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.

The outdoor community must step up and become advocates & activists–NOW.

Yesterday in Salt Lake City, the EPA held a public hearing on the Regional Haze Rule (think: Clean Air Act). You know, the seemingly no-brainer effort to clean up the air around Utah and some of it’s most beautiful outdoor spaces.

It came across my desk from the OIA government affairs team as something we wanted to show some support for (again, no-brainer). When I was doing some social promotion around the event, I pictured a big rally of outdoor advocates all singing the praises of cleaner air and literally thought to myself, “I wonder how much of an impact this will make since it’s basically just going to be a big hoorah all from the outdoor community. Will the opposing side even notice that this hearing is happening?

I was incredibly, profoundly wrong in my assumption.

This is what outdoor athletes Caroline Gleich and Brody Leven experienced yesterday when they attended the meeting. Just hearing their stories digitally was enough for me to wake up and snap to attention. This is not the scene I had envisioned in my head:

On the front lines today with @brodyleven at the EPA public hearing about regional haze in Utah’s national parks. It seems like all of Carbon County fit in two busloads to represent the interests of the coal power plants. We felt like the underdogs. The outdoor/tourism industries were seriously underrepresented. I’ve never been so nervous to speak in front of a group. When I started speaking, I could feel the hostility in the air. But I shared my story and the facts. Utah’s outdoor recreation and tourism industries bring in $12.2 billion dollars per year. It’s important to clean up the air around the parks and reduce the emissions from coal burning power plants. When I was done, hardly anyone clapped. We need to get more young people and outdoor people to come to these things. We need to make signs and speak up. It’s our air and our future. It’s scary and not always fun, but it’s hugely important to protect the quality of life and the Utah we love. At the end, I gave the coal miners a smile and a wave. I came to realize our goals aren’t that different. We are both trying to protect our livelihood- our jobs and the lifestyle we know. It’s just the path to the future that we disagree on. #cleanair4utah @protectourwinters @healutah @sierraclub

A photo posted by Caroline Gleich (@carolinegleich) on

As it turns out, the pro-coal attendance far overwhelmed the presence of outdoor advocates. Folks from Carbon County (yes, that’s really the name of the county) were actually shuttled to Salt Lake City by the busload to make sure the coal industry was heard loud and clear. Inside the building, the hearing was packed with these representatives, and Brody observed that there were hundreds more rallying outside as well. Brody told me they basically had to sneak into the event. He saw signs that said “Fossil fuels are beautiful.” When Caroline finished her testimony about the importance of cleaning up the air around Utah’s beautiful outdoor spaces and protecting the health of the state’s community, she noted that hardly anyone clapped.

That scene is embarrassing. Look at the statistics for the outdoor industry: we generate $646 billion in consumer spending annually, and create 6.1 million direct jobs. That’s 6.1 million people whose livelihood is connected to the health of our outdoor spaces. In Utah, at least 82% of residents participate in outdoor recreation each year. So where were we during yesterday’s hearing? Why wasn’t there a loud and proud standing ovation when Caroline concluded her speech?

And none of this includes the much more obvious fact: this isn’t just about our parks, this is about the air you breathe every single day. In parks, in cities, everywhere. This is about the air you breathe, the air your families breathe, the air that future generations will be breathing.

Image via Unsplash

Do I have you riled up yet? Good. Here’s a place to start taking action: You can submit formal comment on this Clean Air Act until 3/14/16.

The outdoor community needs to do more than just love our outdoor spaces: we need to become strong advocates and activists for the issues that affect our industry. Not just clean air, but on a laundry list of initiatives that need our support, from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to wildfire funding. And don’t even get me started on the public lands heist.

If you truly care about the places you play, you need to do something about it. Posting beautiful Instagrams of Arches National Park won’t mean anything when the air there makes you ill, and saving up for months to buy a new ice axe won’t matter when global warming means your favorite routes never get cold enough to freeze. When your favorite forest burns to a crisp because you didn’t speak up about the importance of wildfire funding–that’s all on you. Sign those petitions, they matter. E-mail, call, and tweet your representatives–they’re listening. Attend community events, share these issues on social media, support organizations like Outdoor Alliance and Protect Our Winters.

