So, what do I, the best skier on the mountain (shout out to Shane McConkey, RIP), do in the winter months without skiing? Well it turns out there are a few other options, who knew! Homework, for one, has been a great choice. Not nearly as fun as skiing, but I am paying to go to school so it’s probably good that I finally have time to spend on classes. I also recently discovered a love of thrift shopping; one Saturday without skiing and next thing I know I have two pairs of mom jeans and an antique dress I’m somehow going to cut and hem with all my crafting experience. I’ll keep you updated on how that one goes. Without skiing, I’ve turned to other forms of exercise as well. I actually went on my first run since eighth grade track the other day, and it was exhilarating! I can’t say I’ll be making it a regular thing, but it helped get me moving instead of laying on my bed eating my mom’s care package cookies in sorrow for the rest of winter.
Even with all these new hobbies, I’ve been a little stir crazy. So onto my next winter no-skiing activity: backpacking into hot springs. While I only have one awesome experience to speak from, I’ve got to say this one is my favorite.
With a three-day weekend fast approaching, and no plans on the horizon, my friends suggested a spontaneous trip to Goldbug Hot Springs near Salmon, Idaho, a quick four hour drive from Bozeman. I was hesitant, what with my new commitment to spending all my free-time doing homework and the midterms I hadn’t studied for the next week, but I decided I needed to get out soon or I’d go insane. It would no doubt be better than sitting at home sadly looking at Bridger webcams. So, with little to no planning and a backpack full of smuggled dining hall food, we hopped in the car and drove to the trailhead.
Of course, it being President’s Day weekend, the road was lined with 40 plus cars spending the day at the hotsprings. Luckily, as we were hiking in, a constant flow of these day-trippers were sliding their way down the trail back to their cars, giving us a little more seclusion in this backcountry excursion.
We made it up the first snow/mud/slush covered hill, managing not to fall on our backs from the weight of our packs and flounder like upside-down turtles, and were quickly on our way to a perfect little tent site by the creek about a half-mile from the springs. We setup our tent in a dry spot under a tree, donned our swimsuits, covered ourselves with the proper amount of Febraury layers for the hike up, and make the final trek up the slippery trail to the springs. And boy was it worth it! Or I guess I should say it was totally awful and you should never come here. That way I can have it all to myself.
The warm little creek from heaven itself flowed down a series of waterfalls into six or seven perfect sitting pools of bliss. We soaked into the night, hopping to warmer pools as the temperature dropped, and basked in the glory of this weekend retreat from finals and sad skiing conditions.
The way down was absolutely treacherous. Walking at the back of the group, I managed to avoid completely slipping in the ideal combination of slush, mud and darkness, but my two other comrades were not so lucky. By some miracle of the hot springs gods we made it to the tent, and, bundled up in our multicolored sleeping bags, we fell asleep to the sound of the creek.
The next weekend, Bridger got absolutely dumped on. Like-storm-of-the-century, 40-inches-in-one-weekend, cold-smoke type of snow. Maybe winter was like, “Yo, Audrey, remember it’s February? Ski season, man! What’s this hot springs, backpacking nonsense?” Or maybe winter was like, “Good job, you found something else cool to do instead of sitting inside crying about global warming. And you’ve remembered how cool summer activities can be so you won’t go into a full depression with the fast-approaching end to ski season. Now that I’ve taught you this valuable lesson about branching out, we’ll give you a hella ton of snow!” Either way, I appreciate the return of winter and will be more than happy to go back to my obsessive lifestyle for a few more weeks until the snow has melted and the camping gear comes out again. And with the end of March on the near horizon, this transition back to summer sports is fast and coming. So enjoy the time on the slopes while we’ve got it, and then see you all soon on the trails.]]>
The Five Stages of Grief
For those of us who love to scale walls, float rivers, or run trails, an injury can be as much of a mental burden to overcome as a physical one. Outdoorsmen and women are often so connected to their adventurous lifestyle that an injury can seem to be a threat not only to a hobby but to our happiness and our self-identity. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s popular Five Stages of Grief model is a useful tool for identifying and understanding the psychological process of dealing with an injury. I didn’t learn about Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief model until college, but looking back over past injuries, I can clearly see the behaviors and thoughts of each stage.
1. Denial. A couple years ago I developed Golfer’s elbow (tendonitis) in both of my elbows from long bouldering sessions four or five times per week. The dull, constant pain crept in, but I kept ignoring it — after all, I was making great progress in my training. I would wake up with the pain, and it would follow me everywhere. “It just needs to warm up a bit” I would tell myself, “my body is just getting used to climbing, the pain will go away any day now,” I would say. This stage, as its name suggests, is all about denying that we have a problem. This is a defensive response; if we ignore the issue, then we can keep on (trying to) do the things we love.
