Western USA

Start of Phase III
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We finally made it, as of July 14 we are officially back on the road and heading West. Our few months back on the East coast have been a blast catching up with family and friends, but it is time to move on and finish our trip! We spent a good part of the past few months trying to figure out how we were going to travel around out West and what type of camping we were going to do. We shot for the moon and tried to get into having a truck camper on our small Tacoma. Well….that only lasted 5 days, as we discovered it was a little too heavy for our truck, and we took a major hit in gas mileage. After only 5 days we officially became truck camper flippers!

We ended up going with a truck cap, and after a few hiccups from the dealership the cap was installed last Friday.

Truck Cap Installed

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Truck Cap Finally Installed……Looking good!

Prior to the cap installation my step-dad, Captain K, and I built out the bed of the Tacoma. We built a really nice platform to put a mattress on as well as compartments for clothes, water, spare battery, and a big drawer to keep our cooking stuff in. Now, when it comes to carpentry I know a little……I would say not enough to make something look good….but enough to make it functional (and hopefully not cut my fingers off!) Thanks to Captain K we were able to make something that is very functional and looks good! Here are a couple of pics of the birth of our platform bed.

The start of the bed and trying to figure out how it will all go together

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The start of the bed and trying to figure out how it will all go together

This looks like a good place for this

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This looks like a good place for this

Building the drawer

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Building the drawer

Access underneath

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Access underneath

New shelf inside

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New shelf inside

Over the past couple of weeks, the truck has also grown a few additional parts. The battery in the back is now powering a new portable fridge, and we have fans to keep us cool at night. I also mounted a solar panel to the roof bars to help keep our battery fully charged. All in all it has been a great project with a big learning curve!

Figuring out the wiring of the solar panel and battery

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Figuring out the wiring of the solar panel and battery

Installing more parts

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Installing more parts

New Dometic fridge....purring like a kitten!

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New Dometic fridge….purring like a kitten!

Our expedition vehicle loaded up and ready to go

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Our expedition vehicle loaded up and ready to go

As I am writing this we are half way through Kentucky. Our hope is to be in Colorado in a day or two. We are going to drop a few things off with our friend Chuck. From their we are going to make our way to the Badlands of South Dakota and then off to Wyoming. We are both excited to get back on the road, but I think I would be lying if I said we didn’t feel a little rushed now. Only a few more months remain on this journey, so we are trying to get as much in as we can before heading back to reality…….simple statements are the best…….life is short, make the most of it!!

We are out of here!

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We are out of here!

More to come!

- Jamie

Colorado Springs
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We arrived in Colorado Springs on July 15th and spent a few days with Chuck to prepare ourselves for the rest of the journey. Chuck took great care of us at his pad and cooked us up some awesome kabobs on the grill.

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Our first priority though would be to clean up some odds and ends with the truck. A couple adjustments with the “screen door” and the platform. After all the tweeks we think she’s ready to go, our first night sleeping in it will be Friday night when we arrive in South Dakota so we will see how it feels!

Our screen door!

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Our screen door!

The finished product

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The finished product

Chuck had to work every day so Jamie and I ventured around Denver exploring the different areas and taking in what will be our future home. One day we enjoyed a very good lunch at the Ivywild School. The school shut down a few years ago and it was recently taken over by 2 guys who each own a brewery and a restaurant. They partnered up and bought the building. It’s now in the process of being converted to what is called “Ivywild”, hosting a brewery, deli, charcuterie, coffee shop, bakery, food market, meeting and event space and terrace seating. A great concept and awesome food!

Chuck and Jamie at Ivywild School

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Chuck and Jamie at Ivywild School

The converted space in one of the hallways of the school

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The converted space in one of the hallways of the school

We spent another day climbing at Clear Creek Canyon at the Cat Slab which was a cool area but the crag was baking in the sun so we did a few routes and then headed out. I’m starting to lead climb so Jamie started teaching me to lead on a 5.4 sport route which went very well!

Hiking into Cat Slab crag at Clear Creek Canyon

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Hiking into Cat Slab crag at Clear Creek Canyon

Setting up for our first climb of the day

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Setting up for our first climb of the day

Nice view looking down at Clear Creek

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Nice view looking down at Clear Creek

On rock!

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On the rock!

We couldn’t leave the Springs without attempting The Incline. It’s a converted cable car that once took tourists up the side of the Rocky Mountain but closed in 1990.  It is now a 1 mile uphill workout with a change in elevation of 2000′. It would be like going up the stairs of the Empire State Building……TWICE! It’s a perfectly straight line up the hill at an average grade of 40% with maybe a thousand steps. Not a hike for the weary! It’s definitely a must do when visiting the Springs though. Chuck’s hiked the Incline over 20 times and recommended we do it. Jamie and I tackled it the morning before we planned to leave. It was a ball buster but we got to the top. Jamie pretty effortlessly and for myself, a bit more effort was needed to accomplish it. It was a great challenge and loads of people were there attempting it. Some made it all the way, others had to quit at the bail out point mid way up which joins with the Barr Trail to get you down, about 3 miles to hike down. Now we can highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area.

Base of the incline, this sign warns of the dangers ahead!

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Base of the incline, this sign warns of the dangers ahead!

Looking down toward Manitou Springs from the top of the Incline

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Looking down toward Colorado Springs from the top of the Incline

Jamie makes it up in less than 40 minutes, he's a beast!

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Jamie makes it up in 39 minutes, he’s a beast!

A lot more effort required from Cathy!

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A lot more effort required from Cathy!

In the afternoon Chuck took us target shooting up on the Rampart Range for our last evening together, we shot targets and clay pigeons and maybe an occasional bottle filled with water ; )  We spent a couple hours shooting then cleaned up all our scraps and headed to the Colorado Mountain Brewery. Great food!! This won’t be our last meal with Chuck as he’s meeting up with us next week in Wyoming!

Shooting clay pigeon targets with Chuck

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Shooting clay pigeon targets with Chuck

We spent the bulk of Friday driving north through Wyoming to South Dakota.

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We’ll spend the next few days at Mt Rushmore and Custer National Park.

 

- Cathy

 

South Dakota
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We left Chuck’s place, in Colorado Springs, last Friday. Our First stop……South Dakota! We checked in late our first night into the Horsethief Campground, a nice campground, but not too level of a sight ;-) Our first full day in South Dakota we spent exploring the areas and getting the lay of the land. We first stopped in at Custer State Park which has some beautiful rock towers and contains the Needles Highway. Along the drive we also came across a few of these……

Bison in Custer State Park

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Bison in Custer State Park

This is a good distance!

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This is a good distance!

Here are some more shots of driving through the park.

Cathy checking out Cathedral Spires

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Cathy checking out Cathedral Spires

Another pic of Cathedral Spires

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Another pic of Cathedral Spires

 

One of the few tunnels you have to drive through in the park

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One of the few tunnels you have to drive through in the park

The Needles Eye....you can climb this but it is really runout and has an X rating.....pass!!!

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The Needles Eye….you can climb this but it is really runout and has an X rating…..pass!!!

At one end of the Needles Highway is Sylvan Lake.

Sylvan Lake

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Sylvan Lake

A great place to check out and you can climb there as well. We did some scouting and started to get a plan for the next few days, but I am getting ahead of myself! We left Sylvan Lake and drove down the road to see one of the biggest attractions in the area….Mt. Rushmore. We ended up seeing the presidents a few times, twice during the day…..and once at night trying to escape a hail storm….just an FYI for other campers out there, the Rushmore parking garage clearance is 7’10”…..luckily our groovy mobile comes in at 7’4”! Here are some pics of the sculptures.

Cathy with Mt. Rushmore in the bckground

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Cathy with Mt. Rushmore in the background

The four big guys!

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The four big guys!

At Night

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At night

The next few days we decided to get in some climbing in the Needles and near Mt. Rushmore. The rock is really different here, and you climb a lot on these little crystal features. The other thing you notice is the spacing on your protection…….it is very sporty here, so a sound lead head is a must! Here are some pics from our days climbing.

Cathy and I at the top of Classic Crack....awesome route!

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Cathy and I at the top of Classic Crack….awesome route!

Hanging out in the South Seas area behind Mt. Rushmore

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Hanging out in the South Seas area behind Mt. Rushmore

On Tuesday we decided to take a day off from climbing and tackled Harney Peak. At 7,200ft this is the tallest peak East of the Rockies and West of the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain. It’s about a 6 mile return and a very beautiful hike. Here are some pics from the hike.

Beautiful scenery on the way up!

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Beautiful scenery on the way up!

Cathy at the summit with the fire watch tower in the background

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Cathy at the summit with the fire watch tower in the background

Another view from the summit

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Another view from the summit

Enjoying the view while having some lunch!

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Enjoying the view while having some lunch!

To finish off the day we headed over to Crazy Horse Mountain. This was really interesting, since it is privately owned and publicly funded. One guy started sculpting the mountain in 1948, and after he passed away in 1982, his family has carried on the project. A lot of determination and they still have a ways to go!

