(Note: I’m so proud of myself for this title).

Happy weekend! You made it. Hopefully many of you are already out on the trails, enjoying a much needed long weekend (and maybe a few blisters too). Personally, I did my usual “I didn’t bother to plan ahead for the holiday weekend thing,” so I’m taking the opportunity to spend this lovely weekend working on an exciting and unrelated-to-the-outdoors freelance project (maybe I’ll tell you about it someday). I know we technically have a few more weeks of summer, but it’s starting to really feel like fall here in Oregon. It’s no longer 102 degrees (that was weird), and we’ve had almost an entire week of cloudy cool weather. I’ve worn a vest. I’ve drank tea. It’s been wonderful. While the pacific northwest is still generally on fire, we’ve even had some snow already in the higher elevations. Really exciting!

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Just a quick note on this Friday: I’m super happy to share that I have a guide to Backpacking in Point Reyes National Seashore up on Modern Hiker. It’s a REALLY great loop, and only 30 miles from San Francisco. So, what’s not to like.

It’s a magical place, full of greenery, birds, flowers, nearly empty beaches and awesome coastal views:

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In fact, I wish I was there right now….

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Backpacking in Point Reyes National Seashore, June 2015

This year, I decided I would FINALLY learn to sleep while camping. It was a long time coming.

As I chronicled (extensively) in a few posts over the last 6 months, I’ve had trouble, so much trouble, sleeping comfortably while backpacking. Since my earliest camping memory, I’ve experienced post-sunset night time dread, imagining the forest coming to life around my vulnerable sleeping body. On top of this, would be the inevitable numb arm as I attempted to sleep on my side while using a less than comfortable pad. The result: 8+ hours of frustration and madness, followed by a very groggy day.

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Recently, Allison Nadler over at Trail to Summit published an excellent article with 10 tips for anyone taking part in an online hiking community. For the most part, I agree with almost every point she makes, and as someone who regularly visits these communities, it was nice to see someone voice some of the thoughts that I’ve also had.

While I love the internet (hence that I can write things on here and you can read it from anywhere, how neat is that), I absolutely have a love/hate relationship with the various online hiking communities that I take part in. As a pretty experienced outdoors-woman, I still find that I’m constantly learning new things from the internet forums, groups, and boards I skim on a daily basis. A little rusty on lightening safety? Someone is likely to share an interesting article at some point on this very topic. Didn’t know there was a fire closure on a popular trail? Well, now you do. However, it’s hard to miss that these groups are often full of repetition, especially as related to gear and logistics. In one group, it’s not uncommon for individuals to ask the same question multiple times a day (i.e “what sleeping bag should I get”, “where do I get permits”). Inevitably, there are an overwhelming number of answers, some of which may or may not be helpful for that specific person in his or her situation (after all, can I reasonably tell a 6’5″ man who sleeps warm what he needs without knowing more information?).

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When I was in school, or working full-time, this was a typical scenario in my household:

Me: “Oh hey, I just realized that next week is labor day weekend, so I have 3 days off. We should maybe do something”
Husband: “Cool, let’s do that. What should we do?”
Me: “Well, all the places I wanted to go require permits, and those were booked up 6 months ago. So, we can drive 4 hours to the mountains and maybe get a walk-in permit.”
Husband: “Yeah….”

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Earlier this summer, in between my move from Los Angeles to Portland, I got to spend an entire month living in my northern California hometown (i.e saving some money while taking my first real break from work in almost a year). I even got to stay in the house I grew up in while sleeping in the same room I had for most of elementary and middle school. For some this might sound like a terrible idea. There’s something about “going home” that can evoke different reactions in different people: for many it’s a return to a place (and time) they left to become adults, while for others it’s a return to something that played a part in who they would later become, good and bad. Sometimes it’s a bit of both.

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7 Posts in 7 Days

As you may or may not know, it’s Monday.

(I’m kidding. It’s 3:20 PM on the west coast, and I’m sure many of you are well on your way through the Monday blues by this point).

Seeing that it’s Monday, and I’m making a conscience effort to do more writing (in this case, blogging), I thought I’d kick off this week with a personal goal. I’ve always felt that in some ways writing can be approached like any other skill set. It requires practice and sharpening, and sometimes going back to your old work with a critical eye in order to learn how to improve for the future. Much like I’ve been practicing my backcountry navigation so I can do more and get lost less. Furthermore, as I find myself working freelance lately, it’s increasingly important that I get myself back into the habit of creating a work schedule.

