How to hike 100 miles if you’ve never done it before

Originally published on Bivy

Thru-hiking is more popular than ever. It seems that everyone knows at least one person who knows someone who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the rare Continental Divide. You can find people on YouTube who have vlogged their entire hike and even captured gorgeous aerial shots with drones.

But maybe you just haven’t done it yourself. Yet. And those 2,000+ miles seem so daunting.

What if you went a shorter distance to test it out? My first long-distance hike was in Scotland. I hiked the West Highland Way, a 96-mile trail that starts just north of Glasgow and heads up into the highlands of Scotland. I was brand new to this whole “carry your whole home on your back” thing. Here’s how I prepared.

1. Run to train

Three months before my long-distance hike, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping. I wanted to get into running, but found it miserable and boring.

And then I learned something vital: run slow.

It might feel like you’re barely moving faster than walking. But running slowly, especially up hills, will increase your lung capacity and endurance and, let’s face it, patience.

Running helped me with long-distance hiking because a lot of the time, you’ll find yourself out of breath. Other types of medium-intensity steady state cardio can help as well, in case running isn’t really your thing.

2. Walk everywhere

Outside of my running, I decided to walk everywhere I could. This wasn’t hard—I didn’t have a car. I was living in a small college town in Germany while my husband had an internship. Since I was a poor recent college graduate at the time, I wanted to save any money I could, and that meant no public transit.

So I walked. Everywhere. Every night after dinner my husband and I would go for a walk in the large forest just a quarter mile from our apartment building. This was useful in getting us used to our large impending task.

3. Cut costs where it doesn’t matter, splurge where it does

Again, poor college graduate. My husband and I spent $30-$40 each on our backpacks and accumulated gear over the course of three months before the hike. The backpacks we got were “good enough,” although questionable at times.

There are actually quite a few solid backpacks out there that are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. You’re going to want one with an internal frame and that rests on your hips so you don’t experience upper back pain.

I also got a cheap sleeping pad and we got inexpensive sleeping bags. The only thing that we splurged on was the tent, which we bought in Glasgow an hour before we left. It was from a Scottish company, perfectly waterproof, and was the best investment we made.

4. Get solid shoes

The great debate: what kind of hiking shoes should I get?

Backpacking boots typically come with ankle protection. A lot of people will recommend getting boots with ankle support, especially if you’re hiking longer distances and carrying a heavy backpack.

However, I chose ankle hiking shoes and they gave me the support and weather protection I needed. They were heavier than trail running shoes and more waterproof, but still breathable. I was able to run, hike, and walk comfortably in these shoes with minimal blisters.

5. Restock along the way

This depends on where you’re hiking. If you’re going to an area where civilization is practically nonexistent, you’ll need to supply enough food along with a water filter to keep you going.

We were lucky that the West Highland Way had plenty of towns for food and water. There are plenty of long-distance trails that, if you need it, are alongside towns where you can restock on food and supplies. This lightens the weight of your backpack, which helps you with your overall hike, energy, and foot pain.

6. Prepare for all weather

Scotland isn’t known for dryness. I got myself a coat with a removable windbreaker rain jacket on top and a fleece jacket underneath. It was perfect for intensely rainy days and nasty wind.

Of course, weather preparation doesn’t just include rain, snow, or shine. It can also include bugs. Scotland has a nasty bug that’s the lovechild of a gnat and a mosquito: the midge. Regular insect repellant didn’t work on this nasty creature, so we got a special brand called “Smidge,” which helped defend us against the midges. Even then, those suckers are persistent.

7. Just keep going

The more you slow down, the more you slow down. Taking a break every time your feet hurt is counterproductive. It’s easy to fall into temptation and rest whenever you feel like it. This can especially be an issue if you have a time constraint.

Listen to your body and pay attention when something serious might be going on. But sometimes you need tell your body to please shut up and just keep going.

Thru-hiking can be done on cheap, lower-quality gear. It can be done as a newbie, as long as you prepare sufficiently. Whether you hike 15 miles or 2,000, thru-hiking is exhausting and wonderful. Any type of distance is good enough.

