#WayBackWednesday - My Heart Will Go On

I know, I know… What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Pfffft… unless it’s funny. In May of 2013, my dear friend Ashley and I set out to meet in Vegas. I had moved to Texas in 2011, and she was still up in Michigan, so this was a fun way to hang out somewhere new! So, we planned it out - the hotels, the activities, and the adventures. My best bud Kevin was coming as a surprise, and surprising Ashley is nearly impossible. Seriously, this girl can figure anything out! Anyway, Kevin and I boarded our Southwest flights from Dallas Love Field and were headed to Las Vegas. We landed and headed to baggage. Ashley had landed before us and told me to meet her there. I gave it away in a text, but she was surprised nonetheless. Mission accomplished. Story over! JUST KIDDING. Enjoy some photos! These events are not in any order, so don’t try to piece it together. Also, this is probably one of my all-time-favorite trips simply because of how ridiculous things got - with the surprise, the drunken nights by the fountains, and our adventurous hotels. I know Vegas isn’t for everyone, but I sure do enjoy the flashy absurdity every now and then.

We had street beers…

I took the “princess” koozie and we just recently lost it or it melted, not sure. Good stuff.

I took the “princess” koozie and we just recently lost it or it melted, not sure. Good stuff.

The spring gardens somewhere, I think the Bellagio?

The spring gardens somewhere, I think the Bellagio?

We did a lot of random shit the first day, which made us “sleepy”

We “fell asleep” instead of going to see Mystere, oops… I think Ashley went and actually fell asleep at the show, but I can’t be 100% sure because I was passed out on the far bed in this photo.

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Kevin flew home, after changing his flight to a day later so we could have more day drinks…

Kevin, Ash, and I getting prickly pear margaritas as Kevin delayed his flight another day. Gotta love Southwest for that feature!

Kevin, Ash, and I getting prickly pear margaritas as Kevin delayed his flight another day. Gotta love Southwest for that feature!

Ashley and I drove to the Hoover Dam, then on to the Grand Canyon. NEAT. (may have also stopped at Lake Mead)

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We did Vegas things at night…

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We watched the Bellagio fountains A LOT… Usually with some alcohol. We sang along, we laughed, we made fun of people, we had so much fun.

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We went up in the fake Eiffel Tower and saw the fountains at the Bellagio again.

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The best part was how many times we heard “My Heart Will Go On” at the fountains - including when we were up in the fake Eiffel Tower.

We stayed at Circus Circus, after two fabulous nights at Treasure Island. This was Circus Circus pre-renovation, so it was SHITTY.

We stayed at Golden Nugget, also, and went down the water slide in the shark tank! We did the Fremont Street stuff too, and enjoyed more drinks of course.

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We had all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch AND got to-go mimosas for our adventures.

We saw other, prettier things in Vegas, and had drinks.

#ForestFriday - Weekend Recap

Are you sick of hearing about Minnesota? Last week I shared photos from the 2018 trip, including some snowy trees, but honestly do snow covered trees ever get old? (maybe to some, but not to me) This will be the last post about it, for a little while anyway…maybe, I can’t make any promises. Enjoy some snow covered trees from my weekend in Minnesota. (Read about the “hike” here)

#MondayMotivation - Going Forward

I’ve been on a quest to improve my overall health.  I’m eating less crap, moving more, and exploring my thoughts more thoroughly.  It’s been a great move, as I am feeling better and more motivated than ever in all aspects of life.  I’m using my newfound motivation to strengthen my financial health now too. I have been terrible about money management and have tried and failed with budgets and living within my means.  I’ve overextended myself and that stresses me out, which leads to overeating and laziness. So, since I’m trying to be more active and trying to be better, I’m going to work on managing my money in better ways.  I’m going to start with a simple budget and move on to more complicated things like actual long-term saving, home ownership, and investing. Financial health will mean I’m going to have to get creative with my travel and really prioritize places and people for the year.

Disclaimer: 1) I prefer car travel any day of the week. Flying can be the worst if you’re not frequent enough to have all the perks, so let me just say that my Outback is my number one. I’m not here to shit on flying, because most of the time it is fine, but… the scenic route and stuff. 2) I love camping more than hotels, but again, when flying to a destination camping is sometimes out of the question with time and planning. 3) I already utilize my Texas State Parks pass monthly, but I want to explore those trails I’ve not hiked and parks that have been on my list for a while. I’m also going to use the hell out of my Annual Pass and visit those NPS sites in Texas this year that I’ve been casually learning about too.

