Saturday, May 22, 2010

CaLifornia Dreamin'

We rolled out of Arches National Park looking behind us the whole time- trying to catch a last glimpse of the park- until we came further into the mountain ranges of Utah.

snowman finally looks more at home with some snow in the background!

We spent the night in Park City with some more friends of Bruce's- Liam and MJ- who treated us to some epic floor space and a sweet tour of Park City. Bruce spent a winter working at the Canyons Resort, and he did an excellent job as tour guide and navigator. Lisa hadn't been feeling stellar, and was introduced to the miracles preformed by hot toddies- a little whiskey, hot water, honey and lemon makes anyone feel better!

We left late the next day, as we spent some time deliberating over whether or not to hike and ski some chutes in PC before hitting the road- but in the end, our desire to hit Cali prevailed, and we walked away from a bluebird day in Utah with minimal regrets.

Before crossing the salt flats, we HAD to stop for a hamburger at Hires Big H burger in Salt Lake City- recommended by Lisa and my's new favorite website, . Road Food lists the best places to go and eat in certain areas. The website listed Hires as a detour worthy of planning a day around- a must for sure!

Hires still rocked the 50's feel- you could park in the parking lot and have food served to you in your car, or you could walk inside to place your order. We all opted for the original Big H burger, complete with fry sauce (a Hires speciality) and the add on of pickles. The service was good, the burgers delicious, and the lemon coke/ cherry limeade made the stop more then worth it!

We continued on, crossing the salt flats, and passed a truck carrying the largest tires I have ever seen. Even after a wikipedia session, I still struggle to understand the need for tires possessing such and extravagant radius.

We continued driving west into one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen- as the sierra's came into view, I had to pull the car over to take a few shots...

Roadtrip mobile driving into the wild west

First California sunset of many

We finally rolled into Tahoe to crash on Rodney, Kyle, and Trav's floor around 10:30- Stoked on phase one of the road trip and excited for what was to come in the next two weeks!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Please Visit Your National Parks

As sad as it was to leave Colorado Springs and the amazing hospitality of Mark and Suze, it was time to get back on the road and continue our trip for maximum playtime.

We swung by Safeway to load up on provisions, only to discover the joy of jalepeno cheddar bagels. Un real. Loaded up, re-organized and rested, we continued on- taking the scenic Colorado Highway 24 past Beuna Vista to head over towards Durango. Highway 24 is spectacular, and one of my favorite roads from my road trip last year. I was thrilled that Bruce and Lisa got to see it. We lucked out with weather too- while it was windy as all hell, the sky was clear and we had an amazing view of the mountain ranges, resulting in many roadside stops for photos.

I brave the wind to take a few photos

The scenery is spectacular through Colorado and so varied. We drove past mountain ranges and pillar like rock formations, lakes and rivers all within a short period of time.

After Highway 24 we jumped on Colorado Highway 550 to take us down towards Durango. 550 winds its way through the San Juan Mountains, passing through small mining and ski towns such as Ouray and Silverton. The curves on the road are sharp, with treacherous ravines down below, and a noticeable lack of guard rails.

While we had grand plans to make it out to Mesa Verde, we got sidetracked in the town of Ouray- an old mining town lining the sides of 550, nestled into the mountains north of Silverton. We wandered around Ouray, and decided to stop and have a beer. We found a small, local brewery owned and operated by a man named "Hutch"- skier, kayaker, mountain biker, brewer of amazing beer. The Ourayle brewpub had about 5 beers on tap- all locally made by Hutch. It was one of the coolest little pubs I've ever seen- there is a swing behind the bar, and a littany of hand-lettered signs stating that the hours of the pub are subject to change due to ski conditions and water levels.
This sign is going wherever I end up living and/or working.

We spent a solid hour or 2 with Hutch, sampling his ales, and learning about Ouray before we headed back on our way with a growler of deliciousness and stickers to spread the love.

We made it as far as Durango before regrouping the next morning for a day of national park adventures.

