Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sky Pond Adventure....fourth time's a charm

Coming up with an adventure is easy, executing the plan to make it happen is the hard part.

I’ll admit, when my alarm went off Friday at 5am, my first thought was to text my friend Kelsie and say I couldn’t get out of bed. I just recently took over management of our QiFlow Edgewater studio and I had been up late for a teacher’s meeting the night before. Not only that but I had taught two classes, done studio hours, had a meeting, taken a class and I hadn’t had time to even clean my house or do laundry let alone answer my Yogi Magee business emails. I felt overwhelmed when I woke up and no one had offered to sub my 4:30pm barre class so I knew the day would feel rushed to get up to Rocky Mountain National Park, hike almost 9 miles and make it back in time.

But I needed this day.

We were late, of course, getting to the trail head after swapping cars and stopping for coffee so we didn’t start hiking until 8:30am. I’d been to the Loch Vale three times prior without making it to Sky Pond. Two other occasions we were supposed to go to Sky Pond but the hike was re-scheduled due to weather and timing. To understand this hike you have to understand that Sky Pond, is like the name sounds, it’s the end of the line and you gain 1,600 feet of elevation. In summer, you have to climb over rocks that frame a waterfall making it treacherous but in winter you cross a steep slope and avalanche terrain over landscape that few dare to blaze. My husband and I tried last year and lost the trail because not many people venture past the Loch and we hadn’t been up there in the winter so we weren’t sure where to go.

Luckily, Kelsie had climbed the route in the fall so she had a great idea where to go. Since we had all pretty much made it to the Loch before we only stopped for a few photos before cruising on the frozen lake towards our destination. We were on a mission.

Once in the trees on the other side of the lake the “trail” stays close to a drainage that leads up towards the base of what is Timberline Falls. We were fortunate that someone had been on the trail before us so we didn’t completely have to break trail but the snow was still pretty deep in spots. Once we got past treeline we got a better view of the terrain ahead and had to decide if we should keep going due to possible avalanche danger. 






In the end we decided the snow was good, but we used caution because the previous tracks were wind-blown. I went first and then the others followed, staggering behind in case one of us triggered an avalanche.
Past the avalanche danger was a steep slope which I’m guessing, hugs the waterfall in the summer but was completely snow covered. I started up the slope and slide. I tried to dig my snow shoes in and would only slide backwards. Kelsie didn’t have poles and I forgot my ice axe so my concern was that she wouldn’t be able to make it up the slope if I couldn’t dig tracks for her. I stopped and sat down in the snow.
“What do you want to do?” they all looked at me from below. They told me it was my call. If I wanted to turn around, if I didn’t think I could do it they were fine with bailing on the expedition.

I felt, in that moment, that everything that had been going on in my life lately manifest itself in that moment. I’ve been forced to think a lot about my business, Yogi Magee Expeditions and where I see the future going. I’ve been forced to think about my career as far as teaching at various studios, managing a studio and flying. Personally I feel like I haven’t been spending a lot of time with my family because I’ve been in and out of the house and when I am around my family I feel pulled to my social media and emails. I’m trying to create a name for myself while also supporting a business I care deeply about and many times I sacrifice my sleep just to get the odds and ends met when everyone else is asleep so I don’t feel as guilty.

So I sat at the base of that slope and I looked up at where no trail was and had a decision to make. Do I blaze a trail and fight to get to the top or do I turn around, satisfied I made it that far but ultimately disappointed I still didn’t reach Sky Pond.

In my mind were the words, “you can’t fail if you never give up.”
I fought for it. I dug and I clawed and I finally got to the top of the slope and even though I couldn’t breathe I stood triumphant, waving the other girls on. 

Kelsie later told me if I hadn’t continued she probably wouldn’t have either. A few steps later we crossed Lake of Glass and then hit Sky Pond. There was no wind, practically an anomaly up there, and the sky was blue and the clouds were minimal. Days like this, don’t happen often, but I can say it was a perfect day.


We took photos, we ate lunch and we started back down to the parking lot. The initial down climb was treacherous as the slope was beyond steep so we used our snow shoes as crampons and toe stepped down digging our fists into the snow. 


We avoided crossing the avalanche terrain again in favor of down climbing some rocks then glissading down the drainage. From here we could see the trail so we connected back to it and headed towards the Loch. We made it up and down in 5.5 hours. The beauty and curse of hiking in winter is that there’s no danger of erosion so you can take any path you choose but you must be careful because tracks will often lead you in the wrong direction.

