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In the spirit of dreading New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to make a New Year’s bucket list instead of all the adventures I hope to do and accomplish this year. Looking back, I’ve done this almost every year without realizing it, so if you’re wild at heart, maybe some of these will be on your 2016 bucket list too!

1. DISCOVER A NEW NATIONAL PARK
I’ve spent an incredible amount of time wandering Rocky Mountain National Park, and of course, have barely tapped its wilderness, and while I plan to continue to explore this close-to-my-heart park, I’ve had the itch to see another one of the country’s jaw-dropping landscapes. Yosemite? Joshua Tree? So many choices! Big Bend National Park in Texas is, in my opinion, underrated and below the radar, but boasts canyons that rival the Grand and a mountain range that’s downright magical, so I’m making it a point to get there this year!

2. SUMMIT A COLORADO 14ER
Call me a peak bagger all you want, but I’ll never forget the adrenaline and satisfying exhaustion of hiking my first Fourteener, Long’s Peak, a class 3 mountain, and I’ll always be chasing that feeling. 2015 checked Mt. Bierstadt off the list, so I’m aiming for Mt. Huron, a classic Rocky Mountain range peak, or Mt. Elbert, Colorado’s highest Fourteener at 14,433ft. Check out this list of Colorado’s Top 10 Must-Hike 14ers if you’re up for the challenge!

3. CLIMB, WITH INTENTION 
Okay, okay, this one is probably more of a resolution, I’ll admit, but it’s because 2016 will be my third official climbing year, and I’ve had the privilege to climb in the most beautiful places with the most beautiful people, but much of that time was spent flailing against rock instead of climbing it. I had some major victories and accomplishments, and while flailing is always a part of learning, I hope to be a more conscious climber with a sharper awareness of my body, like a dancer on a rock.

4. EXPLORE LOCAL TRAILS 
Adventures in the national parks is unrivaled for sure, but you just can’t get out to them every day, and that’s okay because chances are there are plenty of unknown parks and nature conversation areas in your backyard. Despite how close they are, it’s always harder than it should be to take the time to seek them out. Recently, I’ve begun running on the foothills trails in Denver because I can drive there in 10 minutes and run alongside the Rockies if it’s a day that I can’t be running in them. Here’s a “Quick and dirty guide to trail running near Denver” if that’s your habitat!

5. PHOTOGRAPH WITH PURPOSE
Whoops, did I do it again? Is this another resolution? Oh well, here it goes! I’m beginning 2016 with a new photography kit, a Canon 5D Mark II, and a new photographic mission. For so many years, I’ve battled my cameras, frustrated with the buying and learning process of new be-dangled DSLR setups that boasted fancy features. This year, I’m going fancy-free, and focusing my photography on storytelling, on the portraits of people and places, and life’s quiet, small adventures.

6. CAMP, JUST TO CAMP.
When was the last time you went on a camping trip for no other reason than to chill out in the woods or the desert or the shoreline, wherever the location? For me, it’s been ages. I’ve camped at crags, on a climbing expeditions, river rafting and fishing trips, and don’t get me wrong, these are all awesome experiences, but I’ve been missing the quiet, isolated, purposeless experience of just camping. Haven’t you?

7. READ TALES OF ADVENTURE
Typically, I overdose on fiction, you know, the kind with a capital ‘F’. In 2016, I’m craving some heart-stopping, soul-wrenching, epic-inspiring tales of real people conquering life’s adventures. Here are the tales on my reading list!

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko
Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

8. TELL MORE STORIES
Isn’t a bucket list a resolution to do something, anyway? 😉 This year, I’m excited to collect and tell more stories through photography and writing. Storytelling is a compelling method for preserving our environmental history and our culture, and I’m stoked to commit myself more to this humanistic necessity especially because of the upcoming changes coming to this blog!
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Photos by Daryl Love Photography 

bda

It’s that time of year again when December swings around on the calendar so fast that it gives us whiplash. I can’t believe how much has happened in 2015: from summiting a Colorado 14er to climbing in Indian Creek to my first river rafting trip in Idaho. Not to mention, starting this blog, which has been a huge exploration all on its own. Of course, not all adventures reach a summit–sometimes you get lost or you’re forced to turn around, but it doesn’t seem to matter how crazy the idea (remember when Mike and I got matching tattoos?!), you guys have shown so much love and support in your comments and shares, and in your presence. <3So 2016 will bring big changes to the blog! New year, new goals, new friends, and new adventures.
I’m so excited to make this announcement, so I hope you’ll stick around for it in January. 🙂 And if we happened to miss each other on the trail this year, here’s 2015 year in review from Ellipsis.

