Warning: Explicit and Challenging Content Ahead

It’s a very odd feeling to plan your own death.

Before you read further, I want to make this clear: My main goal is normalizing taboo topics so everyone will be more likely to discuss them and feel less like a burden for doing so. This is for the people that know what it’s like. You’re not alone. And this is also for the people that don’t know what it’s like. I know you can’t see it or do anything about it, but I hate feeling like I can’t talk about it because you’ll think less of me. If I was hiking and broke a bone, I wouldn’t hesitate to call for help. Why isn’t that so when I feel depressed or suicidal?

Most importantly, I do not want attention, pity, or advice. I want dialogue.

An estimated 300 million people around the world suffer from depression—which I’m almost certain is woefully inaccurate due to underreporting. However, one thing is certain: Suicide rates are on the rise. Right now, someone somewhere in the world takes their own life every 40 seconds. It has even become the 10th most common cause of death in the US. To help put that in perspective, we’re nearly 3x more likely to kill ourselves than we are to be killed by someone else.

If you’re worried and trying to figure out how you can help, then you’re already becoming distracted. If you’re wondering why I didn’t tell you sooner, then you’re being selfish. I sincerely appreciate both of those sentiments, but I just want you to listen for now.

There are many reasons that I’m still afraid to talk about this. I’m afraid that I might lose my job. I’m afraid that you won’t joke with me the same way. I’m afraid that this will completely ruin my chance at a potential promotion. I’m afraid you won’t think I’m strong or capable. Those are just a few examples, but they’re enough to notice a pattern: I’m afraid of what other people think and I’m afraid of failing to impress them. The worst part is that praise doesn’t even make me feel good. I often feign humility while telling myself that you’re just being nice; we both know I could have done better.

Just being aware of those irrational fears is not nearly enough to completely dispel their crippling effect. I would fucking love to dance when someone tries to pull me onto the floor. Instead, I politely and firmly decline while hatching a plan to ghost the party. Maybe I can head to the bathroom, then make a b-line for the exit before anyone notices me leaving. The effectiveness of this technique is directly proportional to the size of the party, which is the reason I rarely bother going to them. I know I’ll end up feeling invisible or awkward most of the time and regret that I came in the first place.

I was depressed for much of my youth, but the big one that stands out happened in 11th grade. I would sit alone at the bottom of an unused stairwell every day at lunch, hiding from friends and bullies alike. I had been forcing myself to sit alone on school buses for a decade, so this wasn’t really anything new, but it felt much worse because I actually had friends I could have hung out with. Sometimes I would cry, but most days I just sat on the hard acrylic staircase, eating my lunch while I waited for the bell. Sometimes I would hear other students talking as they passed overhead. I always wished one of them would find me somehow so I could feel even more pathetic. That’s pretty much all I remember of that entire year. It was especially sad because school was one of few places I actually enjoyed being. Fortunately, 12th grade was a new leaf, my bullies had graduated, and I loved it.

My entire youth is a vague blur littered with sad and fucked up memories: my baby-sitter’s son pissing into my mouth at 5 years old, being slapped off a stool by my drunk grandfather at 8, asking a girl if she liked me in 3rd grade (she also slapped me in the face), my dad breaking into my piggy bank for beer money, my dad asking me and my sister if he could marry his crazy girlfriend (we both said no, but they were married within a month), a literal closet for a bedroom and a shelf for a bed, always being afraid to ask if I could do anything, working for my dad without pay every day after school and every day during the summer—even after I got an actual job, lectures that lasted hours, being spanked with a wooden board well into high school, et cetera…

I finally got the courage to run away the year after I graduated high school. I owe that to my then girlfriend and her mom. My girlfriend lived on campus, so her mom offered to rent my girlfriend’s old room to me for just $200/mo. Her mom even stood up to my dad when he showed up, pissed as hell, demanding I move back. I don’t know if she ever knew how much that meant to me. I doubt it, and that makes me really sad. I would certainly not be where I am today without either of those women.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned my mom, that’s because she was pretty much never there. My dad got full custody of me and my sister when I was 6 or 7—my sister was 3 or 4. The first time I remember her was in the visits after the divorce, but she stopped coming after a few years. Then she came, unannounced, to my 8th and 12th grade graduations. I was about 20 when I got her number and reached out to visit over Christmas. That went fairly well, but it was the last time I saw her. Two weeks later, I received a rather unexpected email.

She was pissed at me for not contacting her since the visit, and for bringing my girlfriend of 4 years—even though I asked her if it would be okay. She threatened to burn all pictures she kept from my childhood. She had tattooed my name and my sister’s name on her ankle at some point, and threatened to have it removed. I was shocked, but I had no attachment to her, so I simply asked that she never contact me again. 8 years later, I received a strange email through my website. A name I didn’t recognize was suggesting jobs I might like in the Bay Area—I think I had recently blogged about looking for design jobs in California. I thanked her and asked how she came across my website. She confessed to being my mother and very proud of the person I’d become. I told her that she had no right to feel proud; she had nothing to do with any of my accomplishments. I wasn’t upset, but I saw no reason to change my mind. That was the last time I heard from her. I must sound a little hypocritical, considering that she clearly struggles with some form of mental health issue, but I do not want to reinforce her denial and aggression. Wow…I just realized that perfectly describes my father as well.

