Yesterday was a very interesting day. A buddy and I photographed Forks Fest which is a big 2-day climbing event held at/in Paradise Forks just west of Flagstaff. The only way to start a climb is to rappel into the canyon and climb out. It rained on an off, but despite the weather people still jammed and torqued their way up these huge basalt columns. They also dressed in drag. Yes, the lady-men were out climbing in wigs, and lycra for the big after-party costume contest. Does wearing a lady garment from the early 90s do anything for the mind games of climbing trad in the rain? It's safe to assume yes. Especially when its made out of super breathable moisture soaking cotton. I didn't stay for the contest but, if I were the judge, I would give everyone a gold star. Being surrounded by so many people who knew each other and shared a common interest in climbing was a refreshing switch from all the solo adventures I've been going on. The 3rd annual Forks Fest was definitely a big reminder about how lucky I am to be living in Flagstaff.
There haven't been many times recently that I've been able to sit in total silence. Peace that goes beyond not having your phone, or being off the grid. I've experienced times where I thought I was in total silence but a breeze would be rushing by or somewhere off in the distance a coyote would be howling. Very unlike today.
I woke up early to catch some soft morning light, not even for photography but just because my favorite light hits right before the sunrise. I drove up to A1 mountain, swinging around dirt covered turns and over rocks and roots. I could waste more than a tank of gas driving around in the forest. After I got a few miles in I found this hill. A bigger than average hill but definitely no mountain peak. I got out and hiked to the top and there I sat in dead, complete, surrounding silence. My breath was the loudest source of noise and the atmosphere was dense with fog. Its these times where I wish everyone I have met could be there with me to experience it. As long as they weren't talking or opening a loud bag of chips.
It's the best gift Flagstaff has given me so far and its making my future here solidify with every opportunity I take to go and find quietness. I'm making plans to go out again today. If there is a counseling group for the outbound then I need to find it because I'm definitely addicted.
There have been a lot of big things happening in Flagstaff, AZ. Primarily at Aspen Sports, a local gear shop I've had the opportunity to work at. Among the regular responsibilities, I've taken on the task of revamping their social media and website. In the past few days I've learned a lot about ad design and it's been an incredible excuse to get out and shoot. I photographed my friend Kevin running a trail in the Inner Basin Trail, Diego as he bombed switchback, hairpins en route to Sedona, and was able to recycle some old photos of Emily rock climbing.
All this to say Flagstaff is freakin' awesome. The people here, the restaurants, the bars, and the various landscapes are all amazing. There is an opportunity to do something incredible every day and I don't know what I did to deserve finding my way here but if anyone needs a place to stay and a delicious meal of salmon marinated in soy sauce with sweet and spicy seasoning and garlic and parsley laid gently on a bed of rice, come find me. I'll probably just ask you to be in the next Aspen Sports ad.
Below are the ones I've created so far, I'd love any feedback you have. Be sure to check out the facebook page and give it a like! #shamelessadvertising
A long, long time ago there was a tribe of climbers dedicated to all that was and is rock climbing. They bathed in streams and lakes, made their gear out of bed frames, and lived under the shade of the crag. As time passed this group started to become civilized. Hot water showers, "real" jobs, cell phones with data packages, neon shoes with arch support, full suspension packs, toilet paper, protein bars, and sophisticated training gyms all but eliminated the dirtbag climbers. Then one day, a new group emerged. Seeking to satisfy a mysterious inner calling they left their air conditioned cubicles for the mountains once more. Thus the weekend warriors were born. Choosing to fight back against the tyranny of the daily grind with calluses the size of quarters and forearms as hard as steel. They cook, sell, program, file, and serve. They live among us, only to appear after the Monday-Friday 9-5. They come in all sizes and ages, countries and backgrounds to achieve a similar goal. Crush.
