Getting started at being an “adventurous” type person isn’t easy when you have lived most of your life staying a little to far on the “safe” side of life. Call me silly if you like, but the idea of getting hurt just doesn’t appeal to me. That is why I really like indoor rock climbing for beginning adventurers. It is amazingly safe, a lot of fun, takes less strength than you might think, and definitely has the cool factor going for it.
I wish this was a picture of me climbing the wall, but I have climbed to the top of that wall! The climber in the picture is my daughter, and she made it all the way to the top.
She took the hard route.
Unlike outdoor rocks, the rocks at the indoor gym are color coded to show different tracks up the wall. Some tracks are easy, some are hard, some have special challenges. I am still working on the easy ones. My daughter skipped right to the intermediate level routes.
You would think that you would need a lot of upper body strength to climb. But at the beginner level you really don’t. You use your legs to move up the wall. Your arms and hands are just for balance and stabilization.
It really becomes fun when you learn to trust your rope. When you trust your rope (and your belayer, the person who is holding the rope for you) you know you really can’t get hurt. If you fall you will just swing a little bit, and that is all. So you can try for tricky moves, or even jump to get over an obstacle, and if you miss it is no big deal.
The hardest part about indoor rock climbing, when you are forty something and have a few extra pounds, is that it is not a skill you can work out in private. Lots of people may be watching you, and not from the most flattering angle if you know what I mean! At the very least your belayer will be watching your every move. And then there is the fact that it seems like most of the people in the gym seem to be really lean and really fit. Rock climbing is a great sport for overall fitness. But for the most part everyone is the gym is really supportive of the newbies. They really seem to enjoy sharing their sport, and offering tips on how to get over that next obstacle.
You don’t really need to buy anything to get started with indoor rock climbing. You can rent everything you need at the gym. Wear clothes that are comfortable that you can mover freely in. The price for indoor rock climbing is pretty reasonable. For 2 hours of climbing, harness and shoe rental I pay around $15. The gym I go to includes a belay class for free, so you can bring a partner and take turns climbing and belaying. (The belayer is the person that holds the rope, their job is to make sure you don’t fall so be sure to bring someone you can trust will pay attention!)
If someone was looking for a way to become more adventurous, and to spend more time outdoors. I highly recommend Venture Crew. There is only one catch, Venture Crew is a scouting group for boys and girls ages 14-22. I am a few years older than that, but fortunately for me, my daughter is not. Our particular Venture Crew is a High Adventure Venture Crew, so we do a lot of fun stuff. Today was one of those fun days.
As is typical for our group, there were almost as many adults as kids. My daughter was sick, so she didn’t go but I did. Another member of the crew wasn’t able to make it, but that didn’t keep her mom from coming either. All in all we had 9 adults and 8 Venture Crew Members and 3 guests.
Our crew is working on visiting local waterfalls. We are alternating biking and hiking. You can read a little bit about last month’s bike ride to Feather Falls in this post. Today was a much dryer hike to Hidden Falls. Hidden Falls is not a large waterfall, only about 30 feet, but it is located in a nice park, just about 5 miles out of town. We had to hike 2 miles from the parking area to the falls, but the trails were well marked, and for the most part, not difficult at all. We had lunch at the falls, and then headed back to town to do some Geocaching.
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.
For today we had the co-ordinates for 3 different geocaches. The first was in an old cemetery. You would think, that with the co-ordinates it would be no problem finding the cache, but that is not the case. The GPS units that we had were only accurate to 30 feet, so even when it said we were practically on top of the cache, we still had quite a bit of looking to do. Eventually we found the cache in some bushes near the edge of the cemetery. It was just a small green container. Opening it up we added our crew’s name to the list of those who had found the cache, and then carefully put it back for the next person to find.
Our next cache was in a nearby residential neighborhood. Our clue told us that the cache was for an 8 year old boy, and that he was watching it all the time. Having just come from the cemetery this was a little spooky. We were also told that the cache was on private property with permission of the property owners. We narrow the area down to the front yard of a home, but we are reluctant to search too carefully. Then a girl of about 10 comes out of the house, “are you guys geocachers? ” “We sure are!” She runs into the house and comes back with her mom, and then goes running down the street to get her brother. (The little boy in the clue!) The kids are so excited we are searching for their cache. It turns out their grandparents are avid geocachers and set it up for them. We find the cache inside a small path light and add our names. Here we leave a small toy soldier. We have a great time talking with the mom and kids, and then we are off to find our next treasure.
We were not able to find our last cache. We know it is near the local In-N-Out Burger and our clue is In OR Out, but with the freeway nearby, and all the cars going in and out of the In-N-Out, it just wasn’t much fun to look for. We console ourselves with burgers and animal style fries and reflect on a day well spent.
Happy almost 2009 to everyone. With the new year I am going to be making some changes to this blog. Despite the fact that Google refuses to give it a page rank, and despite the fact that I don’t post enough here, this is still my favorite blog. While I will allow myself to write on whatever I feel like, in the coming year I will be focusing more on my outdoor adventures.
