Crag Dog Adventures in Utah

Here’s the problem with human companions: They come with too many variables. Ask someone, “Want to go out on an adventure?” and your response will inevitably be a “Yes, but _____.” There’s always something – yes but I have to work, or get my oil changed, or hang out with my boyfriend.

And here’s the thing about dogs: There are no buts. The answer is always “YES!” All it takes is one sniff of your backcountry gear piled by the doorway and they’re ready to hit the road ­– no matter what the adventure is.

Amble spent the first few months of her life traveling in a big yellow van, so she’s been groomed for a life of adventure since she was a pup. Nothing thrills her more than getting her paws dirty and sprinting like a torpedo through the outdoors. And you know, she might just love Utah wilderness as much as I do.IMG_8815IMG_8842

We sought out to hop around eastern Utah for a weekend with lady-friend Alex, with Joe’s Valley and Moab as our two destinations. I packed my climbing gear, Amble brought her freeze dried raw Merrick pet munchies, and we drove off into the mountains.

After a night spent folded like origami sleeping in my hatchback, the first stop of our mini-roadtrip was Joe’s Valley – one of my favorite places on earth. After exploring a few of my favorite boulders, the heat became unbearable, so we decided to drive back down country roads to a cluster of boulders we had noticed off a dirt road.IMG_8825IMG_8827

It look less than 30 seconds of peeking around the newfound boulder field to realize that we had just happened upon a sandstone goldmine. Rocks towering 30+ feet in to the air greeted us as we bumped down a very dusty forest road. I wanted to get closer to the field, so I coaxed my little hatchback further and further down the increasingly muddy road ­– and then it happened.

My tires started spinning, mud started flying, and my forward motion quickly ceased.

We were stuck.

Frankly, I was torn between pride and concern. I’ve always loved my little Scion for breaking the mold of adventure vehicles. It’s a city slicker, but my hatchback has traveled across the country a dozen times, navigates dirt roads like a champ, and always keeps me safe. The fact that it even took me to a place where I could get it stuck was a proud moment. And then I realized that didn’t exactly change the fact that I was stuck.

Alex and I quickly gathered as many big, flat stones as we could and wedged them under my tires. She pushed, I gave ‘er gas, and after a few attempts we freed ourselves from the mud. Defeated, we parked at a primitive campsite and walked the rest of the road to the boulders. Amble much preferred the walking over the driving.IMG_8819

I won’t say exactly where we were, because I’m selfish and want to go back there to scrub those dirty boulders until they resemble the beautiful lines they deserve to be. But the point is: these boulders are the real deal. While Amble investigated every inch of dry, cracked mud with her heeler nose, Alex and I set to work inspecting the rock faces and dreaming up boulder problems.DSC_0341 DSC_0326

Drained from the sun and stoked on our discovery, we retreated to the valley for another night crammed in my hatchback as rain pounded the desert outside. Left with soaked boulders, we ditched Joe’s Valley a few hours before sunrise and took off towards Moab.

Big Bend Boulders is one of the most convenient bouldering spots out west, if you ask me. It’s not the biggest, or the boldest – but it’s easy, sunny, and a great place to spend an afternoon. I showed Alex a few of my favorite lines, and we took turns flailing on projects and tossing sticks for Amble to chase.IMG_8861 DSC_0416DSC_0378DSC_0454

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Summer is starting…

I spend a lot of time collecting pieces of plans. Ideas for collaboration, e-mails from gear companies, inklings of grand adventures. Inevitably, most of these half-baked notions never come to any sort of fruition – but when they do, it usually happens all at once. Like right now.

It started with unexpectedly with mystery e-mails about a mystery trip that will have to remain a mystery until further notice – but then the (sharable) details of half a dozen more plans started falling into place too.

First, I dotted a few i’s and crossed a few t’s to start a partnership with Merrick Pet Care as ambassadors to celebrate the launch of their newest all-natural dog food line. More details to come, but the jist is this: thanks to Merrick, Amble is coming out to Colorado in May for a climbing adventure, and she’ll be hanging out with me in the west for a few weeks while Niko goes surfing in Peru. Get excited for some rad #amblegrams.

Amblee3 Amblee

Photos by Alex Alchin.

