10,000 Miles Under the Belt – End of the Roadtrip

With our quickly approaching backpacking trip through the Narrows on our minds, we turned the headlights towards Zion National Park. Over dinner we joked that we should probably check the weather…you know, in case the desert was expecting rain anytime soon. Ha! Right? It was not too long after that little chuckle that the skies started to open up. It rained nonstop from just outside Vegas all the way to Zion. (In fact, it rained all the way from Vegas to Denver!) Our optomistic selves decided to park the White Rascal right outside of Zion (that is after a park ranger busted us trying to sleep in the Vistor Center parking lot and, very politely, gave us the boot) and hope for sunny skies in the morning. Night came and went, but that pesky rain stayed. Since the Narrows hike is straight through a slot canyon, even the threat of rain makes it extremely dangerous due to the high probability of flash floods. Well, that made the “what to do” decision very easy…on to Denver it was!

We sped (literally…Barbara got pulled over) towards our old stomping grounds and made it just in time to enjoy a great dinner with our great friends Kammie and Andrew. After a couple of morning errands and a stop by our storage unit up in Boulder to reassemble the White Rascal into a kid friendly soccer mom mobile, we were back in Denver for one last night with Kamdrew filled with lots of laughs and catching up. An (incredibly) early morning departure had us part way to Minnesota by sunrise!

Northfield, MN. Land of Jesse James, St. Olaf, and Libby & John Koehl. We spent the evening catching up over heaps of the many delicacies Northfield has to offer. Yummmm! Morning brought the promise of the Northfield River Market (I might have made that name up.) where Libby and I managed to snag more tasty treats. (Not sure how there are so many fit Minnesotans here considering the sheer number of pastries, pizzas, and fries at hand.) The day whipped by and soon it was time to bid the siblings goodbye for Stevens Point.

The short 4 hour drive to my parents’ house in Stevens Point, WI was just another drop in the bucket at this point in time and it flew by. Before we knew it, the road trip officially came to a close. Yikes! It’s amazing how little planning we managed to get done for the international leg of our adventure while on the road. (Translation…we had A LOT to do!) Point served as a perfect hub to get all of the necessary pieces in place for our big departure…it also managed to dish up an equal amount of fun as well!

We will spare you the boring details of packing, planning, sorting, many trips to Fleet Farm, following up on some credit card fraud, and deep cleaning the van (which is still for sale if anyone is interested…nudge, nudge). On to the fun! First of all, we got the opportunity to meet a new member of the family: Chuck. Chuck is an exchange student from China living with my family for the next 2 years…and he is awesome! In a nutshell, Chuck is funny (even if it is not always intentional), excellent at speaking English, and willing to try all sorts of new foods. (He is also more than willing to be very honest as to his thoughts on some of these new foods, such as cheese. “Yuck!”) Chuck gave us a great glimpse into what our life is going to be like for the next few months. Wow! It’s easy to forget how different everything can be in a different culture.

Mid-week we made the short jaunt down to Baraboo to visit Corey, Ron’s brother, and his girlfriend Tanika (Corey’s girlfriend…not Ron’s 🙂 ). After a couple of never-disappointing McDonald’s ice cream cones, we popped in and visited Ron’s Aunt Sandy. She got us even more pumped up about our upcoming international adventure, telling us about all of the crazy travels her son, Kyle, has done over the past couple of years. Who knows…maybe we will get to pet a tiger too someday!

Back in Point there was still lots of fun to be had. A tour of Point Brewery (one of the 5 oldest breweries in the country to still be brewing in their original building…with leaks, sketchy stairwells, zip tied tubes, and all) was just the beginning. The fun continued with a group kayaking trip on the Wisconsin River and was topped off with an evening at the Wine and Jazz Festival downtown. The week was a perfect blend of rest and relaxation, work, family, and fun. To sum our “chore” week up: good food, good fun, and great people!

