The Adventure of a Big Move

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Bring it on, 2015!

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Where will the road of life take you?

2015 is off to one heck of a start. It has already brought about some huge changes. My husband and I made the move from Washington to Northern California, and the prepping and planning of the move has kept us crazy busy for the past few months. Big moves, or any big life change for that matter, can be stressful, exciting, and a bit sad too. California is very different from Washington, and while my husband and I had spent some time living in the southern part of the state several years ago, we were fairly unfamiliar with the northern half.

We tackled this move with good attitudes, ready for whatever it might bring. The name of the game is adventure: the adventure of moving to a new place, of leaving things and people behind and of forging ahead to create a new life; the adventure of not knowing what lies ahead; the adventure of discovering new areas to play and roam in; and seeking out adventure wherever it can be found. Our free time has been spent exploring and getting to know our new surroundings. For us, being outdoors and spending time climbing in the mountains and fly fishing on creeks and rivers is of the utmost importance. So the first thing we did on our first weekend off in our new home was to hop in our car and scope out our surroundings. Together, with our little dog in the back seat, we sought out new places to get out in the wild.

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to search very long or far. The Sierras are just a quick drive away. Yosemite is right there too, and we plan on spending most of our free days getting lost in those mountains. (Read, a high volume of blog posts documenting our adventures in these places coming your way!)

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it’s hard. Here are a few things that I have learned about how to make a big move a little 10996995_10205199781505917_3536395246963317470_neasier:

1. Keep a good attitude and embrace the experience for the adventure that it is. (Having an amazing partner who is right there with you every step of the way doesn’t hurt either.) *wink* 

2. Seek out places and things that you love. Get acquainted with the new areas in which you will spend your time and can live out your passions in.

3. Establish a new routine.

4. Find the beauty around you. Find the adventure around you. Explore.

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Autumn Transitions

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Sometimes it seems like the end of summer comes so abruptly. One day you are wearing your cutoffs, summer dresses, and tank tops, and the very next day you are bundling up in wool sweaters and scarves. The arrival of Autumn can be sudden and extreme, and it can be hard to cope with the fact that it is now officially time to rotate out your wardrobe in preparation for the colder months ahead. Especially for the outdoor adventurer, the end of summer can be a somewhat gloomy prospect. It marks the end of carefree, dry, summer explorations, and promises less predictable and sometimes less pleasant weather that can tend to feel like it will inhibit all outside activities. But never fear! The arrival of Autumn does not need to mean the end of your adventures!

Here are some ways to help with your transition out of summer and into the colder weather that awaits us:

  • Beef Up Your Cold Weather Inventory! Just because the weather is turning, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get outside and have the time of your life. But it does mean that you need to make some changes to the gear you bring along. Take inventory of your cold weather gear. Make sure you have adequate rain accommodations, like waterproof clothing, gaiters, and shelter. Switch your light weight quilt out for your 0 degree sleeping bag. Stock up on a Merino Wool hat, base layers, and socks. And be sure to throw in hand warmers, instant coffee, and some Mountain House meals – because nothing beats a hot meal on a cold night in the backcountry. If done right, a cool Autumn night spent under the stars can be an unbeatable experience. The key is preparedness.
  • Commit To Your Adventures. The thing is, in the summer time it is easy to go camping on a whim, or throw your fly rod in the back seat and head out to the river for the day. The sun is shining, the weather is great, and the cold isn’t a factor. As the seasons turn though, it can be harder to find the motivation to step into the river or head up into the mountains when it’s chilly out. So, the solution is to make solid plans for your adventures, pack up all of your cold weather gear (that you have already taken inventory of and ensured that you have), and -this is the important part- DO IT! Just do it. No excuses. A little cold is certainly worth the memories you will make. Mark your adventures on your calendar so that it is harder for you to back out. Commit to getting outside, even in the colder months. As long as you have the right gear, you will be comfortable and have a great time.
  • Find Motivation In the Season. Autumn can be one of the most beautiful times of the year to get out into nature. With the changing colors and crisp, clear air, you will find scenery that you wont get in the Summer. Autumn is an excellent time to hit the river for fly fishing. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that with the end of Summer, it is time to store your fly rod. The view from the middle of a river surrounded by yellow Aspens is something that you just have to see to believe. And you wont see it if you don’t get out there. So find motivation in those seasonal sights and go explore!

Don’t let the cooler days get you down. Prepare, plan, and then go have some bright, fall-colored, brisk, cool-weather adventures!

