November 11, 2023

NB From the Road

By: Morgan O'Neil
@astraea_moonbeam

We took part of our team on a three week trip across the country to experience living, traveling, and working from the road. We wanted to see the mountains, deserts, rivers, and coast that call to many of you when you are looking for adventures and see what inspiration we can bring to this community.

Our new Mountain Collection honors the mountain spaces that we explored on our journey -- the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Sierras, and the coastal mountains where the redwood trees grow.

Check out the collection and see what mountain adventures call to you.

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Starting from Arkansas

It’s hard to describe the anticipation that builds as you are packing up for a road trip across the country. So many unknowns are before you and questions fill your mind endlessly. We knew where we were going (for the most part) and frequently had campsites reserved ahead of time, but we also knew that each day would be a mystery waiting for us to uncover. 

We started from Arkansas with three cars. We were heading west to California to experience mountains and sunsets. Shooting stars and sequoias. Hot springs. Rivers flowing. Joshua Trees. Alabama Hills. Yosemite. Celebrating friendships and new beginnings. Learning about the black bears in Lake Tahoe. Camping out night after night. Staying warm by the fire. Making Music. Walking beneath the Redwoods. Hammocking. Going slow within the milky way galaxy.

Every moment asked us to step into the present and we found ourselves there together.

On the first night of the trip we camped out near the Pecos River in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico. After months of planning and hours of driving that day, we were finally there on our first night around the fire. We were tired, but bright with excitement. We talked about where we were going, what we would eat, what we wanted to do, and where we wanted to be. We slept beneath the cottonwood trees with the stars shining. That night seems so long ago now that we’ve been through everything. It is a trip to remember and it all started that first night by the river.

The next morning we did our first official photoshoot. Something we wanted to focus on while traveling was finding a way to work from the road, so we brought several shirts to create content in the spaces that we would be exploring. We wanted to use our social media channels as much as possible to show what we were doing and seeing each day. We kept in communication with our team at HQ to try and keep everything running as smoothly as possible. We wanted to show ourselves and our community how it’s possible to flow with everything on the road.

We believe that being outside inspires us to be more creative, reminds us of what we love. and if we're patient, teaches us what we need.

If you’ve ever traveled for an extended time then you know the feeling exactly. If not, you might think about it, and see what you find and who you become by the end of it.

Sunrise at The Grand Canyon and Sunset in Joshua tree

We drove into the sunset on the second day and arrived at the Grand Canyon just after dark. We found our campsite and started setting up when an elk called, greeting us in the night. We started a fire and Jose and Bo made our first elotes. Roasted corn with mayonnaise and cheese. Tajín. Cilantro and lime freshly squeezed. We would make this several times on the trip. Each time feeling special as we would wait around the fire to eat. That night was cold, but we still got a few hours of sleep before waking up to watch the first of many sunrises. 

It is a wondrous sight to see the rays of light shining off the walls of the Grand Canyon. Reds and browns of every shade. A glimpse of the Colorado River at the bottom. So many people gathered together at the rim. So many different languages spoken. Everyone there to experience the same moment.

It is a special place that reminds you to look at the world with wonder– a perfect stop at the beginning of our journey.

We left the Grand Canyon and drove to California. We drove a lot the first couple of days, but we still found beauty all along the way. As we made our way into Joshua Tree National Park right before the sun was setting we found ourselves completely surrounded by a desert landscape that was vibrantly unfamiliar. We could see joshua trees growing in every direction and strange rock formations with even stranger energy. We watched the sunset at a random spot that we found along the way. Catching the last of the light beyond the mountains as we stayed in the valley.

We got lucky that night. We found the very last first-come first-served campsite among the rocks that would be illuminated simultaneously by the light of the stars, the fire, and our eyes.

We played music there. Dueling harmonicas and guitars with our neighbors. Cooking dinner over the fire and playing our first game of lotería (or bingo for the gringos). Aaron was the first one to go to sleep that night and the first one to wake up to set up his camera. Walking among the joshua trees and seeing the first of the light shining. We started getting into a rhythm that day. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Meeting Up in Alabama Hills

Our next stop was Alabama Hills to meet up with long time Nature Backs Reps and forever friends Erin and Noah who were on a week long adventure themselves to explore and create content. It is a special feeling to finally meet someone who you’ve known for years over the internet. It’s a phenomenon that our generation has brought into existence and it reminds us how closely connected we are even if we don’t live near each other.

Without any hesitation, we all started moving together. We gathered around the fire each night. We got up early for the sunrise. We went fishing and swam at a lake. We created music each day.

The stars burned bright over our heads and in the distance we heard coyotes howling. We climbed and played on the rocks and in the sand as children. Reclaiming a joy that can sometimes get lost among the challenging parts of living.

On the day we left Alabama Hills, we  woke up to watch the sunrise one last time with Erin and Noah. We sat facing west towards Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in California, because we knew the sun would light it up first.

The sky became pink with blue at the edges. To the east, golden light spilling between the mountains. Shadows growing small.

