This is SPARTAn by William Martin

I recently had the opportunity to get involved with the Spartan Race. It was an incredible opportunity and I’m extremely grateful for it. Everyone I had the privilege of interacting with was happy, welcoming, and extremely positive, especially the competitors. They were so psyched to be racing, or rather just running, a lot of them weren’t necessarily competing but there for the experience of being a Spartan, which is an incredible accomplishment. The race was grueling, the obstacles even more so. I was lucky enough to witness people pushing themselves past their own self perceived limits to find out what they truly had inside. There was plenty of fear and exhaustion, muscles no longer responding to the commands of the brain, but Spartan folks race together. They pushed each other and were there to lift up their companions when they could no longer lift themselves. The community made sure that every single individual had the support to finish the race, and that was extremely cool to see. In a world where the powers that be seek to divide us and turn us against each other, here were people from every background, every ethnicity, every size and shape, coming together to empower each other. They did it through overwhelming kindness and love. All I could see were smiles and camaraderie, that and a lot of mud… I’m proud I can be a part of the Spartan Race. Proud to give these folks images to remind them of the beautiful struggle of physical exhaustion, because like them, I’m also a glutton for suffering.

HideOut Lodge by William Martin

The HideOut Lodge is an amazing backcountry lodge south of Kirkwood about 30-45 minutes. You won’t see any signs for the nondescript turn off of Highway 88 that takes you to one of the most magical places you’ll ever go. A few miles out from the road, the HIdeOut sits at about 7,400 feet and is completely isolated in the wilderness. The lodge is owned by the Hoover family, who built the multiple dwellings by hand from trees logged on the property. I have so much respect for the hardworking and skill demonstrated by this family, and you will too once you have a chance to see the lodge. If you remember playing with Lincoln Logs as a kid, this place is your wildest Lincoln Log fantasy come to life.

In the summer, they host a lot of weddings at the HideOut, and it’s the perfect setting for one. The property is rustic, wild, and downright beautiful. It makes you feel like an old west settler traversing through California with plans to strike it rich by staking your own gold claim. In the winter, a white blanket of snow covers everything the eye can see for as far as the eye can see. I’ve flown a drone up as high as a bird and you can’t see a trace of another soul for miles in any direction. What you can see however, is the insane amounts of accessible terrain that’s completely untouched and just waiting for you to get out there and shred. Skis, board, sled, doesn’t matter, there’s enough space to play for everyone regardless of what your primary winter sport is.

The main buildings on the property are the Lodge and the Saloon. Yep, there’s a Saloon, complete with bar, pool table, cedar sauna and hot tub. The Saloon has full amenities on its own without the masterpiece that is the main Lodge. But the main Lodge, holy shit, I wish I could do it justice by describing it to you now, but words simply can’t encapsulate what it’s like, you really have to be there. I can’t think of any place I’d rather be after a full day of skiing in the backcountry. Every day at the Lodge feels like a gift and I’ve never been happier to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into my work than when I get to work out here.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a braggart, because I truly hope that all of you who want to get to share this experience at some point. If you feel so inclined, you should check them out and see if you’re able to book a visit. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely worth it.

Here are some of the photos I’ve been lucky enough to capture of the property and the good times to be had. You can check them out at http://stayhideoutlodge.com/

Sequoia National Forest by William Martin

Had the opportunity to spend a few days camping out in the Sequoia National Forest area. It was not what I expected, but in the best way possible. I didn’t fully grasp the enormity of the National Forest before getting there. I was imagining my last trip to Sequoia National Park, which was awesome, but a much different environment. Most of where we were was high desert frequently found in the Eastern Sierra.

Our first night we reserved a campsite near Lake Isabella in Kern county. We didn’t exactly know what to expect once we got there, so we wanted to be safe and ensure we had a place to stay. That being said, not my cup of tea. It’s great that we have really nice established campgrounds with paved roads, bathrooms, amenities, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it. But when I go camping, I want to get as far removed from any trace of society as I can. I want to make my own way, really go on an adventure. So after our first night, this is exactly what we planned to do.

Anna and I took off past Lake Isabella and headed out towards Death Valley searching for Wilderness Areas we could explore. Just by dumb luck we found the Chimney Peak Wilderness Area, which is all BLM land. It was perfect. We drove into the hills, hiked some peak (maybe Lamont?), set up our own camp, and didn’t see another person for the next few days. It was bliss.

Sadly, we found plenty of trash as well. Bullet casings, broken bottles, toilet paper. It’s one thing to enjoy yourself in nature, it’s another thing to trash it. I’m personally not a huge fan of guns, but I get why people like them. That being said, I find it incredibly disrespectful to trash the environment. If you’re out shooting guns in the wilderness, fine, but at least pick up after yourself. Shooting a bunch of shit to pieces and then just leaving it in nature is a pretty shitty thing to do and it’s disrespectful of everyone else who wants to access that land. So there’s my rant for the day. Photos soon.

Ethpaña 2018 by William Martin

It was a very good friend’s birthday at the end of October and her boyfriend organized a trip to Northern Spain to go sport climbing. What she didn’t know is that Will invited both myself and one of my best buds Jon to surprise Sarah in Spain. I had just been laid off 3 days prior to the trip, so I was super excited to get out of the country, surprise the heck out of Sarah, and do some climbing.

It was phenomenal.

Will’s good buddy Dan joined in on the trip and it was like we’ve been friends for a decade. He’s a rad dude with pretty much the exact same sense of humor, so it was great. He’s a hell of a photographer too.

We also ended up meeting some really cool folks at the crag. Anytime you hear English being spoken in tiny euro towns it’s like something throwing you a life raft. You instantly have something in common and can at the very least make small talk about climbing. Tyler and Marc were two exchange students living in France that had the week off and made the trek down to Siurana. Both of these guys are awesome. We shared good stories, wine, cheese, and extremely intelligent conversation, very refreshing. It’s not often that you first meet someone and you’re able to connect with them on such a deep level, but that’s what climbing brings to the table. Everybody does it for their own reasons, but a lot of the challenges we face are similar, and overcoming them can translate into many other aspects of our lives.

It was a super rad experience, and I learned a lot too. Will and Dan were generous enough to show me how to set fixed lines, jug up, and let me shoot. I think I got some good ones. I’ll let you be the judge of that though.