Adventure Clothes

When I look at my clothes I see what I did, where I was, and who I was with when I wore them.  The shirts and dresses, pants, skirts, and bandannas are more than just cut and sewn pieces of cotton, silk, modal, polyester, lace: they are things that happened while I was wearing them and the people I was with.
When I travel (and this is not just me, I’m sure!) I oh-so-carefully select my clothes. This shirt and this pair of pants for this occasion, and a this pair of shoes in case it rains, and this dress to look stunning in. The problem is, I end up with a mountain of potential pieces and not enough room in my luggage. I sit and go through the pile: the maybe’s, the probably not’s, and the definitely yes’s. It can be hard to let go. Impracticality often wins. Spring? I’d like to believe I can wear my lace pineapple dress and not worry about cold or rain.
I have at least one dress that I love, but which I am not willing to wear because the last time I wore it was such a special and important night. Instead, I will admire it on it’s pretty floral hanger and think about that summer party. Again, I’m sure I am not alone in this.
At the end of last summer I went to San Francisco and I challenged myself to bring only one thing to wear. I found a pretty and versatile dress from Postmark (a la Anthropologie). I wore it faithfully for a couple of days and then decided that I really wouldn’t mind a pair of pants and a shirt, so I went to the Mission and scoured a couple of kitschy-chic thrift shops until I walked away with a pair of skinny jeans and a flannel shirt. Perfect. Those items are still in my closet and now I think of all my San Francisco adventures that happened when I wore them (abandoned racquet ball court in Golden Gate Park, anyone?). While I love my clothes, I think this might be an ideal way to deal with the stress of trying to decided which of my clothes make the cut. It’s wonderfully freeing! Just be sure to bring more than one pair of underwear, since no one wants to thrift that.
I am packing again and I pretty much have my selections laid out. I’m taking a break to type this, and even though I’m lounging in shorts and a t-shirt, I threw on a pretty pair of Seychelles heels that have been sitting in my closet all winter long. It’s time these beauties saw daylight.

Thoughts On An Early Morning Hike in the Mountains

Dog and I went camping again yesterday in the mountains (where else?).  I am normally and early riser anyway, but especially when I am camping and haven’t slept too well anyway.  I am excited to see the morning after a long night in the tent.  I was much warmer on this trip (thanks to a better sleeping bag, kindly lent by my roommate), and extra blankets.  Dog was perfectly comfortable, sans blanket.  Still, when I woke up and saw sun creeping across the sky and heard the birds chirping away in the cheerful morning chatter I was glad.  The air outside the tent was coooooold and I regretted my decision to leave my blanket nest, but Dog was ready to go so I didn’t have much of a choice.  April in the city of Denver is much warmer than April in mountains, and the air had a special spring chill.  Refreshing and sweet, but cold.   Anyway, I layered up, and after a hasty breakfast Dog and I set off on the trail.  Here are some reflections on early morning hiking.

1) You will meet a whole different set of birds.  I WISH I WISH I WISH I hadn’t left my new Rocky Mountain Bird identification book at home, but I could tell even without it that the birds I was seeing and hearing in the morning were different from the ones I encountered in the day and evening.  For one thing, the woodpeckers- a species different from the kind I was used to in Wisco- were voracious, and their pecking echoed all around the forest.  Dog and I had a good time watching all the early morning birds swoop around and call to one another.

This woodpecker was attacking the phone poll.

2) If you prefer the trail to yourself, you’ll have it.  I did see two trail runners go past, but apart from that we had what felt like the whole mountain to ourselves.  Most of the other campers were still asleep, and the day trippers weren’t in the park yet.  The stunning views of Panorama Point were OURS, muahahaha.  I also felt less inhibited about sitting down in sunny patches to catch my breath or to snag a snack.

A blurry goofy picture of me playing around with the self timer on my camera near Panorama Point.

3) The freshness of the air and the sun coming up behind peaks and trees is unbeatable.  Yeah, I’m sure the air is always fresh up there, but something about the brisk temps and bird chatter just made the scent of the trees and chipper mountain streams fresher.  It was a joy just to breath.  Stopping to take great big lungfulls of air I was also in awe of the views of the sun rising from behind forested peaks.  It wasn’t dark when we set out from camp, but there was definitely a sharp contrast between the places on the trail where tendrils of sunlight had sneaked in and where it hadn’t.

The change of night to day.

4) The feeling of accomplishment when you saunter back into camp having completed a somewhat grueling hike while everyone else is just starting their day.  I took a one hour victory nap in my tent to celebrate.  So did Dog.

