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Desert driving, climbing boulders, hiking rock, fireside ghost stories, joshua tree forests, gushing waterfalls, El Cap awe, sore legs, big smiles…..the list goes on and on. This is *the* official trip report for our first Sportsmobile camper van adventure, with special guests, Dale and Tans from New Zealand.

The first destination on our roadtrip tick list is Joshua Tree National Park, California. We leave Sunday late afternoon from Tucson, Arizona and gave Dale and Tans their first taste in desert highway driving – a long thread of cars stretching out before us, as far as the eye can see. The Sportsmobile is purring like a kitten (Paul says ‘lion’). We’re riding in style with legroom to spare. This is the life! 🙂 We pull into Joshua Tree pretty late and are worried about not finding a campsite. The month of March is considered the busy season, but we’re already feelin’ lucky on this trip and miraculously land a sweet site.

The following morning we have ourselves a nice cup of coffee and breakfast and then hit The Ouback for some bouldering. This is Tans’ first outdoor climbing experience and she does awesome – sending the layback crack Trout Chow (v0) and flashing the stellar West Face of Dino’s Egg (.9). Woo! We all finish off the day having fun jumping around on the Flintlock Dyno (v0) on the Chuckawalla Boulder and then back to the campsite to celebrate with yummy food and beer.

Paul sussing out the moves on Thin Lizzy, v9 in The Outback of Joshua Tree

Tanya & Dale, Joshua Tree

Next destination on the tick list is Yosemite National Park, California. We’ve picked a great day for driving because it’s cloudy and lightly raining on almost the whole journey up north. We arrive at Yosemite Valley at dusk, but alas, because of the rain (snow, at the higher elevations), the massive monolith El Capitan is unwilling to show its sheer face. Here in the high country, March is the off-season and we practically have the entire place to ourselves (relatively speaking – if you’ve ever visited the Valley). We celebrate our arrival with homemade pizza.

Morning Mist at Yosemite

The waterfalls are absolutely gushing this time of year and we’re eager to check them out. Our first hiking pick is Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. Because of the snow at the higher elevation and rockfall danger, the Mist Trail is closed (a direct link between Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls along the water’s edge), thus forcing us on a long, roundabout hike to get to the top of the amazing Nevada Falls, with which we are rewarded with stellar views of Liberty Cap, Mount Broderick, and Half Dome along the way. There is no such thing as a bad hike in Yosemite. Nine miles later we’re back at camp, munchin’ on spaghetti and garlic bread and sippin’ on wine, celebrating Tan’s Birthday! (the celebration just never ends on this trip).

Nevada Falls

Rise and shine campers! Today is the El Cap day! Our goal: To hike to the top of El Cap; about 3000 feet elevation gain; about 18 miles of walking. It’s early, we’ve got our daypacks ready, and we’re rearin’ to go. We start off toward Camp 4, where the Yosemite Falls trailhead awaits. Slow and steady, we burn our way up the never ending switchbacks up to the top of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in the U.S., the 5th tallest in the world. It’s gushing full force with the springtime melt. Breathtaking. The next photo snapper we see is a BOBCAT!!! No kidding – right on the trail – just chillin’ – well, kinda not – he’s pretty pissed to see us we think so we keep our distance. He heads downhill and we head up. We’re chugging along again, up, up up. Just around the next switchback, just around the next switchback, and finally we reach the top. We all chill for a bit and refuel with some PB&J sandwiches. We’re feeling pretty darn good and looking forward to the next part of the hike: a straightforward 5 mile, rolling walk through a wooded forest, gaining only about 500 more feet of elevation, which will gently place us on the top of the massive El Capitan. Sounds easy, huh? Well, not quite. We start off into the woods and immediately begin walking over patches of hardpacked snow. A little snow – no big deal – we’re well equipped. We tromp on. The little patches start turning into bigger patches, and then bigger patches, until we’re eventually walking through neverending 3-4 foot deep hardpacked snow. Throw in an occasional post hole here and there, leaving us knee (or sometimes thigh) deep in the icy whiteness, and you’ve got a few bummed looks of despair that we may not be able to make it to El Cap. After about 45 minutes of this we get to a signpost almost buried in the snow. El Cap this way…4.1 miles. Uh oh, wait a sec. We’ve been hiking for almost an hour and have only traveled about 1 mile! Oh no, we’ll *never* make El Cap at this pace. The snow is slowing us down way too much. And to top it all off, the old footprints we’d been following through the snow…keeping us on trail…now turn off down another trail at this point. We look into the dark, snow-filled woods at where the path to El Cap should lead, but is invisible due to the snow. Consensus everyone: “No Thanks.” We turn back. El Capitan has shut us down.

Yosemite Falls

We quickly turn our despair around with deciding to go check out Yosemite Point. As I said, there is no such thing as a bad hike in Yosemite. We reach the precarious vantage point and are blown away with the breathtaking birds-eye view of the entire Valley floor. I can only sum it up with one word: Wow. All smiles, we cruise back down to the valley floor and fill our bellies with some great food at the Yosemite Lodge.

Paul taking in the Yosemite Point view (Half Dome in the background)

Our remaining stay in the Valley is quite relaxing. We tool around the valley floor shops, shower!, sip on drinks at the Ahwahnee Hotel, check out some boulder problems, stare in awe at a bivy tent on the El Cap face, and rest and recuperate with good food, good stories, and good company.

April, Paul, and The Sportsmbile (El Cap in the background)

Our Yosemite campsite

It is now time to turn this roadtrip back toward home. We decide to pass through Joshua Tree again on the way back and *totally* luck out with finding a campsite. It is our final night on the road and we celebrate the good times had with a nice fire and a slideshow with all the pics we’ve taken on the trip.

We get up early in the morning and hit the road again, eager to get to Tucson at a reasonable hour so we can have time for some evening chillin’ at the house. This roadtrip might be coming to a close but the fun is not. We’re all still buzzing from the amazing sights we’ve seen over the last week and discussing our favorite parts, dreaming of when we can return and/or what adventure we will embark upon next. The more places one sees, the more one wants to see. A healthy greed, we all agree.

posted by arr

This entry (Permalink) was posted on Monday, March 26th, 2007 at 7:56 pm and is filed under Bouldering, Hiking, Joshua Tree-California. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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