Hiking the Trillium Falls trail at Redwood National Park in California

After a few days spent devoting myself to the salty coast while winding up the 101 in California, my three-person van crew decided to trade sandy shorelines for towering trees with a trip to Redwood National Park. I was surprised to learn that this park is actually spread out along the 101, and there is no fee to enter – so there’s no excuse not to visit Redwood National Park if you’re passing through!

Towering trees line the Trillium Falls Trail at Redwood National Park in California.We began our visit with a stop at the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, which sits right along the coast. It doesn’t seem like your regular National Parks visitor center, but it’s a great place to begin your redwood adventure. While I was chatting with a ranger about the best trail for spotting banana slugs, we spotted a late-season gray whale breaching just off the shore, incredible.

Just a few minutes up the road, and I had my next wildlife encounter: a field full of grazing elk families welcomed us into the appropriately named Elk Meadows trailhead area. I could have gladly sat and watched the creatures munch on grass all day, but our sights were set on the Trillium Falls Trail, a 2.5 mile loop through misted corridors of old and young redwood trees.

The journey begins with a rather unceremonious diversion from a wide paved path onto a narrow dirt trail that quickly winds up a small hill into the thickets. Suddenly, you find yourself immersed in a moist wonderland filled with ferns, banana slugs, and tasty salmonberries.My favorite creature in Redwood National Park: the banana slug.

Winding through the redwoods for about ¾ of a mile leads you to a small bridge perched above the trail’s namesake falls. Only about 10 feet tall, the waterfalls themselves aren’t the star of this area: it’s the ecosystem thriving here that will capture your attention.

The first mile of the hike took us over an hour; we were constantly snapping photos and capturing audio from birds, rustling branches, and babbling water. The Trillium Falls trail certainly isn’t meant to test your limits as a hiker, but it will gladly introduce you to a world of wonderment that promises to break your stride every few steps with something new to stop and look at. The small waterfall seen on the Trillium Falls trail at Redwood National Park. DSC_3667

The remainder of the trail is less impressive than the first segment, but the pleasantries are plentiful as you complete the loop through younger forest, across an old logging road, and back to the paved path that leads to the parking lot. The Trillium Falls trail at Redwood National Park was by no means a strenuous excursion, but it was a beautiful jaunt into the redwoods during my adventure up the Pacific coast.

If I wasn’t on such a pressing mission to make my way from Half Moon Bay, CA to Seattle, WA, I would have gladly spent much more time at Redwood National Park. The sprawling geography of the park invites visitors to experience everything from seaside excursions along tide pools and piles of driftwood to hiking deep within the heart of redwood forests.

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Chopping off all my hair in the name of adventure

This is what it looks like after two weeks of not washing my ahir.

Recently, I pushed myself to a new limit. It didn’t involve sending a new climbing grade, hiking to a higher elevation, or driving towards a new milestone – I reached my threshold of dirtbaggery.

I went two weeks without washing my hair – and it got ugly.

When I finally got a chance to rinse the dirt and debris out of my hair, I happened upon another issue: a massive knot that took over an hour to detangle. In between rageful bouts of batting at my tresses with a comb, I came to a conclusion: my locks needed to be chopped.

It wasn’t an easy idea to commit to. Since adopting my new adventurous lifestyle, I’ve struggled to hold onto my femininity. I don’t wear make-up anymore, rarely wear “cute” clothes, and certainly don’t resemble anything even remotely ladylike. My long hair is one of the last womanly things I have to hold onto – would cutting my long hair push me over the edge?

After much coaxing from Niko and our current travel mate, Mcgoo, I decided to take the plunge. I traveled across the country to New York City for a family wedding weekend, and while I was there, I discovered the Crops For Girls Salon around the Alphabet City neighborhood. Yelp reviews described an eccentric stylist with a passion for short ladies’ haircuts  – and without a second thought, I made an appointment to transform my hair.

Check out all my long hair - discarded on the floor at Crops For Girls Salon in NYC!You can read all about my experience at Crops For Girls Salon in my five-star Yelp review, but in short: it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. The stylist, Michael, began by chopping off my ponytail before he even shampooed my hair. As he snipped away, I felt more and more free with every shortened strand. When he finally finished, I almost wanted to ask him to keep going.

