Gear Review: Rickaroons

Gluten-free! Organic! Vegan! And the big one–Paleo-friendly!

Snacks with exclamations like these typically cause me to shy away from them. I’m always under the impression that it’s secret code for “boring hippy food”. Why can’t food with a healthy stamp be delicious and not bland?

Being an unprofessional baker myself, I experiment with all sorts of combinations to try and find the best ratio of ingredients that are nutritious and tasty. It’s strange, but no matter what I try, my experiments always result in cookies. Buttery, full-of-sugar, full-of-gluten, non-vegan cookies. (Let’s face it–we all know that the best things in life are actually those that come in cookie form.)

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Photograph courtesy of Rickaroons

LO AND BEHOLD, I TRIED RICKAROONS. Was it a cookie? Was it a bar? And why did I feel so good after eating one?

Rickaroons, a small family-owned business based out of southern California, is dedicated to making coconut energy bars that pack a huge punch in one small ‘roon. It’s a father-and-son company that are driven by a passion that understands that energy snacks should fit an active and healthy lifestyle. Read their story (it’s A Love Story) here.

Ingredients such as coconut, almond butter, chia seeds, java, and cacao nibs guarantee a good tasting bar, but I’m almost convinced that it’s what they DON’T use that makes the magic happen. For instance, they DON’T use flour. No white flour, no wheat flour, none of that cricket flour stuff. The components of a ‘roon are simple, add substantial nutrition, and taste great. All of their ingredients are organic–always.

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Photograph courtesy of Rickaroons

My favorite flavor is the Megaroon – a superfood concoction filled with omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s moist and delicious and not as dense as other energy bars–oh, and there are cacao nibs in every bite.

Their other flavors won’t disappoint: Mocha, Chocolate Blonde, Mint to Be, and Peanut Butter Protein. Each of them is rich and packed with the same power–they are the ultimate dessert fuel whether you are constantly on the go in an outdoor arena or tackling the chaos of daily life.

Photo by Irene Yee-M60C6730
Before, during, and after racking up for a climb in Icebox Canyon. Photograph by Irene Yee

Mint to Be – Chocolate and mint: I want it in my mouth.

Chocolate Blonde – This baby is packed with almond butter, coconut, and choco chips. Whether or not Blondes are your type, you’ll fall for this one almost immediately!

Mocha – Coffee, coffee, coffee. Espresso and cacao were just meant to be.

Peanut Butter Protein-Loaded with pumpkin seed protein and peanut butter, you’ll be satisfied with a whopping seven grams of protein to kick-start your day.

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Dirty hands + happy stomach
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Never leave home without one

I won’t limit myself to just one flavor, though. They are the first thing I’ll throw into my climbing pack whether I’m heading out to crag for an afternoon or spending a full day climbing a big multi-pitch route. They’re light and delicious and travel really well. Pulling a ‘roon out of my pack is one of the best parts of my climb–it fills me enough to keep my hunger at bay and energizes me for the next few hours by providing me with slow-burning fuel while I continue to gain elevation.

I’m a savory and sweet kind of girl, but I don’t really dig the cardboard-tasting energy bars that are neither. Rickaroons keep the glycemic index on the lower side by sweetening their bars with agave and maple syrup. My craving for something is satisfied because my brain is convinced I’m chowing down on cookies.

1 Photo by Irene Yee-M60C7383
A day at the Gallery. Photograph by Irene Yee

In short, all good things come in some form of a cookie. Rickaroons embodies the kind of company that I love to support: people who believe in starting from the ground up, grow their business with love, and believe that happiness and health go hand-in-hand. Check out the energy snack that tastes like a dessert but fuels active minds and bodies!


Disclosure: The kind folk at Rickaroons have exchanged ‘roons in exchange for this review. All of my opinions are honest and my own.

Use discount code “CLIMBON” and save 15% on orders! Code does not expire and you can purchase your own Rickaroons here.


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North Leitrim.

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Leitrim, in the North West of Ireland, can be divided into two parts, the lowlands of the south and the highlands of the north, divided by Lough Allen in the middle.   I’ll explore the south of the county on another day but for now the North Leitrim hills awash with it’s autumn colour have me enthralled.  With rippling hills, unmanicured hedgerows, glacial lakes and a vast network of meandering little roads to explore it’s a cyclists seventh heaven!

The North Leitrim countryside is made up of numerous glens,  Glencar, Glenfarne, Glenaniff, Glenboy, Glenkeel, Gleniff and Glenade.  They seem to be evenly placed for the convenience of the cyclist, with ups and downs appearing and disappearing on cue!  Each glen outdoing the other in drama, colour and rustic beauty.  The web of minor roads that link the glens are picture postcard rural Ireland and traverse over rolling hills of small hedge-lined sheep farms. The higher the road climbs the more it reveals the solitude of Ireland’s least populated county.  You could spend a day cycling the roads only meeting a few!  Derelict stone cottages long since vacated dot the hillsides. Fairy forts and  fairy trees add intrigue.  The Leitrim hills are calling!

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Ciaran at Gleniffgleniff-sligo-bracken-woods

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What Happened in Vegas

October 1st, 2017 was a heavy day in the world. I was visiting Las Vegas with several days planned to go rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area when one act of unthinkable terror changed the lives of thousands. You never leave for a trip thinking that a horrific massacre is about to happen. You don’t walk out of your front door in the morning thinking, “Something bad might happen today.”

Nobody does. You would never leave your house if that were the case.

