Tag Archives: Exploring

Sarah and Ben’s three year anniversary!

Sarah and Ben’s three year anniversary!

Tuesday, August 14th and Wednesday, August 15th


Three years.

Three years of adventures, excitement, challenges, love and mutual admiration.

We’ve lived an hour apart, Sarah’s gone on a multi-month roadtrip, and we’ve lived together in a tiny town of 7,200 people.  We moved her from Portland to Hood River, and then from Hood River back to Portland.

We’ve been to Spain, England, Scotland and Italy – not including layovers.  We’ve climbed all over, succeeded at summits and given up on summitting less than 100ft from the summit block.  We’ve backpacked and hiked, biked and roadtripped.

Three.  Years.


Now, our anniversary fell on a Wednesday.  Thankfully, my job is flexible enough (and limited to a hard-cap of 40hrs per week) that I was able to bend my hours so we could take the whole day off.  Our original plan was to go up to Mt. Adams, and camp out at a small lake near the base of the mountain… but unfortunately this is fire season, and that plan pretty quickly got dumped in favor of driving somewhere a little less smokey.

Sarah searched far and wide, pouring over maps and lists of campgrounds.  She cross-referenced air quality maps to campsites, and finally found our destination: a campground on the North Fork of the Siuslaw river.  It wasn’t a short drive from the house, but that wouldn’t be too much of a hassle – She’d pack the car, and then as soon as I got home from work we’d catapult off into the sunset!



Getting on the road ended up taking a bit longer than expected, unfortunately… but that’s how things go, and soon enough we were burning gas escaping the smoke and smog of Portland.  We had a few hours of driving ahead of us, but we churned through it pretty quickly – even making some time to stop at Dairy Queen and have a quick snack to help us power through the last few miles to the campsite.


And man, this was a campsite.  Nicely secluded in the woods, surrounded by massively tall trees and miles away from the highway noise or forest fire smoke.  A dense tree canopy overhead, and a nice tent pad for us to set up on.  Ollie, of course, was freaking out the whole time about how awesome it is to be in the woods.  Thankfully she wasn’t barking, but just running around in circles trying to smell all the trees and bushes and branches and dirt all at once.

It kept her occupied, though, which made setting up camp a heck of a lot easier for Sarah and I.

Once camp was set up?  I’d love to say that we made a small fire and relaxed around it, just talking and enjoying the night… but honestly?  We just passed out.  It had been a really long drive, after a rather tough escape from Portland, and by that point we both needed the sleep more than anything else.



Waking up in the forest, in a tent, is amazing.

Even when waking up in a forest, in a tent, with a dog who desperately wants to run and explore and hunt.

Logically, it should be really annoying – Having someone literally standing on your face, whining and yelping to be let out is not really pleasant or relaxing.  But somehow it’s endearing, just how earnest Ollie is about it.  She’s not doing anything to be mean, it’s just that she’s effectively a machine designed and bred to hunt and track and explore… and there’s an outside that needs to be hunted, tracked, and explored.  You want to be annoyed at her, but all you can do is smile, hook her up to her leash, and set her loose.

So, that meant we got up fairly early, for it being our day off.

I mean, we were awake fairly early.  We’ve gotten wise to Ollie’s ways by now, and had set up a leash for her outside that bought us a solid extra 45min of sleep before we had to legit get out of the sleeping bags and start making breakfast.  But that’s okay – Coffee and oatmeal is always a good way to start the day, especially when it’s camping!!


Once coffee was drank and a light breakfast was eaten we headed back into town toward out first stop of the day – a coffee shop on the river near the bay.  Yes, yes, we’d just had breakfast and coffee… but we still needed second breakfast, obviously, and second coffee to go with it.  The views were gorgeous, the coffee was strong, and the breakfast burrito was… well, it was definitely interesting.  It was delicious, but the fact that we had to microwave it ourselves was a little surprising, to say the least.

Staring off over the fog-covered river though, we didn’t mind a microwaved burrito to go with our artisnal lattes.  It was beautiful, and since Ollie was hanging out in the car we were able to thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

We relaxed at the coffee shop for a while, then did a bit of a walk around town.  It was a small tourist / fishing town, sort of like some of the smaller places around Maine or New Hampshire, and I really enjoyed it.