The outdoor community has such potential to be so strong and so loud and so impactful–let’s make that happen together.

Disclaimer: Opinions here are my own and are in no way affiliated with OIA. But if you want to learn more about OIA’s stance on this issue, check out this recreation alert. For more on OIA’s climate change policy, read more here

An Open Letter to Outdoor Women on Independence and Bad Relationships

Ladies, I hope you’re ready to hit with the feels–because I am full of them today. It’s been a while since I curled up to write something raw, but when the lovely Sidni West included me on a list of 65 rad humans to follow, and described me as ‘writer’, it reminded me that I’ve gotten a little too caught up in day-job marketing and neglected my true love: honest, this-is-me writing.

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So, prepare yourselves for a little real talk that’s been brewing for a while–probably about two years–and now is finally being put down into words:

It’s mind-blowing to me that it was three years ago that I started living in a van, but it’s taken me until very recently to recover from a little something I’d like to call “girlfriend to a boy who goes outside” syndrome. In my case, this ‘outside’ was actually climbing–but it can apply to anyone with an ambitious partner. It started out innocently, sharing a strong passion for the same activity, but by the end of our relationship, it was toxic and damaging. Here’s my question to you, ladies:

When is the last time you got outdoors without your partner? A just-for-me, don’t-need-no-man, this-moment-is-mine adventure doing what you love? A trip that’s just yours?

When my ex-boyfriend and I started dating, he truly helped me become a climber. He worked at the local rock gym, so we’d stay up late climbing after-hours and before-hours and all-hours. I still remember the day I fell head over heels for him on our first date. He was rugged, outdoorsy, and seemingly king of a world that I wanted to be a part of. He was there during my first climbing trip (before we started dating), and took me on 99% of any climbing excursions I went on for the next four years.

He was my coach, belay partner, and trusty spotter. He introduced me to everyone I knew in the community, always pitched my tent, drove the tricky dirt roads I was intimated by. He did everything. I didn’t realize it then, but I completely lost myself in the “us” of my relationship. I loved my year exploring the USA in a van, but by the end of it, I just wasn’t having fun anymore. He picked all my climbing projects, pressured me into trying hard–seriously I still resent myself over that one–and no decisions were made based on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t climbing because I loved it, I climbed because I felt like I needed to for him to still love me. I wasn’t stoked on the situation anymore–and he wasn’t either (which is probably why he cheated on me with a younger, more motivated climber, but I digress).

Major pump the brakes, back it up, this doesn’t sound like the Katie Boué we all know, right? I know. My bad ladies, I promise it’ll never happen again.

After he left me, I was devastated and lost. I promptly packed up my bags and hauled ass out to Colorado to lick my wounds and start anew. I felt good about a new beginning–but it still felt like there was something wrong with me, and honestly, I felt ashamed to be ‘over’ climbing. I had forgotten what it was like to follow my passion. I knew I still loved being outdoors and going climbing, but I didn’t know how to do it anymore. I had to start my journey as a climber from scratch. The worst part is: it wasn’t his fault at all, it was mine.

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I thought about all of this last week while I took a solo drive up into the Blue Ridge Mountains to watch the sunrise over Asheville. Looking at that toxic relationship in the rearview mirror, it’s infuriating that I let things get that way. Currently, I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had, and at first I was frustrated that my partner isn’t as stoked on alpine starts and pebble wrestling as I am–but it taught me something crucial: the value of doing things for you.

I am a stronger, healthier, happier person now that I frequently take solo trips and go adventuring without my boyfriend. I adore the trips we do take together, but I also cherish my time outdoors without him. I feel confident when I’m on a trail alone, and stoked when I pull up to a crag to meet friends on my own. When I top-out a project at the rock gym, I don’t look around seeking approval anymore. That moment and satisfaction is mine. If I want to go somewhere, I go. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t.

So here’s my call to you, ladies: ditch your boyfriend more often.