So for this week, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to sit down and just WRITE something, anything, everyday. It doesn’t have to be amazing (trust me, it won’t be), clever, or particularly interesting. My grammar won’t be perfect, because it never will be. However, it”ll be enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to working out my brain muscles.

In other news: I *may* be planning an exciting outdoor adventure for early next week, permits allowing. It’s definitely going to push me past my comfort zone (i.e elevation gain), but as always, it makes great material for thought. More on that later.

Again, happy Monday. You’re going to make it!

 

What Kind of Writer Am I?

Back in March, I wrote about some of my career struggles.

Just to recap: I HATE sitting at a desk for 40+ hours a week, despite the fact that my field is important and does great work for the world. I still believe this to be the case. Archivists make it possible for the rest of us to remember things, whether that be family history, an historical event that happened 100 years ago, or a financial transaction from 1996 (hey, that might be interesting to someone).

I’ve always felt that if I could only find the right career and job, I would finally feel content to work a full-time desk job. I just had to find that thing, get the right degree, and then everything would click into place. Guess what? That’s didn’t really happen, and almost a year after finishing my masters degree, I found myself working at a desk and wondering how I had ever thought that it would feel right (in my defense, it’s easy to ponder these types of question after you learn from them).

Fast forward to now: I’ve moved to Oregon, I’m no longer working a full-time desk job, and I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering my next move, delving deep into what really makes me excited. What do I want the next 5 years of my life to look like? What do I want to do after getting out of bed in the morning? How can I get PAID to do that? What does this all even mean?

Through all of this, I’ve come to a shocking realization: I want to be a writer.

Interestingly, until the last few months, I had never even realized that being writer was something one could do. Sure, people write, but in my world they write peer reviewed articles that are published in esoteric scholarly journals, living on in the citations and quotes used by grad students and researchers. Since I have no desire to write those types of pieces (namely dense, academic articles full of big words and terms), I didn’t think I wanted to or even COULD be a “writer.” However, there is something I’ve always enjoyed about writing. The process of sitting down (on my own schedule, importantly) and fully exploring a topic is immensely satisfying. Specifically, topics that are meaningful to me, rather than those handed down in graduate school as part of an assignment.

When I recently mentioned this to my husband his response was equally shocking, “Well yeah, I’ve been saying this for years.”

So, where does this leave me? What am I going to write about? How am I going to make that happen? (I apologize for all the questions, as you might expect, writing also helps me to work out these topics).

While I deeply admire those individuals who take off in an adventure van and become “adventure writers,” at this point in time I feel sure that there are plenty of amazing people doing that already. I love that they’ve taken the risks to follow their bliss, and in fact, I love everything about the idea of being an adventure writer living out of a van. While I’ve definitely been doing some adventure writing, I also can’t discount some of my other interests beyond hiking and backpacking (yes, I have those!), some of which are related to my love of being outside. History. Archaeology. Environmental Science. Archives. Academics in general. In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that perhaps I’m in an interesting and unique position: I’m a fully trained archivist with a graduate degree who is also passionate about the outdoors. I know how to write for an academic community, but I enjoy writing for non-academics more. That is: I’m an academic with an outdoor problem.

Why not write about academic “outdoorsy” things for a non-academic audience, and use those skills I’ve gained as a researcher and archivist? I’m not sure what this all means yet, but I’m really excited to explore it more.

In the meantime, you’ll likely find me working at your local outdoor retailer, happily enjoying my non-desk time.

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(Other than this desk time, which is okay).

 

 

 

 

Modern Hiker

 

If you don’t live and hike in Los Angeles, you might not be aware of an awesome hiking resource: http://www.modernhiker.com

If you DO live in LA, and you love local area hiking, you’ve probably used it before. Not only is it an awesome resource for finding new trails, but it’s also increasingly a great site for outdoor related news and gear reviews.

So, awesome news: I’m a new modern hiker contributing writer! Short backstory: Awhile back, Modern hiker announced that they were on the lookout for new writers, and had an application + writing sample submission form. I was at my full-time job as an archivist, still living in LA, and decided that I needed a break from cataloging for the day. As a lover of all things outdoors, and of WRITING about the outdoors, I decided it was worth a shot (and it burned some afternoon time while at work, which is always a plus).

A few months later, I was on board as a new writer. And even more good news! Modern Hiker is expanding outside Los Angeles to new locations all over the west, and initiating a total redesign of it’s site to provide an even better search engine and profile system to connect people to new trails and new hiking partners. Wow!