From there, we headed toward our main target of the day – Hobbit Beach.

Sarah had picked it out because it was a fairly short hike in from the trailhead, was mostly deserted, and had huge long runs of open sand for Ollie to run and play on.  Ohh, and it also had faces carved into the cliffs.

That last part was pretty key, actually.  Really adds to the mystery of the place, you know?  Not creepy at all, imagining faces being carved into cliff sides…

The hike in was lovely – it was a bit steeper than we expected, but it went well which is what matters in the end.  Sarah’s legs held up quite well, and we both enjoyed the chance to get back into the woods and enjoy the outdoors a bit.  Seriously enjoy the outdoors – Sarah was literally giggling the whole time, hopping around and loving the fact that she could fully walk again.

The beach itself?  It was what you would expect.  Lovely, huge views, and the amazing sounds and smells of the pounding Pacific Ocean.  The cliff side carved faces were a bit less impressive than expected, but that’s totally fine because it meant that they were far less creepy than we’d expected.  Sarah did carve her own, of course, but went with a bit more whimsical option instead of the standard fantasy-style faces.  She made a cat.


After enjoying the beach for a good long while we headed back, and drove back home to Portland.  Simple and easy, but pleasant and extremely fun.

Spring Break 2018 – West Virginian adventures, Tuesday, 29-May

Spring Break 2018 – West Virginian adventures, Tuesday, 29-May

A West Virginia adventure – Spring Break in the New River Gorge, 2018

Saturday, 26-May, through Saturday, 02-June, 2018


Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze. Country roads, take me home… to the place, I belong! West Virginia, Mountain momma… take me home, country roads.”

I’m pretty sure that the first real spring break I ever had was with Daniel, years ago, when we drove down to the New River Gorge to climb, and attend the New River Rendezvous. Since that year, we’ve done our best to always link up and go on some glorious climbing trip on or around Memorial Day. This year was a tough one, with Sarah breaking her leg, but she insisted that I go anyways, and let her live vicariously through me as she convalesed at home. I’d already cleared the week as vacation with my boss, even before I was hired for the project, so I was free and clear for a throwback adventure…




In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says that Tradition holds the world together.

Bacon and eggs, with a cup of not-bad instant coffee held my world together. It had only been a few days, but I’m confident that this was now tradition, and thus sacred.  And I’ll be honest, I was pretty tired and sore already, so the boost was quite welcome.

Today was the day we’d get the final members of the expedition in – Brian’s friend Thomas would be driving in, arriving around 4:00… exactly when Daniel and Erin would be leaving for their date night in Charlottesville, planned to see them finishing dinner just in time to pick up their friend Lauren from the airport in town.

With those times in mind, we headed toward the Endless Wall; an easily accessable crag that would get us a few fun routes without loosing too much time to the approach. In theory, at least.

(Quick Side Note: We all wore nearly the same outfit today.  See the pictures below.  Kinda cool, Kinda strange)

I was driving again today, but this time our navigation was by phone, instead of by uploading it to the car. A bad decision, it turned out… as we realized that the GPS was trying to take us to the cliff, instead of to the parking lot. And while the X1 is a very rugged vehicle… it’s not qualified to drive down sheer cliffs. Or through peoples yards, which is what google was telling us to do.

You could say that we ended up getting a bit turned around.

That confused ended with us settling in at the Bridge Buttress – literally almost directly under the huge bridge spanning the New River Gorge itself. Although everything was wet, we set some top ropes and enjoyed the rock as best we could:

  • Monkey See, Monkey Do, 5.5, TR – Well, this was wet. It’s a slab route, that we climbed right after it rained. Funny story, it’s hard to make friction moves when the rock is an active river.
  • Easily Flakey, 5.7, TR – This route. This route was amazingly fun. Simple, pleasant, and great laybacks, I very much enjoyed it and absolutely want to lead it on gear the next time we’re in town.

Unfortunately, the forecast called for rain… and the schedule called for lunch. Neither of which would wait for climbers, so we packed up and headed into town before the 4:00 plans started arriving.

