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.

A peek at Columbia Sportswear’s mysterious #omniten adventure to Park City, UT

I’m going to upfront about this: I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting into when I fly to Park City on Wednesday morning.

If you follow me on social media, you’ve been seeing a lot of the #omniten hashtag over the last two years – and lately,  #omnigames has become a new buzzword too. If you don’t already know, here’s the TL;DR version: I’m part of Columbia Sportswear’s inaugural Omniten ambassador program, and after an amazing trip to Sedona and Havasu Falls last summer, they’re reuniting my crew and the rest of the Omniten seasons for a mysterious trip to Park City this week for an event called “the #omnigames.”

While the details are sparing, we’ve all speculated plenty. Heidi Kumm suggests a little snow kayaking, Rebecca of Calipidder.com is banking on some bear wrestling, Heather from Just A Colorado Gal is scratching her head,  and Michelle has promised to make us homemade poutine. Basically, no matter what our itinerary ends up looking like – it’s going to be epic.

The #omnigames with Columbia Sportswear are on!

For those of you following along at home, here’s what I do know:

  • I’ll be flying into Salt Lake City on the morning of January 8th, then being shuttled to Park City where I’ll stay until Saturday morning. While there, we’ll be staying at the beautiful Hyatt Escala Lodge in suites with our respective Omniten crews. We’ve also been told to pack swimsuits for the hot tubs.
  • There will be at least one day spent out on the slopes. If you know me, you know that I am neither a skilled skier nor snowboarder, so I reckon there will be plenty of wipe-out photos of me. Columbia is providing all the equipment, so I decided to stick with skiing since I’m sorta-kinda-maybe okay at it.
  • On the 8th, Columbia Sportswear is unveiling the USA freestyle ski team uniforms. They haven’t officially linked it to the #omnigames, but we all have a feeling something is going on with that!
  • The Columbia team won’t spill all the beans, but “what we can say is that you’ll be eating well, testing gear, getting to know each other, playing in the snow, and…

I’m no winter sports gal, so I’m going to be severely under-packed and underprepared, but judging by the photos the early arrivals have been posting of the gear Columbia Sportswear is hooking us up with, my current lack of snow pants won’t be an issue for much longer. But forget the sweet gear, what I’m looking forward to most is reuniting with my Omniten family, meeting the new folks, and joining the crew for an unforgettable trip playing in the snow of Utah.

Want to follow along on the adventure?
Keep an eye out on the #omniten and #omnigames hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

That Time Columbia Sportswear Reunited the Omniten for Another Epic #TryingStuff Adventure

A little over two years ago, a crazy idea was born: What if Columbia Sportswear chose 10 strangers, all of whom were influential in the outdoor industry, and put them together to create an ambassador team who would test gear, build hype on social media, and embark on epic adventures? Would it work? It was a gamble, but they decided to give the #omniten project a go.

I was part of the inaugural omniten crew, and it proved to be one of the best experiences of my life. It began with that I thought was just a package sent to me with a pair of shoes to test out, and blossomed into a lifelong family cemented by an outrageous backpacking trip to Havasu Falls. Columbia Sportswear blindly threw ten strangers together (first at a huge media event in Sedona, then at the bottom of the Grand Canyon where we jumped off waterfalls all weekend), and ended up with the ultimate success: at the end of our trip, our eyes were teary as we hugged goodbye, and our connection has stayed strong ever since.The inaugural Omniten crew from Columbia Sportswear at Havasu Falls.

Now, I’m totally playing favorites, but I think my season’s crew yielded one of the best social experiments of all time. We’ve got a little mix of backcountry backpacker, vegan explorer, peak-bagging climber, coastal-life runner, cross-fit extraordinaire, snow-obsessed nomad, and homemade beer brewer blended with a hefty thirst for adventure – and somehow our unlikely ragtag group became a family. I’ve reunited with most of the original omniten during my yearlong trip, and they’ve been too good to me. Taking me hiking in Arizona, treating me to killer tacos in California, and even letting me housesit for a week in Colorado – these folks are some of my favorite people on the planet.