2 Options to Climbing Outdoors as a Newbie

So, you’ve been climbing indoors for a while. Or at least a week. And now you want to get outside.

Full disclosure: I’m not an expert at climbing. Nowhere near it. That being said, there are two options. The safer option, and the less safe option:

  1. Take a class
  2. Get a friend to take you

Safest option

Take a class. If you live in a more mountainous, outdoor-geared area, there are good chances there are classes available. For example, there is the Salt Lake Climbing Festival going on at the end of August. You can register for clinics and be in an environment in which trained professionals will help you learn everything you need to know.

If you’re outside of Utah or already have plans for August 24-25, you can simply Google “Rock climbing classes” and find something up your alley. You can get instruction at a gym, outside, combined classes, personal classes, etc.

The pros of this approach are:

  • Being taught by a trained professional
  • Learning how to climb outdoors the right way without hurting yourself
  • You will learn and develop safe habits

The cons:

  • The classes can get pricey, and if you’re on a budget, that can really bite. The classes can cost as low as $25, but they can also get up to $300.
  • You still have to get your own gear, which is also expensive
  • You might forget a lot of what you learned, and if the classes are only a few sessions, you’ll have to pay for more classes

Less safe (but cheaper) option

Find a friend who can take you out.

Now, this friend can come in many forms. It can be a person you’re actually friends with, or it can be a person you met at the gym, including the staff. However, if you’re a little shy about approaching random strangers at the gym and asking them, “PLEASE TAKE ME OUT CLIMBING???” then here’s what to do:

Facebook. Or Meetup. Or other social media.

There are a lot of outdoor groups on Facebook. When I’m not taking a break from social media, I’m a part of the following groups: Utah Climbers, Girls Who Hike, and the Wasatch High Society (women only).

When I was getting sick of climbing indoors, I went on Utah Climbers and posted:

“Hi, I’ve been climbing indoors for a couple of months now but have been feeling the itch to get outside. Does anyone know of some good bouldering areas or have any recommendations?”

I had three different people reach out to me to offer to teach me. And I wasn’t even explicitly asking for someone to take me out!

Now one of the people who reached out to me is someone my husband and I regularly climb with. Our friend/mentor has now shown us how to set up a top rope anchor, how to lead climb, how to clean a top rope anchor, and has been a delight to climb with almost every weekend.

A month later, I saw someone post on the Utah Climbers group that he was a total newbie and was wondering if anyone would be willing to take him out and show him the ropes. He had a TON of responses; at least seven people offered to take him out.

Here are the pros of this approach:

  • Saves you a lot of money (money that you can spend on getting your own gear)
  • You don’t have to register for some classes that are only taught at certain times or even be on a waiting list
  • You make new friends and meet a variety of people from all backgrounds
  • You really hit the jackpot when you meet someone who’s super experienced beyond going outside a few times
  • You can stay safe by researching the safest climbs through Mountain Project (both an app and a site) and stick to lower grades like 5.6-5.8

And here are the cons:

  • You might find some flakes. Climbers don’t have the best reputation for reliability.
  • It can be less safe. The person you climb with might not be the safest climber. They might be a little careless, they might not know as much as they let on, and they might not understand all the dangers of outside climbing due to sheer luck of surviving their mistakes.
  • You might develop some bad habits that can be hard to unlearn

I chose the less safe option. I lucked out with my climbing mentor, but not everyone will. Safety is the most important priority and it’s important to stay safe. That’s why there are classes, and why they are a desirable, safe option.

On the other hand, there’s money. And getting outside with someone who’s willing to take you for free is appealing, but there are bigger risks involved.

Climbing is an expensive hobby. As a result, it’s a little exclusive. A lot of recreational hobbies are expensive and exclusive, and that can be a real bummer because getting outside and being active is so good for your body and mind. As someone who works a desk job, I crave that and I want people of all abilities and levels to experience it too.

So, I’ll leave you on this:

Don’t let your eagerness to get outside impede your better judgment and go with just the first person who seems like they know what they’re doing. Unless Yellowstone erupts and covers us all in volcanic ash, the mountains aren’t going anywhere. I feel legally obligated (despite not getting paid to write this) to tell you to choose the safer option, but I also understand if you’re just wanting to experiment with climbing outdoors before committing to a heftier price tag.

How to get into rock climbing as a complete and total beginner

HEY, YOU.

Sick of constantly dropping your baby?

Are you interested in getting into rock climbing?

Here’s how you get into rock climbing if you’re a total, utter beginner:

1. Go to a rock climbing gym

Rock climbing gyms are an excellent place to start for beginners. They have padded floors and a staff that’s more than happy to show you the ropes. (I really like that pun. sorry not sorry) You can rent shoes and harnesses and learn a basic figure-8 knot and how to belay.

If you’re going by yourself, try out the bouldering section if there’s one available. Bouldering is an excellent way to improve your technique.

2. Don’t worry about getting all your gear at once

When I started getting into climbing, I went on our local news site KSL and went to their classifieds section. They have all sorts of people selling used stuff, and since climbing equipment is so expensive, I thought I’d start off getting used items. I got a harness, shoes, a belay device and automatic locking carabiner for $75. Completely worth it.

3. Watch some YouTube videos

I have a thing for YouTube videos. They’ve really helped me learn new skills and get better results from exercise. Sometimes it’s just easier to turn on a YouTube video and sweat it out in your own apartment than get dressed and go to the gym.

I’ve watched a few YouTube videos to help me with my technique, and it has really benefited my climbing. Here are my favorite channels for beginners:

4. Save some cash by getting used gear

Rock climbing can get expensive. Gyms are pricey, ropes are pricey, gear is pricey. So where do you start? If you start off with bouldering, all you need are some shoes and potentially a gym membership. Some gyms have options for one free trial, and you can always go with a friend for a 2 for 1 pass on certain days. See what your local gym offers.

As I mentioned before, there’s no shame in getting used gear. Try looking online in a Facebook group or in your local classifieds to find some gently used shoes. There are also some used gear stores around, so be prepared to do some digging.

Rock climbing is incredibly fun. I LOVE it. I’ve been doing it for at least 5 months now, and it’s been good for my soul.

If you’re interested in how to get into climbing outdoors, don’t fret—I got you, and I’ll write on that next week.

Exercises you can not-so-secretly do in your office

Exercising is awesome, but also, life. And by life I mean office life. And commuter life. And side gig/freelancing life. Wow, that’s a lot of sitting and a weird amount of exhaustion from all the different hats I have to wear.

You are probably (most likely) in a similar situation. Here’s what you do: exercise in the office. Will you get weird looks? Absolutely. Will you ruin your nice work clothes by doing these exercises? Depends on how much you sweat.

But will you feel better about the desk life you live? Will you feel less guilty when you can’t make it to the gym? Absolutely. Here’s some exercises to give a whirl.

1. Push ups next to your desk

Or in the hallway. Or outside. Come on, drop and give me 20. Or 10. Or 2. If you do this at your desk, people will think you’re strong. Or, depending on the last time the carpet was cleaned, they’ll think you’re gross. It’s cool, you do whatever works for you. Or don’t. It’s your choice.

2. Break room lunges and squats

Do it while waiting for your healthy freezer meal in the microwave! (Everyone’s into Trader Joes freezer meals but I go to Walmart and get Birds Eye freezer meals and just steam those suckers.) Do some of those side lunges you don’t do enough of. Create your own 80s aerobics video. Throw in some sumo squats and create your own dance.

3. Chair squats

Just…hover. Start to sit down, but then don’t. Hover instead. And hold that hover until your knees start freaking out. Or, alternatively, just go back up and down. Up and down, up and down. Look like someone put a pine cone on your chair but you keep forgetting to throw it away.

4. Long walks around your office building

This is easy if you have a large enough campus and the work flexibility to take breaks from sitting. Just go for strolls wherever you can, even if it ends up being repetitive. Granted, you start getting a reputation for it. Then people start asking questions like, “Isn’t this like your fourth walk today?” Actually, it’s my seventh, but you don’t need to know that.

