23 Easy Ways to be a National Park Jerk

 

painting on a rock in the Alabama Hills

  1. Take up lots of parking spaces at the Visitor Center with your compact car
  2. Leave food out and attract all the animals
  3. Take your massive RV on narrow roads
  4. Don’t hold the door open for the person behind you
  5. Walk 3 or 4, maybe 5 wide, on a trail
    1. Then walk really slow and hold up foot traffic
  6. Accidentally hit someone with your selfie stick while selfieing and don’t apologize
  7. Audibly complain about all the tourists; you’re not a tourist
  8. Stand too close to a crumbly edge
  9. Play your music loud on the trail; everyone wants to hear it
  10. Tell everyone how stupid they are for using technology
  11. Hold up traffic while admiring the wildlife
  12. Run up to and try to pet the wildlife
  13. Put a bison calf in your car because it looks cold
  14. Keep your dog off leash
    1. It’s better off running around off leash
    2. This way it doesn’t have to take a s#!t on the trail
  15. Never walk on the safety of boardwalks that keep you from falling into boiling hot, hot springs
  16. Tell as many strangers as you can about how many National Scenic Trails you’ve thru hiked
  17. Stand really close to the person in front of you, heavily breathing down their neck, while waiting for the shuttle bus
  18. Fart on the shuttle bus
  19. Risk your life and go anywhere to get an awesome photo for the gram
  20. Cut someone in line while waiting to use the bathroom
  21. Complain audibly loud about the terrible cell phone reception
    1. Make a non-emergency phone calls, because YOLO
  22. Build a new fire ring anywhere you want, we always need new scars on the land
  23. Enhance and create “art” in our natural spaces

Don’t be a National Park Jerk

You Can’t Change The World

There isn’t much music I like. Pop punk where the standard dress is skinny jeans and the median age of listeners is 14. And white boy rap, though I’m not sure that’s the politically correct terminology. Towards the top of that list is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I wasn’t really a fan of these guys until their latest album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. There’s one specific song on the album I’ve been listening to religiously this year and I think it really hits home after the events that unfolded in Orlando this past weekend.Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park

You’ve probably already heard by now that Orlando was once The City Beautiful and now has the mark on it as being the city where the worst mass shooting in United States history occurred. Orlando’s an underdog city, Orlando will bounce back, and Orlando’s still The City Beautiful (you can read more about that here). In the wake of this tragedy it seems like we’re all jumping to make a difference; we want to change the world.

You Can’t Change The World

You’re too small, I’m too small, we’re all insignificant. If we all had our own agenda to change the world, we’d all be fighting the battle alone. It kind of goes along with that saying “Too many chiefs and not enough indians.” Again, probably politically incorrect, you get the idea.

In a song to his daughter, Macklemore tells her to: find what she loves, do it every day, and eventually the world will change. Think of it this way. If you’re in a relationship it probably happened like this: You were searching profusely for Mr./Ms. Right and eventually gave up. But when you gave up you decided to spend more time with yourself and you became a happier you. In that time you probably learned to put your guard down and then Mr./Ms. Right came along and proverbially swept you off your feet. And if Mr./Ms. Right literally swept you off your feet, I’m jealous.

Doing what you love puts you in a loving mood. And love is contagious. Chances are, when you’re doing what you love, you end up helping someone else find what they love or invite them to join in on whatever makes you so obnoxiously happy. Basically you show someone else love. And showing love to someone is the easiest way to change the world.

“…Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love and do it every day. Do that for the rest of your life and eventually, the world will change.” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

How to See America by Postcard

The following post is sponsored by Pursuit Watches.

At the beginning of this yearlong road trip with my brother, I was looking for something new to create. Something I could look forward to in each state that would challenge me as an artist and explorer. It took six weeks and nine states to figure it out.Julia Pfieffer State Park Waterfall by postcard

I’d been saying it for a while; I wanted to see the places in America that you only see on a postcard. Postcard in hand above Hot Springs National Park, it all came together. I’d buy a postcard and find the location where the photo was taken, and recreate it with the postcard.