Our first stop was Mesa Verde state park- home to cliff dwellings hundreds of years old and still in remarkable condition. We woke up to snowy, blustery conditions, and were seriously debating our choice to go hiking into the cliffs- due largely to our lack of appropriate clothing-when, as we drove further into the park, the sun opened up just in time- giving us a perfect morning. We were only able to go to Cliff Palace, one of many dwellings in the park due in part to weather and to the season. Cliff Palace is the largest dwelling in the park, and a pretty spectacular site. I was told by our tour guide that I was the ideal size of a woman in the days of the cliff dwellings- which lisa and bruce thought was hysterical- as he insinuated that I was smaller then a normal person.

Bruce checks out Cliff Palace Site at Mesa Verde- at one time it was home to somewhere between 50-200 people.

I attempt to navigate our way through the park.

After Mesa we continued on our way towards Cali, with a stop in Arches National Park once we hit Utah. Again, we hit perfect weather, just missing storm clouds for beautiful sunny skies during our time in the park.

Driving into the park with our road snowman- a housewarming gift for Lisa and I that came on the road with us.

Lisa and Bruce super excited to be in Arches National Park

The three of us pose for a pic at Double Arch

View of Double Arch from the distance

We spent the large part of an afternoon driving around Moab, and could easily have spent another full day there. It is a place I hope to go back to at some point in the future- absolutely a beautiful part of the states.

Monday, May 3, 2010

In the Garden of the Gods

We made it to Colorado Springs in a mere 30 hours from Canada, arriving at a friend of Bruce's house, and crashed out pretty hard.

The next day, however, we rallied big time for some climbing missions. Colorado Springs, is apparently, a mecca and ultimate playground for rock climbing. Mark, who were we staying with, and his friend Brian, who owns a climbing company in the area- Front Range Climbing- treated us and took us out climbing on a few Colorado Springs classics. Brian also provided us with harnesses, helmets and ropes... you know, the small things.

Our first stop was in the Garden of the Gods, where we got a "warm up climb", as neither Lisa nor I had ever done any outdoor climbing. We couldn't have been in better hands, and both Mark and Brian took excellent care of us, and Bruce, our Belayer couldn't let us crash too hard as we had hidden the car keys.

Brian Belays while Mark leads the climb.

For all our climbs, Mark would go first and set the rope for us, meaning that Mark had to climb up to find anchor points for ropes which set our safety. He would climb without any back-up until the first anchor point, and then he had wherever he had last anchored himself as his safety. Pretty Badass. After that, Lisa, Bruce and I would climb. While Bruce's lots of experience clearly showed, we didn't do too bad for first timers.

Lisa killing it on the first climb.

Climbing aside, Garden of the Gods is absolutely stunning.

Rocks in the Garden

You can see it from the road, and it is a public park with free access. There is a bevy of walking trails and paths that allow easy access to the rock or to the park itself. As we set up to climb, groups of school children and many other people would stop by to watch for a while, and then continue on their way. The views are spectacular, even from the ground.

Walking into the Garden

The rocks in the Garden are stunningly red- which was made more evident by our blue bird skies. We honestly couldn't have asked for a better day weather wise. The lack of wind meant that we had the opportunity to climb Montezuma's Tower, one of the classic Garden climbs that is challenging in how exposed it is- both the rock and the climber on it.

Montezuma's Tower.

Montezuma's Tower is a narrow fin that the climber has to scale. Because there is air on either side of you, it is pretty intimidating mentally. You feel super exposed, and it is a little unnerving.

I contemplate the climb ahead of me

Clearly Lisa and I aced our first climb- and we had fantastic company, or we wouldn't have attempted something like the Tower our first day out climbing. I never felt unsupported, and they let us rappel after the first half of the climb, before the boys continued on to a steeper pitch.

Bruce continues on with Mark ahead and Brian below.

Lisa and I enjoyed the sunshine and hung out with Winston, Mark's dog- while we watched the boys on the tower. It was impressive to get to watch Brian, Mark and Bruce climb- they made it look easy- and they were absolutely still having fun. It was even more fun to watch after having been up there.
Bruce, Mark and Brian sit on the Tower before continuing the climb. The Rock is Enormous!

After the Garden we headed down the road about 7 minutes to Red Rock Canyon, another free park in the area with great climbing- but in a totally different style. While the climbs in the Garden had obvious and clear holds, the climb at Red Rock was much smoother rock, with no great secure place for either your hands or feet. Mark and Bruce called it "mantle moves", where you are using your body as though you are trying to get out of a pool without a ladder. After watching Bruce and CJ (another climber friend of Brian and Mark's that joined us) I was hesitant, but gave the climb a go. It was pretty challenging, but felt amazing to have made it to the top. (It took a few tries in one small section, but i eventually figured out how to smoosh my feet more effectively into the rock to give me more support and leverage.)

One of the most special parts of our day was getting to watch Brian climb. Brian had been diagnosed with a brain tumor about the size of a baseball a mere 3 months earlier. He had surgery to remove the tumor, which Mark had nicknamed "Arnold" only 2 months prior to climbing with us.

As motivation for getting Brian back out there, Mark and CJ bolted a route, which they named "Arnold's Demise", but left it unclimbed with a sign asking climbers to choose another route, because they wanted to save the first ascent for Brian post surgery.

Brian leads the climb. Look down in the trees for sign marking the route.

It was pretty neat to watch Brian and Mark tackle the first ascent- anytime you get to watch someone who is at the top of their sport challenge themselves I find a better understanding of what draws people into their sport in the first place. Bruce and CJ climbed the route once Brian mark led the climb, and they all walked away feeling a bit of a redemption.

Mark watches and Belays Brian on Arnolds Demise.

I definitely walked away from our day of climbing with a lot more respect for the sport, and a greater appreciation for what the sport is about. I would certainly be keen to give it another go- and would absolutely spend some more time in Colorado Springs.

After a great two days, we hit the road again... keeping on our way to Tahoe .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Across America- East Coast to Canada

Its road trip time again! Only this year, a few things are a little different. Last year I drove out west on a purely paddling mission with some of the Demshitz crew- and had an amazing time. This year, I decided to head back out west in the interim between seasons, but add a little extra flavor to the trip.

My roommate Lisa and I had been planning our own epic route across America- with a few strategic stops for fun. We cleaned up and left our appartment in Killington - but not without adding another friend to our road trip crew.

Our friend Bruce came over to say goodbye, and we managed to convince him to join the trip instead. An hour later, we had booked him a flight, checked the Canadian customs website and sent him home with a packing list.

Lisa and Bruce right after Bruce decided to book his flight. Note how shocked he looks, and how excited Lisa looks!

We left Killington to head up to Lisa's home of Bath, ME to get organized and stop by the Maine coast.

We had a chilly toe dip in the Atlantic at Reid State Park- A beautiful coastal state park in southern Maine- before packing up the car and beginning the drive.

Lisa and Bruce brave the water

Anna fits in some yoga at the coast

We managed to somehow squeeze skis, snowboards, climbing shoes and kayak kit all in my subaru- not to mention some filet, twice baked potatoes and champagne, along with delicious turkey sandwiches thanks to Lisa's parents.

A small detour to Ottawa, Canada was in order to watch the premier of Dream Result, a film by Rush Sturges and Tyler Bradt. ( ) The film looks amazing, from what I saw in the bar- I was a little more concerned on getting to catch up with old friends from around the world.

We rolled out of Ottawa a little worse for the wear and decided to forgo our planned stop in Chicago- deciding instead to bust out a 30 hour nonstop drive to Colorado Springs to meet up with friends of Bruce.

The drive was Epic- thank god for Red Bull, Snuggies and 80's music- well needed on the 3 am stretch of the trip. You haven't had a true 80's rock out session until it is in the car after 20+ hours, at 4 am somewhere in Iowa.

Bruce drove through the worst of the flatlands while Lisa and I stayed entertained with the help of some on the road Mimosas.

After what seemed like forever- (that John Denver is full of shit!) we finally make it to the front range- where we were treated to a comfy bed and a delicious dinner.

The plan is spending a day or 2 here to regroup before continuing on our merry way through Colorado, Utah and California!