Colorado

I arrive at Raegan airport a little after 5am. I am flying out to Denver for a weekend snowboard trip to Keystone, Breckenridge, and Vail resorts. At the gate I meet my new group of friends from DCESK8. We are excited to be trading the pavement for powder. We arrive in Denver to a cold misty fog. Barren fields make it feel like we actually landed in Kansas. The drive progresses nicely into a twisting road weaving through the mountains.

After the most breathtaking drive and various stops to stock up for our weekend adventure, we arrive at Breckenridge. We hurriedly change into our snowboard gear in preparation for night snowboarding at Keystone. From 4pm-8pm we enjoy our first taste of Colorado snowboarding. The runs are endless, the trails so wide it doesn’t feel like a trail at all. It is invigorating rushing through the crisp night air. The chairlift rides are quiet and cold as we float through blackness. It is only 6pm but it feels like 2am. The slopes are empty as we race each other hooting and hollering. This is what we live for.

It snows all night and we wake up to a powder day in Breckenridge. A friend who works at Vail recommends I skip Breck and make my way an hour to Vail instead. I try to convince our group that we should take her advice, but they are deadest. After a lengthy walk from our condo to the ticket office, I am ready to hit untouched pow. Instead I stand in a ticket line, then a lift line, then make my way down a groomed flat trail only to stand in another lift line. I feel like I am trapped in a maze trying to navigate anywhere that isn’t crowed with tourists. The upper peaks are closed, and the ones that are open have zero visibility due to the snowstorm.The most exciting part of Saturday is walking down to Breckenridge village for dinner. Margs after margs appear as we enjoy our Après ski wholeheartedly at a Mexican restaurant.

A couple hours later Aaron starts suffering from food poisoning. As the only female out of our group of seven men, I take on mommy duty to drive Aaron to the hospital. It is blizzarding outside, the roads are unplowed, and I am driving 80mph to get to the hospital. Aaron has been whimpering and is slowly losing consciousness. Marc, aka the most annoying person on planet earth is backseat driving. Every glance at my GPS is followed by a “watch the road”. We are 10mins from the hospital and Aaron starts to lose feeling in his hands and body. He starts screaming that he is going into paralysis.

We arrive at the hospital with Aaron in full shock. The hospital staff if way too calm for the insanity that has taken over Aaron. We sufficiently get him checked in and begin the wait. Within an hour he is fine, the shock has subsided, and he is only suffering from dehydration and possible altitude sickness. An oxygen tank and IV seems to have cured him. 3am rolls around and his discharge is right around the corner. Until its 4am and the hospital staff tells us they got busy with another patient. At 6am I make the executive to drive back to Breckenridge to get some sleep while we wait for Aaron to be discharged. I sleep for a solid 45minutes before I get a call to pick him up from the hospital. It’s odd being the designated caretaker of someone I just met, but I am thankful he is ok.

Arriving back at the Airbnb, breakfast is made, and everyone is ready to head to Vail. I am too excited to even care that I didn’t sleep after a full night of being at the hospital. The drive to Vail is insane. The mountains are blanketed in pure white, and I can’t help but oohing and aaahing at every turn. Before we are even on the slopes I am already in love with Vail. The German style town is ridiculously cute, and unlike Breckenridge it feels empty. There is no line at the ticket booth, and we walk right on the gondola. Even though the real powder day was yesterday, there is so much untouched territory left. The sun is out giving us the most perfect blue bird day we could’ve asked for. I am in complete bliss as we shred through powder up to my knees. The day flies by and 4pm comes way too quickly. I am reluctant to leave, but already scheming for a way to come back.

Arriving back in Breckenridge we hit the hottubs and nom out on our last day. I feel infinite as I swim through the misty outdoor pool. I am so eternally thankful for making it on this trip. I feel at peace floating next to snow covered pool chairs. I let myself get lost in time, reminding myself of how special it is to be there right now. Our chill session ends abruptly after the bitchy female hottub attendant realizes I’ve been enjoying the amenities topless. She calls the cops on us and claims we are unruly. We laugh and make the trek back through the snow to the Airbnb.