Heidi Henry and I celebrating after making it back to the rim of the Grand Canyon in one piece during our omniten trip to Havasu Falls.And now, Columbia Sportswear is bringing us all back together.

A few of our crew members have been fantasizing about the idea of a season-to-season challenge that brings all the omniten crews together (there was a lot of talk a la Road Rules vs. Real World Challenge) – and someone finally convinced Columbia Sportswear to turn that crazy concept into a reality. It started with a mysterious email requesting that we all block off a few days in January for an event now dubbed “the omnigames.” We didn’t know any details about the location, or the event – pure mystery.

Finally, Columbia Sportswear threw us a bone and sent another email with the coordinates 40.6443821 -111.49475970000003, which quickly led us to Park City, Utah. There will be a bit of snow sports (which means y’all will be treated to plenty of pictures of me falling in the snow), but with a large percentage of the omniten not being snow-folks, Columbia Sportswear is sure to mix things up. I’m nosy by nature, and did a ton of digging on what Park City has to offer for adventurers. There’s bobsledding, zip-lining, adventure courses (with a 65-foot free fall at the end, yee-haw!), cosmic curling, and more. Bring it on!

The omnigames are going to be epic.

As usual, I plan on taking everyone along for the ride via social media. I’m excited to finally meet the rest of the omniten crews, scope out some sweet new Columbia Sportswear gear, and play Olympic-style in Park City. Follow the #omniten and #omnigames hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for all the latest shenanigans.

Do you have any guesses about what the omnigames will entail? 
I want to hear your theories! 

Gear Review: Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes with Omni-Freeze Zero technology

After surviving my first backpacking trip up and down the Grand Canyon to Havasu Falls wearing only last year’s Powerdrain shoes from Columbia Sportswear last summer, I feel in love with the sneakers – and wore them to death.

By the time Columbia came out with their new generation of Powerdrains, my original pair had been through the ultimate test: three months as my sole go-to hiking shoes during life on the road. The only real visible wear were two holes – two soft spots on the toe area. Fittingly, this was one of the major improvements made to the new Powerdrain Cools, making me a very happy camper.

The Powerdrain Cool is a hybrid shoe that features the epic Omni-Freeze Zero sweat-activated cooling technology, which earned the Gear of the Year 2013 award from National Geographic Adventure. From the moment I unwrapped mine, they have been put through a gauntlet of outdoor tests, which they passed with flying colors.

Columbia Sportswear's Powerdrain Cool shoe with OmniFreeze Zero Technology.

On our first day together, I took my new purple shoes out for a trek up a chossy hillside where I was helping build a trail across a frigid creek crossing. I was immediately smug with the product when I watched the rest of my crew struggle to delicately balance from slippery rock to slippery rock while I just stomped right in and waded across. Omni-Grip “holds tight on any terrain”? Check.

As the product description promises, the Powerdrains moved seamlessly from the water crossing to the crumbly “trail.” I dug my way up a sandy wash, tromped across rocky piles, and admired the shoes as they collected a healthy layer of outdoor dirtiness. I’ve been wearing them nearly every day since, and they continue to perform.

This new version offers a few improvements over the old design – some of which I remember actually discussing with the head of design during my trip to Sedona last year, earning Columbia bonus points for really listening to user feedback. They beefed up the ankle padding at the back of the shoe, reinforced a few hot spots where the shoes often saw quick deterioration, and slimmed down the overall design for a sleeker (and for ladies, more feminine) look. Two thumbs up all around.Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.

The only issue with the new Powerdrain Cools has been a seemingly irreversible staining of the inner Omni-Freeze Zero lining due to my latest habit of spending weeks on end playing in red sanded deserts. Oops. I also made a slight mistake in wearing the Powerdrain Cool shoes while hiking in Great Sand Dunes National Park – the deep sand dunes kept relentlessly filling the drains in my shoes, leaving my feet surrounded by piles of sand. Double oops!