2. Anger. Once the pain continued for a few weeks unabated, I got frustrated. “Why did this happen to me?” “There are other people who climb just as much as me who are fine.” “This is bullshit!” The anger stage takes hold when our denial starts to fall apart. Anger is really the hurt and fear of our injury expressed outward. Pain and fear are weak emotions so instead we get angry because it makes us feel in control of our uncontrollable situation.
3. Bargaining. As the anger subsided I began to try to fix my situation by bargaining with myself. “Alright, I’ll only climb a little bit tonight” or, “I’ll take a rest day, it should be back to normal after that.” These became my new mantras as I tried unsuccessfully to mend my wound. The bargaining stage is an extension of trying to control our injury on terms that are acceptable to us. We have begun to realize that something must be done, and try desperately to cling to control.
4. Depression. When my bargaining didn’t pan out as expected — big surprise, I know — I entered into the depression phase. “I’m going to be like this forever,” “I’ll never be able to climb,” “What’s the point of this,” “My friends are going to get so much better than me and leave me by the wayside.” The depression stage is where we realize that the situation is as bad as we have secretly suspected all along. We have an injury, we can’t deny or bargain it out of existence. The grief of losing out on something we love really sets in.
5. Acceptance. Finally, after months of stumbling through this process, I reached acceptance. “Alright, I’ve got to take some time off bouldering,” “This doesn’t change who I am,” “I’m going to be alright.” The the stage of acceptance is characterized by calmness. We aren’t happy with our situation, but we accept it for what it is, and do what we have to to get healthy again.
So I took some much needed, but equally dreaded time away from the bouldering gym. And you know what? My life didn’t end, my friends didn’t forget about me, and the bouldering gym was still there after six weeks away. I spent my recovery time getting into CrossFit, though I avoided exercises like pull-ups that would aggravate my elbows. It was great to jump into a new hobby. I felt refreshed and, despite my constantly sore legs, it felt good to focus on my often overlooked lower body strength. I ended up making friends and am still connected with the CrossFit community to this day. The acceptance of my injury and my taking time off, I was able to join a new community and discover a new passion.
How’s that Shoulder feeling?
Does any of my self-talk sound familiar? You’ve probably had such conversations with yourself, or will as you wind down the trail of life. But there is a better way. Identify if you are in this cycle of grief about an ache, if so, take a step back and try to think what you would tell a friend in the same situation. Whether you have a traumatic event or are experiencing an ongoing pain, it is important to listen to your body and have an honest discussion with yourself when you aren’t feeling one-hundred-percent. Do not ignore your pain, and go to the doctor if it doesn’t get better. If you do ignore an injury, it will only take longer to heal and to get you back to enjoying what you really love. If you decide that you do need to take a rest, there are still ways to keep active so you don’t go crazy. Keep on training and having fun, just be sure you aren’t aggravating your injury — if your shoulder is hurt, start trail running or hiking more, if your knee is the issue, get into that hangboard routine you’ve been looking at.
An injury is a golden opportunity to pursue other pastimes. Utilize your recovery to explore new interests or hobbies — maybe you can start using that camera you got as a gift last Christmas, or maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to play the harmonica, or write poetry, or learn to paint, or get into extreme ironing (yes, it is a real thing). The world is full of fun and rewarding pursuits, and I promise not all of them involve torturing your finger ligaments pulling on micro crimps!]]>
You don’t need to look far to see the women out there now, getting down and dirty by backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, and trail running. There are all the women who fought for the U.S. Mountain Running Championships to have equal race distances for both men and women, or organizations like Women’s Wilderness and Trail Sisters, both located in Boulder, CO, who are creating a sisterhood of powerful women reclaiming our natural place in the wild. Not to mention the bad-ass college women, who are at the forefront of outdoor activities, actually surpassing men in outdoor activities in the 18-24 age range. While there is still a discrepancy between men and women in the wild across the board, the last decade has shown a movement of women getting outside. We may have grown up watching our brothers go on camping trips with dads, told not get dirty and that the wild is not safe for women, but we no longer believe the lies that a woman’s place is inside. Instead, we see a woman’s place as on top of the mountain, on the side of a rock wall, or under the stars.
How did this change come about? I’m sure books like A Silent Spring, Wild, and Becoming Odyssa have helped light a spark for many women and that athletes like ultra-runner Ann Trason, climber Lynn Hill, and mountaineer Lhakpa Sherpa have fueled the fire, but I also think we’ve heard the call of Mother Nature.
I would like to slightly elongate Helen Reddy’s famous lyric “I am woman, hear me roar” to encompass all of our rights: I am woman, hear me roar…or chirp, or growl, or neigh or howl. As women of the wild, we have a right to roar with power, to chirp love songs as the sun rises, to growl when our boundaries are crossed, to neigh with freedom, to howl with strength and pleasure at the moon. We harness all of these energies to use and share at our will.
Who will you share this power with? As college women, we are both the current and future change-makers of the world. My guess is that you have friends who haven’t yet found their roar. But they have you.
