Crag Dog Adventures in Utah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were stuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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So, I didn’t go to Indian Creek – but here’s what I did do in Moab (a panoramic perspective)

After all that oh-my-goodness-Indian-Creek hype I built last weekend, I didn’t even end up going there at all while I was in Moab – oops. I guess that’s what I get for posting previews of adventures on the blog. I did however learn some awesome tips for building a tape glove from The Alpine Hack – so it wasn’t a total loss.

The main reason for our jaunt to Moab was to meet up with a few old Tallahassee buddies for a weekend of desert rope climbing. The original destination was Indian Creek, but as word got out about how many folks were planning to take advantage of the weekend’s impeccable conditions, our buddies quickly bailed on the idea of waiting in massive lines to shimmy up a crack. So, we stayed closer to Moab instead.

Before our cohorts arrived, we were able to spend a few days exploring with Beth and Forrest from 3UpAdventures. I have admired their travels (and sweet rigs) for the longest time, so it was great finally being able to meet up with them. I was cooped up at the Lazy Lizard Hostel to host an #ATQA chat when I got a tweet from Beth: “If you want to do a quick hike we can run up Hidden Valley after #ATQA this afternoon. I’m staying right by the trailhead.” Why, yes, yes I did want to do a quick hike!

We met up with Beth, Forrest, and their awesome pup Sprocket, then headed out to towards the trailhead around 4:30. I huffed and puffed my way up a steep and beautiful trail that took us to the top of a ridge where a hidden valley (hence the trail name) opened up to a sprawling area full of petroglyphs, desert fauana, and stunning views. PS: Beth did a great write-up of our hike!

A view of the Hidden Valley trail.
A view from the highest point of our Hidden Valley hike with Beth and Forrest.

Turns out, our “quick little hike” was actually a 7.5 mile excursion with nearly 900 feet of elevation gain. Drained from our outing, our crew headed to the Moab Brewery to refuel on burgers, burritos, and beer. We planned a Jeep adventure for the next day, but Niko and I awoke to rain pattering the roof of our Sprinter – so we decided to head to Arches National Park instead.

Beth gladly joined us for our spontaneous National Park date, and we formulated our day’s plan on the fly with a bit of advice from the park rangers. I hiked Devil’s Garden on my first visit to Arches, so we decided to see something new. Beth had never seen Sand Dune Arch or Broken Arch, so we headed there first. The hike was short and sweet, leaving us with plenty of time to trek out to the iconic Delicate Arch, which I had never visited.

Broken Arch looms from high above Arches National Park in Moab.
The legendary Delicate Arch, perhaps one of the most iconic images of Moab.

After a few days of playing outdoors with Beth and Forrest, our climbing companions finally arrived in Moab, and we set off to tackle some sandstone walls. Our ultimate destination ended up being Wall Street on Potash Road, one of my favorite roadside crags in America. The weekend was full of happenings: Niko led his first trad climbs, I was once again defeated on a stupid-easy slab that wrecked me during my first visit to Moab, and I realized once and for all that I am a boulderer. Niko treats it like a shameful thing, like I’m not a real climber if I don’t prefer rope over bouldering, but I’m a-okay with it. I prefer bouldering. So what!

While I love meeting new people and visiting new places, it was great reuniting with old friends in a familiar place. I was totally at ease the entire weekend, and got to enjoy the company of two ladies – which is a great occasion for a gal who exists mostly among dirtbag men. There was even a funny moment when my friend Lauren announced she was driving up a few miles to go to the bathroom – and even though we didn’t particularly need to go, Jamie and I both jumped in the car with her. I guess girls really do like to pee in packs, ha!

Wall Street on Potash Road, one of the coolest roadside climbing areas of all time.
Niko climbs a mega crack at Wall Street on Potash Road in Moab.
PS: See that tiny lightly-colored dot in the middle of that epic crack? Yeah, that’s Niko. 

After two of our crew left to head back to Salt Lake City, we spent a few more days lounging in the desert backcountry with the remainder of our tribe. Wet weather kept us from doing any more climbing, so we busied ourselves by taking long overdue showers, hanging by a campfire, and drinking wine in the van.

