Good news. There is a light at the end of the tunnel – just past that massive heap of work called final exams and/or papers. So how can you survive these last couple of days of being-cooped-up before the summer and stay alive? Here’s a couple of suggestions from an experienced prisoner.
1. Doodle pictures of trees on the corner of your notes.
This method works wonders to get you thinking and feeling like you’re in the great outdoors – although a casual warning that it usually comes at the price of not paying attention to/hearing literally anything the professor is saying.
Pro tip: Go crazy doodling the roots (helps me get through a good amount of my lectures).
2. Change all your home screen backgrounds to gorgeous nature pictures.
Choose some of the places on your bucket list and make them the screensaver on your phone/laptop/whatever else kids use these days. When you look at them, they’ll (hopefully) remind you that you’re going to be there soon.
3. Keep your hiking boots in the car
… so that you can grab a quick hike, if you come across some unexpected free time. Better yet, just don’t take them off. They’re more comfortable and they make you feel more badass than real shoes anyways.
4. Open all the windows of your apartment/house to let the wandering breeze through.
BONUS: this comes with the added benefit of – get ready – getting some nighttime cardio chasing around the room with a fly swatter! If you’re lucky like me and don’t have screens in the windows, this becomes a nightly pastime.
5. Take a study break and make microwavable s’mores.
Invite your pals to channel their inner campers and chow down. If that isn’t enough, try sticking a metal skewer in, and then you can just use the flaming appliance as a campfire! – but keep it contained, of course. Don’t get out of hand.
6. Take a blanket outside and do your homework there.
This is a great way to double team: spending some time outside AND getting some work done. Add some food, a sunset, and a cute boy (or, let’s be real, probably just one of your friends) and it’s the perfect dinner picnic.
7. Practice camping habits.
I wouldn’t recommend not showering because the stench may bother the roommates, but it’s important to practice habits that will keep you alive in the great outdoors so you know what to do if you see a bear on one of your summer camping trips – periodically bang your pots and pans together while you’re cooking dinner, just to stay vigilant. If you have a house guest, invite them to wear a bear costume so they can join in on the game.
8. Try starting a campfire.
If you already have this down, you should really challenge yourself. Practice doing it in unlikely places: the kitchen sink, the trash can, … even the toilet. Don’t forget to fan the fire by repeatedly opening and shutting the lid, to get some oxygen flow in there.
9. Go for a quick run.
Or a long run – in fact, just run away. Run home. Run to a national park. It’s better there.
*Disclaimer: You should probably not do any of these things. Side effects may include: burning your entire apartment down, scaring your friends, having to plunge the toilet, getting mad blisters on your feet, failing school, etc.
Most importantly, try to spend a few minutes each day, even if it’s just walking to class, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the sunshine. Make some awesome summer plans, like a weekend camping trip with friends or a road trip if you’re feeling ambitious, and start looking forward to those. Taking a break to spend time outside is 100% proven to boost your studying productivity and mental health (a made up statistic but still true). So try not to stress. There’s never too little time to get outside.
P.S. Shoutout to my friends, who helped me compile this great list (we will definitely be trying a few of these out).]]>
In recent years I’ve felt my heart tending towards a certain direction. There’s a tugging in my chest that arises in quiet moments, or late at night when my mind is racing and I can’t sleep. It whispers in my ear which way to go: up.
It’s an unnatural, terrifying and unreasonable tendency, and yet utterly addictive. I dream about snowcapped peaks and soaring granite cliffs, dusty desert towers and steep muddy trails. I escape from schoolwork on plastic walls and spend my weekends scrambling to the highest points I can reach. This desire to ascend is inexplicable, yet “up” is a direction I can always count on.
Being 20 means feeling lost a lot of the time. The immediate future couldn’t be more uncertain. I don’t know what I want to do with my life, or even where I will be three years down the road. Even my chosen field of study seems to be leading me in no particular direction. One of the reasons writing appeals to me is the limitless opportunity it affords; writers can write about anything, meaning I don’t need to commit to any one path. While freeing, this directionlessness is frightening.
