Looking Glass Rock, NC: Rock Climbing

November 9, 2017: 22:00

Let the road trip begin. Will, Pierce and I get on the road to North Carolina. Lucky enough for us, Pierce’s Mema lives in Pulaski and we stay at her house halfway to NC. We get in around 2 am and strongly enjoy the luxury of beds and heat!

November 10, 2017: 08:30

We wake up to the sizzle of bacon and the smell of coffee, yummmm. Mema has a whole breakfast laid out for us.  There are eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, and many southern delights that involve creative uses for apples, all ready for us when we get downstairs!!

Over breakfast Mema tells us about her inspiring life and how she refused to be housewife and mom when she was younger, by getting a job in a hospital as a file clerk, managing patient's medical records. WOOHOO, feminism (aka she is a certified b@da$$). In addition, she also was the first person to use a computer at the hospital she worked at. It was the first time a person’s medical files were on a computer and you could bring up and send their medical history in seconds. Hearing this is pretty cool considering most people in our generation can't remember a world without computers.

After breaky and thanking Mema for her amazing hospitality, we head out to Looking Glass Rock,NC.

12:00

We finally make it to the national forest where Looking Glass Rock is!

From the road fork, continue up the gravel road for about two miles, passing the Slickrock Falls trailhead, and park in a small lot with a kiosk; this is the Sun Wall trailhead.
— https://www.mountainproject.com/area/106523709/nose-area

(note: The "Road fork" to get to the Nose Area area is the first dirt road on your right side after you pass the ranger station on your left side)

13:00

We start the approach and to Looking Glass Rock, where we start our first climb of the trip: Peregrine: 5.9, 450ft: 4 pitches.

Pitch 1: Keekee Lead (aka myself): 5.7 80ft- Slabby, micro to mid-sized cams were great, and a c3 3 to build a low anchor (no bolted anchor on this pitch, but there is a nice sized ledge and low crack that you can make a really nice anchor with)

Pitch 2: Will Lead: 5.9 120ft- Slabby, used micro to mid-sized cams. Will’s Beta: “Don’t run out the last 20ft before the anchor because getting up the last couple feet to the ledge isn’t as easy as it looks. I went for it at first after running out and got a little unnerved” (no bolted anchors, but there is a sloped ledge that you can build a nice anchor on in a deep horizontal crack)

For  the sake of time and the freezing temperatures on the wall, Pierce started to lead the next pitch while I jumarred up a fixed line.

Jumarring, also referred to as jugging, is where the second climber (the one who belays the lead climber on the route) uses ascenders to climb the rope instead of climbing directly on the rock.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ascender_(climbing)

Pitch 3: Pierce Lead: 5.7 120ft- Slabby (so I can stop being redundant, everything on the nose area is slabby) This was a pretty epic lead. By the time I jumarred to the anchor it was dark and the stars were out. Pierce’s body was silhouetted by the dim light of the night sky, his headlamp shone brightly amongst the stars. It might have been cold but that stary night climb is definitely one the coolest things I've ever seen, and Pierce did some gnarly leading via headlamp.  (this pitch ended on bolted anchors)

If you told me that I would be leading trad in the dark with a headlamp a year ago I would have laughed in your face.
— Pierce Tickle

By the time Pierce was anchored in it was freezing and Will and I decided to jumar the last pitch and we all called it a day and bailed on the rap rings on Pitch 3. (note: we had 2 70m ropes and they did not make it all the way to the bottom, so you will need to rap down to the rings you pass on pitch 2)

That night we camped in the national park. There are tons of places to camp so you don't need to worry about making a reservation or anything like that. (fires are also permitted woohoo)

November 11, 2017 09:00

We wake up, pack up and head out for day 2. When we get to The Nose area we decide to climb The Nose: 5.8, 400ft: 4 pitches. (note: we decided  to bail at the end of Pitch 3 so we wouldn't get stuck in the dark this time, little did we know that things were not going to turn out the way we hoped)

Pitch 1: Keekee Lead: 5.5 90ft- Nice and easy to some nice bolted anchors on a big ledge. I used micro and mid-sized cams. Have a pre-tied quad for the anchors to save time.

