#TryingStuffInJordan, Part 1

Jordan.

I’ve been procrastinating on writing about my trip with Columbia Sportswear and the Jordan Tourism Board since returning to the States because I still sort of can’t believe that whole thing happened.

Day -1

My whole trip began with boarding my first flight out of Montrose Regional Airport. I fell in love with the cute airport when I found out that security only opens an hour before the flight (the free wifi doesn’t hurt either). After I landed in Chicago, I headed to baggage claim where I simply grabbed the big blue Columbia bag coming around the baggage carousel… and discovered it belonged to Justin! The Dream Team had been reunited by United.

Justin and I made our way to the international departures terminal at O’Hare where the #OmniTen reunion was happening—seeing everyone was awesome. As passed through security, ate dinner, and then prepared to board the plane, excitement was definitely building. (Although, if I’m honest, meeting up with friends at the airport felt totally normal.) It had been a really long time since I’d been on a trans-Atlantic flight so I was a tad apprehensive about the long flight but while most of the guys started watching Frozen I promptly fell asleep and woke up somewhere over the Alps.

Day 1

As the plane began its descent into Amman, the fact that we were arriving in Jordan suddenly became real. Feeling that perfect mixture of travel exhaustion and excitement, we filed off the plane, got our visas, waited for our luggage, then boarded the bus for our hotel. In the bus, we met Pedro & the rest of the film crew. (The film crew was awesome, I walked around feeling like a superstar the whole trip.)

Our first dinner was at Wild Jordan where we dined on delicious local organic food and continued our bonding experience as an #omniten group. In what would become a regular feature of dinner, we received a “here is how to dress tomorrow” statement but no real clue as to what the day’s activities would include.

Day 2

Our second day adventure was touring the ruins of the ancient Roman city Gerasha in Jerash. Walking around the ruins were really impressive although my favorite memories of this day will definitely be taking photos with the Jordanian school girls. Heather, Erika, and I were absolutely swarmed!

After Gerasha, we had a huge lunch spread at the house of a family in Ajloun. Their hospitality was absolutely wonderful and the food was delicious. Returning to Amman, we visited the Citadel where we saw Hercules Temple, a mosque, and more.

After leaving the Citadel, we made time for a quick run to the Columbia store in the mall. Although perhaps not a crazy outdoor #tryingstuff adventure, it was really fun to see some of the European products (besides, I think we made the salespeoples’ day). We were able to grab quick showers at the hotel before heading out again to eat at Sufra. This was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip. Served family style, we got to try tons of traditional Jordanian food all while watching our bread being made.

Day 3

We ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to Royal Jordanian Airlines headquarters. We had a chance to talk with the marketing director about their upcoming Dreamliner deliveries and other destinations served by Royal Jordanian. Leaving the Royal Jordanian headquarters, we took a trip through the Suq eating green almonds, dates, and knafeh and feasting our eyes on all the other goods in the market.

After the suq, we went to Madaba and ate a delicious lunch at Haret Jdoudna. Our afternoon bus ride took us down to the shores of the Dead Sea and then to a “reception center” just outside a very small village. At the reception center we loaded up into some of Jordan’s ubiquitous Toyota Hilux pickups for a sunset ride.

After a stunning sunset, we arrived at the Feynan Ecolodge. The lodge is totally off-grid and conserves its solar produced energy by only putting electricity at the front desk, the kitchen, and a light in each bathroom. Greeted with a cool drink and a hot towel in the quiet candlelit lodge I was instantly enchanted. Our delicious dinner and stargazing with Bedouin tea only made the evening better.

© Feynan Ecolodge

Gear Review: Columbia Omniheat Baselayers

While I was in Park City with Columbia Sportswear and the #omniten, I was pretty much always wearing one of the Omniheat baselayers. After leaving Park City, I was too far south to need the warmth of Omniheat (although sometimes I wore the tops on chilly mornings for running).

When we moved north of Phoenix, I started wearing the tops over camisoles because it seemed like the right weight for the cool high Arizona spring weather. One afternoon, I set out for a hike wearing my 1/2 Zip Midweight long sleeve top. When the hike unexpectedly turned in to a bushwack I initially freaked out, I was going to shred this top. After a minute I realized I could give up, or I could decide that I’d been given this top in the spirit of #tryingstuff and I could continue. I decided to continue and put the shirt through some abuse. It came out totally unscathed.