Noah and Aaron setting up their cameras and catching a timelapse of it all. Bo and Lucas strumming on the guitars. Jose walking and wandering around. Angela and April sitting with their blankets. Erin sharing her light within it all. One of those perfect present moments.

Finally Making it to Yosemite NP

The Seqouia National Forest was next. Then the hot springs in the heart of the Sierra Mountains. And then Yosemite– one of the places that we were all anticipating from the very beginning. We made it just past the entrance sign before pulling over to see the Merced River. Everything was so bright. Yosemite is one of those places that everyone talks about and knows. It inspires climbers, hikers, photographers, and artists.

People come from around the world with a love for what is natural and beautiful. To see the sun shining off the granite peaks. Waterfalls cascading. Rainbows coming and going. Clouds forming and dispersing. Redwood trees growing tall. Everywhere you look invokes awe. 

We drove to Glacier Point to look down into the valley and all that was surrounding us from our hike earlier that morning. We watched the colors change and roamed around taking in the views. It was cold, but our hearts were warm being there together and seeing what you couldn’t see anywhere else. People of all ages were gathered there. Another reminder of how much we are the same. Seeking joy. Experiencing freedom. Moving in a way that brings happiness into our lives.

We believe that if you live your life in this way, you will bring more love into the world. More light. More peace. More community. The moments that bring you to this bliss are what awaken all of this. It is what inspires our company’s purpose.

While we were in Yosemite, we hiked a trail to Artist’s Point for a view of Bridalveil Falls to get some content for the mountain collection. After a short, but steep, uphill walk, and losing then finding Jose’s phone, we made it to the overlook just in time to see a rainbow coming from the waterfall before the light changed and it disappeared. It was here where we took photos and videos of the three new designs. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect place. Mountains remind us of the long expanse of time that exists and how special it is to be here in the present experiencing it. These mountains before us were carved out by glaciers and we were only there for two days. Barely a blink of an eye to the mountains when you think of it’s life and for us in that short time it can still be something so meaningful. After months of talking and working on the collection, we were here surrounded by the energy that inspired it. We were grateful for all of it. 

To the Coast Among the Redwoods and by the ocean

The next day we were heading towards the coast and San Francisco Bay. It was time to pick up Chet, Shawn, and Madison on the way to the redwoods where we would camp for a couple of nights. We shared a meal with Bo and Chet’s family in the city. A Chinese restaurant in El Cerrito. Tasting every plate of food. Family style. Laughing and talking and being transported to another culture entirely before driving over the bridge and across the bay. We got to our campsite after dark winding through the giant trees and lighting up the night with our headlights. 

If you’ve ever gotten to camp to set up after dark then you know how special it is to wake up the next morning and see what everything around you looks like.

If you’re waking up in the redwoods for the first time it’s an even more special feeling. Dark green canopy. Red bark. Sun rays beaming. The forest comes to life with the light and it does it slowly. When you surround yourself with these great old trees, you feel their awareness around you. Walk among the groves and see if you feel it too. 

Redwood trees are able to thrive along the California coast because of all the water that is pulled inland from the ocean. The trees need and store huge amounts of water from the Pacific. To honor this, we took a day to simply be at the ocean.

There is also a great pleasure in driving thousands of miles across the country to stand where the land meets the sea. Where you can look into the horizon and catch a glimpse of infinity.

We soaked in the sunshine that afternoon while Jose and Lucas went fishing. Jose caught a crab on his first cast. Pure joy shining in his eyes. To be with someone who was born near the ocean, who knows it deep in their soul, body, and bone, reveals a greater understanding about the relationship between humans and the earth. About Nature. 

We were so hungry when we got back to camp that night. Time and time again we found our edge of hunger and exhaustion and still found a way to keep our spirits light and work together to make food to eat. That night we grilled bread over the fire. Then made elotes. We boiled the freshly caught crabs and pan fried the fish that Lucas caught. We cooked pasta with a tomato cream sauce. We found warmth by the fire as the cold creeped in. Our stomachs became full and we were content. This was another one of those meals that stands out during the trip. Everyone had a hand in the preparation. Many times this would happen.

Cooking and sharing food extends a kindness and care that reminds you how friends can become family. As a start-up business, these relationships are critical to our success because everyone depends on each other in such a real way.

We all have our specific jobs and tasks that we complete, but we all carry the energy of the company. We have to be able to lean on each other for support while also challenging each other to be creative. We have to find a way for each of us to earn a paycheck so we can pursue our life in a meaningful way. The meals we shared was another reminder that for our team to be on a trip like this together meant everything. Because we all genuinely care about each other. Especially those back at HQ and those who work remotely in other locations who were truly keeping it all in motion. We could never have done the trip without you and we thought about this often.

In our three car gypsy train, we dropped April off at the airport in San Francisco before dawn. Much to everyone’s surprise, she made her flight on time and we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge among the dark clouds and sun shining bright crimson. April brought such a brightness to the trip. Always jumping in for a chest bump with Angela and there to see you smiling.

The marine fog was rolling in from the ocean as we drove up Highway One watching and waiting for a patch of clear, blue sky to see the solar eclipse. We pulled over near Point Reyes National Seashore, got out the eclipse glasses we bought weeks before, and watched the moon pass between our eyes and the sun.