On social media, I wrote:

“This morning was sobering for many people but let’s ask ourselves, ‘How many sobering moments does it take to make a change?’ This is a conversation that plays out time and time again, but with no results. The culture of gun violence needs to be addressed. Mental illness cannot be blamed alone. The two are so tightly intertwined, and it should not take an attack that kills more than 50 people and leaves over 500 injured. This should not be our wake-up call.

The devastation that these issues have created leaves us at a loss for words. But we can’t just wring our hands in distress and stop there–we CAN use our hands, our abled bodies to call our representatives, call the NRA, take the time to donate blood. We say that we “have no words” for the horror that has happened yesterday and many times before, but we do have words. We just have to find them and use them.

And ultimately, the importance of just being excellent to one another is emphasized so heavily today. In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

On the inside, I felt like something hollowed me out.

We went climbing later that week. We felt unsure about it, but at the same time, sitting inside listening to the construction workers drilling into the cement and not having a quiet space for our thoughts felt maddening. I certainly questioned whether or not it was wrong to in the throes of tragedy, but at the same time, the sad fact of tragedy is that the world spins on despite what anybody wants it to do.

On the one hand, it was important that people go to work and live their lives. My friend Sarah told me that her housemate went to work on the strip the next day, and it was abnormal how normal people were acting, buying cupcakes and ice cream and walking around the grown-up version of Disney Land. Irene told me that they’d canceled Cirque shows the next day but would continue performances throughout the rest of the week. And something about that weirdly made sense to me.

It didn’t necessarily mean that people were not privy to what had happened. But people process tragedy differently. And some people need to feel a sense of normalcy, whether it was having lunch with a friend, going to a yoga class, punching in and out of the old time clock, or climbing up something.

We all felt it. The devastation of a loss that there are no words for. We have parents grieving children and children missing mothers and there is nothing that anybody can say that will make that right. There are no words, but we felt it.

One might say that climbing seems so senseless when half of the world is smoking, drinking, shooting up, or just plain shooting each other.

But the deadliest mass shooting in America seems pretty senseless to me, too. It only reminds me of how much work we have yet to do, how we have not come very far at all. That the issues we face are difficult and can’t (and won’t) be solved with one solution alone. The toll goes on as the certainty of more shootings only increases–and it is becoming the worst facet of our identity as a nation.

If it feels wrong to smile, if it feels wrong to feel loved, if it feels wrong to do something that brings you happiness: don’t feel wrong. Those are all beautiful aspects of life and it would, in some way, dishonor those who are no longer with us and able to do any of those things. What happened in Vegas should be a powerful reminder to everybody that good does exist in this world. Some days, it’s harder to see than others. Those days, we need to be that good that exists in the world.

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The Road to Patagonia

We sat at our campground early one weekend morning. Thacher State Park had just opened a new sport climbing area and Kurt and thought it would be cool to check out something new. This, by the way, was the very same weekend that Kurt and I stopped in the Gunks on the way back to the city and he dislocated his shoulder–another story for another time.

After breakfast, we broke up the time cleaning the dishes and breaking down camp with some light conversation and impromptu cuddles. We were thinking about going to Patagonia when Kurt’s job contract in the city ended–at the end of December. January is such a perfect time to climb in the south, so I was planning on spending a few weeks with friends in Tennessee and flying down to meet him the following month.

We’d been discussing it on and off for weeks, but the more we talked about it, the more real the trip was becoming. The hair on my arms tingled in anticipation–what would it mean to me? Could Patagonia be the place where I learned how to endure anything, the wind, the cold, the snow? Would it make me a better alpine climber? Would it change me?

As I put away the unused eggs and wiped some of the breakfast dishes, I rapidly spoke my thoughts out loud; my words were firing out of me faster than I could wipe the table clean. The chatter abruptly stopped when he finally said, “You should start thinking about lining up some February partners.”

At the beginning of my relationship with Kurt, I had a very empowering moment when he left for Wyoming. We had only just met but I had decked while climbing a route in Eldorado Canyon, leaving me with a stress fracture in my left foot. He offered me his place to crash for a few weeks while he did a super commute from Boulder to the Grand Tetons. Feeling quite lonely after a recent breakup in the spring, I was especially glum to not have climbing.

We talked most days as he slowly crept north, biking and making strides through Colorado. I began looking forward to our text conversations. I suppose the beginning of any relationship can be like that–constantly checking your phone, wondering if the other person is thinking of you, contemplating the perfect responses. And then the unexplainable, unavoidable shit eating grin on your face when they respond, “Me too.”

My empowering moment began with a not so empowering one. Concerned that I was getting attached a little too quickly, I struggled as I tried to decipher my feelings, which were certainly growing. It was somewhere within the time he was in the Tetons that I realized: should things work out between us, we still wouldn’t be attached to the hip. We would have outside interests and separate lives–as it should be. We should both be free to pursue passions that weren’t dependent solely on each other.

In my early twenties, I traveled through Europe alone. I would go to bars and venues unaccompanied to see bands play. I take myself out to dinner all of the time. Being twenty-something was an interesting experience because life is this amorphous thing. It was during my twenties that I discovered how important it is to have a life independent of your partner. I learned that spending time with yourself is an act of self-love–maybe one of the greatest acts of self-love. I took great care as I learned how to nurture my friendships as well as my own heart–tending to my own garden meant pursuing my own passions.

And over the summer months, as Kurt and I were figuring out what we meant to one another, we shared a love of climbing. It was one thread of many that weaved our story together. One year later, after lazing about one careless morning, he told me something that I already knew but it still felt like a rejection, hearing the words come from his mouth. I thought to myself, he doesn’t want to be the guy who teaches his girlfriend how to alpine climb.

