Sunday, August 31, 2014

It has begun!

Our last night in Colorado Springs was a blast! We had girls/boys nights respectively and our friends made sure we had a great time before leaving Colorado:) Because I had such a great time, Zach was stuck getting the apartment ready to have the carpets cleaned the next morning...  Luckily for me, there was a bed in the back of the van to rest in during the entire cleaning process! Zach did such an amazing job getting everything ready for our adventure. He has a gift for organization and our van was perfectly packed to set out on our vanventure!
We have so much stuff! But it all fits:)
We stopped by the hospital I worked at to say goodbye to a great nurse and friend, Karen Butler, who was retiring. It was so fun to see her and my other co-workers from St. Francis. I got to introduce Zach and take goofy pictures with my lovely friends:) It was a fun last stop in the Springs!
We headed towards Glenwood Springs to meet a few friends, TJ and Shanese, who were a few hours ahead of us. With all the holiday traffic leaving Denver, it took us awhile to make it through. Our little van fit in well with all the campers, RV's and 5th wheels heading out. Zach mentioned how awesome it was that we were staying out for the next year while most of them probably had to be home after the holiday weekend. It was starting to set in what we were undertaking and I was so excited!
Unfortunately, the amount of holiday travelers made it impossible for our friends to find camping. After many hours of searching, we met them at a Comfort Inn near Carbondale, CO and hung out in the hotel room. It wasn't quite what we were hoping for, but spending time with our friends was the main goal. We had fun watching TV and hanging out. They settled inside for the night while Zach and I had our first night of stealth camping in the hotel parking lot!
It was exciting and a little nerve wrecking.  The only hiccup came sometime in the night when a late -comer was parking something in the lot that beeped as it was backed up. We both woke thinking we were getting towed! We laid silently, even holding our breath a little. The guys parking the vehicle started given directions for where to back up to and finally said it was good. I heard Zach take a deep, relived breath as they walked inside and we both fell back to a peaceful sleep until morning.
With Shanese and TJ on the inside, we were able to eat a lovely continental breakfast with them as we made our plans. Independence Pass climbing sounded fun so we drove towards Aspen and found some bouldering to do. Outdoor bouldering always seems so much harder, but we found some fun ones and spent the day projecting hard moves. For dinner we found a lovely day area and made our camp dinners. Shanese and I, both previously members of the Girl Scouts for brief periods of time, decided to start a fire in a ring she had constructed. The wood was wet so it took us a lot of newspaper to get it started. Eventually, we had a lovely fire going. Because it was a day use area only, we weren't sure about the rules of having a fire. When the park ranger drove through, Shanese and I has a small panic attack which resulted in us pretty much dosing our hard earned fire. He drove by unimpressed and we set back to work rebuilding it, which was no easy task. We both agreed not to be so judgmental of the people on Naked and Afraid who cry when their fire goes out. It sure was fun to be Girl Scouts again!
Saying goodbye to our dear friends was hard. I will miss going on adventures each weekend with those two! Please come and see us on the road!!
It started raining as we left our day use spot. Zach and I were completely on our own. It was a slightly eerie feeling. No real plan or schedule. Just the open road and an endless amount of opportunities. We both had a brief moment of home sickness., feeling out of our normal routine and schedule from home. We chatted about it briefly, but as we started going over Independence Pass, I got to recall my bike ride last year where we climbed that same pass on our bikes. I started to feel so proud of what I had done and so excited to share that with Zach on our bike trip next week! It got us back in the adventuring mode!
We saw a turnoff into a beautiful meadow with a creek running right through it. The first campsite we came across was slightly secluded and flat, flat being the most important part when you are sleeping in your van. It was perfect! The creek ran right by us galloping over rocks and swirling down the hillside. I was so happy at that moment and so excited for the year to come!
Our babbling brook:)

