Various Ramblings

Keep Living.

Keep Living

I’m not a competitive person.

But, I’m in competition with myself.

You reaching your goals motivates me.

But, you reaching your goals is your achievement.

You reaching your goals doesn’t make me want to reach your goals.

I love myself.

I love my body.

I love what I can do.

I love what I’m capable of.

I love being lazy.

I love being active.

Some days, I just can’t.

Some days, I just can’t try.

Some days, I just don’t want to.

Some days, I do.

Some days, I’m motivated.

Some days I fucking crush it.

I want to run.

I want to hike.

I want to ride.

I want it to be fall.

I want to be fit.

I want, I want, I want.

I need to try.

I need to be fit.

I need to try to be fit.

I need to try to be more fit.

I need to be good to myself.

I need to stop being self-destructive.

I need to keep living.

I need to live.

I need to live well.

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My Hiatus from Texas

On June 14 I started my drive to Michigan after work and a nap. I had the opportunity to work remotely, from my family’s house, way up north. The whole experience was set up so I could visit my grandmother and other family as much as possible for two weeks during a pleasant time of year in Michigan.

As the two week window came to a close, I learned that working remotely is quite possibly the best thing ever. I managed to stay busy and spend so much time with my family all in the same day, what a dream. I was able to exercise before and after work daily, kayak often, have lunch with best friends, and take long walks on the weekends. It is safe to say that I am not enjoying my home atmosphere nearly as much as the Michigan one. I am back to the grind - commuting, avoiding the outdoors due to heat and concrete, and wishing I was somewhere cooler.

Currently, it is a “real feel” temperature near 100 and too hot to ethically walk my dog on the expansive concrete around us. I’m looking through the photos from my time up north and thought I’d share some highlights to keep the spirit alive. I’ll be back for a visit, Michigan, sometime this year again.


Some sunrises…

And, some sunsets…

But, also, these…

Gear Forward - Operation Outfit the Scouts

Gear Forward is a wonderful organization that raises money and collects gear (new and used) for kids across the country. Right now, they’re looking to raise money over on their Facebook page for two scout troops that need some stuff. If you can, head over there and throw ‘em so dough. If you can’t donate, but want to help, share their Facebook posts and spread the word! Thank you!

Link to Facebook Fundraiser

Link to Gear Forward’s website - can also donate through the website if Facebook isn’t your thing

Link to Gear Forward’s Facebook page

From the Gear Forward Fundraiser description:

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“Troops 1695 and 695 in Uniontown, PA support 20 young boys, and girls who love being outdoors. However, the Troops presently don't own any of their own gear to support the youths desire to go camping on a regular basis. 

The Troops have facilitated programming and camping by borrowing camping gear and supplies from friends, family, and neighbors. Gear Forward is committed to outfitting the next generation of adventurers... but we need your help to do it. 

Gear Forward will be supplying over $2,000 in tents to the two Troops (one boy and one girl troop) in addition Gear Forward will be making a purchase of brand new sleeping bags to assist those youths with a gear deficiency. The funds generated by this fundraiser will assist Gear Forward in the purchase of the camping gear and the shipment of the tents to Pennslyvania in time for the Troops next spring campout. In total the Troops will be receiving over $3,000 in outdoor camping gear from Gear Forward. 

Remember... every donation helps! Help us get and keep these kids outdoors!“

Year in Review - 2018 was a little weird.

I found this prompt, maybe from Cait Flanders, maybe from somewhere else? I have no idea at this point because I saved it so long ago. Either way, 2018 was not exactly what I had hoped. It started strong, and had a lot of highlights, but ultimately I’m glad to usher in 2019. I’m ready for a new Outdoor Society calendar and ready for the “clean slate” that is a new year.


1. What makes this year unforgettable?

  • Visiting Mount Rainier National Park and seeing the mountain from many different angles and times of day

  • Getting a new job

  • Losing a grandparent. It was a weird whirlwind, all over again. Never gets any easier.