Finally, the time came for Niko and I to return to Joe’s Valley. We’ve only been back a few days, but I am already stoked to crush some new projects. I got surprisingly far on a V7 called “G207,” and am determined to hop back on another V7 in New Joe’s called “Chips.” There are a few more unfinished projects I need to crush, but my main pysche is on the development of new areas spearheaded by Steven Jeffery, who is currently working on a new guidebook. Niko got the first ascent of a V7 which ended up being named Slot Cart, and I snagged a first ascent onsight of a V3 yesterday – which I have yet to come up with a name for. We’ve been bushwacking, crossing freezing rivers, and having a blast helping Steven develop new climbs in Joe’s. Stay tuned for more on that! 

Gettin’ in over my head: I’m heading to climb cracks in Indian Creek for the weekend!

Here’s a not-so-secret confession: I am not the best rope climber. I’m not quite sure what it is, but as soon as I have a rope tied to my harness and some gear dangling from my hips, my climbing skills degrade severely and my mental stability goes out the window. I am shamefully a pebble-pushing pansy. There, I said it.

My lackluster rope skills are part of the reason why I’m a little intimidated to announce what I’ll be doing this weekend:

I’m going crack climbing in Indian Creek!

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page.)

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page – click through to see more!)

Here are a few more confessions: I have never climbed a proper crack outdoors (unless you count a few bouldering cracks I climbed at Boat Rock in Georgia), nor have I ever climbed trad. Basically, I am going to be in way over my head this weekend. I’m totally petrified about my first attempt at hauling my little body up a towering crack – but I know it’s going to be a great learning experience. My hands will be shredded, my footwork will be schooled, and I have no doubts that the fellas will be laughing at me many times throughout the weekend.

Haley Dahle rocking the art of crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom Facebook page.)

Haley Dahle crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom FB page.)

Luckily, the lovely Haley Dahle from ClimbRunLiftMom will also be heading to Indian Creek this weekend, so I’m looking forward to meeting up with her and soothing my bruised ego over a campfire accompanied by some whiskey. She is a total fanatic for the impressive crack climbing at Indian Creek, so I’m hoping to soak up some of her expertise and confidence to help me in my pursuit of becoming a crack climber.

For me, this is one of those situations where you really just have to be honest and upfront with yourself about pushing limits and taking things easy. Do I plan on leading a bad ass 5.11 trad crack this weekend? Absolutely not. Will I be 100% satisfied with myself when I top-rope a 5.9 crack for the first time? You better believe it. Sometimes, you have to be okay with taking baby steps – and there is no shame in that.

Frankly, I’ll be beside myself with pride if I even place a single piece of trad gear on my own this weekend. What would be ideal is if I could teleport through time to the Chicks Climbing clinic at Indian Creek on the weekend May 1st, learn a thing or two about the finer techniques behind crack climbing, then return to the present to show hold my own and hang with the big boys. But alas, I’ll just have to wing it.

Have you been climbing at Indian Creek? I’m all ears to any tips, recommended routes, advice on taping my hands, whatever you’ve got to throw my way! 

PS: Since I’ll be deep in the desert until Monday, you should expect me to be totally disconnected this weekend. I’ll catch up on all the comments, tweets, and e-mails after my first crack climbing adventure – and you can look forward to some stories and photos acting as evidence of my inevitable fumbling, faces of terror, and bloody knuckles. While I’m gone, make sure to enter my giveaway for a package of Premier Protein energy bars and shakes!

An adventurous road-tripper’s top 10 travel moments of 2011

What travel blog would be complete without a year-end review of the best travel experiences from 2011? As I begin to daydream of all the amazing adventures that 2012 has waiting around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on the outrageous and memorable times I had on the road this year. Every moment spent road tripping across America is held dearly, but these ten moments stick out above the rest.

10. Escaping for a week of relaxation in the mountains around Hendersonville, North Carolina

My seven-week September solo trip deserves a big mention, but the leg of my adventure that deserves the biggest accolades is the week I spent lounging around Hendersonville, North Carolina. My ex-girlfriend’s mother invited me to stay at her charming country home, and I spent the week sampling the area’s best cuisine, picking apples at an orchard, dancing the night away at a climbing buddy’s wedding in Flat Rock, and exploring the mountainous region of Brevard.

My solo trip commenced with a rough patch of personal heartache, so this miniature escape truly assisted in establishing up the positive vibes that I carried throughout the remainder of my travels.

