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My Travels A to Z – Cross country car-dwelling, French wine, Grand Canyon sunrises, and everything in between

A playful trend is circulating the travel blogosphere, and I couldn’t resist partaking in the fun. First discovered on Adventurous Kate’s blog, then found again on No Onions Extra Pickles, I was easily enamored by this great little survey of travel experiences. Covering every letter from A to Z, this ABCs of adventuring offers a glimpse into my lifestyle as a diehard explorer. I invite all my readers to participate as well, I’d love to read your responses.

Enjoy this little slice of insight into the travels and adventures of Katie Boué.

A: Age you went on your first international trip:

I was three years old, and I flew from my birthplace of New York City to down to Mexico City for my cousin’s wedding. – My mom tells me I was the life of the party, dancing with the groom, my ‘Uncle’ Danny, until the band stopped playing around 3:00 AM. Apparently, upon seeing the musicians packing up their gear, I loudly protested, “¡mas musica!”

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where:

Easily, my favorite foreign beer is Bulmers/Magners from Europe – specifically the ones drank at the Chez Net Café in Villefranche sur Mer in France. It’s honestly more of a cider, but the apple and pear varieties were my beverage of choice during my summers spent exploring the Mediterranean coast.

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Cuban food – but that’s a given. When I’m traveling away from Miami, Cuban food is always one of the things I miss the most about home. Nothing beats abuela’s black beans and authentic Havana cooking, but I do have a few favorite joints to pick up Cuban fare when Mama can’t feed me. When I’m in Miami, I always have to make a stop at Ruben’s Cuban for beef empanadas, café con leche, and chicken noodle soup. One of my favorite dishes in the world can be found at Cuba Cuba in Denver, CO – if you’ll believe it. The puerco frito, piña coladas, and freshly made mojitos are not to be missed. It’s one of the few places I’ll willingly spend a ridiculous amount of money at.

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

That is an impossible question to answer. Some of my recent favorites include Moab, UT, and Yosemite National Park, especially the experience of staying at the legendary Camp 4 for a night – but I also adore the southern coast of France, Alaska, any climbing destination in the southeast United States, and the Pacific coasts near Monterrey. Perhaps my least favorite is Merced, California. I don’t think I’ve ever truly disliked a place I’ve traveled to, but Merced wasn’t anything to write home about. Plus, the highway entrances and exits didn’t have traffic lights, only stop signs.
E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

I am by no means a person of faith, but my first experience practicing yoga was the closest thing ever I’ve had to a religious experience. I went during my solo trip in September 2011, while I was enjoying a week of relaxation in the mountains of Hendersonville, North Carolina. My host’s neighbor owns a yoga studio in the little downtown area, and invited me to partake in a complimentary session. The spiritual meditation, breathing, deep poses, and general overwhelming sense of peace were fantastic. I have never felt such strong emotions. During a time of my life that was filled with a lot of doubt, over-thinking, and mental exhaustion, the yoga experience I had at Brightwater Yoga Studio inspired an inner metamorphosis that I carried with me throughout the remainder of my seven week solo trip.

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

I am smitten with the idea of train travel, and adore railroads, train tracks, stations, and anything locomotive – but really, my preferred method of travel is by personal car. I am a road tripper through and through, and I love the convenience of living out of my familiar and comfortable vehicle.
G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

Spontaneously veering off a rural highway exit just to take a random picture of some unique relic of farm life, or the feeling of hiking until the point of exhaustion, then finally reaching a beautiful overlook or body of water that makes the panting, sweat, and side cramps worth all the effort.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

During my first climbing road trip in 2010, we stopped for breakfast at The Egg & I outside of Denver, Colorado. Niko protested the idea of spending more money eating out, but the rest of us insisted on gorging ourselves with breakfast grub. Upon hearing that Niko was refraining from ordering, our waiter conspired with the manager to present Niko with a beautiful little plate with a hot, buttered muffin and some freshly cut fruit – on the house. I was so impressed by their kindness.

J: Journey that took the longest:

It always seems to take a painful amount of time to return to Florida from the west. I think the return leg of any road trip feels the longest; the thrill of adventure that made the first part of the trip is now quelled, and by the end of trips you’re always eager to get home to a hot shower and a familiar bed. During our May 2011 cross-country trip, Niko and I were miserable from the Grand Canyon to Florida. Texas seems to be the longest state in the country when you have to drive straight across it with no exciting destination ahead.