5. Stair dashes

Be the envy of everyone by dashing up stairs two-by-two. Don’t let them see you sweat. Don’t let them hear you obviously gasp as you try to catch your breath. You can do intervals on the stairs, like dash up three flights and rest for 30 seconds. You can also do calf raises on these bad boys.

6. Wall sits

Most offices have walls. Find one and sit on it for at least 30 seconds. Better yet, get into a competition with your coworkers. They’ll either be impressed by your ability to sit for five minutes straight, or pity you for giving in after three seconds.

7. Bathroom stall pull ups

I legitimately stole this one from Men’s Journal. I saw it and thought, “That looks disgusting.”

And then I thought, “What if it works?” And so I went to the bathroom and tried one. WOOOOOOWWWW, that was a LOT harder than I thought it would be. So it definitely works, if you’re into doing pull ups.

8. Desk stretches

Are you constantly hunched over that your desk that you look like you should be riding Seabiscuit? Do some stretches instead. Bend over and touch your toes (or knees, if you’re not as flexible as me. I get it.). Stretch your shoulder blades. Stretch your hands to prevent carpal tunnel. Do a backbend and impress your coworkers. (Trust me, I’D be impressed. I can’t do one to save my life.)

9. Planks and ab variations

You don’t use your core to sit, which will likely make it weaker. Break up your time at the desk by doing a plank for 30 seconds and move up from there. If the carpet isn’t too offensive, do some ab workouts.

10. Desk tricep dips

All you have to do is get the chair out of the way and turn away from your desk and start dipping. I sometimes get bored of tricep dips, so if you’re into a challenge, put your feet on your chair and use that to up the challenge. Bonus points for balance if it’s a roller chair.

If, after reading this, you have decided, “…I’ll just go to the gym instead,” then that’s okay too—just know that on those days where you’re pretty sure you’ll be too tired to hit the gym, you can try some of these other options instead. You’ll get weird looks for sure, but at least you’re moving.

Girl walks into an art studio

I meant to submit this to Man Repeller and completely spaced the deadline. Here’s my best feel-good story.

So, there’s this guy.

Okay, so he’s at least fifty years old. And no, nothing romantic. But he sends me emails about twice a week. They’re short, typically no more than a few sentences. But inviting, always inviting.

I never respond. I live across the country from him and I haven’t seen him in seven years. I’ve only met him about three times, maybe four.

The emails usually say something like this:

“Hello everyone. Come in out of the rain into the light and warmth of the studio tonight. Long Pose continues with Maryclare. Hope to see you.

– Rocco”

Sometimes I delete them, sometimes I don’t. But every time I see them, I smile.

I met Rocco after emerging from the wreckage of my most recent semester as a failed art student. I was drowning in critiques of my art and a lack of friends in a competitive environment. My brother gave me a life-preserver in the form of a job nannying for him out in Boston, and I flew out days before the semester even ended.

I was a nanny by day, but didn’t have the connections to chill with chimney sweepers by night. So I went searching online for a different creative option: figure drawing classes.

I signed up for the emailing list and found the studio in the midst of Boston’s labyrinth road system on a warm summer evening. I climbed up to the third floor and met Rocco.

Rocco Ricci. What a name, right?

Rocco, who looked like a balding and bearded Jeff Goldblum, had a warm, soft voice and welcomed me into the studio with four other artists. He let me borrow his newsprint and charcoal since I had none, and those tools are the most fun and easy to draw with quickly.

The building was right next to several rows of train tracks, and trains went through repeatedly, rattling the windows. The sun shone through the windows and onto our pads, giving us extra light. Rocco played Simon and Garfunkel in the background. It was absolutely the artsy hipster’s dream.

It was nothing like my art classes in college, which were in silent, cold studios. Rocco was nothing like my art teachers, whose jobs were to critique and improve. Rocco didn’t care if your proportions were off. He complimented everyone. Some people were highly advanced, while others were amateurs like me. Rocco was a golden retriever kind of teacher: just happy to be here.