Now it’s become my obsession. Anytime we’re in a new place I’m on the hunt for a postcard. But finding a postcard view doesn’t come without its challenges. This is how I go about finding that postcard view:

Research

Some areas are going to yield more postcard views than others. Your job is to figure out what’s going to be best. Plan to find a specific area, where the sight’s plain obvious. Cities are hard to find because they’re always changing whereas a rock spire or a fallen rock is going to stay there, hopefully, for years to come.Big Sur California Postcard

Ask Questions

Certain locations are easy to find just by looking at the photo. Other locations are harder to find. Take a look at the top left corner on the back of the postcard; there’s a description and sometimes it’ll give you a specific place that you can plug into Google Maps. When all else fails, ask someone at the store if they can give you directions to the specific location.

Know the Time of Day

Timing is crucial. Knowing when to get to the location is crucial when you’re trying to catch the light at the right time. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the location to set up and be ready for the light to be just right.

And enjoy the location!Death Valley National Park Daunte's View postcard

Have an Understanding of Photography

A basic understanding of photography goes a long way. You’ll be able to make sure everything’s composed well, is sharp, and that the background isn’t blown out and blurry. You want the postcard to be the focus, but you also want to be able to recognize that the background is the same location as what’s on the postcard.

These are the settings I prefer:

f/7.1-f/11

1/200 sec or faster

ISO 100

Again, those are my ideal settings, but I’ll adjust for the light and setting as I see fit, and so should you.Death Valley National Park Postcard

Be Prepared

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get to some locations. And then you’ll be even more surprised at how difficult it is to find, and get to, others. Make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, and be aware of your surroundings so you don’t get lost trying to get that epic photo.

Whether you’re looking for something to do on a road trip or are trying to spice up a weekend, get out there and find a postcard view. You never know what you may find unless you get out there!

This post is sponsored by Pursuit Watches. Take a look at their stylish line of watches for the man and woman that wants to get out and explore what’s out there.

The Majesty of The Wave

If you have no interest in reading about The Wave, but want to feel like you’re there, scroll to the bottom to watch the video.

At work I had been upgraded to a brand new computer with Windows 7. The standard Windows background wasn’t working for me and I started browsing through backgrounds that came with my computer. I stumbled across this desert scene with a puddle in the middle of the photo. I’d never been to the desert so it was something new to look at for eight hours of my day.The Wave from The Wave View

A co worker walked past my cube and caught a glimpse of my desktop background. I was the outdoors guy around the office and she assumed I had taken the photo. Humbly I told her it wasn’t my photo, that I didn’t even know where it was, but I wanted to see it one day.

Fast forward 4 years to this past Friday as I was trekking over the slick rock of the Arizona desert with a pack on my back and a treasure map in my hand. Adam and I hiked for about an hour until we reached the crevice that’d lead us into The Wave.

Chills ran down my spine as I set my eyes on my previous Windows 7 background that I’d stared at for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, for 4 years. I walked in to find windswept sandstone lines surrounding me. I couldn’t speak, partially because I needed water and that I was mesmerized by this place.

Once I filled my belly with some trail snacks and some water wet my whistle, I started exploring The Wave itself. Taking photos of the standard “Wave View” and then stumbling around looking at all the different lines until venturing out beyond The Wave.Line on the canyon walls of The Wave

I was walking along a sandstone wall with ridges carved into it as the wind picked up and blew threw my hair leaving some sand for me to find on my pillow the next morning. Brochures and textbooks tell us how nature’s carved out this work of art over the years, but nothing quite brings it all into perspective until you feel the wind sweeping along the canyon walls.Adam Fricke setting up a time lapse at The Wave

Adam set up a time lapse while I wandered out to the front again to admire in person what I had admired behind my desk for 4 years. The Wave is truly nature’s work of art and it’s hard express in words, and even photos, the true majesty and beauty of this place. The long and confusing hike out there makes seeing the curving lines along the canyon lines with the best colors painted on the sandstone rock so much more worth it. With so many people trying to see The Wave for themselves, it’s becoming harder and harder to win a permit. So if you find yourself with a case of wanderlust or want to come close to seeing The Wave in person, Adam and I made this for you.Windows 7 desktop background of The Wave

Welcome to The Wave

How to Stay Clean on the Road

This post is sponsored by Epic Wipes, their heavy duty wet wipes are a great way to stay clean while traveling or get clean real quick after a big day of exploring. And be sure to check out their kickstarter campaign on their website.

Summer road trip season’s upon us along with backpacking, camping, beach, festivals, mountain biking, and all around outdoor season. Let’s face it, there’s nothing holding us back from going outside and having fun. Three days of sleeping out of your car, you probably start to smell that all too familiar funky smell. You know what I’m talking about.Epic Giant Wet Wipes help you stay clean on the road

After days of fun with no showers, you lift your arms and catch a whiff of what you hope is the person standing next to you, but it’s not, that repulsive stench is coming from you. You quickly try to cover it up with deodorant and go on with the fun, knowing full well in the back of your head that you smell terrible.

Here are a few, less expensive, ways you can cure that funk while you’re on the road this summer.

Sink Bath

There’s nothing glamorous about this and chances are you won’t get a heap of like on Instagram if you take a photo of this momentous occasion. Grab a small bottle of shampoo and head into the bathroom of a chain coffee shop or fast food joint. Get your hair wet and start scrubbing.While you’re there, you might want to take a stab at cleaning your pits and nether regions. That is where a lot of the stench is coming from, after all. Bypass the paper towels and go for the hair dryer, if available.

Doing this in a big box retailer that sells soap and shampoo may get you stopped by security.

Creek/River/Lake Shower

All the creeks and rivers are flowing into lakes in the summer. The cold water running off the mountains makes for one, let’s call it refreshing, shower. If this is the way you’re going to get clean, make sure you’re using soap that’s designed for this and that won’t pollute the environment.

Rain Shower

They don’t call them summer showers for nothing. Throw on your swimsuit when the rains come a pourin’ and later up in the street. Again, make sure the soap you’re using won’t pollute the environment.

Wet Wipe Bath

Getting clean using baby wipes is always a go-to alternative. The only problem is that you burn through multiple wipes to get clean. I like to use Epic Wipes. These things are gigantic and you’ll only need one to wipe off that funky smell. They’re also portable making it a no brainer to throw one, or a few, in your bag.Epic Massive Wet Wipes help you stay clean on the road

Deal With the Funk

Eventually you’ll get used to your smell and chances are no one else around you cares because they’re possibly being offended by their own terrible smell.

This post is sponsored by Epic Wipes. Product was provided as compensation and all thoughts are my own.

They Don’t Want Us to Win – So We Goin’ Win More

Back in Nashville my friend Ben talked about DJ Khaled’s Snapchat account. He said DJ Khaled’s pretty funny, but also inspirational. I immediately started following him and since February I’ve been watching DJ Khaled’s snaps religiously when I have cell service. He’s all about making sure we win, staying away from they, and winning more. Oh and making sure you never play yourself; whatever that means.Sunset at San Clemente State Beach

A couple weeks ago my life changed. No one close to me died and I wasn’t diagnosed with cancer. Instead I lost my home, my mode of transportation, and the way I make a living. A valet driver drove my sprinter van into a parking garage that didn’t yield enough clearance for my van. The reason I had to valet it is because I couldn’t fit my van in there on my own, but apparently the valet driver thought he could. Either way, 3+ weeks of repairs and thousands of dollars of damage was caused.

This created a huge fiasco for my brother and me and kept us holed up in Scottsdale, AZ dealing with insurance companies, insurance adjusters, repairs shops, and a bunch of other things we’d rather to have never dealt with.

On Tuesday I seriously thought about throwing in the towel, calling it quits, and going back home with my tail between my legs. That’s they talking, according to DJ Khaled. They want me to fail. They don’t want me to win and I was starting to listen to they.

In order to stand out from the rest you have to do something to stand out from the rest. We live in a noisy world and we have to do something crazy to stand out. It’s almost like we have to figuratively scream the loudest in order to get through the noise.

Quitting to go back home because the road got rough would be doing easy and safe. Listening to they, admitting defeat, and settling for average.

Fast forward to Saturday and I was packing up our rental RV with Adam. Somehow, with a little help from our friends, we found a way to rent an RV while the Sprinter Van’s getting fixed so that we don’t lose more time on the road.

