Category Archives: Roadtrips

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 5: Returning home

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Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

FSaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.


An ascent of Devil’s Tower...



Friday and Saturday, 10-Sept-2021 & 11-Sept-2021


Friday:

I need to type words here… but frankly, it’s kind of hard to think up how to describe the drives home.

It’s sort of like a hike, maybe? In that a description isn’t really viable, and instead I should just skip over it as “Ben did the thing, time passed, and then he got where he was going. Here’s some pictures”?

Like the preface says, I really enjoy long drives. They give me a chance to keep the “I want to be moving!” part of my brain occupied while the “Let’s think about life!” part of my brain gets to run rampant. It’s really cool, actually… there’s been studies on “highway hypnosis”, and it’s even got a Wikipedia article written about it (Ed Note: See the link below!)… from what I can gather, it’s not dangerous… just an example of the human brain being pretty freaking amazing.

I drove.

I thought.

I kept an app open on my phone so that I could dictate notes as I thought up interesting things worth considering.

Wyoming came, and Wyoming went. Montana appeared on the horizon, and then the border passed under my wheels.

It was…

It just was. Excellent.





OHH! One thing worth noting – Missoula was still great! I had a room in a dorm this time, COVID-safe of course with tons of walls and screens, and I had BBQ again!




Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_hypnosis

Saturday:

I planned on leaving Missoula early in the morning… around dawn, ideally. That didn’t quite happen though – I got up early, of course, but as I was putting my bags in the car I noticed something… something dangerous. Something familiar to an Oregonian.

I noticed a farmer’s market.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go to farmer’s markets that often. But I do try to when I have the chance – I don’t know how realistic this is, but I feel like veggies from a farmers market are just… healthier than ones from the store. You know?

They haven’t travelled as far, they haven’t been in storage quite as long, and… I dono, I kind of assume that the farms are smaller, so… they’re from less industrial seeds? That last one doesn’t quite make sense the more I think about it, but the rest of the ideas hold true.

So I bought some potatoes, carrots, dipping oil, and even a super-fancy dry-aged New York Strip steak. I’d still be getting home pretty early, so I figured that a nice meal would help top off the trip, you know?

One last stop on the way out of town took me to a semi-famous used book store (Ed Note: Hello again! Check out yet another link below!), though I didn’t find anything particularly interesting. A few mountaineering books that were maybe worth something, but… none of the climbing guidebooks that I’d been hoping to find. And since my apartment is already a bit overloaded with books, I held off for the time being and got back on the road.


The drives were.

Just as the day before, they simply were.

Miles passed, Montana passed, Idaho passed, and then even Washington passed.

The Columbia River grew up beside me, and the Gorge reared up around me.



Soon enough I was home, laying out the spoils of my adventure and cooking up an exceptionally stellar welcome-home meal.




It had been an excellent trip.


Link: http://www.montanavalleybookstore.com/

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 4.b: Exploring Devil’s Tower

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Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of juSaturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.


An ascent of Devil’s Tower...




Wednesday and Thursday, 08-Sept-2021 & 09-Sept-2021


Wednesday:

I left Rapid City in the mid-afternoon. The goal was to make it to the tower early enough that I could get a solid 8 hours of sleep before waking up… which meant that I needed to be asleep by… 7pm.

Yeah…

Okay, maybe I wasn’t aiming for a full 8 hours of sleep. Plan was to be asleep by 8:30, okay? Still a very legitimate amount of sleep!



Anyways, okay. So I left Rapid City.

The drive into Wyoming was pretty simple – beautiful, in a hazy… sort of ethereal way.

With many thanks to a guy at a gas station who warned me about a few speed traps on the road, I made my way out of South Dakota, into Wyoming, and along the road to the first national monument of the United States.


When it finally came into view over the horizon, I was… Excited? Apprehensive? I had mixed emotions, to be sure – this was the culmination of the whole trip, and quite possibly one of the biggest (or at least, the most famous) route that I’ll have climbed. This was a big deal, climbing and emotion and anticipation all wrapped up in one point on the horizon.

I kept driving.

Wednesday was primarily a rest day – I didn’t plan on exploring much of the tower before the ascent, but I did plan on driving up to the base, at least, to scout out driving times and other concerns. If I was going to be up there by 4am, I’d need all the recon info I could get…

And with that info gained, I headed back to my campsite. A teepee, actually, with a lovely soft bed in it waiting for me. I mean, not honestly that soft… but hey. A heck of a lot softer than the sleeping pad I’d been rocking, so I was absolutely not one to complain.

I ate an amazing dinner, watched the sunset, read a bit from my book, and slept like a log.





Thursday:

First things first – Prairie Dogs!



Okay, with the cuties out of the way – Thursday was my climb day! But… the climb was early, and even after taking a nap I had quite a bit of time left in the day. See, we summitted by 7:45, and I was back asleep in bed by 11:00, after doing a few extra routes… which meant that I was awake from my nap a bit after 1pm. A quick breakfast-for-lunch later, and I was heading up to the tower to really appreciate the cultural side of it.