You see, it wasn’t that many years ago that I would have been too afraid to go whitewater rafting, rock climbing, or mountain bike riding. When I think about it, it even seems a little silly to me that a slightly overweight, late forties woman would suddenly think she is mountain woman and start doing all these outdoor things. But still, just last weekend, I rode my mountain bike 3 miles, and then hiked another 1/2 mile just to see a waterfall. In the rain, and mud. On a trail on the side of a cliff. Mud is very slippery, and the brakes on my bike don’t work well when they are wet. But the waterfall was beautiful, and I had a great time!
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t do any of these things well. In fact, I do them pretty poorly. On my bike ride I got my pants caught in my chain…twice! Fortunately I was going so slow I didn’t crash.
Hopefully, by sharing my adventures with you, maybe I can make you believe that you can be too overweight, and too old, and too out of shape, but you can still do all this cool stuff, and have fun. And by having fun, you find you are losing weight and getting in shape, and you don’t feel so old after all!
I have decided that if I go into great detail on every day of the trip, I will end up writing a book! Plus there are many other things going on that I would like to write about. For this post I am going to summarize the trip, and then as I get time and ambition I’ll write more about the highlights.
I and all the other guests quickly adapt to life on the river. A typical day starts with the blowing of the conch shell announcing a fabulous breakfast. During our week on the river we are treated to eggs cooked to order, bagels and lox, and pancakes and sausage. Plus always, cold cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. I am pleased to find I am in no danger of going hungry.
After breakfast is cleaned up we load the boats, clean the beach (making sure we leave only footprints), and after a last groover call, it is back on the water for more serene floats and wild rapids, surrounded by the everchanging geology of the canyon cliffs.
Almost every day includes a hike, and almost every hike includes rock scrambling. I’ve never done rock scrambling before. This is where, using only hands and feet, you climb up and down cliffs that before I would have thought were impassable. When you look closely you find there are small places where you can put a foot, or get a grip with your hand. Often the rocks are hot! Once I grabbed a cactus instead of a rock. Ouch! The guides are great. They are patient and give me plenty of time to find my own way, and only offer advice when I ask. We hike to see amazing waterfalls, rock formations, fossilized shells, and wildlife. Hiking up a narrow creek we walk just a few feet past a young Eagle. Our guides think it is a young golden eagle, but I think it may be a bald eagle. It is holding its wing out, like some birds do when tired, but It does not seem injured and I don’t know why it didn’t fly away. Maybe because the passage was narrow. Maybe because he was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him!
Even though it is mid September, the days are very hot. The water looks inviting, although it is very cold, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. On the second day, I get to ride in the paddle boat. And I get to go swimming.
You can’t see me in this picture. I was sitting in the right front of the raft, and was pushed quite far under the water. It took forever to come up! And when I did, the current had carried me far away from the raft. Later I will write a full post about swimming in the Colorado River. For now, lets just say that that the paddle boat was quickly righted, everyone eventually got pulled out of the water, and the only thing that was lost was my hat.
On the fourth day of our trip, Kent, our trip leader, announces an advanced hike. Only for the truly hard core hiker, it is an all day, 10 mile hike up one side canyon to the rim and back down another side canyon. Some of the guides will stay behind and move the boats. It promises spectacular views and challenging rock scrambling. It also promises to be very long, hard, and hot. At one point he calls the hike a death march. Not being a hard core hiker or rock scrambler, I choose to stay behind with the guides that will be moving the boats. I am surprised to find I am the only one. I have the most amazing day. While the guides are busy with the boats, I find myself all alone on a beautiful beach deep in the Grand Canyon. With plenty of privacy I get a good bath in. Careful not to sunburn the delicate parts, I wash in the very cold river water, than warm up on the sandy beach. Then back to the river, then the beach, you get the idea. That evening I help the guides prepare dinner and greet the intrepid adventurers as they return, hot and tired and dirty, just as the sun is going down. They all had a wonderful time, but now I am the only one without blisters!
Day 6, our last full day in the canyon, we get to stop and visit a working archeological site. We are very lucky to get to see this. It took the group years to get the logistics figured out, and they are only digging for eight days. We arrive when they are almost done. They will remove the artifacts that they find, and then cover the site and return it to it’s natural state. When they are gone you won’t be able to tell they were ever there. Most sites in the Grand Canyon are not excavated. Only when the artifacts are at risk of being lost or damaged, like this site which is subject to flash flooding, do they excavate and remove artifacts.
Day 7 is our very last day. And it is a day I have been dreading. Because we are not doing a full canyon trip, we need to hike out of the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. I know I did not prepare well enough for the hike. Although I really don’t have a choice, I am not sure I will be able to carry my backpack, loaded with my clothes and lots of water, and hike the 7.5 miles from Pipe Creek to the South Rim. Needless to say I do hike out. It takes 7 hours and I am exhausted when I reach the top. It is great to walk out of the canyon and see the changing perspectives on the cliffs. I see more wildlife, including an endangered condor. When I finally reach the South Rim I look back and I can’t even see the river. It feels strange to be around so many people. And they are all so clean! I can’t imagine what they think of me. A few ask how far I have hiked and most are stunned that I have come from the river. (I carry a few extra pounds and certainly don’t look the type!)