Things I Learned Hiking With A Dog

I love dogs (and cats.  I’m adamantly both a dog and a cat person) and I work with them every day.  Growing up my parents constantly adopted rescued dachshunds who had various scars and sad stories, but who turned into cuddle bugs and snuggle monsters.  I worked in shelters consistantly after graduating college, as well as being a dog walker and a receptionist at a vet clinic.  Yeah, I’ve seen some dogs.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I lived with a dog who is- shall we say more a dog in the traditional sense of the word?  I refer to her as Dog on social media, where she has been cropping up a lot lately, and she receives a fair amount of attention.  Dog looks like a big black German Shepherd and she loves people, she loves adventure, and she loves exercise.  My roommates say that Dog doesn’t sleep, she waits.  Waits to play or run or explore.  She just waits.  Dog comes to work with me a couple of times a week, but on my days off I have started taking her out on hiking adventures.  This is Colorado, after all, where both dogs and adventures are the lifestyle.  Hiking with just a dog and no other human companions has taught me a thing or two.

1) You WILL become tired long before the dog and she WILL constantly look back at you with a disappointed look on her face.  Bless Dog’s heart, she always waits for me…except for yesterday we we descended a trail on a mountain side that was coated with ice and snow.  I ended up “surfing” part of the way down as Dog pulled and I clung to the leash, unwilling to let go.

2) No matter how sociable dogs are when in the dog park/doggie day care/a friend’s house/the neighborhood, etc meeting another dog on leash can be stressful.  The dogs might be tired or on edge from the hike, or picking up on whatever it is you the leash-holder are struggling with.  They don’t necessarily want to become friends with every other pup on the trail, so just greet the other hikers politely and move on.

3)I hope you packed dog-appropriate snacks!  If you didn’t pack some specifically for Fido then at least did you bring some that are safe to share?  I fully expected that half of my little Baybels cheese wheel would disappear into Dog’s maw and I’m okay with that.  Of course, the car was also stocked with a variety of treats so Dog could have a little power snack to reboot after the hike.

4) Dogs don’t chatter and they don’t get bossy about which trails to hike.  Well, maybe some dogs do…I enjoy hiking with friends too, but there is something wonderful about the peacefulness that comes from taking in a breathtaking view in silence with your canine by your side.  Dog is very good natured and listens pretty well (my roommates trained her well) so no matter how exciting or dull the trail I pick it, she’s enthusiastic about it.  That’s rare in a friend.

5) Don’t be a douche- bring plastic bags and throw away your dog’s waste!  Do not just leave it hanging from trail signs.  That is disgusting and lazy and hello!  Part of bringing the dog means taking responsibility for them!  Ugh, rant over, just pick up your dog’s poo please.

If you’re inspired to take your adorable canine for an adventure be sure to check if your intended destination allows dogs on the trail.  The rules can be kind of convoluted (like that many state and national parks allow dogs in campsites and anywhere cars go, but not on hiking trails).  Make sure you leash Fido too, because no matter how well behaved she is, there are bears and shit out there, so watch out.

Also, shout out to the Alt National Park Service for their bravery  and dedication to science and truth.  If you appreciate their work follow the link and show your support.  Follow them on Facebook or Twitter as AltNationalParkService.  Don’t forget Rogue NASA!

Check Out My Work on Travelettes!

The Travelettes have once again featured a guest article I wrote on their wonderful site!  You can find it Here.  This site is a resource that any and all female (actually anybody) travelers should check out whether they’re planning a trip, daydreaming about where to go next, or just looking for cool articles to read from the comfort of home.  The women who run this site are true travel gurus and are a gold mine of information and dead-useful tips and tricks.  Last fall I wrote about my solo trip to San Francisco.  Find that piece Here.  If you’re not too busy reading and rereading (ha) my articles, get lost in some truly fabulous posts about exotic locations you’ve only ever dreamed of.  Have fun!

Look, it’s me!

What’s the Deal With Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness (or to use the more quaint term- “mountain sickness”) occurs when you ascend to an altitude level where the oxygen is thinner.  It can be pretty serious when you are actually climbing mountains- yes, when I looked it up there was a horrible picture of a dead goat that succumbed to it- but when you are just adjusting to the Mile HIgh City (Denver) it is much milder.  In fact, some people aren’t affected at all!  I, unfortunately, am not one of those people.

Common symptoms are:

-Shortness of breath

-Lack of appetite


-Inability to sleep properly

I’ve got the lack of appetite and restlessness in spades.  I checked out a site put out by Denver’s tourism board and read that since there is much less moisture in the air the sun is more powerful.  I knew that it was sunnier here than back in Wisco (apparently Denver receives more sun that San Diego and Miami!), and I certainly noticed the drier air, but I guess I hadn’t put the reason behind these things together.  This also means that exercise goes a lot further than in lower altitude places- wohoo!  It makes the rather brief run I took around the neighborhood yesterday seem more impressive.  If you are interested in reading more about this you can check out the Denver site Here

On AirBnB

AirBnB is a gift to the modern traveler, especially if said traveler is on a budget. This is a system that allowed people the opportunity to stay somewhere in their chosen destination, and not only afford it, but really get a feel for the place they are staying. AirBnB’s current tag line is, don’t stay somewhere, live somewhere. I must say, they have hit the nail on the head.
How it works: When you (the guest) log on to AirBnB you can search for places to stay in your chosen destination. On my recent trip to San Francisco I just typed in the city and searched by neighborhood and by price. You can set these filters so that AirBnB knows not to suggest locales in places you don’t wan to be. It also won’t suggest a huge mansion for $$$ when you only wanted a room or a bed for $.

