Rainy Day Decisions #12 & 35

I write to you, family, friends, and readers from around, from Canmore, Alberta. The grand, seventy-nine-day road trip has come to an end. Here is the last post about my adventures with Tom in the  United States, as I will return to blogging about recipes after this:

Glacier National Park, Montana, was our last stop: the only national park shared between Canada and the United States. Our plan was to spend a few days in the US part, then a few days in Waterton, Canada. This plan was adjusted after we were faced with the following three obstacles: forest fire smoke that clouded some of the hikes and views on the east side of the park, a lack of free camping, and a rainy forecast later in the week.

Glacier is a very large park. The first two days we spent on the West Glacier side. We discovered a picnic area beside a lake that was very quiet, and went there twice to prepare food. We also hiked over 10 miles along the Highline Trail, not realizing that our decision to hike it backwards meant that we were going uphill rather than downhill. We were exhausted by the end, especially because it was so hot that day. However, the views were gorgeous, and we saw some wildlife, which both made the hike exciting.

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Deer having his lunch right before we had ours

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View from the Highline Trail

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Marmot

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Bighorn Sheep

Our transition to the other side of the park is where we encountered some difficulty. We thought we would take a leisurely drive through the park to see what was in the middle, but encountered a lot of traffic, and then drove through the smokiest area of the park. We discovered on the east side that outside the park was a Native American reserve, which meant that we could not camp in any of the forest area. We had to drive about an hour south of the Many Glacier entrance of the park to find a forest service road with primitive camping on the side of a dirt road. Our commute to the Many Glacier entrance involved driving through more smokiness, and  loose herds of cows that liked to jump out unexpectedly on the long, windy road. There were only so many days we wanted to deal with this.

We hiked to Iceberg Lake at Many Glacier, which was one of my favourite hikes of the trip. It was 10 miles long from start to finish, but not very inclined, and the lake at the end was spectacular.

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Check out the icebergs in the lake

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A few times throughout our trip, we were able to escape bad weather by moving on to our next destination, but as we were at the end of the trip, so close to Tom’s home, and in an area with no free camping, we made the decision that Waterton could wait for another trip. It is, after all, only a few hours from Calgary, and we can go during a time when the weather is more appealing. It was a decision that I felt bittersweet about; I didn’t want to cut our trip short, but both of us were starting to make peace with it coming to an end.

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On our last day we went to the Two Medicine entrance and skipped rocks at Two Medicine Lake.

I think it is evident that this trip has been an incredible adventure. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of, as a climber and a person. I could not have asked for a better travel companion, and even with all the nicks and bruises along the way, it was all worth it. I am truly grateful for the people who have taken the time to read and comment on my posts over the last three months. Thanks for all the support!

After three months of living out of a car, eating one-pot meals, having limited access to showers and toilets, and sleeping in a real bed only once, it is back to reality I go. You can be sure that at the next possible moment, I will hop right back in my car-home and continue to explore this beautiful world.

Tits and Stones

Right after posting my last post, Tom and I were packing up to leave the Old Town Café, in Lander WY, when we ran into a couple we had met in Devils Tower: Meera and Kurtis. We grabbed a bite and some brews with them, and agreed to meet the next day to climb together at Wild Iris. After that day, both Tom and I were too sore to imagine another day climbing; pocket climbing at Wild Iris left me with cuts on my hands and cuticles, and almost no skin on my fingertips. We packed up our campsite and made our way to the Grand Tetons.

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Tetons after the rain – view from our campsite

That day was rainy, and it seemed as if out of nowhere we could see high peaks looming among the clouds. The view of the sharp, majestic Teton peaks followed us along the highway, getting more and more incredible. The view followed us to the free campsite we found, where we had a full frontal view of Les Trois Tetons (“the three breasts”: Grand, Middle, and South). The first night we were there, the Grand was hidden by clouds, and it wasn’t until the following evening that we were able to see the tip of the Grand in all its glory.

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Tetons hidden in the clouds

During our two-day stay, we hiked the approach trail up to the base of the Grand Teton, where climbers go to camp out before summiting the Grand the following day. Tom and I considered doing some climbing, but the weather forecast was poor, and we don’t have the right equipment for backpacking. We also hiked around Jenny Lake, and up to a view called Inspiration Point. We explored Jackson, and enjoyed beers and nachos during happy hour at Snake River Brewery (“put our river through your liver”, as their motto says). Two little highlights for me were seeing a herd of bison on the way to our campsite, and a black bear during one of our hikes.

