Pushing Boundaries in the Outdoors: The Grand Canyon of Tuolumne

“It is easier to feel than to realize, or in any way explain, Yosemite grandeur. The magnitudes of the rocks and trees and streams are so delicately harmonized, they are mostly hidden”.

-John Muir

The Grand Canyon of Tuolumne

The Grand Canyon of Tuolumne

National Parks are some of my favorite places to visit in the United States. Of course, Yosemite National Park is on the top of my list, but I cannot grapple with the crowds, traffic jams, and long lines. I avoid Yosemite Valley in the summer and instead drive up Tioga Pass to Tuolumne to experience the beauty of granite rocks, waterfalls, and lush green meadows, without hoards of crowds. I avoid summer weekends and instead get there early on weekday mornings. I also prefer going after Labor Day when the kids are back in school, and the weather is a bit cooler.

Choosing the route

Permits for backcountry Yosemite trips can be challenging to come by through the lottery process, but walk-up permits in shoulder seasons are usually always guaranteed. Luckily for me, I scored a two-night/three-day permit out of Glen Aulin for the middle of September. I was not too familiar with this area, but after a couple of days of research, I stumbled upon an area known as “The Grand Canyon of Tuolumne.” I read that it was not an easy hike, and there were two ways to conquer this trip into Pate Valley.

1) Glen Aulin to White Wolf and either hitch or take the bus back to Glen Aulin.

2) The 60-mile loop from Glen Aulin to White Wolf to Ten Lakes back to Glen Aulin.

I read that both routes were challenging, in a knee-breaking sort of way, and the elevation change was killer. Hitchhiking or taking the bus seemed like a bit more effort than I wanted to deal with, and I was itching for a knee-breaking challenge, so I decided to hike the 60-mile loop over three days.

Glen Aulin trailhead

Glen Aulin trailhead

Hiking out of Glen Aulin

Hiking out of Glen Aulin

Hiking solo

Since I had a permit for three people, I tried to recruit a couple of my friends, but since it was midweek; it seemed that this was going to be a solo trip. I LOVE solo trips! I can make my own itinerary, go as fast or as slow as I want, wake up early or sleep in late. The caveat to backpacking solo in Yosemite is I would be solo, without my dog. I take Moo pretty much everywhere with me, so leaving her behind is always something I struggle with. When I am out with my dog, I do not consider myself solo, since she is entertaining and overly adventurous and the best company on the trail.

My gameplan

My game plan was to average 20 miles and 8,000-elevation change per day. I have never hiked this mileage and elevation change over consecutive days. Sure I have done 30-mile days with a daypack, but not for multiple days in a row. I haven’t ever backpacked more than 13 miles in a day with a fully loaded pack. However, I knew I was in great shape after spending my entire summer in the outdoors, so if I was going to complete this challenge, now was the time to do it.

The importance of pushing boundaries

I am a huge advocate of pushing boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone. If you do not test these boundaries, how will you learn your limits? How will you discover new things? How will you find out what you love? If you spend your life in a box, playing it safe and doing the same routine; not only is this mundane and boring, but you are robbing yourself of discovering a whole new world. This philosophy is not just applied to the outdoors but also can be applied to your professional and personal life.

This was going to be the most challenging trip I have ever done. To add to this challenge, I planned to climb Mt. Tyndall from Shepherd’s Pass the next day with a friend who was visiting me from Utah! I talked all of this over with a couple of friends, and they were incredibly supportive and had faith in me. I also knew there were three ways to exit the trail just in case I could not keep a steady pace or if I became injured, and of course, I was going to carry my Garmin inReach. I told my work I was going to be off the grid for a few days, emailed my emergency contacts my trip itinerary and contact numbers for Yosemite SAR, hugged my dog, and headed into Tuolumne.

Raging rivers in the canyon

Raging rivers in the canyon

Day one: permit pick-up

I arrived at the Tuolumne ranger station at 8 AM to pick up my permit. There was a line of 7 people or so waiting for walk-up permits, and thankfully, the rangers helped whoever had a reservation first. I went inside, gave them my information, and told them my plan. I arrived on September 9th and was planning to complete the loop on September 11th. I was planning to be on the trail by 8:45 AM sharp. The ranger looked at me and told me that my permit entry date was for September 11th. I WAS TWO DAYS EARLY! I apologized and told him how humiliated I felt. I have done some pretty mindless things before, but never have I showed up for a trip two days early! He knew I was hiking out that day and I had 20 miles to cover, he talked to his co-worker, and they went ahead and gave me a walk-up permit without making me wait in that line. We talked about the Leave No Trace Rules, and he not only asked me if I had a bear canister but asked me which kind. I have never been asked this before. For those who are wondering, I have the Bearikade, which is gold! I thanked him a million times, he wished me luck and gave me directions to the trailhead, and I was on my way. Although I was off to a rocky start, at least I had good karma on my side.

Glen Aulin to Pate Valley

Hiking out of Glen Aulin was breathtaking. The sky was bright blue, the air was crisp, and there were so many waterfalls raging over the granite cliff formations. I hiked mostly downhill, descending the steep granite steps into Pate Valley. I walked (I was actually jogging) past Tuolomne Falls, Glen Aulin High Camp, California Falls, Le Conte Falls and arrived at Waterwheel Falls, where I decided to take a break and eat lunch. I was making great time and averaging 3.5mph. My pack was relatively light (32 pounds, including the six pounds of camera gear). My goal for each day was to start on the trail by 8 AM and stop hiking at 6:30 PM, so I had ample time to look for a campsite, set up my tent and cook dinner before it got dark and cold.

On the way to Pate Valley…

On the way to Pate Valley…

Morning reflections

Morning reflections

The fly apocalypse

After finishing lunch, I hiked through the Grand Canyon of Tuolomne into Pate Valley. The raging Tuolumne River cut through the huge granite walls that hovered over each side of the canyon. I felt insignificant and tiny among this powerful landscape. I continued to hike up steep granite steps to gain 1,000 feet of elevation to then hike right back down 1,000 feet into another valley. What goes up must come down, and this was the story of the trip. Pate Valley is at 4,000 feet, which is a lot of elevation loss compared to 8,000 feet. The constant up and down was tough, but the swarms of flies made it an absolute death march. These flies were relentless. I couldn’t stop because they would devour me. I would look back and see a black swarm following me. Thank goodness they were not biting, but no amount of DEET or any size bug net would stop them. For the first time in months, I wanted to cry. I was constantly waving my hiking poles in my face so I could have split seconds of normalcy. To be honest, I would never hike this route again because the flies were that bad. I swallowed at least a dozen, and the anxiety it caused me was indescribable.

