Best reasons to #OptOutside on public lands this Black Friday

This is a short draft written for #NatureWritingChallenge, a weekly exercise to spend an hour writing about a specific topic about the outdoors, then participating in a twitter chat with the other participants.

This week’s topic is the title of this post; though as it turned out, this post is less about #optoutside on Black Friday specifically and maybe more about choosing a life that opts outside regularly. Either way, I think you’ll get my point.

I’ve intentionally abandoned the frantic crowds of Black Friday since 1999, when I first ran across’s Buy Nothing Day campaign back in college. I’ve since skipped all the crazy sales on all on the crap I really don’t need, choosing instead to either travel during Thanksgiving weekend, spend the day outside recreating, or attending the biennial Territorial Cup game when it’s played at Sun Devil Stadium.

For me, #optoutside wasn’t a new idea—it was just REI finally promoting what a bunch of us had already been doing. If you haven’t been opting outside on Black Fridays, here’s a short list of why you should change that this year.

1. They’re YOUR public lands

No need to buy a damn thing—you already own them!

And they’re among the most amazing places in the world. Spend as much time as you can enjoying them.

2. Memorable experiences > crap you bought on sale

You probably don’t need that thing, anyway. And your family would probably enjoy something a bit more personal as a gift, too, don’t you think? When you’re old and gray, the last thing you’ll remember or care about is that cheap TV you bought on Black Friday. Instead, you’ll remember the things you did and the experiences you had. That day you brought your niece to that cool waterfall and she played in the pool at its base. Or the great sunset you enjoyed during that scenic drive with your girlfriend.

Products become obsolete and worthless, but a funny thing happens with memories—as time passes, your brain remembers them as being even better than they seemed at the time. Memories gain value over time, so they’re a much better investment.

3. Hyper-consumerism blows

When you focus too intensely on what you own, you forget what’s actually important in life. When your self-worth is derived from what you’ve bought, you rob yourself of the uniqueness that makes you you.

Worse is that you’ll never gain any lasting satisfaction by buying stuff. You might get a temporary bump in satisfaction, but there will always be something “better” that comes out that you’ll need to buy to feel the same level of personal worthiness. That’s an awful treadmill to climb onto.

4. The outdoors is good for you

You probably already know this. Yes, you get some exercise. Yes, it’s far better than sitting on the couch or endlessly scrolling through facebook. And yes, it’ll also help you relax and reduce stress.

But beyond those things, it’s also great for deepening relationships. For being present in the moment. Or for new experiences. For contemplation. Or finding common ground. For sharing new places with people you love. Or making new friends.

Basically, for all the things your soul craves.

5. Minimalism & intentionality are sexy

The four most important things you own are your time, your attention, your attitude, and your health. Those four things are the currency of life.

All the stuff you own requires you to spend that currency—you spend your time to make money to buy the stuff, then do the same again to pay to store it somewhere, and then it requires more of your time and attention to manage and use it. We don’t think about it very often, but the cost for our stuff can be a lot higher than you’d expect.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy anything, ever—I’m just saying that you should carefully and deliberately consider what things you decide to own. Maybe you don’t need a need new 4k TV because you’d rather save that money to travel, or maybe you don’t need to spend as much of your limited time consuming content from it.

The point here isn’t to shame you into a life of owning nothing or to be overly preachy. It’s just to have the conversation with yourself about what you really want and what things should earn your attention. Being intentional and deliberate with your life helps ensure that you’re living the life you actually want, as opposed to the one that so many people seem to just default their way into.

Being present and intentional in life? Well, that’s sexy af.

Not convinced?

Well then, fuck it—just #optoutside for the ‘Gram instead.

Outdoor recreationists: Tell Utah you’re not visiting this year

If you’ve had enough of Utah politicians’ efforts to transfer our public lands or undermine national monument designations, let the State of Utah know.

Utah relies on our outdoor recreation dollars to help fuel its economy. As a community, we contribute nearly $12 billion to the state’s economy—employing more than 122,000 people while generating $856 million in state and local taxes! That’s the kind of economic impact that should make anyone take notice.

But instead of catering to us as an important constituency, Utah politicians have repeatedly given us the middle finger by opposing popular national monument designations and even trying to undermine our public lands altogether.