I treated it like a museum, really… Walking slowly, enjoying the scenery, and going at my own quiet pace.

So walk with me. Enjoy the signposts, read a bit, and see the views that I saw from along the trail!





After exploring the tower, seeing the signs, and appreciating the work that the national park services has put in, I headed back to camp to enjoy the rest of the day. Peace, quiet, and beautiful views were my greatly appreciated reward for the day.

A labor of love – My labor day climbing road trip! Part 4.a: Ascending the tower itself

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Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I Saturday, 04-Sept-2021, through Saturday, 11-Sept-2021

I love road trips. I’ve learned that, speaking to various therapists and councilors in the last year or so, long drives are a major form of meditation for me. I have something to keep me focused, and I’m accomplishing a goal, but I can let my semi-conscious mind wander and reflect on what’s been happening in my life.

I try to do this at home, of course, but… I always get too stressed out, feeling like I should be doing something instead of just sitting back and letting my brain process all the various thoughts and possibilities that are constantly screaming around in my skull.

For my birthday, I’d originally planned to climb at Index with Daniel. When that fell through, I’d sketched out a road trip down highway 101 into California with my friend Laurel. That fell through too. Finally, I gave up and decided to do something on my own – something I’d always wanted to do, but had never quite been able to make happen.


An ascent of Devil’s Tower...




Thursday, 09-September-2021



It was early.

I mean… really early.

“Keep your headlamp by your pillow, because it’s way before the sun is up”, type of early.



I was moving by 3:15 – Pulling on my clothes that I’d laid out beside the bed, doing some jumping jacks and stretches to warm up my cold muscles. I scarfed down my quick breakfast of protein shakes, sipped on my pre-made coffee from the night before (the thermos keeping it mostly warm, still), and shook the cobwebs from my brain.

I’d gone to bed early the night before… The drive from Rapid City was long, but beautiful, and I’d arrived at the tower with more than enough light left to bring my gear into the teepee, to cook a meal, and to do a quick initial recon of the tower itself.

Still, I’d had a bit of spare time… one of the advantages of a kindle, that I’d been able to pick a short book to read that evening… and I’d been asleep by 8:30. Hadn’t slept perfectly, of course, since I was too excited… but I’d slept acceptably well.



Two days before, Doug and I had talked about where we’d meet:

“Okay, we’ll meet at the gravel parking lot. But Doug, how will I find your truck?”
“Ben, it’ll be 4am. We’ll be the only cars there. Don’t worry about it”


He was right, of course. We’d met at 4am, and started the walk to the tower by headlamp. By 4:45 we were on the wall, and by the time the sun broke the horizon we’d already made it half-way up Devil’s Tower.

We climbed by the Durrance route (5.7+, trad, 6 pitches), one of the most iconic climbs in North America.

We didn’t follow the “jump traverse” section, where you vault over a 5ft gap, since it’s the most common spot for accidents… and there’s a perfectly good option called Bailey’s Direct that goes straight up to the top. The climbing was glorious, though I honestly don’t remember a huge amount of the Durrance itself. It was dark for the first three pitches, which doesn’t help… but I do recall that I stuck to the off-width for the eponymous “Durrance Crack”, which is definitely the less-optimal way to do the route.

But hey – it was fun! And at the end of it, I was at the top of Devil’s Tower!!!

From here, We relaxed on the summit for an hour or so.

Doug gave me a quick tour, showing me the semi-famous Bison skull (proof that the Great Creator had raised the tower from the ground) and the cache of food from a stunt gone wrong years ago (A guy named “Jumpin’ George” who parachuted to the top… but lost his descent rope on the skydive). We looked at lightening strikes, we ate some food, and we appreciated the serenity of being at the top of the nation’s first National Monument – completely alone.



After a solid amount of reflection and relaxation, Doug asked if I was up for some more climbing. I was hesitant, not wanting to push myself to injury, but after some stretching and frank / candid self-assessment, I knew that I was ready. We descended, and I started climbing back up…

Instead of descending all the way, I’d rappel down a pitch, then climb back up to Doug. Then, we’d rappel down to the base of that same pitch… and do the same thing again.

This way I was able to climb Bon Homme, a 5.8 variant ascent, that was singularly gorgeous! Honestly, it was even better than the Durrance route; clean climbing, great cracks, and gloriously fun movements. I felt great, and absolutely felt my love of rock climbing refreshing itself.

Soon enough though, we were back at the foot of the tower, the climbing completed. Doug and I chatted as we walked back to the cars – thanking each other for an excellent few days of adventure, and with him sharing some much-appreciated feedback with me. Feedback… and a few tips for new climbing spots back in Portland!


Then we were off – Gear was traded back, cars started, and I was heading down the road to get some much-needed napping in…

Links:

“Jumpin’ George” = https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/stuntmans-jump-parachutist-stranded-days-devils-tower

Link to the Lakota Legend of the bison skull = https://www.nps.gov/deto/learn/historyculture/first-stories.htm