Being Injured, Being Humbled

Being Injured, Being Humbled

I’ve never understood why people respond to winning awards or recognition with “I am so humbled by this.” My instinct says the opposite of that should be true – now that everyone knows you’re the most eligible bachelor in Tampa under the age of 30, or whatever, you should feel like hot stuff. And feeling like hot stuff isn’t inherently bad; there’s no need to feel guilty for celebrating our accomplishments or the qualities we love about ourselves. (After all, loving ourselves is the root of loving others.) We are, however, always balancing those feelings with humbling experiences, too. Failures. Close calls. Setbacks.

I’ve had a couple of setbacks myself recently. Part of how I define myself is through what I’m able to do, and worked hard to achieve, physically. I am a rock climber. I am a yogi and yoga teacher. I get outside and play outside.

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Can’t do this right now ūüė¶ Working through the moves last July on “Butch Pocket and the Sundance Pump,” 5.12a, at Wild Iris, WY. Photo by Andrew Hudson.

Last September I woke up one morning after “camping” in my car in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, with an intense ache in my neck. While driving back home, the pain worsened. When I woke up the next day, I could barely look up or down, much less side to side. I immediately booked myself a massage, but walked out feeling about the same level of crappy as I’d felt before. After a referral and a physical therapy consultation, I learned I’d acquired an inflamed cervical disk.

This immediately had consequences for me. No more headstands. No more backbend-y yoga poses where I need to gaze up and back. And, as I learned on our next climbing trip, it also meant I couldn’t look down to find my next foothold, or up at the climber I was belaying.

tritripod headstand

Couldn’t do this either. Tripod headstand playtime in the park with Jessie (center) and Amy (right), summer 2014

After months of physical therapy, I’d finally reached a point of comfort (and I mean physically, not financially- yikes). My neck still hurts on occasion, but the muscles in my back no longer seize up to protect it, and I have almost the same range of motion as I had before that doomed morning in September.

Come late October the outdoor climbing season ended and, in late November, ski season began. Knowing I’d improved my skills significantly over the course of the last season, I was excited to get back on the snowy slopes.

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A beautiful snowy Sunday in Steamboat Springs, CO

After the new year, I went down to Steamboat Springs with friends Georgia and Tom, and Tom’s family. Saturday night it snowed over a foot, maybe around two feet, even. In the morning we laughed as we tossed armfuls of snow off our cars. The lifts carried us out of the sun and into the icy clouds surrounding the mountaintops, still dumping snow.

On what became our last run of the day, the front end of my right ski lodged itself in a mound of heavy, powdery snow, twisting my foot out to the right. The rest of my body didn’t get the message and kept sailing downhill until my right knee jerked inward, and popped. I dropped to my back, dug out my sunken ski, and held my right knee into my chest while I made some pathetic wails. Fortunately Tom and Georgia heard/saw me, and came over. After about five minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I swallowed the pain, got up, and we made our way to the bottom of the mountain- slowly.

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Just before I hurt my knee! Steamboat Springs, CO. Photo by Tom Ashley.

My physical therapy appointment for my knee is later this week, but the preliminary diagnosis is a partially torn MCL. This means no more skiing, climbing, or running (honestly I won’t miss that one), and avoiding certain yoga poses- again.

I hate being injured, and not just because of the pain. I hate the limitations it brings. I find myself sitting at work, feeling blah, and thinking, “Oh I know- I’ll just go to the climbing gym tonight,” and as soon as I start to feel cheery again, I realize I can’t. Yoga class? Nope, not if there are any deep lunges or squats or psoas stretching. So I settle for gentle movement on my mat followed by some resistance band nonsense to make my knee feel more stable.

So much goes into those Instagram photos of flexible yogis in breathtaking poses, or YouTube videos of skinny guys break-dancing. So much has to go right. Just because that guy in the gym is only lifting 5 pounds or walking around the track instead of jogging doesn’t mean he’s lazy or unmotivated. He could very well be recovering from illness or injury. He could be on chemo and unable to do any high-impact exercise for fear that his fragile bones could fracture underneath him. Maybe that woman in my yoga class is in child’s pose instead of the pose I’m teaching because she just had a baby, or she has a herniated disk in her spine, or that pose is just too intense for her and that’s not what her body needs right now.