AirBnB is unique compared to other sites like CouchSurfing because you can chose to stay somewhere where you have the whole house (in which case the ‘hosts’ would be out of town or something) to yourself, or just a private room. I chose to stay on a futon in the common room at my SF AirBnB because it was the cheapest option. This means that the hosts had set up a bed in the living room/kitchen with some curtains strung across the room by my bed. I could close the curtains at night for privacy, but left them open during the day since it was a common space. The set up worked beautifully.
Once you have decided what kind of accommodation you want and how much to spend you can scroll through listings. Good AirBnB hosts post lots of photos and tons of great reviews. I stick to places that have about 100 or more positive reviews (make sure the reviews are written by real people with real profiles!). Honestly, there is so much to choose from you can be picky on this site. Now that you have found your place, you submit a request to stay. The host can choose whether or no to accept you. It’s helpful to send them a message telling them about yourself and your upcoming trip. They typically will respond quickly and share something about themselves too! Once they accept you your payment will go through (in most cases you can cancel your stay with minimal penalties if need be) and you will receive instruction from your host on how to get to their place, how to unlock doors, etc. They usually also provide recommendations for places to eat and drink in the neighborhood, so pay attention to those tips!  

Some hosts even go so far as to offer transportation to or from the airport or train station. None of the places I have stayed at have actually had my host their at the time, whether because they were out of town or because they didn’t actual live there (think an AirBnB version of a hostel). I was surprised and delighted to meet fellow travelers at my SF stay. I’m introverted, so normally I would expect other strangers in a strange house to equal Awkward City for me, but in fact, it was just an easy way to make friends. A couple I met on the first night (if you read my earlier SF blog posts you will read about them!) actually became good friends and I was sorry to see them continue on to their next destination. The other travelers who came and went were friendly and somewhat more reserved. One person obviously had a late night because there was puke in the sink in the morning. Thank goodness for two bathrooms! At the end of my stay I left behind half a bottle of red wine and an uneaten sandwich for anyone who wanted it. That is part of the glorious nature of this system: if you are here you are part of a community of travelers. Everyone is looking for a comfortable place to put up their feet at the end of the day. If you’re lucky you will get to share stories and count them as friends. Who knows, maybe you will bump into them again somewhere down the line in some far off place?
Here is their snazzy ad!

How To [Not] Contain Your Excitement For Your Next Trip

Your trip is approaching.  It feels like you have been waiting forever.  Time has slooooweedd waaaayyy down.  Or maybe you just got an alert that airline tickets to your dream destination plummeted and you jumped right on that and voila!  Trip booked.  Either way, you probably have lots of excitement/energy/travel ideas just busting out of your very pores and you need to do something about it!  Here are some ways to [not] contain your excitement:

1)Read a book set in your destination. Not a travel guide or backpacker’s guide, an actual novel set there.  As the characters experience the city/landscape, so can you.  Plus, now you can go to those same places and geek out about it!

2)Do read a travel guide or backpacker’s guide.  Even if you have been there before, you didn’t see everything.  If nothing else, you can sit in your favorite coffee shop and subtly let everyone know where you are going.

3)Plan ahead.  What will you need?  Cold weather; how’s your comfy sweater collection?  Damp; got waterproof boots?  Hot and sunny; invest in quality sunscreen.  Laying out what you want to take is not only practical, it’s actually a fun way to get into the groove of you where you are headed!

4) Write about it.  Do you have a travel journal?  If not, get one.  If you do, jot down some thoughts on what you hope to see or do.  It doesn’t matter if you actually make a solid plan for this to happen, but when you get where you are going you might look it over and think, ‘Oh yeah, I did want to do that!’  It’s also fun to look back after your trip.

5)Fire up the ole’ internet machine and read about what other travelers say about your destination.  If you are reading this blog then you must know there are a wealth of travel blogs out there and there is bound to be some good info from fellow travelers that can help advise you on health, safety, what to skip and what not to skip, and probably anything else you wanderlusting heart desires.  Check them out!  You can really go down the rabbit hole that is Instagram if you type in #yourdestination.  Yeeeaahhh, be sure to set aside plenty of time for that one.

6)Share your itinerary with a loved one so that a: someone knows where you are in case you get into trouble, and b:you can talk about how excited you are!
Okay, since my trips to MN and CA are fast approaching I am going to go do all these things- BYE.

Want Someone to Pay For Your Trip?

I recently stumbled across a little known program called Diverbo.  It’s a sort of English immersion camp that either adults or children can attend.  The program lets people in Spain or Germany go to speak English with native English speakers in order to improve their language skills.  That means that they need YOU native English speakers, whether you’re from Ireland, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, or the USA.  Check out the link for for info and to learn how to volunteer!  It looks like you need to:

A) Pay your own airfare, wah wah.  But hey, they pay for your accommodations!

B) Be fairly flexible with travel dates.

C) Be willing to mingle with all kinds of different people from different nationalities.

You don’t need to speak Spanish or German, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.