Despite an empty Subaru seat and a Sara-sized hole in our lives, Tania and I left Salt Lake City on a mission. Inspired by our visit to the Mormon temple, we prepared for 2 years of…. wait no, a different kind of mission- to go to Colorado and find somewhere to live!
But first, a weekend in Denver to watch all of our friends from NC compete in an Ultimate tournament, the Colorado Cup. We stayed with a wonderful UNC/camp friend of mine, Robin, and made our way to the fields Saturday morning. It was the strangest & best reunion, to see our former teammates from all over the country. We hugged them all: Phoenix from NC, our bestie Wehlitz now playing with San Diego’s Safari, our favorites from Boston’s Brute Squad including Leila (Leila’s guest blog post), Kelly, Bitterman, and Julie. The guys from NC Cash Crop were also there, so Tania and I had an intense social agenda trying to catch up with so many friends. It was a whirlwind, but a great reminder of why we love the sport and community of Ultimate.
Monday rolled around, triggering our drive an hour North, from Denver to Fort Collins. We decided to attack our housing search by driving to Colorado State University where I’ll be starting my grad school program, then exploring the rental options nearby. After 2 months in the road together, fortunately Sara & Tania also decided they could live in Fort Collins instead of Denver so it can be the launching point to our continued adventures.
Using both Craiglist and an iPhone app, Trulia for rent (thanks Raj!), Tania and I booked 5 viewings in no time. After seeing a few gross undergrad houses and meeting some frightening landlords, we needed some ice cream. Then, we changed our strategy and happened upon the most adorable home by simply driving around the best-looking neighborhoods. Jackpot! After a call to Sara across the pond in France, we moved on this awesome house. We’ll be creatively repurposing a breakfast nook into a 3rd room, but we’re less than a mile from Old Town, the CSU campus, and City Park. Our landlords are the friendliest retired couple who told us all about their grand kids and recommended lots of places to eat, drink, and hike.
With our mission complete, Tania and I ran away to the woods for 2 days to climb before continuing on our adventure. Next up- getting on a plane to fly to Chicago!
After the epic hike of Mt. Timpanogos and a great home-cooked dinner in Park City with two of Sara’s friends, the farewell festivities commenced. Everyone know the best way to cope with one of your best friends flying to France is to eat lots of food and reminisce constantly. So, we ate breakfast at Salt Lake City’s delicious Park Cafe. Full of the most perfect french toast and egg-topped, kicked-up hash browns, we recuperated from hiking for 11 hours.
Since we were in Salt Lake and couldn’t muster the energy to go climbing, we opted to tour the Mormon temple grounds and the 4 related museums. Sufficiently educated, we made our way to our farewell dinner at the Red Iguana. Appearing to be an average Mexican restaurant, Tania ordered a cucumber margarita which was incredible, and I had the most delicious Enchiladas covered in a mango mole sauce. If you go to SLC, you have to try this place.
Another way to cope with a friend leaving is to stay up very late, pretending that the next morning will never arrive. Somehow, this plan is a bit flawed and the morning/plane flight tends to roll around before you’re ready. Nonetheless, we ditched Sara at the airport and sped away before we could get too emotional about leaving our extrovert behind.
There’s a collection of 5 National parks in Utah and Arizona that are all within 3 hour drives. Naturally, we decided to visit them all. After leaving Zion in the afternoon we drove to find a free campsite near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s tough to find roads when your map is drawn incorrectly, but a friendly employee at the Kaibab lodge directed us to a spot with a view of the Grand Canyon’s east rim. We promptly followed the advice, set up camp with an unreal view, and hopped back in the car to watch the sunset on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
The next morning was scheduled to start at 5:10am. This isn’t my favorite time of day, but watching a Grand Canyon sunset was on our tick list of great things to experience. 5:10am rolls around, signaled by faint beeping of Tania’s watch. I groggily open my eyes, observe that it’s still pitch black outside and ignore the wake-up call.
10 minutes later, I hear the tent zip and Tania once again tries to wake the sleeping Janna and Sara. Finally, we give in and crawl out of our very cozy sleeping bags to be bombarded by freezing cold air. Okay, so maybe it was 45 degrees but we put on full pants and puffy warm jackets, even pulling out gloves and beanies to sit and wait for the sun to rise. We huddled for warmth and took pictures that couldn’t do justice to the scenery around us.