So. What do I do when I’m not climbing up mountains or skiing down them? I cook. I eat. I read. I tell our new puppy that I don’t appreciate his chewing a hole in the curtains, or constantly sniffing our butts, or jumping on our laps while we’re on the couch so he can gnaw on our fingers. I stress about being out-of-shape. I scroll through social media sites feeling envy at all the beautiful photos of my able-bodied friends. I paint my nails. I clean my closet. I cry. I drink wine. I play the piano. I try some yoga, and slowly back out of all the poses I can’t do, and try to be kind to myself.

Last night I met with my friend Amy (pictured above doing tripod headstand) to discuss our plans for the kids/adults yoga event we’re leading next weekend (learn more about it here!). Our theme for the classes is kindness, and Amy shared with me a kindness-centered visualization and meditation exercise she has used in the past as a kids’ yoga teacher. I invite you to try it.

Kindness Visualization:

Situate yourself in a comfortable seat, or lie down comfortably. Now, begin to visualize a person you love- not a person with whom you’re mad right now, or with whom you’ve had a recent argument- but for whom you just feel love. Maybe it’s a family member, or a partner, or a best friend. Picture this person’s face with as much detail as you can muster. Maybe you find your lips curling into a smile as you think of them. Now, with this person’s image in your head, say silently to them, “May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you be at peace.”

Begin to shift your focus inward. Notice your breath. Notice the feeling of your clothes on your skin. Notice the parts of your body touching the floor. Notice how you feel. Now say silently to yourself, “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be at peace.” It may be hard to repeat this words to yourself, but try to be receptive to them. “May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I be at peace.”

~

Love to all.

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Awesome Outdoorsy Women to Follow on Social Media

I love being¬†outside, but sometimes you have to spend a little time inside, whether it’s due to an injury, a job, a commitment, the weather, or- you know- the fact that it’s nighttime. Whatever the reason, many of us outdoor fiends end up on social media, and occasionally seeing other people’s adventures can inspire us to take on our own.

In addition, yesterday (March 8th) was International Women’s Day, so when better to present to you a list of a few of my favorite outdoorsy women to follow on social media? I share these ladies’ adventures with you in hopes that their bold prowess may encourage you to get out there, try something new, and maybe even get a little dirty.

  1. From dirtbagdarling.com

    From dirtbagdarling.com

    Johnie Gall, aka Dirtbag Darling: Johnie left her full-time office job for a life of freelance writing and roaming the country with her fiancee in their renovated Sprinter van, stopping for all kinds of adventures like kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, snorkeling, hiking, skiing, camping- you name it. Her blog, which you can read here (and which I read religiously) features interviews with many different outdoorsy women, from professional athletes to weekend warriors, as well as product reviews, outdoor tourism recommendations, and inspirational anecdotes. Her Instagram is as beautiful as it is motivational.

  2. From snowqueenandscout.com

    From snowqueenandscout.com

    Liz Song Mandell, aka Snowqueen & Scout: Originally a city girl from LA, Liz hesitantly began her first backpacking trip after graduating from college, and hasn’t been able to stop since. It’s never too late to begin a new hobby! She is now a backpacking aficionado, and her website¬†has some great resources for women interested in dabbling in the sport, including this sample meal plan for a four-day trip, as well as her standard packing list for an overnight trip. Her journal covers some other helpful information, from¬†how to read maps to how to dry sweaty clothing on a hike.

  3. From dirtbagdarling.com

    From dirtbagdarling.com

    Brooke Gaynes¬†grew up in Utah and now lives in Salt Lake City, working as a genetic researcher. As a new mom, she, her husband, and her infant¬†son enjoy both hiking and skiing to get outside. When she’s not carting around her baby boy, she also enjoys mountain biking, rock climbing, and trail running. Her interesting interviews and articles are spread across the world wide web, but you can always find pictures of her stunning adventures on her Instagram. Recently she’s posted some photos of her son accompanying her on their outdoor escapades – so cute!

