John Steinbeck once said that people don’t take trips—trips take people. He’s right, of course. I should know. South America has always had a way of taking me—whisking me away from wherever I was in life and depositing me somewhere along the Andean spine, awestruck and in love with wild people and even wilder places. […]
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.
In northern Iceland, more than five hours by car from Reykjavík, exists a mountainous jut of land called Tröllaskagi—the Troll Peninsula, home to the tallest peaks outside of Iceland’s central highlands. In this fairytale land of fire and ice and trolls, the maritime moisture content and the long, dark Arctic winters make for a surprisingly stable spring snowpack, which allows skiers to carve turns long after chairlifts have stopped running in the lower 48. Even into June, when the midnight sun is in full effect (the Arctic Circle is a few miles north), you can often ski down to the ocean’s edge. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? (It pretty much is.)
Arctic Heli Skiing, the premiere ski touring and ski mountaineering operator on the Troll Peninsula, offers heli-skiing and ski touring packages that can be crafted to suit any whim, whether that’s skiing down couloirs or cruising across broad bowls covered in a spring corn snow so smooth and consistent you would have sworn it was groomed the previous night. All you need to do is get yourself and your ski gear to Iceland in one piece, and Arctic Heli Skiing will take care of the rest.
1,813 kilometers, seven days, six hotels, untold pints of Guinness, countless castles and innumerable sheep—that’s what a counterclockwise road trip around Ireland looks like. I’ll admit it was an aggressive itinerary we envisaged: from Dublin to Belfast, Belfast to Ballymote via the Giant’s Causeway, Ballymote to Galway via the Connemara Peninsula, Galway to Kenmare via the Dingle Peninsula, Kenmare to Kilkenny via the Ring of Kerry, and then Kilkenny to the Dublin International Airport. Sleep would be sacrificed for sightseeing, and sightseeing would be sacrificed for driving onward, ever onward, around the Emerald Isle.
But sometimes, particularly when you are compelled to see as much of a country as possible in a limited period of time, a frenetic pace is required. Prior to heading off across the Atlantic, I read an article in a travel magazine that encouraged its readers visiting Ireland to take the opposite approach. Go visit the Ring of Kerry, the author advised, but be sure to spend five days there. Maybe you can squeeze in a drive around the Dingle Peninsula, but be careful you don’t overdo it. Soak up Ireland slowly, leisurely, and contemplatively in one setting.
Of course, that’s sound advice for a certain type of person who wants to experience a certain type of trip. But that wasn’t going to be us—not this time, at least. My traveling companion and I were going to try to hit all of the highlights in one fell swoop with Guinness, beef and Guinness stew and Guinness-battered bread to sustain us. It was only during the final night of our trip, while cozied up in the corner of a Kilkenny bar as a band sang a lively rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” that a Galway native, upon hearing me recount all of the places we had seen the previous six days, looked me in the eye and said: “You’re crazy.”
For a detailed summary of the Road Tripping the Emerald Isle itinerary, see the full post in the Travel Itineraries section.