Wow, wow, wow. What a weekend, what an adventure, what an achievement! I overcame so many little fears over the weekend - Could I survive sleeping on the ground? Could I navigate well enough to be passed? Could I keep up with the group? Would my water hold up on the bouldering hike? Would I hold up on the bouldering hike?
The answer to all of these by the end of the weekend was a resounding chorus of yes!
The weekend started bright at early at 3:30 AM on Saturday morning when our alarm clocks went off. We'd spent most of the day before getting our camping gear and backpacks all set and ready to go, so all we had to do before departing to meet our WTC group bus was get dressed and fill our coffee travel mugs.
We boarded the bus at 5:00 AM, and rather than the quiet, sleepy group I'd expected, most everybody was excitedly buzzing about the adventures ahead. Which is what I love about being physically active, and surrounding myself with people that are same. The collective energy when we get together is fantastic.
We pulled into our group site at Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park bright and early, dumped our stuff to be assembled later, and headed out to practice applying the topography and navigation skills we'd been working on in the classroom.
It was a long tough morning. Not so much physically, although the sun was hot and we all felt the affects of dehydration before the day was over, but more so from a mental standpoint. Locating where we were on our maps by attempting to identify geological landmarks based on topography, then using our compasses to calculate where we wanted to get to was extremely challenging. By the end of the day I felt the navigation wheels beginning to turn, but it took considerable mental effort to get there.
Then onto the fun stuff!
We spent the afternoon going through a series of bouldering exercises that included learning and doing things with very cool sounding names like friction, manteling, edging, working the crack, ascending the chimney, and gripping. My personal favorite was the chimney maneuver - you place your back against one rock, place your legs against the other close-by rock, and use your legs in a back and forth scissoring motion to ascend to the top.
Finally finished for the day, we set up camp, then gathered for a group potluck, which included some pretty gourmet stuff - wine, caprese, brie cheese, organic, quinoa and pasta salads, meat galore for the carnivores, and English trifle and peach cobbler for dessert. We even had ice cream - one of the guys in the group picked up some dry ice and brought 30 Klondike bars along. The dry ice worked like a charm, because the bars were frozen rock solid. A great idea, and one which we will likely utilize during our upcoming RV travels since we don't have a freezer.
|Our home away from home.|
Day two was all about bouldering to the top of a nearby peak. For the most part, I think these photos adequately tell the tale. I'll only add that early on I had a make-or-break moment, when I had to maneuver from one rock to another while standing fully erect, backpack weight still unfamiliar and therefore messing with my balance, spotter below encouraging me that I could do it. I wavered as a flood of anxiety descended, and tears threatened. I'm not sure where I found the courage to pick up my foot and swing over to the waiting boulder, but I did, which became the defining moment of the experience for me. All my little fears left me, and I became a physical and mental bouldering machine.
|Approaching the first rock canyon, one of many we would traverse before reaching our destination peak.|
|First big obstacle overcome, my smile indicates I'm starting to think I can actually do this.|
|Every challenge overcome becomes a victory.|
|Mike entering a chimney, two rocks close together that have to be ascended using mainly your feet in a scissoring motion.|
|Mike in the chimney, concentrating and slowly working his way upward.|
|Chimney ascent success!|
|Mike eyeballing the final ascent.|
|Digging in and ascending, with our spotter looking on.|
For the record - I had no assistance from anyone the entire day!
|Just don't look down!|
|Finally reaching the peak, both of us on endorphin overload.|
Which is why we'll be out there and at it again this upcoming weekend. It's just too much fun not to.