red river gorge & camp-stove oatmeal

If you've been following along with me the last couple of years, you'll know that I have spent the last 2 summers abroad in Europe and then in New Zealand, both experiences I shared in my happy & healthy abroad series. I love to travel and explore and even though I won't be traveling internationally this summer, I still plan to go on as many trips (day and multi-day) as possible within the surrounding region of Northern Michigan. There are so many beautiful and amazing countries in the world, including the one we live in. On that note, I thought that this summer, I could share with you all my short summer adventures over the next few months with the goal in mind to show you some awesome places that you can visit that doesn't require a $1000 plane ticket to get to!

To kick off this summer adventure series, I wanted to give you all a recap of my recent weekend trip down to the Red River Gorge in Northeastern Kentucky. This area is characterized by the rolling foothills of the Northern Appalachian Mountains with rock formations along the Red River and hidden within the surrounding forest. It also happens to be one of the most iconic climbing destinations in the world. From my hometown of Beulah, MI it is about a 9.5 hour drive- not exactly nearby, but doable in a day's drive.

The first time I went to the Red River Gorge was last October, it was also really my first time climbing (if we're not counting those outdoor climbing walls I used to do as a kid). I felt pretty lucky to be rock climbing for the first time in one of the best places to climb in the whole world. Some amazing climbers I've met in the gym haven't even climbed real rock before! After my first climbing trip, I couldn't wait to go back and jumped on the chance when some friends invited myself and my boyfriend, Mason, to join them on another climbing trip to the Red last weekend. I had also just gotten a tent as a graduation gift and I couldn't wait to test it out, so this was the perfect opportunity.

The weather forecast for the weekend did not look promising (aka rain all day everyday) but we went anyway, praying for a change in winds so to speak. When we arrived at Miguel's, climbers' favorite campground and pizza place in the area, it was cold and raining. We were able to up our tents in window of time that the rain slowed to a drizzle, the first sign that the odds were in our favor on this trip. After that we went on a quick hike up to the Natural Bridge which is a large rock arch that you can climb up to and walk on top of. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a view due to a thick fog, but it felt good to stretch our legs out after a long car ride.

After our hike, it was time for none other than Miguel's famous pizza! The first night Mason and I shared a artichoke, tofu, red onion, & arugula pizza with gluten free crust. After dinner, it was early to bed for an early rise to meet our friends to get to the walls and start climbing! The weather forecast for the next day looked promising with little to no rain, just overcast.

We spent the whole day in an area called Muir Valley. In the morning, we climbed a rock wall called Sunnyside, which had some easy, intermediate, and challenging routes. Climbing on real rock vs. climbing in the gym is completely different. I found myself struggling on the first few climbs - partially due to physical strength limitations but mostly mental. I failed at a couple of harder routes which tends to bother me. I have this mentality that if I start something, I have to finish. But one of the things I love about climbing is that it's okay to fail because that's how you get better. Also, the climbing community, in general, is positive and encouraging no matter your skill level.

In the afternoon, we moved on to a wall called Bruise Brothers where I quickly regained confidence and got rid of my climbing jitters. Let's be real, I'm not sure if anyone really gets over being upwards of 50 ft off the ground suspended by a rope and harness. The weather turned out to be not all that bad, a little chilly but we managed to get some sunshine by the end of the day!

After a full day of climbing, our crew returned to the campground as hungry climbers and enjoyed another meal of Miguel's Pizza. I think part of the reason why the pizza tastes so good is because after a full day of hiking and climbing, a meal is going taste 10x better no matter what you're eating.

The next day, we had the morning to climb before heading back to Michigan. The sun was shining and the skies were blue - of course the weather was amazing the day we had to leave, isn't that always how it works?. We went back to Muir Valley and set up at a wall called Land Before Time, where we got 4 climbs in. The last climb I did was my favorite route of the whole trip. I felt strong and confident, the climb challenged me enough but not too much so that I didn't get discouraged or feel defeated. By the end of the weekend we had all gotten in about 11 climbs in, let's just say my arms were tired.

It was a whirlwind trip but it was the perfect way to kick off the summer. With the little and inconsistent climbing that I have done over the past 6-months, I have already seen huge improvements in my ability and confidence to tackle routes and succeed. I can't wait to start climbing more consistently once I move out to Colorado at the end of the summer. I'm hoping that within the year I can work up the courage to learn how to lead climb, which is so scary. 

In closing, I wanted to share with you the perfect breakfast to have whether you're camping or just traveling in general. I like to make oatmeal packets with dates, cinnamon, flax, and coconut to bring with me for every morning I'm going to be on a trip, plus a couple extra just in case. It saves money and not to mention it's healthy! I also always bring a jar of peanut butter with me whenever I travel as well as a few apples. Apples are probably, in my opinion, the best fruit to travel with (unlike bananas, DO NOT bring them with you when you're traveling, especially when you're backpacking or camping - trust me on this, I speak from experience) because they're hard and bruise less easily. Anyways, this it the simplest and easiest breakfast. All you have to do is either boil some water on your camp-stove or in a microwave, add in the contents of your pre-made oatmeal packet, a tablespoon of peanut butter (or any other nut butter), and a chopped up apple and you have the most delicious bowl of oats ever!

camp-stove oatmeal


(single serving)

  • 1/2 cup of oats (gf if needed)
  • 2 dates chopped
  • 1/2 TBS of ground flax seed
  • 2TBS of coconut
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 TBS of peanut butter
  • 1 apple chopped


Combine as many servings as you need of oats, dates, flax, coconut, and cinnamon together in a sealable container before you go on your trip. You can also portion out each serving into plastic or reusable baggies if you want. If using a camp-stove, bring about 1 cup of water to a simmer before adding in your oatmeal and chopped apple. Stir occasionally until oatmeal thickens to desired consistency, add water if needed. Stir in peanut butter and enjoy! Oatmeal is best eat straight from the pot ;)