Outdoorist Guide to Bend, Oregon

Before I visited Bend, I daydreamed about it. A magical little mountain town, with beckoning views of snow-capped peaks jutting out of the high desert. I thought it might be something like Boulder, CO–before it became the crowded bubble. I imagined camping out in the National Forest, puttering into town for breakfast, and spending my days exploring in the woods.

My visions were spot on. Bend is a hub for outdoorists seeking recreation, good eats (and beer, if you’re into that), and good people. My trip to Mt. Bachelor with Harman Kardon was my first winter visit to Bend, and it only made me fall deeper in love. If you, too, are looking to fall for Bend, here’s a guide to what to do, where to eat, and *some* of the best secrets:

Getting to Bend

While I’m always a fan of a road trip, you’ve got options when it comes to getting to Bend. The nearest airport is the tiny Redmond Municipal Airport. It’s about a 30 minute drive to town, and there is Uber available! You can also fly into PDX in Portland, and take a short 3 hour road trip to Bend. If you’re sticking to the city, you could get away without a rental car, but I’d highly recommend a vehicle if you’re looking to get after it on public lands.

If you’re making a road trip out of your journey to Bend, I collaborated with Harman Kardon to make a Spotify playlist for you. It’s embedded below, too! 

Where to Play Outside

Pick a direction, drive for a bit, and you’ll find yourself on public land. To the west, you’ll find Deschutes and Willamette National Forests. To the east is Ochoco National Forest. A bit to the north, you’ll hit Mt. Hood National Forest and its namesake peak. If you’re here to ski, you’ll beeline towards Mt. Bachelor–which has both great resort + backcountry skiing nearby. (You can read about my experiences learning how to backcountry ski in Bend here.) In the summertime, peak bagging is a must. I hiked the South Sister solo a few summers ago, and at the time it was my biggest day in the mountains. Climbers must visit Smith Rock, oh wow. The views were incredible, the trail was beautiful, and my legs were very tired the next day. I’m dying to get back in the summer to visit the Lava Lands, the interpretive visitor center of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The volcanic landscape around Bend is truly special.

In town, Pilot Butte is a great park with a spiral trail (check it out on Google Maps) and beautiful views of the city. You can drive to the top in the summertime, but I’d recommend parking at the bottom and earning your view with a brisk uphill jaunt.

Other nearby outdoor hotspots:

Where to Eat

The only thing more important than the outdoors in my life is food. I’ll be honest, Bend isn’t the most impressive foodie spot (yet), but it does have a number of can’t miss gems. For breakfast, you must try an ocean roll from The Sparrow Bakery. It’s like a non-iced cinnamon bun but instead of cinnamon it’s cardamom and it’s my favorite thing to eat in Bend, period. My favorite restaurant in town is Wild Rose–it’s delicious Northern Thai food, and one of the best tom kha soups I’ve ever had. Spork is a close second, and has one of those ‘worldly’ menus that offers a dish for every craving. If they’ve got the elote special that day, order it. For a quick on-the-go lunch, I love Cafe Yumm.

Coffeeshops are in abundance in Bend. I’m a big fan of Looney Bean, Crow’s Feet Commons, Backporch, and Thump. Crow’s Feet Commons gets bonus points for being on the river and having little snacks in mason jars, while Looney Bean gets my vote for delicious pastries.

If you’re into beer, Bend is the place for you. With over twenty breweries, it has the highest micro-brewery per capita in the US–and the nickname “Beer City USA.” I don’t drink anymore, so my recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt, but a few stand-outs include: 10 Barrel, Crux, and Atlas Cider Co. Bonus for us non-drinkers: many breweries have kombucha on tap too!

Where to Stay

There are tons of lodging and camping options in and around Bend. I’m going to keep my camp spots under wraps, but if you do a little poking around on public lands, you’ll find excellent dispersed camping. If you’re on a budget but want a bed to sleep in, check out Sonoma Lodge. I stayed there for a few nights during my solo trip two summers ago, and the family who runs it were so hospitable and kind.

If you want to stay closer to the mountains, and are traveling with a group or want to splurge on some stunning cabins, check out Sunriver. It’s where we stayed during our trip to Subaru WinterFest with Harman Kardon, and our ‘cabin’ was fantastic. It had all the trimmings of a cozy log cabin, but with 5 bedrooms, a hot tub, toasty fireplace flanked by cozy couches, and a paved trail that runs throughout the entire area.

What to Jam Out to

Whether I’m summiting the South Sister, learning how to ski at Cinder Cone, cruising downtown, or road tripping around Oregon, I need good jams. The folks at Harman Kardon asked me to put together a playlist for my winter trip to Bend since we spent the week in a Subaru equipped with their premium audio system, so I gathered some of my go-to hype songs to get me pumped for outdoor adventures–and you can listen to it here:

Don’t have a good sound system? No worries. During my first trip to Bend, I was living in a janky van with blown out speakers, so I had to rely on portable solutions like the Harman Kardon Traveler speaker. Whatever system you’ve got to keep the beats flowin’, roll with it.

It’s hard to capture the magic of Bend in just 1000 words, so I’m inevitably missing a few must-dos. What voids do you see on this list? Got a Bend trail you thing should be on this list? Have you discovered a coffeeshop I absolutely must visit during my next trip? Let me know in the comments! 

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Harman Kardon, but as always, all thoughts, opinions, and words are my own. Especially my food recommendations, because you know I don’t mess around when it comes to good eats. 

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Learning to ski (human-powered) in Oregon at Subaru WinterFest

Editor’s note: Today on the blog, a first–a guest post, by my partner Brody Leven. As you know from my escapades on IG stories, he’s teaching me how to ski entirely by human power, and it’s been one of the best experiences of our relationship. He shared his perspective on it all, and I hope you love reading it as much as I did:

My girlfriend Katie doesn’t know how to ski. I ski most days, for work or pleasure or the combination that is my career.