As a community, we can do better in pressuring the state to better reflect our conservation values. We deserve to have Utah working hard to attract our business, not taking our hard earned travel dollars for granted while they attack the places we love.

Tell Utah that if it won’t support the outdoor recreation community, then we won’t support its economy. Here’s how.

What to write

This is what I wrote, but feel free to deviate from this how ever you see fit. Don’t worry about writing the most perfectly eloquent message—just getting the key points out there is the important part here.

  • Introduce yourself so it’s obvious this isn’t a form letter
  • Tell Mr Adams that you’re a regular visitor to Utah
  • Calmly explain that you’re offended by the actions of Utah’s elected officials in attacking our public lands and attempting to undermine Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
  • Make it clear that this is totally unacceptable to you, and as a result, you won’t be visiting Utah until it changes
  • Ask him to relay your sentiments to the Governor and other elected officials

Who to contact

Address your message to Tom Adams, Director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation. His email address appears to be

Or you can use this form to send your message from the Utah website.

If you’d rather call, try 801-538-8873.

Also, feel free to send a similar message to Gov Herbert while you’re at it.

What this accomplishes

Let’s not kid ourselves—shooting off an email to the Utah tourism department isn’t enough to turn back these public lands attacks. But lodging your complaint and threatening to spend your outdoor rec money elsewhere does send an important signal, one that is amplified by other actions. Whether you ultimately choose to visit Utah this year or not, this is a simple action to remind the Utah leaders that there is a price to pay for their actions.

And if you do visit Utah, please make sure to raise as much hell as you can about public lands issues while you’re there. Be vocal and tell people that you’re not happy about how Utah is treating its public lands and they’re jeopardizing your tourist dollars.

How to stay engaged

Jump on this Arizona Conservation Partners email list and we’ll keep you updated. Your email is safe with us.

Many organizations are working on this issue, including the Outdoor Alliance, TRCP, Center for Western Priorities, and The Wilderness Society to name just a few. Any of them would be great organizations to saddle up with.

If you’d like to help support Bears Ears National Monument in particular, I’d recommend checking in with the Friends of Cedar Mesa and the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.

Please share this post

Tweet it, facebook it, or better yet: email or text it to a few of your adventure buddies. The more of us that weigh in, the better. Help get the word out. You might even want to use the hashtag #OptOutofUtah.

Launching soon: Visit Every Park

UPDATE:  I ended up launching a different website with a very similar goal I call Just Get Out More!

You should head over there instead—after you read the post below, that is. On the new site, I’ve published a comprehensive post on adopting a travel quest, so if you’re inspired by what you read below, please check it out.

Thanks for stopping by!

I’m in the process of launching a new venture I’m calling Visit Every Park. The website will focus on helping others use travel quests to get out and explore more of the world, whether that’s their own neighborhood or a different continent.

As you know, I have plenty of personal quests of my own, most notably around visiting every National Park unit in the United States. This quest has played a major role in my life and has really helped motivate both the big adventures of my life, as well as simpler daytrips on the weekend. It’s given my travel some structure and inspired trips I never would have otherwise taken, to places that I never considered visiting, and to do things I never thought I could.

Pssh, visiting 100 parks in 100 days to celebrate the National Parks centennial? No way I could do that! But, of course, I did. And it’s not impossible for you to do something similar either.

Many of my friends seem legitimately awed by my travels, as though I’m some amazingly talented traveler with special unseen resources. I’m not. Trust me on this. I probably wouldn’t have done a tenth of the travel I’ve done if not for these travel quests. In short, I want to spread the idea of travel quests, and then help people make progress on them—using them as a vehicle to see more of the world, achieve more of their personal goals, and be happier people.

While Visit Every Park is the name of the website, I’ll be using my national parks quest as just one of the many examples of how you can use quests to get out and explore more often. My goal is to be your best resource for adopting and completing your own travel quests, whatever those may be. I’ll also be touching on broader travel-related topics, such as road trip strategies, gear reviews, budget travel, and other topics that will help you be successful in completing whatever travel quest you happen to adopt—or just appreciating the journey along the way.

I’ll be launching the in early 2017 and you’ll soon find @visiteverypark on twitter, facebook, instagram, and other social media networks in the not-too-distant future.

Thanks for your support. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments. I’d especially love any feedback you might have in these early stages, as I look to find the right voice to best help future readers on their own personal quests.

