The Akashinga are one of Africa's only armed female anti-poaching units and they're protecting one of the largest elephant populations left on the continent. Photo Credit: Left to Right, LadyFreeThinker.org, GirlTalk HQ, International Anti-Poaching Foundation Part of the Lower Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe is a former trophy hunting reserve and, sadly, many of the animals are still threatened by poachers. These women, unafraid of who they may encounter, are often arresting local poachers that could be their neighbor or live in a nearby village. But, their focus is on their animals and duty to protect them so they won't disappear forever. These women are changing the face of conservation forever.
"With each passing year, fear [of aging] creeps a little closer..." As we age we think more and more about prolonging our lives. Maybe we feel we missed out on some aspect because of the choices we made, or maybe we just want to feel we lived our lives to the fullest until the very end. Whatever the case, most of Western society continues seek the magic pill to feeling, looking and performing our best. Is there a secret to perpetual youth and longevity? Maybe the answers are simpler than we think?
Aging pro freeskier, Mike Douglas, traveled to Japan seeking youth. Not only are there 500 ski areas in Japan, making the destination an easy choice, the Japanese are also the longest living population of the world's major industrialized countries.
At the end of day, the secret to growing old with grace is probably not found in complicated diet formulas, yoga rituals or workout routines (not that any of those things are detrimental to our health), but more about eating well, giving our bodies respect and time to strengthen and recover, setting goals and not rushing our success.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu
Yuichiro Miura, famous for being the man who skied down Everest, and "...the most badass old dude on the planet" now 88, skis over a 100 days a year, and attributes part of his success to goal setting. He says, "at any age, you should have a goal set to always be stronger and healthier than you are right now".
We all have the secret to longevity living inside of us. Create attainable goals, be forgiving of yourself, wake up every morning and choose to be a better version of you than yesterday, be strong in your convictions, laugh, take time to nourish your body and keep sight on your destination. Get out there and chase life!
"My plan never included this many roadblocks. But maybe the only difference between 'roadblock' and 'adventure' was my perspective..."
Life often doesn't go quite as planned. In fact, many of us are familiar with the old saying, "The only constant in life is change." Depending on the day and your mood when such change strikes, it can be difficult to embrace it fully for the adventure that it is! REI's short film "Adventure in Real Life" touches on the importance of changing perspective in order to appreciate experiences as they come; for better or for worse.
(Video Credit: REI)"Slowly I discovered that nature was all the more beautiful because of the unplanned and the unexpected."
"I guess life is like that; full of setbacks and roadblocks. But when we love something enough, we can turn any obstacle into an Odyssey. The truth is, life isn't going to go as planned... The only question is will you choose to call it an adventure?"
Nothing forces someone to embrace a humble attitude like a tough challenge. You're bound to become kinder and more sympathetic to others and their own obstacles, too. Embracing your failures will better prepare you for your next great adventure, and remind you that you are indeed human.
The most efficient use of your mental and emotional energy is to focus on yourself first; what do you think of your efforts? How do you prioritize personal growth? What makes you truly happy? What makes you feel accomplished? While the validation of others can be a temporary relief, your own validation will provide long term satisfaction in any situation.
"Love creates a communion with life. Love expands us, connects us, sweetens us, ennobles us.
Love springs up in tender concern, it blossoms into caring action. It makes beauty out of all we touch. In any moment we can step beyond our small self and embrace each other as beloved parts of a whole."
- Jack Kornfield
We know all too well that the world can be a scary, overwhelming and confusing place; and lately there seems to be a lot going on. Between natural disasters and acts of violence, headlines are dreaded and draining before the day has even begun. Despite the darkness during challenging times, there is something else going on that's worth noting.
People are donating their time and resources to charities and various efforts of all kinds. They're giving all that they can, however they can. It's during the darkest times that humanity can shine the brightest! That light is putting love and kindness into action, and we're all capable of putting this energy into practice.
Beyond becoming involved in your community and in charities that speak to you, inward reflection is an essential aspect of processing tragic events that are beyond our control. Truth be told, the majority of us can only control how we react to such things. A simple meditation practice can cultivate the love & kindness that is so important following disasters, and can even be done in spare moments throughout your daily life.
Begin by finding a quiet or special space where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Take deep breaths for a few minutes, focusing on a soft heart and releasing all plans and precautions. First, recite the below phrases inwardly and focus on your own well-being.
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be safe for inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
While repeating the phrases, allow images to come and go naturally, and focus on allowing the feelings to fully permeate your body & mind.
When you are feeling a strong sense of self love, you can then feel confident in expanding the meditation to include others in your own social circles, then your community, and finally, humanity as a whole. Repeat the same phrases as above, but imagine sending the feelings outwards to others.
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be safe for inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy.