We head out to the town of Breckenridge for our last night. We find a karaoke bar and wait patiently for our turn to sing obnoxiously. Everyone in the bar is singing along and cheering as if they’re at a live show. I vow to never sing Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey ever again after watching video footage of my performance. Marc sings Do You Realize by the Flaming Lips. “Do you realize that life goes fast, its hard to make the good things last.” It is the perfect ending to our ski trip.

The drive and flight home are spent reflecting on how thankful I am. Thankful that Aaron only got sick and didn’t break a bone. Thankful to be able to experience the Colorado resorts I had only heard of prior. Thankful for having the opportunity and time to make the trip out west. Landing back in Raegan, I watch the lights from the tiny houses form the veins we call our cities. Everything is beautiful from up above. I let myself get lost again in the peace I feel while traveling. Even if just for a weekend, I feel as though everything is right in the world.

 

Morning Fog

I love the morning. Waking up when it’s still dark, letting my body stretch to the first rays of sun. I imagine myself stepping out to the sunrise somewhere warm. Looking out at the waves quietly licking the shore. Smelling the salt air.

Early mornings always put me in a good mood. Maybe that’s the definition of a morning person. I love 7am flights that require waking up before the rest of society. Feeling the energy of people traveling somewhere. Maybe I should be a flight attendant.

This morning I drove from Arlington to Leesburg, from dark to light. I love watching the darkness disappear, the bright pink clouds that accompany a morning sunrise. Seeing all the cars heading into the city. Recognizing all the souls that are heading somewhere important.

I am feeling good this morning. I am a little foggy, but I like it. Calm nostalgia is my favorite blanket. I fall in love with my mind when it isn’t twirling anxious circles. The quiet fog is a nice touch to a morning sunrise while driving against traffic.

I have nowhere important to be. I toggle between heading home to sleep some more, or heading to a coffee shop. I choose King Street Coffee. I have a quiet itch to write. The past couple times I’ve tried, ugly words have appeared on the screen. I don’t like to publish my raw meanderings of the depressed mind.

Yesterday was one of those days. The darkness slipped in while I wasn’t looking. Perhaps I drank it down in my morning coffee. I hysterically bawled. I let every insecurity pour out and overwhelm my body. I couldn’t hold back the uneasiness I’ve been hiding. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. Like I’m lost on a journey without any clue where to head to next.

But isn’t that why he put eternity into our hearts? So that we cannot know what is in store for us?

I ended my night with skittering through the streets of Washington, D.C. on an electric skateboard. It was almost freezing temperatures, but I don’t remember being cold. Bundled up like I was snowboarding, I rode the pavement. Gliding up hills, flowing down. Cold is numbing. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved winter.

Tomorrow I have a 7am flight to Denver. I booked an impromptu trip. I tend to do that. I am excited for the emotions I know I will feel. The feeling of traveling. Of being someone important with an agenda. Tomorrow I will have a purpose.

 

 

My Life Is Better Than Yours

At the near end of my trip to Portland something hit me with more force than anything I’ve ever experienced. I was sitting in a hipster filled cafe in Portland across from Jacob, a new friend I met recently.

Jacob is one of the eight or so identical faces sitting with a scruffy beard and plastic framed glasses. We are having a conversation about a new app that he found that helps you gain instagram followers by following accounts and then unfollowing them shortly after they follow you. He is ecstatic that for $50 a month his social following has increased tremendously, which in turn has given him a successful ego boost and helped him seem more legitimate online.

Across the table I am steadily losing hope. My frustration over my unsuccessful job search is intensified by a $7 cappuccino that tastes like acid. Any excitement about Portland has subsided and been replaced with crippling anxieties about my worth. I try to verbalize my situation to Jacob, but emotionally we are on completely different ends of the spectrum. It is an uncomfortable see-saw ride of me trying to confide in someone, while his excitement about making Portland a forever home radiates accidental guilt. It is mid conversation about his successful roommate search that he hits me with a sentence that sends me into an existential crisis.

“I feel bad talking to you right now because my life is so much better than yours.”

My immediate reaction was disbelief and anger. But my usual uncensored tongue disappeared into a quiet stillness of complete surrender. I spent the rest of the day in contemplation not of a rebuttal, but of what his words meant in a broader sense of today’s world.