  • Visiting Alaska for Christmas into the new year

  • Visiting Washington’s Olympic Peninsula twice and getting to experience the difference in seasons

  • Meeting a few outdoor people I admire and respect so much

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

  • The 31/52 hikes I did get done

  • Visiting Tahquamenon Falls

  • Being able to travel around the country and see the natural beauty

  • Our annual trek to New Mexico for camping and hiking in the Santa Fe natural forest

  • My annual BFF trip to Utah

  • Spending downtime at home with my other half, our Texas friends and family, and our pets

  • Family moments that were calm

3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

  • I’m grateful for travel. Travel is the one thing I can do with my other half, family, friends, and all of the outdoor people I am thankful for.

4. What’s your biggest win this year?

  • Getting a new job that is seemingly better for me as a whole. A job where I work on a team of people my own age and do work I enjoy. A job that is setting me up for the future in ways beyond money, setting up a career, and pushing me forward. I don't mind getting up for work these days.

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

  • The Year of Less by Cait Flanders was one of the most inspirational pieces of literature I’d had in my hands in a while. This book goes beyond financial advice and offers so much varied life advice. If you're looking for something uplifting and real, look no further.

  • Love Simon - I know it may seem cheesy, but the movie made me feel like a teenager all over again and feel all those misguided feelings of being closeted and hiding. It reminded me that those feelings don’t just go away. It was a cute movie that made me feel powerful things.

  • Said the Whale released an album in 2017, but it carried on with me in 2018 along with their new singles this year. This band makes music that makes me feel things to my core. I get emotional while listening, but not in an annoying way. I sing along, I bop along, but almost always feeling SOMETHING when I listen. Great band.


6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

  • I always worry about money. I've worried about money since I was a kid, but still don't know how to manage it well. I got a new job and I have a budget, but I still spent more than I brought in and that's the ongoing battle. December was a better month, and January should continue the trend as I've adjusted the daily and monthly goals to help.

7. What was your biggest regret and why?

  • Not completing my 52 Hike Challenge 2018. I feel like an absolute failure in some regards, yet part of me is says “better luck in 2019.” I hiked as much as I wanted to, or could, and that is something. I could have tried harder, could have battled the heat, could have found trails unaffected by the Texas rain, but I didn’t. I had 31 GOOD hikes and that’s what I need to focus on. I will complete 2019, mark my words.

8. What’s one thing that you changed about yourself?

  • My outlook on life has changed. My motives for doing things has changed. I’m focused on experiences and memories. I want to see everything, do as much as possible, and live life as much as I can before my end. More action, less contemplating.

9. What surprised you the most this year?

  • How much I loved solo trips. I knew I would like them, but hot damn do I love them. I love traveling and sharing memories, but solo trips are AHHHHHMAZING.

  • How terrible I am at making real life outdoor friends. My fear of rejection and my own self doubt really held me back in 2018.


10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

  • FINISH your hikes.

  • Don’t get dragged into your darkness.

  • Don’t give up on those fitness and food goals by March!

  • Eat more balanced

  • Be nicer to people

  • Stop whining about doing things

  • Plan ahead and get annoying chores and tasks done during the week

  • Go out and meet people. I'm good enough and people will not just reject me…

Tuesday Thoughts

I’ve been in a funk. Not a “hide in a dark room” kind of funk, but in one nonetheless. I’ve been buying useless shit to feel joy instead of doing things to bring me joy. I’ve been avoiding the outdoors and finding any excuse to stay in bed all morning instead of soaking up the good weather. I recently suffered from a stomach bug, which brought all of this up to the surface.