Throughout human history, people have gone out into nature in search of self discovery, connectedness and transformation. At times when we're feeling most unsure of ourselves and our place in the world, venturing into the wilderness can provide clarity and motivation. In a day and age when we're bombarded with technology, constant bustle and triggering stresses, removing yourself from your immediate environment can reveal the potential for seeing yourself elsewhere in the world.
Someone's perception may shift along with a new vast and calming landscape....
Nature may initiate change help you to abandon your obsession over problematic frames of mind. Through that clarity, unexpected solutions will begin to form....
Mental static will melt away and the attachment to your version of reality will in turn begin to loosen, becoming fluid and neutral...
Join 5 women as they traverse from Daniels Lake to Skwawka Lake in British Columbia. Along the way they discover that the wilderness truly is where they belong, despite the doubts that everyday life can instill. Though they were each hesitant to make such a trek solo, collectively their knowledge and spirit lifted them all up to greater heights.
(Video Credit: Arc'teryx)"We're walking on the back of history and then it invites us in... We listen to it breathing. What we do is keep moving; we make a decision, we go. This is our real life. This is where we belong."
Nature invites us to open into awareness and discover where we belong - when will you answer the call?
One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again..."
– Abraham Maslow
Countless people operate day to day within their comfort zone; a silent but common ailment. The longer someone stays within it's confines, the less happy they tend to be. Stepping beyond the boundaries of what's familiar is essential to finding happiness, accomplishing goals and discovering your true passions in life. So why do so many of us choose to stay there if it's slowly draining us?
Big changes take lots of energy. Everything in life takes energy, which can be translated into motivation. If we lack the motivation necessary to make big life changes, we as humans find reasons to remain in a state of stasis; after all, stepping beyond our current circumstances could end up being uncomfortable and even scary!
But if you do not journey past all that you know, you're deliberately robbing yourself of 3 beautiful things life has to offer on the other side....
You are not growing
Shawn Achor, a positivity psychologist and author, states that happiness is "the joy you feel moving towards your potential."
We've all heard the saying that if you aren't growing and moving forward, you're really slipping backwards. Progress is a key ingredient to happiness in life! As long as you remain within your comfort zone, you're not growing because you're making no movement towards progress or growth. Remember, growth is about becoming more than you currently are and without experiencing all that is outside of you, you'll never get there.
You're not out there trying new things
What are you passionate about? The luckiest of us discover what we love doing early on in life, and we're able to follow our hearts as we spend our lives mastering the art of it. But if you're anything like the majority of people, you spend the first two or three decades of life searching and testing and wondering what it is that our hearts desire.... And that's only if you're diving into one thing after another, and constantly trying new things.
Your comfort zone isn't about getting out there, challenging yourself and discovering. In fact, you'll rarely try anything new and if you do, it's typically not of your own free will.
You're becoming comfortable with settling
The worst fate of all! We all know those people that had a dream straight out of college and then life happened. They settled for a life that was good enough without being too much; they decided to remain comfortable and unchallenged versus chasing tirelessly after their passions.
And this situation alone isn't the worst of it. If you become conditioned to settle in general, you will fail at recognizing prime opportunities that come along throughout life. You'll reject them out of the fear of leaving what you've always known.
Don't worry - there is still hope! Anyone and everyone can expand their comfort zones and even wander beyond them in a healthy and enjoyable way. The real trick to beating is to make feeling uncomfortable a conscious and constant habit. The more you do it, the less resistance you'll experience to the feeling itself and to the actions associated with it.
The old adage 'one step at a time' truly comes into play here. That first step is the most essential because it's the only one where we're facing our fears directly. Second and third steps are significantly less terrifying, and before you know it you're running from your comfort zone with a smile on your face. The next time around will be that much easier, as your confidence builds.
Here are 3 things you can do to develop the self confidence and strength necessary to step outside your comfort zone regularly...
1.) Make a list of your procrastinations
What are all of the things that you've been putting off and continue to put off? Try to think of everything, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, that you've been procrastinating on for a few weeks or more.
2.) Start checking off things from that list, beginning with the smallest
Don't go chasing the whales on your list; begin with the small fish and work your way up. It's essential that you take that first step and experience success as quickly as possible.
3.) Continue moving forward
It's all about momentum from here. Continue moving forward by stepping further and further from your comfort zone until you feel ready to tackle whatever comes your way!
Your resolve is a muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Before you know it, spending substantial amounts of time beyond your comfort zone will become the new norm.
A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
– Arthur Schopenhauer
Though we have all relied on our social connections with one another to advance as humans, time spent alone is crucial to our well-being - and is often put on the back burner. In a world that is constantly moving, loud, changing and demanding, we can easily become drained and robbed of creative energies and clarity if we aren't careful.
Unfortunately for many of us, loving solitude doesn't come naturally! It can take a lot of practice and patience in order to become comfortable on our own, but once we do, the benefits are undeniable. Solitude allows you to reconnect with yourself and your truest desires without the expectations and distraction of others. It can also stoke the fires of creativity by allowing a safe space to explore ideas and feelings freely. Most of all, it can clear your mind of stress and bring about calmness and clarity. Inner peace is perhaps the most important benefit of embracing solitude.
