Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paradigm Shift

The Mammoth Caldera

Days have grown short, the nights frigid, and the hourglass empty.  We've somehow managed to live in a small white box with wheels for roughly 450 days.  Now, with only days left till our arrival back in Seattle, there is no denying the imminent shift so close at hand.  Here in Bishop (CA) we're still lingering in the high desert sunshine, finding sunny walls to climb on, and hot springs to absorb any and all anxieties.

In the course of the last couple weeks we've experienced many different landscapes from Nashville to Bishop.  I'm going to let these pictures mostly tell our story.  Thanks to all whom have enjoyed our North American travels, and have from time to time found inspiration from our little online narrative.  "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!"  --- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ---

Upon leaving Nashville, the weather was always just beyond our reach.  So, instead of spending some time climbing at the Horseshoe Ranch in Arkansas, we bee lined it for the Desert SW.  After 20 hours on the road, we eked a very meager workout at Albuquerque's local climbing gym.  Can you say stiff?  So, we did a bunch of 30 foot top ropes with nary an extra foothold and called it good.  Before hitting it, we topped off our tank and fodder at TJ's.  By midnight we were in Gallup, NM.  Morning came early and we busted it up to Cortez and onto Mesa Verde National Park.  It was Monday, icy cold, and exceptionally beautiful.  I'd say there are no better times to visit our National Parks than in Winter.  For me, the experience is always far better when the crowds are not present.  It was a first time for both of us at Mesa Verde.  Here's some of what we saw:

Mesa Verde National Park
Our knowledgeable Ranger.
Imagine going for a hike and finding this.
Pueblo peoples also had wine cellars.  How cool?
During our visit we took a ranger led tour of the only cliff dwelling available in the Winter (Spuce Tree).  He explained the known and speculative history associated with the different hunter/gatherer types who lived in the Desert SW over the last Thousand years.

It was incredible to imagine people farming up in these high Mesa mountains with primitive tools and agricultural techniques.

After the tour we took a nice hike along the Mesa.  Then we drove a loop road with many viewpoints down to other cliff dwellings.

The following day we made our way to the Grand Canyon's South rim.  Needless to say, there were still lots of people, tour buses, and the like.

I'd last been there in 99', fresh out of College and on my very first road trip (living in an old Jetta).  Yes, this time I actually got out of the car and took a hike along the rim.  Though we didn't have time to hike to the bottom, we did catch plenty of breathtaking views.

Aptly named, this place is indeed "Grand".

The Grandiose Canyon
Where is the bottom?
Grand Canyon Lovin'

That night we punched it another couple hours up to Paige, AZ.  This set us up for a shorter drive to Zion National Park the following day.  In the early morning we took a few minutes to soak up Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.  Hmmmm, lots of barbed wire, concrete and power!  Ayn Rand would have been proud.

That said, we were happy to have such a nice road and bridge to make our way over the Colorado Canyon.

Not Edward Abby's sweetheart.

With Paige trailing behind us, we sauntered up to the Eastern entrance to Zion.  Tiff hadn't been here before and it was fun to point out some of the more famous rock formations.  Zion's Shuttle Bus was out for the season, and soon we found ourselves driving upstream, along the Virgin River, gaping up at the giant sandstone precipices.

Shortly, we hopped on the Angel's Landing trail and soon found a fresh beat in our step.  This is one of my favorite Zion hikes (despite the concrete) with titillating exposure and panoramic vistas.  Our lungs and sprit were much refreshed by days end.  Before leaving Zion we made our way up a couple other short byways.

Lake Powell.
Angels Landing trail.  Crazy huh?
Zion.  Real pretty.
Feeling real small at this point.

At the Zion Visitor center we became aware of an incoming storm front.  High winds and cold air were pummeling the Sierra and expected to arrive within the hour.  Driving around in our Sprinter is mostly pure joy.  It has power, adroit handling, and of course, great looks.  This however, doesn't help one bit when the wind picks up.  Its achilles heal really is its height.  As we left the Zion Canyon and turned West towards St. George, things got real interesting.  Crosswinds upwards of 50mph came out of nowhere, and soon we were in full battle mode, my hands gripped to the wheel and my nerves on edge.  We've never heard of Sprinters tipping over because of wind, but I'm sure it has surely happened.  Words can't express the image of horror that our minds conjured up when visualizing that possibility.  I'd probably be wearing my guitar for a hat at the least.  It wouldn't be pretty.  Fortunately, we pulled into St. George safe and sound.