Pitch 2: Will Lead: 5.8 100ft- The crux of this pitch is about 8 ft to the right of the Pitch 1 anchors and 25ft up. This was when Will took his first trad fall. Beta: Get a high right foot and smear like crazy, get your right hand on a solid shallow eyebrow and then TRUST YOUR FEET, get your weight to the left and reach up and to the right for some bomber underclings (note: this was my beta and I am extremely small so if you are tall this will probably be hard because you almost need to do a right-hand foot match) (This pitch also ends on bolted anchors woohoo!)

Pitch 3: Keekee Lead, 5.8 100ft: The hardest part of this climb is the start, so just make sure you go straight up from the anchors until you get your feet in the eyebrows right above the pitch 2 anchors and then follow them on a diagonal to the right, using the eyebrows as underclings and smearing slightly below them. Bolted anchors again :)

Because the sun started to set by the time Pierce and Will finished pitch 3 we decided to bail and started rappelling down so we wouldn't have to climb in the dark again.

KW-2016-DC-KE-59.JPG

While flaking our ropes we met a really nice couple who were rappelling from rings about 25 ft away from us (out of respect for these climbers I am not using their real names, and will use John and Emma as substitutes).

When we were halfway down our last rappel between the ground and Pitch 2 anchors we hear John yell out,

Hey guys are you rappelling? By any chance can you reach our rope?
— John

It turns out that John and Emma had accidentally left their stopper knot in and had already started to pull their rope through. (a stopper knot makes sure you don't rappel off the end of the rope) However, if you don't undo the stopper before pulling the rope through your rope will get stuck at the rap rings and in this case, they became stranded at the next set of anchors about 200ft off the ground. (note: there is no cell service in this national park and we were the last 2 parties on the rock)

Because we had already gotten below their rope there was no way for us to swing and grab their rope which meant Will and I had bump back up to our Rap Rings (at the pitch 2 anchors) and then climb Pitch 3 again, pull their rope up and untie their stopper. The main issue with this situation was the sun was setting and it was getting extremely cold again.

We decided to have Pierce rappel down to the bottom because it would be quicker for a team of 2 to go back up pitch 3. After Pierce rappelled and we organized ropes and gear to have Will ready to lead pitch 3 (5.8 100ft), the sun was almost down and there was just a slight golden haze everywhere, so once again we are climbing with headlamps. However, remember how the hardest part of pitch 3 was the start? Well, Will got slightly off course at the beginning and before he was able to place any gear his foot slipped off a smear and he ended up having a factor 2 fall.

A fall of 20 feet is much more severe (exerts more force on the climber and climbing equipment) if it occurs with 10 feet of rope out (i.e. the climber has placed no protection and falls from 10 feet above the belayer to 10 feet below—a factor 2 fall) than if it occurs 100 feet above the belayer (a fall factor of 0.2), in which case the stretch of the rope more effectively cushions the fall.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_climbing

So basically, factor 2 falls are some serious sh*t. However, mistakes happen and smearing in the dark when it's freezing is not easy.

It is hard to explain what these 3 seconds were like, and I can't write for Will (can't imagine the fear or pain that he was experiencing at the time). Will ended up tweaking his ankle and popping his shoulder out and then the force of him stopping popped his shoulder back in, resulting in a ligament sprain and having to take 2-3 weeks off of climbing.

I can’t emphasize how much It sucks seeing your climbing partner in pain. You create a special bond with the people you climb with because you have to trust them 100% with your life.

When I asked Will if he had anything to add, his response was simply:

If you can trust your partner with a factor 2 fall you can trust them with anything :)
— Will Irwin

This trust is crucial when climbing and I can easily say that I would trust Will and Pierce with my own life if the roles were ever reversed.  Lucky enough, Will was able to move his shoulder and put weight on his ankle, allowing him to get back up to the pitch 2 anchors. Since his shoulder and ankle were hurt he could not climb the route, however his mental fortitude kept him calm and level headed enough to belay me. Which meant I needed to climb the route that he just took a factor 2 fall on, in 30-degree weather, in the pitch dark via head-lamp. To put this in perspective put your hands and feet into the fridge, turn off the lights and then shine a flashlight. That's what it was like climbing pitch 3 (+200 ft off the ground).