After another coffee stop I made it to the studio in time to teach my 4:30 class and though my legs were beyond tired I was happy I was able to fit it all in. My husband ended up picking me up from there and we had an awesome night of food, craft beer and celebration of his promotion. After a day outside saying, “fuck it,” to everything, I felt lighter, happier and even more ready to take on my day to day challenges.

The universe showed me yesterday that it is, indeed, possible to do it all. Taking adventures and time for myself isn’t always easy because I feel like I’m neglecting my other responsibilities. I’m not a person that gets massages, stays in fancy hotels for a night or even sits on the couch binge watching Netflix and eating donuts. So to me, taking this time for myself outside, is my way of self-care and I know I need to not feel like I have to apologize for that.
After all, the floors needing to be clean and laundry needing to be folded…that can wait.


Views like this only come once every three years for me. Thank you Kelsie, Maddie and Hilary for joining me for the perfect adventure day. :) 


Thursday, October 13, 2016

So you want to start your own business? What I've learned...

Deciding to start your own business is like deciding to take up mountain climbing as a hobby. You have to be a tad bit fearless and crazy. I should know as I’ve done both. Yogi Magee LLC wasn’t ever initially intended to become a brand or money making venture. Originally I only needed an LLC as a way to get paid at a yoga studio where I was taught. Magee is my last name so I played off that for my “business.” I lack a formal business education so my only goal four years ago was to teach fitness classes to bring in extra money.

My experience starting on climbing Colorado’s 14ers (the 58 peaks over 14,000 feet) was similar. I was looking for a quick weekend hike and my husband suggested Grey’s and Torrey’s. He said they were popular 14ers near us and we could knock them out in a day. The hike and 4am wakeup was grueling and I wore all the wrong things from yoga pants to tennis shoes. I made the summits but wasn’t a mountaineer. At the top someone was discussing how this was their 34th climb and I was in awe that there were so many more mountains out there to conquer. A spark was ignited and a passion found. If these women could climb peaks in their free time then I would try as well.

Just as I saw others succeeding hiking mountains I started to see my fellow yogi’s reaching their summit dreams as well. Some were opening their own studios, others were leading teacher trainings and many more were teaching workshops. I was passed over several times to co-lead retreats at the place I was teaching because I never voiced my desire to join. So I started thinking about what inspired me and how I could create an opportunity for myself and for others to join on my expeditions. The more mountains I climbed and posted about on social media the more attention I received. Others wanted to hike with me and the realization came I had a niche. What if I could design a retreat that combined yoga and hiking in a place I could only afford to visit if I were being paid to be there?
Telluride was my dream. So Telluride I chose for my inaugural retreat.
My first stab at running a retreat was like my first few 14ers. Yes I was successful but looking back there were so many errors. I didn’t have a website, just a blog as a way to sign people up. I had a graphic designer friend create my logo and another business driven friend who drew up registration forms and waivers for me. I created a Facebook page but I only had a few followers and not enough content for the site. I used Paypal and accepted credit cards which meant I lost 2% or roughly $10 on every transaction. Just like I underestimated mountains I underestimated my costs and I charged way too little for what I was offering. I knew I could pull it off I just didn’t understand how to go about doing so and I prepared to make mistakes. A summit to me was a summit no matter how I got there.

Telluride Yoga + Hiking Retreat 2014 launched my Yogi Magee Expeditions name and gave me respect among the yoga community. I sold the retreat out and had 14 people I didn’t know sign up. The feeling I had when I announced the retreat was full was the same feeling I had when I summited a 14er: that I had done something most people would never be able to do.


I designed a fall retreat in Aspen that same year because I felt overconfident lightening would strike again. Two people signed up and I had to cancel my retreat. I was asked to co-teach a retreat in Belize April 2015 and we initially had so few people sign up I almost had to step down because it wouldn’t have been economical. I launched my second Telluride retreat in March of 2015 and only 6 people signed up.

I thought I was a failure. My magic was gone.

When you start climbing 14ers you know inevitably at some point you may have to turn around from a summit. Eventually your weather good luck runs out and you get chased off a peak by snow and lightening. However, that doesn’t mean you give up altogether. The mountain will still stand there for you and invite you back another day. I’ve met people who have tried 3-10 times to climb the same peak and they still keep coming back. Once you’ve tasted success you don’t stop seeking it, you pursue and press on no matter how difficult it may be. You can appreciate a summit even more when it’s taken you many failed attempts to reach the top.

