This blog was written by Danielle Deering from The Adventure Project
When the leaves have all fallen and winter is nipping at our heels here in Colorado, there exists a small, perfect, little window for wild ice. A time when the temps have dropped just enough to freeze Maroon Lake, but not cover it in snow quite yet. There is something magical about taking part in something that only happens a handful of days out of an entire year. So much so, that our little adventure family was not going to miss out.
We had heard that there might be some epic skating up at Maroon Bells this time of year. We were also told to keep our ear to the ground for the local buzz that would occur when the lake froze. Pulling up to the Maroon Bells parking lot in winter, one would think it would not be quite as crazy as when the tourists are in full swing during summer and parking is non-existent. Well, not so much the case. The parking lot was overflowing with Colorado locals draped in skate gear. This must be the place, we thought.
We geared up ourselves, mom, dad, and our little ripper - 6 years old and full to the brim with adventure! As we caught glimpse of the bells, I don’t know which was more beautiful. The towering peaks that take your breath away every time, no matter how many times you’ve come to visit them. Or, the skating scene nestled below these mountains.
The ice was packed! There were organized hockey games, plenty of onlookers who just came for the show, and even a lone figure skater pulling out all the stops for a small audience that had gathered. We quickly found a corner of snow to set up camp on and popped our camping chairs up. It was one of those bluebird Colorado days you just live for. Not a cloud in the sky, sun beating down and an entire day to play. And, play we did.
Hitting the ice, we glided past pick-up hockey games, kicked a puck around ourselves, and watched as the glacial water below moved slightly when our weight was applied. We heard a group of people yelling about trout under their skates, but weren’t one of the lucky ones to see them in action. We skated until lunch time and then hit camp for some cold pizza and hot cocoa. I know, we keep it real fancy around here.
We got a few more hours in on the ice before the sun dipped below the Bells, and the temps dropped considerably and the wind moved in. We walked out of that sacred place, gear on our backs, smiles on our faces, knowing we’d just experienced something so insanely special. The beauty of the Bells draped in the background, sacred ice under feet. It was the perfect collision of elements coming together, just so. I don’t know about you, but we’ll be back next year.
There have been times when I forget to breath. Not entirely, but enough to cause my chest to tighten, make my heart to accelerate, roll in brain fog, and activate a disruptive surge of panic through my body. At those times, I’m not quite aware it’s happening.
Anxiety is conniving like that.
It’s been an unwelcome companion for much of my life. And anxiety’s partner, depression, stops by once in awhile too. I’m not alone, and if you experience it too, you’re not either. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the U.S. and that number is steadily rising.
Whether you’re experiencing a situational and temporary season of mental unease, or you’ve navigated mental health issues throughout your life, spending intentional time outdoors can do us all loads of good. Our daily lives can be wrought with dissonance and noise. Being in a constant state of “busy” is often the norm, leaving little time to check in with ourselves.
The outdoors isn’t a cure-all. It’s one method that people use to help enhance their mental wellbeing. If you think you may have a serious mental health condition, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional. That being said, taking a step back and immersing ourselves in nature has profound benefits. It helps decrease stress, alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms, and promote cognitive clarity. It’s a powerful resource that offers heuristic lessons–of life, self, and meaning—not found elsewhere.
Here are four ways the outdoors improves mental wellbeing:
1. Disconnecting Helps You Connect
Having little to no cell service can be one of the best things for you. We are daily inundated with unnecessary messages and distractions, which can lead to over-stimulation and brain fog.
One of my favorite quotes by John Muir (also known of Mountains, no less) is this:
“All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God’s eternal beauty and love. So universally true is this, the spot where we chance to be always seems the best.”
Enjoying nature is different for everyone. You can take a stroll through your neighborhood park or plan an extensive backpacking trip to Patagonia. You can jump in the ocean for 30 minutes or go sailing for a month. The point is to get outside! Breaking away from a constant state of busy to simply “be” can do wonders for your mind. A study showed that participants who went on 90 minute walks in nature (as opposed to an urban setting) had decreased instances of rumination, which are repetitive and often negative thoughts. Rumination is a key factor in mental disruptors like depression and anxiety. So when distractions are not present, you can be. After all, being outside makes room for more mindfulness.
