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Journey Across the Rockies A Finisher’s Story of Fear, Fun, and Discovery

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Bethany Hamilton and Chrissie Beavis Team Up


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Race of a Lifetime Bethany Hamilton and Chrissie Beavis team up in the Moroccan Sahara By Chris Kassar

The Road to Almost Ultrarunning A Finisher’s Story of Fear, Pain, and Discovery in the TransRockies Run By Jennifer C. Olson




10 Discuss Race Tales 14 Trends Summer Dresses 16 Tech Talk Handling the Heat 18 Tech Talk Maintain Your Mobility 20 Beyond Afghanistan and Alaska 24 Advocate Keys to Recovery 26 Hotel Homebase Colorado 30 Trends Wildlife Voluntourism in Namibia 32 Travel Pro Cooking for a Cause 32 Travel Gear Summer Pieces 33 5 Ways Surf ’n’ SUP Hawaii


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54 Sport Adventure Racing 58 Skill Backcountry Cooking 60 Sport Paddling 62 Skill Bike Packing 70 Marketplace 71 Partnerships 72 It’s Personal The Inner Maze

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Raised in the Midwest, Becky Arnold long ago packed up and headed west, fit with a heart for adventure and a passion to play in the mountains. For several years, she bounced around western Montana, where Glacier National Park, Whitefish Ski Resort, and local climbing crags hosted countless adventures. Now living in Portland, Becky enjoys adventuring with her husband, Pete, and works with youth, guiding backpacking, rafting, and rock climbing adventures in Oregon. Former Managing Editor of, Becky has also written for a range of Portland publications and blogs about the domestic life at




A native of the San Juan Mountains, Morgan Tilton moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue her secondary education at the University of Denver. Her writing pursuits include magazine, web, and trade coverage of outdoor, adventure, and travel, as well as health, fitness, environmental, and lifestyles. She loves writing experimental fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Beyond the page, you’ll find her hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, trail running, and summitting the state’s fourteeners. Off the trail, she practices yoga and attends countless live music events.

Robin Enright is afraid of heights, but still summits, has no desire to sky dive, but is ready to clip in. She believes cowboy boots are the answer. When she isn’t working, you can find her on the yoga mat or hiking and riding somewhere in Colorado. You might even find her embracing her fear of heights head on while jumping into a watering hole in Kauai. She blogs regularly at

Web Director Susan Hayse Travel Editor Gigi Ragland Copy Editor Mira Perrizo Contributing Writers Ashley Erickson, Robin Enright, Courtney Johnson, Casey Flynn, Anna Brones, Allison Pattillo, Stephanie Nitsch, Becky Arnold, Allison Ong, Morgan Tilton, Tara Calihman, Chris Kassar, Cat del Valle Castellanos, Kate Stepan, Casey Flynn Contributing Photographers Camrin Dengel (cover and Master spread), Scott Markewitz, Keith Woodward, Gravity Shots, Anna Brones, Mountain2Mountain, John Waller, Winter Park Resort, YMCA of the Rockies, Ken Peterson, Devil’s Thumb Resort & Spa, Grand County Tourism Board, Biosphere-Expeditions, Gigi Ragland, Jan Kelway,, Hawaiian Surfing Adventures, Dan CampbellLloyd, Stephanie Nitsch, Michael Hutton, Joni Kabana, Klaus Fengler, Sarah Chesnutt (kayak roll illustrations), Tim Peterson SUBMISSIONS For contributor’s guidelines, visit Editorial queries or submissions should be sent to Photo queries should be sent to Women’s Adventure is always looking for new and innovative products for women. For consideration, please send non-returnable samples to 3005 Center Green Drive, Suite 225, Boulder, CO 80301

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Anna Brones is a writer and digital communications professional with a love for travel, good food and the outdoors. She runs the website Foodie Underground and is a regular volunteer with Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit dedicated to creating education and possibilities for women in conflict zones. In the last year she has worked on a photo exhibition in Afghanistan (see page 20), written a book combining the passions of cycling and eating and helped produce an outdoor documentary film in France. She is currently working on a cookbook, out in fall 2014. 2 2  WAM WAM • • SUMMER SUMMER| |2013 2013

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From the Editor R

ecently, my hiking buddies and I were descending from a rocky saddle, sliding down some of the sandstone slopes on our bottoms and side stepping down others. We spotted a family just down the trail from us. They were posing a pair of toddlers under a tree for a photo and resting. Just as we passed them, we noticed that they were in the midst of a small dispute. The youngest daughter was highest on the hill, pointing to the top of the mountain and pleading with her mom. She looked eager to keep hiking and to discover what everyone coming down the trail raved about seeing up there. The mom was near the tree with the babies, and below her was an older daughter, about age ten. The oldest one looked more apprehensive, picking her way up the rock on tip toes. “Please, mom, can we go up there? It looks so fun!” the youngest daughter argued. The mom said nothing but apparently was thinking about it. “Yeah,” shouted the oldest daughter, “it’ll be real fun when you’re in the hospital with broken legs, too!” Everyone nearby heard the sarcastic and cynical comment, and most of us laughed about it for a good five minutes. But, it’s more than a funny observation. This interaction pretty perfectly illustrates the many approaches to life outdoors. The youngest daughter was gung-ho, ready to explore. The oldest seemed to think that venturing too far beyond what seems safe and comfortable was recipe for disaster. I wonder whether these tendencies were part of each girl’s natural personality. Or whether they were learned. Either way, this picture just proves that some of us need to try harder than others at getting out of our comfort zones. Some of us merely need to rekindle our sense of adventure while others us of are learning from scratch.

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w Discuss

Two Women, Two Bikes, One Big Race Two seasoned endurance racers take on America’s most challenging road race. If they succeed, they’ll be the youngest two-person female team to complete RAAM. By Ashley Erickson


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Kacie is similarly amazing. Since starting endurance racing in 2008, she has completed four Ironman races and a Double Ironman, plus she has won a 50K trail running race. Kacie has also completed RAAM, except as part of an eight-person team. This time, the stakes are higher. “This race has everything,” she shares, “and that is why it is so alluring to me. It has incredible challenges with mountains, flatlands, hills, sun, and rain. You experience the real beauty of our country in a way few people ever get the chance to experience it.” You won’t find a lot of training materials for RAAM, so the pair trains with coaches and will be followed by a 10-person support crew during the event. Because you can’t simulate the kind of fatigue the body goes through during RAAM, their training consists of rides in the morning and evening. On weekends, they ride on and off every few hours with short breaks, simulating the back and forth turns they’ll take riding during the event. When Dani and Kacie cross the finish line, they will be the fourth two-person female team to ever finish RAAM in its 32-year history. At ages 31 and 29, they will also be the youngest. “I think that we are capable of solo attempts at RAAM at some point in our lives,” explains Dani, “but right now we are best suited to conquer it together.” They’re completing RAAM for themselves but also for Camp Twin Lakes in Atlanta, Georgia. The duo has already raised over $13,000 for the camp. You can donate and follow their journey at


n June 11, two Atlanta women will hop on their bikes in Oceanside, California, and won’t stop riding until they reach the City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland. They are a two-person team in the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3000-mile continuous bike race that takes riders through 12 states in eight to 12 days. Danielle “Dani” Grabol and Kacie Darden met when training for the Florida Double Iron Distance Triathlon. Only six women were entered for the 4.8-mile swim, 224-mile bike, and 52.4-mile run. Dani and Kacie were two of them and happened to live in the same city. Signing up for RAAM has taken their friendship to a whole new level. “Since Kacie and I committed to do this race together, not one day has passed that we haven’t talked, texted, or exchanged e-mails,” shares Dani. “Dani is the only person I could imagine racing with and we work incredibly well together,” Kacie adds, fondly. The feats and strength of these women definitely make them an extraordinary pair. In December of 2011, Dani became the first woman to ride solo across the state of Florida. This came just five years after she was struck by a drunk driver on a training ride. She recovered from a crushed tibia and fibula, among other injuries, but is compelled to push her limits through unmatched willpower. Dani shares, “I’m not really interested in things I can get off the couch and do. I chose RAAM because I liked the idea of doing something larger than life.”




Dragon Boat Racing Builds Camaraderie and Now Aids a Cause Breast Cancer Organizations Benefit from U.S. Festivals By Jennifer C. Olson

Meet Roxy Lo,

icture teams of 22 rowing in sync to the beat of the drum, racing in heats of three across a 500-meter stretch of water. They’re lined up in long, narrow, canoelike boats adorned with decorative dragonheads. People of all ages and walks of life fill each boat and are working together in a precise paddling rhythm to accelerate through the water. This is dragon boat racing. Originated in China 2,300 years ago, the ancient tradition is now the eighth fastest-growing sport in the world. The United States Dragon Boat Federation recognizes 46 annual dragon boat festivals in the United States alone. The sport’s inherent camaraderie and team dynamic has attracted a strong following among breast cancer survivors who form teams of fellow survivors. Many festivals are actually fundraisers for local and national breast cancer organizations. The 2nd Annual Montana Dragon Boat Festival in Kalispell, Montana, is one


of those festivals raising money to advance breast cancer awareness. It will take place the weekend of September 7–8, 2013, on scenic Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the lower 48. A portion of each registration will go toward northwestern Montana’s Save a Sister initiative.

Product Designer for Light & Motion. “When your work is your playtime, you know you’re doing something right. Industrial design is part craft, part manufacturing and pure passion. I love working with Light & Motion, a local business, dedicated to building its products in California. They have a big heart and innovative technologies. I work to demystify their technologies through form and functionality. Go where passion takes you; life rewards those who breath deeply. “

There’s always a better way. Bike • Dive • Outdoor • Adventure Lighting WAM • SUMMER | 2013  11

w Discuss

Exploring Serendipity A Mother’s View of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing By Robin Enright


ave you ever thought about the places you almost were but weren’t and wondered how those choices were made or what the result would have been if you had decided differently? I’ve personally been slapped in the face with the happy accidents otherwise defined as serendipity recently. My daughter Hannah ran her first marathon to fulfill her dream to cross the finish line in her home state. Her first marathon was at the age of 23 and was on April 15, 2013, in the 117th Boston Marathon. She ran for the Michael Lisnow Respite Center, which provides a home away from home for children and adults with disabilities, and in honor of the life of family friend, Jamie Henderson, who died two years earlier, the result of a landslide in Santorini, Greece. Jamie was the father of one of Hannah’s life-long friends and his death hit our community hard. Marathon Monday was sunny and chilly and we opted to watch Hannah first at roughly the 10 mile mark and, when she spied us cheering her on, the smile on her face expanded and glowed, her ponytail swinging high on her head inside a pink and purple ribbon. We hugged her quickly before she continued. Her joy is infectious and I am happy and proud as we board the train for Boston to be with her at the finish. Once we were in Boston, we discovered that Exeter Street was not too crowded so we thought to watch for her there. But Hannah’s boyfriend reported, after sprinting to the end of Exeter and back, “I think we might be able to see her even better from Commonwealth and Massachusetts Ave,” so we decided to abandon that location and follow his lead away from Exeter. We can guess when she will arrive by assuming her pace will remain close to just over 10 minutes and because my ex-husband had called me while we were on the train to say he had seen her on Heartbreak Hill and she looked fantastic. (It’s important to note here that this phone call was odd—my ex-husband actively avoids any contact with me.) When we arrive at our new viewing spot, we lean against the fence at Commonwealth Ave and cheer on the now fatigued but determined runners.

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An explosion. What the hell was that? Where is the smoke? Confusion. Another explosion. Something is wrong. We look to the policemen, who remain composed; suddenly the face of Hannah’s boyfriend’s mother conveys fear and she yells, “They’re running, it’s bad!” as the police mobilize and race toward the sound of danger. Where is she? Where is my daughter? We lean over the fence and screech at the runners below to PLEASE STOP RUNNING, SOMETHING BAD HAS HAPPENED and they look at us in bewilderment. Some try to continue but the police stop them. Shaking and struggling to catch my breath, my hand over my mouth covering my shaking lips—I have to find my daughter. After I answer one call, from one of my best friends and the man who would be my lifeline, phone service is cut off. I circle in panic. I stand on a cement pillar and scan the crowd and I see a blend of faces and colors but not my daughter. We begin to run at the runners on Commonwealth Ave who are lost in a zone, the finish less than a quarter mile away, but I know they will be stopped once they cross under Massachusetts Ave, and then I see her and, though her pony tail continues to swing, she is no longer smiling but is worried angry sad and wants desperately to believe nothing is wrong, and as I run to her and try to wrap her in my arms, she tells me she just wants to finish and cries for how hard she has worked through severe knee and back pain, and what we later learn is a stress fracture in her foot. She was less than a quarter mile from the finish. We sob. Many things went wrong, but it’s important to remember that many other things were right: Hannah was in the rear of the last wave and was at the back of the pack and ran roughly a ten-minute mile. We wanted to be sure she saw us watching her, so we moved away from Exeter Street, which would have placed us smack in the middle of both explosions. My ex-husband wanted to share his pride and called me so I could guess where she was. I had made the decision to be with her. Hannah later tells me that a runner had tried to stop them, but since no one else looked concerned, she kept running, choosing to believe everything was okay.


I think how we try so hard not to believe in danger and, at first, that worried me, but now I wonder if one of the loveliest things about being human is our ability to trust and believe in the good first and foremost. We must recognize and be grateful for our moments of serendipity.

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  13

w Trends

Summer Dresses

ExOfficio Sol Cool™ Halter Dress. Bright and flirty, this dress suits the sportiest of gals and helps combat summer’s most stifling heat. $75;

Horny Toad Long Island Dress. Already becoming our daynight favorite, this floor-length (but adjustable) fashion pairs just as nicely with Chacos as with heels. But it feels as comfy as pajamas either way. $82;

Icebreaker Villa Dress. A classic travel style, this soft and lightweight Merino dress can accompany you on adventures from spring all the way through fall. $99; Mountain Khakis W’s Anytime Knit Sleeveless Dress. Prance around in this svelte yet sporty racerback for a summer festival then don it again for Monday at the office. The decorative stitching and feminine lines flatter any body. $64.95;

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Outdoor Research Trance Dress. Hike, relax, and summer après in this elegant style. Its poly/spandex fabric blend makes for quickdrying and packable wearability. Try OR’s halter (Charmed Dress, $69), which boasts an elegant, flowy design with a more dressed up feel. $75;

Merrell Lily Dress. Wear it beach combing or dancing under the stars. This casual, comfortable, moisturewicking piece also includes UPF fabric and a built in bra for ultimate versatility and a minimalist feel. $65;

Ibex Raya Dress. This adorable summer-weight Merino wool dress, new from Ibex this season, is the ideal travel essential for any woman out to find adventure. $120; ISIS Gemma Halter Dress. From the ISIS Journeys Collection, this new style should be your weekend staple and your wrinkle-resistant travel necessity. $65;

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  15

w Tech Talk

Handling the Heat of Summer How to Combat the Most Common Heat-Related Illnesses among Athletes By Courtney Johnson


ccording to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States. In mid-March of this year, one heat-related death and twelve cases of heat stroke at Israel’s Tel Aviv half marathon prompted the cancellation of the Tel Aviv Marathon one weekend later with projected high temps. In light of these trends, it helps to be in the know when it comes to preventing and treating heat-caused health issues. You and other athletes are particularly prone to these three types of heat-related emergencies: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat cramps occur when an athlete’s body is depleted of much needed salt through sweat. These cramps or spasms are most often felt in the arms, legs, and/or abdomen. How to combat heat cramps: 1. Stop activity. 2. Move to a cool, shady, or indoor environment. 3. Replenish fluid intake with electrolytes. 4. Return to activity only when the cramps have subsided for an extended period of time (two to three hours). Seek medical attention if cramps do not subside after an hour of fluid replenishing and elimination of activity. Heat cramps can be a telltale sign of the beginning of heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is caused by days of repeated exposure to high temperatures, especially prevalent in those who typically exercise during the heat of the day. Common symptoms are heavy sweating, cool and clammy skin, an elevated heart rate, a decrease in performance, and shallow breathing, among others. How to combat heat exhaustion: 1. Stop activity. 2. Move to a cool, shady, or indoor area. 3. Replace fluids (choose non-caffeinated/ non-alcoholic beverages). 4. Take an ice bath or cool shower. 5. Make sure to get plenty of rest. Seek medical attention if symptoms do not subside after an hour of fluid replenishing and elimination of activity. If untreated, heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature rises and is uncontrollable. It can take as little as ten minutes for body temp to rise to unsafe levels. According to Nick Suffredin—former

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associate scientist for Gatorade (2005–2009) and current R&D scientist at Jel Sert—most cases of heat stroke occur at the middle to lower end of the high temperatures in the day. “It can occur in temperatures as low as 70°F,” he says. Humidity levels also play a part in heat stroke, with levels of 40% or more adding to the danger. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are present at the onset of heat stroke. Additional symptoms, including a body temperature of 103°F and above, nausea, dizziness and confusion, headaches, unconsciousness, chills, a rapid strong pulse, and dry, red, hot skin are also warning signs. How to combat heat stroke: 1. Stop activity. 2. Move to a shady, cool environment. 3. Begin to cool the body with ice, water, etc. before you call 911. (Do not give victims of heat stroke anything to drink.) 4. Call 911. 5. Monitor body temperature, if possible. 6. Make sure airway remains clear. 7. If seizure-like symptoms occur, make sure victim is in a safe position. The best way to combat heat-related illness is to prevent it in the first place. Athletes taking medication (allergy, thyroid, blood pressure, etc.) or who have heart problems need to take extra precautions. Young and older athletes also need to be especially careful. Here are some preventive tips. Hydrate: Keep up on hydration before, during, and after workouts. Morning and Night: Work out early or late, avoiding the heat of the day. Buddy System: If working out in the heat of the day is necessary for heat acclimation or for other reasons, always bring along a buddy. Acclimation: Building your endurance and acclimating takes time. It takes between ten and fourteen days for proper heat acclimation to occur. Work up the amount of time spent in the heat slowly over the period of a few weeks. Cool Off: Taking a cold shower or ice bath pre-workout can help decrease the onset of heatrelated illness symptoms. Choose Your Clothing Wisely: Wear lightcolored and wicking clothing plus a hat or visor. Wearing sunscreen can also help.

Hydration According to former Gatorade scientist Nick Suffredin, there are two main theories on hydration. The first is to only drink when thirsty, while the second is to drink to replenish fluid loss. The first theory, however, is limiting, because your thirst activator does not always respond. “This is especially true for older athletes,” notes Suffredin, “because, as you age, the activator will decrease in sensitivity.” On the other hand, younger athletes may not have fully developed thirst sensitivity. Altitude can also affect hydration. The higher the altitude, the slower your thirst activator will fire. Dehydration does not always just occur in high temperatures. “Athletes tend to wear heavier clothing and don’t feel their body is heating up,” said Suffredin. “In this case, people feel like they don’t need to drink as much.” The only true way to make sure you are properly hydrated is to calculate your sweat rate. Here are Nick’s tips on how to do so. CALCULATE YOUR SWEAT RATE: To begin, record your nude body weight prior to exercising. When you are finished exercising, dry yourself off the best you can and record your nude body weight again. Record what fluids and how much you consumed during your exercise. Subtract your pre-exercise weight from your post-exercise weight and add the amount of fluid you consumed to that number. This will give you the amount of fluid you lost while exercising. Then, you need to divide that number by the amount of hours you exercised; that will equal your sweat rate. Be sure to record the weather conditions as well, to see how this may fluctuate. 1. ________ Record your nude body weight prior to exercise. 2. ________ Record your nude body weight (dry off before recording weight) after exercise (convert pounds to ounces: 1 lb. = 16 oz). 3. ________ Record how much fluid you consumed during exercise (use ounces). 4. ________ Subtract lines one and two for total weight loss and add line three. This is the amount of fluid your body lost while exercising. 5. ________ Take the number from line four and divide it by the number of hours you exercised. This will give you your sweat rate and will help you develop a more precise hydration plan to help you perform at your best.