The only photo I took of “myself”

The only photo I took of “myself”

My goal for day one was to reach Glen Aulin, which is about 30 miles, but of course, after the huge elevation change and World War III with the flies, this was not going to happen. After I clocked 22 miles, I found a decent campsite at the end of Pate Valley and knew day two was going to be even more challenging.

Berries on the trail in Pate Valley

Berries on the trail in Pate Valley

Taking care of my body

Each night before I went to sleep, I drank 1 liter of water, soaked my feet in the river, ate a package of electrolytes, and took a full dose (800mg) of Ibuprofen. I needed my body to remain strong, as I could not afford to hike slow or lose too much mileage; if I did, I knew I wouldn’t finish the trail. Prophylactically treating myself with Ibuprofen was a game-changer. My body did not ache in the mornings, and I felt relatively good for the number of miles and elevation change I was traveling.

Day two: White Wolf, death marching and bears

I awoke on day 2, quickly packed up my camp, devoured an espresso GU energy (I didn’t have the time to make coffee and didn’t want the extra weight, so I decided on espresso gels in the morning) and was on the trail by 8 AM. Within a mile, I can across a sign that read “bridge out.” I remember reading that this bridge was repaired, so I was a bit confused but was prepared for any water crossings that came my way. When I came across the bridge, there was a trail crew working on the repairs. I looked around, and thankfully the river was calm, serene even. It was about mid-thigh deep, so I knew it would be an easy crossing since it was not raging. I ventured towards the bridge and greeted the trail crew. I asked them if this was the bridge that was out. They replied, “yes, it is, but lucky for you, it is almost finished” I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, but I was curious. They offered to escort me across the bridge, telling me where I can and cannot step. “More good karma,” I thought to myself. I thanked the trail crew multiple times, and they wished me a great hike.

Bridge is out…

Bridge is out…

After a couple of miles, I started my climb out of Pate Valley into White Wolf. I gained 4,0000 feet in elevation over 4 miles, and the switchbacks were worse than the Mt Whitney switchbacks. They were never-ending. I was glad I camped in the valley last night because there was no way I could have made this climb on tired legs or in the dark. This never-ending death march became steeper and steeper, and I just started to laugh. I wanted a challenge, and clearly, God has a great sense of humor. At one point, I managed to roll my ankle, and I heard, “crack, crack,” however, it was minimally painful, and I was still able to hike on it. When I stumbled across views of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, I was mesmerized. It was stunning. I decided to filter water and soak my feet in a nearby stream. I made sure to soak my feet every day on this trip, even just for 10 minutes.

Hetch Hetchy reservoir

Hetch Hetchy reservoir

After about 10 miles of some of the hardest hiking I have ever done, I reached White Wolf. I considered getting off the trail at this point and hitching to my car. I knew day two was only going to be a 15-mile day if I continued, which meant I would have to do 25 miles the next day. This plan was starting to become ridiculous, but I was not yet convinced I should quit. I continued and ran into some fellow backpackers who were beginning their journey out of White Wolf. It seemed everyone was making the loop over 5-7 days or going from White Wolf to Glen Aulin in 3-5 days. I got a few strange looks when I told others my itinerary. Luckily I met one other guy on day three who had the same itinerary as me, which made me feel a little bit better.

After I completed the death march into White Wolf, I was greeted by stunning lush green meadows, cooler temps, and FLAT ground. I ran the next three miles. My goal for day two was to make it to Ten Lakes, but I had a feeling I may be cutting it too close to dark. I usually do not mind hiking in the dark, but only when I have fresh legs and a sharp mind. I don’t hike over mountain passes in the dark or climb down steep granite rock, so hiking in the dark during this trip was not on my agenda. I started to hike through a forestry area as the sun was setting behind the ridge. I changed into my puffy and pulled out my hat and gloves as the sun dropped behind the mountains. I had a gut feeling this was bear territory; it was also about 5:30 PM, dinnertime for bears. Within minutes of having these thoughts and while I was singing along to my music, a large black bear appeared on the trail about 30 yards in front of me. We both froze, and he bolted before I could even think about making noise. I was so tired to even process what was happening, and I think we both were simultaneously surprised. I stood there hoping there were no cubs around, and then I quickly continued on. I think bears and marmots are the cutest mountain creatures I have ever seen. I am not afraid of bears; however, I am always nervous I will run into a mom and her cubs, and that terrifies me.

 If only my dog will stop barking at bears during our walks through town or the Lake Basin.

 After the five-second bear encounter, I took this as my cue; I should probably start looking for a campsite. I was about one mile from Ten Lakes Pass and two miles from Ten Lakes. I couldn’t beat myself up about a 16-mile day and over 10, 000 feet in elevation change. I found a perfect campsite, and as I took off my boots, I felt the pain from my ankle. I definitely sprained it, and the compression and rigidity from my boots were minimizing the pain. One more day left!

Day three: Ten Lakes aka heaven

I awoke at 6 AM the next morning with hopes of being on the trail by 6:30 AM; however, after discovering my tent was covered in frost, and it was absolutely freezing outside, I quickly got back into my sleeping bag and waited until the sun rose. Once it was warm enough, I quickly packed up camp and headed for Ten Lakes Pass. I was tired. These miles and elevation changes were getting to me, and I knew I had a lot of ground to cover. But I also knew I was strong enough to complete this loop, and that strength is what carried me through. I arrived at Ten Lakes and could not believe how beautiful this place was. It was early enough in the morning that the lake reflections were in full force. I knew I wanted to come back and camp here. This area was one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen in the Sierra. Unfortunately, I was on a time crunch, so I quickly climbed over the ridge and began to descend steep granite switchbacks. I climbed over so many ridges this day that it felt disorienting.

Ten Lakes was a dream…

Ten Lakes was a dream…

Can’t wait to plan a trip here…

Can’t wait to plan a trip here…

I had to remind myself of my sense of direction continually. The views of Tuolumne Peak were stunning, but I knew I had at least seven more miles to Glen Aulin and four miles from Glen Aulin to my car. It was 3 PM in the afternoon, and it was dark by 8 PM. I had five hours to hike 11 miles. Yes, this is very doable for a day hike. This is even doable on a multiday hike. With a sprained ankle, and after pushing myself to the extreme the past two days, I was a bit nervous this was going to be a challenge.