Here are some of the most productive ways to spend time alone:
1.) Create a personal space in your home that is dedicated to you and only you. Whether it's a corner of a room, an entire room or the whole house, make everything about it appealing to you. Decorate in a way that is welcoming and inspiring, and set aside time to be in that environment regularly.
2.) Make a goal to become expert in something completely different & new. Research states that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated focus on something to become an expert - what better time to get started than now?
3.) Prioritize 'me time'. It's perfectly healthy to carve out blocks of time in day to day life just for oneself. Doing something that relives stress and calms worries will spill over into other areas of life, too!
4.) Start keeping a journal. Being alone offers time to explore our innermost feelings, desires, fears, hopes, worries and ideas. Keeping all that down in one place allows you to revisit past moments for inspiration.
5.) Learn how to cat nap! As every busy adult knows, naps are a luxury that we should be accepting whenever they come our way. But wouldn't it be nice to fit a short nap into your schedule a few times a week? By napping now and then, you will experience much needed respite from daily stresses on both your mind and body.
6.) Work on your confidence by doing an activity that you would normally only do with others. This could mean you hit the slopes for a solo session, or jam out on your guitar all alone. No matter what it is, the extra practice and focus you give to the task itself will result in increased skill next time you meet up with your friends!
7.) Pursue learning more within your occupation beyond the proximity of others. Only if you genuinely enjoy your career, that is! It can be very fulfilling to further yourself without the confines that your employer or office guidelines dictate.
We all know that a long stroll outside can do wonders for a funk we find ourselves in, but it may not be clear why being outdoors has such an effect on our bodies and minds. It's safe to say that the majority of us live in cities or work in professions that keep us indoors (and even worse) sitting for long periods of time. Various studies have determined that those with little access to green and wild places have a much higher likelihood of psychological issues than those who live near parks or visit natural environments on a regular basis.
But does immersing yourself in nature actually change your brain in a way that affects your overall emotional health?
According to a study published by Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, there's a strong correlation between improved mood and spending time in natural environments. In a study, volunteers who were allowed to stroll along tree-lined paths with little noise pollution did not dwell on the same negative aspects of their life as they had prior to the walk. In addition, they had less blood flow to the portion of the brain that is highly associated with 'morbid rumination', or incessant fretting. Those who were forced to walk along a busy highway did not feel the same bliss afterwards!
There are still many unknown factors. How much time in nature is ideal for improved mental health? Must you be walking at the same time to reap the real rewards? Should you be alone or with a companion?
Conduct your own experimentation! Click HERE for a list of the best walking trails near Longmont, Colorado.
Thank you to Pete McBride and Vital Films for creating this beautiful tribute to the wilderness of the United States in honor of the Wilderness Act's 50th Anniversary."We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.."
- Wallace Stegner
"I think it's good enough to just be passionate about something that you really care about, regardless of what this is. It doesn't need to be some complicated, deep thing... You're just lucky that you have something you're that psyched about and that passionate about."
- Josh Wharton
Colorado-based climber, Madaleine Sorkin, is considered one of a few women in North America who are highly active in the styles of adventurous and challenging free-climbing.. And just last fall she became the first woman (and 5th person ever) to redpoint the infamous Longs Peak Route, The Honeymoon Is Over."Sometimes you have to get more insecure than you want to in the end."
- Madaleine Sorkin
The Honeymoon Is Over is among the most difficult high-altitude rock climbs in the world, and is considered the most difficult route up the Longs Peak Diamond. It's unique in the sense that you are climbing at such a high altitude while tackling an equally difficult climb - even before the altitude is factored in. Hiking in can take 3 to 4 hours on it's own, which most people choose to do very early in the morning. For those of us familiar with Colorado weather, summers can bring thunderstorms in the blink of an eye; as a result, the route itself is often wet and the weather can be extremely unpredictable... Though it required several failed or partial attempts to tackle, she didn't give up."Actually failing doesn't feel that different from anything else. Thinking about failing or feeling like a failure - those feel terrifying."
- Madaleine Sorkin
With each attempt and failure, she was forced to muster deep for perseverance, and recall on her passion to reach the top. Check out the video below to witness how Sorkin approached the challenge and then achieved her goal!
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
- Dale Carnegie
Phil Drolet, creator and author of the successful 'optimal living' blog The Feel Good Lifestyle, didn't always have the success that he'd hoped for. But when he fianlly decided to take that leap of faith and embark on the journey of entrepreneurship, he utilized a method he fondly refers to as the "All In Method", or AIM. He argues that society tends to commit to something and give up on the effort when the going gets tough, or the next exciting endeavor appears. But by allowing yourself to be wishy-washy and throwing the towel in when things become difficult or don't go your way, you rob yourself of opportunity and success!