My girlfriend Katie is from Miami. I’m from Ohio, which is actually a much better place to be a skier, because there is snow.

My girlfriend Katie hates the cold, cold fingers, cold toes, cold nose, being cold. So do I. It doesn’t matter how much one likes skiing; the cold still sucks.

“I’ve never seen a skier date a non-skier,” an Instagram follower messaged me, a response to my attempt to teach Katie to ski. When one’s identity is so inextricably tied to a single activity as mine is to skiing, it’s understandable why a successful relationship may seemingly warrant a partner interested in the same activity. And Katie had no interest in starting to ski.

Or so I thought.

After all the time we’ve spent together, I’d never asked Katie if she wanted to learn. I ignorantly assumed that if she wanted to ski, she’d ask. When our friend Caroline invited her on a lesson one day, I was amazed that she accepted. She wanted to learn but had been too timid to ask.

Katie isn’t learning to ski in the traditional way. By avoiding the crowds and lodges and lift lines, she’s choosing an unconventional way of learning to ski in today’s snow culture. Katie is learning to ski while learning to earn her turns. She’s climbing the hills that she is skiing down, using the power of her legs and whatever she ate for breakfast, which is usually spaghetti. This means that each turn isn’t wasted but cherished, because it takes hours for a run to be climbed and only minutes for it to be skied (unless you don’t know how to ski—then it takes almost as long to descend as to climb).

All of my skiing is leg-powered these days, but it hasn’t always been this way. I learned to ski at my local ski hill in Ohio, making thousands of lift-services laps over thousands of evenings. It’s 210 feet tall, and I was able to ski top-to-bottom in mere seconds. It allowed me to perfect my turns: rising into the traverse and sinking into the apex; orienting my upper body downhill; pole planting before each initiation. The chairlift rides were cold, but it was the only type of skiing I knew. Climbing up to ski down wasn’t even in my imagination.

Katie and I met at a very different stage in my skiing. These days, I climb everything that I ski. I spend the majority of my days walking uphill just to savor a few special, solitary moments on the way down. It also means that I spend most of my days away from her, returning with powder in every crease of clothing and a smile on my face. She wanted in on the action.

A mid-March trip to Bend, Oregon for the Subaru WinterFest offered Katie her first chance to ski two consecutive days. With a soundtrack provided by Harman Kardon, we affixed directional climbing skins to the bottoms of our skis and walked up a hill near Mt. Bachelor. After removing the skins and attaching her heel to the ski binding, she hesitantly dropped into the steepest slope of her life. Not until that evening did she realize that the backcountry terrain on which she’s learning to ski would be black diamond (difficult) terrain in the ski area.

She skied through variable snow conditions and frequently fell at the end of her turn. Katie struggled to link two turns together, so I offered advice sparingly and at her request. At the bottom of our first run, she asked if she could bootpack back up the lower portion of it. She not only wanted to practice more turns, but to learn a different style of ascent. She buckled her skis to her backpack like a pro and we were soon making a few more turns before returning to our Subaru, some hot tea, and some calm music.

Katie’s ski equipment isn’t perfect for her, but she doesn’t complain about its deficiencies, only about her own. She always skis with a helmet and is generally receptive to my advice. Considering how much unsolicited advice she receives from her social media followers, suggesting it’s easier to learn at the ski resort, Katie’s staying stedfast. She doesn’t want to learn at the ski resort precisely because it’s easier. She wants to embrace the challenge. And I’m here to support her.

It hasn’t been hard getting her out on the snow. Like when I was learning to ski, Katie wants to ski all the time, even when it’s unreasonable. She arrived to Bend sick and exhausted, but all she wanted to do was ski. On our drive to the mountain each day, she blasted music on our 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, dancing in the passenger’s seat. The soundtrack was happy and uptempo, music I’d only heard her play on her best days, and definitely not when she was sick. But a sickness wasn’t going to keep her off her hand-me-down skis when there was free hot chocolate being served at the Subaru WinterFest outside the lodge and an evening full of activities before we’d retire to our cozy cabin’s hot tub and fireplace.

Because that relaxation is exactly what you need when you’re skiing black diamonds in the backcountry during your first week on snow. I guess I’m not a skier dating a non-skier after all, because Katie is more excited to go skiing than any other skier I know. And that’s just the kind of (ski) partner I want.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored blog post for Harman / Kardon, but as always, all thoughts, opinions, and words are my own. (Well, Brody’s.) 

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Guide to Playing Outside + Eating in Salt Lake City, UT

“Hey Katie, I’m heading to SLC [this week/next summer/tomorrow] and was wondering if you had advice on good trails for [running/skiing/hiking], places to adventure that are near town, can’t-miss restaurants and coffee shops…”

I get this message multiple times a week–and I love it. Salt Lake City is one of the greatest cities in America–if you ask me at least–and I fell deeply, madly in love with it the summer before I moved here. Sharing my beloved city’s best brings me joy, and I figured I ought to just write all my SLC advice and recommendations down since it’s one of my most frequently asked topics.

Getting Outdoors in SLC

Access to the outdoors is part of the reason I moved to Salt Lake. I’m not going to tell you all of the best spots, because they’re getting super crowded and need a bit of a break from all the upticks in traffic–but if you do enough homework you’ll find ’em. They’re right there. Here’s what I will spill the beans about:

  • The Bonneville Shoreline Trail is over 100 miles of continuous trails running through the foothills. You can run to it right from downtown, or drive a bit near the hills and hop on.
  • Liberty Park is my favorite outdoor public space in the city. A big ‘ole running/biking/rollerblading/dog walking loop, tons of fields, a big pond, an aviary, tennis courts, picnic tables with chessboards built in, the works. In the summertime, there’s a farmers market on Friday evenings. If you’ve been to Denver, it’s basically the SLC equivalent to Wash Park.
  • The canyons. Essentially, there are three main canyon hubs for outdoor recreation in SLC: Millcreek, Big Cottonwood, and Little Cottonwood. The Cottonwoods are where you’ll find all the ski resorts and climbing areas. And each of these canyons has hiking trails, backcountry skiing, picnic spots, and scenic drives. Millcreek is the only place you can bring pups (and there’s a $3 entrance fee).
  • Antelope Island is an amazing spot to see the Great Lake, hang out with some bison, and get the best sunset photo you’ve ever taken.

