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.
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.