Want to get your hands on a pair of Columbia Sportswear’s Powerdrain Cool hybrid shoes? You can scoop all three colors on their official website, or you can head to a local retailer to get your hands on these versatile and reliable sneakers. I would highly recommend the Powerdrain Cools for folks who usually experience a variety of terrains during an adventure, or for someone who is into those wild mud races – I’ve heard nothing but good things from many users who wear them to those events.

The Year that Inspired a Lifetime of Travel: Top 10 Adventures of 2012

I already know that after my yearlong Simply Adventure trip, I’ll be claiming that 2013 was the best year ever – but there would be no epic future without the unbelievable year of traveling, new friends, and outdoor pursuits experienced during 2012.

The year began with me residing in snowy Denver, Colorado – and now as it comes to a close, I’m saying farewell to house-living in Florida, and preparing for life as a van-dweller. Woah. To wrap my mind around how I’ve ended up where I am today, we have to take a look back at the top 10 adventure moments of 2012. The list keeps getting better as we journey towards #1:

I'll totally admit it, I felt like a bad ass on those bunny slopes in Vail.10. Learning How to Ski in Vail, Colorado

Eager to take advantage of my temporary residence in Colorado, the elder Boués were incredibly amped when the chance arose for them to join me in the mountains for a weekend of adventure. In late February, they flew out to Denver and together we road tripped out to the Vail Ski Area for a few days of snowy bonding.

Having previously failed miserably at snowboarding, I took my first skiing lesson and conquered the bunny slopes – but the real highlight of the Vail trip was spending time with my folks, eating the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever tasted at Pazzo’s Pizzeria, and sharing my newfound love for Colorado with them.

9. Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona

Hanging out with one of Ursa Minor's Ecamper creations during Overland Expo.

Each year of my life now seems to include an epic solo adventure, and this year’s trip was my one-woman journey out to Flagstaff in late May for the annual Overland Expo event. The misadventure began with me tragically killing a young black bear while driving through the middle-of-nowhere in Texas, but quickly took a more pleasant turn as I connected with a group of fine fellas (like Dave Creech, David Croyle, Anthony Sicola, and so many more) who mocked my inability to finish a glass of whiskey, cooked up some mean tacos, and introduced me to the art of overland travel.

I gained valuable insights from the Hackney’s educational seminars, feasted on Overland Gourmet’s outstanding fireside fare, and spent over a week traveling across some of the finer parts of the country. J. Brandon, thank you for taking me under your wing and becoming a true friend.

8. My First Amtrak Train Ride

Niko and I first started dating a few days before Thanksgiving in 2009, which has led to a rather inconvenient occurrence of our anniversary falling on days when we’re typically spread across the state visiting family for the holiday. We were together last year for Thanksgiving in Denver, and this year I was determined to spend our third anniversary together – so I hopped on my very first, and highly anticipated, Amtrak Silver Star train journey from Miami to Tampa. It was an admittedly small step towards fulfilling my dreams of train travel, but I loved every minute of it – and can’t wait to embark on extended railway journeys in the future.

7. Sport Climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Climbing one of my favorite routes at Red River Gorge, Plate Tectonics (5.10a).Prior to my Arizona road trip, I spent 10 days exploring a lush gorge in the depths of Kentucky with Niko and the owner of Tallahassee Rock Gym, Rich. We met up with a crew of topnotch Floridian climbers for days spent hiking through dense greenery, avoiding pesky campers at Land of The Arches Campground, and gorging on pizza at Miguel’s.

I witnessed my friend Rachel take the scariest whipper I’ve ever seen while climbing a route called Amarillo Sunset, nearly peed on a young copperhead while drunk at The Zoo crag on Cinco de Mayo, and proudly on-sighted my first 5.10a leads. It was one of the most inspiring and motivational climbing trips I’ve ever been on.

6. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City

Lovin' my experience at my first Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City!The climax of 2012’s integration into the outdoor industry occurred during the festive chaos better known as the OR Show. Thousands of gear junkies, media professionals, and brand representatives converged upon the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City for the ultimate outdoor industry experience.

Swept up in a whirlwind of introductions, meetings, and pitstops for beer, I was entirely overwhelmed as I filled my pack with free gear, brushed elbows with Alex Honnold, and reunited with the wonderful folks at Stonelick and Columbia Sportswear. The trip was completed with a gorgeous day of climbing at American Fork Canyon with the #ClimbChat crew. I’m already planning for next summer’s OR Show.

5. The Triple Crown Bouldering Series at Hound Ears, NC

Proudly showing off my score sheet - it may not have been a 1st place qualifier, but it was my strongest day ever. I’ve never been the competitive type when it comes to climbing, but when I heard about the annual climbing event at Hound Ears in North Carolina a few weeks before my birthday, I instantly registered Niko and I for the competition – this outstanding crag is only open one day a year for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. Situated atop a ritzy gated community, the Hound Ears boulder field is a mecca for any style of bouldering imaginable. I sent my proudest climbs to date, placed 15th in my category, and celebrated the end of the competition with apple-picking at Stepps Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.

4. The Last Rocky Mountain Adventures and Leaving Colorado

Farewell, Colorado. At the end of 2011, I experienced a few career hiccups, and realized that in order to live my dreams of a life of adventure, I needed to leave Colorado and return to Florida to save up for the Simply Adventure trip. Before departing from the mile-high city, Niko and a few buddies flew out to Denver to spend their spring break climbing, hiking, and exploring. We traveled out to Horsetooth Resevoir near Fort Collins, made one last visit to my favorite sushi spot in Boulder, and ended my time in Denver with an excellent week of adventure.

During the first week of March, Niko and I packed up my little Scion hatchback, and drove me back down to Florida. It was a bittersweet moment, and I’ve been dreaming of the Flat Irons ever since.

3. Building, Renovating, and Expanding at Tallahassee Rock Gym

A panoramic view of all the construction work on the new climbing walls at Tallahassee Rock Gym. If you follow me on Twitter, gander at my Instagrams, or read my Facebook statuses, you know that one of the most important things in my life is the Tallahassee Rock Gym. It’s my home, the birthplace of my climbing lifestyle, and the spot where Niko and I first met. I’ve laughed, cried, and crushed there – and this year, we bought the warehouse space next door and began construction on an epic expansion effort. Everything was paid for out of pocket, every piece of wood was put up during long hours of volunteer work, and every inch of the new climbing area is loaded with love and dedication.

We’ve nearly completed the renovations, and on January 12th, we’ll host a grand reopening celebration. It’s the proudest project I’ve ever been a part of, and it breaks my heart to think about leaving this place for an entire year.

2. Joining Columbia Sportwear’s Inaugural Omniten Ambassador Team

The inaugural Omniten crew from Columbia Sportswear at Havasu Falls.One of the first shots from my GoPro - taken during a hike down a waterfall near Mooney Falls in Arizona.I still remember the day Adam from Columbia Sportswear sent me the first e-mail; he nonchalantly asked for my shipping address, claiming to be interested in sending me a few pieces from the new spring line. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was speeding back to Florida to open up a mysterious package – which I quickly discovered was my invitation to join a group of ten outdoor influencers selected to become a team of gear-testers and adventurers. During my six-month Omniten experience, I was introduced to nine people who I now think of on a daily basis.

We met in Phoenix, Arizona for a press trip as complete strangers, and by the time we left Havasu Falls five days later, we all cried upon departure. During our Arizona adventure together, we were spoiled in Sedona with prickly pear margaritas and vortex yoga on Bell Rock, spent three days exploring the Grand Canyon and jumping from the waterfalls around Havasupai, and grew into an unforgettable little family. I can’t thank Columbia Sportswear enough for blessing me with the Omniten opportunity – it truly changed my life forever.

1. Buying The Big Yellow Van

The Simply Adventure duo at our finest; shovels in hand, climbing gear ready, and our big yellow van!Niko and I dreamed of it all year, and finally in October, our fantasies came to fruition – we took the biggest plunge of our lives thus far, and bought a used 2005 Sprinter cargo van. We gutted the interior and built ourselves a little home within the cozy cargo area. Niko crafted an amazing bed built entirely by hand, and we installed a kitchen cabinet and countertops. In a few days, we’ll officially move into the van – and our ultimate treasure from 2012 will guide us towards unbelievable journeys in 2013.

The BEST Part of 2012: The People

Even harder than trying to condense this year into just ten stand-out moments was attempting to somehow address each person who came into my life during 2012 – and it’s impossible, so my top moment isn’t so much a moment as an overall experience. From the Omniten crew and the folks in the outdoor industry to growing closer with my sister, the ultimate gift of 2012 didn’t come in the form of mountains or climbing gear – it’s all about you.

A poorly positioned self-timer shot of the ClimbChat group at American Fork Canyon!The whole Havasu Falls hiking crew gathers before we head out on our grand three-day adventure. I connected with, met, and traveled the country with strangers who quickly became family. We passed a bottle of whiskey around the campfire (in a can) at Overland Expo, led climbs in American Fork Canyon, hiked up and down the Grand Canyon and slaved over the renovation of Tallahassee Rock Gym. My adventures would have been incomplete without the people who helped create moments that I’ll carry for the rest of my life. Thank you, I love you all, miss those of you who are far, and can’t wait to adventure with you in 2013!

What was your best adventure from 2012?
What are you looking forward to in 2013?

A question for you…

This morning, I read an exceptionally inspiring post on my fellow OmniTen-er Heidi’s blog, BananaBuzzBomb. She retold the events that transpired during her day off, an afternoon that turned from tackling mundane to-dos to dropping it all to live in the moment and go for a hike.

I’ll let her post do all the talking – but just remember to ask yourself this question every day:

Are you living in the NOW? Are you living in THIS MOMENT?
If you’re not, it’s never too late to start.

Are you living in this moment, right now?

Review of Columbia Sportswear’s Reactor 35º Sleeping Bag (and Niko’s first guest post!)

Folks, by now most of you have realized that Niko is a man of few words. He’s not quite the Twitter type, and only just started making his first Facebook page posts (like this one about Access Fund’s Holy Boulders project), so when he told me he was going to write his first product review, I knew he must have really fallen in love with a piece of outdoor gear.

During my trip to Havasu Falls with Columbia Sportswear’s OmniTen team, we were gifted the most packable sleeping bags I’ve ever witnessed. It was so light that I hardly noticed it on my back while trudging up 10 miles of desert terrain to the rim of the Grand Canyon. Since then, I’ve taken my mummy-style sleeping back on trips to Rocktown in Georgia, and the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition in Hound Ears, North Carolina – and it’s always provided me a vessel of cocooned body warmth and superior snuggle-ability. So really, it was no surprise that Niko decided to write his first gear review about it.  

Here’s what Niko had to say about the Reactor 35:

This summer when Katie returned from her OmniTen trip to Havasu Falls in Arizona, she brought back one of my new favorite pieces of gear, the Columbia Sportswear Reactor 35º sleeping bag (a special thanks to Will Rochfort for hiking it out of the Grand Canyon for me).

I’ve had the opportunity to use the bag over the last couple months on a couple of climbing trips here in the southeast, and despite the hot temperatures, this bag has been exceptionally comfortable to sleep in.

The Reactor 35 is an extremely light 100% nylon mummy bag that packs easily into one of the smallest stuff sacks I’ve seen. The dimensions are a mere 7.5”x17” – plus, this bag only weighs 2 pounds, making it the perfect companion on long multi-day hikes.

Don’t let the lightweight nature of this sleeping bag deter you – the Reactor 35 uses Columbia’s Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology to line the inside of the bag, which regulates your body temperature, providing a warm, dry night in the outdoors.

A few weekends ago Katie and I drove up to Pigeon Mountain to do some climbing at Rocktown. We arrived late and decided to spend the night camped out in the car. In the middle of the night, I woke up to find Katie hogging the entire hatchback, so I abandoned the car in favor of sleeping outside on a crash pad. I woke up expecting the familiar damp feeling from the southern morning dew, but I was surprised to find that the Omni-Shield outer coating kept me dry throughout the entire night.