We live in a society that often times measures worth based on how successful you are for your age, or the places you’ve traveled to, or how well a particular season of your life is going.  In order to measure success we must have something to compare it to in order to determine success. But pushing all that aside, there is a fundamental similarity between everyone’s lives.

No ones life is better than yours.

Your life is the only life you will ever have. There is no amount of dreaming, time traveling, or instagram posts that will make your life better than someone else’s. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, regardless of how awesome it is, because you are the only one who has the honor of living out your life.

Even though it has been a dark and stormy season in my life, I am still marveling at the beauty of being alive. We are so blessed to be here on this earth regardless of our circumstances. We cannot forget how special it is that we are living on a baby speck of dust in the this giant universe. There is no time to waste letting ourselves be broken down by other’s perception of our life.

Next time you try and compare yourself to someone else, remember how thankful you are for the combined memories of your life. Whether good or bad, every second of each day has brought you to where you are today.

I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s. My life is my best life, because it is the only one I will ever get a chance at.

Road trip to Portland

The road trip to Portland started from Mammoth Lakes, CA. My friend Jacob invited me along to help with the driving; he is planning on moving to Portland and this trip determines the logistics of his move. The agreement is that once we arrive we will spend one day together before we go our own ways in order to fully experience the city on our own terms. I am ignoring that last statement in hopes that isn’t the case. I prefer the company of others to being alone, who doesn’t?

Monday July 9th, we embark, two days of driving will ensue before we arrive at our final destination. The vehicle is Jacob’s 2008 firetruck red Volvo. The road towards Reno is curvy alongside barren tan mountains. Reno can be spotted in the distance by the alien grid of green trees that clearly do not belong in the particular climate. From Reno up towards Northern California it changes from tan desert to dark green evergreens littering the mountains.
Seven hours of driving later we arrive at Castle Crags to camp for the night. The camp spots are nestled between tall trees and the sound of clicking cicadas overhead sound like electricity. We catch the end of sunset at the overlook of the crag and meet Kye, a surfer nomad from Hawaii. He recommends Indian Springs trail to hike in the morning. The rest of the night is spent in the tent drinking Pineapple cider, reading inspirational quotes, and laughing at old blog posts.

In the morning we climb 1000+ elevation to the base of Castle Crags. I struggle with the elevation, letting Jacob press ahead without me. Arriving at Indian Springs it is just as Kye described, magical. The springs are quietly trickling under foot. Looking up, moss covered rocks make a gentle tinkling waterfall.

The second day of driving continues, halfway through the speakers unexpectedly go out. Considering both Jacob and I are heavy music lovers this is a serious issue. We stop at the nearest Auto Zone and Jacob checks the fuses, nothing seems to be out of place. We turn the car back on and by the grace of God everything is fixed.

Portland, OR

36648331_202575530429155_4852942217003663360_n(1)The first thing I notice about Oregon are the yellow tinged hills. Everything looks like it is basked in a Sepia filter. The closer we get to Portland, the greener it gets. Sepia turns into luscious greens. It isn’t quite mountainous, instead rolling hills of evergreen trees.

We arrive at the first Airbnb in Richmond, a neighborhood in Southeastern Portland. Oddly enough it reminds me a lot of Richmond, VA. The street we are staying on is full of hip coffee shops and bustling restaurants. We choose Pok Pok for dinner, a Thai restaurant with a long line of people waiting to be seated. Somehow, we get a table right away.  The papaya salad is delicious, so is the mango sticky rice, a Chang beer finishes off the meal nicely. Exhausted after a long drive, we skip cocktails at one of the many lively restaurants and instead drink Kava tea and watch a movie.

The next morning, we explore Richmond a little further. Sitting at Heart coffee for some quality interneting, I start to come to the realization that despite Portland’s trendy neighborhoods, every city is the same. So far it reminds me of Boston, or perhaps Brooklyn, or as I said earlier Richmond, VA. I am internally bummed that I thought Portland would be different. I am annoyed with myself for thinking this new location could make me feel at home.

