Outdoor Advocacy Update 005: public lands package + meet Zinke’s replacement

Let’s start with the good news. In case you’ve been living under (or climbing on top of) a rock for the last week: the outdoor community scored a big win last week with the passage of the public lands package through the Senate.

What’s the public land package, you ask? Here’s a quick peek inside the treasure trove of public land victories tucked inside this massive package, more formally known as the Natural Resources Management Act (SR.47): 

  • Permanently authorizes and funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Includes the Emery County Bill which designates 750,000 acres of wilderness 300,000 acres of recreation area and 60 miles of the Green River as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System
  • Protected Yellowstone and North Cascades National Parks from nearby mining
  • Provides funding and protection for national parks, monuments, and BLM land in California
  • Protects salmon, migratory birds and other wildlife across the country.
  • Creates wilderness areas in New Mexico, expands 8 national parks, and more.

If you want to dig in on this, check out this excellent guide to the Natural Resources Management Act from Outside Magazine. And if you really want to nerd out, you can read the full text of this legislation here.

What’s the current status of the public lands package? It has one more hurdle to clear: the House of Representatives, which is currently in recess this week. Hope is that the House will take up the package once they get back in office next week. It’s looking good that the public lands package will pass the House and cross the finish line–but you need to reach out to your reps and urge them to take action. Here are two letter-writing tools: this one from Outdoor Alliance and this one from Outdoor Industry Association.

Now for the bad news: meet Zinke’s (likely) replacement, David Bernhardt.

I wrote a new piece for REI titled Meet the (Likely) Next Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt–and it’s pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I dug into Bernhardt’s background and history within the Department of the Interior (it’s long and his client + project list speak for themselves, no bueno), what the process of getting him in office looks like, and what a Secretary of Interior actually does. Give it a read and let me know what you think. I learned a lot in the process of researching this piece. Here’s a quick snippet for you:

“Since rejoining the department in 2017, Bernhardt has taken on many initiatives while keeping a relatively low public profile—until this recent nomination. His previous work has included rescinding climate change and mitigation policies, and supporting the administration’s decision to overhaul protections in the Endangered Species Act, which he outlined in this Washington Post Op-Ed. He also implemented length restrictions on National Environmental Policy Act environmental impact reports. Since President Trump took office, oil and gas leasing on public lands has “generated $360 million, an almost 90 percent increase from 2016,” according to NPR.

During the recent government shutdown, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which falls under Bernhardt’s purview, allowed for a portion of its nearly 2,300 non-furloughed employees to continue some energy, minerals and grazing activities, according to BLM’s contingency plan. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) penned a letter to Bernhardt, questioning the department’s reported actions in moving forward on oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite reduced staff and the impact on the public comment process due to the shutdown.” (Read the full article via REI here.)

Other things you oughta know about this week in outdoor advocacy + community:

Got an important outdoor advocacy or community story I ought to include in the next advocacy update? Leave a comment, send me a message, let’s do this!

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I eat veggie ramen every morning for breakfast, here’s my recipe

Winter is all about warming liquids. If it’s hot, and savory, and citrusy, I’m probably eating it all winter long. If you know me, you know that I don’t do traditional breakfast foods, and this season my go-to morning meal is homemade veggie ramen soup.

By popular demand after posting a video of my steaming morning bowl of ramen goodness, I’m sharing my quick and easy recipe for you, the people. The fresh ginger is what really gets me going in the mornings. Ginger is so damn good for you and you need more of it in your belly.

How to make the veggie ramen that brings me to life every morning:

Ingredients
  • Veggies: any kind will do. I always go for broccoli + onion, but also add in whatever I’ve got around the kitchen like: bell peppers, asparagus, radish, cauliflower, corn, etc.
  • Miso paste: You can get this at most grocery stores, and one tub will last forever.
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped.
  • 1/2 lime (or lemon)
  • 1-2 green onion stalks
  • Dried or fresh ramen noodles. To avoid excessive plastic waste, I get my ramen noodles in bulk from the local Asian market. I figure one big plastic bag is at least slightly better than 12 individually wrapped ramen packets.
  • Extra credit: toppings like wonton strips, sunflower micro greens, etc.
STEPS
  1. Add two cups of water to a pot, and heat on medium. Add ginger + garlic. Stir in one heaping spoonful of miso paste. Let it lightly boil so the ginger and garlic get cooked and release their tasty glory into the broth.
  2. In a cast iron, sauté veggies. If you want to plate it aesthetically like I do, keep the veggies separated in different parts of the pan. I season with lime juice, and freshly ground salt + pepper.
  3. When the veggies are nearly done (5 minutes-ish), turn up the heat on the broth and add the ramen noodles. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour soup + noodles into a bowl, then top with veggies, chopped green onion, and a load of lime juice.

That’s it. Once you make it a few times, it’s super simple and easy to recreate. And when you get fancy with the plating and presentation, it becomes a great dinner party recipe because it’s easy to make and looks fantastic. You’re welcome.

Cultural note: I am not Asian, and this is not a traditional ramen recipe–this is simply the culinary result of a light-skinned Cuban woman developing a noodle + ginger obsession. Learn more about the Chinese and Japanese history of ramen here.