I expected (and hoped) to like my shorter hair, for practicality’s sake, but I wasn’t quite sure that I would love it as much as I do. I’m smitten with my shorter hair, the feeling of running my fingers through it, and the ease of just waking up in the morning, tossing it around, and carrying on with my day. There’s no fuss, there’s no brushing, there’s nothing on my head keeping me from enjoying my adventures.

My mother and sister gave me the best compliment on my new look: they told me that I finally looked like myself. They hadn’t known it while before I cut my hair, but once I did, they told me that this hair lets my inner personality shine on the outside. Who would have thought that all along, the hair I treasured as my so-called last evidence of femininity was actually holding my psychical self back from realizing how beautiful and free I could feel and be?
Hanging out with my new hair and some underwater creatures at Lost Rocks in California. If you’re an outdoorsy lady considering going for a short ‘do to simplify your lifestyle – do it.

There’s no denying the moments of reluctance when considering ditching long hair, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Inspired by beautiful short-haired women like Vikki from The RV Project and Heidi from BananaBuzzBomb, I took the leap, and it was worth it.

 

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Reinvigorating my appetite for adventure in the Pacific Northwest

Confession: Lately, I haven’t been loving the adventure. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling constantly rushed, dirty beyond my usual threshold, overwhelmed and frustrated by my inability to stay connected while traveling, and worst of all – I just don’t even have a strong desire to climb. It’s been like living in opposite day, for days on end. 

After five months of blissfully living on the road, I really can’t be too surprised that I’ve hit a mental roadblock in my road trip attitude, but it certainly wasn’t very pleasant. Thankfully, I was able to take a quick break from the adventure to spend a weekend with my family in New York City for my cousin’s wedding, and when I returned back to San Francisco (and my big yellow van), everything changed. 

One of our closest friends, Mcgoo, decided to take a much-needed break from his daily life to join us for two weeks of adventuring in the Pacific Northwest. He had never seen the Pacific Ocean before, so to make it a trip to truly remember, we decided to travel up US-1 and the 101 from Half Moon Bay to Seattle. Epic.
Niko and I enjoying our first sunset on the Pacific Ocean during our latest Simply Adventure journey.

The journey began with a pitstop in Sunny Vale for a dinner party hosted by Russ Beebe. Aside from the incredible homemade fare and mint juleps, he delighted me with a surprise appearance from one of my favorite ladies in the outdoor industry, Amy Jurries of TheGearcaster.com. I also got to meet one of the lovely ladies from the new Omniten crew, along with Rebecca from the original Omniten, and my Overland Expo pal, David Croyle. It was a splendid night, and the perfect way to toast the beginning of a new adventure.

We officially began the coastal adventure the next day with a pitstop to feast on my favorite burrito in the entire world at Tres Amigos in Half Moon Bay, CA – conveniently located right on the 1. After the monumental lunchtime gorging, we walked down the road to the coast, where Mcgoo finally touched the Pacific for the first time. Then we promptly loaded up in the van, and hauled north along the slow, winding shoreline.

Not a bad place to spend the day.Since our first day, we’ve traveled over the Golden Gate Bridge, past rolling hillsides teeming with cows, along steep clifflines, and through thickets of redwoods. I’ve still been struggling to find connectivity during our remote adventuring, but the scenery has offered great solace from my woes. It’s hard to gripe about e-mails when you’re hiking past banana slugs in Redwood National Park, or searching for starfish in tide pools.

As we continue on towards Portland, the connectivity promises to improve, and with a freshly charged computer I’ll be able to catch up on all the writing I’ve held hostage in my mind. I’m still a bit weary about all the catching up I feel like I need to do, but at the end of the day, I continue to remind myself of where I am, and what I’m doing. Not being able to update my blog as much as I’d like to is really quite a small price to pay for the experience of spending a year traveling around the United States in my big beautiful van.

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Why we never make it to the crag before noon at Indian Creek

I wake up in the morning with sticky skin. Last night’s thunderstorm, and accompanying flash flood, did little to tame the desert temperatures – it’s way too warm to be sleeping in my thick bathrobe. I hear the rustlings of camp outside the van, so we get up and start a batch of coffee in the french press.

While Lauren sets to work cooking a batch of apple cinnamon pancakes on her one-burner stove, I perch myself on the picnic table beside her bench and admire the morning. The North Six-Shooter beams upward behind our campsite, the sun is already baking my skin, and all manner of birds are calling out from the thick brush surrounding us.