Since having Columbia Sportswear’s Reactor 35, I have only been able to test it in temperatures around the high 40’s. I am looking forward to seeing what it can do when temperatures drop down here in the south and the climbing season really gets moving. Overall, I would highly recommend this bag to anyone who wants a light, functional, and generally well-designed sleeping bag.

Vortex yoga on Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona during Columbia Sportswear’s 2013 Preview event

On a scorching Sedona morning, I found myself perched on a little patch of dusty rock, cross-legged amid a collection of fellow females as we passed tiny bottles of frankincense and rose oil around our circle.

As we dabbed little drops of oil on our foreheads, a soft yet authoritative voice instructed us to affirm ourselves, to mull on our emotions, and to let it all go with deep, releasing breathes.

 Welcome to my vortex yoga experience on Bell Rock.

Like any brand, Columbia Sportswear used their Spring 2013 Gear Preview event to showcase their new designs and products – but unlike most brands, they required us to truly put their gear to the test. After wining and dining their audience of editors, journalists, gear junkies, and adventurers, Columbia sent our big group out on a variety of activities. We were able to choose between mountain biking, intense hiking, and vortex yoga.

Intrigued by this undeniably funky video demonstration vortex yoga in Sedona, I immediately opted to spend my ‘activity day’ out on Bell Rock practicing my downward dog.

Our group ended up being comprised solely of ladies, which made for a wonderful and intimate experience. Our instructor, Johanna, guided us along the trail towards Bell Rock as she pointed out the area’s distinct flora and desert features. After walking for a bit, we paused to gather in an energy circle for some initial breathing exercises beneath the shade of a tree – and at that moment, the spiritual journey of the vortex experience truly began.

I’m not a hokey gal – but the heightened sense of energy found at the vortex was undeniable. During the meditative portion of our afternoon, we gathered under another shady area, and plopped down on the rocks and dirt to enjoy a few breathing techniques and thoughtful moments that challenged us to overcome the usually buzzing in our brains in favor of a quieter and more reflective mentality. In my opinion, the time we spent thinking, releasing, and feeling was when the energy of the vortex was most noticeable.

Admittedly, when we finally began our yoga session upon the sprawling red boulders on Bell Rock, my spiritual bliss was overcome by my incessant need to document my adventures. Fellow OmniTen member Heidi and I ended up so occupied by our quest to obtain good photos and GoPro footage that we ultimately lost some of the spiritual flow during yoga.

Still, I had a wonderful morning hiking through the desert terrain with the ladies, learning a little bit about my body’s natural energies, and practicing my yoga poses while gazing out at the gorgeous Sedona landscape. I left feeling calmer, uplifted, and at peace with my mental chatter. Even Heidi agreed that she felt the effects of the vortex (coupled with Johanna’s excellent spiritual guidance) – and for a gal with the nickname “Banana Buzzbomb,” that’s quite a statement.

If you are ever in the Sedona area, and feel keen on getting in touch with your spiritual side, I would highly suggest taking a vortex yoga tour Yoga Life with Johanna and her assistant
A former New Yorker, she offers the perfect balance between an enlightened hippie and, well, normal everyday lady. She offered us great information about our chakras and energy flows, made sure every member of our group was comfortable, and yet still helped us push our physical and mental limits.
Our group was on a strict time limit, which caused us to have to be slightly more ‘aware’ during our meditative and yoga sessions — I can only imagine how much more fun would have been had if we had been with Johanna for the entire day. 

Want more vortex yoga fun? Check out Heidi’s post “Calm & Cool Yoga in Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero” on BananaBuzzBomb.com!

How to capture the experience of a lifetime in a single 20 second exposure photograph

There was no shortage of documentation during my trip to the Havasu Falls area with Columbia Sportswear and the OmniTen team. We shot heaps of footage with our GoPros, tweeted any time we had cell service, blogged during any downtime, and took thousands of photos with our respective cameras.

