Zach Elseman Photography: Blog en-us ZachElsemanPhotography (Zach Elseman Photography) Tue, 26 Dec 2017 05:01:00 GMT Tue, 26 Dec 2017 05:01:00 GMT Zach Elseman Photography: Blog 120 90 Muhle Family Photos-Winter 2017 One of the most complicated aspects of planning a photo session is timing. The photographer is always looking at the best time for the images to be technically correct and effectively exposed, while the family is trying to juggle work, school and weather schedules. This photoshoot was no exception as we rescheduled a couple of times for various scheduling conflicts, but once we got to take the photos the results were well worth the wait.

The Muhle family is already a great group to photograph, but the sweetest part of this little family is the addition of baby Isaak that came within a week of their session. Mom and baby are both healthy and happy and enjoying the holidays. Now it's time to schedule a new shoot to include the new addition to the family.

I can't wait to photograph this family again very soon and I am so excited to welcome the new addition to the family. Baby Isaak is so very loved and we can't wait to love on him as much as we have Sarai and Aaron. 


(Zach Elseman Photography) cherokee photography family photography murrell home oklahoma portrait photography tahlequah photography Tue, 26 Dec 2017 04:59:15 GMT
What to Pack for a Canadian Adventure-Gear Load-Out for Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks  

One of my favorite aspects of any adventure is the preparation. The route planning, researching local attractions and trails, and packing enough gear to survive and enjoy ourselves, but not so much that we can't comfortably move in and out of airports, campsites, and local establishments. By the time this post goes live, the Okienomads will be married and on their way to Calgary, AB for a road trip through the Canadian Rockies in areas including Jasper, Banff, and Yoho National Parks. But what do you bring for an adventure in the Canadian Rockies when you plan on living out of an RV and hiking some of the most beautiful trails in North America?


Needless to say, we will need to dress warm. We plan on hiking and exploring nearly every day while in "The Great White North", so warm, synthetic layers are a must. We have a trail race when we get back stateside, so we will need to get in a couple of runs in Calgary and when we travel further North, so we will need a couple of pairs of shorts and the running shoes. 

For the colder nights in the RV, tights, gloves, and the down jacket will be huge if we run out of propane or if temps drop below freezing for too long. We opt for wool socks for obvious reasons to keep warm and stay dry.

I am not going to lie, I could wear my Patagonia hiking pants every day of the year and be happy as can be. I am packing a pair of jeans and a decent shirt in case we go out to eat or out on the town for the evening, historically, the jeans will stay in the bag for most of the trip. 

Swimsuit is in the bag for the Air BnB in Calgary and the hot springs along the way.


Photography Gear

We couldn't possibly travel to one of the most beautiful parts of the world and not take my camera and some gear to capture these amazing sights. I wanted to avoid taking a laptop as we would be leaving the RV unattended during most days in some very remote areas of Alberta and BC. Instead I am bringing the bulk of my CF memory cards for the 5d to avoid uploading until we get back. I think over 100 GB should be enough even with video files. The GoPro will tag along for time-lapse and hazardous condition shots and video with around 100 GB of memory as well. If you can't tell, I don't like running out of storage space while in the backcountry. 

The Dolica tripod is a new addition to the gear list and I hope it works out better than the cheap tripods that I have used in the past. The tripod weighs 4 pounds and folds down to a 2ft length so it will make carrying on the airplane and on hikes a breeze. Reviews are excellent and the price can't be beat at $50. With the chance of a Grizzly mauling or it falling into a freezing, glacier fed stream, I didn't want to chance losing a several hundred dollar tripod. I will post an in depth review when we get back, but initial impressions are good!

The Circular Polarizing Filter is needed to cut down snow and water reflections as well as maintain blue skies and clouds. The Neutral Density Filter will be used for waterfalls and other exposures needing long shutters. 

I opted to leave the drone at home for a couple of reasons. First, we are traveling on our honeymoon, I don't want to spend a romantic trip with my new wife flying a hive of angry bees over scenic Banff. That doesn't sound like fun to me. Second, because of the size. I love my drone. The 3DR Solo is great for the type of work that I use it for. However, it is huge! It would be a carry-on by itself. If I had something like a DJI Spark or Mavic that folds down small and can still record quality video and stills, I might consider lugging it around.


Other Miscellaneous Gear

Just when I thought we had everything that we needed for an expedition to Canada, my bride surprised me by picking up a pair of YakTrax for both of us. These simple devices improve traction on snow and ice and will be perfect for post-holing snow packed trails and scurrying across glaciers. There are a million reasons that I love this woman, and spontaneous & surprise gear purchases rank in the top 100 reasons for sure.

We are both packing winter sleeping bags as I am not confident in the insulation of a rental RV in the Canadian Rockies in October. I will also pack a bag liner to add a little extra warmth to the sleeping arrangement. Travel pillows will more than likely fly in the carry-on and be used heavily in our Houston layover. 

In order to get all of this gear on an airplane and across the continent we need some luggage. My clothing will be packed in an old REI duffel that has been on many adventures. My carry-on is a Patagonia Refugio 28L day pack. This day-pack has been my go-to since my 2nd year of college and carries my camera bag in the bottom, jackets on top, maps, chargers, and a book/journal, and passports in several well-designed pockets and a tripod in one side pocket with a Nalgene in the other side pocket. 

Rachael uses a NorthFace Base Camp Duffel as her checked bag and an Osprey 35L backpacking pack as her carry-on. If I know her at all, her checked bag will have plenty of clothing and shoes for any adventure that we might find and her carry-on will have her e-reader, plenty of snacks, and warm layers for her to stay warm in the freezing airport, plane, or public transport. 

What gear do you use when you travel? Comment on the blog or reach out to us on Instagram and YouTube as @okienomads. We love hearing from others traveling and trying to make things work in this lifestyle.






(Zach Elseman Photography) adventure blog gear nature photography okienomads oklahoma tahlequah tahlequah photographer travel travel photography Sun, 08 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT
Fall 2017- Mini Portrait Sessions- $75 Fall 2017 Portrait Mini Sessions

I have been getting the itch to get back into portrait work! Mini-sessions only last an hour, so they don't take up your entire day. We can work around your schedule and shoot after work, before school, or after your kid's sports practice. You get 7-10 High Resolution images that you can use to print or post online and no fuss with having to order prints from me. Best of all, the session is fast, the processing is fast (less than a week), and it is affordable, only $75!

  • Up to 1 hour shoot time
  • 7-10 High-Res Images
  • Location in and around Tahlequah, OK
  • Quick Turnaround (usually less than 1 week)

I will be traveling from October 7-22, but will begin shooting after that time. Please contact me NOW to schedule your shoot for seniors, family, children or any other portrait work you need. I genuinely look forward to working with you and your family. As an added bonus, if you don't receive your images within a week of your shoot, I will refund your session fee entirely!


(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads affordable photography cherokee cherokee county cherokee nation children children's photography family family photography native owned oklahoma oklahoma photography photographer photography photography deal portrait portrait photography senior senior photography tahlequah Wed, 27 Sep 2017 15:26:17 GMT
5 Tips for Ultra-Running Training Growing up, I had a hate/hate relationship with running. Running was something that I had to do to be competitive at team sports. This is an area that I think schools and parents can improve: teach your kids how to run. I spent most of high school having poor form, nutrition, and training habits. I spent most of college not caring about being fit at all. Once I graduated I felt a need to have a "thing". I was too broke for a nice bicycle and had too much student loan debt to take up long distance hiking. The cheapest and most accessible alternative was running.

I ran in my first short race in early 2016, it was a 4k. I didn't even know that 4k's existed until I ran in the Bentonville Valentines Day run and it took me nearly 21 minutes(8:35/M)! It was extremely slow, but it was a lot of fun. I was there at the invitation of some close friends and it was one of those "type-2" kinds of fun where you are unprepared and you feel like you might freeze to death.

I continued to use running as my primary form of exercise and set a goal to run a little farther and try my first half marathon. I signed up for the Red Fern Half Marathon in the spring of 2016 and began training. I ran Red Fern-2016 in 1:54:59 (8:49/M). At this point I officially had the "bug" and I signed up for the Pumpkin Holler Hundred 25k trail run in October of 2016. I finished the 25k in 02:29:15 (09:37/M). I took the winter off (by training for a 100-mile bike ride) and started running in the spring at NSU Founders Day 5k (22:37) and Red Fern Half (01:57:40) in preparation for running in the Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd 50K in October of 2017. 

This training includes weekly short runs and long weekend runs. The race in October takes place on the road the circumnavigates the JT Nickel Preserve outside of Tahlequah, OK. 

Courtesy of My most recent training run (VLOG HERE) took place from "Them Idiots" to "Mad Dog" and back then to "Waffle Stop" and back to "Them Idiots". If you haven't watched that episode of the VLOG yet, you really should. It is entertaining to say the least. I ran out of water and was almost stranded in the boonies after dark. 

By running these different races and training schedules I have learned a few things and I wanted to pass on some of that (limited) knowledge to anyone that wants to try to make running their "thing" or simply just try something new. Below are a few pointers to help you train more efficiently for long runs.

1. Take Your Time

It can be very disappointing to follow your favorite runners on Strava or social and see that they are knocking out huge distances at paces that you can't even imagine. Let this go. If you are running to compete with the best in the sport, stop reading this because you clearly don't need this advice. If you are just a normal human, keep reading. There is no normal running pace or time and if you are running just to have a faster time, you are missing out on a lot of joy that can be had on the road/trail. 

Start your training slow. Some experts suggest running at 50-75% of your goal race-day pace during your long training runs. This is especially important if you run in the boondocks like we do. Running slower helps keep your chance of injury down and gives you an opportunity to take in the scenery or enjoy the company of a running partner. If you can't have a conversation with your running partner due to heavy breathing, slow down.

