Before Zan and I met, he was working his dream job managing an outdoor store in Charlotte. No sooner did we start dating than we began maxing out credit cards to outfit me for our adventures in the wild.

As we finalize gear in preparation for next week’s JMT thru-hike, I can’t help but be taken back to the first pair of hiking boots that he skillfully selected for me. Not only did they require lessons on proper lacing and several layers of padded socks, but the heavyweight Montrail Moraine ATs weighed in at a ridiculous 4 pounds a pair. 

Combined with a 50 pound pack, I soon discovered that tripping, stumbling and stopping every hour to to treat blisters was simply part of communing with nature. With my ego many times more bruised than my body, I was determined to redefine how we explored the outdoors.

Over the next few years, we devoured every article, blog and lightweight gear list we could find in our transformation from old school to ultra-light. Today, it’s funny to think that my old boots used to weigh a third of what my current pack weighs full.

So, whether you’re hopelessly committed to carrying your beloved cast iron pans and machetes ( you know who you are... no judgements here) or simply a sucker for a “peak inside our packs post,” this one is for you...



Patagonia Trucker Hat         /         Patagonia Trucker Hat

Turtle Fur Beanie         /         Patagonia Fleece Hat

Wool Buff         /        Ex Officio Neck Gaitor

Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket         /         Patagonia Torrentshell Pullover

Patagonia Down Hooded Jacket         /         Patagonia Nano Pullover

Patagonia Down Vest (Orange)         /          Turtle Fur Neck Gaitor 

Patagonia Capilene 3  Zip         /         Patagonia Merino Wool Longsleeve

Ex Officio Lumos Hoody         /         Ex Officio Lumos Hoody

Brooks Running Tshirt         /         Patagonia Silk Weight Tshirt

Nike Tank         /         Big Anges Poncho & Shelter

Patagonia Convertible & Houdini Pants         /         Patagonia Houdini Pants

Patagonia Thermal Bottoms (Blue)         /         Patagonia Briefs

Patagonia Barely Baggie Shorts         /         Patagonia Variable Board Shorts

Patagonia Strider Shorts         /         Patagonia 9 Trails Shorts

Manzella Fingerless Glove & Mitten         /         Ex Officio Fingerless Mitten

Nike Sports Bra (x2)         /         Patagonia Merino Wool (Camp Socks)

Injinji Socks (x5)         /         Injinji Socks

Salomon Trail Runner         /         Chacos Hiking Sandals 

Teva Sandals         /         Injinji Coolmax Liner (x2)

Smith Sunglasses         /         Native Sunglasses (Low / Bright Light Lenses)


We wake each morning to find ourselves stranded.

More steadfast than the day and month and year before, we hide from the sun and rush to fashion a raft or buoy or lifesaver or something worthy of an adventure.

We hurl ourselves, furiously, into the quickening void. Waves stir and strengthen, dissolving earth into water as the tide takes land back into it’s salty lair. 

From our delicate perch, we watch yesterday’s island slowly disappear.

We are adrift, quiet and alone. Surviving the day’s storm, we navigate to shore and arrange our bodies under an infinite sky.

The only souls — together — we are an island, surrounded on every edge. 

Tomorrow we will wake to find ourselves stranded, more resolute than the day and month and year before. We’ll hide from the sun and fashion a raft, or something, then push ourselves away from safety and into the raging world. 

But not tonight.


Tonight we carbo load...


In preparation for our much anticipated thru-hike of the John Muir Trail, counting calories per ounce has become a part-time job.

Opting for only a single major resupply, we’re feeling the added pressure of fitting 5 days of meals for two into a bear canister rated for 7 days max. In addition to density, we’re also trying to agree on options that are:

  1. Not Disgusting or Repetitive (food boredom is the worst)
  2. Compact & Lightweight (calories per ounce is crucial but so is packability)
  3. Quick & Easy to Prepare (so as to not burn unnecessary time or fuel)
  4. Nutritional (as few processed / artificial ingredients as possible)

After days of measuring, packaging, poking and smooshing, the results pale in comparison to our typical pedestrian diet but, nonetheless, add up as follows:


Since many nights will be spent at or above 10,000 ft, we have opted to take a little extra time to prepare a quick, hot meal on most mornings. Egg crystals, anyone?


    CALORIES: 400-450


Luckily, we’ll have a few hot meals our first week on the trail as we pass through Tuolumne Meadows Grill, Red’s Meadow Mule House Cafe and Vermillion Valley Resort. The rest of the time, we will be eating our hot meals at lunch (vs dinner) to avoid attracting unwelcome critters into our campsite.

    CALORIES: 500-700


We’ve been trying to trick our brains and bellies into smaller evening meals in attempt to take in our calories earlier in the day when we need them most. After two weeks of this approach, it’s safe to say that we may never look at a protein bar in quite the same way...

    CALORIES: 500-800


To fill in the nutritional / motivational gaps in our diet, our snacks are as calorie dense and diverse as we could make them. While we tried hard not to sacrifice quality, we’ve learned firsthand that the best calories are the ones you can stand to get into your body — high five to the ever reliable Peanut M&M!

    CALORIES: 800-1,200

With 20+ miles and thousands of feet in elevation change per day, we are a bit unnerved that our total calories barely break the 2,000 to 3,000 mark. That said, we look to our lightweight packs to help offset the potential deficit.

Of course, should we wake to the sounds of our empty bellies echoing through the Sierras, we do our best to remember that John Muir "...arrived in the Chilkat Valley in 1879 in a tweed jacket with some biscuits stuffed in his pocket."


Part science, part art, the process of tempering chocolate requires as much patience and intuition as it does technique. A badly tempered batch results in streaks and striations referred to as bloom.

After pushing through a laborious chocolate-making process, bloomed chocolate is generally an unwelcome sign of failure. Yet, by it’s very definition, I sort of love how hope can be found even in the face of defeat.



bloom: to flourish or thrive.



With each new batch, bloom is what we’re striving to avoid in our chocolate and what we aspire to achieve for ourselves as makers. 

Success and failure are two sides of the same coin.

There’s a kind of poetic justice to that, don’t you think?