Grab Your Fears By The Horns

Face your fears and be rewarded.

Face your fears and be rewarded.

I must confess: I am a worrier. As much as I love the wild, I fear it. As much as I long to push my limits, I worry that I will push too far. When I am out getting my adventure on, I am constantly considering every possible way that I might die or be brutally maimed. It’s a constant battle for me. I am far from fearless.

But, that is one thing that I appreciate most about the wild – that it makes you embrace your fears, and sometimes even conquer them. Being afraid is a part of adventure. It’s a part of discovering yourself and what you are capable of, and learning to push through fear is a valuable lesson that can be applied in every aspect of life.

When I’m in the backcountry, miles from civilization, I am afraid of many things. I’m afraid of bears, falling off a cliff, and getting struck by lightning. But I’ve learned that you just have to push through, grab your fears by the horns, and hang on tight. You’ll be in for one hell of a ride if you do! And when you look your fears right in their glowing red eyes, you might just see that you are bigger than them and that they aren’t so scary after all.

Hike: Beehive Basin, Big Sky, MT

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The way up to Beehive Basin, Big Sky, MT

When I heard that Beehive Basin in Big Sky, Montana is considered, by some, to be one the world’s best hikes, I knew I had to check it out while I was in town. The reviews for the hike all said it was easy and suitable for all levels of hikers. At about 4.5 miles round trip I figured it would be an easy jaunt up a path to a nice view where I could enjoy a PB & J by the lake at the top. I hit the trail in running shoes and my day pack and was pretty much immediately blown away by the scenery.

Big Sky is breathtaking from the road, and even more so from the little cabin I’m staying in on one of the many ski slopes that have been abandoned for the summer. However, on foot, it is unreal.

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Due to a late melt off and an unusual amount of snow still on the ground, the wildflowers that I had read so much about were not out in full force as they should have been. As I got up higher, it quickly became apparent that running shoes were a bad choice (see the post ‘Rookie Mistakes’). There were some pretty big snow fields to be crossed, and the closer to the basin I got, the deeper the snow got. My running shoes kept getting sucked off my feet as I sunk into the snow up to my calves. Before long, my socks were soaked and my feet were freezing. About a half a mile from the top I had to call it quits – my pride hurts to admit it, but my feet thanked me. I snapped a few pictures before booking it back down the mountain. I will definitely be doing this hike again in better footwear, and hopefully when the wildflowers are all out. (I’m a sucker for flowers!)

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Recommendation: DO IT! Beehive Basin is a beautiful hike with incredible views. It’s fairly easy (I’m sure even more so when there isn’t so much snow) and it makes for a fun day in Big Sky. Just try to hit it when the majority of the snow is melted…and opt for hiking boots!

Going Off the Grid: Why It’s Good For You

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One thing [of many] that I love about being at our family cabin in Montana, is the fact that it is completely off the grid. When I first went out there years ago, it was a bit of a shock for me. I was very much accustomed to the creature comforts of modern life, and the fact that I had to use a compost toilet in an outhouse, initially seemed like a sick joke.

But, as the years have gone by, I have grown to appreciate the beauty of the simultaneous simplicity and complexity that being off the grid provides. The only power is solar power [when you choose to hook it up] and the water all comes from a well. When my husband and I go out there, just the two of us and our dog, Gunner, we often choose to not to have electricity in order to fully immerse ourselves in the “Off the Grid Experience”.

After our most recent trip to the cabin, I have come up with some reasons why going completely off the grid is good to do every once in a while – for your body and your soul.

1. Fewer distractions.

Going off the grid means no TV, no cell phone service, and no internet. It means you have to find ways to entertain yourself – ways that are, in my opinion, seemingly more in tune with a primal part of humans. Read a book [or two, or three…], go for a hike, go fishing, go for a walk, play a board game, simply sit and talk with a loved one, or just enjoy the silence and watch nature going about its business around you.

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2. Quality time.

I love being at the cabin with my husband because there are no distractions. We are able to really be together and have long conversations and play games together and enjoy little things, like a herd of 23 deer grazing right outside the cabin. We get to share the work that comes with being off the grid, like hand washing dishes and making a fire in the wood burning stove. It’s magical, in a way, to spend a weekend entirely cut off from the rest of the world. Especially with the one you love.

3. Candlelight.

One of my favorite parts of being off the grid is having to use candlelight at night. My husband and I ate our dinners by candlelight. We lit a dozen candles and spread them out all around the cabin, filling the place with a warm, flickering glow. The wood burning stove crackled and heated the cabin, making it cozy. Candlelight is so calming and beautiful.