 

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outdoor advocacy update 004: sen. lee kills public lands package–because, bears ears.

Let’s just dive right in:

Well, the public lands package is dead. It’s that big set of bills I’ve been hyped on, that includes LWCF permanent reauthorization, Recreation Not Red Tape, the Emery County Bill that’s close to home for me, the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, and many other important and powerful outdoor-related bills.

Yesterday was a rollercoaster in Congress. At the beginning of the day, it looked like there way no way it would pass–and then, suddenly, members started objecting. They demanded including the public lands package in the CR. Sen. Cory Gardner got fired up, along with a bipartisan cohort of Senators Cantwell, Daines and Murkowski who all went to bat for the outdoor community, debating for nearly an hour (a big deal for public lands to get that much floor time in a big Congressional moment like this).

And then, Senator Lee happened. He refused to let the public lands package be included–because, Bears Ears. Yes, that’s right. He was hung up on making sure that no new national monuments will ever be added to the state of Utah, and that’s what killed this opportunity. (Yes, I am ashamed to be his constituent here in Salt Lake City. Yes, he will be getting an earful of verbal coal from me for his Christmas gift.)

So, what next? The good news is, everyone–besides Lee–is fired up on pushing this package across the finish line by whatever means necessary. Chairman Murkowski is on record saying that it’s going to pass early in the new year, and it’s looking like that could happen as early as January or February. So, not all is lost.

Want to watch it all go down on C-SPAN (oh, you really are an outdoor policy geek)? Here you go:

What I’m Reading:

  • This article about a federal appeals court in Virginia that “has thrown out a power company’s permit to build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail – and slammed the U.S. Forest Service for granting the approvals in the first place.” And they quoted the Lorax about it.
  • This wild idea from Politico about running a unity ticket in the 2020 Presidential election. Biden/Romney 2020? Sounded like an interesting idea until I read someone tweet about a Biden/Beto ticket. *drools*
  • REI published a great piece explaining why the Farm Bill (see last week’s outdoor advocacy update) is important to everyone from outdoorists and ranchers to low-income families.

In conclusion for 2018:

This has been a hard, in-between, burnt out transition year for me. As so many other’s also did, I struggled at times to keep the stoke alive. There were major highlights, like the success of the #VoteTheOutdoors campaign and the Outdoor Advocate Network–but overall, I’d call this year a big, fat meh.

The last week of Congressional happenings, planning for 2019 campaigns, signing new contracts with old and new advocacy clients, and reviving my business plan has the spark reignited. I am ready to kick ass in 2019, y’all–and I hope you are too. 

Got any advocacy stories I oughta know about? Send ’em my way for the next edition of this outdoor advocacy update! Header image by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash!

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outdoor advocacy update 003: bye, bye zinke.

Advocacy updates + news

It’s one of those weeks, y’all. Let’s start with the big bang: Secretary Ryan Zinke is leaving the Department of Interior. Good riddance. This quote from OIA’s Executive Director Amy Roberts sums it up:

“The outdoor recreation community will remember Secretary Zinke for his flawed decision to dramatically reduce two national monuments in Utah despite their positive economic benefits to the state and against the advice of 4 million Americans.” (See Amy’s tweet)

Here’s the catch: Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, a lawyer and longtime lobbyist for the oil + gas industry, is expected to replace Zinke–and he’s very, very bad. So, my takeaway from this breaking news and the jolt of advocacy energy it gave me is: bottle up that energy, renew your stoke to fight for good, and get ready to roll up your sleeves. I think we’ve all been feeling that advocacy burn-out lately, and this is the moment we hit the restart button ’cause we’re going to need to dive back into battle.

In better news, the Farm Bill passed through Congress this week. Don’t know what that is? Here are six reasons why outdoorists should be stoked about the Farm Bill. It financially supports and prioritizes outdoor recreation, designates 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee as Wilderness (the highest level of protection for public lands), addresses wildfire issues, and more.

The Farm Bill is good, but what would be even better is if we can get a package of public lands bills passed ASAP. It all needs to be funded by December 21st to avoid a government shut down, and includes legislation on LWCF, Recreation Not Red Tape, the Emery County Bill and other key issues. Learn more about it here from Outdoor Alliance.

What I’m Reading:
Call-to-Action:

Are you feeling that outdoor advocacy energy right now? I am. If you want to continue to get informed, get resources, and get educated on how you can continue to take action, join the OIA Outdoor Advocate Network. If you don’t already know about it, it’s a project I started a few years ago to create a space where outdoor advocates can access toolkits, share resources, and get empowered to take action in a meaningful, united way. Join it, everyone is welcome!

Got some outdoor news or policy resources I should share in the next mini fresh outdoor advocacy update? Let me know! I want to support your work and amplify the goodness our community has goin’ on. (Header image via the Interior flickr.)

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2018 Outdoorist Holiday Gift Guide

Ugh, yes, another gift guide. Are you really even a blogger if you don’t write one? Here’s the thing: the holiday season is my favorite time of year. Yes, even more than summer. The moment Halloween passes, I am dreaming of twinkle lights, Santa hats, wrapping presents for Spaghetti, and garnishing everything in sight with a candy cane.

