How to: Speak like a Climber

This semester I climbed at the rock wall periodically- yay for Free Climb Fridays at Kent State’s rec center- and I quickly learned there’s a certain culture that exists at the wall. Most people I met drink black coffee, wear khakis and flannels and spend as much time as possible outdoors. I fit right in.

 

However, the more time I spent with my friends at the rock wall, the more I noticed the language barrier that existed between us. There’s a whole slew of words and phrases that make up a climber’s vocabulary- from belays to arêtes to the Yosemite Decimal System– all of which make up this new language I’m learning.

Below are a couple common conversations I heard at the wall, translated into standard English:

What they say: “Can I get a belay?”

What they really mean: “Can someone hold my rope so I can climb up the wall and not fall to my death?”

What they say: “Oh that route’s tough. It supposed to be a 5.8 but it’s more like a 5.10.”

What they really mean: “The direction you’re supposed to climb up the wall is hard. On the Yosemite Decimal System (a system that rates the difficulty of technical climbs from 5.0-5.15) this route is labeled as a medium level route but it’s actually closer to medium-hard.”

What they say: “Let’s climb over by the dihedral instead. There’s a route there that has a couple nice jugs.”

What they really mean: “Let’s climb on a part of the wall where two planes of the wall come together to form a corner. There’s a way to get up the wall that has a couple super easy places to put your hands.”

What they say: “Try to get your legs up! You can smear your right foot and then stem your way up.”

What they really mean: “To climb higher on the wall, you’ll need to move your feet up the wall. You can put your entire foot directly on the wall for friction and then spread your legs into a wide V-shape to work your way up.”

What they say: “Take!” “Got you.” “Ready to lower.” “Lowering.”

What they really mean: “I’m at the top, can you get rid of any slack in the rope?” “I took the slack out, I’m holding on tight.” “I’m ready to come down.” “Bringing you down.”

Now that I’m not a student and lost a lot of the freebies that come with being in undergrad, I hope to spend some time at Rock Mill and Cleveland Rock Gym. Stay tuned for more posts to come this summer about climbing and other adventures! Until then, enjoy this super adorable photo of my friend Kait and I at the rock wall.

Guide: Gorge Metro Park

The abnormally warm weather we experienced in Ohio called for a spontaneous hike last weekend, so my roommates and I packed into my Jeep for an day hike at Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls.

The Gorge Metro Park has three trails: the Glens Trial, the Highbridge Trail and the Gorge Trail. We chose to hike the Gorge Trial, which takes you to Mary Campbell Cave, above the Cuyahoga River, through stunning ledges and past a small, drippy waterfall. It’s a 1.8 mile hike roundtrip, perfect for our afternoon adventure.

The Gorge Trail is the yellow blazes

It’s been a while since I went on a good hike, and I was reminded of a handful of hiking do’s and don’ts. Here are just a couple lessons learned at Gorge Metro Park.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Gorge Metro Park
DON’T wear Chacos

It’s February. It was 60+ degrees outside. The trail was exceptionally muddy. By the end of our hike, my feet were pretty gnarly. Enough said.

DO bring a nice camera

As I mentioned before, my roommates joined me on this hike and two of them were photography minors! All the photos in this post are from Ally and Emma. You should check out their Instagram accounts for more wonderful pictures: AD Productions and Emma Chu Photography. Needless to say,we have a lovely collection of pictures from our hike, including this one of me looking just like “the Snoop Dogg dog.”

Haley makes a funny face that looks like Snoop Dogg

 

DON’T forget to bring snacks

We left a little after lunch and hiked into the evening, so we were very hungry ladies! I almost always bring a granola bar or small snack but totally forgot to pack something for us that day. We were all a little hangry on our drive home.

DO have a good grip on your phone

This was probably the hardest lesson learned. The Gorge is full of beautiful rocks and ledges and although they’re made of soft sandstone, phones don’t stand a chance. I took out my iPhone 6 to snap a picture and proceeded to drop it on an exposed rock, shattering the screen. One week and $107 later I have a new screen, with a shatter resistant screen protector.

DON’T climb the rocks if you can’t easily get back down

If it’s hard to get up, it’ll be even harder getting back down. I climbed up into a cave which was super cool to see, but I definitely struggled with getting back down again. Thankfully I had my tall roommate as my spotter. Think before you climb!

