More than just notecards


When my dear friend handed me this little package as a thank you gift the other day, my heart nearly exploded. It took nearly all my self control to not burst into tears of love and gratitude and wonder at my life. When I got home hours later, I did cry.

This package contains pieces of the hearts of three lovely women I’m lucky to have in my life: The incredible mountain guide and writer Charlotte Austin; the ever-talented and generous artist Claire Giordano; and the infallible mountain woman Teresa Hagerty.

Looking at this little package of mountain notecards symbolizes many aspects of my mountain life.

The two carabiners attached to the mountain notecards are my own.

This past weekend I spent two days mountainside with Teresa teaching two eager-to-learn ladies basic mountaineering skills. It was glorious, and admittedly, it’s one of my favorite things to do. Tromping around in the snow in crampons, tied into the rope and complete with clanking carabiners, pulleys, and belay device. Returning home exhausted, sunburned, and incredibly happy in a way that only being on a mountain can provide. In the shuffle of gear and skill demonstration, two of my carabiners ended up in Teresa’s stuff. This is how she chose to return them.

The purple paracord signifies our online community, Pacific Northwest Outdoor Women, or PNWOW. Teresa and I met through this group two years ago and I was able to wiggle my way into her life and make her my mentor. Since then, she’s taught me nearly everything I know about traveling on glaciers and sleeping in snow. PNWOW has connected me to many fabulous women, including my incredible roommate and a dozen very good friends.

In true Teresa-form, the cord is tied in a double fisherman knot, one of the many we learn and use a mountaineers.

Inside the cord are seven mountain-themed notecards created by Charlotte and Claire. Charlotte is a writer whom I’ve been following for at least three years. Her topics, tone, and style of storytelling resonate with me. I love her work. Claire is not only a lovely person, but a very talented artist who has chosen to pursue art full-time. She’s generous and amazing.

These two ladies recently did a month-long speaking tour. During the trip, Claire jotted down a few of Charlotte’s words and paired them with her own art, making these beautiful mountain notecards. The two revealed the cards only a few days ago, and when I first saw photos of them online, I knew I would want to get my little paws on a set. They speak to me in such a way that only mountains, Charlotte, and Claire can.

And here they are, these mountain notecards, in my very own hands. Inspired by a glorious and articulate writer, illustrated by a generous and kind artist, and gifted to me by a loving and inspiring friend. I couldn’t be more overwhelmed with love and gratitude.

Frequently I ponder this crazy life I have, how I got to this place at all, and how in the big wide universe I got to be so lucky. I have so many incredible women in my life. They are gracious, generous, kind, smart, and full of love for mountains. Every time I engage with my outdoor community, I am in awe of strong, tenacious, generous, smart women, and in turn I receive incredible friends and adventures to match.

I am just the luckiest girl.


What is Below

outdoors, photography
Columbia Crest, Mount Rainier summit

Columbia Crest, Mount Rainier summit, July 9, 2017

“Alpinism is the art of climbing mountains by confronting the greatest dangers with the greatest prudence. Art is used here to mean the accomplishment of knowledge in action.

You cannot always stay on the summits. You have to come down again…

So what’s the point? Only this: what is above knows what is below, what is below does not know what is above. While climbing, take note of all the difficulties along your path. During the descent, you will no longer see them, but you will know that they are there if you have observed carefully.”

~ René Daumal, “Mount Analogue”

Memorial Day 2017

Journal Notes, outdoors

Journal Notes – This text appears as written, with light editing for spelling and grammar.


It’s Monday evening and the sun has set. The golden yellow light that’s warmed my skin all weekend is gone; it’s gold changed to pink and purple. The rainbow of sunset has ended and I’m left with vaguely blue-gray clouds in the distance until today’s light fades forever.

It seems to me sightly narcissistic to be writing away about my own experience and privilege of a long weekend spend sun-soaked, friended, and intoxicated, both of beer and good times. While that experience is, at best, privileged, it is one I worked for, chose, and protect. Being able to stay one day longer in Oregon’s high desert is indeed a privilege.

We’re parked comfortably in a state park. Ellie has made her presence known to all who dare walk by our campsite. I’ve always known her to be a remarkable companion. Not much of a complainer, and always up for a car ride as long as there’s ample room to make a nest just out of sunshine’s reach. Now, she’s curled in her camp chair with her blanket and snoozing away, lifting her head only when the scuff of sandals crosses near our drive.

I have no deep thoughts tonight. It seems silly to recount all the lovely things that happened this weekend. Separated from the people and the place, the stories would fall shallow of their true depth of affectation. All of that to say, it’s been a memorable weekend, even if it was filled completely with Type 1 fun.

The truth is, any recounting of specifics would belie a year’s worth of relationships, dozens of adventures together, and adventures yet to come that would add depth and context to the relation of any one story.

A tale is not singular unto itself, for it is wrapped and tangled with stories enough for books.


The time turns to 9 p.m. and I remember that it’s the time I was hoping to stay awake for. I rarely make it past sunset, but the typing, and dare I say blue light of my computer screen, has jogged my brain and I’m a flurry with thoughts and memories and threads of stories. I’m sure that a few paragraphs while snug in my backseat-bed would put me right to sleep. The sound of water, the Deschutes River sings in my ears. The river is a mere 30 yards from my perch, obscured by low lying wetland shrubs and willows. But no matter, with sound is music enough to my ears.

It’s hard to translate what being outdoors means to my soul. Even the outdoors of a state park, where other people are merely across the street, less than 50 yards away. And that far only because the sites on either side of me are left unoccupied at this hour. There are no hollering children, and there is no music coming from a site or two away. This would be the joy of camping on Monday night. Especially on the Monday of a long weekend, when others have rushed home on their feelings of guilt and pleasure, wishing they could indulge in another day away but never fully indulging  of their agency to do so.

There’s no fire tonight, even though the fire pit is taunting me and begging for the warmth. I have no way to start a fire. A bundle of wood was only $5, and I deeply considered buying from the warm and friendly camp host. But then I remembered my lack of fire starting equipment. There’s not even a lighter to be had. If I were brave, I would have borrowed a flame from a neighbor, but we know I’m not that person.

Instead, I’ll go to bed here shortly. I’ll turn on my twinkle lights, roll up my car windows in defense of the bugs, and read for a few minutes until my eyes no longer stay open on their own. Ellie and I will snuggle in, and we’ll sleep until the sun rises and tomorrow’s light begins.

The Enchantments

I went outside, outdoors, Pacific Northwest

It’s nearly a week later and I still don’t have all the right words to describe this trek through The Enchantments. Appropriately called the “Death March,” this 18-mile slog included 4,500 feet of elevation gain and 6,500 feet of elevation loss. The terrain was tricky, and included boulders, scree, and snow.

It is sufficient to say though, that the scope of my dream adventures has grown. A few key gear additions, and this girl will be ready to climb full-fledged mountains.


adventure, national parks, outdoors

I had Friday off work for the holiday, and spur of the moment, I decided to go to Mount Rainier to see the wildflowers. I had gone to the mountain at the end of May, but it was so overcast that I couldn’t see it, even though I was standing right under it. This time, it was clear and hot and glorious. I grabbed my coworker to come along, and we did a little hiking, a lot of sweating, and some lovely adventuring.