After crushing in Joe’s Valley and around the Front Range with the pooch and lady-friend Alex (who is bringing Amble out here), my parents will fly into Denver for some Boué fam-jam time. While they’re here, I’ll be gearing up to do something I’ve never done before:

I’m running a 10k – the BolderBOULDER to be exact.Running

Despite my honest warning that they’d be supporting a gal who is likely to be the very last person to cross the finish line, the folks at BolderBOULDER invited me to become a “sponsored runner”. It’s slightly amusing since I can barely count myself as a runner, but I am thrilled to be challenging myself to my first race. I have about a month to wrap up my training, which is a little daunting – but I’ve totally fallen in love with the rhythm of running, especially on trails. Stay tuned for more updates as my journey from #couchtocrush takes on a whole new element.

Then there’s that other trip, which may or may not be happening sometime in June. My lips are sealed (and I frankly don’t even know where I’m going yet), but before this adventure begins, I’ll be road tripping with Amble from Denver to Tallahassee – yet another tick on my cross-country list. I never got a chance to stuff my face with corn nuggets on the last trip, so this will be my redemption.

Phew, that’s a lot.

Call me crazy, but I have a strong feeling this summer is going to majorly kick ass.

I’m hitting the road – to the southeast!

Since my year in the van ended, I’ve gone on quite a few road trips – but they’ve all been little league status. Circuits around western Colorado, weekends in Moab, driving from Miami to Sarasota for a wedding. All great trips, but nothing quite like the long stretches of endless road and vague plans of a grand adventure.

But on Wednesday, I’m adding another tick to my cross-country map circuit:

I’m road tripping down to Florida for Tally Rock Gym’s Save The South climbing comp!

As it turns out, one of the few downsides of leaving the freelance world is that you can’t just take off for weeks at a time – so I’m squeezing a wonderful 3,350 mile road trip into just six and a half days. ‘Cause I have to be back for work on Tuesday, you know? Here’s what the road trip circuit looks like:

Road trip Colorado to Florida.

The plan is to leave Colorado and well, just drive. I’m planning on snagging the passenger seat for the first stretch so I can finally get some photos of the mountains along I-25 heading towards Santa Fe, then we’ll press on until we hit New Orleans! I haven’t been back to New Orleans since I was a little kid, so I’m stoked. We’re staying at a historic haunted hotel right in the heart of the city, and our tick-list includes beignets, live jazz, and cajun food. After that, we’ll make a pit stop somewhere to touch the gulf (because, saltwater!) before shooting east towards Tallahassee.

I cannot wait to get to Tallahassee so I can fill my belly with corn nuggets from Lindy’s, soak up all the springtime blossoms, pull some sweet plastic at Tally Rock Gym, and give some loving to gorgeous miss Amble pup. The 5th annual Save The South bouldering competition to benefit the Southeastern Climbers Coalition is already promising to be a mega rad reason for this road trip – we’ve got a killer event lined up and two local breweries who donated some delicious brew to our SCC after party!

On Sunday morning, Mcgoo and I are going to haul ourselves up to Chattanooga for a day of climbing before hitting the road hardcore back to Colorado. I’m pretty psyched ’cause this is our first ‘big’ road trip together – we’ll see how long it lasts before he wants to toss me out of the Subaru. His adoration for me just oozes out of this photo, amirite?

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It feels so good to have a reason to hit the road again, and this trip combined with all the training I’ve been doing lately feels like a retreat to complete the beginning of the next phase of life. My body feels good, my mind feels good, my Gmail inbox is finally cleared out, my knack for writing seems to have returned, and all the pieces seem to be falling into place. High five, universe!

 

Chasing Summer: An Ode to Eventual Defeat

The air in Denver was still hot as I drove to the airport on the day of my first flight during my month dedicated to chasing summer. I always wear a sweater when flying, but the moment I stepped off the plane in San Juan, I was assaulted by sweet heat and humidity. I happily stripped off a layer as I waited for a taxi to whisk me away to the shores of Puerto Rico.

You see, I love summer. I love the way the sunshine burns my cheeks, the way my hair feels when its sticky with salt, how refreshing a cold glass of lemonade feels.

Winter terrifies me. Historically speaking, it’s the season in which I disappear. I slip into a deep hibernation where I shun the idea of going outside, rarely change out of my bathrobe, and shudder at the thought of trying to drive through snow. I’m from Miami – I’m just not built for the cold.Further proof that I'm not built for winter.