2. Movement is Medicine
Take a hike. No really, take a hike! Solely being outside and breathing in fresh air has copious mental health benefits, but coupling that with movement will elevate your mental—and physical—wellbeing substantially. Moving our bodies increases oxygen to our brains, decreases stress, promotes the growth of healthy neurotransmitters, improves sleep, and acts as an antidepressant.
Then we’ve got the physical benefits of movement. Exploring the outdoors can inspire play, and there’s so many benefits of play! Remember how important play was to you as a child? It enabled judgement-free self-expression and boosted imagination, informing so much of who we became and largely influencing our cognitive development. Psst: those benefits still apply to adults. It helps alleviate stress, promote creativity, and boost energy. Personally, I find so much joy when my inner child is awakened!
3. Shifts Perspective
Ever gazed at a dark sky glittering with a star-filled milky way? Or peered up at a giant Redwood you can’t see the top of? Nature is inherently inspiring and serves to remind us how much beauty this world holds. It instills awe and wonder, which can help expand our curiosity and creativity. This positive perspective shift can do wonders for our minds.
Whether you’re taking in the views from atop a mountain or paddling waves in the vast ocean, nature has a way of reminding us that there’s more to our lives than the mundane, and can help us zoom out and focus on the bigger picture. It helps us adjust our lens on life, viewing our past experiences, current situations, and thoughts of the future with gratitude and hope. Maybe your challenges don’t seem so impossible anymore. Perhaps this change in perspective equips you with the tools to address problems in a healthy and productive manner.
4. Cultivates Community
After exploring the wilderness alone, the polarizing but still notably adventurous Christopher McCandless wrote one of his lasting concluding thoughts in his journal:
“Happiness is only real when shared.”
The outdoors has this unparalleled way of gathering together people from all walks of life. It acts as a common thread, connecting people with different jobs, lifestyles, perspectives, and experiences, and pulling them into a beautifully diverse community.
Cultivating human connection and maintaining a sense of belonging is key for sustainable mental wellness. Isolation can keep us in our own heads, so spending time and talking through our thoughts with other people can be healing. I experienced some of the most profound and perspective-shifting conversations around a campfire, on a trail, or at the base of a boulder project.
No matter your background or experience, nature is welcoming and doesn’t discriminate, and you’ll most likely find that a lot of people who enjoy nature act the same way.
And speaking of relationships: when we’re constantly in fight or flight mode (i.e. anxious), it shows up in how we interact with others. We may find ourselves flighty and temperamental, or constantly reacting instead of responding — all without even realizing it. When we strip ourselves of daily distractions and immerse ourselves in nature, we have more space to breathe and reflect in a healthy way (not ruminate). It enables us to turn inward and check-in with ourselves. And once we identify our behaviors, we can make steps to amend it, if necessary.
So seek out and create opportunities to go outside. Schedule intentional time on your calendar to stroll, hike, swim, climb, explore — or simply be — in nature.
Your mind, body, and soul will thank you.
All too often I find myself lost in one of those Instagram holes; following only the coolest accounts living the lives you aspire to just seems like the best way to waste time. For me, these accounts are almost always outdoor or travel based and are often ran by women. If you’re looking for outdoor inspiring badass women you wish you could be friends with in real life, you are in the right place! This list has been curated by the Mtn Chicks team to bring you some of the most inspirational women on “the Gram”. Give them a follow when you get a chance! What inspiration women do you follow? Let us know in the comments!
Paraclimbing champion and East Coast native Maureen Beck looks to motivate those around her through her social media platforms. Born without her left hand but with a whole lot of heart, Mo has never taken no for an answer and never lets anything hold her back. Inspiring differently abled people to reach their full potential is what Mo hopes to motivate in others.
An outdoor enthusiast local to the North Eastern United States. If Jen isn’t in the classroom, chances are she’s in the Adirondack Park hiking to raise money and awareness for mental illness through @46climbs. She’s climbed 40,000 ft. in total elevation while raising over $1,500. Her photos show the true beauty of the Adirondack Mountains and those who hike their trails and the vision they can inspire.