As you can see the face is finished, but still a lot of work to do!

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As you can see the face is finished, but still a lot of work to do!

This is what it will look like when it is done

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This is what it will look like when it is done

Our Final morning in the Mt. Rushmore area we decided to tick off a few more of the classic climbs in the area. Cathy did awesome on the climbs and here are a couple of shots from her cleaning up the routes.

Cathy on the classic route, The Gossmer

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Cathy on the classic route,  Gossumer

At the top of Little Pointy Devil

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At the top of Little Pointy Devils

We then headed off to the Badlands National Park. We both agreed, that as we were driving through we felt like we weren’t in the USA, but more like back in Australia. The environment is very harsh and has a real rugged beauty to it.  They say the soil in the Badlands is like no other soil on Earth.  The whole area grew out of an ancient sea 65 million years ago and has formed into the now Pierre Shale rock formations which looks and feels like clay.  Unclimbable!  We drove the Badlands Loop Road and captured some of these pics.

Our first view of the Badlands

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Our first view of the Badlands

More of the Badlands

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More of the Badlands

Enjoying a day in the Badlands!

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Enjoying a day in the Badlands!

Another beautiful view

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Another beautiful view

The groovy mobile in the Badlands

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The groovy mobile cruising through the Badlands

We ended up free camping in the park at Sage Creek. This was our campsite….

Roughing it!

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Roughing it!

This morning we made our way further West and have ended up in Spearfish, South Dakota, our last stop in the state. We got in a little climbing at Spearfish Canyon. The amount of potential climbing here is mind blowing!

All smiles after an awesome route!

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All smiles after an awesome route!

View of only a small portion of the canyon

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View of only a small portion of the Canyon

We are off to Wyoming to meet friends tomorrow. Looking forward to catching up with everyone……life on the road is awesome!

- Jamie

Wyoming, Ten Sleep to Devils Tower
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On Friday, July 26th we arrived in Ten Sleep, WY where we met up with Chris and Jodi, our friends from Denver. Chuck and Ed would be arriving the next day and the 6 of us would spend a long weekend climbing in the Canyon at Ten Sleep.

Ten Sleep Canyon

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Ten Sleep Canyon

So Much Rock! Jamie is in heaven!!

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So Much Rock! Jamie is in heaven!!

All of us at Leah Creek crag

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The Gang at Ten Sleep, WY

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We spent all day Saturday at Ice Plant crag and Mando Bondo crag, the canyon is steep and the rock is sharp but it was fun checking out a new area. This area in particular has so much potential for new routes to be set and it’s in a sleepy little town with an awesome coffee shop!

Chris, Jodi and Cathy at Ice Plant Crag

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Chris, Jodi and Cathy at Ice Plant Crag

Ice Plant Crag

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Ice Plant Crag

We all camped together at Leah Creek, part of the NFS, so it was cheap and right next to Ten Sleep Creek.

Our camp spot at Ten Sleep

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Our camp spot at Ten Sleep

This was our camp spot at Ten Sleep, fell asleep each night to the babbling brook!!

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This was our camp spot at Ten Sleep, fell asleep each night to the babbling brook!!

We find our own firewood around here

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We find our own firewood around here

And then we split our own firewood! Even if it takes all night!

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And then we split our own firewood! Even if it takes all night!

Sunday we chose Leah Creek crag for the shorter approach and mixed routes of moderate for me and hard for everyone else.

Everyone is busy working the routes!

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Everyone is busy working the routes!

Jamie on Psychoactive Wall

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Jamie on Psychoactive Wall

Ed working it on Psychoactive Wall

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Ed working it on Psychoactive Wall

Chuck considers his next move on Psychoactive Wall

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Chuck considers his next move on Psychoactive Wall

Jamie and I decided our bodies needed a rest day so we took Monday to relax, do laundry and drive into Cody, WY for the famous Buffalo Bill Heritage Center. Chris and Jodi had already been there and raved about it. Now we can say the same. It is a museum worth visiting and you could easily spend half the day walking through it.

Buffalo Bill Monument

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Buffalo Bill Monument

Buffalo Bill Museum, the largest polar bear ever hunted, 1940's

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Buffalo Bill Museum, the largest polar bear ever hunted, 1940′s

Chris and Jodi headed back to Denver and the next morning Chuck, Ed, Jamie and I made our way to Devils Tower, WY. Our plan was to summit the Tower 2 days later. We spent the first day at the tower doing some reconnaissance, scoping out the area and making a plan for the summit climb on Thursday.

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With Chuck and Ed at the Devils Tower Entrance

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With Chuck and Ed at the Devils Tower Entrance

We got a few routes in on Wednesday at the Assembly Line area to just mess around, feel the rock and prepare for the next day. While at Devils Tower we camped at the Devils Tower Lodge, owned and operated by Frank Sanders, a legend of the area. He’s been climbing for over 40 years and has made over 2000 summits of the Tower, now he is a Guide and offers up his awesome property to climbers and friends. Chuck met him a couple years ago at the Tower and he’s been camping there ever since when he visits.

Jamie cruising up the Tower at Assembly Line area

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Jamie cruising up the Tower at Assembly Line area

Jamie resting at Assembly Line

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Taking a rest at Assembly Line

Chillin' at Frank's

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Chillin’ at Frank’s

A rainy night camping at Frank's, as long as it rains at night and not while we climb!

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A rainy night camping at Frank’s, as long as it rains at night and not while we climb!

We made a plan to summit the Tower in the afternoon based on when the shade would hit the routes we chose. We headed up in 2 parties. Chuck and Ed on Soler and Jamie and I on El Cracko. The climb was a battle, especially since I’m not a crack climber. Even though I had my special gloves on it still kicked my ass!

Watch out El Cracko!

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Watch out El Cracko!

Waiting for the shade to kick in to begin El Cracko, Ed has already started up Soler

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Waiting for the shade to kick in to begin El Cracko, Ed has already started up Soler

Jamie (right) and Ed (left) beginning pitch 1 of our Devils Tower ascent

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Jamie (right) and Ed (left) beginning pitch 1 of our Devils Tower ascent

Chuck and I waiting our turns to head up

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Chuck and I waiting our turns to head up

Here are some shots of the 4 of us making our way up Devils Tower.

Ed working his way up Pitch 2 of Soler

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Ed working his way up Pitch 2 of Soler

HAND JAM!

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HAND JAM!

Chuck and Ed topping out on Soler

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Chuck and Ed topping out on Soler

El Cracko, top of Pitch 2

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El Cracko, top of Pitch 2

After about 4 hours we made it to the summit. Took in the view, shot some photos, refueled on food and began the process to rappel down.

Enjoying the summit finish of Devils Tower

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Enjoying the summit finish of Devils Tower

Chuck and Ed arriving at the summit

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Chuck and Ed arriving at the summit

Victory!

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Victory!

With Chuck and Ed at Rappel station 3

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With Chuck and Ed at Rappel station 3

The Tower casting a shadow out yonder

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The Tower casting a shadow out yonder

After another 2 hours we were at the base and all very proud of our day so it was time for some victory beers back at Frank’s.

After completing the summit climb, we are back down at the base

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After completing the summit climb, we are back down at the base

Devils Tower at Dusk

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Devils Tower at Dusk

We woke up on Friday to some heavy storms and were so glad we chose Thursday to climb and were not shut out by weather. After a huge breakfast we made our separate ways. Chuck and Ed off the the Needles in Mt Rushmore for more climbing and Jamie and I to Yellowstone. We had an awesome week with our friends and look forward to meeting up with them again in September for the 24HHH comp in Arkansas!

~Cathy

Beer Tooth Pass and Yellowstone
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We took off from Devils Tower and started making our way further West and North. On the way we made a quick detour to check out the Medicine Wheel, an 80′ diameter wheel like pattern made of stones. This is an ancient Native American construction on top of a mountain in the Big Horns of Wyoming. It was a beautiful 1.5 mile hike to check it out.

On the Hike up to Medicine Mountain

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On the Hike up to Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel

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The Medicine Wheel

From there we ended up spending the night in Red Lodge, MT. Great little town with good breakfast at the Cafe Regis! After breakfast we immediately set out for the scenic drive through Bear Tooth Pass. For those who have never heard of Bear Tooth Pass, it is a must do if you are ever driving out in this neck of the woods. It took us about 3 hours to get through the pass which is about 70 miles from Red Lodge to the North East entrance of Yellowstone, the drive is easily one of the best scenic by-ways in America for the gorgeous scenery…..the pictures just don’t do it justice, but we tried! ;-)

Heading into the Pass

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Heading into the Pass

Part way up the Pass

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Part way up the Pass

About 3/4 up the Pass

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About 3/4 up the Pass, getting colder

Almost at the top, and yes that is snow in the background!

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Almost at the top, and yes that is snow in the background!

