Random Observations

Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway!?

Who do you think you are!? Somebody who can dream big, save a little bit of money, go out and live an action-packed life? Gimmee a break.

You and I both know those adventures are for other people. People sponsored by big outdoor companies with big ad budgets. Athletes. Superstars. The best of the best.

You’re no athlete. You’re no superstar.

Stop dreaming. Go to work. Put your head down. Be content living vicariously through people whose lifestyle you envy.

It makes sense, really. Some of us are destined to see it all, do it all, tell it all. The rest of us—the vast majority of us—well, we’re just stuck in a never-ending routine, counting the days until the weekend. And besides, the older we get, the less likely anything big and exciting will ever happen to us.

Am I right?

Absolutely not. You know that, despite me being a smartass.

Why, then, do so many of us get tricked into thinking along those lines? Trust me, I do it, too. I’m pretty sure we’ve all done it, even those superstar adventure athletes.

It’s such a limiting approach. “I would love to live a life like that, but…”

But what? There has to be a way to defeat it. Any ideas?


Adventure Milestones: Why You Need Them, And How To Reach Them

Do you really think a long-distance thru-hiker just woke up one day and hit the trail? Doubtful. No, many, many miles of hiking and backpacking were logged in before the thru-hike even commenced.

Mr. Hiker’s long walk started with setting adventure milestones. “Today I hike 3 miles, next year, 2,650.”

Say you’ve never been backpacking before, but you get this crazy idea to walk from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. By all means, go for it. But you’ll probably want to actually try hiking and backpacking first, right? Then you’ll be able to gauge how far you can go in a single day, what to expect in certain situations, how to pack properly, who might make a suitable hiking partner, and so on.

Think of adventure milestones as goal setting. Or a check list, of sorts.

When you’re setting your milestones, start from the bottom, work your way up. Wanna sail around the world but never stepped on a boat? Buddy up with someone with experience, or take a class. Wanna dive the sweetest spots on Earth, but never even snorkeled? Again, take a class. You get the idea.

Basically, you have to start somewhere. You should set insane adventure goals, but you’ll thank yourself later if you ease your way in.

Personally, I want to do something huge. And it involves tons of time, money, and effort. I’m not the most experienced in this department, but I’m getting there. When the day comes for my wife and I to travel around the world, I’ll be happy I set milestones.

What about you? What kind of milestones are you aiming at?

Is Adventure Possible in the City?

A lot of times when I think about adventure, it’s usually in the context of being outdoors. But after spending just one day in New York City recently, I’m starting to rethink my adventure parameters.

Is it possible to find the same amount of adventure (maybe even more?) in an urban environment as you could find out in the woods?

The short answer to that question is yes, of course. You can find adventure anywhere. And I think it largely depends on how you define adventure.

As for my own abbreviated definition, adventure usually involves some sort of unexpectedness, a certain degree of thrill and uneasiness, and most importantly, fun.

I’ve been to my fair share of big cities, but man, New York seems to have an abundance of just about everything! In one day I ate awesome Indian food and some of the best gelato I’ve ever had. I hit up the landmark deli Katz’s, and was pleasantly amused with the decor, the history, and the plate of pickles they bring out.

I visited an amazing 9/11 memorial, rode the subway at rush hour, walked all over the place, and even got cut off by a nun driving into the Holland Tunnel from Jersey City. All sorts of adventures, and I hardly scratched the surface!

So what about you? Can you find adventure just about everywhere, whether you’re in the woods or in the city? Or are cities just places to live?

4 Reasons To Hate Adventure, and How To Get Over It

Don’t get me wrong, most of us love a good adventure. But sometimes there are reasons to hate adventure. I’ll give you four examples today, and offer solutions on how to fix them.

1. Fear & Anxiety

Adventure is largely about the perpetual pursuit of pushing your limits, always aiming your sights on the next big rush. Sometimes in the middle of doing this you realize you’re in too deep, and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is exactly when fear and anxiety sets in, two dreadful and common feelings found in adventure.

It’s happened to me many times. I only got a few hours of sleep one night on my last whitewater trip because I already got my ass kicked twice by the river and we were headed into a remote wilderness section called Adrenaline Ally in the morning. No backing out. Sweet dreams, right?

The Fix: Focus on what you can control. In my whitewater example, I made sure I ate a good breakfast, stayed hydrated, and laid off the beer until we were done with Adrenaline Ally. You better believe I immediately cracked open a cold one afterwards, though.

2. One-Upsmanship

The next guy is always going to attempt to one-up you, whether you’re in the field or swapping stories at the bar. It’s a fact of life in the adventure community, and sometimes it’s just plain annoying.