I had to spend 3-4 days in bed and resting to realize things aren’t great in my head.  I’ve had no urge to do anything, haven’t felt good about my body, and certainly haven’t felt productive. My weekly blogs have suffered, but I’ve lacked creativity anyway. I feel this year has been a series of these bad spells, worse than many of the years before. Thinking back, it’s pronab much like 2005 which was easily one of the worst years on memory. When I think about, 2014 wasn’t great either because years like 2006 and 2015 exist where I look back and seem like I was living out of body and out of sorts. It was kind of a depression hangover fueled by selfishness and crazy decisions about life. So many parallels between those years. I am much more level headed these days, so hopefully the rebound is more level also. I’m hopeful I’ll rebound into nature and good choices again.

I am working on a plan to “get to my happy place” over the next few days. I need to exercise, for both physical and mental health. I need to eat a little better, so my clothes fit again. I need to stop spending and work out a strict budget. I need to figure out 2019 and what we have to save and prioritize for thought the year. I have a lot to figure out, but I know building a routine will help my brain and I look forward to regular, thoughtful posts. 

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Who cares what might have been?

I try not to dwell on what might have been had I done something differently in my life. BUT, there is one decision I wonder about and it takes over my brain from time to time. If I had taken the city planning/code enforcement job with the City of Westworth Village (on the west side of Fort Worth) instead of the control room operator job at Quicksilver Resources, where would I be? Quicksilver paid better, a ton better, and it was an obvious choice from a financial standpoint. I was just starting to come out of my dark hole of financial depression - I had been paying my bills in full, and on time, for the first time in MONTHS. I was starting to know what it felt like to be an adult, despite having to borrow my aunt’s car to go to the job interview because mine didn’t have air conditioning. I felt Quicksilver was the responsible choice, and I don’t think I was wrong about that, in the end.

I accepted a job, in the oil & gas industry, and essentially felt I had backed myself into a corner career wise. There are a lot of energy jobs in Texas and nationwide, but I wasn’t learning skills that would make me valuable to many companies. I sat in a control room, a data center with 12 screens, and monitored natural gas production for three years. I finally found a way out and ended up in the environmental department to learn new skills. I started to learn about environmental remediation, permitting, and plenty of other marketable skills but was laid off within about 15 months because the company had failed and filed bankruptcy. I ended up back in a control center, for another failing company, as a contract employee on a non-permanent basis. I jumped at my current role, another environmental job, but have been there for two years and haven’t had many opportunities to learn new things or see any room for advancement. I don’t hate the work, but I don’t love it either. It’s pretty normal, from the sounds of it to feel that way about work. Who knows?

I wonder what I could be doing if I had accepted the planning job, for less money. Would I be happier, more fulfilled? Would I have a solid foundation for a career in city planning? Would I be struggling with my bills the same way I am now, or worse?

Things that wouldn’t have gone away: my habits. I have bad habits when it comes to spending and saving. I don’t think any amount of money, short of six figures, would solve that problem. I feel if I had taken the road through city planning, I’d be below my current and previous pay grades, which were higher, but maybe I’d feel more challenged and have more room for growth? I don’t know, like I said, I try not to waste too much time on the whole concept.

I do know one thing going forward, I’m not going to solely follow the money - unless it’s a LOT of money. I’d like to learn new skills, get into a career that offers room to grow and challenges me along the way. I’d love to work with a city, county, or state government. Only time will tell what happens with my current job, but I know if I don’t make the positive changes it’s going to continue to just be okay enough to stay.

Instead of going over the scenarios and wondering how my life could have been different, I will focus on the HERE AND NOW. I will try to find ways to improve my current life, career path, and mindset. Instead of wasting brain power on the “what if” thoughts, I’m going to harness it into “if this, than that.” I’m not always successful at getting out of my own head, especially when I’m having a bad day, but I have worked hard to be mindful about this topic and I plan to work hard to carve the path I want instead of what I “backed myself into” or “what the industry says I should do.”

Time Can Stand Still

I moved away so quickly in 2011, I don't think it hit until 2015. Seriously, I was away and working and trying to build a life and all of the sudden I just missed Michigan so much. It's now an overwhelming feeling I deal with on a daily basis. Being there for a few days recently was really nice, but really had me emotional on my four hour drive back to the Detroit Airport.

