Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Conquering Fears With A New Sport

During our recent adventures with Trent and Michelle in Moab, Trent unknowingly convinced us that our longtime dream to outdoor rock climb should/could be realized. Trent is an extremely accomplished, yet humble, climber. He solo aid-climbed a 2000 ft wall in Yosemite (or did he say 3000 ft?). He spent 5 days alone on the wall - 5 DAYS! This kind of accomplishment is unbelievable. I seriously don't even know what to say about it - especially after subsequently trying to outdoor rock climb for the first time.

A few days after leaving Moab, we watched a family of 5 rappel 140 feet off Cassidy Arch (pictured below) in Capitol Reef National Park. In the picture, you can see one of them rappelling towards the bottom. After watching them, I was emphatic, "That's it, we're getting canyoneering gear, and we might as well get rock climbing gear too."


Scott spent days and days researching and ordering the gear. I was in charge of the learning materials - videos, online tutorials, and books.

I could tell Scott was excited, but it took me a while to recognize his trepidation. He's afraid of heights. Even while we were making some moves during our hikes in the slot canyons (previous post), he was constantly saying "but the consequences are so severe". Now imagine what his mind is screaming at the top of a 100-foot cliff that he has to turn his back on.

We found a canyon south of Las Vegas (Keyhole Canyon) for our first outing. Keyhole Canyon is considered a beginner's canyon. There are 4 rappels with the first being 40 feet and the last being 100 feet. It did not feel like a beginner's canyon to us.

Before tackling the big stuff, we spent a day and a half at the mouth of Keyhole Canyon testing our gear, tying knots, and practicing our climbing skills. We were glad we were totally alone, because our rock climbing skills are embarrassing. Both of us are questioning whether we will ever really be able to rock climb well. Maybe starting a new sport in your 40's is not a good idea, but better late than never...

This was our very first rappel (pictured below). The first drop is a test of commitment. Once you drop the first one, you are committing to dropping all of them. Unless you have the skills and equipment to climb out (we don't), there's only one way out of the canyon, and that's down. I went first (hence the picture from the bottom). There are a lot of instincts to fight when you’re stepping off a cliff. My first few steps were unsure and Scott immediately seized the opportunity to bail by declaring, "Maybe we aren't ready for this." You mean, YOU aren't ready for this? After each rappel we were ecstatic, and I was so proud of Scott. He was definitely conquering some fears.

Rappel #1 - overcoming fears 


Rappel #2 - so loving this!!!

Rappel #3

Rappel #4, the big daddy at 100 feet that ended in a water puddle with buzzing bees

Canyoneering and rock climbing have opened up a whole new world of outdoor exploration for us. Oh the beautiful, remote places we will go! (hopefully)

Our camping spot at the mouth of Keyhole Canyon

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Slot Canyons in Southern Utah

Utah is one of our favorite states for outdoor recreation and natural beauty. After 10 days of incredible mountain biking in Moab (which deserves all the hype it gets), we headed to the canyons of Utah in and around Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante National Monument. If you are curious, here is a link to somewhat explain the differences between a National Park and a National Monument.

Morning coffee with this view at San Rafael Swell

The geology of the area lends itself to numerous canyons where some of them are so narrow, they are called "slots". Since we were visiting in the spring, there was still water left in most of the canyons.








The water rarely sees the sun, and is usually so cold, that it hurts to walk through. We went through great pains to avoid getting in the water.






Some of the canyons required us to wade in the water. I'm not embarrassed to admit that Scott carried me on his back for many of the swims because the water was so cold. Also, there were a few instances where Scott waded, but I bridged across, using every ounce of strength, flexibility, and determination to keep from falling into the cold, murky water.

Turning around almost immediately due to extreme cold.
Next time we visit "Tunnel Slot" we will have our wetsuits and booties.

Shrinkage? Check.

Enduring the cold water for the photo op

Exhausting bridge section - I made it! 

This area is such a wonderland for the kid at heart. We were enjoying the area during spring break which meant that we saw (and heard) many kids exploring, just like we were. Occasionally, instead of cursing the fact that there were so many school-aged kids everywhere, we talked about how it was a perfect and amazing place for them.

