Weeks 4 & 5 – Sunburnt: Winter in Miami

I used to love the long haul between Colorado and Florida. I’ve driven it over a dozen times, and it used to enchant me. These days, I’ve become a road trip curmudgeon. How do both Texas and Kansas stretch for so long? Why are southerners such awful drivers? And who the hell put KFC at every highway rest stop instead of the clearly superior Popeyes? 

The drive from Boulder to Miami wasn’t romantic. Mcgoo and I caravanned across the country, stopping only to pee or fuel up. We spent the night crammed in our driver’s seats as we attempted to sleep at a rest area right on the Kentucky/Tennessee border. This is what I looked like in the morning:

The reality of a nomadic lifestyle.

Not cute.

Ultimately, the decision to press through and just drive straight down to Miami was an excellent choice. I pulled into my familiar driveway just before midnight on Sunday evening, was greeted by hugs from my ma and a lit up (fake, ugh) Christmas tree, and quickly collapsed into my old bed.

Being in Miami for the holidays is a bit unconventional. The only white Christmas you’ll get is a sandy one, and on Christmas Eve I was out getting sunburnt while kayaking. One thing is universal though: the joy of being with family. My ‘people’ are a bunch of loud, borderline insane Cubans + Mexicans, so things tend to get a little rowdy when we’re all in the same room.

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In other news, if your pops ever asks you to wake up before the sunrise to go kayaking on the bay with him in hopes of catching a huge flock of birds waking up and taking flight–go with him.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but hot damn, what an experience. I was groggy and slow dragging my kayak out to the water, but watching the sun crest the horizon and trigger a wave of seabirds to come flying overheard was one hell of a way to wake up.

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Just before New Years, I took a solo road trip up to Ginnie Springs to shoot a camping video–sponsored by Visit Florida (#LoveFL, y’all!), the state’s tourism board. They let me invite two lady friends along, and it ended up being the perfect two days of snorkeling in crystal clear springs, canoeing down a river, eating steak around a campfire, hunting for crawdads, and reconnecting with two friends I can’t believe I went so long without seeing. But there will be another blog post about this trip on the 14th–stay tuned!

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I made it back down to Miami just in time to head out to Coconut Grove for an Indian feast at Bombay Darbar before hitting the water to watch fireworks from the boat. I had a moment while the boat skimmed along the black sea–I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so present. It was one of those heart-swelling, body tingling, shit-eating grin kinda moments.

My peace was quickly interrupted by honking party boats and my attention quickly turned to whiskey gingers, but the good vibes remained. 2016 is going to be one for the books (or rather, one for the blogs?).

What’s in my Pack? | roadtrip to miami

One of the best things about living in a van? Everything you own (and ever need) is always with you. Transitioning to life out of my big yellow van has brought along a lot of interesting changes – and accessibility to my “things” has been so hard to adjust to. Now when I’m getting ready for an adventure, I have to pack smart – which I learned after a few weeks of forgetting everything all the time.

Visiting Miami is always pleasant. I’m heading to a land of palm trees, freshly fried empanadas, my mama’s homecooking, and more sunshine that I can possibly soak up in one sitting. Spoiler alert: my favorite thing to pack was my bikini – that poor thing hasn’t been worn in ages!

So what’s in my pack?

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset+ the pack: Returning to Miami always puts me under a bit of pressure to return to my former fashionable self. My stinky, mud-caked camping packs are just not going to cut it – so I turned to the best looking bag in my arsenal: the Topo Designs Klettersack. It’s undoubtedly stylish, but I was really impressed with it’s functionality once I realized I’d be easily able to stuff everything I needed in just this single pack!

+ sunshine state gear: If there’s one thing I can count on Miami to provide, it’s sunshine. The most important thing to bring for that? My favorite pair of Rayban sunglasses – to protect my little eyes! And while my body might need sheilding from those bright rays, my Goal Zero solar pack will be perfect for soaking up the energy from the sun and keeping my iPhone charged while I’m out on the boat all day. Toss in my ENO singlenest hammock for shady naps between palm trees, and I’m set.

