Friday, August 31, 2012

Road Trip Day 6 and 7: Yosemite

After going to the beach, we drove down through the Redwoods.

Literally, through the Redwoods.

And ended up in Russell's Disneyland otherwise known as the Yosemite Valley

We spent the afternoon hiking around and oogling the granite giants.

We then went for a swim. Since we had been road tripping, our car was a bit of a mess and we had a ton of food in there. I was worried about the bears until I saw how many people were around and figured there was no way a bear would come by all of the people. 

As we paddled around the river with about 150 others, a bear ambled its way right on past a group of Asian tourists (who later scampered through the woods in their bikinis, chasing the animal down trying to get a picture with it...seriously...its a bear, run! and not towards it!).

After that I was pretty paranoid about coming back to broken windows, so we headed back to our car and started trying to find a place to camp.

We scoped out camp 4, but it was full of families with hardly a climber in site (which really is the only romance of the pit hole known as camp 4), so we headed up the valley to a campground Russ and his buddy Dallas camped at when they were there. 

We lost the sun as we ascended out of the valley and arrived at the campground in pitch darkness. Finding flocks of children darting across the roadway in the darkness, led us to parking our car and meandering through the campground trying to find a spot to sleep. We found one open site and figured it was because a large Mexican family (30+ people) had gathered their cars nearby and were blaring Mariachi music to the stars and their local sleeping campers.

I hopped onto the table to wait for Russ to pull the car around when one of the Mother's from the large group walked up to me with a swarm of little kids running around her and informed me they were renting the space for the use of the bear box, she then opened it to show that it was packed to the brim with alcohol "food".

So, we headed out.

We ran into another family who was in our same predicament and they informed us they had just pulled their cars into the trees and were setting up their tents there in a non-site.

Looking at their chocolate smeared children holding giant marshmallows in each hand, I asked the dad (who was holding and eating a whole wheel of cheese, awesome) if there was a random bear box there. He said no, but it was OK they just put all of their food in their car. He then told us we could set up camp next to them. Looking again at his group of little bear snacks kids, we politely declined, drove away. Pulled over to the side of a road and slept in our car hoping the bears wouldn't break in and get our crackers...or rip through the chocolate covered children's tents.


We successfully made it through the night and climbed at Swan Slab (after meandering around trying to find a short cut to the Grack for a good hour), I got attacked by a giant bug; from which a kind old gentlemen saved me life by swatting it off my rope and stomping it into the ground. Russ got a little souvenir caribiner and promises to come back in peak climbing season when there were actually climbers in camp four. 

We then made our way out to stay with some family friends for the night and hit up SIX FLAGS the next day.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Road Trip Day 5: our fiasco in the woods

Instead of spending the night at Smith Rock after a long day of climbing, we decided to pop on over to the Oregon coast, since Russ had never been there.

We found a free campground in Coos Bay on our GPS and decided to make the four hour drive and set up camp around 11 or 12 that night.


I'm a little infamous for falling asleep on road trips when I'm supposed to be navigating (just ask Russ about our first trip to Leavenworth when we were 17...he'll gladly tell ya all about it) so, to prevent myself from falling asleep, I bought a Dr. Pepper.

This just happened to be the night that I found out that after I drink caffeine to keep myself awake, and after it fails and sleep starts to win the battle...I start getting really, really paranoid. 

Good thing I never did drugs. I'd be carazay. 

We find the dirt road turn off for the campground around 11:30 and head on into the woods. The road is extremely narrow, the sky has clouded over with fog from the bay nearby and the moss covered trees are starting to make me feel more than a tad claustrophobic, when the thought hits me.


What if big foot, friggin BIG.FOOT. comes and gets us?
I'm freakin out kids.

Full on, approaching panic attack, freaking out.


We'd been driving down the dirt road further and further into these spooky woods when we realize, we've already driven 40 miles, we have to turn around or the campground has to show up soon. We come to a fork in the road with one fork blocked off by a fence, so we take the road to the left only to find the road to have been plowed into a big open space with all the shoveled around dirt piled in front of the continuing road.