I left slightly floating, surprised I could find that much joy in drawing again. I was able to make it to that studio only three times in the two months I was there. Life got busy. Years have gone by. I changed my major, graduated, and now work in web development.

I still get those emails twice a week. I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe. I love the solace Rocco extended to a lonely, recovering art student. And whenever I see an email on a particularly difficult day, it makes me smile knowing that he’s still out there, holding his figure drawing sessions.

The greatest love song I barely heard

I wrote this back in February. I submitted it to Man Repeller’s Writers Club contest. The prompt was, “Tell me a great love story.” It didn’t get published. I’m going to publish it here now.

It was Adam’s turn to sing.

Adam hadn’t performed in front of us once all semester. He had severe anxiety that didn’t allow him to sing in front of our class, and so he sang in private sessions with the teacher.

It was the last class for the semester – exactly a week before Christmas. Flurries of snow were falling outside, and my classmates and I were getting antsy sitting in a small, warm university classroom, performing amateur songs in our amateur singing class.

Our teacher Lisa had one rule: “Never be mean. Do not criticize or laugh at someone else’s voice. Say only positive things about people’s performances. If you are mean, I will make you leave my classroom.”

If most people would rather die than speak in public, then singing in public must be one of Dante’s levels of hell. Whenever one of us performed a song, Lisa would ask the class, “What did you like about the song?”

After my first performance, it was terrifying waiting for the compliments, wondering if anybody could think of anything positive. There was silence for 20 agonizing seconds. But then one person said, “I love how enthusiastic you are while singing.” And my heart started pumping again.

Thanks to her one rule, Lisa cultivated a psychologically safe environment that made us fearless. She gave encouraging feedback, saying things like, “You have more voice in you. Let’s see if we can get you to project more.”

She taught techniques enabling us to sing louder and make our voices richer. At one point she had a girl whack a music stand with her scarf while belting out an Italian aria. (It was intended to engage the diaphragm.) The girl’s voice became loud and powerful like an opera singer’s, stunning us into an exchange of excited whispers and gleeful glances.

We improved our feeble voices, cheering each other on. And now, for the first time, we were going to hear Adam sing.

He got out of his seat and carried a laptop to the piano, placing the laptop on the piano. He pressed a button on his laptop and the music began to play.

The class was silent. Every single eye was on him.

It was a quiet song. The laptop speakers were quiet, and and so was he. He quietly sang, looking over our heads and straight to the back of the room. But who were we to criticize the miracle that was happening before our eyes?

When he was finished, Lisa asked her question.

There was no waiting. Hands shot up. “I love how much heart you put into the song,” one student said. “You have a really nice voice and you stay on key,” said another.

I didn’t get a chance to compliment him – there were too many people who wanted to say something.

Great love stories don’t just lie in romantic and grandiose gestures. They exist in encouraging teachers, in small university classrooms, and in people who just want to see each other overcome their fears and succeed.

How to make the most of your mistakes

Originally published on Bivy.com

Ever been on a hike where you didn’t pack enough water? What about food? Have you ever completely forgotten a tent on a backpacking trip?

I’ve done the first two. My father-in-law did the last. But he and his family owned it like beasts.

Here’s what happened.

The initial plan was to hike Timpanogos from Aspen Grove. We’d camp at Emerald Lake overnight, summit in the morning, and then go home.

I was stoked for this trip. It was the last hurrah for the end of the summer, and my in-laws were visiting from Idaho. They were really into outdoor activities, and I was determined to prove myself to them, as I’d only been in the whole “athletic outdoorsy” game for a little over a year by that point.

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I came straight from work in the late afternoon to meet my husband Austin and his family at the trailhead at Aspen Grove. While the brothers were throwing around a football in the parking lot, my father-in-law and I helped finish up packing, making sure we had everything.

“Okay, we’ve got the tent, sleeping bags, snacks…I think that’s everything,” my father-in-law Jarin said, looking inside the back of the car.