If you’re getting outside in SLC, please read up on Leave No Trace ethics and practice them diligently while you’re playing in our precious Wasatch Range. There has been so much growth in this community, and while I love seeing so many people getting outside, I hate to see my beloved landscapes getting trampled. Pack out all trash + dog poo, stay on the trails, don’t pick the wildflowers, and watch out for summertime afternoon thunderstorms. 

Where to Eat in SLC

  • Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurants: Surprisingly, SLC is a treasure trove of plant-based eateries. If you’ve ever watched my Instagram stories, you already know about Big O Doughnuts, a totally plant-based donut shop with flavors like churro cake and orange cardamom. Buds has the best vegan sandwiches (get the pesto ‘chicken’!) and outdoor seating. Boltcutter is what’s up for tacos + nachos, and has Monkey Wrench next door serving ‘anti-dairy’ ice cream. Other vegetarian + vegan-friendly spots include Vertical Diner for breakfast/brunch, Seasons for pasta and polenta dishes, and All Chay for the ‘shrimp’ omg.
  • More Restaurants: This list will not be extensive, because there’s just too much good food in SLC. For breakfast, head to Publik Kitchen, Roots Cafe, Blue Plate, or Eggs in The City. You will wait 30+ minutes at all of these places on a weekend morning, prepare accordingly. If you’re into ramen, check out Yoko. For the best Indian in town, make the quick drive out to Bombay House. I get nachos at Lone Star on a weekly basis in the summertime. Mazza and Laziz are your go-to for hipster Mediterranean food (try the labneh!) and Juanita’s is my pupusa spot. (For what it’s worth, these places all have good vegetarian food too.)
  • Coffeeshops: Literally pick any coffeeshop and you’ll be happy–there are so many cool spots to grab an espresso or hunker down to do some work. My favorites are Publik, Three Pines, Blue Copper, and Sugarhouse Coffee. If you just want to work, go to the downtown SLC Public Library.

 

Farmers Markets

I live for farmers market season. And here in SLC, you can get three in a weekend–in the summertime. On Fridays, head to Liberty Park for a farmers market with the most food truck choices. Saturdays are the best market of all, the downtown SLC farmers market at Pioneer Park. If you’re still in the market mood, Sundays are for the Park Silly craft + food market in Park City.

In the wintertime, the downtown market moves to the Rio Grande train station, on Saturdays.

Getting Active (Inside)

There are two climbing gyms in SLC, and a fierce divide between which gym is better: The Front and Momentum. I’m a member at The Front, and Brody is a member of Momentum. The Front 10/10 has the best ambiance and facilities, including a sauna, vastly better bouldering, comfy seating areas, an outdoor patio, and soon-to-be third floor cafe. Momentum has better sport climbing. So, priorities–I obviously chose the sauna.

For yogis, I can’t recommend Seek Studio enough. If you’re there in the summertime, drop in on a rooftop sunset session.

Other SLC Local Biz You Should Patronize

Stockist is where I go for expensive-but-worth-the-investment hipster clothing and planters. Cotopaxi is headquartered downtown, and their HQ sits right above a rad retail shop that you should pop into. For anything bicycle related, heat to Saturday Cycles. If you need pillows/towels/etc. check out Maewoven.

I’ll keep this list updated as I remember all of the magical Salt Lake City shops and trails and eateries I’m inevitably missing from this list–but it’s a start, and a lot more extensive than the usual recommendations I try to type out in DMs on Instagram.

What am I forgetting? Where’s your favorite spot in SLC? Holla in the comments!

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Guide to Outdoor Advocacy at Outdoor Retailer

Guide to Outdoor Advocacy at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show 2018

My agenda is jam-packed–and changing every hour. I haven’t seen the sun in days. My eyes are bleeding from scheduling social media and creating Facebook events. Because, well, it’s almost Outdoor Retailer.

This is the first Outdoor Retailer event held in Denver, and while I am still palpably bitter about SLC losing the tradeshow, there’s a lot of energy, excitement, and anticipation of how the new show will go.

I am happy to report that it seems the trend of using this gathering to really charge forward on important industry issues like advocacy and inclusion is going strong. There isn’t a dedicated public lands action center like there was at 2017 summer market in SLC–but the moving the tradeshow so quickly was no easy task, so I’ll refrain from making a fuss until next summer.

There’s a lot to cover at Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, so I rounded up the most important events in my own agenda to share with you. Panels, parties, the works.

Guide to Outdoor Advocacy at Outdoor Retailer

Basically, here’s what my agenda looks like (and what yours should too):

Wednesday

  • 10:15 AM: Filling the Void: Taking on Global Warming When Our Country Isn’t climate change talk at the Hyatt Regency in the Capitol Ballroom with OIA’s Amy Roberts, Mario Molina from POW, Chris Davenport, and more.
  • 3:00 PM: Trade School opening happy hour at Understudy. This concept event is happening throughout OR, so be sure to stop by and explore at some point. It’s “five days of art & discussion offering a window into the real work of outdoor-inspired artists, entrepreneurs, athletes and advocates.”
  • 7:30 PM: Night Zero Untamed: A Welcome Party for Outdoor Retailer at the McNichols Civic Center Building. To be honest I still don’t fully understand what this is but there’s one helluva speaker line-up, the website is oddly impressive, and something tells me this is a party not to miss. Everyone seems to be involved, like Access Fund, Climate Reality Project, PEW, Gov. Hickenlooper, Outside, Patagonia, it’s insane.

