Alright. So I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Bloggers and influencers work really hard to bring you the highlight reel. The best of the best. You see us standing proudly on mountain tops or wishfully looking out towards an expansive ocean on a pristine, white sand beach. Well, I’m here to tell you that we are, in fact, just regular people. Shit happens. Stuff goes haywire. So instead of bringing you a picture-perfect wrap up of my year, I’m bringing you the facepalms. The eye-opening, adrenaline pumping stories where things could have gone a little bit better. Oh, and plenty of totally embarrassing photos, because what is life if you can’t laugh a little at yourself?
Rattlesnake Encounter on Shelf Road
This past May I met up with one of my many internet friends, Vivian, to go climbing on some top-notch routes at Shelf Road. It was an exhilarating day, climbing well above my ability with a badass group of climbers. As the sun started to drop on the horizon, I knew it was time for me to return to the adult list of chores back home.
I had my dog with me and we were climbing down this boulder-ridden trail back to the car. In the desert, it’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a short leash, because rattlesnakes like to bask in the late afternoon sunshine provided by the trail. However, there was a step series of drops down a boulder. If I left Nina on a leash, she would get choked as I slowly climbed down behind her. So I let her off so she could have her space. Big mistake.
Once she hit the dirt a saw a long, thin object come shooting at her chest. She jumped, startled by the moving ground. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a rattle and spotted a huge, full-grown snake coiled up smack in the middle of the trail.
Terrified, I screamed at Nina to stay. The snake had come between us, and she kept trying to come back around it to rescue me. So, I picked up a rock. I figured if I threw it at the snake, it would slither off. But I couldn’t bring myself to hit it. Stupidly, I threw the rock towards the snake, striking the ground next to it. Bad idea. That pissed it off further. Eventually, I opted to hop over a nearby boulder after the snake had calmed down. Freaked out beyond belief, Nina and I made it back to the car.
Lesson Learned: Always stay vigilant when taking your dog into rattlesnake territory. I should have told her to stay and gone down the boulders first, checked the trail, then called her down. Also, snakes don’t like rocks thrown at them.
Attacked by Chipmunks at Gore Lake
We had been hiking all morning to this stunningly beautiful lake. Squirrel and I were celebrating our three-year anniversary in the backdrop of the unbelievable Gore Range. We decided to go for a walk and looked towards the few scattered trees off in the distance to hang our food bag. We shrugged, both of us were too lazy to hang it and the food was packed in odor proof bags and a waterproof stuff sack. Why worry? We left the food on the ground about 100 yards from camp. Outdoor fail.
We got back to camp to find both the waterproof stuff sack and the odor bag with the dog food chewed to oblivion.
Lesson Learned: Always hang your food. Even if you’re just around the corner. Tiny mountain critters will do anything for a bite of dog food.
Leaving the Hiking Pole at the Top of Loveland Pass
Mt Sniktau is a notoriously easy mountain. It’s a three-mile hill walk to the top and after attempting it on two separate occasions and getting thwarted by weather we were determined to take it on as a sunset summit after a particularly long week of work. We skipped up the thing and enjoyed a relaxing sunset with some snacks and sips of whiskey. All was right in the world.
We hopped back in the car and made the hour-long journey back home. As we pulled up to the garage, Squirrel realized he had left his hiking pole in the parking lot. By this time, it was nearly 10 pm. We knew it got crowded up there, and he didn’t want to lose his coveted trekking pole. So back in the car we went. This time, the drive wasn’t so magical, and we were quite tired. However, we retrieved the pole and returned home at 1 am, exhausted from what should have been a quiet evening in the mountains.
Lesson Learned: Always make sure you have everything you brought with you prior to leaving a rest spot, trailhead, or even your house.
No Traction? No Problem?
My friend Kristen and I decided to take a Friday and summit Mount Lindsay. Our sights were aimed at the class 4 route that required a good amount of scrambling over exposed rock. It was late August and we were excited to get out to the Sangre de Cristos and have a little ladies adventure. We slept in the back of her pickup and hit the trail first thing in the morning.
