River Rafting Essentials

I'm going on my first multi-day river rafting trip this weekend and I am so pumped. This trip has been on my bucket list since I was little when I flipped through National Geographic magazines in the dentist's waiting room, and I can't believe it's happening. On Sunday, Mike and his family and I are leaving for the main Salmon River in Idaho. Luckily, they are pros so I don't have to do anything other than come along for the ride (literally), but I was still clueless as to what to bring. A whole week on a raft means minimal packing and creative hygiene strategy. So, after much planning and some shopping, I developed a solid packing kit. Here's what I will be bringing on the Salmon!
river rafting gear

Pelican Small Storm Case

Used by the military, these waterproof, shockproof cases are excellent for storing expensive, fragile items like a DSLR camera, on a raft that will be jostled, bumped, and well, wet. They're lightweight, watertight, and guaranteed for life. Plus, they come in a thousand different sizes, styles, and are customizable too.  

Athleta Bathing Suit

Bikinis are no-go. You want something that will stay on, and let's be honest, still look kinda cute. 

Teva Churn Water Shoes

These water shoes have saved my life since I bought them and they'll be coming with me on the Salmon. Their fold-down Shoc pad heel allows you to wear them as slip-on clogs! This style isn't available anymore, but that's because Teva has improved on them with Churn Evo. 

PrAna Mindy Sun Hat

I actually picked up this sun baby in Moab, Utah when I was rock climbing and really needed more protection from the desert heat than just my sunglasses could provide. This straw hat is durable, stays put even when I ride my bike, and has a brim just large enough to shelter the tops of my shoulders. I love the beaded crown accent too. 


Okay, everyone knows that you can't possibly go on a river trip, or be a Coloradoan, without a pair of Chacos. I love the purple ones pictured above, but I'm actually going to be wearing the same pair Mike wore when he was eight years old! 

Water Bottle

Common sense? Yes. But dehydration is probably the biggest danger on any lengthy outdoors trip. Stay hydrated! I like Nalgenes because I can cover them in stickers. :-P


Of course, my Fujifilm X-Pro1 is coming with me! And, my GroPro. I have the Hero 3, but the 4 is now out my friends, and you'll want to get all of your adventure in first-person point-of-view style. 

Nuun Tablets

Electrolyte enhanced water tablets replenishes your body with energy after you've been sweating it out all day on the river. Did I say stay hydrated? You can get these pretty much anywhere btw (REI, Sierra Trading Post, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, etc.)

EcoXGear Eco Extreme Speaker/iPhone Case

Can't float down a river without some tunes! This speaker is waterproof and impact-resistant protecting your iPhone, Android or Mp3 player with some extra room for cash. Best part? Don't worry about dropping it to the bottom of the river, because it freaking floats

Some other things I'm bringing, but aren't pictured are:

Bandana: One that provides UV protection, quick-dry technology, and is an insect repellant--hi yah!-- -because my curly hair is going to be knarly by the end of this week-long trip. 

Rain Jacket & Waterproof Pants (what?!): It's a river trip, you're gonna get wet, so why waterproof clothes, you ask? Because being wet on the river is cool, but when you camp for the night and it's raining, it's no bueno. These are just-in-case measures. Always be prepared friends!

Hammock or Sleeping Bag: This is your preference. Hammocks work well for river trips because they pack down to almost nothing, but I'll be bringing my super light sleeping bag, and throwing it down on the sand under the stars. No tent needed. :)

Here are a few other links (more guy-geared) to river rafting pack advice that I found helpful!

10 Things You Absolutely Should Pack for a River Trip from The Clymb
What Gear Should I Bring on My Multi-Day Rafting Trip? from Outside Magazine

Have you ever been on a rafting trip? What did you bring? Let me know in the comments. Hope you found this list helpful! :) Can't wait to share the adventure when I return! 

Obsessions of July 15th, 2015

I don't know about you, but I often go through obsession phases for certain things, and these obsessions exist in my daily life like a faint pattern, like the lines on my hand.

Currently, for me, it's names. All of them, because names can define or identify or contradict. And textiles, hand-dyed fabrics; hands stained with faded grays and charcoals. And the way cream blooms in a glass of iced black coffee. And, chairs. There's an interesting graphic circulating that illustrates one person laying across seven chairs (chairs representative of wealth in America) and a group of people trying to all sit on one.