Haley climbing into a cave Haley sitting in a cave

What to Wear

If you’re going on a spring hike like we did, I highly recommend wearing clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty. We climbed all over everything so I was covered in sandstone, mud and moss when we left. As always, proper footwear is the most important part of a good hike. Tennis shoes, hiking boots and Chacos are all good choices to me. You’ll want something with extra traction for this hike, especially if you plan on exploring the ledges!

Dara, Ally and Haley's shoes

What to Bring

SNACKS. Like I said, we forgot to bring a trail treat which was a sad mistake. I also suggest bringing a water bottle, camera and phone, with a phone case and screen protector of course. Maybe bring a couple baby wipes too if you plan to play. My hands were very brown when we left.

The National Park Service Goes Rogue

I don’t want to get too political here, but this is something worth talking about: our national parks are going rogue and Cuyahoga Valley National Park employees are part of the resistance.

Quote about park rangers leading the resistance

Why They Went Rogue

Okay let me back up- rogue Twitter accounts didn’t pop up just because they want to. Here’s a little background about what happened that led to alternate accounts.

On inauguration day, the Trump administration released alternative facts regarding the inauguration attendance, causing yet another controversial discussion about the legitimacy of his leadership. Twitter users responded, sharing comparison photos of Trump’s inauguration crowd next to Obama’s 2009 crowd, debunking the administration’s false claims. The National Park Service account jumped in and retweeted the photo, fueling the fire.

National Park Service Retweets inauguration post

The new administration followed up with an email to thousands of employees in the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service, stating that all Twitter accounts are to be shut down “until further notice.” The administration now says the shutdown was to ensure the security of the accounts. Below is a quote from the email, originally reported by The Washington Post:

“All bureaus and the department have been directed by incoming administration to shut down Twitter platforms immediately until further notice,” said an email circulated to thousands of Interior employees.

By the next day, the National Park Service account was back up and running and issued an apology for its retweet, but new accounts like the Alt National Park Service and Badlands NPS Fans were also on the scene, sharing sassy posts and starting heated conversations.

The Parks Fight Back

Trump has made plenty of offhand comments about climate change and other issues relating to the parks, but his order to shutdown the National Park Service Twitter account seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Employees from Cuyahoga Valley and eight other national parks created the Alt National Park Service, a growing coalition of park employees speaking out against the Trump administration. They even have a website for people to join their movement to preserve the environment for future generations. Below is a photo of a beach in Acadia National Park, originally posted on their Facebook page:

Resist written on a beach in Acadia National Park

Individual parks also went rogue and nine national parks now have alternative accounts, but my personal favorite is Badlands NPS Fans. Although the Badlands account isn’t run by park employees, it still contributes to the conversation with its tongue and cheek posts about climate change and politics. Below are a couple of my favorite tweets, published on their feed:

Badlands tweet

Badlands tweet

Buzzfeed called this “the one protest no one saw coming,” a perfect description of the situation at hand. I mean, who would’ve thought that park rangers would lead a resistance against the President?

New Year, New You: Yoga Edition

So I’m not much of the new year resolutions type, but this year, I had an itch to rekindle an old habit: yoga. I was introduced to yoga when I registered for an “easy elective” yoga course my sophomore year of college. My class met just once a week for a little more than an hour, but that minimal time commitment brought lasting benefits like learning to focus on what really matters in life and destressing from my busy college schedule. Not to mention, I could finally touch my toes for the first time in years!

I decided to return to the practice this year and enrolled in a free, 31 Days of Yoga bootcamp from Yoga with Adriene. Let’s be real though- I’m just 7 days in and it’s totally kicking my butt. Yet, this core burning, sweat inducing yoga routine is so worth it. Here’s why.

Haley does a yoga pose
Why I Yoga
It improves my posture, strength, balance, flexibility and more

As I said before, yoga gave me amazing flexibility (I’m already inching closer to a no-bent-knees forward fold!). In addition to increased flexibility, yoga also creates strong core muscles, promotes better posture and improves your balance. I always go back to yoga because it makes me feel (and look) great.

I feel connected to God

Yoga is about connecting the mind, body and spirit, which makes it deeper and more spiritual than your average workout. Yoga encourages self-reflection and being present, and I love to use those principles to guide my thoughts during the practice. By engaging my mind, body and spirit, I feel close to the Holy Spirit and grow in my understanding of God, his character and his plan for my life.