Since then, we’ve found ourselves in the colder temperatures of high elevation New Mexico and I’ve relied in them more as baselayers. They’ve worked awesome. I actually #omniOVERheated snowshoing in just the baselayer at 45 here in Colorado last week.

Both the tops and the bottoms are really comfortable. I have a long torso and often have issues with baselayers like UnderArmor riding up around my waist rather than staying down over my hips. I haven’t had any of those issues with the Columbia Omniheat. I have also been caught wearing the tights as pants. Sorry, not sorry.

Photo Courtesy Anne Carney Photography

Gear Review: Columbia Women’s Vixen 22L

I’ve been trying to find a good day pack over the last year or so. My beloved Jansport is starting to show wear in the shoulder straps and I decided to leave it packed away in Colorado. I’d begun to use my Teton Sports Summit 1500 as a default daypack after I got it in August but gave it away to a friend in need leaving me essentially daypack-less. When I opened my duffel bag of Columbia Sportswear goodness in Park City and found the Vixen, I was delighted.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been using it on all of our hikes. I’ve never had a pack that had an air gap between the back and the pack and was excited to try it. The gap is supported by two metal rods. This does create a pretty narrow tunnel to the pack which I find a bit annoying sometimes. The gap is nice but I still sweat plenty at the hip strap & support. Inside the body of the pack is a pocket for a hydration bladder. Beyond that, it’s one big space which is plenty of room for my day hiking needs.

The hip belt is too big for me. I wear the pack with the straps all the way tightened and it’s still not quite snug enough around my hips with just a t-shirt. Similarly, the straps on the shoulder straps are really long—I’m planning on cutting them down next time I’m around a sewing machine.

Signal Peak

The outside water bottle pockets are the perfect size to hold a Nalgene; too many packs have pockets that are too small to hold one well. If I really want to I can reach around and pull them out without taking the pack off. It also has a large open front pocket. I wasn’t really sure what I would use this for but Sprocket’s trail bowl lives here so it’s always available (and if it’s still a little damp it doesn’t get my stuff wet). At the very top of the pack is a small pocket that I use for keys and a cell phone.

One of the biggest downsides I can see to this pack is durability of the light stretchy material that makes up the water bottle and front pockets. Mine has numerous “snags” from being dragged through desert brush—although for primarily trail hikers this would not be a concern. The low profile does do well when it comes to scrambling around through the brush though!

 

This pack was provided by Columbia Sportswear to me as part of the #omniten program for review. All opinions are my own.

On The Page: One Tough Mother

When Season 4 of the #omniten arrived in Park City, we all sat down to watch this video about Columbia Sportswear’s history of #tryingstuff. My favorite part of the video was this little clip from Gert Boyle:

One Tough Mother: Success in Business, Life, and Apple Pies is her story of how she and her son Tim took over Columbia after her husband’s sudden death in 1970. Gert had helped out at the company in her younger years but retreated to life as a mother and homemaker while her husband entered the family business.

It was a difficult transition but Gert and Tim eventually sought out the guidance they needed to transform Columbia into a large global scale company. It was cool to read about how asking customers for their input on products has been a part of the company from the very beginning! It’s exciting to be part of the #omniten and that long standing tradition.

The most fun part of the book is probably the section with copy of many of the ads featuring Gert. It was a lot of fun to flip through them: I definitely remember Columbia marketing itself as being “products of an overprotective mother”!

#OmniGames: Winners

Last Friday, the final #omnigames competition “Charles Dickens” concluded. Happily for all of us waiting anxiously for the final results, they only made us wait until Monday evening.

F had a dental appointment in Algodones on Monday and I wasn’t about to anxiously stare at my computer for hours when I could be eating tacos for dinner so I tagged along. His appointment ran a little long and I started checking my phone obsessively to see the time. Despite trying to convince myself that I would learn the results when I learned them, I was anxious.

And then I got a text message.

It was Justin: we’d been announced as the first winners of the trip to Jordan.

By the time we’d returned from our pastor tacos, they’d announced Caleb, Heather, Patrick, Jon, Seth, and Casey. Within about twenty minutes of coming back, Erika and Andy had rounded out the “Spring 2014” #omniten contingent.

After the awesome time I had in Park City, I’m so curious to see what Columbia cooks up for us in Jordan!

