Returning to Reality after 365 Days of Living the Dream

Sitting on the porch of my new home, sipping on tea and eating fresh eggs from the chicken flock in my backyard while watching my puppy chase squirrels up trees – it’s hard not to think that in some ways, this is living the dream.

Yesterday, the big yellow van I spent 365 days living in was officially sold. For an entire year, waking up every morning inside my retrofitted van and heading out across America to climb and explore was my version of living the dream. It was a dream that my partner Niko and I had fantasized about for many years – and it was nothing short of a dream to make it a reality.

My retrofitted 2005 Dodge Sprinter van, which I lived in for 365 days.

Towards the end of the trip, I started having other dreams. I dreamt of a big wooden desk where I could get some writing done – random coffee-shops get a little tiresome after a while; I dreamt of not eating anything out of a can; I dreamt of having a proper bed and a closet; I even dreamt of wearing dresses, putting on make-up, and feeling like a lady again.

The moment the trip ended, I got all of the “things” I missed while living in a van – and almost immediately, all I wanted was my dirtbag life in the van back.

I was a little lost in the aftermath of the trip, but my post-adventure blues really hit rock bottom after I listed my van for sale. This was it – my life as a vagabonding climber seemed permanently over, and I suddenly found myself entirely lacking motivation, purpose, inspiration, and energy. I did what was probably the worst possible reaction to this newfound sadness: I stayed cooped up inside for days. I didn’t climb, I didn’t write, I didn’t do anything but sulk.

When I handed my key over to the van’s new owner last night, I was expecting to feel an overbearing sense of loss and depression – but instead, I was greeted with relief. Hope, even. I had officially closed this chapter of my adventures. It was undoubtedly the best year of my life, and no vehicle will ever compare to the big yellow Sprinter that was my first mobile home – but now it’s time to focus on new adventures.

The completed map of my yearlong road trip around America.

I may have a home-base now, rent to pay, and a desk where I can get some real writing accomplished without feeling pressured to spend $4 on a latte, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up any adventures. I’m heading down to Miami this week to pick up my old Scion hatchback, and once I’m back in a car I actually love to drive (sorry van, you weren’t my favorite vessel to pilot), I’m going to start exploring again. Niko is already planning a bike ride from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, and I’ve got my sights set on a few tubing trips once the water warms up.

This isn’t the end, folks. This is just the beginning of something new.

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Local Adventures: Exploring the Outdoors Within City Limits

After a year living on the road and traveling to some of the most coveted outdoor destinations in America, I was terrified that settling down and “staying in place” would ruin my sense of adventure. Suddenly, I went from wide open spaces to the confines of city limits – and yet I quickly learned that it’s easy to find adventure close to home.

Whether you have all day on a weekend, or just a few hours during a lunch break, those who truly seek adventure can find it anywhere. To prove this point, I went out in Tallahassee and found fresh air, a scenic lake, a great 40-minute walk for my pup, and heaps of sunshine – all less than a mile away from the errands I was running on a busy day.

The easiest place to find adventure close to home is a local park. My little excursion brought me to Tom Brown Park, one of Tallahassee’s finest public spaces complete with mountain biking, a dog park, disc golf, and more. You could easily spend the entire day at Tom Brown Park, but since I was seeking just a quick moment of adventure to balance out my hectic day, I simply chose to wander along the trail around Lake Leon.

Niko and Amble take a stroll on the boardwalk along Lake Leon at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, FL.The trail itself is mostly paved, with a long boardwalk portion that takes you over the lake and along marshy wetlands full of lily pads and turtles sunning themselves on half-submerged logs. Amble got quite a kick out of peering over the boardwalk to look down at the water, and it was a great place to practice her “heel” command.

Even though the path is less than a half-mile long, strolling along it for a quick lap offered the perfect little escape from being indoors and scurrying around town. I think adventurers spend too much time focusing on big trips, and not enough time slowing down to enjoy the little, simpler moments of getting outside that can add a literal and figurative breath of fresh air into any day.

Amble and I pause for a quick photo while walking along the Lake Leon trail at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee.Another view of Lake Leon at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee.One of the many resident turtles that call Lake Leon home at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee.

After soaking up a little sunshine, watching a turtle warm itself on a log, and meeting a few new dog friends, my mini adventure came to an end and I returned to the hustle and bustle of life in a city. The entire excursion lasted all of 40-minutes (an amount of time that anyone can spare in a day!), but it provided exactly the break I needed to remind myself that I am an adventurer, and being outdoors is where I find my happiness.

