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.

Where To Next?

If you are the type of person who travels often then you probably know the excitement of “Where to next…?”  Some lucky folks simply watch ticket prices to exotic locals and purchase the ones that are a steal.  “A trip to Thailand?  Sounds great!”  While I wish I was the kind of person who could whip out my credit card and buy myself a plane ticket to Southeast Asia or the Sahara or whoever, my funds are more limited.  Most of my travel is within the continental US.  Now, that said, this is a HUGE country with just about every biome represented, and each region has it’s own unique flavor and personality.  I didn’t really appreciate the vastness and diversity of my own country until I lived a different country.

Visiting a famous local in Tacoma, WA with my awesome west coast relatives.

Now it’s May, I already have had one glorious adventure this year, but I am thinking ahead.  Where to next indeed.  Sometimes I am attracted to a place because of it’s famed attractions, like the French Quarter in New Orleans, or the mountains in Durango.  Other times I want to see the people who live there, like visiting family in Washington or Minnesota.  I go to San Francisco as frequently as possible because I’m madly in love with the city (and it helps to have an old friend there).  

Representing my friend’s bike polo team in the most favorite city, San Francisco

This summer I’m feeling Tennessee.  I have not spent much time in the east or south of this country, so it would be exciting to explore the local culture there.  I have a cousin that I would love to spend time with.  It seems perfect.  So now, time to watch those ticket prices!

Exploring northern Minnesota

Are Photos Making It Hard to Enjoy Travel?

Since sites like Instagram have become a mainstay for social media the popularity of snapping and sharing the “perfect” photo from your travels has exploded.  I can’t tell you how many shots I see that are this: a pretty girl wearing a maxi dress and sun hat, back turned to the camera, standing in front of a mosaic wall.  It sometimes feels like you are not a “real” traveler unless you have been photographed standing in front of some kind of wall in Southeast Asia or somewhere in the Middle East.  That said, I think any person who has the chance and the ability to travel somewhere wonderfully different than their homeland is lucky and I would jump at the chance to take a boat around Ha Long Bay or see the hot air balloons rise into the air at dawn in Cappadocia.  The oddball girl in me, the one who has never been quite on-trend, and the one who would rather by riding in the hot air balloon than watching it, rebels against falling into the same old pattern as everyone else.

I love posting my latest photos on IG.  I also love digging up old memories (Ireland 2006?  Hell yeah, I rocked that Guinness sweatshirt in the mossy old castle we visited!) and posting them.  I have been wondering lately though, is my eagerness to capture the perfect picture on my trip stopping me from just experiencing the moment?  I have caught myself watching things- once in a lifetime moments- through my camera lens rather than just watching them.  I do end up with pictures I am proud of.   Does that make the moments any less special?

Some people would say yes and complain about selfie sticks, Instagram filters, blah blah blah.  These are the ones that hate “selfies” and ridicule the people who take them.  I find that I don’t side with them on the whole.  As a frequent solo traveler I often use my Nikon’s self timer to take a picture of myself.  After all, I want to be in at least some of my travel photos.  

On the whole, I think it comes down to a delicate balance between taking the time to smell the proverbial roses (or the fresh mountain air at dawn, or rich aroma of roasted coffee beans at a small cafe, or the exotic spices in a marketplace, etc), and being comfortable with pulling out your camera to try and capture a beautiful moment on your journey.  I, for one, love my camera, and I don’t plan on putting it away any time soon.

A photo I took myself of myself at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA. No regrets.
Tent selfie taken on my latest solo camping trip. You wouldn’t believe the number of up-close-nose photos I took while playing around with the camera.
A goofy photo that has turned out to be one of my favorites from my time in Botswana.

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.

Cafe Life: Boulder, CO

I drove up to Boulder, CO today to do a little thrifting and hole up at a cafe.  I found Laughing Goat Cafe on Pearl Street and I’m enjoying the warm spring afternoon at a table outside with an IPA next to me.  This area is clearly geared towards tourists, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exciting little boutiques, cafes, and eateries here.  I stopped in nearby Red Letter Books (used books crammed floor to ceiling with only the barest hint of organization), found some comfy pants at Common Threads, and picked up a birthday gift for a friend at a boutique called Bliss.

But back to Laughing Goat-

It is very lively here, even though it’s a Monday afternoon and ostensibly most people are at work or school.  Inside the cafe most tables are full and everyone seems to be working on their laptops.  I guess I fit right in.  The vibe is cozy pub and their selection on coffees is impressive.  They keep two beers on tap (both are IPA), and have a long list of bakery and sandwiches.  I saw about half a dozen different kinds of kombucha in their refrigerator and my mouth fairly watered.  One was called ‘Rowdy Mermaid’ and I nearly bought it just based on the name.  The crowd looks to be mostly young professionals and students, but sitting nearby is a woman and two young girls practicing their reading.  