I already knew that in putting together a trip like that, we would be climbing together sometimes but more often, with other partners. Kurt’s experience in the alpine world outpaced my own; he’s been climbing for much longer than I have. While we pair well for some objectives, I knew we might not for this trip. His intent would be the same as it’s always been since I have known him: to push himself physically and mentally up big, scary, cold things.

Personally, I really like sunshine and warmth.

I meditated for a lengthy amount of time, and the conclusion that I came to was that he shouldn’t have to be the guy who teaches his girlfriend to alpine climb. If I, in fact, at any point in my life wished to learn, I had a plethora of resources around me. And here and there, I’ve flirted with some bigger objectives, but I wasn’t getting after it all of the time.

I wasn’t getting after it all of the time because it wasn’t the passion I wanted to chase.

“Do what you love, with love!” the theme of my blog declares. If at any point, we are pursuing the things that make other people happy instead of ourselves, something is not right. If you’ve started dating a climber and you are simply not as keen to sit at belays for an hour and hiking approaches isn’t for you, do not feel obligated to do it. Likewise, if you are a climber and your significant other is disinterested in learning how to tie in or heights stress them out, do not pressure them. If they show interest in learning a craft, trying a new sport, fine tuning a technique–that’s the time to encourage them.

But latching onto someone else’s passions won’t make them love you more. It won’t make you love yourself more, either.

I already knew the importance of being my own complete person and I often encourage my partner to do the same. That’s who he fell in love with in the first place, right? Maybe the idea of traveling to Patagonia with my significant other felt beautiful and poetic, but I couldn’t let romanticism cloud the reality of things and threaten my relationship.

If I didn’t have the passion to learn something on my own, it wasn’t Kurt’s obligation to me to teach me. Not only did that have the potential for disaster written all over it, but it was dangerous as well as unfair.

I had one more empowering moment following that weekend: that if I were to find my way to Patagonia, it would be on my own terms, at my own speed, and in my own time. We would go together, just as we had originally planned except that day I decided that I would find my own road.


**Cover photo by Nick Lanphier


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Raise Your Kids in These 4 Outdoor Cities and Towns

While there are benefits to raising children in both cities and rural environments, there is no conclusive answer when it comes to the question: which one is best? Big cities often need a fast-paced life to grow—or at least to keep up with it. Adults struggle with finding the balance between city life and nature regularly, and with kids, the struggle becomes more prominent.

It comes down to what kind of lifestyle, as parents, we want to live. It’s what dictates most things in our lives—the career paths we wander down, the partners we choose, the places we hang our hat. Not every parent is going to want to get rid of their four-story brownstone to move upstate to greener pastures, and some families love that their closest neighbor is five miles away and that they know their postman by name. They might not have the desire to be surrounded by city culture and energy, 24/7. Both have their pros and cons, and if our location fits our lifestyle, do we have to venture beyond a certain mile radius?

For some city-dwelling families, it might mean planning ahead to ensure that your kids are spending enough time in nature. More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and while it’s impossible to imagine living like Max from “Where the Wild Things Are” all of the time, there’s probably room in your lives for a little bit of wild.

Today, there is a huge push for families to ditch the screen time for a weekend spent hiking through a forest, beach, or other natural environments. The bottom line is that kids need to spend time outdoors, because free play and regular contact with the natural world fosters creativity, improves strength and balance, teaches problem-solving and risk assessment, and gives them a sense of independence and self-worth. Not to mention that early experiences with nature can be linked to the development of a child’s imagination—something the world could always use more of.

The extinction of experience is also nature’s loss. Promoting more outdoor experiences can change the impact being had on our natural environment, simultaneously giving both children and adults the balance we need between the high energy buzz of city life and soft peacefulness we find in nature, in ourselves.

So, if you’re raising little ones, regardless of your latitude and longitude, make sure you give them the childhood experiences that cover the gamut: yes, take them to Broadway shows and play I Spy on public transportation and visit art museums and city parks. But also research how close the most accessible trail is from your home, or take them kayaking on the river, or camping in a National Park the next time family vacation rolls around. While creating more outdoor experiences for your little ones can mean a lot of work as a parent, it also means nurturing a long-term love for the great outdoors within them.


Here are 4 great outdoor cities and towns, and what parents have to say about raising their kids in them:

Jackson, WY

“Jackson is one big, outdoor playground, nestled in between two national parks, The Tetons and Yellowstone. Whether it is winter with skiing, boarding or snowmobiling or summer with hiking, paddle boarding or fly fishing, there is endless outdoor fun. Jackson Hole lends itself to year-round built-in family activities, continuous care for our environment and a healthy and fit lifestyle.” — Rachel Kantor

Alexander Lopez, who spent his childhood in Jackson says: “With access to world-class skiing, mountaineering, and hiking, the valley of Jackson Hole was the dream town to grow up in. In addition to the great outdoors, the valley offers amazing schools and a wide variety of programs that give these gifts to all.”