Want to find local adventures in YOUR backyard? Here are a few tips:

– Recruit friends or co-workers to get outdoors with you on lunch breaks, after work, or on a sunny weekend. Once you expose your cohorts to how refreshing it is to get outside, create accountability and make it a reoccurring activity to keep getting outdoors on a regular basis. 
– Combine your mini adventures with an activity: pick up disc golf, join a weekly dog park meet-up, start trail running, or bring your lunch outside on a picnic. 
– Do a little online digging and find the best parks in your neighborhood. I love using Yelp to find favorite local spaces. Better yet, ask fellow locals for their recommendations – they may even join you on your next outing!

How do you find local adventures in your city?
What’s your favorite spot to explore close to home?

*Note: This post is sponsored by Nature Valley. For more outdoor inspiration, check out their fantastic Nature Project Tumblr
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The End of an Era: My Yearlong Road Trip is (Almost) Over

This is a post I’ve been procrastinating all week. As a storyteller, it’s my duty to my readers to keep y’all updated with my journey every step of the way – but as a human, it’s kind of heartbreaking. I’m struggling to put things into words, and incredibly stressed with the logistics of what comes next, because –

This is it: I am officially in the last week of my yearlong climbing adventure.

Seriously? Already? Didn’t I just move into my big yellow van? Have I really lived outdoors, climbed, camped, and adventured for 52 weeks? It just doesn’t make sense – I refuse to wrap my head around this reality that seems to have been suddenly thrust upon me.

It’s almost February 1st, the technical one-year anniversary of my trip (although I started living in van sometime in early January last year). After that milestone is ticked, Niko will begin working full-time managing Tallahassee Rock Gym, and for me, well, the future is very up in the air at the moment – but you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out more about that one.

Bo Durham crushes The Price is Right (V8) at Rocktown in GA.We’re spending the final days of the adventure in our favorite place in the world: the southeast. We’ve been holed up at Rocktown in Georgia for quite a while, but were forced to retreat back to Chattanooga when the polar vortex reared its frigid head and made climbing absolutely unbearable. The temperatures should be (at least somewhat) warming up by Friday, so we’ll be returning to the no-service zone to enjoy our fleeting opportunities to climb, camp, and explore.

The good news? This year has been the most transformative, educational, inspiring 365 days of my life – and the adventures have only just begun for me. The bad news? We’re selling the van. That is the worst part of all of this, and Niko is taking it the hardest. I also have a feeling that Amble is going to go into some sort of identity crisis once we moved into a four-walled dwelling. Oy vey.

I’ll try to update at least one more time before we head back to Florida, but I’m not making any promises. I only have a short time left to enjoy my van life freedom, and I intend on soaking up as much as I can. There will be many thank yous, heaps of gear reviews, and probably a lot of tears shed – but first, adventure.

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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.

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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!

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So, What Do You Do After a Year of Adventure, Climbing, and Living in a Van?

My big, beautiful, very yellow Sprinter van! After a month of living in a van, I was still very deep in the honeymoon phase of the romantic idea of adventure. After three months, life on the road still felt great. At the seven month mark, living in a big yellow van, climbing all over the country, and camping every night was the only thing I knew. But now, after nine months of traveling, it’s time to look towards the future.

What am I going to do when my yearlong road trip ends?

On February 2nd, life is going to smack me pretty hard in the face. The fantasy world of living in a van for a year with hardly an responsibilities (aside from sharing my incredible experiences with everyone) will abruptly be gone. There will be bills to be paid, income to be earned, and a future to be seriously considered – plus, Niko needs to get ready for starting grad school in August. I’m not quite sure that I’m ready for everything that comes with the idea of ending the trip and returning to “the real world,” but I have a plan.

Once the big yellow van fulfills our goal of spending an entire year traveling, climbing, and exploring, we’ll be returning to the place where it all began for Niko and I: Tallahassee. When we left, we thought we’d never come back – but we were wrong. Visiting our old city last week reminded me of all the reasons I love Tallahassee, and more importantly, the rock gym.

The new bouldering walls at Tallahassee Rock Gym.

Niko was offered a fantastic opportunity to manage Tallahassee Rock Gym full-time until it’s time for him to start grad school (which is a whole new adventure – we have NO idea where he’s headed for that yet). Neither of us have been able to accept the idea of not being on a constant climbing trip anymore, but I have to admit: I’m really excited about six months of training in a rock gym (and one last fleeting affair with my beloved rock gym before we really leave forever). I’ve gained incredible technique and confidence during our yearlong trip, but constant travel and outdoor climbing aren’t quite conducive to training and getting stronger. And the best part? We’ll be care-taking for a flock of chickens and a lovely garden while we’re there. 