But there’s always a mini mental backlash too when I see all the “SALE SALE SALE BUY IT NOW!” e-mails around Black Friday, the oh-so-tempting-but-wrong stacks of plastic holiday themed junk peddled to us in stores, the throes of consumerism and consumption. It’s easy to fall into the trap (yes, I bought Spaghetti a Santa hat at Target, and yes, I guiltily returned it the next day).

Far more rewarding, though, is committing to making the holidays meaningful again. Presents aren’t the problem, our mainstream mindset around the idea of gifting is. It’s about quality, not quantity. Gifts are an expression of how much we value a relationship, so let’s say “I care about you, and I care about the planet we both share, and this gift is something that adds value to all of it!” instead of “look, shiny! new! I spent money on you!”

And with that digression, I present to you my 2018 gift guide for people who want to make Christmas great again:

Things that aren’t things:

I love the concept of “gifting and giving” shared in She-Explores holiday guide. It’s a poignant reminder that we don’t need to rely on just material things to give our loved ones.

If you want to give to a higher purpose, or just can’t figure out a material gift idea for someone who really doesn’t need anything (coughDAD!cough), consider donating in their name. I have a list of causes and organizations here, but make your donation gift personal by finding an organization that’s unique to the person you’re donating on behalf of. Give to American Alpine Club for the climbers in your life, OUT There Adventures for your favorite outdoorsy queer, etc. Many organizations have great gift packs or holiday certificates you can wrap up and put under the tree, too.

Support your loved ones in their passions, mental healthcare, and creativity. Pay for a few months of a friend’s rock gym or yoga studio membership. Purchase an annual national parks or local state park pass. Gift acupuncture or wellness coaching sessions.

Things that are things, but are pretty damn cool:

Since December 1st, a pile of gifts has been growing underneath my Christmas tree. Buying things for the sake of things isn’t my thing, but buying thoughtful gifts that support good people making good things is what’s up. In a season of inevitable spending, use your dollars to support your values. Buy from artisan makers, support small businesses, source your gifts from local shops. 

Let’s talk about algae. And let’s talk about shoes. Put ’em both together, and we can talk about shoes made out of algae. Saola Shoes are my favorite footwear at the moment, because they combine fly style with a thorough commitment to sustainability. The shoe’s entire anatomy drips with sustainable materials: uppers made from recycled plastic bottles, organic cotton laces, uppers and insoles made from algae biomass, and every pair of shoes purchased gives back to environmental conservation efforts. And you look fresh as heck. Shop women’s here and men’s here. Get 15% off your order with the code Katie15!

While we’re talking about sustainable apparel made out of recycled plastic bottles, let’s talk about the ReNew fleece from Everlane. I practically live in mine (I went with the powder blue sweatshirt, Brody has the black one). It’s made nearly entirely from recycled plastic, except the zippers and trim which Everlane hasn’t been able to source recycled yet but says “We’re working on it!” In other news, basically everything made by Everlane is on my Christmas wishlist in case you were wondering. *winks*

Y’all know I am here for self-care and CBD. Let’s say you really want to help someone love on themselves. Here’s my recipe for the ultimate self-care holiday gift kit: 1. Start with Ursa Major skincare. For everyday care, I live and die by the face balm–but a nice treat is the 3-minute face mask. I love Ursa Major because the ingredients are things I can pronounce and the brand is constantly stepping up their sustainability game. 2. Get your CBD on with Alpen Organics This is by far the best CBD tincture I have ever used (and I tested a lot for my CBD guides). If you want 30% off, use KATIEBOUE at check out! 3. Combine self-care + CBD with a bathbomb from Life ElementsGo big and get the 200mg bomb, it’s like a full body massage in a bath–these little balls of bliss have changed the way I relax in the tub. You’re welcome.

Got a doggo in your life? Check out the Restcycle dog bed from Ruffwear. It’s made from recycled materials from the waterproof base to the synthetic down stuffing. Side note: I am way stoked to see Ruffwear starting to make sustainable products like this and hope to see more in 2019!

At the end of every year, I get a Sarah Uhl watercolor calendar to celebrate the coming new year. Here’s her 2019 Love Your Earth calendar. Sarah is one of my favorite artists, because she blends her talents with a passion for conservation advocacy. I just bought one of her mini kindness card packs too and am so excited to spread a little light with them.

Holiday sustainability hack: Every year, I hoard a small arsenal of recycled plain brown (cardboard-y) packing paper from all our packages and mail all year long. I fold up the paper, keep tissue and any gift-wrappy packaging I can scavenge, and by the time December rolls around I have all the materials we need to wrap all our gifts in reused paper. 

