Weekend in the Sierras

I made the old familiar trek up the 395 to Bishop for Memorial Day weekend, but this was the first time it wasn't a climbing trip. I traded my climbing shoes for hiking boots and my Mark II for my ae1. We spent the weekend venturing up and down the Sierras hitting everywhere from the temple crag to the hot springs.

Check out a few snaps from the trek along with the faces of my friends who made the weekend so enjoyable. 

Band of Gringos @ Moonshine Beach

"I'm flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi, with America's hottest band... and we're all about to die."

Just kidding, I just couldn't write a blog on music without somehow including a quote from my favorite movie. Rolling Stone might not be paying me to tour the country with a rogue rock band, but my friend Kasey did snag me credentials to shoot him and his crazy talented amigos, Band of Gringos, while they performed at Moonshine Beach. 

The first time I heard the Gringos play was on the main stage of the Ocean Beach Street Fair last year with the waves crashing behind them and a cold beer in my hand.  Like any other kid that grew up stealing their dad’s Led Zepplin IV album would be, I was an immediate fan of their Hendrix-esque sound. If you love Classic Rock, a healthy dose of shredding solos, and supporting local music, then you need to check out the Gringo trio. Cody Sherman is their guitarist and vocalist, Spence Noble plays the drums, and my buddy Kasey Dring ties it all together with his bass guitar. The band is based out of Ocean Beach and can be heard playing various spots around the San Diego such as Winstons and Belly Up.

Go follow Band of Gringos on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on their shows and groove along with me in the front row! 

Campside: Portraits from Red Rock Rendezvous

Last weekend was my first time attending Red Rock Rendzvous and I may have gotten a little carried away with my shutter. Since I took so many photos I thought it would be best to separate the photos into two posts: portraits and climbing shots.

So without further ado, I present to you the faces that made RRR18 so enjoyable last weekend. Thank you all for letting me constantly snap away as we climbed and drank our weight in free beer!

Stay tuned for another post chalk full of climbing photos headed your way next week.


Thank You

My friendship with Sierra began 5 years ago in Salt Lake City while wandering amongst the booths of Outdoor Retailer. I was a young, recently graduated and recently dumped 22-year old that had no idea what I was doing with my upended life when a climbing friend talked me into getting out of town and out of my head by going with him to Outdoor Retailer. Since 'flight' is my go-to response when troubles arise in my life, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity and soon found myself on a 10-hour drive coasting along Highway 15 under the hot Utah sun. It was during the first day of the show when my friend re-introduced me to Sierra (who reminded me when reading this that we actually first met years ago at the gym) and the three of us spent the rest of Outdoor Retailer together.

Fast forward five years since the Salt Palace and I’m still fortunate to have Sierra as one of my closest friends. She’s been there for me through everything good and bad, minor and major. Even though we’re 300 miles apart (or more if you count when she’s traveling for competitions) she’s always been there with a funny meme that she thinks I’ll laugh at too, or words of support when I’m having a hard time, which brings me to this current blog post…

Without getting too deep into the hows and whys of things, I’ve recently found myself once again upended and unsure of what’s in store for me. Like many people, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety off and on for most of my life. However, up until recently, I’ve been able to manage it by surrounding myself with a large and loving community that help keep me distracted when things became overwhelming. When that was no longer enough to drown the depression, I chose to run away to a dream opportunity in Tahoe rather than face the problem head-on. I was convinced I could leave those bad feelings behind me in San Diego and become the strong, confident, badass mountain woman I've always wanted to be.

But I was so very wrong. It wasn’t very long without my support system that I began to crumble. I really did try with everything I had to make Tahoe work, but after only a week I couldn’t stop myself from suddenly bursting out crying in public places like the Post Office. After about a month I stopped trying to force myself to go out and meet people. By month two I was no longer eating, only going to work and then straight to bed. The activities I once loved most, like snowboarding or photography, were no longer enjoyable and I had no interest in pursuing them. I was at rock bottom with no idea how to climb back out, but what was worse was that I no longer cared enough to try anymore. Luckily, my incredible family and friends were there to help me when I couldn’t help myself.

I think Yosemite was when I was most afraid I would never find my way back to my old happy self. When I first returned to San Diego my amazing friends Joseph and Monica invited me to join them for a trip to Yosemite and I felt the smallest flutter of excitement for the first time in a while. I thought that was a positive sign I should fall back into my old self in Yosemite, surrounded by my friends and the granite walls of the Valley. During our four days there we climbed, we hiked, we celebrated Joe’s birthday and ate the most amazing food you could imagine (Joseph is the best cook I know and an absolute wizard with a cast-iron pan and a campfire.), but even surrounded by all that love I somehow still felt empty. On our last evening there we witnessed the sunset bask the entire valley in such a breathtaking alpine glow that it brought all of us to a complete standstill mid-hike. My friends were moved to silence by the magnitude of that moment as we stood completely alone on the Glacier Point Trail with El Cap glowing gold on one side of us and Half Dome reflecting pink on the other. I was moved to silence too, not from the view, but rather the lack of effect it had on me. I stared and stared, just willing myself to feel something, anything, but all I felt was that ceaseless emptiness. I wondered just how broken I was that a magical place such as Yosemite - which has always brought me to my knees in wonder before - could in that shining moment still not pull me out of the darkness.