Thanks for joining me on adventures, big and small–can’t wait for more in the new year!
bda

I’m lucky enough to have friends who are talented artists, makers, and in Kyndra Connor’s case, bakers. Kyndra is a Montanan, an artist, DIY-er, and kickass cookie connoisseur. We were pen pals for months before I ever met her in person and her voice was immediately memorable on paper. She’s way wittier than I’ll ever be, and will deliver cookies to your house by order–that’s right, her small business Sweetroot Cookie Company is a custom cookie delivery service. You choose the cookie, like brownie, mint-chocolate chip, strawberry cheesecake, and my favorite, browned butter salted caramel. UGH. 
What’s really awesome about Kyndra’s cookies are the stories behind a lot of them.
It’s really fun to hear how the cookies become a part of another person’s story like how I was asked to make my Strawberry Cheesecake cookies for a little girl who wanted to have an extra special tea party with her Grandpa. Or the pink chocolate chip cookies I delivered to some local grandparents expecting to hear the gender of their new grandchild. I mean, it makes it meaningful. That makes long hours and two jobs worth it.
If you get tired of baking over the holidays, she’s got you covered, or if you just want free cookies shipped to your front door, enter her DOZEN COOKIE GIVEAWAY, here.
Montana is a huge part of Kyndra’s life and artistic inspiration. Her prints, sold in her Etsy shop, Truth & Beauty Designs, are often of the mountains and I’m obsessed with her rainy day photo series. 
I really love mountains and natural colors and textures – solid colors, woods, stone – I think they all work so well together. I like the simplicity that nature sometimes exhibits – strong mountain silhouette, fading blue sky, golden wheat field running along the grey highway. You know? 
I’m easily overwhelmed, so I find a lot of beauty in simplicity and strong contrast. 
Personally, the mountains and trees make me feel safe.
I love typography, literature, hand lettering, abstract art, so many photographers, and even some architects. Right now, I’m really into Yangyang Pan – her abstracts are beautiful. And I’ll always love Raymond Carter – his works are so devastating and full of truth.

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“I had some sharpies, a map of Montana & some time.”
I really love the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in the flatlands makes me really appreciate what some nice topography and thick forest can do for the heart. It’s so comforting, so I plan on wandering around up here for awhile. Maybe forever. 

Nothing made me feel more like an adventurer than snowshoeing through Rocky Mountain National Park. Even for someone who thinks he knows every peak, ridgeline, and tree can expect to feel a little out of his element in a new and exciting way when the trail is lost beneath the snow, and the terrain is made unfamiliar by the wintertime elements. A hushed quiet and feeling of seclusion fell over the landscape; a hard atmosphere to achieve in the summer when the park’s massive attendance often steals the wild from wilderness. Snowshoeing as a winter sport has gained traction (pun-intended) because it’s inexpensive, relatively low-risk, and open access, meaning almost anyone can try it!

SNOWSHOE FIT TIPS

Even though snowshoes are relatively inexpensive, compared to the startup cost of other winter sports like cross-country skiing or snowboarding, I would recommend renting your first pair. My friend and super talented photographer, Faith, had an extra pair for me to borrow, but Estes Park Mountain Shop is right on Route 34–you’ll pass it on the left as you drive toward the park entrance–and rents shoes for only $5.00, ALL DAY!
They even rent mountain boots if you’re feeling like you might need some extra security.
I wore regular waterproof leather Tevas and while I romped around without too much of a problem, my boots were a little slender for the snowshoe bindings and kept slipping out.
Next time, I’ll try to wear bulkier mountain or snow boots to achieve a better snowshoe fit.
The fit is important, so you’ll want to make sure that you try them in the store, and rent a pair whose length (in inches) matches your body weight (i.e. lighter the load, smaller the shoe). RMP backcountry is typically not flat so rolling terrain snowshoes will make for the best experience because they have more aggressive crampons and beastier bindings, but if you plan to walk around some of the park’s more well-travelled trails, like the ones I recommend here, flat terrain shoes will work just fine too.
Before you head out though, definitely check the weather conditions! The National Park Service monitors snowfall, wind speed, temperatures, trail conditions, and road closures. Check this site out first to make sure that the Bear Lake Road isn’t closed and that the wind will be mostly calm for your excursion. Our trip was cut a bit short because wind gusts in unprotected meadows forced us to turn back.
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Center: Mike, wiping snow off my face from a gust of wind.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SNOWSHOEING TRAILS

