Big exciting updates

Married in Las Vegas

My goal when I started this blog was to write 2x weekly, and the last couple weeks have been silent… but I had good reasons!

As you can guess from the photo - I got married! Eloped in Las Vegas and everything. I’m really happy to have such a wonderful person in my life (even if I’m definitely the outdoorsy one in the family.) I run a weddings company for my day job and let me tell you – no regrets at all on eloping. Will be planning a big party in a year or so, however!

Second, last Friday I got LASIK! I’m going to write a full post on this, but planning for (and then recovering) definitely distracted me from my outdoor activities and posting about them here. That all said, I already have 20/20 vision and it will probably get slightly better once my eyes completely heal. I am so excited to ditch contacts and glasses!

What a fun couple weeks! Stay tuned for that LASIK post. :)

Wish List: Attend Burning Man… Again

wish list: burning man

The day I got home from Burning Man, after 6 hours of driving starting at midnight.

A few years ago (2010) to be exact, my partner and I attended Burning Man. Burning Man is basically a giant weeklong festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, where upwards of 50,000 people show up to “celebrate community, self-expression, and self-reliance” (according to the Burning Man website), or “party” (according to the bros we camped next to when we attended.)

Regardless of the designation, Burning Man was one of the most awesome things I have ever done — something completely out of my element, completely different than what I do day-to-day here in “real life.” My favorite part was the art, which was everywhere — giant, fire-breathing sculptures (with no fences, assuming you would be smart enough to stay out of the flames, which was kind of a nice change of pace from the overly warning-label obsessed society we have today), humans who’ve decorated themselves as art, as well as camps that dedicated themselves around a theme (giant climb-y sculptures, a full restaurant, and thousands more.)

I’ve wanted to attend Burning Man since High School, when my eccentric and lovable world history teacher would wax poetic about his years going to Burning Man, but even then (in the year 2000), ranting how it had “changed”, and grown into a pop-culture event and that he was no longer attending.

14 years later, it’s at least twice as big as it was in 2000, and even more mainstream. My Facebook posts this year were filled with my friends talking about getting tickets. Every September after the event, friends upload scores of photos to Facebook to show off their time at Burning Man — something I completely avoided doing when I was there (no electronics, tried to stay in the moment, and kept my experience private), and I will admit to feeling annoyed at friends bragging about their experience publicly.

Those annoyances aside, I’ve wanted to go again — my first time, I spent a lot of my visit feeling unsure and worried since I didn’t know what to expect, and I hope that going a second time, I’ll be able to relax, enjoy, and experience the event even more. No time like the present, right? Except that the tickets are very expensive and my wallet is fairly empty — so my partner and I have applied to financial need tickets, and will leave it up to the fates whether we go this year. Unfortunately normal tickets are completely sold out at this point.

So: Burning Man, wish-listed for 2014 but will wait to 2015 if I need to.

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Gear List


One of the most important things you can do when planning a long distance backpacking trip is ensure that you’re hiking with as little weight as possible. It’s hard to leave creature comforts at home (“but mom, I neeeeed that fancy cookset”), but every step that you take is going to be significantly more painful with every extra pound you take along.

I’ve forced myself to go ultra-lightweight when I scored this lovely backpack at a REI garage sale the other day:


The REI Flash 52. Which is apparently not a backpack you want to bring more than 30 lbs with, but is a great, lightweight pack for anything less. So the challenge is on!

Here’s my list so far:

Gear Name Weight in lbs Weight in oz
Backpack REI Flash 52 2 lbs. 15 oz. 57
Pad Big Agnes Insulated Q Core 1 lb 16
Sleeping bag Mountain Hardware Ultralamina 32 1 lb 15oz 31
Headlamp Black Diamond? 3.9 oz 3.9
Nalgene Nalgene 3.5 oz 3.5
Water bladder Camelbak 100 oz 6.5 oz 6.5
Mug Summit to Sea X Mug 2.4 oz 2.4
Spoon Light My Fire Spork 0.2 oz 0.2
First Aid Kit Adventure Medical Kits UltraLight / Watertight .7 First-Aid Kit 8 oz 8
Camera iPhone 5s + case 3.95 oz + 1.05 oz 5
Hiking poles ? 1 lb 4 oz 20
Towel REI MultiTowel Lite Small Towel 0.75 oz 0.75
Sunscreen Neutrogena Sport 4 oz 4
Pee funnel Sani-Fem Freshette Feminine Urinary Director 1 oz 1
Hand sanitizer Purell 0.40 oz 0.4
Bug spray Jungle Juice 0.40 oz 0.4
Bear canister lil sami 1 lb 5 oz 21
Kettle GSI Outdoors Hae Tea Kettle 5.8 oz 5.8
Tent Big Agnes Flycreek UL2 2 lbs. 5 oz. 37
Camp shoes Hacked sleeping pad 1.1 oz 1.1
Pillow Exped Air Pillow UL 1.6 oz 1.6
Maps John Muir Trail Map-Pack: Shaded Relief Topo Maps 3 oz 1
Knife ? (perhaps get multitool?) 3 oz 3
Soap Sea to Summit Citronella Wilderness Wash Soap 1.3 oz 1.3
Toilet paper
Emergency matches
Duct Tape (on poles)
Spot or PLB
Chapstick with SPF