I hiked for five miles as fast as I could, and when I realized I was going to be hiking in the dark, I sat down to rearrange my pack. I knew it was going to be a full moon, so I was going to have natural light, but I also knew I was going to be extremely tired. As I was getting out my headlamp, my warm clothes, and my dinner, I noticed my car keys were missing. I frantically tore apart my entire pack while trying to come up with a plan of how I was going to get into my car without any cell service. I was a wreck. I always put my car keys at the bottom of my bear canister, but they were not there. I figured they must have fallen out at camp early that morning. The last place I looked was in my electronics dry bag, and after praying and simultaneously swearing at myself, I found my keys. I spent 30 minutes tearing apart my bag and wasted so much energy on crazy emotions. This was my final sign that I was exhausted. I am not an emotional person in the backcountry, so when my emotions do come out, it is a sign I am tired and need to stop. I told myself when I reached the end of the loop; I am going to set up camp and hike the last 4 miles to my car in the morning.

Hiking in the dark

I hiked the last couple of miles in the dark, and even with a headlamp and a full moon; it was becoming difficult to find the trail. I gave myself two more rules; if I had difficulty finding the trail and/or if I ran into switchbacks, I was going to call it and set up camp immediately. I finally completed the loop at Tuolumne Falls at 9:00 PM on day three.

I felt it was unsafe to hike the last four miles to my car because I was exhausted and delirious. I was in communication with both my dog sitter and my friend, who was coming into town from Utah, and I explained to both of them my plan. I was proud of myself for completing this 60-mile loop in 3 days but stressed that I was spending an extra night on the trail. I knew I set up my tent off the trail, but I had a hard time deciphering how far off. I also knew I was technically hiking out a day past my permit, however in the event, I did come across a ranger, I would explain to him my journey, and I was not going to compromise my safety. As I lay in my tent, all I could think about was the last four miles to my car, my sore ankle, if I had any important work emails to return, and how am I supposed to hike up Shepherds Pass in the next 36 hours. I also was simultaneously grateful I made it this far for my friends who sent me funny stories and jokes through my Garmin inReach and for Christie, who runs Sierra Dog Ventures for taking such good care of Moo. 

Too many waterfalls to count…

Too many waterfalls to count…

The final home stretch

I awoke the next morning at the crack of dawn and hiked to my car as fast as I could. I made the hour drive back to Mammoth, unpacked, showered, took Ibuprofen, soaked my ankle in Epsom Salt baths, and waited for Moo to come home. I had six hours to reset, take care of my ankle, pack my bag, and hang out with my dog before my friend arrived. We were off to backpack Tyndall the next morning!

 Throughout the entire three days, I ran into only a handful of people. I also only came across two other groups of females; the rest of the hikers were male or mixed-gender groups. The trail was not crowded, which I much appreciated.

All in all, this trip was incredible. I pushed myself to my core, I hiked through stunning scenery in solitude, and I learned I never want to go back to Pate Valley, but I do want to go back to Ten Lakes. I am forever grateful to the kind rangers and trail crew who helped me when they did not have to. And of course, I am lucky to have people like Christie from Sierra Dog Ventures and Judy and Allie from Donna’s Dog Boarding who take the best care of Moo and also put up with my backcountry shenanigans. This trip was one for the books, and I am so glad I did it!

Trip details

  • Trail: Grand Canyon of Tuolumne: Glen Aulin to Pate Valley to White Wolf to Ten Lakes back to Glen Aulin

  • Season: Mid September

  • Mileage: 64ish miles

  • Net Elevation: 24,000 feet

  • Highest Elevation: 9,000 feet

  • Lowest Elevation: 4,000 feet

  • Dogs: no

  • Permit: yes

  • Parking: Along the dirt road at Lambert Dome parking area

  • Weather: Dry, 80’s during the day and 20s-50s at night.

    Thanks for reading,

    See you on the trails

    Xx,

    Kristen

Trip Planning, Goal Setting and Picking the Best Backcountry Partner

A recipe for happiness: Friends, alpine lakes and Moo.

A recipe for happiness: Friends, alpine lakes and Moo.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
Louisa May Alcott

Exploring the Hoover Wilderness: Saddlebag Lake, Conness Lake and 20 Lakes Basin

This past summer, I have had the pleasure of spending the majority of my time in the backcountry. I spent many days exploring new trails, paddle boarding on alpine lakes, fording swift rivers, and even learning how to backcountry ski. I went on solo 60-mile backcountry excursions, bagged a couple of 14ers, hiked fun easy treks with friends and suffered through extended knee breaking day trips with my dog in tow. Over the past couple of years, I have learned to set many different objectives when I venture into the outdoors. My outdoor partners and I have essential discussions on whether we are going to bring wine or vodka and if we should also bring along blow up rafts and bikinis. We also discuss the practical stuff like weather, alpine gear, and strict turn around times due to inclement forecasts. I have come to learn that not every trip has to be an "accomplishment", in the sense of bagging a massive peak, or doing loads of miles each day. An accomplishment can mean having tons of fun, frolicking in lakes, improving my photography skills, or spending hours watching my dog run around alpine meadows.

A day without bright colors is a boring day…

A day without bright colors is a boring day…

I have also learned to choose my backcountry partners wisely. I have about ten close friends who I backcountry with on the regular and although I love each one dearly, I am very attuned to each of their limitations and preferences. Some of these friends have zero desire to hike 20 miles in a day with me, others cannot stand the snow, and a small handful will be up for any adventure I plan. I also have some friends who I will struggle to keep up with and who will challenge me to my core. Having an agenda and a goal in mind for each trip is important because it not only determines the purpose of the trip, but it determines who you will have the most fun with in the backcountry.

To solo or to not solo?

I recently completed a 60-mile loop in three days with a total of 24,000 feet in elevation change. I started from Glen Aulin and made my way to the Grand Canyon of Tuolomne via Pate Valley up to White Wolf to Ten Lakes and back to Glen Aulin. It was an absolute sufferfest, and my goal was to push myself physically and mentally so far out of my comfort zone. I wanted to test my strength, endurance, and willpower. Although I would have loved a backpacking partner, I honestly didn't have anyone on speed dial who would jump at this chance. So, therefore, some trips like these are better off as a solo adventure.

