Today I feel like…

I would rather be here. Counting the days down until we are on the road again. Travel bug bites are the itchiest. 20 days!

Tuesday

It’s only 2 days in to a really long week and the only thing that sounds good is a hot bath, hot chocolate and YouTubing Appalachian Trail videos.

This is 32 and 3/4.

J

Gear Forward

If you are passionate about the outdoors, please read! I promise you it will tug your heartstrings.

I am super excited to announce I have been accepted as Illinois Ambassador for Gear Forward. 

Gear Forward is a non-profit organization that accepts and distributes new and used outdoor gear donations to help outfit children and teens with appropriate supplies to ensure positive camping and backpacking experiences as well as building self-esteem, encouraging friendships and creating memories. Camping, hiking and backpacking changed MY life. It has become a passion I never knew I would come to love so much, and to be able to help a child in need – to expose them to outdoor experiences I didn’t have at a young age is what drives me to try as hard as I can.

The founder of this wonderful cause shared some stories with me that fueled me with the desire to help. He has witnessed young children on Scouts outings carrying the comforter off of their own bed from home in a trash bag to use on camping trips. A lot of times, their families cannot afford to buy new sleeping bags, tents or backpacks to send with them. 

This is where Scott came up with the idea of “gearing forward”, going through his own stash of belongings, much of it unused, and giving back to the next generation of outdoorsmen and women. 

We know how important conservation education is, and how incredibly necessary it is to spread awareness of LNT principles. It is our job as Earth and nature lovers to make sure we encourage and educate young people! 

My goal is to not only spread the word here in the Midwest, but make connections and reach out to as many people as I can not only in the state of Illinois, but the US by corresponding with troop leaders, youth groups, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, scouts and outdoor retail shops to find out who needs what, and where. 

Surprisingly, getting donations isn’t the hard part. It’s finding people to give to. It seems a lot of organizations don’t want to reach out for help – if you’re in need, please inquire! 

Do you organize camping trips for kids? Are you or any of your local groups in need of outdoor gear for outings? Is there anything I can help you with?! Please let me know! I’m here to help!

If you don’t have gear to donate but want to help or contribute, we have other options!


Aside from merchandise (all profits from sales  go toward gear purchase to donate!), we accept gift cards from outdoor retailers. New or used! Even if you have only $2.39 left on your own gift card, we will utilize it! 

Check out http://www.gearforward.org for more information and to view my Ambassador profile, like on Facebook for updates, and follow on Instagram @gear_forward to keep up with our progress! 
Jennifer Potts

Illinois

Aprily things 

Oh, hello there! Long time no see! It’s been April for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been busy with work, life and some new projects!

I can’t even remember where I last left off so I’ll just start with last weekend. I had been craving some camp time and B had prior plans, so I packed up the van and took Cash out to St. Francois State Park again. I loved the campground and hiking trails out there so much I wanted a repeat. Cash and I got an early start Friday, so we spent the morning and afternoon setting up camp, hiking and waiting for a few friends that met up with us to camp for the weekend!

The Virginia Bluebells were in full force; overwhelming my vision with a sea of purple and blue against a rich green. The nakedness of the Midwestern trees still stark and brown. Life making it’s way through! We’ve had plenty of rain through the end of March and early April. I felt like a little part of Virginia was there with me that day, just reminding me our excursion on the AT is only 5 and a half months from now.We had a peaceful, slow paced walk that day. I paused to take lots of photos. Nobody else on the trail but us. I love solo hiking so much. I’m still working my way into trying new places and perhaps overnighting, but I sure do feel awesome after just a few hours alone.

The AT in the fire calling to me =)

It was a wonderful and comfortable weekend, breaking in spring and relaxing with a few good friends. 

I have also had a super sweet mail week! Proudly supporting the Appalachian Trail: Women’s Group (hands down the most kind and helpful AT group I’ve found on Facebook…come join us!) with a hiking tee and sticker. I spent my REI dividend finally and got the cutest Jetboil Flash I’ve ever seen, plus two long Sea to Summit sporks.

In just 3 weeks we will be flying out to San Francisco for our 5 day roadtrip from Yosemite up to Mt. Rainier. We have some awesome side trips planned for that route! One of them including a hike at Mount St. Helens! I think we have chosen to do Norway Pass. I’m still not sure which trail I want to take on in Yosemite. We will have a day and a half to spend there! Luckily, B just lets me plan and goes with the flow. Lots to do before we leave! It’s time for some list making.
So – I will be making a separate post tonight for a project/organization I am part of! Please check it out, it’s an amazing cause! I plan to share it within the hour!

J

Yes man

Last year my life mantra was “Yes.” “Sure!” “Okay!”