9. Celebrating my 23rd birthday boating on Lake Dillon in Frisco, Colorado

My solo trip ended just days before my 23rd birthday, and in true girly fashion, I was determined to make my celebration one to remember. Having freshly transplanted myself and my belongings to Denver, Colorado, I wanted to capitalize on my new surroundings. After browsing potential ideas like a pedal-yourself beer wagon, we settled on renting a pontoon boat on Lake Dillon. The drive out to Frisco was absolutely gorgeous, as was the entire day of mountainside boating. I discovered my new favorite whiskey, vanilla-infused Phillips Union, and our crew downed countless cans of beer while we cruised around the frigid lake.

Having been raised boating on the warm waters in Miami, this Colorado lake experience introduced me to a whole new style of waterfront fun – no sandy beaches around, this day was all about mountain peaks and snow forest landscapes.

8. A wild hike up a muddy cliffside during a rainy day at Boulder Canyon in Colorado

This was one of those totally unplanned, totally unpredicted experiences that taught me the value of relinquishing control and embracing the idea of getting very, very dirty. On our way to what we thought was a sport climbing area, a group of cohorts and I scrambled up a steep, chossy cliff that led to frequent falling rock calls, one very bloody knee, and more dirt caked underneath my fingernails that I could ever imagine – but it was too much fun.

I was skeptical about the messy scramble at first, since I was carrying my beloved Nikon camera and equipment in my pack, but after a sprinkle of rain turned our dirty hike into slushy chaos, all bets were off. I returned to the car slathered in mud, and spent the evening picking sticky burrs out of my hair – but again, too much fun.

7. Watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon in Arizona

As the final ‘big’ stop on my post-graduation road trip with Niko in May, we made a pit stop at Grand Canyon National Park – but our original intentions didn’t involve a sunrise. Niko had been dying to see the sunset, so we raced our way along barren roads to catch the sun before it dipped beyond the rim of the canyon. Literally missing the sunset by three minutes, we decided to spend the night in the nearby tourist town so we could watch the sunrise.

After spending a very uncomfortable night sleeping in a hotel parking lot, Niko roused me from my catatonic state and we returned to the park. This time we made sure to arrive well before the sun, and were pleasantly surprised to find the area was nearly deserted – I guess the 5 AM wakeup call for the sunrise is reserved for only the most diehard adventurers. I was cranky and cold, but I ended up with one of my favorite Niko photos of all time.

6. Pitching my tent at Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park

This campground, located inside Yosemite Valley, is one of the most legendary watering holes for famous climbers. It was inspiring to camp at the same spot that housed icons like Lynne Hill and Ron Kauk – Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia even used to sell homemade gear from the camp’s parking lot.

Everything from waking up at 6:00 in the morning to queue in line for camp registration to the rusty bear-proof food lockers and name tags we had to tie on our tents for the ranger check-ins combined to create this inspiring air of climbing confidence and community vibes that spread throughout the grounds. I woke up in the morning pumped to climb some Yosemite granite.

5. My first sport climb at Sandrock in Alabama

An avid climber from the moment my fingertips first grazed the plastic holds at Tallahassee Rock Gym, it was a damn shame that I had never sport climbed until August 2011. Two years into my climbing obsession, I finally embarked on a sport climbing trip to a beautiful crag called Sandrock near Steele, Alabama.

The exhilaration of clipping into the anchors at the top of my first lead was only rivaled by the experience of sleeping out beneath the stars atop the rock formations at the mountain summit, and waking up to explosive hues of sunrise. It was one of the moments that cemented my adoration for the outdoors and living in nature – although the chiggers that infested my bellybutton on this trip weren’t the best reminder of why I love living in nature.

4. Getting a taste of desert life in Moab, Utah

Anyone who has asked me about my travels in 2011 has heard an earful about my infatuation with Moab. Niko and I spent a week living in the desert in May, when we came to visit our two buddies who spent the summer working as river guides in Moab. I became enthralled with the lifestyle of these dirty, leather-skinned desert people.

Over the course of a very short week, I photographed beautiful roadside climbs at Potash, hiked through Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park, ate sandy campfire food alongside my fellow tent-dwellers at the Lazy Lizard Hostel, and met some of the most amazing people I have ever encountered while traveling – Josephine, Paul, Chelsey, and Mike, I’m talkin’ to you.

Seriously, you must visit Moab. It is my most highly recommended destination.

