I fell in love with adventuring as a kid growing up in Missouri, starting out on bicycle and horseback, before graduating to motorized wheels. I grew up in the country, surrounded by acres of land and miles of gravel roads. I started riding horses when I was old enough to sit up independently, and easily spent more hours of my childhood on the back of a horse than on a couch. My family did a variety of horse related events, including parades, draft horse shows, 4H, and competitive trail riding. Starting at the age of 10, I rode my horse down trails through the woods, often on my own, learning how to read maps and pay attention to nature. Horse events took my family and I all around the midwest. We also did some family road trips, and often visited Colorado, where my mom had lived for a while. I took my first trip to another country, at the age of 5, when my mom took my brother and I to visit our Aunt, who lived in Australia.
Once I was old enough to drive, my adventure trips expanded to road trips, and this is when I really started exploring the wonders of the world around me. Road trips with friends included my first time along the Pacific Coast, and the Atlantic coast. I drove through a majority of the states, for the first time, during these years, but would later return to explore further. My most common place to visit was Colorado. I fell in love with the mountains on the childhood trips to there, and in my mid teens my mom moved back to Colorado, so I had good reason to visit, and a base camp to explore from.
My plan was to move to Colorado as soon as I had enough money saved, and though life happened, and slowed the process, I was finally able to move to Colorado in 2007, purchasing a 40 acre farm in Wellington. My son was 8 at the time. In Colorado, we did a lot of trail riding, sometimes taking multi day trips in the mountains. I also started hiking a lot more, and summited my first really tall mountain in 2009, Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s 58 peaks that are above 14,000ft elevation. A love of all things outdoors and adventure, Colorado was full of opportunities. I spent much of the next decade, exploring it in greater detail, with an occasional dip down in to New Mexico, up in to Wyoming, or over to Missouri. I first went backpacking in 2013, when my son and I summited Pikes Peak (my 24th 14er, and his 2nd 14er), and I quickly became hooked on living life out of a backpack. I was doing far less trail rides on horseback, and far more trails and mountains on foot.
A big change came for my adventure story, in 2017, the year my son turned 18 and moved out on his own, I quit my career in Child Welfare, took a part time job in my home town working for a nonprofit, and between jobs I took my first trip to another country as an adult. I spent 3 1/2 weeks in Nepal, and did the trek to Everest Base Camp with 8 friends from Colorado. This trip was a giant leap out of my comfort zone, because I hadn’t been on an airplane for for 20 years, and it was a very long first flight, but the world I was exposed to on the other side made it totally worth it, and I became hooked on the kind of adventure you take a plane to. My part time nonprofit job also allowed me to travel more often, and I was able to take increasingly more and more road trips, as well as doing more mountain climbing and backpacking in Colorado. I put more miles under my boots in 2017 than any other year.
In 2018, I flew to Alaska for 2 weeks, and explored the Kenai Peninsula and Denali with friends. Backpacking in the Alaskan wilderness was an incredible experience, and a huge boost in the backpacking skill sets, fording rivers and safely camping in grizzly country. Back home, I continued more backpacking trips, and my road trips began branching out to states like Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. I still owned a farm, which I was taking care of on my own, and no longer making time to enjoy, so I decided to rehome all my animals, sell my farm, and move in to an apartment on a beautiful farm on the other side of Wellington. I became debt free, and much freer to travel, and I only had a dog and an apartment to take care of. I finished the year with an end of November backpack in to the Grand Canyon.
In 2019, I began taking trips nearly every month. At my part time job, I could front load my month with work, and then take the last week to week and a half off. I took a February road trip to Arizona, spent time in Washington and Squamish Canada in March and April. In May and June I spent a couple weeks in north west Montana, exploring Glacier and surrounding areas. July and August were reserved for Colorado adventuring, summiting 5 more 14er’s, solo this time, bringing my current 14er summits to 32, and backpacking with friends. I quit my nonprofit job in September, and took a long weekend trip with friends to New Orleans, and then a 2 1/2 week road trip with my dog, to the New England Area. In November, I took a week long trip to Ireland, with friends. Flights are booked for a month in Australia and New Zealand in March 2020.
I was lucky to grow up in a family where outside time, and hard work on the farm, were a normal part of life. I was never made to feel that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, and was encouraged to spend as much time outdoors as I could. I was never afraid of getting dirty, or hurt, and learned to love animals and nature for their beauty and wonder.
Most of my early trips were taken with a friend or family member, and I am lucky to have a group of likeminded adventurous friends here in Colorado, that are ready and willing to join adventures near and far. Most of the adventure hobbies that I engage in now, I started because I love trying new things, and often had a friend to show me the ropes, but continued doing independently. Every year I learn new things, and master new skills. In 2019 I learned how to rock climb, mountain bike, and drive vehicles on the left side of the road, and in 2018 I mastered backpacking, got in to cycling and running 5k’s, and became confident in traveling by plane independently. I spend a lot of time training for the adventures I go on, so that I am fit and can avoid injury, and when I am not training or traveling, I am planning for trips and researching topics I need to be more proficient in. As my skill level and confidence level increases, I do more and more types of adventuring independently. With every new experience I learn something that builds in to whatever is next.
I travel on a very tight budget. When I do road trips by myself, I camp and do meals out of my car or truck. I prefer camping down 4 wheel drive roads, where I can get far away from people and have the best views. This is also where camping is free. I bring food from home, and a cooler, so I can have fresh food much of the time, stopping at grocery stores for resupply on longer trips. When I travel to other countries, I take advantage of really good flight deals and trip packages, or find friends to set up base camp with, so I don’t have to do expensive lodging. I will enjoy local cuisine when I am traveling without my vehicle, especially when I travel with friends. Regardless of travel method, I enjoy sampling local brews and adult beverages, learning about the culture and history of the area, and experiencing the local terrain and environment.
My most loyal travel companion is my Golden Retriever named Maverick. He joins me for all road trips that don’t involve a flight, and loves backpacking and mountain climbing. I leave him with friends or family, for trips that he can’t join on. He is incredible when it comes to athletics and adaptability. He genuinely seems to love adventure as much as I do, and since he has been adventuring his whole life too, he is very smart and well behaved in all settings (except for when tennis balls or squirrels are involved…). He will turn 5 in June of 2020.
When I travel to other countries, I often do a lot of research on the area and what there is to see. When I travel in the United States, I keep a pretty loose itinerary, and tend to let the road, the maps and brochures I pick up, and the locals I meet (or former locals that I know), help determine where I go. When I am backpacking or mountain climbing, especially when solo, I do a lot of planning in order to avoid getting lost or running out of food and water. I always carry what I need for survival and emergency, including a GPS Spot Beacon, for check-ins and contacting emergency services if needed. When I take up new types of adventuring, I do a ton of research, learning about technique and gear, try things out before buying, and search for good deals when it is time to buy. Each type of traveling and adventuring is full of different techniques for planning, and a different list of things to bring and prepare for.
I have decided that I want to see as much of the world, and have as many new experiences as I can, in the time I have left. I have decided to focus on adventures I can do with my dog Maverick, while he is young and able, and there is still plenty of the United States left to see. I also love traveling with friends, and will take those opportunities when they come up. As of the end of 2019, I have visited 47 of the 50 United States and spent time in 5 countries. My dog has visited 20 states, and join me for countless miles of trails.