Enter my friend Brett. Salesman at Discount Tire he is knowledgable in all things relating to tires and tire-like objects. But on the weekend he swaps out his mechanical tools for quickdraws and rope. He is the essence of inexhaustible stoke. Reward yourselves with the following photos and let your bodies be reclaimed by the wilderness.
Bad days are real. They exist to make us writhe in pain, yell in frustration, and transform us into angsty bridge trolls. Luckily they don't last and better days always follow. The same goes for climbing. Freak outs, bails, poor belays, and bad gear can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable outing. My friend Emily was having such a day after she had to bail off a stout pumpy lead climb, one that she knew she could send. But climbing isn't meant to bring us constant joy and fill our egos. It's meant to challenge us, develop us, and help us to appreciate the days when we do crush. And she did. A 100ft 10b. There aren't many people that can override negative head space and put up a route like that. It was impressive to see her get back to her roots and climb because we know it's difficult but that's where the true thrill comes from.
There are a lot of actions you can take to be a badass these days. For some, many of them happen on their own, like growing a beard, radiating a natural manly scent, having a chiseled jawline, or being Jason Statham. However, these steps are all passive and create a sort of pseudo-badass persona. The true mans man (or womens woman) looks for ways to do/or become a badass. Luckily there are things like rock climbing, mountaineering, spearfishing, base jumping, backpacking etc that allow us to expedite the process.
Thus the story of "The Night Hike of Humphreys" was born. We had planned a night hike to Humphrey's Peak on Thursday. That evening a raging lightning storm was making moves to spoil the hike but instead of giving up hope we waited, and waited and waited. Eventually the lightning died down and diverted direction so we made our way to the trail head. Once there we saw bolts shooting across the sky in the distance but decided it was far enough away. So, at 11:15pm we began. The humidity was maxed, the fog was thick, the barking spiders were out, and we eventually had to scramble after accidentally losing the trail but we made it. After pitching a tent and getting a good 2 hours of sleep I woke up to the most incredible sunrise I had witnessed in a long time. Being slightly elevation sick may have had a euphoric effect on me (Buffalo = 600ft, Humphrey's Peak = 12,000ft) but the mountains were moving me, the sunrise was warming my chilled innards and I realized that being a true badass is about perspective.
In hindsight, the hike was horrible, probably one of the worst I've been on but it made the view at the top that much more powerful. I realized that if I didn't love the outdoors I wouldn't be outside in the dark, dank, night. I wasn't hiking because I wanted a "sick sunrise pic" but because I had to. I needed to because I feel connected to the outdoors and despite the apparent danger, I love it. Doing risky things can gain a lot of "likes" but living unapologetically and doing things because you love them gains respect. But it's not about earning respect from others either, or impressing those who aren't "outdoorsy" enough. It's about doing things that satisfy your soul. The essence of a true badass. The impact of active action will always trump passive action. So go do something you love already.
I always wanted to be a scientist, geologist, astronaut, chef, professional athlete, teacher, policeman, sniper, musician, saver-of-sharks when I was a kid. But somewhere along the line of elementary school and growing up a lot of those things took the back seat. The vast world of opportunity I saw as a kid became more narrow as my realization that money dictates action grew stronger and more real. Dreams were replaced with career paths, hobbies became secondary to jobs, and life grew a little bit more grim.
It was in my senior year of college that my professor asked our class to make a 5 year and 10 year business strategy for our post-grad, ramen-consuming lives. Mine was complete with where I wanted to live, what job I wanted to have, and all the numerous steps it would take to get there. A perfect outline to attain the perfect life. After graduation, sitting on the verge of debt repayment, and an unsuccessful job hunt I realized that the only thing I really want to be in 5-10 years is happy. Thus spurred my decision to pack everything I own into my Subaru, take out a few favors, and leave the only place I've called home.
After reaching Flagstaff and meeting new people I've finally rediscovered that which I desire most: The essence of what it means to live and allow happiness to dictate action. I've found that there is no word that can sum up the feeling of hammocking in the mountains, staring into a camp fire, getting a nice chaco tan, or the murmur of conversation as the dawn breaks. Elation comes close but it doesn't fully grasp it in it's entirety.
