Sprinter van.

Big, boxy, and good on gas mileage, the Dodge Sprinter is truly an ideal vehicle for the adventure lifestyle. The cargo set-up allowed us to create a functional space designed for our needs, but the diesel van still drives (relatively) easy. We agreed on the Sprinter, and quickly began our search.

Months of scouring the internet and local dealerships for used Sprinters led to two weeks in Miami to complete the search and purchase. After a handful of disappointing van visits, my father and I hopped on a one-way flight to Tampa, then drove out to Palm Harbor, to check out a big, yellow Sprinter that Niko had discovered in an eBay auction.

It was love at first sight.

Never mind that yellow is my absolutely favorite color of all time, or that I have an unusual tendency to affectionately personify inanimate objects – this Sprinter was the one. The dealership was closed during our initial visit, so we creeped on the van, and eagerly awaited the next day to (hopefully) finalize the purchase.

The waiting, haggling, and inspection process were absolutely agonizing.

We test drove the Sprinter first thing in the morning, and decided we liked what we saw. The next step was taking it to a mechanic at the Jerry Ulm Dodge dealership to get the lowdown on the van. I will forever be grateful for the extraordinary efforts by Brian Cummings to help me with my van buying process. He spent hours talking to us, offering honest advice, and ultimately suggesting that we should go for it and buy the van (even though it wasn’t being sold by his dealership). Brian, thank you a thousand times, you are absolutely wonderful!

Fast forward through some unsuccessful haggling, a “looks like we’ll have to walk away from the van” moment, a phone call saying “come back, we’ll take your offer,” and lots of paperwork – and suddenly I was driving my new yellow van from Tampa to Miami. Ain’t it a beauty?

Since purchasing my new home, we’ve driven from Tampa to Miami, and Miami to Tallahassee. This weekend we’re heading up to the Atlanta area for our first trail day with the Southeastern Climbers Coalition at Boat Rock – our first official Simply Adventure journey.

In the coming weeks, I’ll keep you updated as we outfit the Sprinter and transform it into a veritable home. It may have a shabby paint job, blown speakers, broken AC vents, and a busted headlight – but it’s our first home together, and we’re smitten. We’ve already gutted the interior; next up is tearing down the partition.

Soon, the blank interior space will be filled with a custom built bed, kitchen area, storage, and more. We can’t wait to show you our handiwork, so stay tuned! We’re also going to be holding a van naming contest soon, so start thinkin’ up some snazzy names for our glorious yellow van!

Want to help us make the Simply Adventure dream a reality? Check out our fundraiser, and DONATE to our mission to spread the good tidings of conservation, outdoor recreation, and climbing love across the country! 

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Review of Columbia Sportswear’s Reactor 35º Sleeping Bag (and Niko’s first guest post!)

Folks, by now most of you have realized that Niko is a man of few words. He’s not quite the Twitter type, and only just started making his first Facebook page posts (like this one about Access Fund’s Holy Boulders project), so when he told me he was going to write his first product review, I knew he must have really fallen in love with a piece of outdoor gear.

During my trip to Havasu Falls with Columbia Sportswear’s OmniTen team, we were gifted the most packable sleeping bags I’ve ever witnessed. It was so light that I hardly noticed it on my back while trudging up 10 miles of desert terrain to the rim of the Grand Canyon. Since then, I’ve taken my mummy-style sleeping back on trips to Rocktown in Georgia, and the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition in Hound Ears, North Carolina – and it’s always provided me a vessel of cocooned body warmth and superior snuggle-ability. So really, it was no surprise that Niko decided to write his first gear review about it.  

Here’s what Niko had to say about the Reactor 35:

This summer when Katie returned from her OmniTen trip to Havasu Falls in Arizona, she brought back one of my new favorite pieces of gear, the Columbia Sportswear Reactor 35º sleeping bag (a special thanks to Will Rochfort for hiking it out of the Grand Canyon for me).

