The Art of Going For It, In Praise of Crappy Gear

Here I am in 2007 wearing a borrowed canvas bag to hike 27 miles into the Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world located outside Arequipa, Peru. I don’t remember any discomfort or frustration with my insufficient gear, however, I do remember finding joy in the fact that of the all the people in the area, this is the bag the only American was lent.

Here I am in 2007 wearing a borrowed canvas bag to hike 27 miles into the Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world located outside Arequipa, Peru. I don’t remember any discomfort or frustration with my insufficient gear, however, I do remember finding joy in the fact that of the all the people in the area, this is the bag the only American was lent.

What makes for a memorable adventure? Is it the views, the camaraderie? Or is it the “oh my god, how am I going to get through this?”

While I wouldn’t classify myself as a “gear junky,” the description isn’t too far off and possibly only false due to limited funds. While I don’t have the latest and greatest, my gear closet contains a healthy quiver of backpacks, bikes, and skis perfectly suited for any adventure. I’m also a steadfast advocate of the Boy Scouts’ mantra of “Always be Prepared.” The Ten Essentials were only the starting point, even for minor hikes. A first aid kit worthy of an EMT, water to hydrate a platoon, and clothing for any weather change. To be fair, there were many times where my excessive precaution came in handy - spare clothing and water for my chronically less prepared friends, and mole-skin aplenty for the group’s blister needs allowed adventures to continue unabated.

Recently, I’ve had to challenge this OCD level of preparedness and I’ve found it has created a welcome perspective on adventure. During last year’s training for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, a poorly timed family vacation to Seattle three weeks prior to the race threw a curve ball in my training. I needed to ride, but didn’t want to pay the cost to ship a bike nor rent one. So, I borrowed my brother-in-law’s slightly too small commuter bike, took the semi-clipless pedals off my sister’s bike, negated the must-have emergency items (pump, patches, tools, even a water bottle!), and went for wonderful 3 hr rides around Seattle. I am fortunate that I didn’t flat, but I knew the odds were unlikely and I could likely flag down a patch and pump from a fellow cyclist. Was I thirsty? Absolutely! And my cotton t-shirt was drenched in sweat.

Founder of Root Adventures, Breanne near the summit of Nevado Pisco in Peru in the year 2007 wearing only rented gear. Age of gear unknown, but it didn’t stop her from climbing to 18,871 feet!

Founder of Root Adventures, Breanne near the summit of Nevado Pisco in Peru in the year 2007 wearing only rented gear. Age of gear unknown, but it didn’t stop her from climbing to 18,871 feet!

I think we’ve become too comfortable in our outdoor adventures. We wear jackets and backpacks or ride bikes and skis that have as much R&D behind them as the Apollo space program. We carry GPS receivers that display our location on a map with pinpoint accuracy. The level of technical performance is stunning. But, have these advancements sanitized the adventure-ness of our experiences?

Learning to ski as a child in the Pacific Northwest was synonymous with embracing misery. My memories of those years include skiing in near zero visibility mist, at night, with a jacket and gloves becoming saturated with water. Straight skis, rental boots, and impossible snow conditions. It wasn’t fun and there were plenty of tears, but it was memorable!

It begs the question, what makes for a memorable adventure? I would argue that it’s some combination of physical discomfort in incredible natural environments that yields unforgettable memories. Yes, we can go further, longer, and faster with state-of-the-art equipment, but based on that formula, the jean skier, or the backpacker outfitted at the army surplus store, or even the backcountry skier embarking on snowshoes with skis strapped on the back, is having a grander adventure simply due to his increased discomfort and sense of uncertainty. Worse, this relentless advancement of technology has created an elitist mentality pervasive at some ski areas and trailheads. Rather than celebrating the guy or gal mustering the courage to tackle the very same trails on inferior gear, we silently snicker while riding off on our own plush comfortability enabled by the latest gear.

I loved cruising on my hardtail Stumpjumper for 16+ years until it was stolen.

I loved cruising on my hardtail Stumpjumper for 16+ years until it was stolen.

If we answer honestly to what our personal idea of adventure is, then it’s time to toss the latest ski magazine’s Buyers Guide straight to the recycle bin. Your gear is just fine. So, reintroduce some of the adventure by leaving the GPS watch at home and hone your map and compass skills. Wanting to try a new sport? Rather than drop several thousand dollars, borrow your friends’ gear, or check Craigslist for used gear.

Loving the outdoors and travel shouldn’t require a six-figure income. The only thing that matters is getting out there and creating memories, even if that includes being woken up to rain dripping through your dad’s decades old hand-me-down tent. Those are the memories that last.

Now go make some memories today!

— David, Root Ops Guy


The Joy of Real Food in the Backcountry!

Everyone’s happier with REAL, good food!

Everyone’s happier with REAL, good food!

Yes, yes, we know! Weight is at a premium when you must carry everything into that pristine backcountry spot! But some things are worth their weight. And I’d argue that REAL, good food tops that list. I know those freeze dried meals have “come a long way,” but not far enough, even for this non-foodie. The idea of hiking miles into the woods with a normal (not-ultralight, competitive set-up) to eat a meal for astronauts befuddles me. After all, we’re not going for a Fastest Known Time on the Appalachian Trail or competing in a multi-day adventure race. My favorite part of backpacking is cooking and consuming those hard-earned calories!

The poor man’s one-pot tofu phad thai!

The poor man’s one-pot tofu phad thai!

After climbing for miles and setting up camp, a big part of me just wants to curl up in my sleeping bag and call it a day. But really, why did I hike so far if not to enjoy the whole experience? I, for one, don’t hike just to get a pretty picture (that’s just an added perk!). I love nothing more that creating a backcountry masterpiece with my camp buddies and reminiscing over the day’s adventure. There’s not much else to do in the evening, so everyone is ready to help; many hands make light work and we are rewarded with a hot meal, great conversation, and loads of appreciation.

My go-to backpacking meals include: chicken fajitas, veggie pasta, a poor man’s phad thai, and berry pancakes. I certainly take some shortcuts in preparing my dishes, but fresh veggies and real ingredients abound!

Tips + tricks to make the best of backcountry cooking:

Popcorn is the BEST backcountry treat! And it’s density makes it and easy addition.

Popcorn is the BEST backcountry treat! And it’s density makes it and easy addition.

Stasher bags always make an appearance on my trips.

Stasher bags always make an appearance on my trips.

  • New to backcountry cooking? Buy a backcountry cookbook.

  • Use reusable containers! Sure those ziplocks seem desirable because they don’t weigh much, but let’s do our best to reduce our impact on the natural world by  if you’re in the backcountry, chances are you like nature. Let’s do our best to eliminate single-use plastics.

  • Save weight by carefully considering the amount of ingredients you will actually eat! Just because the tortillas come in packs of 10, doesn’t mean you need to bring all of them.

  • Mix spices for each dish in a Stasher pocket bag

  • Don’t forget your cooking oil! I like butter and ghee because they are a solid and less likely to leak on my gear. I recommend packets designed for baby food to store my oils and sauces.

  • Drain any beans, tuna, tofu, and other ingredients containing excess water

  • Just add water pancake mix like Birch Benders is the BEST. Be sure to measure enough for your party!  Adding berries or other fruit is an added bonus.

  • Popcorn is my FAVORITE backcountry treat! Bring a cup of kernels, toss it in some butter and enjoy! It’s also like backcountry tv for those areas with fire bans.

  • Rice noodles are incredibly light and quick to cook. My favorite dish is a poor man’s Pad Thai!

  • Pre-cut veggies to eliminate excess weight and waste.

  • Pre-cook and cut your meat to eliminate excess waste and reduce chances of foodborne illnesses.

  • Use plain ole ice to keep your items cold and limit weight for the hike out

  • If you want to keep weight as low as that of the freeze dried packets, make your own! Place instant rice rice or rice noodles, veggies, and any other ingredients in a Stasher stand-up bag and just add boiling water at the campsite, add a premixed peanut sauce once all ingredients are cooked.

  • Platypus bottles work great for pasta sauce…or any other sauce!

  • Good coffee is always a welcome treat on those cold mornings. A lightweight Aeropress makes delicious coffee, perfect for sipping out of a custom Root Adventures Miir mug.

Get your own  Rooted Mountain Miir Camp Cup  in our shop! Perfect to keep your beverages warm OR cold!

Get your own Rooted Mountain Miir Camp Cup in our shop! Perfect to keep your beverages warm OR cold!

My go to cookware:

What did I miss?! What are your favorite backcountry recipes, tips, and tricks?

Say Thank You, Not Sorry!

Celebrating making it down the hairpin turns!

Celebrating making it down the hairpin turns!

I always wanted to learn how to mountain bike but never made it a priority. That all changed last month.

——

At 37 years old, I hop on my very old and heavy bike gifted to me by my generous friend. With little skill and perhaps too much optimism, I join 4 badass women on the trails of southern Colorado.

The trail starts with an immediate and persistent ascent. My excitement and inexperience lead me to exhaust my energy within the first couple miles. With shaky legs I make it to the top ready to take it easy. We head down our first descent. What a blast! Perfect single track free of rocks and roots with small whoop de doos. Perfect for this novice but ambitious biker. I take a couple falls on the hairpin turns, but nothing to knock my spirits. I jump up with a little extra adrenaline and a smile on my face and catch up to my patiently waiting friends. I give them a thank you, they offer encouragement and off we go again.

Whoop de dooooooooo!

Whoop de dooooooooo!

We reach a huge (okay, huge to me only) whoop de doo. The ladies are soaking in this opportunity to catch air! They offer their best tips on how to approach it. I gain speed, set my weight back, and go for it! I made it to the otherside (no air, but made it)! They ask if I want to give it another go and I decline…I can feel “the end is nigh.” I mean…I do have to go back UP that exhilarating descent. I take a few pictures of the kickass ladies and let them know I may be at my end.

We meander our way back up. Shockingly, it wasn’t so bad. After a quick lunch break, we hop back on our bikes with a bit more pep and optimism. I clip-in and immediately tip over into a cactus - my pep and optimism are clearly a facade. Too bad the end is still 4 miles out.

At this point, I knew most of these badass women a total of 2 days. It’s amazing what adventure can do to cement new friendships.

At this point, I knew most of these badass women a total of 2 days. It’s amazing what adventure can do to cement new friendships.

Without an option to bow-out, I carry on. The girls inform me there is a slightly easier option out, but they are all going the “fun way”. Never one to turn away from fun (or the safety of traveling with a group), I opt to take the hard way out with the rest of the group. After receiving a couple tips on how to handle these tight-turn whoop de doos, I’m off. And it feels good! Like, really good. I’m going fast, I’m moving my weight with each turn, it is all finally connecting. I catch up with the group and they offer their encouragement and excitement for my improvement. I could get used to this.

With my ego enlarged, I continue pulling up the rear. I hear my friend Jenna shout, “watch out for this root!” I come around the hairpin turn and find the root with my tire. I do my best to hold the line, but ultimately lose it. I come down HARD! Jenna later informs me she knew it was bad when all she heard was silence. I’m having a full-on panic attack and am still clipped in, laying on the ground straddling my bike. I remember Jenna asking several questions and thinking, “I know the answer to that, just tell her the answer!” She is phenomenal at calming me down. Her calm, confident questioning remind me that I am in control. My breath returns to normal, I unclip, untangle myself from the bike, and try to stand up. SHIT! My knee! I finally get to my feet. The pain is tolerable, so long as I don’t bend my toes or my knee. Perfect.