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w Tech Talk

Maintain Your Mobility Understanding Muscle and Joint Problem Spots By Casey Flynn


alance keeps the body moving efficiently. The right combination of exercise, rest, and nutrition maintains healthy tissue in the musculoskeletal system, while proper posture, alignment, and conditioning distribute forces through the muscles and joints in a balanced way. Overwork or underutilize any of these components and you risk a system breakdown. Strengthening the muscles around joints protects joint function and provides structural support for the body’s motion. “Structure and function are very intimately related,” says Lillie Rosenthal, D.O., a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. “The smallest dysfunction of mechanics or training can exponentially increase the risk for injury.” Strong core muscles help protect the joints in your extremities, balancing the forces that your body experiences in sport. When the core is weak, smaller muscles in your arms and legs get overworked, leaving tendons and ligaments prone to injury. Pain typically occurs at the weakest link. “If you’re a tennis player and you don’t have a strong core, you’re going to develop tennis elbow,” says Lisa B. Barr, M.D., a physiatrist and founding partner at APM Spine and Sports Physicians. “You’re going to be overusing your arm muscles because you don’t have enough core strength in your external obliques. When you go to hit the ball, instead of using your core to get your power, you’re getting all your power from your arm.” Core strength doesn’t come exclusively from the abdominal muscles. Think of your core as a cylinder, with the diaphragm at the top, the pelvic floor at the bottom and your back muscles at the back of the cylinder. According to Dr. Barr, people often overdevelop their abdominals but never strengthen their diaphragm or pelvic floor. Try breathing exercises to work your diaphragm—singers and yogis who do breath work have healthy diaphragms. Do kegel exercises to develop the muscles of the pelvic floor, which can become weak after childbirth. Hypermobility is a joint condition common in women, where lax ligaments allow the joints to go beyond normal ranges of motion. Double jointedness is a benign form of hypermobility, but more extreme cases can cause chronic injury in 18  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

Tips for Improving Posture Good posture reduces back and neck pain and generally helps the body function better. Follow these tips from Dr. Rosenthal to go from slouching to sitting and standing tall. • Check in with yourself regularly and make micro-adjustments in your posture and release any tension you feel in your shoulders. • Lift your sternum and let your shoulders relax. Keep a nice space between your shoulders and your ears. • Avoid pinching the phone between your head and neck—use a headset if you need your hands. • Balance loads on your shoulders—alternate how you wear your purse and shift how you hold your children to avoid overstressing joints on one side. joints and may be an indicator of serious health conditions. Many people who are hypermobile don’t realize it and gravitate as children to sports that exploit their extreme range of motion, like cheerleading, gymnastics, and yoga, says Dr. Barr. This leads them to develop premature joint problems in their 30s and 40s, particularly in their hips. It is critical for these athletes to incorporate strength training to stabilize their joints. Tendons are an integral component of our joints, connecting muscle to bone. When tendons are overused they become inflamed, which leads to tendonitis. Patellar (knee), hamstring, and Achilles tendonitis are the most common and can be prevented by warming up thoroughly, stretching, and gradually increasing training intensities. Tendonitis can also occur during yoga, especially from the Chaturanga posture (the four-limbed staff pose), says Sabrina Strickland, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon specializing in women’s sports medicine. This position puts significant strain on the shoulder, and can cause inflammation where the biceps muscle attaches to the shoulder. If you feel pain in this area, let your instructor know so they can teach you how to make adjustments. The IT band, or iliotibial band, is many a runner and cyclist’s nemesis. The thick band of

fibrous tissue runs from the hip to just below the knee and flexes with both joints. Because it rubs over two knobby protrusions of bone (the top and bottom of the femur), it is particularly susceptible to irritation, most commonly on the outside of the knee. But don’t fret! As Dr. Strickland says, “This is going to be a fight and you’re going to win.” Managing IT band tightness requires perseverance—regular stretching, foam rolling, and working on good running form. But in the end, you will prevail. When something starts to hurt, lessen your training load. Avoid the activity that aggravates the injured area and RICE it (rest, ice, compress, elevate). Try other activities and exercises before easing back into your sport. Self-therapy does have its limits, though. “When we try to rehab ourselves, we usually try to get to a point where we lessen the pain just enough that we can get back into the activity,” says Antoinette M. Cheney, D.O., a family physician, marathoner, and triathlete. “We usually don’t give it the time that we need to give it, and then it becomes chronic. If you have a good physical therapist, they can rehab you in a great way so that they’re actually preventing you from getting that injury again in the future.”

Tech Talk


Ankles Ankles often get overlooked during strength training, despite the pivotal role they play in sports. Activities where you are moving over uneven terrain like hiking, trail running, and rock climbing work the ankles and demand a higher level of stability. Develop balance with onelegged exercises and use therabands, calf raises, and plyometrics to build strength in the ankles and lower leg muscles.

Knees The shape of the pelvis and the alignment of women’s legs put increased pressure on the back of the kneecap, making active women prone to patellofemoral pain, also known as runner’s knee. Additional circumstances that shift the body weight forward, such as pregnancy or wearing heels, adds to this strain. Strong quadriceps help the patella track properly and can prevent patellofemoral pain and osteoarthritis as women age. If you begin to feel pain around your kneecap, avoid exercises like lunges and squats, which exacerbate the condition, says Dr. Strickland. Focus on core and quad strengthening with straight leg raises with ankle weights, leg presses, and BOSU ball exercises.

Let’s take a look at the following problem joints and some pain prevention techniques: Shoulders “Unless women are involved in some type of regular weight training, they generally tend to have weaker shoulder girdles,” says Dr. Cheney. This becomes problematic if you switch over to a new sport requiring a lot of overhand motion, like swimming or climbing, and push it too soon. If you injure your shoulder, try not to baby it, as this can lead to reduced motion and something called frozen shoulder. The rotator cuff and surrounding muscles respond well to physical therapy, strengthening, and stretching.






Essentials for every run. Visit WAM • SUMMER | 2013  19

w Beyond


Lessons from Adventure in the Face of Apprehension By Anna Brones


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the occasional goat. It stayed with me as we set up exhibits, local Afghans curious to see a public art display on their turf—a rare occurrence. In fact, that sense of apprehension, although in a new form, was felt until the moment the plane lifted up from Kabul to take me home. As I learned, apprehension doesn’t have to mean that you are afraid or closed to new opportunities. It means that you are aware of your surroundings. That you think before you speak. That you are conscious of how you dress. That you do everything in your power to be culturally respectful so that you can interact with everyone

you meet in the most sensitive way possible. If you give in to apprehension, you actually give in to the experience. You let yourself be consumed by the moment; you take everything in because you have to. Your senses are on full alert, and in turn, you live fully. That is the sense of adventure. We can go to a new place and see it, smell it, and taste it, but not really take it in. Not until we breathe it into our souls do we let it change us. In a foreign land with a foreign culture, that is exactly what I did. Ask me to list three words that define Afghanistan before traveling there and I would have said


t was not without apprehension that I went to Afghanistan. It’s not the kind of place you go without tossing and turning a few nights in bed or spending time reassuring your friends and family that everything will be fine even though you yourself are headed into the complete and utter unknown. Afghanistan is the kind of place you spend a lot of time thinking about. I had been asked by Shannon Galpin, Executive Director of Mountain2Mountain, to join her in Kabul for the Streets of Afghanistan exhibit in late fall of 2012. Dreamed up by Shannon in 2008, Streets of Afghanistan was a collaboration between Western and Afghan photographers to document Afghan life through more than just the war lens. The result was a touring exhibit of larger-than-life photographs that embodied the heart of Afghanistan. Featuring the work of acclaimed Western and Afghan photographers, the exhibit demonstrated that Afghanistan is not just the poster child for war on the other side of the world. It’s an actual place with individuals living everyday lives, albeit lives impacted by conflict. Having toured in the U.S. with the exhibit, Shannon took it back to where it all started. On a cold day at the end of October, I stood with her outside of the Denver International Airport amid 30 black duffel bags, each one marked with a strip of bright pink duct tape and holding one of the exhibition photographs, hoping that the United Airlines personnel would be kind enough to help us check the entire stack and that they would somehow make it from Denver all the way to the other side of the world. Traveling to Afghanistan as Shannon reminded me, is about making a lot of moving parts come together, letting go of control, and hoping for the best. Inshallah. God willing. There is always a sense of apprehension when we travel; even a little bit is what makes travel exciting. It’s what keeps us coming back for more. Without apprehension, we don’t have adventure. I thought of this as I checked in, tickets to Kabul in hand, with a level of apprehension higher than ever before. That apprehension stayed with me all the way to touchdown in Kabul, the colors of the sunset intensified by the dusty mountain air. It stayed with me as we drove at dusk to our guesthouse, a fast drive dodging pedestrians, cars, and


something like “war,” “terrorism,” and “destruction.” I have asked friends and family to come up with a trifecta of words to describe this place, too. They often produce a similar selection. We have a view of Afghanistan that is shaped by mass media. This isn’t strange; the world is a big place, it’s impossible to truly know every corner of it. But the difference with Afghanistan is that we function under the illusion that we know things about it; that we understand it because we read about it; that we know about the Afghan people because we saw them on a television news segment.

The reality is that we all understand very little. After two weeks in Afghanistan—a trip that was a flurry of meetings infused with tea, meals with freshly grilled kebab, warm invitations into people’s homes, and everyday moments of amazement at the power of the human spirit—I would paint a very different picture. The words that come to mind are gentler; they are about the people and the beautiful landscapes, the sunsets of Kabul, the beauty that manages to exist in the midst of destruction. In fact, I can no longer come up with a concrete definition of what Afghanistan means to me. Before, its essence could be boiled down to three words; now it’s a feeling, a moment, a combination of many elements that reminds me that this world is not black and white. Defining a place as such simply shows our lack of understanding. I got into a political argument with an acquaintance after I returned who said to me: “I respect you for going over there. I would just want to shoot them all.” He said he was kidding. I was taken aback. Appalled.


These are the words of someone who has never experienced that sense of apprehension in a foreign place. Even in the form of a joke, these are the words of someone who thinks in black and white, who makes assumptions and prejudices without ever being in that place. There is a lot about Afghanistan that is difficult and terrible. There is violence. There are terrorists. Women are raped. There is poverty. There is hopelessness. But it’s also a place where, when everything has fallen to pieces, there is no other option but to rebuild and move forward. There are artists. There are teachers. There are cycling teams. There are everyday people doing the kind of things that we in the Western world often think are impossible. Closing ourselves off to that because of fear is closing us off to a world of opportunity—a world where innovation and inspiration are more powerful than weapons and violence. That is what travel and adventure have the power to show us, we just have to be open to see it. Inshallah.

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w Beyond

Understanding Southeast Alaska An Adventurous Lesson By Jennifer C. Olson Day 1

Day 2 Breakfast today was a fresh bagel from the café in the Silverbow Inn ( and better 22  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

coffee than you’d anticipate getting so far north. The morning’s activity: a hike with Cycle Alaska owner John, who leads outdoor tours year-round. A creek near the trailhead flowed with runoff. And it also flowed with gold. A man panning for nuggets showed us how to do it. He filtered all the lightest particles from his pan, shaking it occasionally and tilting the base sideways to see whether a heavy gold fleck would stay in the top of the pan. After a couple panfuls of mud, he found a nugget, pocketed it, and wished us well on our hike. We walked up Perseverance Trail—a popular path near town that was originally a mining road. In the old days, it took the mining trucks four hours to drive to the top of it. A few miles long, with a gradual climb, the trail follows Gold Creek and passes stunning, pure waterfalls. We took an offshoot up to an old mine site called the Glory Hole before rushing down in a rainstorm. This afternoon, I hopped aboard a Northstar Trekking helicopter for a short glacier tour. Flying over one glacier, I saw a team of sled dogs pulling a passenger—a dozen moving flecks below. The chopper circled back to Mendenhall, landing two miles back and in front of an icefall. The guide led us a couple tiers up the icefall, checking out waterfalls, lakes, and a cave. We looked into deep moulins and over the edge of fall-and-you’regone-forever crevasses. For you, readers, I’d recommend the longer, more technical tour. Still, experiencing the glacier—its many features, its ice of various densities and shades of blue, and even its sludgy silt—up close and personal was remarkable, a real education.

Day 3 This morning, I’m riding a ferry from Juneau to Haines. Someone tells me to sit in the back of the ferry, on the top deck where people set up tents and lay out sleeping bags. It was 5 a.m. when I boarded, though, and a bit chilly once the ferry begins moving. But I do meet a new friend back there. We go to the front deck to catch views and, when it gets too cold, buy itsy bitsy cups of coffee from the cafeteria and move to the lower deck to sun ourselves. As I write this, I’m enjoying the outstanding scenery from the back of the ferry, and my new friend is sharing why he loves southeast Alaska and explaining why our big boat can get so close to shore. Three Norwegian men also riding back here are chatting with a man from Lake Tahoe,

and they’re full of questions about dangerous animals.

Later, Day 3 The sun shone throughout my paddle with Alaska Mountain Guides ( out to Battery Point, where we saw a whale tail just before launching the kayaks to head back. That revved my nerves a bit. Apparently, it’s impossible to know whether that whale was alone or whether others are prepping for a dive down deep, too. They could knock a person out of a boat in a flash and injure or drown someone. Now, a family totem stands between me and the Chilkoot River. I can look over it, upstream to gentle rapids and glacier-dumped boulders. Across is a nameless majestic mountain—and, to the left, another. Chilkoot River Lodge (chilkootriverlodge. com) owner, Sue, is part Tlinket (the native tribe) and says the village sprawled from where we are to farther upstream and around the bend. If I walk up the road, which runs parallel to the river, I’ll see more totems and find signs that lend a little more information. But I’m not supposed to do that alone this time of evening, because the bears are all out for walks, too. A bear trail comes uphill, alongside the house then runs behind it, up the mountain. The lodge smells like salmon. Sue and her friend have been cooking and canning it for three days. Maybe the aroma will bring a bear right up to the window. I ask how to can salmon, and Sue tells me to watch the pot’s pressure gauge while she explains it. Preparing local fare is instilled in her, so she knows how to get it right. “My friends and I, when we had sleepovers, used to sneak into the pantry at night and eat canned moose meat,” Sue says. “I just love it.” She grabs a fresh jar from her own pantry and dumps the moose meat in a bowl


As a girl, I started a fresh journal on every family vacation, bringing along blank pages to fill with new experiences, sketches of characters I met along the way, and reflections from it all. I meticulously recorded every experience, committing them to the pages and to my memory. Just as I did back then, I’m venturing to a new place— southeast Alaska—with a fresh notebook today. To be honest, I don’t know what to expect and am trying to revive that old sense of wonder, hold any reservations at bay. When worried, I tell myself: “Whatever happens, you can handle it.” Still, you never know what Alaska has in store. The plane from Seattle to Juneau flew over a series of islands, channels, and mountains where fog hugged the land and nestled, static, into the steeper-than-I’ve-ever-seen valleys. The fog rested perfectly over every curve of land, not even extending out over the water. In Juneau, my host Elizabeth took me immediately to Mendenhall Glacier. She pointed across the iceberg-ridden lake and told me about the massive valley of ice and the even huger ice field behind the edge of it that we could see. After a visit to the Alaskan Brewing Company, we stopped by a salmon hatchery, where thousands of salmon were swimming up the ladder in the early season to their spawning grounds. I am captivated by the salmon life cycle, the massive and real presence of icebergs, and nature’s perfect processes. Going to bed early last night— my first night in Alaska—would have been kind of cheating. After a day of traveling, glacier viewing, salmon observing, and beer tasting, I felt pretty tired, dirty, and overwhelmed. I’d also noticed the skewed ratio of men-to-women around town and was hesitant to become one of the few gals kicking it downtown. Still, it was important to check out the Red Door Saloon. So, I brushed my hair and found the corner bar with a local band playing old country hits onstage. Through the swinging saloon doors, there was one empty seat—a barstool in the center of the room between a cuddly couple and a small group of guys. I squeezed in and leaned over the counter to order a pint of Alaskan White Ale.


for me. I try a bite or two. Then she takes out a Tupperware of leftover king crab and adds some to the dish. “Enjoy!”

Day 4 A yellow patch of something like moss decorates the dark dirt near the trail and half covers a small, downed log. Our naturalist guide Dan points to it with his hiking stick. “This,” he says, “is slime mold. It’s mobile.” He places a rock near it as a marker and says that we’ll check on it on our way back. Dan stops a second later to point out wood shavings near the base of a tree. “The bark beetle causes this,” he explains. As we walk through a densely vegetated field toward the beach, he instructs us to make noise to scare away any bears. He can smell one if it’s close. On our return hike, the yellow patch of slime mold has moved. It had crawled over the log and halfway across the trail already.

Day 5 A man named Buckwheat showed me around Skagway. He’s an encyclopedia of local history, personal stories, and humble entertainment, including poetry rapping and Jack London narrations. He once walked from Miami to Alaska to raise money for the local clinic, finishing off the trip with a canoe float over to the Bering Sea. Buckwheat’s blue eyes would crinkle as he launched into one of his stories; he’d raise his eyebrows and smile, laughing with the jolly chuckle he’s used for 60 years. He showed me the Chilkoot Trail, where Skagway hosts a tenperson, 110-mile relay course every September. He pointed out the town’s historical whorehouses, took me to the ghost village of Dyea, and drove

me over the bridge that locals raised money to build instead of waiting on the state government to take care of it. Buckwheat also set up a hiking tour to Laughton Glacier. We begin the trek to Laughton Glacier after a train ride to a stop past the turn off to the Denver Glacier but before the train reaches the Yukon. A guide leads the way, pointing out poisonous plants, wildlife in the trees, and one of Alaska’s many NFS cabins. Eventually, the woods spit us out into a glacial valley, where we see Laughton Glacier looming, marking this end of the Juneau ice field. Another couple miles up the valley we’re almost on the glacier, getting traction on the rocks embedded in its melting ice. I’m speechless.


his eyes, I see he is serious. “I’m a pretty good shot,” I tell him. He carries a pistol in case a bear gets too close. Bear spray—a hiking guide in Haines told me— has a higher success rate than guns. Only about 20% of people armed with bear spray still get attached, where about 40% of people who use a gun against a bear get attacked anyway. My plan: Get away from or scare away the bear before it decides to attack. Still feeding on grass this time of year, these brown bears are pretty hungry for meat, but they’d prefer waiting for the salmon over getting that close to a human. The salmon will start running in a week or two. But we aren’t fishing for salmon. We’re fly fishing, hoping to catch dolly vardens with flies mimicking salmon fry (juvenile salmon). I was pretty excited to be fishing with a pink fly. We aren’t even in the water five minutes when I get a strike. I set the hook and soon am reeling in my very own dolly. It fights for a long time, dragging my line upstream quickly, then downstream, and toward the shore. When its strength wanes, we get it in the net and admire it. I hold up the fish and smile for the camera before releasing it. “Bye, little guy,” I wave.

Day 8

The flight from Sitka to Seattle is quick, foggy, and less stunningly scenic than the flight into Juneau. Except I understand the valleys below better. I recognize their distinct “U” shape and imagine glaciers moving out of them, carving as they receded. Going home, I think about the cultural aspects of Alaska: the resourcefulness, the toughDay 6 ness, the understanding that nature rules, the A pod of whales breached near the ferry yesterday, respect for the land, the community strength sprouting water out of their blowholes. Today I and sharing attitude, the locavore approach, and saw a large, black mass surface in the center of the deep-seeded kindness that is evident and exsome fishing boats. Then it disappeared, and I pected. “If you’re a jerk, you’re gone,” a local said thought I’d imagined it. But an announcement to explain why people stay—or go. over the ferry’s intercom confirmed the whale Innocent wonder at the world and the beautisighting. ful people in it is prominent in southeast Alaska, I’d say. Another prominent trait: consciousness. You must plan, conserve, and be savvy in the Day 7 wild, in the kitchen, with a gun, and even about On a shore near Sitka, we beach the kayaks and the transportation systems. crawl ashore to pee behind a bush and have a These practices and attitudes don’t even take snack. Dana, our kayaking guide, had already up space in my oversized duffle, filled with jackharvested seaweed and fed it to us on the water ets, muddy shoes, heavy-duty boots, well-worn but these salmon puffs she hands over taste pants, and still-clean shorts and T-shirts. But they great. Last night, she and her husband harvested another kind of seaweed in the bay, and just now are the most valuable souvenirs. When you pack your bags for southeast she found some blueberries in the woods. This Alaska, bring open-mindedness, commitment, is the lifestyle of a committed Alaskan: Use what proficiency, and kindness. Leave your reservanature provides. “Are you familiar with guns?” my fishing guide tions and expectations at home. It’s going to be challenging, surprising, and harsh. It’s going to be asks, as he steers the boat upstream. Looking in spectacular. WAM • SUMMER | 2013  23

w Advocate

Keys to Recovery Project Athena Foundation journey helps survivors embrace life By Allison Pattillo “Did your leg just fall off?” trail God, cyclist and Army Ranger Blain Reeves asked Alli Morgan, an amputee and trip Athena participant, as they were standing on the side of A1A in south Florida during the second day of the Project Athena Foundation Keys to Recovery Trip. “Flat tires, broken chains, busted derailleurs, I’ve experienced all of that and more, but a leg falling off is a first.” Un-fazed, Morgan replied, “The only time my leg falls off is when we stop, so no more rest breaks.” Spoken like a true Athena. No Roadblocks Some challenges you choose, some choose you. For the Athena’s on the Keys to Recovery trip, life had presented them with nearly insurmountable setbacks, from cancer to morbid obesity to injuries and infections resulting in an amputation. The challenge they chose was a three-day, multi-sport adventure spent pushing through self-doubt, overcoming fears and finding the joy in sore muscles. “These amazing women are Athena’s because they had the strength to see ‘challenges’ in their life, not ‘roadblocks,’” according to Robyn Benincasa, PAF founder and Minister of Dreams. Benincasa, a life-long athlete, adventure racer, motivational speaker, fire fighter and author, thought up the concept for PAF while she was recovering from hip surgery and dreaming of future adventures with friends. Benincasa knew the importance of sport to her life and thought the power of a team and athletic achievements could help others recover emotionally and psychologically from life setbacks.

24  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

turned into all-out sing-alongs and epic water battles as we paddled our way down the Atlantic side of the Keys. “For me, this has been about learning to love the process, the now, not just the goal,” said fundraising Goddess Catalina Ontaneda Vivar, who traveled to Florida from Quito, Ecuador. “As a lifelong athlete, I’ve always been driven by competition, not the fulfillment of experiencing every moment.” Somewhere along a corral ribbon of land between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico a band of 30 individuals became a team. The supporters became the supported and the supported became empowered. As Benincasa points out, “Everyone is an Athena and a Goddess at different points in their life.” The journey ended on a surreal high note of having a police escort as we cycled through Key

West, our PAF parade causing people to clap and cheer. It’s not that our accomplishments necessarily resonated with the onlookers, but we all wore the weary, yet joyous, undeniable soul smiles of a team that had accomplished something magical. As everyone crossed the finish line in the sand hand-in-hand, there were plenty of tears—of joy, relief, hope and emotion from personal accomplishments achieved as a group— and the reinforcement of Benincasa’s mantra that we truly are stronger together than we ever could be on our own. Sign up for your own Project Athena Adventure! The next Keys to Recovery trip is November 21–25, 2013. To learn more about PAF, the race series and other trips, or to register, visit


Adventure of a Lifetime Much like battling and recovering from an illness, the Keys to Recovery Trip is a multi-leg journey. Traveling by kayak, bike and foot, the group covered the 128 miles from Key Largo to Key West over three days. Nights were spent at beachfront campsites, enjoying great meals and good company while relaxing around a fire. Long days were made easier thanks to a full support crew to transport gear, boats and bikes, allowing participants to let go of the details and immerse themselves in the experience. Kayaking was the most challenging activity for many, but two-person boats established the importance of teamwork from the very first stroke. Jitters and nervous laughter quickly

Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom, war and heroic endeavors.