Here's some link love for my current obsessions. 
Cold Brew Coffee Linens Chairs

Cold Brew Coffee with Cream

An obsession with coffee is nothing new, and every day has been hardcore hot here in Colorado until the thunderstorms roll over town from the foothills in the afternoon and cool everything down. But until then, I nurse the hotness with some cold brew from my favorite cafes in town. If you want to save some money though, try making your own at home! Here's the recipe for making homemade cold brew from "How Sweet It Is." 

Fog Linens

A brick and mortar shop out of Japan that spins Lithuanian flax fibers into their simple, daily linens. Just picked up two of the navy seersucker kitchen cloths on sale for $8.00 at Rain, a local boutique in Fort Collins, but you can also get them (preferred over any other pattern) here.  

More & Co.

This Portland, Maine studio and shop supports collaborations and makers, and all of their items and artists are beautiful like this graphite on paper seascape by Francisco Faria. Maybe this piece is magnetized for me because I live in a land-locked state and I'm an Atlantic Ocean girl. But I can't stop drooling over their tumblr, "A Little More Like This." 

Maple Wood Bar Stools

I just picked up an IKEA folding leaf, wall-mounted kitchen table at a tag sale (that's New England for garage/yard sale) for $10 the other day--score! So I've been lusting after a couple of simple stools like these maple wood bar stools from Chairish. I love that they have butt mold. 

What are some of your obsessions lately? Would love to hear them in the comments! 

Twin Sisters Peaks

Every time I drove south from Fort Collins, along I-25, I gazed out the window at Twin Sisters Peaks, pointed and said, "I want to climb those." Today, Mike and I summited these beauties, at (only) 11,428 feet, this hike has some of the most spectacular scenic views of the Continental Divide. 

[Psst: If you want to skip ahead to the good part, the top-of-the-world vistas are at the bottom of this post.] 

For a Sunday in July, this trail was also not terribly crowded. We passed a variety of hikers, a group of women who called themselves the "60+ Club," and us, "The Spry Ones," as well as four eighteen-year-olds audibly playing Tchaikovsky from a backpack, though we had plenty of quiet time and space on the trail to ourselves. 
In September 2013, Estes Park experienced a devastating flood that washed away roads, bridges, and houses, and a landslide that had wiped out part of our trail! 
Luckily, the trail, while a bit confusing, is well-marked by cairns. We stopped in our trek to stare at the shocking amount of land that had fallen from above us.
After the landslide area, and some significant climbing in elevation (a total gain of 2,475 feet in only 3.5 miles), we passed through the Krummholz (German for "twisted wood") area that grows between the alpine and the spruce-fir forest, which by the way, smells amazing. I plucked a small piece of fir and held it to my nose for a good portion of our hike! 
It was here, in the Kummholz, almost at the top, that we just couldn't wait any longer for lunch. So picked a rocky seat and ate the first half of our sammies with the mountains behind us and a cool breeze cooling us down. I was super into my hummus, red pepper, turkey, and tomato combo. 

After a bit of lunch, we felt much more energized, and continued into the alpine area of our hike.
Our trail companions are so tiny!
And were greeted by clusters of the tiniest wildflowers.
We barely spent any time in the alpine before we were suddenly...


With the most incredible views I've seen of my beloved Rockies. 
And the closest I've been to Long's Peak since I summited it two years ago!

There's an East and West Sister; they're fraternal as one is slightly taller than the other, and of course, I had to make sure I finished on top of both--to keep things fair. ;) Seated in the saddle, the area between the two peaks is a radio tower used by the USDA Forest Service to save lives, locate lost hunters and downed aircraft in the national park and forests. 

The wind REALLY picked up once we summited East Sister so we scrambled down to begin our descent. I've done a few high-altitude hikes, but I learn something new every time, and today, it was that I can't expect the same experience from all of them. This seems like a pretty obvious conclusion, but I'm thinking about elaborating in a tips for high-altitude hikes post (like how to strike a balance between not eating a giant sandwich at high elevation and getting altitude sickness and how to make sure you pack enough food for sustainable energy.)

All in all, success!

At Week's End

The weekend ends the work-week but when you're a graduate student and you work through the the days most people are rebooting, whether at your part-time pizza joint job or grading papers for your assistantship, Fridays don't quite sparkle as much as they do for everyone else. The weekend usually feels like a week-start, go figure. So anyway, in the spirit of the weekend, here's what I'm up to.


Great House by Nicole Krauss

For the second time. I've read History of Love three times. My good friend just picked up History of Love and I'm stoked to see what he thinks. Krauss gets a lot of smack from critics, but I like her. So there.


Allison Weiss, Remember When and Say What You Mean

Gutsy, punked pop, not-too-sweet, but also not trying to prove too much. Here's her newest album for ear-pleasure. Listen to her cover of "Call Your Girlfriend."


