2015 was an amazing year for us at All The Adventures. We got to travel to other parts of the country to pursue our outdoor passions and learn new skills. It was difficult to narrow things down, as every month seemed to hold new and different adventures, but we managed to easily agree on our top 3 memories of the year. We’ve separated each memory into her version/his version to give you both perspectives on each of these great experiences!
- Her Version:
Cloud’s Rest, Yosemite National Park. While Half Dome is the iconic Yosemite hike, Cloud’s Rest (in our opinion) is time better spent. Less crowded, less extreme in the approach (though still scary!), and rising high above Half Dome, we had all the time and space in the world to enjoy the 360 degree views of the park. I had a bit of a meltdown during the final scramble to the top, it was really windy and I wasn’t used to Class IV scrambling with a 40lb pack. Exposure usually doesn’t bother me, but with a 4,000ft sheer drop on one side, even I was getting sweaty palms. Thanks to Mike’s support and encouragement, and an awesome German guy helping with my pack, I made it to the top without too much drama. We were also fortunate enough to have perfect weather that permitted us to camp just below the summit for the night. Considering there was a snowstorm there just a week before we were there, we were pretty happy. The night sky gave awesome views of the Milky Way and we saw tons of shooting stars as well as some VERY distant campfires!
We quickly agreed on the top three memories with Cloud’s Rest easily taking the first slot. We were Day 3 into our trek around Yosemite and the climb was a “gut check” that led to a knife edge trail with a precipitous drop and views for days. Once we navigated the approach, the summit’s plateau had a number of resting hikers from all over the world. Conversation was easy as we discussed our experiences in the park and in different areas of the country. Within an hour, the summit was ours alone. Setting up camp and ducking the swooping Crows (reminding me of the Gorak in the Himalaya), we relaxed, ate and prepared for what promised to be a breathtaking sunset. It did not disappoint. Easily, the best experience I have had in the backcountry.
- Her Version:
The wild ponies of Grayson Highlands State Park. When I found out that there were wild ponies and longhorn cattle roaming around the Appalachian Trail near Mount Rogers, I couldn’t plan a trip there fast enough. We saw many ponies from a distance, but it was nearly the end of the first day’s hike before we got close to any. Then Bear, our dog, scared them off. Ugh. Despite the lack of ponies, the views and terrain were outstanding and it is now by far one of our favorite spots to hike along the AT. We set up camp at a lovely spot and built the best fire we could muster with the limited branches and dead grass we could find. We didn’t see anyone around and it felt like we were the only people in the park! At night we heard the sounds of some longhorns, but didn’t see any nearby. In the morning, I stepped out of the tent and saw a VERY fresh pile of pony poop. I went back into the tent and excitedly woke Mike up, who grabbed his phone and jacket and followed my search. It wasn’t a long search, I located a small herd less than 15 yards from our tent, up a small hill. They were friendly and curious and it was pretty much the best way to wake up EVER.
Mt. Rogers and Grayson Highlands trip was a wonderful experience for me. The views were incredible, weather perfect and it gave us an opportunity to shake out our gear for the upcoming Yosemite trip. We found an amazing camp site that was soft and level and built a fire; quietly listening to music as we ate. It was everything you go to the woods for. On top of that, we awoke to a family of wild ponies yards from our camp site. Watching Melanie for the first time with a horse was exciting for me. Her background as an equestrian was known but never observed by me until that day. Her hugging and feeding feral ponies by hand is a lifelong memory.
- Her Version:
Taking a snowboarding lesson. As a lifelong skier, I never saw the point in trying snowboarding. But Mike had never skied, so we figured trying something neither of us had done would level the playing field. Let me just say, that field was pretty level! While I quickly got the hang of heel side turns, Mike was much better at toe side turns. My history as a professional equestrian meant I was really good at getting my center of gravity down into my heels, but getting out in front of my toes was super hard to do. Mike’s experience with shooting and other military stuff meant he was used to being out over his toes and falling face first toward the ground, so the heel side was hard for him. We both struggled, but it is definitely something we will do again. While I’ll be spending a chunk of this winter teaching skiing to beginners, I’m hoping to pick up some snowboarding tips and more practice too!
- Skiing and snowboarding were sports that alluded me for years even with three resorts an hour or less away from where I lived. Skiing appeared very complicated; lots of moving parts, so I thought snowboarding might be the way to go. It was a great experience for me in that I was completely outside my comfort zone. Having no background in winter sports, I came to it cold and enjoyed the instruction. A point of pride Melanie and I both maintain is of the 20 or so that started in our class, we were all that remained of the class by the afternoon. Weeks later, I attempted skiing and lets just say I “french fried” more than “pizza’ed” and ended up in the ER (and that is all I have to say about that).
In our next post, we will tell you what we have planned for 2016, but for now we want to know: What were your favorite memories in 2015?