That’s enough about my mommy and daddy issues. I didn’t plan on doing that anyway.

Where was I…? Ah! Yes, feeling sorry for myself. [cracks knuckles]

The darkest time of my adult life occurred two years ago. In the two years leading up to that moment, my sister accused our father of sexual assault, my dog died, I was robbed twice, I moved 4 times in 4 months (two of them being out-of-state), and I was $40,000 in debt. In retrospect, the downward spiral is very obvious.

After fighting back depression for years and never talking about it, my will finally broke. I spent two weeks researching the most effective and painless methods for suicide. I didn’t want to leave anything for some poor fucker to clean up, so it also had to be peaceful. That last requirement really limits your options, but nitrogen asphyxiation seemed to check all the boxes. Nitrogen is very easy to acquire, won’t leave a mess, and shouldn’t cause any pain. Whenever I tried to crawl out of the depression, I would beat myself back down. No one really likes me; they’re just being nice. Sure, they might be sad when they first hear the news, but they’ll quickly forget about it. I just don’t want to try anymore.

I moved again two months later and finally started regaining control and happiness. I’ve felt happy and peaceful most of the days since, but the self-doubt never goes away completely. You just learn to wear a mask and stay busy so people will stop telling you to smile, or ask what’s wrong when they really don’t have the time or want to know.

Fortunately, this recent bout with suicide didn’t last more than a few minutes. It was followed by depression and self-destructive thoughts, but that only lasted for a few weeks—not months. I suspect this relatively rapid recovery is largely due to the amount of time that I commit to self-reflection and learning about world issues, psychology, and social taboos. That accruing wisdom is the main reason I love getting older. It does tend to increase my levels of stress because a lot of it is really sad to learn about, but it has also greatly influenced and increased my sense purpose. I want to play a bigger role, and being honest about my personal struggles seems like a great first step.

I’ve been putting this post off for more than a week, still afraid it will have long-lasting, negative ramifications. That changed three days ago as I quietly sobbed in a coffee shop while I listening to the final episode of Believed. It’s a podcast about the survivors of sexual predator Larry Nassar. More specifically, it focuses on the fact that no one believed his victims for nearly two decades. This hit especially hard because my own sister accused our father of sexual abuse. The police didn’t believe her and everyone swept it under the rug—including her. It took years for me to find out because she never felt comfortable telling me, or she didn’t think I would believe her. Like I said, it really hit home.

Empowered by those amazing women and girls, I closed the app and started writing. I shouldn’t have to explain that I’m not comparing my struggle to theirs. I’m merely inspired by their strength and courage. I may be a bisexual atheist, but I’m also a healthy white male in America, so my troubles will always pale in comparison to billions of other troubled lives, past, present, and future. I know it’s illogical to feel the way that I do when I get depressed or suicidal. Unfortunately, logic doesn’t really come into play when you’re depressed. It’s a very ignorant, self-abusive, dark, lonely black hole.

At nearly 30, I’m finally beginning to accept that these events are not the result of typical sadness or nerves. They’re brought on by accumulated irrational anxiety and I’ll probably live with it the rest of my life, but I hope this will help myself and others in some way.

I still don’t want to post this, but I’m committed. I’ve already spent 3 fucking days writing this and I just want to hit send and be done with it. If you want to have a discussion about these issues or get something off your chest, please don’t hesitate to do so. I love discussing challenging and taboo topics. Silence will only reinforce the stigma that causes people to build walls. Let’s tear it down together!

Thanks for listening, friends :)

P.S. I finally edited a couple photos taken last summer in Glacier National Park on my return from Whistler, BC. Check out that Moose! I hope you like them. Actually, I shouldn’t care… I like them (but I still hope you do too).

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park - Moose

i can't do it anymore

I can't put it off any longer.

I've always been impatient, but I don't think this is that. In fact, I think it's the opposite. Sometimes my doubt becomes a surge of confidence in the form of a big "FUCK YOU!" to the impossible. It was the same when I took 3 weeks off for the solo road trip to Alaska and back, and again when I moved to Oregon for a month. But this will be the biggest and scariest decision I've ever made.

I'm buying a cargo van and moving into it! Like... actually living in it full-time. No backup car. No home or apartment.

Yosemite at Night.jpg

I don't know where I'll park when I'm staying in a city. I don't know how I'll prevent theft. I don't know how I'm going to stay cool or warm, or how I'm going to cook and store food until I get solar set up. I'm not sure how I'll make enough money without the security of a steady job, but I'm giving myself a year to figure out that last part. Honestly, there is probably more that I don't know right now, but I know that I'm doing it.