Harness your inner strength that you’ve found outside are share that passion with those around you. Together, let us roar, chirp, growl, neigh, and howl.]]>
1. Stay safe, be prepared
This first one should be obvious. Regardless of the outdoor activity you’re pursuing over spring break, the most dangerous part of your adventure will be driving. Putting in lots of driving over the course of multiple days only makes this commonplace activity even more risky. To combat these inherent dangers, share the responsibility of driving equally, stop for regular breaks, and don’t take unnecessary risks. As my driver’s ed teacher once told me, drive like everyone else on the road is terrible at driving!
In addition, prepare for the kinds of conditions you might experience during the trip. You probably won’t need a snow shovel or cold weather gear if you’re driving toward the Deep South, but you’ll definitely want one if you’re going backcountry skiing in the Rockies. Emergencies happen, so jumper cables, food, and overnight gear are all important things to have in your vehicle while on an adventure.
2. Do your job, and nothing else
Within every vehicle lies a rigid hierarchy, and each trip member must know their role and execute it without question. As the driver, your job is simple. DRIVE! Don’t navigate, don’t dig through your bag searching for things, and certainly don’t look at your phone. Your job is to keep everyone safe, and you have a car full of people to do those other things for you.
If you are sitting in the shotgun seat, congratulations! Not only do you get bonus legroom, you also get to serve as the driver’s personal assistant. That means staying awake and attending to any and every little need your driver has including, but not limited to: navigating, climate control, playing music, helping the driver shed a layer, helping the driver add a layer, providing thoughtful and engaging conversation, feeding the driver, communicating with any other cars on your trip, and giving the driver exaggerated and undeserved praise at regular intervals. Oh, and if you sit in shotgun while I’m driving, you also have to laugh at my jokes. Sorry.
If you have found yourself in any of the back seats, you need to rest and recharge till it’s your turn up front again. Nap, read, do whatever you need to do, until the driver demands a shoulder rub from you. In that case, wake up and follow your commander’s orders.
3. The driver has the final say on music
This one is crucial. While the shotgun passenger controls music and should feel free to play whatever they and the rest of the car would like, they must remember that they serve at the pleasure of the driver. At any moment, the person behind the wheel has the authority to demand a song be added to the queue, or even to shift the car’s musical direction entirely. If, for instance, the driver demands to hear only mid 2000’s pop-rap and Katy Perry’s early work (I have no shame) for the duration of their shift, the DJ must comply, and all the passengers are expected to enthusiastically sing along with their leader, especially during the chorus of “Teenage Dream.”
4. Keep your vehicle clean
If your road trip lasts multiple days, your car will become your second home for the near-future, so treat it with love! If you’re not careful, your mom’s lovely hatchback that she so-kindly loaned to you and your friends for the week will turn into a hellscape, a wasteland littered with wet gear, loose trash, and stray GORP. Do yourself (and your mom) a favor by keeping your ride clean!
5. Abandon your fine-dining sensibilities
Once you hit the road, your food choices drop drastically. You could stop the car regularly every day to find exquisite cuisine or to prepare and cook your own healthy and delicious meals, or you could get to your destination within a reasonable timeframe. As most choose the latter option, you will likely have to surrender any hope of eating your traditional diet of organic squash and free-range kale chips. Instead, you will likely be eating plenty of fast food and gas station snacks. Be sure to mix-up your snack choices and, to prevent yourself from entering a grease-induced coma, go grocery shopping before you leave to add some simple and healthy alternatives into your road trip diet. After several straight meals that included french fries, a crisp apple or a handful of carrot sticks will go a long way.
6. You will learn to love the gas station
During your drive, when you’re not in the car or exploring, you’ll be at a gas station. If you’re doing your road trip right, these spots will become so much more than just a place for a fill-up and a bathroom break. After many hours in the car, the gas station provides a much-needed place to buy a snack, stretch your legs, and get outside for a moment. If you’re feeling restless, take the time for a parking lot dance party and/or cross training session before you get back on the road. Other motorists might judge you as you and your friends throw in a core routine and some curbside burpees, but they’re not having nearly as much fun as you are.
7. Don’t stick to the Plan
My friends and I drove South to experience some of the finest whitewater paddling the country has to offer. So why then, did I find myself tarp-sledding and snow kayaking at a West Virginia ski resort one day and mountain biking some seriously technical North Carolina singletrack the next? We changed our plans, that’s why! Though we initially planned to paddle a new river every day, the sunny days, 80 degree temperatures, and solid water levels on Georgia’s Chattooga River kept us down there for three full days. We loved every single one of them. If you are lucky enough to have a flexible itinerary on your road trip, take full advantage of it. You will likely encounter opportunities and unforeseen obstacles on the road (like the time I accidentally locked the keys inside our truck while at a Pennsylvania rest stop…), and you will have the best experience if you can adjust your plans to suit these changes instead of forcing a trip that only existed in your mind in the first place.