What are some things you’re changing on the fly this year? What is motivating those changes?

#ForestFriday - Snowy & Cold

When you read this post, I’ll be on my way to a cabin off the grid… the one I wrote about on Wednesday. Anyway, I wanted to share some snowy forest photos from the past few times I visited in the winter so you have an idea of what it’s like where I’m at. The forecast is zero or below and lots of snow and clouds, so it’ll likely be less cherry than these, but it’ll be quiet and secluded as always. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

#WayBackWednesday - My first trip to Duluth, MN

The view of Duluth from Park Point

The view of Duluth from Park Point

Beach bonfire before heading up to the cabin.

I am quite lucky to know people with amazing places to go when I want to escape the real world for a little bit. Through my best friend, I have access to an off-the-grid cabin in Northern Minnesota near the Boundary Waters. I may have already gone on and on about how amazing this place is, so I’ll just say it is probably my favorite place to go ever. I met Kevin in the dorms back in 2003. We became good friends and he invited me up to the cabin in the summer of 2004. Since college was done for the summer, he was back in metro Detroit and I was in my hometown on Lake Huron in Northern Michigan. The plan was that he’d swing through my town and pick me up one night and we’d drive through the night to arrive in Duluth at dawn. Unknowingly, this trip set up a lifetime of loving the night drive and road trips. Kevin picked me up, we made one stop to buy a new digital camera in the neighboring town’s Walmart, and we were off. I remember getting to Duluth, being tired from the drive, but excited to see Minnesota. After a nap, I met his aunt who owned the cabin and her friend Marie. We had a nice day exploring Canal Park and had bonfire on the beach that night. I want to say that we slept on the beach that night, but my mind is a little foggy on details. The trip was off to a great start. When we did finally head up to the cabin, we strapped the canoe on the minivan and headed up the North Shore. We stopped very little on the way up, saving some scenic spots for our return trip. Kevin had made this drive and been up here annually, so this wasn’t all new to him like it was to me. Looking through the photos, I’m shocked there weren’t more. Back in 2004 we had cell phones, but not nearly the connected lives we have now so I’d be willing to say I appreciate what the cabin is so much more now. I’m so excited to be heading up there tomorrow, escaping the emails and text messages. Enjoy some photos from that virgin voyage in 2004. Here’s to hoping there are many, many more.

Boundary Waters flowing into non Boundary Waters area

Boundary Waters flowing into non Boundary Waters area

The only way to the cabin is by boat (or bushwhacking through the woods)

The only way to the cabin is by boat (or bushwhacking through the woods)

This is a place we frequently visit when at the cabin - it has a nice clearing and is great for pondering the mysteries of life, grilling, camping, or just enjoying a trail beer.

Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge - our last night in Duluth before heading back to Michigan

Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge - our last night in Duluth before heading back to Michigan

The journey back to the Lower Peninsula across the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

The journey back to the Lower Peninsula across the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

#MondayMotivation - Authentic Outdoors

I’m motivated by people who love the outdoors and love to spread the joy and knowledge associated with the outdoors. People who share their stories in a real way and don’t just sugar coat everything are my favorite people. Life isn’t like an edited photo, it’s a little grainy and sometimes the colors are out of balance.

A week ago I met with my people on a Skype call for a mastermind group centralized around being real, outdoorsy people who want their social media presence to reflect real life. I’m so lucky to be a part of a group of like-minded folks who love the outdoors in their own ways but love themselves enough to realize that maybe we haven’t always told the whole story or even the real story because we’ve been conditioned to present life in a polished, tidy way. Prime example is the previous sentence - this is how I speak in real life and run-ons are my life. I could clean it up but I don’t care to as it doesn’t REALLY change make it any better overall.

Thanks to the people who run the blogs/websites listed below for motivating me and speaking so freely over Skype on a random Sunday in January. You have improved my life and I look forward to becoming regular chatters about all topics outdoors. I’m no digital media expert, nor would I consider myself an influential person, but I do appreciate anyone who reads/enjoys my content. I make it for me, in some narcissistic weird way, but hope it’s received and can offer some form of inspiration or entertainment for YOU.

