Planning the Big Picture so You Can Have Fun and Not Die

I think we can all agree that a successful adventure does not include helicopters and body bags. Preferably, no hospital involvement either. So how do you avoid that disaster scenario? Even better, how do you have a trip that isn’t just “not a disaster” but absolutely amazing? There are a zillion considerations in adventure planning, such as gear, budget, food, etc. Those are important, but take a step back, zoom out. 

These six elements of adventure planning encourage you to plan the big picture before narrowing in on decisions like whether or not to cut the handle off your toothbrush or eat nothing but cold bean paste out of a Talenti jar. 

They are:

1️⃣ Mental/Emotional wellness and group dynamics

2️⃣ Camp Craft

3️⃣ Technical Skills

4️⃣ Location and Navigation

5️⃣ Fitness 

6️⃣ First Aid and Evacuation Plans

You can read all about them on the article I wrote for Garage Grown Gear:

Planning the Big Picture: 6 Critical Considerations for Every Adventure

This kind of planning also makes it way more likely that you’ll have fun and not die on your summer adventures.

I used to be consumed by “What if…” worries. Planning for camping, being in the tent, hiking… I’d be trying to problem solve for every possible scenario.  

Will, who was the veteran professional outdoor educator and WFR (Wilderness First Responder) always replied “We’ll stay or we’ll go, either fast or slow.” Which felt infuriatingly simplistic and did nothing to ease my worries. 

It wasn’t until I spent a week getting my WFR certification that I had my light bulb moment 💡and it finally made sense! I was able to put all possible scenarios into that simple framework of “Stay or go, fast or slow.” I felt way more empowered and way less worried.  Which made room for so much more fun. 

You don’t have to get special certifications to understand how to make better decisions with the skills you already have. I can help you put all of your “What ifs” into three different categories of response. Less worry, more fun. 

Register for my online class Have Fun. Don’t Die! Through Kula Cloth!

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Breaking News! New Type 2 Fun Adventure!

I have nothing against Type 1 Fun. I love naps, watching Pixar movies, or beers with friends. I’m writing this in bed with Pigeon curled up in my lap. 

Type 2 fun is where it’s at. Will and I are all about the type of fun where it’s miserable at the time but makes the best story later. Whether it’s wilderness adventures like our honeymoon trip or athletic challenges or running our Zest Ed business, we expect some worthwhile suffering for great memories.

Will and I are embarking on the most Type Two Fun adventure ever. It was the most rational-irrational and selfish-selfless decision we’ve ever made. We are attempting to create a healthy happy human to positively contribute to the world. It’s going to be epically hard in so many ways for so many years. Just like any other adventure, it should also be incredibly rewarding and filled with love and laughter. 

Expecting it to start by the end of 2021!

It was a long and difficult road to get to this trail head. For years we put it off, feeling insecure financially and feeling scared of all the unknowable changes and challenges.

Every year we’d say “Not yet.” Eventually became now-or-never. So months before the pandemic we didn’t know was coming we said “Screw it! We’re competent adults. We’ll figure it out.” 

I have some bones to pick about my teenage years of sex-ed. There is so much more to know that is so empowering. What you need to know to prevent an unwanted teen pregnancy is so different than what you should know to get pregnant in your late 30s. Initial excitement turned to bewilderment to disappointment and frustration. Over a year later we were about to start the infertility journey. 

Then on my 39th birthday I took a pregnancy test, not expecting anything because nothing ever happened, expecting just to get the permission to drink some special birthday beer. It was positive. 

This has been a whirlwind of physical, emotional, and logistical (insurance 🙄) experiences. I was and am super fortunate to have a small circle of friends to talk to. Yet the overwhelming message was to KEEP IT ALL A SECRET. Which wasn’t all that different from when I got my first period. For all sorts of reasons the message seems to be “Shhhhh 🤫 don’t talk about it.” 


Puberty, menstruation, conceiving, pregnancy, miscarriage, birth, postpartum, menopause, and all hormonal changes by choice or not are part of a healthy human experience! People going through any of these biological experiences should feel free to talk about them without stigma or taboo. It is when they are in the light of day that people can get the mental and emotional support they need. Everyone can be more educated and less isolated. 

If someone shares part of this process, listen and pause before any knee-jerk standard responses slip out. 

I just happen to be in a peak frenzy on the long journey of the biological experience of living. It’s going to be a pretty intense year.