2. Practice Good Form Over Speed

Foot strike- Pay attention to which part of your foot makes impact with the ground. The ideal strike for most is the "mid foot". Often new runners will strike their heal and feel all sorts of pain associated with the foot, ankle, and shins. Practice running slower with a proper strike to avoid some beginner growing pains.

Arm/Hand Position- For the average runner the forearm should be held at a 45º angle with the upper arm with a relaxed grip. Imagine running with a sleeve of crackers in your hands. You need to grip hard enough to hold on the them, but not hard enough to crush them. Practice with actual saltine crackers, they are cheap and you can always make soup after you hulk out on a couple of sleeves.

Leg Kick- Your legs should make a push-off motion with every stride. Try to avoid the "ultra-shuffle" where your feet barely come off of the ground. Sometimes this is unavoidable due to fatigue, but try to practice pushing off with your foot once it hits the ground. If you are at close to 100% effort, you should be almost kicking yourself in the rear. 

3. Nutrition if HUGE

This is the area that I struggle with the most. Nutrition. Eating and drinking properly is arguably the biggest indicator of success on race-day. It is important to cut out sugary drinks like gatorade, soda, and sweet tea. Instead try to drink plenty of water, unsweet tea, and sugar free sports drinks like G2 or Powerade ZERO. 

Eating properly during training can have a huge impact on your results. A healthy diet of lean meats, vegetables, and high-fiber grains is vital. We have a standing menu that includes at least 2-3 days of grilled chicken breast, whole grain brown rice, and some kind of vegetable that is often grilled as well. The other meals we alternate between pasta, nacho boats (recipe on the blog soon), and other moderately healthy meals. A good meal the night before and the morning before a race are important too. I try to eat some kind of gluten free pasta the night before and oatmeal and fruit the morning of a race. 

Before you head out for a long run, remember to pack enough calories to replenish any energy that you are losing. I try to shoot for 200-400 calories/hour of running. It is important to practice eating in your practice runs so that you can be ready to eat on the run when race day gets here. My running snacks include KIND bars, CLIF bars, trail mix, PB&J sandwiches and an assortment of Honey Stinger waffles and GU's. Try different snacks to find out what works for you, everyone is different.

4. Plan Ahead

If I am running more than 5 miles, I carry water on my person. I use the Nathan Trail Mix 1 to carry 18 oz. of water and a few snacks/GU's. I normally only run with water for a few reasons. Sports drinks are often sticky if they are left in the car after a run and are not fun to clean after a long weekend. I try to cache a sports drink with no sugar like Powerade Zero or Gatorade G2 along a run to replenish any electrolytes that are worked off. Take time before your run to map out where you are going and make a goal for hydration. Plan to sip water at least every 1/2 mile to 1 mile and listen to your body. If you feel thirsty, you are already behind. If your planned route has you away from safe water sources, drive the route before hand and drop hydration. I like to reuse sports drink bottles that way if I forget about them or stop short of a cache, I am not out a bottle. I make every effort to keep the road/trail clean however, and have gone back occasions to retrieve dropped water bottles.

Safety is an extremely important part of planning long runs. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going and when to start looking for you if you don't contact them by a certain time. It is also vital to know the environment you will be running in. If you are running in a mountainous region that is known to have afternoon storms and bears, it'd be a good idea to pack a jacket and some bear spray. You will thank me later!

5. Baby Steps

If you have never ran a mile in your life, start small. If you train 6 weeks for a half marathon, you are asking for trouble. Start by working your way up to a 5k and go from there. There are many "Couch to 5k" training programs that will outline how to get there. There are very few people who can decide to run a 50k, train for 12 weeks and not injure themselves. Set a 1, 2, and 5 year goal on what you would like to accomplish with your running, then develop a plan to get there and accomplish your goals. My 1 year goal was to win a race ✓. My 2 year goal is to run an ultra, which I plan to accomplish in October. And my 5 year goal is to place in an ultra. Once you have established your goals, share them with us on Instagram or in the blog comments. We love hearing about others being successful and accomplishing their dreams. 


If you haven't seen this yet, go check it out. Don't forget to like and subscribe to our channel!




(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads adventure blog dehydration explore fitness hoimeiswhereyouparkit nature outdoors photography pumpkin holler hunnerd running skoolie trail running training vlog Thu, 14 Sep 2017 19:25:02 GMT
How You Can #helpharvey Today

The city of Houston, TX has been devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Houston is my birthplace and like many others, I have family that are being held hostage by the massive amounts of water that linger in the streets. 

Harvey dumped nearly 50 inches of water on the Houston Metroplex and continues to pour down as I type this. Many of us in other states feel helpless and aren't able to load up the kayaks and head south. Below are several ways that you can help Harvey Flood Victims. If you know of more resources, feel free to contact me and I will add them.

Greater Houston Community Foundation

This simple fund page setup by the Mayor's office in Houston is easy to use and will direct funding to flood victims.

United Way of Greater Houston

United Way maintains a disaster relief fund, but they anticipate that funds will be expelled quickly.

American Red Cross

Help the ARC provide meals, shelter and comfort to all effected by Harvey by texting "HARVEY" to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Visit the link to make a more substantial donation. 


The popular fundraising website is centralizing fundraising site wide to this link. 


Locally, check with your local churches, American Red Cross locations, and area fire and emergency crews about how you can send aid and donations to these areas. Many local governments are chipping in a helping hand in any way they can.

Also, check social media for good samaritans that are taking time and money out of their lives to go help. This country is continually reminded of the strength of the American people when faced with adversity.

Lastly, it doesn't matter if you are Christian, Muslim, green, white, or yellow, please pray/send good thoughts/sacrifice a lamb on an alter for the lives of those impacted by this great tragedy. I am a firm believer that a positive attitude behind a small donation can make a huge impact. Good vibes and prayers for The Bayou City.

(Zach Elseman Photography) #harvey #helpharvey american red cross disaster disaster relief flood flooding harvey donate harvey relief houston houston flooding tx Tue, 29 Aug 2017 21:51:36 GMT
7 Tips for an Overnight Paddling Trip

We recently took off on a 2 night, 3 day trip on the Scenic Illinois River in Northeast Oklahoma. We floated from the Arkansas border to Tahlequah, OK. Check out the VLOG episode here! One of the most challenging aspects of an overnight trip is packing. I am going to show you 7 tips for how to pack your boat for a great trip on the river. This article will include how to’s, gear recommendations, and more so check it out.

1. Start with a Reliable Vessel

Insure that your boat is in good working order and that if you are going to experience large rapids that you have the necessary equipment like a spray skirt and a throw bag. The river that we floated has very few rapids and none of them are over class-1, so the throw bag can stay at home. We brought our spray skirts simply because we were expecting rain. 

A trip can go awry very quickly if you have a boat failure. A boat that takes on water or doesn't navigate properly can mean capsizing or getting pinned on riprap. Pay attention to the weight limit of your vessel as well. I do not hold manufacturer recommended weights as the final decider, but I was about 25 pounds over my recommended weight and that was about as far as I am willing to push it. I was sitting pretty low.

*Craigslist is a great place to find a gently used kayak for a much cheaper price than buying new. Good touring yaks can be had for under $1000. That is a steal!


2. Remember the Basics

The basic needs for survival are food, water and shelter, not necessarily in that order. A human can survive over 3 weeks without food, but will perish without water in 3-5 days. Shelter is important to maintain body temperature and protect from exposure and the elements. 

  • Water- We always bring plenty of water in addition to a means of purifying freshwater. We use the STERIPEN and it has never let us down in harsh environments. A helpful tip when harvesting water from a stagnant source, use a bandana or buff to filter out floaties before treating with the UV light.


Due to the river having fairly clean water, I normally carry 2-32 ounce Nalgene bottles. These bottles are nearly indestructible and make using the STERIPEN super easy. Each bottles takes 1 minute of UV exposure to produce drinkable water.


*If a precarious situation such as a thunderstorm keeps you in your tent, the Nalgene makes for an effective pee bottle too. 

  • Food- Pack extra food. Even if you are a super-ultra-lightweight hiker and you carry a scale to the trailhead to make sure you're not carrying too much, an extra couple of CLIF bars could be the difference in you having enough energy to swim, run, or hike to a nearby road or home for help. 

For a river trip, we normally stick with a small ice chest or cooler bag for items like chicken breasts, bacon, and other easily packable perishables. This time, we brought along eggs, bacon, and hash-browns for breakfast. For lunch we brought bread, lunch meat, and trail mix. For dinner we did fish, chicken, sausage and veggies. 

*Helpful Tip- Make Hobo-style meals ahead of time in aluminum foil and store them in freezer baggies in the cooler. Once you get to camp, throw them on the coals and enjoy. Once you're done, put the cooled aluminum back in the freezer bag for easy disposal.

  • Shelter-Always carry some kind of shelter, regardless of the length of your trip. A simple solar blanket and fire bag can keep you warm and dry in a bad situation. 

The last time that we didn't pack shelter on a trip was Land Run 100 in April of this year. We assumed that since it was a bike race, shelter would not be needed. FALSE. We found ourselves completely exhausted and borderline hypothermic at mile 34 in the middle of rural Logan County Oklahoma with nothing but soaked clothes and spotty cell reception. Had we packed a simple lighter and 2 space blankets (minimal weight), we would have been much more pleasant in the root cellar that we hunkered down in for 45 minutes waiting on help to arrive. 