Christina: http://www.christinaskis.com/

Jen: https://jennythetrailhead.com/

Kristi: https://indoorsycamper.com/

Sara Beth: https://innercompassblog.com/

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead and I hope you find motivation out there, if not from this. Hike your own hike and live your reality.

A Healthier Mike - January 2019 Check-In


Quick Stats

Total steps: 299,801

Average daily steps: 9,671

Highest daily steps: 23,594 (January 19)

Lowest daily steps: 4,187 (January 2)

Total miles walked/ran/hiked: 57.67

Total miles hiked: 25.53

Days with over 7 hours of sleep: 5, with 8 days above 6 hours

Average daily sleep: 5 hours 44 minutes


The Good

  • I lost 11.6 lbs this month - it’s not about the numbers, but it sure is encouraging since I’m doing this more as a lifestyle change than a diet or quick change

  • I tracked my food every day since setting out to do so, and it’s now second nature. Tracking my food keeps me in check when it comes to portions and balance.

  • I no longer grab candy or M&Ms at work. I’ve replaced my morning snack of Peanut M&Ms with an apple or a yogurt. I’m not eliminating candy completely, but I sure didn’t earn them by sitting around the office all day.

  • Overall, I’m not nearly as hungry as I thought I’d be by reigning in portion sizes.

  • I’ve been cooking more at home and almost always avoiding dining out. This is good for our budgets and even better for my health.

  • As a lifestyle change/adjustment it’s much easier to take this all in and adapt. Knowing I can have a beer or knowing I can eat poorly and not throw off a whole system makes it easier to stay on track and get back on track.

  • Increased daily exercise and hiked consistently throughout the month. There were some days I didn’t want to go for my evening walk or wake up and hike, but I did. I have to remember the benefits are worth the time.

  • My daily breakfast is oatmeal with a sliced banana and some sliced almonds for crunch. This breakfast is supreme and works to keep me full all morning.

  • When possible, I’m taking lunch or afternoon walks around my office building with plans to expand after the busy season to the nearby park.

  • I had 13 days over 10,000 steps and 19 days with closed rings on my Apple Watch


The Not-So-Good

  • I’ve had a few days that I’ll call binge-sessions. I went way over my daily caloric intake goals. These days were mostly caused by eating out, celebrations, or alcohol.

  • Some days, I can be lazy (depressed) and I’ve noticed those are also the days I eat too much. Those days are directly related to not sleeping enough, insecurities in my life, and general anxiety about everything.

  • I give in to peer pressure too easily and that leads to exceeding my goals. I didn’t need that Taco Bell after the four beers; I could have had 2 beers and no food and been FINE.

  • When I don’t plan ahead, I eat too much or am stuck making poor choices. Planning ahead is my best advantage in this whole shift.

  • I still have trouble saying no things I want, even when I don’t have room or deserve them that day. I don’t mean humanly deserve them, I mean in the realm of a balanced nutrition kind of way. If I’m already overeating, say goodbye to any chance at keeping it in check. I need to work on saying no and reserving the things I love for more of a reward scenario.


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Mental Health

  • Most days were good, but I’ve had several “cloudy days” that are usually the same days where I overeat thus directly relating my mental and physical health. Also, those days where I eat too much are also the days when I avoid any exercise.

  • I’m working very hard to avoid my 2018 scenario of falling victim to my “cloudy days” where I stayed in bed/indoors instead of getting out and getting exercise.

  • When I exercise, it’s almost an instant relief for my brain. I “talk” things out with myself, contemplate alternatives, or just completely turn off my completely.

  • I was on one of my evening walks and just kind of thinking to myself on how this walk really turned my day around and for that I am grateful. Evening walks are saving the day one mile at a time.

  • I listened to “Reasons to Stay Alive” on my flights back from Alaska early in January and it was beautiful and quick and just the inspiration I wanted. I’m reading through the book now, just to reabsorb it and would highly recommend it to anyone struggling with their thoughts.


Thoughts, Notes, Conclusions

  • Beets really make your life colorful - poop, pee, hands, kitchen… but they’re so good.