I’ve had the opportunity to use the bag over the last couple months on a couple of climbing trips here in the southeast, and despite the hot temperatures, this bag has been exceptionally comfortable to sleep in.

The Reactor 35 is an extremely light 100% nylon mummy bag that packs easily into one of the smallest stuff sacks I’ve seen. The dimensions are a mere 7.5”x17” – plus, this bag only weighs 2 pounds, making it the perfect companion on long multi-day hikes.

Don’t let the lightweight nature of this sleeping bag deter you – the Reactor 35 uses Columbia’s Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology to line the inside of the bag, which regulates your body temperature, providing a warm, dry night in the outdoors.

A few weekends ago Katie and I drove up to Pigeon Mountain to do some climbing at Rocktown. We arrived late and decided to spend the night camped out in the car. In the middle of the night, I woke up to find Katie hogging the entire hatchback, so I abandoned the car in favor of sleeping outside on a crash pad. I woke up expecting the familiar damp feeling from the southern morning dew, but I was surprised to find that the Omni-Shield outer coating kept me dry throughout the entire night.

Since having Columbia Sportswear’s Reactor 35, I have only been able to test it in temperatures around the high 40’s. I am looking forward to seeing what it can do when temperatures drop down here in the south and the climbing season really gets moving. Overall, I would highly recommend this bag to anyone who wants a light, functional, and generally well-designed sleeping bag.
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Simply Adventure update: Sponsorships, funding, and buying the van!

Wow. At first, Janaury 25th felt like it was a lifetime away, but as our departure date approaches, everything is beginning to feel a lot more real. And by real, I mean a truly overwhelming cacophony of excitement, terror, and pressure.

In 102 days, Niko and I will be officially beginning
the yearlong journey of Simply Adventure.

And, Simply Adventure has a lot of updates to share! So here goes:

Trip Planning: The most exciting item we’re planning to purchase for the trip (besides the van) is a giant map where we’ll start to plan out our route. We already have the first few months outlined: first, a jaunt to Houston to visit our climber friend Teresa and go climb at Reimer’s Ranch – followed by a few weeks in Hueco Tanks. Afterwards, we’ll head south of the border for what promises to be an amazing multi-pitch experience at El Potrero Chico in Mexico.

After Mexico, our plans are very vague – so we want your input! If you’ve got a local crag we must climb at, want to offer us a shower and/or place to park the van for an evening, or just want to meet up for some adventuring, let us know! We’ll be ironing out our plans more solidly over the next month.

Sponsorship: In the past few weeks, we’ve been connecting with a lot of fantastic outdoor brands that have been eager to lend a hand in supporting our mission to spread the word of conservation, outdoor recreation, and land stewardship. We’ve received wonderful gear sponsorships from Teton Sports and Columbia Sportswear, and our climbing lifestyle is being supported by Stonelick crash pads, ClimbOn! products, and Tallahassee Rock Gym. Over the weekend, we secured another sponsor:

The Simply Adventure project is officially
powered by Goal Zero solar energy!

Documenting and sharing a yearlong adventure while living out of a van is going to be no easy task – but thanks to Goal Zero, we’ll never be left in the dark. Our cameras, computers, and all our electronic gear will be kept charged for the entire journey – so you’ll always be able to connect with us! We are beside ourselves with excitement, thank you Goal Zero!

The Van: Our self-imposed deadline for getting our Sprinter is quickly approaching, so I’m headed down to Miami next week to see what I can do about turning my 2009 Scion tC into a Sprinter van. (Anyone want to buy my Scion? But really.) You can expect a huge, excited blog post once we finally have our new home. I can’t believe I’m going to be living in a van for a year – Niko always talked about it when we first started dating, and I told him he was nuts. Now here I am, selling everything I own to move into a Sprinter. Touché, Niko. Continue reading

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Trip Report: (Epic, Beautiful, Strong) Climbing at Hound Ears during Triple Crown Bouldering Series

I don’t know about you, but ever since handing in my score sheet on Saturday afternoon after crushing all day at what easily qualifies as the most beautiful and bountiful bouldering crag I have ever visited, I have been obsessively refreshing the Triple Crown Bouldering Series website, eagerly awaiting to see the final competitor listing – and it’s finally here: The results from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition at Hound Ears are officially posted!

