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.

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.

Summertime hiatus, solo adventures begin.

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My dearest readers, it’s time to take an official break from The Morning Fresh. I am heading out on the road for a four-month solo road trip, an Outdoor Industry Association campaign we’re calling the #OIARoadshow. While I’m out traversing the west coast and living my dream job, I want to fully focus on the trip and pour my heart & soul into my work with OIA.

I’ll keep everyone updated with my antics on social media, and promise to make a full return this fall when I’m done with this next chapter of van life. Wish me luck! 

Celebrating 27 – City to Creek to Camp to Climb

The week approaching my 27th birthday was, frankly, a bit humdrum. I had been so busy with ‘life‘ and work that I hardly even registered it was my birthday week until someone else pointed it out. “Oh well, 27 isn’t a big deal–let’s just go with the flow on this one,” I figured, and decided to not sign myself up for any crazy climbing birthday challenges or big trips. We had a fly-fishing clinic scheduled as a work outing on my actual birthday, and that was groovy enough for me.

Every outdoorist should have an ‘adventure bug out bag’. You know, that one pack that always has your outside playtime essentials ready to go at a moments notice. In my evrgrn Kickback pack, you’ll find a Hydro Flask, my trusty notebook + pen, my Nikon D7000, an extra scarf–because autumn is upon us, chapstick, and a spare $20 in case I find a taco stand in the middle of the woods. You never know.

Photo: Mehri Russo

Photo: Mehri Russo

As it turns out, I’m a much better photographer than I am fisherman. The time I spent along Boulder Creek with a rod in my hand primarily consisted of me trying to perfect the flick of my wrist and then spending 10 minutes untangling the line. I did catch something though: a rock. The lack of freshly caught fish for dinner didn’t deter me though–I tossed my pack into the car, hauled from Boulder to Denver, and caught up with some of my favorite people for a latin feast at Cuba Cuba.

The next morning, I realized that a birthday weekend can’t just go to waste–so Mcgoo and I grabbed our packs, tossed our down comforter into the back of his Subaru, loaded up on cheese and kabob ingredients at Whole Foods, and headed towards the mountains. We ended up at West Magnolia Trailhead near Nederland, miraculously finding the perfect campsite at 3:00 PM on a Saturday. There were rolling mountain views, sprawling fields for Amble to plow through, and plenty of forest to explore. We played, relaxed by the fire, and I even got a jumpstart on my birthday resolution to start writing more snail mail. I’ll let the photos tell the story:

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The Ambitious Art of New Years-ing

I adore the holiday season – but there’s one particular reason for celebration that shines the brightest in my world: New Years. The festivities, the sentiments of new beginnings, the air of hope and possibility. It’s the best.

2014 was a year of transition for me. My yearlong trip ended, my long-term boyfriend/co-pilot and I broke up, I moved my life out to Colorado on a whim, and I spent months regrouping, reorganizing, reprioritizing, and revamping. Towards the end of the year, things finally started to fall in place. I moved into a gorgeous house built in 1904 (with original hardwood floors!), and started a new job with Outdoor Industry Association.

And now I’m here – a few days out from 2015 and already eager to start a new year.Photo: Katie Boué

Resolutions are great, but a fresh year offers so much potential beyond making declarations like “I’m going to stop drinking soda!” (let’s get real, I’ll never stop drinking soda). I like to treat each new year as an opportunity to focus on becoming who I want to be.

This year: I want to get strong. I want to travel to new places. I want to kick some major ass at my job. I want to train harder, work harder, and play harder.

Here’s a peek into my New Years-ing:

  • Training: I’m starting to train, every day. Whether it’s a morning workout on my yoga mat or a session at the rock gym – doing something to improve my climbing every day. I want to climb my strongest year ever, so I have to train harder than ever too.
  • Letters: This year, I want to spend more time with pen + paper. I’m starting by writing notes to everyone who profoundly impacted my life in 2014. As it turns out, I have a lot of letters to write. The first one was to my mailman, because he’s a badass and trudges through wicked snow so I can get my holiday cards delivered.
  • 2015 Word of the Year: I like to choose a theme word each year – last year it was “focus.” (Which I both did a good and horrible job of embodying.) For this year, I chose the word “create.” I want to write more (again, pen + paper, baby), doodle and draw more, craft more with my hands. I want to build, connect, imagine, and make messes more.
  • Simplifying: 2014 was the year of me trying to pile as much on my plate as possible. It was fun, challenging, and exciting – but this year I want to really focus my energy where it matters the most, and cut the rest of the distractions.

The universe has handed me a set of perfectly aligned stars to start 2015 with, so I’m going to roll with that and make this the best year of my life (so far, anyways). I thought nothing could beat the year I spent living in my big yellow van, but 2015 might just be the one.

I’ve got a brand new Moleskine, a cute dress to wear when the clock strikes midnight, and more ambition than I know what to do with. Let’s do this, 2015!

Chasing Summer: Puerto Rico

Every time I return to the sea, I am reminded how essential it is to my being. My short trip to Puerto Rico was no exception. From the moment I inhaled the sticky sweet island air, I was enamored.

Honestly, I accomplished pretty much nothing I intended to do while visiting Puerto Rico. There wasn’t any climbing, nor did I get my drink in a pineapple, nor did I even so much as set foot on a trail. But I had a wonderful trip.

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Why I Still Drink (Just One) Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks

This morning, I woke up and it was suddenly autumn. An evening storm cooled the air down to a crisp breeze, and my open windows let the chill drift beneath my blankets. I’ve never been so excited to shiver. Something felt different – special somehow – but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I noticed that today is basically a national holiday: pumpkin spice lattes are back! I immediately put on a beanie, flannel shirt, and leather boots, then skipped my way to the nearest Starbucks.