At this point, we admit defeat and begin backtracking to a spot where our GPS would work again. Russell keeps insisting that I can fall asleep,that he is fine, but I insist on staying awake blabbering like a skitzo fool.

When, all of a sudden, I feel something huge crawling up my leg.

"Okay" I tell myself. "You've been being paranoid, it's probably just a string or something".
So, I bravely and calmly move my hand towards the thing crawling on me, pretty convinced at this point that there is just some inanimate object on my leg.


"There's a bug"
"Did you get it?"
"No, Russell...there's a bug"

Fully registering that there is a half-dollar sized creature scurrying its way up my flesh, I scream

and I smacked that bug right off of my leg. Russ slams on the breaks, turns on the cab light and hops out of the car while I scamper into the driver's seat just as the gargantuan beast attempts to crawl up and under the glove box compartment. 

Luckily for me, and unluckily for the giant stink-bug-beetle-satan-spawn, Russ is quick and pulled out his pocket knife, flipped out the pliers, grabbed its leg and flung it off into the woods to be eaten by Sasquatch.

When we finally got out of the woods and back onto a paved road, we headed straight to our newly-favorited-trusty camping spot...another Wal-Mart parking lot.

Luckily, the beach was gorgeous the next day and there were no more bugs in the car:

On to the Redwoods and the most Redneck experience of our trip...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Road Trip Day 4: Smith Rock

We arrived at Smith Rock in the middle of the night, only being able to guess at where the cliffs were. We couldn't see anything. After scouting around for a campground, we found a place at the Bivouac campground about 8 miles from the park entrance, pitched our tent, hunkered down and got ready for an awesome day of climbing to come.

There were giant, quarter sized, stink bug type beetles all over the campground, but no mosquitoes so it turned out nice.

Smith Rock!

Russ playing around on the base of To Bolt or Not To Be: 5.14a, the first 5.14 climbed in America on record. Note the lack of...anything to haul yourself up with.

We did several climbs on Cinnamon slab and got nice and toasted in the sun, had a quick shady lunch and headed over to the nearby gorge to find a crack to climb. We ran into a large group of French people who were just starting the climb (the only other people in the gorge, climbing the only climb we were interested in, the odds.)

It ended up being a horrible sketchy bust, so after that little fiasco, we washed our hands and feet in the river and decided to head out to the Oregon coast that night instead of the next day.

We made lunch in the car and we located a free campground just outside of Coos bay on our phones, set the GPS and headed out through Mount Hood National Forest and down some really narrow, windy roads that got a little scary after dark.

Seeing as how the day of climbing went mostly without a hitch, we should have known we were in for some sort of epic to make up for it.

oh yea, cliffhanger.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Seattle and Portland and driving and driving.

After waking up refreshed in our muggy little hatch backed Jebby, in a quaint and downright picturesque Wal-Mart parking lot (after getting freaked out by some creepers that night) We set out to explore Seattle.

We hit up a couple of familiar places from our honey moon, had an amazing lunch of mish-mashed Pike's Place goodies including jalapeno ballilos and a pint of raspberries, played Sequence at McDonalds when we got tired of walking and picked Aubrey up from work and headed back to her place where she made an awesome dinner for us.

We hit up cupcake royale and an arcade by the pier then tucked in for the night while watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. (If you haven't heard of it, educate yourself. If you have, we'd probably be friends)

Around ten the next morning, we headed in to Portland to explore the goods of Saturday market and to experience our first sushi/conveyor belt...thing. It was awesome. 

...of to Smith Rock!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An Epic in Index: Part/Pitch Two

After surviving the depths of Mordor (see previous post), Russ was all racked up to start the second pitch. As far as multi-pitches go, this first pitch hadn't been so bad. 

A little mis-communication, minimal blood lost, a quick glimpse into Hade's humble abode. 
Things were going great.


Russ begins the overhung section of the climb, which the guidebook labels "an awkward move for the grade" and places several pieces of gear purely for directional purposes (to guide the rope so it doesn't drag over sharp rock...((more on the sharp rock later))...and another). The second pitch takes Russ a little longer, and our communication is still shoddy because of the frequent train passing, but I finally hear him call 'off belay'. I tie in and Russell automatically pulls me tight (once again, I'm a newby wuss, so Russ usually keeps the rope tight when he can't see me while I second a climb). 

