hiking

#WayBackWednesday - Ludington State Park, 2007. #PureMichigan

Back in 2007 some friends and I took a trip to Ludington State Park on Michigan’s west coast. The park sits along Lake Michigan with dunes, trails through the woods, and access to nearby lighthouses. The whole coast of Lake Michigan is amazing, but this little slice is extra nice. If you get the chance to visit Michigan, make sure to travel along the shorelines of the Great Lakes and stop at Ludington State Park.

We lived in nearby Allendale, MI where our college was located so this was an easy little trip for us. We were a bunch of twenty somethings headed camping and we definitely made some memories. The photos I share are from an old camera and are mostly the natural beauty. I didn’t find many photos from our campsite, probably because we were having a real good time.

Spring here in Texas reminds me of summer up in Michigan. The temps are warm enough, the sun is plentiful, and the air is breezy. Here’s to the summer nights of the past and hopefully some in the near future on one of Michigan’s coasts.

#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!

#WayBackWednesday - Caprock Canyons State Park

We’re going back to Caprock Canyons State Park last year at the end of September. This was a quick weekend camping trip that included a hike to Fern Canyon (a must-see if you’re at Caprock) and some other adventures with bison and spiders. Camping varies there, but there I’d recommend anywhere but near the lake as you’ll have more space between spots. Primitive looked best, but we just car camped at one of the tent only areas. Enjoy some photos!

#MondayMotivation - Find your mountain

I want to backpack in or around Mount Rainier National Park the next time I go there. So, until solid goals are set, the motivation for any exercise or healthy habits is this photo:

Find your motivation and get to it. I really needed this little adventure to kick my ass into gear. I feel alive again, truly! I am thankful to have people in my life that were willing to show me these places that keep me wanting to be better as a human.

#MondayMotivation - upcoming hikes!

As much as I love the cloudy days, I’m excited to see some sun in the forecast for the Pacific Northwest this coming weekend. I’m always prepared for rainy hikes when I’m up there, but I’ll take the sunshine if it shows. I’m motivated this Monday by the memories I have from previous trips to Olympic National Park. I’m looking forward to hiking in trees and fresh air on Saturday and Sunday. I haven’t hiked in a while, and it surely wasn’t very fresh feeling the last time I did. I’m excited to meet a new friend who will guide me through the area and hopefully future hikes!

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#ForestFriday - Santa Fe National Forest

A year ago this week, my other half and I visited the Santa Fe National forest in New Mexico.  The city of Santa Fe is a colorful desert town, but the National Forest is burst of green trees and mountains on a completely different level.  We stayed at the Holy Ghost Campground and explored around that area.  Here are some photos of the forest to enjoy!

#WayBackWednesday - Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Camping in Palo Duro Canyon State Park was a highlight from spring of 2017.  Looking back through my photos, I didn't even capture the immense beauty of the canyon but sure did get some great shots from our hikes and our campsite.  If you get the chance, it's one of the most beautiful places in Texas and is worth a visit!  This place was Hike #6 of my 2017 52 Hike Challenge and you can read more about the adventure and see more photos HERE.

#ForestFriday - Herman Vogler Conservation Area

Back in my hometown of Rogers City, MI there is a park called the Herman Vogler Conservation Area.  The park has a few trails over the river and through the woods just down the road from my grandparent's house.

This place is special because my grandma would take us there to cross-country ski and walk the trails all throughout my childhood.  I have fond memories of muddy feet in the spring and sore back sides from falling while skiing in the winter.  This park is where I learned to love cross-country skiing and reminds me how much I miss it!

At the end of 2017, I was fortunate enough to be up in Michigan for the holidays and did my final two hikes of the 52 Hike Challenge 2017 here.  Hike #51 & Hike #52  Both hikes were through the snow, and both brought back memories instantly.  I hold this place near to my heart and look to it as a way to remember the good times from childhood, especially now that my grandparents are older and less active.

The photos below are from a visit my BFF Molly and I made in October of 2009.  Enjoy the forest and happy trails!

#ForestFriday - Dino Valley has trees, too!

Texas has some big trees - they just live a few hours away from me.  If you go east from Dallas, near the border of Louisiana, you'll find some big pine trees that make you say "ahhhh" when you see them.  I love when I have to go out of town and drive through that area, but it's still a bit of a distance for a quick day trip.  In a previous post, I focused on the trees in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area at Cedar Ridge and this entry will feature another local treasure known as Dinosaur Valley State Park.  People visit Dino Valley for the visible dinosaur track fossils in the Paluxy River and the dinosaur sculptures at the entrance.  I visit because you have to cross the river to hike, weeding some people out, and because the hills are great exercise.  I ALSO visit because there are streams that flow into the Paluxy and those streams mean trees grow nearby and trees mean heavenly shade from the beating sun.  The trees along the trails range from oaks to juniper, with some cedar and live oaks in between.  I've found a few, old and large live oaks throughout the park and plenty of little forest areas to offer a cool reprieve from rocky ridges and open fields.  Here are a few photos of some trees from my many visits over the past 15 months to this wonderful little gem, only an hour from the metro area.