On this trip, due to the chance of rain and the unavoidable onslaught of mosquitos, we opted to pack a backpacking tent sans stakes. The same coverage could be achieved for one person with a hammock and a bug net/tarp setup. Stakes are imperative when the chance for rain exists. Fancy backpacking tent flies aren’t designed to be used without stakes. We know, because we left ours at home and paid for it with soggy tent walls. 

*An ultralight tarp such as the Hennessy Hex can be used as a shelter in a pinch with just a couple of stakes and some tracking poles or paddles. 

3. Stay Dry

This one seems obvious, but most floaters don't take precautions to stay dry. Even some that know better, can get caught with their pants down. It is imperative that all of your dry gear and supplies (warmth, fire, and food) stay dry. If you are traveling with camera gear, it obviously needs to stay dry too.

On this trip, I took every precaution advised and secured all dry goods in dry bags, properly closed and stored in the water-tight hatch on the rear of my boat. After paddling most of the first day, I was told that my boat was riding low in the water. I pulled into our campsite and found my rear hatch completely full of water. I later found out that the skeg cable sheath had come undone and was leaking water into the hatch. My dry bags weren't all that dry. Especially the bag with my DSLR camera, lenses, and memory card in it. I pulled the dry bag out of the hull to find water visibly inside the bag. I released the dry bag only to find the camera bag completely soaked. When I opened the Lowepro Camera bag the contents were dry as a bone. I received that bag when I bought my camera and the seller didn't have anything else to send it in. Thanks Lowepro! The cheap dry bag has been moved to "mostly dry" duty for items like a tarp or rain jacket.

*Hypothermia can occur in very warm temperatures with the quick arrival of a summer storm, or prolonged periods without the ability to make a fire.

4. Pack Small

Most kayaks come equipped with small watertight hatches, so it is important to pack a lot of small dry bags instead of big ones. For a sit-in like my Jackson Rogue or Rachael's Pyrahna Fusion, the biggest dry bag I would suggest is a 10L bag. If you have a sit-on kayak or a canoe, you can probably get away with bigger bags, however, you will wast a considerable amount of space.

*If you must pack a large dry bag in a small kayak, place the half-packed bag in the spot where you want to pack it first, then fill items in until it fills the space, then roll it shut.

5. Pack Smart


I mentioned total weight earlier. Where you place the weight is extremely important as well. Too much weight in the bow or stern and the boat will not handle properly and may be more susceptible to rolls. Place heavier items near the middle of the cockpit and place your light-weight items toward the ends of your boat. Remember that lateral placement can effect handling as well. If you are heavier on the port side, remember that when you have to roll back over.

*If your creek/crossover kayak is equipped with a bulkhead and you are not floating whitewater, remove it for the additional storage space.

6. Flip Your Boat

Flipping your boat at night is helpful for a lot of reasons. First, it keeps your seat and cockpit dry, whether by dew or rain, no one likes a wet seat. Second,it discourages critters from crawling into your boat for the night and surprising you in the AM. Also remember to move your boat and paddles up and out of the water. Waking up to a missing boat is absolutely no fun and you float buddies with thank you for not having to taxi you down river.

*I make a habit of banging on my boat with a paddle when I approach in the morning to make sure there are no creepy crawlies waiting for me inside. 

7. Know Your Limits

Overnight paddling trips are one of my favorite ways to see new places and enjoy nature like most don't get to. However, multi-day trips open you up to possible fatigue and injury. Make sure that you are physically able to tackle the 15-20 miles per day that you plan to float in order to get back to your job by 8AM on Monday morning. It's often hard to call in to work from the river valley, only because of spotty cell service.

*Start with a few small day trips or over-nighters and slowly work your way up to longer expeditions. This way you will know what gear you need and how much you can handle.

Thank you so very much for taking the time out of your day to read along. We post all kinds of articles like this almost every week. Stick around and check out the pictures from our travels and check out our YouTube Channel for more content not published on the blog. We are always looking for brands and creators to partner with, please reach out if you are interested- 

As always, God Bless and be safe out there!

(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads adventure blog built not bought explore fishing floating home is where you park it illinois river illinois river float jackson kayak kayak camping kayak camping tips nature ok overnight float overnight kayak photography river skoolie tahlequah tiny house travel travelok van vanlife vlog watts Sat, 05 Aug 2017 22:54:14 GMT
FREE Camping: Taos Ski Valley DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR6278. With every trip that we take into the wild, we strive to not pay for camping. Nature should be free. There are a few exceptions, such as the folks over at Hotel Luna Mystica: those guys and girls know how to have a good time in the middle of the desert(pictured above), you should check them out. We spent a night with them on our last trip to Taos, NM. More on that later.

If you find yourself traveling to the Taos area during the summer season (Memorial Day to Labor Day) we have a camping area that is free and awesome! There are actually a couple of spots that we found on This is a free resource that shows user generated reports on FREE campsite locations around the country. We use this site nearly every time we camp in a new location. There is FREE camping EVERYWHERE! This post is about the free campsite that we chose which is right at the base of the ski runs and is a few steps from the Wheeler Peak trail. 

GPS Coordinates: 36.573815, -105.437082


From Taos, head North on US-64W. Turn right onto NM-150N. 150 will wind into the mountains and lead you directly to the ski resort area. Once you reach the main parking lot, stay left on Twining Rd. The main parking lot is the location of our back-up campsite that we didn't need to use. Take a hard left onto Zapp's/Porcupine/Kachina RD and travel toward the Bavarian. Once you reach the Phoenix Grill, hang a left on Bluejay Ridge Rd and drive until you can't drive any farther. The campsite is on your left.


There are no facilities at this location, but the woods (and lots of woods) are right there. Everything uphill from this spot is National Forest and all Leave No Trace precautions should be used. There is a nearby creek for water and bathing. It was in full run-off mode when we visited around Memorial Day and provided great noise at night. I am a big fan of using a SteriPen to treat all of our drinking water when camping, but this water was CLEAN. I think we could have gotten away without using the UV light this time around. 

There were two gear casualties on this trip and one happened at this campsite: the demise of my old friend and trusty hammock. The poor, bright blue, Walmart special couldn't support the weight of both of the Okienomads and ripped in two pieces during an afternoon cuddle sesh. So long old friend, thanks for the hangs. He has been replaced by a brand new ENOS Doublenest that I will be reviewing in a later post and in case you were wondering, it was a very worthwhile upgrade. 

The beauty of this campsite (besides the obvious) is it's proximity to the trailhead for Wheeler Peak. This campsite is at approximately 12,000' of elevation, so spend a day at camp then make a push for nearby Wheeler Peak (13,161'). The trail is well marked and even with a large amount of snow still on the trail, we found our way up to the top. Regardless of conditions, I suggest that you start at day break or earlier and get to the top before the crowds and before snow melt/thunderstorms in the afternoon. 

DCIM\105GOPRO Just before tree-line is Williams Lake. The lake was obviously still frozen when we arrived, but still made a beautiful campsite for several backpackers on a nearby ridge. If you are brave and warm natured, the peace and tranquility of this campsite might be worth the hike, but be prepared for high winds, temperatures below freezing, and critters that are very curious. Please use a bear bag and hang it properly away from your camp. 

The hike up from the lake got very steep and involved quite a bit of snow. I suggest bringing trekking poles as balance is hard to come by on the snow and ice. The poles may also come in handy on the way down in the slush. I wore trail running shoes and Rachael hiked in hiking boots. Neither of us were disappointed in our choice. 



DCIM\105GOPRO DCIM\105GOPRO We made it to the top and simply took in the sunlight and the view. It seemed like we might have been the first or second group on the summit and we passed  A LOT of hikers on our way down that had slept in. The peak allows some amazing views of the nearby San De Cristo range and farther Rocky Mountains in the distance. 

The hike down took around an hour and a half. With the snow pack still fairly deep, we were able to slide on our butts most of the way down. There would be GoPro footage, but the slide required a very specific set of skills to stay upright while sliding. 

This campground was excellent. We really enjoyed the distance from the trailhead, the privacy, and the natural beauty. This site ranks in my top 5 best campsites that I have ever been to. The only down-side that I could see would be if someone were staying in the ski house near the site. Constant traffic might be annoying, but we did not see a soul while we were there on a holiday weekend. I highly recommend this campsite to anyone in the Taos, NM area and look forward to the next time we make it back. And best of all, IT WAS FREE!

Thank you so much for reading and for following along on our adventures. To see more content, look around our website, check us out on YouTube and Instagram @okienomads and until next time, God bless!

Coming Soon- Campground Review: Hotel Luna Mystica



(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads 13-er adventure blog explore free free camping hiking nature new mexico nm photography skoolie taos nm travel travel new mexico travel nm wheeler peak Mon, 24 Jul 2017 18:50:12 GMT
OKIENOMADS Gear Review- Mountainsmith Morrison 2 Person 3 Season Backpacking Tent  

I got the itch many years ago to try my hand at backpacking. The first and single most important piece of gear to get into the woods is a tent. The tent provides shelter, security and sometimes warmth. When you venture several miles from any civilization, a good tent can change a really crummy trip into a great experience in the woods.

My first backpacking experience is one of my favorite memories, but one of the worst experiences with a tent that I have ever had. A few (3) friends and I decided to undertake a daunting hiking trip spanning some 30+ miles over 4 days through the early spring Ozark Wilderness. Rain was barely in the forecast so we neglected to bring any real rain gear. We lucked out and avoided rain. The ground, however, was soaked from the previous 6 days of rain that hit the area. The awful Ozark Trail 4 man tent did not do what I had assumed it was made to do. This tent can be purchased at any of the thousands of Wal-Mart stores in the country and was created to be used in state parks and backyards when precipitation is not in the forecast.