So I treated my business the same way. Instead of seeing having only a few people sign up for my retreats as a failure I saw it as an opportunity to network and inspire one-on-one. I brought an assistant in to take photos, I bought my domain name and built my own website. I invested in constant contact to keep every precious email address filed and I started a Yogi Magee Instagram to attract more followers. I teamed up with another yogi who had strong connections and we launched a wildly successful Glamping Retreat and went on to sell out an adventure retreat in Nicaragua. On mountains there’s often more than one way to get to the top and I decided if one way wasn’t working for my business I’d try another.

I keep climbing knowing that even if I reach one summit there’s still more for which I can strive. If you fall in love with mountains you better prepare to have your heartbroken, and the same is true for running your own business. There’s peaks and valleys and sunshine mixed with hailstorms. Sometimes it all happens at once. Yet I’ve learned from my own adventures that never starting in the first place is the real failure and if nothing else I’ll look back and say at least I had the gumption to try.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A summer of adventure a lifetime of summits to come

As we approach the last weekend of Summer I’m looking back on all the amazing adventures that I not only had with my adventure wife Dawnelle (#adventuresofnatandd) but with the many other familiar and new faces. July was an epic month which started out with a trip to Crested Butte for the 4th of July where I had the chance to climb Gothic mountain.


Upon my return I packed my bags and headed for Aspen with D to hike the 26 mile 4 pass loop which has been on my horizon pretty much forever. I’m grateful for Marty Silvernail who let me borrow not only his pack but stove, pots, pans and water purifier which made our lives that much easier on the trail. Neither of us are backpackers and by the end of the trip our shoulders and hips were raw from all the weight.The four pass loop was just as challenging as it was beautiful and we finished in 3 nights and 4 days which was almost too short to take all the beauty in. Next year we’ve already made plans to do the same trip in reverse….
west maroon pass

Frigid air pass

Trail rider pass

Buckskin pass
Into the wild we go to loose our mind and find our soul

The next adventure week Dawnelle and I treated ourselves to well-deserved massages and pedicures. I had a knot the size of a baseball on my back that needed to be worked out and our feet were beyond hopeless and best left in the hands of professionals. The wildflowers were in peak condition mid-July so we spent our next adventure week exploring Herman’s Gulch under the threat of rain. While it felt nice to take a week to relax and recharge there was certainly something nice about reconnecting with nature. It’s harder than you think to acclimate back to a life of technology and noise so the break to the woods was a great reset.
Herman's Gulch

Chad and I also celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary with a trip to Telluride to hike Wilson Peak and finally make the trek to Ice Lake Basin
peak 44

wilson peak


island lake

looking down on ice lake basin

Finally at the end of July I had time to fly out to visit my sister in Alexandria and meet my new niece Lauren. It was my sister’s last few weeks of maternity leave so Charlotte and I did our best to be good house guests and help out. We spent time at the pool, ordering lots of food to eat in and walks for ice cream.

Before you know it the time to turn the calendar to August came. Dawnelle and I started the month strong with an adventure date to Fierce45 since they have childcare and she had just gotten her son back from the grandparents. We worked muscles we forgot we had and left ready to eat the entire city of Denver. 

Her son was still out of school the next week so we all went to the Boulder Res for a stand up paddle boarding excursion. I can confidently say that’s my least favorite place to SUP. They charge a $40 fee if you want to bring your own (you have to buy their permit which is only good for as long as the season lasts) and so I had to rent a board for the hour. Couple that with the fact there’s boats on the lake making waves and it’s certainly not an ideal spot.

I was leaving the next week for my Telluride Yoga + Hiking retreat so Dawnelle and I met at LoHi steak bar for a quick happy hour and catch up session. My retreat was an amazing experience and it was the biggest group I’ve ever had joining me. For the first time we had two men come – a boyfriend and spouse of two of my guests which added an extra element of fun as many times one or the other would be the only male in the group. We hiked to the hidden Little Hawaii, I enjoyed watching everyone overcome fears on the Via Ferrata and we had a perfect day at Hope Lake. Despite the cooler temps and afternoon rain showers we practiced yoga on the mountain top every day and were only interrupted by a wedding and engagement once…




Home for a few days after Telluride and it was off to Alaska for the ultimate summer experience. Alba, Dawnelle and I had registered for the Lost Lake Run six months prior and were now ready as we’d ever be to run 16 miles. The race sold out in 5 minutes and were a few of the lucky 700 people to gain admission to the event. I must say I’m betting we were also the only ones from out of state. While in Alaska we also hiked Flattop Mountain and drove to Homer for the best fish and chips (just for the Halibut!) I’ve ever had. We arrived home tired, bruised and full of excitement for another race to come in the future….once my toenail isn’t black anymore.