Katie runs social media over at Outdoor Industry Association. An activist that is transparent and constantly willing to grow and learn from others is the kind of person I want fighting for my public lands and beyond! If you’re looking to laugh, learn and be inspired, be sure to tune into Boué’s Instagram stories. You might be lucky enough to meet Spaghetti, the dirtiest adventure noodle around!
A traveling adventure photographer specializing in elopements and engagement sessions. This van-lifer, now living in a sweet rig, shows not only the inside scoop on her shoots, but also her personal adventures and friendships that come along with them! Gorgeous shots of Alaska, Moab, Patagonia, Yosemite and beyond are matched with meaningful memoirs throughout her feed; Abbi’s trials and tribulations share her fear of heights, love for photography, and adventures with Callen and Charlie!
This stunning global citizen will have you itching for bright, luscious landscapes! Karen is a Uganda local with a love for nature and international relations; she gives the best information on Uganda and Rwanda and strives to share experiences she finds unique and exciting.
This desert-dwelling storyteller and her close-knit family of 5 will make you laugh, cry and long for adventure. Bri, her husband Keith, their fur children Bucket and Dagwood and their orange home on wheels, Bertha, live each day with intention. If your heart feels most at home on the road then you will appreciate this beautifully raw glimpse into van life via her rust hued stories and eloquently composed posts.
Breaking stereotypes by guiding rafting trips and leading hiking expeditions as a Plus Size Outdoor Influencer, Ashley is one badass chick you cannot possibly pass up on the follow. As someone who prides herself on breaking stereotypes, Ashley is out there to prove that people of all sizes can be outdoorsy.
Kerri is a High School wellness teacher and Adventurer of the New England Area. Lover of mountains, yoga and warm weather, following Kerri’s local adventures is on my list each time I find myself in a ‘scrolling mood’. Enjoy the raw beauty of the North East through Kerri’s feed.
With the motto, “collect moments, not things”, Farran provides stunning travel journals of places like Hawaii, New Zealand, The American Southwest and beyond. Gorgeous photos that will inspire you to visit beautiful outdoor places and cities alike; from sandy beaches to red rock and snowy mountains you will want to explore the world with Farran’s gallery as a guide.
Rachel is a Montana based artist known not only for her vibrant landscapes, but for her dedication to living life outside. As an environmentalist and humanitarian, Pohl promotes the welfare and protection of both people and the wild places they love. If you scroll through her feed you will find bright landscapes, both created by and visited by Rachel, adventure photos and an infectious smile.
Karen is the founder of Get Out, Stay Out, an organization that connects indigenous-migrant children with the outdoors through hikes, camping trips and multi-day backpacking adventures. As the daughter of migrant workers herself, Karen embodies the true spirit of adventure and is committed to increasing diversity and representation in the outdoors.
Photographer of the natural world who shares some of the most gnarly photos of wildlife and wild places on her feed. Follow her adventurous life through her stories OR join her on one of the many photography trips she hosts abroad! Erin’s feed showcases pristine photos of her adventures and her story features the down to earth chick behind the camera.
Sometimes we need inspiration to get outside or plan our next adventure, and other times we require an outlet from the not so outdoorsy parts of our lives. It’s easy to find these outlets through social media, and sometimes, you even learn a thing or two while you’re scrolling! Be sure to follow these Mountain Chicks to get your outdoor fix.
Sponsored by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
I had been to the Caribbean before, but it wasn’t until I explored Dominican Republic with the Ministry of Tourism that I realized just how much there was to do in the country.
The week I was able to spend in the Caribbean this October was one of the most adventure-packed weeks I have had all year! If you’re not sure about what there is to do adventure wise in a tropical country or you’re looking for a new vacation spot, then hopefully this blog will give you some ideas and put Dominican Republic on your radar. There are a ton of top things to do in Dominican Republic, but this what I would suggest for adventure lovers.
Arrive in Dominican Republic
To start your adventure off on the right foot, you’ll want to arrive in Dominican Republic via the Cibao International Airport in Santiago. Entering here will put you right where you need to be for the start of your trip!
Paragliding in Jarabacoa
I have a notable bucket list, and to my surprise, the DR is a hot spot for one of the activities on it!