Fast forward a little, I was able to climb pitch 3 and untie Emma and John’s stopper so they could retrieve their rope. Then I rappelled and cleaned Pitch 3 and got back to the belaying station where Will was, and we were able to rappel down to the ground.

Looking back at this experience, I am so grateful to have such amazing climbing partners. Pierce trusted and believed in Will and me to rescue the climbers. Then when Will wasn’t able to climb he trusted and believed in my climbing ability to rescue the climbers. The power of trust and faith should never be overlooked because when I doubted my own climbing ability it only lasted for a second because I knew that they 100% confidence in me.

I also want to point out that climbing is a dangerous sport and no one should take it lightly. There are so many ways that this all could've gone extremely wrong.

If we weren’t there that couple would have been left out on that ledge all night in 20-30 degree weather until people came to climb the next day.

WIll could have easily landed wrong in the fall and seriously injured himself or knocked himself out (to clarify we were all wearing helmets).

If I hadn’t known to pull up on an ATC during a factor 2 fall, instead of down (the normal direction to break on an ATC) the rope would have just slipped through the ATC and WIll could have taken a 200ft ground fall.

Or I could have fallen from a mistake while anchoring and rappelling by myself at the top of pitch 3.

I could play the “If game” forever, but the point is KNOW YOUR SYSTEMS. BE PRECISE and 100% MINDFUL while you are climbing. Because, small mistakes like leaving a stopper knot in your rope can snowball into horrible accidents.

This trip was made possible by Will and Pierce

And a special thanks to David who made this blog post readable, by editing my word vomit (aka my horrible spelling and grammar) he is also an amazing climber and is currently battling a finger strain. However, he will definitely be in future posts, so keep an eye out for him!

The New Shenanigans

Climbing is a sport, a lifestyle and a community that's entwined into my life recently. The sport is the perfect challenge for both the mind and body and unlike many other physical activities it will always challenge you no matter how good or knowledgeable you get.

It's kind of funny because I've started to think of money in terms of climbing gear and trips. Where I go to buy a cocktail or a Music Festival ticket and stop myself because, "wow 2 gin and tonics could buy me 3 quickdraws..." or "no way I could buy a rope and a one way flight to California" I'm not sure if this new way of thinking is healthy or not but my liver and brain is definitely happy with my lifestyle adjustment haha.

More Important, the climbing community is one of the best parts of the sport. The people are some the nicest, open and intelligent people I've ever met. They are the type of people who don't care about where you work or how much money you make, the only thing they care about is if you are a good belayer who wont drop them (understandably).

Soo yeah climbing is awesome, and last weekend I went climbing at The New River Gorge with some amazing people, and it was pretty rad.
Here's a photo of us and a little about the amazing people in the photo:

  (left)  Evan, Dag, Pierce, Will, Kalli, Me  (right)

(left) Evan, Dag, Pierce, Will, Kalli, Me (right)

Kalli: I call out Kalli first because she is the one that introduced me to climbing last Fall. Not only is she a bad ass climber but I don't think I've ever met a smarter or more driven person. For example, we were talking about; "What would you do if money wasn't a limitation and you could do whatever you wanted?" Her answer, "I would do what I'm doing now because I love my job and then maybe I'd start my own company that would focus on using technology to make life easier for people." Like what????
What's even more amazing is that she will revolutionize the world in some way because she has the work ethic to back up her big brain, and dreams to change the world. In addition, Kalli is a beyond talented pianist and probably knows everything about the Myers Briggs personality types (so if you ever wanna know about that you should ask her).  Furthermore, she's the type of genius that would never make you feel stupid or talk down to you because you don't understand something. (even though she could probably run circles around the average person's intellect, hahah).
Sadly, this smarty is leaving our small climbing community in DC for bigger and better things in San Francisco. It might be sad but I know she is going to make leaps and bounds in California, and it is probably the best place for a person who wants to revolutionize the world :). So good luck girl I know you are gunna go down in history one day and I am so excited to see the amazing things you do out west (and maybe one day join ya out there!).