Fun is the goal of this trip

When my friend Brandi reached out to me about a backpacking trip over Labor Day, I jumped at the chance. Brandi is extremely easy going, and FUN and I like fun! She told me she did not want to do big miles or any crazy elevation gains so I decided on a stunning, moderate loop off of Tioga Road. We had a quick phone conversation to discuss goals, gear, and alcohol, and the decision was final, Saddlebag Lake and 20 Lakes Basin over three-days. Low miles, lots of swimming in lakes, minimal elevation gain, non-quota permits, and only an hour away from where I live.

  • Trip details: Saddlebag Lake, Conness Lake, and 20 Lakes Basin

  • Permit: Yes, non-quota

  • Dog-friendly: Yes, but be mindful of the paws 

  • Miles: 15

  • Highest elevation: 10,800 feet 

  • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet

  • Parking: On the side of the road

The long path to fun…

The long path to fun…

One too many tequillas

Living in Mammoth during long holiday weekends means one thing; I need to escape the crowds. Vodka, rainbow blow-up rafts, swimming in alpine lakes, playing fetch with my pup and just enjoying Mother Nature, were the only items on our agenda. We decided to go out to dinner Friday night before our Saturday morning early departure, and I may have had one too many tequilas. Yikes! I am pretty sure I had a tequila to go and took it on the trolley with me back home.

Easy to say, the next morning was brutal. I felt like death, but with Brandi's motherly help, I powered through! We had to make a couple of quick stops in town and everyone who I ran into, declared, "Kristen, you look like death!" Yes, I was hurting. Brandi drove my car to the trailhead after trying to convince me to eat some food at The Mobil Mart, but I could not even keep water down. I had an emergency bag in the car, and we may or may not have had to pull over multiple times on the 395. I was off to a rough start.

Your dog is your own responsibility

Our first day consisted of an easy 2.5-mile hike into our campsite, so I was not too concerned. I could take it slow, puke my brains out and chug along. I was armed with Pedialyte, ginger and lots of water to keep me as hydrated as possible. After all, my philosophy is "I can do ANYTHING for two miles"! Within the first half-mile, we saw a dog that was overheating and needed to be treated then carried off the trail. The owner declared that I should carry her dog back to the trailhead (we were hiking the opposite direction, I had a 45-pound pack, I had my dog to take care of, and I was actively puking). I was in no shape to carry out a 50-pound dog. The lady was annoyed when I said, "I couldn't". She had the option of pouring water on her dog, soaking a t-shirt in water and wrapping it around her dog, allowing her dog to actually drink water and the list goes on. She was persistent in having someone immediately carry her dog off the trail, and I was not going to be that person.

The first lesson of the trip: If you are bringing your dog into the backcountry, make sure you can carry him/her out on your own and also understand how to prevent and treat heat exhaustion in your pet.

Reflections from Saddlebag Lake

Reflections from Saddlebag Lake

Broken tents and tequila sickness

Since it was a holiday weekend, the trail was extremely crowded. I was nervous; some dude was going to walk by me and give me the lecture on "altitude sickness" when I had "tequila sickness." As a result, I tried to keep it together and only vomit when nobody was around. Mission accomplished! We arrived at Greenstone Lake and took our time looking for a campsite that was not on alpine meadows or within 100 feet from the lake. We came across the perfect spot and started setting up camp when Brandi noticed her tent poles were broken. I was pretty sure I was done puking for the day, but I still felt like garbage; however, I knew I had to help her. We devised a plan, spent over 30 minutes re-constructing her tent poles, and I used my duct tape from my first aid kit to hold her poles together.

#TeamworkMakestheDreamwork

The second lesson of the trip: Always carry duct tape in your first aid kit

After we set up camp, I blew up my rainbow raft, and we ran for the lake. The water was refreshing, and Moo surprisingly ran in after me (she is not a water dog). We frolicked around for a minute and spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing on a rock. We were content, and Moo was off chasing all the cute marmots, flies and lizards to her little heart’s content. 

Queen Moo, living her best life.

Queen Moo, living her best life.

Granite waterfalls on the way to Conness Lake

Granite waterfalls on the way to Conness Lake

More tents than square footage

As we were cooking dinner, we noticed hoards among hoards of people setting up camp on alpine meadows. Many of the campers were also setting up their tents way too close to the lakes (like within a stone's throw away). I have never seen anything like it, in all my years of backcountry adventuring. I was downright disgusted in regards to how people were disrespecting the backcountry rules. Rangers work extremely hard to herd cats and to create a safe environment in the outdoors, and it is incredibly disheartening to see so many people have zero respect for Mother Nature. Although this area was under a "non-quota" permit; it is still required to walk into a ranger station, request a permit and listen to the lecture on the particular backcountry rules that are set in place to protect our environment. 

The third lesson of the trip: Leave No Trace regulations are in place for a reason. Please respect the rules, so these areas are around for your children and grandchildren to enjoy. 

We settled into our tents, and I started reading a new book that I could not put down. It was a new moon, so I was overly excited to photograph the night sky for my very first time. I woke up around 11 PM, and the Milky Way was shining in all her glory. I set up my tripod and camera and got to work! Astrophotography is a skill that takes practice. I spent over an hour shooting the night sky, and for my very first time, I was pretty stoked on some of my photos! By 1 AM, I was back in my tent, cuddling with my pup! 

Oh Starry Night

Oh Starry Night

Our backcountry “home”

Our backcountry “home”

Conness Lake is dreamy

We woke up nice and slow the next morning and started to plan out our day. Our original plan was to backpack to Lake Helen and set up camp; however, Brandi's tent was broken, and neither of us wanted to take on that task again during this trip. We also had an incredible, private campsite, and after seeing the hoards of people, we had a gut feeling Lake Helen was going to be packed! We decided to keep our camp and day hike to Conness Lake and around the entire 20 Lakes Basin Loop. We made the right decision. The crowds were out of control, the number of illegal campsites we saw around the lakes was disturbing, and it is always so much nicer carrying a daypack instead of our full overnight set up! 

The fourth lesson of the trip: Be flexible, plans can change, and sometimes for the better. 

