A Weekend With Strong Women

In January, Melissa, Paige and I took a weekend trip to Eastern Tennessee to stay at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park’s rustic cabins, get off the grid, have some bonding time, and hike out some stress.

These cabins are nearly a hundred years old and were built during the great depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. They aren’t bare bones by any means, but there is no cell signal and no wifi and it was perfect. Sometimes you just need to get away from regular life and spend quality time with people you love.

I’m not going to go into detail about every aspect of this trip, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but, we got to eat pancakes, dance by a fire, get absolutely frustrated during a game of UNO that wouldn't end, walk on frozen lakes, lick massive icicles, explore a giant cave filled with sand, hike up rock formations, pet cute dogs, drink all the coffee, and best of all, had plenty of wonderful conversation with two incredibly strong women. It's honestly hard for me to make friends with ladies. Many of them annoy me (okay, actually that's just most people in general), some  just have personalities that stress me out, and a lot of them actually intimidate me. So for me, it's truly special when I can connect deeply with some ladies that share my same morals, interests, and some of the same goals. Because of that, I'm able to truly be myself and feel at ease just spending time talking, listening, laughing, and growing.

Make time to get away and enjoy the company of your friends, those memories are the ones you’ll hang onto the longest.


2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Adventurers (On a Budget)


It's almost December 25th and that means you might be scrolling through amazon trying to figure out what prime eligible items will make that weird outdoor person, in your life, a happy camper on Christmas Morning. Well, I'm here to help. Maybe? I've put together a list of stuff that at least I would love to receive. Everything on the list happens to be under $25 (because let's be real, we're all a bit strapped for cash around this time of year) and extremely useful. Happy Gifting!


Friction Labs Chalk - $7-$25

  • For the climber in your life. People make fun of me for loving this expensive chalk, but I seriously feel like it works better than any of the other brands. Plus it's got pretty packaging.

Smartwool Socks - $19

  • The best socks you'll ever wear. And they NEVER stink. It's insane.

Twist Lock Carabiner - $19

  • You can never have too many carabiners

The Great Outdoors: A User's Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Heading into the Wild (and How to Get Back in One Piece) - By Brendan Leonard - $17

  • This is seriously an amazing guide book. Even for the seasoned outdoors-man, this is a fantastic reference guide on almost all outdoor subjects.

Stanley Classic One Hand Thermos - $20

  • Beautiful, timeless, and functional. The perfect place for the hot coffee.

Tenacious Tape - $8

  • A must have for anyone with a puffy jacket, down sleeping bag, nylon tent, hammock, etc. Quick patches that rarely wear out.

Fire Starter - $9

  • Because someone usually always forgets matches or a lighter.

Carhartt Beanie - $10

  • For the man or woman in your life. Everyone's got a head that needs keeping warm. And look at all those colors!!!!

Yoga Mat - $15-$20

  • Even if you aren't a much of  a "yogi", a yoga mat is nice to have for stretching, sitting outside, and even as a makeshift sleeping pad.  Also great for instagram photos.

Field Notes Notebook - $10

  • Make sure your adventurer can record all they did on their trip so they can tell you all about it!

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System - $20

  • This is handy in case of any quick filtration needs.

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp - $20

  • Headlamps are seriously the greatest invention of all time. And these are SUPER bright.

Power Bank - $25

  • It's the 21st century and you need your phone almost all the time. So you might as well be able to charge it up even on a camping trip.

Mountain House Meal - $10

  • Chicken and Rice mountain house meals are so good. I'm not even kidding.

Titanium Spork - $8

  • You have to have something to eat your nasty morning oatmeal with. Or the aforementioned chicken and rice. (YUM) And lets be real, even if your person owns one of these, they'll end up losing it soon anyway. Might as well give them an extra.

Compact First Aid Kit - $19

  • This is a no brain-er, yet I most people I'm around (including me sometimes....oops) don't carry a first aid kit with them.

Compact Trekking Poles - $23

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!



Camping Ettiquette

Camping is the best. The food is good, the sleeping bags are cozy, the fires are warm, the conversations are memorable. Buuuuuuuuut sometimes a fun outdoor weekend can get ruined by someone else's actions. You can usually salvage the experience and use them for story time at the next camp out, but maybe following these five tips can help you be the best camper you can be, even if the other campers aren't doing their part.


1. Don’t leave your trash. Period.

Leave no trace shouldn’t have to be a thing. But people lack common sense and common decency. If you brought it in, throw it away or take it out. Hey, even if you didn’t bring it in, leave a place better than you found it.

Also make sure you pack up your consumables/trash at night before you turn in. Animals don’t need an extra temptation. Keeping things packed up while not in use keeps wild animals from being drawn to your camp. From bears to raccoons it’s best if everyone stays separated.


2. Don’t be loud past quiet hours. Everyone hates you.

The majority of us came out to sleep outside and enjoy nature. Even if it's one night in a populated campground, that microadventure may be the most convenient way to re-fill our “nature tank”. Don’t ruin the rest of the camp’s enjoyable evening just so you can get rowdy until 3am. And if you still decide to be an idiot, we’ll definitely all be pointing and laughing as you puke your brains out the next morning. Karma.