3. A weekend at Still Mountain Retreat in Willits, California

After weeks of vagabonding throughout Moab and Yosemite, Niko and I readily accepted an invitation to join some friends for a relaxing weekend retreat at family cabins tucked high in the mountains near Willits, California. The entire weekend was a fantastic blur of great homemade food, excursions into the woods and nearby waterfall, and peaceful time spent in great company.

Niko and I stayed in a small cabin with an attic-like entrance to the second-story sleeping area – which inspired notions of simple living and small spaces.  It was so refreshing to experience this place tucked away from civilization, where all that mattered was when the next shuffleboard tournament would take place.

2. Driving into the mountains on I-25 on my way to Denver, Colorado

My September solo trip concluded with a final haul down to Miami to load up my hatchback with my belongings before returning to Denver to move-in. The push back to Colorado from Florida was grueling with a jam-packed car, but as I finally hit the Rockies after driving through hours of flatlands, I was overwhelmed by the most intense feeling of pure joy I have ever felt. My music was blasted at full volume, all windows were rolled down, and I literally burst out with ecstatic squeals as I wound my way through the beautiful mountains that would soon become home.

1. Camping solo for the first time at Lake Barkley State Park in Cadiz, Kentucky

Of all my travels throughout 2011, there is one experience that shines above the rest. My first night spent camping solo was a huge milestone for me as an independent traveler. While I spent seven weeks on a solo road trip, the first night of successfully pitching my tent, building a fire, and surviving the wilderness through daybreak was easily my biggest accomplishment.

My evening was spent at Lake Barkley State Park, a tranquil slice of outdoors paradise sitting near the town of Cadiz in rural Kentucky. Family and fans of my adventures had been dreading this day since the beginning of my trip, but I approached the evening with a calm attitude and wound up having a great night tending to my fire and basking in the peace of solitude. My first experience camping solo left me with overwhelming sentiments that I can handle anything my travels throw my way – and I don’t need anyone’s help to do it.

What are your top travel moments from 2011?
If you’ve got a link to your own blog post, I’d love for you to share it below in the comments section! You can also tweet pics and links to @themorningfresh, or share your experiences on The Morning Fresh Facebook page.

My Travels A to Z – Cross country car-dwelling, French wine, Grand Canyon sunrises, and everything in between

A playful trend is circulating the travel blogosphere, and I couldn’t resist partaking in the fun. First discovered on Adventurous Kate’s blog, then found again on No Onions Extra Pickles, I was easily enamored by this great little survey of travel experiences. Covering every letter from A to Z, this ABCs of adventuring offers a glimpse into my lifestyle as a diehard explorer. I invite all my readers to participate as well, I’d love to read your responses.

Enjoy this little slice of insight into the travels and adventures of Katie Boué.

A: Age you went on your first international trip:

I was three years old, and I flew from my birthplace of New York City to down to Mexico City for my cousin’s wedding. – My mom tells me I was the life of the party, dancing with the groom, my ‘Uncle’ Danny, until the band stopped playing around 3:00 AM. Apparently, upon seeing the musicians packing up their gear, I loudly protested, “¡mas musica!”

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

Easily, my favorite foreign beer is Bulmers/Magners from Europe – specifically the ones drank at the Chez Net Café in Villefranche sur Mer in France. It’s honestly more of a cider, but the apple and pear varieties were my beverage of choice during my summers spent exploring the Mediterranean coast.

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Cuban food – but that’s a given. When I’m traveling away from Miami, Cuban food is always one of the things I miss the most about home. Nothing beats abuela’s black beans and authentic Havana cooking, but I do have a few favorite joints to pick up Cuban fare when Mama can’t feed me. When I’m in Miami, I always have to make a stop at Ruben’s Cuban for beef empanadas, café con leche, and chicken noodle soup. One of my favorite dishes in the world can be found at Cuba Cuba in Denver, CO – if you’ll believe it. The puerco frito, piña coladas, and freshly made mojitos are not to be missed. It’s one of the few places I’ll willingly spend a ridiculous amount of money at.