I’m preaching to the choir with a lot of you badass women, but I know more than a few rad females who tend to use ‘we’ more often than ‘me’. You’re not doing yourself or your relationship any favors by losing yourself and becoming dependent on your partner–or anyone else for that matter. If you can’t remember the last time you spent a weekend out in the woods with just your fine self and/or a few fellow female ass-kickers, change that. If your boyfriend always carries the heavy gear and navigates the tricky sections of dirt roads, you’re doing it wrong. Leave your man behind, do exactly whatever it is that gets your blood flowing, don’t ask anyone for permission, live your passion, and always pitch your own damn tent.

And if we’re going to be honest, nothing is sexier than a strong, independent woman. Don’t worry about hurting your boyfriend’s feelings by leaving him behind–there are few things more attractive to an outdoorsy dude than a woman covered in dirt and radiating from her own adventure.

Need some help on the journey of ditching ‘ours’ in favor of ‘mine’? Here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a solo drive. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy going from doing everything as a couple to taking the reigns back on your she-time. Start by picking a new mountain road and exploring it for a few hours. Catch a sunset, or a sunrise.
  • Invite your favorite friends for a girls-only climbing night at your gym. 
  • Plan a ladies’ weekend of camping, hiking, climbing, whatever gets your blood flowing. Bring wine.
  • Start carving out a weekly time when you get out and do something on your own. Go for a run, spend a few hours writing at a cozy coffeeshop, head out on a mission to explore a new trail every week–whatever it takes. Form a habit that’s all yours.
  • Call me and let’s plan a damn adventure! Seriously though, I’m down. Let’s do it.

In case any of you need reminding: You’re a capable, confident, sexy, clever, inspiring, strong, badass woman. And I’m pretty stoked on you, and hope you’re stoked on yourself too.

PS: For the record, you were right Mom. Ladies, always listen to your mother’s opinions of your partners. Or at least listen to my mom, because her success rate is 100% in identifying bad seeds. 

PPS: If you need some no-nonsense female back-up to kick you in your lady parts and remind you that you absolutely do not need no man, go hit up Sidni West. She’s the shit. I strive to be as beautifully bold as she is on a daily basis. Also her dirty humor is the best.

Getting weak, growing up, and getting back in the game.

It’s been 2015 for exactly one month – and so far, I’m pretty psyched about this year. I’m absolutely smitten with my job running social media at Outdoor Industry Association, my calendar is full of travel, and I’ve been making fairly good on my resolutions.

But here’s the thing: I am so over winter. I haven’t been climbing outside since December when I went to Indian Creek for a weekend – and while it was a fantastic weekend of sandstone and desert landscapes, it just wasn’t enough.

Bouldering at Indian Creek. Photo: Kyle O'Meara

Photo: Kyle O’Meara

Love the view from Big Bend boulders in Moab!

It’s basically impossible to get out to Utah or anywhere I want to climb (my hatchback is not snow-worthy), and a weeklong bout of the flu during Outdoor Retailer knocked me off my training game. I want warmth, and sunshine, and camping weather! Winter bogs me down, and the two weeks of training I missed during my sick phase knocked me off my groove. Coming back to the gym on leg day didn’t help either – my thighs are still on fire!

Well, maybe 2015 isn’t going as smoothly as I thought – yet. I finally recovered from weeks of sickness, which led to me also finally catching up on e-mails and turning my training plan into posts, cleaning out my pantry, and updating this blog. Tomorrow kicks off a solid week of training and climbing. Next week, I’m heading to Florida for my cousin’s wedding. March is quickly filling up with climbing trips to Utah and a possible adventure down to Tallahassee for the 5th annual Save The South bouldering competition.

And it all leaves me with 55 days to get in shape – or at least that’s what I’ve decided.

Two months of solid training ought to provide the perfect jumpstart to the spring climbing season. I chose the 55 day path because it leaves me (hopefully) in crush-mode right in time for the climbing comp at Tallahassee Rock Gym. It’s been so long since I’ve been back to my old home, so it’d be killer to come back in proper form. The plane ticket isn’t finalized, but even if this falls through I’ll hit spring ready to get outside and collect some new projects.

I’ll start sharing my training weeks/routines this week, in case anyone else out there wants to stop being such a winter couch potato and get back on the path towards climbing righteousness. It’s almost spring, y’all! My training all happens in the early mornings with my ladyfriend Heather, who thoroughly enjoys kicking my ass with new workouts. Oddly enough, I love waking up before the sun to go do some fitness – I get to start my day with cotton candy sunrises from Movement Denver.