Paragliding above the Jarabacoa region of Dominican Republic will leave you speechless! For this reason, paragliding is one of the top things to do in the Dominican Republic. You get 360 views of the mountains and jungle below, all while feeling the thrill of flying. Who needs a drone when you have a parachute?
Dominican Republic is home to some of the most awe-strikingly beautiful waterfalls. My group and I were able to take a short hike to Jimeona falls and swim in the water. You’ll be awe-struck by the sheer beauty and scale of this place!
Rafting the Yaque del Norte
Okay, so I suppose Dominican Republic is home to 2 items on my bucket list. Rafting on the Yaque del Norte is an experience that I will never forget and makes my list for top things to do in Dominican Republic while you’re there. While my group and I stayed on the easier rapids, there is the option for more advanced rapids as well. These beginner ones left me for a whirlwind, though!
Hike the Ebano Verde Trail
So you all know I love myself a good hike. The Ebano Verde trail was the perfect mix of jungle and views that I was looking for on this trip! The hike brought my group and I through dense forest and river crossing, making me feel a bit Indiana Jones-ish during the trek. In the end, we were rewarded with some time at a natural swimming hole. I was glad I packed my swimsuit!
Sun Bathe on Cayo Arena
If you’ve ever wanted to snorkel and swim in water as clear as gas, then Dominican Republic is the place for you! Punta Rucia and Cayo Arena had some of the bluest water I had ever seen in my life, which made for some fantastic sunrises! I would say Cayo Arena is definitely one of the top things to do in the Dominican Republic for adventure lovers. Getting to spend a day soaking up the sun on this kind of beach partially made me consider throwing my life away to become a forever beach bum.
Again, not such a shabby idea with views like this.
Depart Dominican Republic
This is the day you will, unfortunately, be departing Dominican Republic. If you chose, you could always explore Santiago before you leave! I decided to catch up on some much-needed sleep at my hotel.
Hikes, beach, rafting, paragliding and so much more adventure. What else could you want in one trip? Hopefully, this has convinced you to add Dominican Republic to your list of places to see! I’d also like to thank the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism for giving me the opportunity to explore this beautiful country. If you’re looking for more ideas for your DR trip, you can visit the Ministry’s website here.
This blog was written by Maria Camargo of Humbled By the View
Spiderman says that with great power comes great responsibility. So what does this mean in the context of recreating outdoors? If you find yourself in a place of privilege and have the ability, the means, and the “power” to spend time outdoors, then you also have the responsibility to inform yourself on how to leave the least impact possible when doing so. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, or simply like to hit the trail for a workout from time to time, you should hold yourself accountable for protecting public land so others can enjoy it for years to come. Leave No Trace is more than picking up your snack wrappers from your hike, and it’s time we all understand why.
I want to take this time to name that although I consider myself to be passionate about both the outdoors and sustainability, I haven’t always gotten this right. I’m not an expert in leaving no trace and I make mistakes all the time. However, I own my responsibility to stay educated on what I can do and educate those around me to the best of my ability to be as environmentally conscious as possible. And that’s what I hope you will get out of reading this blog post.
The History of LNT
You’re probably (at least I hope) reading this because the outdoors lights some fire inside of you and you’re intrigued on how you can do your part to take care of it on your every adventure. In this post, I’m going to attempt to take the mystery out of leave no trace (LNT) principles to make responsible recreating a critical aspect of your next outing.
But first what is it? LNT started in the 1960’s when the US Department of Agriculture began promoting a minimum impact camping message: “pack it in, pack it out.” The idea was that everything you brought with you should be taken out. It was a simple slogan to try to mitigate human impact on public land. The message developed into Leave No Trace when there was a realization that there is much more to minimizing your impact than picking up your granola bar wrapper.
In 1993, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service came on board with LNT as a universal way to encourage people to minimize outdoor impact. Educational programs were implemented, signage was made, and park rangers informed guests of their responsibility to maintain public land. Soon after that, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics became a non-profit organization dedicated to minimizing impact on public lands. The intent rooted within LNT-style programs is to raise awareness, reduce depreciative behaviors, increase knowledge, influence attitudes, and enhance visitors experience.
How do I do it?
