From October 2015 to October 2016, Eva and I lived out of my two door Jeep Wrangler. Our goal was simple: camp all 47 National Parks in the contiguous United States during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. What we didn’t realize at the time was how deeply we would fall in love with the raw spirit of adventure: strange places becoming familiar, new bonds being built over a campfire, and our desire to share these experiences with others. With four months left in the trip, I pulled the duct-taped box out from under my driver’s seat in the Jeep and asked Eva to marry me. We currently live in Austin, Texas and spend our adventure time out on the Colorado River and Lake Austin.
Best canoe trip story? One of our first overnight canoe trips was in Florida for my birthday. We heard about these little docks called “chickees”, where you could pitch your tent on an elevated wooden dock and stay the night out in the backcountry of the Everglades. We ignored the comment from the Ranger that snakes have climbed onto these, and set off. Sheer excitement turned to apprehension when we pushed our canoe into the blood-red brackish water. After navigating through mangroves for hours, the sun began to fade and we were about halfway to our site. We crossed our fingers and set up our tent on a much closer chickee (not the one we had a permit for). The sun disappeared as two kayaks appeared heading towards us. The fishermen only had one side of the dock reserved, and had a laugh at our story of coming up short. I still remember the eery but exciting energy of that canoe trip, and the lessons we learned in navigating unfamiliar water.
Best camping story? From the time we left Los Angeles to the time we hiked out of the Grand Canyon, we spent 40 nights in a row in our tent. During this time we hit the Mighty Five of Utah: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands Nationals Parks. It is the longest we have consecutively slept in a tent, and serves as a good reminder that you don’t need much to have a good time.
What goes in your camp mug? 7am: black coffee. 2pm: black coffee. 7pm: Bulleit whiskey.
Favorite campfire food? Some Oregonians introduced us to the banana boat: a banana in the peel stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate. Wrap it up in aluminum foil, throw it on the coals and you have a banana boat.
Bucket list. What's on it? We actually want to spend another year on the road soon. The more adventure you have, the more you want. This time around we’d love to upgrade to a tent-topper, or a decked out van. We also have the remaining 12 National Parks left to camp to complete all 59 (Eight in Alaska, two in Hawaii, American Samoa, and Virgin Islands).
If there was a movie about your life, what songs would you want on the soundtrack?
- Wake Up by Arcade Fire
- Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave
- Blue Ridge Mountains by Fleet Foxes
We also have a pretty consistent camp playlist that includes a lot of Jose Gonzalez from the Walter Mitty Soundtrack, John Denver, Eddie Vedder, from Into the Wild soundtrack, and Band of Horses. Throw in any Hall and Oates song on top of that.
Scrambled or over-easy? Eva makes a killer breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, bacon and avocado. However, we both like over-easy for classic eggs sans burrito.
Favorite Sanborn paddle? Before we had heard of Sanborn, my dad told me one day he was flying up to Minnesota to go to the grand opening of a canoe paddle company. I thought he was crazy until he brought me back my first Minnewashta. I was so impressed with the level of care that went into it. We still use it regularly, but I love to whip out our new North and Dalles Des Morts painted paddles for show. I still don’t know how my dad heard of the Sanborn grand opening…
Favorite National Park? We get asked this question quite a bit and both continue to say Glacier. We spent four days backpacking up over the Continental Divide via Gunsight Pass. It was some of the wildest landscape I have ever seen. It hailed on our tent night two, and we woke up to the fog clearing and waterfalls surrounding us. We were exhausted when we finally hiked out day four. We sat in the rain waiting for the shuttle. It is vivid in my memory. Something I’ll always cherish. Great adventure can be rough, so I’m glad Eva gets the same satisfaction I do out of it.
Favorite card game? I would guess Eva and I have documented around 300 games of Uno. It’s a simple game but great for two and/or bigger crowds. We had a group of ten play lit by headlamp during 18-degree nights in the climber-friendly Camp 4 of Yosemite. Eva made up a rule where the winner got to choose someone else’s jacket to wear. We laughed and shivered a lot.
Gin or whiskey? Bulleit Whiskey. We go back and forth between Rye and Bourbon. We have visited the Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee so we also have a soft spot for Old No. 7.