So, if 5-10 years from now I'm still sleeping on floors, in cars, or on air mattresses and working a different job every year I'll consider my life a success as long as I can find happiness in my situation and share it with others.
Below are some photos of a camping trip I recently went on. I knew 1 person beforehand and had only met that one person the day before. Seeking success, and comfort is good but having such a welcoming community is better. Always.
Climbing at Crawdad Canyon was pretty rad. Climbing in general is pretty rad, but I've come to realize that the enjoyment comes from having a fun group of people to climb with. So Ben, Collin and my new pal Mike went to the CC to do some morning finger shredding. Mike is a pretty tight landscape photographer. Check out his work here: Michael Dalberti Photography
Quickly realizing that we're all out of climbing shape we managed a 10b and headed to the shade to attempt something harder. After bailing we headed over to the Original Veyo Pies for some comfort food.
Still super stoked there are rocks everywhere. Tomorrow morning I'll be heading out to Arizona to meet up with some friends in Flagstaff, one of the final stops until I start looking for an apartment. Grownup stuff.
I haven't taken many photos in Indiana or Kansas throughout my trip so far but I have managed to photograph the people I've met, and those who have been kind enough to house/feed/hang with me. It's been a humbling experience knowing that some of them could have said "no" as easily as they said "yes." The generosity I've experienced from friends and strangers has left an indelible impression on me and I can only hope to give back as much as I've received.
Here are some photos from my Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. Still learning to shoot with it proficiently and, although I think I'm embarrassed to say it, I think instant film is my favorite type of film to shoot. A physical artifact straight from your life, the way you see it, in an instant.
New York. Where it all started.
This post is dedicated to rocks and to those who have been positively affected by rocks.
After a long and arduous trip across the midwest seeing nothing but flat land and the occasional lump in the ground it was finally nice to see some hot rock action. After spending the first night in Indiana and the second in Kansas, I made it to Colorado, Denver specifically. Viva Colfax Ave. I was given a tour, food, and an air mattress from the writer at semi-rad.com, Brendan Leonard, and Hilary Oliver of thegription.com. They're pretty rad.
The next morning I was able to climb with some new friends at Clear Creek Canyon before getting rained out and then hit the road on my way to St. George Utah, where I currently am sitting at a table at 25 and main sipping coffee and eating a "rio bowl". Unfortunately I didn't grab any breakfast food selfies because I was too busy eating my food.
I plan on climbing tomorrow with some friends before it gets too hot so hopefully I'll remember to grab some photos. I've been shooting with a fujifilm instax mini 90 neo classic so I'll have to scan them later. But I did manage to take some driver-seat-tourist-photos.
About a month ago some friends and I went on a cold winter climbing trip to The Red River Gorge in Kentucky. The great part was that no one was there. The not so great part was everything else. It was cold all the time, some routes were totally iced over and, if we were lucky, giant ice chunks would break off and come hurling down at us.
Then why go on this trip?
Because we are bored college students with nothing better to do.
But trips like these, opportunities to get away from the normal life, don't always have to be a great journey with a spiritual, life altering lesson at the end. In fact, we ended up on about 4 routes the entire trip. But we had fun, did some dangerous things that we probably shouldn't have, and got to spend time outside doing what we love to do and enjoyed every stitched up finger, frozen morning, and long drive knowing that trips like these get fewer and farther in between the older we get.
Keep the Stoke
If you've been on the site recently you may have noticed a nice little badge in the upper left hand corner. It was designed by my friend Colton Nelson. If you have the pleasure of working with him you will not regret it. +1 fan.
Here's his contact info if you want to collaborate with him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tucked off the side of the road in North Vernon Indiana lies Muscatatuck State Park. It was snowy. It was cold. It had a slushy approach. But it is home to Indiana's finest bouldering and while I wasn't expecting much, its aesthetic problems and location off of the Muscatatuck River made the trip worth while and worth making again. With plenty of easy problems/warm ups and a few classic testpieces, I left with a satisfied appetite and a few bruised fingertips.
As much as I appreciate beautiful climbing and want to live in a location where classic routes are everywhere. I find it refreshing to be in an area where incredible climbs and climbs in general, are nowhere to be found. Knowing that I'll be moving on afterwards makes this mindset easier to maintain however, hunting around the flat lands of Indiana in search of climbable rock makes me value and respect good climbing even more.
Today Levi and I rode mountain bikes at arguably the best place to ride in the west. Gooseberry Mesa. I have gone mountain biking a whopping 0 times in my entire life. While Levi shredded, I got the poop beaten out of me. By rocks. Big rocks. Will I ever ride again? Sure. Tomorrow? No.
I have a newfound respect for mountain bikers and despite getting hit in the junk by the bike frame, was able to enjoy the elusive split second moment of sheer freedom in the form of racing downhill at night using headlamps for guidance. Was it fun? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely.
This morning we headed out to Moe's Valley to get some early morning climbing in. We were able to get a session in right before the rain.
It is now monsoon-ing in Utah. What the heck.
Regardless, the climbing was much better today although there was a close call thanks to a blown out hold.
For the rest of the day, we rest and get ready to climb some nasty cracks on Monday.
After successfully flying from NY to Vegas, then taking a shuttle to St. George Utah I was finally able to meet up with some great friends and go shred some fingers.
After Unsuccessfully identifying good climbing, Levi established a route (V3) in which we were all able to send.
After an endless battle with biting flies and fire ants we headed out after camping for the night.
Tonight, we go to Moe's Valley to do some real climbing, that is if the rain holds out.
Standby for good times.
Another sad day for women everywhere. Dan Patrone is officially off the market.
On the upside, I was graciously invited to join in the celebration for Dan and Haley, two people who couldn't be more perfect for each other. They tied the knot on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I couldn't be more happy for them.
So cheers to Dan and Haley Patrone. Enjoy the Honeymoon.
The final leg of my time in South Carolina has certainly been the most interesting. There was talk about George Orwell, Record-Size Catfish, Genies and their subsequent wish giving, but what hit me the most was the history of Lake Murray.
Underneath the vast expanses of the green-blue water lie dormant the remains of an entire town. To make a long story short, the land was bought, flooded by a dam and is now a lake. Each resulting island is the tip of a rolling hill or cliff edge. I think that's crazy. When I wasn't thinking about giant catfish capsizing our fat canoe, I was thinking about all the buildings and bridges and roads and history that is now submerged, untouched, wet.
Anyways, here are some photos.
Note: 1.) We didn't sleep in the tent, we slept in the canoe. It was breezier.
2.) People who boat around at 2am with heavy duty spot lights and harass people on their islands are jerks.
3.) Cockroaches can, in fact, live on a deserted island.
My friend Sam has a very interesting way of finding new places to explore. Its this crazy application called google maps. When he's not working he's on google maps scrounging the areas within walking distance of his apartment.
Yesterday, we went to Mars. There are a lot more ticks and leeches on Mars than we had previously expected. We were helplessly unprepared. Regardless we hiked for about an hour, and found our way into The Blue Lagoon. A unique mix of Ireland and western USA, Mars is abundant with living organisms. I honestly don't know what the NASA scientists are thinking. Cory.
At roughly midnight a fire broke out in the apartment complex just behind where myself and my friend were sleeping. We awoke to the sound of sirens nearby and rushed out to see roughly 24 apartment units ablaze. Its been reported that around 45 brave men and women were dispatched to the late night emergency and there are no injuries that have been reported. Please continue to pray for those still battling the fire and to those whose lives will be drastically changed by tonights events.