Why We Camp - Estes Park

Have you ever wondered why it is that we decide to camp? Why a certain percentage of us choose to spend nights under the stars on the cold hard ground verses in a warm comfy bed? 

I don't have the answers, but it's a question my husband and I asked each other occasionaly on our last camping trip in Estes Park, Colorado. 


We wanted to have a quick adventure and decided camping in Estes Park, Colorado would be a good option - so we started compiling what little gear we had!

I grew up camping, but to have a quick understanding of what my camping experience was like in our family of six, we often had a full-size flat bed trailer to haul all the things my parents wanted while camping. Sometimes that included bikes, tubs of food, the biggest green cooler you've ever seen (they still own this), multiple tarps, cooking stoves, our own firewood, chairs, everything...just everything!

It was great! However, Collin and I looked like minimalists compared to my childhood camping days. The world of REI camping gear has evolved and our gear money has not. We even had a guy one morning walk by and look into our tent as ask..."did that REALLY fit you two?" 

It was also our goal to be able to fly with our camping gear without it being a huge hassle. I think we still have a ways to go, but it was our first try at a weekend camping trip where we had to pack everything on a flight. 


Tent - Quarter Dome REI Tent

Hammock - Moosejaw Nappetizer 

Sleeping bags - Mountain Hardwear Ratio 15 

Sleeping pads - Self inflating pad / foam pad 

Jet Boiler - Best thing EVER 

Pillows - Target + Nappetizer Pillow 

Hiking Boots - Vasque Talus WP Hiking Boots

Sandals - Teva Originals

Head lamps - Petzl Headlamp

For this camping trip we stayed at Mary's Lake Campground. It was literally the last campsite in Estes for the weekend, but the staff was very helpful with booking over the phone. After setting up our campsite we drove into town to get a few things and stopped right across the campsite to watch the sunset over Mary's Lake.  

We were so proud of our little campsite, but did miss having things like a chair for the fire and maybe a few other kitchen tools, but we made use of our fire bundles for as long as possible. 


Since this was such a quick trip we used our Jetboil for dinner both nights. I have to admit we didn't go the healthiest route with dinners. 

DINNER - Quick & Easy

  • Instant chicken and rice meal (just add water)
  • Steamed Broccoli (in foil on the fire or in the jetboil)
  • Ramen noodles...yah we did that

For breakfast I had packed a baggy with some healthy rolled oats that I also cooked in the jetboil. 

BREAKFAST - Healthy & Hearty

  • Trader Joe's rolled oats
  • Hemp seeds
  • Cranberries 
  • Flax seeds
  • Walnuts 
  • Cinnamon 

After making dinner we sat and enjoyed the fire and made s'mores with chocolate chip cookies - YUM! 

We again talked about why we decided to camp. Not because we were unhappy, but why this process is so enjoyable. Even as we're balancing on our diminishing bundle of logs we turned into chairs, there is a happiness in being uncomfortable.

Something only nature seems to allow us to be okay with. How powerful is that? 

After our first night in our new Quarter Dome tent which to answer that guys question...yes we both fit! 

That first night I slept horrible tough. I got out of the tent twice, once to go to the bathroom and the second because I was determined in my sleepy brain that our hammock was going to rip a hole in it. In addition to those "out of tent moments", I also woke up to a herd of elk literally running past our tent. I woke up again because somebody in a nearby campsite was yelling about something and I laid there waaaay too long trying to figure out what it was about! 

Long story short...getting a good nights rest with only half an inch of cushion under you and a thin layer between you and nature's surroundings is bound to be impossible. Yet we can't wait to do it all again! 


So why do "I" camp? 

I love slowing down and finding enjoyment in the sounds, smells and processes. I love the rewarding feeling after I struggle setting up our tent in the wind. I enjoy a meal that would never be considered a proper meal at home, but here it's warm and tastes amazing! 

I could go on forever - but I'd rather know:

Why do YOU camp?! 


Why I Travel - A Night Under The Northern Lights

I am always asking myself the question, “why do I travel?”

Why do I have this unexplainable yearning to explore and experience new places?

Of course as a photographer a huge part is simply about capturing the beautiful landscapes and foreign stories - but what else?

For me there has always been something more. This chase of the unknown and the willingness to say "YES!” That moment from the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” when he runs and jumps in the helicopter! The music explodes and you imagine yourself in Ben Stiller's shoes choosing to take that leap of faith into the unknown! 

So here I was asking myself that “why” question while traveling through Iceland with my friend Kelsey. We had discussed every aspect of each other’s lives, but on this day we asked each other…"why do we travel?”

The day that defined that very question for me was when a series of events had lead us to a certain area in the Golden Circle in Iceland.

After a lot of last minute changes, we decided to go to a different area then originally planned and visit the famous Geysir. The sun was setting as we finished at the Geysir and were debating if we wanted to keep exploring in the freezing temps, when we thought we saw a hidden hot spring off in a field. We’d read about some secret lagoon near this area and were determined that had to be it!