PAF Keys to Recovery Athena Bios

Alli Morgan, 22 Whitesboro, NY Amputee with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome This trip wasn’t just about encouraging ourselves and others to the finish line, it was a celebration of the fact that we were here, that we had made it through the physical survival and were now able to truly live. To me, Project Athena’s mission represents the essence of hope—rekindled hope in our bodies, souls, and the people around us.


Jenny Meer Hodges, 41 Land O’Lakes, FL Obesity survivor This trip was an amazing, life-changing experience. It was the opportunity to experience life in a whole new way, realize that you are capable of anything and gain a lifetime of confidence, inspiration, and self-worth. I am a survivor, and now I realize I am so much more.

Mary Beth Tucker, 48 Conyers, GA Pseudo Tumor Cerebri From the beginning of my illness, I had to fight—I fought my doctor for a treatment that I was okay with, I fought the insurance company to approve my treatment, and I fought myself, battling over not giving in to going blind. I fought in training because I was not in shape. Surrounded by the others on our trip, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I had found people who would fight with me, fight the diseases in the world, fight the fear with me, fight for me, and fight alongside me. I found a team.

Theresa Morris, 54 Richmond, VA Bone disease and multiple malignant melanomas Not only was I given the opportunity to truly live out an adventurous dream never imagined, but I was given a new support team of friends that have been there and will be there whenever needed. PAF has given me a new sense of strength and confidence to share my experience and pay it forward.

what’s in your pack?

XEna sEriEs Women’s Backpacking / Mountaineering


WAM • SUMMER | 2013  25


  Hotel Homebase

WHY VISIT Mountain hedonists will revel in the county’s 1,870 square miles, which includes the western portion of Rocky Mountain National Park, one National Recreation Area, two National Forests, and six National Wilderness Areas. A highlight for any visitor is trekking, horseback riding, or mountain biking along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Plus, there is water enough to keep any river rat, kayaker, sailor, or angler busy. CULTURE It’s all about an active outdoor lifestyle in Grand County. Discover a potpourri of friendly locals in towns with a pioneer western vibe. The area’s offerings satisfy quite a range of outdoor personalities: from all-season sports types, extreme adventurers, ranchers, river guides, and nature lovers. OUTDOOR SPORTS We are pretty sure the county covers all our favorite summer sports— except for surfing, but you can always SUP on Grand Lake. LANDSCAPE This high altitude mountain playground boasts more bodies of water than you’d expect, plus a hot springs. The headwaters of the mighty Colorado River stem from Grand County, and Grand Lake is the deepest and largest natural lake in Colorado, setting a superb stage for water sports. It’s worth mentioning the area’s 1,000 miles of streams, 1,000 acres of high-mountain lakes, and 11,000 acres of reservoirs, too. Dotting the valleys, mountains, and waterways are five small towns, including one that you may have heard of—Winter Park, a ski resort in winter and Mountain Bike Capital USA in summer. The county’s elevation varies from the rolling to rugged terrain and begins at 8,000 feet, capping out at 14,295 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. TEMPERATURE In summer, Denver residents beat the heat and head for the mountains. Days average 70 degrees while evenings can get down to a chilly 40 degrees or lower. Summer rain and thunderstorms sweep the skies early to mid-afternoon. Expect snow anytime. NEAREST AIRPORT Denver International Airport, 67 miles west of Denver

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By Gigi Ragland


Hotel Homebase 

Grand County, Colorado HOTEL HOMEBASE

As early pioneers made their way West through the expansive glacial valleys, rugged peaks, and pristine alpine lakes, they were awestruck by the Rocky Mountain landscape, describing it as some of the grandest country they had ever seen. Majestic mountain scenery is Colorado’s claim to fame. Named for its splendor, gorgeous Grand County offers a grand array of adventures for the traveler seeking high-octane summer fun in the Rockies. WAM • SUMMER | 2013  27


  Hotel Homebase

Settle into One of our Grand Mountain Hideaway Choices for R&R in the Rockies.

Snow Mountain Ranch Yurt Village G R A NB Y, CO LO R A D O A D O Z E N FA MI LY- SI ZED YUR TS


or a good stopping point between Rocky Mountain National Park and Winter Park Resort, head for Snow Mountain Ranch where thousands of acres of protected wildlife habitat and backcountry sprawl for your enjoyment. Active families will find that one of the most idyllic and unique spots to get some shut-eye after a full day adventuring is in a yurt. These rounddomed lodges mimic the camping experience. A yurt is essentially a gigantic, ultra-durable tent set permanently in the woods on a wooden base and frame. Each yurt in this village includes two bunk beds and one queen-size bed, all with linens and blankets, tables and chairs, and a microwave and mini-fridge. Bring flashlights though for nighttime trips to the bathhouse and laundry facilities, about 25 feet from the yurts. Outside nearby, families will enjoy the fire ring with log seating, perfect for telling stories and counting the stars at night. There’s also a picnic table, and a ground-mounted charcoal grill, great for roasting marshmallows. From $89, pets are allowed for an extra $10 per night.

Activities for All, Big and Small

Tikes on Trikes

YMCA of the Rockies offers activities, programs, and events all within the 5,000-acre backcountry of Snow Mountain Ranch. Guests staying at the ranch properties have free access to activities like morning yoga, disc golf, sand volleyball, hiking and biking trails, fishing, swimming, and more. For a little extra: canoeing, horseback riding, mountain bike rentals, a climbing wall, a zip line, and archery.

New at Snow Mountain Ranch since 2012: a tricycle park with a fleet of pink and blue tricycles for little ones to learn skills and the rules of riding. The park’s custom trike course was designed with roundabouts, lanes, stop signs, and curves. Future plans include trike rodeos and bike games.



Summer in RMNP is short and sweet. A kaleidoscope of colorful wildflowers pops up in the lower elevations in late June and continues to bloom, punching through the melting snow through August. It’s quite the welcome mat for hikers traipsing along the park’s more than 350 miles of winding trails, also open to backpackers and horseback riders. Visitors will be awed by the majesty of outdoor treasures to explore within the park. Check for special programs and ranger-led hikes. Road cyclists can test their lungpower, if they dare, by pedaling the 60 miles of road with a 5 to 7 percent grade.

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Did You Know? Volunteers give more than 100,000 hours a year to Rocky Mountain National Park. That equals approximately 48 fulltime employees. Special Event: Family Fly Fishing Families can learn fly casting and catch and release techniques together on Friday, July 19th, 2013 at the Trail River Ranch inside the park. All equipment and lunch is provided. $100 per family of up to three people; $25 for each additional member. Call Gayle Langley for more information at 970-627-5026.

Mountain Biking Mecca Winter Park–Fraser Valley’s 600 miles of marked and unmarked terrain—with a variety of trails for every ability level—are why the region is dubbed Mountain Bike Capital USA. There’s a lot of everything from wide dirt roads to jeep roads twisting through pines, to narrow trails with loads of singletrack. You can follow that tacky dirt up to an elevation of 10,000 feet. events-and-activities/activities/ activities/mountain-biking Winter Park Resort’s Trestle Bike Park offers fun downhill rides that take the breath away with sheer beauty and thrills. With a new expert trail named “Cruel and Unusual,” this park pushes the envelope on edgy gravity trails. Our favorite is the beginner-level, topto-bottom “Green World” trail that provides an adrenaline rush while showcasing gorgeous mountain scenery on the ride down. The park’s 40 miles of trails accomo-

date a wide range of features for all skill levels.

Ladies’ Events Women’s Wednesdays at Trestle Every Wednesday (June 15– September 22) from 4–7 p.m. The Trek Dirt Series Camp July 20 and 21; Gravity Goddess Downhill Camp Trestle Bike Park School’s freeride downhill mountain bike experience exclusively for women is open to all gals ages 13 and up. July 13 and 14; August 3 and 4


Climbers and mountaineers who would like guiding services can check with the park’s recommendations at planyourvisit/goodsandservices. htm

Hiking Tip: Check with the visitor’s center to find out what trails are accessible that week and which are good for acclimating to the park’s higher elevations. visitor_centers


Hotel Homebase 



he views can’t get much better than this. Atop a knoll overlooking the sapphire waters of Grand Lake, which is framed by rows and rows of emerald pines, stands one of Colorado’s most iconic summer mountain lodges. To top it off, this hillside haven is embraced on three sides by the high peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. A registered National Historic Landmark, the lodge not only boasts spectacular views but is also one of the closest full-service accommodations to the western gateway of the park. Most of the establishment’s 70 rustic cabins were recently refurbished and offer many creature comforts, including your own porch to watch the sunset alpenglow. The multi-storied lodge constructed from lodgepole pine was established in 1920 and boasts a dining room and veranda overlooking the lake, plus a heated pool and hot tub. Cabins from $130.




Be a Paddle Diva on the Lake

Head to the Kayak Shak at the Headwaters Marina on the lake for solo and tandem kayak rentals. Be sure to ask about the “three hours for the price of two” special. Find by-the-hour SUP and canoe rentals at Grand Lake Marina. Tip: The best time to paddle on the lake is early morning when the water is smooth. Winds pick up by late morning and early afternoon.

t the edge of the Continental Divide rests the picture perfect ranch cradled in a creek-lined valley; it’s the kind of scene we see in our imagination but don’t really expect in real life. Devil’s Thumb has more going for it than good looks though. It’s a one-stop shop. Lots of adventure awaits within the 6,000 acres of ranch land. Plus, there’s the chic ultra western lodge with custom-designed guest rooms and a top rated pool and spa to relax in between activities. DTR offers several lodging options. The budget-friendly Bunkhouse features 13 cozy rooms; the luxury lodge has 52 rooms; and the surrounding land boasts 16 woodsy cabins, some that are dog friendly. Up on a hill overlooking the ranch, the newly constructed High Lonesome Lodge will debut this fall with 31 guest rooms and four suites. From $83 per night for a shared room in the Bunkhouse; lodge rooms start at $260 per night. Doorway to Adventure

Women, Wheels, and Wine in July

Besides fly fishing on the property or taking to the air via zipline, guests can try their hands at archery, geocaching, and orienteering, even taking lessons if needed. Hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers can explore winding trails up and down the meadows and mountains located just out the back of the lodge. And for those who want to check out Winter Park’s summer activities (we recommend it), they’re only a ten-minute drive from Devil’s Thumb.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch will offer a one-day women’s mountain biking camp for all abilities on July 28, 2013, that includes professional instruction from members of the Yeti Beti Team. Participants get bike fit assistance, maintenance advice, and training tips. There’s also a Yoga for Athletes class, plus the steam room, sauna, pool, and hot tub are open for postride relaxation. The camp ends with a raffle for bike gear during a wine and cheese reception. $110 per person. Reservations required (970-726-8231).

Special Event: Regatta Week

Grand Lake Yacht Club is one of North America’s highest (altitude-wise) yacht clubs. The quaint town at 8,269 feet is popular among the region’s alpine sailors. The private club’s racing season starts in July, and Regatta Week runs August 3rd–10th, 2013.

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  29


  Travel Trends

Wildlife Voluntourism in Namibia Safeguarding Big Cats, Elephants, and Other Species with Biosphere Expeditions By Gigi Ragland


’m like many travelers who crisscross the globe, carrying passports full of stamped pages and backpacks tattooed with stains from exotic locales. Our foreign language skills are barely passable but get us by. But there came a point when I wanted to get deeper into the travel experience. Besides buying, eating, and lodging with local companies, I wanted to give back in other ways. Voluntourism, offering my time and skills as a contribution toward positive change, allows me to learn and give back while on a dream trip. To figure out what type of voluntourism is best for you, find something that speaks to your interests. On challenging days, knowing that you are contributing to your favorite cause will sustain you. If you think the “touring” part of the equation will last longer than the “volunteering” part, look elsewhere. It’s not all play; it’s mostly work. Wildlife voluntourism activities often involve participating in environmental surveys, behavior observation, tracking, checking and setting traps, game counts, and trail maintenance. Since I chose a voluntourism program called Safeguarding Big Cats, Elephants and Other Species with Biosphere Expeditions, my activities included checking box traps in the morning and observing wildlife behavior near waterholes in the African savannah during sunset. It was better than a safari. We saw the same animals other tourists saw but also conducted field studies for a scientific expedition. I never

thought I would grow to love wildebeests until I saw them prance in the shrubby savannah of Namibia. They were wild, wily, and funny to watch. WHY WILDLIFE VOLUNTOURISM?

A number of organizations aim to protect and preserve endangered species in their habitats and I, like many, want to contribute. Signing up for a wildlife voluntourism trip was a no-brainer. Africa has always been on my wish list, along with seeing the Big 5—lions, African elephants, Cape buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceros. I researched organizations that offered science-focused wildlife voluntourism trips and discovered Biosphere Expeditions (BE), an organization whose programs, value, integrity, and vision I liked. BE offers “taster days” that allow prospective participants to sample the feel of a trip before committing to a tour. When you decide which type of voluntourism fits your criteria, do as much research as possible. Make sure you are on board with the organization’s ethics and that you understand and agree with the project’s goal. Know where your money goes and find out exactly what you will do during your trip. BE’s website offers tons more advice. BEFORE

The southwestern African country recognized for its natural beauty and wealth of wildlife, was the first to establish environmental protection in its constitution, and a whopping

Examples of Voluntourism • National Park Trail Restoration • Building homes, schools, or gardens in underprivileged or ravaged areas • Training locals in medical treatment or providing medical assistance

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Namibia boasts 40–50 percent of the world’s total free-roaming cheetah population. It is the only country with a growing number of free-roaming lions.

40 percent of the land is under conservation management. Also, citizens have the right to manage wildlife within their local conservancies, so more communities are encouraged to sustain wildlife as an economic opportunity. However, even Namibia has problems with human and wildlife conflict, identified as one of the biggest threats to biodiversity worldwide. Biosphere Expeditions’ two-week expedition focused on collecting scientific data that would inform landowners’ day-to-day management decisions to reduce human-wildlife conflict. Helping to safeguard Africa’s most amazing animals seemed thrilling to me. Before the trip, BE sent out a very thorough dossier (41 pages), which covered their aims and objectives, training info, team assignments, logistics of the area, physical conditioning recommendations, medical advice, and travel documents. I felt reassured that BE was committed to its participants’ wel-

fare. It reinforces BE’s motto: safety, science and satisfaction. TRAINING

Our team of nine people hailed from Germany, England, Austria, and the United States; however English was the main language spoken during the trip, as requested by BE. This made for efficient communication during training and fieldwork. It was crucial that we understood all the minutiae that go along with data surveys, like knowing the difference between a kudu and an oryx. Identifying animals was easy, as long as they were leopards, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, elephants, or rhinos—the kind of animals we see in movies and zoos. But countless other species required extra study time. Some I had never even heard of, like an eland, a hartebeest, or a common duiker. And some I had heard of but never seen, like the springbok, caracal, steenbok, oryx, warthog, hyena, and kudu. In addition to animal identification, we were taught how to use a


Travel Trends 

What is Voluntourism? Voluntourism is a blend of volunteer work and touring a destination. It often involves paying a fee that goes toward the project or cause, but also covers your room and board, then you work for a charitable organization for a few days or a few weeks either before or after a traditional vacation or as the main activity of the trip. the matriarch trumpet, calling the family to her. Learn more about Namibia: How to get there: GPS and telemetry equipment, set up box traps and release animals, install camera traps and retrieve information, measure tracks and identify scat, plus survey animal behavior. As a treat, those willing learned to drive the Land Rovers on all types of terrain. Every day, one of us slipped up and identified something incorrectly or calculated the wrong data. Then, either expedition leader Jenny Kraushaar or project scientist Kristina Killian reminded us, “You are not on safari. This is a science expedition.” After three full days of training, we were ready to apply our newfound knowledge.



Everyday as we headed out for our assignments, there were new smells, sights, and sounds. One participant reveled in the aroma of the desert flora at the cusp of budding season. Others snapped as many pictures as time would allow, capturing everything from herds of impala darting across a sandy desert wash, to giraffes spreading their long limbs while sipping at a waterhole, to the vista of mountain zebras roaming in the highlands. The savannah fills with noise, especially at dawn and dusk. These sounds—the victory cry of a hyena after taking its prey, followed by the crescendo of high-pitched yelps from the pack descending on the fresh meal—linger with you.

Okambara Farm, the conservancy where our project was based, is one of three farms in Namibia with elephants on the property. The project’s lead scientist, Jörg Melzheimer, says that more farms are looking to include elephants on their land. But first, research on elephant behavior needs to be done. So, BE includes the elephant observation survey in the roster of daily project work. “After three months of research, we know ten times as much as we knew before, because we have a strict research routine which gives us a huge pile of data,” said Melzheimer. “We learned which areas of the farm the elephants really like, because now we have people [voluntourists] who check twice a day, note where the elephants are and whether they are feeding, and notice the landscape and vegetation.” Surveying the elephant’s behavior became my favorite assignment. It felt like detective work as we drove the dusty routes, spotting the elephants’ dinner plate-sized tracks in the sand. Other times it seemed like hide and seek, only the elephants were better at it. How could nine elephants be so hard to find? When conducting wildlife surveys, patience is key. While waiting, we saw elephants nibbling on shrubs, pawing at trees, flipping red dirt with their trunks onto their backs to keep cool, and crossing the road in front of us with babies close on the heels of their mothers’ trunks. We even heard


Finally, after two weeks, the names of all the animals came easy to us, and we could identify them all, even from afar. BE offers trip extensions so these new skills can be of benefit for longer. On the last evening, Jenny and Kristina drove us to the top of a mesa for the Namibian sunset. We scanned the savannah and neigh-

boring highlands for a possible last glimpse of wildlife. Perhaps our sharpened gaze would sight one of the leopards that had eluded us thus far. We never saw them, but most likely they saw us from the camouflage of their savannah hideout. Our mounted cameras revealed images of leopards during their nocturnal wanderings, so at least we knew the big cats were there, thriving. A little bit adds up. I was glad our small, one-time contribution would make a big difference long term.

If you are looking for a unique adventure — perhaps exploring ancient ruins in Peru or kayaking in Québec — is your guide for physical, cultural and nature-based adventure travel world-wide.


All tours are operated by members of the global Adventure Travel Trade Association

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  Travel Pro Q&A

Cooking for a Cause

A Volunteer Heats Things Up in the Backcountry

Three Summer Travel Pieces By Gigi Ragland

By Gigi Ragland


here are all sorts of ways to volunteer in the great outdoors. Barbara Nye got her first taste of volunteering as a backcountry camp cook for the Continental Divide Trail program in Montana ( “Cooking on the trail is always a challenge,” says Barbara. “I learned new and inventive ways to fix fun food on a fire or a tiny stove.” The program, being conveniently near her home, provided a perfect opportunity for her. Barbara was able to up her skills as a camp cook and aid a good cause as well. CDT Montana, a volunteer trail stewardship program, seeks to complete the unfinished part of the Northern Rockies section (980 miles in Idaho and Montana) of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The organization relies heavily on summer volunteers to assist them in this task. In addition to camp cooks, CDT Montana needs volunteer trail crewmembers. Sound like your kind of thing? Learn more at

Why did you volunteer with CDT Montana? The lookout tower I volunteered to work on is practically in my back yard. (I live on Marsh Creek Road, about 8 miles from the tower.) For years, I expressed my interest to anyone who would listen that I hoped to somehow resurrect the tower and see new life breathed into it, as it was starting to show signs of neglect. Where else do you volunteer? Two friends and I are all volunteers at our local fire department so we know the value of volunteerism. It was just so much fun to be a part of the group that worked on the fire tower because we all shared a passion for the outdoors.

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How has backpacking changed for you since being in your 50s? In my 20s and 30s, I was an avid backpacker and saw many Montana mountain peaks and high mountain lakes. Hiking is truly the love of my life! Now I do more and more Forest Service cabin rentals because they require less packing in of supplies. I’ve been to most of the cabins at one time or another over the years, and they’re great resources for those of us who can’t carry a heavy pack anymore.

Camsafe Anti-Theft Camera Sling Bag The Possibilities: Petty thieves and pickpockets beware! PacSafe just debuted a Camera Sling Bag that is secure and specialized for photographers with lots of gear. Featuring a DSLR camera and lens compartment, a tablet pouch, a nifty RFID blocking Passport Pocket, a mobile phone pocket, and an easily accessible water bottle holder, the bag is also expandable, so you can tuck in a few souvenirs for safe keeping. The Goods: Anti-theft technology, a stainless steel-reinforced shoulder strap, and stainless steel mesh outer panels prevent thieves from downloading and stealing personal information from credit cards and passports. $139.99; CDTMONTANA.ORG

Describe how volunteering has made a difference in your life. I loved meeting everyone else who volunteered with CDT Montana! They were all about my age or older, so it’s encouraging to know I am welcome to keep doing this well

into my retirement because I have no desire to ever stop hiking and exploring the backcountry. I will definitely keep volunteering my help on similar projects when opportunity arises.