This year it’s been more, “Ehhh.” “No thanks.” “I would but…”

I felt like last year I was so much happier and enthusiastic about things and it was absolutely because I committed to things and followed through. 

I’ve been extra introvert-y for the past few months (I would say since September, really) and I am trying to break through that mesh.

Last April I reinvented who I was. I started this blog, I adventured more, I made decisions on a whim and let things play out however it was meant to. I don’t know why I am so afraid of stepping outside of the lines these days.

Just wanted to jot this down for future reading/reminding.

J

Social media

I hate it/I love it. 

…But I mostly hate it. 

I can now be found on Facebook under “Jenny The Trailhead”. And so I have completed the WordPress-Instagram-Facebook trifecta. 

The reason being I want to further delve into the world of writing and amateur (at best) photography. I’m absolutely not #1 at such things but I sure do enjoy them. I want other people that also enjoy these things to enjoy my things and vice versa. I would love for it to be more than a hobby. 

This year I strive to test more products (I have a couple in my queue!), get more backpacking experience under my belt and acquire the taste of more solo adventuring. I want to take more road trips and see new parks and cowboy camp. I want to embrace things I can’t control. My mind never stops. 

Where can I go next? When? 

It’s been nearly a year since I have started this blog and I have happily kept a consistent and healthy relationship with updating and checking in on it. Things have definitely changed since the beginning but isn’t that just how things grow?

I love to tell a story both in words and in photos. I love to travel. I love those things all together. 

Ah, ramblings. 

Talk to you soon!

J

REI dividends

Oh how I love thee.

Hello there, Jetboil Flash! 

(And long Sea To Summit sporks!)

I cannot wait to use y’all on our first backpacking trip this spring.

Truckin’ along

Happy first day of spring! I know I am happy to see it at least. I am finally through the fog of my seasonal affective disorder and full of energy and the focus and drive to hit some goals this year. 

We spent our 6 year dating anniversary and St. Patrick’s weekend back at Cuivre River State Park in Troy, MO. I think by now we have officially hiked every trail in the park. Last week I told B, “I just want to spend ALL DAY hiking Saturday.” 

I am trying to piece together what our experience will be like on the AT by toying with longer days and miles. It is now only 6 months away. I wanted to hike until I hit my wall (which is typically about 8 miles in) and then push past that wall until I felt like I was on autopilot. I think we succeeded. 

Saturday we hiked the longest we have ever gone in one day without stopping to camp in between. We walked 11.33 miles and what a way to erase ANY bad mood or negativity that may be standing in your way. The weather was absolutely perfect. I didn’t complain. My feet only hurt briefly around mile 9 and then everything sort of started working mechanically. I wasn’t ever forcing myself or talking myself through it anymore. My legs powered through and carried me back to the trailhead where our loop finally finished. 

No blisters, and only a couple of tender spots where calluses are beginning to build. I feel like my job, where I stand and work on my feet for 12 years has been beneficial to this life I love so much. My legs are strong and my feet only cave in to exhaustion sometimes. It’s my lungs that really like to give me grief. Baby steps and eye contact with the ground (not the destination) is what gets me to the top without feeling overwhelmed. Count your steps, focus on your breaths. B often turns and says to me, “I’ll meet you at the top!” And takes off in a near sprint. I will always hike slow, and that’s ok. It’s not a competition by any means. Maybe one day I’ll get to the top first. =)

On the topic of hiking with someone else; I have found throughout this year as I become a little more savvy, that dayhiking is just not a thing I enjoy as much with company. I love hiking and backpacking with B, don’t get me wrong. He is like another limb to me. But, I don’t necessarily care to carry on conversations nor do I strive to keep up with or slow down for someone else. 

I’m (maybe selfishly?) there to be with me, the silence and to see the view I worked for. If I am hiking with M or B, (truthfully, the only people I have ever gone with) it’s because they know they can go ahead of me, or let me go ahead if I’m having a quicker day. There are no strings attached. More often than not, B is 50 yards ahead of me as I saunter on behind him, stopping to take scenery photos or inspect an insect/leaf/mushroom/feather. It’s preferable. We stay mostly within sight but never are we on each other’s heels. 

I have been invited to hike with others, both by friends and meetups on my Facebook hiking groups. I tend to decline. I have even been asked to guide a beginners backpacking group (which I am considering for the experience.) I don’t know how or when it happened, but I am not much of a social person anymore these days. I hike my own hike as should every other person that enjoys it. I don’t like expectations.

Of course, our time on the AT will be a whole different ballpark. Our multiday backpacking here in Missouri is usually lone, with other overnighters few and far between. Sharing shelters with others and meeting people along and on the trail is going to be so interesting. That is all part of the AT experience.