But before I reveal how I placed, let’s take a look back at my amazing weekend out at this unbelievable crag:

The adventure began early on Friday morning, as Niko and I left Tallahassee at 6:00 AM on the dot. We wound our way through Georgia and South Carolina before crossing the North Carolina state line early in the afternoon. After a few wrong turns, thanks to my newfangled Apple Maps app, we finally landed at Grandfather Campground.

I was expecting a huge crowd of climbers to be milling around already, but we ended up arriving before registration even began. We set up camp, feasted on delicious Indian food provided free from Triple Crown, and swiftly retreated to our tent to rest up for the big day.

Holy mother of climbers – I have never seen so many folks gathered at a single crag on a single day. Since Hound Ears is only open for public climbing during Triple Crown, the event was sold out. That means a total of 300 climbers were bussed from camp to the peak of the Hound Ears boulder field on Saturday morning. Epic.

Despite having spent the previous evening pouring over our printed guidebooks, Niko and I would have been completely lost without the guidance of an old Tally Rock Gym climber, Ben Wiant, who joined us for the competition with his wife. Along with two other Tally Rock Gym regulars, Monty and Sara, we trekked through the trails towards our first stop of the day: the Air Jesus boulder.

The group warmed up on a row of V0-V2s, and then we dove into a grueling day of crushing. Despite being slightly intimidated by the height of the magnificent Air Jesus boulder, I decided to hop on the V5 version of this classic climb, and sent it within three attempts. I immediately knew it was going to be a great day.

I also quickly realized that it wouldn’t be such a great day for photography. When you’re scurrying around an enormous crag trying to send 10 problems within less than seven hours, whipping out your camera loses priority, very fast. So excuse my not-so-epic pictures, oops.

Niko jumped on a sweet V9 called Air Satan (Low Start), but kept slipping off a slick foot on the top-out. He coulda, woulda, shoulda sent it, but it was early in the day, and we decided to come back to the climb later (which we never did, naturally).

The second part of the day day my favorite send, Bleed Me Out (V5). I was working another set of V5s called Satan’s In The Tires and Body Disposal when one of the Triple Crown judges saw me climbing and insisted that I hop on Bleed Me Out. Frankly, I had already crossed that one off my list of problems I wanted to attempt, purely based on the wretched name.

The route starts on a very solid ledge, with not so great feet. You have to launch out and cross over to a microscopic crimp knob, which you have to match before delicately swinging your feet over and hurdle up to the next tiny crimp. My crux came at the last crimp before the top-out; it was literally invisible from the two non-existent crimps I was already on. I was terrified, but somehow reached up, locked my tiny fingers on the equally tiny hold, and cranked up to the top-out lip. The highlight of my trip was a feeling of absolute elation, which was amplified when I looked down and realized the judge was watching me the whole time. (Thank you wonderful lady for encouraging me to make the send!)

Our next little hike took us to one of the ultimate classics at Hound Ears, a highball V3 called Heretic. I took a little rest while watching the boys crush the huge moves on this towering problem, and cheered Niko on while he sent Unforgiven (V7). Yet again, the Triple Crown judges lent a helpful hand in revealing a hidden crimper that Niko hadn’t been using during his first attempts. With this new bit of beta, he was able to quickly make the send. (Thank you Triple Crown for having such fantastic folks running the event!)

The last truly hardcore session was at the Lost and Found boulders, where I sent two V3s while Niko worked on a vicious V9 called The Brady Problem. It wasn’t a send for him, but he did get to watch Jimmy Webb nonchalantly stroll up to the boulder, send the problem, and merrily stroll away. Pretty neat.