And so, I started chasing summer. First to Puerto Rico, where I spent five days swimming in the warm sea and following locals to secret street parties. I dug my toes in the sand while eating passion fruit frozen ice, bought a sarong, and cut my toes on sharp rocks along the coast.

When I flew back to Denver, I feared I would feel a chill upon my arrival. Thankfully, summer persevered – I was sweaty as I walked back to my boyfriend’s car at the airport. I was still safe from the impending winter.

Two days later, I flew across the Atlantic Ocean to Spain. I started chasing summer in Barcelona, where I feasted on tapas and explored famous landmarks. I spent an afternoon climbing at La Foixarda, an old tunnel transformed into an urban climbing crag with everything from bouldering traverses to bolted sport lines. It was so hot I could hardly keep my fingertips gripped on the humid holds.

Street art in Barcelona.Climbing at la Foixarda tunnel in Barcelona.

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Chasing Summer: A Declaration

There’s somewhat of a war going on out there – and we all need to pick a side. I noticed the first battle cry last weekend while driving through the Colorado mountains on a mini road trip: a small army of Aspen trees defiantly emblazoned with leaves turning an unmistakable hue of gold. Little leaves fluttering in the wind, flashing a suspiciously yellow color.

We’re sitting on the cusp of seasonal change.

For some, this is a small hint towards victory. A promise that summer’s hot and humid occupation of the earth is coming to an end. It’s a first little outcry in the name of winter.

That’s why I’m flying 38,000 feet in the air right now, my suitcase full of bikinis and sandals stowed in the compartment above my seat. Summer is ending in Colorado – so I’m ditching the mountains and heading to the sea.

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I refuse to give up summer just yet.

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Explorer Series adventures with Mile High Clothing

A few months ago, photographer Jason Gebauer asked if I could play model for an afternoon so he could get some lifestyle photos for a local apparel brand, Mile High Clothing Co. I instantly fell in love. When MHCCO invited me and fellow lady adventurer Tiffiny Costello (you can read her take on our adventure here) to take a little road trip for a photoshoot to launch their new #ExplorerSeries project, I hopped on board without hesitation.

The original plan was to head to the Maroon Bells area, and summit a 14-er. A combination of sketchy weather and dreading the thought of sitting in I-70 holiday weekend traffic redirected our adventure towards Buena Vista. It’s a short 2.5-hour drive from the city, making it a perfect weekend escape.

Tiffiny and I loaded my hatchback with camping and climbing gear, then hit the road towards the mountains. We got a late start (two introverts + a lazy Saturday morning = slow going), and spent the first day scouting locations and exploring the area around Mt. Princeton and the Arkansas River.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Our destination allowed us to avoid the major holiday traffic rush, but we didn’t quite plan the camping situation – every developed site was 100% full. Luckily, a very kind ranger drove us out to a spot called “Dan’s Land.” It’s quite literally this dude Dan’s land, where he allows primitive (read: no fires) camping for free.

The initial sentiment was that we were both ready to call it a night as soon as we got our tents pitched in the dark. Then we looked up, and the milky way beckoned us to bust out our cameras to play around with some night photography. We ended up staying up for hours, and took a lot of photos.

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The next morning we awoke to contend with another faux pas: we brought a stove, but forgot to pack the propane. Oops. The issue was quickly solved by tossing our firewood into a grill at a day use area back at the campground we had hoped to stay at the night before.

Nothin’ like making breakfast the old fashioned way, y’all! It took more than a few attempts to get the fire blazing, but eventually we had ourselves a little morning feast.

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We spent the rest of the day hopping from one beautiful outdoor location to the next. I am absolutely smitten with the area between Buena Vista and Salida, and can’t wait to return for more adventures. We hiked up rainy hillsides, did a little chossy bouldering, played by rivers, and got our fill of fresh air in our lungs before retreating back to city life.

Between both of our iPhones, Tiffiny’s Canon + GoPro, and my Nikon – we ended up with a massive pile of photos. Here’s a little taste of some of my favorite images we ended up with:

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PS: All photos of me were taken by the lovely Tiffiny Costello. Anything else featured in this post was taken by me.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Mile High Clothing on Instagram – you can see our photos from our #ExplorerSeries takeover. I had a fantastic time, and can’t wait to see what the project evolves into. Thanks for supporting our adventures, Mile High Clothing!

Mini Trip Report: Outdoor Retailer + Utah Adventures

For the past three years, the final stretch of summer has been marked by one event: Outdoor Retailer’s summer market in Salt Lake City. I’ve attended for the past three years, and it’s become one of my favorite weekends. OR Show is the perfect cacophony of business mixing with pleasure, free beer interrupting meetings, reuniting with old friends, and partying with the industry.

I road-tripped out to Salt Lake City with Laurie from Outdoor Women’s Alliance – we took the Wyoming route on the way out, and the southern path along I-70 on the way back (to accommodate some much needed camping after the convention). The first night celebrated old friends with a dinner hosted by Columbia Sportswear, and then it was time to get down to the dirty work on Thursday with meetings and coffee dates. Broke up the hustle of appointments with free tacos and shirt screen-printing at the annual outdoor mini-festival held by Keen – and then it was quickly back to work.

A quick photo with the folks from Moja Gear at Outdoor Retailer.

On Thursday evening, one of my favorite people in the industry, (the man, the myth, the legend) Billy Brown surprised me with an extra pass to the advanced screening of Reel Rock’s Valley Uprising film. Spoiler alert: it was awesome. I’m one of the first people to get all crotchety and jaded about Yosemite Valley, but this film was so powerful it actually made me want to return to the park to climb. Definitely a must-see when the final cut is released!

By mid-morning on Friday, I was totally over the convention center. I didn’t schedule any appointments that afternoon, so my dear friend Adriana scooped me from the Salt Palace to go do a little climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon with new friends Mary (go check out her photography right now), and her boyfriend Carlo Traversi.

But first, behold Adriana and Steven’s epic climbing set-up in their garage:

The most epic home climbing wall ever, belonging to Steven Jeffery.

When Adriana and I tossed crash pads on our back and headed towards the trail, I realized something really not okay: this was the first time I had been bouldering outside since my trip ended in late January. Whoa, dude. Never again! I foolishly left my climbing shoes behind, and borrowed a pair of rentals from the climbing gym that were not up to par – oops. Thankfully, Mary lent me her Dragons (which I am now totally in love with).

There were no sends for me that day, but just being back in a boulder field sussing out beta and cheering on my fellow climbers felt oh-so-good. We projected a sweet V4 called Twisted for a few hours before everyone had to retreat back to the convention center downtown.Five Ten Dragons, my dream climbing shoe. One day!

Mary Mecklenburg and I climbing Twisted (V4) at Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.

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Get Lost on the South Platte River in CO’s Rampart Range

Here’s the thing about Colorado: there appears to be an endless supply of outdoor gems just a short drive from the heart of Denver. Choosing a new trail to explore brings out the worst in my inability to make decisions. There are just too many options! You can literally just pick a general direction and drive until you hit a trail — and that’s exactly what I did when my college friend Marisa came to visit from Key West.

We woke up, slathered on some sunscreen, filled up our water bottles, and hopped in the car with no particular destination in mind. After a quick pitstop for bagels, we found ourselves leaving Denver city limits and heading towards Sedaila. I had visited the area once before, so I looked for the only road I knew, Rampage Range Road, and started driving towards the mountains.Rampart Range Road along the South Platte River in Colorado.

After winding along intimidating drop offs and steeply graded hills, the road turned to dirt and we had to make a decision: should we turn my little hatchback around, or should we cross our fingers that the road is navigable and go for it? In the spirit of adventure, we went for it. Spoiler alert: my little Scion is a total badass.

Eventually, we came upon a fork in the road, and followed the South Platte River upstream until we found a trailhead. At first, I had no idea exactly what trail we hiked — my only clue was the rickety old South Platte Hotel building that sat across the street from the parking lot. Eventually, I deduced that we hiked along the South Platte River to the Strontia Springs Reservoir.The old South Platte Hotel in the Rampart Range area of Colorado.Along the South Platte River in Colorado.

Marisa is a true island gal, so it was wonderful to take her out into the mountains. She loved every minute of being on the trail, even when I insisted that we scramble up random gullies filled with spiderwebs, or when I made her perch precariously on a rock over the river to feel the cold rush of air from the gushing waters.Hiking along the South Platte River with my Topo Designs pack.A little beetle we found while hiking along the South Platte River in Colorado.

Pretty blossoms found while hiking along the South Platte River in CO. Sure, we ended up wandering a bit further from home than we initially anticipated, but deciding to get lost ended up leading Marisa and I to a wonderful new adventure we would have never discovered otherwise. By taking a few risks (mostly our brazen confidence that my hatchback would be able to handle the dirt roads), we opened ourselves up to the opportunity to explore somewhere off the beaten path.

When is the last time you got lost down a dirt road?
What’s stopping you?

Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE

My ears are still ringing, my suitcase smells like dirty hippies, and I’m pretty sure I pulled a muscle in my foot — which means that my trip to the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE with the Nokia crew was an absolute success. Honestly, I’m struggling to get back on the grind after such an incredible weekend. I love y’all, but if I could spend the rest of my life in a Silent Disco, I’d probably never come back.

So, how was my first ever music festival experience?

Flying into Philly on my way to the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE.

It all started with a little solo airport time — one of my favorite ways to travel. There’s just something really exhilarating to me about strutting through an airport, all wrapped up in a little bubble amongst thousands of strangers all on their way to different adventures. I was one of the last people to arrive in Philly, and had a mini-squealing session with Heidi when we reunited at baggage claim. Our Nokia crew instantly connected, and were deep in the friendship zone by the time we hopped into our van and start road tripping out to Dover.

Y’all have already given me hell about the glamping set-up we had out at Firefly, but here are the facts: it was awesome. Our little compound, set up by Solid Ground Shelters, was the perfect way to do a music festival. We got the outdoor experience, but were able to retreat to full sized beds with plush comforters every night after dancing our faces off. These tents even had power strips! My glamping tent, compliments of Solid Ground Shelters. Hangin' with the ladies in front of our Solid Ground Shelters glamping tents at Firefly Music Festival. [Read more…]

The #ColoradoList: One Woman’s Quest to Experience Colorado in 365 Days

In March 2014, I took a leap: With only two weeks notice, I packed up everything I owned and moved from my native state of Florida to Colorado only a few months after returning from a yearlong road trip. I’ve traveled from the grassy prairies in the south to the wild coats of the northwest – but no place captured my heart like Colorado. With endless outdoor opportunities, spirited local culture, and four full seasons for adventure, the Centennial State is the perfect place to explore.

As a new resident of Colorado, I am overwhelmed by how much there is to do – so I’m making it my mission to tick off every experience possible within just one year, from learning how to ice climb in the mountains to getting rowdy at a Nuggets game in downtown Denver. The #ColoradoList is a Colorado bucket list that challenges me to fill my calendar with activities that will push my limits as an adventurer, fill my belly with Colorado’s finest eats, bring me to the state’s most beautiful destinations, and open my eyes to everything the area has to offer.

THECOLORADOLIST

What’s on the list?

You can find the full Colorado List on the official page, broken down in categories like hikes, road trip destinations, and events – but here’s a quick peek at my adventurous to-do list:

1. Summit my first 14-er.
2. Stock up on fresh produce at the Boulder Farmers Market.
3. Visit all four National Parks in Colorado.
4. Go on a hot air balloon ride.
5. Have brunch at Snooze.
6. Stand at Four Corners.
7. Try mountain biking.
8. Backpack to a 10th Mountain Division Hut.
9. Ride the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.
10. Catch a fish – and eat it.

This year is going to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life on personal and spiritual levels – and I want to make sure that adventure and new experiences are at the forefront of my journey towards becoming a more limit-testing, empowered, independent woman. Bring it on, Colorado!

Want to join me for the adventure? Keep an eye on the blog for posts after every outing, follow the #ColoradoList hashtag on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with my bucket list ticks and upcoming plans, or better yet – JOIN ME! Invite yourself along to help me complete my list, or suggest Colorado bucket list to-dos that I don’t have on my list yet (I know I must be missing a ton).

Want to help me complete my list? Can you lend me a pair of snowshoes? Want to equip me with the gear I’ll need to catch myself a fish? Interested in sponsoring a weekend trip to try ice climbing? Whether you’re an outdoor outfitter or local adventure company – I want to work with you to make my bucket list attempt a success and highlight the best brands Colorado has to offer. Please feel free to contact me for information about how to get involved!

Visit the official Colorado List bucket list page here!