I'm not in a place, financially or career wise, to relocate, but something is really making feel that I will be or that I need to get back. Maybe it's the recent death of my grandfather, maybe it's my aging grandmother, maybe it's the rest of the family, or maybe it's the scenery? I don't know. I do know that I miss it more and more as I get older and even more as I visit so infrequently.

During my most recent trip, my grandmother and I took a little walk as we did many times for years before. In those moments, the brief 15 minutes, time stood still. I felt like a kid again, I felt as though I had never left the state, and I felt at peace. Reality came back, and I realized I was leaving the next day and had to say goodbye to her and everyone else.

I don't know when I'll get to go back in a more permanent capacity, but I do know I'm looking forward to another visit around Thanksgiving, even if it's only a day or two. I can't wait to drive up there and see everyone again. The trips and interactions don't always go as planned, but they usually contain more positive than negative energy.

I made the most of my three full days there including checking out our local apple orchard for hard cider and donuts, spending time with the family, and enjoying the little moments surrounded by nature.

2017 Subaru Outback - 1 Year Celebration!

July 7, 2018 marked the first year of life with Oliver the Outback.  It’s been a beautiful year, filled with commutes and adventures, and I am beyond happy that I chose Subaru.  At the one year mark, I had over 28,000 miles on the odometer and countless hours of rocking out to my jams.  (Check out my 6-month update here)

Features I (still) Love

  • Climate Control - The system has me cooled off before I leave the parking garage, it's fantastic and stays strong as the sun beats in on my hour long commute home.  Good cooling goes a long way during Texas summers.
  • Entertainment - My music has never sounded so good, and I've always had upgraded sound systems in my cars.  I love the steering wheel controls and the Bluetooth connects swiftly every time.
  • Visibility - Driving through traffic can be hazardous, but I have great lines of sight in the Outback that pair nicely with the safety features to ensure I get home in one piece.
  • Safety - EyeSight has saved me more than once, both in alert and automatic braking, as well has eased commutes with adaptive cruise control for the less congested areas.
  • Interior Design - Controls, handles, and storage are logically laid out and my RTIC tumbler fits perfectly in the cupholder
  • Gas Mileage - With a large tank, long range, and excellent highway mileage, the Outback is designed for road trips.  Added bonus, I only have to fill up once per week for commutes.  Total win.

The Places We Went

  • To Work - as boring as it may seem, I need to get there to make money to take adventures so I'm glad I don't have to worry about anything because Oliver the Outback is takin' care of business.
  • 52 Hikes With Mike - While I've had to fly and rent cars for a few hikes, I've taken Oliver to places both near and far to get a good hike in.  I love the custom rubber tray in the back because it contains the mess from my sweaty pack and dirty hiking boots.
  • Michigan - I'm from the mitten state, so in June of 2018 we drove on up to visit my family and it was a superb ride.  We only had to stop a few times for gas, which made me happy.  Oliver the Outback crossed the Mighty Mackinaw Bridge, got dusty on the Northern Michigan back roads, and took us safely 3145.1 miles.

Oh, the Places We Will Go!

Going forward, I have a few trips in the back of my mind that I want to take that Oliver the Outback will be perfect for.  Once the weather cools, we'll hit up the campgrounds out west in Texas, and visit Big Bend.  Until then, I plan to make an appearance in the Santa Fe National Forest and take a quick trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Here's to another year of safe commutes and amazing adventures!

Special #ThrowbackThursday - Alaskan Adventure

A year ago my other half and I were probably napping after our flight back from Alaska.  We spent about 10 days visiting with his family, exploring the land, and loving life.  I can't wait to get back up there, so I'm sharing a few photos to relive the moments until then.  Enjoy!