Quitting is easy, but dreams never come easy. If that were the case all dreams would come true. That’s what I’m learning. Just because the road looks smooth doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take that road.

They Don’t Want Us to Win – So We Goin’ Win More – DJ Khaled

The Anatomy of Coffee

Coffee has never been a big deal to me. When we’d run out of coffee in the office, I didn’t really care and I’d sit back and watch my fellow coworkers start pacing, wondering if the world was going to come to an end. That’s all changed after moving into a van full-time. Mornings that start with coffee tend to go a little smoother than mornings without and I’m not proud of this basic move of mine, but dang Gold Status at Starbucks feels so good.

There’s no way I’d call myself a coffee connoisseur, all I know is I want it dark and bold, filled to the top because cream and sugar just takes away from the au naturel taste of coffee. One thing I have noticed is that coffee has an anatomy. There are five distinct layers to coffee that should never go overlooked and should always be recognized for the ultimate coffee drinking experience.The Anatomy of Coffee by The Weekend Warrior

Ouch That’s Hot!

The cute barista hands you your coffee and you cannot wait to feel that strong jolt of caffeine in the morning. You take a sip and spit it all over here because you couldn’t tell it was hot by the steam flowing out the top. That’s one way to get her attention, I guess, but next time you may want to slow down and start with Hello, my name’s (insert name here). What’s yours?

Almost There…

We’ve established that freshly brewed coffee if piping hot, but it’s never clear when it’s at the right taste of enjoyment. Instead you wait a while and take a small sip. You clinch your face from the hotness, but it’s not so hot that you’re able to choke it down, killing the nerves in your mouth and giving yourself a case of heartburn in the process.

Sweet Nectar of the Gods

This is what we’ve been waiting for people! The middle of the coffee is where it’s at. You’ve peeled back the layers of hotness and you’ve found that sweet spot that elevates your day, mood, and life. I swear, if Obama, the leaders of ISIL, and Kim Jong-un could meet and this is the only liquid served, the world would be a peaceful and perfect place again.

Beginning of the End

You’ve grown comfortable with the Sweet Nectar of the Gods and in doing so, you’ve let the end grow cold. You thought it’d last forever, but good things must come to an end. Rather than sipping on that Sweet Nectar to the very end you find yourself chugging semi-warm coffee.

Grounds!

There’s no denying it. It doesn’t matter who brewed it or how great it was. You’re always going to come across coffee ground at the bottom of your cup, mug thermos, or whatever drinking apparatus you use. There are only two ways around them. Leave them at the bottom with some liquid or grow a mustache that’ll act as a filter.

Vanlife Lows are Better Than Office Highs

My van, Jolene is in the shop again. At the beginning of March she needed a new EGR Valve, two weeks ago she needed a new air mass flow sensor, and now a motor mount broke which ricocheted and messed things up even more. Every time she’s in the shop I’m brought down to my lowest of lows. It’s hard to get excited about where I am, what I’m doing, and the life I’m living.Vanlife Lows are Better Than Office Highs

No one likes it when their car breaks and is in the shop. They’re out of an easy form of transportation. Think of having your only means of transportation and house being worked on all at the same time without any access to either. That’s what this is like. I’m out of control, have to make quick plans so I don’t end up on the street at night, and have to completely adjust my life. Then once all that’s said and done, I have to fork over a briefcase full of Benjamins just to get my girl back and life moving forward again.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve thought about quitting. Throwing in the towel, calling it quits on this whole dream life of a year to move back east and get another safe office job. That’d be easy and would possibly be the “safe” thing to do.

When I had a desk job and had a great day in the office, I was capped at a certain point. It felt like there was this glass ceiling where I could see more, what I wanted, but it was unattainable. Work was just something to provide a steady paycheck with benefits that brought along with it some happiness.

My friend Megan said it best when we were in Big Sur. The lows on the road are so much lower, but the happiness potential is so much greater. I’d even venture to say that the happiness potential is infinite. At least with the low moments, like handing over Jolene’s keys to the mechanic, there’s a bottom. They’re definitive and unless things really go awry, something else in the past has been harder to overcome. The flipside is that something better’s on the horizon and the potential for that is infinite.

Vanlife may not be the answer to your happiness though. With those lows it’s given me a ton of joy, but breakdowns, tracking down a safe place to sleep every night, working in coffee shops for hours on end, little stability, and having a finite income (to name a few) may not be your idea of fun. That’s totally cool, whatever is your idea of fun, it’s worth chasing. At least that’s what I think. Sometimes it might be scary, seem impossible, or bring you to some dark places but it’s worth it.

Those infinite high moments are so worth it.

What Makes Something Highly Illegal?

The other morning Adam and I were hanging out with our friends Megan and Michael. We were putting together a tentative plan for the upcoming week. They’re from California and know some of the best spots and were leading the charge. While Megan was looking up camping locations she stumbled across different activities to do around the Central Coast and it said boldly on a page that

Cliff Jumping is Highly Illegal.Cliff Jumping is Highly Illegal

We all had a good belly laugh, not that someone would jump off a cliff, but we were all wondering what made something highly illegal rather than just being illegal. If you’ve ever planned an outdoor outing and did some research or noticed a sign on the highway saying it’s highly illegal to litter chances are you too had a belly laugh and wondered the same thing.

After careful consideration (and a few beers) I’ve been able to decipher, for all of us, what makes something illegal and highly illegal.

Illegal

This is something stupid that the 5-0 can slap you with a fine. Do you live in a town where you can’t mow your lawn between the hours of noon and two on the second Wednesday of the month where there’s more than six letters in the name of said month? Chances are you’ve done something illegal and quite possibly got slapped with a fine for mowing your lawn.

Highly Illegal

Think of the worst consequence out there, aside from death. It’s probably jail, right? That’s what gives something that status of being highly illegal. In this case jumping off a cliff is so frowned upon that you can go to jail over that. Then again, you might jump and never come back. So don’t jump off a cliff…even if your friends are doing it.

Bonus

Legal

What makes something legal? Of course doing no harm to yourself or someone else is the obvious answer. But if you want to have a little that’s also a little risky…

Don’t Get Caught!

The Desert, It’s Wild

Just be careful and don’t get lost, we’ll come looking for you in a couple days if  we don’t hear from you.

That was what the staff said at the visitor center at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. They didn’t tell me I’d potentially go to jail or get a hefty fine if someone caught me exploring the different areas that are a little off the beaten path. All they did was smile and actually started to encourage me to explore new areas. They didn’t care, they just didn’t want to have to come rescue my butt. That was the perfect introduction to the west.Justin Fricke poking a cactus in the desert of Saguaro National Park

Photo: Adam Fricke

A couple months later I got to Big Bend National Park. Adam and I met up with our friend Sean, who works in the park, and he took us to the hot spring that sits right on the Rio Grande. It was dark and as we started walking down the trail, Border Patrol drove by. My first reaction was to duck and try to escape from being seen by their headlights. Sean kind of laughed and told me Dude, relax. As long as you’re not doing anything illegal, they don’t care. No one cares around here.

I’ve been in the west for a couple months now and the best way I can describe it is by saying It’s wild. It’s the wild, wild, west. I love it here: the vastness of the never-ending landscape, dry air, and all the dust (although my van would disagree about the dust). It’s a wild place that I’ve quickly fallen in love with, not just for the scenery, but also for the mindset. No one care what I do, as long as I’m not causing any harm, it’s all good.

Back home in the east, it’s a lot different. It was kind of easy to get into trouble, so many people telling me I can’t do something or go somewhere for no reason other than you’re not allowed. It bugged me like no other being told that, so I’d go somewhere and do something anyways.

Now no one cares, they wish me well, ask me to come back and show them pictures of what I find; oh and don’t die. They tell me not to die or get lost. I appreciate that.

A couple years ago I thought I hated the desert and the west of America. I’d never been here before, I just knew it was hot, arid, and full of nothing. Well all that’s true, but I love it here. How no one tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something or go somewhere. It’s a lot different than what I expected. The desert’s become my solace, my go-to place.

Who would’ve thought a kid from Florida that loves the ocean so much would actually love the desert? Crazier things have happened before, I guess.