#MondayMotivation - Make it happen!

Standing out on Spectra Point at Cedar Breaks National Monument (one of my "Must See" places in Utah)

It was May of 2017 when I bought the round trip ticket from DFW to SLC.  I was going to Utah in mid-August, for a weekend, and I was ecstatic.  I was flying out after work on a Friday and flying home on a Sunday night because I didn't have any vacation left to use - it just all fell into place.  I had been tossing the idea of revisiting Utah around for a while and I was tracking flights for weeks.  I knew I had to go and I decided to make it happen.

While it was a short hike, it was exhilerating to be walking along the rim.

Booking that flight was a rush.  Planning the trip was easy and only continued to build my excitement while allowing me to feel the reality of it all sinking in.  I had solid plans, some "must do" moments, and a daily itinerary to maximize the time available for adventure.  I opened it up to friends and let everyone in my outdoor circle know what my plans were and that I was open to anyone joining in.  My best friend Molly decided she could make that weekend work and would be flying out to join me.  Her company and our chance to reconnect easily made that weekend one of the best in 2017.

The might Bristlecone Pine - Cedar Breaks National Monument

The 52 Hike Challenge was a major motivator in 2017 as were the various outdoor communities I had connected to online.  I had been camping and hiking more than ever before in my life, I couldn't let a weekend go by without something happening.  When my hikes were getting repetitive, I knew I needed a change of pace and a weekend away.  I looked at many cities, tracked flights for weeks, and weighed many options, but Salt Lake City just worked for that moment and I'm glad it did.  I would have flown anywhere for a weekend if the flights and prices worked out so I researched many places - Vegas for Death Valley, Portland for Crater Lake or the coast, Seattle for Olympic, etc.  Through this adventure I learned that I could make a weekend work, even with a flight, and that I actually thrived with a limited amount of time because I made every view, rest stop, and moment of daylight count.

I'm thankful that I have the resources to do a spontaneous weekend, because I haven't always been in that position.  I'm aware that I'm privileged to be able to run away for 48 hours and see the beauty our country has to offer.  I know not everyone can just book a flight and explore.  My point with this Monday Motivation is to simply make it happen if you want it to happen.  It could be pushing yourself to get outside locally, hiking further next time, finding a friend and taking that weekend road trip, or booking a flight and exploring your favorite places.  Too often I fall victim to my own laziness, so this is also a reminder to myself to keep going and make it happen.

A picture from my BRIEF visit (drive through) in 2009.

I've been obsessing over the Olympic Peninsula for months now, so I just booked a flight over Easter weekend to Seattle so I can go hike and reinvigorate myself and find new motivation.  Anyone is free to join, but I will be hiking the Ozette Triangle Loop (Olympic National Park on the coast) on Saturday, so plan accordingly.  I'm taking suggestions and recommendations for things you love about the Olympic Peninsula and things I "must see" while I'm there.  I fly in Thursday night, late, and fly home over night for a Monday morning arrival before work.  I'm so excited, probably even more than the flight to Utah last year.  Here's to making it happen! 

#MondayMotivation - The nervous and excited energy of just getting out there

I still think back to my first, and only, camping trip to Arches National Park.  It was part of a great road trip involving two friends that went from Michigan to the west coast and back.  My camping prior to 2009 was limited to the Great Lakes and I really hadn’t been in the middle of nowhere like you are in Arches or along US-50 in Nevada.  This trip in 2009 was my first real hiking through a National Park, my first middle of nowhere camping trip, and my first time TRULY appreciating the little things like a campfire, cold beer, or a crappy hotel room.  When I sit here and think it’s too hard to get outside or it’s too far, I think back to that trip.  We camped, road tripped, stayed in hotels, hiked, and everything in between all on a budget and with time constraints.  I now look to my peers and see them doing all of the activities from simple car camping to backpacking trips and beyond and I’m motivated.  I’m glad to be connected to so many people doing things I had never even heard of before.  I’m glad to have memories of being a bit nervous about traveling across the country and camping, but also just so excited.  I’m motivated today by my desire to keep that feeling going and the desire to just go for it – whatever activity that may be.  Happy trails and stay motivated!

#MondayMotivation - An excuse for everything

The pond in the morning at Cedar Ridge Preserve - Dallas, TX

This weekend, I had an excuse for everything.  From dinner plans to household tasks that NEEDED to be done, I avoided my local hiking haunts like the plague.  I had apartment tours to take, property tours to take, a friend's birthday dinner, chores, shopping, and uncooperative weather.  I truly had an excuse for every hour of daylight.  Were the excuses legitimate?  Maybe some, but certainly not all of them.  Could I have taken a hike at one of my standby locations?  Definitely.  I'm not opposed to hiking in the rain or even the dark, but I used those two situations to justify staying home and being less active.  I reached out to a couple of people to see if they would go with me, they were busy, so I used that as an excuse not to go out.  The drive to the place I really wanted to go was 45 minutes, through traffic, so I avoided it.

I wasn't motivated at all this weekend to get outside because the options just weren't that appealing to me.  I had this problem last year - when I didn't have an out-of-town trip planned, or couldn't drive a few hours to a nice state park, I would lose motivation or begrudgingly go to a local staple and not even enjoy the outdoors that much.  So this post today, is about fighting off the excuses, fighting through the illusion that local green spaces aren't good enough,  and getting excited about the local haunts that keep me sane between bigger adventures.

Pros of local spots:

  • Easy to access, usually
  • User-friendly
  • A little green in the concrete jungle
  • Always there when I need it
  • Cheap or free

Cons of local spots:

  • Can seem boring
  • Often crowded/overused
  • Not wild enough/secluded enough
  • Trails not long enough

This is all psychological, for me, and once I actually drive somewhere I get a little more excited and can look past the cons.  Getting from my apartment to the car is the hardest part for local hikes so here's what I'm going to do to psych myself up:

  • Start earlier to avoid people and traffic
  • Know that I'll be better off after a few miles through the woods, always
  • Come to terms with the fact that this is enough and plan for a more exciting hike the next time - it's all about balance

This post isn't very motivating, yet....hopefully this helps.

I'm aware that this is a personal problem, and is specific to my city life in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  I'm working on being more grateful for the green space and nearby state parks I do have while also knowing I need to balance out these local spots with more adventurous places.  I know life can get busy, but the whole point of the 52 Hike Challenge is to make sure I always set aside time for a hike.  It is time to get pumped up again and make up for this missed week.  It is time to show gratitude for the places I do have nearby and for the peace and clarity they can bring.  I hope, if you're having trouble getting outside or are sick of the same parks you have, that you can try to break through that mindset too.  Share with me what motivates you to get outside, bonus points if you have a story about feeling refreshed about your local spots.  Happy trails!

Cedar Ridge Preserve - Dallas, TX

#MondayMotivation - 2017 Was a Damn Good Year

Today is my aunt’s birthday, and I was looking back at photos to share in a Facebook post to celebrate her life.  I went scrolling through the 2017 photos to rediscover that we had some fun nights, plenty of summer boat days, spirited holiday gatherings, and a nice hike at one of my favorite local spots.  While scrolling through I got distracted, as I often do, by all of the hikes and all of the beautiful places I visited throughout the year and it led me to one conclusion:  2017 was a damn good year.

I embarked on the 52 Hike Challenge, not knowing what to expect.  Looking back the results were all I could have hoped for.

  • I got out more, every week to be precise

  • I reconnected with nature

  • I met a ton of virtual support

  • I saw new things, beautiful things, some that were right in my own state

  • I started to get a better mental clarity

  • I didn’t really get in “better” shape, but I maintained a weight for most of the year and strengthened my legs

  • I spent valuable time with friends on the trail

  • It let me to find my passion - getting people outdoors - and I’m finally branching into that area of helping people get outdoors and finding that equality balance

  • It didn’t cost me a lot of money, well to actually get outside anyway

  • It kept me sane, grounded, and on schedule with other things in my life

  • It’s helped me get even more fired up for our public lands and all that we need to do to protect and fund them

I visited a few National Park units, plenty of local state parks, and some new local trails.  I spent more time outdoors in 2017 than I had in the six years prior.  I haven’t been this excited for life in a LONG time.  I grew up with hundreds of acres at my disposal and I was always outside.  As I aged into those teenage years, I found myself outside less but still not opposed to spending time in the woods or at the lake.  In college, I camped and road tripped so the outdoors was back in play, a little.  I eventually took a job a city park ranger and did some unrelated trail work for my major - wildlife management.  A few trips here and there through the years had me camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Arches National Park, and along the Loneliest Road in the USA.  When I moved to Texas in 2011, the outdoors seemed to be on the back burner.  I did a lot of boating and I did a few road trips between 2012 and 2017, but it wasn’t until the hiking challenge that my fire for the outdoors was reignited.

I can’t picture myself just sitting around all weekend ever again.  Sure, I have moments when I’m just feeling lazy, but the desire to be camping or hiking always wins.  Road trips west to the Oregon Coast, Redwood National & State Parks, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and western Texas over the past six years were the kindling and wood but the 52 Hike Challenge was the flame that set me on fire again.  If you find yourself feeling a bit unsure, find something that will challenge you to be a better version of yourself.  I’m not implying that everyone responds to challenges the same way, I’m just saying they work for a lot of people and maybe they’ll work for you.  Set attainable goals, focus on things you love, and find your happy place(s).  Surround yourself, in person or virtually, with people that support you and your goals.  My year of motivation is something I’m looking back at and I can’t wait to push harder, explore further, and try a bunch of new things in 2018.  Find your passion and own it.  Happy trails!

Here are some of my highlights from 2017: