Monday, July 31, 2017

CamelBak Helena Review

There is never enough water in Colorado--whether you're exploring the city of Denver or venturing a little higher into the mountains. Staying hydrated at a high altitude is one of the most basic ways to care for yourself in the city that gets its nickname from being a mile high. When you get tired of the daily grind and head into the woods to center yourself, be sure to grab some water as you go.

I recently bought a new backpack in preparation for finally taking Colorado up on what it has to offer: trees, trails, and mountains. I'm not an avid hiker. I don't plan on doing a 14er or going on a 3-day trek. I just want to walk in the trees and take in the scenery. I questioned whether I would actually need a hydration pack, yet I was convinced that having too much water was infinitely better than not having enough.

When it comes to making online purchases, or purchases in general, I am incredibly picky. I worry that I will hate what I buy and will not be able to return it. I felt this way while searching through the immense sea of backpacks online and while ordering the CamelBak Helena, but in the end I had no regrets. It works perfectly for what I need it for. The Helena is small enough not to be a burden, but big enough to hold more than a few essential items. Along with being a great hiking backpack, it could be used as an overnight bag or for a walking or biking commute. The shoulder straps are comfortable, and there are plenty of straps with buckles to adjust as you please.

Having water at my fingertips without having to stop and swing my pack around was a great new experience while hiking, and I never worried that I would run out. Besides having the right amount of compartments and pockets for holding everything from a swimsuit and extra sunscreen to a journal and extra pens, the version that I bought is a very pretty peacock blue color with neon green accents. I have only taken the Helena on a couple of hikes and one camping trip so far, but I have a feeling that we will have many more outings together over the years.

Disclaimer: I have purchased and reviewed the Helena of my own accord. I have not received a free product or compensation for this review. I am not affiliated with CamelBak in any way and all views are my own.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This Week

This week has been a busy one. I planned three big things without realizing that they were happening in the same week. Last night I went to see Mitski play some music, and tonight I'm going to a Korean restaurant with friends and their sister who is visiting. I worked 10 hours on Tuesday and will work 10 hours again today so that I can leave early on Friday for a weekend of camping.

As luck would have it, our weekend will be filled with rain. I didn't check the weather when I made the reservations. I've camped in the rain before, but it was in the Pacific Northwest in a forest where I grew up. I wasn't worried about lightning. Another thing I wasn't worried about was bears. I don't know if it's just that we'd never seen one while camping or that they aren't much of an issue in that area, but we never had to worry about it.

While checking on the campground website, I noticed that the park is currently on a bear alert. I researched what you should do in case of lightning or bears. Then I emailed the campground. They said to stay in your car for lightning, and lock your food (and cooking clothes) in the car for bears, which is basically what I'd already read. I was still pretty nervous about it after my own research, so it made me feel better to hear it again from someone from the campground. She told me that they usually just take food from people who leave it out and move on to the next site. I feel much better about the whole bear situation now, but we will still be grabbing some bear mace on our way out just in case.

What are your plans for the weekend? Have you ever been in a dangerous situation in the outdoors?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Getting Settled and Being Productive

What is better on a quiet and peaceful weekday morning than a warm cup of coffee? I could go on and on about how much I love coffee. When there are no late-night smokers chatting or arguing outside our window, before morning rush hour traffic, when everything is still soft and mellow in the first morning light--this is my coffee time. It could be the flavor, or the boost of energy, or maybe it's the routine. Boil the water. Grind the beans. Set up the filter. Pour the dark, rich liquid into your favorite mug, and add just the right amount of milk. It's something I can do while still half asleep--and often that is how I'm making it. Having something that gets me up and moving is pretty integral to becoming a functioning human in the mornings.

We've completely moved into our new apartment and are slowly finding out where everything goes. The cardboard boxes are starting to disappear, and I'm beginning to remember what cupboard holds which items. It still feels a bit strange to be in a new place, especially after the chaos of our move and having to be in three other new places in-between, but we'll get there eventually. Right now I would say I am as comfortable here as I would be at a temporary rental. We're planning another trip to Ikea this weekend, and we hope to leave with a couch. There might also be a kitchen table in our future as well as a small shelf that I can use for things that I am working on. That's what I'm calling it. It's the things-I'm-working-on shelf. I'll be using the kitchen table as a desk/workspace.