At this point in the day, we were wrecked from the sharp stone. We retreated to the main area in search of burritos (which we missed out on) and easier climbs to finish the day. After getting whooped by a V2 called Evil Slug, Niko convinced me to hop on a lippy V4 called The Anchor, which I miraculously sent despite an overeager spotter who literally talked me off the wall during my first attempt. I loved his enthusiasm, but couldn’t focus on topping out the problem while he was shouting “Come on, come on, get it, get your foot up, crank up, crank over, let’s go, do it!” relentlessly in my ear.

After that, I was completely drained. Who knew climbing 10 V3-V5 problems could be so daunting? I ended the day attempting a few V3 and V4 problems, but couldn’t even lift myself off the ground – so I settled with my 10th score sheet listing, a V1, appropriately named “Lard Ass.” I scored my signatures, surveyed my score sheet, and turned it in to the judges. 

At the end of the day, I had no idea how my performance stacked up against the other lady competitors, but I had already won the battle against myself. With two V5s, a V4, and a handful of V3s, I had rocked my strongest day of climbing to date. I pleasantly enjoyed the remainder of the evening sipping beer and tequila/lemonade cocktails, gorging myself on barbeque provided by Triple Crown, and laughing at the wipeouts during the crash pad stacking contest.

When the winners were finally announced, I knew my name wouldn’t be in the top 3 for women’s intermediate, but my notions of where I might place were instantly crushed when the called out the name of the top climber, Alexa Russell. I had watched her climbing earlier in the day, and she crushed every V5 and V6 she got her hands on (keep in mind, we were competing in the V3-4 category) – and apparently, she’s only 13! I didn’t stand a chance.

Final verdict? I placed 15th in the Women’s Intermediate.
Not too shabby for my first competition.

Overall, I am so satisfied with how the competition turned out. My month of training truly paid off, and I felt incredibly strong throughout the day. The biggest improvement I saw was with top-outs. I have never fearlessly mantled over a flat ledge before, and my confidence was sky-high during Hound Ears. Even on the V2s, I felt like a champion as I rocked my body over the boulders – I only beach whaled twice! 

Next time, I’m going to incorporate more endurance training into my pre-competition workouts. Seriously, sending 10 problems (in seven short hours) at your limit is no easy feat folks.

PS: WHY OH WHY ISN’T HOUND EARS OPEN EVERY DAY? It’s my new favorite crag, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be attending every single Triple Crown there for the rest of my climbing career. Hound Ears 2013, anyone?

Oh! Have you entered my giveaway for your chance to win a sweet, BPA-free, 100% recyclable Eco-Bottle? Click here for your chance to win – all you have to do is leave a comment telling us why plastic bottles suck! Giveaway ends on Friday!

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A preview of climbing at Hound Ears – and announcing the GU Energy giveaway winner!

Either I’m still reeling from my incredible trip out to North Carolina, or there are just truly no words to properly describe the bouldering mecca that is Hound Ears. My first experience competing in a Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition was phenomenal, and even though I’m still anxiously awaiting the final results from my score, I already feel like a winner.

I climbed the strongest I have ever climbed this weekend.
And it felt good.

There are still plenty of pictures to sort though (although somehow 75% of them turned out just slightly blurry, ugh!), and I am eagerly waiting for the final competition results to be posted so I can tell you all how I did, but here’s a little taste of my weekend up in the North Carolina high country:

We spent Friday night setting up camp at Grandfather Mountain Campground and feasting on Indian food provided by Triple Crown, and then climbed the entire day on Saturday. After the competition, we celebrated with beer, barbecue, and a very, very lengthy award ceremony.