In the meanwhile we are still competent adults with full lives we are excited to share with a new human. We will continue to be endurance and adventure athletes with goals. I still hope to do the Arrowhead 135, just not next year. We still have big rock climbing, backpacking, and paddling plans. I’m still primarily a self-employed coach working hard to build a sustainable business. We still live in a tiny apartment. It’ll all have to look a little different, but we are not the first adventure and entrepreneurial family. Our lives are about to get more “fun” in every way possible.

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Don’t Get Hurt – Six Ways to Prepare Your Body For Adventure

Check out the article I wrote for Garage Grown Gear!

What can you do to prepare your body for adventure? 

1️⃣ Build Gradually – Do something, but less is better than too much. 

2️⃣ Train Specifically –  Do or mimic the same movements you’ll be doing on your adventure.  

3️⃣ Address Imbalances – Some parts of you need more strength, some parts need more stretching, ignoring that will lead to injury. 

4️⃣ Practice Skills – From the complex (climbing safety) to the mundane (getting up and down front he ground), train these skills so they are more durable even when you are tired and distracted. 

5️⃣ Train Your Gut – This is the linchpin and the keystone to everything else functioning. It takes planning and practice too. 

6️⃣ Log Your Training – Don’t just rely on your memory.  Write it down. 

Intrigued? Read the full article and/or message me!

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Stick Bathing

Part one of our 2021 winter adventure starts with Not Hot. I may be biased, but I highly recommend it.

An entirely different experience from traveling on the ice, was our regular stick baths. If Japanese forest bathing is like soothing caresses in a muscle relaxing bubble bath, our stick baths are like being aggressively scrubbed in a powerful car wash.

“Stick bath!” 

Became our rallying cry to ward off wild frustrations in bushwhacking. Because we didn’t sleep outside this year, we didn’t need to pull two heavily loaded pulks (aka sleds). Because we didn’t need to travel with so much stuff and we could travel until dusk. We could explore and create a special route just for us. It meant forging our own path through forest and swamp that would not normally be navigable in the summer. 

It meant an extremely tactile experience with all the trees snagging on every possible part of our bodies. It could be infuriating to be constantly untangling yourself from the Velcro like forest. Back at the cabin (which had no running water) we’d strip off our layers and sticks, twigs, and pine needles would shower the floor. 

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Not Hot

I confess. This is the first winter camping trip where we didn’t camp. I’ve never been so tested on how many times our adventure plans could change. 

Original plans went 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  

Then became 2, 3, 4, 5, 1.  

Then 2b, 3, 4, 5, 1. Then…

We went off road a mile from the cabin in pitch blackness at -20 the night before.

Finally the end result was @#$%!!?, 3, 2z, 3, 2z, 4c, 3, 5, 1. (If you need a diagram of this kind of plan)

It was still a fantastic winter adventure like no other we’ve had.

“It’s like the surface of Neptune!” 

Will would say many many times on this trip. The polar vortex 2021 meant that our day time high temperatures were usually around -10ºF. Lows around -30 or even -40ºF, without windchill. We were awed watching the steam billowing off of Lake Superior with the ice sculptured rocks and Will said bug eyed “It’s the surface of Neptune!” And again whenever we’d open the cabin door. And again when laughing at me all bundled up.

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A Very Dirty Honeymoon

“Again! Again! Let’s do that again!” I can see my inner child hopping, clapping, squealing with glee. 

That inner child keeps popping into my thoughts while reflecting on our honeymoon eight years ago. It wasn’t a “normal” honeymoon. It was 25 percent beautiful, peaceful, and secluded. It was 75 percent grueling, cold, sweaty, smelly, scary, exhausting, and absolutely unsexy. But we’re not “normal” and I’m guessing you aren’t either. So you’ll probably agree that it was the perfect recipe for 110 percent awesome AF adventure.  

On a summer night in 2011 we were drinking on our front step in Minneapolis, dreaming up new adventures when Will proposed a honeymoon. After three years of adventuring together the wedding seemed incidental. A honeymoon was the perfect excuse for the longest trip we’d ever done. 

On October 13, 2012 we were hobbling painfully along Minnesota State Highway 61 in blackness. We had chosen not to finish the last half mile of Grand Portage trail with our 220-pound load. A glowing billboard promised Grand Portage Lodge and Casino was just two miles away. We hid Will’s grandfather’s aluminum Grumman Canoe and most of our gear. I have never been so content to painfully shuffle to a garish and mediocre hotel, but it had hot showers, beer, fries, and toilet paper!  

We had just paddled and portaged 246.5 miles over 19 days through Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness, following the Canadian border to finish with the legendary Grand Portage trail terminating at the great Gichigami (aka Lake Superior). 