Other guides + gift ideas:

  • Cali Wolf wrote a great guide to supporting Native folx this holiday season. If anyone is wondering, why yes I would like literally anything made by B. Yellowtail thankyouverymuch.
  • I am obsessed with everything made by friends at WAAM Industries. I adore their waxed canvas lunch sacks and have one of their wooden milk crates bolted to my bike rack.
  • My dear friend Gretchen Powers makes the cutest handknit beanies on the planet and you should buy one for a lady in your life because it will make her joyous.
  • Another dear friend, Erin Outdoors, wrote this gift guide for travelers.
  • Here’s a gift guide for those #vanlife friends in your life.
  • Admittedly, the She-Explores book (!!!) doesn’t come out until April 2019, but you can pre-order it now here and I have a chapter in it along with 40 outdoor women who will inspire the heck outta anyone who picks this book up.
  • Speaking of book that aren’t out yet but you should buy anyways, you can also pre-order the Women Who Hike book by Heather Balogh Rochfort here – I wrote the foreword!
  • If you still need more ideas, you can check out my 2017 holiday gift guide on sustainability, self-care, and gifts-that-aren’t-things here

Full disclosure: Some of the products mentioned here are items I received for free over the last year, but as always, opinions are my own! There’s an affiliate link or two sprinkled in here too, but most are just straight to the products because I was too lazy to set up all the affiliates. Happy Holidays! 

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outdoor advocacy update 002: LWCF, Line 5 pipeline, and more

From breaking political news to outdoor advocacy movements, the world around us seems to be moving extra fast these days–and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. To help you stay in the loop, I’m going to start providing mini quick + gritty updates on all things advocacy and the outdoors. Let’s dig in:

ADVOCACY UPDATES + NEWS:

Yes, it’s a lame duck session right now–but there’s a big story happening for public lands and the outdoor industry in Congress. There’s a lot of movement on a package of bills that includes reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (read more here if you don’t know what LWCF is), solutions to the National Parks Service backlog, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, and more. REI’s President Jerry Stritzke wrote an op-ed in The Hill about the bipartisan opportunity we have to get goodness done for our public lands.

Follow my updates on OIA’s Twitter channel here, it could all come together or fall apart at any moment. At this point, it sounds like a public lands package is likely to pass, and if it does, it will definitely include permanent reauthorization of LWCF!

Speaking of LWCF, there was a LWCF press conference in DC this week held by key bipartisan congresspeople supporting reauthorization. Even Senator Cory Gardner gets it, this is such a win-win funding program for public lands.

After years of leadership under Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-R), the House Natural Resources Committee will now be chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-D). I have visited Rep. Grijalva’s office in DC a few times, and it’s always a lobbying highlight. He is a champion for core issues like public lands protection and native sovereignty. Here’s my favorite quote from this article about Rep. Grijalva’s plans to tackle climate change in his new position:

“We have an opportunity to take this committee and its priorities and its policies and legislative initiatives and steer it in a different direction. Under our jurisdiction, we have issues that have to be dealt with — tribal sovereignty, education, health care, historical and cultural resource preservation.

The other issue is climate change. It touches every issue that we deal with, and the fossil-fuel extraction industries are making such a rush for resources in our public lands. This administration, in two years, has made every effort to suppress science and dumb down the issue of climate change. We want to elevate that again to the status it deserves in decision-making.” (source)

ONE WAY TO TAKE ACTION:

‘Tis this season of gratitude giving, and Outdoor Alliance has a letter-writing tool to thank key lawmakers for the their work on the above mentioned public lands package that could have big impacts on US outdoor spaces–and remind them to light a fire under their tooshes to get the package across the finish line and make! it! happen! Write a letter to your reps here. 

What I’m Reading:
  • OIA recently hired a new Vice President of Government Affairs, Patricia Rojas-Ungár, and I am amped. She brings such good advocacy energy, she’s super talented, and she’s Latinx. Read this SNEWS interview with her.
  • This in-depth feature piece from Nat Geo on Bears Ears and public lands. Highlights included a thorough guide through the history of US land, from stealing the land from native people to Clive Bundy, and seeing a shoutout to the public lands march organized by OIA in SLC last summer.
What I’m Watching:
  • Michigan Line 5 – My friend Adam Wells created this beautiful and tragic film about a pipeline that runs through the Great Lakes region. I visited this area a few weeks ago during my solo midwest trip, and I couldn’t believe that this environmental crisis is looming in such a precious landscape. Here’s a poignant snippet, and you can watch the whole thing below:

    Every day 23 million gallons of oil are pumped under the largest freshwater system on the planet, putting over 450 miles of shoreline and 100,000 acres of water at risk. The Great Lakes supply drinking water to 40 million people, provide crucial habitat to 47 species, and support a handful of multi-billion dollar industries. Line 5 expired fifteen years ago. It’s not a matter of if it spills, but when.

Before the Spill from Adam Wells on Vimeo.

Got a bit of advocacy news or updates I ought to know about and include in the next mini fresh? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail! 

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Giving Back to Forces for Outdoor Good

On Election Day, I had an idea: what if I donated $1  for every person who sent me a photo of them voting? I set a limit of $100, because I’m just one human, and put it out into the world. It felt like a nice idea, but nothing major. Soon, my mom called: “Katie, I want to match your donation!” – and suddenly I had $200 to give. Then, a stranger also wanted to match my $100. And another, and another.