Conness Lake and all her glory

Conness Lake and all her glory

We headed off to Conness Lakes for some alpine lake swimming. The two-mile trail was stunning. Moo ran and ran through alpine meadows, and we stood in awe of the granite, the waterfalls, and the views. The short climb was enough to get our blood pumping, and as we approached the second lake, we couldn't wait to go for a dip! I blew up my raft, and we immediately jumped in the turquoise lake. The frigid water took our breath away. We laughed at how ridiculous we must have looked, but we were having SO much fun. Once we could no longer feel our limbs, we jumped out, dried off in the sun and marveled at the beauty. As we were sitting in our bikinis on the granite rock, a nice gentleman offered to take our photo. He couldn't figure out how to work my camera, and the wind blew our raft away. He quickly retrieved our raft, took our pictures, complimented my sweet dog, and off he went. We need more men like him in this world; kindred souls who empower women to be themselves. 

Tent city and rock scrambles; Greenstone Lake to Lake Helen to Odelle Lake

We ate lunch and decided that we should get on with our day since we had about nine more miles to go. As we continued hiking the 20 Lakes Basin loop, we kept commenting on the number of disrespectful people pitching their tents wherever they felt like it. It was becoming a tent city!

After about five miles, we scrambled over some pretty rocky terrain on the way to Lake Helen. As we navigated our way through the boulders and rounded the corner of beautiful Lake Helen, we were grateful we did not choose to camp here, as it was overly crowded with tents, ice chests and lots of people playing music.

As you approach the backside of Lake Helen, you can continue the loop or verge left and go up Lundy Canyon. At the beginning of the summer, I hiked to Lake Helen from Lundy, and it was a type 2 suffer-fest. I do not recommend it!

Cornices are pretty but they can kill you…

Cornices are pretty but they can kill you…

Views from Greenstone Lake

Views from Greenstone Lake

The trail from Lake Helen to Odelle Lake was extremely rocky. I eventually packed Moo into my pack to protect her paws as we hiked up through the canyon to Odelle Lake. Odelle Lake was stunning, and it was void of people (my kind of lake). We continued the loop and made our way back to camp just before the sun was setting. We got cleaned up, cooked dinner, and reminisced about our day. Moo ran straight into my tent and passed out. We once again fell asleep under a sky littered with bright stars. We had a successful 10-mile day.

Lake Helen with Moo in my pack

Lake Helen with Moo in my pack

Will work for that Alpenglow

We awoke the next morning before sunrise to set up my camera, as I wanted to shoot the alpenglow. I do not function without coffee, so it took me a while to get my act together and adjust my camera settings appropriately. I had the most magical six-minute window as the sun hit Conness Peak, and I was in awe. When I was finally satisfied with my captures, I made coffee and began to pack up my camp. Moo was already off running around and guarding our campsite.

Good morning, Conness Peak

Good morning, Conness Peak

Looking for marmots

Looking for marmots

Air horns and cranky old men

We began our hike out on the opposite side of the lake from which we hiked in. As we were approaching Saddlebag Lake and as Moo was trotting along the trail, a cranky old man who had his tent set up in an alpine meadow, blew his air horn at Moo as she was approaching his camp. She barked and barked, and my friend and I both had steam coming out of our ears. She quickly ran off, not giving a care in the world about this guy. She had marmots to chase and could not be bothered by a hostile camper, but Brandi and I were both pretty bitter. That man must have felt like a fool for blowing his air horn at a 12-pound little dog, who did not even react. He could have yelled at her, asked us to leash her, and nine other possibilities before blowing his air horn. He also had his food spread out all over his campsite, inviting bears and marmots to a feast. We joked that he probably carries bear bells (the most annoying thing on the trails) and bear spray (which is illegal in this area). I was so over all the nonsense I witnessed on this trip, that I did not have the energy or the desire to approach this man about his erratic and inappropriate behavior. 

The fifth lesson of the trip: My dog has a better temperament than most people. 

Me telling Moo that she must always live her best life while she is hopelessly scanning the grass for marmots.

Me telling Moo that she must always live her best life while she is hopelessly scanning the grass for marmots.

The hike out was stunning and was much less crowded than the trek in. After 3.5 miles, we arrived at our car and headed back to Mammoth. Our hearts were full, our spirits were rejuvenated, Moo was dead tired, and once again, I was incredibly grateful for another friend who willingly puts up with my shenanigans on the trail. I am also eternally thankful for my healthy body that carried me to these beautiful places. 

Sometimes innocent and easy backcountry fun is just what we need

We accomplished our "goals" for this trip. We relaxed, had a blast, swam in lakes, and were able to enjoy each other's company while still overcoming unexpected obstacles. We did not do any big mile days, summit massive peaks, or backcountry ski a line; we just had fun.

I used to only think about the destination in terms of "I want to backpack here" or "I want to bag this peak" or "I want to do this many miles in this amount of time." When I look back on these objectives, I sort of laugh at myself. I won't lie; I still plan trips where I set goals that are out of my comfort zone. However, not every journey has to be about stroking the ego, chasing fear or gunning for adrenaline. Sometimes, we can all use a little bit of innocent backcountry fun.

 Thanks for reading!

Hope to see you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen

Solo Adventuring in the Outdoors as a Female: Is it Safe?

An Open Letter to Every Woman in the Wild

"Feminism isn't about making women strong. Women are already strong. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength."

G.D. Anderson

A water crossing over Piute Pass July 2019

A water crossing over Piute Pass July 2019

  • “You are going by yourself?”

  • “Is it safe?”

  • “How do you protect yourself?”

  • “What if something goes wrong”?

These are just some of the many questions most females, including myself, are asked when we exclaim that we are going on a solo adventure. I see so many posts on social media about how so many women are nervous about hiking alone or how their partner will not allow them to adventure solo. This sense of fear and uneasiness makes me sad and I hope this blog can empower at least one female to get out there by her badass self and conquer any trail, crag or mountain she desires. The majority of the folks in the outdoors are extremely pleasant, friendly and humble but sadly there have been multiple cases this past year of physical and verbal attacks on women, and as a result we need to be smart.