At some point, we realized Arizona was on a different time zone and we actually woke up at 4:10. No worries though, we snuggled back into our tents and slept for 3.5 more hours. Thank goodness we set our own schedule!
Our real wake-up was a mini workout led by Tania at our campsite, followed by a 5k run back at the north rim within Grand Canyon National Park. We were awestruck by free icemakers at the park, filling our cooler and Nalgenes upon this momentous discovery. We then took some timed 6 minute coin showers while we did our laundry and ate lunch. After a quick scenic drive to see the Colorado River and another perspective of the Grand Canyon, we cruised out of the park headed north toward Lake Powell to camp for the night.
Lake Powell is a really, really big lake created by damming the Colorado River with the feat that is Glen Canyon dam. They have a great visitor’s center and very helpful rangers- and an added bonus of 3 educational movies! The problem was that we really needed ice cream, so we restrained ourselves to one film, then rolled into Page, AZ to satisfy our craving at 10:30am. (Once again, a Utah/Arizona time snafu thinking it was 11:30.) Fully sated from our snack, we then checked out Horseshoe Bend with the whole country of France…or so it seemed.
Next, we joined the flock of French tourists for a relaxing afternoon on the shore of Lake Powell at a spot called Lone Rock. Now, you can’t stick a giant rock in the middle of a lake and expect that I don’t see it as a challenge. So, Sara and I inflated our colorful tubes and confidently set out. 40 minutes later, success! But, you also can’t stick a giant rock in the middle of water and expect climbers to just look at it. So, Sara and I had to swim around it testing every possible hand and foothold in our efforts to climb it. About 90 minutes of treading water, pulling chunks of sand from the giant sandstone rock, and a few blisters later, we decided to end our deep water bouldering session. Boaters were amazed by our daunting trek, but we safely made it back to the shore to reunite with a happily sunbathing Tania.
Some other highlights from our time around Glen Canyon include stargazing on the hood of the Subaru while eating pudding, hiking to see the “toadstools” in the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, and opting to forego an overpriced Antelope Canyon trip to instead watch the other two movies at the visitor’s center. We left Glen Canyon Dam feeling quite knowledgable and energized to continue on our next adventure!
Here’s an account of our 3 day trek from Oregon to Yosemite:
We rounded out our Oregon adventures with a jam-packed day. First up after Smith Rock- a drive through Bend. There’s a beautiful river winding through the town, and we had to restrain ourselves from grabbing our tubes and floating with the masses. Instead, we pushed on to Crater Lake National Park. It was our first time there, and I think we all gasped at the breathtaking blueness of the lake. Tania commented in awe of its “reflecty-ness” and after viewing the brand new park movie, we continued on our way.
With only a vague idea of where we’d make camp each night as we headed toward Yosemite, we made a spontaneous stop at Stewart State Park to eat dinner. We were greeted by a blue lake, a full bathhouse with dishwashing sinks, 30 picnic tables, and not a soul in sight. It was surreal to have the space to ourselves and we were sure to select the best table for our tuna, shells, & cheese.
With full bellies, we made our way to Medford, OR and finished out our meal with a round of local brews.
By now night had fallen, signaling a great time to find a free campsite in the “dispersed camping” sections of forest service land. We’ve used this method before: find a Motor Use Vehicle Map and determine where it correlates with the free dispersed camping permitted on both National Forest Service and BLM lands. It’s legitimate… but often tough to find. On this particular night, we found out that the poor signage wasn’t too accurate. 12 miles of winding, gravel roads turned into 21 which feels like a lot more in the dark. Finally we arrived at Big Pine Campground, home to the world’s biggest Ponderosa Pine. Such luck!
Simple drives aren’t our style, so we continued to meander west to meet up with the 101 for a scenic coastal drive. True to form, the Northern California coast was foggy and we could barely see a thing. It didn’t deter us from eating lunch at a beachside park and then heading down to Redwoods National and State Parks. Stiff-legged, we fell out of the car at Lady Bird Johnson Trail and recovered while soaking in the sights of thousand-year-old redwoods. Feeling oxygenated and alive from the damp green forest, we drove to find another night of free lodging at Honeydew Campground.