K: Keepsake from your travels:

Having embraced the beginnings of a vagabond lifestyle, I’ve begun to resist the temptations to buy keepsakes. Instead, I collect snippets from our experiences. My favorite box full of memories is from my five-week climbing trip with Niko. I have all the brochures from the national parks we visited, our tent tag from Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, a little snail shell found on the shore of Stinson Beach, etc. These hold much greater value and meaning for me than a mug or magnet.
L: Let-down sight, why and where:

This one is easy. After Niko and I spent a week climbing in Yosemite, we headed to the bay area to check out San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and my favorite destination along the Pacific Coast Highway, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Visiting the fishy facility when I was younger living in California was the catalyst to my infatuation with jellyfish, and this aquarium has the most impressive jelly exhibit I’ve ever been to. Niko and I took the long drive down the coast to the aquarium, and gladly paid the hefty admission fees – only to discover that the jellyfish section was closed off for renovations. I was incredibly disappointed, and even begged one of the staff members to let me in anyways.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

During my first outdoor climbing trip to Little Rock City (also known as Stone Fort) near Dixon, Tennessee. Having only just become acquainted with the sport indoors, this excursion into the mountains thrust me head first into the world of camping, cooking in the woods, sleeping on crash pads, and immersing yourself into the natural surroundings that envelop climbing crags. After just one trip, I was hooked.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Hotels? Ha! If I stay in hotels, they’re usually the cheapest thing I can get my hands on. I will give credit to the Excalibur in Las Vegas. After spending weeks vagabonding in Yosemite and car camping in California, a night in a proper hotel room felt like staying in a palace – even if it was the cheapest lodging on the strip.

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

I am obsessed with photography in general – but there are definitely a few subjects that never cease to catch my attention. Bugs, creatures, and unique plant life are amongst my favorites, but food photos are always fun. And of course, I love photographing climbers and everything involving the climbing lifestyle.
P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

Hm, I travel domestically for the most part – my passport stamps are limited to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. Hopefully in 2013 I’ll be able to add Portugal to that list – but honestly, my heart lies in America.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

This one is stumping me. Quirky isn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps Fantasy Fest in Key West qualifies. The throngs of fairy-winged queers, nude elderly folks, intoxicated young people, and every unconventional individual that could make their way to the southernmost point converge upon Duval Street for a weekend of wild ruckus and outlandish tomfoolery. As I recall, I began the night dressed as a school girl, then ended my evening shirtless, covered in fake blood, and rebranded as a zombie victim.

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

There are so many. Watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, queuing up in line at 6:00 AM to reserve a spot for a night at the climber’s haven of Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park, getting a taste of desert life in Moab, sunning topless on the shores of southern France.
S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

Food, I will always spend my money on food. A hearty meal is one of the best things in the world after returning from a stint in the wilderness. I love campfire cooking, but sometimes a platter of succulent sushi just can’t be beat. Plus, there’s no clean up when you eat out.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

I’ve always wanted to follow the signs for “The World’s Largest Prairie Dog” that line I-70 in Kansas, but I’ve never given into my inklings. The most touristy thing I’ve actually done is probably making the winding drive down Lombard Street in San Francisco. The line leading up to this street of urban switchbacks is worse than Denver rush hour traffic, and it’s so hokey to drive down the flower-lined ‘street.’ Gorgeous scene to take pictures of, but totally pointless to actually make the effort of driving down.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

The first night I camped solo. I stayed at the Lake Barkley State Park campground in Kentucky, with only three other campers in the entire area – none of whom were in tents. I felt so accomplished cracking open a beer after rebuilding my fire pit, starting my own fire – sans lighter fluid, pitching my tent, cooking dinner, and kicking back to survey my hard work. Later, I set a branch on fire and danced around the pit a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. I am woman.

V: Visas, how many and for where?

Just one, a little family visa when I traveled to England when I was younger.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

Again, the winner is Villefranche sur Mer, in France – particularly the Chez Net Internet Café. My countless nights spent boozing with Brits at this cheeky café introduced me to the world of rosé wine, but really, any wine will do in France. I believe my bottle of choice was Cote du Rhones, which cost a budget-friendly two Euros per bottle.