Babes biking in sequin skirts!

Babes biking in sequin skirts!

Jenna and I walk to meet the group. We devise a plan to get me out as easily as possible. Two girls bike ahead to bring the car closer. Two girls stay with me to help navigate our way out. It is all I can do to keep myself from apologizing. All day, I’ve been holding up the pack and have made a concerted effort to thank them for their patience and keep a smile on my face. No one wants to adventure with the negative apologetic, but most everyone enjoys a joyful, appreciative optimist. But now, after putting our ride to a complete stop, I can’t help but feel guilty. I am apologizing profusely in my head, but want to show these lovely women how much I appreciate them, not ask for their forgiveness. I tell them about my efforts to refrain from saying I’m sorry and they are in complete agreement and express their appreciation for my positive attitude.

Becky KILLING it on the whoop de doo!  P.S. If you’re lucky enough to know Becky Marcelliano, you’re lucky enough!

Becky KILLING it on the whoop de doo!

P.S. If you’re lucky enough to know Becky Marcelliano, you’re lucky enough!

The day could have been a bust! It could have been a day full of anger and frustration and self-deprecation, a day I would look back on with resentment…I mean, I fell 5 times, tore my meniscus and bruised my patella. But it wasn’t! It will always be one of my favorite memories simply because I decided to show gratitude, not self-hate. Apologizing for doing your best only signals you don’t value effort and it gives your fellow adventurers the impression that you are holding back (at their expense). If you’re doing your best, you have nothing to apologize for and everything to celebrate.

We make it to the car and I scream out in joy! I thank them all profusely! It’s time for some celebratory beers and a dip in cold water. As we sit in the nearby creek (to ice my knee, of course), we recount the day’s adventure, laugh uncontrollably, act a fool, and savour the joy that comes only when a group of women come together to live their best life and support one another!

— Breanne Kiefner, Root Adventures Founder

Post adventure dip in the creek, aka nature’s ice bath.

Post adventure dip in the creek, aka nature’s ice bath.

My personal favorite part of adventuring…stuffing my face!

My personal favorite part of adventuring…stuffing my face!

This Ain't It: When Death is Looming (and Your Kids are Watching)

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This ain’t it

The salt water mixed with blood and both dripped down to pool in the small holes in the rocks.  I stood doubled over with my hands on my knees in shock and confusion. The fly line was wrapped around my arms and the rod tip bounced on the rock while the rest of the rod was left to the mercy of the tide.

My wife, Heidi, broke the silence, “I think your leg is broken.” 

“It’s not broken.”  I quietly replied while still mentally evaluating each area of my body.  The adrenalin was wearing off and my nerves were waking up.  

“Are you sure it’s not broken?  It looks broken.  Like, it looks like your bone is sticking out.  See, that thing there, on your shin?  It looks like your bone is sticking out”

Everyone should have their wife standing next to them with colorful commentary while contemplating their existence in the galaxy.

“I just need a minute.”

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It had been a while since I felt the presence of death.  The last time that it seemed inevitable I had blown a tire in Mexico while passing a semi at 70mph. Memories are funny.  The clearest memory to this day is the sound.  The sound of wind blowing through every worn-out piece of weather stripping in a 1983 Vanogan as I fishtailed through oncoming traffic and the semi I was passing..  Fate willed the 8-thousand-pound vehicle off the highway and the first words from my co-pilot were "I owe you are margarita."   As one says, that was a different time.  I was younger, unmarried, no kids and being woken up by Mexican gunships or brawling with robbers in Argentina was par for the course.  Surviving was part of the experience and met with celebrations and pride. 

This was not “a different time”.  This was now.  My two children ran down the beach to join my wife and I on the rocks.

I felt shame.

+++

My wife and I reference travel-with-small-children as “trips”.  They are not vacations.  A vacation implies rest where another noun for trip is “a journey” and a verb for trip is “a stumble; misstep”.  Our trips typically combine the journey with the missteps. 

A trip is a travel badge we wear with honor.  When we land in a foreign country and re-navigate our comfort and unease of “why didn’t we go to fucking Hawaii” the two tiny planets orbiting our every move remind us.  Their minds are open and they trust we brought them here for a reason. 

In March 2018, we took our family trip to Costa Rica.  It was perfect.  And for the first time since we had kids it started to have the feel of a vacation.  We didn’t have to watch their every move, balance nap schedules, or keep them entertained.  They were showing their independence and we got to enjoy the beers and beach sunsets that reminded us of how lucky we are.  I even picked up a saltwater rig to test my luck on the Pacific. 

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The first day I set out was exploratory.  Moving along the rock outcroppings and trying to find some spots that looked good.  Then, blindly picking flies Russian roulette style, learning the rod, and slinging the sea creatures into the tide.   It was fruitless for fish but eye-opening for the experience.

Day two was more successful and I managed to land a couple small fish.  The internet was down (a truck that was too tall drove through the power lines in town wiping out internet for the week…. Pura Vida) and having done little research I can’t tell you what I landed but they were fish and we can leave it at that. 

The following day my wife and kids joined me on the beach. They were ready to see what dad was up to when I disappeared each morning and I was ready to show them.  The ocean was different.  The rocks where I previously stood were wet and the tide was rough and foamy.    Waves hit the outer line of the cliffs and sent the salt spray into the air.  I waited patiently, or what I thought was patiently, catching hermit crabs and building houses for our captives with the kids.  I checked back every ten minutes to see if the ocean had calmed.