On Sunday, Niko and I packed up early, and headed to Hendersonville for a wonderful little date excursion. I took him to my all-time favorite breakfast buffet, Dixie Diner, where we gorged on southern fixings and chatted with locals at the family-style seating. Then we headed out to JH Stepps Hillcrest Orchard for a few hours of apple picking before loading up the car and trekking back to Florida.

 
Successful weekend, eh? But now for what you’re really reading this post for – the announcement of the GU Energy Labs and BlenderBottle giveaway winner! There were a lot of great entries, and you all had wonderful things to share about what inspires you to train – but there could only be one winning answer:

 “My training inspiration? Checking off those boxes each day and knowing that I’m pushing myself to achieve a goal. Every workout builds on the previous day – I’m getting stronger, faster and when it comes to race day? Even though there are no guarantees on the outcome, I know I gave it my best effort.” – Erin Graves

Congratulations, Erin! For your perseverance when it comes to training, and a great attitude about pushing yourself, you’ve won a package filled with GU Energy Labs performance treats, and a sweet new BlenderBottle. Shoot me an e-mail at katieboue@gmail.com to claim your prize. 

Didn’t win this giveaway? No worries, there are plenty more on the horizon – including a giveaway for a environmentally-awesome, BPA-free Eco Bottle! Click here to enter the Eco Bottle giveaway (all you have to do is leave a comment)!

Stay tuned for more on my weekend out in North Carolina, including an in-depth post on my climbing competition, and a look at my romantic apple-picking date with Niko. Until then, keep climbing, keep adventuring, and keep gettin’ outside!

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It’s a miracle: I no longer loathe metal water bottles – Eco Bottle Review and Giveaway!

Let me make one thing very clear before I begin this review:

I have always hated metal water bottles.

They taste like metal, smell like metal, feel like metal (does the feeling of metal ever make anyone else’s teeth cringe?). When I was first approached by Eco Bottle to sample one of their products, I was extremely skeptical – but they were so stoked about their BPA-free, dishwasher-safe bottle that I was convinced to give it a shot.

I stuck to my stubborn anti-metal convictions even as I opened up my Eco Bottle package, but was instantly softened when I unwrapped what remains as my favorite feature of this water bottle – a thick, bendy straw attachment. I love straws for their superior sip-ability, and adore this genius little bonus feature. Opening and closing water bottles is one of the reasons I’ve begun to lean towards hydration packs, so it’s refreshing to see a bottle brand looking to solve the issue of needing to grab-gulp-n-go while you’re out and about.

My emerald green bottle took its maiden voyage on a bike ride from my house to the Tallahassee Rock Gym on a mild evening. The body fit perfectly into my water bottle holder, and I was pleased that my water remained a pleasant temperature throughout the duration of my ride. My perception that metal water bottles are always an inferno was debunked. I’d chalk it up to the inner body coating, perhaps that aids in temperature regulation? I think the liner also attributes to the lack of a metallic taste in the bottle; I left my water sitting in the bottle for an entire week and it never tasted funky.

There was just one issue I ran into during my first adventure with the Eco Bottle – it’s not a no-brainer to open up. I naively filled it with water, screwed on the top, stuck on the mouthpiece attachment, and sped off on my road bike. Halfway through a monstrous hill, I paused to hastily gulp from my bottle – and was unable to suck out even a drop of water. Oops. 

I hadn’t properly opened the top piece, which was not something I was able to accomplish until after my parched ride. Once I realized the very easy screw motion necessary to open it up, the water was flowin’. So make sure you actually open your bottle before you head out! I also noticed a few little dents on the bottle’s body from my bike’s water bottle holder – but as an adventure gal, I like it when my gear bears the marks of being well loved.

Overall, I am a woman converted. I really love this metal bottle.

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Irresponsible, rude, pillaging climbers – We made them, so we ought to change them.

When the first climbing video for Simply Adventure went live on DPMclimbing.com, it was only a matter of time before I had my first encounter with a troll. Basically, this hateful dude filled up the comment feed on the video spewing all sorts of negative nancy-isms, which were tolerable until he switched from hating on me as a climber to hating on my desire to promote and inspire conservation within the climbing community.