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4. Work for it!

Being off the grid is a lot of work. A LOT. You have to chop wood for the fire, especially in the cold months. Without a fire, the cabin is freezing, so always having a bunch of wood on hand is a must. You have to empty the compost toilet. Enough said about that. You have to hand wash dishes with well water, which is a task that I avoid feverishly at home, thanks to my dishwasher. Cooking takes longer, so you have to plan meals ahead accordingly. But the good thing about all of the work that goes into being off the grid, is that it makes you appreciate that fire, and the ingenious nature of that compost toilet, and that food that you slaved away over, and those sparkling clean dishes, in ways that you never would if you hadn’t had to work so hard for them.

5. Appreciate nature.10306182_10203066990667479_5290437805133571472_n

Over a four-day weekend at the cabin a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I saw countless deer, a herd of 37 elk, four moose, and a bunch of bighorn sheep. It is incredible to be able to be so close to wildlife and to observe it in its natural state. It’s a rush!

If given the opportunity, my recommendation would be to take advantage of a chance to get off the grid for a few days. It makes you appreciate the little things, and it allows you to quiet your mind and focus on the present. Going off the grid is hard work, but the reward is more than worth it.

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How To Plan An Adventure

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When it comes to planning an adventure, fantasizing and daydreaming are the easy parts. It is the details that become the challenge. Some people are able to just drop everything, jump in their car, and hit the road, seeking out adventure wherever their journey takes them. No preparation, no plans… Something about that is appealing. The unknown. The spontaneity. The risk. But, if you are like me and my husband, Ben, you enjoy mapping out the route you are going to take and pinpointing places in your road atlas that you want to be sure to hit. The planning process is part of the rush that we get from going on an adventure. It is the phase in which we get to look into different areas and learn about their history and their geographical wonders. It adds to the anticipation.

To begin with, Ben and I work on compiling a list of all of the places that we want to be sure to visit on our trip. We search the web for cool, little known areas. Google maps is great for getting links to pictures that users have uploaded from each area. This allows us to scout the area and get to know the terrain a little bit better. In the case of an area not having any user pictures uploaded, one can assume that not many people have been there. This can be a good thing if your goal is to get away from people and really experience

Be familiar with the terrain.

Be familiar with the terrain.

the wild without the risk of a crowd. The terrain feature in Google maps is a great tool for determining how steep an area might be. This is important when planning backpacking trips.

Once we’ve pinpointed all of the places that we want to hit, Ben and I work on putting together a route. We’ll figure out the most direct [or the most scenic] way to get from point A to point B. After the general route has been mapped out, we start to figure out roughly how much time we are going to need in each place. For instance, a backpacking trip in The Crazies will require four days, and we need to set aside a good couple of days for fly fishing at each river that we will pass.

One of our favorite parts of planning our adventures is learning a bit about the places that we will be visiting. Ben and I research each place that we will be visiting online and sometimes, if there seems to be a lot of history and information available, we even buy a few books. To prepare for an upcoming adventure, Ben bought us a book about Lewis and Clark’s journey through the Missouri Breaks. We plan on floating down a good stretch of the Missouri river and camping in some of the spots that Lewis and Clark made their camps. It makes the experience all the more special if you know a little history about where you are going and who has been there before you.

Most importantly, when planning an adventure, be flexible. Because even with all of the careful research and mapping of routes in the world, it is always wise to expect the unexpected. Unpredictability is the very essence of adventure.

Now, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

A good adventure buddy is a must!

A good adventure buddy is a must!

Backcountry Initiation

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My first taste of the backcountry involved a lot of sweat, a lot of apprehension, and a pack that weighed over a quarter of my body weight. I had done a bit of hiking, but nothing involving a backpack or more than a few miles, and certainly nothing that involved sleeping out in the middle of nowhere. My husband and I had researched a wilderness area called Horseshoe Basin. 12 miles round trip and promising excellent scenery, we figured this would be a great way to initiate me into the world of backpacking. We packed up only the necessities, working hard to eliminate excess weight. We analyzed maps and read up on forums and decided that limiting the amount of water we carried was the best way to cut weight. The area we were going to be hiking in had plenty of streams, and water sources would be abundant. After all was said and done, my pack weighed 30 lbs, and on my barely 100 lb, inexperienced frame, it felt at least five times heavier than it actually was.