After a quiet stretch I figured we were a go.  I bounced out on the peninsula in my flip flops and started looking for flashers.  I had seen some big fish the day before and was ready to put one on the grill. 

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But the ocean was still different.  The tide took control of my line on each cast and the likelihood of hooking up seemed slim. I fished for a while and  just couldn’t figure it out.  My inexperience fishing the ocean was showing and when I was about to move to a new location I looked at the horizon and noticed that a set was coming in.  The wave that was building looked bigger and gave me pause.  I looked back at my wife, put my hands up in the air like “what can you do” chuckled and thought, “bummer that I am about to get my shirt wet”.  I waited, squatted down to hold on, and planned to duck under the spray.

The Pacific laughed.  It reminded me of my insignificance.

I popped- up in a channel between the cliffs; panicked but aware.  My clothes were wet and heavy and I could feel one flip-flop twisted onto my ankle.  My immediate instinct was to swim the channel towards the beach and try to climb out.  A couple of strokes in to the swim and the water sucked out of the channel and pulled me further from land.  The next wave buried me. 

When I surfaced again I could see my wife on the cliffs above me.  The feeling of being physically helpless is unique.  It is not endurance tired or mentally drained.  Both mind and body work but are not built for the task.  The next wave buried me again, but this time into the rock that made up the cliff wall.  Sharp and unforgiving but land. A lifeline from the thoughts previously creeping into my head.  The water disappeared and I was left on the cliff.  All I had to do was climb out.

“Noah!  Hold on!  There is another one coming”

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Anybody who has been married long enough knows that the tone makes the sentence.  The tone that I heard was pillared on helpful, hopeful, and hopeless.   The last wave was a final reminder to make sure the new scars on my legs would be matched with the ones in my mind. The rocks felt like cheese graders under the pressure. I held on.

+++

Pop culture is a timestamp that can help frame a period.  A song, celebrity, or movie can jog your memory of a time or place totally unrelated to the topic.  Prior to our trip we had been binge watching the western show Godless.   Frank Griffin, the villain of the story played by Jeff Daniels would frequently repeat his famous line:

This ain’t my death.  I’ve seen my death; this ain’t it

That evening there was no irrational confidence like Frank Griffin.  We reset the vibe with a sunset, beers, and butterfly bandages; reflected on the journey and missteps.  But Frank was right about one thing.  We toasted our beers while our kids played out the light on the beach in front of us.   I tipped my can to the Pacific.  This ain’t it.




Building a Business in the Peak of Postpartum Saved My Life

Doing my best to share my knowledge of meditation and mindfulness with our son. Did you know you can listen to “stories” on the Insight app? Best options for toddlers!

Doing my best to share my knowledge of meditation and mindfulness with our son. Did you know you can listen to “stories” on the Insight app? Best options for toddlers!

If I hadn't suffered from postpartum depression, I wouldn't know my full potential. As they say, "it's darkest before the dawn."

It was a Wednesday. My boss was leading a team meeting and out of nowhere, I completely melted. I can't even remember what set me off, but there I was, crying in front of my colleagues. My boss asked me to "hang back." He was aware that my performance was lacking but hadn't had the nerve to confront me until he had no other choice. He was sympathetic to my state of mind but also had a business to run. In the kindest words possible, he said I needed to "get my shit together or I was out."

I had plans to meet my longtime friend and former coworker for lunch that day. Walking to lunch, tears poured down my face. I tried my best to compose myself, but she instantly knew something wasn't right. As a fellow mom, she knew the struggle of finding yourself in this new role and recognized the deep pain she had felt during her own postpartum depression. She sat with me for two hours and I laid all my pain on the table. Finally, after I had nothing left to share, she told me, "you need to start your own business."

The calm before the postpartum depression storm. Those early days treated our family well!

The calm before the postpartum depression storm. Those early days treated our family well!

That was it. That was all I needed to hear. In those seven words, she handed control back to me. I was not going to be a victim of my circumstances; I was going to own and change them. On the walk home, I designed my entire business in my head. I also made a commitment to first make things right with my current employer. I had a one-year-old son, a full-time job and debilitating depression, but somehow, I was going to do this!

Within a month, I had the business name, a mission, website and daily meetings scheduled during my lunch breaks with someone whom I could learn from (hint, hint…there is something to learn from literally everyone!). I reached out to every strong woman leader I knew and asked for their thoughts, opinions and any connection or education they could offer. I was still reeling from the dark cloud of depression, but I was starting to gain some control and it felt amazing. I dedicated myself to getting mysales numbers up at my current job during the day, loving my family for those couple hours I had my son in the evening and spent every other waking hour developing the business.

This day, I contemplated suicide. Read the  full story here .

This day, I contemplated suicide. Read the full story here.

Entrepreneurship (much like motherhood) is a thankless, grueling, lonesome mission. I needed encouragement and inspiration to help me maintain consistency. My commitment to connecting with people helped bring a little motivation every day. Every time I met with one person, I asked to be introduced to another. My confidence rose, my network expanded, and my ambition and energy level grew alongside my increasingly packed schedule. I worked out in the early morning, meditated almost daily, and started eating better, all in addition to my full-time job and developing business. I was now able to wake up and get my kid ready for the day, I showed my husband more love and appreciation and most importantly, I showed myself more love and appreciation.

In allowing people to help me and putting myself in a vulnerable position, I gifted myself confidence and inspiration. Not only was I returning to my pre-motherhood self, I was surpassing her. I was becoming who I've always wanted to be. My network even led me to a psychiatrist and mindfulness coach (yes, that's a thing! And a resource every person should seek out!) who both helped me rewire negative thoughts. I became a kinder, more empathic person focused on helping people connect. My business SAVED MY LIFE.