All throughout that trip I could see just how hard Monica, Joe, Debs, Kelly, and Annalise were trying to help me feel better and I can’t say enough how grateful I am for them and their friendship. Maybe it was the song “Old Pine” that Debs and Joe kept playing on repeat, but by the end of our drive home, I’d realized I was wrong to think that I could just go back to the “old happy me” I was before. There is no moving backward to who I was, only forwards into who I could be. I didn’t really know what that meant or how long it would take but as the chorus of “we grow” faded out I knew I didn’t have to face that scary unknown alone. As Monica’s packed car rolled on through the night I drifted off to sleep grateful for the friends, the weekend, and the chance to figure out how to keep moving forward.

Although Yosemite didn’t fix me overnight like I naively hoped for, it was the catalyst I needed to start moving again. When I got home I made a promise to myself to get out and adventure at least once a month for the rest of the year in hopes that time outdoors with friends could help heal and shape me. In February I threw myself and my climbing bag into my car and made my way east to visit Sierra for some climbing and relaxing in Arizona.  I’d never spent time in Arizona outside of family trips to the river in Parker, so Sierra spent the weekend showing me around her hometown and the surrounding areas. Our outdoor climbing destination was Sedona and as the first of the towering red buttes came into view I gasped. I pressed my face to the window as we wound our way through quirky desert town before parking under one of those towering red faces. Sierra, Kyle, and Coleman were my tour guide around The Anvil Boulders that day as we scrambled from problem to problem. I took out my camera from time to time, but for the most part, I was content to simply feel the sandstone under my fingers and the sunshine on my back.

It wasn’t until the quiet moments of reflection on the drive back that I realized… I’d felt it again. I still wasn’t feeling it full force, or even halfway, but I was starting to feel the wonder and awe of that the outdoors bring. Even though it didn’t mean that I was all good again, it was a sign that I’m moving in the right direction of who I can be. So thank you, Sierra, Joseph, and Monica, for not only your friendship, but for helping me towards the right direction and keeping me company along the way. I’m actually feeling excited and happy for Red Rock this weekend.

I don’t have any recent photos to accompany this next part, but this blog wouldn’t be complete without taking the time give thanks to a few more people. I can’t mention everyone by name, but here are just a few additional words of gratitude that are long overdue…

Thank you, Alyssa and Carly, for understanding me completely and loving me unconditionally for the past 15 years...even if lately that has meant letting me show up unannounced and crying on your couch as you feed me cheddar ruffles and jelly beans. You two know me better than anyone and I look forward to growing old with you farts.

Thank you, Jill, for spontaneous late night adventures, answering your phone for me at all hours day or night, being unapologetically honest, and reminding me to stop trying to be what I’m not and instead work towards embracing who I am.  

Thank you, Kelsey, for 17 years of friendship and for jumping into freezing pools, wearing prom dresses in the middle of grocery stores, and participating in literally every other photo shoot I've ever done. You've been my model and muse since day one.

I also want to give thanks to Chris, Zach, Sarah, and the rest of the Heavenly/Kirkwood team. South Lake Tahoe did not turn out how I had wanted or planned. I was struggling more than I was willing to admit, but your kindness, friendliness, and comedic relief made my time there worth fighting for as long as I was able to. I still struggle with leaving you all and still wonder everyday what could have been had I stayed, but I know that coming home to get help was the right decision even if it wasn’t the easiest one. You better believe I’ll be taking you up on those camping offers this summer!

And of most of all, thank you to my family. Thank you to my dad who dropped everything and drove me 9 hours through the middle of the night when I didn’t have the strength to do it myself. Thank you to my mom who never stops searching for ways to provide me with the tools and information I need to improve and face my depression head on. Thank you to both of my sisters and my brother in law who listen without judgment and offer sage advice, podcasts, and stories so I know I’m not alone.

Thank you Megan, Jack, Connell, Rosie, Katie, Pink Alex, Paisley, Matt, Matteo, and so so many more of you that I could probably go on forever. Thank you to everyone who has helped me by lending an ear, offering a hug, or just greeting we with a warm “Welcome back!” Even if I have never met you, thank you for taking the time to listen now. I wouldn’t be here or who I am without all of your love and support

2018 San Diego Women's March

For this year's Women's March, I wanted to use my film camera as a microphone to help share the voices of those marching with me.



I must have close to a dozen different versions of this blog post in varying stages of progress, but none of them felt quite right. I wanted to write about the balance required to pursue passion while avoiding burning out, but I couldn't seem to express those thoughts succinctly enough.  It's been six months since I last published anything new - the longest hiatus from photography I've taken since burning out after college - and I could feel my ego putting pressure on myself to make this return to my personal pursuits impressive and worthwhile.