The above is coming in at ~15 lbs.

Then, there are a couple choices I need to make:

Water filter Platypus Gravity Works Bottle Kit 9.5 oz 9.5
Sawyer Squeeze 3
New stove? 3.9 oz 3.9
Stove fuel ? 3.5 oz 3.5
Super cat stove 0.75 oz 0.75
Denatured alcohol 8-16oz 8


I already own the Gravity Works, but could save 6.5 oz if I get a Sawyer Squeeze. But I really, really love my Gravity Works. Not sure yet if I want to buy even more gear.

I also need to get a new stove, so I’m considering this highly rated stove on Amazon. But I’m only bringing a kettle since I’ll just be heating water for my meals, which works really well with a kitty food can stove. But the denatured alcohol looks to be heavy, canceling the savings? That said, not even sure I have the stove fuel weight right in the above table either.

I’m also considering bringing a SPOT or a Personal Locator Beacon for emergencies, but that adds to the weight as well.

The unfortunate thing is that my gear list so far, including anticipated food and full 3L of water is coming in at 32 lbs. Right on the edge of being too heavy for the Flash 52.

Any thoughts on these decisions, or on any other gear I’m planning on bringing?

Oh, and a bit of an update: like a dork, I wasn’t able to get a pre-season Wilderness permit for the John Muir Trail (because I totally didn’t realize that I needed to be ready in early February to score a permit for early August — d’oh!) I’m resolved now to get a permit the day-of or day-before my planned date as recommended by Reddit, meaning I’ll have to wait in line from 5am until 11am, but if that’s what I need to do, then so be it. Don’t be like me and miss the permit deadline!

photo credit: SteveD. via photopin cc

Wish List: Rafting Guide School

Wish List: Rafting

I’ve mentioned before how I almost quit everything to become a rafting guide. Then computers happen (or at least, didn’t go away), I launched my startup WeddingLovely, and ended up not going to New Zealand to become a rafting instructor and travel for the rest of my life.


Not that I regret my current path — working for yourself on your own time is a pretty sweet deal — but I do wish I spent more time outdoors, especially rafting. There’s something about the combination of slow, relaxing floating with adrenaline-filled rapids. Unfortunately, it’s so expensive to go often (at least, for a cheapo like me). However, I might have found a solution.

The rafting company I used for my very first rafting trip has a one week rafting school. Unfortunately not three months like the New Zealand option I was considering, but one week of dedicated rafting might get this bug out of my system — or at least, tamp it down a bit.

Fees are $675 + 8% river use fee (so, ~$729), which doesn’t seem that bad. Unfortunately I don’t know much about other rafting companies in the Sacramento area, so I’m not sure if this is a good price or if it’s a good guide school. All I know is that my original rafting guide said she loved it and highly recommended Mariah, and everyone seemed happy.

So, May 2014: rafting guide school. Not to go into guiding after, but just so I get a week of rafting out of my system, and a potential side career for summers in the future.

Thoughts? Recommendations? Cheers of encouragement? Leave them in the comments!

I Climbed Half Dome in the Dark — Photos, How-to and Tips

I Climbed Half Dome in the Dark — Photos, How-to and Tips (5)

  • Location: Half Dome, Yosemite, California
  • Distance: 15.7 miles (out and back)
  • Ascent: 4,800 feet
  • Difficulty: Extremely strenuous

A few years ago, I had the magical experience of climbing Half Dome — but not just any ol’ Half Dome hike; we started at 3am in order to catch the sunrise at the top. There are a ton of great reasons why you should do this: cooler temperatures, sunrise views, and almost most important of all, less crowds.