Climbing in and around St. George (our original plan) we scrapped because of nasty weather.  The following day, after writing our last blog 'the beginning of the end', we set our course for Vegas.  With a few hours we had arrived and met our friend Moe Witschard at the Red Rock Resort and Casino.  We went to the Yard House where they have 130 beers on Tap.  Yep, 130.  Of course, we couldn't sample them all.  Personally, my favorite was the Stone Pale Ale.  It was great to once again see my man Moe.  He's a heck of a photographer and had recently escaped 90mph winds in Death Valley while attempting an insane venture to capture an elusive and migratory sand dune.  Hats off to you Moe!  Check out his sweet imagery here: http://www.moephotography.com/.

Sin City.  Land of the Buffet.
We stayed around Vegas for 6 days after saying goodbye to Moe.  Four of those we spent climbing at Red Rocks and two of those exploring manmade and natural wonders near Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.

It was fun climbing in Red Rocks again after a 10 year hiatus.  Sure, the rock is a little sandy, bouldery, sharp...but, the scenery is breathtaking!  Unfortunately, it was a little too cold to explore the multi pitch climbing in the canyons proper.  We did have fun huddling in the warm alcoves of the Calico Hills.    Here's some more shots of this unique area.

Red Rocks and the Calico Hills.
Tiffany leading a sweet slab at the Panty Wall.  
And, that is why they call if Red Rocks.

Yours truly finishing up the Gallery
Just downriver from Hoover Van
Nevada Hot Spring.

Hoover Dam

A nice way to see Hoover Dam.
One the cooler side trips while in Las Vegas was our excursion down to Gold Strike Hot Springs.

After a couple days of crimping at Red Rocks, we were in need of some relaxation, and these Hot Springs were the ticket.  They required only a short drive down to Boulder City and an hour hike down a gorgeous desert wash.  Two or so miles down the canyon this wash goes from desolate to verdant as hot water gushes from holes in the canyon floor.  There are at least four awesome pools leading up to where the canyon meets the Colorado proper.

Having hiked in at sunset meant we had the whole place to ourselves.  From the Colorado we slowly worked our way back to the van by starlight, soaking, and taking in the night sky.

It was seriously awesome.
The next day we took a bike trail to visit the Hoover Dam.  It was big.  Very impressive.  If I was an engineer and a little more fond of concrete, it might have been better.  But, I was glad to have seen this gargantuan thing.

Sunrise in the Vansion.  Just another day in paradise.
Don't worry, she eventually came back after I nailed this Vansion in a landscape shot.

From Las Vegas we moved to Bishop, CA.  But, not without taking in Death Valley National Park.  Again, Winter is the perfect time to see this Mordor type landscape.  I could definitely imagine "Sauron" building a big fortress at 'Badwater'.  He would dig it.

Here are some good times photos from the Valley of Death.  Enjoy~

This is the perfect place to dip your Marg glass.

Tiffers totally airborne.
Desert yoga, the best.
No, this isn't in Arabia.
The last time I was in Badwater it was 125 degrees.  This time, 45.

And so, after surviving Death Valley we drove onto Bishop.  We've been here now for four days.  Most of that time we've been sport climbing down at the Owen's River Gorge.  This place is special to me; for it is where I cut my face-climbing teeth over ten years ago.  I did my first 13a here, and it is still good.

Other than that, we've been hanging with friends, soaking up the sun, and exploring some little frequented hot springs.  Here are some shots from Lil' Hot Creek the other morning.  It was a brisk 19 degrees when we got to the pool.  Things generally improved once inside the 105 degree water.

lil' hot creek
Coffee and Hot springs, perfect.

Well folks, that about wraps it up.  Hope you all enjoyed the pictures.  We certainly had a great time taking them!

Not sure what the future will hold for the Gilkisons'. But, it certainly will be an adventure.


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