Quartz Creek Campground - Kenai Lake

A quiet morning on Kenai Lake - Quartz Creek Campground

A foggy view just south of Seward

Sea kayaks with a view - Seward, AK

A view of Exit Glacier on the way up to get a closer look - Kenai Fjords National Park

Byron Glacier

#NationalParkWeek ...I missed #ParkChat

I was a little busy during this week's #ParkChat, so I'm taking the opportunity to answer the questions now to help explore the topic for myself.  Feel free to read along or pass on this one, either way Happy National Park Week!


Q1: What is your favorite book about the national parks that we may not know about? Is there a book you love that features one of the amazing landscapes within our national parks?

A1: An interesting book that I read was Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford and it discussed the real life situations of being a park ranger at prominent National Park locations.


Q2: It’s #NationalParkWeek, let’s kick this off right by posting a picture of your favorite National Park! What makes this park particularly special for you?

A2: I could easily pick any park as my favorite, but the Redwoods are my special place.  I've been here the most, would return in a second, and have so much more to see.  This ecosystem is just completely fascinating, the height of the trees is remarkable, and the fact that the parks encompass a variety of areas is very nice.  I've been four times, with each time being a slightly different experience.  The more I learn, the more I yearn to return.


Q3: If tomorrow you could become the superintendent of any NPS unit, which one do you pick and why? #ParkChat

A3: Olympic National Park


Q4: What is the most unique or special souvenir that you have from a trip to the national parks? Share a picture if you have one!


A4: We collect magnets from special places – parks, points of interest, etc.  I try to focus on memories and photos, but if we can we’ll snag a magnet.

Don't mind the delicious Oberon in the way, just know there is a fridge full of magnets behind it.


Q5: Let’s celebrate the partners that make the #NPS work so well. Who is your favorite NPS concessionaire, in terms of activities, transportation, food, or lodging? Tell us why you appreciate their role!


A5: I really enjoy the WNPA and NPCA as coordinating groups for their work in protecting and preserving our parks.  I don’t know much about concessions, as I do not deal much with lodging or dining in parks, but these two organizations really stand out in my brain as immediate assets to the NPS.


Q6: Share a great budget saving tip for exploring #NPS units that we may not know about!

A6: Bring your own food or buy it from a grocery store on the way! Camp on BLM lands or state parks, and plan ahead to know exactly what it will take to enjoy the trip.  Here are some of my favorite reference points from a well-traveled, budget friendly adventure guy.


http://justgetoutmore.com/camping-no-im-just-sleeping-at-a-campsite/
http://justgetoutmore.com/travel-camping-how-to-fly-and-camp-in-a-rental-car/
http://justgetoutmore.com/in-defense-of-traveling-fast/


Q7: National park #61 is coming soon! Who do you think will win the race to #61?

A7: I don’t feel the need to contribute to this topic, though I’ll say I’ve been to #60 back when it wasn’t #60 and I think it could have stayed that way. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Q8: What historical figure do you feel is currently left out of the National Park System? Who should have their own site, where, and why?

A8: I feel we need to honor those who lived these lands before us as.


Q9: We love camping, but we also love lodges and hotels! What’s the most interesting lodge or hotel you’ve stayed in on a parks trip? Have you stayed at a lodge or hotel that is on your parks bucket list?

A9: Grand Canyon North Rim lodge was very memorable.


Q10: Which park has the best or most awesome visitor center? What is remarkable about it—the exhibit? The staff? The setting? The connection to the community? Do tell…

A10: I loved the staff at the Hoh Rainforest recently – very helpful and friendly.  I just love every visitor center because I learn so much.

#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.

 

 

2017 Subaru Outback 6 Month Update

I have the 2.5i Limited in black with warm ivory interior named Oliver the Outback and it's been my favorite car to own to date.  I've had a lot of hand me down cars, unreliable used cars, and a couple of newer cars more recently that have just not stood up to the miles I put on with commuting and adventures.  This car is comfortable to ride in, offers good visibility, has almost 9 inches of ground clearance, and the sunroof I require for all of my cars.  This is the year of adventures and Oliver the Outback will be front and center.

