It’s been a while since the last update and a lot has happened! I’ll preface this by saying that my camera was left in the van last week, so no new pictures from us (except one from my phone), sorry everyone! The pictures in the post below are credited in the captions.
We last left off in Mexicali/Calexico where we were getting some repairs on the “agua pumpo”. Once repairs were finished we headed north to Joshua Tree National Park
for some camping and rock climbing. We arrived late at night and set up camp at the Jumbo Rocks campsite. In the morning we found ourselves surrounded by massive boulders in every direction. Joshua Tree is truly an amazing place. After a brief morning of work in town we headed to Indian Cove campsite for some rock climbing. Many of the routes at JTree start in various campsites. The prevailing rule is to ask the occupants if you can use the route before setting up your ropes and gear. This day the campsites we wanted to trespass on were vacant, so no permission-asking needed.
We climbed a few routes before sunset and headed to a new campsite for that night. Hidden Valley is the “climber campsite” in the park. Earlier in the day we had been driving around, but no sites to be had in that spot. Finally, another climber couple waved us over and offered to share their spot with us that night. We were very grateful! While setting up camp, a new couple wandered through the site on the way back to their tent. We struck up a conversation and decided to climb together the next day. Vanessa and Colin are from Belgium and are traveling by bicycle from Seattle to Mexico. Check out their blog here
(warning, it's in French). We discussed how most of the routes at JTree are trad climbing routes (meaning that there is nothing permanent in the rock to clip your rope into, you have to insert gear into the cracks in the rock to prevent yourself from falling) and the four of us only had sport climbing gear. By teaming up, we could set up multiple ropes and switch off climbing different routes.
Joshua Tree Photo credit c3y.net
The next morning we met up with Vanessa and Colin at “climber coffee”, a weekend morning gathering set up by the park rangers. They offer free coffee (BYO-mug), tea, and hot chocolate and climbers can peruse park guides, learn about regulations, meet up with climbing partners, and generally socialize. It was really great and much appreciated by everyone. We also met up with a single climber, Natalie, who joined in with our group. Check out her blog here
for some awesome climbing pics and videos. She also had some trad gear, so we would be able to get on more routes than we initially thought we’d be able to. It was a fantastic day with really fun people. Hopefully we’ll get some pictures soon from Natalie, who had an amazing camera with her all day.
Climber Coffee at Hidden Valley Photo credit leavenotracecommunity.blogspot.com
That night we invited Vanessa and Colin over to the van for a “dinner party”. They brought their dinner and we cooked ours all in the van (it was cooold that night). We even had appetizers (chips and salsa) and dessert (creme cookies)!
The next morning we headed out from Joshua Tree in the direction of Las Vegas. Just outside Vegas is Red Rock Canyon
, where there is some amazing climbing as well. It was only a 3-ish hour drive, so we figured we would have plenty of time to get in a few days of climbing before heading to Salt Lake City, where we would fly out to Boston for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the Westy started acting up after about an hour on the road. The engine would suddenly cut out and the car would buck violently in the middle of the highway, before picking right back up again and running smoothly for a few more minutes. Not good. We just barely made it onto the Strip before it finally quit picking back up again. We got a super cheap room at Bill’s Gamblin Hall and Saloon
(cheap and small casino, but in the best location!) and called it a night. That night I won enough money to cover the room and dinner with extra to spare! Nothing like making money in Vegas!
The next morning Tom found a shop who was willing and able to fix our Westy-woes and also could store the van until January, when Tom would fly out for a ski trip. The initial plan was to leave the Westy with friends in Salt Lake, so we were very grateful for the alternative given the pickle we were in. They even let us borrow a truck for the afternoon so we could get in a little climbing. The rest of the Vegas weekend was a blur. Let’s just say that Margaritaville, blackjack, and gin were involved.
Would you like some gin with that lime, Tom?
Wednesday morning as we were getting prepared to fly back to Boston, we found out that Tom’s grandfather was nearing the end of his life. He had been in a nursing home and on hospice care for a little while. He was 96 years old and had a great life. Traveling was a huge passion of Tom’s grandfather and grammy and we were inspired in part by them to take a trip like this. Not knowing how long before he would pass, we boarded our flight to Boston. By the time we landed, it was clear that Tom needed to go home to be with his family. We decided that he would catch the first flight to Detroit the next morning. So with 3 hours of sleep, we headed back to the airport. Tom’s grandfather passed away shortly before he arrived on Thanksgiving morning, surrounded by family. We were so grateful that Tom was on his way already and could be there with his family to celebrate his grandfather’s life. I stayed in Boston and had a great Thanksgiving and a few days with my family before joining Tom in Detroit for the funeral on Sunday. It was an amazing service with Tom, his mother, and his uncle all giving wonderful eulogies. His grandfather was a Navy veteran of WWII, so a full honor guard and flag presentation was a part of the memorial. It was a great celebration of a wonderful man. Check out our very first post on the blog about visiting Grandfather
in July of this year. You can also read his obituary
Today, we flew back to Boston in order to catch our original flight to Costa Rica early tomorrow morning. For those of you keeping score, that’s 8 flights in 8 days (if you include layovers) so we will be excited to spend some time on the Nocara beaches! We were so lucky to be able to see both of our families for the Thanksgiving holiday and to be with Tom’s family especially during this tough time. We can’t wait to see them all again at Christmas! We are sad to be coming to the end of this amazing adventure. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us and who has been keeping up with us via the blog. We can’t wait to see you all soon in Chicago!