We knew that a thunderstorm had rolled through a day prior, but what we didn’t know was that the storm dumped hail all over the mountain. The next morning we were greeted with a slippery, hail-filled ridgeline. We didn’t have traction. It wasn’t horrible enough to give us alarm to turn around, but it certainly made the hair stand up on our necks at points.
To make matters worse, we ended up off-route and tried to correct ourselves by going up a gully that looked climbable instead of backtracking. An overhanging boulder caused us to backtrack to a different gully where we were able to get back on route. Overall, this goes against a lot of the basic mountaineering principals. Bad mountaineers! Bad, bad, bad!
Lesson Learned: Colorado is notorious for unpredictable weather. Always carry traction like Microspikes. Turn around when conditions are unfavorable. And learn your route. We were climbing a non-standard route and should have backtracked to the appropriate start to the route instead of testing out gullies. We got lucky.
Out of Control in a Truck on Jone’s Pass
For my birthday I wanted to take out our teardrop camper and hike Mount Elbert, the tallest point in the state with my little family. However, 50mph winds, sub-zero temps, and a snowstorm had other plans. Determined to get into the mountains and play with my new GoPro, Squirrel opted to drive me to Jone’s Pass for a little mountain action.
Everything was going fine, there was snow on the road, but we felt great in the lifted truck with knobby tires. Until, well, it wasn’t fine. The grade changed as we approached a switchback and Squirrel suddenly lost all control over the vehicle. Unable to stop and unable to go, we slid out of control towards the edge of the road. Miraculously the truck came to a halt.
“You and the dog OUT, NOW!” Barked John. I looked at him, scared. I got out of the vehicle with my dog and immediately fell on my ass. Quickly, I realized that we were driving on a sheet of pure ice, easily several inches thick underneath the snow. I watched in horror as the truck slid in and out of control. There was simply nothing I could do and I had convinced myself that I was going to watch the love of my life topple over the mountainside.
I tried to chase the vehicle, but I fell flat on my ass every few steps, as it was literally impossible to gain any traction. To make matters worse my GoPro freaked out and was documenting the entire ordeal via burst mode, taking 30 photos at a time of me falling, the truck skidding, and the dog surfing down the road.
I got back in the vehicle and we buckled up. Seriously bracing for impact several times as Squirrel continually lost control over the Tacoma. The only thing I could do was shut up and deal with the fact that I had zero control over the entire situation. Panic-stricken, I turned to documenting the experience in order to take my mind off of the danger we were in.
We finally made it down to solid dirt. All of us, extremely shaken. Kissed the ground and the vehicle, thankful to be alive.
Lesson Learned: This was another large pull from the Karma Jar. I don’t know how we could have avoided this one, other than to not mess with unpaved mountain passes after November.
Outdoor Fails: Mud Baths in the Jungles of Colombia
Trekking through the jungles of Colombia with my brother, Bentley, and boyfriend was one of the highlights of the year. I took my brother to Tayrona National Park in Colombia for his first trip overseas. We had read that the trail was well-maintained. That turned out to be a total lie. A third of the way in, muddy trails took over.
I fell in knee deep mud and came face to face with a big pile of horse crap. After that I took off my shoes and proceeded to walk two miles through the jungle barefoot in mud. The boys chose to leave their shoes on, which took forever to dry. Squirrel sacrificed his to the mud gods, and Bentley chose to strap his to his bag the entire way home. I felt bad for anyone waiting in line behind him at the airport! PS. We all got sick upon returning home. Each of us had unique symptoms such as recurring headaches, numb limbs, and walking colds.
Lesson Learned: Traveling barefoot through the jungle is not a great idea. In fact, you should probably avoid it. But sometimes, conditions force you to adapt on the fly.
It’s always important to remember to learn from your mistakes. Nature forces us to challenge ourselves in ways we never thought possible. When those challenges arise, keep an even keel, be sharp with your decisions, and always remember to smile.