So what this means for you is: and from now on, I’ll be sharing fun new hikes from my new home in Portland/Pacific Northwest area as well from my homeland of beautiful Northern California PLUS gear reviews on the modern hiker site (and will be linking them here as they are published, so you can find them too). You should also check out the site in general, because it’s really fun and you might find a new trail to explore (even ones not written by me!)

Also what this means for you: Modern Hiker is in a full blown crowdsourcing campaign right now, which you should check out. I think we are not only doing really important stuff (getting people outside more), but there are also really fun prizes for people who contribute. You also make it possible for people like me to share our love of hiking + writing. So if you can, contribute whatever you can (seriously, even if that means $5).

AND here is my first write-up from my lovely hometown on the Northern California coast. This will be a good one for you bay area lovers/residents. Enjoy!

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What I’m about to say might sound a little silly. However, I promise though that I’ll try and form this post into a semi-coherent and complete thought. You might even agree with me.

For a lot of reasons, I’ve begun to develop a very mixed reaction to the whole “adventure lifestyle” photography that we see with increasing frequency on social media. I think you know the type of photography and sharing I’m referring to. Let me paint a picture, and show an example that I am admittedly guilty of.

Scene: Beautiful mountain lake, mountain, or just generally gorgeous landscape shot. Tent in the foreground, sometimes with a person wearing the perfect vintage-yet-utilitarian outdoor styled gear and clothing. Deep reflection about nature, life, etc. The perfect example is the very talented Chris Burkard, whose work I really enjoy.

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And then there’s my own posts. For example:

So what’s not to like? Why the mixed reaction? Don’t get me wrong, I generally adore the fact that I can fill my eyes with these types of gorgeous scenes on a daily basis, all from the comfort of home. I love Chris Burkard’s work, I love that people get to see things via photography that they might never see in their own lives. I love that my friends can have a moment during the day to think “wow, our planet is beautiful.” However, here are moments when I have another more overtly negative reaction to this types of sharing, partially because of my own experience of having to work full-time, in an office, at a desk, while having access to all these gorgeous windows into the outside world.

Over many years, I’ve purposefully curated a newsfeed that is pretty dominated by outdoor related posts and news. Namely, gear companies I like to follow, other backpackers, and outdoor adventure lifestyle photographers I admire, all of whom regularly post a nonstop barrage of beautiful outdoorsy things. It’s fantastic, and has been a great resource for me as I mentally add things to my “must see” list. As mentioned, I also really enjoy sharing my own experiences via social media, both as a reminder to myself, and as a fun “look at this” post for my friends. In fact, I’ve had numerous friends plan trips to places I’ve been based on seeing a photograph I posted. This is all awesome!

The darker side of this type of sharing, of the non-stop feed of beauty I have access to at any time, is the lost opportunities for my own experiences of adventure. What do I mean by this? I mean, if you look at my own social media, I seem to get out a lot, which is true. However, there are days when I probably spend more time looking at other people’s adventures, feeling a little annoyed that it’s not my own. I don’t think this kind of reaction is true for everyone. We all have life commitments and various reasons for not getting out as much as we’d like, whether that be family or jobs, and I’m sure that having a glimpse into the “adventure lifestyle” of another person can be as inspiring to one person as it can be frustrating to another. For me, I experience a mix of both. I feel inspired to be outside more, to see more things, but also experience a pang of loss, and a deep sense that sometimes I’d rather be out there doing more and spending less time living vicariously through others.

Furthermore, I’ve found an interesting reaction by others to my own social media feed, which is something I’ve been feeling compelled to briefly address. On numerous occasions, close friends have commented on the frequency that I must spend outside. I’m there all the time! They wish they could do that too! Just to be clear: social media presents the “self” that we want to show others, rather than any reality that we experience on a daily basis. I don’t post about all the annoying things I have to do on a daily basis. The grant reports, the sitting at my desk feeling stir crazy. I only get out to backpack once a month sometimes, more if I’m lucky. It’s wonderful, and I feel fortunate to do that stuff as much as I can. That being said, despite what my Instagram tells you, I too have to balance everyday life with my constant urge to go hike pretty trails.

My point is: through sharing, social media can inform and inspire. For me though, it’s also a double edge sword. I find new places and learn new things regularly through social media. I also spend more time than I would like wondering how all these “adventure photographers” live such fantastic free lives. Lately though, I’ve learned something really valuable through my interaction with sites like Facebook and Instagram: it is whatever you want it to be, and you have the choice of what that meaning is to you. For me: I want to continue to be inspired by others, while spending more time DOING and less time wishing I was doing while scrolling through someone’s Instagram.

Speaking of which: Happy Monday! Get out this week, even if that means planning something for the weekend. It’ll be here soon!