Great views!
After exploring around the area a bit, we settled into a lovely evening in the van. The living room arrangement consists of our pillows being flipped to the opposite side and leaning against the headrests of the front seats. With the computer sitting high atop our stove in the back, we watched The 5th Element starring a very young Bruce Willis. It was fantastic! To top it all off, when we went outside to brush our teeth before bed, the milky way was spread out in the sky above us! What a view! I easily settled in for a nice sleep under that blanket of stars.
Our spot:)
Ready to use!
Our morning was pretty typical of camping. We woke up and Zach made coffee/tea for us. Buena Vista was our next stop to get a few supplies and find some climbing. The climbing was right off the parking lot and we had a great time doing a climb called Bob's Crack. It's a 5.9 climb meaning its a moderately difficult climb. It was great fun and if the wind and rain had not pushed us back into the van, we would have happily climbed more.
What a great place to wake up!
We have now settled into Salida, CO for the evening. The public library here offers free wi-fi and comfortable seats downstairs. My favorite part is the high school aged kid sitting next to me who has gotten up from his chair twice since I got here and both times knocked it completely over. The loud bang followed by my laughter is probably not what's appropriate for a library, but it has been entertaining. He hasn't seen the humor in it yet, but maybe the next time he will.
Well, you are all caught up for now! We are heading towards Durango over the next few days, but don't have anything set in stone yet. I'm loving the free spirit this trip allows me to have:) So long for now!
My fifth element (love:)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Saying goodbye to a place I've called home for 3 years has been way harder then I thought it would be! So many friends who accepted me and helped make Colorado Springs feel like home. I joined the climbing and flying communities as soon as I came into town. Making friends in those worlds was pretty easy, but most of them were males. When I met Mareshah, I was so excited to have found a hardcore female adventurer!
Our schedules rarely coincide, but when they do, we have a blast. From climbing to hiking to just hanging out, we have always had plenty to talk about! It has been so fun! In honor of our adventurous spirits, I agreed to take one final trip planned by Mareshah before leaving the Springs. We planned the dates weeks in advance to make sure our schedules meshed.
Having been off work for a week, I had begun to get slightly lazy, enjoying my slow morning wake-ups and coffee. Mareshah told me we were climbing a 14er and maybe even two. I was surprised by her confidence in me, but also excited to try. Originally, we were planning to hike up to Mt Belford, over to Oxford and back down the other side where our bikes would be waiting for us. We then had a 6 mile ride up hill to our car. Thankfully, Mareshah saw the light and decided to take two cars instead. The forecast called for a chance of afternoon thunderstorms, so we had to start early. Luckily, I had a fully equipped camper van for us to crash in the night before. We drove up and fell easily to sleep in our adventure mobile.
Mareshah looking great, I'm a little sweaty...
The alarm rang at 4:15am. Opening my eyes and trying to get contacts in, took a small miracle, but I was successful. Watery eyes and all, we headed out up the dark trail with a start time of 5:05 am. Other hikers had begun to appear and all began the steep ascent towards victory. The first hour was passed fairly easily with our headlamps as our only guide to what lied ahead. As the hint of first light crept into our part of the world, I could finally see the beauty of the forest we were tromping through. It was so pretty and perfect!

We came upon ruins of an old cabin shortly after our first hour had passed. What a lovely place to settle down:) As we moved higher, the trees began to thin. We broke out of the tree line and into a beautiful valley filled with wildflowers and alpine bushes. The snow runoff was still making its way down through valley we were in, serenading our every step. We also got our first look at the top of Belford. It looked so far away and I could see the trail up and up and up. I thought to myself "I should have done the incline a few more times this summer!"
There were a few people ahead of us and they gave me encouragement, knowing I just had to keep moving to get to where they were. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." ran through my head as I marched towards the top. Mareshah was an all-star and moved seemingly effortlessly compared to me, but I kept moving. It was fun to try and make goals of how far I could get before having to stop and catch my breath. I was trying to find a pace where I didn't need to stop, but the altitude mixed with the steep incline kept me from doing so. We saw lots of marmots and pikas as we got higher and higher. I also got slower and slower, allowing me to enjoy the scenery more. When we reached to top, I was felt so good! It was amazing to fight against your aching feet and force them onward. I views from the top were fantastic! Mareshah and I soaked it up. She had enough breath to chat with a few other people who reached the summit at the same time as us, but I enjoyed the break and opportunity to just breath.
From the peak of Belford, we could see Oxford. It looked close, but yet so far and with so little oxygen in between.
Atop Belford

What a view!

Starting towards Oxford was hard because my legs had gotten so used to going up by this point. I forced them onward and down we went. We met back up with a girl who had passed us on the way up. She was already finished with both peaks and heading back. Her speed and stamina amazed Mareshah and I so we had to find out her secret. She was a college basketball player who cross trained as well. We were impressed! Mareshah got to talking with her and I took another much appreciated break.
Reaching Oxford was easier then Belford for me. I had finally found my pace and just had to keep from starting out too fast after breaks. I reached to top with less breaks and savored the victory of my second 14,000+ peak for the day! Mareshah brought a Pay Day candy bar that we split in honor of our accomplishment.