I will admit, it felt a little bizarre to have folks trust me blindly with their money like that, but by the end of the election, we had a total of $1,200 in a community-sourced pot to give back. I asked folks to suggest places to donate, had a few in mind of my own, and began distributing the funds with the intention of finding organizations that are doing good for: outdoor communities, young people, the environment, and policy work.

Below is a list of the organizations and efforts we donated to. Donations were made in $100 increments, and I tried to stretch our funds even further by giving when donations were being matched too (you’ll see a * where it was matched).

Where we donated:

  • Outdoor Afro:* Founded by one my the outdoor industry heroes, Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro is “the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature.” Rue started it as a Facebook group to connect her community, and it has grown into a nationwide force that hosts meet-ups across the country, facilitates leadership training, and dives into policy advocacy to promote access to the outdoors and healthy communities.
  • Indigenous Women Hike: IWH is “a collective of Paiute women on a journey to reconnect with our landscape and heal our bodies through healthy lifestyle changes.” The founder, Jolie Valera, is currently gathering gear and donations to create a community gear library for families and folks to use to equip them with the supplies they need to safely access outdoor activities like camping and climbing.
  • Southeast Conservation Corps: I first met the SECC folks years ago during a road trip around the southeast visiting different outdoor groups and brands, and was enamored by the idea of the good work they do in the area I first fell so deeply in love with climbing and the outdoors. Specifically, this donation went to their first-ever ASL youth program, which will be “the first of its kind in the Southeast region and will increase opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing youth to work outside, learn job and leadership-development skills, learn outdoor skills, and gain technical conservation field experience to increase their career opportunities.”
  • Get Out Stay Out:* The tagline says it all “Vamos afuera.” Founded by Karen Ramos, GOSO “invites kids to run, play, and discover themselves in an outdoor environment. Through experiential education we aim to connect low-income kids of indigenous migrant backgrounds to the ‘outdoor culture.'” Full transparency, I feel a lot of gratitude and personal debt to Karen for being such an inspiration to me in being loud and proud about my Latinx identity, so it felt important to give back to her work.
  • North Valley Animal Disaster Relief: This California based non-profit works with emergency services to educate the public about disaster preparedness, and assist in sheltering and evacuation of animals during a disaster. Currently their efforts are focused on animal rescue and relief after the California wildfires that displaced thousands of humans and animals.
  • Utah Dine Bikeyah: Even a year after Trump’s declaration to reduce Bears Ears National Monument by 85%, this remains one of the most requested causes to donate to (which makes this Utah gal very proud). Utah Dine Bikeyah is the force behind the movement to protect Bears Ears and “works toward healing of people and the Earth by supporting indigenous communities in protecting their culturally significant, ancestral lands.”
  • The Nature Conservancy:* TNC is one of the more popular ‘big’ outdoor advocacy non-profits, though I will admit that aside from knowing they do a lot of good stuff, I wasn’t clear on their mission and work. My former boss recently joined the TNC team, and I have been floored learning about what they do. It’s badass. The Nature Conservancy’s four main mission pillars are: tackle climate change, protect land and water, provide food and water sustainably, and build healthy cities.
  •  OUT There Adventures: This group focuses on empowering queer young people through their connection with the natural world. As a woman who saw zero space for my queer identity within the outdoor space until very recently, I love this mission of celebrating both who we are and the wild spaces that help us form so much of our selves. If you’ve ever heard founder Elyse Rylander talk about her “kiddos,” you know how loved and supported every young person who goes on an OUT There Adventures trip is.
  • Trans/queer Migrant Caravan: This donation was a bit unlike the others, as this was a direct Venmo payment to Joshua Allen, a friend-of-a-friend who is directly working with the trans/queer folx in the migrant caravan seeking asylum in the US. Walking across Central America on foot and camping to survive is the epitome of outdoorsy, and as the daughter of a political refugee, I wanted to support those currently hoping for a better future in the US.
  • Outdoor Alliance:* Full disclosure, I work with Outdoor Alliance a bit and that’s precisely why I wanted to give back to ’em. Supporting direct policy work is a priority for me, and I have seen the power and efficacy of Outdoor Alliance’s efforts first-hand in DC. It’s a small team doing big work. Outdoor Alliance “works to protect the places we ski, hike, climb, paddle, and bike. We bring together the voices of America’s outdoor recreation community to protect the outdoor experience for everyone to enjoy.”
  • Everglades Foundation:* Florida doesn’t get enough love from the outdoor community, and my homestate’s beautiful aquatic-based environment is in deep crisis right now due to an algae bloom that is poisoning the water, killing wildlife, and doing immeasurable damage to the ecosystem. Everglades Foundation is one of the orgs fighting tooth and nail to cure the crisis and protect my little manatee friends.
  • Save The Boundary Waters:* Traveling through Minnesota and the Great Lakes area during my solo trip this month reminded me that the upper midwest (is that the proper geographical identifier?) is another area that doesn’t get enough love and support from the outdoor community. The Boundary Waters Conservation Area is an incredible landscape under direct and immediate threat, and needs all the support and awareness it can get.