Asheville, NC

“Asheville is a great little city for families who want to live the middle-class dream—if that’s a thing. It’s casual, massively family friendly, and surprisingly welcoming. It feels like a city in the way that one is accepted for who they are, but it also feels like a town as many of the hoods are so cozy and tightly knitted. And it’s gorgeous—the mountains that surround it are breathtaking—lots of beautiful earth around here.” — Stacey Voloshin

Salt Lake City, UT

“Salt Lake City is a very family-friendly city. You’re never the only climber with kids out here and it’s easy to find other family climbing groups. The access is unparalleled, approaches well maintained, and there are safe staging areas. It’s a beautiful city for me to raise my children in and nurture their love for the outdoors at the same time.” — Haley Dahle

Chattanooga, TN

“I grew up in Indiana, went to school in Florida and then embarked upon the difficult question: “Where do I want to live?” After driving throughout the region, and also considering a few spots in Colorado, Chattanooga struck me as the perfect little-big town. There is a blended sense of Metropolitan and Mayberry. I love being able to teach downtown and then walk my daughter to dinner, or drive ten minutes to watch the sunset on Lookout Mountain. She frequently asks: “Are we going hiking this weekend?” I appreciate how easy it is to find solitude; one only needs to drive minutes to find some of the best climbing, biking, hiking, boating, and camping in the region. The world is so fast-paced now, so connected and by default, disconnected. It is important to me for my daughter to grow up in a nature-centered environment. After all, isn’t that what grounds us? Teaches us humility? Observing the grandeur of the world around us? At our house, we don’t have the Internet, and we don’t have cable; we spend our time seeking either creativity or activity. To me, this mindset is unique to Chattanooga—a place that fosters athletes and artists. I’ve traveled to many beautiful and spectacular places, and yet, I always feel the pull to come back to the quiet Mecca of Chattanooga. I suppose you could say it’s a beautiful oasis of sorts, and I’m grateful to raise my child here.” — Kelagn Hawhee


This article was previously published by Seneca Creek here on October 19th, 2016.


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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2, Part 3

Day Five: 22.8 miles/9hrs

August 22/17

 

Up at 4am to the alarming sound of rain falling. Rain? Rain !!  In a panic I retrieve dirty clothes from various open-air hanging perches, stake out the vestibules that were set wide-open for maximum air flow the previous night, get everything under their protective cover when it promptly stops raining. A friendly warning from the wet-weather gods. I’ll take it.

 

Decide to get up and within an hour am packed up and walking into the darkness.

 

Feel good so I walk and walk and walk some more into the 3.5 hour zone which seems like a lot because all I’ve consumed is a coffee with butter and full-fat powdered milk. That’s the challenge everyday: how far can I walk before eating my granola and rehydrated powerdered milk before eating. The reason? So the ‘breakfast’ can see me into many more hours of walking and finally snacking but not having a meal until the day is done and camp is set and I’m ravenous hungry almost chewing my arm out in response to a rumbling stomach. Okay not quite that bad but what you eat is what you carry and the little challenge each and every day is making the weight of that food last and fuel the miles. Many hikers eat dinner then walk some more but I like camping too much to do that quite yet. Which may change but right now this rhythm is finding its groove and it feels just right.

 

When I finally do stop it’s in plain and close view of the Sierra Buttes. That little jagged range that seemed so far days before was now close enough to touch.

 

I walk on after my little breakfast and see more and more people as I approach the trail climbing up to the Buttes. It’s always the same at popular and easily accessible not to mention beautiful trailheads  more and more folks and there I am smelly with my little pack, looking closely for the fork in the trail road when I leave all these ppl and continue south on the PCT. How I walk right past this junction and start climbing up up up to the watchtower on top of Sierra Buttes is beyond comprehension but I do.

 

WTF !!!

 

More embarrassingly I only realize this when an older man asks ‘so you’re taking the tower side trail but you’re on the PCT?’

 

Fuck !!

 

My pride prevails and after I finally turn around after checking my app to see where the hell I am, and pass him again I mutter ‘decided it was too far up after all’.  No need to metion I screwed up haha.

 

He’s behind me when I miss the junction AGAIN and yells out ‘hey Canada, the trails that way if you want the PCT’.  I have to laugh.

 

Then the rain. The rain !! I put my rain jacket on and walk, down down down all the way down to the highway to Sierra City.  It’s a mile and a half to the little tiny not-even-a-town so why not just walk. Which I do for a few hundred meters when an SUV pulls up slows down and says through the u rolled window ‘want a ride to town?’.  I happily oblige and meet Cesario.  He’s from Mexico and is stoked when I speak my meager Spanish and proudly tell him where my Mother and Father and law are from in his home nation. He grins at me and asks ‘Tienes niños???’ I tell him no but we have bikes and backpacks !! He just laughs and makes me feel so good as a human being. ‘No problema’ that I stink, he says, he always gives the hikers a ride!

 

Cesario leaves me at the General Store scene of NOBO’s and section hikers strewn about on benches, buying beer and eating copious amounts of food. And here I thought I was trail dirty.  It’s a good vibe and though in no way do I fit in, I’m happy to see it.  People of all ages and shapes and sizes trying to continue the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other mode of continuing what they started. Many have braved the snowy Sierra and don’t seem to want to leave. By what I know of the trail they are all the tail end of the Northbounders, no longer in the bubble of the masses who will most likely ‘make it’, whatever that means. I buy some beers and offer the extras to some of the guys. I’m a lightweight and why not share.

 

I see Pooh Bear, a SOBO thru-hiker I met near Chester.  She’s 57 and has great energy. I meet Topo who’s probably ten years older than her who’s section hiking and like her immediately.

 

I eat a massive 1/2 lb burger which seems small considering there’s a full pounder on the menu, beer, fries, stuff it all into my mouth and almost forget to chew. I swear the trail turns one into a cave person or what I imagine that archaic form of human to be. Feast or famine, I guess.  When nobody’s around why not go prehistoric and hoover anything with flavour?!?

 

I’m in front of the store when an annoyed NOBO sits beside me and acts annoyed. A section hiker named G-Man stops and chats. He’s going for a nice meal down the road and for some reason annoyed girl (who’s actually Quoi, a French-Canadian hiker I come to like) and I tag along. I’ve already eaten but why not eat again.  Why not?!?