Pierce: So I am convinced that if you're going to have a climbing crew you've gotta have a gear head and climbing encyclopedia, and that is what Pierce is for us. Not only is he a great climber and belayer, but he's probably read more climbing books then the rest of us have combined. In addition, he's always up to date about new gear and how it is better or not better then the old, honestly who needs a subscription to climbing magazine when you have him around! (it's awesome!!) Also Pierce is a talented singer. We didn't find this out until an epic sing along drive back from Elizabeth's Furnace when he stated belting out some angsty Green Day. Talk about shocking, like if you ever want some angsty rock while on a crag or camping in the woods name a song and you pretty much got yourself a portable radio who can also help carry rope. He also has some awesome plans for the future, like going climbing in Thailand and climbing the Nose?? I guess you could say he is another person that wont be living a boring mundane life.

Dag: Oh my goodness, he is the newest to climbing in our group but talk about a dude that never stops smiling or trying. Now Dag started climbing only a few months ago and his first outdoor attempt at climbing was when we went to The New. SO talk about hitting the ground running; The New is definitely not an easy place to climb, and hats off to him because he jumped onto the 5.8s and 5.9s like a bad ass. I commend his bravery and mental fortitude because a lot of people would be to scared to even try a 5.8 climb outside when he just jumped on like it was NBD. Furthermore, the smiley, goofy, pizza loving facade of Dag compliments his extremely kind heart. This kindness also makes him the most popular person I have ever met. No matter where you go with him he will either make 5 new friends or already know everyone there. It might be the cute waitress from Pies & Pints or a person that just so happens to like the same beer as him at the 9:30 club (aka Eddie haha). Dag, I would like to say is the little ray of sunshine that peaks through the clouds at the end of a thunderstorm and makes everything glisten like little diamonds around him. (teehee)

Will: Okay talk about a humble person who has has been living the most full filing life. He is a trustworthy belayer and an amazing climber, and the type of person who pushes you to be a better climber and person. As a group, we also have to be grateful because when the rest of us don't send a climb he is willing to climb a route twice as a setter and a cleaner, and never complains about how he pretty much has to climb 2x the amount the rest of us do. But beyond climbing Will has accomplished more in his 23 years then most people have in their entire lives. To name a few: He's hiked the John Muir Trail (221 mile hike that goes up Mt. Whitney aka the highest point in the continental US), he's also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, did a marathon at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and has traveled to Thailand and numerous other places. In addition, he's doing a half iron man soon. If that's not enough he's going to hike the JMT again (meh like why not) and if that's still not enough he's going to climb Mon Blonc this year.... (So yeah to all the readers that felt like lazy asses before reading this I hope you feel even more lazy now hahah) So yeah I would say he is the overachiever of the group, but its good because he makes the rest of us want to be better.

Evan: You know those people who have no filter but it doesn't matter because they are too innocent and kind that you can't get mad at what they say? Well Evan is that type of person. He really has no filter though, if something is on his mind he will blurt it out no matter how weird or strange it is. I, kind of, have the upmost respect for him for that because their are not enough honest people out there. I would also like to add that Evan is soon going to be the honorary Dirt Bag (this is a compliment in climbing terms) of the group when he finishes converting his Mercedes Sprinter into a Van home! What makes this all even better is that Evan is also extremely intelligent and lives a little outside the lines. He started his unorthodox way of life when he decided college wasn't for him and dropped out. Now this is a great example on how school is NOT for everyone because even though he dropped out he still took care of himself, didn't get into trouble, and was able to get a job to support his hobbies like climbing and van conversion. Sadly, he is another that we are going to lose this year because he is also going out west soon to live the dream of climbing, traveling and van living. (I hope our vans cross paths one day when we are both living the Dirt Bag Dream!)