The Six Shooter as seen from our camp at Indian Creek.

Mornings here are highlighted by the habitual migration to the outhouse. One by one, we make the short trek up the dirt road to the most magnificent pit toilet I have ever sat on. There’s nothing fancy about this facility, with a small chain hooked across two planks of wood as the only indicator of current occupation and the lack of any roof – which is possibly the best part. Here you are, in the middle of Utah’s finest desert landscape, taking a dump while the breeze brushes past and the open ceiling offers an unobstructed view of the big blue sky.

My view from the outhouse at the Superbowl Camping area in Indian Creek.Today, the heavens are hued like a bluejay. In the corner of my outhouse view space, small spindles of clouds float by like wayward tufts of spun sugar. I’ll say it; these are the best poops I’ve ever had.

The path back to camp is a short jaunt lined with potholes filled with red clay water from the storms and more chirping birds in the bushes. My distractions nearly cause me to get hit by a stray frisbee, but the boys get it stuck up a tree instead. We should be packing up to hit the crag before the sun begins to beat down with merciless heat, but we prefer to take our time.

Niko and Christian continue their frisbee tossing, aiming to hit an axe sticking out of a stump – but miss every time. Lauren tidies the picnic table from her breakfast mess, while Jeremy settles by the fire ring while strumming our ukulele. This morning has inspired me to write, so I take a seat near Jeremy on a crash pad caked with red dirt. Bouldering gear becomes furniture here in Indian Creek.

After a few more morning musings, we connect with our Australian friends from a few campsites down – the only other occupants of the Super Bowl camping area – and finally succumb to the call of our tape gloves.

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A rumbling upstream: Flash flood sweeps past my Indian Creek campsite

By the time we left the Super Crack parking lot, it had already begun to pour. This unusual desert rain had plagued us for two days now, and we rushed back to the campsite to make sure the van would still be able to trudge through the thick mud. We stayed huddled in the van with Jeremy for a bit before the storm eased up, then set about the usual evening musings in preparation for dinner and a fire. Seeing the desert landscape in a storm is a special treat at Indian Creek.

Earlier that day, Niko and I spent a few hours rummaging around a small creek running behind our campsite. It was charming, a six-foot wide stream no more than knee-deep, and often just barely skimming over rock beds. I’ve always been attracted to rivers and creeks, so I made plans to return and trek as far up the waterside as I could.

A result of the flash flood in Indian Creek.When we finally made it back to camp that evening, Jeremy decided to check out the creek while the rest of us began to chop onions and fire up our stoves. A few minutes later, we heard him shout.

While eyeing a path of stones so he could cross the little creek without getting his toes wet, Jeremy heard a deep rustling in the trees upstream. He thought our Australian companions were perhaps out exploring as well, but quickly realized otherwise as the rumbling sped towards him.

He thought it best to take a few large steps back from the water’s edge, just in time to watch a tall foaming wall of water gush up the once trickling stream, churning forward in a chaos of broken tree limbs and red mud. The flash flood raged past him, turning the once small stream with a clear view of the bottom into an angry, murky mass quadrupled in size.

We hurried down the wash, and stood astonished at the newly created scene. The little creek from this morning was now unrecognizable, and the rushing water created loud rapids that sped past small brush plants clinging to the remaining embankment. Floating logs frequently amped past, leaving crackling echoes in their wake as they crashed against stones in the flood.

I had never seen anything like it.The flash flood that swept through the wash just below our campsite at Indian Creek.

Our little crew stayed and admired the flood until the sun set and the wash began to grow too dark to navigate. When we returned the next morning, all that remained of the flash flood was a vast stretch of wet mud where the water had surged the previous night. The little stream now ran a cloudy red color. It was hard to believe that this was the same wash that had been gushing with violent water the night before. The creek was calm once again the morning after the flash flood.

By the time we left Indian Creek, the entire creek bed dried up, leaving nothing more than a few muddy patches of thigh deep quick sand and sad little puddles of stagnant water. During the past few months spent in the desert, I’ve heard a lot about the dangers of flash floods – but it has always centered around places like slot canyons. Experiencing the flood first hand was really eye-opening about how surprising and influential flash floods can be. For Jeremy, the landscape morphed in an instant, changing from docile and manageable to a volatile place where he easily could have been in harmed if he hadn’t taken those steps backwards from the water’s edge.