Realizing my dream of bringing  incredible women together  with the purpose of self care and deep healing!

Realizing my dream of bringing incredible women together with the purpose of self care and deep healing!

To be clear, the work is far from over. I forget to meditate for weeks at a time, I lose motivation to workout, I'll grab fast food because I have no energy to cook and clean, and occasionally feel like all this work is for not because my business could still fail. But I have two years of evidence of what can happen through hard work and focus. When I'm discouraged, I remember where I came from and where I want to go. Just today, my mindfulness coach led me in a visualization technique that started with recalling the joy and excitement of when my business was still only an idea and extrapolating that feeling forward to my future goals.

This is the face of an empowered entrepreneur, complete with double chin, wrinkles and age spots…all signs of a life well lived!

This is the face of an empowered entrepreneur, complete with double chin, wrinkles and age spots…all signs of a life well lived!

Depression is isolating, but I found connection and vulnerability to be an integral part of my recovery. To be clear, the road to mental health is long, winding and full of peaks and valleys. And my story is no different. I am still very much in the process of healing, but had it not been for the opportunity to create and connect, I wouldn't be where I am. Find the thing that excites and scares you. It may seem overwhelming, but there is a good chance that the very act of chasing that dream will help pull you out of the depths and give you a chance to seek help. Yes, there will be hurdles and heartache, but nothing is more empowering than taking control of the wheel on the road to reaching your fullest potential. Besides, what do you have to lose?!

With love,

Breanne Kiefner, Founder of Root Adventures

Finding Joy in the Long, Arduous Fail

Just after 30 miles into the race and feeling great!

Just after 30 miles into the race and feeling great!

“Everyone will reach a summit today. Maybe not the mountain’s summit, but their personal one. Enjoy the view wherever that is.”
-
Brett Okida, 2005, my mountaineering guide

 It is cold and clear at the 6:30am start of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. At 10,200 feet above sea level, I roll up to the start line with unwavering confidence that I will cross the finish line. Afterall, I enjoy suffer-fests and have completed numerous endurance events even longer in duration. There’s a chance I will earn the coveted sub-nine-hour finisher’s buckle, I think. Leadville, however, is renowned for breaking bodies, spirits, and equipment. With a shotgun blast from the race’s enigmatic founder, the pack begins the fast and cold sprint out of town.

 Road transitions to trail and the pace grinds to a halt as riders squeeze through choke points. The energy is palpable whenever the pack can disperse as riders mash their pedals, only to run into the next traffic jam proceeding the next climb or trail narrowing. The dust is relentless and it feels like riding through a nightclub complete with smoke machine and strobe light as the rising sun pierces the thin pine forest from my left. I alternate between sun blindness and glimpses of upcoming obstacles. Fellow riders are six inches off my front and rear tires an I’m rubbing elbows with the guy next to me. I’m loving it!

2nd visit with the family…exhaustion is setting in.

2nd visit with the family…exhaustion is setting in.

Rolling into the first aid station, I check my pace against the timetable taped to my handlebar: 9:30 hour pace. Awesome! Considering the traffic I contended with earlier, sub-9hr is within reach!

Several hours of smooth riding at a good pace and a quick stop at the Twin Lakes Aid Station staffed with my family and friends, the course begins the steep and relentless Columbine Climb: 3,000 ft of elevation gain over the next 10 miles, topping out at 12,600ft above sea level.

I’m normally a strong, determined, consistent climber. However, today, in the Tortoise and the Hare saga it seems I became a hare, albeit a very slow one. I stop multiple times to dismount, stretch my back, and catch my breath. Numerous riders pass, but I reel a few back in once remounting. I’ve never played this rookie-ish role before. I can’t figure out what my body needs. I leave the aid station refreshed and on schedule with my planned food and drink consumption. I focus on smoothly turning my pedals over. Again. And again. And again…

Fueling up at Root camp.

Fueling up at Root camp.

Following the arduous ascent and a terrifying fast descent I roll back into the aid station several hours later. I feel tired, but good considering I’ve mountain biked 60 miles over the last 6 ½ hours and I am confident I’ll finish, though sub-9 hours is off the table.

Several hours of relentless grinding and I arrive at the last significant climb of the race. Not long after I downshift to my granny gears and steady myself for the climb ahead, a minor knee discomfort that arose during the last few training rides returns with a vengeance. I simply cannot apply sufficient pressure with my left leg to ascend without gasping in pain. Nine out of ten riders are still pedaling but the climb is steep enough that I don’t mind walking. I remount with every flattening of the road. With each pedal stroke, the amount of force I can apply decreases until I am struggling on the mildest of hills. So, I walk. For miles I walk uphill in bike shoes to the click clacking of my cleats. I closely watch the time and compare it to my course profile. It hits me: I am not going to make the official 12-hour finisher’s cutoff.

Leaders of the race flying through.

Leaders of the race flying through.

At no point prior to today did I consider not making the 12-hour cutoff. It was a given that no matter how bad my day went I would still finish in time. I accept the situation surprisingly quickly but am still certain that I will cross the finish line, even if the race staff have gone home and I cross the line in the dark. I text my wife who is waiting anxiously at the finish, “Knee hurts bad. Am walking. No buckle.” Typing those words brings tears to my eyes.

I reach the top of the road climb and push my bike into St. Kevin’s aid station. This would be an acceptable place to stop. I’ve already pushed my bike for miles. I’ve been on my bike for 12 hours. But, I also know that with another thirty minutes of pushing my bike uphill I will reach the rolling descent back into town. I ask the staff for Ibuprofen. They respond, “No, it will cause your liver to fail.” Much appreciated advice in my delirious state.

Endurance racing is a team effort. I’m so lucky to have the support of my family!