We got soaked. To be fair there was a small creek running under the bottom of the tent and I am not sure the best of tents would have survived, but the big box store tent let us down. We were wet, cold, and unhappy that we lugged this big thing up and down the trails all spring break. 

Upon returning from that trip to the Ozarks (which ended in a snowstorm, ushering our unprepared group off the trail and back home) I began researching backpacking tents that had to fit a few criteria:

  • Price- The tent had to be less than $200. At the time, I was a college student with very little spending money. This dropped my options considerably as some ultralight tents can be had for upwards of $750! CRAZY!
  • Weight- I wanted a tent that I could haul on solo trips and also split with someone on longer hauls into the wild. The Morrison came in under 5lbs which was much more manageable than the 12-15lbs I was carrying with the Wally World tent. 
  • Space- I am 6'3" tall and had a very rough time finding a tent that I could lay in without my feet or head hitting the tent walls. I also wanted to be able to sit up and change or read while the doors are closed.
  • BONUS- If I could manage it, I wanted vestibules on both doors. It is so much more convenient to be able to store your pack and wet/dirty gear outside and still have peace of mind that it is protected by the rain fly.


My constraints were pretty rigorous, but I knew a tent had to exist with these specs. I tried out several tents such as the ALPS Mountaineering LYNX, The North Face Stormbreak, and the Kelty Salida series and none of them met my criteria. I then found the Mountain Smith Morrison 2 and it checked every box! 

The Morrison has several features that are big deal breakers for me now that I have used it rigorously for half a decade. 

  1. IT IS HUGE! There is so much room inside, it feels like a bigger tent sometimes. I would feel comfortable cramming a third person in on extremely raining trips if need be. I can fully stretch out without turning diagonally and I can sit up to read or change without bumping into anything. 
  2. It is one the simplest designs I have ever used. 2 poles, 4 stakes (for the tent, more with fly) and you are in business. It takes 2 people less than 2 minutes to set this tent up and less than 5 minutes solo. 
  3. It is well made! This tent is solid. When guyed down we have used this tent in 50-60 MPH winds with no damage to the tent or us inside. The zippers are all high quality and all vents/windows provide adequate ventilation for hot trips. Any tent will get sticky when it is 90◦+ outside. The tent also retains heat really well in cold trips. I have had it down to below freezing several times and there is a noticeable warmth when compared to being outside. 

Suggested changes-The tent is great right out of the box, but a few minor tweaks make it a spectacular 3 season backpacking tent.





First, quality stakes are a must. Although the stakes that come with the tent are sufficient for backyard/state park camping, I would not try to use them in rocky soil or muddy soil. We use MSR Cyclone stakes and they have been fantastic. The price is right and I have yet to remotely bend one.






Dry Sack



Second, the Morrison comes with a stuff sack that is great for storing the tent. I suggest you always hang or spread out your tent in a cool dry area, but if that isn't realistic than the provided sack will suffice. On the trail however, the sack will not cut it when it comes to compressing the tent down to as small of a package as possible.

We use a variety of stuff sacks accumulated over the years, but our newest is by far the favorite. Our Sea to Summit is a compression sack that is also water-resistant for when the rain or rapids get the best of you. You can cinch down the straps and compress the tent and rain fly to a very small (youth football) sized package. 








Over the years, we accumulate gear that sticks with us and has an impact on how we experience the wild places that we visit. This tent is one of those pieces of gear. I can't imagine going to the woods without it and it feels like home when I return to it. It seems crazy that a nylon shelter can feel like home, but I challenge you to give it a chance. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have in the woods with this little tent keeping you dry.

As always, follow us on Instagram to get the most up to date images and video from our trips and build progress on our bus. We would love it you would check out the rest of the blog and the YouTube page as well. All social media is @okienomads. Thanks for reading and have a blessed day!




*As you can see, there are embedded links throughout this post to products that we use and recommend. We will not provide affiliate links if we are not happy with the performance of a product. If you decide to purchase something using one of these links, a very small percentage of that sale goes to fund our adventures at no additional cost to you. If you are interested in an item, please use the links. It means a TON to us!

(Zach Elseman Photography) #forgedforlife 2 person backpacking tent @okienomads Cheap backpacking tent Mountainsmith Mountainsmith Morrison 2 adventure backpacking tent blog built not bought bus camping cheap tent gear review home is where you park it photography school bus conversion skoolie tent review tiny house travel van vanlife Fri, 07 Jul 2017 17:40:13 GMT
NEW VLOG is LIVE! How to travel on a $50 budget We are always scraping together extra money to go on trips and buy better toys. Traveling cheaply is a great way to save money and still have a great time. In this VLOG we show our trip to Lee Creek, AR for a day of 4-wheeling and swimming in beautiful spring fed creek.



Below is some bonus material not in the VLOG that can help you travel cheaper.

  1. Pack your food- The initial investment in a good cooler or cooler bag will be made up quickly by not having to pay for expensive restaurants or extremely unhealthy fast food. Breakfast is easy: eggs, eggs, and more eggs. In hard camping egg container, the eggs stay in tact and are delicious warmed up on an old camp stove or over a fire. Lunch is normally turkey sandwiches. Spice things up with spicy mustard, pepper jack cheese, and avocado slices. Dinner can be as elaborate as you desire. Ours normally consists of chicken, sausage, peppers, and onion all wrapped in aluminum foil and thrown on the coals of a fire for an hour. 
  2. Don't pay to camp- It is tempting to pay for the campground that has hot showers and cable TV, but we find that these places are normally frustrating with a lot of noise, trash, and rude people. Using a resource like provides a database of free campsites all over the country with user reviews and pictures. Public restrooms and showers are everywhere when you start looking and most businesses will let you fill up your water jug for free. Which leads me to my next tip...
  3. Don't pay to drink- Hydration is extremely important, especially in the summertime. The best drink to hydrate you is water and it turns out, water is free. Water is available for free in most every restaurant, gas station, and business in the US. Devices like our SteriPen are useful when traveling in the backcountry because we can treat most fresh water and it be ready to drink in minutes. Coffee is a vice that we both struggle with on the road, but we have found that a travel French press and some pre-ground coffee does the trick. Our Stanley camp mugs nest together and don't take a lot of room.

If you have any suggestions or travel hacks that you have used to save money on the road, please leave a comment or e-mail us at As always, if you haven't yet, please subscribe on YouTube and follow us on Instagram. It is much appreciated and lets us know that viewers are enjoying the posts. 


(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads AR Camping Arkansas Arkansas camping Arkansas outside NWA Northwest Arkansas Ozark National Forest adventure blog buslife explore hiking home is where you park it nature photography road trip skoolie tiny house travel vanlife Tue, 27 Jun 2017 00:34:48 GMT
Camping in a City Park in New Mexico  

Everyone has the feeling on a road trip where your eyes start getting heavy, your Red Bull is wearing off and you can only sing "Don't Stop Believing" so many times before it fails to keep you attentive. You might even venture to explore the rumble strips on the side of the expressway. This is a no-judgement-zone, we have all been there. 

Over the years I have developed this extremely low level of "give a crap" when it comes to camping. Once I am done driving, hiking, or generally doing anything, my next move is to find somewhere to sleep. My poor friends are looking for flat campsites or their girlfriends are looking for a cheap Air BnB or hotel room and I am over here trying to fold down the seats in the car and somehow fit my 6'3" frame in a 6' trunk. I guess I have accepted the inevitability of discomfort that comes with camping and backpacking. Your back aches from using a 1/2" thick blow-up sleeping pad that has a slow leak and your neck is sore because your stuff sack filled with your rancid clothes doesn't feel quite the same as your pillow at home. This is why God created fly-over towns. In most of these tiny dots on the map you can get by with laying your feet out of the window of the car and catching a few hours of shut-eye behind the truck stop or near a church parking lot.

Sometimes you get lucky and find a town that knows what you are shopping for and delivers! Enter San Jon, NM.

San Jon (pronounced "San Hone") is a village in Northeast New Mexico that has a city park specifically designated for camping and overnight parking. The city's population is around 300 as of 2000 and since I40 bypassed the town, most every business has died off and left town. However, dirtbag camping is alive and well in San Jon. 

We arrived around midnight on the Friday night of Memorial Day Weekend and were greeted by an 80's Class A motorhome on the South side of the park and the rest of the place to ourselves. We found the bathrooms to be nearly spotless and they had running hot water, score! We freshened up a little and setup the tent for a short stay. Due to the wind, we staked our backpacking tent down and enjoyed a mostly uninterrupted sleep. Another vehicle showed up in the middle of the night with an a-frame bumper-pull in tow and we were none the wiser. We awoke to light that only really happens in the desert and we were packed up in a matter of minutes. 

While walking around, you could tell that this town used to be something. It seemed like we were walking the streets of a town from a "Cars" movie where the entire town had lost it's identity when the interstate came through. I half expected to see a rusted dump truck parked on the corner of town. Instead there are vacant service stations, boats on blocks, and one lonely hotel that somehow stays in business. 

Our time in San Jon was short, but memorable. I recommend a visit to this town if you are passing through, especially if you are needing a place to crash for the night on I40 between Oklahoma and Arizona. A huge thanks goes out to the town of San Jon for looking out for us budget campers that would rather spend our money on gas and food for the next adventure than on camping. Your facilities are great and I can't wait to stop in your town again soon!

If you liked this post and want to see more like it, please look around the rest of the website and let us know what you think. We are on Instagram and YouTube as well as @okienomads, a like and follow or subscription would mean a lot and help you to keep up with us on the road. Have a blessed day and thanks for reading.