 

Quoi talks SO LOUD like many of my French Canadian friend do when they speak English. It makes me smile because I love this culture and the people I came to love when living in the Easern Townships.  Everyone in the restaurant (one other table) joins in our conversation and the food is so good. G-Man is right wing but sort of interesting,  although it’s a little creepy how animated he gets when talking about making ‘bear carnitas with all the grease and grizzle’ in a big cast iron pot.  He’s a hunter so I get tips of bears and cougars that I dot quite believe.

 

Quoi has just graduated with a degree in addiction therapy. She works with many who will never get off booze and alcohol and other addictions, instead using the reality that if a person can ‘use’ more responsibly (like after work not before a shift) that encouraging a better approach to substance abuse is perhaps more apt to have a person functioning than cold turkey quitting which is impossible for most. It’s all very interesting so I ask her how she thinks hiking would be for someone who struggles. ‘Depends on the person. For some this would be the worst possible scenario. It’s feast or famine and an environment that normalizes binges (on food/alcohol/etc) when you hit the towns. The towns omwoukd be dangerous for a user and they would be in a very dangerous situation out on the trailnif they used and OD’d.’

 

This fascinated me because I always thought the pursuit of something like a long distance hike would be good for most.  What she said made so much sense. I have so much to learn!!

 

Now I lay in the hotel room beside the apparently best breakfast joint in town, feet tired, spirit happy, well past ‘hiker midnight’ at 10pm (9pm feels like ‘midnight on the trail and 9am feels like noon!!), clothes hand-washed with soap and shampoo rung out in the towel I used after my shower drying in front of the fan, thinking about the possibility of a zero (day off) ultimately deciding I don’t need nor want one yet, not here not now. Not yet.

 

Goodnight!!

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Spray if You Want to

Comment heard today: “Why did she post a picture of herself on a climb that she didn’t even send?” BECAUSE FUCKING SPRAY. (And then we toproped a project thing at the Yellow Wall that we also didn’t send.)

I posted a photo with the above caption because, honestly, I thought it was fucking funny. I take comments like that with a grain of salt these days, but I appreciated some of the feedback:

“Nice not send. I’m sure it was a fantastic day of fun and challenging yourself.”
“There are tons of photos of me on shit I haven’t sent (yet). Because some shit is fucking hard, and I suck at sport climbing and anything involving splitter .4’s, oh and because fucking spray.”
“Who made the Instagram climbing picture rules?! Where can I find these documented so I can break them? You keep doing you.”

Who, in fact, made the climbing picture rules? Where there are rules and ethics to rock climbing, are there also really rules to rock climbing pictures? And dear god, have I been breaking the rules all along?

I think that there is an informal list of rules regarding ethics in climbing that dictate much of our activities in the outdoors: pack our shit out, leave no trace to the best of our ability, be truthful about what we say we do, don’t harm the rock and environment we are privileged enough to enjoy, et cetera. And then it gets interesting. There’s a whole other set of “rules” revolving around things like first ascents, onsighting, free soloing, and so on. Gosh, there is even an ethical conversation about using colored chalk versus rock-colored chalk to try and preserve rock face and reduce things like chalk or tick marks on routes.

But I was unaware of any kind of guideline as far as posting pictures of rock climbing.

Sometimes, my friend (who will go unnamed) gets a little squirmy if I take a picture of them toproping. “Please don’t post that.” they’ve implored in the past and I respect their request. Another climber I once knew got a little more than squirmy–borderline pissed–about his girlfriend posting a picture of him on toprope in Red Rocks a few years ago.

Was it shameful to have a picture of them on toprope instead of on lead? Was the #climbing_pictures_of_instagram community going to laugh and make fun of them, or even worse, take away their climbing card? Would they be kicked out of climbing forever for breaking the rules?

Was it just as shameful and in bad style to have posted a picture of myself on a route that I did not send? Just as soon as I’d posted the picture, I momentarily questioned these silly rules. And then I deliberately made a retort about spraying because the fact of the matter is: NOBODY is keeping tabs on you. And for those who are judging, let them. Let the losers win. Let those who have something to say, say it and move on. Let them prove what they need to. Why would you waste your time trying to fix what’s wrong with somebody else or defending something that doesn’t need defending? The ones who are climbing only for the send are missing the entire point–that climbing is beautiful and it’s fun and I’ll spray if I want to.


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Spray if You Want to

Comment heard today: “Why did she post a picture of herself on a climb that she didn’t even send?” BECAUSE FUCKING SPRAY. (And then we toproped a project thing at the Yellow Wall that we also didn’t send.)

I posted a photo with the above caption because, honestly, I thought it was fucking funny. I take comments like that with a grain of salt these days, but I appreciated some of the feedback:

“Nice not send. I’m sure it was a fantastic day of fun and challenging yourself.”
“There are tons of photos of me on shit I haven’t sent (yet). Because some shit is fucking hard, and I suck at sport climbing and anything involving splitter .4’s, oh and because fucking spray.”
“Who made the Instagram climbing picture rules?! Where can I find these documented so I can break them? You keep doing you.”

Who, in fact, made the climbing picture rules? Where there are rules and ethics to rock climbing, are there also really rules to rock climbing pictures? And dear god, have I been breaking the rules all along?