+ reading & writing: This trip down south is somewhat of a retreat for me – I’m using this little adventure to refresh myself after transitioning from van life to “regular” life, and it’s prime time for words (both written and read). While continuing to write my own story, I’ve been seeking inspiration and getting schooled in the art of adventure writing as I read Brendan Leonard’s “The New American Road Trip Mixtape.” It’s the best book I’ve read in years. And of course, my little Moleskine planner and laptop (in that sweet Colcasac case) provide material for scribbling down random van thoughts. 

+ the boots: Ladies, take note: Steve Madden’s Troopa boot is the only boot you’ll ever need for day-to-day wear. These certainly aren’t hike-worthy footwear, but they’re the most trusty everyday shoe I’ve ever owned. Buy yourself a pair. Does this make me a hipster? I don’t even care.

+ what to wear: I’m somewhat cheating here – I have an entire closet full of clothes in Miami, so I didn’t need to pack much. The two things I insisted on bringing were my tasc performance sports bra and leggings (not pictured). I’m gear testing them, and after over a week total of wearing the leggings and not seeing any loosening of the fabric, I’m fairly sure the folks at Tasc are up to some bamboo black magic. And I like it. Plus, Miami is the perfect place to test the matieral’s breathability.

+ sustenance: To survive a 10-hour bus ride from Tallahassee to Miami, I need snackage. I have been mega crushing on PROBAR lately, especially their blueberry fuel bars and the cookie dough protien bars. Yeah, that’s right – cookie dough protien bars. Toss a packet of Skratch Labs hydration powder into my Nalgene, and I’m ready to roll.

PS: Notice all those little balms? I’m working on a head-to-head(-to-head) review of climbing’s three best hand salves: ClimbOn!, Joshua Tree, and Giddy. Keep your eye out for the full review in a few weeks!

Are you heading out on an adventure soon?
What’s in YOUR pack?

Flying South for the Winter: Why I Spend my Holidays Roasting in Florida

The idea of holiday cheer invokes a certain mental image: sleigh rides through soft snow flurries, sipping scalding hot cocoa to cure rosy cheeks, waking up to icicles and frozen wonderlands. My version of the holidays is a bit different – the only reason you’ll have rosy cheeks is if you forget to put on sunscreen before hitting the beach.

Flying South for the Winter: Why I Spend my Holidays in MiamiTo celebrate the holidays, I always head south to Miami, Florida.

Journeying down to one of the southernmost destinations in the country started out as a quick seven-hour trip down to my hometown during my college years, but it has since become the only place I could imagine celebrating Christmas. It’s more than just seeing my family and old friends – a hot, humid holiday has become my favorite annual escape.

For the next week, I’ll be climbing at Rumbling Bald in North Carolina. It’s going to be beautiful, but I’m already dreading life in the van in freezing weather. That whole winter wonderland thing is totally void when it’s 28º in your van and you wake up with dripping sheets of frozen condensation above your head. Changing into freezing cold underpants and socks in an unheated tin tube is not a joyous occasion, folks.

But it’ll all be worth it, because at the end of the week, I’m making the 11-hour, 800 mile trek down to a place where I’ll spend Christmas Eve eating dinner under palm trees and sleeping with the windows open to catch a breeze.

This year, I’ve got a few outdoor to-dos I’d like to tick off while I’m enjoying winter in Miami:

Boating from Matheson Hammock Marina

When I return home, one of the first things I ask my dad is, “how are the boating conditions?” On a bad year, it’s just a bit too chilly and windy to hit the water – but on a good year, it’s game on. We load up the cooler with sandwiches and fruit, tow our boat out past the mangroves at Matheson Hammock, and jet out into the bay for a day of cruising. That first day of feeling the salty air rush past my face while we speed towards No Name Harbor is one of my favorite moments of freedom (in any season).