So now that we’ve got the history of Leave No Trace locked down, what are the Leave no Trace principles and what do they mean? There are 7 official Leave No Trace principles as outlined by LNT.org, and they are:
Although some of the principles seem self-explanatory, there is usually an explanation or example required to fully understanding the intent of each principle, and that’s why we’re here. Research has found that backcountry recreationalists (probably) have a better grasp of the LNT principles and therefore implement them more frequently and effectively than front country recreationalists. However, the majority of public lands visitors are guided to front country areas (defined as areas easily accessed by car that are mostly utilized by day users) so it’s important that everyone, no matter what their adventure will look like understands what it truly means to Leave No Trace.
Plan ahead and prepare and travel and camp on durable surfaces are two principles designed to keep visitors on pre-blazed trails if you will, in order to minimize human impact on delicate surfaces. When you’re on a trail ridden with switchbacks, it’s hot, you’re hungry, and your legs hurt, it can be awfully tempting to cut the switchbacks to get to your end destination just a little bit faster. What most people don’t know, is that this shortcut can cause erosion, substantially damage or even kill fragile plantlife. This same principle exists for backcountry camping, and if there is no predetermined campsite it’s your responsibility as a conscious camper to scope out durable surfaces to set up. I grew up in Maryland where most trails are marked clearly, but as I’ve began to explore more out West it’s common for even the busiest trails to be unmarked. This is where you’ll need to plan ahead by bringing a map, examining the trail ahead of time, or using an app like AllTrails to stay on pre-existing trails to avoid negative environmental effects.
Leave what you find is simple. That cool rock looks way better in the wilderness than your kitchen table.
Minimizing campfire impact is most effectively implemented by minimizing campfires. If you are staying at a campground and there is a fire pit or a fire ring, utilize it responsibly making sure the area is cool to the touch before leaving. In the backcountry where things can get out of control quickly, especially in drier environments, it’s best to avoid fire altogether (especially if it’s prohibited, integrity folks). Camping technology is so advanced that there is no longer a need for a campfire for survival. Although it can be warm and cozy and contribute to the experience, it’s a short term benefit to your experience versus a long term benefit to the environment.
Research shows that the two least understood principles of Leave No Trace are dispose of waste properly and be considerate of others. As I mentioned before, at some point throughout the last 80 years, a misconception formed that leaving food scraps behind is an acceptable method of disposing of them because they will eventually decompose. There are two major issues with this misconception. The first is, the word “eventually” holds a heavy meaning in this context. In some places it can take up to millions years for food scraps to decompose. The second is that outside food poses an extreme danger to wildlife. When wildlife consume “human” food, they quickly become dependent on being fed and lose their ability to fend for themselves that often leads to a sooner death. So try to think twice before you or someone in your party wants to leave behind their orange peels.
Be considerate of others seems to be the most loaded principle of all. There’s so much to untangle to truly understand this principle but the easiest way to understand and implement is to use a reasonable person standard. Empathy in the outdoors is vital for you, your fellow adventurers, and the land to have an optimal experience. Sometimes it’s not that self-explanatory but that’s why there’s articles like this one and first hand accounts to learn! Although it can be fun to carry a speaker while you’re hiking and it’s easy to assume some people love the music just like you (this is something I’ve been guilty of), you’re not really in a place to make that assumption. It’s totally cool if you want to hear music but this is a time to put those headphones in to avoid impacting other people’s experiences. Another example of being considerate to others, is if you have to go, do so a healthy distance off the trail. People don’t want to step in your pee if they can avoid it.
So who’s job is it?
LNT and other sustainable practices are the responsibility of everyone. No one is exempt from the burden our planet is currently facing, so do what you can to stay informed and make easy lifestyle changes both in the outdoors and in everyday life. I challenge you to educate those around you, whether they are your friends or strangers. Most of the time individuals who seek out the outdoors carry strong values, so if they’re ignoring LNT principles it may be out of sheer ignorance that can be combated by your ability to empathetically inform them of the effects of their actions. In addition to being a LNT teacher, do your part in clean up trash or food scraps as you encounter them on the trail. You may not have been the one to drop it, but as soon as you spot it, it’s your responsibility to clean it up.