  • A bottle of prosecco can fit into daily caloric goals, though is completely unnecessary.

  • Loving a vinegar dressing on a salad - shredded carrots, chopped greens, feta, ham, tomato

  • Kombucha may be my new favorite thing. It’s a great fizzy, fermented alternative to pop (soda, coke, whatever). It’s a low calorie game changer.

  • Sometimes, I can close my Apple Watch rings without doing too much out of the ordinary and that’s misleading and not great so I have to be conscious of what I need to make time for during the day/evening.

  • My coworker recommended reducing my caffeine intake and I think he’s onto something. I’m going to reduce my coffee intake to one large cup per day instead of a half of a pot.

  • This is a slow and steady thing. Little by little. Life is good, this is easy and it allows for growth along the way.

  • When you first begin something like this, with yet another fresh start, you don’t know exactly how much progress you’ve made but it always feels good to see activity increase throughout the month.

  • I don’t want to cut anything out of my life. I did the low carb thing for a while, it didn’t work that well once I hit a point where I was bored or thought I could “maintain” my weight. I want to eat whatever I want, but in moderation. This is my first real attempt at doing this, in my entire life, with the exception of doing Weight Watchers for a few months and giving up on it. I’m finding it easier and easier to balance the food I want and the food that is good for me, but I’m still struggling with saying no when my mind takes over.


Goals for February

Winter time at the cabin, off the grid, with my ass in the snow. Good views, good vibes, good beer, good times ahead. #annualtrip

Winter time at the cabin, off the grid, with my ass in the snow. Good views, good vibes, good beer, good times ahead. #annualtrip

  • Sleep more - work on getting to bed before 10 pm which can be a challenge but is totally worth it when I wake up refreshed and ready for the next day

  • Drink less alcohol, though I didn’t drink too much. I found myself making the worst food decisions when I was drinking, so reducing or eliminating that situation is better for everything. Also, my sleep quality is poor post alcohol consumption so this plays into the first goal.

  • I will be at the cabin for a few days off the grid, so I’ll do my best but I will not be worried about it overall. We may drink a little more, but we don’t overeat plus there will be snowshoeing and the whole trekking a mile across the lake things to get to and from the cabin. I’m looking forward to the exercise but also the mental break from society.

  • More exercise - including restarting couch 2 5K from the beginning because I felt really good while doing that or maybe just using NIke Run Club on my phone/watch. Either way, more activity or longer dog walks at the very minimum.

  • I’d like to increase my days over 10,000 steps from about 41% to over 50%

  • More adventurous hikes - I have a few spots in mind out in west Texas

  • Longer neighborhood walks - will achieve this by incorporating another loop or park loop adjacent to the area I already walk.

  • Weekly meal prepping so I can have things prepped and ready to cut down on overall time consumed.

  • Read or listen to at least two books and finish the re-read through of “Reasons to Stay Alive”

#ForestFriday - Ouachita National Forest (Oklahoma)

Back in September of 2017, I visited the Ouachita National Forest in southeastern Oklahoma. This is a gem that sit only a few hours away from me that I need to revisit this year, FOR SURE. Enjoy some photos fro my morning that day and may you find the forest today and everyday.

#WayBackWednesday - Around Lake Michigan in One Night. (the first time)

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Road trips have been a favorite thing since way back when. In college, my buddy and I would just get in the car and drive until we had to be back for something important. There were nights we’d end up hours from Grand Rapids, MI in Indiana or Northern Michigan. One of these nights, we had the brilliant(ly stupid) idea of driving around Lake Michigan. It was a random March night and we though it would be fun to see if we could make it around the lake in one shot. By this point in time, we had already had many nights of driving to the Mackinac Bridge and back, down every road in our county and surrounding ones, so we were well adjusted to staying up all night blowing money on gas for no reason. We were fueled by coffee, stupidity, and a lack of direction. These trips, these night drives, would eventually lead to our our spring break road trips, and many other adventures along the way.

Here are a few shots of us breezing through Chicago. Notice the excellent photography skills and attention to photo framing; obviously documenting the trip was less important to me back then.

Morning was starting to show and this photo happened in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Flash + snow.

Morning was starting to show and this photo happened in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Flash + snow.

