The Grand Chamonix Vacation — chapitre deux

Chamonix, Day … I have no idea what day we’re on. It’s Tuesday. I know this only because we are keeping track of when we need to check out of the apartment and catch a train to Zermatt. And because we are counting how many good climbing days we have left in the French Alps. I expect that I personally will get in one more day of alpine climbing, one possible day of multi-pitch rock and one trail run. The weather has been less than ideal, but I am happy with everything I’ve done and seen in the time we’ve been abroad. Three weeks is a long time to be away from home when you are not accustomed to it, but I’ve impressed myself — this atmosphere has been easy, my anxiety has been dulled, my stress limited; my knee is feeling quite good, my sinus turmoil seems to have righted itself, and though I’m beginning to feel a bit tired and in need of some additional rest, I’m actually feeling quite well, physically and emotionally.

I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, to push myself to do something new, and I have been successful.

Here are a few quick photos! More to follow.

The Grand Chamonix Vacation — chapitre un

Chamonix, day 2. As is common with my vacations, rain began on day one of our trip, letting up slightly before continuing on to day two. With snow and high winds devouring the Alps hidden in the clouds above, our fruitless wishing and waiting did not re-open the lift to Pointe Helbronner, and subsequently to our anticipated climb on the Petit Flambeau (or anywhere else). We took the lift up to Midi in the early afternoon, with hopes of a semblance of a view and to familiarize ourselves with the surround, only to be greeted by white out conditions. A glimpse of the Arete des Cosmiques. A closed restaurant. A quick trip back down the lift. Wine. Crepes. Shops. Fin.

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Into the great white sky. Looking up the cables from the mid point.

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Warm inside. Ice outside.

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Back in Cham, watching the weather.

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du cafe!

A Poem For My Readers

As I wander in and out of the blog-o-sphere
I often wonder … does anyone know I’m here?
My posts are sparse, though my ideas are many
Drafts are long stuck in writing purgatory

Countless hours spent thinking through each idea
Less hours even drafting on computer media
My notebook is full, my scribbles are many
But my curser blinks endless on pages empty

In my head I’m a writer! with content a-plenty
I have readers and fans, surely more than twenty
I work hours and hours to perfect my craft
Honing my skills, working hard on each draft

But reality is, I work all day at a desk
I work for “the man” — it can be quite a test
I dream of outdoors, adventures galore
And writing about them all day and more

Have faith in me, readers — I’ll one day live my dream
Exploring the world, as I travel, plot and scheme
With my pack on my back, van keys in my hand
I’ll venture on to mountains, rivers and sand

I’ll be lost among the trees, deep in a canyon
Dips in alpine lakes — always, always planning
Petroglyphs, ancient ruins and history
Nature, fresh air, tomorrow a mystery

Find me back here one day, filling in the blanks
For the future opportunity, I’ll give thanks
I’ll pay it forward, I’ll spread all the love
From a snowy mountain, way high above

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Updates: Vanlife and Injury

I don’t seem to have a lot of words to put down right now, but I keep wanting to write as to not let things get too far away from me. I promised updates on the van and I shall deliver!

Saturday night: We are at a random campground we found driving to Lake Hemet late in the afternoon. No plan — just to get away for a while. The van door is open, we can hear a nearby creek. There are few people around, mostly in RVs dispersed over the surrounding 129 other campsites. This is our second weekend away since we installed the fan in the boat and it seemed to be working well, but has somehow developed a nasty click and a squeak. Mr. will be doing some research once home. Although, it’s been raining in torrents on and off since we installed it and no leaks.

Mr. installed another LED strip and we have additional lighting with a rudimentary swich. He’s planned out a scematic for some small can lights and a dimmer switch for the LED strips; we’ll also have dedicated USB charging ports. Eventually we’ll be adding some cabinetry, finishing closing up the walls and then I’ll hang some pretty curtains!

Back to this weekend. We had thought we’d make a better plan to get away for the holiday weekend, but the storm dubbed “Lucifer” drove us to cozy up on the couch Friday night instead of booking it up the highway. Four episodes of The Wire and as least as many cocktails drove us to sleep in and breakfast on the couch, listening to the rain, watching climbing videos and contemplating unplaned adventures.

As we are wont to do, we left the house without a clear destination, discussing options as we approached interchanges, finally settling on an area we haven’t spent much time in. We mapped to Idyllwild and seached for campgrounds that didn’t look like RV parking lots. We wound up a mountain road, the sun setting behind dramatic clouds and spooky fog, pulling up to Hurkey Creek Park. Welcome to campsite 67. Rainy, adventure bliss. The morning was misting and damp, spots of sun eventually fighting through the cloud cover, steam rising from the grass between forest groves. Surreal. 