8. Embrace the old cliché
Some condescending person probably once told you that “life’s about the journey, not the destination.” However, their tired advice still holds true in regards to road trips. Whatever adventure you’re headed on over break, it’s likely that the driving part is merely a means to an end, a way to get you somewhere so that you can do something you actually love. The drive can be more than a necessary evil, though. The act of sharing a small space with the same group of people for a long period of time can be challenging, rewarding, and hilarious in its own right. You will likely learn a great deal about yourself and your companions during those long drives and, hopefully, grow from the experience. There are incredible sights to see from the highways, your friends have music they have never gotten to share with you, and a gas station Coke after a long day’s adventure should be considered one of the finer things in life. Your outdoor adventure is just around the corner. Till then, enjoy the drive!
Bonus Tip: “My Cows” is the greatest road trip game you will ever play
If you see a group of cows, yell out “my cows!” If you are the first person to do so, congratulations! You now have cows! Count how many cows you saw and add them to your total cow quota. If the total number of cows you just claimed is too large to quantify, estimate the size of the herd (this approximation must be a number unanimously accepted by all parties playing) and award yourself that many livestock.
If you are the first person to see a church of any faith or denomination, say “marry my cows!” Huzzah! You have just DOUBLED your total amount of cows.
Stay alert, though, because if anyone sees a cemetery, they can declare, “kill your cows,” and reset any one player’s cow quota back to zero. Be extra vigilant of the potential church-cemetery combo. These can change the tide of an entire game.]]>
Rewind back two months. On a rainy Wednesday evening near the end of November, the Penn Outdoors Club (UPOC) huddled together at one of their usual meetings, mugs clad in hands. Towards the end of the meeting, a member mentioned that sign-ups were now open for “VICE Fest,” a weekend event hosted by Tufts University, where both beginners and experienced climbers pay to spend a weekend climbing and hanging out with other outdoors-loving people. Initially, I completely waived off the idea. For some reason, however, it stayed on my mind. About a week after that meeting, I called my parents and asked for probably the most peculiar Christmas present I’ve ever requested: the registration cost for an ice climbing trip.
After about nine hours (which included an emergency stop to buy waterproof pants) of being squished in the car like the bunch of excited sardines that we were, me and some fellow UPOCers arrived at the lodge. We got in at around 1:11 am, and next thing I knew, I was awoken by the sounds of “Ice Ice Baby” playing on loudspeakers. As we geared up for the day, I quickly got over my tiredness, because the energy in the lodge was magnetic – everyone was clearly pumped for the day ahead. Before heading to the falls, we made a stop at a local outdoors store to gather some name-brand gear that sponsors had generously offered to lend us.
When we arrived at the Champney Falls parking lot, we had about a mile hike through beautiful snow-covered forest and tall green pines. All the nervousness I had was lost during our walk. Breathing in the fresh, crisp air and seeing the sun sparkle on top of the snow, I knew that being here was the right decision.
We arrived at Champney Falls and set our packs down. Then ensued the mayhem of trying to figure out how on Earth to put on the gear that I’d been equipped with – including, but not limited to, confusing metal spikes (for the bottom of your shoes), miniature axes (although even I could figure out what we would use those for), a harness with multiple loops for unknown body parts, etc. Fortunately, VICE-Fest supplied numerous extremely helpful and experienced guides and climbers who happily helped me with the confusing jumble of what I later learned to be: crampons, picks, and a harness (no special code name for that one).
Next came the really fun part: learning how to ice climb. Our guide explained to us that the goal is to keep the body in a triangular position with the arms closer together and the feet widespread. As for actually moving up the wall, he titled the two positions as “peeing” – when you are reaching your hands up to find the next spot to pick with your mini ax, your hips should be towards the wall and your body should be vertical, and “pooping” – when your hands are placed and secure, you should bend your butt back and look down for a good spot to shove your spiked boots into the wall.
When I tested out the technique on a small stretch of wall, I was doubtful that I would be able to cover any ground on my non-practice rounds. However, after watching a couple people give it a try, I was eager to try for myself. On my first attempt, I got up a few feet before realizing that my boots were way too loose, so I came back down and put on an extra pair of wool socks.
On my second attempt, I got past the spot I’d stopped at the first time, and then paused, breathing heavily. Though I’d done little work, my arms were heavy, and there weren’t as many giveaway spots higher up as there had been below. Nevertheless, I was determined to go higher. “Come on, girl, you can do this,” I whispered to myself, and swung my pick into the ice. The higher I climbed, the more excited I felt. And while I’m not one who gets excited about heights – not at all – I realized that with all my focus being on the next place to stab the wall, I completely forgot about how high off of the ground I was.