But nothing compares to this:

Photo by: Will Rochfort
http://WMRjr.com

I get goosebumps just looking at this beautiful snapshot – it perfectly captures the essence of our trip, the teamwork employed during our collective adventure, the eager spirit I encountered in every single person I traveled through Arizona with, and the beautiful family that is the OmniTen crew.

This photo was captured by the wonderful Will Rochfort during a late evening hike down to Havasu Falls from our campsite. It took us eight takes to get the shot just right, and the light sources were all headlamps – which felt appropriate, if you ask me. We got a little wet and dirty in the process, but that seems to have been the theme of our Havasu adventure.

We began the journey to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear as a group of total strangers. I only knew my nine OmniTen counterparts by the faces I had inspected on their various social media profiles. We had exchanged plentiful tweets, and a Facebook page was created to foster interactivity – but I didn’t know these people. It was mildly terrifying to board the airplane heading towards the Phoenix airport, knowing that I wouldn’t be greeted by a single familiar face.

And yet, now I can’t imagine my life without these people. We are a funky bunch – a vegan triathlete from Ohio, a handsome face who loves showtunes, a peak-bagging wonder from San Jose, a climbing couple with an unassuming charm; we’re weird. I would have never grouped us together, and yet, we were somehow bound through our OmniTen connection – and it worked.

By the end of our trip, we all shed tears at the thought of departing from each other’s company. There are some bonds so unique that one simply can’t bear the thought of letting them go. How many people do you hike 10 miles out of the Grand Canyon with, urging each other onward, and sharing a hidden nook for potty purposes? I don’t know about you, but taking a poop in the middle of the desert in front of someone you’ve only known for five days seems like a pretty big sign of true friendship. (You know who you are, and I’d gladly pop a squat with you any time!)

To my OmniTen friends, you light up my life. Thank you for the most humbling, inspiring, uplifting, and downright HOT adventure. We will meet again, and now we’ve got a challenge to make the next adventure even more memorable than the first. I love you all.

I’m back from the OmniTen trip to Arizona with Columbia Sportswear (reluctantly)

Holy mother of Arizona adventure. Here I am, in humid Florida, still reeling from the epic trip that I’m still not sure really happened. I’m sitting here with heaps of GoPro footage, thousands of photos, and a slightly torn wristband that served as my permit for camping near the Havasupai village deep in the Grand Canyon. Did that whole trip really just happen?

Words can’t even begin to describe what I experienced while out traversing canyons, waterfalls, streams, and travertine tunnels with the OmniTen crew and Columbia Sportswear team. Our time together began with a week of industry events revolving around the release of Columbia’s newest innovation, OmniFreeze Zero. We were wined and dined all day and night long at the Hilton and around Sedona as the company worked to woo editors, gear buffs, journalists, and industry professionals. Don’t worry, there will be an entire post dedicated to all the phenomenal meals I gorged myself on during the gear previews. Elk kabobs and cactus margaritas, anyone?

The highlight of the trip was hands-down the three days we spent around Havasu Falls. We began with an early morning hike into the canyon, a hot and heavy 10-mile excursion that left me with blisters in places I didn’t even know my feet could sprout them. We passed through the Havasupai Village, set up camp, and enjoyed our first evening together as a close knit group. The second day was spent jumping off waterfalls, climbing through travertine tunnels, wading through waist-deep streams while carrying our packs over our heads, and cooling off in the unbelievably blue water. The final day saw a 10-mile hike back out to the rim of the canyon, which was brutal. I wouldn’t have survived the final mile, which involves a 2000 foot elevation gain up switchbacks frequented by mule trains, without the cooling glory of my OmniFreeze Zero neck gaiter. Seriously, when they start making those available to the public, get one. 

My grand adventure would have been nothing without the amazing people who made it a truly unforgettable journey. The OmniTen crew started out as complete strangers (aside from creeping on eachother’s social media profiles), but we left Arizona teary-eyed over the prospect of losing eachother’s company. These people are now lifelong friends.

It’s going to take me a few days to process everything that I experienced, put it all down in words, and edit all of the amazing photos I snapped during the trip. Stay tuned for a huge installment of posts chronicling my adventure.

It’s going to be good.