 

One of the big views

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One of the big views

On the backside of the pass we came across this beautiful view

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On the backside of the pass we came across this beautiful view

Awesome lake at the end of the pass

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Awesome lake at the end of the pass

The highest peak you reach by car is about 10,300 and the temps dropped from 70 to 42F! The best part after the pass is it dumps right into Yellowstone National Park. We spent the day driving over a 100 miles through the park trying to take in as much as we could. It is such a great place to visit, and there is so much to see…..and once again, our pictures don’t do the place justice, check it out!

Off course they have plenty of Bison....and we got pretty close!

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Of course they have plenty of Bison….and we got pretty close!

Cathy looking for more wildlife in the park

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Cathy looking for more wildlife in the park

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

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The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Enjoying the day!

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Enjoying the day!

Yellowstone River

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Yellowstone River

Some of the thermal activity in the park

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Some of the thermal activity in the park

Cathy enjoying one of the waterfalls in the park

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Cathy enjoying one of the waterfalls in the park

And the day wouldn’t have been complete without seeing one of the major attractions, and it went off just like clockwork!

Old Faithful doing it's thing!

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Old Faithful doing it’s thing!

The great thing about our trip is….you just don’t know where you are going to end up sometimes. By 7pm we were looking for a campground in Yellowstone but we came to one full campground after another, at 7pm on a Friday night it was not a real shocker! We exited the park in Gardiner, MT, and set out to find a place to camp for the night. Everything was full, so we decided to get on down the road a little to try and find another campground, and just as we rounded this corner we came across a National Forest spot right on the Yellowstone River…….and the best part…it was free!! ;-)

In a van....down by the river!! ;-)

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In a van….down by the river!!;-)

We are now off to Big Sky, MT to visit with friends!

- Jamie

Big Sky, Montana
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Big Sky. Montana is the coolest little ski town and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to visit. Our friends Don and Caroline call this beautiful place home during summer and winter. Big Sky is located in southwest Montana and mid way between West yellowstone and Bozeman. We do have plans to move to Denver but after visiting Big Sky we may reconsider!! Or it may just became a new retirement place to dream about and add to the list of places we would love to live, next to Wanaka, New Zealand of course.  Upon our arrival about mid day we had a nice lunch and just hung out and caught up with each other.

Chillin' on the back deck with Don and Caroline

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Chillin’ on the back deck with Don and Caroline

The next morning Don and Jamie made a plan to get out and climb a 3 pitch trad route not too far from the house at Gallatin Tower.

Don working his way up!

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Don working his way up the second pitch!

 

Summit of Gallatin Tower

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Summit of Gallatin Tower

Gallatin Tower

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Don on Gallatin Tower

They returned for lunch and then all 4 of us headed out to a different crag just up the road for some cruisy sport climbing. It wasn’t long before we were baking in the sun and had to head out but not before I ticked off a couple more lead climbs.

Got my gear sorted, ready to lead!

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Got my gear sorted, ready to lead!

Working my lead route, The Hunter, 5.6

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Working my route, The Hunter, 5.6

Afternoon at Red Cliff, Don working Fat F*&% Five, 5.8

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Afternoon at Red Cliff, Don making his way up Fat F*&% Five, 5.8

I shall follow

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I shall follow

Taking a break with Caroline

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Taking a break with Caroline

That evening we decided to eat out at a local joint called the Corral Bar and Grill on highway 191. I think they’re famous for their burgers and beer and they did not disappoint.  Our server attempted to snap a shot of us, not the best pic but worth posting.

Dinner at the Corral

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Dinner at the Corral

Before taking off the next day we made a plan to drive up to the resort and check things out. Jamie was actually here skiing in 2005 with a bunch of friends but a lot has changed and been developed since then.

Don, Caroline and Jamie, Resort Base at Big Sky

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Don, Caroline and Jamie, Resort Base at Big Sky

We rode the chairlift up to the mid peak and got some nice shots.

On our way up the chair lift

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On our way up the chair lift

Top of mid station

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Top of mid station

Lone Peak in the background

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Lone Peak in the background

Jamie and his photo skills

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Jamie and his photo skills

Back down the chair lift!

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Back down the chair lift!

Thank you Don and Caroline for your warm hospitality and great company, it gave us a nice break from the road for a couple days. The sleep number bed and the fancy shower also made it hard to say goodbye!

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Next stop….Glacier National Park.

~Cathy

Glacier National Park
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It took us a day and a half to get to Glacier National Park. We would have been there sooner, but by the time we reached the city of Missoula the truck was in need of service. Since we got there late, we decided to spend the night and get the service done first thing in the morning. Being one of the bigger places we have gone through lately we opted for the highest class of accommodations! ;-)

Walmart parking lot......high class living...and it is free!

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Walmart parking lot……high class living…and it is free!

We woke the next morning early to be the first ones at the dealership…got to love the West. We arrive at the dealership at 7:25am, turned the keys over to them at 7:40am, and we were out of there by 8:20am!! We were off to Glacier, and after a day and half in the park Cathy and I both agree that the park comes the closest to some of the stuff we experienced on the south island of New Zealand. Here are some of the pictures from our drive through the park on the Road-To-The-Sun road.

One of the first lakes we encountered as we entered the park

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One of the first lakes we encountered as we entered the park

Just a a couple of the many waterfalls in the park

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Just a a couple of the many waterfalls

Cathy enjoying the view!

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Cathy enjoying the view!

More waterfalls!

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More waterfalls!

More of the gorgeous scenery!

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More of the gorgeous scenery!

and of course....more waterfalls....but hey! with views like this who can complain!

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and of course….more waterfalls….but hey! with views like this who can complain!

As we drove through the park we discovered that all the campground were full….shocker! ;-) BUT! As they say…all good things come to those who wait, we did a little venturing and ended up staying on an indian reservation on Duck Lake just outside the park…..check it out.

About to set up for dinner

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About to set up for dinner

Sunset view over Duck Lake

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Sunset view over Duck Lake

Morning view with Glacier National Park in the distance

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Morning view with Glacier National Park in the distance

The next morning we woke early to head back into the park to do some hiking. Through some recommendations we ventured off to hike the Iceburg Lake Trail, a 10 mile roundtrip hike through a really gorgeous part of the park……and what a reward at the end!

View from the early part of the hike

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View from the early part of the hike

Enjoying the day!

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Enjoying the day!

Our goal in the distance

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Our goal in the distance

Cathy approaching Iceburg Lake

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Cathy approaching Iceburg Lake

Iceburg Lake

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Iceburg Lake

Awesome place to eat lunch!

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Awesome place to eat lunch!

On the way back we had a close encounter with one of the parks many man eating animals…….these guys are trained killers!

Careful....he will take your head right off!!

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Careful….he will take your head right off!!;-)

This one snuck up on Cathy

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This one snuck up on Cathy

After the hike we started to make our way out of the park, and got one more surprise…..a grizzly cub…luckily from a distance.

Grizzly Cub

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Grizzly Cub

You almost wantt to go pet him.......almost!

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You almost want to go pet him…….almost!

We ended up driving to Eureka for the night, and the next morning got up to get some climbing laps in at Stone Hill right on Lake Koocanusa. (The start of my training for 24HHH….fingers are already sore! ;-)

Hanging next to the lake

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Hanging next to the lake

We ended the day with driving just West of Spokane…..so after Montana, we have very quickly gone through Idaho, and are now in the state of Washington!

- Jamie

Washington
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Our first impression of the State of Washington……flat and hot!! You wouldn’t think it would be that hot, but I think the first few days we were in the state we just caught it at the worst time. That said, as we moved through the state things started to cool off and we did see some pretty cool stuff. First off, for those who don’t know, as you come in from Idaho, Washington did not have the scenery we expect……the Eastern part is very flat, almost like being in Kansas!

After crossing in from Idaho, this was a first view of the state of Washington....not what we expected!

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After crossing in from Idaho, this was a first view of the state of Washington….not what we expected!

As you move across the state it does get better….a hell of lot better! We made our way to the town of Leavenworth. This little town is known for it’s touristy Bavarian buildings and it’s beautiful canyon. It also has some really good climbing. Unfortunately, as I mentioned it was hot….really hot! We ended up staying at the awesome campground call Tumwater up in the canyon, which is right on the river. The next morning the plan was to wake early to beat the heat and get some climbing in. Well, mother nature had a hell of a night and dumped rain all night long with some severe thunderstorms. By the time we let the rock dry and found the climbs we wanted to do, you felt like you were just melting off the rock! We climbed for a little bit, but we had to just bag it and head down. At least it was not too long of a walk to get in a cool dip/bath! ;-)

Cooling off in the river after feeling like we were going to melt on the rock!

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Cooling off in the Wenetche River after feeling like we were going to melt on the rock!

We decided to skip trying to climb anymore and start pushing more West and South. Our next stop was Mt. Rainier. What an awesome and gorgeous place. A lot of people train to climb some of the big peaks in the world here and once you visit you can see why. It is not some peak you just stroll up in a day. We got some great pics around the peak and did a small hike up to get some closer pics of the peak at Panorama Point.