Took a bike ride on my new Performance roadie up to Horsetooth Reservoir with the intention of "beaching it," but when I arrived, the water level was so high it had washed away the entire...shoreline? (What is reservoir language?!) Anyway, I made do until a couple of thunderstorms rolled in from the Rockies, and forced me on my way back home. 
Tomorrow, though, Mike and I are hiking Twin Sisters! Can't wait to share the experience. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Take Your Breath Away: Hanging Lake, CO

I absolutely love hosting friends and family in Colorado. There's more to show them than time allows, and this visit from my best friend Aly was no exception. I sent Aly the link to "20 Colorado Places That Will Literally Take Your Breath Away" and told her to choose the places her wandering heart desired, and she chose Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, Colorado as one of our many destinations. 
If you aren't familiar, Hanging Lake is a natural geological phenomenon. For thousands of years, two waterfalls meet to form a rare, elevated lake, maintaining a stable ecological system and a lush, hanging plant garden--both fragile and in danger of "too much love."
That's right, we love this national natural landmark so much, we're smothering it. Although the National Park Service (NPS) has enforced a variety of etiquette guidelines (aka RULES) for experiencing this place (Basically, see with your eyes; not your hands, feet, or wading torso), enforcement is our responsibility as visitors. Cue "America the Beautiful" fanfare and feelings of pride and accountability, right?

Well, many people become a little over-excited, and neglect the countless signs that plead with visitors: "Please do not cut corners at switchbacks" and "No dipping body parts into the water or walking on fallen trees within the lake as contaminants from your body will impact the fragile ecosystem."
During our trip, one such visitor ventured out onto a fallen tree within the lake (the tree pictured, above, in the title photo). Of course, her friends (four or five of them) wanted to do it too (Monkey See, Monkey Do), until an entire group of young adults in a mere ten minutes had waded their bodies through this delicately balanced environment. You can imagine how hard it was to watch, especially since the National Parks Service says: "It is not only our responsibility to police our own actions and that of our families and friends, but also to gently remind other visitors that may not be aware of the rules and why they exist." 
Mikey decided it was important to gently remind these visitors of environmental respect and caution. Unfortunately, he put himself out on the line, and while many other bystanders supported him, the visitors who trespassed became upset. 

While I feel blessed to have experienced this place and didn't violate any of the rules, I still felt guilty, personally responsible, for my presence as a part of the crowds of people who, scrambling to see a piece of natural paradise, threatened to damage it for good. 

If you feel the need, donate or volunteer to the NPS to protect our natural landmarks, and when you visit, please, respect the landscape around you. 

Some believe it might be better to seal off these places to visitors in order to ensure their survival. What do you think? 

Hail the Voo: Climbing Vedauwoo

July 4, 2015

What better way to celebrate our country than to play in its natural beauty? 

The gang and I drove to Vedauwoo (pronounced Vee-dah-voo), Wyoming on Independence Day. As ever, I'm incredibly lucky because this "land of earthborn spirit" is only a glorious hour from Fort Collins, Colorado. What started as a temperate, holiday crag day though, flipped without warning to wild conditions...

Nick, packing up and heading out on the trail, tape-gloves ready.
We often choose to climb in the Reynolds Hill area because it's typically less crowded than Central, and one of the most scenic parts of the park. There are 33 routes in this area alone, and on the hike, we walked along wildflower meadows and aspen groves, and splashed through a refreshing brook or two.  
We found a giant mushroom brain on the path, which believe it or not, is totally edible and could've fed all six of us! (below)
Vedauwoo is the kingdom of crack climbing. Last year, as an inexperienced trad climber (naive and ignorant) I jumped on Maiden (5.6) and placed 3 out of 4 pieces of gear incorrectly. Translation: If I had fallen, I would've been up a creek, down 30 feet. [Do not attempt!] This year, I successfully, correctly, and safely lead Maiden, among a few others. It's so rewarding to return to a crag and crush. 
Here's Will sending Klink (5.10) without a peep. 
Some of my first times trad climbing was in Indian Creek in 2014 where I first met Stephen, one of the most supportive, encouraging, positive dudes I've ever met. If Steven says "You can totally do that," then I know I can do it! I was so happy to finally spend a day climbing with both him and his beautiful (inside and out) girlfriend, Joanna. "No way, I wear my fancy outdoor clothes when I go out on the town," she said. "For climbing, I throw on these Aeropostale jeans I've had since I was fourteen."