The National Parks of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is a giant figure in the history of conservation and the National Parks system. Arguably the first “Conservation President,” he used his authority and foresight to establish and protect many of our country’s most treasured places. His conservation legacy is astounding, especially for the era in which he governed, and encompasses far more than his additions to the national parks system.

Honoring his important tenure as President, no fewer than six different national parks commemorate Teddy Roosevelt:

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
  • Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
  • Theodore Roosevelt Island
  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial

If you haven’t been to each of these places, you should add them to your “to visit” list. Theodore Roosevelt NP and Sagamore Hill NHS are among my favorite lesser-known parks in the country.

TR  will forever be associated with the many national park units he helped established, whether by signing national park legislation or by using his authority under the Antiquities Act. Here’s the looong list of places he helped protect:

  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Wind Cave National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Chickasaw National Recreation Area
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Devils Tower National Monument
  • El Morro National Monument
  • Montezuma Castle National Monument
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
  • Tonto National Monument
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Jewel Cave National Monument
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Tumacacori National Monument
  • Olympic National Park
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
  • Yosemite National Park

That’s one helluva conservation legacy for the National Parks.

And that doesn’t include the 51 National Bird Sanctuaries (later renamed National Wildlife Refuges) he designated, the 150 million acres of National Forests he established, or the other conservation policies he impacted.

Thanks, Teddy, for all that you did to preserve America’s natural heritage.

#MyNationalParksMonth is my centennial celebration of the National Parks

My National Parks Month
If I could, I’d mark off every single national park (red pins only) left on my quest. Instead, I’ll spend a month hitting as many as I can. [update: OR DO THEM ALL!]

UPDATE: jump to a listing of what I’ve seen thus far.
BIG NEWS: hear about the epic encore I’m currently!
EVEN BIGGER NEWS: I’m now visiting 100 Parks in 100 Days

Continue reading #MyNationalParksMonth is my centennial celebration of the National Parks

Pearl Jam – Live in Concert

It had been 4,777 days since I had seen Pearl Jam in concert. The only time I had seen them live was October 21, 2000—one day shy of the ten year anniversary of the band’s first performance. pearljamticket I’m not a big concert guy—I’ve only been to a couple of PJ concerts and two other Flogging Molly ones—but that original concert was special. Pearl Jam has been my favorite band for two decades now. Not only to do I love the music, but I’ve really appreciated their politics and social outlooks. Hell, they even devoted a song to one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t included Phoenix in any of its tours for more than a decade. So when the band announced that they would be visiting Phoenix on November 19 on their Lightning Bolt tour, there was no way I was going to miss it.

Continue reading Pearl Jam – Live in Concert

Words of Wilderness

The Wilderness Act turns 50 this year and this short video is a visually stunning way to celebrate some of our most treasured landscapes. We’re truly indebted to John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, Also Leopold, and the countless other unsung advocates who fought tirelessly to preserve Wilderness for us all. What an amazing legacy to leave.

…on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam—our pale blue dot.

It’s hard to find a more eloquent, humbling, and ultimately empowering statement than the inspired words of Carl Sagan. If you’ve had a bad day recently or need some perspective on your life, here it is. Watch. Listen.

In the vastness of space and the immensity of time, revel in the joy of sharing a planet and an epoch with your friends and family, with neighbors and strangers. With wistful clouds and chirping birds; with streams and rock and dirt.

Because with great fortune, you have the serendipitous opportunity of inhabiting, for a brief moment, a tiny fraction of a speck on our insignificant pale blue dot—a faint pinprick of reflected light suspended in an incalculable vastness. Cherish it. Hold dear the only home we’ve ever known, that solitary mote of dust.

Continue reading …on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam—our pale blue dot.

PhxBrewQuest: Visiting the Breweries of Metro Phoenix

My friend Jenny and I have embarked on a quest to visit all of Metro Phoenix’s breweries before the end of this year—we call it #phxbrewquest. Here’s the list we’re working off of—which appears to be the most complete and accurate one on the internet—which includes only home-grown breweries that brew on-site and include a public tasting room.

We’ve currently visited all 28 of the (current) 28!

Still left to visit:

  • (none at the moment)

Continue reading PhxBrewQuest: Visiting the Breweries of Metro Phoenix