What do you think about spending trail time with people? Do you prefer solo, semi-solo (meet ya there!) or having company the whole time? Am I a jerk? Probably. =)

We drove two vehicles down Friday; B took the van with Bane and I took the Forester with Cash.

The reason for this being the trailhead we planned to set off on Saturday morning was too far to walk to from our campsite, and to pack the camp and van up just to drive a few miles down the road is a pain. We’ve had to do it before and breaking everything down to set it back up a few hours later when you’re exhausted isn’t ideal. So two cars it was! We only had a 60 mile drive so it was worth it.

Friday we grilled burgers and watched a movie before falling asleep pretty early. I slept better that night than I have in months. Perfect, uninterrupted sleep. The sunset was brilliant.

Saturday we had a great hike. The dogs did great, we did great. We grilled some steaks, relaxed our bones and slept like babies again.

Sunday we woke up early, I stayed in the van with Cash and coffee until about 8:45 and then we made breakfast. We then packed everything up and hiked for about 3.5 miles before going home. Yet another weekend spent outside, being productive and feeding my brain. One day I hope this is my every day. I dream of a simpler life with little distractions. I have ideas big and small for our future. It does not involve staying put, that’s for sure.

J

And so I did.

March has been an insanely packed and fast paced month so far. We have been traveling, hiking a ton, have camping trips planned, had and have family birthday parties and baby showers and still have more of the above coming up! I cannot believe it is mid-March. 

I’ll start with “Happy Saint Patrick’s…week”! B and I will be taking the dogs in Hank and camping this weekend and for the first time in a very long time, I don’t plan on drinking for St. Pat’s Day. We have a great weekend menu planned however. Grilling steaks over a campfire sounds too good right now. 

I’m down 7 pounds from my starting weight, and while I didn’t quite meet the goal I was hoping for before vacation 2 weeks ago, I at least didn’t gain anything! Just have maintained. Walking a ton in Vegas also probably helped. Urban hiking! Now I have a new date of May 3rd to be down 10lbs more. I bet B has lost 15 or so since my last post regarding weight loss. 

Let’s go back to Tuesday, February 28th! The last day of the shortest month. We were flying out Wednesday, the day before my in-laws were meeting us in Vegas for a long weekend. I had a moderately chill but busy day at work Tuesday. Came home, finished packing for our flight the next morning. We had to be up at 3:30am to get moving, leave the house at 4, drive the 20-25 minutes to the airport, self-park, then grab a shuttle back to the terminal, go through security, and get to our gate before Group A boarding at 5:40am.

Long story short, after tossing and turning all night I fell asleep Wednesday morning at 2am – leaving me in one of those weird half asleep dream states when the alarm rudely went off an hour and a half later. Everything was a blur until we got into the line for security, where I heard someone say my name. It was one of my clients! We talked for a quick minute and laughed at the timing of things. Who is at the airport at 5am on a Wednesday!? Also let me interject here that B was beginning to get sick. That phlegmy-sneezy-miserable head cold sick. Poor guy. 

Thus began the longest 3 hours and 45 minutes of my life. I read a few pages of a book and kept nodding off. I tried to fight sleeping but it won briefly. I slept for about an hour solid in probably the most unflattering and uncomfortable way. I woke up feeling slightly rested and looked at the time…AN HOUR AND 45 MINUTES LEFT?! Sigh. I kept reading and dozing until finally I felt the plane descending. We landed at McCarran at 7:35am.

Our car rental with Enterprise went swimmingly as per usual. In and out in 10 minutes. Love them! We were on the highway by 8:15 that morning. B was feeling pretty awful, but we were excited for the day ahead of us. Drive through Zion, stop in Page, AZ and finally – revisit the Grand Canyon in hopes of actually seeing it. We had no real time limit and we decided if it was already dark when we got to the South Rim, we would just go in the morning before heading back to Vegas since our Tusayan hotel was only 6 miles from the park entrance. 


With a couple stops to get gas, take bathroom breaks and get coffee refills we made it to our first stop – Zion National Park. The drive in was gorgeous! We hung out in the visitor’s center for a little bit, got our first cancellation in the Passport to National Parks book I got a few weeks ago and then drove through the southern portion of the Park through the tunnels. 

From our little over an hour stay and drive through Zion we decided we would love to come back in the future and spend at least 2 days exploring the park! That will go onto an ever growing list of wishes. We are so fortunate and thankful to even be able to just drive through!

Leaving Utah we headed to Page, AZ to see something that has always piqued my interest. Horseshoe Bend! And wow – it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!