 
Bear Lake Loop
This short loop around Bear Lake is less than a mile long, basically flat terrain, and considered one the park’s easiest “hikes.” Don’t let the easy-descriptor turn you off though, because snow-packed trails are harder to navigate, and you might find that this lake lap is a perfect entry-level experience.
Dream Lake 
Our excursion to this sub-alpine lake was just enough of an adventure on a day when the average temperature was only six degrees! The snow was light and powdery, and when Mike decided to test the “floating” superpower of his snowshoes on a drift, he fell straight through so be careful. Even though this trail is a bit further into the forest, it’s still well-travelled–we passed by fellow snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
Emerald Lake
If you decide to push farther, Emerald Lake is just beyond Dream Lake. You’ll likely get warm as you gain about 600 feet of elevation and snowshoe about 3.5 miles round trip. If it’s overcast, the incredible views of Hallett Peak, and Long’s Peak–Colorado’s infamous fourteener–will be invisible, lost in low, white clouds. There are also places along this trail when the forest breaks and you cross through open terrain. If it’s windy, snowshoeing through these meadows without the cover of the trees, can be harsh–this is where we had to turn around. That being said, the payoff is a subalpine lake sparkling under snowcapped peaks.
These trails are open all year for exploring the mountain wilderness, and whether you want to stay fit through the winter or you want to try a new winter sport, snowshoeing can be as easy as walking or as exhilarating as racing. Yeah, snowshoe racing is a thing!
 
 
bda

You might remember that in August this year, I took my first river rafting trip with my boyfriend, Mike, and his family and friends.

[If you happened to miss the full Salmon River adventure, click here for the post!]

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There was so much to learn about river life, and the burning question was, of course:
How the heck do you poop on a week-long, 80-mile rafting trip!

Well, I wouldn’t recommend holding it. 😉

If you’re an inexperienced rafter as I was, you might be envisioning a nice hole in the ground or a spot among some bushes. But the bathroom is not actually in the forest, in the ground, or God-forbid, on the river.

You’ve probably heard of the Leave No Trace hiking model. On the river, it’s Pack In and Pack Out, and this applies not just to your garbage and supplies, but to your waste as well, which means you have to be creative about your bathroom breaks.

So how do you do it?

On our trip, we brought along a portable potty. Not the standing ones you see at concert venues and fairs, but a small plastic potty with a lid–think of a toddler training potty, but for adults. 
Every day you have to find a spot in the camp for the potty, private but accessible, and preferably with a nice view 😉 The location is actually pretty important for women on the river. Here’s why: Liquid waste, aka urine, needs to be kept separate from solid waste, so that the solid waste can be properly disposed of at the conclusion of the trip or at designated dumps stations along your journey. An ethical, environmentally responsible pee spot is in damp soil somewhere along the riverbed, not on dry ground. So it’s convenient to set up the potty close to the river.
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Our river group called our potty The Groover, and thankfully, there was a men’s groover and women’s groover. 😉 The potty, before nifty plastic containers, used to be an ammo can! So when you sat on it, you’d walk away with lovely grooves in your bum! Hence, the name: The Groover.

Believe it or not, someone has to bear the responsibility of hauling The Groover on their raft day to day, campsite to campsite, and on our trip, that was all 80 miles! And toward the end of your trip, that potty gets pretty full! Mike and a river friend were our group’s groover haulers. These guys, whoever they are in your rafting group are a hero of sorts–thank them, make them dinner or breakfast, and then crack some jokes. 
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Eating River Dinner, telling stories and laughing.
The cool thing about living on a river is that poop becomes a group responsibility and effort, and takes on a larger meaning when you have to be conscious of how you go–you can’t just dump, flush, and forget about it!

We had so much fun having conversations about poop–the best food to eat to help you poop, memories of the best on-the-river pooping spots–telling pooping-on-the-river stories, and yelling out in the morning as we packed up camp to head out on the river again: 
“LAST CALL FOR THE GROOVER!” 
These are the things you don’t think about when you set out on a wilderness adventure. They’re not the moments or memories you have in your photo album (thank goodness) but they’re also the ones that make the trip, keep you laughing, and teach you new things about the way we live in our world.
If you’re thinking about making river rafting your next adventure, check out the other essentials I brought with me, here!

bda