So now you know how amazing the climbers are that went to The New, and here is what we did:

Friday Night-Day 1: we left DC/Vienna around 6:30 and didn't get into our campsite till around 1:30 am. It was a long drive but it is definitely worth it to have the night before so you get the whole next day to climb. We camped at one of the NPS camp sites which is first come first serve (aka free which is awesomeeeee) The site had toilets and toilet paper wooohoo!!!! We camped on the beach it was pretty perfect cause you could go swimming and we had a fire pit (and fire=funnnnn and smores) 

 our lovely campsite  note: bugs are bad so make sure you have a lot of bug spray, the area is also perfect for hammocking so if it doesn't rain you're good with not using a tent.  (I will get the address and place it here)

our lovely campsite

note: bugs are bad so make sure you have a lot of bug spray, the area is also perfect for hammocking so if it doesn't rain you're good with not using a tent. (I will get the address and place it here)

Saturday- Day 2: Please learn from our mistakes! Check the book and do not be stupid because you need to go to places with mainly sport routes if you don't know how to Trad sooooo we strongly recommend going on or near Tattoo wall. This area has a great amount of sport routes that range between 5.8-5.11. It does get very busy so be prepared for a good amount of waiting, and a lot of people and crag dogs (the crag dogsssss are awessssomeee).  To get to this area you will hike about 20-30mins form the Sandstonia parking lot that is near some power lines and a little circular grave area. From their follow Sandstonia signs, and you will follow the power lines over some rollings hills and then take a left into the woods where it will start out flat. Then you go down steep switchbacks which will take you to the crag!! Woohoo (note: most people leave around 4pm so it gets really nice and pretty chill after then) After a good day of climbing we went to this great pizza place called Pies & Pints which was delicious and I strongly recommend it. Once again, it is super popular so be prepared to wait about a hour for a table, especially if you are in a big group! Then we ended the night with a nice campfire, cards and shenanigans.

 This was definitely the best Crag Dog... what an awesome lifeee

This was definitely the best Crag Dog... what an awesome lifeee

Sunday- Day 3: Once again LEARN FROM OUR STUPID MISTAKESSSS. On Sunday we decided to check out Summerville Lakes. We drove and parked at the Summerville Lakes parking lot which is right off of rt 19 and looks like a Gravel Pit. From the parking lot you walk about 10-15 mins on a nice path (marked with really big red markers). NOW the IMPORTANT part is that you take a left right after walking over a little stream and if you get to a beautiful cliff that overlooks the water you went to far. If you get to the cliff overlook you need to go back about 5 mins and go down the little path with the little stone tower. Don't worry about the path being a little overgrown you are going the right way, and then the next "landmark" is a sketchy wooden ladder next to some water that you go down. Then you will arrive at the first set of bolted routes about 5 mins after. We climbed near the Orange Oswald route which is this beautiful stretch of rock right next to the water. It has a great group of 5.9-5.11 climbs and good amount of 5.10s. To get to the area we climbed you just have to walk straight with the wall on your left side, pass the huge cave and it will come up within 5-10 mins. This area was awesome because you can go swimming in the water to cool off and set up of rope swings. The only thing that might bother you is that the boats that pass by are pretty loud which makes it a bit hard to hear when you're belaying. Also, a quick note about leaving when you take the path back. Make sure you cross the little river/slippery rocks after going up the ladder, because if you don't you will get extremely off path. If you start seeing boundry signs you are going the wrong way and you need to back track back to the ladder.  But in general Summerville lakes was awesomeeeeeeeeeee, and was the perfect end to our West Virginia trip.

So the trip was awesome, the people were awesome and now I'd like to make a quick shout out to the awesome people that helped us when we had no idea which route was which, espcially Jimmy who gave us a run down and was the one who reccomended Summerville Lakes, you ROCK dudddeee.