Cars and cyclists passed by us staring without knowing what was happening. We were there standing still. Noticing. A new day and a new light having just begun.

We took the road north along the coast that day driving through fog and sunshine. Smelling the eucalyptus trees. Watching the pelicans flying. We climbed high into a lighthouse tower. It was the furthest point west that we could go. That night we slept in a house by the ocean. We celebrated with Shawn and Madison who were only able to be with us for a few days. We slept with the windows open and listened to the waves. The next day we would head east. Drop off Shawn and Madison in Reno and go forward to Lake Tahoe. There we would learn about the bears and the space that inspired a collaboration with Riley for one of our newest limited designs, Wild.

Working on The wild at lake tahoe

We drove into the Lake Tahoe area on Mt. Rose Highway. As you climb into these mountains, nothing can prepare you for your first look at the basin where the water meets the sky. Layers of mountains surrounding the pristine lake.

Every shade of blue here reminds you that you are in a special, sacred place.

We slowed down here for a couple of days so that we could focus on the Wild release. We went to the place where Riley has followed and filmed many black bears to tell their story about the impact human action has on their lives.

We saw the salmon making their run up Taylor Creek. Life continues on for the next generation. We swam in the lake. Ice cold and healing. Sparkling. And then we met Bob, a local, who told us about one of his favorite places there to see the sun setting. We had a mission. So we drove to Sand Harbor Beach where he told us we would see granite boulders resting at the edge of the water because of the blast from an old volcano. We climbed on the rocks and watched the sunset.

The colors in Tahoe are extraordinarily vibrant. The sun fell fast beyond the mountains, but a bright orange glow persisted as darkness surrounded us and the first stars began to shine.

There was so much that we planned for the trip, yet we found so much to enjoy in the moments that were unplanned and unexpected. Like meeting Bob who told us about the sunset spot. Getting the last campsite in Joshua Tree. Driving up the portal road to Mt. Whitney. The day at the lake near Alabama Hills. Sleeping in a giant tent together at Mono Hot Springs because the campground was unknowingly closed for the season. When we travel, there is a tendency to want to plan out every single detail so that you don’t have to worry about missing anything. The secret is to remember that everything is part of it. There is never anything missing. Let go of expectations and enjoy the freedom of finding beauty in it all.

Driving East To utah for zion

We kept driving east after Lake Tahoe to stay for one night by some hot springs in Nevada. We were lucky to drive down that dusty gravel road to find an oasis surrounded by the desert at the edge of the eastern Sierras. We saw wild horses. A heron. Bullfrogs and birds. Burros. So much life gathered in that space and we were there too. Watching the moonset. Sleeping in a circle around the fire.

We felt a deep, satisfying feeling of contentment just like taking a long drink when you are thirsty. Time froze that night as we knew we were a few days away from being back home. We soaked it in.

Our last big adventure would be in southern Utah at Zion National Park where we met up with Michelle, another longtime Nature Backs Rep, friend, and constant source of inspiration. She and her family were boondocked at a spot by the Virgin River and invited us to stay there for a night.

It was another beautiful night shared around the fire. Talking and telling stories. Laughing. Marveling at the magic that happens when people who barely know each other come together.

We were up early the next morning to meet Zach from Zion Forever Project for a guided hike to an incredible overlook inside of Zion. We could see the river which had carved the canyons for millions of years still flowing. The sandstone cliffs were shining with a freshness that reminds you how beautiful the earth is. It renews your spirit. It makes you feel alive. Pure shine.

After Zion our focus turned towards Arkansas. Home. We took a couple of days to make the trek. Those days are blurry now. They passed by so fast. Long days in the car to think about all the memories and moments that came before all that was waiting for us to come back to. “Real life” we joked as we knew the trip was coming to a close.

Memories and Remembering

The trip wasn’t about how many national parks we would be visiting or how many miles we would drive. It wasn’t about the number of days or saving time.

The trip was about experiencing something together with our team that got to the root of where Nature Backs started. To honor the road– where you can dream, create, be aware of what’s around you, and move at a different pace. Take a break from television and screens. Lose cell phone service. Be present with what is before you. Embrace everything.

The trip was so that we could share another experience with our team that we can carry into our work for the future. So that we can keep inspiring. So that we can see the places where our community is going. So that we can share the joy of traveling.

A road trip is different from a weekend of camping or an afternoon hike. It’s not about disconnecting for a few days and being recharged for a life that will eventually drain you yet again. It’s about living.

It’s about coming back to your spirit within and realizing that the light there is ever present.

It’s learning what moves you and pursuing that. You already have all that you need. It’s about opening up your eyes and seeing. It's about creating a lifetime full of beautiful memories.

The end of a trip can be bittersweet, but for us, we know this is life continuing.

There will be more adventures. There will be more strangers to meet who become friends who become family. There will be more sunrises to wake up to and more sunsets to watch setting. More paths to walk. More mountains to climb. More experiences to share. An infinite timeline. 

All the love,
Nature Backs

See the Mountains