I feel refreshed

I really feel fantastic after a yoga practice, no matter how intense or calm it was. Because of yoga’s peaks and valleys structure, I always end feeling refreshed and relaxed, more limber and loose both physically and mentally than when I started.

It’s free, easy and versatile

Yoga has to be one of the most low maintenance exercises out there. Ultimately, all you really need for a successful yoga practice is yourself. Of course, a mat and yoga instructor are important components but not so much necessary, especially if you’re an experienced yogi. But for those of us who aren’t totally comfortable going solo, there are some great online resources out there like Yoga with Adriene. On her YouTube channel you’ll find practices for every need, all for free! Because yoga is so minimalistic, it’s perfect to do at home, on vacation, at a park… really anywhere your heart desires.

Haley's cat near her yoga mat

And the final reason why I yoga? Cats. My cats love the texture of the mat and usually stop by to walk across it and rub against my legs. Ebony, the one pictured above, is a regular visitor.

Guide: Brandywine Ski Resort

Winter has officially begun, which opens up a whole new world of outdoor play. Northeast Ohio has it all when it comes to winter activities including a surprising number of ski resorts. My favorite? Hands down: Brandywine Ski Resort in Peninsula.

Brandywine is located in the heart of CVNP, next to it’s companion hill, Boston Mills, just off Riverview Road. The park does a great job directing you to the slopes- I drive by at least three signs on my way in. Parking is free, but lift ticket and rental rates vary depending on your age, time of arrival and whether or not you bring your own gear. Brandywine also hosts special events throughout the season that could affect the price. If you’re a college student like myself, the best time to go is college ID night as lift tickets and rentals are only $35!

My favorite part about Brandywine, aside from their College Late Night deals, is that this resort is perfect for all types of skiers (and snowboarders!). On the trail map below, you’ll see Brandywine has three green trails, three blue trails and three black diamond trails. The resort also has two terrain parks and a snow tubing area, making it ideal for extreme thrill seekers, 8-year-olds and everyone in between.

A map of Brandywine's trails, reposted from bmbw.com
*Shared from bmbw.com
My Top Two Trails

I started skiing in 4th grade when I joined my elementary school’s ski club. However, I didn’t stick with it like some kids do and became more of a casual skier rather than a die-hard winter sports gal. I’m an intermediate skier- I nailed the french fries pizza pie rule but no flips or jumps for me- so naturally, my favorites are the blue trails.

Outer Limits

This trail sits toward the back of the hill and is the longest trail at Brandywine. The trail has some huge rollers on it, making Outer Limits a long, fun trip down the hill. It’s also a little more private and secluded than the other hills so the trail feels less “commercial” than the others at the resort. And of course, the longer ski lift is a nice break from skiing and offers a pretty view of CVNP.

 Downdraft

Downdraft is a step-up from Outer Limits and has some exciting features to it like a sharp left turn and trees lining both sides of the trail. It’s also steeper than Outer Limits and gets your adrenaline pumping on your way down. I usually hit this trail last after warming up on a couple green and blue trials. It leaves a great taste in my mouth, making me want to come back for more!

What to Wear

Haley and her two friends at BrandywineFirst, make sure you check the weather. Ohio winters bring both sub zero temps and 40+ degree days. That being said, I almost always dress in slightly less clothing than I normally would for a winter day. Remember that skiing and snowboarding is exercise, and there’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than sweating in cold weather.

When I dress for a night on the slopes, I try my best not to wear any cotton. Cotton holds moisture like sweat and melted snow, which makes for a long, cold uncomfortable night of skiing. I start with a base layer of non-cotton leggings, Cuddl Duds long sleeve software shirt and wool socks. Then, depending on the weather, I’ll add another long sleeve and a pullover. For my outer layer, I slide on a pair of snow pants and either my down winter coat or light rain jacket. Last but not least are gloves and a knit ear warmer.

For shoes, I actually wear boat shoes. Brandywine’s equipment rental includes ski and snowboard boots, so I wear my boat shoes because they’re comfortable to drive in and easy to slip on and off. Regular snow boots work fine as well, but mine are way too bulky for me to wear for a short amount of time.

What to Bring

Money, chapstick, tissues and your college ID, if you go for College Late Night. For whatever reason, my nose always runs when I ski, so tissues are a must. Brandywine also has a lodge with snacks and drinks, so bring a little extra cash in case you get the munchies. I’d also suggest bringing a water bottle to drink for the drive home.