Waterfall as we were driving up Mt. Rainier

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Waterfall as we were driving up Mt. Rainier

Some of the pretty fields around the base of the mountain

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Some of the pretty fields around the base of the mountain

Cathy on the hike up with the Mt. Rainier looming in the background

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Cathy on the hike up with Mt. Rainier looming in the background

Crossing a snowfield on the way up

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Crossing a snowfield on the way up

This is as far as we went, and it was impressive!

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This is as far as we went, and it was impressive!

Mt. Rainer!

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A lenticular cloud over Mt. Rainer!

Oh yeah…when we stopped to take these pictures, we also had a bite to eat. Just an FYI for anyone visiting the mountain….keep an eye out for these guys!

Marmot.....they will take your food!

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Marmot…..they will take your food!

and they are not people shy!

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and they are not people shy!

A couple of hours further down the road you come to another mountain that has significance in the state of Washington….Mt. St Helens! What an interesting place to see. The mountain erupted back in 1980 with the force of 24 megatons! After 33 years, you can still see the devastation it left behind…..it is impressive to see how powerful mother nature can be!

The eruption

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The eruption

Some of the old trees still remain like ghosts, with the newer smaller trees popping up

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Some of the old dead trees still remain like ghosts, with the newer smaller trees popping up

More of the old......and new

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More of the old……and new

You can still see trees that were flattened by the blast

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You can still see trees that were flattened by the blast

This is Spirit Lake which still has the remains of some of the dead trees

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This is Spirit Lake which still has the remains of some of the dead trees to the right

This is Spirit Lake which still has the remains of some of the dead trees

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Close up of the dead trees in the lake

Unfortunately, we were not able to get a photo of the mountain….it was covered in clouds the whole afternoon we were driving around. Bit a of bummer, but still a very cool place to see and experience!

- Jamie

 

Oregon Coast
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Picking my chin up off the floor became common procedure while cruising south on the Oregon Coast. The scenic Pacific Highway between Astoria in the north and Brookings in the south lived up to our expectations and then some. Many parts of it reminded us of Australia’s south east coast as well as New Zealand’s South Island, imagine that. The Oregon Coast is a hidden gem and the drive on 101 needs to be added to those Bucket List’s you may have or simply for anyone wishing to drive one of the coolest routes in America!  We took 2 full days to drive the Coast resting our heads for just one night at Seal Rocks. We started in Astoria, a small port town famous for one cool house overlooking the Columbia River…..

Goonie House

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Goonie House

None other than the Goonie House, the most classic movie of 1984!

"The Goondocks"

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“The Goondocks”

Also, a must visit in Astoria is the Astoria Column. The column was built to emulate the Eiffel Tower and the purpose of it was to offer locals and visitors a vista point to enjoy the views of the Pacific North West where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Astoria Column

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Astoria Column

Views from the top of the Column

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Views from the top of the Column

Further south from Astoria at Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock, another must see. As it turns out, this rock formation was also from Goonie’s. During the opening scene when the Fratelli’s are fleeing from the police and again at the end of the movie when Mikey is pointing out rocks in the distance. God, we love that movie!

Haystack Rock

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Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock

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Haystack Rock

We continued on south making stops at the road side viewpoints and of course in Tillamook and the cheese factory to sample some very good ice cream. These shots are from the rest of the drive on day one.

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DCIM100GOPRO

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We stayed the night at Seal Rock at a campground overlooking the ocean, it was a great spot. We got up early the next morning to get a workout in on the beach.

Seal Rock Beach

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Seal Rock Beach

The tide was so low that we came across some marine life exposed on large rocks.

Marine life on Seal Rock beach

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Marine life on Seal Rock beach

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DCIM100GOPRO

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On day two of our coastal drive we made many stops between Seal Rock and Brookings but took a little extra time at a couple of tourist attractions. First stop was Heceta Heads Lighthouse, said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. The beautiful Inn Keeper’s house, not photographed, is now a bed & breakfast managed by the US Forest Service, looks like an awesome place to crash for the night and from what I’ve read, breakfast is awesome! We of course are on a budget and did not stay there so can’t speak for it personally. Maybe next time.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

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Heceta Head Lighthouse

Views from Heceta Head Lighthouse

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Views from Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

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Near the Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

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The view looking out from the Heceta Head Lighthouse

Our last visit on the coast would be Sea Lion Cave, and this is said to be the world’s largest Sea Cave. We took an elevator down to the cave which has a 2 acre floor, a vaulted rock dome and is 125 feet high. Unfortunately, the sea lions were not hanging in the cave at this time of year but we did spot about 40 of them out on the rocky shoreline and in the water.

Entrance to Sea Lion Caves

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Entrance to Sea Lion Caves

Seals sunbathing

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Seals sunbathing

These are some more shots from the remainder of our coastal drive….

Coastal Views

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Coastal Views

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DCIM100GOPRO

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It was a true adventure and an unexpected surprise to drive this astonishing coast. We highly recommend it to everyone. We’ve also added Oregon to our list of the many places we would love to live!!

~Cathy

Lake Tahoe
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All good things come to an end and the Oregon Coast was one of those things.  We started to make our way inland into California. However, on the way out we couldn’t resist one more stop for a couple of more pics of the coast.

Fog covering the Ocean in the morning

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Fog covering the Ocean in the morning

Fog clearing

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Fog clearing

Our next stop was a few hours inland at a place called Trinity Aretes. This is a small crag I wanted to get some laps on. It sits near the top of a long drive up this mountain. We spent the afternoon getting some laps on some of the classics before getting back in the car for the long push to Lake Tahoe. Here are couple of pics from the afternoon.

Looking down from the top of the classic climb Goldrush

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Looking down from the top of the classic climb Goldrush

View looking out from the top of the cliff

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View looking out from the top of the cliff

We ended up arriving into Lake Tahoe late…….the latest we had ever arrived to a campsite, so we didn’t see much on the way in, and just crashed for the one night at Camp Shelly, which we had previously booked. Since we had only booked one night we needed to find a place to stay for the next few nights, so the next morning we woke early, and came up with a plan of trying to secure a campsite right away for the next few nights…….not an easy task being prime season! Luck was on our side and we drove into Bayview campground, which is one of the few first come first serve campgrounds and got a site…….our home the past few days!

Bayview Campground...pretty sweet!

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Bayview Campground…pretty sweet!

Cooking up some grub!

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Cooking up some grub…….with bear locker in background!

Since it did not take us long to get a site, we decided to do a little exploring and maybe get a hike in. Here are a couple of pics from around Lake Tahoe……just beautiful!

Checking out Lake Tahoe

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Checking out Lake Tahoe

Emerald bay

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Emerald Bay

We ended up going on a hike to Mt Judah and Donner Peak. It was a pretty cruisy hike with some great pics of the surrounding mountains and lakes.

On the hike up Mount Judah with Donner Lake in the background with

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On the hike up Mt Judah with Donner Lake in the background

Cathy near the summit of Mount Judah

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Cathy near the summit of Mt Judah

Heavenly Ski resort in the background

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Heavenly Ski resort in the background

More of the beautiful scenery on the way up

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More of the beautiful scenery on the way up

The next morning we woke early to tackle one of the classic climbs in the area. The climb is called Bears Reach, and it is located on the crag called Lover’s Leap. This is one of the premier granite climbing areas in the Tahoe area. The climb Bears Reach became super famous from a youtube video of a famous climber called Dan Osmond he attempted the speed record for free soloing this route and got it, in a record time of………4 minutes!!!! For anyone who wants to check it out here is a link to to video…..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy3SuhEQHVg

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  Now……what took him 4 minutes, took us just under two hours, but we did it with a rope and gear!! Here are couple shots from the climb.

A look at the East Wall of Lover's Leap

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A look at the East Wall of Lover’s Leap

Looking up at the start of Bears Reach

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Looking up at the start of Bears Reach

Cathy all smiles after pulling the Bears Reach crux

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Cathy all smiles after pulling the Bears Reach crux

Top of pitch two

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Top of pitch two

Cathy topping out on Bears Reach

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Cathy topping out on Bears Reach

All smiles after a great climb!

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All smiles after a great climb!

We also got in one more pitch on a harder mix route. A really cool route……a bit spicy, but cool!

Looking down from out last climb on Lover's Leap

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Looking down from our last climb on Lover’s Leap

It was good we got up early because the cliff face comes into the sun around 1pm. We finished up and got out of there before the heat settled in. The best part of climbing in the area when the heat does come……

You just go to the lake! ;-)

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You just go to the lake!;-)

The next morning we woke early so I could get another endurance day in. We hit up a cliff called Mayhem Cove which was right down the road form our campsite. The cliff has some cool granite features and I got in a great workout on the climbs. Though the sun started to bake us at 10am!

Mayhem Cove

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Mayhem Cove

Cathy trying to escape the sun while belaying my endurance laps........best fiancé ever!!!!!!

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Cathy trying to escape the sun while belaying my endurance laps……..best fiancé ever!!!!!!

UGH!!!! How many laps was that!!!

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UGH!!!! How many laps was that!!!

We spent the rest of the day checking out the rest of the lake. We drove into the Nevada side…….a little too busy for us around all those casinos! Then came back into the California side. Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous place, but unfortunately, being prime season, it gets a little too busy sometimes and too crowded to get around. We ended up heading to Squaw Valley to check it out. Really cool ski village, and in the near future could be a winter stop for us!

Cathy at Squaw Valley

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Cathy at Squaw Valley

This morning we slept in, and then decided to get a hike in before breakfast. It turns out at the back of our campsite there is a trail that heads to Cascade Falls, so we decided to check it out. The falls weren’t gushing, but there was still some beautiful scenery back there…….and it was only 30 min from our campsite!

One the way to Cascade Falls with Cscade Lake in the background, and Lake Tahoe covered in morning fog

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One the way to Cascade Falls with Cscade Lake in the background, and Lake Tahoe covered in morning fog

Almost to the falls

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Almost to the falls

They weren’t flowing the way we had hoped, but still a awesome view!

Cathy at the falls

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Cathy at the “baby” falls!

Looking out Cascade Lake from near the falls

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Looking out onto Cascade Lake from near the falls

The rest of our day is going to be spent doing the basics of road life……laundry, shopping, errands….blah!  But, the reward is……we are off to Yosemite tomorrow! ;-)

- Jamie

Yosemite National Park to Death Valley, CA
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On Monday, August 19th we left from our extended stay in Tahoe for Yosemite National Park.  We spent 2 days driving through Yosemite which is best characterized by its massive granite cliffs among many other things.

Driving the Tioga Road, Yosemite

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Driving the Tioga Road, Yosemite

Teyana Lake, Yosemite

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Teyana Lake, Yosemite

Tenaya Lake climbing area of Yosemite

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Tenaya Lake climbing area of Yosemite

Olmsted Point

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Olmsted Point with Half Dome in the distance

View of Half Dome from Olmsted Point

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View of Half Dome from Olmsted Point

El Cap and Half Dome in the distance while driving the Tioga Pass

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El Cap and Half Dome in the distance while driving the Tioga Road

El Capitan, a 3,300 foot face may be the most popular climbing destination in the world. We stopped off at El Cap a few times to check out the parties climbing the face and also hiked into the base of the most popular route, “The Nose”.

El Capitan

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El Capitan

The base of "The Nose", it will be climbed one day by this boy!

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The base of “The Nose”, it will be climbed one day by this boy!

El Cap and Half Dome in the background

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El Cap and Half Dome in the background

The 4,800 foot Half Dome, Yosemite Valley

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The 4,800 foot Half Dome, Yosemite Valley

We’ve been so lucky all summer as the weather has been amazing.  We’ve had typical mountain summer weather since we left VA and nights have been really cool.  Our lowest temp was 42F back in Bear Tooth Pass!  Well, all that is slowly changing : ( as we’ve made the turn south and out of Oregon we’ve really started to feel the heat.  Yosemite may be our highest temps of the summer so far when it reached 97F here.

It's a hot day in the Valley, 97F!

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It’s a hot day in the Valley, 97F!

Between Yosemite and Death Valley we stopped over at Owens River Gorge to do some climbing.  The Gorge is a steep 10 mile canyon on the upper Owens River in Eastern CA and has evolved into a popular climbing area.  The descent into the gorge was pretty steep and took us about 20 minutes to get into in and out of it.

Starting the descent into the Gorge

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Starting the descent into the Gorge

Gearing up to climb in the Gorge

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Gearing up to climb in the Gorge

From Chocolate to Morphine, Owens River Gorge

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From Chocolate to Morphine, Owens River Gorge

The storms are brewing around Bishop

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The storms are brewing around Bishop

Views around Owens River Gorge

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Views around Owens River Gorge

After Owens River we made our way to Death Valley National Park.  Located in CA and NE, Death Valley contains a diverse desert environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. It is the hottest and driest place in North America.  Inside the park is Badwater Basin, the 2nd lowest point in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. During our drive through the park, temps topped out at 109F! It was very hot!!

It was even hotter in Death Valley, actually topped out at 109F!

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It was even hotter in Death Valley, actually topped out at 109F!

Beginning our drive through Death Valley

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Beginning our drive through Death Valley

The Devils Golf Course, Death Valley

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The Devils Golf Course, Death Valley

Badwater Basin, 2nd lowest point in Western Hemisphere, 282ft below sea level

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Badwater Basin, 2nd lowest point in Western Hemisphere, 282ft below sea level

Cool rock formation in Death Valley

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Cool rock formation in Death Valley

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

So many National Parks in such a short span of time has been overwhelming and exciting. We will definitely return to some of them in the future to spend more time, hike new trails, and get some climbing in on the classic routes.  For now, we’re making our way to Las Vegas and Red Rocks National Conservation Park.

~Cathy

 

Vegas Baby!!
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We arrived into Vegas last Thursday evening. The bad news was that is was hot, and the campground out by Red Rock Canyon is closed this time of year. The good news is, we had accumulated enough Marriott awards points for a really nice room at the Courtyard Marriott for a really cheap price!! After living out of the truck for the past month and a half….I have to admit, it was really nice have a nice hotel room for a few nights!

On Friday we woke early and headed off to do a 6 pitch climb called Frogland. I had done this climb many years ago, and I thought it would be a great first multi-pitch climb in Vegas for Cathy, since most of it goes in the shade by around 10am. The climb was a lot of fun, and we knocked the climbing out in 4.5 hours. Here are a couple of shots from our day.

About to head into the Canyon

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About to head into the Canyon

Cathy coming up the first pitch

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Cathy coming up the first pitch

Cathy finishing up the 2nd pitch

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Cathy finishing up the 2nd pitch

All smiles at the top of the 3rd pitch

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All smiles at the top of the 3rd pitch

Getting ready to finish the last pitch of the Frogland

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Getting ready to finish the last pitch of Frogland

Toping out

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Toping out

Summit photo after an awesome climb, with Vegas off in the distance

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Summit photo after an awesome climb, with Vegas off in the distance

The next day we slept in a little, and then headed off for some sport climbing. I needed to get some laps in, so we headed to the Black Corridor, which is shaded all the time, and knocked out a bunch of climbs in a few hours. On another note…..Cathy also lead her first 5.9 sport climb!! She is really rocking the climbing on this trip.

Happy girl after leading her first 5.9

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Happy girl after leading her first 5.9

Climbing in Black Corridor.....plenty of shade!

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Climbing in Black Corridor…..plenty of shade!

That evening we were able to meet up with an old friend of mine, Brett. We played high school baseball together….way back in the day!! We met up with him and his wife Lizzy, and also got to meet their two year old son Archer (who we predict will be a future climber when he gets older ;-) Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures, but had a great evening hanging out!

The next morning we slept in…..sooooo good! Then after a quick workout, headed off for Hoover Dam. We were able to get a few pics in before the heavens opened up.

Hoover Damn.......it's big!!!

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Hoover Dam…….it’s big!!!

Cathy at Hoover Damn

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Cathy at Hoover Dam……..by the way this was the after picture.

The wind was really blowing, so this was our first attempt at that picture ;-)

This was the before!

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This was the before!

Lake Meade side

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Lake Meade side

It pretty much rained the whole rest of the day. Our first real rain day since…….we think, since New Zealand. We are now just outside the Grand Canyon, and hopefully the weather will hold for us and come good as we make our way into Utah!

- Jamie

Grand Canyon to Zion National Park
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After the Hoover Dam we cruised on for a few hours in the rain till we crashed for the night in Williams, AZ. Luck was on our side in the morning as we headed off to check out the Grand Canyon, as the clouds lifted for us for a few hours. This my first visit to the Canyon, and I always hoped it would live up to my expectations…….and it did….it is massive!

Our first view of canyon....pretty impressive!

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Our first view of the canyon….pretty impressive!

Enjoying the views

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Enjoying the views

More of the spectacular scenery

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More of the spectacular scenery

After a few hours of checking out the canyon the rain clouds decided to kick in, but that allowed us to get some some cool shots.

I think it is going to rain!

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I think it is going to rain!

Rain moving through the canyon

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Rain moving through the canyon

The weather that day gave us an impressive desert drive to Zion National Park. There were a lot of low level clouds as we drove through the desert.

Cool views across the dessert

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Cool views across the desert

Groovy mobile in the dessert

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Groovy mobile in the desert

On the way to Zion we stopped off and checked out the Navajo Bridge over the Little Colorado River.

Navajo Bridge

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Navajo Bridge

Little Colorado River......with all the rain....just a bit muddy!

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Little Colorado River……with all the rain….just a bit muddy!

We ended up crashing for the night in the town of Kanab, UT. Which, by the way, is the Hollywood of Utah, because they supposedly filmed a lot of western movies there. We didn’t see much of that, since it rained all night long…..our wettest night so far on this portion of the trip. The next day, the weather turned around for us as we entered Zion National Park. We both agree, Zion has to be one of the top parks we have visited so far…….awesome!! Here is a pic as we just entered the park.

First glimpse of Zion

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First glimpse of Zion

We were able to get a spot at the popular Watchman campground for the night.

Pretty sweet view from our spot....too bad they were booked, and we could only stay here one night

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Pretty sweet view from our spot….too bad they were booked, and we could only stay here one night

Since we had our accommodations sorted for the night we decided to head off for some adventure climbing! On the other side of Zion there is a Canyon called Kolob Canyon, which supposedly has the best sport route in Utah, a climb called Namaste. It is a 14 bolt long, overhanging endurance fest route, my type of climbing! So we decided to check it out. The hike into the canyon and to the climbing wall is about 45 minutes. I loved it, since there was not another soul around…..Cathy on the other hand…..had concerns of mountain lions and rattle snakes! Eh….it’s an adventure! The canyon is gorgeous, and we found the wall with no problems. Here are some pics from the hike and climbing area.

Heading into Kolob Canyon

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Heading into Kolob Canyon

Some of cool views in the Kolob Canyon

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Some cool views in the Kolob Canyon

Further up the canyon

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Further up the canyon

Getting to launch off!

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Getting ready to launch off!

Cathy top-roping a route on the Namste Wall

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Cathy top-roping a route on the Namaste Wall

Working the route Namaste....a bit wet and dirty in a few spots

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Working the route Namaste….an awesome route, but this day it was a bit wet and dirty in a few spots

The next morning we headed off into the heart of Zion to do the famous Angel’s Landing hike. Cathy and I both agreed that this has to be one of our top five hikes we have done on our whole trip. You gain a lot of elevation pretty quickly, so it can be strenuous, but the last .5 mile is over a ridge line that takes you to the summit. They have installed a chain to help people, and with the amount of exposure on the last part, I was really surprised how many people were doing it. Check out the pictures.

Starting up Angel's Landing, you actually summit the peak in the upper right corner of the pic

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Starting up Angel’s Landing, you actually summit the peak in the upper right corner of the pic

Looking down from about a third of the way up

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Looking down from about a third of the way up, you can see the trail on the right side of the pic

The view from the start of the last half mile ridge line hike to the summit

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The view from the start of the last half mile ridge line hike to the summit

Cathy coming across one of the narrow parts

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Cathy coming across one of the narrow parts

It's a long way down!

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It’s a long way down!

This gives a good idea of the ridge line you hike along with the chain

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This gives a good idea of the ridge line you hike along with the chain

Near the summit

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Near the summit

The ultimate reward.....the view from the summit is spectacular!

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The ultimate reward…..the view from the summit is spectacular!

After the hike we grabbed the shuttle bus to the end of the main canyon, and checked out the Narrows. This is one of the most popular hikes in the canyon…….and it was packed! We only hiked up to the start of the Narrows, as you have to walk through a lot of water on the hike, and since there had been a lot of rainfalls recently the water wasn’t looking too appealing!

The start of the Narrows..... anybody up for walking through some muddy water! ;)

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The start of the Narrows….. anybody up for walking through some muddy water!;)

Cool rock cairn at the start of the hike

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Cool rock cairn at the start of the hike

That night we ended up moving to the South Campground, as the Watchman was all booked up. It was a nice spot where you get visitors at dusk and dawn.

Visitors to our campsite

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Visitors to our campsite

The next morning, we broke down camp and headed back to Kolob Canyon. I wanted to give Namaste another run. Our first time there I discovered while I was climbing it that is was wet in spots, and there was a lot of mud on it from the water and sand mixing in some of the holds. We hiked back into the canyon and I gave it another run……it was dry this time, and the climb went down first go! I ended up doing a few laps in the canyon that day……great endurance training, as everything is overhung. Thanks again to my awesome bride-to-be for the catches!!

My awesome belayer!

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My awesome belayer!

Looking at the route Namaste

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Looking up the route, Namaste

Tick!

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Tick!

We are now making our way further along into Utah…..next stop, Bryce Canyon!

- Jamie

Bryce Canyon to Colorado Springs
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The drive north on 89 toward Bryce Canyon gave us a lot of opportunities to pull over and get some good shots.

Scenic pull off along 89

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Scenic pull off along 89

Hoodoos on Highway 89

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Hoodoos on Highway 89

Jamie messing around with a large boulder hoodoo

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Jamie messing around with a large boulder hoodoo

Arch bridge were about to drive through

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Arch bridge were about to drive through

Bryce Canyon is a small national park when compared to the other parks we have visited. There is one main road in and out of the park with scenic stops along the north side of the road. It only took us about 2 hours in and out, it was a nice day even though a storm brewing in the distance. We captured a few good shots of the “hoodoos” around the park.

A good introduction to what Bryce Canyon is all about

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A good introduction to what Bryce Canyon is all about

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon

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Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

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Bryce Canyon

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

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Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

More hoodoos of Bryce

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More hoodoos of Bryce

Bryce Canyon

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Bryce Canyon

Following Bryce we were making our way east across southern Utah which naturally took us through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  The grand staircase part of the name comes from the formation of the sharp rocks in layers looking like a staircase, although we never found this particular section of the park it is what we learned about it.  We didn’t explore this are too much so there are no pictures!

We spent the night at cool little campground outside Escalante.  We met a really nice Danish couple who pulled in next to us, so we had great neighbors on top of a great view!

Our camp spot outside Escalante

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Our camp spot outside Escalante

The view from our camp spot

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The view from our camp spot

The next day we made our way north toward Salt Lake City with intentions to climb at Maple Canyon.  The weather was way too hot so we canned that idea and instead spent a couple days doing the city thing.  We never actually went into SLC, we stayed south near Sandy, UT, camped free at a Wal Mart, indoor climbed at Monument Rock Climbing gym and took a couple excursions into the Provo Canyon.  We stopped off at Bridal Veil Falls which is a 607-foot-tall double cataract waterfall viewable from the highway.

Bridal Veil Falls

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Bridal Veil Falls

Our second stop was Sundance Resort which is owned by Robert Redford and is where the Sundance Film Festival originated.  It became so popular they had to move it to Park City where it is now held every January.  The Sundance Resort is very small but very quaint and rustic, a really cool place tucked away in the Canyons.

Soon after, we arrived in Moab, UT where we would spend the next 3 days relaxing and exploring our last 2 national parks, at least for now, these are the last! Once again way too hot to climb, temps were in the upper 90′s so instead we spent the day in the truck exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, both in one day.  We learned quickly that 2 parks in one day is a bit much.  First we drove through Arches.

First scenic pullout as you enter Arches NP

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First scenic pullout as you enter Arches NP

Park Avenue Viewpoint, Arches NP

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Park Avenue Viewpoint, Arches NP

Balance Rock

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Balance Rock

Turret Arch, Arches NP

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Turret Arch, Arches NP

North and South Windows, Arches NP

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North and South Windows, Arches NP

North and South Arch

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North and South Arch

Straight after leaving Arches we made our way to Canyonlands NP and explored the park by driving the White Rim Road.  Canyonlands is 337,000 acres of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries.  While much different than the incredible arches of Arches NP, Canyonlands provides its own drastic beauty.

Canyonlands

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Canyonlands

Our first view of the Canyonlands from Shafer Point

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Our first view of the Canyonlands from Shafer Point

Shafer Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands

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Shafer Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands

Canyonlands

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Canyonlands

We wrapped up our time in Moab and began the journey back toward Colorado Springs where we’ll spend some time at Chuck’s house again and recharge our batteries for the last leg of the Western tour! Arkansas and then back toward the east coast!

~Cathy

Colorado Springs II
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Just a quick update as we start to move into our last parts of the trip. We have spent the past week and a half at our friend Chuck’s place in Colorado Springs. On our way to Colorado Springs we forgot to post up the following two pictures…..they kinda speak for themselves, and we were laughing when we saw them ;-)

Hmmmm....why not?

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This sign says…DON’T PICK UP HITCHHIKERS, Hmmmm….why not?

Ohhhhh......ok, no hitchikers!

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This next sign said…PRISON ESCAPE CARSON CITY AREA, ….Ohhhhh……ok, no hitchikers!

We have filled our time here with getting the groovy mobile serviced and cleaned, training at the local gym for the up coming 24HHH, and getting a little climbing in outside. We wanted to climb outside more, but the rain has been relentless here, so good thing Co Springs has an awesome climbing gym called City Rock. Luckily we did get one good day in out at Devil’s Head before the rain storms showed up.

Cathy ready to launch off a route at Devil's Head

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Cathy ready to launch off a route at Devil’s Head…..cool place.

Another thing we were able to get in just before the rain showed up was another crack at the Incline Hike. If you remember from our July 20 post we both gave it a shot, and for my first time I logged a time of 39 minutes. All the hiking over the summer at altitude has really paid off. Cathy shaved 25 minutes off her last time, and I logged a 32:33 time this go. Here is a pic from the summit with the fog looming below us.

Happy to be at the top of the Incline

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Happy to be at the top of the Incline

Anyone who comes to Colorado Springs should give it a go…..it is a great challenge!