Leaving the coffee shop, we make a last-minute decision to spend the rest of the day driving to Hood River. Within minutes of the drive I am feeling eternally more relaxed at the sight of trees and the roaring river. We cross from the Oregon side to Washington, heading over the Bridge of the Gods. Our drive from there is nothing short of breathtaking; the road is right next to the river and Mt Hood is peeking out in the distance. We wander around the town of Hood River for approximately 30minutes before hopping back in the car to head back to Portland. I secretly wish we could explore more, but Jacob seems annoyed with my company. The drive from Hood River back to Portland is a quiet one.

Montavilla, OR

Arriving in Montavilla, an odd feeling of abandon induced by having no idea where I am going, or what I am going to do, creeps into my brain as we pull up to my Airbnb. This time I do not have the comfort of knowing that I will have someone with me to endure the unknown. After saying a solemn goodbye to Jacob, it hits me.

I feel incredibly alone. Like the deep sinking you get in your bowels after realizing you have no one but yourself to hang out with for the foreseeable future. The title of the Airbnb I booked, “Cozy Oasis for Lone Traveler” couldn’t have felt more spot on. The chic coffee shops and sleek apartment buildings that accompanied the vivacious neighborhood of Richmond is replaced by a sad looking duplex on the corner of a crumbling gravel road surrounded by a tiny yard of brown dried grass.

Despite the outside of the house lacking in appearance, inside it is nicely furnished in a rustic chic fashion. My bedroom is a twin bed with a faux white sheepskin throw and a world map on the wall. Little bible verses and inspirational quotes are tucked away in different parts of the house. The tea collection as mentioned in the welcome book is amazing. I brew myself a cup of tea to calm my nerves and let myself settle.

The constant go-go-go! I’ve been experiencing arrives at a splintering halt as I realize I am now completely and utterly alone. Upon walking into this foreign haven, the familiar bubbling of words about to spill out of my fingertips meets my loneliness. I sit in silence at the small kitchen table with a steaming hot cup of tea to keep me company.

There is an urgency as I start to write. It comes choppy at first. My first sentence that jumps out on the page is “I am writing this this to test myself.” My writing mind has been in a deep slumber for the past nine months. This is the restart. Nine months of waiting for something exciting enough to happen to feel as though it was worthy of writing. Nine months of percolating thoughts left simmering on low, while my life zombied on in a direction I thought I wanted to go. In this deep loneliness I find comfort in the ticking of the keys on my Macbook. I feel like I have a purpose in recording these heavy hitting emotions. I let myself get sucked into the simple act of reflection that is so often forgotten in the busy day to day. I spend the next seven hours typing away, making memories into written form. To be continued.

 

Mammoth Hot Springs

IMG_5997Mammoth Lakes California is a small town located an hour south-east of Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. In the summer, Mammoth Lakes is a hiker’s haven, in the winter Mammoth Mountain is a snowboarder’s dream. As you can probably guess, the town is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Besides beautiful mountains, Mammoth is also home to more than a handful of hot spring courtesy of the volcanic geography. To access the springs, head out towards Mammoth Airport on Green Church Rd, and you will find most of the popular sites just a short drive from town.

Syphon

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My favorite hot spring is Syphon because of its large deep tub, serene views, and camping nearby. My recommendation is to catch a meteor shower from the tub until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer, camp a couple hundred feet away, and then wake up to watch the sunrise from the warmth of the tub.

One of my favorite memories at Syphon was during Super Park 21. I showed up at the springs only to find the Thirty-Two Snowboard van parked out front. The tub was packed with snowboarders that were riding in the event. There was barely enough space for another person but I made sure to squeeze right in next to Scott Stevens. As if it couldn’t get better than that, he almost left his phone next to the tub. I kindly told him before it was too late, although looking back I definitely should’ve stolen it and added my number.

Wild Willy’s

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One of the other most popular hot springs is Wild Willy’s.  Unlike Syphon, Wild Willy’s is a natural tub with a creek feeding directly into it. The appeal of Wild Willy’s is the size of the tub. It is probably triple, if not quadruple the size of Syphon. The best way to enjoy Willy’s is with the addition of floaties to keep your buns off the natural pebbly rock bottom. It is also the most picturesque because of the natural grass surrounding it and mountains in the far distant.