  4. From emilyaharrington.com

    From emilyaharrington.com

    Emily Harrington is a professional climber, sponsored by companies like The North Face and La Sportiva. In 2013, she traveled to rural Morocco to scale a 3,000-foot wall with British professional climber Hazel Findlay, about which you can read more on the National Geographic blog here. In late 2014, Emily joined a team of climbers and mountaineers in Myanmar, also known as Burma, to attempt summits of some of the tallest and most remote peaks of the Himalayas. You can read more about their attempt as narrated by climber (and Laramie-dweller!) Mark Jenkins here. Emily has proved her chops in technical climbing as a five-time National Champion, but her latest adventures into rural areas with other awesome women have been really inspiring to witness. Be sure to check out her website as well as her Instagram page.

  5. From carolinegleich.com

    From carolinegleich.com

    Caroline Gleich is a professional big mountain skier, competitive SUPer (that’s short for stand-up paddleboard), writer, and model. Living in ski capitol of the world Salt Lake City, Caroline recently graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in Anthropology- with honors, no less. Check out her blog for recent posts about ski mountaineering and videos of her cruising down mountains through deep powder, and her Instagram for some gorgeous photos of her adventures.

  6. From oliviahsu.com

    From oliviahsu.com

    Olivia Hsu is a yoga teacher trained in the ashtanga tradition as well as a professional climber, sponsored by companies like PrAna. She began climbing first, and then took up yoga after sustaining a finger injury from climbing. She calls Boulder, Colorado home, while traveling all around the world to get her climbing fix. You can watch some breathtaking footage here of Olivia practicing yoga and climbing hard sport routes in Brazil with fellow professional climber Daila Ojeda. Check out her website and her Instagram for more!

  7. Tina LaRocque, aka SLCbikergirl: As her Instagram username implies, Tina calls Salt Lake City, Utah home, where she pursues mountain biking, backpacking, trail running, and yoga in the great outdoors. Some of her most jaw-dropping pictures are from her recent trip to Patagonia, but her captures from around home- places like the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch mountain range- are equally inspiring.

If you were in any doubt before reading this post, women can in fact be badass outdoor adventurers. That means you too can get out there, dust off your old sneakers, and get moving. See the world, and have fun!

Love to all.

Utah: Land of Skiing, Land of Canyons, Land of People-Actually-Live-Here

I reckon it’s about time to write a blog post that’s not Christmas-related *sigh*. Things in Laramie, Wyoming have been pleasantly not-too-cold and not-too-windy, about which I could, admittedly, be happier. We always find reasons to complain, don’t we? There may be no wind and it may be 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but it just so happens to be cloudy and there’s dirty snow all over the road and people’s front lawns. I still won’t venture into our icy, snowy backyard to clean up the strewn mess Laramie’s wildlife has made of my attempts at a compost pile. (Thank you, Matt, for pointing this out to me, as I haven’t been back there.) And it gets dark too early. And I can’t wear T-shirts. So there.

I can’t complain too much, since I emerged from the holiday season with an electric blanket and a crock-pot, both marvelous modern-day inventions for which I have electricity and my mother to thank.¬†Thank you!!!

Last month Matt and I drove to Salt Lake City to add on to the UNC reunion that was slowly forming there. Though it may seem we are forever away from Utah, I-80 actually crosses southern Wyoming from Laramie directly to Salt Lake City, so it’s only a 5.5-hour drive. Again, that may seem like a lot, but an all-interstate drive for us is a rarity, and it means both minimal animal crossings and well-maintained (aka plowed) roadways.

Windmills on the drive in southern Wyoming

Windmills off of I-80 in southern Wyoming

(Side note: in case you didn’t know, Matt totaled his car last¬†summer hitting a pronghorn on a state highway coming back into Laramie. Pronghorn are colloquially referred to as antelope. They are one of the fastest land animals to tread this earth. Matt maintains that the pronghorn ran into his car, and not the other way around. I am inclined to believe him, for a multitude of¬†reasons.)

