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How-To

May 28, 2019

The Wonders of a Weekend Warrior

Part-Time Writer, Part-Time Server, Part-Time Substitute Teacher... Full-Time Weekend Warrior

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

For the past several years, I have been a full-time nomad. No steady home, no rent checks, no cozy bed to come back to after a long day on the river. My “home address” is legally listed as my parents’ house in Missoula, Montana, but out of the past three years combined, I don’t think I have spent more than 60 days there. My real home is a 2003 Toyota Tacoma. I travel from river to river, parking where I please, and sleeping where I please. An old, beat-up topper covers the bed of the truck. One of the biggest learning experiences I have had from my life as a nomad – do not buy items off Craigslist at night, when you cannot fully inspect them.

Truck life. Photo: Seth Ashworth

“Nah, this topper is solid. No cracks!” is what I was told by the man selling it to me. Turns out,  I will believe anything I am told if it comes at a cheap price. Multiple days spent working with fiberglass and caulking glue have ensured that I have a dry place to sleep every night. Well… dry enough, at least. The topper, combined with a savvy carpentry project by myself, my dad, and my uncle, has provided me with a home for the past three years, which, not including the price of the truck itself, cost a whopping $150.

A recent illness acquired while traveling abroad has left me with some fairly intense food intolerances, which, as it turns out, are much easier to manage with access to a real kitchen. Reluctantly, I moved my minimal belongings into a real house and settled into a life as a weekend warrior. Hesitant to leave my nomadic lifestyle behind, I have vowed to work as much as possible during this strange and uncomfortable “house phase”, thus saving enough money to ensure many more nomadic days in my future, once I am healthy enough to get back on the road. Working as a part-time writer, a part-time substitute teacher, and a part-time server at an Italian restaurant, my “weekend warrior” routine evolved more into a “monthly warrior” routine. An unfortunate side-effect of working three jobs at once, I am finding myself paddling less than I would like. But the motivation of getting back to my full-time adventure lifestyle in the future is what is keeping me going.

A couple weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself with a full THREE days off of each of my jobs in a row! Not wanting to waste a second of it, I hastily threw a random assortment of warm clothes, kayaking gear, sleeping bags, and food necessities into my truck and took off on a mission.

Bouncing up and down, back and forth, all I can think about is keeping all four tires on the ground and not bottoming out. I am in a high clearance Toyota Tacoma, but the road is so bad, I am still occasionally hearing the nails-on-chalkboard sound of rocks against the truck’s undercarriage.

I am heading to Peace Wave, on the Salmon River in Riggins, Idaho. Situated on a sandy beach, deep in the canyon without cell service or contact with the outside world, the wave is a freestyle kayaker’s dream getaway.

I eventually reach my destination, pull into a sandy lot next to the river, and start setting up camp. Pulling my kayak out of the back of my truck, I am careful not to whack it against any of the other numerous items I have stashed away back there. I am only planning on being away from home for three days, but for some reason I have brought nearly every item I own.

Anxiously peering out at the river, I spot the wave that I came to surf. A beautiful, glassy, green wave, with the perfect amount of foam. This wave isn’t nearly as big and scary as the usual river waves I surf. In fact, in comparison, it is actually quite small. But I didn’t come here for a thrill. I came here alone. For the experience. I came here for some solo soul surfing in one of the most beautiful canyons in the western United States.


As I am sorting through my gear, getting ready for my first paddling session, I check my camera only to find the batteries are all dead. Typical Brooke… I bring everything I own, but don’t manage to check if the things I brought will actually work out there! I had promised myself that I would film my sessions, so I could at least pretend to be training and taking it seriously. 

I decide to put off paddling for one more hour while my camera battery charges. I dig my Jackery Portable Power Station out of the back of my truck, hoping it still has some charge leftover from the last trip I took with it. I plug in my camera, and right away the USB connection light starts blinking and I know it is getting some juice. 

Everyone needs to charge their phone, even while camping! Photo: Brooke Hess.

I spend the next hour pacing around camp, eating snacks, and anxiously checking my camera’s battery. A short 40 minutes after plugging it in, the battery reads 80%. Enough to go kayaking for two hours, and then some!


I quickly throw my gear on, set the camera on a rock, press record, and hop in my boat. I spend the next two hours throwing trick after trick, trying not to let the cold, October water dampen my spirits. Eventually, exhausted and hungry, I crawl out of my boat and walk up the rocks to check the camera. Still recording… perfect!

It’s just past 6:00pm, which in October in Idaho, means it is starting to get dark. I quickly get out of my kayaking gear, into some warm fleece, and start cooking tonight’s meal of turkey noodle soup. While cooking, I decide to plug my laptop into the Jackery Power Station to charge that up as well. If it is going to be getting dark this early, I might as well get some writing done in the evenings!

Screenshot from Brooke’s camera during her training session on Peace Wave.


