A blog about climbing full time on the road.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas 2009

This year after spending so much time traveling and wedding stuff we decided to just sit tight in Utah. It was a pretty cool idea since it would be our first Christmas together at home. The last 4 Christmas's had been spent dashing to visit family, and while that allows much celebration and jubilation it is also a lot of stress around the holidays. This year Cassie's parents made the trip to Utah from Oregon. We did all the normal Christmas stuff such as eating way to much food and exchanging gifts. Many hot toddies were enjoyed and even the dogs got pork bones as treats. Luckily our tree also decided to hang on till Christmas though even a slight bump caused needles to rain down on all of us. Much fun was had by all. We also went cross snow shoeing, skiing at Sundance, a trip to Antelope Island, and a trip to the frozen Stewart Falls.

Antelope Island is an island on the great salt lake. Surprisingly it has a few large peaks on it so the terrain is quite diverse. Back in the early 1900s bison were inroduced to the island (only to come close to devestation during the filming of "the last great buffalo hunt around 1926ish" apparently at that time they didn't mind killing 400+ bison for a movie. Luckily the herd is now protected and numbers somewhere in the 600+ range. You'll notice in my photos all of the golden grass that is on the island. It's sustained by  springs that come out of the mountains. The bison eat the grass and apparently the habitat is quite good for them. Also on the island (hanging out in the trees) are porcupines. These guys were taking naps when we spotted them and were pretty happy just lazying around soaking up the sun. After the photo ops we hiked up as far as we could before the sun started setting.

On Sunday we hiked to Stewart falls. Those of you who have come to visit  have probably hiked to this fall with us during warm weather. We had never hiked it in the winter until this trip and wow was it amazing. Nothing like a 100+ foot frozen waterfall with water roaring down behind the thick ice. Quite an impressive site.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Adventures with the VW

Some how many months have again slipped by since our last post. Winter has come to Sundance with a couple feet of snow and frigid temperatures. We aren't quite ready for snow yet and have been taking a bunch of trips south lately. We've been getting the van all styled out for our big trip, with a solar panel, roof rack, refrigerator, and awning. While all these new gadgets make camping and traveling really, really nice, driving a 23 year old van around can lead to some interesting situations. A couple things we have learned in the last few months: 1) if your gas gauge is ever rapidly dropping, you likely won't be able to see the gas leaking out as you are driving along at 60 miles an hour. Maybe your gas gauge has just decided to break, but maybe you really have a disconnected fuel line -- how the van was still running during the 20 mile drive to Hanksville while this was happening I have no idea, but we made it, did not catch on fire and were able to easily fix it, 2) even if you get a prewired kit and have double checked all your wiring, it would be wise not to walk away from the van the first time you plug in the solar panel. A solar panel in the full sun of Indian Creek creates quite a bit of power and can easily melt the incorrectly wired charge regulator. Fortunately Matthew saw this and realized what was happening prior to damage to anything beside the faulty charge regulator and a bit of smoke in the van.

I spent a week in Death Valley for work meetings -- unfortunately it meant too much time inside a conference room but I did get to see Ash Meadows wildlife refuge where a bunch of great restoration work is going on and I got to see a few of the native fish which are endemic to the area. I also went to see Devil's Hole which is rather disappointing. It's home to one of the most endangered fish that only lives in that spring -- the population in 2007 was 38 fish. The hole is all fenced off , so you can only look down through barbed wire and chain link to see the sampling platform over the hole. Another bizarre desert creation we saw was the amagrosa opera house in the nothing town of Death Valley Junction. A dancer and performer from NY had a flat tire there 35 years ago and fell in love with the place. She restored the opera house and every Saturday has been doing shows. We were there on a Saturday night, but unfortunately Marta Becket was in the hospital and is unable to do performances any more. We watched a movie showing some of the history of the place and performances she's done. Really fascinating, but bizarre!

Over Thanksgiving we made a trip down to Escalante with Chris and Emily. We'd heard about all the great canyons down there but hadn't made the trip yet. We hiked through Spooky and Peakaboo canyons which are the two most spectacular non-technical canyons I've been through. Amazing narrows and spiral formations in the rock.

Last weekend was a trip down to Red Rocks where we were hoping for some warm desert climbing. The climbing was great and sunny, but definately not warm. We stopped in St. George on the drive home to check out Moe's Valley boulders which we'll definately be coming back to spend more time at.

We made it home Sunday evening just as the snow was starting and now there's no question that winter is here. We got about 18 inches of dry fluffy powder and frigid temperatures. Our blood has definately thinned since we left Alaska since -5 now seems pretty miserably cold! If only there was any kind of base, it would have been great skiing, but that will come after a few more storms maybe this weekend.