Views of Mammoth August 2019

Views of Mammoth August 2019

Snow fields and sun cups for days July 2019

Snow fields and sun cups for days July 2019

The harsh reality of being female

As females, we live in a society where unfortunately we are taught from a very young age to always be “on guard”, to pay attention to our gut feeling and to be careful. I grew up with a badass younger brother and we were both raised by the strongest woman I have ever met and although it was always instilled in me that I should be aware of my surroundings and be in touch with my intuition, I never grew up in a household where fear was instilled. My mom never taught me to be scared of certain people or of certain environments and I think this is one of the main reasons why I live a very fearless and a very fulfilling life. She told me from day one to be independent, to make my own money, to stand up for myself and to “never let a boy touch you where you do not want to be touched and if he does, punch him in the mouth”. My mom says some ridiculous things!

Yes of course, as women, we always have to be on guard and sadly, men do not understand this. We have to wait for our Uber inside the bar just to be safe, watch our backs in a gas station at night, be weary of being date raped at parties or bars, be mindful when we are walking or running at night or walking through a parking lot, walking to our car etc. In other words, as women, we must always be careful and mindful of our surroundings even if we are not fearful. Guys do not understand the risks we, as women, take on a daily basis. I have had conversations with my brother and best guy friends and have asked them if they ever worry about being mugged or attacked while walking down the road or walking home; men simply do not need to take the same precautions we do. Is it fair? Nope. Is it reality? Yep! I have had friends who have been attacked and raped and I am sure many women who are reading this are victims themselves or know of victims. It is the sad reality and my heart goes out to every female who feels she is no longer safe, but I truly believe being safe in the “real world” and being safe on the trail are two very different things that simply cannot be compared. Trail safety is a thing, a big thing, but this should never ever discourage you from getting out there on your own!

Deer Lakes August 2019

Deer Lakes August 2019

But are we safe on the trails?

When I am asked if I feel safe going into the wilderness by myself, I often chuckle, roll my eyes and make a snarky comment about how I am more at risk of getting into a car accident on the freeway or having an unsafe encounter in a gas station at night. As women, we are always at risk, and more so in populated cities and public places. I have had a handful of dangerous encounters with creepy men in big cities but when I am on the trail, I feel so much more at ease.

Guys play a major role in women empowerment

I know a lot of men who do “not allow” their significant others to go hiking, climbing, skiing or backpacking alone. I say dump these dudes, seriously! But in reality, it is totally normal for our loved ones to be concerned about our safety, happiness and well-being. But seriously, guys please support your female partners in their solo adventures in the outdoors. You can play such a huge role in empowering the women in your lives!

Duck Lake August 2019

Duck Lake August 2019

A stunning alpine lake at sunset

A stunning alpine lake at sunset

My definition of “glamour shots”

My definition of “glamour shots”

Getting personal: How do I protect myself on the trail?

Conceal and carry…or not

I am often asked if I carry a weapon or pepper spray and the truth is I do not. I do not feel I am in any sort of danger on the trail to the extent that I have to go to these extreme measures. I truly believe the outdoors is a safe place and with enough street smarts, grit and intuition, we as women, can conquer the trails.

I once considered (for about 10 minutes while standing in Moab Gear Traders in Utah) purchasing a knife but in reality I truly believe I will not be able to get to my weapon in a timely manner to actually do something to my attacker. I wonder “if my attacker saw my weapon, would he be more prone to shoot me right there?” Fumbling with a knife, even if it is in my pants or attached to my body or grabbing my pepper spray off my pack strap makes me wonder, “can I potentially cause more harm to myself because of my slowed reaction time, and my clumsy hands combined with potentially making my attacker more violent”? I also wonder, “what if they grab my weapon and use it on me?” I personally am extremely anti firearms of any sort (please refrain from the gun debate and politics) so carrying a gun is just not my jam.

With that said, I have many girlfriends who do carry a weapon on the trail and I believe if it makes you feel safe and if you are comfortable using your weapon (and actually know how to use it), then by all means, go to town…

Wear headphones…sort of

My main line of defense is my wit, my gut, my two fingers and my 12-pound terrier mix. Let me explain. I get around, literally. I have traveled all over the world and have hiked thousands of miles in the backcountry by myself so I can handle a creepy dude here and there. For the most part, I do wear headphones on the trail because I simply do not want to be asked a million questions about my pup, but what many do not know is I rarely have any music on. A tactic I picked up while traveling across India by train. People think you are unaware of what is going on around you because you are listening to music, when in fact, you know exactly what is happening but just do not want to be bothered.

Sure, I will smile and wave and have the one off conversation here and there on the trail but my solo outdoor time is not my idea of a happy hour.

Side note: If I do have music on, I only have one ear bud in so I can be aware of my surroundings while jamming out to some nonsense Justin Bieber. For that same reason, I do not wear earplugs when I sleep on the trail. I want to be able to hear if something or someone is out there and I want to be able to hear my dog bark.

Follow your gut

This leaves me to my next line of defense, my intuition. I can smell a creepster from a mile away. If you are a dude on the trail who is giving me the creeps then I will kindly step aside and let you hike in front of me. I may even sit down and eat a snack and watch my pup run around in circles. Basically, I do not want any creepy dudes behind me, ever. I feel that if they are in front of me, I have the upper hand.  I seldom tell people I meet on the trail where I plan to camp that night, sure sometimes I meet some incredibly rad people and I want nothing more than to tell them my life story and become best friends but I vibe it out. If my gut is telling me, “this guy is cool and is harmless” then I have no problem talking about my journey. But if I meet a creepster who wants to know where I am camping or where I am hiking to, I will often make something up or simply respond, “not sure yet, wherever Mother Nature takes me”.  In terms of camping, I have unfortunately camped next to some creepy dudes (who set up camp after me). I considered moving my tent but did not feel I was in any imminent danger. I have had friends who have straight up, picked up camp and moved because they pitched their tent next to creepy McCreepster. Do not hesitate to move your tent, trust your gut.

Go for the eyeballs

My pointer finger and middle finger on my right hand are my secret weapons. I have been told by many self-defense instructors to go for the eyes. If I ever get into a situation where I feel physically threatened, these two fingers will take out someone’s eyesight. I can guarantee that.  Sometimes I tell my guy friends this and they tell me “Kristen, you need to stop going around telling people this, it is weird”. Sure it is super weird, but I know any guy can physically overpower me but not one guy is going to physically overpower me when he is blind. Let’s talk about self-defense classes because I am a huge fan of these. I think it is super empowering for women to learn how to get out of violent physical holds by men and I encourage every woman to take one of these classes.

Get an “attack” dog

If you did not know, I am overly obsessed with my pup, Moo. She is the cutest, sweetest, hilarious and most adventurous canine I have ever met. Although she has no viscous bone in her body (and she weighs 12 pounds) she sure does know how to spot creepsters. She is by no means an attack dog and she rarely ever barks, but every so often she will stand next to me and bark at a random individual on the trail until he/she is literally out of our sight. She has chased weird men out of my campsite and she makes it very obvious she wants nothing to do with you if she senses you are a creepster. I have hiked almost 1,000 miles with my pup so I am incredibly in tune with her as she is to me, especially in the outdoors. We are a team! Dogs can truly keep you a little bit safer on the trail and I feel so much more at ease when she is with me.

Moo, the “attack dog”.

Moo, the “attack dog”.

Whistles, alarms and air horns

I actually have a whistle on my running pack and my backpacking pack (but not any of day packs, useful huh?). I actually have these two whistles to scare off furry creatures rather than creepsters but a noisemaker is always a good idea to alert that you are in potential dangers. Growing up my mom always used to carry this heavy “rape whistle” on her keys. She would even tell me, at my ripe age of 9 years old, it was a rape whistle and it sort of made me chuckle but as we get older, we clearly become more like our mothers, right?

I have seen people carry alarms that attach to their back pack strap and also know people who carry mini air horns; which I think are way less annoying than the constant jingling of those damn bear bells!

Crags for days…

Crags for days…

In my backyard…

In my backyard…

Other safety precautions to take when you are solo adventuring

  • Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to be back and who and when to call in case they do not hear back from you.

  • Baby steps: maybe start with a 2-mile solo hike first to build up your confidence

  • Know your limits

  • Have some experience in the backcountry before you adventure solo

  • Be knowledgeable about back country navigation

  • Carry a photo ID on you.

  • Carry a Garmin InReach, it can truly save your life.

I recently had a guy friend tell me that if women needed to carry a Garmin InReach in case they needed to activate the SOS button, then they probably should not be in the outdoors. I thought this was one of the most ignorant comments I have ever heard. No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are, Mother Nature is stronger, faster and wiser and there may be a time when you need to activate your SOS button and do not ever feel ashamed for that.

For a review and my personal experience using my Garmin inReach, I have included both links.

I am the first person to jump in an alpine lake…

I am the first person to jump in an alpine lake…

Wildflowers in the Eastern Sierras

Wildflowers in the Eastern Sierras

Remember, you are a QUEEN

Of course, tragedies do happen because well there are creepy guys everywhere, even in the wilderness. But in my 16 years of adventuring solo I have had two encounters in the backcountry where the hair on my neck stood up and my gut was twisting and tumbling. As women, we are the queens of intuitive feelings however often times we do not follow our gut and we end up in danger. So my biggest word of advice when adventuring in the backcountry solo is TRUST YOUR GUT. If something just feels off, then it probably is so either take a different trail, allow the weird creepy dude to go ahead of you, move your tent to a different campsite or worst case scenario, get off the trail. But never allow fear to keep you from getting into the wilderness by yourself. You are more likely to be hurt driving on the freeway, walking home at night or going out to a bar. I truly believe with my whole heart that solo adventuring as a female is not only safe but incredibly rewarding and empowering and I encourage every woman to get out there on her own and experience it for the first time.

Packed Moo in on mile 11 out of 15. The previous day she did 12 miles.

Packed Moo in on mile 11 out of 15. The previous day she did 12 miles.

To read more on why I love traveling solo, here is another cheeky but informative blog post written by yours truly on why women should embrace their bad-asser-y more often!

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass."Maya Angelou

Thanks mom, for instilling this sense of empowerment in me!

(I honestly do no even know if she is aware I have a blog)

Hope to see you on the trails

Xx

Kristen

Photography in the Outdoors

Falling in Love with the Outdoors All Over Again Through the Camera Lens

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“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
— Ansel Adams

 I have zero artistic ability but I have always had a keen eye for angles, colors, patterns and textures. My favorite era of art is Post-Impressionism, Vincent Van Gogh is my hero, I have seen The Lion King on Broadway 12 times, I spend way too much money collecting antique furniture and I am obsessed with Sunflowers (the painting and the real live flowers). I often design my own bags and jewelry when I travel abroad and I can spend hours and hours perusing art museums and antique stores. I strongly believe I have a natural artistic vision but when it comes to putting my vision into reality, it often ends in disaster (I cannot even draw a straight line, or throw a stitch in any type of fabric). I have always been interested in photography but the competitiveness of the industry, the financial investment in lenses and the confusing technology deterred me from going anywhere near a camera. I was convinced I would get by just fine with taking pretty iPhone photos, and to be honest, it worked for awhile but after making the decision to spend the next three months in Africa, I knew I needed a proper camera to document my life among the zebras. I recently took the plunge and bought myself a big girl camera and I am IN LOVE. Before making my big purchase, I spent weeks researching cameras, talking with outdoor photographers and looking at all the fancy camera accessories because I wanted to be 100% happy with my decision. After I clicked the “complete purchase” button on the Amazon website I knew I had my work cut out for me. I dove right in, headfirst. I watched hours of YouTube photography videos, bought a couple of books and took a few private lessons with well-known local photographers in Orange County. If I was going to spend a decent amount of money on a camera, lenses and accessories, I better know what I’m doing right?

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Photography in the outdoors is a steep learning curve. I struggle with lighting, become overly annoyed when a strange person stands in the middle of my photo, and will take 300 shots before I am happy with one image but documenting Mother Nature through the lens of my camera has been one of my favorite learning experiences thus far. If you have a camera, I will most likely ask you a million questions about your settings with the hope I can learn one new tiny trick or tip. If you do not have a camera and you are hiking with me, I apologize in advance for making you wait on the trails while I take 58 photos of the same leaf.

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 I am not in anyway an experienced photographer and every time I pick up my camera, I struggle with finding the right angle, the right settings and the right lighting but I also find myself completely engulfed in the task at hand and to be honest, very few things in life receive my undivided attention. I have honestly fallen in love with nature all over again through the lens of my camera (my Sony alpha 600 to be exact).

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If you are on the fence about picking up a camera, learning a new hobby or stepping out of your comfort zone, I strongly urge you to do it. Take the leap of faith and invest in your happiness because you will not only find more joy in life but you may inspire others during your journey. Below are some of my favorite photos I have shot within the first month of owning my new camera and I cannot believe the next time I share photos I will be writing to you from Africa (I am currently en route on a 22 hour flight).