Cinnamon roll and a chocolate milkshake from Knaus Berry Farm.Strawberry Picking at Knaus Berry Farm

If you haven’t tasted a homemade cinnamon roll or sipped on a freshly blended strawberry milkshake from this charming farm down in Homestead, you haven’t lived – Knaus Berry Farm is the real deal. A world-famous destination, this family-run institution draws Saturday morning crowds that wait hours for a box of cinnamon rolls. You could catch some sunshine just by standing in line, but I like to make it an outdoors experience by enjoying my milkshake while combing through rows of strawberry bushes and picking my own. If the season is right, you can pick your own tomatoes too.

I really love Knaus Berry Farm because everything is done with old fashioned way. They only accept cash, the family bakes and harvests everything fresh, and you can taste the love in each bite.

Hiking at Everglades National Park

While winter wildlife for most might involve herds of elk and moose sightings, my wintertime animal encounters will take the form of alligators, great blue herons, and manatees. There won’t be any elevation gains during hikes through the swampy terrain, but the sunshine is still enough to make you break quite a sweat. While I adore mountainous landscapes, there’s something special about the tropical waterfront scenery at the Everglades.

Bonus points: Stop at the historic Robert Is Here fruit stand on the way to the park for excellent milkshakes and local produce. You can even knock out some last-minute gift shopping with a large selection of locally made jams, dressings, and edibles.

Biking in Coconut Grove

For years, the first thing I did upon returning to Miami was hopping in my little hatchback and taking a drive down the canopied Old Cutler Road. It’s a fairytale roadway lined with enormous Banyan trees that often create an enclosed tunnel over the pavement. These days, the idea of wasting all that gas seems a bit rude, so I’m trading four wheels for two and riding my bike down my favorite scenic drive. Along the way, Wayside Market provides the ideal pit stop to cool down and refresh.

Napping in my hammock is my favorite outdoor recreation in Miami.Napping in a Hammock

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the most adventurous activity on my winter holiday itinerary – but this is a crucial to-do. Especially enjoyable in the late afternoon when the sun begins to ease up a bit, there’s nothing that relaxes me quite like a long nap on the hammock that sits beside my pool. This is also an excellent opportunity to reflect on all the folks up north who are shoveling snow from their driveway. Ha! 

* Y’all, I’m noticing a trend here – I really like adventures that involve making stops for milkshakes and snacks. Oops!

For most people, winter holiday travel is a suitcase jammed with puff jackets, wool scarves, and thick thermals. For me, it means not forgetting to pack a swimsuit.

Spending the holidays in shorts and sandals isn’t exactly the conventional way to celebrate the season, but boats, hammocks, and beaches have become my version of an annual tradition. It wouldn’t be Christmas if it wasn’t in Miami. My yearly adventure to my hometown has become a sultry solace in a season I otherwise spend shivering and bundled up begging for warmth. Plus, seeing Santa in swim trunks and a Hawaiian shirt is just too good.

Where do YOU head for the holidays?
Do you flock towards snowy destinations, or escape to the south?

*This post sponsored by Nature Valley.

Saying Goodbye to my Hometown – My Send-Off Party in Miami

When planning out all the emotional highs I’d experience during a year of outdoor exploration, climbing, and living in a van, I forgot to calculate for one very important factor: the pain of saying goodbye.

I don’t do goodbyes. I often just avoid them, replacing the finality of a farewell with the ambiguity of a more hopeful “see you later!” Let’s face it: Goodbyes just suck. No matter how you slice or dice it, there is nothing fun about leaving what you love.

Last weekend, Niko and I drove down to Miami for one final week of boating, fresh seafood, sleeping in hammocks on my patio, and the best send-off party a gal could ever imagine. Our climber buddies McGoo and Bo joined us for the weekend, and I was surprised by a visit from my not-really-Uncle John, who flew in from New York for the festivities.

As much as I gripe about Miami, its ferocious drivers, and the bad attitude that radiates from the core of the city, I am going to miss my hometown more than I expected. We hit up all my favorite foodie spots during the week, including empanadas and café con leches from Ruben’s Cuban, fresh conch fritters and a Miami Vice (with an extra rum shooter, of course) from Monty’s Raw Bar in Coconut Grove, and divine sushi from Sea Siam.