Endurance racing is a team effort. I’m so lucky to have the support of my family!

 I remount and peddle 100 feet before having to dismount and push. And push. Ride a little, dismount at the slightest incline, push the bike uphill, ride and repeat. Fortunately, I reach the summit, accelerate with the descent and avoid pedaling unless absolutely necessary. Twelve hours earlier on this same section of trail I never imagined my day would go like this.

 I reach the valley floor and the rolling road followed by what I heard was a deceivingly tough climb back into town. My knee is getting worse with each pedal stroke. The bare minimum pressure, just enough to maintain forward momentum on flat ground is too much. I try unclipping my left leg and letting it hang while my right leg keeps spinning. That hurts worse. I am only miles from the finish, but the elevation profile won’t let me forget the remaining climb. Less than 10 miles to go, if I walk that’ll take 2.5 hrs in bike cleats? Ouch. I literally can’t pedal. Is this worth it? What am I doing to my knee?

My last smile of the race?!

My last smile of the race?!

At mile 96, with just 7ish miles to go (yes, it’s 103 miles total), with tears swelling in my eyes and my voice cracking, I call my wife and tell her I’m done. Other racers and course marshals encourage me to continue. I am so f*cking close. I just can’t. I have walked so far already, in bike shoes, nonetheless.

 As I wait on the side of the road for my friend’s truck, I recall the advice from my veteran mountaineering guide many years ago, “Everyone will reach a summit today. Maybe not the mountain’s summit, but their personal one. Enjoy the view wherever that is.” With that thought, I unclip my helmet, enjoy the last few sips of water, sit down to enjoy the setting sun and relish in what I accomplished.

My first DNF (did not finish). The finisher medal and the belt buckle would be gratifying. But the point of these events isn’t a piece of hardware, it’s to test one’s body, mind and spirit through the doubts and pain that accumulate over 13 hours of exertion. I don’t feel like I failed. Rather, this DNF feels more special than the races I did complete or the mountains I did summit. Those “victories” were amazing but getting slapped down and coming up short despite giving everything I had is unforgettable.

The Leadville 100 got the best of me that day, but I will return. And next time crossing that finish line will be that much sweeter.

My summit…

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IMG_1794.JPG

Solo Backpacking with a Toddler: You can do it!

Those lake views tho!!  Also the moment right before he soaked his diaper, adding a lead weight to my pack for the way out. #leavenotrace

Those lake views tho!!

Also the moment right before he soaked his diaper, adding a lead weight to my pack for the way out. #leavenotrace

I was scared sh*tless at the idea of solo backpacking with a 3yo and my pup, but was dying to be in nature. It took an hour to go 1 mile in 86 degree heat, but it ended up being the best memory making weekend in my life as a mother. Feeling like a BADASS and more in love with my kid than ever!

If you’re questioning whether or not to do the hard thing...this is your sign!

A few things I learned (of course this list isn’t comprehensive, so PLEASE know your skills and consider what you’re getting into!):

1) COMMIT! I know this one goes without saying, but I gotta tell you, it makes ALL the difference. Wednesday afternoon, I decided I wanted to go backpacking on Friday. As I packed on Thursday, I told myself repeatedly that “I could bail. Just bail!” On Friday, I loaded the car and said, “you can still bail!” As I was driving to the mountains I reminded myself, “it’s not too late to bail!” I loaded up my bag on my shoulders at the trailhead and again said, “you really don’t have to do this!” I started walking and my son was NOT in the mood (it was 86 degrees and sunny!) and I again told myself, “you can just turn around.” Somehow despite my best efforts, I made it to the lake, set up camp and had the time of my life! I only wish I would have just committed to the adventure from moment one! Think of all the stress I could have eliminated had I just committed!

Quesadillas! Is there a more efficient food out there?! And they’re delicious. And a shoutout to Stasher bags for helping me limit my single-use plastics!

Quesadillas! Is there a more efficient food out there?! And they’re delicious. And a shoutout to Stasher bags for helping me limit my single-use plastics!

2) Pack foods you know your kid loves. When I backpacked pre-kid, I remember meal time was my favorite part! Nothing is quite as delicious as a hard-earned backcountry meal! Things are different now! As is with all meals, our kid is SUPER picky - and that doesn’t change in the backcountry. I was sure to bring his faves: peanut butter, bars, raisins, and popcorn (what’s more fun than cooking popcorn over the campfire, aka nature’s tv?!). Sure I brought more substantial food like soup and quesadillas. NO ONE wants a hangry toddler in the backcountry, so I’ll let you guess what won out!

3) Include them in the planning. Toddlers (or at least mine) are like most adults, they are more apt to get onboard if they know what they are getting into. From the moment I decided we were going backpacking, my kid was a part of every step: packing, gathering food, talking about the hike, discussing sleeping in the tent, etc. By the time we reached the trailhead, he was STOKED! Did it stay that way…of course not, but we sure enjoyed those first 3 minutes of the hike!

This morning view made all the work worth it!

This morning view made all the work worth it!

4) Pack twice the water you think you will need or at least a water filter. And ensure you’ll be near a water source! Spills are inevitable and even more frequent when there isn’t a flat surface. Plus, spilling the water your mom carried all the way up the mountain out of a camelbak is just OH SO FUN!

5) Travel a trail you know well and DON’T be too ambitious! If this is your first time backpacking solo with a kid, I highly recommend knowing what you are getting into! Our trail was less than a mile each way, but it felt MUCH longer. I had a 50lb bag and a kid who wavered between “super excited” and “I’m going to sit here and dig in the dirt.” It took an hour to go less than a mile. Carrying a bag for 2 people for one mile isn’t so bad, but carrying that same bag for a toddler mile is a whole different story! Fortunately, I had done the trail before, so even though I was sure we had been hiking for miles, my knowledge of the trail ensured I knew we were in the right spot (and hadn’t overshot our destination by two miles, which my legs were trying to insist was the case!)