Bottom line: If you truly want to achieve something, you cannot do it half way - you must push all of your chips into the middle.
When you force yourself into this state of fear and excitement, uncertainty and hope, something quite amazing happens. You'll discover strengths that you never knew existed. Parts of you will awaken and shake off the dust of the familiar, and you'll harness the courage to forge ahead despite all of that.
Here's how you do it....
There's a strategy you'll want to put into play in order for your attempts to be successful. And even before you begin creating your plan, doubts can begin to creep into the mind. What if I'm not good at this? What if it's too scary? What if it doesn't work, no matter how hard I try? Let's silence the inner voice that's unsure about the plunge, and encourage the one that's excited and ready!
1.) Identify Your Project or Goal
Sometimes it can be a struggle to identify what you truly and deeply want. But in order to begin your journey toward success, you'll need to first have a clear vision in mind!
What kind of project is this?
Is it goal-based, or relationship-based?
Is it a sort of spiritual journey?
2.) Test Drive your Aspirations
Give yourself a reasonable time frame in which to commit fully to something. It could be anywhere from 30 days to 6 months, but allow yourself that clear start and end time. This allows you the flexibility of 'strategically committing'; you're now free to participate in life 100%, test things out and find out if it's enhancing your life before you sign on the dotted line, so to speak.
People view time frames as a safety net, and you can use this to your advantage. Anyone can do something for 30 days, right?
How long are you willing to commit for?
2.) Evaluate, Evaluate and Evaluate Again
Once you've begun the 'strategic commitment' plan, you'll want to keep track of any challenges and successes starting right away. Taking stock of your feelings and results from this project will help you not only deem it worthy of your effort and time, but you'll also find momentum and motivation from seeing yourself improve.
Ask yourself the following...
- Is this project working?
- Am I enjoy this?
- Is it leading me in the right direction?
- Where am I struggling?
- What bad habits do I need to cut out?
- What support do I need from others?
Once you've made the choice and committed to it for X amount of time... Go for it!
"When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need."
- Lao Tzu
What's the one thing that we can never get back? Time. Our time is perhaps the most finite and valuable resource we each have as we go through life. Each moment you choose what you spend it on, whether you dip into tomorrow's time in order to do something today, and even risk it all looking for thrills.
Those of us who spend their time buying the biggest, newest, most flashy toys focus their energy (and time) on possessions. But do all those possessions really make for a happier life overall? One could argue that certain possessions add joy, freedom and even creativity to a life - but no matter what, you can't get the time back.
Credit card debt in the United States alone is approximately $750 billion. Imagine what things would be like if people chose to focus on saving more and spending less! We'd each have more flexibility to give to the causes that meant the most to us, and to invest our time in the same ways.
To take that another step further, why don't more people practice genuine gratitude for all that they do have, rather than focusing on what they need next? There's never been a point in human history when we've had so much and been so unhappy despite all of it. So what can you do to change it all?
Practice gratitude! Wake up and immediately remind yourself of everything that you're thankful for. Write it down, meditate on it, brainstorm while in the shower - whatever works best for you. Focus on yourself and those that you care most about rather than what you have or don't have. When you're able to live without placing importance on belongings, you'll find that you already have everything you need to live and be truly happy...
Everyone has found themselves in a place where all you can ask yourself is, "What am I doing?" Whether you are feeling stuck at your job or struggling to achieve even the most basic of goals, there is a way out of the rut! Here are 5 steps to take which help you regroup and focus back in on what's most important.
1.) Unplug and Refocus
Some of us find ourselves renewed by spending time alone, and others generate momentum by surrounding themselves with many friends in a fun and lively setting. No matter how you recharge, it's important to unplug while you do it. Disconnect from the technological part of life and spend time taking inventory of your life. What are you happy about? What are you unhappy about? What can you do to make it better?
Spending time examining your experience of life is crucial. Without self examination there's no room for growth. It can help you recollect your energy and efforts, notice differences between healthy and toxic relationships, and carve out new habits and paths to get you to the end.
2.) Journal Every Day
The human mind is a problem-solving machine, but it can run into difficulty when thoughts are scattered and energy isn't focused and put to effective use. Writing down your thoughts can be one of the first steps to changing your entire life! There are many reasons why keeping a journal is recommended by most of the world's enlightened and successful people. But if it seems like a daunting task, start with something fresh. Discuss problems that came up during the day, different opportunities, ideas and potential solutions.
Once you get into the habit of setting time aside each day to journal, adopt a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) or CPSP (Creative Problem Solving Process) layouts. Structure and formalized routine can help you focus on specific areas that need the most attention.
3.) Ask for Help
No one will ever disrespect you if you genuinely ask them for their guidance and help. We're naturally wired to avoid stressful situations, including initiating vulnerable conversations with people who don't know us. But the fact is that mentors and guides are all around us in life, if we can only break free from our own insecurities and seek them out.
Reach out to people that inspire you to be more, and those who understand you and/or your situation. Most people will be honored by your outreach and will do all they can to help you succeed.
4.) Go For It
There comes a point when you simply must take action. Walk the walk, then talk the talk! A common mistake that most of us make is waiting to 'feel like it', or for that surge of motivation to come sweeping in out of nowhere. Don't wait for the right moment; just begin. Get started with baby steps and take it one day at a time, little by little.
To put it into perspective... The time will go by whether you take the action or not!
5.) Take the Leap of Faith
You may not notice it until you're more confident about your decisions, have settled into a routine and are living in a place of progress... But this is the time to take that leap of faith. You've adopted new habits and your new goals are in focus; it's time to drop the negativity and anything that drained you or distracted from your pursuits.
Ask for input from your mentors, discuss the pros and cons, and then just do it! Without taking this essential but scary step, you will remain stuck.
Discipline is quite different than it's partner-in-crime, motivation. But it is perhaps the single most important factor in the equation to success!
Motivation ebbs and flows and can change in a moment, adapting to it's surroundings and external conditions. Discipline, however, is that thing you call upon to climb the toughest mountains - or the tasks you know you must complete but lack the motivation to do so. If you are effective at managing yourself and your own efforts in the world, your discipline will come from within you. It will will call upon your feelings and mood toward a certain task/habit and use them toward achieving that which is important to you. Discipline is a muscle you exercise so that your life can consistently reflect your values; motivation doesn't always have the same follow through...
There are several ways you can exercise your discipline muscles, and many things to be aware of if you wish to improve in this area.
Remove Your Feelings From the Equation
Maybe your goal is to get up each morning at 5 am and workout for an hour. Guess what? That early hour will roll around the next morning and you'll want to hit the snooze button.What's lacking? Motivation!
The biggest impediment to success is that we are all dictated by our feelings and emotions. Instead of seeing reaching our goals as the ultimate prize, we expect to be reward all along the way. And be honest - if you did hit the snooze button once, twice, or three times, wouldn't you finally roll out of bed feeling worse than if you'd simply gotten up despite your feelings?
"Discipline replaces motivation because you show up consistently. The goal is too important to allow feelings to get in the way." - Stephen R. Covey
If you rely on your feelings, you are significantly less inclined to put 100% into that task before you because your actions are being entirely dictated by immediate emotional states. Discipline, in the other hand, will show up time and time again, no matter how you feel in the moment. A disciplined person recognizes that the ultimate goal is the true purpose, therefor it is crucial to remain diligent until the end.
Focus On 1% Gains
Slow and steady wins the race, right? The smaller, gradual and consistent improvements are what ultimately separates those who achieve and those who fall short. These short improvements will lead up to marginal gains and set you apart from the rest. The key is to start small and achievable changes that get you that much closer to your goal.
What Is Your Daily 'Why'?
It is of the utmost importance that you discover the underlying motivation behind the goal you are pursuing. If you lack the compelling reasons to reach your goal, maintaining your discipline will be difficult to near impossible."The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to broken." - Samuel Johnson
Something will always come up in day to day life, big or small, that will seem to conspire against you and challenge your resolve. Give in and your success will be squashed; all your efforts will have been in vain. When such moments arise, you'll need a strong desire behind achieving your goals.
Continue to be persistent in the face of fears and adversity by clinging to a strong 'why'. After all, you're worth it and so are your goals!
Colorado is well known for it's collection of 14er mountains, which attract locals and visitors alike to meet them and conquer them, time and time again. For someone seasoned in the effort, you know how to prepare, what to pack, how to properly pace yourself.. But what about the newbies? Don't let inexperience keep you from experiencing the climb - we're here to fill you in on some of Colorado's gentler giants and help you check a couple off your bucket list this summer! FAQ's can be found at the bottom of this list.
(Keep in mind that this list was created under the assumptions that those attempting are in reasonably good shape, properly equipped for the trek and climbing during the right season..)
Mount Sherman (14,036 feet) - 5 miles - 2,100 feet elevation gain
At 5 miles, anyone who has run the Bolder/Boulder will realize that race is longer than this climb. Many old mining buildings provide curious scenery and the chance to explore if you're feeling so inclined. Tip: Beware of the wind that could pick up and pack your shell layer.
Mount Bierstadt (14,060 feet) - 7 miles - 2,700 feet elevation gain
This peak is near Idaho Springs and is perhaps the most popular for 14er virgins, so keep that in mind before choosing this trek. For many it can feel so well-stamped that it doesn't qualify as an adventure, which could leave you feeling a bit disappointed. However, the basin offers great views of the peak, and you'll get beautiful shots from the summit as well. Tip: If you're looking for more of a challenge, consider taking the Sawtooth Ridge route, but beware - it is not a beginner route! Go with someone who's experienced and familiar.