Thursday

  • 7:00 AM: Industry Breakfast with Paul Hawken at Bellco Theatre. I know, it’s early–BUT, this is the event kicking off Outdoor Retailer, and Paul Hawken is the man. “Find out how we, as outdoor businesses and individuals, can play a critical role in turning the tide on our climate’s future.” Make sure you’re wearing your badge to get in!
  • 7:00 PM: POW Party at McNichols Building. Start your day thinking about climate change, and end your day thinking about climate change. There will be food, booze, speakers, gear, the works. “Because who said citizen activism had to be boring?”
  • 7:00 PM: The Gathering at 1555 Central St. Unit 201. All I really know about this is that the women of Wylder Goods invited me, there’s going to be wild game and Unita beer, and it’s a celebration of conservation, food, and community.

Friday

  • 7:00 AM: Conservation Alliance Breakfast with Kevin Fedarko & Pete McBride at the Hyatt Regency. To be honest, I’ll probably still be sleeping, but if you’re a morning person, these breakfasts are always inspiring.
  • 1:00 PM: Book signing with Shawnté Salabert at the Mountaineers Books booth (#44104-UL). Shawnté is a treat to encounter, and an inspiring woman, author, litter-picker-upper, and friend. Go get a copy of her book!
  • 3:30 PM: Monumental Decisions Panel at RANGER Station. I literally moved my panel to a different day so that I could be at this one. It’s going to be good. Powerhouses like Patagonia, REI, KEEN, OIA, Parks Project and more coming together to talk about work we’ve done for protecting national monuments, and what’s ahead.

Saturday

  • 10:00 AM: Indigenous Connections: Re-envisioning Recreation and Public Land panel with NativesOutdoors at The Camp (Booth 56117-UL). “Join in a discussion with Native American recreation leaders on how the outdoor industry can more effectively partner with indigenous peoples.”
  • 11:00 AM: Allyship 101 at RANGER Station, moderated by Elyse Rylander of OUT There Adventures. This session “explores the relationship between the outdoors and social justice. Through an in-depth discussion, we’ll examine our individual impact on creating a more equitable and inclusive outdoors from both a personal and professional standpoint.”
  • 3:30 PM:Leading Outdoor Advocacy through Social Media panel in the Mineral Room at Hyatt Regency (I’m moderating this, woo!). Join emerging leaders in the digital space, like women from Melanin Base Camp, She-Explores, Indigenous Women Hike and Flash Foxy, as we explore the impact and opportunities in using social media to drive the next generation of outdoor advocacy. Learn how to take action and become a powerful voice on relevant topics like public lands, climate change, diversity, and local community issues.
  • 4:30 PM: Live Art with Sarah Uhl at the Conservation Colorado Happy Hour (Booth: 44030-UL). Sarah is magical, and she’s painting a 40 piece mural be built LIVE on the side of the Outdoor Research tiny house. AND Colorado Senator Bennet and Congressman Polis are expected to announce the introduction to the Continental Divide Wilderness Bill.
  • 6:30 PM: Backcountry Film Festival’s Night of Stoke at Bellco Theatre. Films and friends and athletes and whatnot.

Sunday

Monday

  • All day: DEMO DAY! I’m heading up to Copper Mountain to take the hype out onto the slopes for SIA’s Demo Day. I’ll be covering it for OIA and will likely injure myself while trying to ski.

What am I missing? Where will you be each day and evening during Outdoor Retailer? What events are you most looking forward to? (Mine, obvi, right?)

I can’t wait to hit the road and get out there to see all my favorite folks in Denver and start scheming how we’re going to make the outdoors a better place in 2018. See you next week!

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Ultimate Outdoorist Gift Guide

The ultimate holiday gift guide for outdoorists and advocates.

Oh hello, gift giving season. Our Christmas tree is twinkling, the first ornament has been hung, and I am itching to start filling the base with treats for friends and family. I love the holidays.

Looking for the perfect thing to please the outdoorists in your life? You could just head to that “gifts for $15 and under” section of semi-worthless junk at Target–or you could fill your Christmas shopping list with thoughtful presents for people who deserve something more than a cheaply made enamel camp mug with a mustache on it.

The following list is full of my favorite products, worthy causes, and unconventional ways to give this season. Do good for the holidays.

Spoiler alert: This list goes beyond gear. Yes, I love a good sleeping bag–but I love doing good, taking care of myself, and taking care of the planet even more. And the holiday season is about more than just “stuff,” right?

Put Your Money Where Your Activism Is

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t need any more *things*–and sometimes, folks can be downright difficult to shop for (I’m pointing at my very picky, very particular boyfriend right now). The best gift you can give is putting your cash towards a good cause. Whether it’s a single-time donation, a sustaining contribution, or an annual membership, donate in your giftee’s name. Here are my top causes this season:

  • The Bears Ears Education Center Kickstarter. As the area sees skyrocketing recreation visitors, it’s our job as the folks who are making it so popular to provide educational resources to make sure visitors are good stewards to the land with a proper understanding of the areas history. This project does all of that. Proud to be a small part of this. Give. Them. Your. Money.
  • For the climate wonk: Protect Our Winters! Make a donation, or shop at their rad digital store. I love the work that POW is doing, and so should you.
  • For climbers: Make someone a member of American Alpine Club +/or Access Fund. Or, think locally, and make them a member of their local climbing coalition.
  • Because public land is native land: Folks keep asking me where the best place to send their money to support the ongoing fight for Bears Ears, and I think donating directly to the legal battle is an important cause. My dad asked where he should donate, and Len from Natives Outdoors said Native American Rights Fund is really leading the charge, so, NARF it is.