I think I'm going to sell my car first and bike to work—21 miles away—until I find the right van. I want to own it outright so I can immediately move in and put EVERYTHING toward paying off my debt. At this time, I owe $11,607.42 to various credit cards—which doesn't include $6,687.13 in student loans, but I'm not worried as much about the those. Without a car payment or rent, I should be able to pay the credit cards within 12 months—assuming I find enough freelance work for extra money.

Truthfully, I'm fucking terrified. I felt like a failure and a quitter for giving up on Oregon after only one month. I was robbed twice that year and moved 6 times in 8 months. It was the lowest I've ever been. But I also experienced one of my biggest highs. When my car was broken into, a friend started a fundraiser that accrued $900—the amount I needed to replace everything. That still blows me away. I had no idea so many people cared about me; I still have a hard time accepting that.

Moving into a van has even greater potential for failure, but—weirdly—I've never been more excited.

I hope you are doing well! Hit me up if you wanna share crazy ideas or just get some shit off your chest.

Much love,

Max

I started vloggin!

Moonset at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona

Yooooo! What's up, friends? I'm so excited to announce the MAX LEVEL ADVENTURE vlog! The first 4 episodes are out now on YouTube. Check them out here! I have an injured shoulder at the moment, but I'll have another video coming out next week. Don't you worry your pretty face. ;)

This photo was taken during episode one. That's actually the moon setting on the horizon! How wild is that?

You start the vicarious series below with episode one! If you like it, please subscribe because there will be plenty more coming and they're only going to get better!


Raw Sugar Logo v4.2.jpg

And, if that's not enough, I also started a podcast with my good friend Alyssa Rojas! It's called Raw Sugar and will be in a different vein than most things I do on social media. Our podcast will encourage discussion of all things nerdy, sexy, and controversial. We don't claim to have the right answers, we just want people to think critically while having a good time. I'll make another post with information about that when we start releasing those episodes. You can also get an early start by following us @rawsugarpodcast on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

There's almost an hour worth of content in my first 4 vlogs, so I'm gonna keep this post short and let you guys check that out. I've had positive feedback so far, but I'm always looking for ways to improve!

P.S. If you're interested in portraits, collaborating on a video, or would like to guest on the podcast, let me know!

 

Happy New Year! Plans for 2018: vlog, portraits, and more adventures!

B11A3854_small.jpg

It's been too long since my last blog post. 2017 was an interesting year. I started dabbling in portrait photography and graphic design, discovering a talent and passion for both. I've decided to put them to work! I've also wanted to make a vlog for a long time. My snapchat stories were known for being cinematic and amusing so I've decided to take that to a better platform. My goal is to just have fun and keep doing what I love. The long-term goal is making a career from these passions, as it always has been. I don't care if I'm making just enough to survive as long as it puts me in places I dream about and creating something new, entertaining, or inspirational.

As a result of people reaching out to me for portrait work, I decided to buy my first camera light this week. Until now I've just been using natural light. It taught me to be very creative, but it's also extremely restricting in many of the settings I shoot. I would love to buy a dedicated vlog cam and some microphones for the vlog, but I can't justify that when my phone will do a reasonable job until I can purchase the necessary upgrades. I'd rather start making progress and stop making excuses, hoping the content will outweigh the gear.

me standing.jpg

Outside of the big plans for photography, I'll be focusing more on nature shoots and adventures again. There's only one way to get better: lots and lots of practice. I'm so excited for everything in the works and know I'll learn something even if I fail spectacularly. Cheers!

P.S. One huge thing that happened in 2017 was being hired by a new video game streamer to be his graphic designer. His handle is LobroWatch. He plays video games and often ends up talking to people in chat. Check him out if you're into that sort of thing!

Anyway, I had never really done anything quite like it, just little stuff here and there, and mostly for myself. Fast forward several months. He's blowing up. It could very well end up being a full-time gig for him fairly soon and I couldn't be happier for him. In addition to the web graphics, I have designed a shirt, patch, bracelet, sticker and a thank you card. The designs just keep getting better and I love every second of the work we're doing.

In summary, 2017 was the first year I started getting paid to take photographs and do graphic design. It didn't happen because I went to school for it or randomly picked something that might lead to a career. I just sought things that excite me and pursued them with passion. And I don't plan on stopping now!

Get out there and do what excites you! 

First Official Portrait Shoot!

Sun Flare Portrait

I've photographed people many times before, but never exclusively. I had been passively looking for an opportunity when a friend asked me to shoot his girlfriend's graduation photos. I was nervous despite the confidence in my abilities; this wasn't just for fun anymore. I had no idea what I would end up capturing or how they would turn out, but Rachel selected a fantastic location and turned out to be a natural model.