We stayed in Salt Lake City with our fellow-UNC-graduate-and-climber-friends Kyle and Tallie. We actually visited them on the exact same weekend last year, which I wrote about here. This time, other UNC folks joined us as well РDylan from Hong Kong/San Francisco (he just moved back to the states!); Kevin from Boulder, Colorado; and Sara, who lives in Salt Lake too. We also briefly met up with our friend Jon who lives in Durham, North Carolina, and happened to be in town for the semiannual Outdoor Retailer show, which is a huge trade show for the outdoor industry where companies like Patagonia, Mammut, Prana, Outdoor Research, Marmot, Black Diamond, MSR, High Sierra, and Big Agnes show off their upcoming goods (outdoor clothing and gear) for the spring season. We were in town the weekend before the show began, so as we were departing, all the hotels and ski areas began to fill up with people in town for the OR show.

Just driving around Salt Lake City is scenic – you are surrounded on almost all sides by beautiful chiseled peaks.

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Matt on the road in Salt Lake City, UT

Kyle, Tallie, Matt, and I went climbing on a warm and sunny Saturday at American Fork just outside of town. The approach (climber-speak for the hike into the climbing area) at the bottom of the canyon was still snowy, but the snow on the trail was packed down enough that it didn’t require snowshoes.

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Matt on the trail in American Fork Canyon

Once we switchbacked our way up to the base of the sport climbs, the sun was shining enough to keep us toasty.

Kyle rappelling down after competing a climb at American Fork

Kyle rappelling through blue sky after completing a climb at American Fork

The rock at American Fork is a heavily featured limestone, and its white coloring allows you to more easily see holds for your hands and feet as they generate shade in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the rock is still loose, meaning that both rocks can fall onto climbers from above, and that climbers can accidentally knock or pull off chunks of rock while climbing, creating potentially¬†dangerous situations. In climbing areas where loose rock is prevalent, you’ll see climbers knocking their fists against blocks of rock in order to listen for a hollow sound, ideally indicating the looseness of the hold.

As you can see from the pictures, despite warmer temperatures, there was still snow in upper parts of the canyon elsewhere.

American Fork Canyon, UT

American Fork Canyon, UT

On Sunday we met up with Sara, Kevin, and Dylan to ski at Brighton Ski Resort, just outside the city. Matt and I endeavored to ski through the trees a little bit this time, which requires more technical prowess but also more brainpower, like mountain biking single track versus road biking.

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort

Dylan, me, and Kevin at Brighton Ski Resort. Yay helmets!

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton

The view from the top of a mountain at Brighton, naked aspen trees below

Brighton is a lot bigger than Snowy Range Ski Area, our local ski mountain outside Laramie, so the runs are a lot longer. You therefore spend comparatively less time on the lift getting to the top of the mountain, which I appreciate, as I tend to freeze my butt off on the ride up.

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

Riding the lift at Brighton, photo by Sara Leung

It’s been a relatively dry winter out here in the west, so there wasn’t much new snow at Brighton. We still had fun on packed powder! No ice, thank you very much.

On Monday morning before driving back home, Tallie, Kyle, Kevin, Matt, and I went climbing at Big Cottonwood Canyon (I’m fairly certain of this, although there’s also a Little Cottonwood Canyon, so feel free to correct me, everyone). Unlike Saturday at American Fork, this was cold and cloudy climbing, which is hard on your little fingers as they grasp at chilled¬†rock.

Kyle belaying Kevin up a sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Kyle belaying Kevin up a 5.12 sport route at BCC. Do they look cold?

Techniques for keeping hands warm in cold climbing conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Whining about it
  • Bringing a hot drink in a thermos
  • Hand warmers in your fleece-lined pockets
  • Alternate placing hands on warm parts of the body, such as the back of the neck, the collarbones, or the armpits
  • Bringing a dog along so you can place your hands in their armpits (legpits?)
  • Go skiing instead?

After a couple hours, Matt and I said our goodbyes and drove to Brighton again to meet up with Jon who, like I said at the beginning of this post, was in town for the OR show. We bought a one-run ticket, which allows you just one ride up the ski lift, and skied down with Jon before heading back to Wyoming.

Now if we could only convince everyone to reunite in Laramie this time… what do you think, guys?

Love to all!