Lower Calf Creek Falls





Moqui Marbles! These black, iron oxide balls filled with hardened sandstone absolutely fascinated me (picture below). I couldn't stop picking them up. I wanted to collect them (big no-no) and do something with them (but what!!?). The details of their existence is still unsettled.


We were lucky to arrive at the Golden Cathedral (pictured below) in Grand Escalante National Monument just as a group was rappelling through. They had started their hike from above, and the final descent was through one of the 2 holes. All three of the guys wore 7 mm wetsuits and were still shivering. Just to put this in perspective, my thickest wetsuit is 5 mm and it is THICK as far as wetsuits go (if you plan on walking in it).




One day, we got really off the beaten track by simply following a topographical map to a formation called the "Cosmic Ashtray". The picture (below) doesn't do it justice. In the middle of undulating sandstone hills, is this hidden crater containing fine, orange sand and a cinder cone. It felt so out of place, totally random, and eerie.

That is sand, not murky water

Our time in the area inspired us to buy some canyoneering and rock climbing gear so that when we return, we can explore even more. Next blog post...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Moab, Utah

After spending the winter in Nelson, we worked our way south to the biking mecca of Moab, Utah. The change in climate and recreational activities was energizing. It was, for the most part, warm, sunny, and dry. We couldn't wait for the inaugural first-of-the-year outdoor sunset happy hour!

Scott made an outdoor shower patio at our camp spot - hot outdoor showers are the best!

It also so happened that our favorite road-warrior friends, Michelle and Trent, were on their way home to Oregon from Baja. Moab is on the way, right? Lucky for us, they made the detour and we spent the better part of a week biking, happy-houring, and sharing dinners with them. Friends like this are like gold. I am so grateful for the awesome conversations and belly-aching laughs (thank you Michelle).

Margarita smiles

The Moab area boasts a dizzying number of biking trails, as well as stunning 360° views, including distant snow capped mountains, and the red rock formations of nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Getting off the bike to appreciate the views



Looming snow-capped LaSalle mountains

No one needs to know this started with a few minutes of hesitation, right?

Moab is a very popular spring break destination, but we managed to camp and bike far enough away from the actual town that we barely noticed. Like always, we'll be back.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Very White Winter in Nelson, British Columbia

If you happened to see our latest planny plan, you may know that we planned to spend most of the winter snowboarding in Nelson, British Columbia. It was our first return to Canada since our wedding in 2005.

Canada welcomed us with open arms

Our plans happened to coincide with a record-breaking snowfall for British Columbia and much of the west (lucky us!). In Nelson, schools were closed for the first time in 29 years. When we weren't backcountry snowboarding, we were digging out the truck, and the all important hot tub, buried under feet of snow. I'm not complaining.

One of many dumps, after which we had to figure out where to put all the snow

Well-shoveled path to the hot tub

We found a really special backcountry stash 11 miles from our house. It was a lovely treed area that enabled us to snowboard during high avalanche-danger and no-visibility days, which was almost everyday. Too many times, I was secretly hoping for a day off because my legs were screaming. Now, spring is here too early, and I wish I had never secretly thought those things...

Here are some pictures of the beautiful area:










An added bonus to our epic winter was the unusual amount of live music, especially in such a small town. One of our all time favorite bands (The Rural Alberta Advantage) stopped in Nelson between their big-city shows. It turned out to be one of the best concerts we've ever seen. The venue was small, and the band was really into it. Almost everyone there was a die-hard fan.

Other memorable parts of the winter included the time when I happened upon a pine marten (!!!) slowly climbing up a tree, all while keeping an eye on me. These little animals are insanely cute (cuter than a teddy bear?). I'm so glad I happened to have a camera handy. So was Scott, who was further down the hill, listening to me describe the encounter over our walkie-talkies.


One thing about Nelson and the surrounding area, is that it isn't exactly a sunny place in the winter. It definitely reminded us of the dreary Northwest winters we suffered through for 10+ years. When the sun came out, we took pictures (see above) and one day, Scott got particularly inspired:

Rockin' the moss-tache

Finally hippie-cool enough to live in Nelson!

"Believe me. My stylist does the moss amazing work. No toupee. Totally natural."

The snowy winter came to an abrupt end throughout the west. The rain is pouring on the mountains, so we are sadly packing our bags. Some of our favorite mountain biking destinations in Utah are reporting 70 - 80° F with sun. It's time for some vitamin D.