As a farewell to Bishop we had one final stop at Schat’s bakery, then hopped back on the road. Per advice from one of our newfound bar friends it was decided to make a detour through Death Valley on our way to Zion. Foregoing the AC to get the “full” experience made for a sweaty car ride through some amazing scenery.
Conveniently, our path took us through Las Vegas but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
We awoke in our tents the next morning, having survived the previous evening thunderstorm due to Janna’s survival knowledge, and entered Zion. We had two goals for our time in Zion; hike Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. Flash floods kept us out of the canyons of the Narrows, so we scaled the knife-like ridge line up to the overlook of Angel’s Landing. Goal #1 complete.
The day ended with some Golden Spike Hefeweizen and cheesecake to celebrate my 26th birthday and plans for an early start to the Narrows.
Unfortunately, flash flood warnings thwarted us a second time. So we drove up to Kolob Canyon, a less visited section of the park. There an easy 5 mile round trip hike took us to double arch alcove along Taylor Creek trail. After lunch overlooking the canyon, we returned to the visitor’s center to escape the afternoon storms. The next morning was our final chance at the Narrows.
A bluebird morning boded well for our chances. The forecast was in our favor so we boarded the shuttle and headed to the trailhead. The flash floods had turned the Virgin river into a shade of brown reminiscent of chocolate milk. Though we enjoyed the Willy Wonka reference, it made finding footing as we waded through ankle to hip deep water difficult. No one slipped up and the hike wound deep into narrow canyons. Goal #2 complete.
Surrounded by families, we forded this river in our shorts which made for a damp return ride on the shuttle. After drying in the sun at the visitor’s center, the Subaru got back on 89 South. Destination: Grand Canyon.
After Yosemite we drove to Bishop, Ca. A place I had only heard about through the climbing world, so I was expecting a small town. However we discovered a moderate sized city with a famous bakery, several outdoor stores, a laundromat with showers, and a bi-rite market. All of which we visited.
The next day we headed to the Owens River Gorge, a popular sport climbing destination just outside of town. Not so popular in the summers, however, as the high desert temps push the area climbers up to the alpine destinations. So we had the cliffs to ourselves for the day.
When climbing in the summer, the shade is your friend, and we followed our friend around the entire day. We started at the Great Wall of China on a classic 5.8 and 5.9, with Tania and Janna taking the first leads respectively.
From midday to 3:45, the only shade to be had was down by the river tucked under some trees. We were able to hide out here eating lunch and napping. Then we found cooler temps on the other side of the gorge. Here Janna scored her first lead of a 5.10 grade climb, she is now officially a intermediate climber!
It was my turn to pick a challenging climb. Boldly I chose the “steepest 5.10c in the gorge.” Normally I prefer and excel on more straight vertical climbs where I can use my technique to float to the top. Since this wall was overhanging I would have to rely on strength and endurance to make it up. I had to take after I pulled the crux and fell a little higher once my hands could know longer hold on, but after that I grinded it out to the top. As much as I struggled and how much it contradicted my natural climbing style, I was about as happy with the climb had I just onsighted a harder climb that was more my style. When I got down I watched Janna and Tania successfully battle the climb on top rope.
We walked out of the Gorge during the Golden Hour with some great views of the surrounding Sierras. It was a solid climbing day for all!
The next day was my golden birthday. Although we had pushed ourselves pretty hard the day before we had planned on squeezing in a few climbs that were allegedly 5 minutes from our campsite. We set off following a map we had received from a local guide shop. We walked much further than 5 minutes and found no walls that matched our description and the trail we had been following petered out into the bushes. We cursed the map maker and after we couldn’t figure it out I exclaimed that yesterday’s climb would count for my birthday and that we should head to town. On our drive back we realized that our reference point on the map (our campsite) was really down the road and we had been spending the last two nights at a trailhead parking lot. Whoops, at least we knew why we had gotten so lost.
The rest of the day consisted of eating burgers and homemade milkshakes at a shack in the middle of a trailer park and then swimming and showers at the local community pool. From there we began celebrating my birthday by visiting happy hour at a local saloon. The plan was to get one drink and then head to dinner, however, some nice locals began chatting us up. Next thing we knew we were doing shots in honor of one of the men’s three day old daughter (we decided to detach ourselves from the fact that he was at the bar…no judging) and I was wrangled into playing many games of shuffleboard.
Finally able to pull away, we ate some delicious Mexican and retreated from the lights of town back to our campsite.
Due to Janna’s determination, we managed an early start for the drive into Yosemite. The plan was simple: figure out camping and Half Dome permits at the visitors center. Unfortunately, it doesn’t open till ten. We aimlessly entered the wilderness center, where a helpful park ranger informed us if we waited in line till eleven we could obtain a backcountry permit for camping and a Half Dome permit bypassing the usual lottery day hike system. Perfect.
Two plus hours later, we headed out into the valley with permits in hand and energy to burn. The plan was simple: use the shuttle system to explore the park and then hike the 4 mile hike to Little Yosemite Valley after dinner. Unfortunately, we meandered past our shuttle stop while taking in the jaw dropping view of El Capitan. This left us wandering aimlessly along the one way road that circles the valley, miles away from our car, and confused as to where to regain our shuttle. Nothing like getting lost in the front country!
Luckily a nice young couple was willing to drive us back to our car and we cooked dinner a mere hour later than planned, packed our food into bear resistant containers, and took a late evening stroll up the steep switchbacks to the top of Nevada falls and Little Yosemite Valley campground. Perfect.
After our mishaps the day before, it was pleasant to make the hike up to the Sub Dome without issue. As long as you don’t count the 30 minutes of stairs after two hours of uphill hike an issue. We contemplated the final push to the top, which involves pulling on steel cables, before soldiering on.
All the work was worth it for more spectacular views of the valley.
An easy downhill hike back to our campground left us with an afternoon to burn. Luckily, a beach along the Merced river runs right outside the camp. After sunning ourselves on rocks and splashing in the mini rapids, we boiled water for a dehydrated dinner. Unfortunately, the propane ran out post-dinner. Oversight.
With oatmeal no longer a breakfast option, we scarfed a protein bar each and trekked back down to the valley. We treated ourselves to avocado sandwiches for lunch and rested our legs during the hour drive to Glacier Point. Occasionally, it is nice to let the Subaru do the work.
Our final day in Yosemite was spent in Tuolumne Meadows. We hiked down into the Sequoia grove to observe these wider, shorter but no less impressive cousins to the Redwoods.
From there we vetoed the initial plan to hike the eight mile round trip to Cathedral Lakes and made the shorter jaunt to Middle Gaylor Lake instead. This pristine lake hike was refreshing in its isolation after spending so much time in the overcrowded valley.
Yosemite was both spectacular and overwhelming and though we are all loath to leave, Owen’s River Gorge and the chance to climb more rocks drives us on.
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.
We drove out of Portland and passed beautiful Mt. hood on our left. After a brief lunch break at an Indian reservation we continued driving through Central Oregon to the world class climbing destination, smith rocks.
Like city of rocks in Idaho, we were in the desert and would have to chase the shade with early morning starts and evening climbs.
Our first day we set up camp, waited for the heat to fade, and then head up to the dihedrals. An area where famous 5.14 climbs are just around the corner from 5.7 moderates. Standing below routes like “to bolt or not to be” that I’ve seen on countless climbing videos was pretty awe inspiring.
We turned the corner and warmed up on some moderates and got a feel for the rock. At smith rock, small pebbles stick out of the rock and make great hand and footholds. We got three climbs in before the sun went down and hiked back to our car with headlamps on.
We ate a late dinner and headed to bed. The campground at smith rocks is kind of an ideal campground. Everyone stakes their tents somewhere in a meadow and then everyone must cook in a communal kitchen area. After camping in a majority of isolated campgrounds it was refreshing to start conversations with other climbers at the dish washing station or over breakfast. #imanextrovert
The next day was our big climbing day. We hiked along the crooked river to the west side of the rocks for some shade. The hike to pleasure point was very steep but offered an amazing view of mt. Hood and the three sisters range.
From here we climbed several climbs from 5.7 to 5.11a, with all of us leading at least two climbs. My personal favorite was the 5.11a that climbed an overhanging arête and required powerful moves off small holds.
We took a midday siesta and headed to the Phoenix wall. Obviously we needed to climb here because the name (Phoenix is the name of the Ultimate Frisbee team we played on together). As I was leading The Phoenix 5.10a during the golden hour two bald eagles flew overhead! Definitely a cool moment. We also climbed JTs route which was another classic rated 5.10b.
We hiked out again with our headlamps on and had a late dinner. The soreness from climbing a lot of routes in one day was starting to set in.
On our last day in Smith Rocks we woke up a little later than planned which meant that our climbing objectives were no longer shaded by the time we arrived. Despite the heat each of us managed to lead climb the ultra classic Five Gallon Buckets 5.8. This climb features huge circular pockets (huecos) that are almost big enough to fit yourself inside. It made for some lovely and interesting climbing. There is nothing like wrapping your whole hand around a solid hold and leaning back to get a full view of the valley down below.
Knowing our adventures would be calling us down to California and that we had a lot of driving to do, we left Smith Rocks and took the most illogical route to Yosemite (a story for our next blog). With the timing of our trip it feels like just when you start to sink your teeth into an area it’s time to move on. We comfort ourselves knowing we are headed to somewhere else great and that a lifetime of climbs still await us should we return. Also it was really hot…so that really helped move us along.
After a delicious but out of budget dinner at Costal Kitchen for treat yourself day, we woke up to a beautiful Monday in Seattle. With only a three hour trip to Portland on the docket and no great desire to be back in the car, we took a stroll to Pike Place.
Approximately thirty slightly overwhelming minutes later, we emerged from the crowd having resisted any impulse buys. Unfortunately, a conveniently placed Jimmy John’s was the straw that broke the camel’s back. You can only be so strong.
We hit the road and with a great final view of Mount Rainer said farewell to Washington.
Our arrival in Portland coincided with an ultimate showcase game between Portland’s Rhino and a college all-star team, NexGen. We made a quick dinner using a real kitchen, thanks to the hospitality my friend Manny, then headed to the game. Post-game we spent the evening chatting with NexGen announcer and Portland resident, Mario, who convinced us to get at late night snack at Potato Champion. Indulgence number two consisted of a food truck serving French fries covered in an assortment of toppings including; PB&J, pulled pork, and poutine.
The weakness continued on into morning at Pine State Biscuits. Oops. After a delicious southern brunch, we returned to the wilderness by floating the Sandy River. With half of Portland. Our five dollar Walmart rafts held up to the ‘raging’ rapids. For a job well done, we grabbed a beer and dinner from Breakside Brewery. Treat yourself x4.
In the morning, we treated Manny to some scrambled eggs and day old Jimmy Johns bread and hit the road ready for a return to what we know best. Rocks.
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.