We started before midnight, and pushed through to the next day. We were getting pretty tired by Northern Wisconsin, and I think we stopped for Hardee’s somewhere before entering back into Michigan. We were good at fighting the exhaustion, it was almost a game, and we’d get second and third winds which led to louder music and rolling the windows down allowing the icy air to blast through the car. This was freedom.

Without the flash, the morning light begins to illuminate the snow.

Without the flash, the morning light begins to illuminate the snow.

Temperatures were around zero and the morning sun was beginning to show. You know that feeling of false warmth you get from the sun on a cold day, we didn’t feel that because that’s how cold it was. We had a stockpile of caffeinated products and the need to get back home so the sunrise was just further encouragement.

We stopped several times to take photos of the sun over Lake Michigan as well as at a little rest stop where a thermometer nailed to a tree read just above zero, which we believed was a lie. I might mention, at this point, that we were doing all of this in a 1991 Dodge Caravan that my buddy inherited from his mom when she got a cooler car back in the early 2000s. This van was a beast, all wheel drive, and made it through an unplowed turnout, with a little help from one of us pushing.

We made it back to our respective dwellings safely and probably passed out, I cant’ be sure because we could have also went to class. This may have been the first time we drove around Lake Michigan, but there were more brilliant(ly stupid) adventures to come.

#MondayMotivation - This week, upcoming trips!

From the album "As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide" available NOW. iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/as-... Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7aOUkT... Physical Copies: http://www.saidthewhale.com

I often use upcoming trips as motivation. I know I have touched on this before, made Monday Motivation posts about it before, and yet here I am again. Right now, we’re looking to camp at a local state park at the end of the week, if my family can get a reservation. Right now, Texas Parks and Wildlife is updating their reservation system with a new, much better system that allows for specific campsite reservations which will change my life for the better. So, since my uncle works near the park we want to visit this weekend, he’s going to stop in and try to reserve something in person. Here’s to hoping. Even if it doesn’t happen, I’m going to head there to hike anyway.

On February 7, I fly to Minneapolis and then drive to Duluth. My buddy and I are taking our annual trip to his family cabin near the Boundary Waters. (If you haven’t voiced your support for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and want to, please do so!) We will get up there on Thursday night, pack it up, and then head to the cabin Friday morning. We’ll stop at the wonderful Gun Flint Tavern in Grand Marais, hit up the IGA and local co-op if they’re open, then make our way up to the frozen lake. I can’t wait to be off the grid, away from it all. I can’t wait to snowshoe, to drink Leinenkugel's original, and to spend some time with the trees and snow. We will head back to civilization on Sunday afternoon, and back to Texas on Monday evening. It’s going to be a great little first quarter reset.

Work is fine, life is alright, hiking is great, but I’m always up for a reset. It’s never a bad thing to shut off the tech for a minute and get back to real life.

These events/ideas/plans are getting me through the next two weeks. Also, the song I’ve attached at the beginning is one of my favorite songs of all time by my favorite band of all time. When I was in Seward and it was rainy as ever, I’d listen to this song on my morning walks around the streets as I waited for everyone to wake up. Every morning can be a beautiful morning, remember that.

Been friends since 2003, so more like family now. Doesn’t hurt that he has access to the cabin, kidding!

Been friends since 2003, so more like family now. Doesn’t hurt that he has access to the cabin, kidding!

#ForestFriday - Lake Irene (RMNP)

This week I go back to Rocky Mountain National Park. I haven’t been there since 2014, and I really need to get back. This was a little spot called Lake Irene that was a quick walk from the main road. I hope you can find the forest, even if it’s just through this post! Enjoy and happy Forest Friday!

#WayBackWednesday - Cedar Breaks National Monument

In 2017 I had planned to take a solo trip to Utah with two main stops: Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The trip went from a solo adventure to a BFF adventure and the points of interest on the “must see” list expanded just a little. I was excited, because why not share all of the beauty Utah has to offer with someone who gets me and who I hadn’t seen in months or more? We had an excellent trip and saw plenty of beauty, but the one place that stands out in my mind is Cedar Breaks National Monument. The vistas, the hike around the rim, and the drive to and from the monument are all burned into my memory. I still think of the views, over a year later. I must get back!

