"It’s a tough route but it's all there!"

“If the weather’s good, I’d love to go outside this weekend”. Usually that sentence gets thrown around at the gym and it’s a lot of “I wish I could, but”....and then the idea fades. Somehow this weekend the stars aligned and a solid group of seven all committed to Kings Bluff.

It was almost too cold when we left in Saturday morning, but by the time we arrived at the bluff, the sun was shining perfectly on the rocks, and we were all shedding layers after we tied our figure eights.

It had been almost a year to the day since I’d been sport climbing outdoors. It’s amazing how much harder a 5.9 is outside than in the gym. It was a lovely and humbling reminder at how much strength is needed when you’re outside doing the real thing. Gym grades are sometimes inflated or exaggerated, but none of that really matters. The main thing is to have a good time, enjoy the climb, make some memories, and come home in one piece.

I think my favorite thing about a group getting together to climb, is the description of the routes/the beta we give. If only I had written down the ridiculous things we'd say to one another. One I do remember is this little tidbit of advice given when my friend had taken a pretty good fall and was trying to figure out what she’d missed before a second attempt. “Well, it’s a pretty tough route but it's all there!”. Noted.

Anyway, I'm already itching for the next trip and a few more quotes.

P.S. Shootout to Clinton for snagging shots while I climbed!


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.

How I Plan a Trip

Planning a trip can be stressful especially when all your friends constantly want you to be the one to plan it. That’s a lot of pressure. Not only are you in charge of all plans, but also you feel some responsibility for the safety and fun of the trip. So where do you begin?


First you have to pick a place and activity. Do you want to camp, hike, swim, climb, mountain bike, or all of the above? Nail down the location and activities and go from there. I use a lot of different resources for trip ideas.

  • Rootsrated  -has a lot of good articles on state specific hikes and camp spots.
  • AllTrails - can help you find a ton of trails that are accessible in your area
  • National Park Service - the NPS and NFS websites have everything you need to know about national parks, forests, and recreation areas that you might be interested in.
  • State Park Websites - Every state in our country has some sort of state park tourism website that should tell all the parks, campgrounds, lakes, and rivers that are open to the public
  • Recreation.gov - This is a government run site that is a great resource for finding campsites
  • Instagram - I can’t even tell you the amount of trips i’ve been on that were initially inspired by instagram posts. Follow some outdoorsy folks in your area and metaphorically stalk their movements. You’ll find some awesome places!
  • Local Outdoor Stores - Last but not least, go pick the brains of the employees at your local outdoors store. Nine times out of ten they’ll have a great recommendation for you.

Now that you’ve scouted some locations and activities, make a rough budget and a detailed list.

Your budget doesn’t need to be complicated. Just the basics of how much gas you’ll need for the entire trip (hello google maps!), food budget, spending money, extra wiggle room in case anything comes up like you need to unexpectedly book a hotel cause your camp site is sketchy.
Side note: especially if you are on a ladies only trip: trust your instincts. A woman’s intuition is NOT a joke. If something feels “off”, trust it. Pack it up and get out. 9 times out of 10 there’s a logical reason for you having those feelings. Better safe than sorry even you miss out on a dope campsite. End Side Note.
This will allow you to divide all your expenses between however many people are on the trip and have everyone plan accordingly.

I’m a huge advocate of absurdly detailed lists. I create a google doc with bulleted lists of GPS coordinates, campsite information, grocery lists, and packing lists. It’s also a great way to have a collaborative lists in case your travel companions want in on the planning process. I also make sure that I have my rough timeline sketched out on that same google doc with links to each location/activity so I can easily click into them in case of confusion (and there will be lots of confusion if you’re on a trip with me…)

I think the key to dealing with confusion and stress on a trip is to be well planned in the beginning. If you KNOW you’re going to be okay because you have appropriate plans and supplies in place, it takes a huge burden off you as the trip planner because no matter what, you know survival is possible.

Now that the main logistics are out of the way and you are super psyched to go on your trip. Start the packing and shopping process. I have a usual set of road trip/camping snacks that I stick to, but I also make sure that I meal plan for each day of the trip. If you’re going to be close to groceries/civilization I don’t worry about three meals a day, but I nail down dinner plans (with a rain backup) for every night. It gives me a sense of comfort to know what I’m eating every night along with where I'm sleeping.


My go to food and snacks for all weather include fresh fruit, cliff bars, cheese and crackers, and some freeze dried meals. I would eat the backpacker’s pantry chicken and rice every night of my life it was acceptable. You don’t have to spend a lot to eat well on a road trip. Grab some fruit, raw veggies, and some crackers and you’ll have it made. It’s really easy to eat bad and feel terrible on a road trip so as I’ve gotten older it’s become important to eat well so you can play well.

When you have your bag sitting empty on the ground surrounding by a pile of gear and food it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Don’t freak out. You made a list! Print it out, pull it up on your phone, I don’t care how you do it, but just check off the stuff you’re taking one thing at a time. I usually even have a list of exactly what clothes I’m taking. And so far (knock on wood) I’ve never left an important item at home. Sure I’ve forgotten a few things but these lists are going to make sure you have the essentials. Oh and by the way, If you’ve got all your gear in one place this is the time to take the cliche flat-lay shots of all your gear...we’ve all done it…no shame.

Alrighty. You’ve got the plan, the people, the supplies, and the highway  in front of you. Make sure you have the killer playlist to carry you through all the ups and downs and winding back roads. Spotify is my favorite because you can download your playlists offline so internet isn’t a necessity. Also you can make collaborative playlists so all your friends can add jams to the trip soundtrack.


Lastly, check the weather like your life depends on it. Or at least like the trip depends on it. Keep an eye out especially if you're going to the mountains where weather can change instantly. Be prepared and make sure you don't let rain or storms kill the mood. It's uncomfortable in the moment, but you'll laugh about it later on. 

PHEW. You’re done. All that’s left is to start the car and grab some coffee on the way out of the city.


all photos from Washington State trip 2016