While going up was a laborious but not a frightening process, coming down was somewhat more daunting. Climbers make it look easy, but trusting the person holding the other end of the rope (called the “belayer”) to lower you down slowly as you lean back and try to enjoy the ride is not easy. I kept running into the wall (I have some rather nasty bruises to show for it) because I couldn’t bring myself to put my feet flat against the wall and let them do the work like they told me. I was pretty freaked out. On my left, however, was a guy who was a lot stronger and just generally better at this than I was. Seeing my struggle, he climbed towards me and calmly gave me some encouragement, as well as telling me to hand him one of my picks so that I didn’t have to carry them both down. Gaining nerve from his encouragement, I handed him the pick and made the rest of my way down successfully.
It was a great afternoon. Just watching some of the more experienced climbers was mesmerizing. There was such a positive attitude of encouragement. And I am proud to say that by the end, I could take off my own crampons, harness, and helmet, unaided.
Upon arrival at the lodge, we were greeted with the inviting smells of warm chili, and, after changing into warm clothes, everyone grabbed a bowl and relaxed. In addition, we also had the opportunity to hear from an experienced climber – who had just gotten back from Patagonia, Chile – about his adventures there and other places. It was extremely inspiring and encouraging to hear about his and his partners’ dedication and perseverance. He encouraged all of us to set goals and continue challenging ourselves in whatever outdoor activity impassioned us.
Before we left New Hampshire the next morning, in true UPOC tradition, we made a stop at a local diner for a sumptuous breakfast.
Overall, a fantastic trip. Everything about the weekend was amazing, and although I went into the trip really nervous about not knowing anything about climbing, with all the encouragement from the guides and other climbers, it turned out to be an extremely do-able and exhilarating experience.
Final thoughts/advice for any first time climbers: One, definitely give it a try. Two, your arms will feel like you’ve been pulling a train when you wake up the next morning. Be prepared. Three, know that everyone, at some point, has been a newbie climber, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help whenever you need it. Explore on.]]>
There are adventures to be had, trails to be discovered, sunsets to be seen. The wild is waiting for you. That’s not all though. There’s also the opportunity to fight for what you believe in, to make a difference, to stand up for the places you love. The National Parks are calling.
Volunteering in the National Parks
Regardless of your political affiliation, there is one thing I’m fairly certain of: you love the outdoors. As a nature lover, you want to keep it safe, to protect it from the harm of man. And, right now, our parks are under attack.
While I’m going to specifically talk about the National Parks in this article, this really includes our state and local parks, our open spaces, our backyard safe-havens. Currently, our National Parks are facing the possible repeal of rule that would allow drilling to occur in more than 40 National Parks, including my second home, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, a beautiful escape from the bordering cities of Akron and Cleveland. In addition, the National Parks Service (NPS) is losing its freedom of speech. They are no longer allowed to Tweet about environmental issues.
A Few Tips:
Admittedly, this may not be as easy as throwing a few changes of clothes in your car and driving to a park. Some planning may be helpful. Here are a few tips:
1. Pick a Park! My first suggestion here is to actually figure out where you want to explore. Pick a place where you can both volunteer and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, whether it’s rock climbing or kayaking. Or, what do you want to see? Big mountains, deserts, or forests of trees? Consider the climate too (while remembering conditions are rarely predictable)
2. Find Volunteer Opportunities. The easiest way to do this is probably just doing a quick Google search. Or, you can visit the National Park Service’s website for volunteer opportunities, sorted by park or state: https://www.nps.gov/gettinginvolved/volunteer/opportunities.htm?state=. Some parks will have normal volunteer opportunities, while some have opportunities tailored specifically to college students on spring break. These are great as they will not only help with accommodations and meals, but may also give opportunities to explore different careers within the NPS. (Plus, this will be a great resume builder!)
3. Organize. Will you be going with friends? Carpooling or flying? Where can you get help to pay for travel costs? During my undergrad, I went with a group of about 10 students to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina, a twelve-hour drive from our small college in northern Ohio. While we had a place to stay, we needed a way to get there. Not to be deterred, we fundraised for our trip throughout the school, got access to a school van, grabbed a nutty professor (I mean that in the most endearing way possible) to drive, and we were off!
Going solo? No worries! This is still an amazing opportunity to meet other college students who, like you, have a passion for the outdoors.
Still thinking about the sun and beaches? Being a sun and warm-weather lover myself, I can understand that. However, the National Parks need your support NOW. The opportunity to rise above injustice is waiting for you at this very moment.
If you can’t make it to a National Park this spring break, don’t worry. There are still plenty of ways to get outside and make a difference. Besides volunteering at a local park or cleaning up some trash left on trail, one of the best things you can do is a grab a friend or family member and share your love for the outdoors. Take your couch loving dad for a short hike or take your little sister on a nature scavenger hunt. The more people out there who love the outdoors, the more people we have to protect it.