The Colorado River twists and turns 1,450 miles from the Central Rockies, through the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam down into Mexico. Along the way in the middle of the desert sits Horseshoe Bend. There are no guardrails between yourself and a 1,000ft drop. If you have the opportunity to see it – it is so worth it! With just an easy 1.5 mile round trip hike, you can witness nature at it’s coolest. Unreal!

When we left Page, we still had a 2 hour drive to the Red Feather Lodge at the Grand Canyon in Tusayan. It was pushing a little after 4pm and we both were exhausted. I hadn’t properly slept at all, B was sick, and we were wiped out from flying and then driving 6 of 8 hours that day. If we made it to the hotel that was all that mattered at that point. If we happened to make it to the South Rim before sunset, even better. We lost an hour on the drive from Utah to Arizona so we weren’t rushing.

But…we DID make it. And it DIDN’T disappoint. 


This moment absolutely made up for the last trip, where we left defeated and didn’t get to experience the magic. This moment repaid us tenfold. The Grand Canyon at Navajo Point during the golden hour. We stood in silence among groups of other people, so thankful to be there. 


It was absolutely freezing but we didn’t care. We watched the sun go down, huddled together in the cold. And then, it was time to check in to our hotel and eat all of the food we could find. We hadn’t consumed anything but coffee, danishes, beef jerky and string cheese all day. We had been awake for a very long time and both of us were famished. We got settled into our hotel and drove a couple parking lots over to a steakhouse called Yippee-ei-o! I ate every crumb off my plate as did B.

That night, I slept like the dead. I fell asleep immediately and woke up at 7am, ready to head out the door as soon as possible so we could get back to the park. There was hardly anyone at Mather Point. (Enjoy this side by side photo of our January trip and our March trip!)


We excitedly walked to the visitor’s center for our cancellation stamp (I also bought “The Man Who Walked Through Time” by Colin Fletcher in the bookstore) and then to Mather Point (pictured above!) to see what we missed last time.

The first thing I said out loud was “I cannot believe all of this was hidden behind white fog. ALL OF THIS!” We had a crisp, cold beautiful sunny morning with the place pretty much to ourselves.Just absolutely stunning. I felt like I was on top of the world that morning. 

On the road again, we were on the way to Vegas where we met B’s parents. Here’s a couple photos from Thursday, the drive back and being out that night.Friday morning we got up at 6 and left to head to Death Valley. It was a 2 hour drive and a very scenic one at that! We spent hours here. Below is Mac! We got him when we became members of the Grand Canyon Association. We decided he would sometimes pop up in travel photos. =) I am the weirdo wearing all black in a desert. Hi. I think Death Valley is easily the most breathtaking place I have ever seen so far. I wasn’t sure what to expect here but it pleasantly surprised me. The salt flats with snow capped mountains on an 81 degree day was a mind teaser. My brain assumed the white on the ground was snow, but it was so hot! Every new place I see I am humbled and reminded how small we are. Our earth is a massive and beautiful place. 

Friday night we had tickets at Wynn to see JOHN FOGERTY!!! Creedence Clearwater Revival is one of my favorite bands of all time – so to see the mastermind behind their greatest hits was once in a lifetime and so much fun!Friday night we hung out on the strip and went to bed around midnight. Saturday was our last day in Vegas and we wanted to make the most of it! These photos are in no particular order. B and his dad rode the thrill rides on top of the Stratosphere, we had lots of day drinks, played some machines and walked over TWELVE MILES!Sunday our flight home was delayed 4 hours, but Southwest gave us $100 vouchers for the inconvenience! Sweet! $200 is a one way ticket somewhere. We will take it!That was our epic Grand Canyon/Las Vegas Part II adventure! So much fun.

This past weekend B and I hiked 9 miles on the Lewis and Clark Trail. 

This weekend we are camping! Can’t wait to be back outside. Very much enjoying our year so far.

One last thing. The last few years, as I would scroll through my Instagram and Facebook feeds and see all of these beautiful photos of natural places usually reachable within a day or less of traveling from where I lived. How do people do this? How do they do it ALL THE TIME?

Sprawling skies, sunsets in National Parks, camping beneath stars, adventuring in a junky old van. “God, I want that.” I would think to myself. So I did it. And here we are. Making it count and making it work whenever we can. 

We are average working people, we sometimes pay our power bill and phone bill late. We stay in on weekends to save money. We cancelled our cable and only have one car. Traveling is my vice. Hiking is my lifeline. I will do whatever it takes to get my fix! We are so lucky for these opportunities.

Six weeks until Yosemite and beyond!

J

I am still here

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I’m still here. We had a magnificent adventure 2 weeks ago that I plan to make a post about! Just busy with other things and I will have a lot to say. =)

J