Climbing on the Gnar

Okay so in October I stated to climb.. and what can I say? It's weirdly addictive and I can't stop. (Major shoutout to Kalli and my two bosses (Josh and Leland) for introducing me to climbing at Earth Treks)

So what is climbing like? Well, it's a great mixture of mental strength and endurance.  Then when you're climbing it is a beautiful moment of clarity where it is just you and the wall and you don't have to worry about the stresses of reality. It is an escape.

Now I am no expert when it comes to climbing but I have learned few things here and there.

  1. There are 3 types of Gym climbing: Top Roping, Bouldering and Lead Climbing.
    1. Top Roping: when the climber is secured to an anchor at the top of a climb and down to a belayer at the bottom of a climb
    2. Bouldering: performed without ropes or harnesses (shorter wall or rock, where you will either have padded ground or a crash pad for when you inevitably fall haha)
    3. Lead: when there are pre-placed anchors along the route where the climber must clip in on their way up (there is still a belayer at the bottom)
  2. There are several types of outdoor climbing: Deep-Water Soloing, Free Soloing (aka ridiculousness), Multi-Pitch Climbing, Sport Climbing and Traditional Climbing.
    1. Deep-Water Soloing: Pretty self explanatory you're climbing over water that is deep enough so when you fall you wont die hahaha
    2. Free Soloing: A form of Free Climbing where the climber forgoes ropes, harnesses and other protective gear (look up Alex Honnold if you want to see what this is like)
    3. Multi-Pitch Climbing: When a route is longer then the fixed length of rope, the leader of the first climb sets up an anchor and then belays the second climber to the anchor, and while they climb they remove the anchors placed by the first climber (cleans up) (I am definitely oversimplifying this but if you really want to know more details then google it)
    4. Sport Climbing: involves bolting a climb with power drills and creating permanent anchors where clips are place for lead climbing
    5. Traditional Climbing: (Trad Climbing) where protection from falling is placed by the climber while they are ascending the climb ( if there are bolts placed they are usually more spaced out than Sport Climbing)

Now there are definitely more types of climbing but I am not an expert and this is just what I know so far, and it is a pretty good overview (hopefully). If not just look up climbing on google you will find a plethora of information.

Anyhoo I got to do a little outdoor climbing and it was pretty rad, however it did show me that I have a loonggggg way to go. Climbing is hard and you need to get a lot better before you can start climbing outdoors. I guess we all must start somewhere? (Shoutouts to Evan, Ross and Adam for taking me outdoors for the first time and being patient with my shit climbing skillz hahah). Below are photos of us climbing at Great Falls in Virginia, so please enjoy and I'll be back soon with adventures from Europe!

 

1 OZ Squad, 2 Lovers, and a Fin taking on Chicago + NYC + DC

1 OZ Squad

The OZ Squad... Who are we?

Well we are the 5 ladies that lived in a camper van and traveled through the south island of New Zealand. We are also the most random, loud and crazy brunch of people that you will ever meet. More important, we are also intelligent, when we are sober, and we can be very responsible when put into precarious situations. So who are the 5 lucky ladies that make up the OZ Squad...

Megan Belcaster-Murphy: Megs is from beautiful sunny LA and is now residing in the Windy City of Chicago. This girl is responsible, crazy intelligent and very in touch with the spirits. She is a 2016 graduate of Yale University with a BS in Biology (yeah realllllyyyyy smart). She's also hot, she's got that half asian thaanggg going for her, oh and she fenced at Yale so she is also Athletic... Talk about a triple threat. But sorry boys she has already been snatched up by the wonderful Jack Belcaster, and is going to have a beautiful baby in November!!!! 