“And dinner?” I asked, picking up one of the bags of ramen that had fallen out of one of the backpacks.

Jarin started laughing. “We’re fine on ramen. We have 20 packets.”

After checking our backpacks one final time and locking our car doors, we embarked on the trail, enjoying the shade from the mountain as the sun dipped lower in the sky.

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I was at the front of the group, choosing the pace since I was the smallest and (usually) the slowest. I looked back and my husband and his brothers were chatting happily as they stepped over tree roots and scrambled up large rocks on the path.

Jarin was right behind me, starting to sweat. All of the family sweats a lot.

I mean a LOT. Like within minutes, and usually they’re dripping.

Jarin’s hat had dark spots, but that was normal for him. He smiled at me and said, “You’re doing great. You keep going at that pace, it’s giving me quite a workout.”

So I kept going, and we all made conversation along the way. The hike from Aspen Grove to Emerald Lake is 10.3 miles out and back. It’s got about a 3500 feet elevation gain, which can make you feel out of breath the higher you get.

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We made it to the campsite by the time the sun was setting. Jarin’s hat was completely soaked with sweat and I was falling to the back of the group. My husband Austin and his brothers were doing fine, as they had a high tolerance for colder temperatures and brought layers.

Jarin and I were less fine. Once we stopped hiking, he and I started shivering. The sun was gone and temperatures were falling fast.

Austin gave me an extra flannel shirt and sweatpants he had brought. We had worn clothes that were moisture-wicking, but even then, everyone was still pretty chilled. Moisture-wicking doesn’t equal immunity.

Everyone started setting up the campsite. We pulled out camp stoves and water filters. Two of his brothers took the water filters went to the stream that fed into the lake. We started boiling water so we could eat ramen and warm up much faster.

But we ran into a slight snag with the tent.

“I packed the wrong poles,” Jarin said.

While Austin and I had our own two-man tent, Jarin had brought the family tent for five. He accidentally packed the wrong poles. He’d brought the tent and a tarp to set the tent on, but the poles were the wrong size. They attempted to use the poles, but the poles were too short and the tent collapsed.

Everyone was cold, a little stressed out, and hardly anyone could see anything. They all stood in the darkness, gaping at the tent.

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Jarin started laughing at his mistake. The rest of his sons began laughing too, and it broke the tension and helped everyone focus again on setting things up. Jarin climbed into his sleeping bag to warm up while the rest of the group was taking care of the campsite.

Austin and his brothers continued to filter water, still laughing to themselves, and soon the water started boiling enough to add ramen. Nothing tastes so amazing when you’re on a cold mountain and have limited resources.

I felt so bad. I had caused Jarin to sweat and cool down rapidly. I approached his sleeping bag and knelt down and hugged him in an attempt to warm him up. Then Austin and his brothers came, too. They dogpiled on their dad, laughing and trying to squeeze him.

They slept under the stars that night, although it was a rougher sleep. They woke up to the rising sun and all of us groggy folk agreed that perhaps summiting wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

We probably should have been more prepared and more vigilant. But honestly, that trip helped me learn how to laugh off stress, learn how to deal with setbacks, and maybe not push myself just to prove a point. My husband and his brothers didn’t care how fast their dad was, they were just glad he was there.

It was the same for me. Just happy to be here.

My favorite workout videos

I’m running again. The weather right now is amazing. Nothing but sunshine for days, dude.

weather

Okay, so maybe Monday and Wednesday not so much. But still – it’s so nice to be able to just go for walks and feel that warmth and put on sunscreen and pray that I covered up enough that I don’t get cancer and just bask in the quiet, enjoyable sunshine.

But sometimes I just don’t want to run. That’s still a thing. But I know that I want to work out, and lately YouTube’s been my go-to for that. Here are my favorite workout videos I use:

I’ve been stupid obsessed with Blogilates lately – the splits challenge I’m doing is from her! She has these awesome workouts that are apartment-friendly and super short, so typically I combine a couple of videos with my workout.