Unfortunately, the pieces of gear he left in to guide the rope are now pulling me off the little belay ledge I had perched myself on and are now pulling me towards what would turn out to be a nasty pendulum swing into an impressively menacing out-cropping of jagged rocks. Fun!

As I begin to call for more slack in the rope, a train barrels past, blaring its horn at the several road crossings. Russ can't hear me. I'm shaking from holding on to the rock in attempts to keep myself from swinging into the group of stone tomahawks, and of course this train is especially long and Russell is still (as would be beneficial in most other cases when I have followed on a climb) pulling the rope tight. So, I decide to myself I just have to climb this part faster than he can pull the rope super tight. He can't hear me, and I can't just cling to this rock forever. So, off I go. I remove the gear pulling me to the right and into the rocks, only to find myself in a tensioned position with no further hand holds. 

Still under the overhang and out of Russell's sight and earshot, I do the only thing I can think of doing. I cut the rope. 

What? Just kidding. How dumb do you think I am? C'mon kids, cut me some slack (get it? No? psh)

I cried. 

So there I am, stuck under this overhang, bawling my little eyes out trying to call out to Russ who can only hear me in short bursts, and I know that I have to keep climbing (that sounds so pathetically dramatic, this case.. is pitifully accurate) I finally pull the roof and find myself face to face with a hold-less slab of rock. 

Psyched out, crying and tired I can finally see Russell who is looking at me like I'm some sort of pitiful wet kitten trying to escape a deep tub of shallow water. After shuffling back and forth on an inch wide ledge about three feet long, I finally figure out I can down climb to some holds and traverse over to the start of the crack. 

Once I get to the crack, I remember, I really, really suck at climbing cracks. I mean I'm not awesome at climbing in general (I crush 5.9s outside on a good day...a REALLY good day) but I completely fail at hand cracks. 

Getting a little better grip on myself, I've controlled the sobs to super pathetic wimpers and a touch of psycho babble. 
"you're ok, you're ok, you're ok, you're really high and you're going to die and here comes another train but you're ok."

I jam my fists and feet into the crack and begin climbing, only to slide back down the 5 feet I had come over the course granite slab surrounding the crack. This may have been the most melodramatic time of my entire life, but people, really, like honestly...I thought the end was nigh. So, I lay flat against the cliff and cry some more. Until I can hear Russell quietly repeating, "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry. Please don't cry, you're ok. I'm so sorry. I'm going to try and come down." 

Then I just felt like a jerk. Here I am hanging out with the sweetest guy in the whole world, ruining a perfectly good climbing adventure on the first day of our road trip, 30 feet from the top of a climb, bawling like a baby. 

So I pulled up my big girl pants, tightened my shoes, sniffled my last sniffle and laybacked the crack (where you hold on to one side of the crack, one hand above the other, lay your weight against the pull of your hands and then push with your feet to create enough tension to shuffle your hands and feet up the crack, yes it is as hardcore as it sounds...for once) and got to Russell. 

Where he looked like someone suffering from the remorse of clubbing a baby seal, but also totally impressed with said baby seals...climbing....anyway.
We hung out at the top of the climb for a little while until my snot stopped running and my eyes stopped stinging. 

He gave me a big hug, we descended the climb, drove through some amazing wooded area and ended up sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot instead of by the hippies.


And this is why my mother worries about me traipsing about in the woods. 

On to Seattle!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Epic in Index: Part One

About halfway between Leavenworth and Seattle, Washington along US-2 West is a little...

let me try again..

tiny podunk town; where the only building aside from a tour service and city hall is a gas station/Asian barbecue restaurant/post office/grocery store...

and is also home to some gargantuan granite cliffs.


So, naturally; we were there to climb.

Now, before I get started reliving this little gem of an adventure; let me just tell you that Russ and I have NEVER had a successful multi-pitch experience. Why? We don't know. We're great partners in all other aspects of our life, but for some reason multi-pitches do us in when we are together. Seperate:fine, dandy. Together: disaster and tears.

So, with that in mind...enjoy my elaboration on, yet another, failed multi-pitch epic.


We get in to Index around 3, just as things are starting to think about cooling off, we had our climb all picked out, something easy--with our horrible track record with multi-pitches, we knew we were already pushing our luck,so we kept the grade low. 

We scoured out a place to camp that night, next to a hippy van that looked like it had been established in the 70's and passed down by great-grand-hippy to his love child's, love child.

We got to the cliff base around 4:30 with plenty of light and slightly cooler rock. Perfect timing. A British husband and wife were just starting the first pitch on the climb we were looking at when we arrived, so we chatted with the wife and watched them climb. The wife had a bit of difficulty on the start of the second pitch and again towards the top where a slanted hand crack ascended to the anchors. Her troubles worried me a little bit, but at that point, I was sick of getting eaten by mosquitoes and just wanted out of the brush, so I assured Russ I was good to go, and harnessed up to belay. 

After a tricky, stemmy, slopey start; Russ flew up the first pitch, out of sight over a ledge and called 'off belay' when he went in direct to the anchors. I yelled back ok, and he began pulling the rope. When I had the end in my hand I gave it a tug and told him I had the end, so I began tying in but he kept pulling the rope. Again, I tugged and told him I had the end and to hold on, but he pulled the rope faster. 

Confused and fed up with being eaten alive by carnivorous insects, I let go of the rope and sat down in exasperation. A few minutes later Russ called down in a tentative voice "uh...are you ok?"
"Yea, just fine. Do your thing." 
Mayhaps my retort was a little bit snarky and pouty, but how can I really remember when I was getting destroyed by swarms of blood suckers and deafened by trains that ran past literally every 10 minutes. 

Russ rapped down with a confused look on his face and checked again if I was ok and asked why I didn't second the climb. I informed him of his hasty rope pulling and he informed me that he was unable to hear me because of the trains and their continuing echo above the treeline. 

Really, really, wanting to be a good sport, I insisted we try the route again and go for the top anchors. Unsure of the difficulty at the start of the climb (let's face it, I'm a n00b) Russ insisted I top rope the first pitch just for fun, to both of our surprise, I had no difficulty with the start and flew up the first half of the climb.


I came to the back door of the deepest depths of Mordor. For reals kids, it was freaky. 

The temperature was somewhere in the mid 80's outside, but from this deep, mossy, crevice came the stench of rotting flesh carried on an icy wind that blasted out of the earth and instantly gave me goose bumps. The air coming out of there couldn't have been any warmer than 50 degrees. It was chilling in the creepiest of ways. 

Freaking myself out with all the ungodly things that could drudge their way up from the dark stench of this abyss I scampered away and up over the ledge to the anchors. 

After rappelling back to Russ off of some giant metal anchors left over from when there had been a surrounding rock quarry, we set up to climb again, this time to the top. Russ flies up the pitch and I quickly follow (holding my breath and staying as far as I could from the toxic freeze chamber) and we get set up for a comfortable belay for the second pitch...

If only I had taken the deathly chill cave as an omen...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not all who wander...

We woke up at seven and were out the door by eight, Jebby was packed to the brim with a bed roll, gear, and enough peanut butter and jelly sandwich supplies to last us for weeks.

The first morning drive was quiet, except for the sound of our somewhat-traditional pre-adventure cd playing. 

Our first stop was to our quaint (and somewhat kitschy) town of Leavenworth, we visited the Cheese Monger and ate our traditional picnic of cheese, apples, crackers and chocolate at a little park by the river. 

After such a scheduled semester, it was almost unnerving to have absolutely nothing solidly planned for the next several weeks. At some point we'd be in Seattle, some point Portland, Smith Rock, the beach, California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and at some point we'd come home. 

The only strict plans were to fulfill our road trip bucket list, and only then could we return home to finish unpacking/settling in and start up our jobs, and saving money, and figuring out what we actually need to do with our lives in the near future. But, for the next few weeks, all we had to worry about was making the most of our time together wherever we may end up.

Little did I know, the first day of our little extended trip would start with an epic...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012