I think that there is an informal list of rules regarding ethics in climbing that dictate much of our activities in the outdoors: pack our shit out, leave no trace to the best of our ability, be truthful about what we say we do, don’t harm the rock and environment we are privileged enough to enjoy, et cetera. And then it gets interesting. There’s a whole other set of “rules” revolving around things like first ascents, onsighting, free soloing, and so on. Gosh, there is even an ethical conversation about using colored chalk versus rock-colored chalk to try and preserve rock face and reduce things like chalk or tick marks on routes.

But I was unaware of any kind of guideline as far as posting pictures of rock climbing.

Sometimes, my friend (who will go unnamed) gets a little squirmy if I take a picture of them toproping. “Please don’t post that.” they’ve implored in the past and I respect their request. Another climber I once knew got a little more than squirmy–borderline pissed–about his girlfriend posting a picture of him on toprope in Red Rocks a few years ago.

Was it shameful to have a picture of them on toprope instead of on lead? Was the #climbing_pictures_of_instagram community going to laugh and make fun of them, or even worse, take away their climbing card? Would they be kicked out of climbing forever for breaking the rules?

Was it just as shameful and in bad style to have posted a picture of myself on a route that I did not send? Just as soon as I’d posted the picture, I momentarily questioned these silly rules. And then I deliberately made a retort about spraying because the fact of the matter is: NOBODY is keeping tabs on you. And for those who are judging, let them. Let the losers win. Let those who have something to say, say it and move on. Let them prove what they need to. Why would you waste your time trying to fix what’s wrong with somebody else or defending something that doesn’t need defending? The ones who are climbing only for the send are missing the entire point–that climbing is beautiful and it’s fun and I’ll spray if I want to.


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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2 Part Two

Day 3: 21.4miles, 8.5hrs

Devastated Forest Camp – Exhaustion Camp

August 20/17

 

Im so fucking tired. Stoked and tired all at once. Stopped myself well before real exhaustion. This fatigue will pass with some food and sleep. I know myself well enough to stop the effort before I reach the point of no recovery or return. These early days of a walk are the ones that dictate not just how far you get overall but more importantly the level of love for the hike.

 

I wake at 430 and feel surprisingly…awake. Nature called so I go into the devastated forest I offer the tobacco to the night before to do my business. I finish up and bury the poop and head back downhill to camp. Shit. Literally holy shit where is camp I thought it was here. Or there?!  It’s dark and I’m in a forest that all looks the same. He headlamp shows trees down and dry and dead. Trees left standing are grey with rot and decay. There are no landmarks and I’m fucking lost. Fucking lost.

 

Dont panic. Stop. Think. Retrace your steps to that hole filled with drying poo you walked by and thought was odd when you saw it because you didn’t see it on the walk to where you dug your own hole and pooed. Should’ve realized I was going the wrong way but didn’t think and now…I go back slowly carefully through the broken branches and shine the headlamp hopefully around and see a twinkle in the distance walk that way and know for certain I found my camp. Which is when my headlamp craps out as if on cue.

 

Clara!! Or should I think, Redfeather!!! Be careful!! A lesson learned the easy way. This I know. For certain. I got off so easy and laugh out loud. I will never go into the forest to poo without my phone that has the app that gps ‘s me and can get me back to the trail. At least that!!

 

A few hours of walking I see two dirt bikes riding the remote dirt road beside me. They stop at the view take off helmets and I see it’s two women. Ladies!! We chat for a bit and look out at the smokey expanse that softens the sea of ridges in view. I talk to with everyone on the trail. Why not? We’re all out here in our own ways and have at least the being out in common even if some are powered by engines fueled by hat other than food.

 

I start think about the stuff in my pack. What do I want. What do I need. Everything seems worthwhile the carry except some magic herbs a friend has sent me off with. Not only the ‘magic herb’ but the coconut oil with the ‘magic herbs’ to rub on my knee if it gets sore. I think about this stuff in my pack and know clearly I need to ditch it. It’s just not my thing. Where do I give this/leave this/gift this???

 

An hour later I come around a turn in the trail and see three dark and dirty figures hovering in the shade drinking the flow of water cascading down the rock. I’ve been walking 4.5 hours, don’t need water but stop to talk when they smile at me and say hello hello. Young guys NOBO-ing their thru-hiking way north. They ask what I’m doing and I say I’m just starting the walk south, hoping to ‘just’ hike the bottom half of the PCT. They say cool, that’s not just a ‘just’ that’s legit, Redfeather!

 

One of them asks about Chester where I left and wonders what the chance of a guy finding a ‘floral arrangement’ in town. Floral arrangement? I’m thinking he has a girlfriend back home with a birthday and then he brings out his pipe ‘we’ve been smoking creosote for days, DAYS!!’  he says.

 

Oh oh do I have a gift for you….

 

Gasket and Flip, the two young dirty smelly stoked beyond belief North Carolinans say ‘Redfeather we’re dirty and smelly but can we give you a hug?!?’ Uhhh, no, and we do a fist pump instead. They dip their dirty fingers into the coconut oil and exclaim ‘it has fat calories, too!!  The trail provides!!!  You’re gonna have good trail karma, Redfeather, that you will have!!!’

 

I walk away laughing, happy in my own way with the lightened load. It feels good to give with no expectation of receiving.

 

The long climb begins. After the long long long decent of course. It’s fucking hot. A very long time later, I cut down a steep side trail to an ice cold creek that offers a little pool of rock lined ice cold water love below the flow. I dip into this pool and cool the soaring core temperature of my body. Instant relief. I drink my fill and pack my fluid carry for the following 1.5 miles to a dry camp I lounge in now. I’m water rich and full of fatigue. It’s only 4pm but stil I have dinner. I take my water bottle shower rinsing the sunscreen salt and dirt off my body. I don’t care that I make myself too clean to be hiking the trail. It feels good and right for me to do it this way and I feel rejuvenated though exhausted. I am happy. I’m asleep before 8pm. Tired but happy.