Side story: As climbers, we run into non-climbers at cliffs and parking lots semi-regularly. There’s usually a set few questions that we get asked, along the lines of “what are you doing?” and “aren’t you going to die?”. Sometimes, you meet a lovely family from Cincinnati who wants to know if their 100ft rope is long enough to set up the 70ft climb. As a note, you need a rope 2x the climb length to set it up… so to do a 70ft climb, you need at least 140ft of rope. This gentleman didn’t have that. Instead, he had a massive bag full of gear that would put the most equipped mountaineer to shame. Also, stores don’t sell rope in 100ft lengths, but in 60m (180ft) lengths. So… I’ve got nothing as to what was going on there. When we left, he was walking around to the top… and we haven’t heard any accident reports, so… all’s good?


We ate lunch at the Cathedral Cafe. It was fun. I had a reuben and a cup of coffee. We also explored Fayettesville a bit… nothing majorly touristy, just checking out some tourist shops, and stopping into the climbing store for me to get the new guidebooks that had just recently been released.

We went back to the house. It was relaxing; Daniel and Erin got all dressed up, and Brian and I lounged on the couches.

Thomas arrived, and Daniel and Erin left for their picking-up-Lauren-Date.

Brian, Thomas and I got antsy.

Brian, Thomas and I went climbing.


We picked the easiest wall we knew of – The Orange Oswald wall that we’d done the first day. But instead of setting the harder routes that Daniel had led, I went easy. Because I was being nice to Brian and Thomas. Not because I was being a weenie about leading hard routes.

  • Hippy Dreams, 5.7, Lead – I led this twice, and top roped it twice. Brian and Thomas both climbed it twice as well. It’s called “hands down the best 5.7 in the region” in the guidebook, and it absolutely earns that title – not only for the main route, but for the nearly limitless variants to it. I could have climbed it half a dozen times more, and not repeated a line of holds. Not that there’s infinite holds on it, but that each sections is subtly different, with really interesting movements that can be strung together. I loved it.

The danger of leaving to climb at 4:30 is that you stay out late.

We didn’t stay out ’till dark, though. We only stayed out until almost dark – we got back to the car literally exactly as the sun was setting… and you know what? I call that a win. A fully realized day, thank you very much.


Driving back to the house, we met up with Daniel and company on the road. Literally, they pulled in behind us at the traffic light turning onto the road that our condo was on. Kind of creepily perfect timing, but I’m not going to complain because it meant that we all got to the restaurant at the same time, and that Brian, Thomas and I had company for scarfing down our burgers. And I had Daniel to inspire me to order a cup of irish cocoa, which was unbelievably good.

So… that’s a good way to end the evening, right? Meeting up for 10:00 dinner, and gorging on huge bacon burgers and cocoa?


A weekend trip to Vantage!

A weekend trip to Vantage!

Trip to Vantage

This trip happened a while ago, and I honestly never really have the mental energy to write it up particularly well.  But I did write out this quick summary, so please forgive the plot holes, lack of details, and general tomfoolery and poor quality writing below.


Friday night:

  • Drive out, via Panda Express and DQ!
  • Takes longer than expected, but we still find a pretty solid campsite for ourselves.
  • Sleep sleep



  • Cold morning… like, super cold. Too cold to climb, so breakfast and then wander a bit. Recon, right?
  • Lotsa people leave… boo, weenies.
  • Back to camp from Recon, then have some lunch and head back to the Sunshine Wall to climb
  • Climb some super fun routes, mostly just adventure climbing up random interesting looking bits
  • Ollie doesn’t like the slot canyon… but she gets over it, or rather, through it. Get it? Through it?
  • Finish off with a tough 5.9… I think it was called “Vantage Point” that I can’t actually finish, because fuck the last move. It’s scary. I cheat past it though, to get an amazing final panorama of the whole valley at sunset.
  • Back to camp, make an excellent dinner of chili cheese dogs (and a mouse for Ollie, though we didn’t let her keep it long enough to actually eat), and sleep!


  • Wake up, it’s much nicer today, so we head back to the same area and do some more routes!
  • Actually… they’re super full, because there’s a ton of people. So we end up doing a lot of the same routes, and some of the other ones that we saw people on the day before. They’re fun, and not as popular… but they’re not as long, and not exactly what Sarah wanted to climb, which is a bummer.
  • Note, high entertainment value from the group of new climbers next to us.
  • Sarah drew while Ben made lunch of Mac and Cheese in the wind.
  • Pack up, and head back home!