I bid farewell to my family’s boat with one last outing on the bay. The weather was less than favorable, so we cruised up the Miami River to avoid any gusty winds or rocky seas. We toasted with beer and whiskey, docked along the river for fried calamari and oysters at Casa Blanca’s, and eventually made our way back to Matheson Hammock Marina. The crew sailing along the Miami River during my farewell visit to my hometown.

The highlight of the trip was the enormous going-away party my parents threw the night before we hit the road. An unlikely cacophony of neighbors, family, childhood friends, co-workers, and college cohorts converged upon the Boué abode for a wild evening. There was a lot of gin, beer, wine, and merrymaking.

My favorite FSU ladies, Marisa and Brooke, drove to Miami to surprise me at my going-away party - love them!

Niko gets 100+ boyfriend points for being such a good sport during the party. My entire family came out for the celebration, which means he had the insane experience of meeting 40+ crazy Cubans in one shot. He totally endured multiple “if you don’t take care of her, we will kill you” conversations, haha!

My three best college friends even drove from Key West, Tampa, and Cocoa Beach to come surprise me at my party. It was such a great surprise, I haven’t seen those ladies in years!

We parked the van out in the backyard where we usually store the boat, and I lit it up with a few extra candles – it was totally the star of the show. I felt like a tour guide showing partygoers around in my little mobile home.The van perched out where we keep the boat in MIami. Niko and I clearly feeling the booze buzz at my going-away party in Miami.

In the morning, I postponed my true goodbyes for as long as possible, and finally bid a teary “see you later,” to my family, and my pup rusty. No way around it, it sucked. It was hard pulling away from my house, it was hard passing by all my favorite trees on the way out of Miami, it was hard to accept that I’m not coming back for at least a year.

But hell, the big journey is about to begin,
there’s really no time for sadness right now.

Announcing a bittersweet shift from snowy Colorado mountaintops to humid Floridian flatlands

If you haven’t figured it out by now, my life is a constantly evolving adventure. It’s taken me from the shores of the Atlantic to the rocky cliffs of the Pacific, from lazy living in Tallahassee to a spontaneous move out to Denver, and on more whimsical outings that I can remember.

And along my journeys,
there is always an element of constant change.

As with many of my announcements, this may not come as a shock to those who chat with me frequently, but may come as a surprise to many of my readers. It is with a heavy, bittersweet heart that I announce:

I’m leaving Colorado next week.

But I just got here. After a very short six months of living, exploring, and adventuring in and around Denver, Colorado, I am packing up my meager belongings and preparing to return to the southeast.

But I just got here! I roughed out the frigid winter months, braved my first snow season, and here I am, gearing up to ditch the Rockies right before the spring sets in. The gorgeous warm months in Colorado are part of the reason I moved out here, and now I’m leaving before it even begins. Sigh.As my lady friend Gina Bégin discovered during her own unexpected move, part of being a full-time adventurer is rolling with the punches – whether you feel particularly fond towards those punches or not. A combination of losing some freelance markets while LivingSocial ‘rethinks’ their business strategy, and coming upon a project in South Florida that I feel truly passionate about influenced my decision to pack up and head ‘home.’

These next few weeks will be an absolutely whirlwind for me. In two short days, eight of my climbing buddies from Tallahassee will be visiting for their spring break – which means a lot of climbing, and not a lot of time to prepare for moving. If I survive the week, Niko and I will be driving from Denver to Florida on March 9th. I’ll then spend a few weeks in Tallahassee preparing for the annual Save the South competition at Tally Rock Gym before finally trekking down to Miami to unload my carload of junk.

So what comes next?

After my frantic move across the country, I’ll be alternating between bouts of working in Miami and traveling around the southeast for climbing. I’ve already got an April ladies’ trip in the works; a week or so of camping and climbing in Tennessee and Georgia, followed by a ‘writer’s retreat’ in Chattanooga while shacking up at The Crash Pad. Other than that, I plan on spending the rest of the year training for climbing.