This exchange is enjoyable when two parties are sharing valuable information, but it’s irritating when your adventure accomplishments are constantly belittled. “You bungee jumped at an amusement park? Weak sauce, bro. I BASE jumped off El Capitan.”

The Fix: Easy. Ignore the competitive one-upper and move on. Or one-up them with unrealistic tales. “You BASE jumped off El Capitan? LOL! I sailed around the world on the backs of killer whales, surviving on box jellyfish along the way.” If they try to top that, you know they’re full of shit.

3. Bucket Lists

Bucket lists. I don’t mind them, necessarily. It makes sense, wanting to jot down every last adventurous thing you can think of and then feeling satisfied when you cross items off your list.

I just think the concept has been blown out of proportion. 100,001 “must-do” activities on your bucket list? Really? To me, it’s a slightly rigid, inflexible approach to adventure.

The Fix: Hear about something cool you’d like to try, and then make arrangements to try it as soon as you can. This works best for those of you with a “go with the flow” mentality. Hardcore list makers? Not so much.

4. Gear

Gear can be a touchy subject. There will be times when you are made to feel inadequate because you can’t afford top of the line equipment. The dude at the shop is just doing his job when he suggests the thousand dollar upgrade. The twerp on the trail is just doing his job when he talks down on your cheap tent.

The Fix: Go with what works best for you. Always. Experiment with different set-ups. If a piece of gear fails, dump it. It’s OK to have different set-ups for different scenarios. And it’s more economically feasible to amass your gear collection over time, rather than going all out right from the get-go.

Now stop being a hater and go do something fun today.

5 Types of Outdoorsy People, and How to Identify Them

Spend enough time outdoors, and you’ll notice different types of outdoorsy people. While I’m sure there are dozens of outdoorsy types I’ve excluded here, I’ve come up with 5 of my personal favorites and how to identify them.

Type 1: Expensive Gear, No Skills

It’s all top of the line for No. 1. Clothes, packs, tents, boots—you name it, they bought the most expensive version available, and lots of it.

They’ll look at your dusty, beat up gear with contempt. You can typically locate them at an outdoor store buying gear, not using gear. They’ll get all decked out for their first hiking experience, a paved/flat 3-miler where they “test” their gear.

Never throw No. 1’s new expensive gear in the dirt unless you’d like to get punched in the face! You’ve been warned.

2. Really Wants To Enjoy Being Outdoors, But Hates Every Minute Of It

No. 2 hates every little thing about being outdoors, but will pretend they’re having oodles of fun for the sake of maintaining an outdoorsy image.

No. 2 is usually associated with the Type 1: Expensive Gear, No Skills category. The slight urge to join their buddies on wild outdoor adventures is combated by mosquitoes, poison oak, cold nights, sore feet, dirty skin, and much, much more.

So while he/she wants to get out there, in reality, they’d rather be loafing in air-con sipping iced lattes.

The easiest way to identify No. 2 outdoors is by their constant bitching and moaning, the lack of happiness, and the overwhelming amount of glee upon returning to civilization, where they’ll typically say something like “Hell yeah! Hot showers and cheeseburgers, ya’ll! Screw the wilderness!”

Type 3: Will Stop At Nothing to Get the Perfect Shot

No. 3 is usually found at national parks here in the United States. Nothing will stop them from obtaining the perfect vacation photo. “This one’s gunna be a framer, honey,” they’ll say as they approach impending doom.

The impending doom comes in the form of bison, bears, elk, slippery waterfalls, huge drop-offs, and anything that can easily kill the normal tourist. But No. 3 is not normal, you see. They WILL get that shot!

No. 3 is incredibly flexible and will contort their bodies over and under all sorts of obstacles to frame their shot.

Watch out for No. 3. They’ll think you’re an overcautious idiot if you attempt to talk them out of letting their kids pose by the nice little buffalo or grizzly bear cubs. Remember, they will stop at nothing.

“A little to the left…could you maybe wake him up, too?”

Type 4: Dirtbag

We’ve talked about No. 4 in a previous post. They are fairly easy to identify, as they are the complete opposite of No. 1.

If No. 1 is clean and sparkly, No. 4 is grimy and smelly. Their origins are questionable at best, and their intentions are usually less than honorable. The most successful dirtbags drive/live in some variation of a VW bus.

Dirtbags are Mama Nature’s high fivin’ homies, or Mama Nature’s eternal house guest, depending upon your perspective.

Type 5: Hardcore Treehuggin’ Conservationist

You truly want to love No. 5. They have everything going for them: the environmental wisdom, the fight for what’s right, the patchouli oil, the Birkenstocks.

