Action Sports Avalanche

For years now in all those where to live conversations, Steve’s constant refrain is, “I want to be able to do stuff right out my door.”

Way back when before New Zealand, before winery work, when we were just hatching out of Kentucky our plan was to find and settle in a place that had climbing, skiing, trail running and biking close by, really close by if possible.

Now we have all that and more within a short drive or no drive at all.

We are enjoying the bounty, climbing one day, biking another, skiing on the first day of summer. With us though, that is not where the story ends. We are completely overwhelmed trying to find time for it all.

Summer Nord

Did I mention we have three-day weekends? We were lucky to land jobs that have us working through the weekend leaving us to play mid-week. We love the idea that we have fewer folks to share the trails and cliffs with but this is Central Oregon everyone is out all the time.

Its going to get a little wide...

Lately we’ve managed to fit in climbing, skiing, running and some form of biking into those three days. We want to sign up for a couple trail races this fall but that would require us to run more than once or twice a week which might mean we would have to not do something else one of those days. Ahhhhhhh TWEAKED!

I’m counting on Mother Nature to bail me out of this one. The temps are rising and the snow is melting. This should take climbing and skiing out of the weekly rotation. Of course that opens up the potential for peak bagging. And what about a SUP (stand-up paddle board)? Those look fun.

The Long Way Home

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Leaving California in December we struggled to decide on our route home. We dreamed of hitting countless back country and cross country ski destinations across Utah and Colorado. We did pull off a snowy Thanksgiving visit to Yosemite before the reality of coping with the effects of winter on both ourselves and Norman Clyde sent us south.

We ticked off some new places and visited old favorites. It rained in Death Valley, slightly and in the middle of the night but still rain in the desert of deserts. Of course there was! We soaked up the mesmerizing peace that is Joshua Tree. We were wowed by Petrified Forest National Park, spent a quick day peering into the Grand Canyon thinking it just might be worth returning to for deeper explorations and marveled at the be-jeweled interior of Carlsbad Caverns.

We topped out on the Texas high point, Guadalupe Peak (8749 ft). Who new Texas has mountains that are nearly 9,000 feet tall? Putting off the bulk of the driving for as longs as possible, we spent a few days soaking in the sunshine and the hot springs of Big Bend National Park in far southwest Texas. I visited Big Bend years ago when tourists often crossed the Rio Grande and spent the afternoon in the tiny Mexican village of Boquillas. Today this is a big no-no as all unofficial border crossing were closed in the wake of 9/11. Blah.

Leaving the southwest behind we made a mad dash across Texas and tackled what for us is the most adventurous activity of all. We took the van into a city. A city with narrow, one way streets and lots of parking garages that can’t house a giant van. Shockingly, and I mean shockingly, it all came together and we had a wonderful 24 hours in New Orleans. We found a charming hotel. Norman Clyde had valet parking. Best of all great restaurant beta from the brother-in-law. And we have a new “I have to go back there” destination.

Favorites

Started this post and list a couple weeks before we left the country.

This may be the last night really camping in the van before we leave for NZ. I’m surprisingly sad. Drove by our old house in Lexington the other day and I barely grunted in acknowledgement. Now though sitting here in the van, in the Red River Gorge, down by the river at our friends’ place, I’m really fighting the tears. It hasn’t all been roses with me and Norman Clyde but it has been home to many cozy evenings with wine, good food and Scrabble.
Today we spent hiking in the RRG after long deliberations about trying to climb in cold, damp conditions. The hike turned into a real winner as for six miles or so we recounted highlights from our past year of travel. Reflecting was soothing; now I’m writing it out to share and to have as a reminder in days to come

Favorite Multi Pitch Climbs
Conn Diagonal, Needles, SD
Cat in the Hat, Red Rocks, NV
Soler, Devils Tower, WY
Ecstasy, Seneca Rocks, WV

Favorite Single Pitch Climb
Triple S, Seneca Rocks, WV
About anything at Squamish, BC
Moonshine Dihedral, Smith Rock, OR
Tricouni Nail, Needles, SD

Favorite Hikes
Mt. Elbert- high point of Colorado
49 Palm Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Mount Saint Helens, WA
Mount Mansfield, VT

Favorite Eats
Korean dinner with our friend’s family in CO
La Posada restaurant El Potrero Chico, Nuevo Leon, MX
Coho Salmon in British Columbia prepared in the van

Most Fun Moments
Wedding anniversary in Napa
Biking to the pub in Squamish
Volunteering at the Leadville 100

Most Unforgettable Scenery
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, UT
Olympic Peninsula, WA
Green Mountains, VT
Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Top ‘I could Live There’ Towns
Bellingham, WA
Leadville, CO
Burlington, VT

The Hated It Then Love It Now Award
El Potrero Chico, Nuevo Leon, MX: Litter everywhere. Litter at the cliffs, litter along the road, to me the litter felt like finger nails on a chalkboard. And while that is a real problem all be it an ordinary one in developing countries, I’ve completely moved passed it. I remember the excellent, cheap fruits & veggies from Tuesday market, big beers, wonderful meals, welcoming locals and magnificent cliffs. I didn’t appreciate the mellow, climbing vibe last winter but after a year spent roaming around here and there and everywhere, I’m ready to make Potrero a winter stop for years to come.

Country Roads

Back in West Virginia! I still love the northeast corner of WV. Climbing strong at Seneca and making the rounds at all our favorite Cannan Valley places  including the charming old house we occupied much of last winter. After a nationwide search Mountain State Brewing remains my blue ribbon brew pub. Now if I can just order up a late October snow. FPR Happy with pie at the FPR (Front Porch Restaurant) in Seneca Rocks.

The Tower

Native Americans have many names for it and stories about it. Stories that pay respect to this awesome piece of geology. Climbers too find it awesome and circulate their own legends about the spectacular climbing found on its walls.

Devils Tower is one of the wildest rock formations to be found anywhere. It sits alone on a hill presiding over the green, rolling plains of northeast Wyoming. This giant granite protrusion is a dark lighthouse to wandering climbers. Tucked within The Tower’s granite columns are cracks hundreds of feet long, many seem cut to fit a climber’s hands and feet.

After years of talk about making a pilgrimage to The Tower we finally made it happen. With limited time and other commitments on our minds we did not send every classic line that calls out to be climbed. To make our time there the best it could be we settled for a delicious sampling of those famous cracks. We took Soler’s (5.9)  long, thin pitches to the high meadows and added an unplanned romp to the summit.  Strenuous climbing never felt so good.  Another must-do, Assembly Line (5.9) lived up to its reputation of endless sinker jams.  The long pitches do take their toll. While I dream about all the routes we didn’t do, my sore toes and bruised legs are relieved that our Tower time was short.  And if I’ve picked up anything from the native legends it’s that The Tower has been there a long, long time and will still be there beckoning to us climbers whenever we come.

IMG_5605

What more do you need?

dt summitSummit glory.

summit registerK-mann was here.

running dogA Tower local.

prarie dogs at dtClose Encounters of the prairie dog kind.

steve towerIt just looks cool.  The Tower, not Steve.

Visuals

IMG_5131Norman Clyde didn’t climb Rye Crisp, but we did.  Elephant Rock,City of Rocks, ID

IMG_5134Historical graffiti at City of Rocks, ID

bear zoom 2Bear!

bear zoom 3
Again.

calf & cow
A cow and calf in Cascade Canyon, Grand Teton NP.

IMG_5168
A funky bird in Grand Teton.

roadblock
Wyoming Roadblock

tetonsA fresh dusting of snow on the Tetons as seen from Lake Solitude.

IMG_5280Us at Lake Solitude.

sunsetSunset over Jackson Lake.