I arrived in SLC on Friday, as did my BFF Molly, and we spent the night in a southern suburb. Saturday came, and was spent driving and exploring the route from SLC to Bryce Canyon. We caught a sunset at BC and headed to Cedar City for the night. The original plan was to catch the sunrise at Cedar Breaks, but we got there a little after. The sun was up and the place was illuminated. We started at Point Supreme Overlook and were amazed. We hiked the trail along the rim out to Spectra Point. Standing out on Spectra Point is a moment in my brain that I’ll never forget and would never want to forget. After taking it all in, looking over the edge, and smiling a ton, we made it back to the information center.

I have never felt a rush quite like the one I felt hiking out to Spectra Point. It was exhilarating, breathtaking, and liberating all at once. I have not felt a rush like that of walking along the rim since then. Enjoy a few photos from the trip and feel free to comment/connect with questions or your stories regarding Cedar Breaks!

#MondayMotivation - What's the big idea?

I was in the middle of a hike on Saturday when I started to feel the burn. This hike wasn’t particularly strenuous or anything, but there were some minor hills and it was a total of 10 miles. I was on mile 7 or 8 and I was thinking I need to get more hikes this long and intense in my life. I also thought I needed to include more strenuous hikes weekly and cardio into daily life. I thought I needed more healthy choices in my life and I thought I needed more random drives to random locations. In the peak of my hike, with light dancing off canyon walls around me, I had all the great ideas.

Today, while I made smart food choices and bought plenty of produce for the week, I didn’t do much in terms of cardio or exercise in any way. All of the big ideas I had during my hike usually don’t translate to reality, but I am going to do a few things inspired by them. I’m going to restart the Couch 2 5K program and continue on my quest to reduce my calories and increase my nutritious items. I’m going to visit more locations that require leaving in the middle of the night and I’m going to see more sunrises.

Motivation comes in many forms, sometimes it lasts and sometimes it fades. I’m hoping to run with the momentum (pun intended) from my hike on Saturday and at least half-ass try to be better at things. I want my hiking pants to fit better and I want that hoodie to be a little loose. I want to to have boundless energy and I want my body to hurt less after 10 measly miles. I want to run that trail from Saturday and hike even further every weekend. Big ideas that translate to a bunch of small steps that hopefully lead to big results.

Do you ever have big ideas during a hike or adventure that you have to find ways to translate into real life ideas? Feel free to leave a comment!

#ForestFriday - Dreaming of Northern Minnesota

I’ll be heading to Northern Minnesota in early February to brave the cold and snow to go off the grid for a few days. I’ve talked about it before, but my friend’s cabin is one of my favorite places in the whole world. The cabin is a short hike or paddle from the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness and surround by Natoinal Forest on the other side. It is peaceful, quiet, and the perfect retreat.

If you’ve followed me, you know the BWCAW is important to me but also an important part of Northern Minnesota. I support Save The Boundary Waters which is a nonprofit set up to promote the preservation of the Boundary Waters. If you want more information, would like to donate to the cause, want to find ways to get involved, and/or need a link to leave a public comment against mining in or near the Boundary Waters, click HERE.

From Save The Boundary Waters homepage - they said it better than I could.

“On December 20, the Trump Administration’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it will renew Chilean mining giant Antofagasta’s Twin Metals mining leases. This action is intended to avoid America’s bedrock environmental laws to allow dangerous sulfide-ore copper mining on public lands next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for the benefit of a foreign mining company. 

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is leading the effort to ensure permanent protection for the Boundary Waters Wilderness, America's most visited Wilderness and Minnesota's crown jewel, from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. “

Here are some photos from a trip taken in September of 2015. I can’t wait to get up there and snowshoe down to the BWCAW and hide out from everything going on in the world for a few days. Please join me in supporting the efforts to protect this special place. Happy Friday and may you find the forest - even if it’s just through this post.

#WayBackWednesday - Arizona or bust!