Handies Peak (14,048 feet) - 5.5 miles - 2,500 feet elevation gain
Who wouldn't want to visit the San Juan Mountains? While it is short and you'll stick to a quality trail all the way to the top, this hike pays out in visual rewards when you reach the finish. Soak in the American Basin before heading back down! Tip: The 4WD road leading up can be in poor condition at certain times of the year. Be prepared to park-and-hike-it to the trailhead if need be.
Mount Antero (14,269 feet) - 7 miles - 2,400 feet elevation gain
The majority of this climb can be a bit boring for most, but the final 500 feet are breathtaking. If you enjoy suspense and don't mind waiting for the best part, give it a go! The road is safe, so no need for extra planning on this one. Tip: Mount Antero is well known for having lots of aquamarine, so spend time digging around if you're into that.
Mount Huron (14,003 feet) - 7 miles - 3,500 feet elevation gain
Huron is a steep climb, but you'll rely on a good trail to lead you to the top. Lots of switchbacks help alleviate that burning in your legs (as well as snack breaks..) This is a fun, challenging hike that ends with some of the most awe-inspiring views of all the Colorado 14ers. Tip: Don't underestimate this mountain, even with the reasonable distance; the elevation will get you if you don't properly pace.
Mount Democrat (14,148 feet) - 4 miles - 2,100 elevation gain
Looking for a gentle and short hike? Democrat is the one for you. In fact, it is typically climbed with three other peaks, which is a popular way of checking off four peaks all in the same day. For beginners, it's nice enough to climb all on it's own. Tip: Don't pressure yourself into climbing Democrat's three sister peaks - it very well could take away from your enjoyable experience and taint the entire thing.
Quandary Peak (14,265 feet) - 7 miles - 3,500 elevation gain
Perfect for climbing before spending the evening in Breckenridge! Because it's so close to the popular ski town, this is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. You'll follow a trail all the way to the top, and get great elevation gain on the way up making for excellent views. Tip: Like Huron, Quandary is steep. Bring hiking poles to aid you on the way back down.
Grays (14,270 feet) and Torrey Peaks (14,267 feet) - 8 miles - 3,600 elevation gain
Perhaps you've seen these peaks from your drive along I-70? If it's the thrill of adventure you're seeking, tackle these two peaks at once. Take the trail from Grays over to Torreys and you'll loop back around to the same trailhead you began at! Tip: Arrive early because this area tends to become crowded quickly, and drive something that doesn't sit too low to the ground; the road up can be rough on smaller cars.
Mount Elbert (14,433 feet) - 9 miles - 4,700 elevation gain
There is absolutely NO risk of getting lost on this hike, as the trail is clearly defined and very wide. Elbert is the tallest peak in Colorado, which makes this one quite the accomplishment. From the summit, you can see dozens of 14ers... In fact, many claim that Elbert offers the best views of all. Tip: Elbert is a walk, but a very steep and long walk. Don't dismiss the physical challenge this climb will be.
Longs Peak (14,259 feet) - 14 miles - 5,100 feet elevation gain
The granddaddy of Rocky Mountain National park! There's a reason this is the last one on our list... It is certainly not the easiest for beginners. But if you climb at least 3 or 4 of the others first, you'll be in a much better position to tackle Longs Peak with a trusted group of fellow go-getters. It makes for a good first "tough" mountain for those who are still novices, too. The route is well marked and there's even a bathroom and small shelter to stop at before the most challenging portion begins. Tip: Start from the trailhead as early as 2:30 am and you'll be greeted by TONS of very visible stars, and a sunrise that will turn the rock walls a rich red.
1.) What should I bring when climbing 14ers?
Food that is fulfilling for you, sunscreen, a hat, gloves, sunglasses, more water than you'd think, and a windproof/rainproof jacket.
2.) What kind of shape should I be in?
In an ideal world, you'd be able to run a 5k comfortably. But there are plenty of us who simply haven't run a 5k - we wouldn't know either way! A good rule of thumb is that if you're a good weight, join in on a bike ride of two each week with friends, hit the gym regularly, you'll be able to handle all of the above. Naturally, the younger you are the easier it all will be.
3.) How should I dress for the day?
Comfortable shoes that have been broken in properly (hiking boots and trail running shoes are both good options.) Wear layers like you would on any other hike, and pack waterproof clothing in case you run into weather.
4.) When is the best time to climb them?
The season typically goes until mid-September before you'll get considerable amounts of snow on the trails and you're officially winter climbing. People tackle these climbs all throughout the year but for beginners, it's best to avoid the additional elemental adversity if you're able.
"Feeling empowered is something that you have to take..."
Lynn Hill, professional climber
(Film Credit: Talweg Creative)
REI partners with Outside Magazine to discuss and explore women's approach to outdoors adventuring. Both groups aim to ensure that women are equally inspired, supported and equipped to embrace the great outdoors.