The first click of the shutter cut through my anxiety and I became consumed by my task. I pointed and she did the rest. The wind kept messing up here hair; it drove her crazy, but it make her laugh and provided some gorgeous candids. There were some great shots early on that she loved - which continued to lessen the pressure.

We continued to shoot even after she was satisfied and I'm glad we did because it gave us some of my favorite photos. The shoot was a total success and I can't wait for the next opportunity.

Making Progress - Not Excuses

I will be moving soon for a 6th time in 8 months. I might be worried, but I've trained myself to recognize that as a waste of energy and time. I'm focused on continuing the momentum, exploring new places and revisiting old favorites - driven in equal parts by passion and fear of failure.

Sunrise at Wave Cave

I had to cancel my trip to Yosemite when I moved to Oregon so that was one of the first things I made time to see when life began to settle. Five new and old friends packed into an SUV and spent 3 days at the amazingly beautiful park. One in the group was a bit of a Negative Nancy so those 3 days boiled down to 1 day of exploration, but we still had a good time and I have a good feel for my itinerary on future trips.

Star Trails at Joshua Tree National Park

Photography is continuing to consume my time and heart. I drove to Joshua Tree NP twice in the same week for my first star time-lapse. I left work, drove 5 hours, stayed up all night taking photos, then drove back to work both times, but it was worth the photos and experience. I recently paid way too much for the photography tour at Antelope Canyon. I haven't even edited those photos yet. I'm still very new to photography so I worry that I should have waited a little longer to get more out the pricey opportunity, but maybe doing it now will have more benefits than I realize - that's how I'm justifying it.

In addition to pursuing my hobbies, I'm going to the gym again and riding my mountain bike more often - mostly so I don't die on my crazy rides in Utah and Colorado this summer.

I could have written dozens of posts on everything I've done in the last 7 months, but I want to focus on doing this more regularly so I'm sharing the highlights so I can catch up. Speaking of highlights, check out this badass video I made of my 2016 highlights!

Return to Arizona

My time in Oregon was short and bittersweet. I went broke and was robbed, but I would do it over again just for the new experiences. I knew moving back could feel like a failure if I let it, so I stayed busy, continued to explore and searched for new places.

One of the most inspiring things to happen during my time in Oregon was getting robbed - more specifically, what came after it. I posted about the unfortunate event on Facebook, which I normally avoid. This prompted a friend to create a fundraiser in my name. I honestly didn't think anything would come of it, but 5 days passed and it collected $900 to help me replace everything that was stolen from me. I have never felt more encouraged and loved than in that moment. It made me realize that a lot more people cared about me than I knew and any though I had of giving up was completely erased.

I bought a new wide angle lens with some of the donations when I got back. That choice made a huge impact on the direction of my efforts. In the months that followed, I became more and more obsessed with photography. I took several trips to Sedona and Flagstaff within the first month. One of the locations is a local secret that took quite a bit of research and exploring to find, but the challenge is what made that adventure so rewarding.

These last few months have reminded me to find the silver linings and remain consistent, because it leads to incredible experiences.

 

How To Have Fun Without A Plan

My trip to Washington started with a simple desire to see something new. I decided to center the trip around Olympic National Park, of which I knew almost nothing. I punch it into Google Maps and drove 7 miles to reach a dead end. It was a beautiful dead end, but I was expecting to find an a visitor center or something. I stopped for some shots and headed back to find cell service.

Staircase Campground, Olympic National Park, Washington

I called a friend who had been recently. She dropped a few suggestions and that was enough for me. Another two hours later, I made it to Ruby Beach. The sun had long set, so I just made a pb&j, made room in the back of my SUV and went to sleep. I woke before sunrise, ate another sandwich, grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach. It was brisk and very foggy, which worried me because I didn't know how the shots would look. They turned out to be some of my best captures to date! 

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

After I left the ocean, I headed inland to explore the Hoh Rainforest, which was way cooler than I expected. The weather had warmed a little by this time and the sun was streaming through the vibrant green canopy above. I couldn't have had a better day.

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington

After hiking on a couple trails and taking some pictures, I began the long drive back to Oregon. I had only driven a few miles when I saw a sign for a big dead tree, so I turned off and drove down some back roads until I found it. I had lunch at the big dead tree then continued driving back home. At some point, I realized that I had enough time to make a detour for Multnomah Falls, so I headed east when I reached Portland to see the famous sight. It was beautiful from below, but the best views were at the top. 

Multnomah Falls from the top - Oregon

I made it back home around midnight and went to work the next day, totally inspired for the next weekend!

10 Waterfalls in a Day!

Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

If you want to see waterfalls, then check out Oregon because it's drowning in them. You can see 10 from just a single trail at Silver Falls State Park. Naturally, that's where I found myself a week into my stay. My new friend Charity and I got together for this one; we spent the day chatting away while enjoying the incredible views around us. The trail winds along, over, and under the North and South Fork Silver Creeks as they flow through the valley in spectacular fashion.

I expected some of the falls to be a little lackluster, but I was pleasantly surprised. All of them were beautiful and some of them were even huge! I had a rocky start in Oregon, but places like this quickly changed my mind.

 

 

 

Finding Trails in Oregon

Moving to Oregon was scary and amazing. I didn't know anyone there, but that didn't stop me from exploring. One of the first things I did was seek out some kickass mtb trails. Oregon did not disappoint. The riding up there is easily some of the most fun I've ever had on my bike.

The trails were so flowy and the scenery was gorgeous! I can't wait to go (move?) back!

 

Farewells, A Giant Sex Toy, And Explosive Wet Farts: Moving To Oregon In Style

In three days, I said goodbye to everyone I'd come to know and love, bathed in a stranger's shower with a 24" black dildo suction-cupped to the wall, and shit my pants in a pair of $40 underwear. Relax. The last two aren't related.

I about-faced quick as hell and willed my anus to remain shut for the 30 seconds it would take to reach the toilet. It took just 5 steps before my body betrayed me and dropped a shit grenade in my merino wool boxer-briefs.

Let's rewind a little. My schedule before moving to Oregon was insane. For some dumb reason, I thought it would be brilliantly efficient to move immediately after 3 huge back-to-back adventures. Each one was at least 4 days long and I had only 4 days between each trip to pack while preparing for the next. My friends threw me a surprise party somewhere between that and I still managed to be ready a few days early.

I filled every cubic foot of my SUV, had brunch with some friends, hit the road, and posted on Facebook to see if I had connections with a couch in a northern California. Paul was the first of four who responded so I updated my destination and zoned out to an audiobook. At some point during the drive, he warned me about "Lil' Dicky" hiding somewhere in the house. I assumed (incorrectly) that it was just a weird reclusive cat. Lil' Dicky is, apparently, a giant sex toy left inconspicuously around the house as a practical joke. I was lucky enough to find him in the shower. I thought about taking it down, but he seemed to enjoy the view so I left him hanging there.

I reached my new home the next afternoon. My roomies, Jackie and Chris, invited me to join them and a few friends for drinks that night. I had a blast and got to meet a charming woman named Charity that became an amazing friend! Anyway, let's fast forward to the part where I shit my pants. I was headed to the coast with Jackie and Chris on my second day in Oregon. An hour into the drive, I carefully released a rather hot and aggressive fart. I was a little worried, but didn't dwell on it. I'm a 27-year-old-grown-ass man, after all. I can control my bladders, right? Nope. No, I can't. We made it to the beach/trailhead and I was really feeling the pressure, but didn't want to keep them waiting. I walked maybe 50 feet before realizing that was a critical error. 

I about-faced quick as hell and willed my anus to remain shut for the 30 seconds it would take to reach the toilet. It took just 5 steps before my body betrayed me and dropped a shit grenade in my merino wool boxer-briefs. There wasn't even that much, which kind of annoyed me. I've taken way bigger shits, but I guess this one was just too dangerous to keep inside until I could reach a convenient place to properly relieve myself. I cleaned up and walked out of the bathroom cool as a fucking cucumber - until I realized that Jackie and Chris had spent 30 minutes looking for me.

The rest of the day was rather nice. We hiked around the beach and they bought me hand-made ice cream on the way back. 

This Is Why You Need To Visit Colorado...

If you have never been to or spent much time exploring the southern Rockies, you're missing out. My first visit was just a quick weekend trip. I drove 25 hours to spend a few hours biking a night under the stars. It took a week to catch up on sleep, but it was worth it. The scale and beauty had me planning another trip as soon as I got home.

Monument Valley at Sunset, Utah/Arizona

Two months and some amazing adventures later, I was headed back to Colorado with a friend to hike the Four Pass Loop: 30 miles and four high altitude passes, all around 12,500ft. We approached Four Corners as the sun approached the horizon, so I suggested a detour through Monument Valley. The shoot delayed us by an hour, but it was worth it! We arrived at the trailhead well after dark, then moved everything into the front so we could sleep in the back.

Even after a night of acclimation, we still had headaches before the first pass. Phoenix low-landers... But elevation wasn't the only thing stealing our breath; the towering mountains and deep green valleys take you to another world and they certainly made the frequent breaks near a pass more enjoyable. We made it to Snowmass Lake with 90 minutes of light to spare and nearly debilitating headaches. The flies and mosquitos didn't help much either. We ate, or at least I did. Alex's head ached so bad that he only managed two bites before mumbling something about wanting to hike back tomorrow. Then he passed out.

Sunrise at Snowmass Lake, Colorado

I rose early the next morning to photograph the sunrise and refill my reservoir at the lake. Alex was awake and feeling much better when I returned. After a quick breakfast, we packed up and continued toward the 2nd pass. This one was a lot easier, as expected. We set a steady pace and stopped frequently to snack and enjoy the views. Coming over the second pass was as stunning as the first - which I didn't expect. Each valley was so different from the last. It was unbelievable. 

Four Pass Loop, Colorado

We began the descent from the second pass and discussed our plans for the night. Would we attempt to summit the next pass or camp somewhere on this side? A decision was made to play it by ear and just enjoy the hike for the time. The flies were particularly bad in this valley, but it was probably my favorite stretch of the trip. It started to sprinkle a little, so we stopped for lunch under some pines at the bottom and decided that we would attempt to summit the next pass before nightfall.

After food a quick poop, we began the 3rd ascent. We came to a wide stream an hour later that was exactly cold as fuck. I couldn't feel my feet by the time I reached the other side. We laughed about being babies and put our shoes back on before pressing onward and upward. The soft sound of a distant waterfall teased us for a while before revealing itself between two groves of pine. We climbed up the switchbacks with the waterfall roaring nearby and swatted at flies until we broke the treeline and entered a gorgeous valley.

The sun was setting fast, but we stuck to the plan and hiked through the massive rolling hills of the valley until we reached the base of Frigid Air Pass. True to its name, we had to stop and bundle up since the sun was now eclipsed by the ridgeline. After another challenging climb and another hour spent hoping there would be a flat spot to camp on the other side, we were rewarded with what may have been the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen. The sun burst through from a valley to the northeast, misting the valley in front of us with a warm glow. Better still was the sight of a huge flat area less than 30 minutes away!

Camping on the Four Pass Loop, Colorado

We made it down and set up camp on a hillside overlooking the entire valley as the sun finished setting. We ate a delicious meal of dehydrated chili and tried not to kill each other with farts. The third and final day came with no headaches and just one pass to go! We took some time for photos and watched the sun rise as we ate breakfast. Packing was a little bittersweet, but soon we were walking through enormous wildflower fields and all our worries were forgotten once again.

The trail didn't drop too much in elevation between passes 3 and 4, so we were genuinely stoked to see the final pass. We made it to the top without much trouble and stopped to enjoy the view and have snack. The descent was nice and easy with a great view of the entire valley and dark rain clouds ahead. I hoped it would miss us, but we covered the packs anyway. The rain hit 15 minutes after stopped to cook a quick lunch and take some photos. It was nothing more than a steady drizzle and kind of nice since neither of us had showered in three days...

Feeling so close to the end, we hit our second wind and powered through the shower. It rained for nearly an hour, maybe more. Time was hard to mentally track and largely irrelevant in this wonderland. As the ground dried, we really got into a solid stride that rivaled elderly mall-walkers. Somehow, we made it back to the car by 2PM. We were both surprised, sore and smelly. We gave our gentlemen bits a quick wet-wipe bath and grabbed two cheap pizzas on our way through Aspen. After 11 hours on the road and Alex's first warning for a speed violation, we were back home and ready for good night's rest.

West Maroon Pass, Colorado

Havasu-pie for the eye!

It took 1,250 phone calls to get through, but I finally nailed a reservation on the third day. Then we just had to wait 5 months. The big day finally came and we all headed up. 4 guys in one car 4 girls in the other, probably wondering what the other group was talking about the whole time. Or maybe that was just me.

We had lunch in Flagstaff and drove through an apocalyptic swarm of beetles in the dark before reaching the trailhead. Setting camp was awkward, but we managed to MacGyvered hammocks between SUV roof rails and a hitching post. I woke before sunrise and gently roused the other sleepy heads. We made it to the village 7 miles later and confirmed our reservation. After half the group used the wifi to catch up on their snapchat game, we continued our trek to the campsites still 3 miles away.

Havasupai Falls poured into view on the way down, introducing us to the kind of beauty we were about to enjoy during the next 4 days.

IMG_7316.jpg

It was a weekday, July 4th and we arrived pretty early so we had a several great options to set up camp. We found one then I scouted ahead for a better one - which ended up being an incredible location with plenty of room for all our hammocks right on the river. Matt and I suspended our hammocks over the river - which was cool for the first night, but ultimately more of a nuisance.

The first day was just a lot of hanging out and exploring nearby Mooney Falls. On day two, we hiked down to Beaver Falls and I found a great place to do some cliff jumping! We explored more on day three by visiting 4 waterfalls. We spent some time at Havasu, Secret, Little Navajo and New Navajo jumping and swimming at each. Despite being the hottest time of the year, the weather was actually perfect for such cold water. It wasn't too hot at night and the canyon walls protected us from being in the sun all day.

During our stay, squirrels ate through several backpacks and meals. The fuckers even chewed through a string to drop two packs on the ground so they could get into them. Brilliant bastards.

We hiked out early on the final day to beat the heat, stopping at the village again for a select few... Despite the gravelly sandy terrain, we made it up much faster than we made it down. I still can't believe how much fun we had on that trip. We'll definitely be going again next year...

The "Utah Quickie"

Holy shit! 4 days left in Arizona! I'm going backpacking in Colorado 2 days from now, then I return for 2 days before moving to Oregon! What a crazy schedule. I just finished editing the photos from my road trip to Horseshoe Bend, Zion, Bryce and Arches National Parks. I still have to edit Havasupai, but it's looking like I won't get to that until I make it to Oregon on the 31st. 

That aside, let's talk about my quick road trip with Rachel Pulice to Utah! Only 1 of the 4 places we went was new to me, but I got to explore a little more so it was totally worth it - plus I had a decent camera with me this time! We made a pit stop at the famous Horseshoe Bend and I'm glad we did! The lighting was the best I've seen, with scattered clouds leaving a cool impression on the scene below.

We made it to Zion with enough time to do just about nothing. We found a parking lot to sleep in and passed out. After eating breakfast the next morning, we hopped on the first bus to hike Angel's Landing at sunrise. The weather was perfect! Warm and clear skies. It started to get hot by the time we made it back down, but it was time hit the Narrows so it was perfect. The famous canyon is about 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the valley. The Virgin River keeps you cool as you hike through the gorgeous canyon with narrow walls rising 1,000 feet on either side of you. This was just as amazing as I remember. We went a lot further than I did last time and it was totally worth it! We found a beautiful waterfall and stopped for a snack before hiking back.

We found a place to camp outside the park, slept in the car under the stars and reached Bryce Canyon around 10am. We snagged a campsite and headed out to explore! I was fairly unimpressed as we drove from one viewpoint to the next, so we returned to the camp for some lunch and a nap. I slept for a couple hours despite the loud music blaring from an adjacent campsite. I finished a book, ate a snack and woke Rachel to get some sunset pictures. With the sun lower in the sky, the park suddenly came alive with color! We hiked around and snapped photos until the sun went down. Then we waited in the car for 3 hours while listening to one of my favorite podcasts. When the sky was sufficiently dark, we strapped on the headlamps and hiked down into the canyon for some night captures. The sky was unfortunately cloudy, but we made the best of it.

Instead of returning to the campsite, I drove us 4+ hours to catch the sunrise at Arches. At the time, it felt like a mistake. And it didn't stop feeling that way until we arrived. As if she knew what I did to see her, Mother Nature put on a spectacular show! We arrived at one of the most stunning sunrises I've ever seen without a minute to spare. After snapping some shots, Rachel and I explore a couple of the arches. Then I passed out in the car for a couple hours.

I woke up around 10am after a quick nap and drove us home. 

What a trip! I still can't believe we crammed all of that into 4 days! Havasupai photos and story coming after I move. I'll post a few updates on my travels before then.

Going Out With A Bang

I couldn't live in the Grand Canyon State without hiking to the bottom for a night at Bright Angel Campground. I've had this trip and the last two planned before I decided to move so it feels a little bittersweet checking them off the list. If you're going to make that trek yourself, avoid camping near the summer solstice. The campground gets hot as fuck -- even at night.

We drove up a day early so we could sleep in, but an officer found us car camping around midnight and kicked us out. We relocated to a legal place just outside the park that he was nice enough to tell us about.

Morning on the forested rim was a chilly 45, but it was going to reach 110+ at the bottom that day. Alex, Liz, Jon and I started down South Kaibab Trail around 5:30am and had to ditch the jackets within an hour. The hike down is pretty ugly, but in a majestic sort of way. The canyon is massive and your view changes constantly as you weave through passes, switchbacks, people, mules and horses. After reaching Bright Angel Campground around 10am, we spent most of the day relaxing in the eponymous creek that runs through the campground. We explored Phantom Ranch a little, played cards and then jumped in the creek one last time before heading to bed wet so we could stay cool through the night.

The hike out was much prettier. Bright Angel Trail is gorgeous, mostly for being a lot less dead than South Kaibab Trail. I wasn't expecting a hike through wooded areas and creeks on the way up, but it was a pleasant and welcome surprise. The canyon walls protected us for most of the day and we soaked our clothes at every water station to keep cool. The trail gets pretty steep near the rim and the sun was doing its thing by that time so I started to sweat a little, but we made it to the top by 10:30am! I found some shade and waited for the others to catch up. We laughed and groaned about our sore muscles while enjoying the moment and our accomplishment. 18.4 miles and over 5,000 feet of gain/loss in two days. Not bad, baby!

I'd do it again in a heartbeat! What a great time and a great crew. Thanks for coming Alex, Liz, and Jon! You were a blast!

A "Quick" Trip to Colorado

I'm still so stoked about this trip. Normally, I plan my bigger trips months in advance, but not this one. With just a few days notice, I decided to go mountain biking in Colorado. So I went to bed early Friday night, woke up at 3am Saturday and drove for 11 hours to Crested Butte, CO. I biked for a bit then set up camp on a breathtaking ridge. I took some pictures of the stars after sunset and enjoyed a peaceful sleep with no one around for miles. The next morning, I biked the #1 trail on Mountain Bike Project in the US. It was insane.

The views were gorgeous and the weather was perfect. Aside from the challenging climb, I also had to cross a very strong a chilly creek with a pack full of expensive electronics... Unfortunately, I didn't get to complete the circuit. I hit knee-deep snow near the trail's highest point (11,254ft), but I didn't want to give up so I carried my bike for half a mile hoping it would clear up. It didn't. I still had 300 feet to climb and, obviously, the snow wasn't going to get better before it got worse. I doubled back, but it's hard to be disappointed with that kind of scenery.

I made it back the car safe and exhausted. The drive back was another challenge in itself. I made it home by 11pm Sunday and went to work at 5:30am Monday. Good weekend.

Trips like this are my favorite. They're last minute and I play the whole thing by ear. I risk failing miserably and wasting a whole weekend, but even that kind of wasted weekend is still a better memory than most people will make in those moments.

Jumping Off Bridges With A Stretchy Rope

There's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush just before leaping off a bridge with nothing but a bungee cord tied around your ankles; actually, the cord is fastened to two thick velcro anklets. Anyway, this was my third time at the Bridge to Nowhere in the Angeles National Forest, jumping twice during each visit. Nothing I've done compares to the feeling, not even skydiving. It's just one of those things you have to experience for yourself. 

I planned the trip for a few friends, but they all cancelled a week before and I already bought my ticket. I knew that I'd still have a good time so I went anyway, partly because they don't offer refunds. Aside from my dog, a few people joined from my Meetup group - which is always an adventure in itself.

One of my favorite parts about the experience is the hike to the bridge. It's gorgeous! You ascend through a valley for 5 miles, navigating the pointy yucca plant and crossing a brisk river several times. The bungee crew starts the hike at 7:30AM, so we got there a day early and backpacked down to the the river to spent the night. I'm still a little bummed that my friends bailed, but it was still a rad time with some new faces so I don't regret a thing!

I'll upload the videos from my jump later, but here's the edit from last year until then :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k5AXXgLEtY

A Weekend of Rims and Big Holes

As usual, the group was quite entertaining. After driving to the Mogollon Rim and setting up camp, I took the crew to the Tonto Natural Bridge. We took turns hiking down since dogs aren't allowed. I ran into an off-duty park volunteer and took a bunch of photos. That place is still amazing even after three visits. 

We headed back to camp and ate dinner while swapping stories around the campfire. I'm not much for drinking, but a couple people brought booze so I had a couple. One person got so drunk they pissed themselves. That seemed like a good cue, so Xaley and I hit the hammock and passed out.

The next day, two of our five headed back home while the remaining three of us headed to Horton Creek for a nice little hike. The day was perfect and the sights were gorgeous! In all, I got some great shots and stories out of the weekend. 

Big Changes and Deep Thoughts

It's been a wild few weeks. I found a place to live and a job in Oregon and I've been on lots of adventures, including a random 2-day trip to Colorado!

Despite the increase in group size since I joined Meetup, I found that I don't necessarily enjoy the adventures any more than I would normally. I've met a lot of awesome people, but I've also had to do a lot more maintenance and prep for the trips. It seems that not everyone is so enthusiastic about flying by the seat of their pants. So I've decided to stop paying for the organizer service on Meetup and just stick to posting events on Facebook and this website. It's free and a lot less stressful.

My move to Oregon has been solidified for a few weeks now. I have been promised a position at Dutch Bros and found new roommates via Craigslist. I would leave now if it were not for the trips I had already planned.

Since my last post, I've been camping on the Mogollon Rim (pictured), went back to Tonto Natural Bridge, mountain biking and camping in Arizona and Colorado, and bungee jumping and camping in California. I'm finally getting all the content edited and posted this weekend now that I can finally relax a little.

Photos and videos coming up!

Returning to Chiricahua National Monument!

I went back to Chiricahua National Monument to see what it looked like without snow. It's definitely less magical, but still beautiful and unique. We ran into some angry forest rangers, but the trip was still super fun and I got to hang out with 4 new people and 1 that returned from the previous trip! All for about $15!

We hiked to a natural bridge the first day, swapped stories around the campfire and hiked a gorgeous and geologically diverse trail the next day. Despite the rude forest rangers a fire that burned down many of the trees, it's still a beautiful park and I would suggest it to anyone! Not many people know about it, so it isn't very crowded.

As the move to Oregon gets closer, I'll be looking to fill the remaining weekends with places I've have not yet been to here. Keep an eye for those last few events to fill in the current gaps!