Things I love:

  • EyeSight Technology - The driver assist technology is something I was skeptical about in the beginning because I didn't know if the control freak in me would like it, but I've grown to love it.  I don't use the lane keep assist tech very much, but I do use adaptive cruise control a lot and have really learned to appreciate it when flowing with traffic.  The pre-collision braking has saved us from at least one wreck and it was heart stopping in the best way.  I wasn't distracted, I just didn't judge for the proper stopping distance and that's when the car took over and we came to a dead stop just in time.  The technology has really helped me be more aware of my surroundings and pay closer attention to my driving.
  • Cargo Space - I have a Ruffwear canvas seat cover for Chewy on the back seats which leaves room in the cargo area for all of the camping or road trip gear necessary.  Fold the seats down, and the Outback can haul entire shelving units or other equally large items.  Since Chewy will always be along for the road trip, I don't see us using it for sleeping, but I've heard it can be done.  I hope to camp more, now that it's cooler outside, so we'll be testing the cargo capacity even more in the coming months.
  • Ride Quality - I didn't know how to take AWD, but it has been a zero adjustment technology.  When it comes to actual cruising quality, this car is mostly smooth and comfortable.  Road noise is normal, nothing like a super hushed luxury car, but definitely a lot better than my previous car.
  • Keyless Entry & Push Button Start - As silly as it sounds, it's one of my favorite things about this car.  I can take or leave the power liftgate, but "touching the door handle" to open the car is genius.  When I approach the car, exterior lights in the mirrors illuminate the door handle which is also nice.  I have been prevented, at least ten times now, from locking my keys in the car and for that feature alone I'm the most grateful.

Things I don't love as much:

  • Starlink Infotainment Unit - The FM radio works fine, so I shouldn't complain, but the Bluetooth connectivity can be touch and go, the interface and available apps is laughable, and the design is nothing to write home about.  I don't use the navigation system too much, though I do like some aspects, it's often just easier to use Google Maps.  Some days, I have to reconnect my phone or my phone just doesn't stay connected without a reset on both ends.  Frustrating, but not deal breaking things here.  Starlink is still better than whatever my Jeep Patriot had in 2014.
  • Rattle - I had a rattle in my passenger side dash develop recently. It's intermittent, but I'll have them check it out at my next service.

The climate control, display, and everything else is just fine.  The leather is holding up, even with a dog constantly drooling on the seat in front of him, the rubber floor mats are a big bonus, and the sunshade really helps here in Texas.  The Outback is utilitarian in design, but comfortable and nice to look at.  I love that the mirrors have turn signal indicators in them and I love that the taillights are LED with YELLOW turn signal lights.  I think all turn signal lights should be yellow, in all cars, but that's just me.

At just over six months of ownership, with 13,300 miles, I'm already looking forward to the next 10 years.  I truly love this car enough to want to keep it until it doesn't want to go anymore.  Looking ahead, I hope to get a cargo rack or box for the roof, possibly upgrade the fog lights to match the headlights, and get a set of better tires when these stock tires wear down.

New Year, New Look.

I've created a website, if you haven't noticed, and it's pretty fun so far.  I loved having blogs on WordPress, but for the money I was going to spend to increase my storage there, I thought why not spend a few bucks more and get an entire website that could host both blogs, various other content, and have my own domain name.  So, here we are all fresh and new.  Forgive me as continue to learn how to do this and as I continue to make it as easy as possible to navigate.

I thought about just using this website to share my hiking journey with anyone who wants to follow along, but figured adding other topics would be more fun for me.  As with my WordPress blogs, I am doing this for me.  I don't hate the attention (let's be real), but this is for my own documentation and record keeping more than anything else.  I wanted an organized way to look back at the things I do so I can reflect, plan ahead, and just plain remember things that slip my brain.