To get to Honeydew, we had to drive about 20 miles out of our way, bumping and curving down old forest service roads. In perfect timing (still light outside!) we arrived at Honeydew to find the 6 legitimate sites. They were full.
The rule abiding women that we are, we used the regional map and decided to continue our backwoods trek to Horse Mtn. Campground. It’s always fascinating to drive on a terrible gravel road for 20 miles only to have the terrain worsen. We’re talking multiple creek crossings, hairpin switchbacks, and a grade steep enough that turning around wasn’t an option. Add in the fact that we had 80 miles left in the gas tank (a generous estimate) and no concept of when our next gas station would be, and it makes 12 miles of road take a really long time. 90 minutes later, we pulled into an empty campground at Horse Mtn. and immediately cut the engine. Phew. Getting stranded in the forest of the lost coast would have to wait another day.
The number one goal: get gas ASAP. Fortunately, the campground map indicated gas only 15 miles away in the coastal town of Shelter Cove. With many bumpy switchbacks behind us, we breathed a collective sigh of relief at the sight of the sleepy coastal town. Enjoying civilization, we took some time to befriend the friendly lighthouse keepers and observe the coastal wildlife in the tidal pools.
At this point, I was getting antsy to go since the Subaru was fully gassed and we were still quite far from Yosemite. I dragged Tania and Sara from their newfound adoptive grandparents at the lighthouse and we whisked ourselves back to the 101. It was now 36 hours since our original foray off the 101 to find camping, but we were back on track at 11am with 9+ hours to drive.
After a short time, signs beckoned us to drive through a giant redwood tree. My rational refusal to spend $5 to wait in a line and drive through a tree was outweighed by this being on Tania’s “bucket list”, so we did it. Our bagel/cream cheese/cucumber lunch may have been more exciting to me, but I guess it was pretty unique.
We were finally making decent time on the road when we started to approach California wine country. Someone (Sara) planted the seed that we should stop for a wine tasting, and you can’t expect 3 women in the midst of their quarter-life crisis roadtrip to pass up such an experience. A quick Internet search later, and we pulled into Dry Creek Winery just north of Sonoma. Despite our grungy roadtrip ensembles, we were immediately befriended by a retired couple named Judy and Dick. Judy was a firecracker, offering plentiful life advice. “Marry rich or have a pension” and “don’t do anything too innovative” were some of the gems. Meanwhile, Tania was elated to talk hockey with Dick who played with some famous Blackhawks player back in the day. Through all of this chaos, we managed to taste some delicious wine. 7 (free!) tastings later, with a new “Aunt Judy” and some climbing beta (insight/advice) from an employee, we made our way back to the interstate with a great Sauvignon blanc.
Despite the fact that it was 6:30pm and we had 3.5 hours to drive, we rationalized a stop at the ice hockey masters (40+) world championship tournament held at the Charles Schulz arena. Our pal Dick had been competing in the tournament, and we felt challenged to make an appearance after our winery discussions. After seeing a goal and grabbing photo-ops with the Peanuts characters, we finally completed the final leg of our drive. We got down to business on this drive, and arrived just outside of Yosemite to cook a star-lit dinner at our campsite at 11pm. Perfect.
Sometimes, you have to get where you’re going efficiently, and at others you let the roads carry you where they may. A road trip is great for finding the middle ground, but I’d caution against letting the roads lead you to (and through) every whim.
Feeding 3 active, hungry women isn’t easy. Raised to respect vegetables and empowered by perhaps too much knowledge of what makes a complete protein, we mostly try to finish each day full and satiated. When we aren’t indulging in “treat yoself” weekend, we pay strict attention to our pre-planned budget. AKA: eat cheap and cook everything ourselves. Our many remote destinations and the size of a collapsible cooler also dictate many of our choices.
Food is an integral part of our road trip and here’s our recipe to success!
A 2-burner Coleman stove, 1 frying pan, 3 sizes of pots, 4 plates, 4 bowls, 1 spatula, 2 spoons, and 3 sporks for eating. 1 knife and an 87cent cutting board.
We try to go to the store roughly every 5 days. Walmart supercenters typically win since they’re the cheapest.
Stocked with an arsenal of 150 bars (Clif/nature valley/etc), we have snacks to throw in our packs at the beginning of every day. Back home, we streamlined boxes into gallon ziplocs overflowing with minute rice, dry milk, oatmeal, cheez-its and more. In addition, our pre-trip SAMs run set us up with 20 cans of tuna, 5 of canned chicken, & more Peanut butter than we should admit. Our food Rubbermaid takes up an entire seat in the Subaru and it is awesome.
On the momentous, glorious days we go to the store, we indulge in vegetable-centric feasts of colorful stir-fry or quinoa with grilled veggies. After these nights we wake up feeling revived, and build on that joy by eating 3-egg omelettes with sautéed spinach and mozzarella cheese. If you’re Tania, add Sriracha.
One day after grocery shopping, we probably have a few more fresh veggies stashed. Grab these ingredients:
1 fresh green pepper, diced
3 handfuls of leftover spinach, sautéed
1 container of “pizza squeeze”
1 package of pepperoni
A bulk Walmart bag of mozzarella cheese
The ziploc of Parmesan you’ve carried since NC
6 tortillas (2/person)
With all 6 hands on deck, compile the ingredients into tortilla pizzas. Speed is of the essence since its probably 9:30pm and you’ve just hiked for 4 hours. Tip: try to avoid dripping on the plate so you have less to clean later!
If you haven’t seen a store in days here is the meal of choice:
Rice and Beans
1 bowl of minute rice
1 can of black beans
1 can of chicken
1 can of rotel
3 tortillas (with cheese if you’re lucky)
1 can green beans on the side
This 1-pot wonder works magic after a day full of climbing. Tania tip: add sriracha. A lot of sriracha.
Everyone knows dessert is an important part of a balanced diet. Other than the one time we ate 12 s’mores in one sitting, pudding is our post-dinner snack of choice:
2 cups of cold water
Enough dry milk powder to make it taste vaguely milky
1 package instant pudding
In a matter of minutes, we have the perfect soft-set solution for our taste buds. Cookies & cream is our favorite.
We eat other, less inspiring meals as well. Lots of oatmeal & cereal for breakfast. PB & honey or Nutella sandwiches. Cucumber & cream cheese wraps. Cheddar & tuna sandwiches. Sometimes you’ve just gotta fuel the furnace and other times you have delicious Rainier cherries or fresh blueberry pancakes. Yum.
If you have any meal ideas for us, we’re open for suggestions! Comment here or email us at letsjustgetinthecarandgo(at)gmail.com.
Our road trip aligned with an incredible event called Potlatch. Located near Seattle, WA, it was part ultimate frisbee tournament, part dance party, and part camping in a giant field. It was the perfect 3-day social event to celebrate the halfway point of our road trip.
While we lapsed into typical tournament mode and forgot to take any pictures, just imagine a goofy team from Salt Lake City, Utah named Gold Rush. Instead of typical uniforms, this tournament encourages costumes. We had Sara who looked like Peter Pan in gold spandex and a billowing shirt, me in an empire-waisted, golden gown trimmed to knee length, and Tania wrapped in the excess fabric from my dress. Pair those outfits with some lumberjack-like “gold miners” with jorts and suspenders, and you have a very confusing line of teammates.
Potlatch also encourages Spirit games after each game of ultimate to build camaraderie. There was an Indiana Jones themed relay, trust falls off miniature trampolines, and a dating show inspired by the movie Hitch. Each team brings their own unique character and shares a little bit of that at the end of every round.
After many years of elite level ultimate that involves lots of sprints and zero Batman relay races, it was refreshing to see this other side of the sport where competitive games can be played and there can also be a half-time slip’n’slide.
We wrapped up 3 days of Ultimate and dancing feeling very exhausted but fulfilled. We may not have won many games in the traditional sense, but we gained a lot of wonderful new friends and had a fantastic experience.
[Guest Post] I’m Jenny – the first to
crash join the road trip! I met Janna a few years ago when we studied abroad on the Galapagos Islands. When I heard that Janna was embarking on a two-month excursion out west, and I found myself with a break in between jobs, I couldn’t help but ask to tag along. With the stipulation that I write a blog post and protect the group from bears, Janna, Tania, and Sarah happily accepted me.