A signature Denver sunrise seen from Movement Denver.

And I promise I’m going to get back to writing and playing on social media. It’s been a lot of work, work, work – and I honestly put some thought into cutting back on blogging all together. As much as I love putting all my creative energy towards my new job, I realized I still want to keep doing some of this for myself too. (And I’ve gotten a ton of e-mails that are going to make for some sweet Q&A posts!) So thanks for reading, and thanks for miraculously not letting my page views drop during my monthlong absence. You rock.

 

Why you should just take a rest day today.

When is the last time you took a real rest day? I’m talkin’ no agenda, no training, no trips. You woke up, and spent the rest of the day within a half mile of your bed. There may have been some whisky-spiked coffee involved. Mine usually include long socks and napping with pups. You know – a real, bonafide rest day.

Rest days seem pretty hard to come by.

This is what my rest day looks like.

I find that outdoorsy people (climbers, I’m looking at you) seem to struggle with the idea of taking rest days. We’re always on, always planning, and constantly feeling like we need to maximize every opportunity to be out on an adventure. It’s a travesty to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon not on a trail or halfway up a cliff. But why? [Read more…]

Embracing Everything Spring (and all the in-between)

This morning, I spotted my first potato beetle of the season. He was perched on the wooden railing on the porch of my new house in Denver – and even thought he didn’t make any sounds, his existence in that moment was screaming “SPRING!

The official start of everyone’s beloved post-winter season was officially on March 20th, but this entire month has been a spring reckoning for me. I experienced the signs of spring in places from my backyard in Miami to the trails of my favorite greenway system in Denver.

My first glimpse of spring was in Tallahassee. I woke up one morning, looked out my bedroom window – and there they were: branches and twigs crowded with fuscia blossoms. It was still cold enough outside to warrant sleeping with socks on, but the sight of blooming Japanese magnolias offered hope. Always the first flowers to boldly declare the promise of warmer weather, their purple petals made the final few weeks of living in Tallahassee a little brighter. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMornings in Tallahassee were pure perfection.
When I retreated south to Miami, the signs of spring were less obvious. Winter is nothing more than a few weeks of evening sweater weather so far south, but even the warmest part of Florida managed to deliver the kind of natural bliss that makes this year the most sanguine season. While the earth was already full of green, I spotted the kind of delicate growth that only the touch of spring can bring – dotted along the massive sea grape in my backyard were freshly hatched orchids, capitalizing on the perfect combination of sunshine, rain, and warmth.

Spring is everywhere, if you know where to look.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Here in Colorado, spring has a more erratic yet defined feel. One day, the ground is blanketed with late-season snow – and then the next, I’m wearing a tank top while hiking on perfectly dry trails. There’s something gratifying about the pronounced transition from cold to warm. I have absolutely no control or effect over the weather, yet it feels like I’ve somehow earned these days of sunshine after an afternoon of snow flurries.
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This spring has been a season of changes in my life that reach far beyond watching grass go from dry wintry straw to lively green growth. There is so much adjustment to adapt to as I settle into my new home, so many personal revelations to embrace, and a whole new world to explore. All of this change is putting me in the best place I’ve ever been in my life – and this is exactly the season to be experiencing it all in. Cheers to spring!

What does spring look like in YOUR neck of the woods?
Do you have any tell-tale signs of spring you wait all winter for?

*Note: This post is sponsored by Nature Valley. For more outdoor inspiration, check out their fantastic Nature Project Tumblr.

Meet Amble, Future Adventure Pup Extraordinaire

Since long before we bought a van and traveled the country for a year, Niko and I have been dog-crazy. We love dogs, but have been limited to loving on the pups of others for way too long. The idea of getting a dog right before leaving on a big adventure wasn’t a wise decision for us, so we spent ten months playing with every dog we could get our paws on. There was sweet Philia in Joe’s Valley, lovable Aztlan in Squamish, Heidi’s pack of four-legged family members, our darling Daila in Denver, Oso the furry bear buddy, floppy-eared Watson in Seattle, and so many more pups that I totally lured into my van.

With our yearlong adventure finally winding down, Niko and I decided that we wanted to adopt ourselves a pup for Christmas. Jillian from Tenders and Trails connected me with a wonderful woman, Cathy, in Mississippi who helped Jillian adopt her malamutes. I told Cathy I was interested in rescuing a blue heeler mix pup sometime in December, but it only took her a few days before she started tempting me with beautiful heelers who needed homes. It was hard, but I resisted the first few dogs – we weren’t ready yet, and if we were going to jump the gun, we wanted to find the one.

One morning while Niko and I were sleeping on the side of a road in Chattanooga, I woke up to a photo Cathy sent me of two little six-week old abandoned pups. The photo was focused more on a black and white pup with pretty features, but I was instantly drawn to the speckly little lady snoozing in the back. I rolled over, prodded Niko’s sleeping bag, and said “I promise this is going to be worth poking your head out.” And it was. Our Blue Heeler mix puppy, Amble.

I told Cathy right away that we wanted the little speckled gal, and we started working out how we could get our hands on the puppy we had already named Amble. We made plans to leave Tennessee early to drive out to Mississippi and pick up Amble. It was a 13 hour detour, but it was worth every mile. As soon as we met Amble for the first time, we were in love. Cathy armed us with a bag full of food, well wishes, and records of the vaccinations she had received, and we loaded Amble into the van for the long drive to Florida. Amble, our blue heeler puppy, snoozes on the drive to Florida.Amble finally wakes up on the drive to Florida.

Amble has been an angel (well, mostly). She adores traveling in the van, and falls asleep as soon as the engine is running. She is a totally daddy’s girl, and follows Niko around wherever he goes. On our second day together, Niko taught her how to “sit” – and now Our first family portrait with Amble, our blue heeler mix puppy.she knows “leave it” “stay” and “come”. Our lifestyle is taking a pretty drastic change; it used to be all about us, all the time, but now our main focus every moment of the day is on Amble. She’s a lot of work, and will continue to be, but she’s the best thing that ever happened to us.

And she’s going to make one hell of an adventure dog. She needs to finish her vaccinations before she can become a proper crag dog and play in the woods, but we’re giving her a hefty dose of exploration every day. She’s met big dogs, little dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, and so many adoring humans. Amble already loves the rock gym, conquered her first set of stairs, and even crashed a wedding with us on a farm.

She might be a little rascally when we haven’t tired her out properly, but she’s the sweetest pup in the world – I hope y’all like puppy pictures, because you’re going to see a LOT over the next decade. 

I’m also taking bets right now: How much do you think Amble will weigh when she grows up? Blue heelers usually max out between 30-35 lbs, and at about eight weeks old, she currently weighs 7.2 lbs. She isn’t a purebred, and I think she has American bulldog in her based on the way she sits and the shape of her rump. I think she’s going to weigh 38, Niko says 30.3, and all the other votes fall in between the two. Winner gets a milkshake!

PS: Thank you so much to Cathy for helping us rescue Amble. She was so wonderful and allowed us to complete our little adventure family. If you’re ever looking to rescue a dog, Cathy is so dedicated to helping dogs in need, and I would highly recommend getting in contact with her to save a dog who needs a forever home!

Seven Reasons October is the Best Month of the Year

7 Reasons Why October is the Best Month EverHere’s the thing: October is the best month, period. You spend all of September impatiently waiting for cooler weather and Instagramming every lone yellowed leaf you come across in anticipation of a proper autumn scene, and then October comes and steps up the game. It’s autumn, folks – for real. The colors are exploding, the heat of summer is finally vanishing, and everything from lattes to beer are flavored with pumpkin.

I could go on for days about how wonderful October is, but here are the seven defining elements that make this month superior to the rest of the year:

Autumn Foliage (and fall road trips)

It’s the most obvious sign that October is here: Every tree in sight is trading in greenery for leaves painted yellow, red, and fiery orange hues. Hikes are impossibly scenic, road trips transform from boring drives to spectacular roadside displays, and the background of every climbing photo becomes more alluring than the actual climb. I adore when the wind stirs trees and causes them to rain leaves down – pure magic.

If there’s ever been a time to hop in your car and drive to North Carolina to cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s now.