But after a day on the trail with No. 5, the last thing you’ll want to discuss is recycling or veganism or  how to turn trash into nifty craft projects for children.

No. 5 thinks you’re a moron. Everything you do outdoors leaves a negative impact, they’ll say. And maybe No. 5 is right. But can he/she just shut up for one second to let everyone else enjoy being outside? No? OK then. Preach on.

How would you describe your dream adventure?

Maybe you have a mile-long “bucket list” of things you’d like to do someday, which indicates you’re off to a good start.

The problem with those bucket lists though is how everything is supposed to be done before you turn into worm food, not all at once. The enthusiastic bucket lister might compile a list thousands of ideas long. All fine, except it doesn’t describe your dream adventure, the most awesome day (or weeks) of adventure you can possibly think of.

What a bucket list really is a bunch of loose ideas you’re hoping to get to before you die.

(It’s also minor confirmation that your a devotee of Zen Masters Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.)

What if you consolidated a few of those loose ideas to create your dream adventure? Maybe this could be a way to pick and choose all the cool stuff on your bucket list and make an adventure out of it.

Let’s say, for example, that your bucket list includes quintessential requirements such as skydiving, bungee jumping and NASCAR racing. Your day might look like this: skydive onto a bungee jumping platform positioned above a NASCAR racing course, where you’ll jump, hop in a car, and lap every last Dale Earnhardt wannabe out there.

Sounds pretty much impossible, but you get the idea, right?

Describing your dream adventure might be difficult considering part of why we love adventure is because of the unexpected. But we all have badass stuff we’d like to do someday, and I bet some of those loose ideas on your list would fit together perfectly.

So, how would you describe your dream adventure?

A few quality videos for your viewing pleasure

Just in case you don’t have enough time-wasting crap to look at online already, I’d like to share a few rad videos and video series I’ve been checking out lately. Thank me later, you hopelessly bored desk jockey.

On The Road With Solitaire

“On The Road With Solitaire is a 12-part web series following Sweetgrass Productions in the making of their 2-year project, the South American backcountry ski and snowboarding film SOLITAIRE. For the summer of 2012, new episodes will be released every Thursday until July 26th.”

If you only have a few minutes to kill, be sure to check out freakishly weird Episode VII — Welcome to the Jungle. Good stuff!

Unbreakable: The Western States 100

“In 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world. Unbreakable: The Western States 100 follows the four lead men on this amazing journey.”

I run 3 miles and I’m super proud of myself. These guys run 100 miles in gnarly mountainous conditions. Watch the trailer. If you’re a runner, you’ll get stoked.

Clif Bar: Meet the Moment

“You don’t plan Moments…they just happen. Be inspired to meet yours by watching Team CLIF Bar athletes climb at Smith Rock, ski Oregon backcountry, surf NorCal, mountain bike in the Santa Cruz redwoods, and more!”

Oldie but a goodie. I get fired up watching this one.

Brothers on the Run

“John and Eric Jackson, two professional snowboarders and brothers embark on the adventure of a lifetime by driving 15,000 miles from Alaska down to the southern tip of Chile on a journey to ride mountains on the top and bottom of the Americas and discover what’s in between.”

This is a great ongoing series not just about snowboarding, but about ambitious travel plans, adventure, big scenery, good friends, and good times.


How being outdoorsy will majorly boost your self-sufficiency

Ever wonder how some people seem to do almost everything on their own? From growing their own food, to fixing their own vehicles, to brewing their own beer, to raising their own livestock, to even building their own homes, self-sufficient folks need little to no help from you or anyone else.

I guarantee you they didn’t just end up that way. It took many years of victory and defeat before they felt comfortable venturing out on their own.

And it all started with being outdoorsy. How do I know that? Simple.

Outdoorsy souls aren’t exactly inclined to worry about your overall well-being. They’re more concerned with their own health and safety. Sounds harsh, I know. While everyone tends to “watch out” for each other outdoors, and will hopefully be helpful in emergency situations, the safety of the group is greatly increased if each member is self-sufficient and reliable.

If you’re new to spending time outdoors, away from civilization, you might actually feel insulted at times when your buddies don’t drop everything to help with your minor setbacks and dilemmas. Don’t take it personally. All you need is practice and patience.

You’ll become more self-sufficient by spending more time in the wilderness. I guarantee it. The deeper you get, the more you’re going to need to rely on your skills to survive. You’ll be as comfortable  and self-sufficient as the next guy/gal soon enough.

Think about it like this. You build on your self-sufficiency skills every time you fix a stove at high altitudes, make an improvisational sling out of a bandana, construct a suitable emergency shelter in driving rain, repair a tent pole with limited supplies, or use your head to overcome any number of events nature throws your way. Victory and defeat, over and over again.

And here’s the good news: anyone can be self-sufficient. I really mean it.  Because there are varying degrees of self-sufficiency—from the modern day Thoreaus to the lady down the street growing a simple, productive garden—you can adjust accordingly to fit your lifestyle at home.

What’s important is self-sufficiency knowledge and know-how. You will be more confident and more capable not only out in the woods, but in life in general. You can achieve this faster and with better results by spending more time hanging out with Mother Nature.

When you do start growing your own food, brewing your own beer, and raising your own livestock, call me. I’ll be happy to take homegrown produce, meat, and beer off your hands.

My dog, the super adventurer

It’s been a busy few weeks around here.  Somewhere in between packing, driving 11 hours to our new city, unpacking, and letting the dust settle at the new place, my wife and I found out our dog Cyrus has T cell lymphoma. Statistics say he doesn’t have much time.

We’re devastated. Cyrus has been such a huge part of our lives.

This isn’t going to be easy.

I looked through old pictures hoping it would help me feel better yesterday. And by doing so, I realized my dog has had more adventures than some people out there.

There were dozens of camping trips, sometimes in the rain:

There’s the time my wife talked us into driving around the entire Salton Sea:

We hung out at Joshua Tree National Park on that trip, too:

Cyrus will make a game out of anything. Here he is pulling small boulders from a cold Sierra lake:

We always enjoy quality time on the beach:

Hiking and backpacking with Cyrus is a blast. Here we are on a walk in Ouray, Colorado. The funny thing about this picture is that we saw a bear a minute later about 50 yards away. Cyrus didn’t even notice.

We’ve spent hours and hours wandering the woods together:

And battling all sorts of weather together:

We have so many great memories with this dog. He’s been by our side during the best and worst of times. Watching him having fun and being happy makes us happy. And if there’s one thing Cyrus knows how to do, it’s how to have fun and be happy. Life is an endless adventure with him.

You’ll always be my best friend, buddy:

How to work on your patience

How patient are you? You more than likely fall into one of three categories:

  • Super patient: You are a master of killing time when necessary. You are not phased by the idea of a 10-hour layover. You will get there when you get there. Patience is part of the journey, after all.
  • Moderately patient: While a lack of food and sleep might irritate you at times, you can handle waiting it out for the long haul. Slow, never-ending lines get on your nerves, but you don’t let anyone know about it.
  • Not patient at all: You hear the words “15 minute wait” and you’re pissed. Your time is the most valuable thing in the universe, so there will be no “waiting.” Your attitude gets worse the more patient you are asked to be. That asshole who just asked you to “please be patient” has it coming!

Which scenario seems the most enjoyable to you?

We’d all like to think we’re super patient, but rarely is this the case. Some people who think they have a “go with the flow” attitude can get temperamental and downright annoying the moment a wrench is thrown into the system. I’ve seen it happen it a million times.

Over the years, I’ve gone from “Not Patient At All” to “Super Patient.” And I’m not trying to brag. It took a ton of hard work to change!

The littlest thing would set me off back in my not-so-patient days. I was so easily annoyed and grouchy when things didn’t go smoothly. Waiting on anything to happen seemed to take an eternity—plenty of time to pout and generally make life for the people around me unbearable.

I can’t recall exactly what it was, but something clicked. I do remember thinking I didn’t have to be such an impatient jerk when things weren’t going my way.

So I decided to change.

And it took every ounce of patience I possessed to get through certain situations. There were times when I thought I wasn’t cut out for being a patient person. My bad temper would constantly attempt to take over. But I stuck it out.

Over time, I developed a few improvement techniques:

  • Breathe: You know that constrictive feeling you get in your chest when you’re super impatient and things are only getting worse? It probably has something to do with the fact that you’re not breathing properly.
  • Ignore it all: This one did wonders for me. I learned how to tune out undesirable situations. My patience thanked me for it.
  • Focus on the positive: So you’re stuck in a bus station for 12 hours? Oh well. That’s a great people watching opportunity. Plus there’s plenty of time to explore.
  • Find good company: Ever notice how a group of pissed off impatient people become more pissed off and impatient around each other? Well, the same is true if you’re hanging with a couple of chill cats without a care in the world.
  • Don’t dwell: You’re in trouble when you have hours to contemplate what it is that’s testing your patience. Take a walk. Smoke a cigar. Play chess with your buddy. Don’t dwell.

I’d love to hear what kind of person you are—super patient, moderately patient, or not patient at all. If you fall into the super to moderately patient category, were you always that way, or did you work to get there?

If you fall into the “crabby ass, totally impatient, get out of my way or you will die category,” have you thought about what it might take to change?