Enjoying my first (and only) Starbucks pumpkin spice latte of the season!

Here’s the thing: I know Starbucks isn’t the best. I am fully aware there’s no pumpkin in their lattes. I also understand that in lieu of pumpkin, they pump their flavored lattes with cancer-causing, questionable ingredients – but for the duration of this grande pumpkin spice latte I have in my hands, all bets are off. (After today, it’s back to my homemade pumpkin spice latte recipe, with real pumpkin).

So why did I spend $3.26 on a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks this morning?

[Read more…]

Flat Dig and Mary Travel The World

A few weeks ago, I noticed a post from an old classmate at Florida State University. It read: “My grandfather is one of the best people I know. He’s been diagnosed with cancer and my aunt has started a unique plan to make him happy. If anyone is going anywhere interesting this summer or anytime soon and wants to take a picture of my grandparents along in the form of Flat Dig & Mary so they can feel like they are traveling, it would be amazing and they would LOVE it.” Basically, Dig loves to travel, and since he can’t anymore, the family thought it would help keep his spirits high to hop into the suitcases of others and adventure vicariously.

Naturally, I jumped onboard immediately. A man who loves travel is a man after my own heart, so I wanted to see what I could do to put a smile on Dig’s face (hi Dig, I hope you enjoy this!). I enlisted a little bit of help from the incredible, caring, endlessly thoughtful outdoor community – I asked them to take Dig and Mary along for whatever adventures they had planned this weekend, and this is what we got. Dig and Mary, hold on, ’cause you’re about to embark on quite the journey.

Dig and Mary started their trip off by accompanying me on a trail run in Colorado. We braved the heat to take a beautiful jaunt around Lake Standley while enjoying the surrounding views of the Flat Irons and the Rocky Mountains.

Flat Dig and Mary at Lake Standley [Read more…]

Lookin’ Fresh – The Morning Fresh has officially joined the Trail Sherpa network!

Trail SherpaNotice anything different? After months of scheming, plentiful design changes, and countless hours spent chatting with a very patient Tim Miner – the big switch has finally occurred: TheMorningFresh.com has officially joined the Trail Sherpa network of outdoor bloggers. The process of making the leap has been in the works since last fall, and I am honored to be part of such an excellent group of outdoor experts. This is the start of somethin’ big, folks! 

Welcome to the new and improved TheMorningFresh.com!So what’s new on TheMorningFresh.com?

First of all, kiss those obnoxious ads goodbye! I have to admit that for the first year or so of running my blog, I didn’t even realize Word Press was sticking clunky ads at the bottom of all my posts – they do a sneaky job of not showing them when you’re logged into your account. Trail Sherpa helped me ditch the unwanted advertisements, giving you a sleek and uninterrupted experience on the blog.

Your browsing experience now features a responsive site design thanks to Jessica, the head Trail Sherpa site designer. No matter what device you’re visiting TheMorningFresh.com from, your visual experience will be vastly improved and seamless. Everything from the homepage header to the logo will adjust to optimize your viewing.

Check out the new logo! I’m proud to say I designed that myself, and am looking forward to exploring ways to apply it across all of The Morning Fresh’s social platforms. What do you think of the new logo? I think it plays well into the sleek, simplified new design style.

And there are many more surprises to be released in the upcoming weeks! From excellent new recipe and review templates to a Premiere Protein giveaway, TheMorningFresh.com has a lot of tricks up our sleeve. Now that the switch has finally been completed, it’s time to overhaul my content and catch you up on all the adventures I’ve been embarking on while I traveled through Joshua Tree National Park, Red Rocks, and more.

Curious about the Trail Sherpa network?
Click here to meet the rest of our outdoor crew, including my good friend Dave Creech.

Farewell, Florida – Missing our departure date, and (finally) beginning the Simply Adventure journey

For over a year, I’ve talked about this yearlong climbing trip, schemed up some hype around the Simply Adventure idea, and dreamt about the day I’d finally hit the road – and that day is today.

We were actually supposed to depart last night, but a series of unfortunate van mishaps kept us up all evening working on the interior of our new “home.” Nearing midnight, we decided to throw in the towel and abandon our goal of hitting the road before the sun rose. At first, I felt kind of guilty about not leaving; so many people have been eagerly awaiting my official departure. Ultimately, a friend offered wise advice that soothed my apprehensions about leaving a day late:

“A year of adventure can wait a day.”

And he was right. After giving ourselves a few extra hours to put the finishing touches on the van to make sure everything was perfect (and a quick pitstop to grab my last pint of corn nuggets from Lindy’s Chicken), we hit the road feeling 100% ready. Had we rushed through the night and attempted to leave “on time,” we would have woken up miserable with ourselves. I think we made the right choice, do you?

Right now we’re cooped up in a Mississippi rest stop with free wi-fi, scoping out our plan for tomorrow and catching up on e-mails. We drove through the Florida Panhandle and picked up a new bike rack, paused at a Walmart in Alabama, and crossed over into Mississippi – all in a fairly relaxing day. Tomorrow, we’ll continue on through Louisiana, and plan to make it out to Houston, Texas by Sunday!

Beginning this newfound van-dwelling lifestyle has been an oddly calming experience. I was expecting some big epiphany, some momentous occasion when we finally hit the road – but it’s all just peaceful. This is all really happening, and I think I am ready for it all. We’ll see how it all evolves, ha.

Want to know where we’re headed?
Stay tuned for the full itinerary (through March) on Monday!