Not to get all “the mountains are calling and I must go” on you, but I do understand the desire to be a tiny speck wandering in the wilds. However, my safety-first personality beckons that my wilderness adventures remain at an altitude a smidge lower than 29,000 feet (unless, of course, in a pressurized cabin with lightly salted peanuts), and so it’s with this in mind that I begin the tale of my February hike across a desert mountain. (Spoiler: No one dies.)
This is a story of our low-risk (but high reward!) hiking adventure across South Mountain in Phoenix, as well as additional area hiking and dining suggestions.
To Sedona, you drive north from Phoenix through dusty lands of short shrubs and Saguaro forests, rugged mountains of black rock and rolling plains of nothingness as your backdrop. The road takes you through a charmingly-named “Bloody Basin” and onward through a changing landscape of distant snow-capped peaks and highway signs flashing warnings of ice and snow on roads further north. And quite suddenly, there to your left on the horizon you see it—the cliffs glinting red like hot coals against the sunset’s light, the towers growing higher and redder as you near.
This my red rock reflection + hiking recommendations for your own weekend in Sedona, AZ!
“You can’t do this,” Fear told me as I stopped to catch my breath midway up the ascent. Other hikers passed by clad in proper hiking gear—waterproof pants, boots with grip, collapsible hiking sticks. I was wearing yoga leggings, a barely-waterproof jacket found on sale at Burlington Coat Factory, and tennis shoes that I had owned since high school. Fear was right—I was not equipped at all for a hike in the Canadian Rockies.
This is an essay on fear, doing hard things, and hiking in the Canadian Rockies.
I took a trip to California in April—an idea that was born under the blue skies of another trip west in January, as my friends and I ate pizza after our final hike together in Phoenix. “Let’s go to California,” someone suggested. Why not?
So we booked a week in Los Angeles. On our itinerary: a day hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.
If my home decor and the tattoo on my wrist and my Instagram caption enthusiasm don’t make it clear enough: I am a sucker for the desert, and cactuses in particular. I think the whole place is a magical, martian land, so different from anything I grew up in or experienced for the first 23 years of my life. I could sit on a rock on a desert mountain all day long, and I have, and I will do again exactly this in November.
This is an essay about hope and resurrection + photos & recommendations for your trip to Southern California.
My London is circling Heathrow on our descent while playing The 1975’s “Robbers” on repeat. My London is a tree on Primrose Hill, sitting underneath it year after year, a bit like marking my growth on a door frame.
My London is a Thai restaurant with only six small tables tucked into a room in a square across from the Natural History Museum. My London is a bench on the banks of the Thames, the Shard barely visible behind a brown stone church on the opposite bank.
My London is a mocha and a notebook and all sorts of thoughts ready to wrestle with the blank page. My London is raindrops and wind gusts and grey skies spread wide.
This is an essay on what makes a city feel like home + photos from my trip to London in March 2018.
We were in Milwaukee to see Bon Iver’s show for the 10th anniversary of the album, For Emma, Forever Ago—an appropriate time and place for a band whose name is based on the French “bon hiver”—good winter.
But good is hardly how I would describe winter. I am the scrooge of winter. I can appreciate the season for exactly 25 days in the month of December; once we pass Christmas, I am decidedly over winter, ready to trash it with the torn wrapping paper and leftover cookie crumbs. Most nights are spent hiding under a blanket and watching reruns of New Girl and The Office and longing for the days when the sun stays up past 4:30pm. Outside my apartment windows, tree branches that once carried armfuls of green life now look more like gnarled hands reaching up from the grave. Give me literally any season over winter, please.
This is an essay that asks, “Can winter be good?” + a few recommendations for your own Milwaukee weekend (mainly: the cutest coffee shop).
I needed this trip. I needed to board a plane and for a few days sit under blue skies rather than the lingering grey of a Tennessee winter. I’ve traveled enough (and been to counseling) to know that you can’t run away from your feelings by hopping a flight bound to another hemisphere, but I also know that, sometimes, a plane ticket can be just what your soul needs to realign your perspective from whatever worries may be disorienting it. Something about looking down at the earth below from 35,000 feet up can refresh a hurting heart.
This is an essay on redeeming a city + a list of recommendations for your own visit (hint: the most delicious tacos you will ever eat.)
On my return to the desert, I hiked dusty trails up mountains and through vast valley expanses, walking in the sunshine and in the rain and as the wind blew cold through our jackets, over rocks and through canyons and sliding down muddy inclines, under “skies that pull you into infinity, like the ocean,” as Anne Lamott describes it. I listened to coyotes sing songs of dusk and I sat on a rock as a bobcat passed casually in front of me (!!!), and I explored a cliffside cave 2,200 feet above sprawling miles of untouched wilderness covered in cactus forests and squat underbrush. And I returned to a mountain south of the city; with Bon Iver murmuring his melancholy melody in my ears, I watched the sunset—the sun sinking below a distant range, the sky set aflame—bright orange dancing with deep blues and pinks, the mountains surrounding the city cast in a rose glow.
My entire life has been a routine, a resolute avoidance of change. I literally ate a peanut butter sandwich EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. from kindergarten to senior year of high school. I only wish this was an exaggeration. (My friends can vouch for this.)
My consistency is dull. What kind of stories does routine breed? “Get this, I ate a peanut butter sandwich every Monday through Friday for lunch for 18 years of my life. Neat, right?!”
This is why I travel: to break the consistency, the mundane routine that I’m so apt to settle into.