3. Share the sinks.

If you’re staying in a campground with showers and indoor plumbing, try and be courteous while you do your bedtime routine. We all want to brush our teeth, wash our face, or wash our hands. If you’re using an entire sink to do a face mask, try and share the space.


4. Glamping is fine, don’t be pretentious about being a purist.

People ask me all the time if I’m against “glamping”. Urban Dictionary defines glamping as: “Going camping, but with glamour. A combination of the two words. It's like regular camping , but with nicer things than usual, being warmer, and more comfortable. Glamping isn't done by usual outdoor types who climb mountains.” That’s ridiculous. If you’re car camping, glamp it out. Add the twinkle lights, bring a massive stove to cook on, bring the eggs, bacon, pancakes, muffins, french press, and pots of chili. Minimalist camping vs. car camping shouldn’t be a thing. Each are great in their own way. Do what’s most comfortable and fun for you and don’t be a jerk about it.

5. Follow the rules and be respectful to authority.

Sometimes a park rangers or park attendant are going to enforce rules you disagree with. Big deal. When you reserved the campsite you most likely accepting some terms and conditions when you hit the “confirm” button. So don’t get defensive when you do something small that may violate the rules. Plus, in most situations, a chipper, respectful attitude will get you farther with an authority figure than coming at them in a confrontational manner.

I'll probably think of more of these as the season continues, but these are the ones that popped into my brain after a couple autumn trips this year. Now, get out there and get camping!


Arkansas. Who Knew?

When my friend from college texted me a few months back and wanted me to come camping and hiking in her home state of Arkansas, I immediately said yes, but wasn’t really hoping for much by way of scenery. I mostly wanted to see an old friend and catch up on life while relaxing around a campfire. These expectations were based on my only previous experience in the state being summer trips to visit family friends in a tiny town that probably didn’t even have a walmart, and the ungodly amount of mosquitoes that would swarm you even inside the house. Little did I know I that my expectations were going to be blown out of the water.

I drove straight through from Kentucky to Arkansas thursday afternoon crossing my fingers the entire way that Boone (the Subaru) would make it one piece. Thank the Lord, he did swell. I arrived at Carolyn’s house and we spent the evening catching up and getting things ready for Friday’s drive. The next morning we met up with Mac and Josh (more college buds) and drove towards the Buffalo River area in the Ozarks. It felt like I was back on the Blue Ridge parkway! Rolling hills, misty valleys, blue tinted tree lines. If I were a lesser writer, I’d insert the “cat heart eye” emoji right here. I knew from this entrance into the National Forest that the rest of the weekend would be fantastic.

We tried the Steel Creek campground but had no luck snagging a campsite so late in the afternoon. Thankfully the Kyle’s landing campground had plenty of space, and in my opinion the sites there were much nicer than our first stop. We set up camp and just hung out for the evening in our hammocks, exploring the river that ran right along the campground, and eating chili, with s'mores for dessert.


Once evening hit, the stars came out so beautifully that I was able to capture them on camera which is impressive since I’m terrible at astro-photography.

The only downside to what sounds like a perfect evening, was that a group of middle aged + slightly elderly campers got drunk early in the day then continued partying through the night until 3am. We were not so pleased with that. Which reminds me, maybe I’ll write up a quick blog post on campground etiquette one of these days……..

Saturday morning we woke up before daybreak in order to get a head start on a 6 mile trail called “Goat Trail”. We made a pit stop in Boxley Valley to see the elk - yes there are ELK in Arkansas! - but we had to peer through thick fog to get a glimpse. My camera wasn’t equipped with lenses to capture them but they were still amazing to see in real life.


Back to the trail. The whole first 3 miles is pretty easy downhill almost the entire way, but congratulations when you’ve made it to the view at the end, you get to climb a steep uphill trail all the way back to your car. Savor that view. But honestly, I would recommend this trail to anyone who’s slightly in shape. It’s got varied terrain: beautiful forested single track all the way to scrambly, rocky, cliffs that overlook a beautiful river valley. My suggestion is that you take trekking poles or a good walking stick, and maybe wear closed toe boots since over half the trail is loose and rocky. Also as usual, bring plenty of water!


We conquered goat trail and happily headed back to camp for a lunch of hot dogs and maybe some more s'mores, and a quick power nap in the hammocks before we headed back out to the last trail of the trip. Carolyn wanted to take us to the “crowd pleaser” hike in the area. Hawksbill Crag is a gorgeous cliff that looks out over beautiful hills and valleys which are currently changing from Summer green to Autumn gold. It was full of other people, but it’s still worth the trip. I’d suggest going early in the morning to beat the crowds. The whole hike is an out and back 3 mile total trip.


It was bittersweet driving back to Kentucky because 1) I forgot how much I missed my friends from college (how has it been four years??), and 2) I knew that I’d only scratched the surface of what the Ozarks have to offer. Moral of the story, don’t question your friends and don’t believe your preconceived notions on what a a state holds.