tldr; Alayna started listening to Christmas music.
After Choi’s impressive send of Girls of Texas on Sunday morning, we hit the road from Hueco Tanks towards a new state, Utah! We’ve been looking forward to Utah, not only because of its amazing hiking and climbing, but also because we’ll get to see lots of friends and family here over the next month.
The first stop on our Utah adventure was Joe’s Valley. Joe’s is a newer bouldering destination where we met up with Lindsay, a friend from back home and a very strong climber. We decided to break up the ~13 hour drive by stopping to spend the night at an iconic van-life city rest stop that we haven’t tried yet, Cracker Barrel. Nothing too exciting to report from that stop but it was a relatively quiet, safe, and flat place for us to get some rest (flat is important so that Choi doesn’t end up rolling off the bed and onto our kitchen counter while we sleep).
The next morning, we headed out early and finished our drive through New Mexico, a corner of Colorado, and into glorious Utah, home of towering red cliffs and arches that are somehow right off the highway, free to the public.
Joe’s Valley is a beautifully remote climbing area pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Being in the middle of nowhere is excellent for serene climbing but it also means; no public showers, limited bathrooms, no free wifi, and nowhere warm for us to work during the snowy forecast for the week. Taking all of these factors into account, we splurged on a motel.
Just like in our previous motel stays, we enjoyed that motel to the fullest. We set up our camp stove, stuffed the mini-fridge full of our food, played bananagrams on the table, streamed movies on the wifi, rinsed our dishes in the sink, and cranked up the heater.
The first half of the week was relatively uneventful. We worked from the motel during the day. I ran from one nearby small town to another to get some exercise. We visited the two grocery stores in town to compare which was better. Mostly, we waited for our chance to get out and explore!
I had planned to take off work Wednesday through Friday to climb with Lindsay while Choi would join us in the afternoons and on Saturday. Unfortunately, the weather had different plans for us.
Wednesday was the only day of good weather in the forecast so we took advantage of the blue skies and crisp (but not too cold) air. I managed to send a couple of climbs, including my first V7! (it was either very soft or I was inspired by Lindsay’s effortless send). I also managed to get what’s called a “bloody flapper” on my pinky and dramatically slip while scrambling down a hill, falling all the way to the ground, Charlie Chaplin style. What’s a climbing day without a few battle scars though, right?
On Thursday, our blue skies were replaced with snow. Lindsay and I tried to climb for a little bit but we were quickly snowed out as our fingers froze up and we worried about wet rocks. We did get to explore a new climbing area tucked into a forest. The forest was beautiful with snow falling in fat flakes onto the boulders and pine trees around us. After spending the afternoon catching up on work and warming up in the motel, Choi and I headed back out for an afternoon hike.
We were snowed out of climbing yet again on Friday. Lindsay took a day trip to Moab with her parents while Choi and I worked indoors until we mustered up the courage to go on another chilly hike out at Joe’s Valley. The hike was incredible once again. I made a snowman and Choi destroyed that snowman with an epic hit from a snowball.
Saturday morning, we were surprised to see some sunshine! When we arrived at Joe’s, we found a winter wonderland and surprisingly dry boulders. We watched Lindsay work on her project, Chips (V7) for a while and I gave it a couple of attempts before the snow started to fall again. We took the snow as our cue to make our way to our next stop on our Utah journey, Moab, where we would meet Brooke, Paulo, Frankie and Dan, dear friends from back home in Austin.
We had some time before meeting our friends in Moab, so we decided to take the “scenic route” through Buckhorn Wash. Shortly after turning onto the dirt road of Buckhorn Wash, we realized that much of the views of the drive would be obscured to us as we pushed through heavy snow. The dirt road was mostly snow-free though so we decided to press on.
We were glad that we decided to keep going as gradually, red spires and canyons began to loom out of the fields of white surrounding the van. The snow flakes became thicker and softer and we took in the eerie scenery around us.
About halfway through the drive we made it to one of the scenic stops we along the route, a 130-ft long pictograph and petroglyph panel with huge depictions of people, snakes, and other creatures. It was beautiful to look out at these historic pieces of art with the snow falling softly around us.
Later that evening, we arrived safely in Moab and met our friends for dinner and a restful night at our 1-bedroom Airbnb that we managed to turn into a three-bedroom with our and Dan’s vans serving as bedrooms 2 and 3. We were so excited to see our friends and couldn’t wait for our adventures together the next week.
Joe’s Valley, we loved your snowy forests, your warm motels, and we’ll be back to spend more time exploring your epic climbing. Along We Go!