And naturally, a few cross-country road trips for conferences, outdoor expos, and generally adventuring are also on the agenda – but you’ll just have to stay tuned for those.

Send good travel vibes, I’m certainly going to need them!

Help save the future of the historical Matheson Hammock in Miami, Florida

My childhood was built on bike rides through mangroves, picnics beneath an old limestone fort, sandy sunning along a coast inlet, and boating excursions – all enjoyed at Matheson Hammock Park & Marina. One of the outdoor staples residents of ritzy South Florida, this slice of nature offers an escape from the surrounding mansions and 5 o’clock traffic jams along Old Cutler. For now.

The sanctutary (for humans and wildlife alike) at Matheson Hammock is gravely endangered.

It recently came to light that Miami-Dade County awarded a private company the rights to construct an enormous 5-story boat warehouse in the park – and the folks who cherish Matheson simply won’t have it. Obviously thinking with their calculators instead of their souls, the county selfishly allowed for a potentially disastrous edifice to be built.

Why is this boat warehouse such a horrible idea? Well aside from the giant eyesore that will forever change the skyline, this facility will have a monstrous impact on the community and park. The once peaceful destination will become crowded with traffic to and from the storage warehouse, and if you’ve ever taken a drive down Old Cutler at rush hour, you know how torturous congestion is on those roads. Not to mention the noise pollution, the potential for run-off and introducing harmful chemicals into a delicate ecosystem.

As a park enthusiast, I am outraged by the idea of my beautiful mangrove landscapes becoming defaced by a looming structure, and I am livid at the thought of my favorite raccoon family slurping on water tainted by the extra pollution introduced by the warehouse and extra flock of boats within. As a boater, I can’t even fathom the idea of the marina becoming any more crowded than it already is on any given sunny morning. I have to wonder if those in favor of this storage facility have ever been to the park on a warm Saturday – do they really think there is capacity for more people/boats?

So what can you do to save Matheson Hammock Park?

First, and foremost, you can sign the petition against the boat warehouse. Then, you can share it with all your friends. While the City of Coral Gables is infamous for making any home renovation permits a nightmare, it’s also well-known for it’s excellent history of listening to the people. Unlike the county, the city is truly concerned for the welfare and well-being of its residents. Contact the City of Coral Gables, and let them know how you feel about the future of Matheson Hammock.

You can also ‘like’ “Save Our Matheson Hammock Park” on Facebook, so you can keep up with all the updates and happenings. Finally, you can watch and share this video, which provides an excellent view of the park, and illustrates why Matheson is such a vital lifeline for our community and environment:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/35111675]

Still not convinced? Check out this blog for ten photographic reasons to save Matheson Hammock.

Take a bite out of this traditional Cuban Feast

How’s that for a Christmas Eve meal? Celebrating holidays with a bite of Cuban fare is my favorite family tradition. Tonight’s menu included my abuela’s famous black beans and rice, homemade pulled pork, fresh avocado salad, garlic yucca, sweet plantains coated with brown sugar, roasted chicken, and a platter of lime wedges.

Food like this will always keep me coming home for the holidays.

Happy Holidays from hot and humid Miami, Florida

Loyal readers, fellow bloggers, and travelers across the world – Happy Holidays to you and yours! I’m enjoying a little escape from the snowy streets of Denver, Colorado for a few weeks of sweet Floridian sunshine. My Christmas festivities involve a traditional Cuban noche buena feast, served beneath tall palm trees on my parents’ warm patio – I hope everyone is enjoying lots of warmth and family cheer where ever this holiday finds you.

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Join me for a month-long trip down to sunny Florida and the southeast – if I can figure out how to pack…

After two cross-country climbing trips, one epic seven-week solo trip, and countless excursions around the country, you’d think I’d be a seasoned expert when it comes to packing my bags and gearing up for traveling – but this upcoming trip has me stumped. I’ve grown so accustomed to road tripping that the idea of fitting everything I need in a small suitcase and backpack is befuddling. Not to mention that this will be the first time I’m traveling via airplane in over two years.

