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A few Trips fall 2001 AKA trips with Marieke

Marieke on a 5.10b at rock creek
picture of marieke at rock creek
Immediately after leaving the White mountains I went climbing with Marieke, Sue, Craig, Skip, Brian, Laura… (a bunch) at rock creek. We started out at the Iris Slab to get my climbing head back in order on some moderates. Then we joined the others at the main wall.

The next day we hiked up to Bishop Pass from the southern end of the road. We were planning on climbing a peak, but the time was a little tight, so we opted for the more relaxed hike and getting back when we were planning to meet Craig and Sue rather than being late. The Sierra scenery was spectacular, especially with the Aspens turning gold.

Yosemite Thanksgiving.

The weather looked doubtful, but the most recent forecast wasn’t too grim, so we decided to go for it. "It" was a trip to Yosemite. We (Marieke and I) departed San Diego Nov 20 in the afternoon. The traffic was heavy, but never really slowed down too much. The most amazing thing was seeing gas at 95.9 cents a gallon in Bakersfield. What a change from a year ago. We stopped after dark in the national forest in a spot I had found earlier. The night was cool and mostly clear. There was even some sun in the morning. That didn’t last. By the time we entered the park, it was completely overcast and shortly after that a light drizzle began. Yucko.

We stopped at the overlook after passing through the tunnel, then on to camp IV which was not full at all. We set up the tent and a tarp, then headed to the tuolumne grove of giant sequoias. This was a bit of a walk in the rain (with umbrellas). The trees were impressive, but there were only about 25 of them, definitely not the grove I was thinking of. Still, impressive big trees, and rather different with low clouds and rain. Then we went to see if we could find a weather forecast and some aerogrammes. The forecast didn’t look too good, the post office was closed. We headed back to cook up dinner. It was raining harder, so I worked on hanging another tarp over the tent while Marieke trenched around the tent to help keep the sheetflow from going under the tent. Eventually we had mostly succeeded. After dinner we headed to the lodge to sit by a fire and dry off. It rained steadily all night.

Marieke and the high Sierras
picture of Marieke and the high Sierras

Conditions didn’t look too promising for climbing, since it had been raining steadily for 24 hours. So we decided on some day hiking. This involved lower Yosemite falls, mirror lake and Vernal falls. We also worked on solving a number of brain teasers while hiking. The rain wasn’t as steady, but it never really dried up either. After the hiking, we stopped at the Ahwahnee hotel to see how the other 5 percent lived and get some hot chocolate. There were heaps of vary dresssed up people taking pictures and going to the Thanksgiving dinner. After our own unpretentious dinner we went ice skating over by camp curry. The rink was pretty small, rutted, and crowded, but it was fun.

Friday we decided to leave due to the threat of a sever winter storm blowing that evening. By the time we had packed up, it was sunny, so we stopped at the Manure Pile to climb "after 6" which was mostly dry, although it was somewhat dirty. After that I ran over to recover some gear abandoned a bit up the first pitch of nutcracker. It turns out it was right next to a bee nest, so I just gingerly recovered the draw and left the nut. Then we made a stop to walk up to the base of el cap and out into el cap meadow before leaving the park. Driving took a lot longer than expected, and eventually we stopped at basalt campground in a state park. Once again it started raining in the night.

It wasn’t actually raining in the morning so we tried to dry things out, but it started raining before we finished. Shortly after we started driving it started storming rather impressively. I tried to dodge some of the tumbleweeds flying by, but others were not to be avoided. Then it got worse. Visibility dropped and the gusts pushed the little truck back and forth. We were mostly heading into the wind, and that slowed us even further. Eventually we got through to where we could decide whether to go along the coast or cut more directly south. We decided on the latter, so of course it soon cleared up somewhat, with even a few bits of sunshine and rainbows. We cut over to the coast eventually, and headed down to Santa Barbara. It seemed like every time we wanted to stop, it would start raining. From there we headed up into the mountains to a campground. That evening we managed a bit of a walk before it started drizzling again.

Amazingly enough the next morning was sunny. While cooking breakfast we made some effort to dry everything out. Then we drove to the start of a mountain bike loop (upper Oso?). Part of this loop was also used by gas powered OHVs, but it wasn’t too longer before we left that part for some singletrack. Things were a bit muddy, and we had to walk around a few washed out sections, but mostly things went pretty smoothly. Then we started going uphill. That wasn’t too bad, but it was a bit more work, then we hit the sticky mud. That was bad. It stuck to the tires and rolled up like a snowball until the tires were wedged against the brakes. We disconnected the brakes which helped briefly until it wedged against the frame. That was a pain. We found that if we scraped it off, we could walk the bicycles in the grass to the side of the trail without too much trouble. Eventually we passed the zone of evil mud and were able to ride again. There were still a number of areas that had bad mud or were too steep, but we were mostly moving at a decent pace. Eventually we got to the top of the trail where we stopped to enjoy the view and to eat lunch, this was a bit of a mistake as clouds had moved in and there was a breeze and by the time we finished eating we were both cold. The trail was almost all downhill from here, so the chances for warming up weren’t too good. We hit a road fairly quickly, and zoomed on down. The mud wasn’t wrapping up on our tires, but it was enough to slow us significantly. This was probably just as well, as we’d have been riding the brakes a lot if it wasn’t the case. We were passed by a number of dirt bikes and four wheelers, but it wasn’t too bad and we got down a whole lot faster than we got up. Then we loaded up the bikes and headed off back to San Diego. The traffic was heavy, but once again it never really slowed down below 50 or so and we made very good time much to our surprise.

Trip to Las Vegas area (Dec 7-10)

I drove to Las Vegas from Joshua Tree starting Thursday evening with a stop near granite pass (looks like some climbing potential). I got to Las Vegas pretty early in the morning so I stopped for groceries and at a bookstore. I picked up Marieke at the airport although somehow she snuck out when I wasn’t looking. We went to the library on a mission to copy the topo for Frogland. Then wandered around the strip a bit eventually eating a buffet. Then we waddled back to the car and drove out to black velvet canyon. I got a bit lost on the dirt roads on the way out but eventually found the parking space.

We got up early to get on the climb as the days were short and I have heard lots of descent epic stories from the red rocks canyons. Frogland is rated 5.8 and is pretty straightforward. The first cam I put in got stuck, so we left it for later, then kept on cruising. The views continued to improve and the climbing continued to be interesting although not particularly challenging. Marieke got more leading practice on the final 4th/ easy 5th class pitch. Then we were on top. The descent was pretty obvious and easy. Retrieving the cam took a bit of work, but we were done with a few hours to spare before dark. We drove to 13 mile camp and set up and had burritos in the truck for dinner. Then back downtown to the strip. There we changed in the truck into nicer clothes. This required some flexibility and a sense of humor. Then on to the Vegas nightlife. Well, this wasn’t all that great. We wandered around a bit (rather a lot actually), and investigated some clubs, eventually we ended up at the House of Blues which was supposed to be playing "people’s choice" music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but that isn’t what it sounded like to us. Baah. Eventually we left and headed back to camp.

Sunday morning wasn’t an early one. We had pancakes and packed up and headed towards Hoover Dam. There was a long line approaching the dam and we were asked to pull over so they could look in the back (for explosives I suppose). Then they let us go. By then it was getting rather late, so we passed on to the parking area to hike down white rock canyon. We packed up and headed on down the trail. The canyon was pretty nice, but it was of volcanic tuff, not the sandstone I was expecting. Still, it was satisfyingly narrow and twisty for much of the way. Then we got to the Colorado river which is pretty clear and greenish this close to the dam. We headed downstream and got to where we planned to camp just about sunset. Before it got dark we took a quick trip up to the hot springs to make sure we could find it and to see if it was warm enough. Then we had dinner and headed up to the springs for a soak. The spring was in a narrow canyon which had been dammed with sandbags to make 2 pools about 2 feet deep with a waterfall between them. I am guessing that sometimes it can be rather crowded, but we were the only people there. The only real downside was that there were Naegleri fowleri (or something like that) warnings for an amoeba that can get into the brain and cause death. But as long as you keep the water out of your nose, you should be fine. (so no swimming or head dunking).

The canyon bottom was around 600 feet above sea level, so it was much warmer that night than any camping I had done in quite some time. A nice change. The next morning we went for another brief dip (a la Maarten and Ivo) and then had breakfast (rather abbreviated as my stove ran out of fuel) and hiked back. Then we drove to the Dam and walked about on it. We didn’t go into the visitor center or take any tours because they were charging and we didn’t feel like spending the time required to do it justice. Then we drove back through Las Vegas to Red Rocks to do some sport climbing. We ended up at the gallery and the cliff behind that and did about 6 routes as the temperature dropped. Then we headed back to the parking area to whip up some oatmeal to the entertainment of the Japanese? Tour bus that got out to watch us, take pictures, and even videotape us. Then we ate it in the truck en route to the airport where I dropped Marieke off just as planned (for a while it looked like we would run late). That night some sort of system blew through with lots of cold wind and precipitation (some snow). In fact the weather never really recovered as far as I was concerned.

roadtrip time (note bagel man)
picture of in the truck

National Park Whirlwind. (ok, not a 2001 trip, but a trip with Marieke)

2-2-2002 After some confusion and difficulty, Marieke got a ride out to Joshua Tree, and we headed east. After a brief stop in 29 Palms for gas and coffee, we headed out. One of the sites Marieke wanted to see was Death Valley, but since it didn’t seem to be on the itinerary, we stopped at the salt flats in Amboy as a surrogate. Then on to Arizona where we briefly looked for something interesting at the Golden Dunes monument, but then headed on to Will and Bonny’s place in Flagstaff. There we had pizza, showers, and were warm.

Morning came early and we headed out towards the Grand Canyon before dawn. The light was magical on the snow and aspen trunks just before sunrise. Then on to the big ditch. There we proceeded to an overlook where Marieke said goodbye to her faithful but dying pants which had been through many adventures and rips, but were now dissolving. Then we stopped at the hotel for some coffee, and on to Hermits rest where we headed down the trail. Then we cut over to the dripping springs trail, and finally to the Boucher trail. We headed out to the end of a promontory on this, and then stopped for lunch at a wonderful overlook. On the way back up we detoured to dripping spring, which is in fact a dripping spring. Then back up to the canyon rim. We stopped at various overlooks as we headed out the east entrance after sunset. Then back to Flagstaff for hot Korean food and more warmth.

Monday morning wasn’t so hectic, but we still got a reasonably early start. We headed up North and stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam for a bit. Then on into Utah where we headed for Bryce. A number of the small towns were really thich with flags. As we approached the park I saw a Helicopter just hovering, which I thought was strange. When we tuned into the park info station, we learned that the Olympic Torch was heading through Bryce that day. In fact the road leading to the park was lined with people, so Marieke asked when the torch would go by. Evidently it was only a minute or so, so we waited and a fleet of cars cruised by with helicopters above heading into the park. We followed, and waited near the entrance station for about 30 minutes for the guy running the torch to jog out. I didn’t catch or recognize the name of the guy carrying the torch. Then back to the car to quickly see what we could of Bryce before dark.

First we went to an overlook, then to another where we took the Navajo loop trail down amongst the hoodoos. It looked very dramatic near sunset with the white snow and red rocks. Then we walked along the rim a bit, but it was cold and windy and soon to be dark, so we headed out.

We didn’t want to camp in the snow up at Bryce, so we zipped down the hill and camped at a trailhead off the main highway. While I was trying to turn around, the truck got stuck in the snow. Luckily there was a clear patch large enough for the tent, so Marieke set that up while I put on the chains. Brrrr where my fingers cold by the time I got them on. Then we cooked up a quick spaghetti dinner, made some hot water bottles, and then crawled into the tent with many sleeping pads and 4 sleeping bags. It actually wasn’t too cold that night (I was fine, Marieke a bit chilly), but ice formed all over inside the tent, so moving was somewhat hazardous. The stars that night were very spectacular.

The next morning we were going to be in the shade for a while, so we just got up and packed things as best we could while cooking oatmeal. Then on to Zion. First we did a short hike to an overlook above the tunnels, then drove into the main canyon. Marieke picked out the observation point trail (as a strenuous one), we dried the bags a bit while we packed, then piled them in the front seat for solar drying while we hiked. There were a few icy bits on the trail, but they were easily avoided. The trail rose fairly continuously almost the entire way. We skirted some impressive cliffs and slot canyons and eventually gained the plateau which we traversed out to observation point. The view was magnificent. There we ate lunch and took pictures before heading back down. We talked with another hiker most of the way down and during the detour through a short slot canyon and to hidden canyon which sported a small arch. Then back to the truck. We stopped at the visitor center to refill our water bottles and to admire the red cliffs at sunset. Then on through St. George. We camped at a much lower (and warmer) elevation just into the Virgin River Gorge.

The last day involved a lot of driving through Nevada and California back to San Diego. Not nearly as exciting.