It’s nice because her workouts are still pretty challenging without disturbing your downstairs neighbors, and as someone who lives above AND below people, I know the reality. I’m hoping to get more into her HIIT stuff soon.

This video has actually really made a difference in my splits challenge – after following along with this girl, I’m a lot bendier and more flexible. Plus, she includes modified versions which I (desperately) need.

My biggest beef with flexibility videos is the overall attitude of “follow along with me and you can do this in FIVE MINUTES!!!” but I’m still working on daily stretches that are actually going to help me get to the splits. So this is the video I think of when I’m not getting the results I want.

What’s most important is that I AM seeing results, no matter how minor or incremental.

Angels Landing and my weird obsession with heights

I like heights. I’m not someone who’s going to fling myself off the first cliff I can, but I like them. They don’t scare me – they put the fear of god in me. I love heights because they are terrifying and remind me of my mortality. The terror is thrilling.

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And what better place to channel that obsession through Angels Landing?

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There were some points where Austin and I were standing inches away from at least a 200-foot drop. It was surreal looking over the ledge and realizing that if I fell off it, I’d be a goner.

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Sorry – I tend to channel my inner morbidity when hiking places like this.

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I was amazed at how steep the trail was. I’ve done this trail before, and this time around, we wanted to use the chains as little as possible.

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Most people on the trail were very courteous to let everyone pass and take turns. It makes life a LOT easier.

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I can’t get over how steep this is. I love it.

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Look how crazy narrow it is! I’m sure there are narrower and more intimidating trails out there, but this one is pretty unique.

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In case you can’t tell, my favorite photos are the ones taken from above.

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Look at all that gorgeous red rock. Zion National Park is one of my favorites.

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Whether you call it “Zions” or “Zion,” you can’t deny the epic factor of this place.

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I love the thin slats of rock stacked so firmly on each other – look at those details in the rock.

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Yep. It’s awesome. That’s all.

Snow Canyon: St. George’s well-kept secret

This last weekend Austin and I went down to St. George to visit some friends. While we were there, we added 4 hikes to my 52 hike challenge, one of those hikes done in Snow Canyon, a state park.

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Contrary to popular belief, Snow Canyon wasn’t named for sheer irony. Instead, it used to be Dixie State Park, but later named after some of the pioneers that had settled the place, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.

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We did a short, 1.5-mile hike that was more about wandering around and exploring petrified sand dunes than actually getting in mileage.

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Austin’s favorite part was playing with our friends’ son

Snow Canyon, a state park, isn’t as grandiose as Zion National Park. But it’s got some seriously gorgeous red rock and rock formations that look out of this world.

Check out these wild waves:

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I wish I could explain how these formations were even made. We all tried to remember what we learned in our science classes from college, high school, or even elementary school.

Water? Uh, maybe wind, too? Was there a volcano that erupted and preserved the dunes? Maybe?

Yes?

Here’s what it says on the site:

Transported by wind more than 183 million years ago, tiny grains of quartzite sand covered much of what we now call Utah. These sand dunes, up to 2,500 feet thick, eventually were cemented into stone. Burnt orange to creamy white in color, Navajo sandstone, the predominant rock in the park, is what remains of the ancient desert sand sea. Over time, water has cut and shaped the sandstone to form canyons. Approximately 1.4 million years ago, and as recently as 27,000 years ago, nearby cinder cones erupted, causing lava to flow down these canyons, filling them with basalt. This redirected ancient waterways, eventually carving new canyons.

So first there was wind. Then it hardened. And then water created the canyons out of the sandstone, but then lava filled the canyons with basalt, and water created new canyons out of that.

But a question that I am too lazy to research and find my answer is, HOW DID IT HARDEN? Was it a LACK of wind? Was there some kind of property in the sand that allowed it to harden? Was it all the sand BENEATH the sand while everything else just blew around?

Anyway, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Here are some more pictures.

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This place was gorgeous. I strongly recommend it to everyone who visits St. George. If only it were a national park – then maybe there’d be smaller crowds in Zion, and then I could visit Zion more.