(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads FREE CAMPING I40 Interstate 40 NM Camping New Mexico New Mexico Camping Taos Taos Ski Valley adventure blog buslife explore home is where you park it interstate 40 camping nature photography road trip travel vanlife Wed, 14 Jun 2017 21:37:40 GMT
Facebook is Bad For Your Health  

To some reading this blog, this might not be a shock. To others, however, this could be a revelation. Facebook is bad for you!

A recent study published by the Harvard Business Review took a sample size of 5,208 adults and they determined that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time a person spends on Facebook and that person’s well-being. This is counter to previous studies which showed that you could spend as much time on Facebook as you wanted, as long as it was “quality” time.

The activities observed in this study were simply liking of posts, clicking links, and creating your own posts. The measures for the study included self-reported life satisfaction, physical and mental health, and Body Mass Index (BMI). The fascinating thing about this study is that it took place over a period of two years! They found consistently that both liking others’ content and clicking links caused a significant reduction in self-reported physical and mental health, and life satisfaction.

Why do we continue to use this social network if it makes us feel worse about ourselves?

The answer is in the science of the brain. We trick ourselves into thinking that Facebook is meaningful social interaction, when it isn’t. According to podcaster and life-hacker Tim Ferris, “It's like a heroin addict who needs methadone”. Ferris suggests that his readers and listeners participate in social media fasts at least once a week. “It is incredible what a psychological relief it is and how much recovery it allows people to have,” said Ferris. That advice is coming from a guy who makes a large portion of his paycheck from social media! He benefits directly from users scrolling their timelines and even he is advising against spending as much time on social as we do.

Give it a shot this Easter weekend. Try a “Screen-free Saturday” as Ferris calls it, or spend the entire weekend interacting with your family or doing something that brings you more joy, not less.


Tim Ferris Interview

HBR Study Article

(Zach Elseman Photography) blog easter explore facebook harvard business review health mindfullness nature okienomads personal improvement psychology social media tim ferris travel Sat, 15 Apr 2017 15:05:15 GMT
Trail to Eden, Glory Hole, and Top of the Buffalo

Trail to Eden, Glory Hole, and Top of the Buffalo     

Pettigrew, AR

Mark Twain once said, “The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession”. Truer words have never been spoken. It never ceases to amaze me how I can reconnect with a group of friends or brothers and nearly immediately pick back up where we left off. I was looking through galleries of pictures that I had taken on trips with friends over the past several years and nearly every year around the beginning of spring, I take a trip with close friends from college. We usually go backpacking or camping and this year was no exception. My friend Jesse planned a trip to the Buffalo National River to stay in a cabin near Pettigrew, AR and to day hike and mountain bike on the nearly endless miles of trails that abound in that area. HE NAILED IT!

We made our way East, meeting in Tahlequah, OK, stopping in Fayetteville, AR for food, supplies, and fuel, then we continued East to Pettigrew, AR. We passed through communities that seemed lost in time. Nearly everyone still had a tractor, a wood stove, and livestock. It was refreshing that some individuals still enjoy a simpler life. It was inspiring to me. While driving through one small community along the way, I look to my right and Jesse grabs his nose. It struck me as odd, but we continued on with our conversation. A few seconds later, he looked at his hand to see a blood drop or two. I ask if he is okay and he assures me he is okay. We drive a few more seconds and a look of terror comes over Jesse’s face as blood floods out of his nose and into his hands. I coast the truck into a church parking lot and come to a stop in front of the church doors. The vehicle behind us is likely as confused as the redneck farmers that are driving by. Jesse tries to exit the truck, but can’t undo his seat belt due to his blood covered hands. I release him from captivity and toss him a tampon from the glovebox. It always pays to have a girlfriend with a cool truck. He plugs his nose and the rest of the group gathers round as more locals drive by in confusion.

The poor community that was rocked by our nose bleed debacle.

Our digs for the weekend the Top of the Buffalo River Cabin is located on an organic farm and is completely sustained with solar power. There is a gravity fed water system, a sink, and several places to sleep including a loft. The cabin is heated by a woodstove and was a perfect location for our weekend plans. We unloaded our gear and supplies and got back on the dirt road that would lead us a few miles back to Hawksbill Crag at Whitaker Point.

Whitaker Point is an easily identifiable landmark thanks to its discernable shape and its popularity amongst travelers through Arkansas and the Arkansas Tourism ads that run images of it often. This was my first visit to the crag and I was impressed. The sheer mass of the rock and its height above the valley is colossal. Due to the recent rains in the area, the falls approaching the crag also made for interesting stops.

We spent a ton of time at the crag taking obligatory pictures of each other and returned to the cabin to enjoy a night of quiet and peacefulness. We prepared macaroni and cheese and enjoyed libations on the rear deck of the cabin while a lightning storm approached in the distance. The light show was really fantastic. Conversation ranged from love and loss to friendships and experiences. I pity any man that doesn’t have close friends to spend time with. It is absolutely refreshing.
I awoke the next morning with the sun and hopped on the mountain bike to explore the trails of the Upper Buffalo River Wilderness. The gravel roads were reminiscent of the same gravel I travelled down only one week prior in Stillwater. The difference was the temperature. Where Stilly was 37° and rainy, these Arkansas backroads were 60° and hard packed. I pedaled to a fire tower close by and enjoyed the sun coming up over the river valley. The tower appeared to still be in operation as it had a generator and Constantine wire draped along the top of the security fence. Once the sun was high enough to see the trail, I ventured into the most perfect set of switchback berms that I have ever ridden. I meandered my way across the valley and climbed up to our cabins backdoor. The guys had already made breakfast and appeared to be ready for a day of adventure, hiking, spelunking, and lots of dirt road travel.


We made our way North through the same rugged background that I had biked earlier that morning. Our destination was a trail head outside of Ponca, AR named Lost Valley. This trail was the avenue to which we would be able to see Eden Falls, a combination of a cave falls and waterfalls that litter the NW Arkansas hillside. This trail was absolutely worth the time and energy to put up with the huge crowd that surrounded the trail. There were hundreds of people on or around the trail and waterfalls. To be fair, it was the first really nice weekend of the spring season and conditions were perfect for waterfall chasing.

We wandered around the falls for quite a while taking pictures and enjoying the breaks in the crowds. We then made our way up to the cave that encompasses one of the coolest natural features that I have ever seen: a waterfall pouring out of the roof of the cave. It was easily 25 degrees cooler inside the cave and the journey through the eighteen-inch wide cavern was definitely worth it. I am not one for being in tight spaces for prolonged periods of time, but this is something I would definitely do again. Remember to bring a headlamp, grippy shoes, and a camera that can shoot in the dark (thanks Canon).

We ate lunch at the base of the falls and traversed back down the trail toward the car. On our way down, we came upon a couple in distress. The female, in her mid to early sixties was face down on the side of the trail, her walking stick at her side, and her shoulder wrapped around the base of a young tree. The husband was kneeling next to her, speaking softly. We gave aid in the best way we could with our minimalist packs and limited first aid. We helped the woman back to her feet and into a shoulder sling, and they insisted to be on their way. This event really convicted me about the amount of trauma gear that I carry with me on the trail. My kit needs some work!

Our next stop was Glory Hole Falls, around 30 minutes away. The trailhead is easy to find as it will have a ton of cars pulled off on the side of the highway. Follow the people. Glory Hole is an amazing phenomenon where the water has pooled in the same area on top of an outcropping for thousands of years and has worn down the rock to allow water to flow straight through. It is a sight to see in Arkansas. The hole is roughly 4-6 ft. in diameter and is approximately 20ft. from the floor below. I could have easily sat under that outcropping for hours if the guys would have let me. The group went around on the trail and I chose to scramble up the cliff faces opposite and met them at the creek above.

Once we left Glory Hole, we referenced Tim Ernst’s waterfall book and found the closest set of waterfalls and they were only 7-ish miles away. Little did we know that nearly all 7 miles were dirt roads with pot holes the size of small cars. We made it with little time to spare. The first set of falls on one side of the road were disappointing. There was little water flowing and it seemed that you would have had to be there in a flood to see them actually flowing. The second set was more impressive, but involved nearly an hour of bushwhacking to discover. We stopped to take in the sites and made our way out just in time for the sun to go down. We were out of water, exhausted, and rejuvenated by spending all day in nature. We ventured back to the cabin for a night of good chats, good brews, and a lightning storm like I have never seen.

We loaded up the next morning, turned off the solar system, and made our way back to Oklahoma. Trips to the Buffalo River Valley never cease to amaze me. The landscape is breathtaking every time I return. It also fascinates me that hardly anyone that I interact with in Oklahoma has been to the Buffalo or has even heard of it. It is a great place to visit to escape from the day-to-day and it is under 3 hours away!


(Zach Elseman Photography) Mountain biking adventure arkansas blog explore hiking nature okienomads outdoors photography skoolie travel waterfalls Sun, 09 Apr 2017 00:29:51 GMT
4 Trips to Lowe's for a Bike Rack One of the biggest challenges for us in the planning stages of the bus was what to do with the two bikes that we wanted to bring along with us on our adventures. Being a little under 90 square feet, the inside of the bus was not an option. Our options were as follows:

  • Front hitch mounted bike rack- The pros of mounting bikes to the front was the relative ease and cost of installing a hitch receiver to the front bumper, we already had a hitch mounted bike rack, and we would always have an eye on our bikes while driving. The cons were that we would always have an eye on our bikes while driving, lighting could be hindered up front, and if we needed just one bike off of the rack we would have to remove the other. Plus, gas mileage would more than likely suffer.
  • Rear vertical mounted bike rack- The pros of mounting bikes on the rear of the bus is the relative cheapness of parts, we already owned roof rack trays for a roof rack, and there should be no effect on gas mileage. The cons were that we would have to drill into our bus and the wheels would have to be stored inside, which means less storage for other necessities (yes, bikes are necessities). 
  • Roof mounted bike rack- The pros of mounting bikes on the roof is that they are out of the way and secure from all but the most ambitious of thieves. The cons are that they would require both people to fetch them, the gas mileage would greatly suffer, and they would take up valuable real estate from our solar panels. Plus, I am not too keen on drilling holes in the roof anyways, the less the better.