My husband and I headed East of the Cascades to Okanogan County. The trail head was at the end of a very long, very windy, very unmaintained “road” near the top of a small mountain. We set out as the sun was just making it’s first appearance over the mountain tops. The air was still chilly and with our packs strapped on tight, we plunged into a thick forested area through which the path wound for what seemed like hours. It was about a mile in that the heat started to scorch us. The sun inched higher and higher into the clear blue sky above the tree tops. The trail broke out of the trees and opened up onto alpine meadows, blooming with colorful wild flowers and tall grasses. It was breathtaking. It was hot.

The straps of my pack began to feel like they were cutting into my shoulders and my hips. My husband plowed on ahead, his stride sure and strong. He didn’t seem to be suffering like I was, although this wasn’t his first rodeo. He was an avid outdoors-man and he was no stranger to the backcountry, or to hauling a heavy load on his back. I felt myself growing weaker by the moment. The alpine meadows gave way to a burned down forest. A wild fire had torn through the mountains not many months before and dead, blackened trees lay scattered for miles in every direction. At least in the alpine meadows I had had the beauty of the flowers and the sweeping view to motivate me. Now, in this barren graveyard of skeleton trees I felt defeated.

I threw down my pack and booked it to a large boulder just off the trail – the only thing remotely close to a shady place to rest. I crouched beside the boulder, rubbing my shoulders, panting, and on the verge of tears. I realized with sinking certainty, that I had been defeated. I did not have what it took to be an adventurer. I had daydreamed that I would embark on my first backcountry quest with undiscovered, unharnessed, unshakeable strength. Now, as I huddled pathetically by a large rock in the middle of an unbelievably hot, desolate wasteland, the acknowledgment of my inexperience and weakness was nausea inducing.

My husband, upon realizing that I was no longer behind him, circled back and found me in my sorry state. With a gentle smile, he asked what was wrong. I told him that I was not cut out for the wild. My pack was too heavy, it was too hot, and my legs felt like jello. I told him that I could not go on and that we should turn back. My husband would have none of it. He gave me the bottle of water that we brought with us, and I drank deeply, sucking down the warm liquid that offered little to no relief from my suffering. I handed the bottle back to him, wiping my mouth with the back of my sweaty hand. My husband stowed the bottle and held out his hand to me. “Let’s go,” he said, confidently. He hauled me to my feet and helped me ease back into the straps of my pack.

And we carried on. With every step, my body ached more, and the sun beat down harder. But then, gradually, something amazing happened. I realized that despite my discomfort, I was pushing on, keeping up with my husband, and feeling more and more capable by the minute. The landscape changed again and we began winding in between tall cliffs and more alpine meadows. Patches of snow appeared sporadically in the shadowy  places. The heat became more bearable and I didn’t mind the burning in my shoulders and hips so much. I realized that my body was very capable of doing this. I had only to push through my mental barriers to release the adventurer strength within me. I was backpacking! I breathed in the fresh, mountain air and looked around me as I walked, drinking in the beauty of the backcountry – so remote and so unlike any place I had ever been.

Finally, we wound down the side of a cliff, came around a corner, and there it was: our destination. A beautiful valley lay before us, and on the opposite side, a grassy mountainside rose up into a bright blue sky. My husband and I smiled at each other. We trekked across the valley and up the other mountainside, where we found a relatively flat bank with a killer view. We set up camp, built our own water filtration system out of t-shirts, gravel, grass, and some charcoal that my husband had grabbed from the burned out forest we passed through earlier. The water that we filtered was the cleanest tasting water I had ever had the pleasure of guzzling.

That night we sat on the mountainside and watched the sunset together. The last blazing light of the day lit the wildflowers around us on fire so that they glowed in a supernatural way. It was so quiet. So still. The air was so crisp. The sun finally slipped behind a distant peak. It was a brand new world that I was in. In that moment, the backcountry welcomed me with open arms as one of it’s own. I fell in love on that mountainside, both with my husband all over again for believing in the strength that I had inside of me, even when I didn’t, and with the backcountry and all it stood for and all it had to offer. The wild places wove their way into my soul and I’ve never looked back.

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First sunset in the backcountry.

Little Slice of Heaven

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Our family’s little slice of heaven.

Everyone needs a quiet place to escape to. A place that makes you relax just thinking about it. That is what is so great about cabins. They are your own little slice of heaven that you can run off to in order to get away from it all. They are a safe haven that you can go to for a peaceful weekend away from the grind; a springboard for adventure.

Whether you like to hole up inside with a good book and shut the whole world out, or use it as a base camp for exploration, cabins are what it’s all about.