We spent our last day getting all our stuff back into our clean groovy mobile, and getting ready to blast off for Arkansas tomorrow. On a side note, I was coming and going from Chuck’s front door to the truck when all of a sudden I started hearing this buzzing sound. I looked around and just outside Chuck’s front door is a pile of rocks, and there was one huge bumble bee stuck in a web….and he was about to become lunch….check it out!

Yikes!!! I don't much about spiders but I know a black widow when I see one....sorry Mr. Bumble Bee

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Yikes!!! I don’t know much about spiders but I know a Black Widow when I see one….sorry Mr. Bumble Bee

We are off to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas tomorrow. It should take us a couple of days to get there, but this will be our first stop on our way back to the East Coast. Hopefully we are going to get plenty of climbing/training in over the next two weeks! ;-)

- Jamie

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Horseshoe Canyon Ranch
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Hey Everyone! We left Colorado Springs two Saturdays ago, and it took us two days to drive across country to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas. On the way over we stayed the night in Tulsa! We didn’t spend too much time there, except to really just stay the night. However, thanks to Cathy’s sister Tricia, we did visit the Center of the Universe….who knew it was in Tulsa!! ;-) Basically, there is this anomaly in the middle of the city where if you stand in this one exact spot, when you speak your voice sounds like it is echoing, but only to you, to everyone else it sound the same. It is really weird, because they can’t really explain it……so you feel like you are at the Center of the Universe!

Cathy standing in the Center of the Universe!

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Cathy standing in the Center of the Universe!

That afternoon we settled into our camp spot at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. For those who don’t know, the Ranch is a great place to climb, and it hosts a 24 hour climbing competition every year in September ( http://twofourhell.com/24HHH/Home.html ). I didn’t do it last year since we were overseas, but I did compete in 2010 and 2011, and my climbing partner Chris and I are doing it again this year. So we are here at the Ranch early to get some more endurance training in, and get some of the routes dialed down. Here are a couple of shots of life at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.

Arriving at the ranch

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Arriving at the ranch

Our campsite with some visitors

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Our campsite with some visitors

There friendly horses!!

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The friendly horses!!

They tend to be very curious....so you have to keep an eye on your stuff!

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They tend to be very curious….so you have to keep an eye on your stuff!

Chris and I are going for a new personal record for our team this year, so we have been working hard. As a man over 40 now :(  I know that if you work hard you need to also rest. Cathy and I have taken a couple of days off and done some exploring around the Ozark Mountains. On one day we did some scenic drives, and there was not a lot to see, but we did get a good shot towards the end of the drive.

Ozark Mountains

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Ozark Mountains

On the other day we had a good workout in the morning at a really nice park in the town of Jasper. It was right on the Buffalo River, which can make your workout a little nicer!

Cool river running through Jasper

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Buffalo River running through Jasper

We then headed to a classic Arkansas hike called Hawksbill Crag. A really nice hike through the woods with some really good views at the end.

Cathy at Hawksbill Crag

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Cathy at Hawksbill Crag

Cool B/W near Hawksbill Crag

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Cool B/W near Hawksbill Crag

Nice scenery from the Hawksbill Crag lookout

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Nice scenery from the Hawksbill Crag lookout

The past coupe of days we have spent climbing some more, and doing a little more exploring of some of the new crags at the Ranch. Cathy has really turned up her game, and has been leading a bunch of routes and lead her first 5.10b route today! Here are couple of pics from the past couple of days.

View of the ranch from the East side of the canyon

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View of the ranch from the East side of the canyon

Cathy climbing the route Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

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Cathy climbing the route Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, 5.11a

Jodi, Chris, and I climbing on the East side of the ranch

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Jodi, Chris, and I climbing on the East side of the ranch

Jamie pulling the crux moves of Mine, Mine, Mine

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Jamie pulling the crux moves of Mine, Mine, Mine, 5.11d

We are going to spend tomorrow doing a little climbing, then it will be rest time to make sure the body is in tip top shape for the comp. It starts this Friday at 10am, and we climb until 10am Saturday! Our team name this year is “He’s 40….I am not!”…..needless to say, I did not come up with that one! Wish us luck and we will post how we did after the comp.

- Jamie

24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell!
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The 24HHH comp started last Friday, 10am to 10am Sat, and Jamie, Chris and Jodi were more than prepared.  The rest of our friends, Corey, Josh, Chris, Torey, Ryan, Melissa, and Ed, arrived from VA the Wednesday prior when all of us moved into a cabin for the weekend.  Everyone but myself would be competing in the 24HHH.  We spent Thursday walking around the Ranch since Ed was the only one from our group who had never been to AR and was new to the competition so we showed him around and he climbed a couple trad routes to get familiar with the area.

Thursday before the comp, scouting the area with Ed

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Thursday before the comp, scouting the area with Ed

Ed getting familiar with the climbing at the Ranch

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Ed getting familiar with the climbing at the Ranch

Ed getting his crank on with a trad route at HCR

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Ed getting his crank on with a trad route at HCR

Free haircuts for climbers from the Rogue Barber

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Free haircuts for climbers from the Rogue Barber

Another climber getting a free haircut, this guy actually won "Best Haircut"!

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Another climber getting a free haircut, this guy actually won “Best Haircut”!

Our friend Torey getting a piton shaved out of his hair

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Our friend Torey getting a piton shaved out of his hair

We all took it easy on Thursday night, hung out at the cabin and made a pre comp family dinner to fuel everybody up.

Family dinner at the cabin

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Family dinner at the cabin

The day had finally arrived and our 10 competitors were pumped up for a day they had been training for for so long.  We all got to the Ranch early in preparation and the place was buzzing with climbers and vendors, everyone enjoying the pre-comp activity.  Our friends, John and Lori from VA flew out to Little Rock for a long weekend to visit their relatives but came out to the Ranch all day Friday to witness 24HHH and support Jamie.

Team VA super fans, John and Lori

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Team VA super fans, John and Lori

Andy Chasteen is the founder and director of the event and he was making announcement and going over rules before the part we all look forward to, the Climbers Creed.

Andy going over rules prior to the start

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Andy going over rules prior to the start

Andy announcing every team name, 140 teams!

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Andy announcing every team name, 140 teams!

Ryan, Torey and Chris gearing up for the start

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Ryan, Torey and Chris gearing up for the start

Every year, one of the organizers, Jeremy, writes up the climbers creed and announces it moments before the start of the comp. Climbers have to repeat what he says and this year it was pretty good…

Partner, the day, has finally arrived
My colorful leather boots, quiver in morbid anticipation
My belay hand lie in wait for your divine ascents
You partner, are the scabbard
…I am the sword
Partner, I will now speak in a horrible fake accent
Thou must now wish to distract me from my fear and trembling
Partner, the wind is nide before lost and yet our knots are not yet knotted
It is better to check thy knot than not, lest the rock be forgotten
Partner, thou must not freakin’ drop me!
Today we climb for victory, with muscles well honed our torsos well toned, our crimping and clipping are bad to thy bone
Partner, thou must not freakin’ drop me, for if thou does, I will slight thee on a bed of poles, or a burning cross, or drag you behind a herd of goats, or worse, tell everyone on Facebook
Partner, I chose you not for thy skill, but for thy determination and will
We battle our own battle
We fight our own fight
When the sun rises upon tomorrow
We will rise like zombies from the battles of night
Partner, we are more than climbers, WE ARE WARRIORS!!
We are lions in a field of lions
PARTNER!! CLIMB WITH ME!!!
LET’S RIDE…… 

Check out the video of the Climbers Creed on YouTube! http://youtu.be/vcQzZPjrcuM

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Surprisingly, the first 14 hours flew by! I say 14 because John and Lori and I left at midnight to head back to the cabin to sleep.  We talked about feeling guilty since everyone would continue climbing until 10am Saturday but hey, it’s their choice to punish their bodes in such a way so we went to bed!! But we didn’t leave without getting some great shots throughout the day and night.

Jamie working one of the harder routes at Ren and Stimpy area, first thing Friday morning

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Jamie working one of the harder routes at Ren and Stimpy area, first thing Friday morning

Jamie working a roof at Ren and Stimpy

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Jamie working a roof at Ren and Stimpy

Chris, Ren and Stimpy area

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Chris at Ren and Stimpy area, banging out the hard routes early!

Ed and Jodi ticking off Pantry Moth Invasion, 10b

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Ed and Jodi ticking off Pantry Moth Invasion, 10b

Chris climbing in The Land Beyond area

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Chris climbing in The Land Beyond area

Jamie working the same move

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Jamie working the same move

Jamie and Chris running between routes to keep up their pace

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Jamie and Chris running between routes to keep up their pace

Tallying up the scores so far, this is about 2pm on Friday

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Tallying up the scores so far, this is about 2pm on Friday, first score cards will be due at 10pm so the guys need to keep up with their route count

Chris working the hardest line he'll climb at Kindergarten Boulder, Crab Louse, 12b

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Chris working the hardest line he’ll climb at the comp, Kindergarten Boulder, Crab Louse, 12b

A couple of volunteers and a few random spectators

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A couple of volunteers and a few random spectators

John, Lori and I had fun watching everyone climb but we were also up for a little fun of our own.  The Ranch installed a Zipline the summer prior which is 400 ft off the ground and half a mile long plus they were offering 50% off for all climbers and spectators so we took advantage of this.