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On the trail to see the Grand

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The Middle Teton

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When we could finally see The Grand

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On our hike around Jenny Lake

The Tetons were touristy, but not nearly as much as our next stop, Yellowstone National Park. We drove through the south entrance and to the west entrance in a day, stopping to see the geysers and mud pots along the way, reminiscent of the active volcano Yellowstone once was. We saw Old Faithful geyser, which spurted up a stream of 4000-8000 gallons of water into the air, right on its natural 90-minute schedule, in front of the hundreds of tourist spectators, including us. We were both exhausted by the amount of people, and escaped to solitude at a dispersed camping area we found 15 miles outside the tourist trap that is West Yellowstone.

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Sunset Pool

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View of the geysers

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Little cloud in the mountains and the river beside our campsite

Going west into Yellowstone National Park brought us into Montana, leading us closer to our next stop: Glacier National Park. As we work our way north, Tom and I are facing the reality that our three-month road trip is coming to an end. One more week and we are back home.

Roaming in Wyoming

Well, here we are back in Wyoming. To recap, Tom and I left Colorado in early July to bypass the rain, and spent 12 days in north-eastern Wyoming: Ten Sleep Canyon and Devils Tower. We returned to Colorado to spend some more time in Denver, Boulder, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Fort Collins.

Our last days in Colorado were spent escaping the crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park, and escaping the heat in Horsetooth Reservoir. We climbed White Whale (5.7 crack) in Lumpy Ridge, and attempted to boulder in Horsetooth, until the heat was too much, then cooled off in the Reservoir. So long, Colorado; it was a blast!

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At the top of White Whale
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Twin Owl at Lumpy Ridge

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Tom working Punk Rock Traverse (V5) at Horsetooth Reservoir

Wyoming is a magical place. Vedauwoo, Ten Sleep Canyon, and Devils Tower all hold a special place in my heart after our experiences there a couple weeks ago. On our way north out of Colorado this time around, we went back to Vedauwoo for two days, joined by Anthony and Magoon for one day. And, I am so glad we did go back.

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We were quickly reminded that the climbing grades at the Woo are sandbagged (climber-speak for harder than the grade the route was given). We struggled hard on a V1 diagonal crack called Cupcake, and panted our way up Ted’s Trot (5.7 chimney). We also played around on some 5.4 and 5.5 cracks/off widths, and a 5.8 slabs, then worked our way up a 5.10a crack called Friday the 13th. On our last morning, Tom and I cruised up Edward’s Crack (5.7) and loved every minute of its 70 metre hand jams, fist jams, foot jams, and the final gaping off width (larger than fist size crack) move. At the top of the climb we scoped the many unique piles of lumpy granite rock, and truck-sized boulders balancing on their tips. We were also welcomed both times to the Woo by a bright full moon, giving us a distinct moon shadow in the evenings. This place is magical, both for the climber and non-climber.

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Tom placing the #5 on Edward’s Crack (above), and celebrating being at the top (below)

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The next stop was the beautiful Lander, where we visited a sport climbing destination called Wild Iris. We have been fortunate to experience the luxurious free camping that Wyoming has to offer; situated just south of downtown Lander is City Park, equipped with a bathroom and picnic tables, surrounded by large cottonwood trees and luscious green grass. We stayed there one night, scoped out the town the next morning, then made our way to the Wild Iris camping and climbing area. The landscape here is incredible. Rolling green hills, distant blue mountains, slanted red cliffs speckled with desert greenery, and white Limestone cliffs of Wild Iris peering out from the treeline.

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And, the climbing is wonderful. I’ve been leading some good, classic 5.10as, and working on some low 11s with Tom. The approach trails are short, a five minute walk from our campsite to the OK Corrall crag. On our rest day (during which I wrote this post while waiting for our laundry to finish), we stumbled upon the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) library, where we retrieved the 1993 issue of Rock and Ice where Lynn Hill talks about free climbing The Nose. What a piece of climbing history!

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Wyoming, you are a wild and glorious treasure beneath a stretch of endless sky.

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