Bookmark me if you'd like, and if not, that's okay too.  I'll share all hiking and writing updates via my social media pages, so they'll always be floating around out there somewhere.  I have a year to see how this works, and if it doesn't feel enjoyable or feasible anymore, it'll end as it should in a fireball of destruction.  Kidding, I'll just lose the domain and life will carry on.

I'm working on migrating some more important writings and travel posts, so they'll appear but I will not share them on Twitter as they've been shared before.  Look for them in the next week or so, if you want to look back.  Most things have been migrated over, and are already on here.

If you enjoy this site, don't hesitate to let me know.  If you think it needs work, keep it to yourself - just kidding, I don't mind constructive criticism.  I'm not looking to use this platform to make money (yet) or become famous on Twitter, I'm just documenting my journey and sharing things I find entertaining, useful, and inspiring.

If you want to hike with me, find me on Twitter or use the Contact Me form I created.  I'd love to connect with people interested in the outdoors or people that may know great spots here in Texas to take a hike.  I'm working on a tentative schedule for 2018, though spontaneity is usually more my style.  I'll share some ideas once I've done a little more research, so stay tuned!

If you've read this, I wish you well and invite you to check back soon!

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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Vivid Memories

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It's amazing to me that I can remember so much from such a brief visit to a National Park.  I was thinking back to my first trip to Death Valley National Park today and I can remember it all like we drove through yesterday.  I remember the Devil's Golf Course, Badwater Basin, and Stovepipe Wells.  I remember hugging my first redwood just days prior up in Redwood National Park.  A year later, I was camping in Arches National Park after an edge-of-your-seat drive through a blizzard in the Rockies on the way there.  I remember the trails we hiked to go see the various arches and landscape views as well as the campsite and the view from the tent.  I remember it being something like 11 degrees and very windy with some icy spots on the trails - and a funny sign warning of falling on ice.  I remember the BLM land on the Loneliest Road in America - US 50 - and the campsite there with snow.  We pitched the tent, dug a trench to divert any melting snow, and made a fire.  That night, the sky was so clear and full of stars.  You could see US 50 for miles, and in that one night I only remember seeing two cars in the distance.

I remember something from each visit to Redwood National Park and I remember our brief drive through Olympic National Park.  I remember the moss growing on the old wood - making everything pop with green.  I can't recall a more worthwhile hike than the one Delicate Arch, despite not really knowing much about where we were going.  I can still picture Bryce Canyon, covered in snow, from Inspiration Point.  The hoodoos poking through massive snow drifts below is a sight forever burned into my brain.  Snow melting, muddy trails, and the spray of waterfalls in Zion in the early spring only make me want to return.

I could go on, and on, about things I remember without even a picture to trigger it.  I have so many memories from trips to National Parks.  I've experienced visits as brief as a drive through with stops at scenic lookouts to camping overnight.  The experience doesn't matter, as long as it happens.  If we get people that may not be able to or people that don't really know too much about the parks to the parks, they may have these little memories to hold on to and may be more inclined to help preserve them.  If people can develop memories or find meaning in these places, they may be more willing to join the fight to fund, protect, and expand them.  We must continue to fight to get EVERYONE out to the parks.  We must continue to fight the current administration and their desire to shrink, drill in, and/or eliminate these places.  Together, through collective thoughts and actions we can make these parks accessible to all people and create new ones for the future while securing proper funding.  I believe it is possible, do you?

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.

Be the light. Seek the light.

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Looking through photos from our recent trip and found this one.  The flower is no larger than a dime and the clovers cover the ground and fallen logs.  It's pretty, delicate, and a representation of the variety of life that grows.  Something as tiny as a dime grows right below a towering redwood tree.  They grow in harmony and I think - as cheesy as it may be - is a metaphor for how we need to live.  We have to accept that some will tower over others, but we need to continue to reach up for the light.  Even when we have to stretch or go a few days with darkness, we have to keep reaching and growing.  Even the tiniest plant can flower and find the light and be the light for things even smaller.

*migrated from a previous blog.