Shelma Jun, narrator of the 'Within Reach' documentary, is the founder of Flashy Fox and the Women's Climbing Festival. She often writes for publications like Climbing and Outside magazines.
Gordon Hempton is a self-declared "sound tracker", constantly in search of vanishing sounds from all corners and crevices and cracks on this earth. According to Hempton, the most precious sound of them all (and the one that is most endangered) is in fact silence.
"The Hoh Valley is the quietest, least noise-polluted place in the entire lower 40," states Hempton. "I don't know if I can save silence, but I know that I can try."
Here is his story below...
But why is silence worth finding, practicing and preserving?
4 Health Benefits of Being Silent
1.) Heightens Sensitivity - 100 scientists went on a retreat to study the importance of silence, and found that eliminating speech heightens awareness in many other areas. The practice of vipassana meditation focused on breathing, which they found to heighten sights, sounds, emotions, thoughts, intentions and sensations in general.
2.) Relieves Stress - When sound waves reach the brain, the amygdala (the part of your brain associated with emotions and memory formation) is activated, which leads to the release of stress hormones. Believe it or not, a mere 2 or 3 minutes of silence can release more tension in the brain and body than any exposure to relaxing music!
3.) Improves Memory - A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that adults who walked alone for 40+ minutes three times a week for a year had noticeable brain growth in the hippocampus, which is associated with spatial memory. Improve your memory consolidation by getting outdoors!
4.) Fights Insomnia - If you're someone who suffers from insomnia, depression and/or fatigue, mindfulness meditation can do you a world of good. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing in and bringing attention to your breath, which consequently brings the individual into the present moment.
We live in a very bustling, loud world, full of TVs, cell phones, music and people. But we could all use a little quiet time now and then; mentally, emotionally and physically. Incorporating silence into your daily routine, even if it's only 5-15 minutes, can benefit you in many areas of life.
Have you ever seen the Milky Way that goes from horizon to horizon?
80% of the American population now lives in a place where the Milky Way is more or less invisible, thanks to light pollution. Street lights, lit billboards, 24/7 shops and services are slowly but surely changing the way we experience the world around us. As a result, not only do we lose touch with our connection to the outdoors, but our overall health suffers due to sleep-disrupting effects on the human body. And it doesn't just affect humans either; the migration behavior of sea turtles have been altered due to coastal lights, and also big migration routes as well. So where can a Coloradan go to escape the glow of civilization and gaze up at the stars with the same wonder that our ancestors once did?
Look no further than Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado!
The two small Colorado towns are nestled in the Wet Mountain Valley, below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. True, they may only boast a population of 1,100, but their movement toward eliminating light pollution in their small part of the state started about 15 years ago. Since then, they have over the last decade become key players in a movement called Dark Sky and were officially designated as IDA Dark Sky Community in 2015. The international effort (International Dark-Sky Association) was founded in 1988 and aims to ensure that future generations can admire the Milky Way the same way previous generations did, before the advent of the light bulb.
(Photo Credit: Curtis Urban (stars), Watson Land Co. (terrestrial)
The valley just to the west of these towns is one of the best places to star-gaze for a couple different reasons - the altitude of 8,000 feet that puts you closer to the stars than any other Dark Sky community in North America, and also the wonderful attitude of the people soaking in the views.
Dark Sky's efforts aren't merely about aesthetics; there are major economic advantages to community's that become involved, too. Due to frigid winter months that bring about temperatures as cold as 24 degrees below zero, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff will never become a year-round destination for astronomers to star-gaze from. Their goal is to expand their summer tourist season as late into fall and the following year's spring as possible. Due to a lack of communications capability, efforts to spread the word about the ideal night skies have been stagnated. Despite that, Westcliffe has grown 20% in the last 15 years, much of which they attribute to the migration of people from more populated areas seeking solace."It isn't just the skies", says Charles Bogle, who leads the Custer County Economc Development Corporation. "The quality of life in the valley is so alluring."
Interested in a star-gazing trip to Westcliffe and Silver Cliff?
Visit the SJO (Smokey Jack Observatory) in the southwest corner of The Bluff Park. They keep an up-to-date list of events throughout the year that are hosted at the observatory, though you can also reserve the space for a private star party if you wish!
Depending on your drive, you may want to stay overnight and head home the next morning. Westcliffe's Courtyard Country Inn is within walking distance of everything in town; restaurants, gifts shops and more. Pricing ranges from $80 - $100/night, depending on the time of year.
We've all been there - we really, really want to achieve a particular goal, but instead we procrastinate, make excuses and generally fail to follow through... Again and again and again! Overall, people are great at imagining what we want to do but can't seem to cross the finish line on most of our goals. So what is the missing link? What are we all forgetting about when we create our bullet lists, mind maps and routines?