I’m not sure if I have discussed this adventure in another post or not, but here we go (I have, it was the very first #WayBackWednesday)… It was seven (7) years ago, my best friend Kevin moved to Houston for a job. I had moved to Texas the year before, near Fort Worth. It was a pretty cool feeling to have someone who is chosen family in the same state. On January 15, 2012 I was in Houston, hanging out with Kevin before he had to work off-shore for a while. This is the guy you may remember from the four big trips that really got me into road trips. We decided we needed some spontaneity in our lives and that we were going to do something wild and crazy because growing up was really taking a toll on us with schedules, bills, and other responsibilities. Neither of us had been to Saguaro National Park, and it was really only a 15 hour drive; ONLY!? we used to do that all the time back in college. We set off without a real plan, just driving west on I-10 with “fuck it” attitudes and the only caveat being I had to work in a couple of days. It was on.

We left at night, which was another thing we liked to do, because to hell with Houston traffic and any other people in our way. I don’t remember much from the drive to Arizona, but I do remember these things:

  • Seeing the sign for Kerrville, TX and thinking Kern River or thinking that Tim Allen said this on some episode of Home Improvement. Don’t ask, because that is all I remember.

  • West Texas was just as wide open at night, we were speeding for sure.

  • The border check point lights were the brightest lights ever (we didn’t cross into Mexico, but there are many checkpoints as you get closer)

  • This was the closest to Mexico I had ever been and that was weird, despite going to Canada while living in Michigan my whole life

  • We may have stopped at a hotel near San Antonio, but it could have also been on the way home or not at all. Who knows!?

We arrived to Saguaro National Park at some point in the late morning. It was a rainy, gray day but the park was still cool. We didn’t get to hike through anything because of the rain, but we did drive through the park and enjoy the views and moments when the rain let up. We decided to stay in Tucson that night, and got a room at the Hampton Inn. We promptly filled the sink with ice, got a case of beer, and proceeded to enjoy ourselves. I don’t have notes on this trip in the travel journal, but I do remember the ride home being long. We saw immigration bust a u-turn in the middle of I-10 to assist in a pull-over and I think got Taco Bell and/or Starbucks in El Paso. Again, it’s a very fuzzy trip to me.

A conversation with Jen, check out her page, really inspired me to write about this. I saw the “on this day” post in Google Photos, talked with her, and really wanted to keep it real and feed the nostalgic side of adventure. I haven’t been as spontaneous or adventurous as I was in the past, and it has to change. I have shied away from things I’m “afraid” of such as challenging trails or access points, various trips, or local opportunities. It’s time to take back REAL LIFE and make some real adventurous choices. As I work on that, enjoy some more photos from that hazy trip Saguaro seven Januaries ago.

#MondayMotivation - My Favorite Hikes

Picking a favorite hike can be difficult, but I’d guess that any hiker has a few that always stand out as the most memorable. When I think of favorite or memorable destinations, I’m always drawn to Redwood National and State Parks, Olympic National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. Public lands are always my favorite, but these three have such strong memories attached that I can’t stop thinking about them. An honorable, more recent, fourth choice would be Mount Rainier National Park because I haven’t stopped thinking about that place since visiting in October 2018.

I’m using these memories, these favorite places, to push myself to eat less and move more. I’m using these places as my motivation to save money, spend less, and plan for more adventure. These beautiful places moved me and are destinations I want to visit again. What are some of your favorite, or most memorable, places? What is motivating you this Monday?

Keep on pushing through, there is always something worth fighting for!

#ForestFriday - the magnificent Bristlecone Pines

When I first saw them in person, I was in love. When I read about them, and their resilience, I was inspired. Enjoy some photos of the majestic and tough bristlecone pine trees from 2017 visits to Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument.

#WayBackWednesday - Bryce Canyon

Visiting Bryce Canyon during the summer was a dream come true. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I did get to go and I got to spend the weekend with my BFF. We drove into Bryce Canyon and went directly to Rainbow Point at the end of the scenic drive. We did a little hike around there and hopped back in and stopped at every scenic turnout back to the entrance. We ended the quick day trip at Sunset Point before leaving the park. The day was a whirlwind, as we drove from Salt Lake City that morning. I had only been to Bryce Canyon in the winter, so seeing it thawed and glowing of pink and orange was something special. Enjoy these photos - I hope they transport you to Utah and you find some inspiration for your next trip!

Click here to learn about the people who lived on the lands known as Bryce Canyon National Park before any white settlers even found it… Always remember to respect the land and the history associated with the land. If you visit Bryce Canyon, remember to leave no trace. Click here for more info on how to visit a place and leave no trace.

