Sunski Blog Posts // Published on Sunski.com, Fall 2020, www.sunski.com/sunspot/author/jenna-mahaffie/
"The Long Way Home", May 2020

I drive a lot. I go to the ATM, the grocery store, the post office. And then I take the “long way home.” I drive east of town, down the refuge road until the landscape opens, the road maintenance ends and the inevitable scatter of dust starts to smell metallic. Then I turn around and drive the other way; down to where the houses start to spread out from the tiny metropolis that is town, sometimes even further. I loop the alleys that pepper my community, looking at hidden houses and wondering what the kitchens look like. I keep my music on max volume, occasionally just listening to the same song on repeat until I’ve exhausted the melody tenfold. I write in my head; anything from introductions to stories to phrases I like. Sometimes I list them in my phone, always without context or meaning. “Inconsequential conglomerations of cosmic dust.” “The propagations of life’s splinters.” “She yawned, her mouth cobbled in webs." 
Words come to mind too. Ones that, if given a taste, would have a “finish.” Crestfallen. Cacophony. Acquiesce. Pithy. Curt. Apropos. 
Most of the time, I drive without any purpose at all: to go, to clear my mind, or perhaps even to forget. This is difficult, because the physical manifestations of my memories are permanently stained from the internal chassis to the external bumps, lumps, and dents. The top of the steering wheel is worn from my hands; eternally anxious to go or leave or come or stay. The passenger seat is blemished blue from the pen that leaked when you sat on it; ruining your pants and the cloth. Its walls have absorbed songs, words, stories, and all the times I’ve experimented in hypothetical conversation with myself. They know the understated intimacy of giving someone a ride: the intricacies of small talk, specifically selected background music, and/or uncomfortable silence.
A dear friend shared a writing prompt from a grant application recently. “Write the last paragraph of your autobiography.” With the windows open, feet extended out the window, and my seat as far back as it could go, I sat in my car in an empty parking lot. We texted about the prompt. “I wrote it fast and didn’t read it twice,” he said. 
I did the same, picturing myself penning a memoir 30 years in the future:
“My life hasn’t exactly taught me any specific lessons, nor do I wish to share a sweeping piece of advice as a conclusion. The parts of my sum are built by the relationships I’ve chosen to invest in and the places in which I’ve learned and grown. Harvested from specific moments as a child, lessons as a student, and all the growth, change, love and loss I’ve experienced as an adult, I have become. But moreover, I’ve chosen to really listen, really talk, really know. Perhaps that is the ordinary magic of life through a critical lens: one that allows us not just to be, but to feel.”
I followed up immediately after pressing send with an explanation of my surroundings, which were a stark contrast from my deep thought: “I’m currently parked in an empty Pizza Hut lot 35 miles from my house just questioning the majority of my existential meaning.”
He replied: “It’s crazy when we find ourselves in small moments that are actually really big.”
Thoughts, November 2019
There are occasional moments when I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

They’re not frequent, especially with social media perpetuating a constant state of consumption, and of course the daily routine of life and desks and work. But when they come around, it’s like stepping 3 feet outside your body, looking at a photograph of the present. They don’t even need to be happy, although most of them are – moreover, they’re just a reflection of knowing that being here, there or anywhere is simply where you need to be.

That being said: is it possible that, sometimes, the greatest loves of our lives aren’t people? That they can be defined by places, memories, and these collective moments instead?

I feel that way about this place sometimes. I feel it in its space, my growth, and our coinciding change.

More than swimming in alpine lakes, more than shrieking at our ski tracks in Granite Canyon, more than watching the sun set 15 miles deep in the Wind River Range, I’ve come to appreciate the ordinary greatness – a phrase a friend used in a eulogy for his father, and an idea that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. I had a crush on the Tetons, but I fell in love during all the times I had my back to them; like the countless nights we’ve spent on your couch, your birthday dinner when we talked about all the dark places you go when you turn one year older, or the pizza you brought me when I was feeling down. There are also moments we return to seasonally, like the grass at May Park; sweaty from lawn games, politickin’ about life and times. Eating ramen on the deck of the General Store after a weekday storm. Being 23 and walking into Disco Night like we owned the place (we did). The chairs outside Creekside on a summer evening when “everyone” was going to that one party (they were). And of course, all the times I’ve gotten in my car to just drive, with nowhere to go other than to think and listen and know not what it means to be, but to feel. 

Consumed with the desire for extraordinary greatness and the next best thing, I often forget about the ordinary. Perhaps all it takes to remember is a return to the notion that said moments are nothing more than occasional magic.
The Art of Apres, July 2019 // Published in Best of Jackson Hole, 2019, Print: Read Full Article Here (pg. 66-67)
But just as the definition of “feat” in the Tetons spans a wide spectrum, so does the modern-day practice of après. For some, it means a beer after a long day, and for others, it means, well —  many beers. But whether you’ve had a long day, short day, summited the Grand, or just skied off the tram for the first time, isn’t having fun all that really matters?
If our experiences are defined by people and moments, then the celebration that follows recreation in the mountains doesn’t need to be qualified by intensity of the activity or quantified by the amount of booze consumed. It is exactly what the Nordic men and women of the past meant it to be — a good drink with friends to rehash the day, and to refuel for all the adventures (big and small) to come.
THE HUMAN POWERED ROAD TRIP: A Stio Trip Report, March 2019 // Read Full Report Here​​​​​​​
We’re lucky enough to have access to public land and two amazing national parks right in our backyard. Despite the stress and warnings about biking in the park, we realized something important: proper adventures aren’t always about executing perfect logistics or traveling through the most beautiful place. Sometimes, the best memories are served simply from a collection of moments, whether that means the bad jokes, the spicy tacos, the fireside whiskey pulls, or the high fives at the top of the climb.
It’s these brief instances in time that only further shape and define what it means to do something really beautiful as a cohesive group. 
And in their rawest essence - isn’t that what road trips are all about?​​​​​​​
DILLY DALLYIN' THE DIVIDE: A Stio Trip Report, May 2018 // Read Full Report Here
Bikepacking is “Yes, I’ll take a double patty with extra cheese,” after the 100 squats you have to do on leg day. It is the chance encounter with the brewery owner who says, "We’re closed today, but you guys look like you deserve a beer.” It is the connoisseur of convenient stores; the perpetuator of long stories about high school; the friend who introduced you to people you'd follow to the end of the earth as long as they had directions from the local Post Office worker and maybe Gaia Pro. It is; at once, the gas station corn dog that looks way better than it tastes and the paintbrush that coasts dead fields in bright yellow during the last fleeting moments of the day. It is the good stuff that burns even though it’s wet and the crickets who join in your meal as you dine on a potent slop of your wildest dreams. It is the access to our public lands and the exploration of friendships that grow from doing really hard things as one.
I’m never quite sure how to describe my bike trips to friends once I return, but that’s a start.
STIO EARLY FALL 2018 CATALOG INTRO // Rediscover Your Back Yard
What is adventure? Does it mean getting on a plane and flying halfway around the world to foreign, unknown places? Is it getting in your car alone with a soundtrack of the greats and a full tank of gas? Is it conquering a peak or spending days in the wilderness?
The answer is sure, and yes, and of course. But adventure is also taking your glasses off after work, stepping out the office door and putting on your running shoes. It’s veering off the singletrack to catch the changing colors of the aspen, or watching September sunsets shroud the yellow of early fall in a coat of gold. Adventure is the promise to hold on tight to the waning days of summer and reveling in the endless opportunities of Saturdays.
It’s not about the highest peak or the furthest destination. Sometimes the most memorable adventures are right here in your backyard.
STIO FALL 2018 CATALOG INTRO // Fall Frontiers
For every bucket-list viewpoint, there are thousands of other overlooks, trails and vistas that go unaccounted for. Often times, we seek out the former in an effort to get that one shot, that singular memory to prove that yes, we’ve been there, done that, and it was epic - an adventure of a lifetime. But sometimes, adventure at its best is found in the places that we don’t just visit once or twice in our lives. It’s found in our backyard trails we could run blindfolded. It’s in the singletrack with the big root that you finally mastered. It’s in the aspen grove that glitters when the breeze picks up in the fall.
The smell of winter is in the air and the opportunities to revisit those familiar trails are waning with each day. Sure, there might be no breathtaking waterfall at trails end and maybe it gets windy at the top, but like seasonal memories, the views change. And in the fall, when the trees shed their leaves, old vistas become new again. Change is in the air: reroute your routine trail run. Reimagine your backyard. Reinvent your everyday adventures.
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