One last thing. Even if you are missing the wild parties on Daytona Beach, you can still go a little rogue. All you have to do is take pictures of you and your friends in the park and TWEET. Add a caption about global warming and Tweet some more.]]>
“Right, two more,” I respond, smiling under my neck gaiter as we reach the top of the chairlift. Within our circle, taking one last run, or even speaking of it, is considered terrible luck. We have convinced ourselves that injuries occur most frequently then, and we all have stories justifying this healthy superstition. My own burgeoning ski racing career was cruelly cut short in second grade when I broke my leg on the last run of the day. Could the injury have been caused by the combination of the overconfidence of an eight-year-old and my utter lack of technique? Impossible! It had to have been the curse of the last run. Rather than face such a predicament again, I now take precautions to avoid the risks that come with the end of the day. The simplest solution: I take second-to-last runs, and then I come up with some excuse at the bottom for why I can’t board the lift again. This time, we unload the lift together and decide to ski King’s Landing, one of our favorites. Skating over to the run, I can’t help but think that this day went by too quickly. I wish we could stay overnight and ski more, but because of our obligations at school, the four of us had to concede that this trip would just be a one-day adventure.
I always enjoy big multi-day adventures when I get the opportunity to go on them. Admittedly, there are few other experiences that leave me so content and refreshed as getting away for a few nights to ski, backpack, or paddle with friends. However, these incredible overnight trips can often overshadow a simpler kind of expedition: the humble daytrip. While I most look forward to the grander outings that school vacations and long weekends offer, it is the single-day quests that hold me together during the most stressful times in a busy semester. Skiing right before finals started last semester did exactly that. With a week of papers and exams ahead, my friends and I could easily have spent our entire Sunday working in the library. Instead, we declared Sunday a day for motivation and recharging. In other words, a day for skiing. Some might have called it procrastination, but we preferred the term “self-care.” So, with our skis and our justifications in tow, we loaded up my friend’s car and set out early Sunday morning.
One of the most apparent advantages that daytrips have over their longer brethren is their simplicity. The sleeping gear, cookware, and food necessary for a longer trip are all absent, and only the essentials for a day on the mountain remain. Leaving school for just a short time also makes a trip far more agreeable to people’s busy and conflicting schedules. It’s often incredibly difficult to convince multiple people to get off campus for days at a time, and that option seems to disappear entirely once finals approaches. Skiing for the day meant we could comfortably set aside our responsibilities, enjoy our time outside, and get back for the study groups and review sessions that demanded our attention later that evening.
But my favorite thing about daytrips, regardless of the activity or when they occur in the semester, is the feeling of immediacy they produce. Each run, each chairlift conversation, and each attempt at hockey stopping late to spray one another with snow, feels more valuable than they do when I have several days for them. On that particular day, I took an extra moment to appreciate the bluebird sky, and the New England gusts that kept chilling me despite my layers didn’t seem so unpleasant. I knew that, in a few hours, I would happily trade the paper I had to write in the library for the chance to stand freezing in the wind on top of Sugarloaf.
We crammed in a ton of runs all over the mountain, but, eventually, the time came to take our second-to-last run of the day. Down King’s Landing, I practiced my turn technique, trying my best to use my edges and take wide, carving turns like a ski racer would. I’m sure my attempt was far less pretty, but at least I can blame that on a cursed run that I took twelve years ago. We skied the run without stopping and regrouped at the base, joking around and topping one another with the best excuse for not taking another run. With our skis off and over our shoulders, we headed to the car.
I thought more about our little adventure on the drive home that evening. The four of us certainly hadn’t caught the first chair, and we weren’t the last ones on the mountain at the end of the day. The wind had stayed strong, shutting down a couple lifts, and there wasn’t an inch of powder to be found anywhere on the mountain. None of that mattered. Despite the stress and hectic pace of the end of the semester, I had been able to step off campus and take ski day with some of my closest friends in the world. The day left me feeling far more relaxed and ready to take on the assignments ahead, and, with midterms already fast approaching, I am sure I’ll be taking another trip with friends very soon.
We made it into the dining hall just before closing. Still in our ski gear, we grabbed food from the buffet and found a few of our friends who had stayed late to wait for us. “How was the skiing?” one of them asked.
“Excellent, as always,” I replied, beaming.]]>
1. She has a Chaco tan (as I look at my own that has somehow miraculously lasted through this winter season). The Chaco tan is kinda like the goggle tan for outdoorsmen; the intensity of the Chaco tan shows that your girl actually gets outside and uses her Chacos for a purpose besides their obvious fashion perks. If you comment on it, be prepared for a two day slide-show about her rivertrip on the Grand Canyon this summer and several other brief anecdotes about outdoor excursions that leave no question she’s super rad.
2. She kills the costume life. Whether it’s a last day of the season gaper day or an 80’s party, you know she has at least four hot pink, retro jackets and some crazy leggings to break fashion barriers and absolutely own the day. If you ask nicely, you can probably borrow one and be the hottest couple out there any day of the year.
3. She always has a nalgene. And said nalgene undoubtedly has a ton of cool stickers with all the coolest brands. The stickers are probably organized very well because you know she planned out exactly where each sticker was going to go and how well it encompasses all her favorite brands. In case of overflow stickers, her laptop case is also undoubtedly covered with stickers in a similar organized fashion. Accessories gotta look good, and show exactly how rad we are.
4. She owns a lot of fleeces. Probably one of those Patagonia, retro looking fleeces everyone has, but also several dozen from various thrift stores and six either their mom or dad wore in college. And fleece goes well with everything! You’re taking her out to a five star restaurant and it’s a little chilly outside? Don’t worry she’s got her fleece to throw over her lil’ black dress!
5. Similarly, she owns a lot of flannel. The flannel is interchangeable with the fleeces, so everyday she’ll have at least one on. Bonus points for both, it’s all about the layering ladies.
6. You can do something outdoorsy and have absolutely no doubt that she’ll love every minute of it the same, if not more, than you will. There’s no stopping and waiting for her on any occasion ‘cause she charges and is never scared of a bit of a challenge. She sends it more than you and you’re proud to admit it.
7. Sometimes you can’t decide if she’s tanner looking simply because she’s been outside all day or because she’s been rolling in the dirt. She has no issues gettin’ down and dirty (in all cases if you know what I mean). On a rivertrip she’s the first one to find the sinky-mud, or complete coat her body in it, and the shower water will become dirt itself as soon as she washes her hair. This is a good thing guys, because if you ever do something cute like start a mud-fight she will 100% fight back and probably win, even if she has mud in her mouth.
8. She can hang with the bros. She knows all the lingo, can shotgun a beer better than all of you, can take all the shit-giving and dish it out equally well, and is really just one of your coolest friends.
9. She’s super passionate about the environment. I know all you outdoor significant others are too so that’s why you make such a great couple. There aren’t too many political divides between you and you both truly understand the implications of climate change. Sorry to get so serious all of the sudden, but it is a huge part of our lives as outdoors people and undoubtedly your girl is going to really care about being environmentally conscious. Along these lines she’ll probably only buy organic food and you’ll never see her set foot in a McDonald’s. She may also do yoga, since we’re on the topic of hippie clichés, and this will probably occur outside at sunrise or on a paddleboard and you’ll be quite impressed with her flexibility.
10. She might even be cooler than you. Outdoorswomen are a rare and awesome breed, so hold on tight. You could pick her out in a crowd in a second with her Chacos, fleece, braids, probably a nose-piercing, and just overall exuberance for the world around her. Makes sense that you’d spend this wonderful holiday (and obviously the rest of the year) doing something cool outside with a dope girl like her.
So there you have it, a small sum of the outdoors breed. I’m sure you already know how rad and outdoorsy your significant other is, but just in case you couldn’t quite peg them now you really know. And for those of us out there without a significant other, now’s the time to make the move! Or just spend February 14 with fellow single-pringles and relish in the fact that you can surround yourself with these outdoors people even without a relationship. So, happy Valentine’s Day to all you nature-lovin, flannel-obsessed men and women out there; I appreciate every one of you and your outdoor antics.
Part 1: You know you’re dating an outdoors person when…
1. He’s got a goggle tan. Since your radness as a skier is undoubtedly measured by the intensity of your goggle tan, you know he’s going to be tanning in the backyard with his goggles on to make sure everyone who looks at his face knows he’s the best skier on the mountain.
2. He uses terms such as rad, sick, sendy, shifty, boof, gnar, nutty, and jib in every sentence. This is the almost “mating call” of an outdoorsman, so he can make it clear to everyone around him that he clearly knows what he’s talking about it when it comes to dope adventures. Don’t worry: if you don’t understand a term he’ll be happy to explain it to you. And I’m sure soon enough you’ll catch on to all the lingo and you can communicate in your own slang language!
3. You’ve never seen him without a flannel. Even when you’re “sleeping” he probably has it on. Extra points if he wears those cargo/khaki tan pants and Chacos regardless of the season. And he hasn’t cut his hair in a few years and/or has a man bun.
4. His date ideas always include something outdoorsy. This can mean anything from wandering the bountiful heaven of REI for hours at a time to actually taking you on a cool hike or adventure in our great outdoors to watching a ski movie. “Netflix and chill” becomes “Dude did you see that sick Misty-Rodeo-12-Daffy-Back, he totally stomped it.”
5. He has the dopest sticker collection. How he continuously adds to this collection is a total mystery, and what he does with all of them is also a mystery. But, man they’re cool and you’ll probably steal them.
6. There’s gear everywhere. He may only have two bikes, but you swear that’s at least two-hundred and four crammed in every corner of the house. And none of them can stay outside because he loves them more than you. Your pillow is probably a climbing rope and sometimes you mix up your soap with ski wax. Why was it in the shower in the first place? No one really knows.
7. He KNOWS his brands and gear. And when I say knows I mean you could find the most obscure brand that two guys run out of their garage in Bluff, Utah and ask him about the 2013 model of the Seder 2000 and he would tell you every possible bit of information, why you should or shouldn’t buy it, and how much it costs. When you say something like, “I want new skis,” be prepared to listen to an entire presentation on your options and the best choice for you. Honestly, this ridiculous amount of gear knowledge could be one of the most useful things when you’re blindly buying something, so keep him around ladies (and gentlemen).
8. He’s hurt just about every day of the year. “Hon, you just hurt your back biking last week and almost drowned kayaking the week before that, don’t you think you should take a break?” The response is always no unless he’s in a full body cast. And have no doubt that skiing with him or climbing with him and watching him absolutely send something will terrify you to your very core. But when he sticks it you’ll admit how dope it really was. If he sticks it.
9. Most of his stories are exaggerated by like 300%, but also based on some totally impressive adventures. Yes, a lot of the stories have a fair amount of bragging, but he adds in enough anecdotes about how much he messed up or got hurt that it balances out.
10. He’s the coolest guy you know. There’s a reason you’re dating him after all, and all jokes aside, his flannel-loving, always dirty, story-telling, adventurous, rad personality is pretty great.
Part 2: You know you’re dating an outdoors person when…
The 5 Worst Outdoor Date Ideas:
1) Ice climbing
Some days ice climbing would actually make for a great date. However, you must first ask yourself a few questions. Is the temperature in the single digits or lower? Is the approach over an hour and all uphill? Does your date have rock climbing experience? Will your date have to borrow gear from you or share poorly sized boots and gloves? If you answered yes to any of these questions, prepare yourself for a short day with a long, silent car ride home.
2) Multi-pitch rock climbing
Like ice climbing, this can be a great date if it is with the right person. General rule of thumb: if it is his or her first time on real rock, a three pitch classic (aka sandbagged) route at the Gunks is a bad idea. Nothing facilities frustration and screams heard ’round the crag like your current and never again climbing partner/date fully weighting a rope for the first time as they dangle 200 feet off the ground.
3) Skiing Pow
You’ve been skiing since you could walk. Your date came to New England for college and is from Texas. It has been dumping snow all day and night, adding up to the deepest storm of the season. No matter how patient you are, and regardless of how endearing your date’s constant falling is, I guarantee that the powder turns will win out. If they really like you, they’ll understand right?
4) May Picnics
Specifically picnics in the hills of New England or the Adirondacks. The snow has finally melted and it is getting warm out, so you decide to hike up to your favorite overlook and have lunch. But wait, it’s black fly season. Instead of enjoying a peaceful afternoon of conversation and getting to know one another, the 3 minutes you actually sit still are spent being dive bombed by tiny blood sucking creatures. Lesson learned: unless your preferred fragrance is DEET bug spray, hold off on the mountain picnics until the black flies are dead.
5) Roadies going mountain biking or dirt riders converting to pavement
You both like to bike, great start! Unfortunately, 83% of roadies are scared of roots and that 15-mile singletrack loop is going to be more than anyone bargained for. Conversely, don’t underestimate a mountain biker’s ignorance when it comes to sandy corners and staying on your skinny tire bike. I’ve still got the scar from road rash that put an early end to my first and only biking related date.
The 5 best outdoor date ideas (sometimes dates in the out of doors actually work well!)
1) Going to the rock gym
So not exactly outdoors, but close enough! This can be a risky date, so be sure that you have the patience and teaching skills required. Go into it with an expectation that your lovely date will be crushing V6 by the evening’s end and you will be sorely disappointed. But if you both have clear expectations that the date is to try out climbing, not master it, it can open up the door to more future adventures.
2) Apple picking
Another relaxing activity that gets you outside with plenty of time to connect with nature and with one another! You would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a crisp fall afternoon. And the best part is that if it goes well, you can arrange for another date to bake a pie with all those apples you just picked.
3) Full-moon snowshoeing
There is something about the tranquil setting of a landscape blanketed in white and shimmering in the moonlight that just makes for a perfect date. Looking at the stars and watching your breath rise into the pale moonlight will soften anyone’s heart. Additionally, the gentle rhythm of the snowshoes moving through the snow means that you don’t have to fill the whole time with conversation.
4) Stand-up Paddle Boarding
This is a more adventurous option, but still doesn’t require too much technical expertise. It is active without being strenuous. Plan the date for a hot summer day, when swimming and hanging out in a cool lake is the best option around, and you have all the ingredients of a great date.
5) Hot Springs
This is a pretty foolproof date. It is both relaxing and romantic. There is plenty of time for conversation and you aren’t spending half the date teaching some new technical skill. The injury risk is also very low. Oh yeah, and you get to start out the date half-naked. The one downside is that hot springs are few and far between.]]>