PROSPECS Power 4 Sports Walking Shoes The Possibilities: Some of us walk and some of us run. As sports walking gains in popularity, more athletes are aware of the need for a shoe designed to address their needs. So, fast walkers like me will appreciate this race-worthy shoe made to support feet destined to rocket across the pavement at a fast, “heel first” pace. The Goods: PROSPECS researched the bio-mechanical differences between walking and running. The result is a technical shoe created specifically for maximum stability, comfort, and support for the athletic walker. $149;

Sexy Back Dress The Possibilities: It’s a dress, it’s a cover-up, and it’s highperformance athletic wear all in this one essential for your summer travels. Skirt Sports designed the perfect all-day cycling dress that can take you from enjoying a long ride in the saddle to sashaying into a city cafe for lunch or shopping at a farmers’ market. It’s the Little Black Dress of the athletic world. The Goods: The hourglass-fitted racer-back top boasts a built-in bra that supports A-C cups and includes a handy Cleavage Alley Pocket for little necessities like lip balm or GU. A reflective zip pocket positioned at the lower back securely holds valuables, a mesh panel keeps you cool, and side slits add to ease of movement in the flared skirt. Choose from two fun prints: the dialed-back Black/ Oasis Print or the sassy Sunset Punch/Fiesta Print. $80;

CDT Montana needs volunteers on the following trail projects, too. CDT #2 Shineberger Creek, June 14–21 CDT #6 Bison Mountain, July 19–21 CDT #12 Shoshone Lake, Yellowstone NP, September 5–10 CDT #13 Rainbow Pass, Anaconda Pintler Wilderness, September 7–14


5 Ways 

5 Ways to

Surf ’n’ SUP Hawaii By Gigi Ragland

1. Explore Secret Surf Spots Hanalei Bay’s beauty will tempt you to flop on the beach and just take in the views of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast. That’s okay. But first, surf a set and wait till sunset to relax and watch that big orange sun over the ocean. Hanalei Bay, one of the best surfing spots in Hawaii, has waves that are gentle and lilting or hellishly high. Native Hawaiian Mitchell Alapa grew up surfing here and started Hanaleibased Hawaiian Surfing Adventures with his wife and family. They offer surfing and SUP lessons from beginner to advanced levels. More experienced surfers should try the Surf Safari to explore top secret surf spots at the best times. It’s a great way to experience local waves with a local guide. 2) SUP at “the end of the road” in Heavenly Hana Touted as one of the top scenic (and adventurous) drives in the world, “The Road to Hana” on Maui follows the rugged eastern coast. Venture along the 52-mile Hana Highway from Kahului to the end of the road; you’ll go through an estimated 600 turns and over 54 mostly one-lane bridges to be rewarded with dramatic ocean vistas, tropical forests, and waterfalls. At the “end of the road” it’s time to relax and revive at Travaasa Hana Experiential Resort and enjoy the Aloha spirit with a customized program of adventure, culinary experiences, spa/wellness treatments, and culture. Standup paddleboarding, known as “Hoe he’e nalu” among Hawaiians, is a native heritage sport. Lessons and workouts are held on beautiful Hana Bay.


3) Tackle your Technique in Waikiki The “sport of kings” began on the fabled shores of Oahu and continues with a wealth of paddling pageantry today. Surf and SUP lessons and board rentals abound on the island, where you might bump boards with Hawaii Five-O stars while sliding across a wave. Looking for private instruction or maybe a custom surfing tour here? Jo Jo Howard started Gone Surfing Hawaii, her own surf school, in Waikiki. She offers personalized surfing and SUP instruction. 4) Get Schooled in Surf from a North Shore Pro Surfer Hans Hedemann opened his surf school on Oahu after retiring from the pro circuit. Now he has some of the best pro instructors offered anywhere on the islands with skill sets that work with nervous beginners and advanced athletes. If you are looking to step it up a notch try the Hans Hedemann Surf School Pro-Series Surf Lesson in either the Waikiki or North Shore location. 5) Carve Your Own Surfboard Workshop Learn from a native Hawaiian craftsman who descends from a long ‘ohana line of traditional surfboard carvers. Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore is the only place you can partake in this ancient craft. Upon completion, initiate your board and catch a wave or, as the ancient Hawaiians said, papahe’enalu “Hawaiian Wave Slide.” Get more info about Pohaku Board Carving Workshops at Turtle Bay Resort at



DISCOVER SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH! Discover the beauty and adventure of the Colorado Rockies. Just outside your door you’ll find miles of trails to explore, wildlife, and more activities than anywhere else. “WHEN WE THINK ‘GO TO THE MOUNTAINS’ OR THE GIRLS SAY ‘GO TO THE CABIN’, WE THINK SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH.” - Jessica

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Dog-friendly cabins, yurts and campsites.

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  33



Chrissie Beavis and Bethany Hamilton jumped three spots during the second marathon leg of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. The target distance for this leg: 210 kilometers. The estimated time: 17 hours, 45 minutes. Here, the women are shown traversing the dunes of Chegaga in their truck custom designed by frequent Women’s Adventure contributor, Sarah Fuller. Read more about this off-road race on page 44.

a Camps

Wrench Wench An Introduction to Bike Maintenance at United Bicycle Institute By Stephanie Nitsch


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Which is why I—along with 13 other two-wheelin’ females—gathered in a classroom for a women’s-only bike mechanic school in Portland, Oregon, last summer. Over the course of a week at United Bicycle Institute, we learned to pick apart our trusted steeds, like savvy shop mechanics. After short introductions between my fellow classmates and the four UBI instructors assigned to our course, we eased into the first day with a basic task: removing both bike wheels and mimicking the process of changing a flat tire. Though I’d had my share of mid-ride flats, the fix proved challenging for a handful of the women. Unlike a trailside repair, however, there was no pressure to hurry because of impatient riding buddies or, say, impending thunderstorms or sunset.


’m a mountain biker, and, admittedly, a pretty decent one. In my three short years of riding, I’ve trekked to Baja Norte in search of desolate Mexican singletrack; discovered the ego-shattering technicalities of Austin’s challenging trails; and fallen in love with the eroded slickrock at Gooseberry Mesa. While I’m often in the company of veteran riders, it’s not unusual to find me on a solo pedal fest, miles away from any bike shop. And it’s here, while my head is spinning in the joys of solitude and singletrack, that something inevitably goes wrong. Flat tires, squishy brakes, broken spokes, busted chains, and a handful of other unexplainable mechanical ailments have stopped me dead in my tracks, rendering me helpless until a good Samaritan stops to offer a temporary solution— or, other times, until I arrive back at the trailhead after an unexpected hike-a-bike.

It didn’t take us long to get into the rhythm and flow of pulling things apart. Bolts, nuts, screws, and cables came unhinged with a twist of an Allen key or snip of a wire cutter, and, in their state of disassembly, we began to understand how each component functions individually and as part of a whole system. Until you’ve reattached the bottom bracket, for instance, you can’t affix the cranks and pedals, which are needed to install the chain, which is kept in place by the derailleur. The successful reassembly of each component requires a methodical order and lots of patience. On day three, we opened up our syllabus to the most challenging lesson of the week. “Who is intimidated by derailleurs?” asked Dylan, one of UBI’s instructors. Hands were raised and nervous laughter spread throughout the room, indicating that we weren’t alone in our seemingly ungrounded fears. And indeed, I found comfort in sharing the same hesitations with my fellow classmates. Anticipating our response, Dylan encouraged us to forget what we knew about the fickle contraptions. “Repeat after me,” he said. “I am smarter than the derailleur. The derailleur has no power over me.” What followed was a thorough lecture about the function and maintenance of front and rear derailleurs. With my bike dangling from the repair stand and Dylan’s words hanging in the air, I confronted my nemesis with a cold stare. “The derailleur is like Mr. Magoo,” Dylan explained, referencing the nearsighted protagonist who was only blindly aware of his surroundings. “It doesn’t know anything. We need to tell it where the cassette lives and where it starts and stops.”



Whether you find Zen in the art of bicycle maintenance is up to you, but it’s guaranteed you’ll feel more empowered on your next ride. Sign up for one of these women’s maintenance classes or workshops this summer, which range from two hours to five days, and start taking repair jobs into your own hands. United Bicycle Institute Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance, $950 Portland, OR June 24–28, 2013 541-488-1121, Bicycle Sport Shop Basic Maintenance Workshop, Free Austin, TX First Wednesday of every month 512-447-3472, Erik’s Bike Shop Warehouse Novice Maintenance Class, $90 Bloomington, MN June 12–13, 2013 877-885-2453,

Tools in hand, I began the step-by-step process: calibrate the adjusting barrels, remove old derailleur cables and housing, install new derailleur cables and housing, tweak the high limit screw, tweak the low limit screw, tighten the anchor bolt, and marvel at doing it all without swearing. A few hours and a couple of adjustments later, both derailleurs were perfectly tuned, shifting smoothly between gears without jolty hesitation. Nevertheless, frustration was common during class. Many of the demonstrations were made using basic components, but the parts on my high-end mountain bike required more patience, additional procedures, and extra help. And, though our savvy instructors helped us troubleshoot our individual struggles, I couldn’t help but feel like I was depending on their help a little too much. After all, we were an independent bunch. Throughout the week, we shared stories of our solo bike travels: touring Europe’s cobbled roads, commuting along busy metropolitan streets, or climbing peaks via steep singletrack. Our ages ranged from early 20s to mid-70s, and we came from different places, including a woman living in New Delhi, India. We had all enrolled at UBI to cultivate our self-sufficiency, but our free-

wheeling spirits each ran much deeper than a weeklong class. Shortly after graduating from UBI, I found myself pushing my bike toward the nearest highway and hitchhiking back to the trailhead. A broken spoke had lodged itself into the rear cog, rendering my bike un-pedalable and requiring more than a simple trailside repair job. I drove to the nearest bike shop and articulated the problem to a mechanic, who seemed caught off guard by my specific request. “I’d fix it myself,” I told him reassuringly, “I just don’t have the tools to do it.”

Time’s Up! Bike Co-Op Women’s Repair Workshops, By donation Brooklyn, NY Every Tuesday 212-802-8222, The Bike Depot Basic Mechanics Class, $65 Denver, CO Call for dates 303-393-1963,

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  37

a Try This

Rent a Fire Lookout Backcountry Camping With A View By Becky Arnold


• Plan ahead. You can wait a fair six months (or more) to land your dream dates. • Call the local forest ranger to get your access code and to collect critical information about weather, road conditions, and the nearest water source where you can filter water. Call twice—a week in advance and the day before departure, in case anything changes. • Bring a lantern or two, headlamps, and extra batteries so you can keep the games rolling late into the eve and, more importantly, to navigate the steep stairs at night should nature call.


n my hot list for far too long—renting a dreamy, roomwith-a-view fire lookout. It finally happened, not without a wait, however, as popular fire towers book out months in advance. For good reason. Backpackers and fair-weather campers can all agree that a fire lookout offers the best of both worlds. It presents unmatched scenery, amenities bar none, and a lovely mash-up of extreme adventuring with the comfort and security of home.

Getting started Look for dates that will work for you. Since the national reservation system only allows guests to book three or four months in advance, you may have to stalk the website (, waiting dayby-day for the U.S. Forest Service to open up another stretch of time. Once your dates are reserved, take time to explore maps of the area’s hiking trails, including your route in. If you have to leave your car, call the area’s ranger station for information on parking restrictions and obtaining parking passes. If there’s even a chance of snow, make sure to pack chains and a shovel, in case it accumulates while you’re out.

Getting closer As you get closer to your date, start meal planning. Choose foods that are lightweight and require little fuel and water to prepare. Some 38  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

fire lookouts are literally road-side, and you might expect to drive the full distance in. Or you could be tempted to throw a bunch of gear into a duffle, pack the cooler, and toss several gallon-sized jugs of water into the trunk. Think twice before taking this route, which could mean hauling that loose gear up several steep flights of stairs, or worse, forcing you to hastily reconfigure your plan should the roads—often poorly maintained forest service roads— be closed or impassable. Think backpacking and pack light, but remember to include a deck of cards or a puzzle, plus a book or two for some restful downtime.

• Pack in plenty of water, and know where the nearest water source is. Due to elevation, fire lookouts are rarely found near fresh streams. Make sure to count your water needs for meal-making, too.


• Stay only one night. Get out there and stay for a while. It is as much a retreat as an adventure. • Go wandering without a map. Lookouts usually have maps you can take with you on your journey. • Forget extra warm clothes. Even if it’s the dead of summer or your rental has a wood-burning stove, temperatures drop as you climb. • Pass up any opportunity to serve the next guests. Chop extra firewood, leave unused cans of soup, and clean up after yourselves.

Getting there You’ve navigated the trails and found your home away from home. Now it’s time to make house. A full tour of your lookout could include a wood-burning stove, gas stove, kitchen sink (minus running water), queen-sized bed, pots and pans, plus all the kitchen utensils you’d ever need. You might also find a large stash of tea light candles, cans of chili lovingly left behind, drawers full of games and puzzles, and best of all: freshly chopped firewood and kindling. Build that fire, throw your sleeping bag(s) out, and cozy up with a cup of tea. Home sweet home never looked better.

Try This


Deep Water Soloing Take the Plunge By Allison Ong



am frozen, 25 feet up a limestone wall, and my hands are sweating. “Don’t look down,” I tell myself. I look up at the rock, but I still can’t move. The lack of harness and rope make me feel naked and exposed in a totally different way than my new bathing suit. The water below appears alarmingly distant and my one way of getting down is the one thing turning my knuckles white. I look down and look back up. How long have I been here? Thirty seconds? Five minutes? I look up at the sky trying to notice something. The sun is just starting to set between the dramatic karsts of Halong Bay, Vietnam. I can see the sun mirrored in the water and a pink blush creeping up the clouds. It is so beautiful that suddenly I feel calm again. That’s right, I’m here to have fun. Keeping my eyes trained on the horizon, I take a deep breath, and force myself to let go. It’s an easy mistake for beginners to make, to underestimate how high you will feel once you’re on the rock based on how high it looks like from below. But after the first jump, the freefall and ocean become your new best friends. Deep water soloing is a new and particularly adventurous chapter in the history of rock climbing. Many describe it as the intersection between rock climbing and cliff jumping. Simply put, it is un-roped climbing over a confirmed deep body of water. The climber typically starts from the deck of a small boat and finishes their climb with a controlled jump. As a relatively new activity, there are currently only a few established deep water solo locations in the world. Two well-known areas among rock climbing aficionados include Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean. All you need is your bathing suit, a towel, climbing shoes, and a little audacity! While leaping into the ocean from some of the most breathtaking locations in the world is certainly a thrill, the thing that truly distinguishes deep water soloing from other methods of climbing is the feeling of freedom it releases in the act of climbing itself. Other types of climbing designate a specific starting location, a designated finishing spot, and a line to follow, but deep water soloing is flexible. First-time deep water soloers are often at a loss asking, “Where do I start?” “Where do I go from here?” “Can I use this hold?” When you’re deep water soloing there are no rules or restrictions. Though many opt to pick a start and finish, the lack of climbing gear allows


• Go with a group of friends! While one person climbs, the rest can watch, rest up, and get dry again. • Spot each other as you get off the boat. It’s important to make sure that if the climber slips while getting onto the rock, they don’t hit their head on the boat or the rock. Have one person steady the boat by holding the rocks and another person watch the climber. • Rinse your climbing shoes with freshwater and let them dry in the sun after climbing, to prevent damage from the saltwater.

don’t • Try any fancy dives, cannonballs, or bellyflops. Proper entry technique is pencil style: feet first and hands by your sides. • Go with novices. Make sure that you are going with people who actually know the depth of the water of the area you’ll be climbing. Better yet, do your own research and be the expert. • Take a lot of chalk with you. It will get soaked when you take the plunge, so it’s better to leave the bag on the boat and chalk up in between climbing.

you to climb in whichever direction appeals most to you. Left? Sure venture left. Right? Go for it! The pressure to succeed, which is sometimes enough to keep people off the wall, is completely gone. You decide where your climb starts, where it ends, and how high it goes. Those who are intimidated by heights are free to climb sideways, two feet above the water, if they so desire. Deep water soloing allows climbers to forget the ropes, the nuts and bolts, and enjoy the act of climbing itself, free from expectations. And of course, once you’ve worked up a sweat, nothing beats the heat like a quick dip in the drink!

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  39

a Dream Job meet

Ashley Rankin

Founder and Designer of Shredly By Morgan Tilton Ashley Rankin is a passionate skier and mountain biker, and she has zeal for style. In 2006, Rankin—a native of Basalt, Colorado—graduated from Colorado State University with two degrees: Apparel Design and Production, plus Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. Less than five years later, Ashley launched Shredly, a line of ladies’ mountain bike shorts that fuse performance, comfort, and hyped-up fashion. The fabric designs—from vibrant peacock feathers to edgy skulls to black-andwhite roses—are as Age: 29 dynamic as the trail Stomping ground: Aspen, CO Job: Shredly Founder and Designer and the women charging it. What inspired you to start Shredly? As a mountain biker, I was not finding what I was looking for in the marketplace. I’m a shopper but I didn’t buy anything for, like, two years. Nobody was nailing it: bike shorts either had an okay fit with fabric that was crunchy, loud, and uncomfortable, or the shorts had an okay fabric with a boyish cut. Only black or solid colors were available— nothing fun, nothing colorful, and nothing outside the norm. Shredly has a unique look— how do you achieve that? Shredly is super unexpected: I pair things that you wouldn’t find in the industry and that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. The hidden details— like the gold embroidery in the logo or the black onyx stone that’s encased in gold on the snaps—make the cornerstone of my business. Those little surprises don’t necessarily enhance performance but make things way more fun. What does a typical day on the job look like for you? My life is constantly chaotic. I juggle a lot of different hats: owner, de40  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

signer, public relations, resourcing, accounting … everything. I have to really balance my time to make sure I get everything done. Can you describe an awesome day at work? I wake up early and have a productive morning, then take a ski-break. On the gondola, I hand out business cards and pull out my smartphone to show people my website—it’s like having a business meeting on my way to get exercise! And, the unexpected can happen. One time, I met a couple from New Zealand and the woman said, “Oh, these would make awesome sailing shorts!” She convinced me to start marketing to people that sail. What are some of the biggest challenges of being a young entrepreneur? Not disappointing people: It’s one thing to give people an idea that they support; it’s another thing when you’re committed and you have to deliver. Also, the legalities can come back and bite you. I’ve had to stay grounded to make sure that everything is legit and following protocol, and my peers in the industry have

been amazing with the insights that they have shared. What motivates you to cultivate and grow Shredly? I’m driven to create something that people love. When I hear someone say that wearing Shredly makes them feel good, I’m excited because that’s the goal: “look good, feel good, shred good,” and it’s not to promote vanity. It’s a natural evolution. When you look and feel good you’re going to shred good. It makes me think, “What else can I create to make people even more stoked to go in the outdoors?” How do you maintain harmony between work and play? The secret is that the work is partly “play.” When I’m out playing I can network with people. Or, when I travel to business events I get to talk with peers about something that I’m excited and passionate about. How has Shredly changed your life? Because I’m so busy, I’ve learned the importance of my health and how to eat well, so that I can be powered

for really long hours. My new year’s resolution is to be “balanced.” I’ve enjoyed the process of starting this business, and I think balance is a really important part of maintaining that enjoyment. So, I make time for myself: I get up a little bit early in the morning and just stretch or exercise. It sets up the day completely right.

“I wanted to revolutionize the world of mountain biking. Women are awesome; mountain biking is awesome— there’s no reason why the industry can’t reflect that.”

I’m Proof


I’m Proof That …

You Can Balance Work and Training Competitive Cycling Provides an Outlet to Handle Business Pressures By Tara Calihman


t’s rare to find a CEO who encourages her employees to leave work to get a workout in and even rarer to find one who frequently leaves work herself to get in a training ride. But Ingrid Alongi is not a typical CEO. In 2012, Ingrid was named Best All Around Rider because she was the top finisher in all the events at the Master’s Track Cycling Championships in Colorado Springs. That same year, Quick Left—the web development company she co-founded in 2010—made WorldBlu’s List of 50 Most Democratic Workplaces. New hires at QL joke that they’ve never before started a job and lost weight.

Getting her start in the saddle Ingrid started racing bikes when she was 12 years old, after joining her dad on rides and watching the Coors Classic, a road stage race held in the early ’80s. “We just thought the whole thing was so cool ... cheering and seeing the professional riders come through town,” she reminisces. Once she got her first race bike, Ingrid trained by trying to keep up with her brother and his friends. She finished second to last in her first race but was hooked. Ingrid got faster during her high school years and made the Junior National Team as a senior. She was invited to participate in camps at the Olympic Training Center and attended the 1989 Olympic Festival, where she got to try her hand at riding on a track built specifically for the festival. After high school, she took a year off to try road racing professionally. She cleaned houses for money to cover her race costs. There were few opportunities for women in pro cycling in the early ’90s, and she needed more to focus on besides racing. After a tough year, she headed to college and raced for the CU Cycling team.

She competed two years of collegiate racing before deciding that she really wanted to be a “normal person.” After years of being a bike racer, she wanted to be just a college student. Ingrid took up yoga and trail running during grad school in San Diego but missed the stress outlet that cycling provided.

Returning to the track When she moved back to Boulder in 2007, Ingrid worked at a tech startup with some guys who were getting into road riding. They invited her on a group ride and discovered her racing past. In addition to being a great way to network, these rides were fun and gave Ingrid a renewed sense of purpose. On one ride, someone asked her if she would race again. “Only if they build a track in Boulder,” she answered. A few months later, Boulder Indoor Cycling did just that. Although she had only raced on the track a handful of times, Ingrid got involved with Boulder Indoor Cycling from its very start. In 2009, she headed to Colorado Springs to try her hand at racing in the Master’s championship taking place in the outdoor track cycling arena, called a velodrome. She was beat by about 0.2 seconds in the Individual Pursuit, a race between two cyclists who start from a stationary position. The woman who beat Ingrid invited her to be teammates for the next day’s Team Pursuit. Together, they won. Ingrid won her first national title in 2009, almost 17 years after she initially left racing.

munity in the saddle of her bike, where she felt more comfortable talking with strangers than at a networking event. “I met a lot of professionals on those Wednesday morning rides, our company’s first clients, first lawyers … people who I have no problem starting conversations with while on the bike.” Racing helps Ingrid deal with the pressures of business. “Preparing for the race can be stressful but, when you’re there,” she says, “you have to push everything else out of your mind. You can’t think about the client who yelled at you. You have to be in the moment and force-clear the head.” Tuning out the noise at races translates well to business, where you have to tune out your competition, master your skills, and keep pretty calm in stressful situations. But success in racing requires more than mental focus. “It helps that I have good genes,” Ingrid admits. While genetics take you far, being committed to your team and to training takes you further. Ingrid focuses on continuing to grow her business by modeling a healthy lifestyle for her employees. Maintaining a sense of work/life balance and encouraging others to do the same keeps her employees happier and, as a result, their work is better. “When the employees see the CEO leave the office to take a ride, they know it’s okay if they do it, too.”

