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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Bahia Honda: Camping in the Florida Keys

The journey from Miami to the Keys will forever be one of my favorite road trips. My little car, windows down, skipping across tiny islands like a river rock hopping across flat water. Salty air rustling my hair into a knotted mess, sunshine warming my skin, and the temptation of Cuban espresso from roadside cafes dotting the highway. The drive feels like an old friend now, but I’ve always cruised straight through to Key West with minimal stops along the way. Until now.

Photo: Pat (@outsidethebun) and Spark Brand

Photo: Pat (@outsidethebun) and Spark Brand

Bahia Honda is a state park perched along mile marker 37. A mellow entry gate hides the stretches of coastal camping sitting on over 500 acres of island–and that doesn’t count the offshore island where you can snorkel and hunt for seashells. Despite living only a few hours from Bahia Honda for nearly two decades, I had never taken the left turn into the park–I didn’t even know it existed. Cue the squeals and smiling-so-hard-my-face-hurt as we drove under a bridge, past beachgoers, and all the way to the very last campsite at the park.

Camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. Camping at Bahia Honda State Park in Florida.

Did I mention this campsite was sitting directly on the water, tucked away in a perfect mess of mangroves, limestone, and washed up sea grass? Because, it was. It still is, if you want to go see it yourself. Campsite 80, trust me.

I camp, a lot. There was that one time I spent a year living on public lands, and last summer I spent four months traveling solo while camping nearly every night on public lands–but I’ve never spent an evening snoozing with the shoreline nearly within arm’s reach. It was one of those life scenes that made me seriously reconsider how I ever moved away from the ocean.

Setting up my tent was difficult to focus on–snapping poles together suddenly felt laborious when a sun-kissed jetty was begging to be explored a few yards away. With a rocky limestone landing, tent stakes were useless. Tip: Keep your tent weighed down by tucking your heavy packs, water bottles, or even rocks into the corners. Florida gets breezy, and no one wants to watch their tent get blown out to sea.

Camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

Once we got camp settled, my old friend Alex and I cruised back to the front of the park to dig our toes into the sand for a little underwater exploration. For outdoorists who spend most adventures climbing up toward the sky, taking a dive beneath the sea’s surface is a refreshing perspective. I spend so much time going up, it felt healing to sink downward for a change. Tiny fish darted back and forth, tufts of sea plants tickled my legs, and my skin eagerly drank in all the salty satisfaction.

Camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.Camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

As I crawled into my sleeping bag, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to snooze soundly with another warm body only inches away, but within moments, I zonked out. That night, I slept more deeply than I have in months. It was my first night in my new tent, and the first night I had slept in a tent with someone else next to me in over a year. The wind stirring leaves, water lapping against the shore, and buzzing bugs just on the other side of my tent wall were the perfect lullaby.

In the morning, I rose with the sun, but stayed curled up in my bag for a few hours to soak in my surroundings before it was time to take down camp. The easy location and accessible site made it simple to pack up the car, cook a quick breakfast, and then cruise back up the Keys toward home–with a pit stop for cafecitos and empanadas on the way, of course.

I could keep telling you about the bliss of seaside camping and going snorkeling before sleeping under the stars–but it’s better to show than tell, right? Check out the video produced by VISIT FLORIDA from the trip, and see for yourself:

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Trail Running Florida: The Overseas Highway Heritage Trail

“North, or south?” Alex asked as we neared the end of the dirt road stretch. I took a deep gulp of humid air, trying to keep my breath while surveying the options ahead. We had just pulled over after finding a dirt road on Long Point Key. Our detour yielded stretches of dirt trails in multiple directions, but most abruptly ended in heaps of limestone or thickets of vine. We refocused on our true objective: running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail.

“Left!”

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

We ran in that direction for only a few hundred yards before being once again lured toward a new route – this time a mile-long detour off the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and into Curry Hammock State Park. We waved to the rangers as we jogged past the entrance station, stopping only once we reached the lapping waterfront.

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is a multi-use path that runs the length of the Keys across islands and bridges until reaching its terminus at Key West. It officially begins at Mile Marker 106 in Key Largo, and ends at MM 0. The trail itself has been a work in progress for more than a decade as Florida slowly stitched together portions of existing bike paths to create a continuous, safe route for those who prefer to experience travel though the Keys at a human-powered pace.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

I didn’t find trail running until many years after I moved away from the Sunshine State. I used to live by a strict motto: “I ain’t running unless something is chasing me.” Somewhere between my native state and my new home in Utah, my anti-running resolve weakened and I kept finding myself lacing up shoes to hit the trails. Returning to my home state to bring together my native environment (read: humidity, sunshine, sea-level elevation, and salty air) with my newfound love for running was a treat.

I like running because it’s pure. You don’t need fancy gear or technical skills – it’s simply one foot in front of the other, until your legs feel like Jell-O. Left foot, right foot, repeat.

Trail Running on the Overseas Highway Heritage Trail in the Florida Keys.

With more than 100 miles of trail to choose from, you can make your experience on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail all your own. Here are some tips from my experience:

  • My favorite parts of the trail are the stretches between numerous smaller islands. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction you feel after running an island tip-to-tip, even if it’s less than a mile long.
  • Ultra runners can camp out at Bahia Honda State Park, then go big and run the trail’s final 32 miles from the park to Key West. Celebratory rumrunners, anyone?
  • Note: It is not advised to tackle the Seven Mile Bridge by foot. Heavy vehicle traffic and small shoulders make this portion of the trail less than appealing for the average runner. I would personally run it only if specifically attempting to complete the trail in its entirety. Plan your run around it or hitchhike your way across.

So, what gear do you need to run on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail?

  • Running shoes: The path is mostly paved and very well maintained throughout, so technical trail running shoes are not required.
  • Water (hydration pack or belt): Locals with a higher tolerance for South Florida’s hot, wet climate may be able to skip carrying water on shorter distances, but I found myself eager to hydrate often.
  • Sun protection: After just a single bridge crossing, I knew sunscreen would be at the top of my list for recommended gear. Many stretches of the trail provide little to no shade, so it’s key to come prepared with a liberal layer of sunscreen and I’d suggest a hat, too. If you’re bringing a hydration pack, toss in a tube of sunblock to reapply throughout the day.
  • Bathing suit: Okay, so this one you can leave in the car – I wore my bikini top as a sports bra – but the point is: be prepared to go for a dip after your run. Trust me, the après-run swim is almost as good as the actual running.
  • Bonus Points: If you’re running across a popular key, bring some cash for pit stops at Cuban sandwich shops and seafood joints.

All photos of me in this post taken by Alex Uribe. Thanks, Alex!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VISIT FLORIDA. The opinions and text are all mine.

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That time we went to Moab on a Monday.

From my leather journal. (With new thoughts sprinkled in while I transcribe.) 

3/20

Note: Please excuse any bumps and inky bruises on this page; I’m driving. Well, Brody is driving. We just turned off the highway at Crescent Junction, on our way to Moab for the week. I don’t think either of us really know why we’re in my car heading south right now, but I’d like to think that part of it is just the magic. Like the purple and the orange glow of the sunset streaming through the haze of this passing dust storm.

View of Castleton Tower in Moab, UT.

3/21

Good morning, Moab.

Right now, I’m sitting on a rock somewhere up Long’s Canyon off Potash Road. My face and ears are covered in tiny little flies. It’s early, and I’m not in a rush. Brody made french toast with berries and maple syrup for Dakota and I when we woke up. My piece is kind of burnt, but I don’t like sweet breakfast anyways so it’s okay. I hardly slept last night. My sleeping pad deflated. I can’t wait to climb.

Brody makes french toast on the first morning of our trip to Moab.

Later.

I didn’t believe we were actually going to Moab until I pulled up to Brody’s downtown apartment with my rig full of gear. A never-gonna-happen whim had turned into an oh-I-should-pack overnight, so we left Salt Lake City on a Monday afternoon and pointed south to the desert–my happiest of places.

We met up with our soon-to-be new friend Dakota (Jones, you might know him if you’re a runner–he’s real fast and a rad human being), at a dimly-lit park just after sundown. On the first and second nights, we slept down Long’s Canyon. We started the trip climbing classics at Wallstreet on Potash Road, then returned to our camp spot for a lazy lunch. Once my belly was full of veggies and tortilla and weird beet dressing, we sailed the Pilot up a bumpy dirt road to Maverick’s Buttress. I had never climbed there before, but I think I’d certainly like to go back.

Climbing at Wallstreet on Potash Road outside of Moab, UT.Gear, everywhere. Okay, Brody pretty much always makes the food. I just eat it.Climbing at Maverick Buttress down Long's Canyon in Moab, UT.

On the last full day, we climbed the classic Kor-Ingall’s route up Castleton Tower. I stood on top of the proper summit first, and took my moment of solitude to soak in the overwhelming feeling of smallness. I’ve never felt so tiny. Unsurprisingly, I cried a little bit at the top before the boys scrambled up. It was one of those moments that just remind you how audacious it is to be alive on this earth.

What a gift that I get to exist on this planet and do things like climb up a sandstone tower on a Wednesday afternoon.

Brody and I somewhere on pitch three of the Kor-Ingalls route up Castleton Tower. Enjoying a peaceful moment at the top of Castleton Tower in Moab, UT.On the summit of Castleton Tower with Dakota Jones and Brody Leven.

[Insert things about love and stealing kisses between pitches and two sleeping bags in the rain. I can’t share every detail from my journal, you know.]

Thursday morning, I awoke during twilight to the sound of rain pattering on the roof of my rig. We slept with the hatch open to catch the breeze, and I jolted up sure that our feet would be soaked from the storm. I patted our sleeping bags, and while a little wet, it wasn’t enough to wake up and shut the door.

Later, I woke back up to sunrise pouring over the La Sals with mist rolling over the mountains and drips of sunshine filling the space between the peaks and my sleepy bones.

(The last three photos, from Castleton Tower, were all taken by Brody. Thanks Brody. I left my phone and camera behind for the climb, and I’m so glad I did.)

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Oh, hello there. It’s me, Katie.

Well. Hey, hi, hello. How are ya? It’s been…a while. 

The Mojave National Preserve on the way to Joshua Tree National Park in California.

I used to write to you more. This blog was full of love letters to the outdoors and to a wild life, and to you, my readers. Home to my favorite stories, a digital book in which to take notes of moments that moved me and adventures worth sharing. But sometimes, life moves at a pace so fast it’s all you can do to keep up.

So, the love letters stopped. I hit the road again, solo. I quit my job. I moved to Salt Lake City. I fell in love, hard. I slowed down, I sped up, I kept pushing forward. I traveled the west all summer, went to the Philippines in winter. In the past four weeks, I’ve been to Moab, Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, the Florida Keys, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and tomorrow, Cuba.

It feels like the right time to start writing those love letters again.

I hope maybe you’ll still read them. I haven’t been writing here, but I have taken to keeping a leather journal–back to writing love letters to my life by hand. I’ll share excerpts here, and photos from those moments, and thoughts as I reflect on it all.

Love, Katie.

PS: I know, the blog needs love. I need to hire a web designer to seriously help me out with bringing The Morning Fresh back to life. If you know anyone in SLC, holla! Until I stop traveling enough to sit down and spruce ‘er up, I hope you’ll read and overlook how god awful this site looks right now.

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We elected a climate denier, so now what? Roll up your sleeves for the outdoors

I’m still trying to digest the election. I’m still trying to make sense of it all. I wasn’t prepared for this–not at all. I see now that I had been living in a bubble of privilege and community that led me to the ignorant sureness that Trump could never become the leader of my country. It has been (and still is) a major adjustment to chew on.

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Photo: Jo Savage (@SavageDangerWolf)

I spent Election Day on the California coast, with my phone in airplane mode. I had emerged from camping in the redwoods that morning and thought to myself, “no sense in driving myself nuts with election coverage all day, I’ll just tune back in later tonight when Hillary takes it.” I was not prepared for what I saw when I finally turned on the television. I ended my day at a seaside hotel, cradled in a fancy bathrobe while crying over the unexpected future that had just been thrust upon me.

What happens now?

This new political climate we live in stretches so much further than the outdoor advocacy I’ve been focused on for the past few years. This brings back the other issues I used to fight for: gay rights and equality, women’s reproductive rights, immigration and refuges.

It’s overwhelming to think too hard about everything that is at stake now. I’ve witnessed a lot of turmoil, anguish, mourning, and heartbreak. Many of us needed to step back for a few moments of self-care, to pause for a moment and focus on self before diving in to care for others. The accompanying messages reminding friends to look out for themselves and remember that they are loved were some of the first glimpses of hope I saw emerge from the rubble.

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen the start of an uprising. We had our moment to be sad and upset, and now it’s time to move into action. My inbox has been flooded with messages asking me how to get involved, what organizations to support, what the outdoor industry is going to do. And not just a single moment of doing something–this is about adapting our lifestyle to accommodate the grit and tenacity needed to protect what matters.

To protect our public lands and the planet;
To protect our fellow Americans;
To protect women’s bodies;
To protect all the progress our country has made in the past decade.

We have questions. Where do we go from here? What is the first step? And the second, and the third? How can we protect the places we play? What do we say to our children? We can’t pretend this isn’t happening, so what do we do now?

There is much work to be done. And we have so much to give. But where to start? I think the first place is figuring out what issues matter the most to you. What do you want to pour your effort and energy into? Is it climate change, reproductive rights, youth homelessness, sustainability? How about leave no trace ethics, the immigration and refuge crisis, saving the bees, saving the glaciers? Maybe tackling racism, homophobia, and that whole white supremacy thing that just casually became acceptable again? Pick your battles, and then suit up. Dedicate yourself to them. 

And of course, the backbone of it all: building community. Where would we be without our brothers and sisters? Our fellow outdoorists, our neighbors, our family, the people we love and work with. Through all of this, remember the value of your community. Protect each other, support each other, care for each other, love each other fiercely.

Here are a few of the many ways to roll up your sleeves:

  • Give to the organizations you support. I’m guilty of not doing this–I’m a big advocate for organizations like Outdoor Alliance, Protect Our Winters, Sierra Club, and American Alpine Club, but I never give. I had a membership to AAC and the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, but they both lapsed. Now is the time to renew, to start giving what you can. This is the time to skip the daily latte and make contributions to the organizations representing your causes out on the front lines. You might think you can’t afford a $25 annual membership fee–but what you really can’t afford is losing access to public lands. Priorities, kids.
  • Start using your social channels for advocacy. Get vocal about the issues you care about. Amplify your allies, and support your community. Express your disappointment in elected officials who aren’t serving you.
  • Pick up the phone. I know, it’s intimidating–but it’s effective. Social media makes it easy to participate; I’ve seen multiple folks posting with specific instructions guiding you through the calling/survey process and how to leave messages for your representatives.

    Your voice is so important now, use it.

  • Keep an eye on OIA. Yes, I work with Outdoor Industry Association, so I’m biased–but the policy work OIA does affects every member of the outdoor community. And we’re going all in this year. There’s an incredible outdoor advocacy action center launching in 2017 that will be a vital resource in the fight for public lands and protecting the future of our industry. Listen to the post-election podcast.
  • Attend protests. March alongside your community. Make signs, sing chants, hold hands with strangers in the streets. Be present for the issues that matter to you. (I’ll see you at the SLC Women’s March on January 23rd–similar events are happening all over the country. Go to one.)
  • Go ask Erin Outdoors about working in a community kitchen to serve locally. Contributing locally is going to be a huge part of facilitating unity and remembering the light during periods of darkness. Volunteer at your local humane society, help weed your community garden, go to a trail day. These may not seem like political activism, but they’re an important part of the equation too.

It’s going to be a long, hard four years for environmentalists and outdoor advocates. We seriously just put a climate denier in the White House, and now we have to face the consequences. I never expected to be considering the possibility of putting myself on a Muslim registry to help protect my fellow Americans. I never expected to get calls from girlfriends urging me to get an IUD because I might soon lose rights over my own body. I never expected to see hateful racists having a moment of empowerment, crawling out of the pathetic caves from which they usually reside.

I never expected this outcome, but here it is. Here we are, in this new reality–and our only option is to fight. So let’s fight hard, together.

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Hitting the road, on my way to slowing down.

Tomorrow, I’m moving to Salt Lake City.

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The first time I crossed state lines into Utah was on my first big climbing trip in 2010. It was me and three dirtbag Florida boys, living out of a sputtering Jeep for a month in pursuit of western crags. Check out some of my old film photos from that trip here

The 30-day journey was a total mess, and we only climbed for like 8 days total and we all got sick after foolishly deciding that an all-you-can-eat buffet pit stop at Golden Coral was a good idea—but I still remember the dusty, dark gas station we pulled into when we crossed into Utah in the middle of the night. The stars were so bright, and there were coyotes howling in the distance, and deer kept leaping in front the Jeep as we swept through towering red rocks, and I had never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.

I don’t think we even stopped in Utah at all on that trip. It was just the connector between Colorado and the Grand Tetons– but since that moment, Utah has been my most sacred place. I find peace in the desert, challenge in the mountains, and a sense of belonging that I haven’t felt so strongly anywhere else on earth. This is my place, and it’s time to make it more than just the space I escape to.

Utah, you’re home, and this little bird flying back to roost for a while.

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