Arial view of Brandywine
*Shared from Boston Mills Brandywine Instagram account, @bmbv_av

#OptOutside on Black Friday

Black Friday brings out the camper in all of us. But rather than camping outside your favorite retail store, why not camp in your favorite park?

For the second year in a row, Seattle-based outdoor co-op REI will close its doors for Black Friday and give its employees paid time off to #OptOutside. More than 540 other retailers chose to partner with REI and encourage America to stand outside rather than stand in line.

 

How To: #OptOutside in Ohio

You can join me and the 4 million people who pledged to #OptOutside this Friday. Be sure to share your experiences on social media and check out REI’s filters like the one I made below. Here are just 4 outdoor activities you can do in Northeast Ohio:

1.Go for a Morning Run

If you ate a little too much stuffing and mashed potatoes, consider a morning run to melt off Thanksgiving’s extra calories. Medina’s Buckeye Woods Park is my family’s favorite and great for some post-holiday dinner exercise. You can choose from five different trails, making the park perfect for any occasion. Run the yellow or green trail in the Schleman Nature Preserve for a quiet, woodsy experience or take the paved Chippewa Inlet Trail for a more open and urban feel.

This Black Friday I'll be outside2. Break out the Bike

Not into running? Me neither. I’d much rather be on a bike. The Towpath Trail offers 85 miles of bike-able terrain and follows the historic Ohio & Erie Canalway. You can pick up one of 50 trailheads anywhere between Cleveland and Dover. My family and I biked from Indigo Lake to Boston Store back in October.

3. Ice Skate Downtown

Feeling festive? Cleveland and Akron’s outdoor skating rinks are now open! Bring your family to Cleveland’s Public Square or Lock 3 in Akron for an afternoon of skating and other Christmas activities.

4. Visit Northeast Ohio’s Waterfalls

Ohio is home to many beautiful waterfalls, and a whopping 16 falls are here in Northeast Ohio! Make it a day trip and visit them all or choose just one to admire for the afternoon. Check out this interactive Google map of the waterfalls in our area:

So what do you say? Will you go out with me?

7 Ways to Leave No Trace

I’ve gone on a couple trips at this point, so I wanted to take a moment and talk about something called Leave No Trace. This is the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program and teaches others how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. The organization offers endless information about caring for the environment, so I created this easy infographic to explain the 7 ways you can both enjoy the outdoors and respect the natural world. Comment below to tell me what principles you decided to try!

An Infographic that displays Leave No Trace 7 Principles

Something New: Backpacking

Last weekend I didn’t shower, ate carbs for all three meals and carried at least 20 pounds on my back. I went backpacking.

The group standing on the trail with packs

Because it was my first time backpacking (I’m the one with the purple pack!), I decided to create a short video to capture all my experiences and share them with you! In it you’ll see some great footage like waking up to the remnants of Hurricane Matthew, playing in stacked hammocks, a salamander cameo and a beautiful overlook.

Okay so a quick disclaimer: I didn’t backpack in Ohio, I actually went to the Allegheny National Forest in Sheffield, Pennsylvania. It was about a three hour car ride from Kent- so although it was technically outside my home state, it was still a realistic trip when it came to distance and price.

I went on this trip through Kent State’s Adventure Center, which is where I worked during the summer. In addition to it being a great weekend with a couple of my summer coworkers, the trip cost $40 which included travel, food and gear- that was a deal I couldn’t pass up!

Twelve people went on the trip including myself. Three of my summer coworkers were our trip leaders and the only experienced backpackers on the trip! So I wasn’t the only one trying something new.

Fall hillside at Minister Valley Overlook

Are you ready for a unique adventure too? Great! The Adventure Center has a running list of other great trip opportunities, both overnight and day trips. Check their program site for more details.

Guide: Virginia Kendall Ledges

The ledges trail is a moderate, 2.2 mile hike that takes about an hour and a half to complete. I don’t think I’ve ever finished it in that short of a time because I love to explore and meander while on this hike. I’m typically here for 2 to 2 and a half hours. Check out the National Parks Service trail map to see what the loop looks like.

As with almost all parks, the address can be a little tricky. The trailhead is at the Virginia Kendall Ledges Shelter off Kendall Park Rd. The tricky part is that if you’re coming from the West, the street is called Kendall Park Rd but if you’re coming from the East, it’s Truxell Rd. Free parking is available at the shelter. You can use an interactive Google map at the end of this post for some extra help.

The Ledges: Best Kept Secrets
Haley stands in the ice box caveThe Ice Box Cave

The ledges trail is littered with nooks and crannies between the rocks, but this cave takes the cake. The Ice Box Cave gets its name for the frigid cold air that rushes out from the 50 ft. deep crack. The cave is around the halfway point of trail, offering a perfect spot for a break on a hot summer day. When I was in high school, my friend and I were able to crawl back in it, but now the park closed it off to protect the bat population that lives in there. Here’s a taste of high-school Haley, circa 2011. You’re welcome.

The Scenic Overlook

Along with a great hike, the ledges also offer a beautiful overlook for visitors to enjoy. It stretches for miles and on a clear day, you can see a water tower way off in the distance. But the greatness doesn’t stop there- the overlook faces west, so cuddle up on a cozy blanket or tie your hammock between two trees to watch a gorgeous sunset.

Rock Carvings

Here’s a fun fact: before the ledges were part of the national park, a farmer, William Ritchie, owned them. Sometime in the late 1800s and early 1900s, someone went back into the ledges and carved petroglyphs (rock carvings) in the sides of the sandstone. Rumor has it that the artist chiseled headstones for a living. No one knows for sure who did it- it could have been Ritchie, one of his relatives or someone else entirely. See if you can find the two silhouettes and horse the anonymous artist carved! Be sure to share your pictures with me on Instagram or Twitter with #CelebrateCVNP.

a petroglyph of two silhouettes

 What to Wear

The right shoes are essential for a great hike. I’m prone to twisted ankles and this trail is pretty rocky, so I wear hiking boots or Chacos, both of which are supportive and protective. Tennis shoes will do as well, but definitely avoid flimsy flip flops! As far as your clothes go, any sort of athletic wear is great; I wore athletic shorts and a cotton tee for my most recent hike. I say wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and allows a little flexibility.

What to Bring

A water bottle, camera and maybe a snack is all you need for this calm hike. A hammock would be fun too if you want to find a spot to relax between two trees.

Celebrate 100 Years in CVNP

2016 marks the 100th birthday of the National Parks Service and outdoor enthusiasts are celebrating the centennial by enjoying America’s 84 million acres of preserved land. Thankfully, us Ohioans don’t need to spend a fortune on a trip out west to enjoy this milestone birthday, we can celebrate the centennial right here in Ohio’s own national park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park created a list of 100 things to do in CVNP to encourage Ohioans to explore the great outdoors. I took on their challenge, and you should too! Keep me updated on how you celebrate the centennial by commenting with whatever adventures you embark on. You can also share your stories on social media with #NPS100 and #CelebrateCVNP. I chose to do #54, Enjoy the View at the Ledges, and share my experience on my favorite CVNP trail.

 

Celebrate CVNP: My Hike at Virginia Kendall

Ritchie Ledges at the Virginia Kendall Reservation is my favorite area of CVNP. The ledges are absolutely breathtaking and offer a peaceful escape from the busyness of life. I visited with my roommate, Ally, a fellow outdoors woman who is as much of a spontaneous trailblazer as myself.

Haley walks across a bridge near the Ice Box Cave at Virginia Kendall

The 2.2 mile trail started by leading us through the cool pine woods. After a short hike, we arrived at a stone staircase and realize we were standing on top of the ledges. The ledges were tall and made of sandstone that crumbled to the touch. Vegetation like moss, ferns and even trees grew on the sides of the stones.

The trail was difficult to follow; it appeared to meander everywhere as thousands of people have created their own pathways as they walk alongside the rocks, through tight tunnels and around boulders. We chose to do the same and follow our own trail as we explored the ledges in whatever way we saw fit for the day. This is why I love the ledges trail; it’s a different experience every time I visit.

As we continued our hike, climbing up and over fallen rocks and squeezing through tight spaces, the ledges grew taller and taller, now two to three stories in height. It’s amazing to think these great structures were carved out so long ago by glaciers during the ice age!

Soon we arrived at the ice box cave, appropriately named for the cold air that rushes out of it. The cave is home to a group of bats and also has a clean, icy stream flowing from it. As we walked on, the ledges grew so tall that we eventually had to backtrack and find a way to get to the trail on top of ledges. The trail continued to lead us along the edge of the ledges, eventually ending at a scenic overlook that stretched for miles.

Do you want to visit the ledges too? Check out my trip guide for the ledges and learn about some of Virginia Kendall’s best kept secrets.