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

That is an impossible question to answer. Some of my recent favorites include Moab, UT, and Yosemite National Park, especially the experience of staying at the legendary Camp 4 for a night – but I also adore the southern coast of France, Alaska, any climbing destination in the southeast United States, and the Pacific coasts near Monterrey. Perhaps my least favorite is Merced, California. I don’t think I’ve ever truly disliked a place I’ve traveled to, but Merced wasn’t anything to write home about. Plus, the highway entrances and exits didn’t have traffic lights, only stop signs.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

I am by no means a person of faith, but my first experience practicing yoga was the closest thing ever I’ve had to a religious experience. I went during my solo trip in September 2011, while I was enjoying a week of relaxation in the mountains of Hendersonville, North Carolina. My host’s neighbor owns a yoga studio in the little downtown area, and invited me to partake in a complimentary session. The spiritual meditation, breathing, deep poses, and general overwhelming sense of peace were fantastic. I have never felt such strong emotions. During a time of my life that was filled with a lot of doubt, over-thinking, and mental exhaustion, the yoga experience I had at Brightwater Yoga Studio inspired an inner metamorphosis that I carried with me throughout the remainder of my seven week solo trip.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

I am smitten with the idea of train travel, and adore railroads, train tracks, stations, and anything locomotive – but really, my preferred method of travel is by personal car. I am a road tripper through and through, and I love the convenience of living out of my familiar and comfortable vehicle.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

Spontaneously veering off a rural highway exit just to take a random picture of some unique relic of farm life, or the feeling of hiking until the point of exhaustion, then finally reaching a beautiful overlook or body of water that makes the panting, sweat, and side cramps worth all the effort.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

During my first climbing road trip in 2010, we stopped for breakfast at The Egg & I outside of Denver, Colorado. Niko protested the idea of spending more money eating out, but the rest of us insisted on gorging ourselves with breakfast grub. Upon hearing that Niko was refraining from ordering, our waiter conspired with the manager to present Niko with a beautiful little plate with a hot, buttered muffin and some freshly cut fruit – on the house. I was so impressed by their kindness.

J: Journey that took the longest:

It always seems to take a painful amount of time to return to Florida from the west. I think the return leg of any road trip feels the longest; the thrill of adventure that made the first part of the trip is now quelled, and by the end of trips you’re always eager to get home to a hot shower and a familiar bed. During our May 2011 cross-country trip, Niko and I were miserable from the Grand Canyon to Florida. Texas seems to be the longest state in the country when you have to drive straight across it with no exciting destination ahead.

K: Keepsake from your travels:

Having embraced the beginnings of a vagabond lifestyle, I’ve begun to resist the temptations to buy keepsakes. Instead, I collect snippets from our experiences. My favorite box full of memories is from my five-week climbing trip with Niko. I have all the brochures from the national parks we visited, our tent tag from Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, a little snail shell found on the shore of Stinson Beach, etc. These hold much greater value and meaning for me than a mug or magnet.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:

This one is easy. After Niko and I spent a week climbing in Yosemite, we headed to the bay area to check out San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and my favorite destination along the Pacific Coast Highway, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Visiting the fishy facility when I was younger living in California was the catalyst to my infatuation with jellyfish, and this aquarium has the most impressive jelly exhibit I’ve ever been to. Niko and I took the long drive down the coast to the aquarium, and gladly paid the hefty admission fees – only to discover that the jellyfish section was closed off for renovations. I was incredibly disappointed, and even begged one of the staff members to let me in anyways.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

During my first outdoor climbing trip to Little Rock City (also known as Stone Fort) near Dixon, Tennessee. Having only just become acquainted with the sport indoors, this excursion into the mountains thrust me head first into the world of camping, cooking in the woods, sleeping on crash pads, and immersing yourself into the natural surroundings that envelop climbing crags. After just one trip, I was hooked.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Hotels? Ha! If I stay in hotels, they’re usually the cheapest thing I can get my hands on. I will give credit to the Excalibur in Las Vegas. After spending weeks vagabonding in Yosemite and car camping in California, a night in a proper hotel room felt like staying in a palace – even if it was the cheapest lodging on the strip.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

I am obsessed with photography in general – but there are definitely a few subjects that never cease to catch my attention. Bugs, creatures, and unique plant life are amongst my favorites, but food photos are always fun. And of course, I love photographing climbers and everything involving the climbing lifestyle.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

Hm, I travel domestically for the most part – my passport stamps are limited to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. Hopefully in 2013 I’ll be able to add Portugal to that list – but honestly, my heart lies in America.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

This one is stumping me. Quirky isn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps Fantasy Fest in Key West qualifies. The throngs of fairy-winged queers, nude elderly folks, intoxicated young people, and every unconventional individual that could make their way to the southernmost point converge upon Duval Street for a weekend of wild ruckus and outlandish tomfoolery. As I recall, I began the night dressed as a school girl, then ended my evening shirtless, covered in fake blood, and rebranded as a zombie victim.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