“[…]best memory making weekend in my life as a mother. Feeling like a BADASS and more in love with my kid than ever!”

“[…]best memory making weekend in my life as a mother. Feeling like a BADASS and more in love with my kid than ever!”

6) Include them in everything at camp! We have been camping with our kid several times and find camping to be the easiest place to parent. If you haven’t camped with a toddler before, you may see everything around you as a hazard, but truly, everything around you is a toy or a new discovery. Kids, by nature, love to help and contribute. And camping makes that trait even more apparent. Whether I am making dinner, filtering water, setting up the tent, feeding the dog or simply cleaning up, he wanted to help with EVERYTHING! And wanted to learn about everything. I am never concerned with his safety in the outdoors because he is too preoccupied with learning.

Our backpacking packing list:

Fire starter
Whistle
Map/Compass
Headlamps
Knife/tool/repair kit
First aid kit
Sunscreen/chapstick
Tent
Sleeping pads
Sleeping bags
Water filter
Stove
Cookware
Flatware
Dishes
Dog food
Camera
Sunglasses
toiletries
Toilet paper
face wipes
water bowl
bear bag rope

Toddler specific items:

diapers
acetaminophen
boots
toys
Sippy cup/water bottle
Utensils
Sleep sack
Sunglasses
Sun hat
Warm hat
Gloves
rain jacket
pjs
Plenty of extra clothes (accidents happen)

TRIGGER WARNING: Two Years Ago, Our Founder Contemplated Suicide

“On the day this photo was taken, I contemplated killing myself.”  - Breanne, Root Founder

“On the day this photo was taken, I contemplated killing myself.” - Breanne, Root Founder

Two and a half years ago, the idea of Root Adventures wasn’t even on my radar. I was in the depths of a deep, dark bought of postpartum depression; flailing at my job, and doing the bare minimum as a mom. Sharing my struggle through Scary Mommy empowered me. It allowed me to not only understand that my sickness wasn’t a weakness, but more importantly accept that sharing my story gave me and others strength and a stronger foundation to build upon. We must strip away the facade and embrace our vulnerability.

From Scary Mommy:

On the day this photo was taken, I contemplated killing myself.

I recently posted my depression story on social media:

I’ve been struggling to find the words. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and postpartum depression. Having just come out of the darkest 2 years of my life, all I can feel is grateful. Grateful I finally get to LOVE being a mom. Grateful I get to cherish my incredible husband once again. Grateful I’m passionate about travel, the outdoors, great conversation, exercise, music, and most importantly being alive once more.

I’m so thankful I found an amazing team of doctors/healers. It took years of hard work, counseling, and antidepressants. David showed me so much kindness and patience and gave me the strength to find help. Without him, I wouldn’t be on this side of the darkness. (To all the spouses out there, it takes a toll on you, too. I encourage you to find someone to talk to. Your frustrations won’t disappear and your depressed partner won’t have the strength to listen to your complaints.)

I have talked openly about my postpartum depression to anyone willing to listen and I will continue to do so. I’m so appreciative to everyone who leant an ear and to my fellow sufferers who commiserate(d) with me. Depression is a terrible disease. Please do everything you can to REMOVE THE STIGMA! Finding the right people to talk to can be exhausting. They are out there! I’ve met many of them, so please reach out if you want some recommendations.

Feeling okay is NOT good enough. Life is wonderful and beautiful and if it doesn’t feel like it, find someone, something or some medicine that can help you to see the beauty. YOU ARE WORTH IT! 

P.S. Please never tell a depressed person to get outside or try changing their diet. I promise they’re doing the BEST they can. Also, those steps won’t get the job done. Trust me, I tried.

I received an outpouring of love and support. One friend wrote me a private message almost immediately. She is a mother of two and had spent the past seven months feeling as though she was just floating through life. My post inspired her to call a doctor and seek help. She also told me that my social media life looked so perfect and that she thought she was alone in her depression. Sharing my story reminded her that our social media personas aren’t a true reflection of reality.

After I responded to her, it hit me: I am part of the problem. Posting falsities perpetuates the idea that we are all happy all the time, and if you aren’t happy, something is wrong with you. I spent my first eight months of motherhood going through the motions. I knew the things I used to like, so continued to do those things. I went hiking, I went to happy hour with friends, I went to the park, I went to concerts, I went on bike rides, I went skiing and I smiled for pictures. I did all the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy in mind and body. I laughed with my child and husband. I snuggled my dog.

All the while, I was slowly suffocating. Seven months after giving birth, I stopped breastfeeding. Almost immediately my depression hit incredible depths. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t feed my child. I couldn’t change his diaper. I couldn’t shower. Going outside was painful. I went to the doctor assuming something was wrong with my thyroid. They did blood tests, and my general practitioner suggested I might have postpartum depression. I argued.

As I walked out of the doctor’s office, the depths of my depression hit me like a brick wall. I couldn’t breathe properly. I went home and laid on the couch and didn’t move for what felt like years. My husband was distraught. He didn’t know how to handle it. We had plans to do a backcountry hut trip with our son. I told him I couldn’t handle it. However, he thought it was good for me to get outside. I protested. I didn’t have the energy. But ultimately, I complied.

There I was in the passenger seat with my adoring husband driving me to the mountains on an immaculate blue-sky day. My happy-go-lucky son in the back seat. I had EVERYTHING going for me, and all I could think about was jumping out of the car and into the path of an oncoming semi. Just two hours later, as we made our way to our hut my husband took a picture of me and my son with ear-to-ear smiles.