I guess that’s why you’re not supposed to set up camp or hike in dried up washes!

 

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Climbing, camping, and coffee hour at Indian Creek

We first came to Indian creek on what can only be described as a whim. Jeremy, who we met in Joe’s Valley, egged us on for a few days about his yearning to make the short drive out to Moab to climb at Indian Creek. We easily relented, stuffed our crash pads into Vikki and Spenser’s trailer for the weekend, and caravanned to Indian Creek with newfound friends Jeremy and CP, Cox from Tallahassee Rock Gym, and Lauren, who I knew from Vertical Ventures in Tampa.

The original Indian Creek group gathering for a crew shot after climbing Wavy Gravy.

During my first two days at Indian Creek, I climbed a total of two routes (both on top-rope) – but I was totally exhausted after just two experiences shoving my body into perfectly formed sandstone cracks. I on-sighted Twin Cracks (5.9), and had a fantastic flail session on Wavy Gravy near the ultra-classic Scarface line. Niko continued to practice trad leading, and CP discovered that his hands are a perfect fit for lines that use a lot of number three cams.

CP crushing at Indian Creek in Utah.Me climbing Wavy Gravy in Indian Creek.We camped at Bridger Jack, and adopted a morning routine that involved a lazy “coffee hour.” With a small total of six cracks conquered during our weekend trip, we all decided to spend at least another week in Indian Creek to get the full experience. Niko and I returned to Joe’s Valley one last time to pick up our crash pads, then quickly resettled in Indian Creek – at a new campsite, which didn’t involve a heinous off-road scramble like the path to Bridger Jack.

The first night was rainy, and the next day’s forecast predicted an even higher chance of continuing storms. It didn’t look too promising, so we spent the morning slowly waking up and making coffee at camp.

The weather finally let up, so we decided to scope out the cliffs around Generic Crack to see if they had dried. They had indeed gotten some sun, and by 3:00, the Super Crack parking lot was starting to fill up with climbers.Niko hanging out beneath a climb at Indian Creek.Jeremy Rush killin' it in Indian Creek.

I stayed behind to catch up on writing for the day, and while I was lurking in the van I noticed – more than twice – non-climbers who were driving past, pumping the brakes, reversing into the parking lot, and pausing to admire the climbers while taking pictures and gawking through binoculars. It was a great little moment watching how intriguing climbing appears to be to the outside world – I wonder how unusual people think must we are, hanging onto the side of cracks along the scenic road to The Needles in Canyonlands National Park.

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The end of an era: A bittersweet farewell to Joe’s Valley!

On our last night in Joe’s Valley, it rained. The canyons were hung thick with clouds, and the tops of some peaks were being dusted with snow. It cast a solemn tone on our departure – which was fitting for me as I finally bid farewell to this valley I had grown to adore so much.

We spent a total of 43 days over a nine-week period in Joe’s Valley, and in the last month we had knit a family unit that took up residence on the second pull-out in the left fork. Some stayed for the entire stint (or at least most of it), with folks like Spenser, Vikki, Adriana, Steven, Jeremy, and Randy becoming staples amongst our makeshift community. Others came and went, like Brad from Colorado and a flock of more than a dozen Floridian kids. Most days were spent climbing with the crew, and evenings saw us huddled around the impressive fireplace behind Vikki and Spenser’s trailer.

Niko on the iconic Angler problem at the riverside area in Joe's Valley.CP Santos finally crushes the Angler at Joe's Valley.

The final few weeks we spent in the valley are a blur of afternoons spent climbing by the riverside, discounted donuts from the Food Ranch, and lazy naps in the hammock. There are no new hard sends for me to report; I exhausted my list of projects, and lost the motivation to try-hard on any new ones. My laziness combined with multiple weekend trips out to Moab made it difficult to will myself to pull hard on anything.

Lounging in my ENO hammock at Joe's Valley.Pretty little things in Joe's Valley.

Perhaps the most memorable event of the last few weeks at Joe’s Valley was the bright Saturday morning when we teamed up with The RV Project, Steven, and Adriana to lend a hand during Orangeville’s annual city clean up. We figured it was the perfect opportunity to express a bit of gratitude to this small town for letting dirtbags live in their canyon and eat all their donuts.