With six of the organizational donations matched, our total community funds contributed $1800 back to doing good in the world. Thank you all for giving, for trusting, for being part of a tiny slice of light in a time when its easy to get wrapped up in all the darkness. I truly love you all so much, and am so proud of this community. 

PS: If you want to see the receipts, I gotchu. Just ask!

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Solo Female Road Trip Q&A (with dog tips!)

Since my first 33 day cross-country solo trip after a bad break-up, traveling alone has been one of my favorite ways to adventure. I’ve slept in gas station rest stops, remote forest campsites,  cheap motels, KOAs off the highway–you name it, I’ve stayed there alone. Most recently, I hit the road to tick off my last 8 states on my quest to hitting all 50–my first solo trip with a dog in tow. You all had a lot of questions about traveling solo, so I wanted to create a resource to answer ’em all.

Before I dive into the nitty gritty of solo trips, dealing with anxiety + safety, finding places to stay, and more, I want to address my privilege as a solo female traveler. I am a queer Latinx, but I am totally white-and-straight-passing–and that creates an ability to travel with a level of inherent ease that is not a given for solo women of color. That said, if any non-white women have specific advice for solo travel for WOC, please leave a comment and I will add it to this guide as a resource.

The #1 question: How do you deal with safety?

I received this question in every iteration possible, especially in regards to overnight stays alone and hiking alone. There are many steps I take to prioritize safety when I travel, but the most important idea is: I always trust my gut. It doesn’t happen often, but when I get a bad feeling, I boogie, no questions asked. It doesn’t happen often, but if my gut tells me to go (which is very different from my general this-is-scary anxiety, which I’ll address later), I go. While Spaghetti and I were hiking on a paved path at Sleeping Bear Dunes, we heard a pop! pop! pop! in the near distance, and I remembered that it’s hunting season. We weren’t wearing any bright colors, and I felt uncomfortable, so we left.

I make a habit out of being hyper observant. At a trailhead, I scan all the cars in the parking lot and totally judge them based on bumper stickers, etc. On the trail, I keep mental notes on the folks I pass and sometimes tag along behind other groups to feel an added sense of security. In cities, I avoid dark streets, and prefer to be in my hotel at night. When I camp, I prefer to do so in places where I have cell service–or I’ll bring a satellite phone in case of emergency (most in case of car trouble vs. ‘safety’). Also when camping or sleeping in my car, I always have my car keys within reach and a clear path to the driver’s seat so I can hop in and speed off if I need to.

I turn on ‘Find My Friends’ on my iPhone and allow both parents and my partner to see where I am at all times. This makes them feel better, and it makes me feel better too. And when it comes to social media, I only post content that shares my location after I’ve left that place.

Get yourself some pepper spray. I also always carry a Buck knife my dad gave me many years ago on my first solo trip, and often sleep with it under my pillow. I chatted with a few women who have taken self-defense classes, and I highly recommend that path if you want to cultivate confidence in your ability to protect yourself. As for guns, yes, I did once consider getting one before my four-month solo road trip–but quickly realized that guns make me uncomfortable and I didn’t have confidence that I’d be able to use one to effectively defend myself.

Related: Whats the scariest part of traveling solo as a woman?

Men.

An uncomfortable subject to address because I am not asking to be harassed when I wear make up, nor is any woman who chooses to wear whatever she pleases, but: I also often don’t wear make-up while traveling alone. Men tend to see any solo female traveler as an invitation for suggestive comments, so I often find myself not presenting myself the way I want to be while traveling solo, purely in an attempt to deter men who apparently cannot control themselves in the presence of women. Men, do better so I can comfortably wear my eyeliner and leggings while traveling solo kthanks.

Do you decide where you’re going to stay ahead of time, or do you wing it?

Both. I spend a lot of time on Google Maps figuring out the drive times to various distances, scope out options for where to stay in each spot, then I’ll either settle on a destination for the day, or just start to wing it. I always try to keep it flexible so I can go with the flow depending on how tired I am, how much time I spend at pit stops, etc. Giving yourself options and knowing that you have ’em helps cultivate that solo traveler confidence.

What are you travel essentials?

I want to do a dedicated post on my must-have road trip essentials, but briefly:

  • A paper map. Technology will fail you, so I always road trip with my trusty road atlas.
  • My use-less-plastic kit: a giant Hydroflask water bottle, a Hydroflask growler that is always full of water for back up, reusable utensils + straw, a tupperwear for leftovers when eating out, and a few different sized zip-lock bags that I wash + reuse.
  • My go-to Ursa Major skin care kit: their balm, face wash, and wipes for when I can’t wash my face.
  • My ‘tech’ kit where I keep: all my device cables + plugs, my Garmin watch, a collection of Goal Zero mini chargers, etc.
  • An iPhone tri-pod so I can take selfies. No shame.
  • Blankets, all the blankets. And a full-size pillow.
  • Whatever creature comforts will make you feel more comfortable and confident on the road. It’s a road trip, so you don’t have to pack light. If it makes you feel better, bring it.

How do you keep entertained on long rides? How do you stay awake?