I live in Washington D.C. and work on public lands and wildlife issues, so it was particularly exciting for me to join up with the road trip in Wyoming to spend a few days in two of our most famous National Parks, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
After securing a backcountry permit for the Tetons (more on that later), we spent day 8 in Yellowstone. Now, there are numerous ways to enjoy our public lands – one great thing about National Parks in particular is that they are extremely accessible and well maintained. Hop in your car, cruise down the paved road in the park, pop out at the overlooks, and you have yourself a National Park experience! Due to the limited time we had to see Yellowstone, we decided to go for the drive through tour.
First stop: Old Faithful – after patiently waiting with hundreds of other park goers, a lunch of weird combinations of peanut butter, carrots, and tortillas, and an unsuccessful attempt to start the wave in the crowd, we watched the famous geyser erupt. A similar experience may be found by watching this youtube video: Old Faithful Geyser Erupts, Yellowstone National Park
Second Stop: We then cruised to a geyser basin in the park – where we were able to see multiple hydrothermal features including hot springs. After searching for and failing to obtain a parking lot, we opted to park the car down the road and hike half a mile (which proved to be easier and more enjoyable than driving in Yellowstone).
Last Stop: A sweet waterfall!
Despite having seen multiple wildlife species in Yellowstone – including bison, elk, swans, and pronghorn, after a day in the crowded park, we were more than ready for a backcountry trip in the Tetons. After a storm, beautiful rainbow, and to Janna’s delight, a field full of ponies, we found a campground in the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest and called it a night.
Days 9 and 10 were spent backpacking in the Tetons. We obtained a backcountry permit, prepped ourselves with bear spray and a bear box to keep any grizzlies away, loaded our backpacks, and set off to Jenny Lake (coincidence?) to a trailhead that would take us up Cascade Canyon to a campsite nestled in the heart of the mountains with a spectacular view of the Grand Teton.
We watched marmots shuffle over the terrain and ate a delicious family style freeze dried supper of Mountain House chili mac & cheese and beef stew before watching the sun cast majestic light on the Grand Teton. One of my favorite things about backpacking is seeing how the light changes a landscape when the sun sets – the Tetons did not disappoint!
We woke up on day 10 and hiked up to a high alpine lake called Solitude Lake without our backpacks. Although it is the end of June and the temperature was warm, the lake was covered in ice and we had to trek through a half mile of snow to reach the edge….in our sports bras. The lake was breathtaking – we even saw some trout swimming below an ice-free portion.
We hiked back to our campsite and picked up our packs for the descent out of the canyon. Now, all this time, I was holding the bear spray close at hand, but we hadn’t spotted any wildlife other than a deer and marmots. However, on the hike down, much to our excitement and fear, a fellow we passed warned us of a bear and cub about half a mile ahead of us near the trail. We proceeded to be as loud as possible – Janna even went into multiple renditions of camp grace songs. We heightened our efforts when someone told us the bear was just 200 yards away – we passed, looked for the bear….and never saw it. A woman then told us a moose was just ahead of us on the trail and even showed us a picture she took on her camera. We were more excited to see a moose than a bear of course, so we hurried ahead…and never saw it.
We learned we are superb at scaring off wildlife. As we approached the parking lot and end of the approximately 17 mile-backpacking trip, we breathed a sigh of relief as we thought we were in the clear from wildlife attacks. Little did we know, a few steps ahead, an innocent looking sage grouse would turn on us as we got too close to her and her chicks crossing the trail. Luckily we escaped and reached the Subaru unharmed.
You may ask what clothes one brings on a backpacking trip. Well, to keep your load light on a short trip like we did, you only need clothes for hiking, warm clothes for nighttime, and a change of socks to keep your feet dry. You know you’re an outsider when you happen to be the only person in the group not wearing the same shirt…or, as Janna would say, I just wasn’t ‘tealing’ it. Either way, at least no one thought I was a girl scout.
As you can imagine, when we got out of the backcountry, we could have used a shower. Unfortunately, our campsite didn’t offer such amenities, but it did offer a lake, which we jumped in prior to building a fire and eating enough s’mores to refuel ourselves for many days ahead.