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My favorite memory at Wild Willy’s was when I accidentally met Shaun White. It was a pitch black night, so dark you couldn’t see more than a couple feet in front of you. I thought I was seeing things when I saw a small dog on the side of the tub. Swimming closer I realized it was the cutest dog I had ever seen, some kind of Yorkie mix. Paying attention only to the dog, I shouted in the direction of who I thought was the owner, asking the dog’s name. The guy I started a conversation with said the pup’s name was Leroy. I didn’t bother asking the guy’s name because I was frankly too preoccupied with this cute little fluffer.

I kid you not, this dog was too perfect to be a normal dog. If you’ve already followed the link you may notice that this dog has 42,300 followers on Instagram. Well… I didn’t know this at the time, so I continued to baby talk this dog, and then joked about stealing him because he was so cute. At this point I noticed a woman saunter over in my direction while I continued my conversation with this man. After a solid conversation I swam back over to my friends in the opposite corner of the tub.

“How was your conversation with Shaun White?” my friend asked with a smirk. At first I thought he was joking, but it took me a second to put two and two together. Besides it being dark, the guy I was talking to did not look anything like the Flying Tomato I remembered. His hair was far from red, not that I could tell in the light, and it was short and slicked back. During the entire conversation I was completely unaware I was talking to a multiple winning Olympic gold medalist.

Well, if things couldn’t get any more ridiculous, I realized after doing a little snooping on Instagram that the lady I saw saunter over was Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel. Aka, one of my favorite bands in college that I’ve seen perform various times. She also seemed to have undergone a makeover because her usual black hair with bangs that I remembered was instead a short blond boyish pixie. Sarah is dating Shaun, and Leroy is Sarah’s dog, hence her hovering when I mentioned stealing her dog.

I still laugh at myself for letting that entire scenario happen without having a clue of who I was talking to. But that’s the beauty of Mammoth. Mammoth Mountain is home to many pro snowboarders and skiers, and no one is exempt from enjoying the natural beauty. If you get the chance to visit, check out the hot springs because you never know who you might meet.

 

 

How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever loved a place so much it hurts your heart? That’s how I feel about Mammoth Lakes, California. I can feel every memory from my time spent there radiating through me. I want to pinch myself to remind myself it was real. Up until now, I still consider my move out to Mammoth as the climax of my life, peaking there among the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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The journey to Mammoth started before I even knew my destination. Attending college at James Madison University, I was surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Although I never did much exploring outside of JMU’s campus, it was during my Junior year of college when I discovered Snowshoe Mountain Resort.

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the effortless lifestyle surrounding Snowshoe Mountain. Everyone I worked with had one thing in common, a desire to spend as much time as humanly possible shredding the gnar. I spent the next two winters of college commuting on weekends to the powdery mountains. I graduated college in the spring of 2016 with dreams of finding a lifestyle that matched what I had found in Snowshoe.

Fast forward a couple months after college and I accepted my first real job working as an ESPN Live Event Operator. Despite my job literally consisting of getting paid to watch sports, I quickly realized a fancy job title was not enough to keep me satisfied. Pushing my nonexistent dreams of moving up with ESPN, I quit my job to find something better.

I let my heart lead me back to the place I fell in love with the winter before. I returned to Snowshoe in January of 2017 to work full time as a retail supervisor. Living at Snowshoe full time meant more time to spent shredding, and an intensified appreciation of an outdoor lifestyle.

IMG_3014It was nearing the end of Snowshoe’s winter season when a couple of friends mentioned they were trying to move West. I took the opportunity seriously, and within a couple weeks I accepted a job as a retail supervisor at Mammoth Mountain Resort. My friends didn’t get jobs, but that didn’t stop me. I gave myself one week at the end of Snowshoe’s season to pack up my entire life into a giant green body bag and head out West.

On April 1st 2017 I arrived in Mammoth Lakes without knowing anyone or anything. It was a record season of snowfall and the roads were like tunnels, with snow banks as tall as houses on both sides. I spent the next five months shredding every morning, working in the afternoons, and skateboarding till sunset.

Mammoth Lakes was my first real move. The first big step towards creating a life I was proud of. In September of 2017, everything changed.