X: eXcellent view and from where?:

The view from the anchors atop Misty (5.10d) in Sandrock near LaFayette, Alabama. Climbing this beautiful lead route was unnerving, although easily within my abilities. I fought my way through anxiety and self-doubt towards the top of the intimidating rock face, and when I finally reached the top I looked behind me and was dazzled to discover this gorgeous forest landscape illuminated by the setting sun. I had been so preoccupied with the challenging rock in front of me that I hardly noticed the natural scenery behind my back. The view really added to the experience of completing the climb.
Y: Years spent traveling?:

I’ve been traveling the entire 23 years of my life, sometimes in heavier spurts than others – all thanks to my adventurous parents who dragged me all over the world while I was young. My independent travel pursuits really picked up when I found my passion for rock-climbing in 2009. Climbing trips opened the doors to my adoration of camping, road trips, and the vagabond lifestyle.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:

Crazy climbers in Moab, Utah. Lounging around the Lazy Lizard Hostel led to overhearing nothing but conversations about new crags, tricky beta, the next day’s climbing adventures, and of course, the beautiful Steph Davis. Every male in the hostel was smitten with the huge poster of this female climbing icon that hung on the hostel refrigerator. It was nearly overwhelming to be thrust into such an engaged and passionate community of diehard climbers.

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How I survived my first night camping alone in Kentucky’s Lake Barkley State Park

Embarking on a solo trip implies a certain degree of, well, solitude. While my well-wishers gushed endlessly of their anticipation for all my adventures, one reoccurring issue continually arose from friends and family: “You’re going to be camping alone, Katie? I don’t like that, I’ll help you pay for a hotel instead.”

For me, the idea of camping alone for the first time wasn’t a necessity to save money – it became a right of passage in my mind. The idea of successfully building camp, starting a fire, and not getting eaten by a bear became the ultimate idea of accomplishment. During the first week of my trip, my host in North Carolina made damn sure I didn’t even think about trying to camp while she was around. Eventually, time pressed on and I had to continue westward. I chose Kentucky as my first overnight stop during the haul to Colorado, purely because I had never visited the state before.

I drove northwest through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the rolling hills of Tennessee, then eagerly crossed into Kentucky. My path took me past Fort Campbell North, and I had a great moment of patriotism watching military trucks and planes amid an enormous American flag. Finally, I reached my destination for the evening: Lake Barkley State Park, near Cadiz, KY.


I checked out the lakefront area and campsites while the day was still bright, then drove a few miles up the road to a gas station. As I watched an adorable old man filling his green tractor at one of the pump station, I stocked up on all the necessities: firewood (which turned out to be entirely moldy), a ‘KENTUCKY’ lighter, two cans of Coors Light, and lighter fluid that hillbillies convinced me to purchase upon hearing that I was planning on building my own fire.

When I returned to camp, I scoped out a site that faced the lake and was moderately close to the small handful of other campers. I found a soft spot in the grass, and pitched my tent – which was the only tent at camp, a little minnow in a pond of RVs and impressive trailers. The only evidence remaining of my site’s fire pit was a charred circle in the grass, so I combed the surrounding wooded area for rocks and rebuilt the pit. A large log sitting next to a fallen tree became the perfect fireside bench. Then I became a woman, and built a fire – without using any lighter fluid, mind you.

The rest of my evening was spent cooking up some pasta, reading a bit of my book, and feverishly tending to the fire. After the nightfall halted my reading, I focused all my attention on the needy flames. I must have spent a total of at least three hours scouring the spooky wooded area behind me for thick branches and bits of dry logs. This was the night I conquered my fear of the dark, and regained a slice of confidence. Aside from my little raccoon buddy who kept creeping up on me while I was absentmindedly poking at embers, there was nothing but hooting owls and a gentle lake breeze to alarm me. All that fuss and worrying, for absolutely nothing.

With two beers and a pot full of pasta resting in my belly, I finally decided it was time to retreat to my tent for some rest. I threw the last remaining leg of firewood into the flames, and zipped myself snugly into my sleeping bag. I had been anticipating a long night spent awake listening to the random sounds of the forest in fear, but instead drifted swiftly to sleep while my camp neighbor’s little dog howled at the raccoons.