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This post was not sponsored by Black Diamond. (We just like their helmets.)

 

Christmas Preparations

It’s been unseasonably warm for December here in Wyoming. We were almost afraid there wouldn’t be any snow to speak of in the mountains when the Snowy Range Ski Area opened.

Matt and I went up to the Snowies the weekend before last to get our Christmas tree, just like last year. We stopped by the ski lodge to pick up our passes, have¬†my skis and Matt’s board waxed, and go up the lift and down the the slopes a couple times. The lodge has a little bar upstairs overlooking the slopes, and we had a draught beer from Sheep Mountain¬†Brewery, basically a guy outside of Laramie who makes great beer in his oversized garage. I believe it was a red IPA – really delicious! The bearded man sitting next to us introduced himself as¬†a foreign exchange student from Tasmania studying at the University of Wyoming. I¬†drank¬†a free additional pint of the red IPA because the bartender messed up a pour. You know, typical Laramie-area happenings.

A semi-frozen creek up in the Snowies

A semi-frozen creek up in the Snowies

I was pleased that I hadn’t completely forgotten how to ski and that neither of us fell while getting on or off the lift, which had proved more difficult than I had anticipated last year. It was warm enough that I hadn’t been dying to get off the lift by the time we reached the top of the mountain, and¬†sunny too.

Sometimes, caught in a turn, the view obscured by pines, you forget that you’re not completely alone with the trees and the snow. You feel small and a part of something wide¬†and deep and beautiful in the almost-silence of the wind and the sshhhh of your skis against the snow.

The road between Laramie and the ski area

The road between Laramie and the ski area

After skiing, we drove up the road a ways to find ourselves a tree. We walked by a family on snowshoes carrying their own tree on the snowed-in trail. If you stayed on the cross-country ski trail you didn’t need snowshoes, but we eventually had to wander off the trail to find our tree, as per Forest Service regulations. I believe the word “trudging” was invented to describe one’s slow, labored walk through over a foot of snow. If you’ve never had the good fortune of needing to trudge through so much snow¬†that it’s a small miracle every time your boot reappears, whole – just imagine a small child so bored they’ve grown exasperated with the feeling, chin to the ceiling, eyes rolled up in their sockets, shoulders sagging, walking away from you. That, too, is a trudge.

Matt in the forest

Matt in the forest

To ease your sadness about severing¬†forever a pine from its roots, the Forest Service informs you in their handy brochure, which accompanies the $10 permit for the tree cutting, that your act assists the growth of the surrounding trees, and thus the forest as a whole (I admit it would be better here if I quoted directly from the pamphlet but, after a ~30-second search through my recent mail, I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably threw it out). Harvesting the tree, then, is like giving the grove a haircut. Mowing the lawn. Holding two or three kids back a grade. You know, science: not everyone wins and gets to become a magnificent Christmas tree – just the pretty ones.

Got it!

Got it!

We picked a more suitably-sized tree for both the inside of the car and our house this year, though its much skinnier trunk repeatedly rebelled at our positioning it in the Christmas tree stand. It remains crooked but only if you look at it from either the perspective of the gas fireplace or the dusty corner behind the couch which likes to collect tumbleweeds of dog fur. From the front door it looks very nice. We only broke one ornament wrestling with it and the stand.

Christmas is fast approaching! I’ve already watched “Elf” once, and listened to probably 50 hours of Christmas music, so I’m prepared. I’ve wrapped all the presents, created plenty of online wishlists at various outlets in anticipation of the receipt of gift cards, and made at least one Christmas-related dessert item, though I have yet to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which I have on DVD – yes, it’s that important. I’m looking forward to seeing my family in North Carolina, but I’d gladly skip over the whole shuttle-to-the-airport/plane-from-one-airport-to-the-next thing if I could.¬†I think this is a sign you’re officially an adult, when the prospect of traveling via plane exhausts you and causes you to go out and buy crystallized ginger and anti-nausea pills instead of giving you boundless, exuberant joy.

Unless the drive looks like this. JOY!

Unless the drive looks like this. JOY!