Here’s what he said: 

“Just a thought, if the purpose is conservation, a better angle may be to work on limiting people that use an area rather than making it wide open to all. This way impact is limited rather than multiplied. Sure, you won’t get props for not allowing full access, but the area may be truly conserved instead of pillaged by any Tom, Dick, or Harry that wants to go climbing.”

It took me a moment to recover from reeling over what I had just read. Is this the best solution we can come up with for the issues of overuse and poor values of outdoor responsibility? Are we really willing to stop climbing at certain crags just because a few folks don’t know the do’s and don’ts of outdoor etiquette? Even worse – are we really willing to become elitist enough to say “we can come climb here, but you can’t”?

Here’s what I said back to him:

“I’d rather educate climbers into appreciating good land stewardship values than discourage climbing in any way. Areas getting pillaged by Tom, Dick, and Harry is exactly what we want to change, but instead of telling them not to enjoy the sport with us, shouldn’t we just teach them to be responsible instead?”

To me, it seems like a very common sense solution. There is no denying that the exploding popularity of climbing has brought some negative consequences on the outdoor community – but isn’t it our responsibility to change that? As climbers who “know better,” aren’t we obligated to pass on our wisdom and experiences to ensure that the ‘traditions’ of proper land stewardship, leave no trace, and giving back to the crags?  

I absolutely share this guy’s clear disdain for climbers who roll up to the crag and break every rule of responsible land use. No one likes a litter bug, no one appreciates someone’s dog pissing on your rope, no one likes to hear drunk kids hollering all through the boulder field. But changing their perspective on the outdoor climbing experience seems like a much more sustainable resolution than kicking them out of a destination. You can tell Tom, Dick, and Harry that they can’t climb at your crag – but aren’t they just going to move onto the next spot, and continue to pillage just like before?

Niko and I are driven by this idea of spreading the good tidings of being responsible, healthy climbers (and when I say healthy, I mean healthy to the land). While it may seem like a no-brainer to some of us, some new climbers may have never even considered that peeing under an overhang is really terrible for the soil and won’t get washed away by the rain. They may not understand why leaving crappy gear up on a route isn’t cool. They don’t know how big of a difference it makes to fill up just one plastic bag with some of the trash littering the base of a climb.

And it’s our fault if they never learn.

We as a collective climbing community are responsible for the rudest, loudest, messiest dude at the crag. Those climbers we are so quick to judge are purely a product of our unwillingness to say, “Hey man, don’t forget to pick up your tuna packet.”

And we’re all guilty of ignoring the issue.

Graffiti at Sandrock in Alabama – should we be responsible for cleaning it up?

I can’t sit here and toot my horn of positive climbing ambassadorship; I’m guilty of the elitist attitude just as much as anyone else. It’s all too easy to just turn to your partner and say “Dude, that guy is such a jackass,” instead of actually fixing the issue. Why are we so willing to slap judgment instead of realizing that we are all part of the same community. That dude building an illegal fire pit under your project is just as much a part of the climbing community as you are.

There is one example that still bothers me to this day: During a fall climbing trip to Stone Fort in Tennessee a few years ago, I joined a big group of climbers from the FSU Climbing Club for a weekend of boulder crushin’ adventure. We were sitting under the Super Mario boulder, and one girl found a spider crawling on a log. She swooped in to squash it (for absolutely no reason) – and thankfully missed. Then, I proceeded to silently watch her in horror as she terrorized the poor bug for five minutes until it finally got caught under her fingers and met a totally senseless death. She instantly lost all my respect – and then I realized that I was just as guilty for the spider’s death; why didn’t I say something?