#MondayMotivation - I'm motivated by the mountains.

Flying in to Anchorage in the summertime affords an amazing view of the mountains. That was my initial inspiration for writing this post. From seeing those mountains, to seeing Mount St. Helens flying into Portland, or Mt. Hood flying out the mountains inspire me. I’m thankful for every little peek I get of them, being from such a flat area and growing up even further from real mountains.

In my current physical and mental state, I wasn’t able to do all of the mountain things I wanted to do at Mount Rainier last year and it really bums me out. I know what I want to do, I know how to do it, and I know what I want. I will not go back to Mount Rainier without doing what I want in terms of exploration. I will devote more time and energy to making it happen and so, I am motivated by the mountains.

I want to be physically and mentally ready for the mountains on my next adventure and I’m going to take smaller steps throughout the time before my next visit to get there. I’m going to visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park and get in there, I’m going to hopefully visit New Mexico again, and then I’ll tackle the mountain I can’t get out of my mind - Rainier. I’ve seriously been unable to think about that park since I left. I mean, I can’t stop thinking about the Olympic Peninsula, Northern California, or Utah either… but, ya know.

I’m so lucky I’ve been able to go anywhere, really, and I know that. I am so lucky we have this land and I’m so grateful for where it came from and the people who inhabited it first. I’m anxious to get back out into nature beyond local trails, but that will have to wait for the right time - hopefully soon.

I hope you find something to motivate you to do the things you dream of doing.

A Healthier Mike - January 2019

Another month is upon us and my health goals from December are carrying forward into January. I didn’t quite make the mark last month with fitness and health, so we’ll keep pushing through striving for greatness this month. I don’t do resolutions at the new year, but I do have ongoing goals through the year that I edit as necessary. These goals range from financial goals to hiking goals, with everything in between. I plan to write every month, probably at the beginning, about the previous month and where I am with my goals. These posts will be specifically related to a healthier mind and body. Last year, I attempted to write about these things weekly and I didn’t see it necessary. Most people don’t care, and I don’t want to take the time as I’m already writing and recording about my goals in a journal and spreadsheet.

Ongoing General Goals

  • Eat less food (overall)

  • Move my body more (overall)

  • Eat more fresh and whole foods

  • Sleep more

  • Read more

  • Hike more often

Specific Goals

  • Lose 35 pounds by my 35th birthday

  • Run a 5K by summer

  • Hike 52 times in 2019

  • Run a trail (or several, but at least one)

The Plan

  • Meal plan for each week (rough or detailed, just a plan)

  • Cut out processed sugars

  • Walk, run, workout, or hike 30 minutes at least 5 times per week

  • Limit eating out to 2 lunches per month, dinners TBD

  • Eat more vegetables with every meal

  • Track food intake in My Fitness Pal app

  • Get to bed before 10pm

  • Track fitness with Apple Watch

Things I’m not doing

  • Weighing myself daily

  • Beating myself up for missteps

  • Comparing myself to anyone else and their journey (though, I do look up to people and their abilities when it comes to certain things like hiking and running)

Generally, I have issues with eating the correct portions of food. I overeat, regularly. It’s something I struggle with and work on every day of every year. Being conscious of what I eat and tracking every item is the only way for me to grasp just how much is going into my body. When I track my food, I feel better and often maintain a better heads space about food and fitness.

I’m not doing this with weight loss as a main goal; I want weight loss to be a side effect. I am working on my health and fitness to ensure I’m around to enjoy life. I want to hike, kayak, and backpack without having to slow down all the time. I want to feel confident in group settings and get out with people a little more advanced than myself. I want to feel less smashed on an airplane and I want to be even more comfortable with myself just about everywhere. I want to run some trails and actually run an entire 5K. I want to do so much and I am going to keep trying.

The vanity of it all is that I want to look down and not see a giant belly. I want to look nice in my puffy coat and vest. I want to feel comfortable with fitted clothing on my body. So, all of the health things aside, I want to look good too. I don’t want to be some ripped guy and I know I’ll never have a skinny body, but I just want to be a little less fluffy.

Follow along, or don’t, I’ll be here the first week of every month recapping and rerouting the plan as necessary. I wish you a healthy month ahead.