To commemorate all our summer of adventure, fun, friendship and new experiences we cemented our happiness in the ultimate form of expression: a tattoo. I only have an Om symbol and two arrows but I must say the mountains are my new favorite tattoo. Alba and Dawnelle got them on their ribcage whereas I chose my forearm. This was Dawnelle’s first tattoo and perhaps her only one so I felt flattered I was able to convince her to get these beautiful mountains for an adventure day. My mom had arrived in town as well as my brother so they got to witness the event as well before we all had lunch and cocktails afterwards.

My brother arrives in town every year to hike a 14er so for Labor Day we drove down to Westcliff while my mom babysat to hike Crestone Needle. My brother has climbed 6 other 14ers which is pretty good for not living in Colorado but he’d never hiked anything as challenging as the needle. Luckily my friend Randy joined to help guide us to the top of the peak so we didn’t miss the gulley crossover where people frequently die when climbing. We had less than ideal conditions once we started going for the top and nearly every group we saw was turning around on the peak but the fog wasn’t threatening so we pressed on. Our original plans to hike both mountains were thwarted but it’s a good thing we didn’t backpack in because the heavy rains at night would have washed us out. As we lay in our new camper I could only thank the heavens for our well thought out purchase. I’m getting to old to camp in the mud!




After eyeing North Maroon since 2013 when I first saw the bells I finally had my chance to stand on its summit. Dawnelle and I circled the bells the whole time we were hiking the four pass loop and I told myself I’d be back for the mountain. Even though North Maroon isn’t classified as a true 14er it’s one of the 58 and I knew I’d never feel complete until I rang both. Randy was supposed to join our adventure but he messed his ankle up so it was up to myself and my husband to lead the way and get Margaret, Courtney and Kelsie to the top safely.
I have a healthy fear of the mountains and climbing this class 4 peak was no exception. I spent enough time researching and obsessing to know we could make the hike so we camped off Independence Pass and off we went at 5:30am Saturday morning. With a gorgeous day ahead we rightfully encountered plenty of others who were making the climb and several who were coming down from the traverse. Overall I believe North Maroon to be easier than south although the second gulley was just as steep as it looks in photos and there’s lots of potential for rock all every turn. The class 4 crux of the route was a lot worse coming down than going up but thanks to Chad’s spotting we all made it with no issues. I will say the crux of Crestone Needle was harder and the route finding on the needle wasn’t nearly as good as it was on north maroon. However the rock on the needle is more solid and it took us a lot less time climbing up and down over 12 miles than it did for n maroon hiking 9.5



heading up the second gulley


Oh yes and there was also the 2nd annual Glamping Retreat with my OG bestie Margaret:



What a summer. I may not have flown or taught as much over the past 12 weeks but I can say it was totally worth all the schedule rearranging and hassle. I must thank everyone who subbed for me, picked up my flights, my parents for flying out and babysitting and my husband for picking up the slack. If it wasn’t for my adventure wife Dawnelle I doubt I would have ever gone to Alaska to run 16 miles or taken time out to hike the 4 pass loop. My retreats introduced me to more amazing women who have become my lunch, HH dates and hiking partners and I thank myself every day that I was brave enough to take a chance to do something no one else was doing. It’s never easy to step outside one’s comfort zone and I’m filled with gratitude for everyone that steps out with me and motivates me to push harder and climb higher.


After I came back from Alaska my husband made the remark that my adventure days were coming to a close. He wasn’t putting the kibosh on them he simply thought that after the Lost Lake Run my adventure wife and I couldn’t possibly have more to do. On the contrary, I told him, Dawnelle and I have a lifetime of adventure days ahead. Our goal is to keep creating, keep inspiring, find new hobbies and then pass our passions on to others. Summer may be over but a 
whole new season of expeditions begin….and yes there’s much more to come.