I’m not sure if this cafe could accurately be called a neighborhood spot, since Pearl Street is not exactly a neighborhood street, but there is an eclectic mix of clientele, as well as a variety of food and drink options that could keep just about anyone happy.  Boulder is a popular spot for visitors due to it’s reputation for ritzy mountain living.  Let’s just say Whole Foods is big here.  It’s a bit of a haul from Denver, but perfect for daytrips.  Plus, you can’t beat the thrifting options at Common Threads.  I like this cafe, and even though I don’t spend a whole heck of a lot of time in Boulder, I would come back again.  

How My Time in Botswana Helped Me Find Roller Derby

It’s kind of a cliche that travelling or doing a study abroad trip help you to “find yourself”.  Don’t get me wrong, they often do.  This post is not about some cathartic moment out in the African bush being surrounded by elephants and figuring life out.  (If you want to read about that, you better hope that my submission for a travel writing scholarship gets picked- then you can read allll about those kind of moments).  

This is about how my friend Diana came over to my dorm room and innocently asked if I wanted to watch a movie that she liked.  Since Diana is one of the coolest people on the planet I said sure.  The movie was Whip It and it’s all about a girl in rural Texas who stumbles across the sport of roller derby when it was in the beginning of it’s modern day incarnation in Austin.  The movie is directed by Drew Barrymore, who also acts in it, and also features some people you might not expect to see out on the track, like Kristen Wiig (my personal hero), Eve, and Ellen Page.  

Anyhow, if you’ve seen it you know: it makes roller derby look reeeaaalll glamorous.  And the sport it glamorous, to some degree, in a sweaty-dyed hair-tattoos-and-glitter kinda way.  Modern day flat track derby doesn’t look like Whip It much, apart from the relationships between skates.  That is dead on.  I didn’t know any of this when I watched the movie though, so I fell in love with this broken bones kind of excitement for the whole rest of my stay in Botswana.  When I returned to the states I brooded over my new-found roller derby love.  In Bots, there is no opportunity for derby, or even just roller skating.  Suddenly back in Madison, WI there was an established league and a rec league waiting with open doors.  

Ah, Bots
Diana, her sister Maria, and her wonderful mother

Shit, bluff called, now I needed to act.  So I spent a summer learning to roller skate around my neighborhood on $7 used roller skates.  In the fall I joined up with the Mad Wreckin Dolls who taught me how to actually skate, how to fall safely, how throw a hit (appropriately), and how to take one.  I learned how to block and how to jam and I was even voted MVP jammer, a feat which is still my crowning athletic achievement.  

Wreckers!
#12 S.P. Arrow
That’s me as a jammer

I stopped skating eventually as life got busy and I began to value my free time more.  I still skated outdoors for fun on my Frankenstein outdoor skates built from various pieces of other skates.  Now here I am Denver, CO and the siren song of the track is calling.  Today I purchased my new WFTDA insurance- something required for all skaters- and I have all my gear ready to go.  I start skating again on Thursday.  Here we go, game on, cheers to a new adventure.

I have Diana, Botswana, and Drew Barrymore to thank for it.

Solo Camping Is A Practice in Meditation

It’s gotta be about 30 degrees inside the tent and even though I’m swaddled inside blankets, a sleeping bag, sweatpants, a woolen shirt, a sweatshirt, thick socks, and a hat I’m too cold to sleep.  Dog is snuggled up by my feet and appears to be impervious to the cold.  I don’t know what time it is (there is no way I am reaching my arm out of my cocoon to check my phone) but outside the night is very very dark.  At this point I hear soft and deliberate footfalls outside my tent.  They stop near my head and I hear sniffing.  What the hell is that?  I locked all the food in a cooler in my car and was careful not to leave any wrappers in the tent with me.  Whatever it is it isn’t human, that’s for sure.  It is also sniffing around inches from my head, separated from me by just the thin wall of my tent.  Dog hasn’t noticed anything and is still asleep.  I can’t decide if this is good or bad.  The list of suspects for my visitor includes raccoon, squirrel, fox, deer, mountain lion, and bear.  The footsteps circle the tent and come back to sniff near my head again.  I am completely still and thinking irrationally what if it is trying to smell me?

Flash back to fourteen hours earlier and I am standing in the Denver flagship REI staring at a display labeled “Bear Protection”.  There are all kinds of air horns, sprays, bear-proof canisters, bells, and whistles.  Bears were never a big deal back in Wisconsin.  Out here though, I am knowingly camping in bear territory, and even though it’s still early spring I’m not sure if the bears are still hibernating or not.  What if one of them woke up early and is hungry?  I ended up leaving with just some small and necessary purchases (headlamp, camp soap, socks) but I was still thinking about wildlife as I drove away.