Going down was long and hard, but also beautiful and rewarding. There was no trail going off the other side of Oxford, but we paved a new way and headed towards a ridge line that ended by meeting up with the Colorado Trail. It took us a few hours to descend. Mareshah even did one more ascent to get to the top of a 13er. I happily stayed low and took pictures of her conquering the rock pile.
The alpine meadow we hiked through was beautiful! There were birds, flowers, and even some mountain goat poop!  I was hoping we would see some, but they must have been there a few days before and moved on.

The ridge line we hiked.

Mareshah on top of the 13er!
The forecast called for possible storms at 2 pm. We entered tree line right at 2 and celebrated being off the peaks with a snack break.  From there, we simply followed the Colorado Trail down to the parking area. I say simply, but it was a grueling downhill as our legs were feeling the miles already done that day. The best reprise was finding ripe raspberries all along the trail. We happily plucked the juicy ones and carried our prize down the trail with us.

Seeing the car and the end of our hiking day was a glorious moment. I was so happy we didn't have to get on bikes! I am hardcore, but not that hardcore! I loved getting to spend the day with my adventuring friend. Being able to follow her up the mountains was a blast and I can't wait to see what other adventures we find ourselves in! Thanks for a great goodbye trip, Mareshah!!! Saying goodbye to you was the most physical goodbye I had to do:)
 Our car is just over the bridge!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Becoming a Vanventurer!

It has been a week since I said my goodbyes to the NICU babies and staff at St. Francis.  It has been weird thinking I won't swaddled a little peanut into a peaceful sleep for another year! The NICU is an enviornment I love working in and will miss greatly. 
Instead of swaddling babies, however, I have been enjoying the lovely things Colorado Springs has to offer! Last weekend was the Pike's Peak Marathon and my college friends Tom and Ashley Eisenhauer were in town for the event! I got to introduce them to Zach and meet their son, Caleb. It was a wonderful morning catching up on a front porch in Manitou Springs. I love having time off to do these more spur of the moment things!
Zach, our friend Shanese, and I all set out one Saturday to find a local traditional climb called the Martyr. With directions including the words, "Shoot for the gap between two boulders, it will feel like you are going to cliff out, but keep going..." we headed towards one of the classic climb near our city. Finding the climb was fairly easy, but the steep hiking made me feel like we should have hiked the Incline a few more times this summer. Zach did a fantastic job leading the stellar pitches that lifted us high above the city. Shanese and I had forgotten our tape gloves to help protect the skin on the back of our hands as we climbed up the crack. But we felt super hardcore as we jammed our hands in the cracks to hold us up as we ascended the beautiful hand crack. We felt like the original gangsters of crack climbing! It didn't take too long to figure out why people wear tape gloves and by the 2nd pitch we were searching for holds on the outside of the crack so we didn't have to scrape our hands anymore! Lesson learned:) 
Racking up for the climb.
Descent to get to the climb
Smooth moves!!

Yay Shanese! No gloves:)

Crack climbing!
Starting out the 2nd pitch.

Summit Picture of the group

View of Colorado Springs from the top.
After descending from the Martyr, Zach and I loaded up the van and headed to Littleton to spend some much needed family time with the Schwarz family! Kaylee was waiting out on the front steps for us to arrive, but it true form, pretended she wasn't very excited to see us. We played games and laughed as she and Olivia played. It was so fun to hang out with my sister, Samantha and brother in law, John who makes the BEST hamburgers! Kaylee enjoyed my reenactment of the scene from Finding Nemo where Nemo tries to say he lives in an anemone and she headed off to bed chatting "I live in an anenenenome." I will miss hanging out with that little goober:) 

Zach and I found a level place to park the van in Sam and John's driveway and tried out our first night sleeping in the completed van! It was perfect and we even got most of the light blocked out with our window screens! 
It was an early morning for Zach as we were hoping to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park Sunday for a multi-pitch climb at Lumpy Ridge. I couldn't even open my eyes, so Zach started driving towards Estes. (I love having a bed in the back of the van...) I woke up just a few miles before our destination and crawled up front just in time to see the beautiful view as we drove into Estes Park. It was so fun! 
We made it to the parking lot and headed out on the long approach. There was another guy in the parking lot who also had climbing gear and he was really loud! I secretly thought, I hope we don't have to climb by him... Should have kept my mind quiet, because part way up the steep approach, I hear him behind us hollering at his climbing partner to hurry up. We were heading straight up a hill with heavy packs and already feeling out of breath. (The ethic in climbing is first one to the climb, gets to go.) Hearing this guy's voice again allowed me to tap into an energy source previously unknown by either Zach or myself. I wanted to get to the top before him. I must also explain, this guy was super fit and not breathing hard as he approached us. I dug down deep and started heading up with a new purpose. The hill was long, but somehow I overlooked this fact and was like a terminator in pursuit. As I crested the hill to the top, loud mouth and his buddy popped up behind us. I sat down by the climb of our choice, and felt like Rocky at the top of the stairs! I had won! Loud mouth even said, "You were first, what climb do want?" Those were the sweet words of victory to my tired body. Barely able to speak, I announced our chosen climb. It was amazing:)