Sitting on the tailgate of my truck, I eat my soup in silence as the stars begin to shine. I haven’t seen another person since I arrived at the river four hours ago, and probably won’t for the next three days.

After dinner, I decide to settle into work.  I am working on an article about River Access Fees. It is fitting that I am writing this article while camped next to a river with an access fee for multi-day rafting trips.

Several hours of transcribing interviews, picking out good quotes, and writing later, my eyes are so heavy I can feel my head slowly nodding towards my laptop screen. I stash my laptop and the Jackery Power Station, crawl into bed, and dream of surfing Peace Wave until morning, when I wake up and do it all over again.

Brooke working in her truck on a cold day in December. Photo: Sierra McMurry

Cover Photo by Sierra McMurry

 

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How-To

Sep 28, 2019

Learn How to Climb Like Alex Honnold (but with a rope!)

With the success of Free Solo and climbing's admission into the 2020 Olympics, interest in this sport has never been higher, so here are 5 simple steps to do it for yourself.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

You’ve just finished watching Alex Honnold’s Free Solo on El Capitan. Your hands are sweaty from holding onto the armrest so tight, your jaw is sore from clenching your teeth together, and you feel slightly nauseous from the knot that has formed in the pit of your stomach. But despite all the physical symptoms of anxiety you are experiencing, you still feel that aching urge for an experience. It doesn’t need to be exactly what Honnold is doing… a rope and belay partner would be nice! But you are curious. You start by googling “Rock Climbing”. Then “Yosemite”. Then “Yosemite Rock Climbing”. You soon realize you are in way over your head.

So, how do you start? How do you get into rock climbing?

Hopefully, this guide will help you figure out where to start.

Step 1: Find a local climbing gym

Google “rock climbing gym in _(your hometown)_”. Find a friend who also wants to try it out, and go! Don’t bother buying any gear yet. You can rent it there.

When you arrive at the climbing gym, make sure to express to the gym employee that it is your first time, that you have no idea what you are doing, but you are excited to learn! They will most likely be able to point you towards a class, clinic, or private lesson that will teach you how to tie into the rope for safety, how to belay, and several simple climbing techniques.

Your first time climbing (before you take a class) will most likely be a bit of an ego hit. The gym employee will most likely give you a pair of rental climbing shoes and lead you towards the easier bouldering routes. These routes are shorter walls over padded flooring. You don’t need a rope for bouldering, which makes it more accessible to beginners. However, due to the walls being shorter, the routes are often set to be more challenging. They are often more powerful and require better technique than roped routes. For this reason, your first time climbing might be difficult. But don’t be discouraged! This is how it goes for everyone.

Step 2: Take a clinic

Your local gym will most likely host various classes and clinics throughout the week to teach belay skills, climbing techniques, and strength training. Sign up for a belay class, take a technique clinic, and go from there!

Step 3: Buy some gear

Climbing gear can be bought in phases. Phase one is the beginner gear kit – shoes, chalk, and a chalk bag.
Go to your local gear shop – preferably a climbing-specific shop if there is one near you, get an employee to help you, and try on as many different brands, sizes, and models as you can. Every style of climbing shoe will fit your foot differently, which is why it is important to try on different styles and sizes to make sure you get the right one for your foot shape and size.

Phase two of climbing gear is buying a harness, belay device, and locking carabiner. Do this after you have taken a belay clinic, so you know how to safely tie in and use the ropes at the gym, and how to use a belay device.

Next stop, El Capitan!

Phase three will happen once you start leading and climbing outside. You might start out by just buying a rope and a set of quickdraws, but as you develop your climbing skills, you will slowly start buying more gear. Helmet, more shoes, a new carabiner, a rope bag, more shoes again, daisy chain, a new backpack… and eventually you will start building a trad rack, and your simple life as you know it will be over and all you will think about is climbing.

Step 4: Get a membership to the gym (and hopefully make friends while you are there)

The best way to get good at a new sport? – Do it a lot!
Get a climbing gym membership and go 4-5 days a week. Boulder, top rope, lead, whatever you want to do while there… just go! Try all the routes – not just the ones that you can easily finish – but all of them. Challenge yourself to step outside of your V0-V2 comfort zone and hop on a V4 or V5. Watch how other climbers move their bodies and position their feet to make the moves, and copy them. You might learn some cool techniques that make the routes easier and more fun.

While at the climbing gym, try to make some friends! Maybe post in a local climbing Facebook page that you are a newer climber looking for belay partners at the climbing gym, and possibly looking to learn how to climb outside as well. Most climbing communities are very friendly, and people are often stoked to take out new climbers and show them the ropes (pun intended)!

Step 5: Go outside!

Now that you have found a solid group of friends to climb with, get outside!

Next stop, El Capitan!

Cover Photo: The author, Brook Hess. Photo by Gillian Ellison.

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