The next morning, I awoke at the crack of dawn, and swiftly packed up camp. I was eager to make good time during my leg from Lake Barkley to Kansas City, so I quickly hit the road. On the winding road out of the park, I hit a huge blanket of fog that covered the fields sitting below the guardrails. The sun was just beginning to shine on the day, and everything was sprinkled with cold dew.

I experienced the best mood of my entire trip after I left Kentucky. I drove over the state lines of Illinois and Missouri reflecting on my sense of self-satisfaction. Shamelessly, I felt like a bad ass. At first, I felt accomplished for being one of the only ladies I know who have camped alone, and then my thoughts expanded to realize that the majority of my male friends hadn’t either. I had doubted my ability to enjoy camping solo because I had always gone with a boyfriend or climbing buddies, but really, all I needed was myself.

Check out my campground review, area information, and more at the
Lake Barkley State Resort Park page on MyCampingRoadTrip.com

Oh, you didn’t already know? I’m on the road again – on a solo adventure.

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. I set off on a new journey, and hardly gave you warning before I crossed four state lines. In any event, greetings from Hendersonville, North Carolina. This morning you find me sipping on piping hot tea, and writing out on a breezy porch while hummingbirds fight over a sugary feeder – but back to the bigger picture. Where am I headed? Check it out:

The starting point was good ole Tallahassee, Florida. After botched Alabama climbing plans, one final bout of fleeting romance, and an amazing evening dancing with a local band, Catfish Alliance, I headed out on Sunday evening and forged a rainy path to Hendersonville, North Carolina. I have been blessed with amazing hospitality from Dena, who is tolerantly letting me crash in her guestroom for the week.

So what have I been up to since my arrival? A bevy of posts will dive into deeper details, but here’s the condensed plot: Tropical Storm Lee left me with a few days of rain, but my time was filled with hours of playing board games with the sweet little girls who live next door, dinners and drinks in downtown Hendersonville, touring Eagle’s Nest outdoor academy in Pisgah Forest, stuffing my face in Brevard with an old friend Marlin, banjo music and slam poetry, visiting a brewery in Asheville, meeting so many unexpected friends and storytellers, my first foray into yoga, a fifth grade talent show, and snagging Dena’s famous chicken pot pie recipe. Phew, talk about a run-on sentence.

I have absolutely fallen in love with western North Carolina, and could easily see myself spending a few years living here. It has all the outdoorsy vibes of Colorado, but it’s comfortably nestled in my beloved “South.” It unsettles me sometimes to admit it, but I love being a southern girl.

So what’s next? As smitten as I am with this area, I am itching to hit the road again. I will be arriving in Denver by the 15th, so I’ve given myself about four days of 6-8 hours worth of driving each day. From here, I’ll be making my first overnight stop in Kentucky – and then it all becomes a mystery. If you’re interested in my daily musings, check out my Twitter @themorningfresh – which you can also enjoy on the right hand side of the blog.

Trust me, you’re going to want to keep in touch as I experience my first evenings camping solo. There is simply no way that my first night pitching my tent, building a fire, and cooking a meal in the woods will go over without some ridiculous mishap – and you might as well get some entertainment from my inevitable disasters.

Until then, readers!

Rocktown: Best Photos and Routes from the Climbing Club Spring Trip

Keeping with the tradition of last year’s crag choice, the spring trip hosted by the Climbing Club at FSU brought our slab-happy crew to the paradise of Rocktown, an untamed boulder field near La Fayette, Georgia. Naturally, I kept my camera in tow, and shall now present the best photos and stories from our adventures.

The drive up on Friday evening delivered dumping rain and tents filled with puddles. A small group opted to stay at a motel near the base of the mountain for fear of getting stuck in the deep mud that lined the switchbacks up towards the campgrounds. Lucky for me, the evening downpour led to plentiful sprouts of fungus, flowers and gooey insects.

Surprisingly, the boulders weren’t too wet the next morning. Our hands didn’t hold up quite as well as the rocks though; Nick’s peeling palms are a testament to the burning itch we felt every time our fingertips popped off the wall.

My favorite problem of the weekend was an ‘Unknown’ V3 roof crack found behind The Vagina. It had a sweet top-out over the back of another boulder. As usual, I spent way more time taking pictures and playing with bugs than I did actually climbing – but hell, I was a happy camper.

This was only my second visit to Rocktown, but definitely ranks as my favorite. We spent a lot of time diverting from the trails (thanks to Niko’s inability to follow a path), and got ourselves into a few sticky situations. Everything was moist and slippery, but that just added to the excitement.

‘The Orb’ was a big attraction on the second day of the trip. Feeling lazy and worn out, most of the group clamored around the boulder, sprawling out on crash pads while Niko, Douso and a few other strong climbers worked this V8 problem.

Rocktown was a great way to get the adventure spirit roaring in anticipation of my upcoming trip across America with Niko. It was a mini-sampling of what I’ll be enjoying during the next month of toting crash pads, muddy shoes, sleeping in a car and campfire food.

 

The above left photo is one of my favorite Rocktown photos of all time. Niko took that great shot of Douso, who was climbing a V-ridiculous that sat next to The Vagina. Douso’s body has a shape that works so well with the flow of the rock sediments, it’s perfect!

Naturally, we ended our trip with a customary stop at Cracker Barrel. It’s always a hoot to see the look on Sunday churchgoers faces as our muddy clan shovels food into our mouths and wave our arms wildly while we imitate the moves on routes we can’t wait to work again. We must look nuts, but then again, we certainly are.

The countdown begins – 29 days until road trippin’ around America for an entire month.

Graduation is creeping up on me faster than the new rock gym weirdo, and the conclusion of my time as a Florida State University student signifies the approach of what promises to be the most influential travels of my life thus far. Niko and I will be journeying across the country in my family’s sizable Pilot – climbing, camping, drinking local brews, getting messy and discovering all the untouched beauty of America.

Here’s a rough sketch of our agenda:

About a week after my graduation ceremony, we’ll be heading out of Tallahassee with Rich and a wine cooler to be delivered to Fort Collins. We’ll spend the next few days pushing up towards Colorado, where we’ll drop off Rich and the cooler, then freeload for a while on McGoo’s couch in Denver. Afterwards, we’ll make our way out to Moab to visit Jeff and Ryan while they spend the summer as rafting guides on the Colorado River.

From there, we’ll shoot up to the ultimate destination: Yosemite National Park. A good chunk of our trip will be spent within the park, hiking and climbing in the beautiful California air. Since I’m so close to my old stomping grounds, we’ll have to make the final push to the bay area so I can feast my eyes upon the Pacific ocean. After California, our plans get hazy, but I’m hoping for a stop at Carlsbad Caverns on the way back to Tallahassee.

29 days, baby. The planning, organizing, preparing and packing has already begun, presenting another distraction. Next weekend, I’ll be heading out on the Climbing Club at FSU’s spring trip to Rocktown near La Fayette, GA – so expect photos and stories as usual.

Finally, on the road again – HP40, and climbers for Jesus, here I come!

My trips to Horse Pens 40 on Chandler Mountain in Steele, AL always seem to come during the most unusual of weekends. During our last trip, we shared the camp grounds with a crew of religious bikers who were celebrating their annual Pumpkin Moon Motorcycle Rally.

What’s in store for us this time around? This weekend, HP40 is hosting The Chandler Mountain Challenge, sponsored by Rock Solid Climbers for Christ. Oh, yes.

Thankfully, we’ll still be able to climb without participating in the event, but there will inevitably be some good stories to share after a weekend spent with climbers who “love to climb and as we do, we want to honor the God we serve and be a witness of Him.” Oh, I love Alabama.

Here’s some shots from good ‘ole Horse Pens 40:

I’m heading out now for an oil change and then stopping by Best Buy to pick up a new case for the Nikon, then it’s off to Matt Wood’s humble abode just outside Atlanta for the evening, then Horse Pens in the morning!

Greetings from Diablo Canyon, New Mexico

I haven’t traveled to New Mexico since the summer my family moved back to Miami, FL from San Jose, CA – but lucky for you, a fellow climber from Tallahassee Rock Gym recently took a beautiful trip to the Diablo Canyon area of New Mexico and snapped plenty of photos to share.


During my last visit to New Mexico, I knew nothing of climbing. I spent my travels visiting UFO museums and stealing rocks from construction sites with my family. If only I had known!

The images that Adam captured during his road trip throughout the central region of New Mexico illustrate the beautiful landscapes and outrageous rock formations that litter canyons and desert terrain. The climbing in this area offers basalt rock, primarily trad and sport routes.


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