That was the point in which I realized I was no longer making work out of passion, but out of fear. Fear is one of the strongest motivators in my life; fear of not being good enough, fear of letting people down, fear of seeming unintelligent or fear of being weak are just a few of the main themes I struggle against. Fear can sometimes be a great motivator. It’s pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself for the better at times, but it's not necessarily a healthy way to approach life or one's mental well-being. Over the past year I've been working on letting some of that harmful ego go and being more kind to myself, but I still have a long way to go. It's not easy to reverse 25 years of learned behavior, especially when fear based motivation has helped me accomplish some pretty great things despite its toxic nature.

For as long as I can remember, photography has always been my greatest passion. Throughout the various other activities that have come and gone throughout my life photography has always remained a constant – it's a way for me to better enhance the experiences of my other passions like climbing and snowboarding. But at some point over these past few months something shifted, and what once used to drive me now felt draining.

At first I thought I was burning out due to the creative nature of my career. After all, who would want to spend their free hours processing images in Photoshop after already spending a full day working in Adobe's Creative Suite? I distracted myself with climbing training and yoga and told myself I was working on finding the proper work/life balance I needed to not burn out once again. I thought I was striving to find that healthy medium when in reality I was using these activities as a way to avoid the anxiety I felt about my future as a creative professional.

Over the past few months I had begun to feel that the path I laid out for myself was playing it too safe and that I wanted more for myself, but I was unsure of what that would mean and was too afraid to find out. I didn't want to ask if I had what it would take to follow that passion for fear that the answer would be, “No.” After a lot of reflection I finally had to admit to myself that what I wanted more than anything was to pursue a career in adventure media, but by naming that I had given myself a goal I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. Up until this point the risks I had taken in my life had always been carefully calculated so as not to face my biggest fear, that I was never enough and that I didn’t have what it would take.

Which brings me back to this particular blog post. It has taken me over a month to publish these photos from a great weekend of climbing with friends at Tramway. No matter how hard I tried to motivate myself I couldn't bring myself to finish editing these photos, and the longer it took the more anxious I became. Phrases like "these photos aren't good enough for how long you've had to work on them" and "how are these any different or better than your previous work? you're not improving" kept circling my head and crippling my creative process. Somewhere in the course of post processing I had linked publishing these photos with publishing my goal, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to admit that to anyone yet, including myself.

I don’t truly know if I have enough talent, strength, and everything else that it requires to achieve my ambitions, but I will always remain afraid if I don’t try and find out. Regardless if I succeed or fail, at least I will grow. 

The Happies & The Sads

I'm sitting alone on my living room couch writing this post on my most recent Bishop trip and I'm having a hard time deciding what to say. Normally I would want to keep my posts short and light since writing my thoughts out is a level of vulnerability that makes me cringe, but a conversation I had on the way back from Bishop about false positivity and the use of media as a highlight reel has me compelled to be a little more open. 

This time last week I was basking in the chilly February sunshine on top of the rocks of the Sad Boulders, surrounded by good company and doing two of the things I love most, climbing and photographing. The juxtaposition is pretty stark when comparing that moment of simple happiness to me sitting in my empty house right now as the rain pounds away outside. Last weekend felt like a breath of fresh air, not just because I was outside in one of my favorite places, but because I was sharing a place that is special to me with new companions and old friends. 

Overall, it was a good trip. The constant cloud cover threatened to open up on us at any moment, but with the exception of a brief drizzle on Saturday afternoon, the weather was on our side and we were able to make the most of that first day of climbing at the Happy Boulders. I have a few projects in that area, but since I haven't been training lately I had already accepted that I most likely wasn't going to send any of them. As someone who struggles with unrealistically high expectations and perfectionism it's hard not to feel discouraged when you're not even reaching your previous high points on projects, but I was determined not to let that prevent me from enjoying my time there. Even though I didn't send anything except my warmups, it was still extremely satisfying to cheer on my friends as they made their way to the top of several classics like the Weekender, Serengeti, Bleached Bones, and Ketron Classic. As we sat around the campfire singing along to the ukulele later that night, I watched the full moon rise through the clouds and I committed that moment to memory.  

The following morning we were all hoping to make our way out to the Buttermilks, but the road wasn't open so we opted to climb at the Sad Boulders instead. I was slightly dissapointed since the conditions were fantastic and I had been looking forward to climbing again in that iconic wonderland of granite for the past few weeks, but I'd never climbed in the Sads before and experiencing new places always makes me excited and energized.  After making our way up the winding dirt road with Great Basin Bakery in our bellies and bluegrass pouring from the stereo, we arrived at the boulders and had the place almost all to ourselves. I spent the day exploring the canyon, bouldering, photographing, but mostly napping in the wonderful sunshine. We had to leave around 3 to make in back to San Diego that night, but I look forward to returning to the Sad Boulders in the future. I usually dread the return drive back to San Diego and my regular routine, but this time the miles on the 395 seemed to fly by with open and engaging conversation. Before I knew it I was back to where I started.  

It's only been one quick and busy week since Bishop, and as I reflect on the trip one phrase keeps surfacing in my overthinking mind,  'this too shall pass.' Religious connotations aside, it reminds me that just like the happy moments from last weekend have gone, so will these difficult feelings of today.