At the top of the cliff, ready to take off on the Zipline

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At the top of the cliff, ready to take off on the Zipline

I was the first one to take off, it was awesome!

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I was the first one to take off, it was awesome!

Lori coming off her Zipline high

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Lori coming off her first Zipline high

After Zipline and leaving the Ranch for a little dinner we came back to watch the night climbing.

Jamie sportin' the head lamp belay

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Jamie sportin’ the head lamp belay

Corey and Josh climbing a 5.10 at night

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Corey and Josh climbing a 5.10 at night

Head lamps light up the North Forty

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Head lamps light up the North Forty

The next morning, we returned early enough to catch the last hour of the comp.  It was another beautiful day and the vibe was still strong but I think the climbers were ready for the finish line!

Chris working was of his final routes on Saturday morning

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Chris working one of his final routes on Saturday morning

Many people appreciated the couch brought up from the Trading Co. especially Chris, far right

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Many people appreciated the couch brought up from the Trading Co. especially Chris, far right

Torey, Ed and Jodi expressing their "I'm Done" face

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Torey, Ed and Jodi expressing their “I’m Done” face

Jamie still happy after 23 hours of climbing!

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Jamie still happy after 23 hours of climbing and belaying!

John and Jamie

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Super fan John and Jamie

Getting in the last minute routes before the final call

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Getting in the last minute routes before the final call to turn in score cards

Jamie and Chris tallying up their final numbers

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Jamie and Chris tallying up their final numbers

Jamie racing to the climber check in tent to submit score cards by 10:15am

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Jamie racing to the climber check in tent to submit score cards by 10:15am

With Chris following

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With Chris following

Turning in the final score cards, it's over!!

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Turning in the final score cards, it’s over!!

A couple of proud boys who smashed their prior year numbers

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A couple of proud boys who smashed their prior year numbers

Chris and Jamie's tortured hands

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Chris and Jamie’s tortured hands

Jamie and Chris chattin' with Dick and Nathalie, the only partners who have been competing together since the first comp 8 years ago

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Jamie and Chris chattin’ with Dick and Nathalie, the only partners who have been competing together since the first comp 8 years ago

Ryan and Melissa enjoying post comp free massages

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Ryan and Melissa enjoying post-comp free massages

From left; Lori, Ed, Jodi, John, Jamie, Chris, Torey

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From left; Lori, Ed, Jodi, John, Jamie, Chris, Torey, all happy to be done!

Our crew from VA and CO

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Our crew Team VA – CO

...and their beat up hands

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…and their beat up hands

We headed home for a few hours of shut eye before having to return to the Ranch for the free pasta dinner and after party.  Our group of 10 climbers cleaned up pretty good at the awards ceremony that night!!

Pasta dinner back at the ranch following naps by everyone

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Pasta dinner back at the ranch following naps by everyone

Chris, Ryan and Melissa enjoying the free pasta dinner Saturday evening

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Chris, Ryan and Melissa enjoying the free pasta dinner Saturday evening

The weather was awful so the outdoor awards ceremony was moved into the camping pavilion, it was tight!

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The weather was awful so the outdoor awards ceremony was moved into the camping pavilion, it was tight!

Corey and Josh placed in their Intermediate category for overall points

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Corey and Josh placed in their Intermediate category for overall points

Corey wins again but I forget what for!

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Corey wins again but I forget what for!

Ryan and Melissa win for most amount of 5.7's climbed in the Recreation category

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Ryan and Melissa win for most amount of 5.7′s climbed in the Recreation category

Jodi placed for female overall points in her category

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Jodi placed for female overall points in her category! Go Yolanda!!

Jodi, aka “Yolanda the Climbing Phenom”, would like to personally thank her climbing partner, Ed, aka “Bubba Shrimp from south of Macon Georgia north of Tallahassee Florida” for his 24 hours of support and non-stop southern spirit!!

Jamie and Chris crushed it with 170 routes each for a team total of 340 routes in 24 hours!! An amazing accomplishment!! Official results will be posted soon at:

http://www.twofourhell.com/24HHH/Home.html

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We hope everyone had a safe trip home and we thank John and Lori for coming out to support Team VA-CO.  Congratulations climbers!!!

~Cathy

 

Arkansas to Virginia
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After leaving the 24HHH in Arkansas we made a plan to take a couple days on the southern route through Tennessee to visit Memphis and Nashville.  We figured there is no way we could drive through Memphis without stopping off for a visit to Graceland.  When we first pulled up to the parking lot we both shared the same feeling of “this is not what I expected”.  We purchased our tickets and were then directed to a shuttle bus which took us across the street and into a gated compound. Aha, now this is what I imagined.  We drove up a long driveway toward Elvis’s beautiful home, Graceland.  After being instructed on what to do and where to go, we began the tour of his home, the real deal, all the furniture and appliances and art work everything, was his, it was really cool.  We took loads of shots of the house.

GRACELAND!!!!

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GRACELAND!!!!

This home and the 13 acres of property was purchased by Elvis in the mid 50′s for only $100,000!

IMG_3434

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The main living room with a 15 foot white sofa!

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The main living room with a 15 foot white sofa! Elvis renovated the whole interior on the 70′s

Beautiful stained glass

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Beautiful stained glass

The Brady Bunch style kitchen

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The Brady Bunch style kitchen, notice the carpeted floor!

When Elvis was young, he promised his parents that one day he would make it big and when he did he would take care of them and offer them a lifestyle they couldn’t otherwise afford, and he did! His parents moved in with him and his family after he purchased Graceland.

Elvis's parents slept in this bedroom

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Elvis’s parents slept in this bedroom

The pool room, this room is covered in 350 yards of fabric, including the ceiling!

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The pool room, this room is covered in 350 yards of fabric, including the ceiling!

The King

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The King, a self portrait in the stairway

Priscilla and Lisa Marie

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Priscilla and Lisa Marie

The Jungle Room, covered in shag carpet, including the ceiling

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The Jungle Room, covered in shag carpet, including the ceiling!

Jungle furniture

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Jungle furniture

Media Room

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Media Room

Funky Monkey on the table!

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Funky Monkey on the table!

There were a few detached buildings from the main house, Vernon’s office (Elvis’s Dad) where he collected fan mail among other things, a racquet ball house, a trophy house and a meditation garden.

Elvis's personal racquet ball court converted to a trophy room

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Elvis’s personal racquet ball court converted to a trophy room

Elvis's ensembles

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Elvis’s ensembles

Wardrobes from Vegas

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Wardrobes from Vegas

The Trophy Building

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The Trophy Building

Of course, you cannot be the King of Rock and not own your own fleet of cars and private jets!

Elvis's 1st plane he bought in the 70's and named it "Lisa Marie"

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Elvis’s 1st plane he bought in the 70′s and named it “Lisa Marie”

Elvis spent $500K for the plane and another $250K removing the 96 seats and decking it out to become a home in the air.

Inside the "Lisa Marie"

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Inside the “Lisa Marie”

The planes conference room

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The planes conference room

The planes bathroom with a 14K gold sink!

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The planes bathroom with a 14K gold sink!

and Elvis's master bedroom on the plane

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and Elvis’s master bedroom on the plane

 

The famous pink cadillac he sang about and then gave to his mother

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The famous pink cadillac he sang about and then gave to his mother

We miss Elvis!

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We miss Elvis!

The Meditation Area in the backyard with the graves of Elvis, his parents and a tombstone memorializing Elvis's twin stillborn brother

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The Meditation Area in the backyard with the graves of Elvis, his parents and a tombstone memorializing Elvis’s twin stillborn brother

RIP Elvis

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RIP Elvis

Graceland was a really good experience and we recommend it to anyone passing through Memphis!!

We continued east making a quick stop in Nashville for dinner, we didn’t do or see much but we had a great meal at Merchant’s Cafe on Broadway

The only pic from Nashville, Broadway Ave

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The only pic from Nashville, Broadway Ave

We finally made it back to the east coast and stopped at the New River Gorge for a couple days of climbing at Sandstonia and Summersville.

Climbing at Sandstonia, on Butterfly Flake 5.7

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Climbing at Sandstonia, on Butterfly Flake 5.7

Jamie on Butterfly Flake

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Jamie on Butterfly Flake

At the top of Butterfly Flake

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At the top of Butterfly Flake

At the top of Butterfly Flake

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At the top of Butterfly Flake

Our last campsite of the world tour at the American Alpine Club at the New

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Our last campsite of the world tour at the American Alpine Club at the New

And that was it!! The end!! We have officially wrapped up our 15 months of wandering the planet and now we are back in good old VA preparing ourselves to face reality and responsibility : )

Check back in in a couple weeks and we’ll be blogging about our upcoming nuptials!

~Cathy

 

 

 

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