We ultimately decided on mounting the bikes to the rear of the bus. It seemed like the best compromise and the least expensive in the long run, plus the best location overall for the bikes. 

We started by measuring, albeit incorrectly, the back door for our two pieces of galvanized pipe that would run the width of the rear door. We made our measurements and took off to the hardware store. Thankfully, Lowe's is only about 2 miles from my house as we went back several more times. On our first trip we picked out our 45° elbows, mounting flanges, and pipe and felt good coming back to the bus. That is until we realized that the 30" pipe that we got would not be long enough. Back to the store.

Before our second trip to Lowe's, we measured better. Not perfect, but better. We returned to the store and exchanged our pipe for longer pipe in the 36" variety. We came back to the bus and as fate would have it, this pipe was just a hair too long. Back to the store.

This time, we were right. Our measurements were perfect and we were not going to be defeated by this project. We returned to the store and thankfully had a different cashier than the two times previous. We found a friendly Lowe's associate named Daniel who also happened to be a cyclist and he assisted us with cutting and threading our pipe to the proper length. We exchanged contact information and went back to our project. 

The pipe fit like a dream! The flanges were in the right spots and everything was looking up. We started drilling holes and behold, we had not measured properly for the different thicknesses of the door that we were bolting into. We hung what we could on the door and developed a strategy to return the next day. I went to Lowe's the next morning and returned my incorrect bolts in shame. I found the right ones and tried to get out of there as quickly as possible. 

IT WORKED! All of the bolts and flanges and pipes fit and the bike rack worked! It was an important moment in an otherwise hectic weekend of a hernia, far too many trips to Lowe's and recovering from a hard training schedule. It felt good to get a small win!

The pipe had to be shimmed a little bit to fit snugly within the Yakima bike trays, but nothing a little duct tape couldn't fix. We got the trays mounted and had to throw a bike into the setup to make sure that it works.

The bike fit great and will only require one of us to load and unload. The rack does not interfere with the lights in any way and the rear door still opens and closes as it did before. We will update this post after next weekend when we run the bus through its paces at the Land Run 100 bike race in Stillwater, OK. Thank you so much to those of you that follow along and are reading these blog posts. It sincerely means a lot and we hope you are enjoying the journey as much as we are. As always, follow along on Instagram @okienomads and check out our YouTube channel when you get a chance.

(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads adventure bike rack blog build built not bought bus gravel grinder home is where you park it install land run 100 lr100 mountain biking photography school bus conversion skoolie tiny house travel unlearn pavement van vanlife yakima Mon, 06 Mar 2017 02:12:30 GMT
Okie Nomads: Skoolie Floor Part 1




The thrill of tearing into a project for the first time is special. The dreams and plans start to take shape the second that the first seat is removed. The plan was very straight forward and is outlined below. This seems like it will be one of the most labor intensive parts of the build.

1. Remove bus seats

This proved to be interesting to say the least. Our first attempt involved a wrench inside the bus and an impact gun used under the bus. This worked marginally well if you don't count the dirt and debris landing on my face. Safety goggles are a must when working under any vehicle. We resorted to using the angle grinder on some of the tougher chairs. The bus seats are for sale if anyone is interested in NE Oklahoma/NW Arkansas; I've been known to deliver in exchange for splitting a six pack. Inquire for more details. We ended up scrapping the bus seats for a measly $17.

2. Remove rubber flooring

This proved to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. Simply remove the metal trim down the middle aisle and begin working the rubber up. A heat gun and some strong hands help to rip up the rubber, especially around the wheel wells. Recommended tools for this part include a heat gun, any kind of scraper your can try and gloves. Our subfloor was a little moist, so it made the rubber a little moist as well.

3. Remove plywood subfloor

Now things are getting fun. First, remove ALL screws/nails from the subfloor that you can find that aren't rusted. Many of our screws were rusted in place and were later removed with a cut-off wheel. The plywood was in a few different conditions depending on which quadrant of the bus you are in. One corner had firm, solid plywood that would not budge one inch without extreme persuasion. Other areas were a little damp and came up easily. Tools recommended for this step include gloves, power drill, angle grinder with a cut-off wheel, shovel, pry bars of varying sizes, chisels, hammer, a little bit of luck and a little bit of almond liquor in your coffee.

Non-Pro tip: If you are working in a shortie skoolie, be very gentle with the floor. Pry bars will puncture the floor and cause more problems for you in the long run. Take your time and try to enjoy yourself. It is some of the hardest labor you will do on your skoolie conversion.

4. Prep for paint

In order to protect our soon to be installed plywood and tongue and groove PERGO we wanted to seal up the floor as well as possible. We (mostly I) did a good amount of damage to the paper thin metal of the floor while removing the plywood so there were several holes to repair before paint could be applied. We used sheet metal from Lowes along with Liquid Nails construction adhesive and self tapping screws. The screws are only being used to hold down the patch panels and are very small. The sheet metal cut very well with tin snips.

The entire floor surface was hit with the drill and a wire brush. The same was used to scuff up the rest of the interior of the bus. Once all areas of flaking paint and residual glue are removed, vacuum/sweep the bus out several times before applying paint. Because our bus had no rust we opted to simply apply Rust-oleum directly to the floor. Our bus spent most of it's life in rural Central Oklahoma, so rust was not expected. Most of the holes in the floor were caused by me and the big pry bar!

Don't forget to tape off any areas that you don't want paint on. At this step we removed a lot of the decals and stickers that were present. Rachael is seriously talented with the heat gun and putty knife. According to her there is a sweet spot between not enough and too much heat. I believe her, because those stickers are gone! She also went back over the stickers with Acetone to try and remove any of the residue from the glue. You can barely tell there was a sticker there before paint even goes on. 

Finally, clean the floor with soap and water to remove any more dirt or grime before paint. Rinse and allow to dry before applying paint.

5. Wall Paint

Our plan was to paint the floor up to the chair rail (approx. 12") with the Rust-oleum and paint the rest of the interior with normal interior paint. The interior wall paint was first to go on in case of any drips or spills, we can just paint over it with the floor paint, which is darker. 

While Rachael was putting on the first coat of interior paint, I worked on the roof. This process will be documented in another blog post at a later time.

The first coat of interior paint went on really well considering that it was around 40° outside and around 65° in the bus with the help of our buddy heater. Rachael used a roller on the flat surfaces and a cheap 2" brush on the rest of the detail spots. After a few minutes of drying, it looked like this.


The second coat went on much better and I was done working on the roof, so I joined her to help. The painting goes much faster with two people hacking away at it.

All of this will be documented in an upcoming VLOG which you should definitely be on the lookout for. Check out our Instagram page @okienomads and YouTube channel under the same name. Thanks for reading!




(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads adventure blog build built not bought bus bus demolition floor install home is where you park it install photography plywood rustoleum school bus conversion skoolie subfloor tiny house travel van vanlife Thu, 23 Feb 2017 20:02:07 GMT
New Year's Goal #1: Read 10 Books, Cover to Cover New Year’s Goal #1: Read 10 Books, Cover to Cover

I chose this goal because although I love reading, I find myself regularly reading half of a book and then not making time to finish it. There are several books on my shelf right now that have dog-ear marks half-way through the book and have for over a year. It is crazy. In 2017 I am going to read 10 books completely, and they are good ones.

I have chosen my books based on several traits. First, I picked several books that I have always wanted to read for whatever reason. Some I have owned for a while and some have sat in my Amazon wish list for years. Secondly, I picked several books that will hopefully be helpful in my development as a person. Third, I wanted to read a couple of books that are relevant to the climate of the society that I live in today. 

These are the books in the order that I plan on reading them this year:

1.    Rough Riders, Mark Lee Gardner

This narrative on the Theodore Roosevelt classic by the same name reaches into the intimate details of Teddy’s role in the Spanish-American war as a leader of the “Rough Riders” regiment. 

TR’s courage, manliness, and demand for involvement in something bigger than himself are all virtues that every man could strive for. I am fascinated by Roosevelt and look forward to digging into this conflict and his role in it more deeply.

2.    Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists, Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers

Issued as a guide for Patagonia grantees and employees alike, “Tools for Grassroots Activists” is a rousing manual for combating environmental injustice.

I have always found Patagonia and Yvon Chouinard fascinating. Once I read “Let My People Go Surfing”, I was hooked. The company is impressive and I am excited to try and apply some best practices in my activism efforts.

3.    1984, George Orwell

The 1949 satirical story of then-future negative-distopian 1984, Orwell “narrates with infinite precision.

It is no surprise that sales of 1984 have increased since the presidential election, but I have had it on my shelf for far too long and President Trump has merely reminded me of the need to read it.

4.    The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

A story of revelation, conversion, and salvation from one of the most gifted writers of the modern age; what is not to love?

This is another book that I have wanted to read for some time. Lewis’ insights in this book are said to be derived from his own conversion experience. 

5.    For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway

Published in 1940, For Whom the Bell Tolls shows Hemingway’s personal fixation with the Spanish Civil War.

This novel was selected merely for its popularity and how much I enjoyed the other Ernest Hemmingway books that I have read. 

6.    On the Road, Jack Kerouac

Kerouac (one of my all-time favorites) describes a journey of learning and exploration of the American West specifically the colorful characters, immense landscapes, and personal growth.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Kerouac’s other works and I was told to save this book for an epic road trip, so I am doing just that (SPOILER ALERT-There is an epic road trip in my near future).