Beginning now, enduring throughout our yearlong Simply Adventure trip, and lasting for the rest of our lives as climbers, Niko and I are committing ourselves to this idea of educating people. Not about how to tie knots, not about placing cams – about the importance of respecting the outdoors, caring for our crags, and undertaking our duty as a climbers to continue spreading the message.

If we don’t spread the word, who will?

What do you think? Is it your responsibility to educate climbers you see at the crag who are exhibiting the kind of behavior that gets an area’s access revoked? Should you feel obligated to pick up their tuna packets after they abandon them at the base of a climb? Are you an asshole for asking them to stop carving their initials in the trunk of a tree – or are you doing the right thing?
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Update on my Triple Crown climbing training (and failures) – and a GIVEAWAY!

Exactly 13 days ago, I began my four-week training effort to prepare me for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition at Hound Ears in North Carolina on October 6th. My original inspiration came from the “Fit for Fall in 4 Weeks” training program published on DPMclimbing.com

But it didn’t work so well.

Yes, that’s right, I failed at adhering to the program’s daily regimen. I began the first few days doing exactly what the training schedule called for, which totally whooped my rear end, but quickly realized that this cookie-cutter plan wasn’t going to work for my personal goals. There is one glaring reason why I have decided to make some changes to my 30-day training program:

The schedule didn’t include daily climbing.

In fact, the ONE day at the end of the four weeks that called for a real climbing day insisted that I not “go all out” on any projects. Uh, that’s just not going to happen. There were three ‘light’ climbing days spread out over the last two weeks, but let’s get real – I need to climb, every day.

While I definitely think that the Fit for Fall in 4 Weeks program is a great training method, it’s simply not the one for me at this point in time. It would be an ideal thing to do if I was feeling a bit burnt out on climbing and wanted to switch up my fitness, but right now, I’m psyched on climbing, and can’t bear to pull myself away from my projects.

So I’m changing things up a bit.

I really liked a lot of aspects of the original plan, and I’m going to stick with the factors that worked for me, like drinking a gallon of water every day, cutting out junk/processed foods, incorporating frequent aerobic exercising into my week, and balancing those lighter aerobic days with intense workout days. But, my friends, there will be climbing.

 Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Morning hangboard sessions: I am fortunate enough to live with a group of dirtbag climber boys, so I have a little woodie climbing wall and hangboard set up on the front porch. Each morning, I begin my day with a series of hangs, and a little circuit of lock-offs and movements on the wall. With stretching before and after, of course. I’ll be doing this at least four days a week.
  • Aerobic exercise: To round out all the workouts and climbing days, I really enjoy the aerobics encouraged by the Fit for Fall in 4 Weeks program. Niko and I have started riding our bikes to the gym on Mondays for climbing club meetings, and we’re going to dabble in our first trail running experience this week.
  • Indo-boarding: If you have an indo-board, I would highly suggest integrating it into your training. My housemates watch TV every evening, and I discovered that an hour spent on the indoboard instead of the couch is a great way to sneak a little exercise into my nights. It’s great for practicing balance, and I really like doing squats on it. There’s a whole series of indo board exercises you can try.
  • Core workouts: Aside from finger and shoulder strength, one of the things I really wanted to focus my training on is improving my core. Two of my lady climber friends turned me onto the P90x Ab Ripper workout, and I absolutely LOVE it. I’ve been doing this 3 times per week, and plan to up that to 4 days/week. Between eating right and the ab workouts, I’ve already gotten a 4-pack back.
  • Climbing: One of my buddies once said, “The best way to train for climbing, is to climb.” – And I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been incorporating a mix of lighter climbing days when I’ve done a big workout with harder climbing days where I project routes. Mixing rope climbing with my bouldering is another area where I’ve seen myself getting stronger.
  • Rest Days: Folks, no matter how strong you are, what kind of training you’re doing, or how long you’ve been at it – you need to take rest days. I’ve taken two thus far, one of which I spent walking a few miles at a greenway for three hours. Listen to your body, always.

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