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 Thanks for reading and following along in my journey.

 See you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen

Social Media and the Outdoors: The Third World War

Dear Girls Across the Globe,
Let's stop body-shaming each other with hurtful comments about how another girl looks or doesn't look. We are all beautiful in our own unique way; so let's speak about each other with the dignity that we would want others to have when they speak about us.
” 
― Miya Yamanouchi, Embrace Your Sexual Self: A Practical Guide for Women

Trying to get that perfect shot for the ‘gram =) But more importantly, I finally bought a real CAMERA. The Sony alpha 6000 is my new child. I cannot wait to share some of the photos I have taken with this camera! I plan on using this as my everyday camera in Africa and hoping to take some stellar safari shots.

Trying to get that perfect shot for the ‘gram =) But more importantly, I finally bought a real CAMERA. The Sony alpha 6000 is my new child. I cannot wait to share some of the photos I have taken with this camera! I plan on using this as my everyday camera in Africa and hoping to take some stellar safari shots.

Most of us can probably agree that social media is CRAZY. Filters, poses, rose colored glasses, the perfect outfits, hair and makeup just to post that perfect photo on the ‘gram and potentially risk falling off a cliff (too soon?) is a just a bit over the edge (no pun intended). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good photo, a funny caption and an inspiring story and I have met some great people through social media but the amount of back and forth on whether or not social media is good for the outdoors seems to be a hot debate (just Googling “social media and the outdoors” brings up a plethora of well-written blogs and articles by some very well known magazines and outdoor authors). I have seen people get in fights on social media over this topic (keyboard warriors who fight behind screens) and I have read a lot of great and not so great articles on this topic and yes overcrowded trails do lead to destruction but I truly believe there is an underlying issue here that goes beyond the outdoors.

 One camp argues that social media is ruining the outdoors by overcrowding the trails, creating more human impact on Mother Nature, and advertising all the earth’s “secret spots” to the general public, thanks to geotagging (just the debate over geotagging makes my head spin). They also argue that SAR missions have drastically increased in the recent years due to social media (I believe there are many more factors involved other than social media).  The opposing camp argues that social media is a great way to bring the outdoor community together and there is a lot more encouragement to get outside (especially for the younger generations). Also, most people did not grow up hiking and camping so they use social media as a way to gain education and insight on how to prepare for the outdoors (guilty as charged, if you are reading this blog).

 This one is for the mean girls

I personally have witnessed a surge in crowds in the outdoors, especially in National Parks over the years and yes, I believe outdoor adventuring has become a marketing fad but I also believe in the healing power of Mother Nature and if more people are experiencing serenity in the outdoors instead of the hustle and bustle in urban everyday life, isn’t that a good thing? Are people getting outdoors to enjoy the healing power of nature or are people getting outside just for the ‘gram? To be honest, I really don’t care because there are much bigger issues at hand.

Social media has a disturbing impact on everyday life and it is affecting female self-esteem in a negative manner.

I still wonder to myself, “does the general public understand that social media accounts are curated profiles?” THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE PEOPLE!

Haha told you these photos are curated!

Haha told you these photos are curated!

And reviewed and edited…

And reviewed and edited…

I have had many girlfriends tell me they have become depressed by looking at social media accounts because they feel as though their lives are not worthy, they are not good enough, not pretty enough, not adventurous enough and they are missing out on all the fun. I know people who are so obsessed with Instagram to the point they only hike with people who have a certain number of followers (umm exclusive much?) Instagram is no longer “instant” posts but curated photos that could be days, months and years old that people are most likely posting while lying in bed at home. Let’s not forget the hair, makeup and fake poses that are often depicted on top of Half Dome. I was in Yosemite last summer camping with a group of gals who would take an hour to get ready because they had to put on fake eye lashes so they could look good in photos they were posting on social media (I ended up spending most of the weekend by myself because I do not want to be around anyone who wears fake eyelashes in the outdoors).

What happened to real women in the outdoors getting dirty on the trails, climbing rocks and not giving a damn if their hair is messy and they have sweat stains under their arms? As women, shouldn’t we be bonding on the trails, posing for silly photos, sharing stories and drinking wine? Or are we seriously getting into nature to just have a library of beautiful photos on Instagram so we can judge each other and compare our lives to a complete stranger?

I truly believe instead of debating whether social media is ruining the outdoors, we need to focus on what social media is doing to women and our society. We are tearing each other down, fat shaming girls we don’t even know, comparing ourselves to women who spent an hour putting on fake eyelashes and attacking each other for taking topless photos (do not even get me started on what I see in the mental health and eating disorder world of social media).

 Let’s get real on social, shall we?

Let’s talk about our mishaps in the outdoors, our embarrassing moments, why we have found healing in nature and let’s educate the general public (in a positive manner) why we choose to get outside.

No matter what you see on social media, remember you are beautiful, stop comparing yourself to another individual’s highlight reel, post that photo of you with boob sweat on the summit, and please do not allow other people to tear you down.

Real life versus Instagram. I carry sheet masks with me when I camp, backpack and travel and I may or may not wear them in my tent, at camp or in the car.

Real life versus Instagram. I carry sheet masks with me when I camp, backpack and travel and I may or may not wear them in my tent, at camp or in the car.

A super dirty, sweaty and happy selfie…

A super dirty, sweaty and happy selfie…

Ehh… I am mildly obsessed with Smokey the Bear and I may have already been a bottle of Champagne in deep. Are my eyes open?

Ehh… I am mildly obsessed with Smokey the Bear and I may have already been a bottle of Champagne in deep. Are my eyes open?

 **For those of you wondering (and maybe even judging), YES I am on social media. I love using social media to connect with friends and family members and I find it incredibly useful for travel information, photography tips and it is a great way to stay in contact with people who I meet on the trails.  I also use social media as an avenue to share this blog as well as my Psychology Today Blog. Writing has been one of my passions since I was in grade school and I have learned to use my electronic pen and paper to share my thoughts, experiences, mistakes and lessons with others in hopes they can gain knowledge, self-esteem and maybe have a laugh or two. Do I deal with trolls and crazy people on social media? Yep, every damn day!**

Thanks for reading and see you on the trails,

Xx

Kristen