I borrowed a tent and a sleeping pad from my roommates and loaded up the car with gear, food, and the dog.  We were headed to Golden Gate Canyon which is not too far from Denver, but which feels remote due to it’s vastness.  There are a handful of year round tent sites up on Reverend’s Ridge which are available on a first come first served basis.  Since it was a Sunday I was hopeful that there would be a site available for us.  Up a 19% grade and through some dizzying switchbacks we drove before we got to Reverend’s Ridge.  We lucked out and got one of the last sites.  The whole area was in a forest of aspens with views of snowcapped mountain peaks visible between the trees.  The air was cool, crisp, and clean.  There was a fire ban in effect so most of the other campers were off hiking or taking in the sights instead of sitting around a campfire.  As soon as the tent was set up and the sleeping gear was inside Dog and I set off to find a trailhead.  Nearby was the Racoon Trail, which was deceptively listed as being only a little over two miles.  With the hike from the campsite, it was more than three and included grueling uphill climbs, stunning panoramic views, and tough rocky descents.  Since it was a looped trail it deposited us back at camp tired, exhilarated, and hungry.


Camp was a little busier as people got down to business eating dinner and cracking open beers.  Dog and I ate our dinner and then headed out to explore the area.  Most of the camping loops were closed for the season so the landscape was peaceful and populated mostly by noisy little birds.  The sun was beginning to set and Dog and I decided to do a little night time walking in the woods…mostly so that I could try out my new headlamp. The temperature was dropping, but I was feeling snug and smug in my warm clothes.  *Side note* I have felt plenty of disdain for girls who wear nothing but their identical outfits of Northface fleece, leggings, and Uggs/moccasins, but I wore my newly thrifted Northface pullover jacket and was nothing but impressed with the warmth and comfort.  I think I might live in it forever.

Camping alone is a kind of meditation.  When you are out there with friends, a partner, or family members you play games, you cook meals together, there is often beer; all in all it is a rambunctious social event.  When solo, you are silent and thoughtful.  You fall into rhythm with the daylight, the cold and the warmth, the wind, and the animal sounds.


With no campfires allowed (I probably couldn’t have made a decent one on my own anyway) the campsites were all fairly dark.  Here and there larger groups had multiple lanterns or kept their car lights on.  I had Dog decked out like a Christmas tree between her light up red collar and green harness light.  For myself, I wore my headlamp.  I got Dog and I packed us up cozily inside the tent and spent some time reading.  It was the last time until daylight that I would feel comfortable.

Back to where I began.  I lay awake listening to the animal outside my tent and tried to think rationally.  This was difficult because I was sleep deprived, cold, and afraid.  The foot steps were too delicate to be a waddling raccoon, and too heavy to be a squirrel.  I doubted a bear could walk with that much grace either (phew).  The only things that I could think of as being an attractant (besides my tasty human self) was the dog water dish, which I had left outside.  In that case, perhaps my visitor was only thirsty?  A thirsty little fox even?  This was a comforting thought.  My visitor returned to circle and sniff three more times.  Later, I would look for footprints and find none.

The rest of the night was sleepless, but uneventful.  I was glad to see the run come up and decided to get out and hike around a bit to get the blood flowing and thaw.  Dog and I found a place to watch the sun come up.  It was dazzling and made up for the cold night.  I tried and failed to take a nice photo with Dog, so it’s just a picture of me.


As the sun came up the morning began to warm up too.  Dog and I returned to camp for some breakfast and I re-cocooned myself in the tent to read and wait for the air to warm up even more.  Around the camp people were beginning to stir.  My neighbors had left sometime in the night, but everyone else was making breakfast and sleeping, or packing up their sites.  We played a game of fetch and then decided to go on one last hike before heading out.

The last hike was on Mule Deer Trail, which proved to be just the right combination of hot and dry and steep to be utterly exhausting.  Instead of hiking along forest trails and dodging patches of snow we were exposed to the wind and sun (not quite strong) in a huge open meadow.  The trail skirted small streams and wound down and then up, up, and away into the foothills.  It seemed like rattlesnake country.  I was constantly dry mouthed and Dog was panting.  The sites were beautiful, but we needed to make it back to camp in time before our parks pass expired.  At the snail paced we were going, it was going to take a long time.  That hike took a lot out of me.  It might have been rewarding under different circumstances, but I was just tired and thirsty.  I was so happy when we finally made it back to the car.  Leaving a good campsite is always bittersweet.  We waved goodbye to our little spot and began the descent back down.  The temperature rose and the cheese its ran out.  Finally back at home I was sore and tired and so was Dog.  We both took long naps.