For me, this means I will have six whole months to finally catch up on all the writing that has been pent up for the past year. There are so many stories that have yet to be told, so many photo essays that have yet to be edited, so much freelance work that has piled up, and I’ll finally have the creative juices available to write my book about our trip. I’m going to miss this lifestyle so much, but I’m confident that life isn’t done throwing epic adventures my way. This isn’t the end of my adventure, this is just a quick little break to let me finally catch up, cool down, and contemplate where to explore next.

Oh, and we’re getting a puppy for Christmas!

Pretty much everyone I know is fully aware of the fact that Niko and I have been dying to get a pup of our own for the longest time, but we didn’t want to adopt a dog until we were in a more stable situation to train it. Well, that time is quickly approaching, and we’ve already begun to search for the perfect four-legged addition to our family.

It’s hard to fathom that in less than three months we’ll no longer be that climbing couple who lives in a big yellow van and travels around the country full-time – but I’m looking forward to this new chapter in our lives. And we’ve already arranged Niko’s schedule so we can take plenty of weekend climbing trips when we get the itch.

Whoa – that was way too much future-thinking. If you’ll excuse me, I need to return to the boulder fields before reality sets in anymore. 

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That Time I Made a Cameo in a Climbing Video, But All I Did Was Eat Nutella and Apples

Shannon Joslin climbs A River Runs Through It at Joe's Valley while Niko and Spenser film her ascent.No, but seriously. My two friends, Spenser and Vikki, from The RV Project made a killer climbing video, and I’m totally in it – and all I do in my cameo is sit on a rock and stuff my face with Nutella and apples while everyone around me is cheering. Wow. But really, does this shock anyone even a little bit?

Here’s the story: You remember how Niko and I planned to visit Joe’s Valley in Utah for two weeks, and ended up staying for two months? Well, Spenser and Vikki totally instigated our long-term stay, and while we were there we helped them shoot a sweet project they filmed featuring our lady friends Shannon Joslin and Flannery Shay-Nemirow. These incredible women climb for La Sportiva and Five Ten (respectively), and wanted to do a head-to-head battle to see which climbing shoes are better.

It took weeks to film, and months to edit, but Spenser did an incredible job with the final product – it’s such a fun video. Niko and I are really proud to have had a small part in it – mostly Niko, who helped Spenser shoot a few scenes. We both make a cameo during the “A River Runs Through It” scene, and my La Sportiva Katanas get worn by Shannon in the “Self Service” segment. Awesome!

Check it out:

https://vimeo.com/78044741 

Those ladies know how to crush, amirite? They make those stout climbs look like a cake walk. Bonus points to Niko for his hilariously edited fist-pump. And then there’s me, just hangin’ out, stuffing my face like a total lard. And I wonder why I don’t climb V10 – it just might have something to do with all the Nutella. Sheesh.

Check out more from The RV Project on their Facebook page, and show ’em some love on Twitter!

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25 Climbs for 25 Years at Rocktown, and a Perfect Weekend in Chattanooga & North Carolina

In an attempt to say “no thanks” to the typical 25th birthday, which according to my generation includes a quarter-life crisis where you wonder what you’re doing with your life and why you aren’t as so-called successful as your peers, I decided to do something different: I challenged myself to climb 25 boulder problems.

I thought it was going to be easy. The original plan was to head to one of my favorite spots in the southeast, Stone Fort, where I have a pretty decent circuit of familiar climbs. Instead, the weather forecast relocated us to Rocktown – also a wonderful crag, but with a few hang-ups. The boulders are drastically spread-out compared to Stone Fort, and the lines aren’t always as clean.

The day started strong at a familiar warm-up spot near The Orb, a classic Rocktown V8. I made quick work of almost 10 climbs ranging from V0 to V2, including a few new lines I hadn’t climbed before. Things were looking good.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

After a few failed flails on Double Trouble (V5) and an old send, Jug Surfin’ (V4), I realized that if I was going to succeed at climbing 25 boulder problems, I was going to have to take it easy. We moved on to another cluster of easy problems, knocking out 5 more lines. I was convinced that V0s were all I’d be able to send, but resigned myself to having a fun day instead of focusing on v-points.

We visited a new area I haven’t seen before, and I flashed two sweet climbs called Ripple (V2) and Mario (V3). A quick moment of redemption, but still no impressive sends.
Climbing Mario (V3) at Rocktown in Georgia for my 25th birthday.Flashing Ripple (V2) at Rocktown during my 25th birthday challenge.

The remainder of the day was spent climbing lines that looked like no one had touched them in a very, very long time. First was a tall arête climb with a sweet iron rail feature, which I quickly cruised up. Then we moved onto a trio of lines on a triangular boulder called Pommel Horse – and it was game-on. This boulder was completely grown over, and anything that could have been a hold was caked in moss or draped with cobwebs. Even Niko struggled to decifer where the various V0s went, but we finally finagled our way up the boulder and I bagged three more sends.
Climbing at Rocktown for my 25th birthday challenge.

I ended the day on what can only be described as a choss pile. My favorite southern food buffet was closing in only a few hours, and I still needed five more climbs. We hiked back towards the front of the boulder field, and climbed unappealing problems toilet-themed names. It wasn’t pretty, but I was determined to finish all 25 climbs.

Twenty minutes of hiking, and an hour of driving later, we arrived for an all-you-can-eat southern feast at Wally’s Family Restaurant in Chattanooga. Once our bellies were bursting with collard greens and bacon, we retreated to The Crash Pad where we were treated to the hostel’s newly opened private room – which is crazy cozy and has a great upstairs view of the grounds.

The next morning, Niko and I made a long haul out to Waxhaw, North Carolina, where we met my family and two favorite fellas for a relaxing birthday weekend. We explored the Q-City BBQ Championship in downtown Charlotte, wandered around Asheville, and I even got to blow out some birthday candles over a slice of red velvet cake. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday – my 26th is going to have a lot to live up to! 

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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!

 

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Accident at Red River Gorge Offers a Too-Close-for-Comfort Reminder to Stay Safe While Climbing

Seriously, folks, climbing is a dangerous sport.

It’s so easy to become complacent when you’re doing something every single day of your life, but climbing is inherently a dangerous sport sometimes, and even the most comfortable, skilled climber can have an accident. It happened here at Red River Gorge a few days ago.

My wonderful, kind, strong, incredibly well-spirited friend Roro was climbing a trad route at Pistol Ridge (the same place I had just had my wow-I-love-adventure-climbing experience) in the north portion of Red River Gorge a few days ago – business as usual. From what I gather, the route was a bit chossy (something that would never deter his passion for climbing lines), and he took a fall – and his first piece of protection popped. According to this press release, he fell 40 feet, and decked, hard.

Fortunately for my buddy, the universe was on his side and Roro landed right in between a boulder sticking out of the earth and a few stumps. It easily could have been a very, very bad situation, but thanks to his climbing partners that day and the folks who came to help rescue him, Roro made it out relatively unscathed after a four-hour mission to get him down from the crag.

The climbing community owes a huge THANK YOU to the Wolf County Search & Rescue team for keeping climbers safe at Red River Gorge.  *click the image to see their photos of the rescue*

The climbing community owes a huge THANK YOU to the Wolfe County Search & Rescue team for keeping climbers safe at Red River Gorge. *click the image to see their photos of the rescue*

I thought I’d help him out a bit by spreading the sole message he posted while in the hospital:

“Attention rock climbers. Wear a helmet.
It saves lives. Don’t be a square.”

I won’t debate helmets for bouldering, or even for sport climbing (because I shamefully don’t wear one), but if I ever get on a trad climb, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d be wearing a helmet. Niko bought one the moment he started placing gear, and every wise climber I know wears one on trad lines. Our friend we met here a few weeks ago admitted that he always wears a helmet, but didn’t when he came to Red River Gorge because he didn’t see a single person with a helmet – let’s change that. 

But mostly, just use this accident as a reminder to never, ever get too comfortable when climbing. Always double check your knots, always inspect your gear, always have good communication and double-check everything with your belayer. It doesn’t matter if you climb 5.14d or 5.9+, always be aware.

And never stop being grateful for your climbing partners. Don’t let the moment they get hurt be the moment you realize how awesome they are to have in your life. Roro, we can’t wait for you to get back to camp buddy, we all miss you.

Want to really show your appreciation for the folks who keep climbers safe? Donate to the Wolfe County Search and Rescue team to support Red River Gorge safety, or find your local crag’s SAR crew and give them some love. 

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