But after all that sitting and wondering which ridiculously expensive dry sandwich or stale burger to order and weaseling your way into public bathroom stalls only to find there is no toilet paper Рafter all that mess comes FAMILY. And old friends, and presents, and free food, and all those wonderful, wonderful things. This is why I love Christmas.

Happy holidays and safe travels, everyone!

25th Annual Poker Run

To celebrate the much-awaited end of February in Wyoming, locals and ex-locals convene in the very small town of Centennial one Saturday a year with cross-country skis, snowshoes, dogs without leashes, and backpacks full of beer for the Poker Run. This was the 25th year of the annual event and pretty much the only thing to look forward to during the yucky month of February (except skiing, of course). I am already researching what flowers to plant in front of the house post-defrost. Tulips? Daffodils? Zinnias later?

Welcome to snowy Centennial

Welcome to Centennial! Normally you’d be able to see the mountains, but it was snowy that day

Centennial is about a half hour west of Laramie at the base of the Snowy Range mountains, so we drive through every time we go up to the Snowy Range Ski Area for some wintry recreation. The town consists of a church, an elementary school, a post office, a general store, a convenience store/bar, a couple other restaurants/bars, and a fire station.

Another shot of wintry Centennial

Another shot of wintry Centennial

Matt and I like to joke that the Beartree Tavern is the best restaurant in Laramie. Their pork green chili means business. Also, they’re not actually in Laramie, so there’s that. (Laramie isn’t exactly known for its fine cuisine.)

The Poker Run itself is just a crowded, slightly drunken adventure down a cross-country ski trail in Medicine Bow National Forest. Rowdy, outdoorsy Laramie folks dress up in wacky costumes and attempt to make their way down the trail from the mountains down to Centennial without tripping up on someone else’s skis or running into a tree. Also, there’s some part of the event that actually relates to the card game poker, but that escaped me entirely.

Bar decor in Centennial, WY

Bar decor in Centennial, WY

After indulging in some elk sausage-filled breakfast burritos, our group drove up to Centennial and went inside a restaurant to pay for a shuttle up the mountain. We then stood around in the light snow and played with dogs until an empty suburban stopped and invited us in. As it turns out, this guy wasn’t part of the organized shuttle experience for which we’d just paid; he was just a generous local. He said something like, “I can fit five of you.”

Someone promptly asked, “Can we sit in the trunk?” and soon there were twelve of us, plus two dogs, along with all our skis, poles, snowshoes, and backpacks. We slowly made our way up the mountain.

At the top of the mountain were snowmobilers, other Poker Run enthusiasts, and a couple of guys drawing their names in a prominent snowbank with their urine. All in all, a classy affair.

Snowshoe ninja

Me, the snowshoe ninja

I strapped on my friend Amy’s extra pair of snowshoes and put on my integral mittens. Snowtime.

Thumbs up in mittens!

Ready to get going?

This was my first snowshoeing experience. As Amy (pictured above, on the right, with her gluten-free beer chilling in the snow at her feet) wisely put it, “It’s literally walking, but on snow. It’s just walking.” That said, the only technique recommendations I have are a) not to step on anyone and b) make sure your straps are tight enough that they don’t continually fall off your boots. Oh, and c) wear boots with faux fur for an extra dose of fun.

We ran into a lot of people I recognized, and many more I didn’t. I even came across Kyle and Tallie’s pal Ray, who graduated from the University of Wyoming but is now living in Utah.¬†Halfway through the course a woman was selling beer off the back of her snowmobile to thirsty participants.

No dogs were intoxicated in the making of this blog post

No dogs were intoxicated during the making of this blog post

We passed by some snow-muffled cabins that were, incredibly, chugging out smoke from their chimneys. So much snow! It seemed like a scene out of Narnia.

Anyone home?

Anyone home?

It intermittently snowed and shone sun all afternoon. At one point, we came upon a dwindling bonfire just as they ran out of hotdogs. I’ve never before seen a fire in the midst of so much snow. Some of the surrounding snow was stained black from smoke and ash.