7.    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig

Suggested to me from a professor as one of the best novels to introduce a person to philosophy and the deeper questions of life. This book includes personal growth, travel, and meditation on how to live BETTER.

8.    Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner

    “It's a revealing, absorbing, often amusing and alarming report on where billions of their (taxpayer’s dollars have gone - and where a lot more are going.”  

–NY Times 

Cadillac Desert taps into the controversial history of water in the west and how much water and money is being wasted in the desert.

9.    A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean

Made famous by the Brad Pitt film, A River Runs Through It is a story of nature,wonder, and growing up in rural Missoula, Montana.

 I hate this about myself, but I am reading this book solely because of how much I enjoyed the movie. I am a big fan of Brad Pitt’s, but I have a feeling I’m about to be a bigger fan of Norman Maclean.

10.    Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

This is the book that came out of left field. I have always appreciated Jane Austen as being truly gifted author, only based on what others had said. I had never actually cracked one of her books. After listening to an Art of Manliness Podcast I was convinced that this was a book that I needed to read.

That’s the list! I am going to read all 10 books by the end of 2017 and I will report back with my thoughts on each of them as I work my way through them. Feel free to leave me a comment with which book you think should be on my list and why! Thanks for reading and as always, check us out on Instagram and YouTube @okienomads.


(Zach Elseman Photography) 1984 A River Runs Through It Cadillac Desert For Whom the Bell Tolls On the Road Patagonia tools for grassroots activists Pride and Prejudice The Screwtape Letters Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance adventure blog book book list reading reading club rough riders travel Fri, 17 Feb 2017 02:18:52 GMT
Okie Nomads: Skoolie Roof Repair

Gross huh? 

Our bus was used by a Central Oklahoma school district for the majority of its existence. That means it drove up and down red-dirt county roads, sat in the blistering sun every day of the summer, and was likely never washed properly. The roof was funky! I hauled the pressure washer up there and made short-ish work of the dirt and grime that was caked on our roof.

The side by side is very telling of the junk that was up there. It took around 35-40 minutes to remove all of the stuff from the roof. I then made a mad dash for the garage fan to dry the roof before it froze over night.


Once the roof was clean, I was ready to instal my Fantastic Fan and tape up our roof seams with Eternabond roof repair tape. 

First, I made sure the roof was extremely clean...well for a roof at least. It was clean enough that I would probably eat a sandwich off of it, but not pudding. Does that make sense? Anyways, once clean I was ready for my fan install.

Background-We had previously filled the void left by our emergency escape hatch with a piece of LEXAN. It is supposed to be extremely strong, cheaper than steel, and looked cool. Now when I installed the LEXAN I used a generous amount of waterproof sealant and plenty of self-tapping screws. This area hadn't leaked yet, but it was only a matter of time with so many screws coming through the roof. More on the story of how we lost the roof hatch...

Thanksgiving 2016- Rachael and I travelled to Jenks, OK to attend my nephew's 2 year old birthday party. We thought it would be nice to show the family the vehicle that we were going to be attempting to build and move into, so we drove the bus. As always, Rachael rode shotgun (which is really a folding camping chair pulled up next to the driver's seat) and we puttered our way to Jenks. The bus did great! We didn't have any problems and the family loved it! At one point we had my family and my sister-in-law's family all in it at once playing with buttons, opening doors, and asking outlandish questions about how we planned to poop in the bus. Once we left Jenks, we drove to Rachael's parent's house near Bixby, OK. We pulled in and were greeted with the same enthusiasm as we experienced with my family. The only difference was when her dad walked in the bus and asked, "Did you have a hole in your roof when you left Tahlequah?" 

We had lost our roof hatch door somewhere between Jenks, OK and Bixby, OK, which was quite a lot of ground to cover. On her father's advice, we took a different vehicle in search of the missing hatch lid, hoping that it wasn't the cause of some 20-car pile-up on the highway or something similarly devastating. Just before giving up our search near the half-way point of our route, we found a lonesome hatch door laying in the ditch like it belonged there. We retrieved it as quickly as possible and hopefully left no witnesses.

If you want the quick version of the install, check out the how-to video on our YouTube channel. If you haven't yet, subscribe to our channel and get updates when we post a new video.

I traced out a pattern on the LEXAN, drilled some corner holes, and used a jigsaw to cut the opening. The opening required some trimming, but the fan dropped in as easy as the instructions described (PS the instructions were of little help). 

The model of fan we purchased is one step up from the most bare bones model available and is available on Amazon. Check out our affiliate links at the bottom of this post for more information.

We picked this fan because it offered all of the functions that we needed: exhaust function and variable speeds. We don't need a wi-fi remote to control the fan on the roof of our ~100 square foot tiny house on wheels. The motivation for this project is to simplify life, not make it more complicated. 

Once the hole was cut and the fan fit snug, I laid down a run of Butyl tape (also in the affiliate links below) and sat the fan back in the hole. Ensure that the hinge of the fan cover is facing the front side of the vehicle and opens up to the rear. Once the tape of was down, I pre-drilled all of the holes and fastened the fan to the LEXAN with stainless steel bolts, washers, and nuts. The benefit of the LEXAN is that you can see the butyl tape sealing to the material from below and we felt very comfortable after watching the tape seal that we would have no problems with leaks.

Next was the task of taping off the seams of the bus roof with Eternabond Roof Repair tape (you guessed it, check out the affiliate links at the bottom for what we ordered). 

Non-Pro Tip: Eternabond is extremely sticky! It bonds almost immediately to everything, so have a plan before you peal off the backing.

I laid the tape along every roof seam and overlapped enough to cover the rivets as well. I then taped the front air vent-like contraption above the driver seat and taped off the LEXAN and Fantastic Fan. Importantly, I did not completely seal off the roof vent above the driver's seat. This will be where the power cables coming from our solar panels will enter the cab and run down to our batteries. More on that in a later blog post. Read the directions for the Eternabond carefully as the manufacturer describes practices to eliminate air bubbles and how to properly apply the tape. Because it is winter in Oklahoma, it is not warm enough to apply our roof paint yet. It needs somewhere around 50°

That's it! Now you have all of the information that you need to install your own Fantastic Fan and repair your roof! If you enjoyed the blog post and want to follow along on our build, follow us on Instagram @Okienomads and check out our YouTube channel for more videos like the one in this post.


As mentioned above, check out our affiliate links below and if you buy something through our links we get a commission and you get a great product...WIN-WIN!      


(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads adventure blog build built not bought bus butyl tape eternabond fantastic fan home is where you park it install photography school bus conversion skoolie tiny house travel van vanlife Mon, 06 Feb 2017 03:21:41 GMT
Over Prepared and Underprepared: How both can keep you from exploring Mark Twain National Forest-Ironton, MO

Over Prepared and Underprepared: How both can keep you from exploring

By: Ethan Hayman

Whether you choose to explore the world around you by motor vehicle, bicycle, or by foot there is a fine line between wandering dangerously into the unknown with no preparation, being safely prepared for the adventure ahead, and being paralyzed by the insecurity of not having every piece of equipment you can imagine. If your goal is to explore the world and to be able to do so for a long time there are certain items and skills that will be necessities and others that can simply keep you from exploring at all. The most important question to ask is, do you want to sit around and wait for the stars to align, or do you want to plunge head first into the unknown and seize every opportunity for adventure?

The first multi day backpacking trip I ever did definitely fell on the less prepared end of the spectrum. Three of my best friends and I had planned out a five day fifty mile plus trek through the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. Combined, we had very little experience and almost no proper gear suited to the task at hand. Those of us with some cash to spend invested in various items of the outdoors persuasion, and do we ever look back and laugh at those choices. Some items were solid selections. I purchased a pair of Vasque hiking boots which have now been worn for four years, gone hundreds of miles, summited peaks in Colorado, traversed the Grand Canyon, and waded through the Buffalo National River. I also bought a Fiskars chopping axe which weighed over five pounds and was proudly strapped to the outside of my pack to be carried fifty miles and was necessary approximately zero times. One friend opted to spend no money and wore old sneakers, military fatigues (in navy digital camouflage), and borrowed an ancient external frame backpack.

A defeated camp; Fishers axe on the right.

To keep a long story short, we got absolutely destroyed within two days of being on the trail. Five inches of rain fell the morning we were supposed to set off, turning our path into a tiny flowing river and making every step treacherous. The forecast also changed drastically from when we packed up and when we arrived leaving us expecting mild weather. Instead we woke up to snow falling the second morning. It was at this point that our spirits were broken and we decided to detour to a nearby state park and call for a very expensive shuttle ride back to our vehicle. Many experienced backpackers have told us we were foolish for going out with the equipment and lack of experience we had. We certainly felt foolish and were lucky that no serious injuries occured, communications were maintained, and there were options to bail out. To add to the point here, two of us attempted a return trip at the opposite time of the year with a different group and experienced one hundred degree temperatures and drought causing the expedition to throw in the towel at the exact same location as on the first attempt. All that being said, I am so thankful that I experienced both of those trips and would absolutely not trade the memories for anything. We learned a great deal about ourselves, our equipment, and our passion the hard way. And sometimes that’s the best way.

A river runs through it.

Since these experiences, many more lessons have been learned and many thousands of miles have been successfully traversed by foot, car, and bicycle. As I gain more experience and begin to slowly accumulate better, more useful equipment I find that sometimes I am held back by this desire to have all the right gear before setting off on the next adventure. Some of the hesitation is warranted, lack of potable water on our second trip to the MTNF could have been a fatal mistake, but I will probably be ok on every trip without a solar panel, 50” LED light bar or even steel bumpers on my expedition rig. While all of these can make certain situations easier, safer or simply more convenient the lack of them should never keep you from exploring the world around you.

As long as you have the basics covered, water/food, communications, first aid, navigation, and shelter I say go out and find something amazing in the world around you. Waiting until you have every tool and gadget will keep you from ever seeing the world and being totally unprepared could end your grand adventure we call life, but with minimal expense, basic gear and careful planning you should be all set to get out there and safely venture into the unknown.  


Today's post was by Ethan Hayman. Ethan is a hiker, wood-worker, and general outdoorsman. Ethan's adventures take him all over the South Central United States including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona. Follow him on Facebook to keep up with his shenanagins.

If you would like to contribute to the blog, submit your short stories or articles to As always, check us out on Instagram @okienomads and on YouTube.

(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads Expedition Portal Mark Twain National Forest TravelMO adventure backpacking backpacking Missouri blog expedition explore hiking mountain biking nature photography travel Sun, 15 Jan 2017 03:27:22 GMT
Okie Nomads: An Introduction to the Bus I have spent most of my adult life been coached like most members of my generation to find a good job, buy a house, and drive a nice car. I accomplished most of that by the time I was 25. I checked off a lot of these "accomplishments" by taking a couple of jobs that I didn't really have a passion for, taking on an "acceptable" amount of debt, and spending a lot of my free time working. Along the way, something has been itching at me. I felt that I was following along this plan that had been set in front of me to sacrifice my quality of life now so that I could afford things that I don't really need and that I can maybe retire by the time I am 70, then I can really start living. No thank you. I would rather make moves now to be happier, less environmentally burdensome, and require less to know more. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said it best, "The more you know, the less you need."

In the back of my brain the idea of living a simpler and more nomadic life appealed to me for many reasons. In that time I experienced a lot of life: I figured out what some of my passions are, that how I treat people should be of the highest priority, and that I am most satisfied when I follow my dreams and make them reality. So I did, I bought a bus. 

Not only did I (we) buy a bus, but I found someone else that had fantasized over the nomadic lifestyle for as long as I had. After seven years of living in Tahlequah, I met my future travel partner. Her travels took her to working at Ski Resorts in Colorado, bike shops in Alaska, and even a bicycle tour down the West Coast. She is impressive, intelligent, and even more excited about the bus than I am. Without further delay, the bus.

The Bus

We shopped for several months for the right vehicle. We bounced around between 80's conversion vans, sprinters with too many miles, and school buses. The criteria for our vehicle were as follows:

  1. TALL. I needed to be able to stand somewhat comfortably in the vehicle. This practically eliminated anything that wasn't a bus, sprinter, or high top. 
  2. CHEAP. This entire process has been centered around a modest budget. We could have worked until we were 60, retired and bought a $100,000 Sportsmobile and camped in every state park until we died, but that wasn't the point of this vehicle. We needed to pick something up for $4000 or less.
  3. EFFICIENT. Both of us are used to 30+MPG cars that can get us to most any trailhead or river and do it in style, so efficiency was important. Obviously a van/bus won't get that kind of mileage, but 10-15 MPG was expected. More than likely this meant we were shopping for a diesel. 

We found what we were looking for less than 30 miles from our town. A local church was upgrading and posted a craigslist ad that we found online after looking at a really sad bus a few miles away. We test drove the bus and returned home to research the motor and model of bus. The bus checked out for the most part with the exception of a missing rear air conditioner and a saggy floor. We drove away with a bus that fit our needs and our budget. Here are the craigslist images of our bus.


 photo 00d0d_6RSkfvoPxW7_600x450_zpsugzhsc3t.jpg

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The bus is a 2000 Chevy 4-window with a 6.5L Detroit diesel with 107,000 miles on it. The bus was ordered and owned by one school district for it's entire life. Registration and insurance wasn't as difficult as I expected it to be. Insurance is affordable and cheaper than any vehicle I have ever owned. By mid-November 2016, the bus was tagged, titled, and ready to be built to our desired specifications. The initial design looks something like this:

 photo bus full_zpswbqqujie.jpg

The build plan includes the following key features:

-Plenty of storage

-Queen-sized bed platform

-300 watt solar system

-Bike storage on the back of the bus (think roof rack mounted vertically)

-On board fresh and gray water tanks

-Hardwood floors

We are looking forward to tearing the bus down and getting our hands dirty with the build. If you want to follow along step by step, here are a few ways:

-Follow us on Instagram.

-Follow us on Skoolie.

-Stay tuned for videos posted to our YouTube page.

Thanks for reading and as always comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcome!


(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads TravelOK adventure blog bus build explore nature photography road trip skoolie tiny house travel Sun, 08 Jan 2017 01:06:29 GMT
Goals for a New Year: 2017 The year 2016 brought about a lot of change in my life and a lot of new experiences.

In 2016:

  • I ran two half marathons; The Red Fern Half Marathon/13.1 miles in 1:54:59 and the Pumpkin Holler Hundred 25k/16.6 miles in 2:29:15. I have never considered myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination but this is a goal that I trained hard for in 2016 and I far exceeded my own expectations in both races and the training leading up to the races. I am now a runner and try to incorporate it into my weekly routine.
  • I spent more time outdoors in 2016 doing the activities that I really enjoy than I have in any year previous or all previous years combined. I estimate that I spent more than 150 days outside doing some form of physical activity in 2016. Activities range from walking, running, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, biking, yard work, etc. I very much enjoyed being a weekend warrior this year and plan to have as many outdoor days in 2017 if not more.
  • I lost 20-25 pounds and adopted a much healthier lifestyle and diet. I rarely drink pop, have completely kicked energy drinks, and I drink more water than I ever thought possible. I feel better and perform better at most everything I do.

I ripped off a goal-setting style for 2017 from the Mountain Meister podcast. They setup their goals on a 3 step system; the first is a goal that you can accomplish with little work and should be fairly simple to accomplish, the second is a 50/50 goal that you should be able to do in a perfect world, but you will still need to prepare and train and there is a chance you could still fail, and the third is the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). The BHAG is something that would require stars to align for you to accomplish it in addition to tons of practice and preparation. My goals are below:

  1. Read 10 books, cover to cover, in a year.
  2. Finish the 100 mile, Land Run, gravel bicycle race.
  3. Compete in an ultra-marathon.

What are your goals? I would love to hear about them in the comments, on Facebook, on Instagram or in an email

Have a great 2017!

(Zach Elseman Photography) @okienomads New Years Resolutions blog explore goal-setting mountain meister nature travel Fri, 06 Jan 2017 21:23:04 GMT
Sometimes You Fail-Tactics to Overcome Project Failure and Rebound Quickly fail.

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill

One thing is nearly a guarantee in life, you WILL fail! It is nearly a certainty in this life we live. Sometimes projects don't come to fruition quite like you thought or you don't perform as well in a particular situation as you expected yourself to. In this blog post I am going to share an example of a failed project in my personal life and a few tips on how to rebound from a failure or setback.

At the beginning of 2016 I, like many others, chose to take on a project that was outside of my comfort zone that would push me to get better. I decided to attempt to visit all of the State Parks in the state of Oklahoma in a calendar year. I intended to use this project to accomplish several things: to visit parts of the state that I grew up in, to travel more than I did in 2015, and to have more days outside than I did in 2015. 

I started in January and visited a park simply because I had just purchased a new bike and wanted to put it to work on a decent trail. That started a series of visits to parks including some extremely local like Cherokee Landing and Sequoyah State Park and some that I had never visited like Osage Hills and Lake Murray State Park. Below are a few images from several of those trips throughout the year.



Those images show some of the best of the parks that I visited. The trips were not failures by themselves, but the project as a whole was a failure. I visited a measly 40% of Oklahoma state parks by November. FORTY PERCENT! I find it really healthy to figure out why a particular project failed. The biggest contributing factor to my failure was the number of other projects that I took on during 2016. During the same year I made/will make major repairs to my home and one of my vehicles, purchased a school bus and began converting it into a camper, and made two separate week-long trips to Colorado. All the while, maintaining a full time job. It has been one of the busiest and most fulfilling years of my life. 

Here is how I have recovered and bounced back from failure on a project:

  1. Reflect- Like I said above, I don't truly get over a failure or hang-up until I reflect on why a project did not go as planned. In my life, this is usually through lists and notes taken along the way and trying to look at the project objectively. This process helps to find small "wins" that might have still surfaced out of the failure. In the case of my project, I accomplished one of the main goals that I had set and traveled outside more than I did in 2015. 
  2. Socialize- Get out and interact with other people and don't fixate on your failure. In fact, share your failure with your peers and friends. By sharing your failure you are giving way to some potentially real human interaction and getting it out of your head and into the world. 
  3. Start a New Project- Dump your self into something new! One of the main reasons that I fizzled out on this project was due to some new opportunities like getting the chance to build out a school bus into a tiny home on wheels! (Stay tuned for that blog post in January of 2017)

Whatever you do, don't sit around and fixate on your failures. Get out and start something new. It doesn't have to be a resolution or a year-long project, but invest your time and effort into something that challenges you and helps you grow. Better yet, invest your time in helping others in need.

Do you have any similar stories of failure and bounce back? Please share them in the comments below or e-mail me at I am always looking for contributors to the blog or guest posts to my IG feed. As always, you can follow me on Instagram @okienomads

(Zach Elseman Photography) 42 in 52 @okienomads Oklahoma Oklahoma State Parks Overcome Failure Project Failure Tour Tahlequah TravelOK adventure biking blog boating explore fishing hiking nature photography travel Sat, 24 Dec 2016 02:26:22 GMT