There are so many. Watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, queuing up in line at 6:00 AM to reserve a spot for a night at the climber’s haven of Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, getting a taste of desert life in Moab, sunning topless on the shores of southern France.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Food, I will always spend my money on food. A hearty meal is one of the best things in the world after returning from a stint in the wilderness. I love campfire cooking, but sometimes a platter of succulent sushi just can’t be beat. Plus, there’s no clean up when you eat out.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

I’ve always wanted to follow the signs for “The World’s Largest Prairie Dog” that line I-70 in Kansas, but I’ve never given into my inklings. The most touristy thing I’ve actually done is probably making the winding drive down Lombard Street in San Francisco. The line leading up to this street of urban switchbacks is worse than Denver rush hour traffic, and it’s so hokey to drive down the flower-lined ‘street.’ Gorgeous scene to take pictures of, but totally pointless to actually make the effort of driving down.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

The first night I camped solo. I stayed at the Lake Barkley State Park campground in Kentucky, with only three other campers in the entire area – none of whom were in tents. I felt so accomplished cracking open a beer after rebuilding my fire pit, starting my own fire – sans lighter fluid, pitching my tent, cooking dinner, and kicking back to survey my hard work. Later, I set a branch on fire and danced around the pit a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. I am woman.

V: Visas, how many and for where?

Just one, a little family visa when I traveled to England when I was younger.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Again, the winner is Villefranche sur Mer, in France – particularly the Chez Net Internet Café. My countless nights spent boozing with Brits at this cheeky café introduced me to the world of rosé wine, but really, any wine will do in France. I believe my bottle of choice was Cote du Rhones, which cost a budget-friendly two Euros per bottle.

X: eXcellent view and from where?:

The view from the anchors atop Misty (5.10d) in Sandrock near LaFayette, Alabama. Climbing this beautiful lead route was unnerving, although easily within my abilities. I fought my way through anxiety and self-doubt towards the top of the intimidating rock face, and when I finally reached the top I looked behind me and was dazzled to discover this gorgeous forest landscape illuminated by the setting sun. I had been so preoccupied with the challenging rock in front of me that I hardly noticed the natural scenery behind my back. The view really added to the experience of completing the climb.
Y: Years spent traveling?:

I’ve been traveling the entire 23 years of my life, sometimes in heavier spurts than others – all thanks to my adventurous parents who dragged me all over the world while I was young. My independent travel pursuits really picked up when I found my passion for rock-climbing in 2009. Climbing trips opened the doors to my adoration of camping, road trips, and the vagabond lifestyle.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:

Crazy climbers in Moab, Utah. Lounging around the Lazy Lizard Hostel led to overhearing nothing but conversations about new crags, tricky beta, the next day’s climbing adventures, and of course, the beautiful Steph Davis. Every male in the hostel was smitten with the huge poster of this female climbing icon that hung on the hostel refrigerator. It was nearly overwhelming to be thrust into such an engaged and passionate community of diehard climbers.

A Rainy Afternoon of Climbing at the ‘Ninja Training Camp’ Cave in Moab, Utah

Like a bad luck talisman, our Tallahassee crew seemed to have brought rain to the dry landscape of Moab. The crummy weather eventually drove us out of Utah a few days earlier than expected, but first we made a stop at a mysterious cave to do some roof bouldering. I later learned that the cave is called “Ninja Training Camp,” which always makes me giggle a bit.

We were led to the cave by Max, another summertime Moab resident who worked at a cafe in town. The cave sits tucked away from the road down Potash, past the routes at Wallstreet. I was a little weary of the rain, but my interested was immediately piqued by the unusual path taken to reach the cave: we had to cross through a giant drainage pipe to make our way towards the climbing area.

The rest of the ‘path’ to the cave was relatively mild, winding through sandy patches and rocky areas before leading us to a giant pond that sat as a natural protector before the looming cave. I barely climbed, opting instead to play around the pond and assume my usual role as photographer. The routes in the cave primarily ran along cracks in the roof, with a few sloped ledges thrown into the mix.

The rain came and went in short bursts, but the cave stayed fairly dry and provided a nice little shelter for our group. Most of boys were transfixed on the climbing, but a few of us strayed off to explore the little landscape that surrounded the cave, pond, and stacks of boulders that sat above. We brought one of our hostel companions, Dan Hebb, along for the adventure, and he quickly disappeared into the wilderness while we remained at the cave.