Research shows that trying to fight your feelings about a particular situation will only amplify their intensity. And thanks to the way that our brains function, feelings will beat out thoughts every time. With that in mind, emotions and feelings play a crucial roll in getting anything done; we require thoughts to plan, but only feelings can inspire us to act.
Here are 3 steps to harnessing your emotions & getting more done...
1.) Focus On Rewards
Just as when we were children, being rewarded feels great and being punished feels bad. Because they each incite such strong emotional reaction on each end of the spectrum, they can work wonders for motivating you. In fact, research shows that rewards account for 75% of the reasoning behind why you do anything. So treat yourself to a pedicure after acing that exam you've been studying tirelessly for, or take a weekend getaway after a month of long days at the office.
What if there doesn't seem to be any reward motivating enough to get you going? Try the 'commitment device' approach instead. For example, give your friend $100. If you complete your task/goal within the committed time frame, you get the money back. If you don't, you lose it completely and your friend is $100 richer...
Suddenly those items you've been putting off for 2 weeks seem much more important!
2.) Get Peer Pressure
The common saying goes along the lines of, "You are the 5 people who surround yourself with the most." If this is true, are you who you want to be? Spending time around the sort of individuals that you strive to be like makes it far less stressful or difficult to do the things you know you should be doing.
Friendship and it's benefits, challenges and hidden elements has long been studied. From an interview, author Carlin Flora of "Friendfluence" states:"Research shows over time, you develop the eating habits, health habits and even career aspirations of those around you. If you’re in a group of people who have really high goals for themselves you’ll take on that same sense of seriousness.."
Make friends with people that will encourage you to challenge yourself, and serve as a support system from beginning to end.
3.) Get Positive
If you're like the majority of the world, procrastination is most likely to happen on a day that wasn't ideal. We woke up late, didn't get enough sleep, still haven't had our morning coffee or got into a fight with our partner on our way out the door. Oh,science doesn't lie; happiness increases productivity and makes you more successful!
But what if we can't seem to shake the blues? What if we just aren't feeling it?
Check in on and celebrate the progress you've already made. Nothing is more motivating than witnessing and appreciating your own progress. It will get you through to the next accomplishment, and reassure you that you can do this.
We're all familiar with spring cleaning the house - closets to be decluttered, old boxes to be sorted through, blinds to be dusted and unused items to be given away... But how often do we turn our focus to the baggage in our emotional closets? Too many of us suffer from messy habits, crowded feelings and ideas that we've clung to for far too long. Perhaps this spring is the perfect time to practice a bit of emotional minimalism!
Do away with the clutter you've tucked away and allowed to gather dust in your heart and mind. Replace it with something fresh, inspiring and altogether motivational.
Old baby clothes that no longer fit our children pile up in the corner of your closets, because it's tough to let them go. Your ex-boyfriend's t-shirts still claim a space in your drawers, even though you know you'll never again wear them.. Why do we insist on keeping it all?
Items that have emotional memories associated with them become a physical representation of that moment in time. But we do the same thing with grudges! Sometimes they're linked to photos we tuck away and look at secretly, other times it can be simply a feeling. Toss out the items and the feelings! Let go of the desire to seek revenge or hold onto anger - focus on forgiveness and take each moment as it comes, free of any roots from the past or worries about the future.
Use the same strategy when dealing with your negative thinking habits as you would with old bags of clothes on their way to the donation bin - give it away! Don't ask for anything in return, and certainly don't keep it around for another day longer. Pessimists tend to push people away and can turn otherwise healthy relationships into damaging ones. Their thinking patterns and outlook on life spoil happiness and thwart growth. Bundle up all your negative thinking and ship it off... You'll feel all the better for it.
It isn't realistic to completely eliminate fear, and probably not recommended either. After all, some of our instinctual reactions and 'gut feelings' can help get us through sticky or scary situations. But don't let fear control you. Fearing a possible shark attack while swimming in the Great Barrier Reef is a rational fear; fearing the same thing while in a lake in the middle of Colorado is not.
The key here is to buckle down and move forward despite being afraid... It is then that you'll come to realize your fear of the situation was larger than the reality of it! Acknowledge your fear, embrace it, channel it into actionable steps and move through it.
Envy can only live on the assumption that life is a zero-sum-game; one person's good fortune and success means that there's less to be had for the rest of us. Not only is this train of thought selfish, but it is untrue and self-sabotaging. To fight against this behavior, remove yourself from the equation entirely and evaluate how you feel now that it doesn't involve you. Are you happy for your friends success? Step into their shoes and imagine the joy and accomplishment they must be feeling.
All of us have cluttered closets and emotional challenges, but the issues arise when we continue hiding more things under our beds or pile on the grudges till there's no room left to grow. Spring is upon us, so go clean out your closet and unpack your heavy heart as well!
"The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it."
– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan