Tag Archives: adventure

Adventures in the Sequoia National Forest

This weekend was a good one, full of well-documented adventure.  Oh how I love to get out of this terrible, oppressive sprawl.  It’s not so much the density of people, or even the urban-ness of an existence here.  Honestly, it’s the air, stagnant and thick with hot exhaust and particulate.  I’m certain that I’m shaving years off my life every time I take a deep breath of this city’s vapors.

Andrew navigates the craft.

Andrew navigates the craft.

We found ourselves packed like sardines into the black GTI.  It’s elegant German engineering lost beneath the provisions and equipment for four of us to enjoy a weekend of camping.  We sacrificed ergonomics and leg room (temporarily) for a taste of the natural world which exists somewhere outside this concrete labyrinth.  Speeding North, the early morning pinks and reds slowly began to illuminate the sky.  Every now and again I caught a glimpse of the PCT as it paralleled parts of our trek to the Southern Sierras.

Breakfast found us in an outdated beige and tan building serving Mexican inspired cuisine.  Juevos rancheros filled my belly and would give me some discomfort later.  Over cups of coffee my travel companions and I discussed the details of life.  We also discussed whether or not the painting of the waterfalls on the wall behind us had the ability to turn on, projecting tranquility on the patrons of this affordable dining establishment.  We never could find the switch.

The Desert

After eating up miles of asphalt through the desert and hugging the corners of a winding canyon, the People’s Car zipped us through the isolated town of Kennedy Meadows.  We blinked and it was gone, Tom’s disc gold course a blur on the side of the road.  Jeremy recorded high-definition, time-compressed video while Andrew piloted the black rocket ship through the pines.  Marcy and I grasped the ‘oh-shit’ handles and felt secure under the groceries and other assorted wares.

Choosing our campsite and erecting tents, we explored our new surroundings.  A curious place, this forest.  We found ourselves perched on the edge of a large meadow, three strands of barbed wire separating us from it’s golden openness.  Trees rose up giving luscious shade, shelter from the alpine sun and it’s radioactive ways.  We walked amongst these elements concluding that we were happy and eager to trek.

We began by eating, a great way to begin.  Setting off on foot, our objective was clear – a rocky outcropping rising up from the far edge of the meadow.  We chose it because it was a high point and we explorers are always drawn to these types of places.  You know what I mean.  A place high above everything that surrounds it.  A place aching with the freedom of unbridled views and brisk winds.  From this aerie perch we viewed the landscape as if it were a model, a perfectly represented miniature world stretching out below us and outward to the horizon.  We ate more food.  We scrambled across and gripped at the rock with our talons.

Jeremy navigates some rock terrain.

Jeremy navigates some rock terrain.

Upon returning to camp, we promptly assumed horizontal positions on the ground or in a hammock.  The shadows lengthened, the sun turned more golden.  The woods embraced our tired souls and comforted us with a quiet that only a living landscape can provide.

Waking abruptly, we got back into our transportation and drove on dirt roads, upwards to the Bald Mountain Fire Lookout.  A brisk walk saw us to the base of a steel tower rising upwards into the afternoon sky.  Our natural instinct as adventurers is to climb upwards, upwards, higher!  And right there, at the top of this metal geometric fortress was a man.  His duty: viewing this stunning landscape of granite.  He watches the heavens, carefully identifying Vulcan’s electrical outbursts, plotting the locations where they smash into the earth.  This wonderful BLM employee is named Tom.

Tom points to coordinates on his specialized apparatus.

Tom points to coordinates on his specialized apparatus.

A day fully enjoyed.  We retreat to the comfort of our dirt patch to kindle a fire and fill our stomachs.  All manner of fancy appetizers whet our pallets for some schlongs which Marcy tosses on the cast-iron grate above our flame.  Wine is uncorked.  Memories are shared.  In this tradition of eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of others, great bonds are forged between friends.  We take time to play with the camera at night, truly a fun group activity.  Later, as the last one awake, I bask in the warm glow of the coals, red and orange, pulsing radiant heat.

Day two greets us travelers with cold morning air.  Reluctantly our entourage breaks camp, eats cold yoghurt (Noosa, the best), and piles back into our vehicle.  We’re rolling further West through the forest, over a mountain pass, and into the Kern River Canyon.  The landscape is changing.  Gone is the dry, thin air that once desiccated our lips and noses.  Now, the shadow of large trees holds in the damp smell of the forest floor.  Lime green moss clings to the red, deeply-furrowed bark of old giants as we turn at a sign labeled ‘Trail of 100 Giants’.

That sense of insignificance we all feel in the presence of great things is washing over me from high above.  This colony of giants is both welcoming and unsettling.  Are these trees happy or vengeful?  Would they say to us, ‘thank you for preserving this grove’?  Or maybe, ‘fuck you Henry Ford’.  I’d like to think the former.  I just hope they don’t drop an un-needed branch on my head in an attempt to settle the score.

Marcy navigates the forest.

Marcy navigates the forest.

Our troop frolics and meanders through the ancient sentinels, heads cocked at an awkward angle to glimpse the highest reaches of the canopy.  Some of these trees are over two-hundred and seventy feet tall.  Strolling right up to them like they are old friends, we run our hands over their spongy bark and duck under their exposed roots or into their burned out centers.  This amusement park beats the hell out of anything made by the hands of men.  Individual cells organized themselves over millennia into these magnificent organisms.  How humans could commit such a crime as defiling this amazing planet that has nourished and provided for us is beyond my capacity of understanding.

The weekend is coming to an end and we must return to the coast.  We would love to remain in this mystical place, among rocks, sticks, and soil.  These places are not ours to keep.  Embracing the impermanence of ourselves we can embrace the impermanence of the world, the dynamic and chaotic collection of matter that makes up our reality.  Organizing and reorganizing, elements and thoughts blend together into a collective consciousness which vibrates and echoes out into the black void of the cosmos.

Photo Credit - Jeremy Rousch

Photo Credit – Jeremy Rousch

Jeremy’s photo really shows just how large these giants are.

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Dirtbag World

I’ve been sitting in the small cafe now for about an hour.  The staff mill about behind the counter, refilling refrigerated coolers and food prep stations.  Chris is reading the LA Times which I have already thumbed through.  I read an article about the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization on states bordering Colorado as well as a few other paragraphs from different news stories.  A mudslide in Colorado, a psychotic killer in Southern California, a promise from the President to Veterens, etc., etc., and so forth, and so on.  I put the paper down and begin writing this blog article.  A few minutes later Choop walks in the door, high-fiving Chris.  The two just met yesterday, just as Chris and myself met this past week.  One minute we were total strangers, the next all sharing living and sleeping quarters in the tiny town of Lone Pine, California.  Is my world really the same world I was reading about only 20 minutes ago in the newspaper?

I glance up at the flat screen looming in my periphery, images of Katy, Jennifer, and other beautiful celebrities flash across the screen before and add for some terrible movie involving who-knows-what.  It’s all very distracting and it’s very common.  Have you ever taken note of how many flashing panels of moronic nonsense fill YOUR periphery?  In a society that is shocked by violent outbursts fueled by sexual frustration, is it so hard to see the media shoving violence and sex in your face every chance they get?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m terribly disturbed and saddened by the recent tragedy that took place in SoCal and I feel for those poor people who were affected.

But trail life is different.  I’ve hiked roughly 700 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail this season so far and I foresee myself making it to Yosemite Valley, maybe further before I have to return to ‘real life’.  But wait, the trail life IS my real life.  *Ring Ring* My cell phone screen comes to life and my Father is on the other end telling me that I need to figure out the registration on my car.  It expires in two months…ahhh, the REAL world is calling.

Back to the issue at hand.  I’ve been sleeping in the back yard of a friend I made less then a week ago, with two other friends I met in the woods.  The house we were welcomed into remains unlocked so we can come and go as we please, use the kitchen, take a shower, whatever we need.  This is my reality right now.  It’s this beautiful alternate-reality I have talked about previously.  It’s the community of like minded individuals who value relationships, travel, experience.  They remain undistracted by all the bullshit that’s flashed in front of our faces like a steak in front of hungry dogs.  We don’t bite or even lunge.  Our satisfaction is found in the aerie crags, the evening conversations over a beer, the afternoon dip in an icy mountain stream.  It’s true, our lives are touched by all that pervades society.  Divorce, suicide, loss, and sadness.  In the open-natured hearts of the characters I’ve meet we’ve discussed all of these issues.  A sort of therapy session exists out here that you don’t pay for in dollars but instead earn in sweat.  

Now I’m glancing up at a commercial for furniture – NO INTEREST, LOW MONTHLY PAYMENTS, BUY NOW!  It reminds me of the impermanence of our existence.  We accumulate stuff for the purpose of…what exactly, I’m not sure.  We can’t take it with us to the next life.  My experience is that the more crap you own, the less freedom you can easily find.  Less then a year ago I gave away my furniture, sold my beloved blender, packed all the rest of my life into my Subaru and submitted to the call to go West.  It was a good decision.

And with impermanence in mind, I realize that these friends, these dirtbag, homeless, traveling friends will continue their journeys.  We are here for only a short moment, the intersection of four people’s dreams and adventures converging at this special in time and place.  Maybe this is the only adventure we will share together or maybe our trajectories will cross again, it’s uncertain.  What is certain is the beauty of this existence – this adventure together.  It’s far from a ‘typical’ lifestyle, but from what I see flashing across the TV screen right now, I’m glad that we are experiencing something different.

Thoughts and ideas on the PCT: Lone Pine, California

Friends!  Family!  Acquaintances, hiker trash, travelers, walkers of all continents, hello!  I’ve been looking for an opportunity to sit down and write for quite some time now, a difficult prospect given my current lifestyle.  Walking along the PCT, the last thing I find myself wanting to do is sit

Just outside Big Bear City.

Just outside Big Bear City.

down and write although my head is filled with stories and ideas.  There are worthwhile, interesting adventures around every corner, certainly worthy of my time for reflection.  In this world of technology and modern conveniences you might think it would happen easily, but no!  When you are walking 20 miles a day, life becomes simplified – wake, eat, walk, eat, sleep, repeat.

Here I am in Lone Pine, California, taking a break from my long walk North.  I have covered some 700 miles by foot and find myself resting in this wonderful town on the edge of the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.  The massive granite monolith that is Mt. Whitney, among many other prominent peaks, stare down at us eager travelers.  It’s as if they say, “come to this high wild place, bring only your sense of adventure”.  We marvel at their beauty, we are drawn in like moths to a light.  Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states and it’s not even on our immediate route but we are drawn to it.  Before I elaborate on my current location and what lies ahead, I will get a little abstract.

Banana Boat trying to get us a ride out of Lake Isabella, quite challenging.

Banana Boat trying to get us a ride out of Lake Isabella, quite challenging.

Let’s address the idea of trail time – it’s a kind of time travel, alternate reality situation.  I was in Idyllwild roughly a month ago.  The terrain and time covered by foot since then has given me a sense of great distances that have been lost to modern modes of travel.  It’s possible to cover large distances by car, train, or airplane in a single day.  Traveling by foot however quickly transports us back to a time when the world was a BIG place.  All of a sudden 20 miles has a much different feel – it’s not an easy distance to cover, at first.  The hiker who is new to long-distance travel will quickly find that with determination and hard work, walking 30, 40, maybe even 50 miles in a single day is attainable.  But don’t worry, the world is still a big place within the limits of walking.

Idyllwild was a great mountain town and I enjoyed the cool air and breezes there for two days.

In the pavilion at kick off, waiting out the rain.

In the pavilion at kick off, waiting out the rain.

Continuing North, I headed up over San Jacinto peak and then down Fuller Ridge into White Water, CA.  There I stayed with Ziggy and the Bear, wonderfully elderly trail angels who greeted us with cold drinks and open hearts.  My first big eat-a-thon at the Morongo casino was a welcome adventure before getting a ride with our friend Sandizzle back down to Lake Morena State Park for ADZPCTKO, the annual PCT kick off event.  Backtracking the miles we had hiked from Lake Morena jolted us back to ‘small world’ as we moved at incredible speeds thanks to good old ‘Merican fossil fuel.

Kick Off was enjoyable but I think my favorite part of the event was seeing all the ultralight gear put to the test as a low pressure system moved through, bringing with it torrential rain and wind gusts up to the 50s.  A $500 cuben fiber tent might weight 1 pound, but does it hold up in

Eating some lunch with Banana Boat and C-Lion

Eating some lunch with Banana Boat and C-Lion

these blustery conditions?  I will admit, that evening when the weather was the worst, I awoke at 3am to my tent walls deflecting the wind and rain.  As I lay there awake, two of my tent stakes simultaneously pulled out of the ground and my tarp collapsed on my face.  Scrambling for my headlamp and rain shell, I jumped out of my former fortress in an attempt to re-pitch my house.  I worked as fast as possible, the whole time thinking in my head, ‘don’t let your down bag get wet’.  Although I got soaked in the process, all my gear that was under my tarp stayed dry and within about 20 minutes I was sleeping once again.

Me reclining by the 1/4 distance marker.

Me reclining by the 1/4 distance marker.

Making our way back to the trail from kickoff proved more difficult then I originally anticipated.

Resting after 6000 feet of climbing.

Resting after 6000 feet of climbing.

The ride board that was supposed to help us hikers hook up with people who might drive us to our desired destinations was not as useful as expected.  I had come to kickoff with Roi, Sarit, and Arctic but I found myself driving North with a different group of hikers.  I was sad to leave my friends but the opportunity of an open seat in a car could not be passed up.  I took one more partial day off when I got back to Ziggy and the Bear’s house before sprinting North, covering 98 miles in 3 days.

From White Water I began the long climb to Big Bear, another small mountain town in SoCal.  It was during this stretch that I reconnected with my friend Borealis who was also down at kick off.  The two of us enjoyed an evening of camping together before the 6000 foot climb.  I had an afternoon resupplying in Big Bear where I met a lovely trail angel named Alicia who offered to drive me back to the trail.

From Big Bear the trail jogged West and took us towards Silverwood Lake State Park and then down to Cajon Pass.  My Dad and his Partner drove up from LA to meet me at this major road crossing and had lunch together before they took me to purchase more food.  I was excited and

Near Swarthout Canyon, just passed Cajon Pass.

Near Swarthout Canyon, just passed Cajon Pass.

dreading the next section of the trail – the biggest climb on the PCT, from Cajon Pass to Wrightwood, over 7000 feet in one single push.  Wrightwood was AWESOME.  One of my hiking friends, C-Lion has some friends that live there who welcomed us into their home.  Steve and Shannon fed us baby back ribs, tacos and beer.  They brought us to their local country club for a relaxing afternoon.  They made us feel like family and we will be forever grateful for their kindness and generosity.

We were apprehensive to leave Wrightwood but knew that we needed to continue North.  We climbed out of town towards Mt.Baden Powell where the ancient trees showed their character.  Days of hiking took us into the small town of Agua Dulce where the famous Hiker Heaven can be found.  When I met Donna Saufley I was greeted with a big hug even though I hadn’t showered in a week.  We were given showers, internet, mailing services, cots to sleep on, and rides into town.  C-Lion, Banana Boat and I got a ride to REI to pick up some needed supplies.  Banana Boat’s Aunts and Uncles meet us and treated us to a large Mexican lunch where we

Climbing a nice old tree on Mt.Baden Powell.

Climbing a nice old tree on Mt.Baden Powell.

feasted on burritos.  We were amazed by our appetites and less then an hour after this meal we stopped into In And Out for burgers and milkshakes.

From the Saufley’s, we took one long day and hiked straight to Casa De Luna, aka The Anderson’s place.  Terry welcomed us in and once again we felt the love.  Dinner and breakfast were generously provided for us hungry hikers.  Although we would have loved to stay we continued out the next day, making a brief stop into the Rock Inn for second breakfast.  I let my friends get ahead of me while I made some overdue phone calls before hitching forward about 12 miles and then walking the last few miles on the road into Hiker Town.  This funky little ‘village’ was a nice afternoon stop, but after raiding the hiker box for supplies, we continued hiking at 5 o’clock that evening to get some miles done in the cool of the evening.  We hiked until 2 in the morning,

Hiking through wind farms is pretty cool.

Hiking through wind farms is pretty cool.

collapsing into a pile of unconsciousness, surrounded by wind turbines in the desert.

Continuing North to Tehachapi our friend C-Lion came to the conclusion that he needed to get off trail for a bit to deal with some real life stuff.  He rented a car and Banana Boat and I drove down to San Diego with him to say good bye.  We were welcomed and enjoyed a nice good bye dinner that evening before getting some good rest.  The next morning we woke up very early so that we could drive through LA to stop in at my Dad’s house to wish him a belated birthday and enjoy some coffee and doughnuts.  I grabbed a few pieces of gear that I needed and we made our way North, back to Tehachapi.  Banana and I finished our resupply and did some night hiking that evening, again finding ourselves sleeping under wind turbines.

Hiking through Vasquez Rocks outside Agua Dulce.

Hiking through Vasquez Rocks outside Agua Dulce.

Walker pass was the next major milestone which we reached.  This area was exciting in the sense that there are no natural water sources, just a couple caches.  After some extended

Having fun near Silverwood Lake State Park with C-Lion, Pilsbury, Star Rider, and Dawn Patrol.

Having fun near Silverwood Lake State Park with C-Lion, Pilsbury, Star Rider, and Dawn Patrol.

waterless stretches of hiking, we made it to Walker where Banana and I hitched into Lake Isabella.  We ate pizza and bought more food before attempting to get back to the trail.  2+ hours of attempted hitching got us nowhere until one of the guys who was working at the pizza joint saw us and gave us a ride 10 miles up the road.  More unsuccessful hitching and eventually a couple that had driven by multiple times offered us a ride if we could just give them some gas money.  We happily took this ride and ended up sleeping at Walker Pass that evening before getting back to our march North.

From Walker Pass we began the climb to

Outside Wrightwood, CA.

Outside Wrightwood, CA.

Kennedy Meadows, the gateway to the Eastern Sierras.  We got very lucky with weather (we had mailed our tents and rain gear ahead from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows to save weight).  As we walked into town a weather system moved through bringing rain (and snow to the higher elevations).  Banana and I enjoyed the company of many other friends in town for two days at the General Store in front of the wood stove.  Temperatures dropped into the 30’s at night, we were in the mountains again.  Due to some personal obligations, I made the decision to skip the next 50 miles of trail and get a ride from Kennedy Meadows down to Lone Pine to take care of some legal paperwork (which I ended up not being able to accomplish, F you Boulder County court system!).  I had also developed some painful shin splints in the last 100 miles of hiking and this was a good opportunity for rest

On the summit of Baden Powell with Banana Boat and C-Lion.

On the summit of Baden Powell with Banana Boat and C-Lion.

and recovery before my friend Megan arrives and we head back into the mountains on the John Muir Trail section of the hike that begins here.

Upon arriving in Lone Pine I met some very friendly climbers who welcomed me into their home and let me put my tent in their back yard.  The experience here has been wonderful.

Wow, that was a lot of stuff to catch up on.  Hopefully it didn’t get too boring although I’ll admit that after typing 1800 words I got a bit bored.  It was fun to recall all of the events that led to this moment, a rare moment in every day life but quite a common one of the PCT.  It really is amazing how complete strangers will relate to you like you are an old friend, doing what they can to make this epic journey a little more realistic.

Sunrise on the Tehachapi wind farm.

Sunrise on the Tehachapi wind farm.

Greetings from Idyllwild, California

Well my friends, followers, family, and anyone else stumbling across my writing here, I am in Idyllwild, California.  We (Roi, Sarah, Blake and I) arrived yesterday, driven by our trail friend Evil Goat.  Since getting here, we have eaten ice cream, cooked on a real stove, slept in beds, and resupplied ourselves with the essential items to continue enjoying our lives on the trail.  I personally have had some time to catch up on my journaling, something I am doing daily to document my adventure, a tangible, written memento of what has been.  Some more creative writing in a bit, but for now, here are my journal entries from the past few days.

Desert floor far below.

Desert floor far below.


4/17/2014 Day 7 – Zero day (resting, no mileage)

Very chill day – relaxing with foot baths, food (amazing breakfast scramble), beer, live music courtesy of Roi and Monty and reunions!

After relaxing most of the day, Amanda and I went into town to pick

Sarah, Sunbeam, Amanda, Mike and the famous Monty.

Sarah, Sunbeam, Amanda, Mike and the famous Monty.

up Sunbeam and Mike.  Not too much else today.  Mailed out a resupply to Ziggy and The Bear.  Dinner at Monty’s and back on the trail in the morning!


 

4/18/2014 Day 8 – Warner Springs to Mile 127 (trail angel Mike’s) – 17 Miles

Staying with Monty was a really wonderful experience.  It’s not often you meet someone so selfless, who spends his time and energy helping other people achieve their goals.

After our zero at Monty’s house, we were anxious to get on the trail and bust out some miles.  But of course, we needed to eat a huge

Following Roi on a longer climb in the desert.

Following Roi on a longer climb in the desert.

gut-bomb breakfast.  Spinach and cheese omelets and biscuits and gravy…sausage gravy – the best I’ve ever had.  I had a second helping and coffee as well.

In a blaze of gear-shifting and glory, we braced ourselves for warp speed.  We rocketed towards Warner Springs in the bed of the old pickup, arriving at the trail head in a fury, ready to move.  We thanked Monty for his hospitality and began another day.

The hiking went by as if we were floating, our legs and feet energized and restless from rest.  Before we knew it, the map confirmed 15 miles.  After suggestions from multiple people to stop in at trail angel Mikes, we knew where we were headed.

I ran into Blake at the top of the ranch driveway and neither of us knew what to expect.  We heard rumors of beer, music, food, and

Lots of new faces and good company at trail angel Mike's house.

Lots of new faces and good company at trail angel Mike’s house.

good company.  We were not disappointed.

Everyone I have met in the past week was already telling tails from the journey.  Many new faces showed up today too which is always and enlightened social experience.  There was beer, food, we played music, we met new faces and had a grand time.  Now we sleep.


 

4/19/2014 Day 9 – Miles 127 to Paradise Cafe – 25 miles

Long day – 25 miles.  We stayed at Mike’s place last night and slept out on the porch.  We awoke early to the smell of food cooking.

Tom had the stove up and coffee slowly brewing.  Most other hikers left before sunrise but I took my time.  I drank three cups which woke me up.

Evil Goat, watering his blueberries, what a great trail friend and host!

Evil Goat, watering his blueberries, what a great trail friend and host!

I said my goodbyes and was out the gate running (not literally).  The weather was nice and the first ten miles went by easily – made it to Tule spring by 11:30.

I took a nice rest, filtered water, ate food, washed socks, and dried out the feet.  Roi and Sarah caught up and after some discussion, we decided to push another 15 miles to the Paradise Cafe.  A big burger was in our future.

The last miles dragged a bit but some iphone music helped with that.  Finally we climbed up the side of Table mountain and the road came into sight.  I practically ran down the last mile of trail and was thrilled to see a sign offering free rides to the Paradise for hikers.

We waited a short while for Lee, Brent, and Blake before calling for our ride.  We joked about how we must smell as we loaded into the

GoPro selfie in the desert

GoPro selfie in the desert

van.

As we ate huge (HUGE) burgers and drank IPA, Evil Goat arrived and told stories while we got stuffed.  He offered to let us spend the night at his place.

Blake and I got the RV and Roi and Sarah got the guest room.  We all shared a beer before passing out.


 

4/20/2014 Day 10 – Zero day – Ride from Anza to Idyllwild, CA

We were up around 7 and drinking coffee in Goat’s kitchen shortly after.  He treated us to coffee cake and Mexican breakfast with chorizo sausage.

We spent the morning talking with each other, hearing many storied from Goat’s experience working in Iraq.  We relaxed.

Enjoying the spoils of a 'hiker box' outside of Anza, CA.

Enjoying the spoils of a ‘hiker box’ outside of Anza, CA.

Before long we were in the car making the climb to Idyllwild where we thanked and said goodbye to Goat.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring town.  We ate ice cream and I found gaiters and sandals.  We also got some beer.

Our room at the Idyllwild Inn is surprisingly nice.  Wish I had more money saved to indulge a bit more in town!

Arctic aka Blake going through his bounce box (or bucket!) in Idyllwild.

Arctic aka Blake going through his bounce box (or bucket!) in Idyllwild.


 

Some additional thoughts…

For anyone hiking the trail this year, I have some advice.  Learn about and visit any and all trail angels.  In my planning process I put very little time into learning about the trail angels that give so much of their time and energy to us thru-hikers.  These people go out of their way to make the experience of hiking much more then just getting from point A to point B.  They are a diverse group of people who all share one common quality – they love the trail and actively support us in our quest to hike it.

The first trail angel that I want to give a special shout out to is Warner Springs Monty.  This former through hiker has a big heart and welcomed up into his home without hesitation.

I first saw his name on a piece of paper that was taped under the overpass at Scissors Crossing.  It was upside down on the concrete wall in front of me and initially, I didn’t even take the time to read it.  After camping near the highway that night, I was preparing my pack the following morning when I finally cocked my head sideways to see what was printed on this piece of paper.  The gist of the note was simple – Monty would pick you up, give you a place to sleep, food, shower, and laundry.  There was no fee although it was suggested that you make a donation based on what you could afford.  In all honestly I thought of this opportunity as a great way to save a little bit of money getting some of my needs met.  I copied down the phone number on the piece of paper before setting off for a long day of hiking.

Eventually I made it to Warner Springs and after a double cheese burger from the resource center, I decided to give Monty a call and see if he had room for me at his house.  A quirky man answered the phone and after I introduced myself, he said something like, ‘I bet you’re looking for some food, a shower, some laundry, and a place to sleep, right?’.  Of course this was exactly what I was looking for and after Monty explained that his house was not a ‘party house’, he said he would be more then happy to pick me up.

Roi and Sarah had already talked to Monty earlier that day and they were planning on going to spend the night at his house also.  We all agreed to a 2 o’clock pick up time and made sure we were all there when Monty arrived.  Another hiker by the trail name Santa’s Helper decided to come with us as well.

When Monty finally rolled up in his old, brown pickup truck, he was not exactly the man I had pictured in my head.  Younger and more spry then he sounded on the phone, Monty burst out of the driver seat and introduced himself.  We asked if we could get a ride to the post office to pick up our resupply packages and he quickly agreed and told us to load up.  I couldn’t immediately locate my ID and fumbled with my pack while I heard Monty say something like ‘I should know better then to wait around for hikers’.  HAH!  I didn’t want to be left behind so I grabbed my whole pack and tossed it in the bed before quickly hopping in myself.  Roi and Blake also jumped in and we were off.

Without going into every other detail of our stay with Monty in painstaking detail I’ll distill our experience into a final paragraph.  Monty turned out to be an amazing host.  His impatience is simply his nature and I learned to love this quality and almost find some humor in it remarking to Amanda, ‘When Monty is ready to go, he is READY TO GO.’  He cooked us breakfast and dinner, piling food on our plates multiple times until we had no room left.  He told us stories of his life, hiking long distances with little weight.  Monty turned out to be an awesome musician, jamming with Roi for about 3 hours, having us sing along with some classics as well as some of his own original songs (all stolen from other musicians he joked).

As Monty drove us back into town so we could continue our hike, I realized something (I think I actually realized it sooner).  This experience was MUCH more then just having an inexpensive place to eat and sleep.  This was the experience of a human being, selflessly sharing his love of something with other people who have that same love.  Travelers and adventurers seek experience, not tangible things.  Monty is that traveler and that adventurer.  He has been formed by the amazing experiences and interactions that only the trail can offer.  He has sought to provide these same experiences for those of us following in the footsteps that he and others have pioneered.  He asks nothing in return.  Enjoying the experience is his toll and it is a rich bounty that money could never purchase.  I want to say, THANK YOU Monty, a hundred times over.  Your caring and enthusiasm has enriched my experience and I only shared your company at mile 109!  I have 2500+ more miles to meet other people like yourself.

Any hikers coming up the trail behind me, give Monty a call and if he has room, stay with him, even if it’s for one evening.  Put some money (it doesn’t have to be a lot) in the donation jug to help him continue doing the amazing things he does for us.

Siestas are a great way to dry out your nasty-ass feet and rehydrate without carrying excessive amounts of water ON the trail.  Tule Spring.

Siestas are a great way to dry out your nasty-ass feet and rehydrate without carrying excessive amounts of water ON the trail. Tule Spring.

The long road to California

The weather is beautiful and sunny here in Southern California. I arrived this morning (March 21st) after a week of adventures in the Southwestern US.  This post will be broken down by destinations and travel days to attempt to make it a bit more reader friendly, enjoy!

Getting on the road

As most of you who have been following my blog are already aware, Megan and I had been planning a ‘spring break’ road trip to California, the dates of which lined up nicely for the start of my PCT thru-hike and Megan’s break from CSU.  After what seemed like months of planning our route, acquiring gear, and and coordinating with friends, March 14th finally arrived and to say we were excited would be an understatement.

While Megan finished up some mid-terms, I organized and loaded the last of our gear into the Forester, a task which proved challenging.  The gear necessary for two people to enjoy a 1300 mile road trip including hiking climbing and camping is substantial.  Add to that everything else that I own, which needed to come with us to California, and you are looking at very little space for the two people who are needed to actually pilot and navigate said car.  It seemed improbable but we managed to fit everything, with a little leg room.

We shifted the car into drive some time around noon and immediately made our first stop at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins.  In addition to the two bombers of La Folie and Tree Shaker that Megan had purloined, we needed to fill her growler, a 64oz. (half gallon) container with some sweet nectar before heading into Utah.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Utah’s liquor laws, lets just say that they make acquiring beer with alcohol percentages higher then 3.2% ‘difficult’.

We ALWAYS have a great time at New Belgium and this visit proved consistent with the past.  Our bartender turned out to be a 2010 Appalachian trail thru-hiker known as ‘Tree’.  Once he heard that I was on my way to California to begin a thru-hike of the PCT, his eyes grew wide and he came alive, recounting his trail experience a few years ago.  We ended up chatting for 45 minutes in which time he offered me that highly valuable information that thru-hiking alumni always seem to posses.  As if that wasn’t enough, Tree wished us well and sent us on our way with tasters and a growler fill, free of charge!  The trail magic had begun and we weren’t even 15 minutes from the start of our road trip.  It is already apparent to me that the community of thru-hikers I am about to immerse myself in are wonderful people.

Beer in hand, we rolled out of Fort Collins towards Boulder to make a few more pit stops before stopping by my friend Jason’s house in Conifer.  I took one last look through some belongings that J is looking after for me.  I grabbed some fly fishing gear and stuffed it god-knows-where in the solid brick of equipment that had become my car before wishing Jason farewell and resuming our momentum West, towards the coast.

Some other highlights of our first day of driving included bar-b-q in South Park, beers in Breckenridge, and an unplanned motel night in Grand Junction.  We had originally planned on driving straight through to Indian Creek that evening to meet up with our friends who we planned on camping with.  Initially I was a little irritated at Megan’s suggestion to stop driving, wanting to get to our destination.  In hindsight, her GOOD idea got us into bed by 11pm, not 2am.  We both got roughly seven hours of sleep, waking up early the next morning to finish the last four hours of driving.

Indian Creek

As climbers, Megan and I had seen pictures, heard stories, and dreamed of the day we would get to climb at the iconic desert sandstone cliffs that are Indian Creek.  This BLM managed piece of land is located in the high desert of South-Eastern Utah.  Heading South through the red rock landscape of Moab, the sun slowly climbed past the horizon and the landscape whispered canyon country.  We wandered across washes and around mesas until turning off the main highway towards an area known as the Newspaper Rock Recreation

Literally on the side of the road.

Literally on the side of the road.

Area.

After climbing through a small window in the sandstone fortress ahead of us, the road angled steeply and drunkenly downwards thrusting us into the canyons below.  Crossing cattle guards and making winding turns led us to the parking area for Newspaper Rock, a sort of community canvas of pictographs and petroglyphs.  Megan and I stopped briefly to snap a few quick photos but resumed our drive, arriving at the Supercrack parking area about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

Upon stepping out of the car, we immediate dug out our down jackets – it was coooold and the parking area was not yet basking in the same sunshine splashing over the sandstone cliffs above.  We had been on the road since 5am and we needed sustenance.  With the Coleman 2-burner set up on the hood, we brewed coffee, Megan had oatmeal, and I ate some granola and yogurt.

After some driving around, we managed to run into Jeramiah and Kevin, our friends we were looking for.  They led us down Beef Basin road to a fantastic camp site right below the Technicolor Wall.  To say this spot was scenic wouldn’t do it justice.  We were tucked right below the massive sandstone walls we would be climbing that afternoon, in the middle of a valley that winded it’s way between buttresses of red iron.  In the distance, snow-dusted peaks showed winter’s reluctance to let go of this stark landscape.  Not long after pulling into camp, our friend Ian came motoring up the road on a dirt bike he was just learning to ride.  He attempted some advanced maneuver which resulted in him laying the bike down immediately in front of the group, resulting in laughter.  It was quite a grand entrance.  We laughed, met new friends, stuffed climbing gear into packs and headed up the ridge line to the Technicolor wall.

Upon arrival, Ian ‘warmed up’ on a fist and off-hands-sized corner that was damn near 60 meters long.  On top-rope I was humbled by the nature of the climbing as my hands were sanded into submission.  No tape could protect me from the ancient sea floor.  Megan and I marveled at the nature of the climbing, managing our way up the climbs but without the style or grace of our friends who have obviously honed their desert crack climbing technique from previous visits.  We were beat down and we were loving it.  The cracks and chimneys that made up this small part of the climbing area kept us occupied until the sun dropped below the canyon walls and we retreated to our barracks for the evening.

Dinner consisted of meat products (meat stick and bacon) in cheesy mac – let the flatulence begin!  We shared 20140321-170147.jpgbeer and good company around a campfire with a million stars overhead.  My night alternated between moments of deep sleep as well as waking – I often sleep this way outdoors, I can’t quite explain it.  In the early morning I listened to the cries of coyotes.

Day two saw us driving towards the Pistol Whipped wall, a bit further down Beef Basin road.  After a steep approach to the base of the cliff, we traversed right until we found some appropriate climbs to warm up on.  I jumped on lead on a short and think finger crack while Ian set up one of the tightest chimneys I have ever climbed.  After a boost of confidence I got to watch Ian onsite a 5.12- finger crack, impressive.  Ian and Jaremiah mentioned a climb called Jolly Rancher when we had initially hiked up to the climbing area for the day and at 5.10, it seemed like a grade I could manage.  After collecting close to 20 cams, I walked around the buttress until a splitter hand crack came into view.  After the previous day I knew that although this line looked beautiful, the climbing would be strenuous and challenging.

20140321-170135.jpgThe first few moves off the ground were difficult – slightly insecure jams with thin feet.  I managed to reach high enough for a solid thumbs-down jam, camming my feet into the crack, finally feeling secure enough to reach down and select a cam.  After a few more moves the climbing eased a bit more and I repeated the process of selecting a cam and protecting my upwards movement.  After about twenty feet I placed one more cam and decided to take a rest.  Crack climbing is really no different then any other type of climbing when you get down to the underlying strategy.  Conserve energy, hold your body close to the rock with your hands and use your feet for upward progress whenever possible.  I have told hundreds of students those very strategies and thankfully Ian and Jeremiah were there reminding me of these basics.  It’s easy to lose sight of the simple things when your forearms feel like they are about to rupture and you are on the sharp end of the rope.

I wish I could say that after that rest I run right up the rest of the climb.  The truth is that it took me about 45 minutes to finish the remaining 120 feet of the route.  Rock climbing can be extremely humbling and this was a perfect case of ‘first time at the Creek’.  I didn’t give up though, thrashing my way up the crack, running out

The Author climbing Jolly Rancher 5.10, Pistol Whipped Wall, Indian Creek, Utah

The Author climbing Jolly Rancher 5.10, Pistol Whipped Wall, Indian Creek, Utah

of small gear when I desperately wanted it right at the end.  After clipping the anchors and being lowered I rested for a long time.  I was beat down but I enjoyed it.  Jamming your way up a splitter crack, in the middle of a blank sandstone face, in the desert turned out to be an excellent experience.  I look forward to next time.

That afternoon Megan and I decided that we ought to continue our journey South to Blanding, Utah.  Our friends were getting on the road back to Salt Lake City that afternoon and we needed gas in the car as well as water and some other food items.  Simultaneously cracking open beers in the parking area, we recounted our experience that day and laughed together.  Ian bestowed upon me some lighter trekking poles for my PCT hike and he and Jeremiah offered to help out with mailing supplies to me on the trail if necessary.  The trail magic continues and I’m not even on the trail yet.

South-Eastern Utah, Butler Wash

After leaving Indian Creek, Megan and I had a short drive South, through Monticello and Blanding, Utah.  We rolled down Butler Wash late Sunday evening and without too much difficulty, found a spot to park the car.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with South-East Utah, amazing Native American ruins and artifacts reside in the sandy, winding canyons that make up this arid landscape.  Butler Wash road, South of Blanding, gives access to Comb Ridge, a sandstone incline punctuated with many easily accessible canyons.  In these canyons you will find many Anasazi ruins as well as petroglyphs, pictographs, potshards, and many other artifacts.  The Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau, by Michael R. Kelsey, is a fantastic resource.

20140321-170216.jpg

Since we were climbing nearby, exploring some of the cultural past that Utah has to offer seemed like a fun and relaxing option (not to mention convenient, less then an hour from Indian Creek).  After a productive morning, cleaning and organizing the car as well as cooking bacon and eggs in cast iron over our campfire, we were feeling motivated to do some walking.  We quickly learned (or maybe I already knew) that BLM land often has limited signage.  Having neglected to reset the odometer on the car as we turned off the main road, 20140321-170255.jpgfiguring out the specific turns to access the ruins we were looking for proved challenging.  While I drove aimlessly down the dirt road, Megan glassed Comb ridge with her binoculars and suggested that we take one of the side roads to our West.  Leaving the main road and heading towards Comb Ridge, we eventually found a parking area with trail markers.  With water and cameras in our packs, we began the pleasant walk towards the canyons.

Within five minutes sandstone walls rose on both sides, funneling us towards the cool shade of the alcoves and brush within the confines of the canyon ahead.  We continued down the well-worn path, eventually cross in front of a sign the warned ‘do not disturb cultural resources’.  We were on the right path.  A few more minutes of walking and the canyon opened.  We didn’t see the ruins immediately, they blended into the orange and red rock which they were perched on.  Upon closer inspection, we could now see an overhanging alcove with two levels.  Stone and mud walls were carefully perched on the edge of each level, offering a living space for what appeared to be multiple family groups.

Upon closer inspection we found pieces of pottery, stone flakes from the creation of tools and grinding marks 20140321-170232.jpgfrom processing grain (we guessed).  The walls of the canyons nearby were inscribed with carved images known as petroglyphs depicting events long passed.  As we climbed among the old structures we imagined the people who made this place their home and wished we were so lucky to live in a canyon as beautiful as this.

As we began out walk out of this location, our attention to detail had shifted and we now saw many more petroglyphs on the walls that we had previously passed.  It’s amazing how these ancient pieces of artwork could be sitting right in front of us and go unnoticed.  We had gotten a late start this morning and wanted to visit at least one more canyon before getting on the road.  Getting back to our car, we consulted the map and picked another side road to explore.

The next trail that we found led us to an area known as Monarch cave, one of the deeper and more expansive alcoves we had seen containing similar structures.  This particular site had some features that we had not previously seen including wood incorporated into the stone dwellings as supports and also as roofing.  We found some grinding plates as well as lots and LOTS of carved and drawn images on the nearby walls.

20140321-170322.jpgAfter our cultural exploration was complete, we headed back to Blanding to pick up an atlas and some food items.  We needed an oil change and a destination.  After talking to the caretaker for a local RV campground, we decided to drive a little further to the town of Bluff, to find a campground that might offer showers and internet.  Bluff didn’t disappoint and we were able to get cleaned up and upload email a few photos to our friends and family.

The Grand Canyon

Megan and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Southeastern Utah, but with California in the distance, we had to get on the road and put some more miles behind us. Morning saw us rolling across the Navajo nation through Monument Valley and ultimately ending at the Grand Canyon.

Prior to starting our road trip I had attempted to contact a good friend of mine who has been on a road trip for the past 10 months.  Craig retired, and now that he is receiving social security, he is living his life on the road!  I am impressed that someone such as Craig is able to find happiness and peace living a simple life, enjoying the National Parks and other Federal lands from the comfort of his tent.  I wish more people could see how much value exists in a life lived this way.

As we climbed the long road out of the desert up to the entrance station to the park, I mentioned to Megan that I had not yet successfully gotten in touch with Craig.  His daughter told me that we would find him at the Grand Canyon but knowing Craig, he could be anywhere in the Southwest soaking in the sun in his camping chair.  We took a chance and headed towards the campgrounds on the South Rim, hoping to find my friend.

There are over 250 designated camp sites on the South Rim and we started with number 1.  Megan and I drove slowly around the loops looking for the green Tacoma and L.L. Bean tent.  Winding through the pines, we searched every corner of the campground loops without much luck.  Occasionally we would see a promising site, but no luck, Craig was nowhere to be found.  Driving through the last loop, I was feeling a bit discouraged, preparing myself for the task of finding our own site and setting up all of our equipment when we saw something promising.  Through the trees a big, 70’s style tent came into view, complete with a tanned, shirtless dude, sitting in a camp chair, his white handlebar mustache almost fluorescent in the afternoon sun.

Craig’s familiar smile crept onto his face as he waved hello and we stepped out of the car to greet him.  It was

We found our friend Craig, livin' the life, resident at the Grand Canyon and loving it!

We found our friend Craig, livin’ the life, resident at the Grand Canyon and loving it!

really wonderful seeing Craig who I originally met working in Boulder, Colorado, trimming marijuana in a dimly-lit warehouse.  The two of us hit it off, with similar life experiences and a love of the outdoors.  I was so happy to introduce Megan and the three of us immediately drank a few beers and shared stories from the road.

Craig was happy to have us stay at his site and he offered to let us sleep in his tent as he was using the back of his truck.  We gladly obliged, saving us some time and allowing us to kick back and enjoy some beers.  That afternoon we all hiked to the rim where we watched the sun retreat behind the horizon, painting the canyon walls orange, red, and magenta.

The following morning Craig headed into town for gas and other provisions while Megan and I had a dense pancake breakfast.  We discussed our options and decided that a nice day hike on the Bright Angel Trail would give us a taste of what the Canyon had to offer.  Packing our gear for the day we made sure to put a couple beers in our packs to enjoy during lunch.  Megan and I hit the trailhead at 10:30 and began our descent.

The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails in the Canyon, eventually winding it’s way down to Phantom Ranch.  As we began our hike, it was clear that the trail was manufactured, carved into the steep side of the upper canyon.  The more switchbacks we rounded, the warmer the air got and the fewer other park visitors we encountered.  We were headed to Indian Gardens, a campground part way down the trail.  Amazingly, there are MULTIPLE bathrooms and water filling stations on the way down the trail (in just 3 miles).  While I laughed and joke with Megan that we better get our $25 worth, it occurred to me that multiple guests probably would have died without these services.  While the existence of these structures don’t exactly lend themselves to creating a wilderness experience, I remembered that this was not a wilderness, this was a park.  There is an obvious difference.

Megan and I eventually made it to Indian Gardens which felt like an oasis, complete with flowering shrubs, Grand Canyon NP sunsetsinging birds, and flowing water.  We had brought PLENTY of water and didn’t need a refill.  Instead we continued on towards Plateau Point, our halfway point and planned destination.  Our new trail diverged from the Bright Angel Trail, and we became further removed from the crowds.  Park visitors were replaced with barrel and prickly pear cactus as the hiking became nearly flat.  Megan and I covered the remaining mile, ending at a beautiful rock point overlooking the Colorado river 2000 feet below.

Megan and I ate some lunch and fended off ground squirrels with my trekking poles, those little bastards, I wanted to smack them over the cliff near by.  It occurred to me that the ‘chiselers’ are only so food agressive because of all the park visitors that have fed them in the past.  While keeping a close eye on our packs, Megan and I snapped a bunch of photos and took some time to relax before beginning our 3000 foot climb back to the canyon rim.  By the time we reached the end of our 12 mile hike, we had both worked up a substantial appetite and immediately began cooking food when we got to camp.

Enjoying refreshments at Plateau Point, GCNP.

Enjoying refreshments at Plateau Point, GCNP.

Our final evening with Craig was enjoyed around a campfire, drinking good beers and sipping some red corn and oat bourbon we brought all the way from Fort Collins.  Megan and I wanted to stay longer and do more hiking and exploring but Megan had some family events to attend and needed to get to the airport in Las Vegas by 3 the next afternoon.  In the morning, right before getting on the road, Craig bestowed upon me a ‘lucky’ coin that has been in his possession for 40 years.  This gesture of generosity and thoughtfulness is a perfect example of Craig’s nature.  He is thoughtful and selfless and we were happy to spend some time in his presence, soaking in the sun in the freedom of the outdoors.

 

Las Vegas, Joshua Tree and the West Coast

We continue rolling forwards, the solid mass of gear that is my car carrying us across the arid landscape towards the most unsustainable city EVER.  This black hole continuously grows bigger, sucking the life out of the Colorado River, beaming electric sex into the atmosphere and the minds of those poor souls that succumb to it’s draw like moths to a light.  This is Vegas.  We pointed the car straight at it and hit cruise..

When we saw the signs for the Hoover dam, it only made sense to burn extra gas exiting the highway to go back in the direction we just came from to see the biggest pile of concrete man has ever crapped out onto the

surface of this beautiful planet.  This massive wall would ultimately stop you if you traveled the length of the Grand Canyon and continued across lake Mead (not a lake but a reservoir).  We looked for the free parking, ran to the edge of the precipice, snapped a picture and got back on the road.  We needed a cheap buffet, probably the only positive thing that place has ever or will ever do for me.

After filling up on the mediocrity that was ‘best Vagas buffet’ or some similar ironic title, we rolled on towards the airport where Megan caught her flight to Florida.  I immediately got on the road towards California, intent to leave the city and get back to the more wild places.  Megan and I had initially planned on doing some climbing in Red Rock Canyon but now that my partner was in the air headed towards the East Coast, I couldn’t see the appeal in hanging around (unable to climb).

California was close and I reached Barstow quickly.  I continued on through the desert, the vegetation changing slowly until Joshua trees abounded and the park felt within my grasp.  I passed the fee station at 8 o’clock and drove on, through the rocks and ridges, looking for a place to camp for the night.  This quickly proved to be more difficult then I expected, surprising for a Thursday evening.

I drove from one campground to the next, cruising every loop without any luck – EVERY single campsite was full.  When I say full I don’t necessarily mean that the sites were packed with tents.  Instead, every single site had a paper ticket on the site number post, showing that someone had reserved it or paid for it prior to my arrival.  As my frustration mounted, my driving speeds increased, carrying me through every campground in the park with no luck.  Eventually I parked at the group camping area, threw my pad on the ground, forgoing a tent, and fell asleep with troubled thoughts.

Awaking to the sound of an owl, just before sunrise, I quickly packed up and looked for a good spot to photograph the changing light.  A few nice photos were the only thing I was motivated to accomplish that morning and after some difficult communications, I decided to leave the crowded park (in favor of LA? geeze…) and continued my road trip to it’s Western terminus.  It only took roughly 3 hours to get from Joshua Tree to my Father’s house.  I had made it.

Stunning sunrise, J Tree NP

Stunning sunrise, J Tree NP

Our trip from Colorado to California ended up being a bit shorter then we originally planned, but Megan and I had a fulfilling and wonderful time sharing the company of each other as well as our friends.  We had the pleasure of spending a few days together in LA when Megan flew back out to enjoy the last three days of her spring break.  We hiked, climbed, and explored the city.

Where one trip ends, another begins, and this is far from the end for either of us.  My head is literally ready to melt after writing this article although reliving the experience in the confines of my mind has been a blast.  The Pacific Crest Trail is 2 weeks away and I’m on the cusp of starting something great.  Thanks for following along so far and I hope you all read along as I take the next big leap.  Stay adventurous my friends!

Adventure #1: Ouray & British Columbia

I’ve been wanting to write a blog article for some time now but have been struggling with finding free time.  I have been putting of writing because my computer is broken and I have been attempting to blog from my iPad.  I’ve also been busy.  I just got back to Colorado on Monday the 20th after a couple weeks of traveling.

My most recent trip began by driving West – headed to South-Western Colorado; Ouray.  As you near this awesome little town, the San Juan mountains come into view and you instantly know these mountains are different then the Front Range.  Different colors and layers are visible in the strata that rise up on both sides of Main Street.  Our plan was to stay in Ouray for a couple days, camping one night and ice climbing at the ice park both days before dashing back to Fort Collins.

Day one was mostly an opportunity to find a campsite as well as figure out the details

Welcome to Ouray

Welcome to Ouray

regarding the ice park.  It turns out that there is no fee for climbing (unless you want to become a member to support the park) and that ice farmers turn on sprinkler heads at roughly 4 o’clock every night to fatten up the walls and pillars of ice that drip down into the narrow box canyon.  Camp Bird road turned up some easy car camping opportunities and after stomping out a platform to pitch our tent, we headed back to town for a beer at the local brewery.  Their brown ale was fantastic.

We did some bouldering on a small wall right next to the upper bridge to warm up before I jumped on lead for a short pitch to set up a top-rope for Megan and I to do some laps.  The climbing was pleasant with warm temperatures making the ice climbing secure.  After the warm up we headed to steeper and longer lines in the ice park a little way above the upper Climber at Ouray Ice Parkbridge.  Our final day involved each of us top-roping some even steeper climbing, my route involving some steep mushroom formations and Megan’s climb following some steep and thin sections with exposed rock.

Although there were a lot of other things we wanted to do such as check out the hotsprings and explore more of the park, we needed to make our way back to the Front Range to pack and start our drive to BC the next day.  Things felt somewhat rushed but at the same time we were very excited to be on the road to some awesome skiing.

After a near sleepless night filled with packing and figuring out last-minute details, we got up nice and early to meet the other folks that were driving up to BC with us.  This whole trip was organized by the CSU Outdoor club and was open to anyone (non-students like myself included).  We rented minivans and packed an improbable amount of gear and

Driving to Canada

Driving to Canada

people into them.  I was shocked that we were able to fit everything.

Day one of driving was 10 hours ending in Montana.  Day two we crossed the Canadian border (the border guards do not like jokes) and drove 11 hours, arriving in Golden, Canada at about 11 o’clock that evening.  Checking into the Dreamcatcher hostel was a blast – we rented the whole place for our group.  The hostel owners were really wonderful and accommodating of our group, making us feel right at home.  One bit of advice – buy beer and booze before entering Canada – there are not many craft breweries up there and the crappy light American beer that is available goes for up to $50+ for a 24 pack.

Powder selfie at Kicking Horse ResortOur first day of skiing Kicking horse resort was great with a soft base and surprisingly steep terrain.  Welcome to BC.  That evening the upper parts of the mountain got roughly 1.5 feet with another 6-8 inches falling during the day and it took every ounce of energy I had to ski powder with 4000+ feet of vertical descent every top to bottom run. On our third day in Golden we took a drive with two friends on the Ice Fields parkway which led us all the way to Jasper where we got some beer and food.  The drive gave us some SPECTACULAR views of the rugged Canadian Rockies complete with hanging glaciers, 1000 foot frozen waterfalls and the occasional view of the Columbia Ice Sheet.

After our time in Golden I managed to get in one day of backcountry skiing in Yoho National Park which provided me with some of the best powder turns I have ever experienced.  Next we drove over Rogers Pass on our way to Revelstoke, another amazing Canadian ski area.

Boot-pack at Revelstoke

Boot-pack at Revelstoke

Revelstoke boats the most vertical of any ski mountain in North America, over 5000 feet.

Ski touring in Yoho National Park, Canada.

Ski touring in Yoho National Park, Canada.

Although the snow was similar to spring conditions in Colorado (they hadn’t received any substantial snow since the Friday before we arrived) the terrain was awesome and the scenery  top-notch.  The town had some great food including one of the best sushi restaurants I have eaten at in a long time.

Driving back to Colorado was uneventful and took a long time.  At this point I am officially moved out of my house so I am technically homeless – couch surfing it for the foreseeable future.  Right now I am packing and organizing gear in Conifer, Colorado, getting ready for a trip to Utah for some skiing and backpacking (possibly in Canyonlands NP).  Will work on updating the blog more frequently.  Until next time friends!