Anna-Stina Koivula: She is the Mom of our group in the sense that she is very sweet and is the best with crafts. May I also add the she is also the Beast of group as in she is super jacked and muscular! For example, I went to the gym with her and after working out I proceeded to throw up in the bushes. Anyhoo, Anna is from Finland and our honorary foodie who HATES spicy food. She also is our BOHO fashionista who always is looking sharp in her rounded sunglasses and top bun pig tails. And, she is also studying to be a doctor! ... damn we girls are smarttt

Samantha Lee: Oh goodness me, Samantha Lee. She is a great example of how Canadians are not just quiet and polite... Don't get me wrong she is extremely polite and probably one of the nicest people I have ever met but... This girl is also one of the funnest people I have ever met as well. She is always down to go out and have a good time and she is another one who is extremely intelligent. May I add, if you ever need to know anything about Asian food Sam is the girl to ask because she knows all about Asian food culture! ( once again boys sorry this girl is also taken by hour beautiful Norwegian Anton Abilov who has a beautiful bum ) I'm personally hoping that the next OZ squad wedding will be theirs, no pressure... haha

Laura Moreno-Vasquez: First generation Columbian, 100% fun and a fabulous dancer. In addition to that, she is fluent in Spanish, extremely loud, and has the coolest hair! This girl is also crazy smart and graduated from UT with a degree in Civil Engineering!!! What!!! DAMNNNN! May I also say this girl has an insanely good memory... like if you tell her something about your family or anything else she will remember it years later even if you haven't spoken about it for months. On top of all of that Laura has some beautiful legs, and is probably the best person to go out with because she is not the type to shy away from a boy. I would say if Laura had a spirit animal it would definitely be a Lion. Sleeps a lot but when they find some prey they pounce and grab it haha

Keekee Winslow (aka meee!): So I am the narrator ( for now ) of our group hahah and I would like to think I am the Artsy and whimsical one. I live in the clouds and without borders, but I am lucky to have great friends that grounded...ish... I definitely do a lot of impulsive things, that usually are good ideas. However, even if they are one of the bad ideas the aftermath is usually very funny. On a serious note, I am so blessed to have met these 4 ladies, because they are all unique and special in their own ways and have all touched my heart and soul so many real and odd of ways, and for that I am eternally grateful.

2 LOVERS

After a year of being separated, our beautiful OZ squad got back together to celebrate Mrs. Megan Murphy-Belcaster's wedding. It was held at the beautiful Northfork farm in Oswego Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The whole wedding was absolutely beautiful. The ceremony was perfect and reflected the bride and grooms personalities perfectly; traditional with a twist of unique individuality.

My favorite part of the wedding was when Jack Belcaster (groom) saw Megan walking down the aisle. It felt like the whole world stopped and you could see a magnetic attraction and love between them. 

Before the wedding none of the OZ squad new Jack, Megan did say that we would understand how amazing he is when we met him. Well, she was right, after seeing the look on his face and the tears rolling down his face we all knew that this was something that was real, and would last. If there is true love in the world we all had the opportunity to witness it, in a small moment, inimately with the Belcaster and Murphy families at that moment. 

Continuing on this journey of love with Megan and Jack we all went to the reception and had a wonderful time meeting people from Jack and Megan's past lives. All the people that we met reflected how amazing Jack and Megan are and how these two, have always had this energy since they first met, freshman year, at Yale University.

WOW.. a great love story.

 Megan and Jack !!  Photo Credit - Shane Strs

Megan and Jack !!  Photo Credit - Shane Strs

A FIN Taking on Chicago + NYC + DC

The OZ squad was broken up after the wedding and Laura had to go back to Austin, TX to start her first post-grad job and Sam had to go home after traveling for a month with her boyfriend Anton. So it was just me and Anna left, taking on some of America's biggest cities. We were lucky and got to stay with my lovely friend Kelsey in Chicago for 2 extra days.

Kelsey and I grew up together playing soft ball, and then went to high school together. I would say we were the weirdos of our school but we were the coolest weirdos out there. Kelsey is also a dope ass person who is basically super chill, has her shit together, and is extremely motivated to make a difference in the world (I find this very refreshing considering most people are so mundane and stuck in their own bubbles that they don't care about the world).

So Anna and I got very lucky because it just so happen that Kelsey was house sitting for one of her mom's co-workers and the apartment that she was staying at was AMAZING!!!!! It was right downtown on the 12 floor and had the most beautiful balcony view (check out the photos!). May I add that there were 3 bathrooms and 2 bedrooms... like whattttt??? So staying with Kelsey was a breath of fresh air... Literally... considering we stayed at a motel 6 (which wasn't bad at all) and then a questionable motel that smelled like a bathroom and had a smoke detector going off when we got into the room. So yes. Anna and I slept like babies our first night at Kelsey's.