 

 

Day Four: 23.2 miles, 9hrs 35mins

Exhaustion Camp – A-Tree Spring Camp

August 21/17

 

Solar Eclipse Day!!

 

I’d say 8pm-4am is a solid sleep. Pretty stellar night of of z’s on the trail. Especially solo. Sometimes when hiking alone like I did the 1200 northern miles of the Appalachian Trail I sleep with one eye open and it’s. it so sound. But there’s more people and shelters and roads and stuff on that trail. The PCT is different and somehow I feel more settles and secure with less of all those things. So sleep is good and I’m ready to run not hike after eight solid hours of slumber.

 

Happy with my little Tarp Tent, my refuge that allows a feeling of calm and safe and secure in the forest which I walk. Any thought of ditching the tent and going with a small tarp in case of rain while cowboy camping is gone gone gone.  This is my tiny home and it’s not for rent.

 

i am however beginning to question the rational of quinoa on the trail. Not sure it’ll still taste good after a few days. Perhaps I’ll go back to gluten filled pasta that does my gut just fine.

 

Feels good to start early and I cruise along. Decide I don’t need water the first 5.5 miles and I hike dry. It takes time to let go of the security of instant-having-every-damn-thing-you-want while walking, like food water shelter and a plan. A plan!! An itinerary!!! A place to get to that takes you away from the step by step and moment you can be in if you just let go of thinking you have to get somewhere!! This letting go takes time and already on day four it’s beginning to happen.  I like this.

 

I arrrive at a spring where two tired grumpy NOBO’s do heir morning breakfast thing. I don’t judge nor talk nor intrude. I get my water and heard back up to the trail. I sit and smile at the rising sun and let myself be happy. Who knows what those two cracked hikers have gone through. I take my good energy away from their space because I know how damned annoying it can be to receive advice or just have that influence around from someone who’s only walked a few days. I totally get it and secretly enjoy the temper tantrum I witnessed down at the water. Not the girl but the guy had more fully cracked. He’s young and strong and yes the trail has brought him to his knees. I know for certain it will do the same to me. Many a time. It humbles the best and strongest and youngest and most capable of us all. No matter who you think you are your arse will be severely kicked by hiking. It will! Including me.

 

I walk further snd and run into the NOBO section hiker ‘Still Looking ‘. His spirit is not just broken it’s shattered. He can’t comprehend the reality that 20 mile days is too much ‘I have to make it to Ashland!’  Which is hundreds of hard miles away. He’s set on getting somewhere and in the haze of expectation he’s tripped, falllen and almost broken his nose. His appetite is gone he’s exhausted yet all he can talk about is getting there.

 

‘Maybe I’m just too old for this trail?’  He sighs and looks down. I say no, no, no… let go of your stupid mileage plan! Take it day by day! No plan. It’s better this way. Hiking is hard. It’s hard!!

 

Not sure my encouragement registers as we part ways. I did get him to laugh a little and leave him with ‘ go easy on yourself, Still Looking, and you’ll get there. You will’.

 

I sit on a rock and put my cardboard solar eclipse glasses on. It’s starting!! Remarkable!! My friend Brian Nelson insisted I bring them and now I know why. I walk some more and keep checking on the sun with my glasses. I cry when I’m looking because it’s so damn beautiful and I’m on the trail in nature living from my little pack and happy. So happy.

 

Right when it’s gonna go full eclipse I stop one more time. Which was right about the time a big cloud and the sun collide. Denied. I laugh. It’s as it should be. Yes it is.

 

Hours later I stop for more water. Filtering through my Sawyer squeeze. I think about the water I’m filtering and how it’s better than much of the worldwide populations water they walk miles to access. I know because I’ve seen this in Africa time and again. Little tiny kiddies walking miles with jerry cans to get their dirty water to haul home. I think about the hundreds of remote First Nations communities in Canada that have no access to clean water and remain on boil water realities for not weeks nor months but years. And here I filter the cleanest water but it’s not straight from the rock or ground it’s not a spring so yes I free because I don’t want to get stomach issues. I am a walking example of not just privilege and a gleaning white one at that. I do have awareness at least that what I’m doing is not hard relative to what I just wrote and so much more. That this is a choice and gift to walk and the trail is magic in itself that it is there for those that make the time effort to take the steps NOBO or SOBO. That it doesn’t matter nor does anyone care if I ‘make it’ but that doesn’t mean it does not matter to me. I vow to not take myself nor this walk too seriously and focus on the experience the connection the way I can treat others and human connections along the way. That’s the least I can do. The very least.

 

I get get I tot the cold water again well below where anyone might collect water. I vow to get in water each day and be reborn.

 

I walk all up and up and up some more. Up to 7400 feet which is the Sierra Lowlands compared to what I know lays ahead. Then down to the pummelling Spring of A-Tree. I take my water bottles well away and rinse off so well. The ice cold water brings me to life. I set camp in the trees right on the dirt road junctions. Hoping no atv ‘s nor cars will come in the night. The only visitor is the sound of the barred owl hooting and howling and I am happy. So happy. I see only 6 hikers this whole day. Just as I hoped the trail would be.

 

Goodnight.

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Pacific Crest Trail SOBO Southern 1/2 Part One

Okay so I have to admit this is the hike that should not have been. Major ACL reconstruction surgery back in December left me thinking there’s no way walking long miles with a lightweight yet loaded pack would happen in this calendar year. But after months of rehab and physio exercises and patience I started to walk. Then hike. Then run. Then, finally, carry some weight in the pack on the trails in the Canmore backcountry backyard we love so much. Much to my surprise and absolute stoke the knee, the new ACL, the hamstring tendon from the other leg that made the new ACL, all felt bloody good. Soooooo….why not start a hike and head south and see how it goes?!?

 

That’s precisely how I ended up heading south from Chester California, around the mileage marker that marks the halfway point of the 2660 mile long remarkable vein of cleared forest/rock/wild that makes up a long distance trail America offers to those willing to walk and suffer and endure. Why the hell not? Worst case scenario, I stop and ride my bike. Or sit. Or draw. Or just hang out. But oh my dear how I wanted to walk a long long way. I longed to be in the forest eating sleeping breathing nature day after day/week after week/month after month. So, let’s walk.

 

DAY ONE: 17.7 miles, 6.5hours

August 18, 2017

 

My dear friend Brian Nelson winds his way around up and over the maze of dirt roads from Chester to bring me to the start of the walk. A ice cold crystal clear flow of water pummels gallon after gallon into a massive trough. We’re at Cold Spring, a source of Earth Juice so energized it vibrates nourishment far more Han mere hydration. I load up on this liquid and give Brian a big hug. Brian and Kathleen have been a gift in our lives for over 20 years. We love them like family and share adventures from time to time. I know he’s happy for me and I’m ready but nervous to take that first step. But he pulls the car away and it’s time. Time to walk.

 

Nervous us doing this alone. In a weird way uncertain if I want to be here at all. Sometimes what you think you want so bad in reality is wrong. Then I take that first step. It all makes sense. Yes, this is right. This is good. I am indeed where I’m meant to be. Here. Now. Yes.

 

I see NOBO (Northbound) thru hikers throughout my SOBO (Southbound) day. Little do they know I have some trail magic for one of them. The Best Peach Ever sits waiting in my pack. They are all plugged into their headphones disconnected to the world the walk the experience. Too rushed or tired or cool to say hi. And then Timber walks up. He pulls the plugs out of his ears and wants to talk. We chat and he’s nice and I ask ‘do you like peaches?’ and he seems stunned to receieve this gift. I walk away as he smiles at the fresh fruit. I feel happy to have given something to someone on a journey like this. He’s walked all the way from Campo, the Southern terminus of the PCT.  Where I hope to end this 1/2 hike of a major trail. I think back to two years ago when I finished my first trail in its entirety, the Appalachian Trail. It feels good to be on the other side of the continent walking in these woods.

 

Later I meet Froggy (Fucking Really Old Guy Getting Young). He’s all over the California section of the PCT. He’s a self-proclaimed yoyo-er (up and down hiking the same trail) hitcher (hitch hiker), chronic zero-er (days off), flip-flopper (moving from section to section skipping parts of the trail). He’s having a blast.

 

I take a break after 1 1/2 hours to eat the sandwich I brought. I eat a big tomato (yes I left with a tomato why not?!) and yes, a peach. I drink pure water. I walk. I walk and walk some more.

 

I arrive at the spot to make camp that night. Not planned but it looked good so yes, this is home. A big creek that feeds Belsen Town its water flows nearby humming its water trickle lullaby that eases me to slumber well before 9pm. I am happy.

 

 

DAY TWO: 23.7 miles, 9hrs 15mins

August 19, 2017

 

Up at 5:13 am after sleeping through 430am alarm  oh well it’s not work I have to get to but I am a little disappointed because I love love love to walk in the hours before the sun rises and then greet the shining bright globe of light as it peaks its head up over the Eastern horizon. Walking by 625am. Feel as if I’ve never done this before, awkward and unsure and wondering what to do with all this stuff that needs to fit in the pack.  This rhythm will come.  Takes time. Patience.

 

An an odd night of sleep. So hot. So hot in the tent! Bats swooping above.  Night hiker NOBO’s walking by in the dark .  Some set camp right on the trail.  I know that exhaustion and am happy for them.  I’ve only been on trail for a day and night but already in ways other than organization it feels like weeks.

 

Climbing, climbing climbing out of Belden Town. Up through thickets of poison oak.  Everything starts to look like poison oak when you know it’s around.  Up into stands of Sugar Pine.  White Fir.  Up up up into manzanita covered hills.  Up up up into frills of lupin filling meadows up above 6000 ft.  Up into the wildflower lined trail that makes me beam a smile of gratitude at the cornucopia of colours all around.

 

Forst NOBO of the day passes by in a glorified thong for her pants.  Aurora is her name.  Oh my.  Then Army Man passes.  He’s walking for suicide awareness and is plugged into his earbuds wearing a headnet when no bugs appear to be circling around. Two older section hiker ladies talk to me and say ‘we’re so slow!’   Slow?? Who cares, I say.  We all walk at our own pace and it’s not a race.  You’re walking and that’s wonderful I say.  Then Jerry Garcia and his beautiful wife walk by.  They are so cute.  ‘It’s all downhill from here?’ they ask.  Oh no, it’s never downhill.  Never all downhill but I don’t tell them this.  I mention a few uphills in the coming decent but say they will be fine.  Later I see their entry in a trail register that says ‘just because you wander does not mean you are lost’.

 

The trail moves through a mangled, butchered forest.  It’s not the trees fault we humans did this to them.  I tell them they’re still beautiful, regardless.  There’s water and animals trees and life.  I make a tobacco offering to say sorry for what we’ve done, how we’ve left them.  The forest lives and tries to be what it once was and I thank her for letting me sleep on her floor.

 

Goodnight.

 

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