When I close my eyes and imagine the future, though, there’s one thing I always see: mountains. Climbing is the thing I can’t imagine my life without. It’s that beautiful, shining thing that I could talk or read about for hours on end. The thing that gets me out of bed at 6:30 on a Saturday, that has brought countless extraordinary people into my life. It’s the thing that has taught me so much about fear and trust, willpower and courage. The thing that makes me happy when I’m sad, clear-minded when I’m stressed, that has the power to simply take my breath away. That passion is the closest I can claim to direction in my life. Wherever I go, I know I will have climbing to keep me sane (or insane, perhaps).
Each day I’m pulled in a million directions. I revel in being busy, but the parts of my life compete with one another for my attention and time. I know, however, that at the end of the day when I lay down to rest, that one direction will always be pulling at the deepest parts of my soul, beckoning me upwards into the clear skies, so full of adventure and possibility.]]>
1. Describe the essence of your club in a sentence or two. What makes you guys you!
The Mountaineers at Ohio State is an outdoor pursuits club designed to bring students with a common love for the outdoors together. Although it was originally founded as a rock-climbing and mountaineering organization, the Mountaineers has now expanded to encompass all realms of outdoor activities ranging from biking and skiing, to caving and skydiving.
2. What is your favorite event that you put on?
We have several awesome events that we put on each year, but our annual hosting of Reel Rock has to be one of our favorites! We rent out a theater at our local Film Center and this event almost completely sells out every year. We play the most recent release of Reel Rock and spend the evening enjoying the viewing. This event is open to everyone: our club members, alumni of the club, and outdoor enthusiasts from the general Columbus area. We also raffle off some great gear from sponsors like The North Face, CAMP USA, Nalgene, REI, etc. and donate a large portion of the proceeds to charities that help maintain our beautiful outdoors.
4. Tell us your deepest, darkest secrets… What’s something you wouldn’t want your mom to know about the happenings of your club?
Nice try. Isn’t there a reason that they’re called secrets??? We already know our parents are going to read this article, we can’t break their hearts.
5. Do you have any absolutely legendary traditions?
We have some awesome trips that go out annually that have become traditions for our club. To kick off the school year we have our annual Hoopla, where we take a group of members to the New River Gorge. We spend the weekend teaching members how to rock climb and spend a day free solo climbing on the water.
Over winter break we go out to Red Rocks, Nevada and spend the week rock climbing. We welcome in the New Year by hiking a mountain and watching the fireworks light up Las Vegas.
We also spend Memorial Day weekend hiking up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in some pretty brutally cold conditions (definitely type two fun).
One of our favorite trips is during spring break when we drive out to Moab, Utah. There’s usually a big group of alumni that meet us there and we spend the week rock climbing, highlining, backpacking, mountain biking, anything you can think of. These trips form really strong bonds between our members and allow for us to keep solid connections with our alumni.
Another awesome tradition we hold dear to our heart: Whiskey Slaps. But we’ll leave that to your imagination.
6. What are you most proud of about your club?
During this 2016-2017 school year, we have managed to almost triple the size of our club from 2015. This has allowed us to plan more trips for our members, provide our members with more gear that they can rent out, and get more involved with volunteering in our community.
8. If you could give a piece of sage advice from your club to the world what would it be?
I think that our piece of advice would be to just stop being afraid to put yourself out there. We know that the friendships that we have made through the Mountaineers will be something that we hold close to our hearts for the rest of our lives. We’re all thankful that we took a chance and left our comfort zones in order to find those unique connections that we had been looking for.
9. Anything else you’d like to add…
LOOK GOOD. CRUSH HARD.
For more information about the Mountaineers, check out their website at http://www.osumountaineers.com. Photo credit for the header photo goes to Instagram handle @ximeng_huang.
If your club would like to be featured on College Outside (who wouldn’t want to be amiright?) follow this link and fill out the form: http://www.collegeoutside.com/outing-clubprogram-feature/]]>
However, backcountry skiing isn’t something you can just start doing. Not only do you need to have all the right gear, but a huge part of getting into backcountry skiing is learning about avalanche danger. Part of this safety training is learning how to use a beacon. Bridger requires a beacon to ski most of its super cool terrain, so I brought one with me and had some minimal training in the backyard on how to use it. But, the beacon I brought was my dad’s and very vintage, so while it totally fulfills its purpose, I wanted to try a newer beacon to see if it makes a difference when I finally start more legit backcountry skiing. I had the pleasure of demoing a Black Diamond Pieps Sport model beacon in the last few weeks, and it sure did live up to my expectations. Thankfully, I never needed to use it to actually find someone in an avalanche, but I played with it for a bit and the efficiency is really incredible. The transceiving capabilities allow a much more direct search pattern, so you can find anyone buried much faster. Who knew a brand new beacon would surpass the ability of one from the 1800’s?