Many of these principles are the reason a lot of your favorite adventurers on instagram avoid adding a location to their posts. Location services oftentimes attracts an overwhelming amount of people to beautiful, exotic destinations, many of who have no understanding or no intention to practice LNT principles. As I did the reading in an attempt to prepare to write this blog post, I learned that rangers prefer to be educational rather than confrontational when implementing these practices. Return the favor by educating yourself and proactively protecting the land that brings joy to you and leave that opportunity open for generations to come.
Let’s take care of the outdoors the way it takes care of us.
This blog was written by Danielle Deering from The Adventure Project
Knowing now what I’ve learned about the importance of taking time to love on yourself before you can love on others, I’m here to talk a little bit about how to do that in these cold weather temps.
With our thermometers dropping daily and tasks like going through last year’s ski gear in full swing, it’s no secret that winter is on the way. Though some people may thrive in the cold months, I tend to be drawn inside more than usual, regardless of the continuous weekends spent at the ski hill. For me, the indoors breeds the possibility of irritability, anxiety, and a general lack of inspiration at times. Knowing this heading into winter, my game plan is to consistently carve out solo mom time in order to recharge those batteries. In addition to that, I know to make absolute sure that at least some of that solo mom time is spent taking my butt outside to breath in the fresh air of these magical mountains I’m so lucky to live in.
Because the mental health of my fellow moms is something so near and dear to my heart and because, let’s face it, mommin’ aint easy, I wanted to offer a ready-made list of quick and dirty winter activities to keep on hand. After polling a handful of trusted outdoorswomen and reflecting back on the activities that stand to draw me out into the cold each winter, the following list was created with lots of love from me to you.
Top 10 Winter Activities For Adventure Moms
Soak & Sip Day
Let’s start easy. Find a local hot spring (hot tub or bath work too) and get on in, girl. Don’t stop there, though. Fix yourself up your favorite cup of tea or glass of wine. Soak. Sip. Repeat.
Solo Ski Day
Whether it’s busting out the cross-country gear or taking yourself out to the local ski hill for some downhill action, there is nothing quite like strapping the ol planks on and feeling that sun on your face.
Bath Bombs & Great Reads
Only have a handful of minutes at the end of another long and busy day? Draw yourself a bath. Throw in some essential oils or a favorite bath bomb and pull out that book you’ve been meaning to read. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, take time to just float away.
Alpine Lake Skating
How long has it been since you put on a pair of skates? Maybe this is your thing, maybe it’s been 20 years. Either way, alpine lakes make for some of the best skating, if only for the scenery alone. Not up for a giant adventure of accessing one? Go take a spin at your local rink instead. Not everything has to be epic, moms.
Make some Feathered Friends
Here’s some more low hanging fruit for you. Grab a bird feeder, fill it, and wait to see what birds come to visit. If you want to get real fancy on us, stop at your local library and rent a bird guide to learn a bit more about who lives in your neck of the woods.
Winter Photography Excursion
Whether it’s taking a walk in the woods right out your back door, or planning a trip to that special spot that’s been on your must-see list for way too long, grab your camera and go. It’s amazing all there is to shoot when it’s just you, the outdoors, and a fresh blanket of crisp, white snow.
Hobby … What’s that?
When’s the last time you learned something new? Winter is the perfect slow season to learn to knit in your yoga pants, take up screen-printing, or join that pottery class in town you’ve been dying to get to. It’s time to challenge your brain and wake up that old heart of yours, mom. What is it that YOU like to do?
Have you tried snowshoeing yet? It’s like winter hiking, just with way bigger boots. Pack some slices of your favorite cheese, throw in an apple, maybe some hot cocoa and let your feet do the talking.
Where are my adventurous moms at? Dogsledding is invigorating, fascinating, and all kinds of adorable (if you’re into adorable sled dogs like me). Take yourself out on a brave, new adventure. Or, better yet, grab your fellow adrenaline seekers and hit the trail.
Bonfire & S'mores
Winter fires are by far the coziest. I like to set up in the sun, snuggle into my favorite blanket, and warm my toes by the fire. Next comes the s’more building. Peanut Butter Cups are my favorite way to take my dessert game to the next level.
I hope this inspires you to keep filling that cup and pushing your limits.