Bundled up, we started our way across the field towards a green Defender parked in front of a small shack. Several times Kelsey and I stopped to see if we should turn around, not sure if people were camping there, (or enjoying the lagoon) so we kept walking.

As we got closer I could hear laughing and didn’t know if we were getting ready to see some people skinny dipping when we got closer, but instead when we peeked in the entrance to the shack there were four Dutch men sitting around a fire! We all instantly started laughing at our surprised faces and they offered us beers and we joined around the fire.

We all started introducing ourselves and they started to explain to us the spiritual journey they were on. Like no joke, they paid to go on an adventure where they could get in touch with nature and their emotions. They even got kind of emotional sharing what they had discovered about themselves so far and they were only on day one! 

LETS REWIND: Meet Arie Van Ingen, he’s an ex-Dutch Marine that now owns a business taking people on rugged adventures around the world. (So he was the facilitator.) The best part is that with each adventure Arie is challenging his attendee’s to be fully present - so no phones, to express their emotions, and to face their fears.

So we sat listening to the men talk about their journey while Arie cooked up a pot of lamb and potatoes as he smoked a cigarette. 

Arie then turned the hard life questions on Kelsey and I. Calling us out when he thought we weren’t saying something good enough. My favorite was when Kelsey gave an answer and he said, “you’re talking...but you’re not saying anything!” We then all laughed!

Several hours had gone by of us discussing life and laughing around the fire when Arie casually says…”The Northern Lights are out, who wants to see them?”

Kelsey and I fell out of the shack we were so excited and sure enough when we looked up they were streaking across the sky.

I had given up thinking I would see them on our trip since it’s towards the end of the season and HERE THEY WERE!

Arie then asked if we wanted to see them from the top of what felt like a small mountain and like Walter Mitty, we screamed "YES" running after him up the hill. (He later said...run...you called that running?) At one point I literally face planted I was so excited and when Kelsey was helping me up, I realized...my lungs were burning from the freezing cold! 

When we reached the top we sat there oohing and aahing at the pulses of light across the sky.

It..was...life changing.

I felt like we had our own private tour guide as Arie told us to look in different directions and explained how a certain one was getting stronger as it pulsed brighter. I would point my camera in one direction, but it truly was a 360 view from were we sat on the hilltop. The Northern Lights were in almost every direction and we sat watching until we finally noticed how cold we were and started our way back down.

At the bottom of the hill I started my timelapse and I will never forget Arie’s impressive math skills as he rattled off how long the final video would be judging from my shutter speed and interval time. I had NEVER put that much math into anything I’d photographed! I would argue the timing made sense for my freezing toes and he finally said, “that’s because you are stubborn” and I couldn’t agree more!

After Kelsey and I had said our goodbye's, we started our hike back across the field.

The same field where we had discussed why we travel, not knowing we would soon end up in a shack, sitting around a fire talking with total strangers about life while the Northern Lights danced overhead.  

...and this my friends, is why I travel. 

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One Home - Ten Girls

We are Strong - We are Women: One Home - Ten Girls 

The statistics in India are devastating when it comes to the amount of children being sold into illegal activities such as drug peddling, organ trade, labor, entertainment, adoption, marriage and sexual exploitation.  


This next “Strong Women” photo story, is about ten young women that have gone from being orphaned or abandoned to living together as one big family. Located in the Prakasam District in Ongole, India these girls formed one of the first Covenant Children’s Home (CCH) in 2009. An India based organization that works directly with India Christian Ministries to help abandoned children have a solid foundation emotionally, physically and spiritually.

When we arrived to the girls home in Prakasam, they were all standing in the front door with the biggest smiles on their faces and were wearing the most beautiful outfits! When we got closer the girls filled our hands with flowers before welcoming us inside their home. 

They all sat in a row in the living room and then stood one by one and told me their name and how old they were. When I shared my own age they all laughed...I decided to take that as a hint I must be looking older!  

After they introduced themselves they showed us their bedroom which was filled with bunkbeds and illustrated posters on the walls. It had a resemblance of summer camp and so did all the laughter.


I couldn't stop photographing their beautiful smiling faces as the evening sun was shining in the window and I started thinking about my own childhood memories of bunkbeds and sleepovers. Although I could never understand the cultural differences or incredible hardships of these darling girls, I could see the similar foundation of values that CCH was creating. 

A home where they will be given the opportunity to have a family-style living environment, an english speaking education to learn their way out of poverty, and daily worship to grow their relationship with God. Subsequently, empowering these young women to know their self worth and to pursue their dreams - because they are STRONG!  

We ended our time at the SN Padu home with the girls jumping rope, hula hooping and playing a tag game in their dresses as the sun was setting. It was already obvious there was joy radiating from the girls, but now they were a family. 


You can learn more here about Covenant Children's Home  or India Christian Ministries

- Tara