And then, out of nowhere, without warning:

Marble-sized hail fell from the sky. We scrambled to gather the gear and find shelter. Thunder rocked the sky, and the hail came down with the force of a thousand pellet guns. Luckily, a rock outcropping was close by and protected eleven climbers through the storm while we watched as an inch of ice coated the ground, and water crashed off the routes we had just been climbing. 

In the hurry to find shelter, I had left my Fujifilm X-Pro 1 exposed and unprotected in the wild weather. By some miracle though, once the storm passed as quickly as it came, I unzipped my soaking wet Ruggard Hunter 15 holster bag to discover that my camera was completely dry! If anyone is looking for truly rugged protection for your photo rig, go with this brand (not a plug, I'm just a truly grateful and satisfied customer!). 

We really experienced the unexpected beauty of our country on this climbing day. Hope everyone had a 4th of July that was just as adventurous! 

Confessions of the Matching Tat

I did the unthinkable, the taboo, the irreversible: I got a matching tattoo.

The one kind of tattoo most feared and most regretted, right? Do a basic Pinterest search and you'll find an infinite number (pun intended) of infinity symbols, locks & keys, heart halves, and anchors on all the seemingly same ankles, fingers, and wrists, but despite the eye-rolls and snickers these inks incur, sometimes, as you scroll through the images thinking, These idiots, how cliche, you kind of secretly want one.

And, it's okay! 

Matching tats are scary, for sure, but there's something exciting about sharing something meaningful with your better half, whether that person is your sister, brother, partner or best friend. I'm going to make the case, of course, that matching tats can be cool, individualistic, and (hopefully) guilt-free.

So, how do you go about even approaching such a topic without feeling lame? How can you be rational about something so completely irrational?

Here are some tips, myths, and confessions from our own matching tat experience!

1. WAIT.

For a long time. Not a day or a week or even a month. I know, it's wicked hard to wait once you've come up with the most perfect, genius idea, but I promise, you'll love it even more when you wait. Mike and I waited more than a year!


Just because the tats match, doesn't mean you two have to. In other words, the image may be the same, but your connection to it should be personal and individualistic. Choose an idea that represents you as an individual and shares something meaningful with your buddy.


Mandi: The Fibonnaci sequence, the perfect ratio as it's known, is a hopeful reminder, to me, that some things occurring in nature are perfect in their own design.

Mike: "The numbers of the Fibonnaci sequence work off their predecessors (0+1=1, 1+1=2, 2+1=3, etc.) I think it's beautiful how there is a mathematical way to represent a form derived from its functionality. We can find beauty in things that are functionally sound."


One of the biggest qualms about couple tattoos is: "Well, what if you break up?!"

Our tattoo actually contradicts this concern. We believe that the relationships you have with people are always permanent, because they happened. They are permanent in your memory sure, and maybe you don't want to remember certain relationships with certain people, but that person, and the effect they had on your character, who you were and who you eventually chose to be or continue to be is affected by the people with whom you choose to spend your time. So a matching tat was an outward expression of the internal effect that we've imposed on each other's person, whether it be a conscious or unconscious effect.

I know, deep. ;)


If you're in it to win it, cool. But don't think a matching tat is the equivalent of an engagement ring. 


Yeah, we did get some, okay quite a few, eye rolls from friends and raised eyebrows from family members. The less drama we made of it though, the less dramatic others seemed to react. In other words, it's no big deal. As long you and your matching-tatted friend are happy and confident in your decision. 


The nightmare: You and your matching-tat buddy show up for your appointment, and rock-paper-scissors for who goes first. You hold hands and take selfies in the tattoo chair and check yourselves in at the studio. The artist finishes the first one, and then you or your buddy freak out. It's not, after all, quite what you or your buddy expected. Now what?

The most important thing you can do is talk candidly with each other about everything, not just about the size, the placement, and whether it should be in color, but also about each of your intentions, the value of the tattoo, and the commitment. 

Talk it to death, and if you still love it, it'll last. 

And then, do the same with your artist. Our artist asked if we wanted our original design changed: Did we want thicker lines? Did we want it horizontal instead of vertical? Flipped instead of facing? Be prepared to answer questions, and agree or disagree with confidence!

My best friend of 16 years and I have tried for years to design a tattoo that we could get together, and no matter how many awesome tats we created, I still couldn't commit. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it didn't feel right. In the end, don't ever pressure yourself, and always go with your gut. 


Plant the idea and let it grow into something you finally feel as if you can't live without. 

What are some of your thoughts about matching tats? Anyone else share a tat with someone? Would love to hear your stories! 

< > Home