Practicing with the Pieps beacon has has gotten me totally stoked for actually getting into backcountry skiing. The next step is taking an avalanche safety course, and then of course diligently searching everywhere for deals on gear so I don’t go totally broke. Wish me luck. Until then, however, I have a fun Easter/beacon activity for you all to try to keep up on your beacon skills and have a festive time. It just seemed fitting to use a Pieps beacon on Easter.
Easter Beacon Hunt
1. Find friends with beacons. Make teams and make sure each team has two beacons. But choose your teams wisely, people; this is about to get competitive.
2. Buy some goodies. There are a few ways to do this part. You can go old school and reminisce on your childhood by buying a bunch of candy and classic Easter egg fillers. Or you can go full college and buy some thirty racks. Or maybe a mix of the two?
3. Go to somewhere open/outside. Have an outside party hide half of the beacons randomly throughout the area, and accompany each beacon with the Easter goody of your choosing. There probably won’t be any snow left if it’s anything like Bozeman, so get creative on hiding spots. Maybe attach one to a bunny conveniently hopping by.
4. Pregame as you see fit. This is a low key safety training, but it’s also a holiday. It’s expected.
5. Release the hounds. This is where your new Pieps beacon will really come in handy with its efficiency. Whoever finds the hidden beacons first get to fully indulge in whatever is hidden with it, whether this means stuffing your face with chocolate Cadbury eggs or festively shotgunning beer. Or again, doing a little of both (sorry mom).
6. Return to your usual life a little more knowledgeable about beacons and also with stories of a lit Easter. Remember, safety first kids.
Shop Black Diamond on College Outside ]]>
There are a few characteristics that all of us rad outdoors-people share, besides our love of being outside of course. One, we’re always doing something dope; even if it’s just sleeping we’re probably doing it perched on the side of a thousand foot cliff in a sketchy bivy. Two, we want everyone to know how rad we are but in a secret way where we don’t actually have to brag about it; instead people just know and are drawn towards our awesomeness. And three, we have a lot of stickers. How do stickers tie into that list you might ask? Because stickers are the best possible way to accomplish number two on the list, a subtle hint to everyone around you that you’re probably the coolest person they’ll ever meet. You’re only a rad outdoors-person if your water bottle, laptop, car, and first born child are covered in stickers that you’ve collected through the years of adventures and gear. So, here’s a little insight into our sticker obsession; hopefully you can use it to become the raddest outdoors-person on campus.
To begin, I think it’s important to look at the ways we use stickers. Of course, there’s putting them on your water bottle, that’s always a classic. Some go for the traditional, “fit every single sticker I can so they all overlap” look, while others opt for a more clean, one or two sticker layout. From there we move on to more expensive places, like your car or your laptop. And then everywhere in between, from refrigerators to an old plastic dresser from when you were three that you only still keep in your room simply because it’s covered in stickers you don’t want to get rid of. Then there’s people who don’t even use the stickers at all because nowhere is worthy and/or permanent enough to put the precious stickers, AKA me. I have an ever-growing pile of stickers on my desk that I haven’t gotten up the courage to use, so instead they just sit there collecting dust. What’s that all about? At that point why even have stickers? So, this brings me to my second examination, why we get stickers in the first place.
What is this urge that drives us to every counter of an outdoor retail shop to sift through baskets of stickers? Why do we get so much joy when we get a free sticker after we order thousands of dollars of gear? Like, my dad recently ordered a pair of J Skis, and he was going back and forth on spending the money until he found out about a promotional deal where he got a ton of free stickers with the skis and he immediately bought them. Or getting away from gear, why do we NEED a sticker from every single cool place we go? Well, I think it’s a perfect mix between us showing how rad we are and nostalgia.
No matter how humble we pretend to be, we still want to show everyone else how many cool things we’ve done and how much cool gear we have. Stickers are the perfect way to do this because you can subtly hint to everyone around you that you’re really dope every time you use your water bottle or open your laptop or drive your car without being that person who publicly boasts about every single thing they do or own. I, for example, casually put FlyLow stickers everywhere so that I can show people, “Yeah, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to ski gear,” which then automatically translates to, “Yeah, I’m the best skier on the mountain.” And then everyone wants to be my friend because I’m clearly pretty dope. Stickers are a way to brand yourself as the rad outdoorsy person that you are. And to be honest, it works like a charm on me. Every time I see someone with cool stickers somewhere, I want to be their friend right away. I will literally see a parked car covered with stickers and with no one near it, and still want to be their friend. You don’t even know anything about them, Audrey; they could be a murderer for all you know! So even if it’s hard to admit it, every time we buy a sticker and deliberately put it somewhere we are in some way trying to show the world how sick we are. Whether it’s because we own all the best gear or have been all the best places, we’re dope and everyone else needs to know.
On a more sentimental, gushy-feely note, stickers can be more than just for show. Sometimes, stickers impart nostalgia in someone else, reminding them of something super rad and awesome they did. And then you have a great connection and can make a new friend. For example, I keep finding Silverton Mountain (an awesome ski mountain an hour from my home in Colorado) stickers all over the place up here in Bozeman. As soon as I see that sticker, I can talk to them about home. Then, we can be best friends and shred the gnar together and get super pitted and all that. As cheesy as it is, stickers create a connection between all of us weirdos obsessed with the outdoors and everything related to it.
So, there it is: my thoughts on the sticker epidemic that floods our adventurous nation. Stickers just make you cooler, it’s as simple as that. And who wouldn’t want to be the raddest adventurer on campus? So sticker on, my good friends. Show the world how cool our generation is and how many awesome things we’ve done and how much gear knowledge we have. Just don’t lose your Nalgene or get a new car or laptop ever. These things are like radness currency; guard them with your life.
College Outside staff presents to you many examples of how to properly use stickers to show off your radness:]]>
Kat: How did you get into climbing in college? What about the sport/activity made you return to it?
Taki: Curiosity. My first year in college, I asked one of my best friends, who was already a climber, to take me with him the next time he goes climbing somewhere. One spring day, when he needed a belayer for a project that he had at Great Falls in Lewiston, he took me along. Even though it was a bit of a bumbling affair for me that day, not knowing anything about climbing or belaying, I became hooked. That spring, we climbed on all the rocks within walking or biking distance that could be found around campus (we didn’t have a car yet). Whenever we could, we explored farther. The act of climbing was so much fun in and of itself, but the treasure hunt for rocks with my friends––which usually starting with a rumor like “I’ve heard there’s rocks behind BJs”––made it all the more enticing.
From that first season on, climbing influenced a lot of decisions for me. All the summers between school I spent climbing: I did a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course in the Pacific Northwest and climbed throughout the region the first summer. The next summer was spent traversing and climbing Denali in Alaska, and then the last summer I climbed all throughout Colorado. After graduating, I spent a few seasons teaching for NOLS and climbing a ton until I decided it was time for law school.
Kat: Right, and then you spent seven years working as an attorney in New York and Tokyo before beginning the creation of Salt Pump. What role did climbing play in your life during that time?
Taki: It played a similar but different role. At some point, there came a realization that climbing may seem different from all other activities but what’s involved in the pursuit of becoming a better climber is the same as, say, becoming a better lawyer. The exploration and the culture surrounding climbing can be found everywhere; if you can’t find it, you carry it with you and nurture it wherever you are or whatever you’re doing. So while I wasn’t actually climbing as much as I had liked to while working as an attorney, I frequently channeled climbing and everything that surrounds it into my life.
That being said, I did build a very small climbing wall in my apartment in Tokyo so that I could climb even when I got off from work at some odd hour, which was frequently long after the local climbing gyms had closed.
Kat: How did Salt Pump come to fruition?
Taki: Love and friends. Salt Pump was one of those dreams that I had in the back of my mind and nurtured for a very long time before actually starting or being in a position to do anything about it. I had that dream for maybe 10 plus years. Then at a certain point it became about finding friends and great partners that were also in a position to do something about it. Those ended up being Freddie and Mark [Freddie Wilkinson and Mark Richey]. And then it was about finding the right timing.
