Outlandish: Fuel Your Epic written by Morgan Sjogren (above #28). VeloPress, 2019. Reviewed by Laura Clark for the Spring 2019 edition of our Trail Times newsletter. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. VeloPress is an American Trail Running Association corporate member.
How often have you wished you could jettison nagging to-do lists, work and family obligations and generally play hooky from ordinary life? Not just for a measly week’s vacation but for an infinite stretch of glorious horizon? Meet Morgan Sjorgen and her smiley yellow-faced Jeep Wrangler as they explore their beloved Southwest with fry pan, laptop and camera in hand and manage to make a living from their outlandish, nomadic lifestyle.
Morgan is a committed trail runner, rappeller and alpine skier and ice skater whose contributions to Trail Runner Magazine, Runner’s World and REI have enabled her adventurous lifestyle. A tireless advocate for wild spaces she has researched several guidebooks including the only one to the latest public space, Best Bears Ears National Monument Hikes. Now she shares a glimpse of her varied adventures.
Paralleling her lifestyle, this is not a point A to point B narrative, but rather a series of essays ranging from California to Utah to Colorado to Arizona and on to Mexico. Some highlight her National Park explorations as well as potentially life-threatening “seemed like a good idea at the time adventures” and unique forays into fringe sports like burro racing. I am not overly fond of closed-in spaces (the overhead crawl space at my daughter’s rock gym terrifies me), so her and friend Michael’s exploration of the slot canyon in Page, Arizona, aptly titled “No Exit Route,” proved a nail-biting, yet oddly familiar experience. They departed their camp on a whim, for an hour’s hike without thought of equipment, food or water. How many times had I done the same on an admittedly smaller scale, tempted farther and farther afield by a quest to see where an unfamiliar trail would lead? Obviously, they are still alive and their adventure made a great story in the retelling. And truly the most memorable runs, worthy of campfire embellishment, prove to be the most outlandish.
Those who regard a canine companion as an essential part of their running experience will be touched by “Herschel, the Trail-Blazing Mountain Mutt,” ultimately another sad dog story but worth every tear. When I first began running and until my legs stretched beyond PRs, I was caught up in the sheer competitiveness of running. If this sounds like you, peruse “Why I Signed Up for a Race I Knew I Couldn’t Finish,” and you might just begin to appreciate the total experience rather than just the final act of crossing the finish line.
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Besides drooling over the gorgeous photos, it is guaranteed that you will salivate over the recipes that accompany each adventure and hopefully utilize Morgan’s sustainable outdoor cooking tips. How many times have you returned from a day outdoors with just enough strength left to scoop the peanut butter out of the jar with your fingers? If this rings a bell, consider Morgan’s free-range collection of hearty meals, mostly focusing on burritos and all sorts of outrageous fillings. If you inconceivably tire of burritos and find yourself able to wait a bit longer you can experiment with her Thai Noodles, Carrot Cake Oatmeal or Pasta Alfredo. The best thing about these selections is that they open the way for further experimentation with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. And most necessary, there is a luscious picture of each concoction to get the creative juices flowing.
Best of all, for those of us with little discretionary time between epic adventures, the essays are of a reasonable length and unrelated enough to sustain a hunt-and-peck method suitable to your current mood. And if even that is too long you can always daydream over the stunning photos of landscapes and the culinary rewards to follow.