Last weekend: We made it down the 91 freeway all the way to Corona before we even determined a direction of travel. Would we head north toward Bishop, or South toward Joshua Tree. We found ourselves in Joshua Tree at Indian Cove at about 10:30 pm on a Friday night during high climbing season. The Boat was running on fumes and we missed the last gas station. It was find a way to camp here, or back track to the nearest gas station before trekking out to BLM land. This is where we met Flo. She was one of the few still outside of her tent, there was a large parking area outside of her camp, and after tossing the responsibilty around, Mr. won the priviledge of asking if we could share. Problem solved. Flo turned out to be super cool and we are both stoked to have one more climber to call a friend.

Tonight: Home. Resting. I have read many pages about the Civil War and George Armstrong Custer, I have knit many rows of my current project, and read not nearly enough chapters for my online class. I have watched almost an entire season of Black Mirror in the last week, and am almost caught up on season 2 of the Wire. I’m tired of being on the injured list. I see the doctor tomorrow and I’m antsy beyond belief to get the green light to start getting strong again. My legs and hips ache from limited movement, and my mood is in desperate need of a bike ride. I’ve been trying to hangboard so I don’t loose my calluses and grip strength, but it’s really hard being at the gym and not being able to put on a climbing shoe. I feel weak and unstable, but I feel like I’m mending and for that, I’m excited and grateful.

The Great Winter Vancation: The Itinerary

It’s been a couple of weeks since the conclusion of the Great Winter Vancation and the Creaky Sausage Boat is now resting quietly at her dock. Weather and responsibility may keep here there for the month, though we keep tossing out ideas to get away again.

For those who may be interested, below is a rough map and itinerary of our trip. I really enjoyed the magic of some of the places we visited and for anyone travelling to these areas, perhaps you will also want to pay them a visit. It would be a terribly long post to discuss them all, however, over the coming weeks, I expect I’ll be able to say a piece about each.

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The Great Winter Vancation: Part 3

We are home! A day or two early — not as if we were planning, though. In retrospect, two weeks is a long time away from home and we may have worn ourselves out a bit over-touristing the first week. We saw so much. It was super awesome, but I think we needed a few days of vacation from our vancation.

Also, the weather. The cold can be a bit overwhelming after so many days. On the morning after night nine, we woke up to ice on the insides of the van — on every exposed metal and glass surface. We had an early night, alone at Joe Skeen Campground, in the El Malpais National Conservation Area (see also: El Malpais National Monument).

It was an amazingly beautiful night; cold, but calm and very quiet. The stars absolutely killed it. We had just driven from our Christmas weekend rental house in Tesuque Village through Albuquerque, where we spent a couple of hours in old town, visited with an old friend and made some final touristy purchases (ie: southwest patterned socks, locally roasted coffee and chocolate doused in chili powder). We finally ate tacos and replaced our beloved bluetooth speaker that took a nose dive.

Back to Joe Skeen Campground. The morning was clear and beautiful, however, we knew that by Thursday night another storm would be rolling in. We left for El Morro National Monument with the plan to decide our direction of travel after our visit.

[Side note: El Morro National Monument is very cool. The staff at the center were awesome, and the monument itself was beautiful and the trails well maintained and cared for. This monument is also totally free. If you are ever in this area, please check it out! And offer support via donation if you can.]

After an amazing hike and a weather analysis, we determined that we’d miss out on local climbing, hit Petrified Forest National Park for sunset, and then power through to the Arizona/California border that night. We picked up burritos and coffee to go in Flagstaff, turned up the tunes and sped off into the cold, foggy night to our final roadside camp just east of the Mojave National Preserve. A short morning drive and we arrived at Sawtooth Canyon Campground for two days of climbing at one of our favorite crags, and one final night of vanlife in our favorite campsite.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rock was cool, the sun was warm and the wind almost non-existent. Our skin was soft and lacking callus, as we’d been shut out from climbing for over a week, and had barely touched rock for the whole month prior to our trip. We climbed until our fingers couldn’t take it anymore, made one last meal in the Creaky Sausage Boat, and then headed for home, beating the rain by only a couple of hours.

This, was a great way to end the road trip portion of the Great Winter Vancation.

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Shenanigans

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My “deck” shoes

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Final post-climb meal in the CSB

More to follow!!!