After sleeping like babies, Anna and I were able to explore Chicago's Bean, Lakeview trail, and beach. I was also able to see one of my greatest friend Jake who recently moved to Chicago for med school at Northwestern... Yupp he is soooo smart and nice and super adorable. May I also add that he is a marathon runner, a bunch of fun and has the dopest apartment in downtown Chicago with a awesome roof deck that has a grill on it. OH AND he is single so you bachelors out there .. y'all should catch him while you can. (he is probably going to murder me for saying that hahah) 

In the end Chicago was amazing and we both had a ton of fun. We did want to see a few other sights before heading back to DC so we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls before heading to the big apple!

When we got to NYC we stayed with my lovely cousins!! They are also totally awesome and I would definitely say they are probably the chillest cousins/aunt/uncle out there. We got into NYC at night so we checked out Time Square at night (this is when it's the brightest and busiest). Then the following day we got to walk all over the Island. Starting in Brooklyn we took the Subway to Grand Central Park, then walked to Time Square (to see it during the day), then to the Flatiron building, Chinatown, and then we walked back to Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge and watched the sun set over the city (strongly recommend doing this if you ever go to NYC!). Then at 8:30pm we headed to my home Washington, DC.

So now we have finally caught up to the present where we are in DC, getting ready for a Moonrise (music festival in Baltimore) and who knows what will happen next! Stay tuned!

 Just keep smiling :)          Photo Credit : Zurab         Instagram: @zurab_kei_photography

Just keep smiling :)          Photo Credit : Zurab         Instagram: @zurab_kei_photography

Ireland for A Bit of Craic.

CRAIC = FUN, HANGING OUT, or just WHAT'S UP ( Irish slang is very different from American slang )

Now that we all know what craic means I must say... Ireland was all the craic! The country is beautiful and the people are lovely. The trip was fantastic and I cannot wait to go back.

TRAVEL TIME: June 24th - July 10th

ITINERARY:

DAY 1: Meet Sean and Paul (aka two awesome Irishmen), explore Bunraty Castle, Durty Nelly's Pub and then dinner at Bunraty Castle where there was amazing food and beautiful singing of Irish history

DAY 2: Drive to Killarney, cycle through the national park, walk to a waterfall inside the national park, watched the Ireland vs. France game at Murphy's pub

DAY 3: Horseback riding through the national park, walked the Dunlow Gap

DAY 4: Walked through Derrynane National park, explored the graveyard on Abbey Island, went seaweed foraging and had a seaweed feast

DAY 5: Drive to Dingle, Kayak along the coast and saw Fungi the dolphin, Dick Mack's Pub, This is also where we found out about the band Walking on Cars

DAY 6: Went on a very wet walk and explored the Dingle Whiskey Distillery

DAY 7: Cycled to a beach for a picnic

DAY 8: Drove to Cliffs of Moher, Then drove to the Burren, then drove to Dublin

DAY 9: Guiness Museum, Jameson Distillery,  Temple Bar, O'Niels Pub

DAY 10: Drive to find distant cousin (unsuccessful), drive to Galway, The Quay Pub

DAY 11: Aran Islands biked around

DAY 12: Fish and Chips place, Front Door Pub and met some awesome people > 2 Croatian guys, a guy from Chicago, a girl from Melbourne, another girl from Perth and an Irish and New Zealand lad. They were all awesome!

DAY 13: Aran Islands round 2 and biked the whole island

DAY 14: Bus to Dublin, Trinity College, met up with a amazing friend named Claudine, and she showed me around Dublin

DAY 15: Bus to Limerick, met up with Claudine's boyfriend Sean, walked around the University, grabbed lunch and met their friend Liam, went bowling, grabbed tea/coffee and cake at Ivans, Sean cooked an amazing vegetable curry dinner

DAY 16: Headed back to the USA :(