In 2013, I was in NY and Natalie (my girlfriend then, wife now) was finishing up her masters in Maryland. It seemed like a good time to move to Maine together, back to where I went to school and where she grew up. We were eager to put down some roots together. She was going to work on her family farm before starting her PhD in soil science and I was going to open up Salt Pump. There were a lot of ups-and-downs before we could open the doors to Salt Pump, but we did it.
Kat: Glad you did! What were some of the main goals you wanted to achieve with its presence?
Taki: The effort continues to be to introduce climbing and its culture to as many people as possible, and to make Salt Pump a home-away-from-home for all. We ask people who come into Salt Pump, “how was your day,” and they frequently answer “better now that I’m here.” Others have written to us that it’s their “happy place.” The best climbers out there are also very good at “life.” We aspire to be more than a climbing gym. Part of being more than a climbing gym is by supporting and nurturing the ability in everyone to be good at “life.”
Kat: You’ve climbed in so many fascinating places; what are some of the places you still want to explore?
Taki: I want to get back to the Wind River Range in Wyoming, Yosemite, and Patagonia. Greenland and Newfoundland sound fascinating. I’d love to go on a bouldering trip around the world, as well as on a road trip around the US and Canada. I’d love to chase down a bunch of rumored boulders and cliffs around here in Maine and NH that I keep hearing about, go on more treasure hunts for rock. But I also have some of my own secret boulders and cliffs as well, and I’m very excited about those.
Kat: What advice would you give to college students who want to pursue their outdoor passions but feel the pull to follow, perhaps, more traditional, not-so-adventurous career paths?
Taki: Do both! You never know where a certain path will lead, nor who you will meet along the way. Be careful what you wish for. There is always a way to pursue your passions and make your dreams, ideas, and wishes come true, but it’s not always going to be easy. Have patience, persistence, and keep your friends and family close.
The climbing gym part 1: A college climber’s home away from home away from home ]]>
Ah, college. A young academic’s home away from home. A place where you learn and grow, where you challenge yourself and others, where you become an integral member of a community. As a second semester senior with an eye towards the post-grad horizon, I have enjoyed my time at college, and it truly has become a home away from home. However, sometimes even home is the last place I want to be, especially in the dark winter months, when a non-skier like me is confined to the shadowed corners of our library, procrastinating all work by scrolling through an endless array of climbing videos and articles. No longer are my hectic weeks broken up by trips outdoors and afternoon bouldering sessions. As the winter rages on, a sort of gloom settles over the campus, and I find myself missing the sunny atmosphere and community of outdoor climbing.
Lucky for me and other college students with an affinity (obsession) for climbing, the popularity of the indoor climbing gym has recently taken our nation by storm. Even more lucky for me and my fellow Bates climbers, a small yet vibrant palace of a climbing gym by the name of Salt Pump Climbing Co. opened up in Scarborough, Maine, a couple years ago. As a bit of a city rat (living in New York City) I have climbed in my fair share of indoor gyms; Salt Pump is my favorite so far, and the fondness I possess for that place––from its layout to the staff to the community of climbers that congregate there––is unmatched. Thus, I dubbed this article an ode to a college climber’s gym: A Home Away from Home Away from Home. Here are five ways a climbing gym has affected my college experience:
1. A Community of Climbers
Salt Pump has all the qualities that make a climbing gym welcoming, functional, and perfect for staying in climbing shape during the winter season. With new routes going up every week, and a plethora of engaged and easy-going staff members, every session spent there brings new experiences and challenges amidst a space of familiarity and repose. Beyond all that it offers, the gym has become a place of a strong community in which climbers––young and old, new and experienced, outgoing and reserved––feel like they are entering a happy space. For a college student, such a place truly becomes an escape from the chaos and non-stop pressures of college life, a place where we can interact with new people, challenge ourselves mentally and physically, and grow our climbing community. Whether I go with one friend to grind out burns on a tough project, or with a group of people who are climbing for the first time, the gym guarantees an afternoon of challenges and fun for all.
I think it is important for college students to be involved in communities outside of their campus, especially when a college is as small as mine and the college experience can quickly become claustrophobic and secluded. With an activity such as climbing, but also with other passions and pursuits, finding such a community enables one to learn from others, to gain new perspectives and hear about the experiences of those at different points in their lives. Climbing at Salt Pump every week, I have met people from near and far who have had interesting and crazy experiences throughout their lives, and from whom I can learn much about climbing and life in general.
2. Winter training
With outdoor climbing just about impossible in Maine during the winter months, it is important to stay fit and in climbing shape. While we do have a small bouldering wall in our gym on campus, access to a climbing gym allows for in-depth training, sport climbing practice, and access to a variety of training equipment. Training at the gym allows me to prepare for the warmer climbing seasons, and stay in shape physically and mentally.
3. Staying sane
While climbing has a great impact on your body, the sport also impacts your mind, strengthening your ability to focus, remain calm, and deal with different kinds of setbacks. As a college student, I am constantly figuring out how to balance classes, extracurriculars, workload, the job search, and other commitments. Climbing has taught me how to stay concentrated and tackle any activity or problem with a strong mental focus and determination. Furthermore, after spending a morning or afternoon trying hard in the gym, I am able to stay productive for the rest of the day without getting distracted or restless.
4. The perfect escape
Being able to get off-campus with my friends and spend a couple hours not thinking about course work or searching for jobs is a true luxury. The climbing gym is a welcoming space of familiar and new faces, where I can focus all my energy, physical and mental, on climbing. I think this is applicable to all activities that engage college students outside of usual academic or social engagement, be it climbing, skiing, running, or any other activities that offer a change of pace.
5. A dogs-welcome policy. Need I say more?
The climbing gym part 2: An interview with gym creator and lifelong climber Taki Miyamoto ]]>
Prescription Strength Nature
“Are you feeling tired? Irritable? Stressed Out?” the handsome spokesperson asks. “Well you might consider Nature.” The drug commercial parody reminds us all of what we should already know: that getting outside is one of the best remedies for the stress of daily life.
Neature Walk- Episode 1
Not only do Lenny Pepperbottom and his faithful sidekick, Rodney, teach us just how neat nature really is, they also prove that you don’t need high quality editing and cinematography to be funny. You just need a couple scenic views and some firearms. Be sure to look out for aspens and biting-goats the next time you’re out enjoying nature.
How to be a Rock Climber
Not sure what a trad climber looks like? Don’t have any serious flappers to brag about? You’re in luck, because the team at IFHT have graciously provided this step-by-step guide to becoming a true rock climber. For an added bonus, check out “How to be a Skier” or “How to be a Mountain Biker.” IFHT excels at making fun of outdoor culture, and chances are you’re guilty of more than a few of the quirks they point out.
The Official Guide to International Ski Carrying
Pro skiers Colter Hinchliffe and Tim Durtschi head to the Austrian Alps to share some of the more uncommon and impractical ski carrying techniques found across the globe. My personal favorite? The Oklahoma Suitcase.
Shit Skiers Say
If you ski, you’ve said some or all of these things. Enough said.
Extreme Whitewater Duckying
Ask any whitewater kayaker these days and they will almost certainly tell you that duckys (also known as inflatable kayaks) aren’t cool. However, some fun loving individuals at the Nantahala Outdoor Center decided to change that. Clad in neoprene and a customer PFD, our hero bravely paddles Tennessee’s Tellico River in a ducky, the ultimate sign of high self-esteem. His run of Baby Falls at the end of the video is definitely a highlight.
Whether you’re throwing up a ridgeline or tying gear down on a trailer, the Trucker’s Hitch is one of the handiest knots to have in your arsenal, so it’s a good thing that Ylvis (the Norwegian creators of “What Does the Fox Say?”) have provided such a useful instructional video on how to tie this useful hitch.
While the entire series is hilarious and endlessly quotable, season four’s “Survivor Man” episode of US version of “The Office” remains one of my all-time favorite episodes. Upset because he wasn’t invited to a corporate camping retreat, Scranton regional manager Michael Scott decides to recreate the reality show “Survivorman” in the Pennsylvania forest. It’s a good thing Dwight stayed to keep an eye on him.]]>
I had no idea, however, that … the car battery would die twice (same car both times); we would end up eating bagels for pretty much every meal (not an exaggeration); Google Maps would suggest a restaurant that turned out to be in creepy ghost town; I’d be driving through hairpin mountainside turns at night (in Zion National Park); the steering wheel and entire car would vibrate when I hit the brakes (but it’s probably my fault – the car rental guy informed me that I’m just “not used to driving a minivan”); we’d get lost and finish an eight-mile hike in fading sunlight; I could keep going for an entire page …
It turns out, though, that having everything go wrong didn’t spoil the trip. It made it more awesome. We started as a group of complete strangers, all from the same school, but by the end of the trip we became good friends. And the sights we saw, the hikes we did, were the best and most beautiful I’ve ever done and seen.
In order to prevent this story from becoming the novel it could be, I’ve highlighted two of my favorite hikes in the following sections, but here’s the itinerary (and some extra tidbits from the other days)
Sunday: Devil’s Bridge Sedona, AZ + massive grocery list and why’d we put all the groceries in the minivan with a trunk that doesn’t stay open on its own?
Monday: Grand Canyon (South Kaibab Trail) + hot cocoa, attempting to see the sunset, and car battery dying (the first time)
Tuesday: Horseshoe Bend, Lower Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell Page, AZ + chili and s’mores and a warm cozy fire on the beach
Wednesday: Bryce Canyon National Park + hiking too late and finishing in starlight
Thursday: Zion National Park + dinner and exploring in Vegas while being smelly and in hiking boots (that was a unique experience)
Friday: Arizona Hot Springs near Boulder City, NV + fried chicken and the Hoover Dam and sleeping in the airport parking lot
Part 1: The South Kaibab Trail
Within the first few feet of trail, I was gripping the rock wall as my hiking boots struggled to find reliable spots not covered by a thin sheet of ice. A friend of a friend had recommended that we hike the “South Kaibab” (we kept pronouncing it “kabob” trail) Trail into the Grand Canyon, so here we all were, geared up in coats and gloves because of the unexpected 30°F temperatures. The first half-mile of the trail was extremely precarious; as we carefully inched along the side, I found myself questioning whether or not I’d be able to make it all three miles down to Skeleton Point. It was just this morning that I’d seen the Grand Canyon for the first time, however, and I was not going to give up on exploring it further so soon.
Pretty soon we had cleared the icy part, and we were hiking deeper into the Grand Canyon (it was comforting to be heading closer to the ground). Everywhere I turned it was breathtakingly beautiful – there are moments frozen in my mind where I saw birds peacefully gliding through the canyon, as silence reigned in the glistening sunshine.
There were also moments where I could feel my pulse quickening, as the path made a sharp turn that exposed how high you were and the stomach-dropping view of the canyon depths. The trek required no special technical skills; however, you had to keep telling yourself that the proximity of the edge wasn’t a big deal. Personally, I couldn’t have made it to the bottom without my hiking buddies.
Our group stopped at the two lookout points along the trail (“Ooh-Ahh” Point (aptly named) and Cedar Ridge) and we spent so much time dawdling that we were unsure whether we would make it to our final stop, Skeleton Point, with enough time to get back and watch the sunset from the brim. A group of us split off and picked up the pace. Just when we had decided to turn around, I stopped and asked some hikers coming from the opposite direction how close it was. When they responded “200 meters,” we kept going. If it was that close, we had to stop and see it.
We arrived and witnessed another spectacular view of the canyon. We guessed that it was dubbed Skeleton Point because of the white rock formation opposite to us (but maybe it has a spookier origin…?) and we spent a couple of minutes relaxing before the daunting climb ahead.
After we turned around, it took about five minutes for all of us to become short of breath. Fortunately, there were a few forgiving flat stretches near the beginning of the trek back, but pretty soon it was steep inclines and hairpin turns, one after another. We took regular water breaks and kept off the layers we’d shed on the way down. And at points where I felt especially close to the edge, I sang to myself (pro-tip: don’t do this when other people are passing you) to keep calm.
We regrouped before hiking back up the ice-covered part, and ironically enough, reached the top of the canyon in about the same amount of time it took us to get down, with plenty of daylight to spare. As we were all pretty freezing and hungry, we stopped for snacks at a bike rental shop afterward, where, oddly enough, I had the best cup of hot cocoa I’ve ever had in my life. And I was thinking exactly this, sitting comfortably in the passenger seat, when the driver turned to me and said, “The car won’t start.”
Final thoughts: It’s an awesome hike. If you’re only going to be there for a short time or you want the best view of the canyon, South Kaibab is the trail for you. It’s the only one with a true ridgeline descent, so you can look out into the canyon the entire time. Doing this hike in the heat of the summer, though, would’ve been a completely different beast – definitely do it but be sure to pack enough water and snacks!
Part 2: Hiking Angel’s Landing
Breathing heavily, I picked up the pace when the top of the incline was in sight. My legs were tired after completing the two-mile continuous rise in elevation – including the maddening hairpin turns – but I wanted to see what lay ahead. When I turned the corner, I emerged at a lookout point (Scout’s Lookout) with a clear view of what already made my stomach queasy – the last half-mile of our hike, the trek to Angel’s Landing.
Just to catch up those of you, who, like me, are new to this particular path, Angel’s Landing is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park.
Why? Because people are crazy.
And it isn’t because the first two miles are a straight incline, with a portion of short, steep switchbacks called “Walter’s Wiggles” that will leave you breathless. It’s not because there’s a 1500-foot elevation change, from start to finish. It’s because the last half-mile of the hike involves using chains and hike-climbing the last 500ish feet along a ridge to the top of the mountain, with a steep fall on either side, lurking eerily close the entire time.
It was this portion of the hike I hadn’t been sure about, since our trip leader had mentioned how the hike was “kinda scary” the night before. In my mind, I kept saying I wouldn’t do it, but secretly I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t give it a try.
When my friends arrived at the lookout, we all pulled out water bottles and each of us decided whether or not to attempt the last portion of the hike. While we were deliberating, two women who had just finished it turned to us and asked if we were going to try it. We said maybe and one of them responded, “Do it. You’ll regret it if you don’t” (although afterwards when we asked if it was really steep and scary she also responded yes … good selling point). That was exactly what I needed to hear – it confirmed how I myself had been feeling.
As we set out, the first portion of the climb with chain rails seemed okay to me. This isn’t so bad, I can do this, I thought to myself. Then came other people – whenever someone approaches from the other direction, because of the narrowness of the path/because it is courteous to allow people to remain next to the chain/in order to make sure they live to see tomorrow, one of you has to move away for a moment and allow the other to pass. That was sometimes freaky – especially because while climbing steadily, it was possible to forget where you were, as long as you were focusing on the steps and the rocks right in front of you. When you had to leave the path, however, and move closer to the edge, reality came right back to slap you in the face.
As we hiked further, however, I gained a little more confidence. The path itself wasn’t as bad as all the online reviews made it seem – as long as you were athletic and able-bodied (and that didn’t stop some people – one guy with his foot in a cast was bouncing along, not even using the chain railing), you would be fine. The real problem was looking down. We lost two of our friends (no, not literally lost) on the way because it was too scary for them. That was bad news for me because they were the only two in my group who were also afraid of heights … The thing keeping me going, however, was my desire to, first, conquer my fear and second, see that breathtaking view.
And when we arrived at the top, I knew that it was worth it.
The view was the most gorgeous thing I have ever scene. Angel’s Landing (justly named by Frederick Fisher in 1916 because he exclaimed that “only an angel could land on it”) overlooks one of the main canyons of Zion. From the perch where we were sitting, we could see the mountains and winding roads all around us, and the little ant-sized people making their way up the slopes below.
We relaxed, ate a couple of apples, and nervously laughed off the tension we’d been feeling on the climb up (or at least, the tension I had been feeling). And of course, we couldn’t leave without evidence that we’d made the climb.
The way back was no less daunting; although we’d gotten used to the footing, this time you really couldn’t ignore what you were looking at – steep drops on both sides of the ridge. We all kept giving each other words of encouragement, however, and made it back safely.
Final thoughts on the hike: DO IT! Ok, so maybe that’s too much of a blanket statement – if you are really terrified of heights, maybe don’t do it. Or try going for a short stretch and then evaluate how you’re doing. The great news, though, is that you’ll likely be persuaded by other hikers to keep going, considering they are pretty much the friendliest bunch of people you will meet – every time we had to pass someone at a bad place, or any time I was showing signs of my intense fear, people were there with a hand and/or an encouraging word. Personally, I highly recommend, and would definitely do it again.
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.]]>