Thursday, July 10, 2008

My attempt to do justice to the events of the past week: Part 2

Top Ten Reasons I Should Not Be A Truck Driver:

1. I get nervous driving large vehicles

2. I’d be tempted to drive across the border… and the next border, and the next…

3. I don’t like people passing me/I don’t like driving 60 mph

4. I don’t own a trucker hat

5. I wouldn’t know what to do if I got a flat
6. I’d get distracted playing the Volvo game

7. I don’t like being told to hon
k by small children, and even less by adults
8. I’d get lonely
9. I’d be tempted to sell cargo on eBay


On the drive to Joshua Tree National Park, the green of the Bay Area slipped and tumbled into rolling desert.
The air conditioner battled the rays of the sun for dominance over the temperature inside the car. Nate and I just sang Billy Joel between handfulls of trailmix. And the price of gas clung stubbornly to $4.59.

8 hours and a few cds later we arrive to the sun-scorched town of Joshua Tree. Up the hill, past the ranger station (where we had to, regretfully, lower the window, losing precious cool air), we swung along the winding road weaving in an out of the path of
crinkly Joshua Trees and fists of bulging boulders.

loved the Joshua Trees instantly and promptly tried to imitate their quirkiness.

We were an hour late to meet Keveño, Nate’s high school buddy, and there was no phone service in JTree. We picked a campsite and began unpacking and setting up camp in the sweltering 5pm heat, hoping that he would happen upon us. Sure enough, the 6’5” (not 6’4”) Maine-native-San-Dieg
o-dwelling bursting from the seams with energy Kevin pulled up. Brief How ya DOing?s. Wasting no time, we shoulder our packs and sunglasses and scramble over boulders to Nate’s project. Kevin’s enthusiasm and determination is infectious! A burly 5.8 crack route fails to derail his efforts. We all make it up the route and watch the sunset from the top, tired and scratched up.

On our way back to camp, the stars emerge. The sky is immense and the stars cradle the waxing crescent moon. I constellation gaze in awe as we slurp watery pasta.

Nate and Kevin are up early to beat the
heat. I sleep until I feel the sun slap me in the face. There is no point in trying to sleep when the southern California sun wants you to get up. I saunter around Joshua Tree getting my bearings on. The sun is hot. VERY hot. I think it must be around 11am or Noon. I meet up with the gentlemen by chance at Intersection Rock, of all places, and together we take off for the next group of rocks. The sun forces us to find shade. We set down the crashpad and hop on some problems. Kevin's watch reads 8am. 8am. Nate and Kevin have been up since 5.

It’s the kind of dry debilitating heat.
The kind that causes you to drag your feet through the sand and stumble on the desert brush. The kind that zaps your energy in 5 minutes of sunlight. Have you ever been so hot that all you want to do is curl up under a rock and sleep? Around noon, that’s all we could do. We found some shade under a rock, rolled out a sleeping bag and slept. Soon, the sun crept up on our feet and we awoke in a sweat. So, we moved the sleeping bag over a few feet back into the shade and slept again. This went on for hours. Hours.

Finally we felt sorry enough for ourselves that we drove into town and hung around air conditioned shops for a
while. But there’s only so long we can get away with that. Back at the camp, we brave the heat to check out Nate’s project. He crushes the first few parts of the 5.13b. That night we celebrate by going out to eat. We have to convince a Chinese restaurant to stay open late and feed our dirty, sunburned, exhausted appetites!

Instead of staying another day in the oven of southern Cali, we decide to move on to the cooler, high altitude Flagstaff, AZ. The always up-for-everything Kevin jumped in his car and we drove the 5 hours. More desert rolled by the windows, gas prices started to plummet, and Nate started to feel ill. First it was a headache, next a stomachache, and followed by a fullout everythingache! We had passed 8,000 feet, so we attributed it to altitude.

Once in Flagstaff, we had only vague directions on how to get to the climbing. Hours later we’re still driving down the same road, back and forth, not finding the road we want. We pull up next to a cop car to ask directions, roll down the window, and wait. The cop doesn’t respond. We peer into the window. Is she asleep? HellooooOOOooo..?! And then it dawns on us… it’s one of those fake cops meant to trick unsuspecting motorists into slowing down. Well, we took the trickery one step further.

Nate makes friends with Hunter, the recently wed, boat fixing, talkative local. He gives us some advice. We hike down into a canyon of thick trees and skyreaching porous rock faces. A mile down we pull out onto a road that turns from paved to unpaved before we could say, “Where’s Priest Draw?” Nate and I set up our tent a few steps from the road with the aid of headlamps, fearful of rattlesnakes and other creepy crawly grounddwelling creatures. Kevin opted for the passenger seat of his car.

The whole next day we search for the mysterious and elusive bouldering area known as Priest Draw. We adorn our packs and hike for hours in the hot sun. I scamper behind the long legged guys, finding myself out of breath from the thin air. We hike and hike… until we find… ! An airport?! We pass the time and heat by making up stories one word at a time. They were mostly about dinosaurs, three little pigs and one evil, partypooper wombat.

Defeated from miles of hiking in the Arizona sun, we drove to the Visitors Center in downtown Flagstaff only to find that the coveted bouldering area was down the very same road we had camped out on the night before. It had been staring at us pointing and laughing the whole time. It must have been in cahoots with the fake cop.

We finally found the signature Triangle Rock. Whew. Pulled out our crashpad and cliff bars and set off. The next few hours were devoted to bouldering and hiking between rock formations. The forest above shaded us from the devouring appetite of the sun.

In the Bat Cave, Kevin and I tried a V2 roof route that whooped my right heal.

Nate found his V9 Carnivore Direct. Kevin provided energetic motivation while I sat in the shade with my book. The ducks kept following us.

We ran around, hopping on any boulder that caught our eye. No rules. No guidebooks. Just stretching our legs and frantic exploration!

Night snuck up as I ran back to the car. Dinner was soup and sandwiches. Moths loved our headlamps and took up residence in Nate’s empty soup can. We pitched our tent in the parking lot adjacent to the car. Brrrr… it’s a lot cooler than JTree.

Got up with the sun, as seems to be the trend these days. Oatmeal and tea never gets tiring somehow. Dogs and their yoga instructor provided us with morning entertainment and blasting music. Hike hike hike. We pass all the boulders. Hike hike hike. We’re all in unusually low motivation states.
I climb a couple VA’s. Nate slices his fingers on his project. Kevin decides to begin his drive back to San Diego. Can’t begin to describe our gratitude. He drove hours out of his way and took days from work to join us. His enthusiasm and positivity were inspirational. We really enjoyed him being here.

Nate and I, left to our own devices, returned to the pit for some sport climbing. While waiting for a 5.10b, we attempted a route whose rating was unbeknownst to us. After the second bolt, Nate flew up the route. Then it was my turn. Pausing here and there, sometimes I just could not hang on to the rock. I struggle and grunt through the route! After the extremely awkward last move, I sighed with tremendous relief. It was over. We found out later it was a 5.10d. My first.

Now keep in mind we haven’t showered in days. Our sandled feet have hiked all types of terrain. We’re wearing clothes and dirt from 3 days ago. We shouldn’t be allowed in civilization. But we go anyway.

I wash my face, hands and feet in a coffee shop’s bathroom. We end up in the only pizza place open late,
which happens to be an upscale gourmet restaurant. They took one look at us and avoided eye contact. They sat us in the corner by ourselves, but we were okay with that. I was embarrassed to be myself! Something about camping and hiking in the wilderness for a week has zapped the social skills required for modern culture. We giggle at our dirty shirts, Nate’s black ankles, and our greasy hair (that I try, and fail, to cover with a grimy bandana). And oh my goddess, I am so tan. I don't recognize my dark, dirty self anymore! The pizza is amazing though. We devour the beautiful food specimens in front of us. The restaurant is closing and they practically push us out the door. Camping under the stars has become a beautiful routine. We're asleep the second we zip up the tent door.

We were just packing up the tent this morning when two van loads of highschoolers pulled into the parking lot. The privacy of our bedroom became public as they casted their eyes at us. We took a picture of them taking a picture of themselves. Noteworthy are: our overflowing car and me frantically trying to pack up the tent stuff!

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