Bouldering Season

Bouldering at Three Sisters Park in Colorado - with my favorite fall scarf!With a few notable exceptions (I’m looking at you, Squamish), the summertime renders bouldering nearly impossible – unless you’re into greasy holds, swarms of bugs, and sweltering heat. After obsessively checking the southeastern weather forecasts for weeks, it’s finally here: bouldering season is upon us. The next few months will be prime season for crushing projects, smearing up friction dependent lines, and not having to worry about brushing slimy holds after every attempt. Hang up your harness, and unleash the crash pads!

Pumpkin Flavored Everything

Not everyone jives with the outdoorsy aspects of autumn, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: pumpkin. And even though pumpkin spice lattes have been lurking on the scene since late August, October is when it’s perfectly excusable to add pumpkin to anything edible. Breweries put pumpkin ale on tap, my mom invents crazy things like pumpkin lasagna, and my favorite dessert of all time makes a comeback: pumpkin pie. I even found pumpkin spice flavored marshmallows the other day – and yes, they were delicious.

Craving pumpkin? Check out my homemade pumpkin spice latte recipe!

Campfires

My favorite smell, of all time, is the wafting aroma of burning wood. There is just something so comforting and reminiscent of the south about ‘em – and finally, it’s cool enough in the evenings to set a batch of wood ablaze. The best part about campfires? The way the smell lingers in your jacket for weeks, reminding you of the autumn adventures you just went on. Break out the skewers and bring on the marshmallows!

Niko picking apples in North Carolina.

Apple Picking and Hot Apple Cider

While pumpkin is the reigning circular food of the fall season, apples deserve some love too. Autumn presents the perfect conditions for bundling up in a cozy sweater and toting a basket through charming orchards while loading up on juicy hand-picked fruit. It’s an annual October activity for me, and visits to apple farms always give me an excuse to indulge on fresh apple cider, dried apple rings, and homemade applesauce. Honeycrisps may not be in season anymore, but there’s still a bounty of deliciousness to be reaped from orchards. Many have pumpkin picking too!

Flannels, Scarves, and Cozy Layers

If it’s chilly enough for campfires, you know it’s crisp enough to unearth cold weather clothing from the depths of your closet. I can finally justify the unreasonable collection of knit scarves, oversized beanies, insulated boots, and plaid flannels I’ve kept tucked in the van all year – it’s October, baby! But forget my own appearances, every gal knows the best part of fall fashion is how irresistible a handsome man’s beard looks when it’s bundled up in layers of plaid and cozy jackets.

Onset of the Seasonal Spirit

There is absolutely nothing okay about seeing Christmas decorations starting to go on sale, but October marks the beginning of the holiday season. Folks start decorating their doorsteps (or vans, like my buddy here in Kentucky just did) with haystacks, carved pumpkins, and spooky ghouls for Halloween, then turkeys and stuffed pilgrims come on the scene for Thanksgiving – and before you know it, Santa is coming to town. I’m a huge sucker for the spirit of the holidays, with all the eggnog-induced merriment, family gatherings, and heaps of homemade feasts. I can almost taste my family’s traditional bacon-covered turkey now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve successfully sparked a need to go munch on some pumpkin marshmallows while wearing my favorite beanie and daydreaming of all my bouldering projects at Rocktown. Carry on, October lovers – this is your month!

 

Mixing Love and the Dangers of the Outdoors | the risk is worth it.

Today’s post was going to be about training for my return to climbing in the southeast, but those plans got derailed when I read about the tragic passing of Steph Davis’ husband Mario Richard during a BASE jump accident in Italy – my mind was overcome with heavier things, and thoughts about what it means to combine love and extreme sports.

For Mario and Steph, their relationship was bound by their love of BASE jumping. For Niko and I, it’s all about climbing. Each activity is unique, but they both share the same inherent dangers we subject ourselves to each time we decided to head outdoors for adventure. Every day is a risk when you live a life filled with daring leaps, long pitches, tall climbs, and ever-changing conditions.

The news about Mario instantly made me think about all the times I’ve worried about Niko’s safety while climbing. I remember when he bagged his first big trad summit, Cathedral Peak in Yosemite. I stayed at camp in Tuolumne Meadows while Niko and his crew journeyed towards the summit, and my standard girlfriend worrying turned into genuine concern as I watched threatening storm clouds roll over the mountains. I grimaced every time I heard a vicious strike of thunder, and spent the next few hours pacing in the rain, waiting for the sound of his return.

As he always is, Niko was totally fine, and returned to camp with grand tales of his experience on Cathedral Peak. Yes, they got rained on, and endured a hailstorm during the final pitch of the climb, but the only thing that mattered was the fact that he was back, safe and sound.

Luckily for Niko, I’m nowhere near as daring as he is, so I doubt he worries about me very much – but there is still always a certain dose of danger one has to consume when a loved one engages in any extreme activity. But what can we really do about it? Should I tuck Niko away in a little safety bubble to make sure he doesn’t do things like break a toe in Indian Creek or take a massive fall off a highball? I can’t, and I wouldn’t. Climbing makes our relationship what it is. We live to climb, and we love each other so deeply because we’re connected through climbing.
At the summit overlooking Lake Catherine in Alta, Utah. (Photo by Teton Sports)

There is always going to be that risk, but for me, it’s always going to be worth it. The memories Steph will have of her husband will be moments that most couples will never experience. Their time together was spent living life to the absolute fullest, no matter what – and that’s exactly how I intend to spend my time with Niko.

Live freely, adventure often, love wildly, and don’t worry about tomorrow – because if tomorrow doesn’t come, you’ll forever have the thoughts of everything you did do together.

I can’t imagine what Steph is enduring right now, and my heart breaks to think of one of my role models grieving for sure a loss. But I don’t worry for a second that she’ll be regretting a moment of her time with Mario – they lived their relationship as it should be: every moment was an experience, and every second was spent doing what they loved. Make sure you do the same.

* Thanks to Teton Sports for the shot of Niko and I from our hike out in Alta, Utah. 

Final thoughts on 2011, and cheers to upcoming adventures in 2012

It’s here once again – my favorite holiday. The best day of the year for reflecting on the best and worst moments from the past, and looking towards the future with hope and an eager resolve to make the upcoming year even better than the last.

This year was the first year where I began to dedicate my life to the art of road tripping. Over the span of two cross-country trips and countless climbing excursions, I traveled to 21 states from Alabama to California. I visited ten National Parks – thanks to my wonderful annual parks pass. From the swamps of the Everglades and camping in Yosemite to the giant towering trees of Sequoia and the sand dunes at Death Valley, my explorations through America’s National Parks were one of the defining aspects of my adventures.

I graduated from Florida State University in April, and quickly sped off on my first road trip of 2011 – a six-week delve into car-dwelling and extended travel with my boyfriend, Niko. As we traveled across over 6,400 miles together, we climbed some of the most beautiful rock formations in the country, sampled amazing grub, and slept beneath the stars.

During our four-month relationship hiatus, I embarked on my own solo road trip. Embracing the idea of solitude for the first time, I traveled alone across 17 states and 6,657 miles. I also made my first ‘adult’ decision, and moved up to Denver, Colorado to get a taste of mountain living.

And now here I am, on the eve of the new year. You’ll currently find me holed up at Tallahassee Rock Gym, the place where it all began. It truly feels like I’ve come full-circle this year, and I couldn’t be most satisfied with where my life has led me. It feels so appropriate to be ringing in the 2012 with a final day spent slaving away setting new routes and cleaning the rock gym, then by the time the clock strikes midnight I’ll be on the road to Rocktown for a climbing trip to start my year right.

So, I propose a toast.

Here’s to 2012.

New adventures, new destinations, new climbing ascents,
and lots of saving up for 2013.

Readers, expect huge things from The Morning Fresh in 2012. My goal for this upcoming year is to position myself as an established travel and adventure blogger, and to begin truly dedicating myself to my photography and other creative projects. Here’s to finally catching up on overdue posts from my cross-country adventures, an increased social media presence, and working to inspire others to join me in the quest for living a simpler life on the road.

Thank you for your readership, comments, tweets, and unwavering support. I appreciate each and every one of you, and can’t express my gratitude enough. Have a wonderful new year, and keep your spirit high on adventures.