Monday, September 19, 2016

Venture Vibes... MOAB

Tree pose overlooking the Island in the Sky. 
Desert Cactus 

All of the stars aligned to end up in one of the most mind blowing, magical places on the planet during the Centennial celebration of the the National Parks Service. Moab holds a dear place in my heart and soul as is true for almost anyone who has visited. This particular time was different however, for this time I was there with a more artistic eye. Knowing that with a real camera the experience would be far different than with just my GoPro or iphone. 
We started our Journey in Arches, a land of absolutely unreal geology, history, which is sure to leave you feeling bewildered in every sense. Having just procured a hardtop shell for my boyfriends truck, which he decked out inside with an insanely comfortable bed, storage, and shelving, we took it for its maiden voyage, from Oregon all the way to Southern Utah. 

Park Avenue
Balanced Rock

Our first night arriving in the park we ended up at the Double Arch (most people call this spot the Window Arches) but we found the Double Arch slightly more enticing than the crowded Window Arches at the top of the parking area. In my opinion this is one the most spectacular places in the whole park, the Double Arch in is an astounding work of erosion, and the sheer size of it can make even the biggest person feel small. 
Double Arch by Day
Garden of Eden 

Before we could begin cooking and relaxing waiting for the sun to go down, we accidentally locked ourselves out of the back of the truck, where of course, the keys were sitting atop the bed. Luckily I am a gadget geek and had a No Show (extension) pole from Polar Pro lurking in the backseat of the truck which we finagled through the back window of the truck through the camper to open the one window in there which didn't yet have a screen. After a couple minutes of struggling to catch the end of the pole on the lever for the window finally we triumphed and got the back door of the camper open. What a way to start the trip we thought, luckily our amateur move was quickly forgotten by the unwavering beauty of the night sky. 

Double Arch by Night

That night the sky was spectacular, with very little light pollution and more stars than the brain can comprehend, we both felt the very spiritual vibe that is resonating through all of Moab. The feeling of being a little part of this broad, big world and that we are not the first fortunate souls to have laid eyes upon this magnificent landscape. The unspoken words between us of how truly wonderful it must have been for the natives who once ran this land, and authentically cherished it in every way. 

Delicate Arch from lower viewpoint 
Window Arch

Dinosaur Print 
The following day was spent taking our time at every single pull off in sight, trying to beat the heat, while still getting the photos we wanted, and taking in the reality that we were there, amongst so much history, and hundreds of thousands of years of geological development. 

It really is hard to imagine what this landscape once was. Underwater. That dinosaurs once roamed there freely, and left imprints for us to find millions of years later, and that these rock formations were not manmade, but painted by millions of years of eroding wind and water. 

Canyonlands is aptly named for the deep canyons carved by the Colorado river along the valley floor. The Island in the Sky provides unbelievable panoramas of the fascinating landscape in every direction. Its hard to describe the undeniable spirituality of the place. It awakens a wandering sense of the "simpler life" that the natives once lived. 

Island in the Sky Overlook

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs 
Having covered the areas we wanted to see and photograph in the North end of Moab we decided to head South to the other entrance for Canyonlands. The Needles area is named for the bewildering rock pinnacles that are so famously captivating about this area. On your way into the south entrance there is an area to your right called Newspaper rock, depicting some of the most amazing petroglyphs I have seen in one concentrated region. To stand where someone stood 2,000 years ago, lived off the land, and had no concept of the material things we treasure today, was an unimaginable experience. 
4 Wheel Trail outside of Arches


Every direction you gaze in, your mind is absolutely blown. We drove about for a few hours, took walks to some of the more popular attractions, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were far less people in this region of the park. You could actually take in what you were looking at without a hundred other people trying to take a photo with their iphone and then move on. However, we were ready to get far out there, away from everyone. We found what we were told was a pretty aggressive 4-wheel drive only road that leads to one marvelous overlook of the Colorado River. A 7 mile stretch of dirt road, with big drops, and flash flooding paths apparent in every direction. Fortunately we had a capable vehicle, and a competent driver.. (Drew.) I was not about to drive his truck over some of this hairy terrain, that tested not only the trucks limit, but our limits as well. Six miles in, the terrain got too rough despite his skill set behind the wheel. We decided to walk/run the last mile to the overlook, as the sun was setting quickly and we were loosing light, fast. To say it was worth it is an understatement. Sheer rock walls leading straight down to the valley floor with the brownish steady stream that is the magnificent Colorado River weaving its way through the canyons with ease.

To our north was the Island in the Sky, where we were the previous day, and to our south the rock pinnacles known as the Needles. The best part, was that there was not another soul in sight. Just us, the river, and the geologic anomalies that surrounded us. Watching the sunset there was a once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Colorado River Overlook. Taken using the Trippler Pole + Polarizer Filter on GoPro Hero 4 Black

Last light at Canyonlands

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

FWQ 16 At Crested Butte, CO

After calling Colorado my home for the past four seasons, I thought that I had explored the best parts of it. Making my way through Summit County, Telluride, and the city, it seemed as though there couldn't be anything more amazing to see. However, I was wrong. Crested Butte blew all of those places out of the water, and not just because of the skiing.
Take a step back in time, to 1960 to be exact. When men were real mountain men, there were no traffic lights in town, and skiers came to be skiers. Thats how Crested Butte still feels. The energy of this place is unlike anywhere I've ever been. Nestled away in the Colorado Rockies this massive peak of Crested Butte has a Matterhorn-like aura resonating through the town. You feel as if you could literally check out from the outside world and get lost here until you realize how forward thinking this place is.
As an athlete and someone who cares about my health and what goes in my body, it was unbelievable to see how many natural, local, organic options there are almost everywhere in town. Not to mention one of the cutest natural food stores I've ever been in. To think that this place has maintained the true mountain feel,  living up to their name "The last great Colorado mountain town," is truly quite the feat. Considering how many corporations there are in this industry and you can really feel their presence at most ski resorts in the USA. Time and time again this town and the mountain kept me bewildered with excitement and continuously shouting "This place is RAD!"involuntarily at every turn.

Crested Butte is one of the birthplaces of Freeskiing and it is clear why. The terrain here is extreme, steep, fast, and technical. It has bred some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world. I was fortunate to not only witness the madness in person, but also get to participate in both the 2* and 4* Freeride World Tour Qualifying events here this past weekend. Nothing could have prepared us for the venues that were selected for the contest, however, I am glad that I grew up snowboarding in Montana, because it was downright intense.
The 2* contest started on Hawks Nest, a venue that is relatively mellow in comparison to the 4* venues. It was a one and done type of deal, meaning there was no qualifying round. Simply take one run through the course and the judges will decide the winners based on that one run. Watching my other competitors maneuver through the course really excited me, and I felt that I found a very original line choice. The skier women dropped first , and absolutely crushed the course, they are such phenomenal athletes and ski so fast through the icy mogul fields, it is really exhilarating to watch. After the skier women dropped, I was the first of the snowboard ladies to take my run. I came out of the starting area feeling very confident about my line choice and run. After making my way down through a few features that I had picked out, I came to my last air, which had a couple of moguls in front of it, into an air through some tight trees into another mogul field. I jumped, landed, then unfortunately caught my edge just before the finish area. I stopped, took a breath and collected myself to watch the rest of the ladies make their way down the course.

The rest of the field picked their way down the icy mogul run, doing what they could to stay on their feet, which is the name of the game at most of these contests. Unfortunately a lot of the field fell (myself included.) There were two girls who made it all the way down the course with fluidity and no falls and took first and second! Congratulations to Morgan Shippen of Durango, CO and Whitney O'Bannon from Jackson, WY for taking the top two spots! I was very honored to sneak a 3rd place podium finish even with my fall in the run.

The following day was qualifying for the 4* event, the sun was shining, the weather was sweet, and we were ready to move our dancing feet. We loaded the chair at 8am Saturday morning, and made our way to Headwall where the qualifying venue was located. Due to the enormous amount of sunshine the past couple of weeks here there were ample rocks all through the venue, making an already challenging course, a little more challenging. When maneuvering through steep icy moguls with "sharkfins" everywhere, you have to be so concentrated on each turn, never letting your guard down. The moment you do, the course will eat you alive. I'm incredibly proud and honored to ride this course with so many talented female rippers. It was not easy, and at the end of the day we can all pat ourselves on the back for handling this course and coming out unscathed.

There were 11 girls in the event, 8 of us moved onto finals. Finals took place the next day on a different venue than we had previously planned for. Myself, and a couple other competitors unfortunately did not hear that the venue had been changed from Staircase to Sock-it-to-Me until after we were already off the hill that day, which is less than ideal given the current state of the snow.

We mentally prepared ourselves the best we could, finding photos of the venue from whoever we could and studying them like we had a finals exam the following day. Blessed with another absolutely bluebird Colorado day, we made our way up for inspection at 8:30am. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze in two runs for inspection so we could make our line decision before the contest started at 10am. The skier women started the day again, and blew our minds with some incredible skiing. Next up was our category of snowboard women. Again, I am amazed at the caliber of riding that all of the women displayed and the decision making was impeccable. It was so fun to watch everyones runs, in particular Mary Boddington from Crested Butte who dominated the qualifying round on Saturday, and was sitting in first place going into the finals event. The conditions were tough, and the course took out a lot of good riders. At the end of the day you have to stay on your feet, and the riders who were able to do that came out on top. Randa Shahin rode solid through both events, coming from 7th position in qualifying all the way to 3rd place on the podium with a great finals run. Mary boddington took the win with some mindblowing riding both on qualifying and finals day. Mary had a very original line choice, and made it clear that she can handle this terrain, no problem! Both Randa, and Mary are incredible athletes, and genuinely wonderful human beings, and I was honored to be standing in 2nd place next to both of these ladies after the two day event. Congratulations to all of the competitors including Lynn Neil, and Robyn Borneman rounding out 4th and 5th position on the podium! Special thank you to Crested Butte Mountain Resort for putting on this great event and sharing "The Last Great Colorado Mountain Town" with us. I can't wait to come back next year. Another huge thank you has to go out to the FWQ16 staff, judges, volunteers, and spectators for putting on a stellar event! Thank you also to all of my sponsors for your support in getting me here, especially OUTDOOR TECH, and XS HELMETS!

Monday, January 4, 2016

New OREGins..... Start of Winter 15/16

I've said it before and i'll say it again. Oregon is such a magical place. Having never been here in the winter, let alone snowboarded here in the winter, I wasn't sure what to expect. Since a lot of contests I'm doing are in the Northwest and Canada, I thought that Mt. Hood would be a great place to call home. Once again my intuition served correctly, and I have a feeling this might be one of the best seasons yet.
The season started out a bit rocky as usual, but winter has arrived in full force and we were blessed with 6ft of snow in 5 days over the holidays! Needless to say we wanted to avoid the resorts and crowds, and decided to explore some sidecountry areas and take out the snowmobile.
The scenery of Oregon in the winter is unlike anything i've ever experienced. The trees load up with snow due to the moisture in the air, and everything looks as if its been frozen in time. Hints of green from the lush forest and the ground below poke through and give exquisite contrast through the snow covered landscape. It truly is a spectacular sight, and one that I want to share through these photos.

PHOTOS: Drew Smalley

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