A tearful goodbye (from at least one of us, whom I shall not name but you are free to guess) in Milwaukee and we were off. We keep pinching ourselves to make sure this is really happening!

NOTE: Due to atrocious upload speeds, this post does not have all of the photos it deserves.   Hopefully down the road we can update it.

 

Up and UP ::. Half Dome

Half Dome! Yosemite’s big kahuna! You know that big chunk of rock that looks like it has been split in half? Well, we wanted to stand on top of it!

Since we were unable to get permits for either the John Muir Trail or Half Dome before leaving on our trip, we spent our first morning here in Yosemite sitting in line for a couple of hours making small talk with other JMT hopefuls in the blazing sun trying to get our paws on one of the coveted next day permits they reserve for first come first serve. Thankfully we were able to get both permits in one go and had the rest of the afternoon to explore the park a little. After exploring the Visitor Center, watching the park movie, and scoping out the Ansel Adams photography gallery, we were sufficiently boiling from the inside out and made the trek to the Merced River for a dip. It was glorious! Then it was up to Glacier Point for dinner where we had a magnificent view of the entire Yosemite Valley, including the next day’s beast of a summit…Half Dome! Fair warning…if you plan on visiting Glacier Point, especially at sunset, be prepared to be totally and completely spellbound! Absolutely gorgeous!

It was early to bed and early to rise as we crawled into the front of the White Rascal and made our way to the Half Dome trailhead. On the way up, we hiked past both Vernal and Nevada Falls, which never fail to impress. There is just something special about watching the power of hundreds and thousands of gallons of water spill over the edge of a cliff like it is nothing. Just past the waterfalls, the trail of rocky steps crafted out of large boulders makes the immediate switch to soft, smooth sand. (A welcome change at that point.) The landscape changed and left us nice and shaded in a forest of old, towering trees as we switchbacked our way up the seemingly forever inclined trail. From there is was up and out of treeline where we hiked up the impressive trail of steps hewn right from the sparkling granite surface to the top of the sub dome. This is where the real fun begins!

The last 1,000 feet or so of the hike to the top of Half Dome require a cable climb up a fairly close to vertical granite rock face. Don’t worry though, there are a smattering of 2×4 wood planks to rest on every 10-20 feet or so. Oh, and did I mention that people are both coming up and going down simultaneously on this skinny cable contraption? We each grabbed a pair of used gloves from the leftover glove pile so as not to tear up our cramped hands on the cable and started up. One carefully planted foot at a time and with a steady, firm grip we scaled all the way to the very tip top!

Honestly, it is unbelievable! Reaching the top of this gigantic rock is unlike anything else! From every angle you are surrounded by commanding mountains, granite cliffs, and deep, lush valleys. The views go on for what seems like forever! We spent a good chunk of time up there downing our hearty lunch, snapping a few jumping-for-joy photos, and taking in the breathtaking scenery. Just before making our decent, we both made cairns (piles of rocks) to add to the summit cairn garden. I’ve been told that you make a cairn if you plan to come back and we most definitely plan to do that. Last time I was lucky enough to stand on the summit of Half Dome with my mom I built a cairn and here I am again…so it must be true!

We made the cable climb down after some significant traffic congestion and were ready to crush out the rest of the day’s miles. A wink from the gnome guarding the base of the cables and we were off! With the added motivation of the biggest ice cream cones either of us have ever eaten (to the point of being sick to our stomachs) and a cool swim in the river awaiting us, we cruised. Following our ice cream binge and refreshing soak we were feeling almost human again. We finished our excellent, yet exhausting day with the Yosemite Theater’s featured movie. Just an FYI, if you ever have the opportunity, do not pay to watch “Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey”. It is decidedly boring and surprisingly enough, not about climbing. However, if that is the only low point of the day I’d say we are in a pretty good spot.

In the end, words cannot describe this hike or this park or this mountain. Pictures make a good attempt, but you really have to see it to believe it.

Check out the photos below: