A Tribute to the Unsung Hero of the Omnigames: David Creech

David Creech wasn’t able to compete in the Columbia Sportswear Omnigames in Utah because of his knee injury, but he assumed a new role that truly contributed to defining the trip: Dave became the best photographer out of all our Omniten crew. He usurped every single one of us when it came to turning our Park City competition into still frames packed with action.

Documenting your journey is always difficult when you’re deeply focused on the adventure. We were all constantly on our phones, wearing our GoPros, and snapping cameras – but it still didn’t seem like enough. Dave gave us all a gift by taking beautiful photographs of our crew playing in the snow, preparing for the games, and goofing off.

Here’s just a small taste of the wonderful images shot and edited by David Creech of WildernessDave.com:

The dogs were ready to rock 'n roll during the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)My Omnigames partner Derek Lorange and I, saddled up for the dogsled ride.  (Photo: David Creech)Casey of #TeamBeard looking handsome in the middle of a snowstorm at the Omnigames. (Photo: David Creech)Seth from #TeamBeard stokes a fire during the hot cocoa challenge at the Omnigames.While we were aiming arrows at targets in a snowstorm, Dave was steady aiming his lens at our foreheads furrowed in concentration. He captured our moments of thought when we didn’t realize anyone was looking, and photographed cheerful portraits of the teams as they soaked up every moment of the adventure.

He didn’t just take shots of us being pulled by dogsleds, navigating obstacles high in the air, and bonding with our teammates – he created images that illustrated our moments of triumph, personal challenge, celebration, and love. He made magic with his camera alongside the professional Columbia Sportswear photographers, and kept us all waiting with bated breath when he began uploading the final images.

Erika Wiggins aims her bow during the archery portion of the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)Three of the Omniten ladies goofing off in the snow at Garff Ranch during the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)One of my favorite parts of the Omniten trip: the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park.  (Photo: David Creech)Dave, thank you.

I think everyone will agree with me that your photography is beyond impressive. You made us all look good and seem impossibly badass – even if some of us missed the target, or didn’t spark a fire. Your beautiful photos let us all relive the Omnigames experience, and we owe you so much for the moments you captured. We’re all so lucky to have you as part of the Omniten family. The best part? On top of taking stunning photos, you’re also just a wonderful person to spend time with.

Omniten ladies showing off our pink Columbia Sportswear ski pants during the Omnigames.Crushing the notoriously tricky ropes obstacle during the Omnigames.  (Photo: David Creech)

Even I manage to look pretty badass when Dave Creech is behind the lens!  (Photo: David Creech)For more adventure photography, check out Creech’s website: WildernessDave.com
You can also show him some love on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Want more from Columbia Sportswear’s Omnigames event? Follow the #omniten hahstag on Twitter, and keep an eye on my Instagram and here on the blog for my perspective on the experience during the #7DaysofOmniten! I’ll also be sharing the best stories from my fellow Omniten crew as they dive into their own retellings of our weekend in Park City, Utah.

Gratuitous photos of Amble the Blue Heeler Adventure Pup

Let’s face it, no one is interested in plain ‘ole me anymore. Now that I have an adorable puppy in my life, it’s all about Amble. No one asks me how I’m doing, they want to know about my four-legged daughter. And you know what? I’m totally down with that. She’s way cooler than I am.

A few weekends ago, a photographer spotted Amble hanging around the rock gym during a First Friday event  in Railroad Square. I wasn’t there when she asked Niko if she could take a few photos of Amble (uh, duh you can!) – but Niko gave her my e-mail address so I was surprised one morning with two beautiful photos of my little lady.

Just had to share them – I mean, who doesn’t love blue heeler puppy pictures? Feast your eyes, folks:

A gorgeous photo of Amble by  Donna Irene.Another playful photo of Amble by  Donna Irene.

Absolutely delicious, am I right? These photos are going to be hanging up on the wall of my future home. The photographer’s name Donna Irene, and she is clearly talented – I hate taking photos in the rock gym because it has notoriously horrible lighting for pictures, but Donna is a magician.

If you ever need photos taken in the Tallahassee area,
be sure to check out Donna Irene Photography!

And thank you, Donna, for this wonderful photographic gift. You captured Amble perfectly!

How to capture the experience of a lifetime in a single 20 second exposure photograph

There was no shortage of documentation during my trip to the Havasu Falls area with Columbia Sportswear and the OmniTen team. We shot heaps of footage with our GoPros, tweeted any time we had cell service, blogged during any downtime, and took thousands of photos with our respective cameras.

But nothing compares to this:

Photo by: Will Rochfort
http://WMRjr.com

I get goosebumps just looking at this beautiful snapshot – it perfectly captures the essence of our trip, the teamwork employed during our collective adventure, the eager spirit I encountered in every single person I traveled through Arizona with, and the beautiful family that is the OmniTen crew.

This photo was captured by the wonderful Will Rochfort during a late evening hike down to Havasu Falls from our campsite. It took us eight takes to get the shot just right, and the light sources were all headlamps – which felt appropriate, if you ask me. We got a little wet and dirty in the process, but that seems to have been the theme of our Havasu adventure.

We began the journey to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear as a group of total strangers. I only knew my nine OmniTen counterparts by the faces I had inspected on their various social media profiles. We had exchanged plentiful tweets, and a Facebook page was created to foster interactivity – but I didn’t know these people. It was mildly terrifying to board the airplane heading towards the Phoenix airport, knowing that I wouldn’t be greeted by a single familiar face.

And yet, now I can’t imagine my life without these people. We are a funky bunch – a vegan triathlete from Ohio, a handsome face who loves showtunes, a peak-bagging wonder from San Jose, a climbing couple with an unassuming charm; we’re weird. I would have never grouped us together, and yet, we were somehow bound through our OmniTen connection – and it worked.

By the end of our trip, we all shed tears at the thought of departing from each other’s company. There are some bonds so unique that one simply can’t bear the thought of letting them go. How many people do you hike 10 miles out of the Grand Canyon with, urging each other onward, and sharing a hidden nook for potty purposes? I don’t know about you, but taking a poop in the middle of the desert in front of someone you’ve only known for five days seems like a pretty big sign of true friendship. (You know who you are, and I’d gladly pop a squat with you any time!)

To my OmniTen friends, you light up my life. Thank you for the most humbling, inspiring, uplifting, and downright HOT adventure. We will meet again, and now we’ve got a challenge to make the next adventure even more memorable than the first. I love you all.

My new GoPro Hero 2 takes its first adventure to Beer Can Island in Tampa

In preparation for the mysterious #ProjectZ trip with the OmniTen crew, Columbia Sportswear teamed up with GoPro to supply us each with the new Hero 2 HD camera – and naturally, I figured I ought to put my new toy to the test before taking it out to Sedona for an epic adventure.

While tagging along with Niko during a trip to visit family in Tampa, Florida, we made a trip out to the coast for a day spent at one of the neatest beaches I’ve ever experienced. The spot is called “Beer Can Island,” and while it may conjure up images of littered shoreline strewn with discarded aluminum, it’s actually a pristine slice of coastal wonderment unlike any other beach in the area.

Rather than the usual stretches of shadeless Floridian sand that line much of the Gulf Coast, Beer Can Island is home to a sprawling landscape of enormous driftwood pieces, including one upright tree that boasts a little wooden swing – and by swing, I mean a chunky, splintered log tied haphazardly to a suspiciously fraying rope. 

We set up our little beach camp a few yards away from the temptress swing, and it wasn’t long before I was lured towards the idea of swaying above crashing waves and creating my own little breeze on the particularly scorching day.

Initially, I hopped right on the swing with my feet planted on the wooden base, and my fingers clasped around a series of knots along the upper part of the rope. I attempted to swing myself back and forth – but quickly realized I wasn’t going to make any significant movement on my own. Niko lent a hand and sent me soaring through the sky (and a few times directly into the tree beside me).

While playing on the swing, we decided to sample a few of the many settings found on the GoPro Hero 2. We took still shots, video footage, and used a unique feature that takes ten photos in a one second burst.

While reviewing all my footage from the day, I had originally come across a short bit filmed by Niko while we were splashing around in the shallow sea. It started off great, with Niko swooping the camera in and out of the water like a leaping dolphin as he snagged footage of our group meandering in the saltwater. Suddenly, the clip became a no-go as someone decided to pull their pants down while the camera was peeking underwater. I figured it would be inhumane to subject my readers to the pale sight of that soggy behind, so instead, enjoy this clip of me fooling around on the swing. Enjoy!

[youtube clip_id=”zF7miEKu2T8″]

It ain’t too fancy, I’ll admit that much.

Stay tuned for way cooler clips, photos, and stories as I embark on a wild adventure this week in Sedona!

Thistle, straw, seedlings, and spindly flora at Three Sisters Park in Evergreen, CO

One of my favorite parts about spending time outdoors is simply enjoying the little things – plants, bugs, pebbles, twigs, you name it. My climbing buddies will quickly confess that I often spend more time chasing insects around boulders than I do actually climbing the rocks. I can’t resist becoming instantly distracted the moment I see a beetle crawling by, or a tiny flower peeking out from the dirt.

My mother always proudly credits herself with my buggy fascination. When I was a little tot, she used to wrap earthworms around my fingers and have me wear them as rings – now do you see where my adoration for creepy crawlers comes from? She always encouraged my affection for rolling around in the dirt.

The wintry weather in Colorado seems to have driven the bugs from their usual swarming tendencies, but I still managed to snap some sweet photos of unique dry-weather plant life while hiking through Three Sisters Park (also known as Alderfer Park) in Evergreen, Colorado. The parched landscape has taken on an entirely new appearance since my last visit to the area during summertime, and I think I quite prefer this desert-style look.

As if I needed another reminder that I am in dire need of a macro lens, these up-close shots of nature’s tiniest jewels offers another reason to justify splurging on new photography equipment – but hey, these photographs aren’t too shabby considering I was using a standard kit lens with my Nikon D7000!

Hiking and bouldering at Lower Chaos Canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park

As snowy winter months quickly encroach on my outdoor climbing availability, I have been soaking up as much sunshine and mountain exploration as possible. One of my favorite autumn days was spent hiking and bouldering at Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfamiliar with the area, I was nonetheless pumped with enthusiasm at the opportunity to put my National Parks Pass to use.

The drive to the park took about two hours from downtown Denver, but the ride was enjoyed with a fantastic 80s playlist and a car full of dancing adventurers. I believe there is GoPro evidence of all the roadside merrymaking floating around on a memory card somewhere, but the footage seems to be lost for now. Our route towards the Rockies took us through Estes Park, a touristy mountain town famous for their herds of elk that take over the streets.

We pushed towards the ranger kiosk at the park entrance, exchanged pleasantries as I handed over my parks pass, then wound our way up the mountains towards Bear Lake. With the main parking lot already full of wilderness explorers, we planted the car at an overflow lot, then loaded up with crash pads and gear before waiting for the park shuttle to take us to the trail head. The shuttle ride took about 20 minutes, and the beautiful scenery of yolk colored leaves and rusty red treetops captivated my attention for the entire duration.

The thought of chalky hands and scaling boulders took a backseat as we hiked our way towards Lower Chaos Canyon. Our entire party was in the highest of spirits as we took in the piney sights and chirping sounds. I stalled every few yards to snag photos of my impossibly beautiful surroundings — the boys may have been frustrated with my slow pace, but capturing the moment was worth it.

 

Our mission to find climbing at Lower Chaos Canyon prevented us from having proper time to explore all the different side trails and lookout spots along the Bear Lake area, and I am eager to return for some new discoveries. According to the RMNP Twitter, Bear Lake is currently blanketed under 18 inches of snow – which means no more hiking for me until I invest in some snowshoes. But onward we must trek.

Things really got interesting when we forked away from the main trail and began to head towards our ultimate destination. After a quick scramble through fallen trees and other natural debris, we found ourselves positioned in the middle of an enormous rock bed half buried beneath a wide brook. Easily my favorite part of the adventure, we hopped and clamored along the variously sized boulders that sat between us and the climbs at Lower Chaos Canyon.

During this sloppy traverse, I learned a very important lesson about hiking boots: If you don’t wear your boots for years, then suddenly expect them to perform during a vigorous excursion, you may find yourself with rubber soles hanging limp from the body of your shoes. Admittedly, the last time I wore my hiking boots was about a decade ago during a hike up Mount Rainer, but I was still shocked to find the bottoms separated from the boot after leaping across a boulder. Thankfully, my buddy Rob had duct tape wrapped around his Nalgene, which we unraveled and used to haphazardly repair my shoes.

Finally, we complete our approach and made it to the bouldering area. To be honest, I wasn’t blown away by the quality of climbs in the area, although our lengthy hike in left us with little time to properly check out the crag. We stuck to the first section of routes, warmed up, noshed on beef jerky, and made the best of our remaining daylight.

The sun set sooner than anticipated, and we found ourselves rushed to make our way back to the Bear Lake trail head before darkness fell – and before the final shuttle departed. In a hurry, the return hike seemed to take only a fraction of the approach time. Even in the midst of our efforts to make it in time for the last shuttle, I managed to do what I do best: I made a sweet little chipmunk friend.

Snow laden autumn trees, icicled juniper bushes, and my first snow days in Denver, Colorado

The news of Denver’s first snow storm of the upcoming winter season rang like church bells in my ears – my first snow day! During the days leading up to the first flurry of snowflakes, I kept myself busy with daydreams of messy snowball fights, towering snowmen, ski lifts, and sipping hot tea while peering out the window.

When the pioneer flakes fell from the sky, it was a dark and rainy evening in Washington Park. Everything was wet from snow’s liquid counterpart, but I still ran outside the second the falling water had visibly become frozen fluff.

It was nearly impossible to fall asleep that night, knowing that just feet away from my cozy couch there were inches of fresh powder accumulating outside. I awoke at 7:00 the next morning to the rustlings of a housemate who was wondering out loud how I was still in bed, then quickly bolted outside with my camera. Everything was blanketed in this fleece layer of nature’s softest stuff. I stomped around the front steps, startled a few passersby with my occasional shrieks of joy, then retreated inside to warm my toes before venturing out again.

Denver became this enchanted land of ripe autumn trees bursting with color that were shyly peeking through their thick coats of winter’s evidence. Unprepared for the sudden burst of snow, many trees found their branches snapping under the heavy weight of snow combined with not yet fallen leaves – but man, did it look beautiful.

Within two days, my precious snow had all melted away, and fall was upon us again. It was a little heartbreaking to say farewell to my first batch of winter, but I knew another was quickly on its way. The next big snow storm was perfectly timed with the first evening spent in my new house. We successfully moved everything from Washington Park over to the new place in Lowry, just in time for the snow to begin.

Dirty from all the moving, I hopped into the shower just after a light drizzle of rain began outside. I admittedly took an extra long time enjoying my steamy new shower, but I was still shocked to look outside when I finally emerged – there was at least an inch of snow coating everything outside. Once again, I spent the night tossing and turning in my bed (which is actually a tent pitched in my empty room). The night was brightly illuminated by the white storm.

The steady downpour continued throughout the evening, and when we woke up our patio table looked something like this:

Oh, snow. I love you so.
And we’re getting more on Tuesday!

The best, and only, snapshot of dirt road Americana in rural Illinois

When you’re spending upwards of 13 hours a day out on the roads that stretch between American metropolises, you find yourself with heaps of time to admire all the unusual relics that are tucked haphazardly along the countryside – and I use ‘countryside’ as a euphemism for the skeletal remains of what used to be our country’s glory days. There were the rusted old farming equipment sits beside dorky sculptures crafted out of busted tires, fanatical billboards, and more junkyards filled with dusty treasures than I could count.

In the second week of the trip, I was surprised by my route with a quick detour into Illinois. A member of the handful of states that I have never visited, skipping in through Illinois saw many hours of nothing but farmland and fields, hence its nickname as the Prairie State. During a particularly predictable stretch of interstate, I passed by a peculiar marquee sitting next to a dumpy old house on a dirt road.

With nothing better to do, I veered off the next exit and backtracked a few miles to the driveway where the sign stood. I felt a little scandalous on my first covert mission to take a picture on someone’s property, but I snapped away with my Nikon and my Canon to snag one of my favorite images from my adventure.
Antiques and what? I still want to know.

An ode to Mr. & Mrs. Kirby Crider, and the most charming wedding in Flat Rock, NC

Readers, on this romantic occasion, the documented evidence of one of the most beautiful evenings of my life cannot begin to be supplemented by my feeble words. Instead, I’ll offer a meek exposition to introduce you to the night, and then I’ll let photos and video handle the rest.

In a slick twist of fate, I was invited to attend the wedding of an old Tally Rock Gym climber, Kirby Crider, as my dear friend Matt Wood’s ‘plus-one.’ The nuptials coincided with the dates during which I planned to be in North Carolina, and the venue turned out to be a short 15-minute drive from Hendersonville – so I hopped onboard, and packed a single satin dress along with all my dirty vagabonding gear.

The wedding was held at the Highland Lake Inn, and the ceremony took place beside a large lake on a sprawling, green hillside. The non-traditional proceedings included violin playing, recitations from both Hemingway and Neruda, and a splash of Judaism with the smashing of clothed wine glasses at the conclusion of the vows. I wasn’t quite planning on taking too many pictures, but, you know me.


The reception was a wild celebration of love, friendship, and a shared happiness that radiated amongst the guests and bridal party. The collective of people was described best by the lovely man who wed Julia and Kirby, who brought to attention the fact that never before had this particular group of individuals congregated in one spot, and that it would likely never happen again. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

I was schooled on the art of true love throughout the entire evening. I learned the definition of everlasting as I listened to friends and family toast the newly weds and recount the tales of their relationship. I was reminded of chivalry by my date – and my quasi date, Jason – who pulled out my chair, linked arms with me as we walked, and ensured I was treated like a lady. Perhaps most importantly, I was taught to love and live for each moment as I stole away to the lakeside and dipped my bare toes in the lily-pad laden waters with a new friend.

Here my words fail, and I must leave you with a stunning video taken by a charming new friend, Ian. I do believe he also shoots with a Nikon D7000, and he gets extra points for picking up my lens cap for me when I dropped it on the floor in a drunken haste. Anyways, this kind gentleman put together a video of the wedding – and I simply had to share it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QCiZx7CpUg]

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

Kirby and Julia, thank you for inviting me into your beautiful evening. I was delighted to be a part of the beginning of the rest of your lives, and wish you everything wonderful in the world – although you two hardly need anything more than what you already have together. Thank you for sharing your love, it was inspiring to encounter.

Snapshots of mountain life with Marlin in Brevard, North Carolina

During my week spent in the mountains of eastern North Carolina, I was blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with a dear friend from Tally Rock Gym, who moved out to the Pisgah Forest to work at Eagle’s Nest Camp/Outdoor Academy. In a serendipitous twist, Marlin was living only a handful of miles up the road from the Hendersonville home in which I was staying.

The first day, I met him up at Eagle’s Nest for a tour of the grounds. It is a beautiful facility, painstakingly built in a rugged fashion that embraces the nature that surrounds each building. As we browsed the camp, I couldn’t help but notice a constant presence of little orange newts that sluggishly clamored along the pebble driveways. Naturally, I had to stop every few yards to scoop up a little buddy for a minute or two of playtime before returning him to his daily musings – whatever a newt muses. We also checked out the camp’s sprawling organic garden, which was certainly messy, but the tomatoes we picked from the vine were zesty and perfect.



On the second day I spent with Marlin, I was entertained with a wild evening at the staff house, called Riverside. Located across the street from the camp, this is where the workers get to escape from their ‘students’ for some adult time. I met some amazing people, especially Josh and Paige, who kept me captivated all night with beautiful banjo music, and a slam poetry piece by Paige that totally blew me away. Josh was kind enough to allow me to record a few of his songs on banjo and guitar, so once I get to a reliable internet connection, you’ll be able to indulge in his bluesy soul music.

Nestled up in the mountains, Marlin is truly living the life. This handful of photos from Riverside offers a meek glimpse into how great his situation is. He lives up in an off-the-beaten-track mountain neighborhood, gets paid to go on climbing excursions, and has a freshly updated rack of trad gear that would get any climber’s palms sweaty. Hats off to you, Marlin – and thank you a thousand times for your warm hospitality.




I’ll share the lunch experience I had in Brevard with Marlin, Paige, and Josh tomorrow morning – but first, it’s time to hit the sack here in Kansas City.