That was our adventure.  Next time I will bring more blankets.

The Travel Item You Should Never Be Without

I want to talk to you today about a travel item that can keep you warm, cool, safe from who-knows-what creepy crawlies, and is silky smooth.  It is THE SLEEPING BAG LINER.   Oh yes, those of you who have one probably just went “Yup, yup, yup that sucker is magic.”  I got mine when my mom took me to REI before I went to Africa.  We did a major haul (just think what those dividends would have been if we had been members…) and the liner was something of an afterthought.  Here Is the link to the kind that I have.

Claim 1: It keeps you warm.  It does; if your sleeping bag or blankets just aren’t cutting it by themselves then this handy addition will help keep in the heat.

Claim 2: It keeps you cool.  It does; if you are sleeping somewhere hot (like Africa) then you can sleep in just the liner, sans blankets and sans sleeping bag.

Claim 3: It will keep you safe from creepy crawlies.  When I went with a group of friends on a trip to Mozambique we stayed in a hostel our first and seconds nights and everyone woke up with weird bug bites EXCEPT ME.  I slept in just the liner and woke up with the same itch-free skin I went to bed with.

Claim 4: It is silky smooth.  It is; mine is made of silk.
*I don’t work for REI or the maker of this product, I am simply writing about a product I love.

Hiking-grams

It’s beautiful outside today!  The sun is shining, the snow is gone, and the weather is about 70 degrees.  In other words, it is a glorious day to be outside exploring some new terrain.  I, however, am not outside, because I am on the cusp of what feels like a cold and I am trying to stay low-key enough to beat it.  I put together some of my favorite snaps from my hiking trips in my post today as I daydream about them inside with my mug of tea.

Rocky Mountain National Park…the dark clouds heralded snow.
My first ever trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. We saw plenty of the famous elk!

This view is thanks to Eldorado Canyon State Park.
Dog and I stumbled across a herd of deer at Red Rocks.

Eldorado Canyon State Park
Roxborough State Park

What To Read On Your Next Trip

Spoiler Alert: these book recommendations are subjective, so make your own choices!  These just happen to be things I personally have really enjoyed.

It’s only February, but after two weeks of sunny weather in the 60’s and 70’s I couldn’t help but start to daydream about summer road trips.  I spent a good deal of time on REI’s website researching which backpacker’s tent to buy…Anyway, whether you are taking a roadtrip or flying somewhere far away you will probably want some choice reading material (besides this blog of course).  Here are some books I have recently read and really enjoyed.  

1) The Claire Dewitt mysteries by Sara Gran: Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead.  This is the first book in the so-far two book series and it will simultaneously feed and satisfy your curiosity.  The book takes place in New Orleans just two years after Katrina and the city is still pretty much in ruins.  Claire Dewitt is the [self styled] best detective in the world.  She is called back to the city she once loved to find a missing DA.  This book is much more than just a crime-detective-mystery story though; it’s about a woman who lost her best friend and could never solve the case, a woman who lost her mentor to petty theft, and a woman who is pretty much Bat Man.  She is the hero people deserve but not the hero they need.

Claire Dewitt and the Bohemian Highway is the second installment, and actually the book I read first after stumbling across it in the library.  This book has Claire back in her hometown of San Francisco and investigating the murder of an old lover.  It turns out he might have been more important in her life than she gave him credit for and the idea is killing her- literally.  

2) The Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis: this memoir covers the story of how Aspen was raped her second day of college and the falling out from being disbelieved and shamed by everyone from the college to her own mother.  Aspen picks herself up, leaves school, and thru-hikes the Pacific Crest Trail.  Since I have my own aspirations for hiking that fabled trail I was quite enthralled with this book and couldn’t put it down.  

3) Unmentionable: The Victorian Ladies’ Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese O’Neill.  This books is a witty, hilarious, and informative guide to surviving the 19th century without dying of consumption of being put into the asylum for “hysteria”.  The author has done her research and will answer all your burning questions, such as: what to do with my menstrual rags when they’ve been washed?  How can I avoid getting consumption from the wrong water temperature in my hip bath?  What kind of lead is okay to put in my face cream?  Ultimately, you will learn that just about everything in your filthy, smelly, and desititute 19th century life will give you consumption, so just accept it now.  *this book is exceptionally funny to read aloud to others.


5) The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway: this is a book I am actually still reading, having snagged it on impulse from the library when I was checking out all of my PCT trail guides.  It is a great piece of historical fiction, so what along the lines of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  This books has tragic romance, people jumping through time, and great plot twists and turns.  I am excited to see how it all plays out!


That’s my list!  I am always on the hunt for new and exciting reading material, so I usually have about three books “going” at one time.  These six were some that really stood out for me.  Happy reading folks!