The forest bordering the trail

The forest framing the trail

Upon returning to Centennial via hitchhiking, we ended up at the Beartree Tavern for a pizza and a rambunctious concert led by a band of rowdy old, gray men. Three of the five were guitarists, which was a little perplexing. A thirties-ish married couple from Denver sat at the bar, completely enamored with the scene. “This is so cool!” The husband said to me. “Is it normally like this? We’re from Denver.”¬†

On Sunday we went skiing and I began to experiment with taking jumps which, as Matt pointed out after the fact, is not an activity commonly undertaken by skiers. I had my first good fall since the beginning of the season trying to land a jump that was way higher than I had anticipated. I had one of those cartoon moments where you begin to realize that you’re still airborne, so you start to uncontrollably flail your arms and say things like, “Woah.”

Now I know what my friend Kevin meant when, after I went skiing for the first time, he asked how much snow I’d gotten in my pants. Rolling around in powder after literally crashing into it will do that to you. Miraculously I didn’t lose any skis or poles or mittens (a “yard sale,” as the ski bums call it), but I am glad I wear a helmet, as always!

Fun & safe adventures to you all.

Salt Lake City Weekend

For the long MLK weekend, Matt and I bid adieu to Laramie and headed for Salt Lake City, where fellow UNC graduates and friends Kyle, Tallie, Sara, and Dan now reside. Both Dan and Kyle are in graduate school at the University of Utah there. It took a little under six hours for us to get there, but it’s fairly easy driving across wide open Wyoming plains. Of course, this is easy for me to say, as I did zero driving and 100% passenger-ing.

Coming into Salt Lake City, the highway cuts through Echo Canyon before descending through the ski areas and surrounding mountains into the valley. There was actual traffic, which was unnerving.

We arrived late Friday night and had some beer with our leftover birthday cake (Matt turned 26 on January 15, me 24 on the 13th). I can’t resist sharing my little birthday cake photo collage with you all. So proud.

Matt delves into the first slice

Matt delves into the first slice

I followed the recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook by the letter to make this red wine velvet cake with whipped mascarpone cheese. Lots of butter, cocoa, and pinot noir were involved. Yum!

Kyle and Tallie were kind to host us in their apartment on the upper edge of the valley. Their street dead-ends into an amazing view of the city sprawl.

Saturday we went bouldering in Joe’s Valley a couple hours outside of the city.

Carrying crash pads up the trail

Carrying crash pads up the trail

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing where, well, you climb boulders. Because the routes are much shorter than routes on a rock wall or up a mountain, the routes tend to be more difficult, and ropes aren’t used. Instead, boulderers use crash pads, which you can see in the picture above. Climbers unfold the crash pads beneath a route they want to try and overlay them so you don’t hit the ground when you fall.

Matt on a boulder problem

Matt on a boulder problem

Because of the way most boulders are shaped, boulder problems (routes on a boulder) tend to involve an overhanging section, and then a top-out, where the climber makes their way up over a ledge to the top of the boulder, as you can see Matt doing above.

Kyle and the blue, blue sky

Kyle and the blue, blue sky

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. In the sun, with zero wind, you could easily strip down to a t-shirt. Occasionally.

Unfortunately I managed to injure myself on the second problem I tried. On the way off a dynamic move, one in which the climber has to jump, my left shoulder popped out of its joint briefly, then went back in. Ouch! I chalk it up to a combination of not climbing enough and doing too much yoga, thereby having unusually loose joints and weaker upper body muscles.

I therefore spent most of the remaining afternoon hanging out, spotting friends (standing nearby with arms out to catch their head and push them onto the crash pad in case they should fall), petting the dog, and making Matt take pictures with me.

Squinty in the sun

Squinty in the sun

You can see how pretty Utah is in the background!

On Sunday we went up to Snowbird to ski and snowboard. Only later via some Googling did Matt and I learn that Snowbird is not a good place for beginners like us. As Tallie said, when she and Kyle bought season passes this year, they figured they would have to get good FAST.

I’m starting to learn how snow conditions really affect the way you ski and how skiing feels. Fresh powder is nice, but deep fresh powder can cause some problems if you’re me, on skis. Ice makes a very distinct sound under your skis and inhibits control.