My favorite moment was when the event organizer first laid eyes on us. One of the boys stepped forward and asked what we needed to do to get started, and the woman replied:

Oh, you’re here to help? I thought you just came to eat!

We all laughed, and quickly realized that our crew of six climbers nearly outnumbered the amount of town residents who had shown up. The morning was spent shoveling debris from the sidewalks, pulling stubborn weeds, and clearing out gutters. Our work was rewarded with a picnic at the neighborhood park, and the locals insisted that we take every single leftover with us back to camp. It was definitely a productive and positive day for climber and local relations.

The van worked real hard holding our rakes during the Orangeville city clean-up.The crew feasts on local treats after the clean-up.

Fast-forward a bit, and you’ll find us not in Joe’s Valley, but in Indian Creek. We took a quick weekend trip out to the Moab area to climb some cracks, fell in love with the creek, and then hastily returned to Orangeville one last time to retrieve the crash pads we had left behind at camp. As much as I had been clinging onto the comfort of our little Joe’s Valley nook, it finally felt like time to say goodbye to our little family and move on to the next chapter of our adventure.

The family.

The last evening in Joe’s Valley was spent huddled in the van with Vikki and Spenser. Rain had turned our campsite into a mud pit, and all the firewood was soaked – so we got cozy in the van and watched The Royal Tennenbaums while munching on kale and booze from Trader Joe’s.

Joe’s Valley has by far been my favorite experience of this trip so far. The people I met there, the idyllic bouldering, the town of Orangeville – this place is just perfect. I’m not quite sure when yet, but I will be back. In fact, this whole living in Joe’s Valley thing might be a yearly tradition.

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So, I didn’t go to Indian Creek – but here’s what I did do in Moab (a panoramic perspective)

After all that oh-my-goodness-Indian-Creek hype I built last weekend, I didn’t even end up going there at all while I was in Moab – oops. I guess that’s what I get for posting previews of adventures on the blog. I did however learn some awesome tips for building a tape glove from The Alpine Hack – so it wasn’t a total loss.

The main reason for our jaunt to Moab was to meet up with a few old Tallahassee buddies for a weekend of desert rope climbing. The original destination was Indian Creek, but as word got out about how many folks were planning to take advantage of the weekend’s impeccable conditions, our buddies quickly bailed on the idea of waiting in massive lines to shimmy up a crack. So, we stayed closer to Moab instead.

Before our cohorts arrived, we were able to spend a few days exploring with Beth and Forrest from 3UpAdventures. I have admired their travels (and sweet rigs) for the longest time, so it was great finally being able to meet up with them. I was cooped up at the Lazy Lizard Hostel to host an #ATQA chat when I got a tweet from Beth: “If you want to do a quick hike we can run up Hidden Valley after #ATQA this afternoon. I’m staying right by the trailhead.” Why, yes, yes I did want to do a quick hike!

We met up with Beth, Forrest, and their awesome pup Sprocket, then headed out to towards the trailhead around 4:30. I huffed and puffed my way up a steep and beautiful trail that took us to the top of a ridge where a hidden valley (hence the trail name) opened up to a sprawling area full of petroglyphs, desert fauana, and stunning views. PS: Beth did a great write-up of our hike!

A view of the Hidden Valley trail.
A view from the highest point of our Hidden Valley hike with Beth and Forrest.

Turns out, our “quick little hike” was actually a 7.5 mile excursion with nearly 900 feet of elevation gain. Drained from our outing, our crew headed to the Moab Brewery to refuel on burgers, burritos, and beer. We planned a Jeep adventure for the next day, but Niko and I awoke to rain pattering the roof of our Sprinter – so we decided to head to Arches National Park instead.

Beth gladly joined us for our spontaneous National Park date, and we formulated our day’s plan on the fly with a bit of advice from the park rangers. I hiked Devil’s Garden on my first visit to Arches, so we decided to see something new. Beth had never seen Sand Dune Arch or Broken Arch, so we headed there first. The hike was short and sweet, leaving us with plenty of time to trek out to the iconic Delicate Arch, which I had never visited.

Broken Arch looms from high above Arches National Park in Moab.
The legendary Delicate Arch, perhaps one of the most iconic images of Moab.

After a few days of playing outdoors with Beth and Forrest, our climbing companions finally arrived in Moab, and we set off to tackle some sandstone walls. Our ultimate destination ended up being Wall Street on Potash Road, one of my favorite roadside crags in America. The weekend was full of happenings: Niko led his first trad climbs, I was once again defeated on a stupid-easy slab that wrecked me during my first visit to Moab, and I realized once and for all that I am a boulderer. Niko treats it like a shameful thing, like I’m not a real climber if I don’t prefer rope over bouldering, but I’m a-okay with it. I prefer bouldering. So what!

While I love meeting new people and visiting new places, it was great reuniting with old friends in a familiar place. I was totally at ease the entire weekend, and got to enjoy the company of two ladies – which is a great occasion for a gal who exists mostly among dirtbag men. There was even a funny moment when my friend Lauren announced she was driving up a few miles to go to the bathroom – and even though we didn’t particularly need to go, Jamie and I both jumped in the car with her. I guess girls really do like to pee in packs, ha!

Wall Street on Potash Road, one of the coolest roadside climbing areas of all time.
Niko climbs a mega crack at Wall Street on Potash Road in Moab.
PS: See that tiny lightly-colored dot in the middle of that epic crack? Yeah, that’s Niko. 

After two of our crew left to head back to Salt Lake City, we spent a few more days lounging in the desert backcountry with the remainder of our tribe. Wet weather kept us from doing any more climbing, so we busied ourselves by taking long overdue showers, hanging by a campfire, and drinking wine in the van.

Finally, the time came for Niko and I to return to Joe’s Valley. We’ve only been back a few days, but I am already stoked to crush some new projects. I got surprisingly far on a V7 called “G207,” and am determined to hop back on another V7 in New Joe’s called “Chips.” There are a few more unfinished projects I need to crush, but my main pysche is on the development of new areas spearheaded by Steven Jeffery, who is currently working on a new guidebook. Niko got the first ascent of a V7 which ended up being named Slot Cart, and I snagged a first ascent onsight of a V3 yesterday – which I have yet to come up with a name for. We’ve been bushwacking, crossing freezing rivers, and having a blast helping Steven develop new climbs in Joe’s. Stay tuned for more on that! 

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Gettin’ in over my head: I’m heading to climb cracks in Indian Creek for the weekend!

Here’s a not-so-secret confession: I am not the best rope climber. I’m not quite sure what it is, but as soon as I have a rope tied to my harness and some gear dangling from my hips, my climbing skills degrade severely and my mental stability goes out the window. I am shamefully a pebble-pushing pansy. There, I said it.

My lackluster rope skills are part of the reason why I’m a little intimidated to announce what I’ll be doing this weekend:

I’m going crack climbing in Indian Creek!

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page.)

The gorgeous landscape at Indian Creek. (Image courtesy of the Chicks Climbing Facebook page – click through to see more!)

Here are a few more confessions: I have never climbed a proper crack outdoors (unless you count a few bouldering cracks I climbed at Boat Rock in Georgia), nor have I ever climbed trad. Basically, I am going to be in way over my head this weekend. I’m totally petrified about my first attempt at hauling my little body up a towering crack – but I know it’s going to be a great learning experience. My hands will be shredded, my footwork will be schooled, and I have no doubts that the fellas will be laughing at me many times throughout the weekend.

Haley Dahle rocking the art of crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom Facebook page.)

Haley Dahle crack climbing at Indian Creek, my hero! (Photo by: Terrell Barry via the ClimbRunLiftMom FB page.)

Luckily, the lovely Haley Dahle from ClimbRunLiftMom will also be heading to Indian Creek this weekend, so I’m looking forward to meeting up with her and soothing my bruised ego over a campfire accompanied by some whiskey. She is a total fanatic for the impressive crack climbing at Indian Creek, so I’m hoping to soak up some of her expertise and confidence to help me in my pursuit of becoming a crack climber.

For me, this is one of those situations where you really just have to be honest and upfront with yourself about pushing limits and taking things easy. Do I plan on leading a bad ass 5.11 trad crack this weekend? Absolutely not. Will I be 100% satisfied with myself when I top-rope a 5.9 crack for the first time? You better believe it. Sometimes, you have to be okay with taking baby steps – and there is no shame in that.

Frankly, I’ll be beside myself with pride if I even place a single piece of trad gear on my own this weekend. What would be ideal is if I could teleport through time to the Chicks Climbing clinic at Indian Creek on the weekend May 1st, learn a thing or two about the finer techniques behind crack climbing, then return to the present to show hold my own and hang with the big boys. But alas, I’ll just have to wing it.

Have you been climbing at Indian Creek? I’m all ears to any tips, recommended routes, advice on taping my hands, whatever you’ve got to throw my way! 

PS: Since I’ll be deep in the desert until Monday, you should expect me to be totally disconnected this weekend. I’ll catch up on all the comments, tweets, and e-mails after my first crack climbing adventure – and you can look forward to some stories and photos acting as evidence of my inevitable fumbling, faces of terror, and bloody knuckles. While I’m gone, make sure to enter my giveaway for a package of Premier Protein energy bars and shakes!

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New climbing companions, Niko’s first ascent, and deciding to return to Joe’s Valley

Last week, the tribe I had been traveling with for the past few weeks finally disbanded. Our two main companions, Zach and Emily, drove back home to Minnesota, and the rest of the crew headed off to other climbing areas like Bishop and Red Rocks. We had planned to hightail it out to Moab on Friday morning, but ended up forced to stay in town until I sent my nemesis climbing project, Kill By Numbers – and I’m so glad it took me so long to finish that boulder problem.

While moping around the Food Ranch, I happened to meet a charming lady who mentioned working on a blog post. Naturally, I asked what the name of her blog was, and it turned out that she’s half of the two-climber team that runs The RV Project. I told them we were planning to head out of town the next morning after sending Kill By Numbers, but wished them good travels in Joe’s.

The following day, I gave my all on an early attempt of Kill By Numbers, which was a horrible failure with me unable to even lift myself off the first move. Defeated, I retreated to the Food Ranch once again – and opened my e-mails to find one from Spenser, the other half of The RV Project. It basically said, “Love your blog, wish you were still in town so we could invite you to our campfire.”

And I wrote back, “Well, as it happens, we’re still in town.” A few more correspondences were exchanged, and suddenly we found ourselves huddled around a fire with strangers who would become family overnight. We made plans to climb together the next day, and it wasn’t very long before Vikki and Spenser convinced us to just come back to Joe’s Valley after our trip to go climbing in Moab with a few old buddies. We awoke the next day with a reinvigorated passion for the valley, which was amplified by the great vibes we got from climbing with Spenser, Vikki, and their buddy Will.

Spenser climbing Save Yourself (V9) in Joe's Valley.Will works the beta on Eden (V9) in Joe's Valley.

I spent the day working Kelly’s Arete (V5) with Vikki and two other super strong gals while Niko and Spenser hopped around the boulders shooting photos. It was so inspiring to enjoy an all-ladies bouldering session – there’s something special about sharing beta, cheers, and promises of a send train.

One of my newfound lady friends crushes Kelly's Arete (V5) in Joe's Valley.

Finally, the moment came for me to send Kill By Numbers the following morning – and by some miracle of climbing, I crushed it on my first attempt. A celebration of PBR and “oreo dessert” from the Food Ranch quickly followed as I moved on to watch the fellas climb a few projects, including a never-climbed line scoped out by Steven Jeffery, who is working on a new Joe’s Valley guidebook.

Niko works the first moves on his still-unnamed first ascent of a V7.

Niko spent about an hour working out the beta for the first moves, which involves a strong, stretchy crank up to a sloping pocket from an overhanging ledge. He quickly solved the sequence, and eventually found himself on the tall bulge top-out. As he pushed his body upwards, he started uttering one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard him say while climbing:

Niko delicately manuevering the top-out of his V7 first ascent.

 

 

“Please don’t break,
please don’t break,
please don’t break.

 

 

I guess that’s the price you pay for snagging a first ascent. Fortunately, none of the sandy  he was pulling on broke, and Niko proudly claimed the first ascent of the problem, which he gave a V7 grade. He hasn’t given the problem an official name, but we’re toying with the idea of “Oreo Dessert” to pay homage to one of the Food Ranch’s finer delicacies.

After a few more campfires fueled by booze, a bout of nasty weather, and a dip in the local pool, Niko and I finally willed ourselves to leave our little Joe’s Valley home for a few days to go explore in Moab – but one thing is for sure: we’ll be back.

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