I love driving solo–I used to want to be a semi-truck driver. As long as there’s light out, I can drive forever. I listen to podcasts, livestream my local NPR station from home, jam to the trashy Miami music I don’t usually get to listen to, and use the time to reflect.

I find that once I hit a groove of driving, the time flies quickly. I also stop whenever I want to, and try to break up long stretches with short hikes. When I stop for gas or to pee, I always do a little lap around the car doing knee-highs and shaking my arms above my head like a wild person to keep the blood flowing.

As for staying awake: I have realized that I don’t do well driving at night, primarily because I’m night-blind and can’t see super well in the dark. So, I don’t drive at night. The beauty of solo travel is, you’re running on your own agenda, so you can stop whenever you want. When I get tired on the road, I stop.

How do you stay organized?

I don’t. The chaos tends to spread quickly on a road trip, so I use a pitstop a day to reel it in and clean up the mess. I use a lot of Topo Designs travel bags in various sizes and try to have a place where everything belongs.

what’s the hardest part of traveling solo?

It’s expensive. Traveling with a partner means  gas is split, park entry fees are split, hotel rooms are split, everything is a bit more affordable. When I’m solo, all the costs are mine to bear. Since I stayed in hotels each night of this trip due to the snow and winter conditions, I made peace with the reality that it was going to be way more expensive than my usual camping + dirtbaggin’ trips.

Do you get lonely? How do you get over missing your partner? 

Solo travel is lonely, but I love it for that. I am an introvert, and thrive on alone time. Lean into that idea, and fully embrace the spirit of solitude. Knowing that it’s for a finite amount of time really helps me dig into the rad feeling of being alone. As for missing my partner, I of course miss him, but he travels so frequently that we’re both used to be apart. Plus, time spent apart and focusing on our independent pursuits only strengthens the relationship.

Let’s talk about dogs + solo travel

To be honest, traveling with Spaghetti doesn’t make me feel significantly more safe than just purely traveling alone. She’s a 25 lb. muppet with a soft bark and a tendency to get really scared, so it’s not like she’s going to attack anyone. She does provide excellent company and make me feel less alone.

Solo travel with a dog is harder than I expected, especially during this most recent winter trip. All outdoor seating is closed for the season, so there wasn’t a single restaurant I could eat at with her. Instead, I ate most of my meals in the car or in our hotel rooms. And since we weren’t camping, I had to find dog friendly lodging each night. Pro tip: Motel 6 allows dogs and doesn’t charge an extra fee for ’em! 

When I had to leave Spaghetti in the car (never for more than 30 minutes on this trip), I made sure all food was packed away. The one time I didn’t, she stole a slice of pizza. She has separation anxiety we’re still working on, so having to stay with her all the time did impact my ability to do a lot of things. And traveling with a dog completely changed my relationship with National Parks. They’re inherently not-dog-friendly (for good reason), so I found myself spending less time in them.

And lastly, my favorite reader question: Have you had to pee in a water bottle yet? 

Yes, many times. Ladies, I prefer to pee into something like a large yogurt container because my aim is not very good. You can also get a device like the She-Wee to pee with, but I get fussy about the idea of needing a penis-mimicking device to complete a function my vagina is perfectly capable of handling on its own, so I pee into yogurt containers instead, ha!

Have more questions? Want to share your own advice for traveling solo? Leave ’em in the comments!

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Advocacy Toolkit: Vote The Outdoors in 2018

If I could urge people to take just one action for outdoor advocacy in 2018, it would be to vote. In the last year, we’ve witnessed the dismantling of national monuments, erasure and denial of our planet’s climate change crisis, attacks on our public lands, and please-don’t-get-me-started-on-how-we’re-treating-our-fellow-humans-these-days.

This is a call to arms.  Your ballot is your greatest weapon in the fight for justice and representation in our government.

So, how do you get educated on the issues that matter most, and figure out which candidates will best represent your outdoor values in Congress? These resources will help empower you to vote, vote, vote the outdoors:

  • OIA’s Voters Guide 2018: In my opinion, this is the ultimate resource for outdoor voters this election. The team at OIA put together an extensive guide that covers: explanations on specific voter issues, endorsements of candidates in key races, a Congressional scorecard (see below), toolkits to help you spread the word, and more. It’s a true voter hub.
  • OIA Congressional Scorecard: A breakdown every incumbent candidate based on how they voted on issues like climate change, LWCF, wildfire funding, public lands, and more. Each candidate receives a letter grade–unsurprisingly, both Utah reps got an F. Did I mention how important it is to vote?!
  • Protect Our Winters Voter Guidebook: In addition to incumbent candidates, POW has breakdowns on every candidate on issues like climate, energy and environment. This interactive tool will help you create a ballot guide that you can print out and bring to the polls with you.
  • Vote.Org: Need to update registration? Go to Vote.org. Can’t vote in person? Vote.org can help. Don’t know where your polling place is? Vote.org does.

 

Specific state + ballot initiative resources:

  • Colorado: Check out this state-wide voter guide from Elevation Outdoors. It has all the amendments, propositions, candidate info, and more. 10/10

*Note: If you have additional state + local resources, please send them my way! I will be updating this through the election.