To the right you can get an idea of what the area looked like. It isn’t the best photo, but it was pretty challenging to capture the entire scene. I tried to get shots of the whole cave while the boys were climbing inside, but pesky trees kept blocking my views.

Aside from climbing, the boys enjoyed throwing large rocks off the top of the cave into the deep pond below. We almost convinced Jeff to jump naked into the pond, but my promise of $20 wasn’t enough to persuade him to take action. In all honesty, I’m glad he chickened out, because that stagnant water must have been loaded with icky water germs.

We only spent a few hours at this miniature crag, as the Moab locals had to get back into town for their respective job obligations and such. I really enjoyed taking pictures from that big drainage pipe. The first one of Ryan turned out fantastic with the silhouette and funky lines, and the photo below provided a great illustration of our time in Moab: lots of climbing, and beautiful scenery.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite photographs taken on this little excursion. As I mentioned before, I was absolutely smitten with the pond that sat in front of the cave. It was teeming with water bugs, and I was determined to find this odd amphibian that Max kept claiming lived in the area – my searches were unsuccessful, but I ended up with this great shot of the pond’s reflective qualities. Enjoy!

Road Trip 2011 – Wild Times the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab, Utah

Growing up in the wealthy suburbs of South Florida, the idea of a hostel was a mere fantasy for me. The idea of communal accommodations remained intangible until we visited Jeff and Ryan in Moab and stayed at the Lazy Lizard Hostel. It was truly one of those I’m-never-going-to-forget-this life experiences.

The hostel offers a variety of lodging options. You can rent a private cabin, stay in a dorm-style room above the main building, or camp out in the back. Pitching a tent is the cheapest option, so naturally we took that path – but make no mistake, camping in the quieter zone of the hostel hardly spared us from the insanity that ensues on a nightly basis at the Lazy Lizard.

The people we met were outrageous. There were Chelsey and Josephine, the beautiful hitchhiking ladies from Seattle, and Mike, my fellow Palmetto High School alumnus – what are the odds of running into a classmate in a funky Moab hostel? Not to play favorites, but one of the most significant people we met was Paul, the British climber who ended up accompanying us to Yosemite and spending a week with our crew.

I can’t forget about Lynne, the Lazy Lizard housekeeper who drank like a camel, swore like a sailor and even tried her hand at hitting on Niko. After a few hours of pounding boxed wine and gin, I excitedly followed her into her room to watch her feed her rat family. My drunken stupor ignored her warnings about the overprotective mama rat, who eagerly took a chunk out of my index finger when I shoved it into the cage to pet the rats – another Lazy Lizard mishap to add to the collection.


Our ultimate night of debauchery, the evening where I earned my rat bite, included the best thing that’s happened to Niko’s head in years: a very drunk Chelsey agreed to give Niko a male version of her fabulous lesbian haircut. It honestly could have ended in disaster, but Niko’s mane was shockingly tamed – minus his new little rat tail that we keep meaning to fix.


I would be a liar to claim that the Lazy Lizard was an outstanding facility for quality accommodations – if you’re looking for a quiet night’s stay or lavish lodging, this is not the place for you. However, if you’re keen on waking up with caterpillars on your tent, walking through the rain to find a liquor store, meeting outlandish characters from around the world and collecting experiences that you’ll never forget, do yourself a favor and spend a few nights at this ridiculous establishment.

Have I mentioned that this is the place where Jeff and Ryan are spending their entire summer while they work as rafting guides on the Colorado River? Imagine the novel’s worth of stories they’ll have to share once they’re done residing at the Lazy Lizard, if they make it out alive.

   

Road Trip America – Hiking and Exploring in Arches National Park in Utah

We awoke in Moab to a dreary day that promised a lack of good climbs, and plenty of rain. Refusing to waste an entire day because of the weather, our road trip crew decided to check out the nearby Arches National Park for some wet hiking.

We passed through the park gates, thanks to my wonderful National Parks Pass (thanks Dad!), and drove up winding roads past the throngs of cheesy tourists in rented RVs and tour buses. Our ultimate destination was Devil’s Garden. The beginning of the hike saw heavy spurts of rain, and I almost ran back to the car to tuck my camera away – thankfully I decided to keep it, because the rain quickly ended and left us with a day of sunshine.

The day’s explorations taught me a lesson in exertion. The hiking wasn’t anything too grueling, but my knee pains flared up with a vengeance and left me hobbling all over the rocks while the boys pranced around like children. There were multiple times I had to lag behind while the crew scampered up skinny slabs and clamored all over towering boulders. Not to mention my resurfacing fear of heights.

I can’t believe I had never visited this National Park before. It easily ranks as one of my favorite park visits, and I can’t wait to return with the rest of the Boue clan. There were easy trails with solid paths, slightly more challenging areas that required mild rock scrambles, and then the “primitive trails” with difficult hiking. Naturally, the boys insisted that we veer of the nice path in favor of the sand, sloped trails. My knee was screaming in agony, but the photos I snagged of the arches were worth the pain.

The arches were surprisingly difficult to photograph. They’re simply too large, too impressive to capture in a single snapshot. I really had to get creative to get good angles, and often times the desert landscape blocked my views. I was ultimately pretty pleased with the final shots, and will leave you with a cute photo of a lizard who wore beautiful Moab-style patterns on his skin.

Arches National Park is a fantastic destination if you’re in the Moab, Utah area. We spent the entire day exploring Devil’s Garden, and that was only the tip of the park’s iceberg. I’d love to return one day to discover everything else that Arches has to offer. My only complaint is the tourists, but after spending time in Yosemite, I’ve learned that tourists are simply a part of life in National Parks. You’ve just got to learn how to tune them out.

Road Trip America – Climbing Wallstreet in Potash near Moab, Utah

I’ve climbed a good number of crags around America within the last two years, but none were as unique as the routes at Wallstreet in Utah – they’re literally located along the roadside. A few routes even required belayers to stand directly in the road. Needless to say, things got interesting.

The climbing was so enticing that I was easily convinced to finally give (outdoors) rope climbing a try. I choose a slab wall that Ryan had free soloed up, seemingly with ease. The climb quickly taught me a lesson about slab climbing: I’m not so great at it. The prospect of slipping and grating my face along the positively sloping rock was a mental road block that I couldn’t get past – as was the no-hands-trust-your-tiny-foot-holds style of climbing. I think I’ll stick to overhangs.

Across the street from the climbs, the Colorado River rushed and rippled past us with frigid water that looked almost good enough to jump into. This was easily one of my favorite crags I’ve ever photographed. There were beautiful climbs, unique landscapes, and even a few creature buddies.

If I had to pick a highlight of the day for the boys, it would be the 5.8 trad crack, called 30 Seconds Over Potash, that Jeff led. It was pretty intense watching him muscle his way up the route in true Jeff fashion – which means he just powered through the movements with minimal technique and maximum strength. Once he finished placing gear and anchored in, he let the other boys top rope the route while practicing their gear placements.

Perhaps the best photo from the day was snapped on a 5.11c that Ryan, Jeff and Niko spent a chunk of the day working. This route was literally located on the street, the belayer had to stand directly in the road. There were multiple times when we had to shout up for the climber to pause while the belayer pressed up against the rock to let a semi-truck pass by. Ryan gets the photo of the day with his no-hands chalk up, complete with his tongue out against the wall.

Roadtripping across America in search of climbing, beer, adventure and glory – Three Days Until Departure!

I’ve spent months saving, planning and daydreaming about my trip across America, and in three very short days, Road Trip 2011 will begin with a bang – well, more of a 24 hour haul towards Colorado, but a bang nonetheless.

Naturally, the plan is to take you along for the ride. I’ll make plenty of updates on the road, and will do my best to post pictures as I go. To get you acquainted with the plan, here’s a map of our route, compliments of my AAA.com road trip planner:

We’ll start the trip off with a grueling 24-hour haul to Denver, Colorado, where we’ll be spending a few days hanging out with McGoo and the boys. After Denver, it’s off to Aspen for a beautiful 8.5 mile hike to Conundrum Springs. Next we’ll spend some time in Moab, Utah, climbing and rafting with our buddies Jeff and Ryan. The climax of our trip will be our week spent in Yosemite and Bishop, California. Once we’ve climbed ourselves raw, we’ll relax for a few days in San Francisco. We’ll end the trip with a few days exploring Chattanooga, looking for some houses and job opportunities for me.

Basically, I could ooze my excitement for hours. The packing shall begin tomorrow, and then on Monday morning at 5:00 AM — we’re off. Hell yeah.