Riding a lift at Snowbird

Riding a lift at Snowbird

The Salt Lake City-area hadn’t seen any snow in a while, so conditions were icier than any of us would have liked, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying the view and the sun!

Sara took this picture of us on the lift! L to R: Matt, me, Tallie, Sara

Sara took this picture of us on the lift! L to R: Matt, me, Tallie, Sara

It was so warm in the sun that I wore just one long-sleeve shirt under my rain shell. Defeated after a couple unsuccessful attempts on Tallie’s skis, I went to the rental shop and got some shorter skis and gave Tallie hers back.

Photo credit to Sara for this panorama shot of me & Tallie. MOUNTAINS!

Photo credit to Sara for this panorama shot of me & Tallie. MOUNTAINS!

Sunday night we finished off the cake while Matt picked up our friend Jon from the Salt Lake airport, who was flying in from Durham, NC to represent Mammut at the Outdoor Retailer show, and also to ski.

Sunday morning we went out for brunch at a cute, busy place called Eggs in the City.

Yummy breakfast scramble

Yummy breakfast scramble

Afterwards, we stopped by Trader Joe’s so I could stock up on delicious things like almond croissants and jalapeno cilantro hummus before heading back across Wyoming toward Laramie.

Because Matt is attending school full-time and I’m working full-time, I feel grateful to have the opportunity to go on these fun weekend adventures and outdoor getaways. Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah make up a beautiful, wild part of this country, and we are lucky to be here, especially when it’s not too cold!

Love to all.

Snow Sport Adventures

I took a little break from the blog while traveling for Christmas, and I’m sure you all are as excited about this first post of 2014 as I am. LOOK, I REALLY CAN KEEP A BLOG!

Since I last wrote, I’ve been skiing several times up at Snowy Range Ski Area in Medicine Bow National Forest, which Matt informed me is one of the highest-elevation ski areas in the nation. As you can imagine, they have gotten quite a bit of snow up there recently. When we went on New Years Day, there was a couple feet of fresh powder.

Driving up to the ski area

Driving up to the ski area

As you swish by on skis through the trees up on a mountain, everything becomes quiet. This is, in part, what I enjoy about climbing and yoga too – all you hear, all you experience in that moment is your breath and your movement.

Rental skis, boots, and poles

Rental skis, boots, and poles

The last time we were there, Matt and I got on a few blue runs, which are a step up in difficulty from the introductory-level green. Though I’d never been skiing on the east coast before, apparently the blue runs in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah are way more legitimate, also known as scary. There was a lot of squealing involved, and some falling. I basically zig-zagged as slowly as possible across the wider runs and occasionally tried to pull some sweet-looking, fast-braking maneuvers to no avail. At least now I can turn relatively confidently.

Matt enjoying the bunny slopes

Matt enjoying the bunny slopes

Look at all the snow in between the trees!

One thing I hadn’t mentally prepared for was the sketchy ski lifts. Why is it so easy to lose your skis and/or poles just as you’re getting on the lift? Why is there no bar a la roller-coasters to keep you from tumbling out onto the snow thirty feet below your toes? What do parents with small children do?!

Speaking of which, there are some seriously adorable toddlers hitting these slopes, HARD. Like, kids who are barely old enough to wear pants as a separate thing from a shirt. Their skis are maybe up to my knee. It’s impressive.

More snow! More trees!

More snow! More trees! (Instagrammed)

My least favorite part has to be riding up those ski lifts, mostly because you are forced to sit for five minutes in cold, snowy, windy weather with weighted feet. Also because there is no bar to keep you from falling to your cold, untimely death, but I have a feeling I may have already mentioned that.

One of my favorite parts might be sipping on a hot chocolate smothered in whipped cream and sprinkles while the feeling slowly, tingly, and painfully comes back into my toes. Another potential favorite is the fact that Snowy Range Ski Area has their own brewery on site. Already plenty afraid of my skiing skills while sober, I haven’t ventured into the bar as of yet.

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Snowy and overcast Medicine Bow National Forest

Next time I’ll force Matt to take some photos of me on my skis, or of me drinking hot chocolate – whichever ends up being the more prevalent winter activity.

Best New Year wishes to you all!