Will we be going to Petra? The Dead Sea? I’m so excited to find out!!!

#OmniGames: The Experience

Saturday morning was a whirl of hugs, goodbyes, breakfast, and more goodbyes. After I found myself settled at the gate, the cumulative impact of the trip hit me.

Finally at a moment where things seemed still, I started to cry. In the moment I wasn’t really sure what I was crying about. I’m still struggling with the words to describe how things felt because they alternated between feeling so darn normal to overwhelming, empowering, and just plain awesome.  Each piece of the the experience had been almost but not quite overwhelming but taken as a whole from my seat in the Salt Lake City airport I felt incredibly lucky.

What was so overwhelmingly awesome?

  • #Tryingstuff

In one respect, #trying stuff is just normal life for me. In January 2012, F and I decided that in November, just two months after our wedding, we would move into a van. Since then, “normal life” has become a giant adventure in #tryingstuff: five different vehicles, pauses to work odd jobs, new places, exploring, and more.

That being said, dog sledding, archery, VIP tents, delicious food, and ropes courses are not usually on the docket. Neither is hanging out with 30+ new friends—friends that also like #tryingstuff. Having #tryingstuff engrained in everyone around you for five days is something that I wish I had all the time; I’d be so much better for it! It is fair to say that I have never been surrounded by such a concentration of people with stories to tell!

  • Competing (and succeeding) in the #omnigames

Confession: I was afraid to divulge my feelings on the competition internet. The #omnigames were so much fun but simmering under the surface of all the #omniten members was some serious competitive drive. With so many people wanting to win so badly it almost seems gauche to speak about the “feelings” of a front runner. However, in the name of #tryingstuff, here goes:

Coming to Utah, it was my intention to play hard and have fun at the games. I’d followed the #omniten’s blogs and Twitter accounts long enough to know that the competition would be strong. However, those who know me understand that my competitive streak runs wide.

Day 1 was all about wholeheartedly #tryingstuff and getting to know Justin. Once we realized we’d done well, it upped the ante for Day 2 (and hearing it confirmed in the standings only intensified the feeling). From the moment archery went well until I hopped on that last chair lift, each event escalated my excitement, the pressure, and empathy for those teams around me.

After completing the first half of the upper ropes course, I started looking ahead to the ski competition. And getting nervous (I paced between lunch and the start of the skiing…). All around me I was hearing people talk about making up ground and I was just afraid I wouldn’t be able to help Justin maintain our position. The moment we started skiing, however, I was back to having fun. I skied hard and knew I gave it my best effort; there was a palpable feeling of relief when I got on my last chair lift though!

In the end, I felt extremely proud of Justin and I. The games had been empowering and a shining example of the highest level of sportsmanlike competition I have ever seen or heard of.

Thank you all: this was the best!

  • Columbia

Columbia really went above and beyond in putting together a seriously awesome time in Park City. Attending the unveiling of their designs for the US, Canadian, and Russian freestyle ski teams really was worthy of the tag #inspiredbygreatness. The variety of activities they picked for the #omnigames was really amazing and allowed a huge number of #omniten to show off their skills. The fashion show was a great cap to the week with amazing food, free flowing drinks, and a look at what’s coming down the pipe this fall.

Further more, I’m really excited to take the Turbo Down (and all the other gear!) out for more test drives in the mountains. (Ahem, and hopefully test some gear in Jordan…) A company that asks for real feedback from its reviewers deserves respect. Moreover, it was emphasized the being part of the #omniten was “for life” and I’m excited to continue building a relationship with Columbia.

Wiping my tears in the airport, I smiled. This was an experience I was extremely lucky to have been a part of for these reasons and so many more. I’ll remember this adventure forever.

#OmniGames: #TryingStuff

I wish this post was starting with the sentence “I’ve been #tryingstuff since I was born.” Instead, honesty compels me to admit I was super structured, didn’t like deviations from the plan, or reaching out to try new things. Along the lines, I realized life meant to be about #tryingstuff: it’s where the best stories and experiences lie. Occasionally I still struggle with being truly adventurous and truly embracing #tryingstuff but I’m working on it.

Columbia has a philosophy known as #tryingstuff. #Tryingstuff is a philosophy embedded in the very core of Columbia’s history (in my video below, Columbia chairman of the board Gert Boyle offers my very favorite trying stuff quote). They embrace trying new things and even better, they embrace real people getting out and trying their equipment and giving them feedback.

