There are more than six million people living in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Traffic is incessant; trendy, new bars are standing room only even on weeknights—and there are trendy, new bars everywhere; politics somehow seeps into all conversation, innocuous at first but injurious to your mental health once you realize you’ve been debating fiscal policy all day. The reasons you love the city can soon become the reasons you resent the city. Escapes are essential. Nature is necessary.
Shenandoah National Park lies a mere 75 miles west of our nation’s capital, a narrow strip of undulating mountains which extends from north to south for over 100 miles. Skyline Drive runs the length of the park, bisected by the Appalachian Trail as it snakes its way back and forth over the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the fall, birch, ash, and oak trees flaunt their autumnal colors. This lasts for a few weeks, then the blacktop becomes a carpet of red, orange, and yellow leaves that flutter skyward as car wheels roll over them. It is during this ephemeral window of time—after the hills are set aglow and before leaves coat the ground—that I try to make my much-needed pilgrimage to the Blue Ridge.
Since this website’s inception earlier in the year, I have been repeatedly asked: “Why nuanaarpuq?” and “What does it mean?” and “How do I pronounce it?” and “Couldn’t you have picked an easier domain name?”
To which I reply: It’s my favorite word; it means “take extravagant pleasure in the joy of living”; nu-an-are-puk; and no. Here’s why:
I have always believed in the power of the written word. Combined with photography, I find these two mediums to be unequaled in their capacity to educate and inspire. I began this website because I wanted to share insight into places I have traveled, outdoor adventures I have experienced, and people I have met in hopes that it might spark a curiosity in readers to embark on similar journeys of their own making. What to call this website was never in question. Since first hearing this word and learning of its meaning when I was a teenager, nuanaarpuq has shaped the course of my life. Even when employed in a 9-5 office job, even while living far from Colorado and the mountains of my youth, “take extravagant pleasure in the joy of living” has been my life ethos.
I am not the only one.
During the waning days of June, five days after completing a 10-day trek around the Cordillera Huayhuash of Peru, I boarded a train bound for Jasper, Alberta with two of my closest friends. We piled into the narrow compartment of a sleeper car, pulled out two bottles of wine, unwrapped the prosciutto and cheese we had purchased at the Granville Island Public Market, and raised plastic cups filled with Cab Sauv in a toast to Canada.
What do you think of when you think of Maine? I have always thought of lobster rolls and sailboats, coastal fog and thick-bearded lumbermen and the spruce-firs that line the Appalachian Trail as it snakes towards its northern terminus at Katahdin. My visits to the state over the years have confirmed this impression: Maine is a Vacationland par excellence.
More than five million people visit the Grand Canyon each year; fewer than 5% of them descend below the rim to explore the Inner Canyon, and fewer still secure highly coveted backcountry permits for overnight trips—which is to say the Grand Canyon feels downright empty when you are exploring its labyrinthine features from 4,500 feet below the rim.
As is wont to happen when you have a healthy collection of adventurer-type friends, I was invited to join a group of women who were headed to Grand Canyon National Park in mid-April to backpack the renowned Escalante Route. Five days spent traipsing through one of America’s most iconic natural wonders with five other badass women who were certain to infuse me with some much-needed inspiration, insight, and laughter? Sign me up.
For a detailed summary of the Backpacking the Grand Canyon itinerary, see the full post in the Travel Itineraries section.
You need to visit Whistler-Blackcomb if you like any of the following: skiing; snowboarding; après ski; sore quads; shit-eating grins induced by big bowls, narrow chutes, and excess powder; sushi that tastes as if the fish was caught, killed, and filleted within the previous five minutes (and maybe it was); meeting Europeans outside of Europe; Kokanee or Molson; and stumbling upon attractive Aussies and Kiwis around every corner.
From muffins to murals in the Mission District and hunting for exotic bourbon in South San Fran to walking along Chrissy Field savoring iconic views of that big red bridge, here’s a top-line guide of what to do when you have a day to spare in San Francisco.
Searching for a place to habla español outside of the U.S. that emphasizes authenticity and altruism with a little bit of adventure thrown in for good measure? Check out La Mariposa Spanish School, located in La Concepción, Nicaragua, where $480 gets you a week’s worth of lodging, three square meals a day, 20 hours of one-on-one Spanish language lessons and a serious appreciation of Nicaraguan culture and history. La Mariposa promotes ecotourism and volunteerism and offers a wide array of activities, such as hiking and horseback riding, with a schedule any college student would envy—study in the morning, adventure in the afternoon.
Go for the Spanish but realize that a better understanding of verb conjugations is the least of what you’ll acquire during your Central American sojourn.