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be boarding at plane at Denver International Airport to head south like a migrating goose escaping the cold. My first stop will be a brief layover in Atlanta, then I’ll hop another flight that will leave me in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The plan from there is to scoop drinks on the bay with my dad, then make the short drive home to Miami – to do lots of this:

I’ll be spending the first ten days of my trip in my hometown of Miami, sipping cocktails while tanning by the pool, feasting on real Cuban cuisine, hiking through the Everglades, and catching up on all the sunshine I’ve been missing. After Christmas, Niko will be driving down from Tampa to spend a few nights in Miami before whisking me away to the panhandle. We’ll make a pitstop in Tampa for a night, then it’s off to Tallahassee for two weeks of hanging with hipsters – and copious amounts of time spent at Tally Rock Gym.

Somewhere in all that Floridian exploration, Niko and I hope to find time for a climbing trip somewhere in the southeast. Chattanooga, Alabama, Georgia, who knows.

Follow my travels in real time on Twitter @themorningfresh!
and stay tuned to The Morning Fresh for adventure updates, photos, and more. [Read more…]

Boating to Key Largo, dolphin pods in the bay, and conch fritters at Alabama Jacks.

When reflecting on what I’ll miss about my fleeting time in Miami, spending time out on the boat is one of the biggest contenders. Propelling across the bay with nothing but the sun and the air and the salt affords for a true escape from the realities waiting at the dock. Our family boat, unofficially named the Rusty Bucket, is no sprawling yacht — just a cozy vessel for trips to the Upper Keys, and rides up the Miami River.

On this particular excursion, I accompanied my parents on a day trip down to Key Largo for lunch at a local gem, called Alabama Jacks. This joint embodied everything that the Keys represent; it was dirty, salty, full of beer, and offered finger-lickin’ grub all afternoon long. The elder Boue’s were pumped on the idea of chowing down at Alabama Jacks, but I had never experienced it before, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride down from Matheson Hammock in Miami.

The restaurant sits perched along a bank of Card Sound — basically at the base of the Keys, to give perspective to anyone who has had the pleasure of taking the beautiful drive down through the islands. The wood planks surrounding the establishment are mismatched and sloppily painted; this place has boater dive bar written all over it. We docked the boat along the side of the restaurant, and took the best table at the house in the back corner overlooking the water.


We ordered a combo platter with fried Mahi fingers, piles of conch fritters, crispy crab cakes, french fries smothered in cheese, and homemade potato salad. Served in a messy heap of seafood glory, everything was absolutely delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of oysters, clams, or conch, but the fritters at Alabama Jacks were too outrageous to resist. The conch was perfectly breaded and had an addicting crunch as you munched away. Top it all off with a cold beer, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.


While I deeply enjoyed my down-home, no-frills experience at Alabama Jacks, I would highly recommend that any visit to the area be taken via watercraft. Whether you roll up in a mega yacht, humble fishing vessel, or even a seaworthy canoe, half of the overall vibe felt at this restaurant is fostered by interaction with the water you sit perched above while getting your fill of seafood and salty air. Driving down to load up on conch fritters would likewise be enjoyable, but traffic and pavement shadow in comparison to a seaside ride.


On the way back to town, we encountered a pod of about six dolphins powering their way up the channel. We spent a few minutes chasing them around so I could get a good shot, and of course during the sole moment of perfectly exposed hind flukes from a dolphin just a few feet from the boat, I had put my camera in my lap to wipe the lens and missed the ideal opportunity. Here’s the next best shot:

Sadly, it will be at least until the next warm season that I’ll have a chance to head out on the boat again. I’ll be leaving on a six week solo trip on September 1, and won’t be back in Miami until the winter – which means no boat for me. In the meantime, I’ll have to get my fill of fresh air up in the mountains.