Before the fire, I was starting to get into a good daily routine. It took a few weeks, but I am finally starting to get back into the swing of things. I would like to spend my evenings productively and do the things that I enjoy. I would like to have a cleaner apartment and bring homemade lunches to work. Why I can't always get it together enough to do the things I want to do is beyond me. I have a hunch that it just takes some organization and a little willpower. Last year, I tried my hand at keeping a Bullet Journal. I didn't keep up with it. I spent more time making layouts and doing a sketch than using it as it was meant to be used. The internet world of the Bullet Journal completely fascinates me. I could watch endless YouTube videos of layouts and stationery hauls. Have I mentioned I love stationery? I do. Every time we've been in a store lately, I have to take a slow walk through the school supplies section, lamenting the fact that I do not need a 3-ring binder or glittery pencil case (oh, I'll find reasons).

The last time we took a quick detour through the back-to-school aisles, I bought a 50 cent composition notebook and decided to give the Bullet Journal another try. I've been using it for two days now and it's working well so far. I've accomplished far more in the past two days than I have in a long time. I need a place to write things down. I need the feeling of accomplishment of checking something off of a list. Maybe after some practice, I won't have to write everything down to get anything done. It's working well for me so far. I like the "collections" where you can keep a list with a theme. I made a list of music that I like and want to listen to, because I am constantly forgetting. I've found the future log, monthly log, and weekly log to be helpful. I'm not sure I'll need a daily log. I think I'll add two ribbons as page markers to make it easier to find the monthly and weekly sections quickly. If you haven't heard of the Bullet Journal by now (if you read blogs there's a good chance you have), go to YouTube and be ready to get lost in a wonderland of delicious pens and prettiness all around.

What keeps you focused and motivated? Do you have any tips on how to be more productive?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Summer Day at the Creek

One thing I don't like about Denver is the lack of water. I do realize that Denver is in the high plains desert, but I couldn't help thinking that every big city has large areas of water and the Platte River just doesn't cut it. I grew up on the Columbia River in Washington and moved to Seattle for university where we were nearly surrounded by water. We took a trip to the beach almost every summer growing up. I lived in Seoul where summer days included frequent picnics at the Han River and trips to the coast. I miss living in a rain forest. I miss the ocean.

I had a trip to the creek planned before the fire, thinking that we would mostly be done moving and want to celebrate by spending a nice day outdoors with friends. Little did I know that we would be unable to enter our apartment until the day before we moved. Our original plan was to pack up and clean as much as we could the weekend before we moved. That way we would at least have half of the packing done ahead of time. Because of asbestos, things didn't work out that way.

After the fire I was understandably overwhelmed with everything. I took two days off of work and worried about catching up when I went back. I didn't get the answers that I needed from the real estate management company who was telling us to just rip the seal off the doors that said, "Caution! May cause cancer!" We went from motel to Airbnb to Brian's cousin's house. I had a panic attack on my last day of work before the move after the asbestos board told me that nobody should have gone into the apartments or removed items in the first place.

In the end, our apartment was cleared in time for moving. It was a messy, frustrating move, but we did it. There were times when I was walking "home" from work when I hated Denver and America and didn't want to be here. I blamed these places. And it's easy to hate a place when things are not going your way. When you are frustrated and feel like nothing will ever get easier, it's very easy to take it out on where you are rather than just accepting that sometimes unfortunate things happen. I know that I have done this in Korea in the past, and now here I am wishing that I were there, because a foreign country has somehow become my comfort place over the 7 years that I lived there.

Looking back at living in Korea and all the times that I was unhappy with life there, I know that I can't make the same mistake in the US. Dwelling on all that was wrong took a lot of time away from making things better and enjoying the good. No matter where you are, you can always find something to be unhappy with. This is why I sought out the water that I was missing and will continue to explore where I am. I wanted a swimming hole like those of my childhood and a friend recommended Clear Creek. It was not everything that I had hoped it would be, but it was close enough. I swam in a creek surrounded by trees and friends. And there's much more of Clear Creek to explore for the rest of the summer. Although I'm used to natural lakes, I'll also be checking out the reservoirs in and around Denver.

We probably shouldn't have gone swimming when we still had so much packing and moving to do, but it was worth it to me. I needed to be outdoors and I needed to remember that there is still so much of Colorado that I have no idea about. I don't think that I will stay in this place forever, but I do want to make the most of my time while I'm here.

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