The members of the #omniten inspire me to get out and really be part of #tryingstuff. Here’s a look at what happens we we do it together.

If you are still needing some more explaination on #tryingstuff, check out this video by my teammate Justin!

#OmniGames: Day 2

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

The morning of #omnigames Day 2 dawned snowy and blustery. Despite the excitement surrounding fresh snow for the upcoming ski challenge, the wind was putting a crimp in the plans in place for the Utah Olympic Park ropes course. The weather forced the cancellation of a couple of events but the ski challenge was lengthened from one hour to an hour and a half.

Our first event was completing two ropes courses: “Canyon” and “Summit.” The Canyon course is about 25 feet off the ground while the Summit course is about 55 feet off the ground and is called “advanced.”

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

First up for #omniteam2 was the Canyon course. Justin and I both completed it easily. We were way more excited about the Summit course; as Justin put it: “If I don’t feel like I might die, it’s just not fun.” Although the Summit course didn’t make us feel like we might die, it was challenging enough to be really fun. The obstacle pictured above seemed to cause a lot of people some trouble but by relying more on my legs than my arms I made it through just fine.

Since we both completed both the high and the low ropes course cleanly, the pressure was starting to build. Skiing seemed as if it would work out fairly well for us considering although neither of us are expert skiers we’re both solid intermediates who were determined to rack up some vertical in our hour and a half.

Photo: David Sandel

Making our game plan we’d considered time to get to the lift, how busy a lift might be, how fast it runs, and how fast we’d be able to make it back to the chair. Once on the ground, the plan was sacrificed for immediate expediency. It got a little hairy for a second when the gondola came to a halt—fortunately I was sharing it with fellow #omniten Dave so no one judged me for freaking out. Reviewing with Justin after the event, it sounded like he had a fantastic time as did I.

The conclusion of the vertical challenge meant the end of the physical portion of #omnigames (you’re reading my contribution to the final challenge right now). After two intense days of competition, we all quickly changed for our final event: Columbia’s Fall 2014 fashion show!

Photo courtesy Anne Carney Photography

Hanging out on the patio, we dinned on delicious hors d’ouvres (the Kobe beef bites were a particular hit) before moving indoors for the show and dinner. The evening concluded with a chance to meet Columbia designers, members of the press, and our fellow #omniten.

Back at the hotel, we were promised updated #omnigame results so we rendezvoused in the Hub one more time. Results were announced, plans were made to help injured Gina get her car back to SLC, and tequila was procured in the waning hours of the #omnigames. For some, the party continued into the wee hours of the morning, unwilling to let the amazing feeling of the past week slip away.

#OmniGames: Day 1

Photo courtesy 100 Peaks

After Season 4 headed into downtown Park City, we rendezvoused with the #omniten alumni at the No Name Saloon. Circulating around the room, I found myself drawn into conversation after conversation in the loud room—the next morning, my voice was a little hoarse! The amount of flannel the #omniten was rocking was quite amazing. There was a concert happening out on the streets but many of us were having way too much fun hanging out with our fellow #omniten. Going with the flow, the party moved upstairs to the outdoor patio where it was much easier to talk. I discussed it before but getting to know all these lovely people really made my trip. I’ve heard stories that back at the hotel the party raged on but I chose to hit up the hot tub with the group briefly before before heading to bed. The mystery games were slated to begin in the morning and I wanted to be up for anything that might be thrown my way.

In the morning, the #omniten were in for one more treat before the #omnigames were revealed. Columbia has been developing a down-synthetic hybrid jacket called “The Turbo Down,” due to hit the market this fall. As if we were not already fully outfitted in Columbia gear, each one of us received a prototype of the jacket!

After the Turbo Down excitement, it was finally time to load up and head out for for the #omnigames. We’d been told to dress as if we were going skiing minus the ski boots but that still didn’t give too much away about what we’d actually be doing. As we pulled onto a snow covered road there were parts of me that were hoping for some serious cross-country snowshoeing—I thought that was something I might be able to eek out an advantage in! Alas, it was not but outside the ranch building there were sled dogs and snowmobiles—our first real hints to what might await us.