Small Acts of Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Changes

Outdoor advocacy is about more than just being pro-public lands. It reaches into the way we live our lives–and it begs us to be more conscious about our every day choices that can deeply affect our planet. Here are a few of the items I always have in within reach:

  • Never use plastic utensils again, go bamboo. I use my To-Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils set religiously. This set travels easily, cleans easily, and provides a palpable sense of self-satisfaction every time you ditch single-use ware.
  • Every human needs a reusable tote. I have about 20, but my favorite is the Cotopaxi Iba Tote. A) Sweet colors. B) Little pocket. C) Quality construction. D) Versatile use from groceries to road trip catch-all bag.
  • Reusable drinkware is the future. And by future, I mean now. I live for my teal Hydro Flask 22 oz stainless steel tumbler (with a ‘Do Good’ sticker slapped on it, of course). And coffeeshops usually fill up the whole thing for the price of a small coffee. If you want something with a tighter close, check out the 32 oz. bottle. Bonus: the gift recipient will think of you every morning when they refill their coffee!
  • For the straw lover: Simply Strawsnon-profit collection helps you keep plastic out of our oceans, and donates a percentage of each sale to organizations like Protect Our Winters.

Self-care, My Favorite Kind of Gift

Self-care is one of the greatest gifts you can give to outdoor advocates who spend their days calling reps, organizing community rallies, and fighting to protect the places they play. In the last year, I have found myself constantly emerging from the other side of intense politically-driven work sessions feeling exhausted. Bubble baths are my bff, acupuncture is my new go-to, and small self-love moments like face masks and chocolate croissants are what keep me charging. My picks:

  • Literally anything from Ursa Major. Naturally derived ingredients, all cruelty-free, smells like heaven, hip packaging, and my favorite skin care brand. These gift sets make it easy to find the perfect package. My go-to products are the face balm and 3-minute mask. Want 15% off your order? Use the code MORNINGFRESH, valid until 12/31/17. 
  • The Teva Ember Moc (bonus points for the velvet). Treat yo feet. Weird lookin’? Yes. Fuzzy comfy nest for your winter feet? Also yes. This gift idea doubles as a killer camp shoe + a comforting footwear for those “I’m staying up until 4 AM working on a public lands project” nights.
  • If you’re in SLC, check out The Little Wellness Place. It’s where I go for acupuncture, and has truly changed my life for the better. Gift someone an hourlong session, and they’ll thank you profusely.
  • Sweat it out. I recently did a monthlong Class Pass, and I loved it. This is a great gift for someone trying to find their personal fitness groove, or for someone who just moved to a new city and needs to test out the local way to get active. Yoga, spinning, boxing, cardio, it’s all there. Bonus points if you get yourself one too, because workouts are way better with a bud.

PS: I totally qualify edible treats as acts of self-love/self-care. Bring someone a pizza. Nothing says “I value you as a human and think you’re great” like a fresh-outta-the-oven pizza. Or donuts. Or tacos. Or homemade pie.

Support Your Local Economy + Artists

I could happily receive nothing but gifts from the local SLC farmers market for the rest of eternity. The markets, shops, and artisans in your town are the best resource for close-to-home gifts. Head to the farmers market for seasonal jams, handmade jewelry, bath bombs, even fresh food if you’re giving your gift promptly. Here in SLC, we have a pop-up called Salt & Honey, where all the craftsfolk from around the county set up mini vendor booths all in one incredible space. It’s only open for a few weeks, and I could spend my entire bank account in there–and when your support your local economy, everyone wins.

Because the east coast doesn’t get enough love: check out the map + outdoor prints, puzzles, and postcards from We Are Brainstorm. They donate a percentage of sales to organizations that are relevant to each corresponding piece in their collections, like Friends of Acadia, the National Park FoundationPCT Association, Access Fund, and the Society for Science.

And here are some of my favorite female artists (and overall humans) from around the west:

Ditch the Screen for a Good ‘Ole Paperback

Yeah, I said it, go read a book. Despite having a degree in creative writing, I am admittedly terrible at putting down ‘work reads’ and picking up books. So, let’s all change that. These are a few of my favorite things I’ve been reading, and all the authors are lovely colleagues in the industry who you can feel good about supporting.

Phew, that oughta last you for Christmas, birthdays, and all other gift-giving holidays. But if it didn’t: the folks at Cotopaxi came up with their own gift guide, here, which features a few of my favorite new items from their collection, including the Kusa Bomber Jacket. And if my guide isn’t quite cutting it, Paulina at Little Grunts also put together a gift guide for outdoor advocates.

Am I missing anything? Did you totally score as a gift-giver from reading this guide? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. +1000 if you send me a photo of someone opening their gift, I’m such a sucker for the holiday spirit. 

And when all else fails, get ’em an annual national parks pass.

Note: There are a few affiliate links scattered around in here, because, why not. 

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Homemade Winter Squash Soup Recipe

Winter is here, and with it comes the season of soup. I love soup like I love an oversized scarf. It’s cozy, it’s warming, and if you do it right, it’s totally healthy and pretty much totally acceptable to eat in mass quantities.

I recently attended a winter hibernation workshop (yes, seriously, it was incredible), and my acupuncturist, Amanda Valenti, made a pumpkin soup that knocked my socks off. According to Amanda and the wisdom of Chinese medicine, this soup is good for you in many ways: it moistens the lungs and large intestine, improves digestion, warms hands and feet during winter season. Also: it’s flippin’ delicious.

I modified the recipe a bit, added a box of organic pumpkin soup to increase the volume and ensure plentiful leftovers, and went a little wild with the toppings. I highly encourage getting weird with the toppings. I even added a dollop of lentils and peas once. We’ve been slurping on this soup ever since, and you oughta make yourself a batch:

Homemade Winter Squash Soup Ingredients

  • 1 bag of organic chopped butternut squash from the produce section, or a regular ‘ole whole butter nut squash, peeled.
    Note: Making this at camp, or cooking in a rush? I recently tried Straight From The Root pre-cooked organic vegetables, and they’re the jam. If you’re feeling crazy, toss in a few of their roasted carrots too.
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of peeled fresh ginger (about 1.5 inches), minced
  • A dash of cinnamon, or a few cloves.
  • 1 box (32 oz) of organic vegetable broth
  • 1 box (32 oz) of organic pumpkin soup
  • 2 tablespoons oil (we use sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional toppings: sunflower + pumpkin seeds, crispy kale, sunflower seed sprouts (pictured), freshly chopped cilantro, a splash of crema, whatever floats your boat.

Soup Makin’ Directions

  1. Peel ginger. Chop garlic, onion, and ginger.
  2. Combine butternut squash, cinnamon/clove, and vegetable broth in a pot. Bring the mixture to a bubbly boil, then simmer on low for 20 minutes (10 minutes if you’re only using pre-cooked squash from The Root).
  3. Toss in the onion, garlic, and ginger. Continue simmering until the onions are squishy.
  4. If you had cloves, remove them.
  5. Combine mixture, almond milk, and box of pumpkin soup using a hand mixer, Vitamix, however you blend things.
  6. Top with crunchy, crisp, refreshing edible hipster decor. Enjoy.

Are you as obsessed with this soup as I am? Send your undying gratitude (and requests for acupuncture appointments) to Amanda at The Little Wellness Place, and follow her IG! If you’re local to SLC, come check out one of their monthly workshops + events with me! Otherwise, slurp away and stay warm.

Disclosure: This is a totally un-sponsored post. I’m just low-key obsessed with Amanda, her cooking skills, her acupuncture magic, and all of the wonderful women at Little Wellness Place.

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FAQ: Outdoor Industry Career Advice

“How did you get started?” “How can I do what you do outside all the time?” “How do you make money?” I get asked these questions on a daily basis, and I wanted to answer them here today:

There is no secret pathway to success. I studied creative writing at Florida State University, got a gig writing office supply product descriptions at $10 a pop, and decided on a whim to pour my entire life savings into a yearlong climbing-van trip. I borrowed $14,000 from my dad, bought a Sprinter van, did a pretty mediocre job of building it out, and hit the road.

I fell in love with the outdoors during those 365 days spent living on public lands and ‘finding myself’ at the crags and in the desert, and after a rough break-up post-trip, I moved to Denver. Broke and desperate, I found a listing for a part-time social media job with the Outdoor Industry Association. I got the job working 10 hours/week, and it quickly became my deepest passion. I hustled to make it full-time, stayed in-house for a year, pitched my bosses to let me travel full-time for another year as a work project, then went to pursue freelancing.

I am sponsored by Cotopaxi, asked to host workshops + panels, contribute my writing to small publications, get flown to beautiful places for media projects. That’s the glamorous bit I am often asked about. But those getting-paid-to-hike moments are only made possible by the year I spent sitting in a cubicle at OIA. Working hard, being humbled, failing, succeeding, learning, crying on my commute home (turns out I don’t thrive in traditional work environments). As for my sponsor? I met the Cotopaxi team during a work tradeshow, and brands only know who I am through my loud mouth about issues I discovered through my work with OIA.

There’s not a day I wake up and don’t think “damn, I am grateful for this.” But for every shot of me summiting a mountain on a Tuesday, there’s also a shot of me in a bathrobe, cranking out spreadsheets with soup crusted on my upper lip (literally right now, and this bathrobe doesn’t exactly smell fresh). I work weekends and late nights; I spend road trips searching for wi-fi so I can hop on conference calls. It’s a dream, it’s a slog, it’s hard, it’s exactly what I want to be doing with my life.

So how can you “do what I do?You can’t. You shouldn’t want to. You should find that problem that makes you tick, and put every ounce of your energy into building solutions for it. For me, it’s protecting public lands and building a better outdoor community. For you, it could be designing sustainable outdoor gear, perfecting camp granola recipes–whatever it is, make it yours, work hard + relentless, tell your story. The world is listening.

Here are a few steps you can start taking today to find your path:

  • Don’t be afraid to start small. My first job in the outdoor industry was a 10-hours/week part-time “we’re mostly testing this out” job. So for three hours, three days a week, I did the best damn job I could possibly do in the office. Get a job at your local REI, volunteer for an organization you’d love to run one day, start your blog and write in it every week–even if your mom is the only one reading it right now.
  • Get involved with, and support, organizations that align with that you want to do. Want to build a career around climbing? Join the American Alpine Club and Access Fund, get involved with crag clean-up days with your local climbing coalition, attend community workshops + fundraisers. Start following these orgs on social media, engage with them, and start building relationships with them. I’ve learned that community connections are immeasurably valuable for getting your foot in the door.
  • Find your skills and focus on them. Here’s a little secret: the days of making a living off an Instagram full of pretty outdoor photos full of free gear were a quick blip on the radar–that is not a real path to forge. The folks “making it” are those who are doing big things, taking action, and merely using social media as a platform to amplify a bigger message. It’s not just about being good with a camera anymore. Where can you add value? Are you a great event organizer? Do you have a knack for e-mail campaigns? Do you love public speaking? Focus on the skills that set you apart from the rest of the pack.
  • Keep at it, for a long time. My success didn’t happen overnight, or within a year, or within a few years. I started this blog in 2009. I didn’t get a real outdoor industry job until 2014, and most people in the industry didn’t have a clue who I was until this year. It’s a long, hard, uphill hike. If you’re adding value to the space, and truly dedicated, you’ll make it. Just. Keep. At. It.

Oh, and how do I make money? I am asked this a lot, and luckily for you, I’m not shy about talking finances. I don’t make a lot of money. Last year, I brought in like $25,000 (before taxes). The outdoor industry isn’t a get-rich-quick space, especially for freelancers. I have a contract with Cotopaxi, I pick up freelance projects with brands, I write when I can, I occasionally collaborate with brands for sponsored content, and I very proudly work on OIA’s social media. Freelancing is a constant hustle. You never stop looking for work, stressing about taxes, and wondering where the hell you’re going to get health insurance from.

Got more questions? Leave ’em in the comments, and I’ll add them to this post!

This blog post was originally an Instagram caption, which you can find here.

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Updates from the Trail: September

Hi outdoorists, greetings from Salt Lake City–I’m finally home for a few weeks before hitting the road for my birthday desert trek, and wanted to update you on all things adventure, advocacy, podcasts, and projects. The end of summer feels oh-so-tangible with snowy peaks visible through my window. Farewell, summer. Hello, cold.

The end of my favorite season for living was marked with a collection of satisfying moments that leave me content with the reality of putting all my shorts and swimsuits back into the basement. I climbed the Grand Teton in a day, spoke (twice) at the No Man’s Land Film Festival about my advocacy career and environmentalism, went backpacking in the Uintas for the first time, watched the total solar eclipse from a corn field in Kentucky, escaped to a tiny cabin on the Olympic peninsula for a girls’ weekend, rode a bike 40 miles up and down Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, scrambled up Mount Superior, summited the Pfeifferhorn, and climbed enough tall, exposed multi-pitch climbs until they stopped feeling so damn scary.

For me, now this is the season for slowing down. I still don’t really know how to ski, so when winter comes, I burrow into a bit of a hibernation. Winter is for writing, hot tea, slow hikes through the snow, writing handwritten letters, adopting pumpkins. It’s important to change your pace with the seasons. Outdoor folks are constantly go-go-go, trying hard and sending hard and pushing hard. Give yourself some space to mellow out and recharge. Doesn’t have to be winter for you, but it is for me. Just find time to reflect, process, rest.

The real reason I’m updating you is to share a few exciting projects that have dropped in the last few days. There is too much good stuff to bombard you with on Instagram stories, so I’m rounding them up here for you:

  • My Guide to Outdoor Advocacy with RANGE Magazine was released digitally. The full title is a mouthful of goodness: “Outdoor Advocacy Toolkit: A Guide to Getting Active in the Fight to Protect the Places Where We Play” – I mean, doesn’t that just make you want to do a “heck yeah!” fist pump in the air? This is a great resource to share with folks who want to get involved with the fight for public lands but don’t know where to start. And Christine Mitchell Adams did an incredible job with the illustration.
  • The Outdoor Biz Podcast interviewed me about my career, tips for people looking to break into the outdoor industry, my vision for the Outdoor Advocate Network, and how I see social media as a valuable tool for doing good in the outdoors. Listen here.
  • Photographer Kyle Meck and I teamed up for a project in the Wasatch to highlight the story of science and the outdoors and how we can measure the health of our ecosystems by counting bugs in streams. It was my favorite storytelling assignment of the summer, and I am super grateful to Teva for supporting it. You can read it here.
  • I wrote a piece for Cotopaxi about how to eat healthy while on the road. Spoiler alert: it really isn’t that hard and you have no excuse for shoveling crappy food in your pie hole when you’re on a road trip.

Much more to come, my friends. I’m going to try to do these updates monthly–there’s always so much to catch up on and share and get stoked about. As always, thank you for following along on the journey, and see you out there.

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Outdoorist Guide to Glacier National Park

I spent a week in Glacier National Park–my first time there–and just, whoa. Montana has a reputation for being one of the last wild frontiers, and this parcel of public land is a true testament to that. My experience felt particularly charmed. It was a multi-sport trip, rewarded with huckleberry treats, and made even more special by my boyfriend’s park ranger sister, who knew everything about the area.

We backpacked out to Cracker Lake in Many Glacier, where we spilled ourselves over easy trails and windy ridges and past a grizzly mama + her cub to camp lakeside below a cirque. When we woke up–in a storm–we were greeted with a rainbow that stretched from one end of the lake to the other. We rode bikes up Going to the Sun Road before it opened up to cars, and I slowly pedaled my way through my longest and hardest ride ever. We paddled on Lake Macdonald–which the natives called “The Place Where They Dance”, which is a much more suitable name if you ask me–and camped + paddled at Tally Lake (not in the park). We hiked trails. While Brody and his sister rode Going to the Sun Road again, I explored creekside wonderlands and lounged next to gushing rivers while writing poems in my notebook. I became a Glacier Junior Ranger. We drank huckleberry lemonade and huckleberry iced tea and huckleberry soda. I ate a lot of cinnamon rolls. I said hello to grizzlies, black bears, beavers, caterpillars, mountain goats, songbirds, and one black slug.

Glacier National Park was so enchanting, we extended our trip.

When I got home, my padrino (that’s godfather in spanish) reached out that he too was planning a trip out to Glacier, and asked if I had any advice. I ended up sending him a pretty long e-mail, and realized that maybe my readers would benefit from all the beta too. So, here you go:

A (Very) Brief Guide to Glacier National Park:

  • First of all, you have to drive up Going To The Sun Road. I rode my bike up it (40 miles total, about 3500 feet of elevation gains) this weekend while it was still closed to cars, and it was amazing. They say you should plan 2-3 hours to drive the road.

  • Want to learn more about the native history of the land we now call Glacier National Park? (You should.) This site has a great dive into the original names and historical significance of many places in the park.
  • If you drive Going To The Sun Road and start from West Glacier, you’ll end up in St. Mary, and then you should go check out Many Glacier as well. We went backpacking to Cracker Lake (6 miles each way) and saw a grizzly + her cub right by camp.
  • If you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, consider getting a can of bear spray. You can rent them from the ranger stations now. If you don’t get spray, just make sure to travel in groups and make lots of noise when you come around blind corners. If you see a bear, keep a big distance and make lots of noise to scare it off. We saw 7 bears and had no problems with ’em.

  • Definitely plan to rent kayaks and paddle on Lake MacDonald. The MacDonald lodge is beautiful too, not sure how expensive it is to stay there though. There’s a historic boat that does sunset tours of the lake from the lodge. Note: If you bring your own watercraft, you’ll have to get it inspected by rangers before putting it in the water. It only takes a few minutes, but make sure your kayak/canoe/whatever is clean and free of any leaves or debris.
  • If you need to camp, anywhere in the park is stunning, but Fish Creek seemed to be pretty prime. There’s also a campground near Avalanche that was right on the water and I saw lots of friendly deer wandering through when I spent a few hours there.
  • Eat huckleberry everything. There’s huckleberry pie, huckleberry ice cream, and really delicious huckleberry lemonade that’s not to be missed. You can get huckleberry ice cream in the park and eat it at the lake right at Apgar Village.
  • This is a great article with a list of things to do in Glacier. The Red Bus tours are legendary and historic. We didn’t take one since my boyfriend’s sister is a park ranger there (talk about the ultimate hook up!) but they seem like a blast if you’re into tours.
  • You’re right by Canada, so consider bringing passports if you guys want to visit the Canadian side of the park.
  • If you want to do some shopping and soak up a bit of the local culture, downtown Whitefish (only like 30 minutes away) is a cool little town with great local stores and lots of walking around to do.
  • I loved coffee + baked goods from Montana Coffee Traders in Columbia Falls, which is the closest town to West Glacier. If you’re there in time for breakfast, Uptown Hearth is an awesome community kitchen restaurant. The breakfast pudding is to die for.

Got questions about Glacier National Park or adventuring around Montana? Leave ’em in the comments!

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Guide to Public Lands Advocacy at Outdoor Retailer

Twice a year, I turn into a weird beast version of myself. My calendar is a color-coded event apocalypse where every afternoon and evening is quadruple booked. My inbox? Insanity. I do ridiculous things like think about my outfits in advance. It’s Outdoor Retailer week, and for some strange reason, I love it. This is the last of the tradeshows in Salt Lake City–I’ve already cried once, whatever. There’s a heavy layer of ‘the public lands issue’ settled over the Salt Palace. I’m way into that, because it means the entire industry is gathered under one roof to marinate on the topic for a week.

This OR Show is all about public lands advocacy. And that’s kinda my jam.

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You, too, are stoked on public lands advocacy and want to get involved. How do I know this? Y’all have asked me a bazillion times in the last few weeks. Way jazzed on that, too. I’ve got a lot going on, my rad colleagues have a lot going on, and I figured I ought to just bring it all together in a quick guide to help you get activated around public lands and outdoor advocacy at Utah’s final Outdoor Retailer. Check it:

– Come to the RANGE Magazine issue launch at 4:30 on Wednesday (7/26) at the Ranger Station. The theme is “activate + organize” and I wrote a guide to outdoor advocacy that’ll be in the latest issue and heaps of rad industry folks have work in there too.

– Watch to my panel on outdoor advocacy and social media at 10:00 AM on Thursday (7/27). I’m moderating. Kenji Haroutunian, Caroline Gleich, Len Necefer from NativesOutdoors, Brody Leven (heeeey), and Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are my panelists. Potential highlights include: conversations between my lifelong vegetarian boyfriend and the king of the hunting and fishing industry, asking Len about calling the industry out when we do things like appropriate, and me inevitably falling off my stool because I’m awkward in public. I’ll try to livestream this for anyone who isn’t attending OR! 

– Because you can never have enough panels, come to the When Women Lead discussion at 2:30, at The Camp, hosted by Wild Women’s Project and Coalition Snow.

– Join me, Hilary, The Wilderness Society and the storytellers community for a pre-march sign making rally at the Public Lands Action Center at 3:30 on 7/27. We’ll have supplies to put your march calls-to-action on cardboard–what’s a march without witty signs making a statement about our cause?–and The Wilderness Society will be on deck to chat about getting involved with advocacy. RANGE magazine is hosting one in the Venture Out pavilions too! There’s a Facebook event page here.  Also, if you have cardboard, I want it for our recycled sign making supplies, holla at me. 

MARCH WITH US. If you haven’t heard about the march for public lands yet, sheesh. At 4:30, we’re marching from the Public Lands Action Center rally–because obviously you’ll be there with me–through the Salt Palace, past downtown, all the way to Utah Capitol. We’ll hoist our signs, make a loud statement, gather on the lawn of the Capitol, and listen to powerful speakers during a rally about, well, our public lands. If you’re on social media, holla at #MarchForPublicLands.

– Attend the annual social media lunch on 7/28 at noon. I’m co-hosting with OIA, and we’re launching the Outdoor Advocate Network. It’s a powerful collective of the industry’s most impactful voices that want to do something about our industry’s biggest issues, and we’re going to empower you, and you def want to be involved. And free lunch, obvi–for the first 50 people. We’ll be networking after the event until 2:00, so come say hi even if you miss the actual lunch part. RSVP here (or if you want to get an update after the event if you can’t make it).

–I am mega stoked on this workshop: “(re)defining women in the outdoors.” It’s a little late on Friday, 3:30-4:30, at The Camp, but I think it’s going to be a good one. Read: “This interactive session is geared toward female and non-cis gender industry professionals who are excited to examine our (diverse) values and a develop a new vision for women in the outdoor industry.” Yaaaas. 

– Bonus points for early birds: If you’re into getting up before 8:00 AM, you should attend the breakfasts. At this year’s OIA Industry Breakfast, which basically kicks off the entire tradeshow, speakers include Alex Honnold, Cedar Wright, and the queen herself, Sally Jewell. I mean seriously, hello. I always cry during these breakfasts because I’m so moved by the energy (and also it’s so early in the morning and I’m extra vulnerable). Conservation Alliance is hosting one the next day, which you can learn about here.

– If you’re in town early: Go to Outsiders Ball! Totally qualifies as outdoor advocacy-related in my book because it’s a giant, wonderful fundraiser that supports Outdoor Foundation, which works to get youth out into nature. Party on, outdoorists. Then, go enjoy free drinks and at the official after party/climbing fundraiser for the American Alpine Club at Bodega.

See you all in SLC next week, my friends!

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