outdoors

#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:

I'll always be a sunrise guy

There’s nothing like being on a road trip, driving through the night, and seeing that first sliver of light ahead. As you travel further along, the sky opens up and you’re rejuvenated like the cycle of light you’re chasing.

For years, I'd stay up all night and sleep through the sunrises not waking until the sun was at a high noon.  It wasn't until back in college when we started doing road trips through the night that I started to appreciate the sunrise.  I've always had trouble sleeping, so staying up all night was never a problem; I always went to bed as the moon began to set.  Driving all night - be it around Lake Michigan for no reason at all, from Michigan to Seattle (a few nights), or anywhere else we went - allowed me to be awake for the sunrise.

I can remember back to sometime my sophomore year of college, or so, that we did a winter road trip circumnavigating Lake Michigan.  We left Grand Rapids, MI and headed south towards Chicago and up through Milwaukee.  The best part, on each occasion this trip happened, was Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Up there, I remember seeing the best sunrises.  We did the trip three different years, but the first trip was when I realized I'd forever be a sunrise guy.  Below are three photos of the frigid winter sunrise from Michigan's Upper Peninsula from the early 2000s.

In 2007 my buddies and I started doing these spring break road trips that allowed us to see as much as possible in the least amount of time.  Between the three of us, no one had crossed the Mississippi as an adult nor had we experienced the Rocky Mountains (or any mountains) in person.  This road trip involved many stops but I can still remember that moment when the sun would barely peek over the horizon.  That sliver of a sunrise signaled a new day and regenerated me every time.  I tried to find some photos from the various road trips, but most are blurry or through a dirty windshield.  Take a road trip, drive through the night, and let me know how that first sliver of light makes you feel.

As the years went by, road trip sunrises quickly became one of my favorite things.  If you catch a desert sunrise, road trip or not, it's probably going to be one of the best things you see.  Another favorite sunrise of mine was in 2011 at the Grand Canyon North Rim in October, right before they closed for the season.  This was not only my first Grand Canyon sunrise, it was my first time seeing the Grand Canyon in person.  What a way to be introduced to the place - as it wakes up.

On my most recent trip, to Minnesota, I woke up just in time to see the sun rising over Lake Superior.  Everyone was asleep, even the dog, so I quickly got dressed and crept outside to watch the sun come up.  I walked from the house, through the pines, and ended on the beach.  I could hear the ice moving, see the fog over the city behind me, and see a couple of dogs being walked down the way.  It was an amazing moment in time, to stop and take it all in.

Sunrises may be my favorite, but don't think I wont whip out a camera or phone to capture the sunset just as often.  Every beginning has an end and both are beautiful.

 

 

No Resolutions

Things I'm going to accomplish or adjust in 2018:

  • Since I've discovered podcasts, my audio book obsession has dwindled so I'm going to read more.  I have a stack of books and a few more on the Kindle waiting, here we go!
  • I'm going to make sure my Subaru Outback is in every adventure photo I can so I can prove to them I deserve to be a Subaru Ambassador.  I was rejected in 2017, but here's to hoping for acceptance in 2018.
  • I'm going to increase my overall hiking distance to 300+ miles from the 212 last year.  Check out more at 52 Hikes With Mike.
  • I'm going backpacking for a long weekend.
  • I will climb a peak - hopefully Guadalupe Peak at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
  • I will visit more National Parks, Monuments, and Preserves here in Texas this year.  I'm hoping to include Big Thicket National Preserve, Padre Island National Seashore, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and maybe even a return trip to Big Bend National Park.
  • I will be moving this year, in March, and the new place will have a room to store my gear so it's not disorganized and cramped into a tiny closet.

If you'd like to follow along as I attempt to get healthy, see my intro here and check back weekly for updates.  Here's to a healthy, happy, and prosperous year ahead.  If you'd like to hike with me in 2018, contact me through my about page or find me on Twitter!

Seeing can mean believing.

**Seeing can mean believing... more of my opinions on inclusiveness in the parks.**

I know some people who have gone to National Parks.  They have seen the majestic beauty, right along side me, and have proclaimed how beautiful it was aloud.  These same friends, they don't really go to National Parks that often or at all anymore which is okay.  These people saw the beauty, believe in the beauty, and will remember the beauty of these wonderful places forever.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

A National Park may not be their family vacation destination every time, but they may return someday.  These people understand the importance, value, and impact these places have on the general population.  They get it - because they've been there.  Because these people have been there, they get why it's important to protect and fund these places.  These people then connect National Parks and the preservation ideals to other natural areas that need preservation.  It can build.

Visiting a National Park, once or twice, has left an impression on these people.  Will they return? Maybe.  Will they remember the good times there and what those parks stand for? Definitely.  It just takes one time, even if nature isn't their thing, for someone to fall in love with the idea of National Parks, Monuments, Forests, etc.

Plant the seed and see what grows.  We need to continue to get people of all areas of life/status/etc to these place to see for themselves - maybe only once.  Maybe it isn't their thing, but maybe it is.  Even if it isn't their thing, they'll remember the trip and could see how important these places are for our country.

 

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Late Bloomer: How I fell in love with public lands in 2009.

**Disclaimer: This is a blog entry I've put together describing how I fell in love with our public lands and where I think we need to go with them.  I don't claim to be an expert and this blog entry is strictly my opinion.  My ideas are my own and are subject to change with conversations, education, and experience.  Thank you.**

Late Bloomer.

If we go back to my first National Park, it would be Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  I am almost sure I went to both as a teenager, with my grandparents, because my parents never took us anywhere out of the county - because of work, money, and time.  I grew up far away from the beauty that was Rainier, Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Rocky Mountain.  I knew not of these places until high school, but really not until college and beyond.  I've always had nature, just not public nature.  We had a couple hundred acres to roam, ample state land in Michigan, and plenty of friends with land.  I never really grasped the concept of National Parks, designated wilderness, or the like until college.  I took a course in wildlife management, learned a lot, and within the next few years visited some national parks.  I had student loan money, so I was invincible.  Not really, but it paid the tuition/rent and I had a few bucks left over for a spring break road trip.  I don't advise on having a few bucks left over - borrow only what is necessary.  I do, however, advise saving hard-earned money for a spring break road trip that isn't to some beach somewhere.  Traditional spring breaks did not appeal to me - but a road trip with my buds to places people weren't going sounded amazing.

In 2007, my two friends and I, set out on that spring break road trip driving from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Denver and through the Rockies and beyond.  We went right past Rocky Mountain National Park and visited a friend in Grand Junction, Colorado.  We drove down through Utah, right past the Arches and Canyonlands, and onward to Texas.  We drove past EVERYTHING because we didn't know much about it and one of us wasn't into the outdoors.  The next year, my outdoor friend and I insisted on a better, more thoughtful trip that included national parks.  We went from Grand Rapids to Seattle, down to Redwoods NP, and onward to Death Valley.  We saw two parks the entire trip - which was better than nothing for us;  we had to compromise for time and interest of the parties involved.  I mean, forget that we drove right by Badlands, North Cascades, Olympic, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Petrified Forest.  If 2017 me went back to 2008, I'd punch myself in the face for being so dumb.  Anyway...

In 2009, my buddy and I drove out to Arches and camped - determined to see more of our public lands this year.  We traveled onward to some BLM land in Nevada and then over to the Redwoods.  Up the coast, we went to the Olympic Peninsula - which was pure magic.  Saw more, stopped more, spent more time on public lands - really understanding what they were now and what they meant to me.  This trip was the one that really cemented how important these places were.  When 2010 came around, and we were half in college, half not sure what life was all about, half employed, we naturally decided to go to Vegas in the spring.  Sin City was exciting, but I feel the real excitement was about the road trip to various national parks.  We hiked in Death Valley, saw the sights from high to low, and I saw how big that place really was.  From there, we went to Capitol Reef, Arches, and Zion before flying back to Michigan.  If 2009 cemented it, 2010 sealed that cement.  I was in love with our national parks.

In 2011, after moving to Texas I met a new friend and we went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in October.  It is hard to put into words how I felt about the views, the yellow leaves, and the crisp air.  In love?  Probably.  2012 brought a revival of the random road trip with my outdoor buddy (since he moved to Texas) and we ended up in Tucson at Saguaro NP.  2013 Included Carlsbad Caverns, Arches again, and the Grand Canyon South Rim.  In 2014, we went to Big Bend in January and Rocky Mountain NP in August.  In 2015, my other half and I took our friend on a road trip to Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and Zion.  Later in 2015, we went to the Arch in St. Louis.  In 2016 I made my return to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with visits to Redwoods, Oregon Caves, Point Reyes, and Golden Gate.  This year, we've visited Kenai Fjords, Redwoods again, and Sequoia/Kings Canyon.  It's true love.

In the past few years, I've spent more time exploring public lands than I had my whole entire previous existence.  I've hiked in national forests, visited the parks mentioned above, and have plans for so visiting so many more public lands.  I was lucky to find the parks in 2008 and luckier now because I can afford to visit more frequently.  The more I visit, the more I love these places and value their existence.  The more I visit, the more I want to fight to keep them public.  The more I visit, the more I see that they may be all of ours, but they're really not available to everyone.  The more I visit, the more I want to use my privilege to open these parks to those who have never visited or can't visit due to distance, cost, or any combination of reasons.  I can't imagine the level of passion and devotion I'd have if I'd been visiting these parks since I was a kid.  It is absolutely VITAL that youth of all backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and age groups be exposed to (and educated about) these places.  Maybe these lands are not for everyone, but maybe a few of them will grow up to protect, love, and fight for them.  We need to work to include everyone in the outdoor world.  We need to diversify the DOI and hire people from all walks of life.  We need to designate more parks/monuments/etc in more places representing the spectrum of Americans that exist.

I'm not sure quite how to accomplish the tasks at hand, but I've decided a vital step is to find a way to get more people involved and interested in our public lands.  I need to immerse myself in projects, organizations, and maybe even a career shift to building a diverse following for our public lands.  It may be a new love, but it's a true love.  I feel as though I've finally found my place in this fight to make sure our public lands are open to all and I'm determined to make a difference.