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. 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

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

On spuds in the dirt, lemons from life, and rediscovering everything you thought you knew.

Well, a lot has changed since my last update on June 17, 2011, and I feel like I owe my readers an explanation before I dive back into the world of travel, photography, and adventure. I’d offer a choice between the long story or the short story, but the long version could fill a book. Here’s the spark notes version:

The last we met, I was living in Tallahassee, freshly graduated and itching to travel with my wonderful beau, Niko. The plan was to stick around Florida until he also graduated and could join me on worldly adventures. I had two jobs (amongst a million side projects), too many options, and about 2,000 photos that needed editing. We’ll use this as the before shot:

Cue the oohs and aws – aren’t we adorable? Ready for the after shot? Both were taken during the same day on my road trip in Death Valley National Park, but I think they provide a pretty damn accurate visual contrast to assist in describing the huge changes in my life. Here’s the after:

So here I am. Suddenly standing very alone in a very big sea of nothing. After almost two years of teamwork, and the most amazing trip of my life, Niko ended our relationship with no warning and a very vague explanation. With no clue and no plan, I packed up as much junk from my Tallahassee condo as I could stuff in my little Scion, and this lady promptly sped 7 hours back home to Miami.

I left and lost everything that was real to me. I scribbled ‘I love you TRG, always’ on my locker at the rock gym, grabbed my climbing shoes and filled up a mason jar with that dirty gym rubber so I could keep it close forever. I said a few goodbyes (and still owe most of you a proper one, I’m sorry!), and now it’s time for a new plan.

So here I am. The boxes and bags that cluttered my room in Miami were overwhelming, so I ditched my hometown to spend 4th of July weekend in Key West with my two closest lady friends. With a little help from tequila, fresh salty air, and Marisa’s no-nonsense attitude, I put on my big girl panties and am ready for a new plan.

So here it is: I put in my two weeks notice at my Tallahassee job, decided to purge myself of everything I left up in my condo (anyone need some furniture?), and I started dreaming of my next big adventure. I left my comfortable recluse shell, and have begun exploring everything and everyone in Miami. I’m mapping out an autumn trip to North Carolina, New York, and the rest of the eastern coast up to Maine.

I’m still trying to find peace without Niko, but eventually I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that we’re all just spuds in the dirt. I’m learning how to roll with the punches, and am enjoying suddenly not having a plan. I’m just going, and it’s been working out so far. I even had the pleasure of being approached by a fan during an open mic event – Lori, you really have no idea how much it meant to me for you to introduce yourself that night, you may have saved the fate of this blog.

Enough rambling. Ha, that was the short version too. Told ya the long one could fill a book. Folks, I am back. No more pity parties, no more sulking in bed – life is calling. I only have my job with LivingSocial now, and my unedited photo count is pushing past 5,000 images. I’m back on my grind, and vow to pleasure your eyes with plenty of photos and daily updates.

And while we’re at it: ADD ME ON TWITTER! @themorningfresh – I’m twitter-tarded, but why not? Keep calm, and carry on my friends.

What a Beautiful Day for an Anniversary!

Happy November 23rd, readers. Today marks the one year anniversary of my relationship with my boyfriend, Niko. It all started with an innocent bike ride up the St. Marks Trail during November of 2009. As I pedaled weakly behind Niko’s effortless pace, I found myself falling in love with a near stranger. As overwhelming as those first emotions were, the months following our first date proved that trusting love is not a vain effort.

Together, Niko and I have traveled all around the United States. We started small with a weekend trip to Atlanta in December 2009, where we visited the Atlanta Aquarium. We’ve ventured on an assortment of different climbing trips, from Horse Pens 40 in Alabama to Little Rock City in Tennessee. During May, we drove to Sarasota for a great beach house weekend with my family. Over summer, we embarked on a two-week road trip together and adventured through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. We’ve explored the beautiful city of Chattanooga, including stops at the Tennessee Aquarium and Chattanooga Farmers Market. Traveling is a key element of our relationship, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the future has in store for us. A return trip has been planned to revisit Little Rock City and Rocktown in December, and climbing in Hueco Tanks awaits during springtime.

Tonight, I’ll be treating Niko to a rare occasion – a home-cooked meal by yours truly. If I manage to not burn the kitchen down, I’ll be serving a delicious feast of snow crab legs (complete with melted butter and lemon wedges), baked potatoes, my mom’s famous green beans and a roasted head of garlic served with naan. For dessert, we’ll be having vanilla shortcake topped with strawberries and whipped cream. After a year of putting up with me, Niko definitely deserves a good meal.

Niko, I love you more than words could ever express. Thank you for supporting everything I do, from my photography to my climbing. You’re the best coach a lady climber could ever ask for, and the best personal chef a girl could imagine. You are a phenomenal person, and you’ve brought out the best in me. Here’s to many more anniversaries, travel adventures and nights spent watching Food Network. I adore you, spud.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Ladies and gentlemen, gays and straight allies, transgendered peers and everyone in between – today is the day to celebrate the beauty of genderless love, and proclaim our support for equal rights; it’s National Coming Out Day.

While most readers are familiar with my adoring boyfriend, Niko, you may not know that I came out as a lesbian about five years ago. It was a difficult process, made a thousand times easier because of my gracious and supportive parents. I remember my first coming out story: My dad and I went out for lunch at Sushi Rock in Miami, and I spilled everything to him about my relationship with my then-girlfriend Caytlyn. After a rough break-up with Caytlyn, I met Jenny, who would become my partner for the next three years.

During this phase of my life, I grew to wholly embrace homosexuality and gay pride. It is a beautiful community, full of love and passion and understanding for others. It also bears a dark underbelly of abuse, discrimination and harassment. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 90% of LGBT students have faced harassment due to their sexual orientation. I can sympathize with this statistic. I was never a social outcast, and always fit in with the crowd, but upon coming out to my high school, I was seemingly shunned by many ‘friends.’ Suddenly, I wasn’t Katie Boue anymore – I was ‘the lesbian.’ How could my choice of partner ultimately alter my entire image?

We need to band together, LGBT community members and straight allies alike, to ensure that this nation becomes a more accepting place, where kids can go to school without feeling threatened because of who they are. Only five states and Washington DC have legalized gay marriage or civil unions in some form. In 29 states, you can still be fired based solely upon your sexual orientation. More than 14,000 dedicated servicemen have been discharged from the military based on the legislation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This is a disgrace to our nation, and a sad reflection of the misconstrued message that people have taken from what our Constitution is really trying to tell us. We have the power to change this, and we must act now!

Stand up, come out, support your peers and celebrate this beautiful holiday! I have included some of my favorite photographs from over the years, all of which celebrate gay pride and the LGBT community. I may not be participating in homosexuality at the moment, but I am still a dedicated supporter.