This picture of the Bright Angel Trail is from Gene Hanson’s website. He has a marvelous “virtual hike” down the South Kaibab trail and up the Bright Angel Trail. He is a maniac and did it in one day. He also took hundreds of pictures. It is worth a look!
Back in our hotel that night, hubby and I are tired and sore. The shower feels great! We each order a big dinner and desert from room service. I am pretty sure this is one day I don’t have to worry about how many calories I eat!
I can’t wait to go back to the Grand Canyon. Next time I will do the full river trip. I am looking forward to rafting Crystal Rapid, the largest rapid in the canyon. Hopefully I will be able to stay in the boat!
Sorry it has taken me so long to continue. I start to write, but then I find I am not a good enough writer to put into words how amazing this trip was! So I will just do my best and you will have to bear with me.
So, after lunch we all hop back in our boats and continue on down the river. Soon we come to Badger Creek Rapid, our first “real” rapid. I have done white water rafting before, but always in a paddle boat, and always sitting behind someone else. Hubby and I were riding in an oar boat so we had front row seats and all we had to do was hold on and enjoy the ride while our guide Ari did all the work. It was great fun! I got to really see how big the waves were before they splashed me in the face. Following Badger we then went through Soap Creek Rapid, Sheer Wall Rapid, and then the infamous House Rock Rapid.
Mixed in between the rapids were lovely stretches of nice calm water. Then we could relax, dry out a bit, and listen to Ari while she told us about the geology of the canyon. I’ve never had much interest in geology, but even the names of the formations were interesting. The first day we saw Esplanade Sandstone and the start of the Supai group.
Late afternoon arrives and we pull into our first camp. Our guides don’t ask much of us, so when they ask that we form a bag line and help unload the boats we are more than happy to oblige. There is a lot of stuff to come off the boats! There is one gear bag and one sleep kit for every person, plus everything needed for the kitchen, including 3 tables and a 6 burner stove! And of course, the all important groover and 2 hand washing stations. The guides don’t even ask us to unload the groover. They take it directly off the boat and find a nice private place to set it up. They set up the handwashing station at the start of the trail to the groover. It consists of 2 red buckets, with a foot pump in between, one bucket has river water, the other bucket catches the soapy water as you rinse, soap, sanitizer, and “the key”. The key is a plastic box which holds the toilet paper. You take it with you when you go to the groover. So if the key isn’t with the handwashing station you know the groover is “busy”.
Once the boats are unloaded and the groover and kitchen areas established we are encouraged to find our camp site. The camp itself is wonderful. Lots of fine white sand but also lots of rocks and bushes. It turns out that there are few clear spots on this beach so we end up sharing with a few other couples.
Once we have chosen our spot it is back to the boats for more orientation talks. While most of the guides work on preparing our dinner, Kent gives us our camp orientation. He talks about the importance of handwashing (Imagine 23 people with a stomach bug sharing one groover!) and groover etiquette. (Don’t forget to bring back the key!) Once again we are reminded that we don’t get privacy, we give privacy.
Then he introduces us to the water filter. We drink a lot of water, and all of it is river water that must first be filtered and treated. We are encouraged to spend some time every day pumping water through the filter so there will be plenty for the next day. It turns out that pumping water is a popular chore and I only managed to do it once, by making someone else quit!
Finally dinner is ready. Ravioli with lots of cheese baked in a dutch oven, garlic bread and salad. We also had appetizers and desert but I am sorry to say I can’t remember what they were! it was all very good and there was plenty. Everyone helps with the dishes and then it is bedtime. The guides will sleep on the boats and all the guests sleep up on the beach.
Tents have been provided, and we have been shown how to set them up, but Kent tells us we really don’t need them. There is little chance of rain, the weather is quite warm, and taking down the tent is just one more chore for the morning. We take a tent to our campsite anyway. Away from the guides we talk with other guests about the pros and cons of setting up a tent. Some people set up tents saying they don’t want to have to do it at 4 am if it starts to rain. Some choose to sleep under the stars. I thought for sure I would set up the tent, just so I could have some privacy, but I decide to be tough and do without.
Our sleep kits consist of a tarp, a self inflating thermarest pad, a sleeping bag and liner. I have brought a pillow case which I stuff with my fleece jacket for a pillow. Hubby brought a stuff sack which worked much better because he could close it and all the stuffing wouldn’t come out. We find a reasonably level spot and set everything up.
I am now in a quandary. I need to change out of my still slightly damp clothes, and into something clean and dry. But because of the limited number of camping sites we are in very close quarters with a bunch of people I only just met this morning. And silly me said I was tough and didn’t need a tent! I finally wander off into the bushes and find a spot where I can change. And while I am at it, I decide to try out the groover. All I can say is the great outdoors with a great view makes it worth having to **** in an ammo can!
Finally I am in my sleeping bag and settling down for the night. I look up and realize that everyone sleeping in a tent is so missing out. The moon is almost full, and the moonlight on the canyon walls is spectacular. Even with the bright moon, there are lots of stars, and I see a shooting star blaze across the sky. I don’t want to close my eyes, but finally the day catches up with me and I sleep.