Biking and business The confidence Ingrid gained from competing translated to her professional life and helped her found Quick Left. Ingrid networked with the tech com-

Fun Facts She met her husband for the first time when they were both high school junior racers at the Olympic training camp in 1992. They re-met on Facebook in 2009. At 5’2” with massive quad muscles, Ingrid likes to joke that she’s a tall person in a short person’s body. WAM • SUMMER | 2013  41

a I’m Proof I’m Proof That …

Physical Journeys Promote Emotional Improvement A Trek Can Bring Understanding and Peace By Chris Kassar


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Four years earlier, Cheryl lost the person she cared about most to an aggressive and unrelenting cancer. Within seven weeks of learning that her mom, only 45, was sick, Cheryl’s rock was gone. “That day, my world ended,” she says. “The life I knew ceased to exist and the life I would have to go on living—without my mother—began. I wasn’t sure how I could ever bear it.” These events forced Cheryl, 22 at the time, to mourn the loss of her mom at a pivotal point in life during which she was still growing up and coming into her own. “It was nearly impossible to move forward in defining myself when I had lost the person who was my definition. I was acutely alone and ravenous for love.” For years, Cheryl searched for answers in men, sex, and heroin. She sabotaged her marriage, she tried to keep her family together and failed, and she ended up feeling more isolated than ever. “I really just tried to self-destruct. I think that by refusing to thrive without my mother, I was trying to honor her. To say: You are so important to me that I can’t live without you and I’m gonna prove it by destroying myself.” Even though Cheryl struggled and lived in a state of despair for many years, she never stopped searching for a way out. “After seeing the book at REI, the person inside of me—the one who knew the real me—said: You cannot go on this way. You cannot continue to dishonor your mother this way … It was around that moment that I decided I would hike the trail in spring,” says Cheryl, who knew she had to do something big to make a change and end her suffering. “I knew I had to take a journey, not a little trip. My personality is such that once I found a way out, I just put all my energy in that direction and made it happen.” Six months later, Cheryl found herself in Mojave, California, about to embark on an epic adventure.

Random Facts about Cheryl Favorite trail food on the PCT: Chocolate. (Of course!) And the berries that grew along the way. That was always such a treat. Thing you missed most on the PCT: Food (the sort you can’t carry in your pack) and music. Longest you’ve gone without talking to anyone: The first eight days of my PCT hike, I didn’t encounter another person. Longest you’ve gone without showering: There was one 18day stretch of no showering on my PCT hike. Favorite food at home: I love fresh bread, nice cheese, fruits and veggies, salmon—all the food the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Next big adventure: I’m going bushwalking in the Blue Mountains in Australia. Adventure you hope to take in your lifetime: I’d love to hike the entire PCT with my family once my kids are a bit older. Thing you can’t live without: Lip balm. That night in an 18-dollar motel room, she struggled to fit everything into her pack for the first time and something dawned on her. “I had never actually gone backpacking … Of course, I knew that before, but not in a real way and I was soon to learn that backpacking is really different than day hiking,” she chuckles. “I was a big day hiker, but for me that usually included brunch beforehand and a cheeseburger and chardonnay afterward. Turns out, there’s none of that available out there …” The next morning, Cheryl struggled to put on her pack— affectionately and appropriately nicknamed ‘Monster’—laden with gear for the long haul and 24.5 pounds of water she hoped would last her first leg in the desert. After some creative gymnastics

and shenanigans, Cheryl hoisted the enormous bag on her back, hitched a ride to the trailhead and began her journey. “I began walking and immediately realized I was completely screwed and this was hell. I was in trouble. I had never before experienced something so physically challenging. It seemed a simple thing to walk … it was not simple.” Regardless, Cheryl moved north inch by inch. She encountered wild animals, lost toenail after toenail, found lifelong friends, learned everything the hard way, suffered, and rejoiced. She repeatedly thought about quitting, but never did because of an overwhelming belief in her connection to something greater and an unending faith that she could do something meaningful without giving up.


or most of us, mundane trips to a retail store rarely prove life changing. Sometimes, however, opportunities for transformation present themselves at the most unexpected times, even during the simplest and most banal of tasks … including shopping. One cold, blustery December day in 1994, Cheryl Strayed walked into REI, grabbed a foldable shovel needed to dig her truck out from piles of snow dumped by a recent blizzard and stepped into line. She had no idea that this innocent visit to a popular outdoor shop was about to unequivocally alter the course of her life. Cheryl—26 and working as a waitress—scanned the rack of magazines and books meant to tempt customers into last-minute, impulse buys. Almost immediately, an image of a majestic mountain with a serene lake in the forefront captured her heart. She had never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) but read the book’s back cover and learned the story of this National Scenic Trail that passes through Wilderness Areas, National Parks, and untouched lands as it travels from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington, up the crest of the Sierra Nevada Range and through the Cascade Range. “When I picked up the book, I felt an immediate blossoming in my heart. It was as if something opened up inside,” says Cheryl. “At that time, my truck wasn’t the only thing that was buried … I was also buried and I needed a way to dig myself out. In that paragraph about the PCT, I saw there was this magnificent, beautiful, significant, grand thing much bigger than me. And even though I felt like I was none of those things—beautiful, significant, grand—I had this feeling that if I attached myself to something that was, like the PCT, I could find that in myself again, and I could resurrect what had been lost.”

I’m Proof

a VOLUNTEERonADVENTURES the CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL We provide the leadership, great food, tools, safety gear and incredible views. You bring your personal camping gear, camera and an attitude for adventure! (Oh yeah, did we mention that our projects are free?)

More About Cheryl’s Journey Cheryl went on to become an accomplished speaker and writer, sharing the details of her physical, emotional, and spiritual journey in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. This inspirational tale illuminates the human condition and is one we can all relate to: finding peace, beauty, and ourselves by spending time pushing ourselves in nature. When asked what she likes most about Wild, Cheryl—now 44 and settled in Portland, Oregon, with her two children and husband—said: “Wild has been a consolation to people who have lost someone and it has been a consolation to people who believe they have f***** their lives up so much they can’t go forward. But, mostly I love it because it has become a story that helps people believe that wild places belong to them, too. You don’t have to be an expert to take a walk in the woods or to feel that connection to wild places … that belongs to all of us.”

Over time, the PCT transformed Cheryl into an expert backpacker and this once-foreign trail morphed into home. She felt her insignificance, but also felt connected and realized she was as much a part of the world as the wild creatures with whom she shared the trail. Each day she hiked forth, Nature—an unmatched and extraordinary teacher—imparted wisdom that no other force can. Cheryl learned who she really was, gained a greater sense of her abilities, unveiled her own resilience, and discovered that she could rely on herself in a deeper and wider way than she ever imagined. “I set out on this journey to gather myself back up and heal my heart … to set myself back on the right course and figure out how to bear the unbearable,” says Cheryl, who admits that transformation did occur but not in the way she expected. “I thought I’d be out there hiking, thinking about everything, crying at sunsets, and processing, but instead I was really in my body. It was so much more physical

than I expected and this is what healed me.” One September morning, 94 days and 1,100 miles after setting out, Cheryl touched the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon and ended her rite of passage as any of us would— with a “ginormous” ice cream cone. After enjoying her creamy confection, she headed back to Portland and started anew. Cheryl knew something monumental had occurred but was at peace with not knowing exactly what that change entailed. Years later, Cheryl realized that the trail had given her exactly what she had needed. “I needed to figure out how to move forward even though I felt like I couldn’t, and enduring so much physical suffering taught me how to endure emotional suffering. When you have to walk over all types of terrain through all kinds of weather with a very heavy pack on your back, it teaches you something vital about how to move forward. The key was and continues to be: just push forward one step at a time.”

Trail projects are a great way to give back, stay active, meet new people and explore a new area. From easy to more difficult, there is a perfect project for YOU this summer.

Check out 2013 CDT Montana trail projects and register online today at

You can also contact Montana Wilderness Association staff at 406.781.0627.

SUPPORT WHAT YOU LOVE. We share your love of riding bikes. Our bicycle accessories make your two-wheeled travels easier, safer, and a lot more fun. Every time you purchase one of our products you are partnering in our mission to contribute 25% of profits to support bicycle advocacy. Visit us online at to find out more.


WAM • SUMMER | 2013  43

Bethany Hamilton and Chrissie Beavis Team Up in the Moroccan Sahara

Race of a Lifetime


unlight gently begins to touch the never-ending, lunar landscape of Morocco’s infinite desert. Engines rev, maps flap in the breeze, and sand flies about in giant swirls. Focused and spirited energy pervades the morning as 300 women representing 25 countries anxiously await the start of the 23rd Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a women’s off-road rally race known for being one of the most arduous sporting events on the planet. Pro-surfer, Bethany Hamilton, and champion navigator and off-road racer, Chrissie Beavis, complete final vehicle checks and review last minute details before donning helmets and jumping into a stock Isuzu D-Max loaded with sleeping bags, a tent, food, and water. Moments later, rally founder Dominique Serra lowers a bright yellow flag. Tires spin frantically and the group speeds off in a cloud of dust. In a frenzied flurry of excitement, the battle—and the adventure of a lifetime—begins. lllll With the vast and intimidating Moroccan Sahara as their backdrop, Chrissie and Bethany have just embarked on an escapade that covers more than 2,500 kilometers of unforgiving terrain through endless desert and wilderness in a nine-day bout based more on navigation than speed. To add to the test, the pair must rely solely on a few outdated maps, compass, ruler, landmarks, and their navigation skills to help them reach each checkpoint and survive in this harsh

environment. No GPS, no cell phones, and no support crews allowed in this truly burly escapade! Bethany—best known for her heroic comeback to pro-surfing after losing her arm in a shark attack—and Chrissie—widely respected as one of the top co-drivers in the U.S.—are both accomplished competitors, but they’ve never before done anything quite like this. “This is a very different type of rally than I normally compete in, with the winner going the shortest distance as opposed to having the shortest accumulated time. It’s also a much longer event than I usually do,” says Chrissie, who has racked up a U.S. Rally Championship win and medals in the X-games, but who has never competed in an event where dead-reckoning navigation is so central. “It’s not only well-known as one of the toughest all-women events in the world, but it’s also one of the toughest types of rally,” she says, “and I couldn’t pass up the chance to team up with the toughest young woman I know.” Prior to the race, this powerhouse duo still experienced normal amounts of trepidation that come with doing something completely new. “I think driving for nine days straight will be a challenge for me. It will be tough to stay strong mentally, and being away from the ocean always makes this mermaid dry up!” says Bethany. “There are a lot of unknowns for me since I’ve never done this before, so those can make me fearful, but ignorance just

Both Bethany and Chrissie, who only met once for two days of training prior to Morocco, admitted they are extremely competitive; a trait that served them well in the rally and made them perfect teammates.

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Women’s Adventuresponsored Team #136 preps to begin the 23rd Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.

By Chris Kassar Photos by Dan Campbell-Lloyd might be bliss. I plan to choose faith over fear and just give my worries to God so that I can be free to embrace the adventure and have joy no matter what challenges we face.” And, that’s exactly what these ladies did. They pushed aside any fear, attacked the task with gumption, and set their sights high, hoping to finish number one in the first-timers category and in the top 20 overall. Both Bethany and Chrissie, who only met once for two days of training prior to Morocco, admitted they are extremely competitive; a trait that served them well in the Rally and made them perfect teammates. They also managed to maintain perspective and used their lofty goals as just another way to motivate themselves. They were both mainly out there to try something new, experience an intense exploit and have fun. “I planned to make sure that we were having fun the whole time,” says Chrissie. “Because what’s the point of doing it unless it’s super amazing fun the whole time?” Team #136 created fun along the way by making up songs, telling jokes, taking silly photos of camels, and stopping for impromptu naps when things got tense. But, largely these ladies found fun within the task at hand. “It

sounds weird but, for us, being competitive is fun. We were pretty relaxed in the car most of the time, but we are both serious about doing things well so nailing our checkpoints was not only extremely satisfying but really fun … we made it a game,” says Chrissie. “It was funny to run around the desert chasing little red flags but, every time we got one, we were super stoked. But then, right away, we were really serious about getting the next one.” lllll Due to hard work and extreme focus, Chrissie and Bethany cruised through the Prologue and the first two days with an efficiency and ease not typical of first-timers. Chrissie, an architect and student pilot, brought a uniquely deep understanding of the precision needed to navigate well and her perfectionist tendencies benefited the team, while Bethany’s uncanny ability to drive smoothly and at a steady pace helped get them farther faster. “Most competitive sports’ biggest challenges are mental, so I drew on the coaching I’ve had for competitive surfing in that regard,” says Bethany, who has little off-road experience and made no modifications to the vehicle. “Also, in

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Race of a Lifetime surfing, you learn to read the ocean. In driving, you learn to read the land, and I’m especially excited that I’ve learned to ‘surf ’ the dunes.” At the end of day two, the pair headed to bed holding strong in an impressive seventh place overall and first place in the novice category, never anticipating what their time in the Dunes of Erg Chebbi would bring. lllll

Chrissie and Bethany were both first-time competitors representing the U.S.

Teams help each other when they are stuck, they are encouraged to pair up when navigating the dunes and those with experience readily share tips from years past.

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Many rallies focus on speed, but the winners of the Gazelle are those who reach a series of checkpoints in the least amount of miles. There is no correct track to follow, so Gazelles have the freedom to choose their own route each day. This is a difficult task made more challenging by the fact that the majority of the course takes teams up and over steep sandbanks, through a chiefly featureless desert dappled with expansive rocky areas, plateaus, cliffs, mountains, riverbeds, and the occasional palm oasis or Berber village. In short, sure landmarks are rare. On day three, the Gazelles tackled the Dunes of Erg Chebbi where they had to choose and commit to one of three routes varying in difficulty and length. Still in the hunt for first place in the novice category, Team #136 chose Route X, the shortest and most difficult option. “Neither of us knew what to expect going into Erg Chebbi dunes. We had been doing well so far, so we thought we could handle it,” Bethany explains. The soft sand swallowed their vehicle multiple times forcing the team to spend more than half the day digging out. Drained and disheartened, they returned to the bivouac, a campsite that moves each night with the rally, without reaching all checkpoints. “In retrospect, we probably should have taken Route Y, but, if we didn’t take X then we wouldn’t ever know if we could have done it, so we just went for it and tried to make it happen,” says Chrissie, who grew up driving in Southern California’s rugged deserts and mountains. “I’m used to driving in crazy places so it was weird for me to actually be scared of driving something somewhere … But, these dunes made me nervous all the way in my gut. You’d look up at this thing and you’d say: ‘ I’m supposed to go up this? That’s nuts!’ I don’t really like being scared by stuff like that.” Bethany and Chrissie returned to camp frustrated, a bit discouraged and ‘bummed out’ by their performance, especially since it meant a drop in the standings. They had given up first place in the novice category to Brigitte Foucher and Julie Foucher-Mary, a mother-daughter team from France, and they had dropped to thirteenth place overall. But, like true competitors, they pushed on and tackled the following days with gusto. “We never considered quitting. There isn’t one ounce of quit in Bethany, and I have enough experience to know how to push through the tough parts,” Chrissie says. Because of how it is set up, the Gazelle Rallye is extremely unpredictable. The leader of the Gazelle can change at a moment’s notice: mechanical failures, penalties, or one wrong turn and the contest is once again up for grabs. So, with five days left, the race was still anyone’s for the taking and Team #136 knew they still had a chance. Adding to the intensity of the final stretch were two marathon legs.

During each two-day marathon, teams cover more than 300 kilometers, camp under the stars alone, and go without mechanical assistance in the evening. The valleys become vaster and the distance between checkpoints grows longer, making it even more imperative for navigators to keep their team on track. “I loved the fact that we were away from people,” says Bethany. “We got to enjoy the stars and be away from all the sounds and bustle of the bivouac. It was nice to get away and enjoy God’s beauty a bit more.” Over the remainder of the journey, Team 136 encountered their fair share of literal and figurative ups and downs. There were laughs, tears, broken truck parts, and hours spent digging out of sticky situations, but their “head-down, keep-on-going attitude” kept them in the race. Solid teamwork was also critical. Bethany focused on driving, keeping energy high, and taking care of Chrissie so Chrissie could act as the team leader and concentrate on staying on track. These strong women were together during every waking moment of the experience, so an obvious mutual admiration and respect grew. “Chrissie is amazing. She likes to do a good job at everything and her experience made her really well suited for this rally,” says Bethany. “We balanced each other out. There were intense moments, but it was fun and we never got mad at each other.” “Bethany is the most inspiring person. She’s gone through a lot, but she’s really solid and she likes to do things well. She is a very smooth driver and super fun to be around. In a team situation, it’s really important to let the other person be who they are and to avoid asking them to be something that they’re not,” says Chrissie. Although Chrissie is a lot more experienced in rally racing, she wanted to empower Bethany instead of lead her. “She wanted a lot of pointers about driving at the beginning, but I slacked off on the pointers as time went on so she would rely on herself more. She was able to start picking her own lines and she was excellent at it. It worked really well to let her be herself.” The Gazelle spirit not only emphasizes teamwork within teams, but between rival duos. This may sound counterintuitive, but the rally is steeped in tradition and embraces the idea that the Gazelles are a family, ‘a group that shares the values of solidarity, generosity and courage.’ Thus, although the competitive spirit is alive and well when Gazelles take to the Moroccan desert, a sense of camaraderie differentiates this race from so many others. Teams help each other when they are stuck, they are encouraged to pair up when navigating the dunes and those with experience readily share tips from years past. “That’s one of the things I really like about rally, it is each team against the elements, rather than each team against another team,” says Chrissie. lllll It’s the final day. To complete the last leg of this marathon stage, Chrissie and Bethany must face yet another set of intimidating dunes. Chrissie admits that their prior trouble psyched them out a bit and made them more nervous when tackling the Dunes of Chegaga. “Knowing where we were—or at least approxi-

Team #136 finished in the top 10 overall and earned a higher score than any American team in the rally’s history.

mately—became even more important. We encountered crazy sandstorms and we were out in this barren landscape, following a path because it was the only thing we could get traction on through this area of super deep sand. … It was really tricky so I had to be extra careful,” says Chrissie. Part way through traversing the sandy hills and hummocks of Chegaga, there’s a problem with the steering that Chrissie, who is also a skilled mechanic, can’t seem to fix. The team pushes on and in spite of the difficulty driving a broken vehicle and navigating the sweeping and sandy hills and hummocks, Chrissie and Bethany successfully pass all checkpoints and reach the bivouac by mid-afternoon exhausted and thrilled. “These were long and wonderful days: discovering Morocco and overcoming the challenges we faced,” says Bethany. “It was really hard work, but that’s what adventure is—having fun, while pushing through challenges and frustrations. This rally lets you measure what you can really do, and I think it’s so empowering for all the women and girls around the world to see this level of adventure, competition, and intensity come together in one place. It’s just awesome!” At this point, it’s a waiting game. Team #136 will not know their official spot until all the other teams arrive and officials tally scores. Chrissie and Bethany revel in relaxation, psyched to have performed better in these dunes than in the Dunes of Erg Chebbi. “This was the hardest rally I’ve ever done—so much hard concentration for so many hours and so many days. Definitely the experience of a lifetime!” Chrissie says. As teams trickle into the bivouac, a celebration ensues and, hours later, Chrissie and Bethany learn they have far exceeded their own expectations by taking home eighth place overall and earning the highest score ever for first time American participants. Although they did not win the First-timers Award, Chrissie and Bethany bring home treasures that are more important, including incredible memories, lasting friendships, a renewed sense of confidence, and satisfaction at a job well done. “My advice to anyone who wants to have an adventure like this is: Just do it,” says Chrissie. “Don’t think too much about it because you will never be fully prepared. When things get tough, you have to just keep at it. The best part of it will be your memory of it and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from persevering.” n

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The Road



t breakfast, I’m filling my plate with what I expect will look acceptable to the ultrarunners lining the cafeteria tables at the elementary school in Buena Vista, CO. Do they eat bacon? How about sausage? I guess a few eggs will do. I wonder all these things with apprehension and daintily half-fill my plate, balancing it with one hand to fill my tiny Styrofoam cup with coffee. I notice a goofball-type man generously shaking salt all over everything on his plate. His face is down close to the food and he’s looking up at me like a mischievous second grader. “The best part about this race is I get to use as much salt as I want!” I laughed and hoped to see him again. With a group this size, I figured there was a good chance I wouldn’t. During our meal, my race partner Katya does most of the talking with other TransRockies runners. I can barely finish the food I’d so carefully chosen for breakfast though and am worried about having time to go to the bathroom and apply sunscreen before stage one kicks off. Turns out, we have plenty of time to pee (four times) and apply sunscreen. I even paint my nails before heading to the start line for good. “Do whatever you’ve gotta do, Jenn,” says Katya, shaking her head but

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understanding. Though I don’t fully appreciate it yet, that sort of supportive tolerance and accommodating attitude is key in a partner for a race such as this one, covering such challenging terrain over so many days. As we round the street corner and come into the neighborhood where we’re beginning our 120-mile journey to Beaver Creek, I see the hundreds of racers, their families, and volunteers swarming excitedly fighting for photo ops with Bigfoot in front of the timing arch. A DJ adds energetic tunes to the roar of eager runners and the frequent slam of Porta-Potty doors. We walk on the outside of the metal barriers covered in sponsor banners and lining the suburbanite street that looks out-of-place in this run of the mill mountain town. At the front of the line, men and women in black compression tights and lightweight sunglasses are warming up and chatting easily. I feel less at-ease than they look and am walking with my arms at my sides, fingers splayed out—to let the polish dry. So many of these racers look grizzled and experienced. I feel like a poser. I had put in my hours—maybe not as many as I should have—and did my research. The summer was a blur of weekends at altitude and full afternoons on trail. I figured out which shoes worked for me and why, what Clif Blok flavors I like best, and how many Honey Stinger waffles to toss in my pack for a four-hour haul. But there’s really no way to fully prepare for or know what to expect in a six-day stage race—until you try one. As we near the back of the line, I notice a different type of runner. This type is more abundant and wears bright colors, often in mismatched patterns. Some of them wear neon arm warmers and have trinkets tied to their packs. They all appear to be having fun. Katya and I choose a spot among them and get set for our race. MN MN MN MN We cross the bridge heading out of town and bottleneck into a section of singletrack leading to a dirt road that climbs a gentle hill before hopping onto another trail that brings us through high desert and onto an open ridge. The first couple miles are slow going, and we are stuck behind a woman who talks loudly and constantly. She’s a solo runner doing the 3-day challenge (RUN3), as are many of the other women around us. Another young female pair is running with this group, too, and Katya and I wordlessly vow to finish faster than them. Winning isn’t our number one goal here—making the cutoff times is—but seeing another team of women our age rouses my competitive itch.

A TransRockies Run Finisher’s Story


By Jennifer C. Olson

Ultrarunning Checkpoint one comes at mile seven or so. I conservatively take an orange slice, a cup of GU Brew, and some pretzels, loading up on energy chomps for the road. We have another 13 or so miles to go. A quick photo at a scenic vista and we start downhill. Tall pines line our path to a sandy wash that brings us around a hill and into the desert again. We catch up to a larger, diverse group of teams and solo racers and run with them to the next aid station. One team—made up of an Ironman competitor and her boyfriend—carries a stuffed animal with them and eventually become famous for their dramatic finish line kisses. Another team speaks Spanish with Katya. And the third team includes the guy who poured salt onto his breakfast. His partner Tom looks like a more serious athlete—a coach, triathlete, marathoner—but he’s friendly too. They run the descent with us onto the dirt road where the third aid station is bustling. My right knee is starting to ache so I feel less social, but a smiley volunteer fills my hydration bladder and hands over a bowl of potato chips. That helps. A rocky tunnel marks mile 18, and we’re in the home stretch. Tom points out the finish line and Jonathan does a dance, lifting up his knees and kicking out his legs. “He doesn’t realize how much this race will drain him,” Tom confides, worried his partner isn’t conserving enough energy. But it’s Jonathan’s enthusiasm and Tom’s conversation that sustains me for the next three miles on the deceiving stretch of road where the finish line seems to never get closer until finally we’re in the flag-lined corral and the timer informs us we’re done with stage one in less than five hours—way ahead of the cutoff. MN MN MN MN A photographer focuses his lens on my toes. They’re shriveled and sticking up out of the river, where most of us runners are soaking. Nearby is the oldest set of runners, The Old Goats—father of ultra marathons Gordy Ainsleigh and his partner Doug Malewicki. A little girl upstream of The Old Goats bends into the water and comes up with a small fish. “Dad, look what I caught,” she says, walking over to her wild-bearded and amused father. The poor fish wasn’t moving. “Leave it alone,” her dad insists, demonstrating how to release it in the water. The fish doesn’t swim away. Quick and demanding, Gordy says, “Give it here.” He opens its gills and swishes the creature under water. “You know, I once revived a sheep …”


MN MN MN MN The TransRockies hurts less than I expected. Don’t get me wrong; the TransRockies Run hurts. It is painful, and I feared I would cry at the start of today’s stage. The late summer sun didn’t reach the bottom of the valley where our 14-mile jaunt up and over Hope Pass began, and the bus ride from camp left

my achy legs feeling stiff and unwilling—a poor combination when we’re supposed to climb more than 3,200 feet today in seven fewer miles than we ran yesterday. A man we met during registration asked to stick with us today. Dave, who’s from Dallas, worried the altitude would get to him so he says to run ahead if we feel like it. Katya and I assured him that I do terribly at high elevation, too; he’d keep up no problem. The journey up is a hike, partly because the trail is so narrow that passing is dangerous and difficult but mostly because the route is really, really steep. Though we can still see several switchbacks above and ahead of us, we hear whoops and yelps from runners who’d reached the saddle. We actually start jogging again until we reach the top, where we stay a while, taking photos and savoring the views. There’s no sense in rushing down to finish in 200th place anyway. MN MN MN MN Traveling an average a 20 miles a day for a week on foot forces attention to details—the angle of a meadow, the color of a Jeep road puddle, and the flow of a trail. Though already the grand scope of our route grows foggy in my memory, the present is vivid. Each arrow pointing the way and flag confirming we’re on the right path is cause to celebrate, and the next one becomes our subsequent goal. Every move is subconsciously deliberate, and moments that would ordinarily exist subliminally become significant. Like the moment Katya, Dave, and I came upon Tennessee Pass before we expected it. The longest and most beautiful yet, stage three challenged us. This morning’s festive start in Leadville bustled with RUN3 competitors, revved for their final hurrah, and the rest of us who were conserving energy and preserving our bodies for the next four stages. At checkpoint one, I felt like it would be a long, slow day. Even though I felt okay and had only mild blisters, we had 17 miles to go. But just before checkpoint two,

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The Road to Almost Ultrarunning

As we near the back of the line, I notice a different type of runner. This type is more abundant and wears bright colors, often in mismatched patterns. Some of them wear neon arm warmers and have trinkets tied to their packs. They all appear to be having fun. we saw signs for Tennessee Pass. Katya and I looked at each other in amazement. Considering our expectations and how great we felt, we were ecstatic. After crossing the highway, we got in a good rhythm on smooth flat singletrack, eventually turning down onto the Colorado Trail. While passing a couple of bike packers, I slowed to check out their gear. “You two are impressive!” I said, and meant it. They replied, “Not as impressive as you are!” But I was feeling good, and bike touring is grueling work. Katya treks uphill in her party pants, Katya and I cruised into which keep spirits high. the final checkpoint at mile 21 re-enacting Jessica’s daily affirmation (if you haven’t seen the YouTube video yet, watch it now!), hand gestures, dancing, and all. I’d spent those last miles of downhill running—hard on my knees—repeating, “I feel strong! I feel healthy!” just like the girl in the video does. It worked! Dave, who was waiting, told us we looked great and joined us for the final few miles, which were on a flat dirt road. Running on that road felt like torture. We could see the finish line from far away but it took ages to reach it. The three of us alternated jogging and walking, and I whined a bit. At the end, Katya and Dave wanted to sprint in. I protested, but they sprinted anyway and I tried keeping up. In the shower truck, I discovered more blisters so got them sliced open and covered at the med tent. (I will forever preach the wonders of zinc injections to dry out nasty blisters.) Now, I’m enjoying margaritas, courtesy of the crew, and relaxing in the grass at our campsite, where we’ll stay two nights instead of just one. The sky is threatening rain but someone’s grilling up burgers and someone else is streaming music through the loudspeakers. It’s everything I want in a summer evening after a day outdoors. MN MN MN MN We got Geezer’d. I had only limped around camp since finishing yesterday but tried running normally during today’s stage. The first two miles were warm-up on the dirt road. Then, we had a steep climb for a few more miles. I feel so good going uphill. Katya’s ear was bugging her—thanks to a slight cold and the altitude—so she kept stopping to put her head between her knees and move her jaw to un-pop it. Once, I said, “Awww,” to show sympathy and that I wished I could help. She’s normally the stronger one and hadn’t had issues with the altitude or blisters, even during training. “It’s fine,” she snapped. “Don’t do that.” I knew she’d be annoyed. When the trail opened to a wider landscape, we stopped at a ledge with stunning scenery and took jump photos in our party pants—obnoxiously patterned spandex shorts. My blisters hurt badly and Katya’s knee ached too, 50  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

so we walked a lot. In fact, most of today was a hike. That seemed fine with Katya, and the pain in my feet dulled any sort of competitive edge I had. I remember Gordy passing me on a wide, rocky descent and Doug coming not too far behind. So we took our time and finished our 14.5 miles in 4:24, only a half hour less than it took us to run 20.8 miles on the first day. The Old Goats waited at the finish line and handed us “You got Geezer’d” cards, the tokens each of us younger folks got for running slower than they did. We actually feel honored, and I bet we’re enjoying our margaritas now every bit as much as they are enjoying theirs. MN MN MN MN We RUN6 folk take over the village of Red Cliff on the morning of stage five. Yesterday afternoon, we were enjoying drinks on the roof deck of Mangos, and now we’re huddled on the floor inside the bar, keeping warm before our 24-mile day. I run out of water during our climb up the backside of Vail ski area. We’d trekked up a fire road from Red Cliff and then found pristine, secret singletrack leading up to almost 12,000 feet elevation, where we ventured off course to enjoy the best views of the week before descending a rocky trail then ascending the back bowls through wide open, steep terrain. We climbed more than 4,000 feet in 16 miles and can now see checkpoint three at the top of Vail. I’m pretty happy to see an outhouse up there, too. Volunteer Joe unzips my pack to refill my hydration bladder and my hearty stash of tampons tumbles to the ground. “Oh, that’s my girl stuff,” I say, half embarrassed and half annoyed. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, unfazed by the tampons and focused on not spilling my water. Descending to the base of Vail is an emotional relief because there are only six miles to go and they’re all downhill, but the descent is physical torture. Every other step makes me tear up because of the pain in my right knee, and Katya seems so far ahead of me. She’s only leading by a few yards but I feel like I’m failing at keeping up and don’t want to discourage her with my tears. Finally I ask if I can lead, and she follows me the rest of the way. My boyfriend finished a six-day stage race of his own (on a mountain bike) yesterday in a town nearby, and I’m expecting to see him at the finish. But he’s nowhere in sight. And the only consolation is another aid tent that offers ice and a bottle of chocolate milk. I’m upset that my knee hurts but am confusing disappointment in my body with disappointment that my (totally baseless) expectations to see him are unmet. Katya, who’s talking with some friends, says they’re going to soak in the creek. Do I want to come? I walk with them to the bridge and, on the way, a tourist couple asks, “How far did you run today?” Being a smart ass in my pissed off state, I say something like, “I ran 24 miles today. And yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that.” It’s not quite true, but I’m acting very unpleasantly right now and want to feel justified. In the creek, I just sit shivering. I answer my friends’ concern as wordlessly as possible and look no one in the eyes. Katya insists I eat something. After a shower and an excruciating massage, there’s still no sign of my man but at least my limp is less pronounced. I eat dinner sitting between two male runners and across from another then hope Brent shows up while I’m with them. This race is messing with my head. Exhaustion deepens every emotion and intensifies disappointments. The time I have to muse while physically

suffering triggers feelings of entitlement and feeds selfish thoughts. Right now, I understand that my anger is unfounded and that trying to evoke jealousy is creating a problem rather than solving anything, but I can’t help acting this way. This race ultimately will empower me but the very things that contribute to empowerment are causing trouble when too intense. After the awards ceremony Katya tells me that Brent is just outside the tent. I almost don’t recognize him. He’s wearing a new hat, a button-down plaid shirt, and different shoes than usual. He looks out of place at a running event and I’m still irked for no reason at all, so we interact a little awkwardly. But he thinks I’m just tired and we sit around the fire together, catching up on our week of racing. MN MN MN MN

ful. We come into the village, where racers are gathering their bags, drinking on patios, and waiting to cheer us in. Each of us takes one more sip of the beer and then we cross the line with our arms raised together. We no longer care if we look or feel like ultrarunners. We just carried ourselves 125 miles across Colorado in six days. The moment Katya and I shuffled across the stage one starting line, laughing and dancing to the music despite our nerves and uncertainties, seems distant. But that moment is what got us here. When we started this race, we joined the community that collectively aimed to finish these 125 miles. These other runners are the only ones who wholly understand what we went through and vice versa. They get the joke when “Highway to Hell” counts down to starting time each morning. They won’t judge anyone wearing compression socks with sandals. They agree that getting geezer’d is an honor. Meeting this very specific and rare goal was important, but we kept at it because of the people involved and the stories we were collecting along the way. The thought of missing out on the next stage or skipping the last stage saddened me. We could have bailed on this race the week before or the night before, after the opening ceremony. We could’ve passed up the opportunity to sign up in the first place. We could have said—after day four’s slow hike, after the climb to the top of Vail, or after the first two miles of stage six when I was already in tears—enough is enough. But we didn’t. Getting ourselves to the finish line—through the emotional and physical highs and lows—was simply about finishing what we started. And there’s something empowering about that. That moment in Buena Vista six days ago is when we became true endurance athletes, when we commit to finishing something we weren’t sure we could, when we really began understanding athletic perseverance. Crossing the TransRockies Run starting line marked when we became almost ultrarunners. n

“We bait each other with Pringles,” Katya told someone today. She slips a can of salty goodness into the top of her pack every day now and rattles it in front of anyone who needs motivation or a laugh. We aren’t the only women baiting each other on course though. Another team—veteran marathoners and Ragnar Relay ambassadors—attached Ryan Gosling photos to their packs for motivation during dark times. Somehow, Katya and I failed to notice this until now—stage five—though. We are about two miles in and running downhill on pavement when Katya points at them. The pain in my right knee is severe, but the sight makes me laugh. Then, we round a corner and I see a face that inspires an even bigger smile and a burst of speed. It’s my honey, sitting on a rock wall and poised to take a photo of us. Momentum brings me into his arms, where he squeezes me around the waist and kisses my cheek. He says that I’m doing great and that he is proud of me. I return to my partner and the Ryan Gosling faces, ready for the next what I expect will be 18 miles. But first, the remaining four to checkpoint one. The trail winds across valleys and peaks over ridges, then brings us around to another mountain. And another. Those remaining four miles become five, and five become six. I think my GPS watch is wrong. My slower (okay, glacial) pace is throwing it off. We decide that we’re definitely on the right trail but that the mileage is all wrong. Soon, we spot Brent and his yellow bike shoes. He’s carrying a 10-gallon bucket of water to a table surrounded by runners eating oranges and drinking Gu Brew as fast as volunteers can pour it. I am so happy to see him, but also glad to see potato chips and gummy bears laid out for the taking. My watch says we’ve clocked ten miles so far, and the volunteers say that’s right. This is the first time we’d been misguided and we are so spoiled from such accurate course descriptions that these extra four miles are throwing us for a loop. We’ll be running 24 miles today, not 20. My body is weary but I am not stopping now, and Katya isn’t either. She’s strong as ever but her spirits are lower than I’ve seen maybe in the entire span of our friendship. We’re about to have a downhill stretch that will be painful and grueling for both of us, so we just eat up, drink up, and get ready to run. After six painful miles, we’re finally on our way up to Beaver Creek. Katya had downed a beer at checkpoint two while I knocked back two salt tabs. Now, at the final checkpoint, we barely stop. She grabs another beer, I grab candy, and we keep running. We catch two or three teams before I get funny feeling in my foot. It’s like something separated. But what? A bone? A muscle? Just some skin? I’m not sure so I remove my shoe. Katya is just far enough ahead not to notice. It looks like a blister on my pinkie toe had grown so large that the base of my toenail popped loose. I debate ripping off my nail. I wiggle it. I tug. It’s not coming off easily. I finally lay it flat, carefully pull on my sock, and lace up my shoe. I keep running. With only one mile to go—total—I catch up to Katya. She’s At the checkpoint atop Tennessee Pass during stage four, our team feels pretty fresh. sitting down at a switchback and sipping that second beer. The stretch to our very last finish line of the race is quiet and purpose-

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52  WAM • WINTER | 2011


By Chris Kassar

Adventure Racing

m Adventure Racing It’s 3 a.m. Your team crouches down over a map to figure out your next move through the cold, dark mountains. The four of you have been on the go for 27 hours already and you still have three more days of racing ahead of you. By the end of your time in the wild, you may have teetered on the edge of hypothermia, evaded a bear chase, and hunkered down to sweat out a lightning storm. You’ll stumble over the finish line bruised, battered, muddy, exhausted, starving, swollen, and wondering, “When can I do this again?” That’s adventure racing (AR) in a nutshell; it will simultaneously deliver the most grueling, memorable, punishing, and rewarding moments of your life. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to increase your competitive edge, here are some tips from the experts. One word of caution: Once you get started, chances of addiction run high. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

What is Adventure Racing? Each wilderness challenge varies greatly, but adventure races usually include some combination of these components: land (hiking or trail-running); water (kayaking or rafting); mountain biking (singletrack or dirt road); navigation (orienteer-

ing and/or terrain association); climbing or ropes (scrambling, rappelling, or Tyrolean traverse). Teams can consist of two to five people and events can last a few hours or several days, covering 5, 10, 100 miles, or more.

Notes on Teamwork AR’s have a unique focus on teamwork. You have to travel and finish as a team so it’s important to have this dialed.

“The most adventurous part is seeing what you can accomplish with a team. Don’t necessarily choose rock star athletes. It’s more important to choose people who care about other people on the team as much as themselves. You have to leave ego at the start line, ask for help, and give help. The synergy you create is key to getting over the finish line.”—Robyn

Is it For You?

Contrary to popular belief, AR’s are not only for crazy people or for extreme athletes.“AR gives brainiacs a chance to beat jocks,” says Chelsea, pointing out that physical fitness will only get you so far. Excelling at AR depends greatly on decision-making, analytical intelligence, communication, patience, endurance, leadership, and

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the ability to stay calm amidst chaos. “People who have good naturesmarts, navigational skills, team work, and instincts can win over the fittest of athletes. AR is everybody’s game!” So, if you’re looking for a new challenge, a way to push the edge of your existing skills, or a way to fuel your inner competitive fire, give AR a shot.

Adventure Racing

Why do it? “Have you ever watched a survival movie and said, “I could survive that,” and then wanted a way to test that without being stupid? AR is a semi-controlled test of that statement. Plus, AR fuels your competitive nature. There are times you don’t know when or where the other teams are on the course, and the prospect of trying to get ahead and stay ahead of them is exhilarating and motivating.”—Chelsea Luttrall, 28, has raced for seven years and racked up a number of impressive finishes, including 1st in the Orienteering State Championship (2012) and 1st in the Adventure Xstream Buena Vista 24 Hour (2011).

“It’s huge! The better your teamwork, typically, the better your finishing place. Good teams tow from the get-go, transfer pack weight, form pace lines as often as possible, share food, give fist bumps to up the morale, fill teammate’s bottles while the other studies the map, and so on. Solid teamwork can cause a team to go much faster than its weakest link.”—Chelsea


“AR is so much more than riding, running, and paddling … it’s a true journey. You’re not just stuck on time and pace like other races. AR takes you into a completely different world than standard outdoor sports and brings you deep into an adventure.”—Robyn Benincasa’s resume includes 16 years of AR and 22 years of endurance racing. The two-time AR World Champ has placed in the top five in more than 25 expedition races and has won the Eco-Challenge (Borneo 2000) and the Raid Gauloises (1998)., “Adventure, challenge your limits, learn new things about yourself, see the country, see the world.”—Mari Chandler, 36, has been racing for eight years with Team DART nuun and Team Bones, earning podium finish in more than 40 races in the U.S., including the U.S. AR Championships. http://dartadventure. com/index.php/teamroster/ 21-marichandler

“Teamwork is crucial. I’ve seen teams quit races because they couldn’t agree on how to move forward. Misery enjoys company.”—Mari

3 Keys to Adventure Racing with a Partner/Spouse Chelsey and Jason Magness, of the accomplished YogaSlackers adventure racing team, center their lifestyle and annual calendars around athletic events but they are able to separate work, life, and competition from their married life. Here are Chelsey’s best tips for racing and staying together. 1) S  et boundaries, meaning take the time to talk about how being teammates is different than being married, dating, etc. While racing, essentially set aside the relationship and all its associated complications. 2) S  ay “I love you” right before the race—and right after. 3) Carry your sweetheart’s favorite treat at the bottom of your pack, take it out when it’s most needed—i.e. when tired, cranky, in a bad mood. The best thing about racing with your significant other: “You get to explore wild places, experience crazy states of mind, and push yourselves to utter exhaustion—together.”

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m Adventure Racing

Training Tips Whether it’s your first or fifth foray into AR, these secrets from our experts will help. • Train in combination. Combining disciplines in one block of time is called a brick workout. Go for a ride, drop the bike, do a run, and then get back in the saddle and pedal some more. “Your body needs to learn how to switch sports. And, brick workouts even help you mentally figure out what gear you need when switching disciplines and how you can expect your legs to feel,” says Mari. • Ride, run, hike with a loaded pack to get your feet and body used to it. • Push your feet. It’s common to have a fit body but for your feet to fall apart during a race. That surprises people. Robyn suggests getting shoes a half size bigger and doing some “big, long, ugly training hikes” to see what happens to your feet in a grueling situation before race day. • Dial in nutrition. Train with race foods so you can figure out what works after hours of racing. • Don’t neglect your upper body. Chelsea says a weekly arm-strengthening regimen is imperative to increasing technical prowess on the trail. “Women are downright puny in general and, if a trail is more than a smooth path, we’ll get rattled to death and sometimes bucked off our bikes. Strong upper bodies are essential for us AR girls if we want to be able to compete with or beat the boys in mountain biking.” • Train with your team as much as possible. “It’s important to get your quirks and dif-

ferences squared away prior to race day,” says Chelsea. • Learn how to navigate—and practice. “Even if you’re not the designated navigator on your team, you need to be competent at this. Navigators will get tired and need help,” says Robyn. Orienteering classes or clubs are great so you can look at scale, play with maps, learn about terrain features, and get practice figuring out where you are and how to get to the next point when you’re under a little bit of pressure.” • Get out in gnarly conditions. “Adventure races happen regardless of weather so getting out in bad weather is really good mental training. You need to be able to know what gear you need in adverse race conditions, and you need to be less fazed by the weather than your competition. That will give you an edge,” says Chelsea. • Practice speedy transitions. Often, the transition time can win or lose a race.

• Train for each specific race and focus on your weaknesses. Get a paddling coach, take an orienteering class, do some night rides. Whatever you look forward to least, do it the most. • On your mark, get set, go! “Doing a bunch of small races is the best way to get ready for the bigger races,” says Mari.

Stuff You Can’t Live Without Of course for an AR, you need a ton of gear (a good bike, boat, harness, etc.), but it’s the little things that make all the difference. Here are our hand-picked must-haves. Women’s Raptor GTX. Aggressive tread, a waterproof outsole, and a generous lady-specific fit make these kicks perfect for the technical terrain you’ll encounter. $155;

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Balega Women’s Enduro 4 No Show. With the perfect amount of cushioning and a seamless toe, these socks keep your feet comfy and blister-free, which is clutch to enjoying an AR. $11;

UV Buff. The Jane of all trades: sweatband, headband, balaclava, hat, snot rag. Keeps hair and sweat out of your face, great temperature regulator, blocks harmful rays. $23;

Gregory Freia 30. This chickspecific pack is built for light and fast pursuits. Highlights: a breathable harness and waist belt with mesh to control sweat, an expandable bucket pocket and roomy pockets on the side, plus a belt to minimize fuss and save time. $129;

Adventure Racing


Race Day Advice Our experts learned these the hard way, but you don’t have to … • Take care of foot issues early. • Eat often. “Without calories, the whole world becomes darker and more dismal. Managing calories simultaneously manages your physical abilities, cognitive abilities, emotional state, and social aptitude—all of which are necessary for a good race but also an enjoyable race.”—Chelsea • Eat varied. Bring quote-unquote normal food or tasty, fun snacks to mix it up. “This is meant to be an amazing epic adventure, not a deep cleanse. Give your body what it wants to get through.”—Robyn • Bring money. “You never know when you might pass through a town and can buy treats at a 7-11.”—Mari • Move on: “Transition areas are cozy … don’t get sucked into staying! Despite the warm campfire, friendly faces, offerings of chili from the volunteers, you’re in a race! Get out of those wet socks, put on dry ones, don’t forget your map and compass (I’ve done that), and get out of there!”—Chelsea • Don’t follow other teams blindly. • Get over it. “If you make a mistake, focus all your energy on what it takes to get back on track instead of on blame. That’s where meltdown occurs.”—Robyn • Control swelling with compression socks or pants, and have larger shoes staged at transition areas just in case. • Keep your pace. Women typically start more slowly, but we can keep a solid pace for the duration. “Be okay with starting on tow while the guys are excited and have a hard time holding their speed in check. You’ll get warmed up, and you’ll be good to tow them later when they’re energy starts fading.”—Chelsea • Chill. Be prepared and don’t panic in tough situations.

Reasons to Keep Adventure Racing AR can seem hardcore, intimidating, and full of suffering, but there are reasons—other than the adrenaline rush— that it’s addictive. We hope these parting words from our experts will inspire you to try one and help you push through the tough times out on the trail. It’s worth it! “It’s amazing to do something you never thought you could do; push through the suffering; see some amazing scenery and cross areas that very few humans have been through. Crossing the finish line, no matter what place you are in, is an amazing feeling that only your teammates and other racers can share with you.”—Mari “The best part is getting to experience incredible places and spaces that many people never get to see. Great races feature some of the best terrain in the area: You may rappel off of one of the most famous archways, ride worldrenowned singletrack, raft or paddle some of the most intense and sought-after rapids in the world, see the bottoms of dark caverns with incredible stalactites/stalagmites, and all for the cost of race entry. It’s like a self-guided tour of awesomeness!”—Chelsea

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded Jacket. Weighs in at an unbelievable two ounces, stuffs into the smallest of pockets, and is extremely wind- and water-resistant. A real dream come true for adventure racers! $165;

Julbo Wave. Light yet durable with polarized lenses that minimize glare on and off the water and a frame skirt to curb spray. Plus, these frames float, making them ideal for AR. $120-190;

Other critical items: solid map case, ibuprofen, duct tape, and comprehensive first aid kit. For more gear insight, check out Chelsea’s Adventure Gear Review— for adventure racers, by adventure racers.

“It’s magical to do something epic that you would never dream of doing alone but, with a team, is all possible. You create memories and bonds that are unmatched in our everyday lives. Plus, putting yourself in a situation where you have no comforts and where you’re hungry, tired, scared, and exhausted makes you more full of gratitude and makes you content with what you do have in life.”—Robyn

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By Cat del Valle Castellanos

Backcountry Cooking

m Backcountry Cooking

Do your camp meals consist of PB&J and granola bars? Can’t bear the thought of cooking sans microwave? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with tips, tricks, recipes, and lists to get you all stirred up. Gear

What kind of stove do you need? Propane stoves vs. Pressurized Gas Mix stoves • Propane stoves are easy to use and good for large groups. However, they are big and heavy and are best suited for car camping or cookouts. • Pressurized Gas Mix stoves are easy to use and the fuel can be found at most sporting goods stores. They do not last too long so make sure to bring adequate fuel for your group.

Make sure to find the right gas mix for the climate you’re facing. • 75 Butane/25 Propane: Good for three seasons, won’t light in extreme cold. • Propane/Isobutane/Butane: A four seasons mix, meaning it’s good year-round. • Trick: If in cold weather, keeping your propane mixed gas canister warm will make it ready to light up. Tuck it the bottom of your sleeping bag or inside a jacket pocket until you’re ready to start cooking. Be aware that as soon as the canister cools down, the flame will start to flicker and go out. Depending on the weather, this can happen in just a few minutes!

Nutrition: Stay strong, hike long When you sweat or “glisten” as we ladies tend to do, you need to replace the sodium your body is losing to help prevent muscle cramps and fatigue. Instead of hauling sports drinks, carry electrolyte powder tabs to add to your water when needed. Try Nunn Active Hydration Lemonade drink tabs. $24.00 for a 4 pack;

Safety: Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! To keep food out of animal reach, hang your food in bearresistant containers at least 12 feet above the ground and 200 feet away from your campsite.

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High and Dry: Cooking at altitude Lower air pressure means your food will take longer to cook through. For example, whole grains won’t cook well at altitude; stick with instant rice.

Hydration: Water, water everywhere … When calculating how much water you’ll need, remember to add in enough for cooking and personal hygiene. Plan on carrying 16 ounces of water per person per hour that you are doing strenuous activity, like hiking or climbing. Feel like you’re drowning under the extra weight? If you’re in a water-rich area, iodine drops or water filters can mean a lighter load.

In a pinch, try a freeze-dried meal. Backpacker’s Pantry offers vegan, single-serving organic meals and even gluten-free options. Starting at $3.80 Cooking (or at least heating up water for your meals) becomes a lot easier without all those pots and pans. Investing in a product like the JetBoil, which will allow you to use one pot for coffee, breakfast and beyond. Find easy recipes for this ultrapackable stove at recipes. $74.95; If you will be camping in a water rich area, Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets can help lighten your load. Tip: Always read the instructions and follow the required waiting periods. $9.95; for retailers Remember hauling clanking pots and pans on your backpack? Those are distant memories only, thanks to Sea to Summit’s collapsible containers, called X-Mugs and X-Cups. $8.95–$11.95; for retailers

Backcountry Cooking

Tips To Make Camp Life Easier 1. Put a pan of hot water on the fire while you eat so that it’ll be ready for cleanup when you are done. 2. Measure ingredients ahead of time. This will save you from hauling extra weight. Travel-size containers from the drugstore are great for sauces and dressings, just make sure not to confuse them with the shampoo! 3. Plan your meals according to how long you’ll be camping. If you’re only going to be gone a few days, take fresh fruit and vegetables. Longer? Dehydrated fruit and vegetables may work best. If you’re bringing meat, make sure to cook it the first night to keep it from spoiling.


Rosemary Saal, NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Expedition Denali Member offers her best tips and secrets to a good meal in the backcountry. “Cooking in the backcountry gave me so much confidence when it came to cooking in the front country. If I can make dinner on the side if a mountain, what’s stopping me from doing the same in my kitchen at home?”

Be a Backcountry Chef

This sample menu is a great place to begin your camp cooking endeavors. Numerous sites offer recipes and tips for cooking up scrumptious gourmet dishes in the woods. Our first selection comes from




Before your trip, measure out and combine the first seven ingredients in a plastic baggy.

1 tbsp. vegetable oil ½ cup carnarolli rice 1 oz. dehydrated mushrooms 1 chicken bouillon cube 2 cups water 2 large tomatoes, chopped 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese Salt and pepper

1 large yellow onion 1 large bell pepper 1 squash 1 tsp. basil Olive oil 1 can black beans 4 flour tortillas 1 avocado

Directions: Heat the oil in a small pan and add the rice, mushrooms, and bouillon cube. Add ½ cup water and stir until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Add the tomatoes along with more water until the risotto is cooked and “sticky.” Top with Parmesan, salt, and pepper as desired.

Directions: Wash vegetables and chop appropriately. Sauté all vegetables in hot pan with olive oil for about 4–6 minutes until cooked. Remove the avocado peel and cut into small pieces. Warm tortilla on a separate pan. Top tortilla with the cooked vegetables, avocado, salt, and pepper.

Oatmeal Apple Bread

2 cups flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt ¼ tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. cinnamon ¼ teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup sugar 2/3 cup shortening 3 eggs 1½ cups cooked oatmeal 1 apple, chopped Directions: Mix shortening and eggs with dry ingredients in a large bowl. Beat until creamy. Stir in oatmeal and chopped apple. Grease bread pan and pour in batter. Bake at 375°F (medium-high heat on any camp stove) for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick can be removed cleanly. It’s important to check it often because bread can be tricky to bake in the woods.

Mushroom and Tomato Risotto

Veggie Black Bean Fajitas

“My favorite ingredient in backcountry cooking is cinnamon. I would add it to bread, pasta, even a calzone!”—Rosemary Saal, NOLS Expedition Denali Member

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  59

By Kate Stepan

Get your stroke on for fun and fitness. Water sports are the way to go during the hot, dry summer. Whether they use one blade (canoers, rafters, standup paddleboarders) or two (kayakers), paddlers definitely know how to keep cool.

Canoe at Any Age Canoes have a certain “old school” grace and versatility, says certified canoe instructor Looie Voorhees. “Canoeing’s kneeling stance also offers a more stable and powerful paddling position,” says Looie, who has led outings and taught workshops with the Philadelphia Canoe Club for 18 years. She advises seniors and other canoeing newbies to join a club to take advantage of safety in numbers in the water and have a few extra sets of hands when it comes time to hoist your boat onto the roof of the car.

Kayak Tour In the Backcountry Sea kayaks can carry overnight gear, offering the opportunity to live out of your boat in the wild, says Dana Paskiewicz, a guide for Illinois-based adventure travel company The Northwest Passage. Her favorite selfsupported kayak trips for paddlers of all abilities include excursions in the Boundary Waters near the U.S./Canada border; for a more pampered approach try one of NWP’s inn-to-inn tours on the south coast of Crete. Dana advises getting comfortable in a kayak on calm, flat water and learning rescue techniques before attempting any open water crossings or unguided tours. Also, learn to use the bathroom comfortably and properly in the woods, and bring enough feminine supplies to last a few days in case of an unexpected monthly visitor. “Ditch the perfumes, sprays, scented lotions, and hair products,” says Dana, one of two ladies on the company’s roster of ten guides, though 58 percent of the outfitter’s participants are women. “No one cares what you look or smell like, and it can be an attractant to wildlife, including bears!”

Buying a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Often mislabeled “lifejackets,” PFDs require a little user input to actually save a life. Along with swimming in current and other self-rescue techniques, though, a snug, properly fitted PFD will help keep your head above water. Look for women’s-specific models from Astral, Stohlquist, and MTI Adventurewear. Some have “cups” in the front panel to accommodate a range of, um, chest sizes, while others are simply cut so as not to squash feminine physiques. Other features to consider: over-the-head or side-zipper entry, tabs to attach a river knife (for spreading peanut butter at lunch), and hand-warming fleece pockets.



m Paddling

Learn to Roll: Right your Upside Down Kayak Because staying in your boat is always safer than swimming in the river or ocean alongside it. The best way to learn is under the watchful eye of an American Canoe Association–certified kayak instructor. Find one, and a reputable paddling school near you, at Still confused? Check out “Anybody Can Kayak! Rolling,” a comprehensive DVD that can help anyone from first-timers to those looking to bombproof a shaky roll (

1. Find the set-up position. Tuck forward, align your paddle along one side of the boat, and focus your gaze on the logo sticker on the outside of the kayak near your knee.

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2. “ T” it up. Sweeping one paddle blade along the water surface, reach the other arm around your boat and toward your butt to create a “T” with the hull (bottom).

3. Hip-snap. Drop the b from the sweeping p


Live the Dream

Team Up: Paddle a Raft Inflatable rafts have the most space to transport people and equipment down the river. “They are the perfect craft for a group of friends or expanding family,” says Jessica Mason, the captain and guide for the U.S. Women’s Raft Team. She’d obviously recommend a raft trip but has one key piece of advice. “Choose one person to guide the boat while the rest of the crew lis-

tens to her commands and paddles in sync,” says Jessica, who plops her 8-month-old son Atlin, asleep in his carseat, in the back of the team’s raft during flatwater training on the Colorado River near her home. Consult experienced rafters before taking children on the water, then make sure they are wearing properly fitting flotation, not strapped in to a raft, on moving water.

Lingo Freestyle kayaking involves “surfing” and performing tricks in (often manmade) river waves and holes, where water pours over rocks to create recirculating currents. The discipline offers beginners a chance to practice rolling in current, hone balance, and get a feel for the edges of a kayak without actually traveling downriver, which requires paddling partners and a car shuttle from the end of the run.


Haley Mills’ most recent accomplishment was placing in the top five at the 2011 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships in Plattling, Germany. Now, she’s also paddling standup boards for manufacturers Badfish and Boardworks, entering SUP events at the whitewater competitions she was already attending around the U.S. “Staying competitive in two sports takes hard work and skill. But as long as I’m on the river, I’m happy,” says Haley, who’s been paddling for 14 years and has her sights set on this year’s Kayaking Worlds on North Carolina’s Nantahala River.

See page 68 for our river gear suggestions.

SUP to Get Fit Paddling’s newest discipline, standup paddleboarding, is gaining popularity on flat water—from Florida estuaries to the California coast. The reason? It offers a superb, full-body workout while honing balance and a nice tan. “I totally enjoy using my paddle and board as my gym,” says Karen Mirlenbrink, a Pilates instructor who came to SUP three years ago. For on-water yoga and Pilates, choose a long, flat board with a round nose rather than a race board, which would have a pointed nose and a rounded hull (bottom), kind of like a boat. And “the less worried you are about falling in, the more fun you are going to have,” she says.

SUP to Go Fast Jess Rando started SUP two years ago and immediately began racing. She now paddles in races around eastern Canada and the U.S. and recommends SUP newbies focus on the fundamentals of efficient paddling and board maneuvering. “Most races last one to two hours or longer,” she says. “Being comfortable on your board in all conditions is really important.”

Protect Your Waters Washington state kayaker Susan Hollingsworth took interest in the proposed dismantling of the outdated Condit Dam on the White Salmon River and began speaking up for boaters, who wished to see the river return to its natural state, at stakeholder meetings. After the dam crumbled in October 2011, river users delighted in the unobstructed stream flow and return of salmon and steelhead migration. “I find it increasingly difficult to work on anything that doesn’t help promote clean, healthy, and accessible rivers,” says Susan, who now serves as the sole female—and youngest—member of the American Whitewater board of directors. American Whitewater is a resource best known for river beta and links to gauges around the country. Find these at, along with information on how to get involved if your local run is threatened by a new dam, eligible for Wild and Scenic status, or could benefit from an improved boat ramp.

butt cheek farthest paddle blade first.

4. Raise your body out of the water from the bottom up in a slithering motion.

5. Breathe. Beginners tend to lift their head too early, dragging their body back down into the water in a move called “carping” the roll. Stay relaxed and resist the urge to throw your head upright until the kayak has stabilized underneath you. WAM • SUMMER | 2013  61

By Casey Flynn

Bike Packing

m Bike Packing Pack It On for a Two-Wheeled Multi-Day Adventure Combine the freedom of backpacking with the increased mobility and speed of cycling and you get the fast-growing sport of bike packing. At its core, bike packing is exploring and camping from your bike. The variety of trips, terrain, and gear options make bike packing accessible to any level of cyclist. Travel on pavement, a bike path, fire roads, or singletrack. Haul gear with a trailer, panniers, frame bags, or bungees over your rear rack. Go on a leisurely overnighter or a week-long race. Whatever flavor of bike packing you fancy, the following skills will help you squeeze more enjoyment out of your journey.

Route Planning

The Right Bike

Bike packing routes range from steep singletrack to wide open fire roads and stretches of pavement. Knowing your route helps you figure out any adjustments you’ll need to make to your bike and plan what gear to bring. Follow these tips to chart a solid trip.

Hardtail mountain bikes (with front shocks) are a solid choice for bike packing—affordable, versatile, and often lightweight. Change out your tires for different surfaces (thicker and knobbier for rough trail vs. skinny and smooth for paved roads).

• Be flexible. Weather changes, bikes break, legs turn to lead. Plan several camps along your intended route so you don’t feel pressured to push on to your final destination if something happens. • Keep distances conservative until you have a better idea what mileage you can cover on different types of terrain. Riding 10 to 15 miles a day is a good place to start. If you get into camp early, dump your gear and explore with a lightened load. • Remember, no bikes are permitted in designated wilderness areas. If an area is slated to become wilderness, it might get closed to biking early—get in touch with the local management district to find out.

Nowadays, 29ers (bikes with 29-inch wheels) are an increasing favorite among bike packers and racers for their ability to roll over obstacles and carry momentum. If traveling and packing, consider a folding bike like those from Bike Friday (

Get Away Trips and organized tours are a great way to meet other bike packers, learn new skills, and spark ideas for your own tours. The Adventure Cycling Association ( runs a variety of tours all over the country and publishes extensive maps for self-supported trips. The newly opened Whitefish Bike Retreat ( in Whitefish, Montana, is a hub for cycling and bike packing and cycling in the region, where people can come together to meet partners, tell stories, learn skills, and find out about new places to ride. The retreat offers tours, classes (including women’s clinics), lodging and more, and only a couple cranks from Glacier National Park.

Packing Tips Getting everything to fit on the bike is the most challenging step for beginning bike packers. The balance of accessibility and weight distribution is a nuanced art that takes lots of trial and error to master. Mo Mislivets, Tours Specialist with the Adventure Cycling Association, shares her strategy for frame bags. • Seat bag: food, heavier items, things you don’t need immediate access to • Frame bag: emergency equipment, rain shell, rain pants, toiletries • Top tube bag: camera, phone, quick access items • Handlebars: sleeping pad slid underneath cabling, dry bag with sleeping bag, down jacket, change of clothes • Backpack: mountain bike-specific hydration pack, clothing layers for riding, pockets for light and easy access items • Everyone’s setup is a little different, so try out yours and adjust to your style!

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Bike Packing


Riding in a Group

Varying paces will string your group out over the route, so communication is key to staying on track. When you come to a junction, wait for the next people in line. When they arrive, you can head off, and they’ll direct the next rider on down the line.

Gear Most mountain biking and backpacking gear crosses over to bike packing—with a stronger emphasis on compressibility and weight. Once you have what you need, get out and try it. “Put the time in on the bike so that you feel more comfortable with the equipment you’re using. If you don’t like it, you’re going to find out pretty quickly and you’ll go buy something else,” says Cricket Butler, 2010 women’s winner of the Tour Divide. “If I get to the point where I can’t find what I’m looking for, I just make it.” • Frame bags (check out keep your gear tight to your bike and reduce flopping and shaking. If you’re sticking to open, flatter surfaces, a trailer allows for more packing freedom. • Go with quality tires. The heavy load increases wear and tear and the chances of getting a flat. • Compression dry bags with clear windows keep critical gear dry while helping with organization. • Keep a gear list to streamline your setup. After each trip, note items you had but didn’t use and things you wanted but didn’t have. • Adjust your gear for the route and conditions. Lots of dirt roads? Use touring tires with less tread. No bugs? Go with a lightweight tarp instead of a tent.

Adjusting to the Weight

Mechanical Savvy When you blow a tire or break your chain, you need to know how to fix it well enough to get yourself out to the nearest road or town. These basic skills and tools will help you get your bike functioning again. And never underestimate the power of duct tape! • Keep these key items on you at all times: bike tool, chain lube, rag, pump, spare tubes (1 or 2 depending on terrain), pieces of chain, extra cable, extra brake pads. • Know these basic skills: patching a flat, fixing your chain, tightening your cables, adjusting your brakes, and tightening your bolts. • Lube your chain often. • Learn from more experienced riders and bike packers while on the road or trail by asking questions and paying attention when they work on their rigs. • Attend a class. Free classes are offered at a variety of outdoor stores and bike shops, with more women’s-only classes becoming available.

Do a Practice Run “You don’t want to go out and have a bad time and think, I don’t want to do this again,” says Tracey Petervary, who with her husband Jay holds the record for fastest tandem time on the 2,745-mile Tour Divide bike packing race. To get comfortable with your gear, Tracey recom-

mends packing up your bike as if you were going on an overnight trip and going on a short daytime ride. Find a mock-campsite and practice setting up camp in the daylight so you can troubleshoot any problems you discover. Then you’re ready for your first overnighter.


• Be more conservative on downhills. It’s easy to lose control when you’ve added 30 pounds to your rig. • Be prepared to hike-a-bike on steep uphill grades. There’s no shame in getting off and pushing! • Loosen up your clipless pedals so they release more easily. If your bike starts to go down, you want to be able to get out quickly. • Adjust the front shock, if you have a lot of weight on your handlebars, so it doesn’t bottom out.

Homegrown bike packing races are cropping up all over the country. Organized by enthusiasts, they are “show and go” races—no fees, no support, and nobody waiting for you at the finish line. “If you’re the type of person who likes all of bike packing’s elements put together, then you’re naturally going to progress to wondering, how fast can I go?” says Cricket. Here are Cricket and Tracey’s tips for ramping up your bike packing game. • Relatively shorter races—like the Huracan 300 (FL), Arizona Trail 300, and Allegheny Mountains Loop 400 (WV/VA)—are good places to test your mettle. • Slim down your gear for weight and efficiency. Leave the stove, pots, and fuel behind and eat and resupply in towns. • Dial in your packing and camping. If you know you can be unpacked and in your bag in five minutes, you can squeeze the mileage out of that last bit of daylight. WAM • SUMMER | 2013  63


Mountain Biking

By Chris Kassar

Head for the Hills: Summer Mountain Bike Gear Round-Up Longer days, copious sunshine, and warmer temps. Summer’s back. And wonderful, flowing singletrack beckons once again. These gear favorites are sure to keep you cruising and cool as summer riding heats up.


Bontrager Node 2.1. Train better with this digital computer that tracks power, speed, cadence, heart rate, and distance on one easy-to-read screen. Definitely a smart machine, the Node 2.1 starts and stops automatically with movement, times-out after 20 minutes of rest and records altitude, grade, and air temp. It is water resistant and backlit, which helps during sunrise/sunset cruises. $139.99 (Node 2.1, including chest strap), $59.99 (Interchange ANT+ Digital Combo Sensor); Terry W’s FLX Gel Saddle. By infusing just the right amount of gel into a light and slim seat, the folks at Terry have created an outstanding saddle that strikes the perfect balance of cushioning and performance. The narrow design minimizes inner thigh rubbing and each side of the saddle flexes independently for a sweeter ride with less pressure on your sit bones and hips. $120;

Raleigh Eva Comp 29. This lightweight, rugged, reasonably priced hardtail delivers a smooth ride, powerful performance, and excellent control so you can attack and conquer burly singletrack this season. Built specifically for women, the frame fits better so you can stay out longer and focus on honing your skills and having fun. It features extra grippy tires, snappy shifters, and just the right amount of travel to help you cruise through downhills, feel confident in corners, and crush it on climbs. $1,100;


Shimano PD-M324 SPD Dual Platform Pedal. Merging the best of a standard flat pedal with the efficiency of a clipless pedal, these versatile twosided Shimanos are extremely user-friendly and work with cleated or street shoes. Great if you are new to clipless pedals, have one bike you use for everything, or if you have to brave city streets to reach trails. $85;

Pearl Izumi W’s Launch Jersey. Silky smooth fabric feels like butter next to the skin, wicks moisture, and dries fast, making it superb for sweaty summer rides. UPF 50+ to protect against harmful rays, longer front zipper for increased ventilation, and a sewnin sunglass wipe. $80;

Skirt Sports Cruiser Bike Skirt. Don’t let the name fool Pearl Izumi W’s Divide Short. Perform better and ride longer with these breathable, airy shorts from the leader in technical cycling apparel. The detachable women’s chamois provides perfectly placed padding while cutting-edge mesh side vents facilitate airflow for all-day cooling and comfort. $100; 64  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

Outdoor Research Whirlwind Hoody. Mountain weather can change in a flash. Be ready with this unique wind- and water-resistant piece that combines the warmth and protection of a technical pullover with the feel of a relaxed shirt. Packs into its own pocket so you can stow it and forget it until the clouds threaten rain. $89;

you—this adorable skirt is techy and tough enough to survive your most grueling training rides. Tiny details that set these bottoms apart: side slits for full range of motion, pockets on each thigh for necessities, music port, and grippers to hold shorts in place. Grab this sweet skirt if you want to look and feel great while crushing it. $85;


Mountain Biking

Julbo W’s Whoops with Zebra Lenses. As you

Krieg Benny Bag. Add a little flair to your ride with a unique, practical saddlebag. Big enough for a tube, tool, tire lever, and phone, this bag will help you tackle any trouble out on the trail and the countless cool designs are sure to draw some attention from other riders. $23;

Pearl Izumi Elite Gel-Vent FF Glove. Strategically placed padding delivers superior comfort and eases the pressure on key nerves in your hands to prevent numbness or diminished strength. Outstanding ventilation, moisture management, and durability make these a must for warm-weather journeys. $45;

Accessorize with the Best

cruise in and out of the trees, through wide-open meadows and up and over buttes, you want comfy sunglasses that will move with you, ones that won’t have you squinting one minute, and lifting them off the next. These photochromic lenses adjust to the landscape, getting darker in sun and lighter in shade. Curved frames ensure that they’ll stay on over bumps and through corners, with wraparound coverage for protection from harmful UV rays. $160;

Dakine Women’s Covert Glove. In addition to their kickass design features, these gloves feature everimportant microfleece nose-wipe panels (as we like to call them) and ultra sticky fingertips.

Bontrager Specter XR. This lightweight,

Camelbak L.U.X.E. NV. This new, smartly designed women’s pack fits a ton of gear in an organized way and delivers a more comfortable carry than most. The lined harness doesn’t chafe bare skin and the articulating pods on the back panel keep the load off your back: clutch for managing moisture on warm, long days on the trail. $135;

extremely well-ventilated lid will keep your noggin cool even on the most arduous rides. With 24 vents and internal channels, airflow remains consistent in this durable, great fitting, performance-oriented helmet. The Headmaster II dial provides convenient, one-handed adjustability that is easy to operate on the go, and the helmet’s thin flexible straps get high marks in the comfort department. $149.99;

Dakine Siren Short. Spunky style and Specialized W’s S-WORKS MTB Shoes. Get the most out of each pedal stroke with this über-light carbon shoe. Groundbreaking design and technology reduces hotspots, maintains alignment, and boosts efficiency. The unique Boa closure system allows for precise, onehanded, on the fly adjustment so you can achieve a flawless fit without skipping a beat or slowing down. $360;

functionality meet in this stretchy outer short with four-way stretch and reinforced stitching where you need it most. A gusseted crotch adds to a great fit and extra durability while a Velcro-adjustable waistband and 13-inch inseam ensure coverage. The Siren’s inside chamois boasts an Italian Domomiti women’s pad with high-density 8mm foam and antimicrobial treatment. Cute as can be and airy enough for the toughest of rides, the Dakine Static with quick-dry technology, antimicrobial properties, raglan sleeves, asymmetrical patterning, and an interior sunglass wipe pairs nicely. $90;

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  65


Urban Riding

By Jennifer C. Olson

“The bicycle will accomplish more for women’s sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged.” –Author unknown Novara Buzz. Mechanical disk brakes and riser bars top off this solid steel frame outfitted with 24 gears in a smooth, comfortable package. It’s the ultimate set up for the hardcore commuter and grocery getter alike! $599;

Po Campo Pilsen Bungee. This good-looking purse features built-in bungee cords so you can strap it to your townie in a jiffy. $65; Showers Pass Portland Jacket. Stealthy and stylish, this jacket will keep you covered rain or shine in the urban jungle. Waterproof softshell fabric with reflective piping accents, hidden pit zip vents, and adjustable side gussets offer ultimate functionality. While weatherized cuffs and a drop down reflective rear panel ensure safety and weather protection in the nastiest of conditions. $200; —Gigi Ragland

Planet Bike Blaze 2 watt Micro Headlight. The new, improved Planet Bike Blaze is brighter, sleeker, and about $20 less expensive than the original Blaze headlight. With longer run times for its bright/low/ flashing modes and a sexy new red chrome color, this bestseller just keeps getting better.

Knog Party Coil. Tougher than its smooth silicone appearance would let on, this bike lock’s coil is made of steel—literally. The braided steel cable’s fiber core is designed to crush, not break, if a thieve attempts cutting it. But the lock itself boasts die cast zinc alloy housing and a blade style lock barrel; picking it is not an option. Keep the key on its included wrist coil while you rage so you’re sure to be the only one riding away on your wheels that night. $24.95;

Team it with the redesigned Superflash Turbo taillight and stay bright and safe on all your rides around town. (Find the full review at womensadventuremagazine. com/gear.) Blaze Micro $39.99, Blaze/Superflash combo $74.99;

Burley Travoy. A hassle-free way to haul your weekly groceries or your work clothes and gym bag, this trailer hitches to your seatpost and easily detatches. The Travoy weighs just under 10 pounds but can manage up to 60 pounds of cargo and handles well during your ride. $299;

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Giro Republic. Euro-inspired style and wearall-day comfort combine in this cycling shoe. With an upper made of breathable, flexible, and durable microfiber and a sturdy, grippy sole, this casual shoe enhances your connection to the pedals and makes your ride that much more enjoyable. $150;

Basil Elements Double Bag.


Urban Riding Chariot Chinook. After testing out the Chinook for a wide variety of activities and terrains, I think it’s safe to say that this product will not only fit all of your urban needs, but many of your more adventurous family endeavors as well! Features that stood out for our family: packability, adjustability, and maneuverability. Transitioning from trailer mode to stroller mode proved pretty easy, unlike other multi-sport carriers I’ve seen. Plus, its silky smooth shocks allowed my three year old to finish a cup of water with no lid on pretty bumpy terrain. This stroller/trailer combo definitely falls into the “luxury” category but to justify its pricetag the Chinook is a very welldesigned piece of gear that will last your family for as long as you need it—and then some! (Full review on or at cragmama. com.) $949; —Erica Lineberry

Made of recycled, water-repellent canvas, this dual pocket bag hangs elegantly over your rear rack. Bonus features include leather detailing, straps for safety lights, and outer pockets so your small items don’t get buried in its 38 liters of storage space. $124.99;

Giant Via 1 W. Okay, so this bike is made to cruise from your Soul LED neon light kit. Aside from being highly visible, sleek, and long-lasting these twinkle-y rim lights are fun! Each kit comes with a line of LED lights for each of your bike’s wheels, instructions, and zip ties. $30;

house to a summer festival, but we want to ride this timeless beauty everywhere. Its internal three-speed hub and rustless chain ensure low maintenance, while its comfortable step-through frame design ensures you’ll be a happy pedaler. Add a rear rack and this townie becomes an ideal commuter or grocery-getter, too. $600;

Novara Rosedale Knit Top ($39.50) and Skirt ($49.50). This silky

Tern Swoop Duo. A low maintenance, automatic shifting two-speed bike that folds down in ten seconds? Too good to be true, right? Nope. This low-step foldable frame gets you between your house and the bus station then carries you stylishly between your stop and the office. $900;

sleeveless top looks stylish and is functional on and off your bike thanks to its flattering cut and hidden zip pockets. Piping at the shirt’s shoulders is reflective. Pair it with the breathable and reversible skirt, which also includes reflective piping and a zippered pocket.

Terry Cyclocape. My Alibi Clothing Bloomers. This thin, feminine chamois undergarment pairs well with any outfit and makes your ride into the office or around town way more comfortable. The maker’s motto “Feel Beautiful on a Bike” rings true in this piece, especially since these bloomers contribute to a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle. $70;

A fashionista cyclist’s dream, this high style and 100 percent wool garment features handwarmer pockets, zip pockets in the back, and reflective trim. A full-length zipper makes for easy on and off, while the cape’s relaxed style stays comfy whether you’re riding or strolling downtown. $275;

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  67


River Trips

By Jennifer C. Olson

Almost anything goes when you’re floating a river in summertime. Here are some of our favorite gear items, but you can bring along as much as you can safely rig on your raft or kayak. Don’t forget sunscreen and a cooler for all the beer!

Perception Kayak Expression 11.5. A crossover kayak that proves fun, maneuverable, and versatile, whether you’re paddling for an afternoon on your local lake or touring along the coast for a few days. Stable, shorter in length than your typical touring boat, and designed for beginner to intermediate paddlers, this kayak tracks well and moves ergonomically with minimal splash. The generous cockpit features adjustable padded thigh braces for a comfy ride, too. $799;

Eno DoubleNest Hammock. Made from a breathable, durable, soft parachute nylon, this lighweight two-person hammock packs up small and sets up almost anywhere. Plus, there will be no more battling your bedmate for the covers—you’ll be cozied up together, sharing body heat. $69.95;

Mosquitno Bandz All-Natural Bracelets. A non-toxic, chemical- and DEET-free wristband that repels mosquitos. Need we say more? $3.99;

Arka USB Charger + Lantern + Flashlight. A USB charger that gives

Adventure Technology Quest Glass. From AT’s touring paddle line, this lightweight and versatile paddle features a carbon fiber shaft and fiberglass blade—meaning, it’s great for relaxed, low angle paddling but fit for a varied of conditions and paddle styles. Available with a straight ($235) or ergonomic ($300) shaft.

Chaco Tedinho. Chaco packs all the comfort and support, plus sticky Vibram sole, of their legendary river sandals into its new line of river shoes. Haley Mills relies on the Tedinho, a Punky Brewster-inspired pink high-top (they also come in beige and black—with purple laces), for stability on her paddleboard. $120;

X-1 Surge Mini. Slip on these 100-percent waterproof headphones when your raft mates’ chatter starts to bug you and enjoy your own little world for a while. $49.99;

our light, too? Yes. This convertible lantern charges your electronic gadgets—GPS units, camera, speakers, etc.—and can help send an emergency signal, too. Highly water resistant, lightweight, and versatile, this lantern boats five lighting modes and an emergency strobe. Powered by a rechargeable battery, it will run for up to eight hours on high and 100 on low. Plus, you can pair it with solar panels on longer trips. $69.99;

Healthy HooHoo Feminine Wipes. Free of

Dakine Women’s Watercolors Rash Guard. A colorful T-shirt that offers UPF 50 to protect you from the sun and features flatlock seams to prevent chafing during your days on the water. $36;

harsh chemicals, healthy hoohoo products naturally cleanse girl parts to keep them healthy and feeling happy after days in the backcountry. These wipes clean with a paraben-free, fragrance-free solution that gently removes odorcausing bacteria and is pH balanced to match a woman’s tender parts. Additional ingredients like aloe, green tea, cucumber and pomegranate extracts calm, heal, and revitalize. Travel pack (10 wipes) $4.79;

Nemo Tango Duo 30. Slide this two-person backless quilt and the Cosmo 2P slip cover over your two sleeping pads and transform them into a single mattress, ideal for cuddling. $449.95;

68  WAM • SUMMER | 2013


Green Gear Sierra Trail Mix Clif Bar. Look for this sweet and salty bar in stores this June. Made with cocoa sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, plus classic trail mix ingredients like peanuts, raisins, and seeds, this bar stays fresh after days in your pack, thanks to green packaging, too. $1.39;

SkinFare Topical Nourishment Balm. Coconut oil multi-purpose pushup

Lifefactory 16 oz. Flip Cap. This silicone-sleeve protected glass bottle’s screw-on cap is easily clipped to a backpack or your messenger bag for on-the-go, safe hydration. BPAfree and dishwasher safe, it’s a no-brainer for every woman’s healthy lifestyle. (Classic Cap models and 22 oz. bottles are also available.) $19.99;

sticks: The base formula for each of the five flavors contains a blend of coconut oil, palm fruit oil, beeswax, and castor oil. The biodegradable or recyclable packaging is made through energy efficient processing techniques, while all SkinFare formulas use USDA certified organic botanicals from sustainable sources. Each flavor specializes in treating one skin issue (offering therapeutic and cosmetic benefits), but you may use any of them as facial moisturizer and eye cream or as a chapped hand and lip balm or as anti-chafe ointment. Available online and in some REI stores. $9.99/tube;

Sprout Watches. An eco-friendly timepiece at a price we can embrace. This style features organic cotton band and packaging from recycled materials. $35;

Patagonia Advocate MJ. Every shoe in this travel-focused collection is made Clean Ethics Bottle Bright. Drop one of these bubble-inducing cleaning tabs into a bottle you just can’t scrub spotless and watch it mix with water and whip your bottle into sparkling clean shape. Chlorinefree, non-toxic, biodegradable fizzy tablets break down yucky buildup in your reusable bottles and travel mugs and wash away grime. Each tube contains 10 tablets. $11.95;

Nikwax Sandal Wash. This sponge-on sandal cleaner adds to the lifetime of your sandals by removing bacteria that causes pungent smells and erodes at the material. It cleans and deodorizes leather, fabric, and synthetic sandals, leaving behind only a fresh smell. $7.25;

of recycled materials and promise to be durable, soft, and ultra packable. The shoes’ rear pull loops allow you to clip them to a pack and easily slip them on or off. Advocate is partnered with 1% For The Planet ( as well. $70;

HydroFlask Narrow Mouth Flasks. Thanks to double-wall vacuum insulation, this will keep your cool drinks cold for hours, possible even a couple days! But its durable design and easy-to-sip-from mouth make it a true winner. $19.99–34.99 (12 oz.–40 oz.);

By Jennifer C. Olson

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  69

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A STAND-TO-PEE DEVICE, IDEAL FOR: • Sports & Recreation • Outdoor Occupations • Physical Restrictions • Public Events • Travel 70  WAM • SUMMER | 2013

Photo ©Christina Kiffney Photography

Partners C o m i n g

turn your passion into your profession

Join Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition at these events and network with peers in the outdoor industries. July 16 Bay Area, Boulder, Salt

Lake City, Seattle Special thankS to:

s o o n t o :

Boulder, CO June 22 Washington, DC July 13 Salt Lake City, UT September 13-15 These rock climbing and hiking weekends support HERA’s mission to stop the loss of women from ovarian cancer. Turn your passion into action at a Climb4LifeSM near you! For more information and to register: We climb. We hike. We fight ovarian cancer one step at a time.

oct 30 Portland, Seattle,

Northeast (REI Reading)



This is the year to live your dreams while making a difference. Your Summit for Someone climb instills critical life skills in underserved urban youth through Big City Mountaineers wilderness mentoring expeditions. Beginner or advanced, take your pick of 11 epic peaks, a professionally guided climb, and a mountain of free gear. Top Climbs include: - Mt. Rainier - Grand Teton - Kilimanjaro

Prevention Starts Here. The Breast Cancer Fund is working to protect you and the environment you play in from toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer. Together we can stop this disease before it starts.




SUMMITFORSOMEONE.ORG 303.271.9200 /breastcancerfund |


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SFS climbs are conducted by AMGA certified guides with permits and approval of their respective land management agencies. ©2011 BCM. All rights reserved. Summit for SomeoneTM is a fundraising program owned by and to benefit Big City Mountaineers.

WAM • SUMMER | 2013  71

It’s Personal

The Inner Maze

Wandering With No One But My Feline Friend By Chris Kassar YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. I chuckle upon seeing this sign hanging in the ranger station. When it comes down to it, aren’t we always? I ponder. Inspired by the alarming level of uncertainty that accompanies my recently bestowed college diploma, I wander into the desert seeking clarity about my next step and trying to track down a confidence that consistently evades me. Early the next morning, rain kisses the roof over my head to welcome a new day. Still naked, I roll out of my tent to find a double rainbow arcing over a vast landscape punctuated by fiery fins and jagged cliffs. My feet touch the soft cool sand and I notice that mine are not the only footprints on the damp earth. I am out here by myself, but I most certainly am not alone … Thus, my twenty-first birthday begins. Mountain lion tracks, only hours old, encircle the area in which I just dreamt. Immersed deep in the desert on my inaugural solo backpacking venture, I scan the crimson ridges that tower above, hoping to catch a glimpse of his majestic silhouette. The biologist in me knows he could be miles away by now; my gut says he still watches from a nearby perch. Chills pass through me and my body slumps to the sand. No one would blame me if I bailed. I could hike the nine miles back to the car and still have a story to tell. This thought flies away on the slight sage-scented breeze. My entire being—riddled with goose bumps—urges me forward. These bumps are born from excited anticipation for what hides over the next rise amidst the solitude and silence I seek. I realize that I am alive here, not afraid. For the next five days, my feline friend and I traverse our way through the aptly named “Maze,” a series of red rock twists and turns peppered by spooky spires, wild walls, and welcoming mesas buried deep in the heart of

Utah’s canyon country. With map, compass, and my internal GPS, I forge a path through nameless washes and up skinny slot canyons to tiny springs, which are the only source of life-giving water left in this truly wild and rare blank spot on the map. At each oasis, fresh tracks precede mine, serving as a reminder of my elusive yet loyal hiking partner. Some would say he stalks me; I feel we are on a journey together, sharing the search for the one element we both need to survive. Walking in the wild without human company feels and is different. The sense of uncertainty that drove me here fades and I quickly discover my rhythm. I have time to listen to my internal iPod as it plays the music of my mind, heart, and soul. With no distractions, I can see for the first time. The colors of this Martian landscape burn more vividly and the undulations of my inner terrain become clearer and more navigable. I face challenges that demand self-reliance and discover a peace not encountered in everyday life. I cherish the freedom to flow as I wish and the contemplative space to work on my most important relationship. After five days, I climb the Golden Staircase and emerge from the Maze leaving only tracks and self-doubt. With me, I carry a deep well of certainty, confidence, and inspiration from which I draw each day. Like a spring in the desert, the insight gained from solo time in Nature provides a hidden, lifegiving spark critical for surviving and thriving in the everyday. Just like my wildcat companion, this newfound internal strength may be hidden from my sight, but I have no doubt it is very close at all times. In the 15 years since Chris walked through the Maze with a mountain lion, she has made a point of taking at least one solo backpacking trip per year. For tips on how to go solo, visit


72  WAM • SUMMER | 2013


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Women's Adventure, Summer 2013  

The Healing Journey of Cheryl Strayed. Gear Reviews- Urban Cycling, River Trips & Mountain Biking. How To- Cook in the Backcountry, Paddle,...

Women's Adventure, Summer 2013  

The Healing Journey of Cheryl Strayed. Gear Reviews- Urban Cycling, River Trips & Mountain Biking. How To- Cook in the Backcountry, Paddle,...