When I returned from the trip, I made it my Facebook profile picture and it stayed there for over a year. I love that picture. It shows me in what should be my element: hiking in the beautiful snowy mountains with my joyful baby on my back.

But that photo is a farce. I have since allowed myself to reflect on that day. It is the day that I nearly ruined the lives of all the wonderful people in my life. They say a picture tells 1,000 words, but in the age of social media, we, the subject, control the message those pictures express. That photo told my friends and family that I was living life to the fullest, that I had my crap together, that I was one lucky lady.

But the truth behind the photo is that I am very good at hiding my pain. I have never posted a photo with the intention of lying to my friends and family. I just didn’t want to believe my reality. I was lying to myself as much as anyone else.

I was fortunate to find my way out of the darkest time of my life. I feel an obligation to own my missteps. Sure, I was doing everything I could to survive and I don’t necessarily feel I owed anyone my honesty, but there is healing in sharing your truth. I owe it to myself to help #removethestigma. You aren’t alone, I’m not alone. We  deserve more.

It can be easy to look at your friends’ social media lives and assume they are doing better than you. But please remember, we are all doing the best we can and our Facebook smiles are just a fraction of the emotions we feel from day to day.

I encourage you to share your sadness and ask for help. The moment I asked for help, my life turned around — not right away, but every day got a little better, and I can honestly say, I feel better today than I have ever felt. I love being a mom, business owner, and friend to so many wonderfully supportive women.

The Adventure Time Dilation

What physics teaches us about travel’s indelible memories

Surfing in Florianopolis, Brazil.

Surfing in Florianopolis, Brazil.

Einstein’s theory of relativity states that time passes differently for different observers, based on the particular observer’s velocity. The best hypothetical example of this theory in practice is for two watches to be set to the exact same time, then one is sent aboard the International Space Station orbiting at 17,150 mph and the other remains on Earth. Before long, the watch on Earth will noticeably lag behind the other watch speeding around the Earth!

While a genius, Einstein wasn’t an adventure traveler and missed a second component of the theory of relativity: the adventure time dilation effect! When traveling, every moment is an experience that leaves an indelible impression on the traveler. The greater the adventure, the deeper and more numerous the memories.

Street artist in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Street artist in the historic neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This creates a challenge when returning home and reintegrating with “normal” society. Whether gone a weekend, a week, or a year, our friends’ and families’ lives have continued at steady-state with barely a blurb worth mentioning out of the normal routine. When we ask them “What’s new?” and “How was life was while we were away?,” we receive puzzled looks in return. It’s always the same response, “Um, not much, I don’t really remember.”

Meanwhile, we’re eager to regale our loved ones with an endless list of stories and memorable experiences. They will listen kindly, but, despite their best intentions, will never fully relate. What is the returning adventurer to do? It can feel like a fighter jet landing on an aircraft carrier. The deceleration of accumulating new experiences is so great that we need an arresting wire to return to pace of everyday life.

Judgmental monkey in Bali, Indonesia.

Judgmental monkey in Bali, Indonesia.

One consequence of this effect is that while it can be more difficult to form bonds with people who aren’t adventure travelers, the bonds we do create with our fellow travelers are greater and more meaningful. In fact, many studies have shown that the deepest and most solid relationships form through shared experiences. And, those inevitable instances that occur during international travel—those difficult, exhausting, and stressful instances— help us form the strongest relationship bonds of all.

The opportunity to “expand” time and fill your life with incredible memories and deep relationships is right around the corner with a click of a button. So, start dreaming about your next authentic adventure and contact us to start planning today!

“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.” - Warren Miller

Courtesy warrenmiller.org

Courtesy warrenmiller.org

Last year, the world lost the great Warren Miller, a perennial inspiration to ski-bums, entrepreneurs, and dreamers everywhere who envisioned a life beyond the 9-to-5 cubicle existence. Warren celebrated the journey, the successes and failures of anyone willing to step into a pair of skis, from the icy beginner slopes of Vermont to the riddled spines of Alaska, all shared with an unforgettable grandpa-like storytelling voice.

After leaving the Navy in 1946, Warren bought his first 8mm camera and teardrop trailer, which he promptly drove to Sun Valley, Idaho. Working as a ski instructor, his friends would film each other to improve their technique. He quickly became both a proficient skier and filmmaker. But his true talent shined when he would show his previous winter’s films to small audiences, narrating the film live each night. It was this narration that would change the action sports and adventure film industries forever.

The ski-porn industry has come a long way since the mid-80’s Warren Miller movies I remember watching as a child in preparation for the coming season, but I will always pick Warren’s voice over an insane 100ft cliff drop to stoke the anticipation for the season’s first snowflakes to fall.

Breanne and I saw him speak many years ago at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. The voice, the storytelling, his ability to make everyone in the sold out, 2,000-person auditorium feel as if they’re having an intimate fireside chat only him; the experience still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes writing this years later.

He represented the best of adventure. It wasn’t about how hard you charged, only that you were in the mountains. And his story telling instantly turned a full theater of strangers with a shared passion into whooping and hollering gang of best friends.

Life is short, so go ahead and embrace your dreams. Take that trip of a lifetime, or quit your job and move to the mountains because “if you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

Baja, Mexico: Glamping, bioluminescence, star-studded skies, swimming with sea lions, SUP boarding, and clear blue seas!

The star-studded sky put up a decent fight, but paddle boarding among the bioluminescence ultimately won the prize for most memorable moment in Espíritu Santo. I am humbled by the perfection of our experience glamping in the Sea of Cortez - we were gifted the most incredible sunsets, tremendous food, new best friends, swimming with sea lions, Moana-like bioluminescence and more stars than I see even camping in the mountains.