Photo courtesy AnneCarneyPhotography.com

As it turned out we were competing in all manner of outdoor activities. As Daniel read through the list and briefly explained each one, I have to admit to only half listening. The impending competition had me pumped up, nervous, and ready to get this show on the road. I heard “shooting,” “dog sledding,” “fire,” “avalanche beacon,” “skiing,” “ropes course,” “free fall,” “shelter,” and “Charles Dickens”: thoughts about strategy, strong points, and weaknesses began flowing. I knew I could start a fire with matches but I had a sneaking suspicion that they wouldn’t be part of our supplies. I felt relatively confident about all the other events but I was surrounded by tough competitors and really felt like this was anyone’s game.

Next it was announced that we’d be competing in teams of two: one winter #omniten and one summer to a team. I was deep in thought when Daniel called me up to draw a teammate. I drew Justin Lukasavige. Although he and I followed each other on Twitter, we hadn’t spoken much before the games. Amped up on #omnigames, I think the first thing I asked him was, “Can you make a fire?” Taking everything in stride, Justin told me he could and we sat down for the announcement of the #omnigames prize.

A trip to JORDAN.

The room of #omniten was palpably buzzing with the news. Thankfully, it was finally time to get down to having fun in the snow. Justin and I started our day with dog sledding. I love dogs and it was immediately obvious that these dogs love pulling that sled. They had so much energy yipping, barking, and leaping while waiting for their turn to be tied to the sled. (Interestingly, when I got home Sprocket had developed an odd habit of barking like a sled dog while running next to the quad…) Riding with Racer and his team was an experience to remember.

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

Unloading from the sled, Justin and I took the quiz associated with dog sledding and headed inside to get ready for snowmobiling. There was a little part of me that was sort of sad that riding the snowmobiles themselves wasn’t scored although that was probably for the best since the last time I was on a snowmobile I “ghost rode” it off the path… Instead, we were to be scored on archery.

Photo courtesy WildernessDave.com

To be quite honest when they said “shooting” in the #omnigames intro, I was picturing shooting a .22 or something à la biathlon and got way excited. I haven’t shot a bow and arrow since I was twelve but was determined to do well. After hitting the first shot I took a deep breath and hit the next. I could hear cheering for Justin beside me: we were doing well! Katie started calling me Katniss and I must admit comparison to an awesome fictional character made me smile a little bit—especially in a competition that absolutely demanded comparisons to The Hunger Games.

Next it was off to build a shelter. Teams were given twenty minutes to create a shelter with a tarp, four pieces of paracord, two nice straight aspen poles, and a snow shovel. Justin and I agreed that the best way to approach this was to keep it nice and low out of the wind, as small as possible to conserve body heat, and to face it out of the prevailing wind. In about ten minutes we had a shelter we were pretty happy with so we spent the rest of our time adding additional snow insulation, even going so far as to build a “snow berm” near the entrance. It wound up looking like a tarp on the ground but it would totally work in a pinch!

Since Justin and I were proving to be quite a duo, a little bit of an edge had been taken off the fire building challenge. Given wood, a magnesium fire starter, and some newspaper, we got to work. Justin did a fantastic job manning the fire starter while I broke off the thin ends of the wood and held the BBQ lid to keep our work area dry. After singeing some holes in the paper without attaining fire, I started to get nervous. Before panic set in, we had flame! Without discussion, Justin and I morphed into action. We were judiciously adding small pieces of wood and got the fire large enough to put the grate and pot of water on quickly. We took turns being human billows to get the fire roaring; deciding if a little water is good, a lot is better so we built the fire up around the pot. As the clock ticked, bubbles began to form and our billows efforts continued. Soon, to my immense delight and relief, we had a rolling boil.

Headed back to the warmth to get some lunch, I got the feeling something special was happening. From the stories circulating around us, there were plenty of groups that didn’t get fire and a handful more that didn’t get a rolling boil—we’d done that plus hit our archery targets, built a passable shelter, and rocked the dog sled quiz all while having a blast.

Wolfing down lunch, I was anxious to get out for the final challenge of the day: finding an avalanche beacon. Justin had some experience using a beacon and I’d attended an avalanche awareness course so I knew that as long as we trusted the beacon, we couldn’t go too wrong. Sure enough, finding the beacon was a matter of confidently doing what we needed to do. #omniteam2 had completed Day 1 of #omnigames competition in style!