Here’s some of the photos from this awesome hike, and at the end, I’ll relay some of my tips and recommendations if you want to do the same trip.

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Hiking Herring Creek Road, Stanislaus National Forest

Hiking Herring Creek Road, Stanislaus National Forest (1)

  • Location: Herring Creek Road, Stanislaus National Forest, Strawberry, California
  • Distance: 3.3 miles (out and back)
  • Ascent: 521 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

The last of our big hikes from my New Years trip to my cabin in the mountains (see hike #1 and hike #2 respectively), this started out a bit eventfully — we initially drove up the mountain to see where the road closed (which turned out to be kind of lame and boring, thought there would be more to see), we then drove down to where we initially wanted to hike, and turns out the entire area was taken over by a sledding hill with no real way of getting to the hiking trail (not to mention we were wearing hiking clothes, not snow boots.)

It was getting late and I was worried about getting home before dark, and turns out I shouldn’t have worried at all — we found another hike (really, a fire road where people go four-wheeling, but I’ll take it), and it turned out to be super lovely, especially with the sunset.

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Hiking the John Muir Trail: Snagging Permits

Hiking the John Muir Trail: Getting Permits

It’s February, and you’re planning a John Muir Trail through-hike in August. Did you know you should have already applied for your permits?

Hi, I’m Tracy, and I’m panicking a bit.

Okay, that might be a bit hyperbolic, but I’ve told myself (for the last few years) that I needed to do the John Muir Trail, and preferably before I turn 30, which makes this year the last year before my arbitrary deadline rolls around. I’m rather busy (working on my company, WeddingLovely), and just now remembered permits. I have March 1st on my calendar for when the Half Dome permits are issued, but you can get Half Dome permits along with your Wilderness permits, which opens earlier in the year.

Here’s the deal if you’re doing JMT too this year, and starting in Yosemite:

If you’re going to leave through Yosemite, you’ll need Yosemite Wilderness permits. 60% of the permits are available 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of the day you’ll start your trip (and if math isn’t your strong point, here’s a table to help you pick which day to apply.) 40% are available first-come, first-served the day before your hike. I got a permit for my Half Dome hike a few years ago the day before and had no trouble, other than standing in line for awhile (30 min+).

Which means, if you’re planning on hiking the JMT starting in early August, you should have already applied for your Wilderness Permit or plan on doing so ASAP. Apply here.

Starting the JMT from another trailhead? Find out where to get your permit here.

Another tip: The Yosemite Wilderness Permit website allows you to fill out the form on the website, but it crashed two separate times for me, so I had to go back and fill in the form over and over. Download the form instead and use to fill in the form and fax it in — so much easier.

Anything I’m forgetting or should know about the JMT? Let me know in the comments!

Edit: Well, just got the notification that my initial permit request was denied for all three dates I requested. Trying the next three dates, here’s hoping it works!

Edit 2: The people at the Wilderness Permit office must hate me — I’ve sent in request after request for later and later dates, and I keep getting email after email of denials. At this point, looks like I can get the August 12th start date (which opens tomorrow at 7:30am), or I can come the day before my ideal start date (July 30th) and try to get one of the first-come, first-served passes. The problem here is the additional Half Dome permit, which I could get if I got an early permit for JMT, but not if I get the day before. So I’ll have to add myself to the lottery on March 1st and hope I get one of those too. UGH. All of this would have been avoided had I realized when the 168 days began! I think at this point, the first-come, first-served pass works best. Oh fun.



Gear Review: Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes

Gear Review: Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes (3)

Shorty review time! I bought these cubes ages ago on my first trip through Europe. I used a suitcase with wheels, and these cubes worked marvelously to keep my clothes organized.

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Pat’s Backcountry Beverages Beer Concentrate for Backpacking and Camping

Pat's Backcountry Beverages

Image via Pat’s Backcountry Beverages

I love beer. I loveeeee beer. One of the best parts of my 2013 Europe trip was spending 90% of the trip in beer loving areas — Germany and Prague. And seriously, one of the best parts about a long day hike is drinking a cold lager or pilsner when we return home (though, honestly, I’ve never been a fan of shower beers!)

I’d love to take a couple cans of beer with me while hiking for a mid-hike treat, but I worry too much about weight to really go through with it. So when I was perusing Today and found their article about beer concentrate for outdoor adventures, I was intrigued (and a little scared.)

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