Rocky was a beautiful place to climb and we had perfect weather. It turns out, we had two friends climbing The Diamond on Long's Peak that same day! We could see Long's from where we were, but weren't close enough to see any climbers. I'm looking forward to having people we know come climb with us around the country! We spent most of the day climbing on The Book formation at Lumpy Ridge before heading back down and starting to long drive back to Colorado Springs.
This week, Zach is back to work and I have been running a few more errands for the trip. I have also taken advantage of the opportunity to sleep in! It feels like summer break:) I'm loving it. 
I feel these 2 weeks of being off will ease me in to the life of a Vanventurer!  I have be known as a NICU nurse these past 6 years, and now I can take on my new identity of Vanventurer!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

This is just the beginning!

This is it...the beginning, the start to an epic year of wandering, climbing, and VANVENTURING!! Traveling across the USA (and possibly Canada) for the next year has been THE goal and this past year of saving and planning has allowed us to take this next step!To take a few steps backward, the idea for this journey began when I met Zachariah Wahrer at CityROCK climbing gym in Colorado Springs. We immediately became climbing partners and then starting dating. Climbing and adventuring was a main part of our relationship. After our first big trip together in the southwest, we decided we wanted to travel long term and the idea for a year on the road was formed. It took both of our dreams of traveling and combined them into one epic van trip across the country.
Choosing the adventuring vehicle took a lot of research, but based on our 2 week long trip in Zach's 4Runner, we decided we could handle something small with good gas mileage. The Honda Odyssey fit that need. It also came with great recommendations from my Grandparents, Pat and Larry Rahal and we were happy to have the same vehicle as them:)
Saving up our money was something slightly foreign to me...but luckily Zach is an expert saver and taught me his secrets! It was fun trying to find cheap or free entertainment in the downtown area of Colorado Springs. Our friends were all supportive and joined in the fun of finding free things to do. Despite our cheapness this past year, we have had a blast!

Somewhere in all the saving and the planning, Zach found time to propose!! On top of the Bastille formation in Eldorado Canyon State Park, he asked me to spend my life with him and I said YES! I now have a beautiful, vintage amethyst ring around my finger and the promise of a wonderful life with my adventure partner! Very exciting stuff:)

When telling people we were heading out on a crazy adventure for a year with no house and no real bathroom, I thought everyone would say we were insane. Turns out, I have a very supportive group of people around me! My friends and family have been so excited, sometimes I think even more excited then me! The question about a toilet has come up a few times and no we won't have anything in the van. I'm happy to use other bathrooms so I don't have to clean one for the next year:) It has been so fun planning and sharing our plans with everyone around us!
I am sorely going to miss working in the NICU at St. Francis Medical Center for the next year. Everyone I work with has been so excited about my new adventures and I can't wait to send post cards and pictures back.
CityROCK has been my home away from home since I moved to the Springs in 2011. I found many forever friends here that I will dearly miss, but hope to keep climbing with whenever we get the chance. I learned to really climb through this gym. I even found people crazy enough to take me outside with them where I truly fell in love with climbing and Colorado. There are so many amazing places to climb and enjoy here!
And now back to the Vanventuring. A few weeks ago, Zach created our electrical system with a solar panel to a battery. He found all the right outlets for all of our needs! I'm excited to be living a little greener then before:) This past weekend, Zach and I worked to get the van just the way we want it. With lots of different ideas, we quickly found, simple is better and created a bed platform design with storage space underneath. We found bins that perfectly fit underneath and are using those as our drawers. Our "kitchen" is in the back and fits all our basic culinary needs. We had fun painting the shelves and platform a bright green and blue to give it a homey feel. I made a curtain and window shades to complete our fortress!

Our next step is to head out August 31st! Its coming so fast, but I also can't wait! I want to keep up with everyone through this blog and hopefully coming to visit! Thank you to everyone for all your support in creating this trip!