Once you’ve dug in and become an empowered voter, you’ll be moved to start taking action now beyond just bubbling in your ballot. There is so much you can do to support voters and help others make their voices heard. These are some of the ways you can take action this election season:

  • Empower your friends, family and colleagues to vote too. Help your roommate register to vote, translate ballots and voter issues for your abuela or your neighbors, put Vote.org in your instagram bio and remind the people you love regularly to get activated. Offer to drive folks to the polls on election day.
  • Join me + OIA on Oct 15th to pledge to #VoteTheOutdoors. Post on your social media channels on 10/15 with a message that says “I pledge to #VoteTheOutdoors this election–will you?” For the full toolkit and activation, join the Outdoor Advocate Network on Facebook and you’ll get access to a suite of social media posts + graphics I designed to get the word out. (Or just use the graphic here.)
  • Donate to your local candidates. Whether you have $5 or $50 to give, your local candidates need your support to win these races. If you can’t donate money, donate your time and energy. Round up your friends and help canvas neighborhoods. My parents in Miami hosted a dinner party meet-and-greet to support a local candidate. If you’re a graphic designer or have talents you can serve with, offer your services. – And if you’re looking for someone to support, may I suggest Shireen Ghorbani in Utah’s 3rd congressional district?
  • Keep talking about outdoor politics and the importance of voting. Post on social media, bring it up around the dinner table, invite friends over for a voter education party. Flex your voice, and make it heard often.

Listen, I get it: I’ve ‘forgotten’ to vote too. I’ve missed the registration deadlines, been traveling on voting day, whatever excuse is in the book for not voting, I’ve used it. But with this political climate, I will never miss an opportunity to make my voice heard through voting again. If you travel frequently or work a job that doesn’t allow you to get to a polling place on election day, remember that you can vote by mail. 

Not registered yet, or need to check your voter status? Here are the registration deadlines for all 50 states. Some states even let you register on election day (which they all should).

This isn’t about Democrats, or Republicans. This is about using our vote to protect the outdoors and voting for what’s fair and just for our fellow humans in this country. Political culture has become a beastly, embarrassing mess in so many ways, and I truly, deeply believe that if we make our voices heard, we can restore civility, community, and hope for America. I believe in my country, because I believe in the good people who live here. Justice will prevail, friends, if we just vote.

 

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outdoor advocacy update 001: welcome back, let’s get to work.

Hello, friends. In this moment, I am releasing a whale of an exhale. *sigh* I started writing this blog nearly 10 years ago, and beyond containing the contents of my life and adventures over the last decade, The Morning Fresh has been the catalyst to my entire career, to finding my purpose in life.

For the last few years, my site sat captive to a crappy host situation that left me unable to make any updates or changes to the site–at one point, gaudy web ads where plastered all over the blog without my consent. Without control over my own content, I spent my creative energy elsewhere and neglected my own platform. But a tiny miracle happened recently: I took back control.

I’ve been asking myself questions. What is my purpose? Why did the Universe decide to create me, right now? What am I here to do? Who am I here to serve?

And then one day, it clicked. In a burst of clarity, it all made plain sense. I am here to activate advocates. I am here to inspire you–through resources and storytelling–to take action to protect public land, live a more sustainable life, and do good unto your fellow humans + earth. 

So, I pirated my own blog back, redesigned it to better serve you, and here we are. It’s time to get back to work. First, a little update from my world–a new series I’m calling ‘mini fresh.’ A bi-weekly newsletter delivered in blog form. What I’ve been up to, what you should be reading, products + projects I’m drooling over, things you ought to know about.

In this week’s mini fresh, episode 001:

  • A mini update on life: As summer fades away and cold weather sinks in, I’m nestling into work-work-work mode before another season of travel kicks off. My nose has been buried in notebooks, my laptop, and podcasts. As I write this, we’re sitting on the couch in front of the first ‘fire’ of the season. By fire, I mean our electric fireplace with ceramic logs and a digital flame–thank you solar-powered house. The Delica is finally out of the shop, and Brody built us a platform bed + installed solar panels. I am mourning the death of shorts season, but psyched to spent autumn on the road.
  • What I’m reading (digital): The Outdoor Industry Association Voters Guide for the 2018 midterm elections. I’ve been working on the #VoteTheOutdoors (check it out on Twitter and Instagram) campaign for months and it’s all coming to a climax as election day–eeek. Toolkit coming to help you get involved later this week!
  • What I’m reading (paper): I joined a book club, and our first read is When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. I posted a photo of the book on my Insta-story, and over 50 women messaged me to say it was their favorite book, or it changed their life, or it’s the reason they became a park ranger. As you can imagine, I am stoked.
  • Where I’m heading next: To the desert! My 30th birthday is on October 16th, so Brody, Spaghetti and I are loading up the Delica

Gosh, it feels good to be back. If you’ve been reading The Morning Fresh since the days of Florida and big yellow van life: thank you for sticking with me throughout this wild ride. If this is the first time you’ve ever visited my blog: welcome and thank you for being part of this community. Let’s do this, together.

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