Voyageurs National Park rests on the occupied land of the Cree, Monsoni, and Ojibwe. The park is 340 square miles; more than a third of that is four lakes with 1,245 miles of jigsaw shoreline. We began on the western side of the park, on Lake Kabetogama in Black Bay Narrows with five days of easy paddling in perfect autumn weather in front of us. This should have been glorious newlywed bliss. Instead Will’s face was filled with snot and his body fatigued from a common cold. We considered abandoning our plan but Will wanted to push through. 

By day six we had made it to the BWCA and Will felt better. We were delighted to leave the motorboats and people behind to paddle the quiet land of loons. It is quintessential evergreen and granite northern forest nestled in and threaded through with luminous waters. It feels anciently epic in a subtle benign way. On day nine that all changed. A winter storm kept us pinned down for two days. Our tent began to leak. The travel became endlessly challenging, with scary wind, and innumerable infuriating portages.

There’s more 😘 You can read the second half on Garage Grown Gear’s online magazine here:

I thought I had finished writing this story in 2014, two years after the wedding and one year after I had started writing it in 14 installments on this blog. But I had never done it justice by recapping the whole escapade. Garage Grown Gear gave me the little push to reflect and share why we’d do such an unusually unromantic honeymoon. I hope you enjoy it!

Check out the full article!
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5 Winter Camping Lessons

As Will and I are getting ready for our ninth winter camping adventure in mid February, I should share a story from once upon a time… 

In February 2020, right before the end of the world as we knew it. Back when you could sit elbow to elbow at a bar, try a friends beer, and share close quarters with someone outside your own household… Will and I took a dear friend Glen on his first winter camping experience.

It was fantastic.  It was almost easy.  I don’t know if winter camping can ever really be Type 1 Fun considering how much work it is and how much opportunity there is for things to go wrong. Yet Will and I have built up enough experience and have our systems so dialed that things went a little too well.  I was afraid that after all our warning Glen of how challenging winter camping would be that the experience went too smoothly to impart any valuable lessons.  

Hahaha! How foolish of me! Of course there were lessons learned!

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3 Steps To Get Better

How do I get better? How do I set reasonable achievable goals?

The easier and faster method would be to work one-on-one with a coach who can evaluate your history, current ability, discuss your desires along with your life situation, and then create a personalized plan for you. But if you’re patient and willing to put in some work, you can both get better and set goals all by yourself.

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Pick One: Fast, Easy, or Cheap

Do you have a big goal in mind?  

You’re really fortunate if you can say:

✅ I’m able to be patient and work up to it as gradually as my body needs.
✅ I’m ready to commit effort and time to research, learning, planning, and training.
✅ I’m willing to invest money in equipment and professional services.

This is the best scenario for pursuing goals that will be fun, safe, and successful.  

Now, understandably most people can’t check all those boxes. But what doesn’t work is:

“I want to achieve a big goal ASAP ⏱️, but I’m really busy so I need a personal custom plan I can follow easily 🧞‍♂️, and I don’t want to spend any money on professional services or equipment 💰️🤌. “  

Fast + Easy + Cheap = 😭. The goal doesn’t get achieved, or your body breaks, or your relationships break, either in the short or long term. Taking all the shortcuts at once is a recipe for disaster.

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Six tips plus two reflections from the Endurance Coaching Summit

I’m learning stuff all the time. I got to get better at sharing it all with you all!

A couple weeks ago I attended (virtually) the Endurance Coaching Summit hosted by Training Peaks. It was three days lots of internationally renowned speakers including Gwen Jorgensen (Olympic goal medalist) and her Triathlon Coach, Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall, authors of the Brave Athlete, Alen Lim co-founder of Scratch Labs, and many many more.

Instagram post from the last day of lectures.

I’ve got pages and pages of notes. Condensed here are just six tips for you 😀 If any of them tickle your fancy, please reach out and let me know! I’d love to chat with you more about any one of them! Just email me at

  1. World class champions also feel like imposters, want to quit mid-run, are terrified of the goal, doubt everything, get the should-woulda-couldas and feel harassed by their own thoughts. They are not failures. You are normal and also not a failure. There are so many techniques to help you. What to do about it?
    • Be willing to try things. Some of these techniques can seem silly, simple, or take time. You have to be willing to give a new mental technique a chance.
    • Get help and talk to them. You can read the books and websites and articles on your own. It’s also great to get and utilize help. Have a therapist, coach, or mentor. Then actually tell them how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.
  2. Mental fatigue alters perception of physical effort. Reduce emotional and mental workload for better performance with “cognitive drafting.” Continue reading
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