Thursday, October 27, 2016

Discover Moab, Again and Again.

There is this sign when you are driving out of Moab that says "Discover Moab, again and again. The adventure never ends". Which sounds extra cheesy starting out this blog post, but its super fitting for our time here in Moab.

Though this is my first time here, this is Joe's second, third, possibly fourth or who knows how many times he's been here. He said to me last night how this trip has been completely different for him from past trips as we've spent zero to barely anytime in town. Basically only to fill up, use the library and the park. Which means these last few days we've really been enjoying our slick rock, sandstone surroundings.

Pine Tree Arch
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The night after our Ice Cream Parlor climb we headed out to Arches National Park where we went and took some night photos. I should clarify, as Joe took the photos and I just waved around my headlamp and the flash. We headed to Devils Garden where we went to the Pine Tree arch which
neither of us had seen many photos of in general not to mention any night photos. Plus Joe had never taken night photos there so that was even more incentive to head that way. After a few hours of long exposures and killer night skies we wrapped it up and headed back to camp on BLM road 385- basically the only free place to camp in Moab that's anywhere near the vicinity of town.

 Photo of Joe doing what he does so well
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We spent a day vegging and catching up on phone calls but eventually made our way to Hidden Valley for a great hike super close to downtown Moab. The hike started out with quite a steep grade but once you hit the top the truth to the name is revealed as you walk into a valley below steep red sandstone walls right above Moab that you would have no idea it was there unless you were engulfed in the sight of it. We enjoyed a couple hour walk through the valley to some pictographs. After the hike we made our way back into Arches for some more possible sunset photography as there was some clouds that had rolled in while we were hiking and we were very hopeful for some beautiful shots. We made the hike out to Delicate Arch (which I had yet to see on this trip) and its
supposedly always a zoo but it turned out to be a do-able amount of people and we grabbed some places to sit and waited for the sun to go down. The closer the sunset came the more people started to leave as to many clouds had started to roll into the horizon and by the time 6:30 rolled around there was no light to be seen and darkness came to quickly for any possibly nice photos to be taken.

Probably the most famous climbing area in Moab is called Wall Street. I wouldn't be surprised if its
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on all climbers "Places to Climb" list. Right now both Joe and I are fairly limited on what we can climb as we're both lower level sport climbers. Which makes it tricky to find routes to climb. But we did our research and headed to Wall Street where we found some routes in our range to climb. We arrived to some other climbers climbing and meandered our way to a 5.7R slab route called "Slab Route". Needless to say this was not our favorite climb. The beginning was ridiculously hard and sketchy before the first bolt, then the rest was basically a walk up. We both led it and left it in the dust. Next Joe led a 5.9 just to the right called "She-la the Peeler" before we both headed a little ways down to the next 5.9+ called "Potstash". Once again Joe led it first as a 5.9 is still a bit out of my range. This was our first non slab route of our Moab experience and we were both super impressed with this route. Was wicked fun and technical but still very do-able. I climbed it on top rope a couple of times before calling it a day and heading back to camp.

On our rest day we found ourselves filling our waters in a natural spring very close to the road. We turned the ignition over to head to the park for some vegging and... nothing. We had been having
Colorado River
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issues getting the car started when we had driven on dirt roads because it would jiggle the connectors on the battery loose. In the past we would just hit it a couple of times with an ice scraper and it would start no problem. But this time it got jiggled a little to hard and we got somebody to try to help us jump the Suzuki with no luck at first. After some patience and a half hour off hitting, cleaning the connectors and jiggling everything that has to do with the battery we finally got the car to start and headed to Napa and bought some $5 wrenches and tightened everything possible around the battery... Needless to say we have yet to have the car not start, even after driving on the dirt roads... ***KNOCK ON WOOD***

First 5.9 Lead for me!
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The day after our car starting adventure we made it back to Wall Street for some more climbing. We had done a little more research on our rest day and found a couple more routes we wanted to try so we headed there first. We started on a nice 5.7 slab with an overhang crux called "Neapolitan". We both led it for a nice warm up before heading over to a 5.9 called "Brown Banana" that Joe wanted to
lead. A technical climb with tricky moves but has nice rest spots. Joe sent it first climb and set up a top rope for me so I could climb it. After we both got to climb that route we meandered our way back to Potstash the 5.9+ route from the other day that Joe had led and I had top roped a couple of times. But the days goal for me was to lead it and send it first try. I would be lying if I said it was a piece of cake, as my nerves are my biggest enemy while climbing. I sent it and was pretty stoked as its my hardest outdoor lead climb I've done. We made our way back down the other way towards town to another 5.9 on Wall Street that Joe wanted to try. Another slab called "Stego" and even though it was a slab it was pretty vertical. Getting off the ground is no easy feat as he managed to lead and send the whole thing where I tried it afterwards and couldn't even get both feet off the ground and eventually gave up after some very frustrating attempts. The last climb of the day was a 5.8 slab called "Snakes Slab". I saw where the first bolt was and immediately knew I didn't want to climb it as the first bolt looked like it was a mile away from the ground and I had no intention of decking. But Joe, being much braver than I tied in and led away. Funny how its called a "popular climb" in the guide books because it wasn't easy and the first bolt being so high makes for some nerve racking climbing but Joe climbed it and with that we called it a day.

Eye of the Whale Arch
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After a nice last lunch and siesta in the park we hopped in the car and headed back into Arches for our last night photography session here in Moab. We looked on the map to find "Eye of the Whale Arch" which neither of us had heard of or even seen pictures of. After some quick research we headed that way and found ourselves on some pretty sketchy back roads that are meant for off road vehicles not small SUV's filled to the brim with gear. So after .3 mi of that we parked the car at the base of a hill that said "No 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara will ever make it past this point unless you
want to possibly rip the under carriage from your vehicle" (or so it seemed). We hiked the rest of the 1 1/2 miles to the arch only to be beyond pleasantly surprised by not only the view but not one other person and endless slick rock to be explored. We arrived just as the sun was setting but we both noted how we would happily come back to explore the area. Another evening was spent under a massive arch framed by endless stars, waving around the flash and headlight in hopes of some good photos of a less famous arch.
Pine Tree Arch
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With that we've found ourselves doing some hiking, climbing, southern Utah and next destination research here in the library before we say our goodbyes to the wonderful Moab. With hopefully one more quick climb in Ice Cream Parlor and a quick run by the grocery store we will soon be heading to Canyon Lands National Park for an overnight hike before we leave to venture onto new climbing excursions.

Adios, Moab!

Friday, October 21, 2016

From North to South

Much more exciting than it seems. PC JDStylos
These past few days we have gone from high desert, cold starry nights to high altitude summit passes with snow covered roads and have now found our way to southern Utah in the outdoor mecca of Moab.

We left City of Rocks and found our way to Tremonton, Utah where we borrowed some electricity and wifi from outside the local library and soon found ourselves in the middle of no where to find a place to sleep. We awoke and went on down to The Golden Spike National Monument (you can find more about Golden Spike HERE) where we arrived an hour before it opened so we enjoyed a walk around the outside of the sight before heading inside to the museum. It was cold and we had heard rumors of it not actually being anything very exciting but after all was said and done we both really enjoyed our time and its quite a cool part of history. Plus right before we left the rangers told us about the tour that takes you to go see the trains. So we hopped in the car and headed to the facility where they work on the maintenance of the trains for about 6 months each year. The trains are replicas of the ones used for the actual ceremony but were very impressive and I was taken aback by some of the facts about the trains!

We left to Logan, Utah where we ended up finding a great campsite and waiting out the bad weather
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for a couple of days for climbing in the canyon. Needless to say Logan Canyon was a bit of a bust for climbing as by the time we actually got a chance to climb it was still so cold that on the one route we ended up doing we froze our butts off. It was called "Lost Bolt" a 5.7 sport route on the First Practice wall when you first enter the canyon. The route itself would've been awesome if we weren't so cold, but with smooth limestone and numb fingers you couldn't exactly feel how good our holds were. After a cold one climb for each of us we decided to pack it up and move it out.

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Joe had looked at the map and saw some great back highways that would take us through the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest where we hoped to get some snow and maybe some good photos. So we hopped on highway 89 where we eventually went through the corner of Wyoming (where gas is insanely cheep!) and merged onto highway 150 that took us into the national forest. Basically the moment we hit the forest a mother moose popped out of the woods with a young calf behind her. Was SO exciting to see as I don't ever remember seeing a wild moose before. We passed quite a few empty camp spots then opted to turn around for the night as it was getting late and the snow was really starting to come down. We stopped at Butterfly Lake to get some quick photos then made our way to a camp spot right by the river. It was crazy cold. So after some hot cocoa and Annies we quickly hopped into bed and started listening to the second book of Harry Potter on tape and hit the rack. The next morning we awoke to clear skies and fresh snow and hopped in the car and drove through the rest of the pass. Not without stopping for a couple more pictures and seeing another massive moose along the way, of course!

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We had a long day of driving ahead of us and now were headed for Moab. We did make a couple of pit stops, one being at an old abandoned cabin and the other at a library in Duchesne, Utah. The best pit stop was at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum where we enjoyed a break of driving and some super cool history on dinosaurs and archaeology from around the Utah area.

Once again we hit the road and finally arrived in Moab. What a difference from waking up in snow to watching the sun set against the red canyon walls.

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Waking up in Moab the next day we did a bit of research for some climbing at the local library and headed out to a popular climbing place in Hunter Canyon called "Ice Cream Parlor" (a big slab). We found it and much to our disappointment a guide service was there and had top roped all the routes. Though we didn't get the chance to climb we did stop and get to do a small bit of hiking in the canyon and came back to the Suzuki that happened to not start. Long story short, the gear was in between 4WD and 2WD and after some fidgeting around and problem solving she started up no problem! WHEW...

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We spent the rest of the day in Arches National Park where we scoped out some great night photography spots and hiking along the way and seeing the arches. You can see why it would be so popular as there is not many words to describe natures way of carving such landscapes!

Today we tried once again to climb at Ice Cream Parlor and with much more success. Heading to the canyon early we arrived to be the only ones there. We were stoked and started climbing! We both climbed 5 routes. All rated a 5.7 (which we both lead) except one route that was a 5.9 that we set up a top rope for as it was harder than both of our outside climbing comfort levels are. Plus the top rope sets quite the peace of mind for the both of us. Joe climbed its twice and climbed really well where as I on the other hand was very glad to be on top rope as I fell a couple of times at the beginning and the crux at the end. Overall though we both got to lead some routes and practice anchor setting along with rappelling. Was basically exactly what we were looking for in today's venture.
Finally a photo of Joe!

After a few hours and some very tired muscles we made our way back to the car. The sun had finally hit the wall and it was getting hot so we were glad to make our way into town where we stopped at the "Lazy Lizard" hostel to grab a shower and headed to the local park. Its been about 10 days since packing and the car already needed a reorganization so we pulled almost everything out and found everything a new place which is much more accessible and made way more sense. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a regular thing throughout the trip as we get more savvy at packing and just living out of a small SUV.

The evening plans are to celebrate our first successful climbing day in Utah with some dinner at "Milts" then head to Arches National Park to hopefully get some good night photography.

We have so much more climbing we want to do here in Moab, including going back to Ice Cream Parlor so I wouldn't be surprised if we stayed another week here. Its such a cool place and we're both really enjoying our time here! Fingers crossed for some equally as good climbing in the coming days!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Officially on the Road

So we have officially hit the road and are currently using the Wifi from a closed library. Sitting in a pavilion and using the outlets to charge our computers in Tremonton, Utah.

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We packed everything up and are now definitely on our road trip. We left the evening of the 13th after laying everything out in front of the car and seeing how much stuff we actually had. Which we
weren't actually sure if it was all going to fit but needless to say it fits fairly comfortably. After my mom gave us an unreal amount of food (amazing!) we were a little short on space but luckily overtime that stock pile will soon dwindle and everything will soon fit in its perfect place.

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So that evening we hit the road to my grandparents house in Twin Falls, Idaho. We arrived and was welcomed by wonderful smiling faces and hugs.  This was the first time my grandmother had gotten the chance to meet Joe and needless to say I think everyone is a fan:) We spent a wonderful evening catching up, laughing and eating some wonderful homemade cooking by
the best grandmother in the world. Got to sleep in a warm bed for the last time for who knows how long it will be. The next morning got the chance to eat some breakfast and said our goodbyes and went on our way.

Our first stop once we hit the road was Shoshone Falls on the Snake River. Which by the way is taller than Niagara Falls! I was initially worried that we would have to pay the $2 entry fee but once we arrived we quickly realized that it is so late in the season not only do you not have to pay but there is also barely a trickle of water going over the falls. But even so, was cool to see and show Joe!

So with that we headed on our way to City of Rocks. We took some back roads that drove along true farm country and was quite the sight. Fun to see what I feel like a lot of the world doesn't get to see anymore.

As we were driving we passed a couple of historical sights and one that just so happened to be talking about City of Rocks. But the best thing about this historical sight is the fact that it was right on the
edge of a potato field that had already been harvested. The one thing about potato harvests is that when they pick up the potatoes they leave all the smaller ones behind. So we happened to pick up a few for future home fries that could be on the menu.

So we drove along and ended up going in the opposite way into City of Rocks than the previous time I had been there so I didn't actually recognize it at first but it was fun to see a completely different side of the City. From a distance I saw Jackson's Thumb and that was the direction we drove.
The smaller peak to the left is Jackson's Thumb
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Jackson's Thumb is a 5.7, 4 pitch, sport climb located in City of Rocks Idaho. I had climbed it before
but Joe had not. It was my first multi pitch climb and the only one I have done thus far. But needless to say it is perfect for your first multi-pitch climb and I was looking forward to climbing it with Joe.

So we arrived and chose not to take a designated camp spot and chose the free parking lot instead. We parked the car with a view of the climb. Weather wasn't ideal but we saw a break and decided to go hike up to the base of the climb. The hike is about 30-40 minutes long and a fairly good uphill climb. Still being slightly sore from Thompson it was good to get out and stretch our legs.You can only see about half of the first pitch from the base but was rewarded with a wonderful view of The City.

Once we got back to the car the predicted rain and wind started to roll in and we spent the rest of the afternoon listening to the first book of Harry Potter on tape and writing in our journals.

Since it was quite nasty outside we enjoyed our first real MRE (meal ready to eat) provided by my father who is in the military who donated 2 full boxes to the road trip. Pork sausage and gravy sounded better than it actually was but even so a semi warm meal and some toaster pastry for dessert wasn't the worst thing in the world for dinner. We ended our evening with Joe editing some photos and me coloring in my post card book.

PC JDStylos
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We woke up this morning to a fogged in valley but after a few hours we saw our weather window and headed up towards Jackson's Thumb. The weather wasn't ideal, mostly cloudy with some intermittent sprinkling but even so we took advantage and left the car around 9:45AM.

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The hike to the climb with all of the gear was much more difficult, and once we arrived to the base of the climb we were both breathing pretty heavily. Once we caught our breath we put on all of the gear, did our safety checks and I started to lead the first pitch.

Both Joe and I climbed really well but our calves were so sore after even the first pitch from our past excursion on Thompson. We leaped frog the pitches, meaning I led the first pitch, Joe led the second pitch, while I did the third and he finished on the last and hit the summit first.

The summit was windy and cold and with that we didn't get any actual summit pictures to commemorate the accomplishment but we were ready to get down. It was a two pitch rappel and once we had gotten it done and over with we were both pretty pooped. Not to mention we lost our trail and ended up breaking ground to the car.

We arrived back at the car around 2:00 PM and were both pretty stoked, We celebrated with some canned chili mixed with Annies Mac n' Cheese. Which I might add was incredibly delectable.

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After that we packed up the car and hit the road with not a real destination in mind. I did some research before we left and read that Logan Canyon offers over 400 sport climbs but the weather is not looking to great for the next few days. We pulled out the map and decided to stop in Tremonton Utah to fuel up and plan to head over to The Golden Spike National historic sight. Which happens to now be closed but the map is showing that we're not to far from The Great Salt Lake which I have never seen. So possibly camp there tonight and head over to The Golden Spike tomorrow.

If you have any recommendations of things to do in Northeast Utah until Tuesday we would love to hear them!:)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Thompson Peak (10,751ft) Sawtooth Wilderness October 10th-11th 2016

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What a better way to kick off the road trip then to start it off with a big hike and an overnight in one of the most beautiful places in Idaho, the Sawtooths!

Funny enough though, not only have I never actually spent any time in the Sawtooths, its also wicked late in the season to be climbing and attempting the highest summit in the range.

Of course that doesn't stop Joe and I though! So after plenty of research and trip planning we packed up the mobile humble abode and headed out. We left around 7:30 in the morning and left the car and hit the trail around 11:00. After a short uphill start through a forest of aspen trees the trail hits about a 3 mile walk along a ridge line through the wilderness boundary before you get to a fork in the trail. Up until this point it had been easy walking and a great warm up for what was to come. We headed left at the fork and it went immediately uphill. The trail was still apparent but was definitely starting to dwindle as we headed closer and closer to the lake.

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You make your way through an alpine meadow and this is where the trail pretty much ends. Luckily you can see your destination straight ahead, Thompson peak and below that is supposedly an unnamed Alpine lake that is just beyond the next ridge line. So straight ahead we went and this is where we realized that the rest of our hiking was going to be crossing rock fields. We made it to the lake around 2:45 and once we gained the ridge line I was in complete awe of the lake. Such clear water and the backdrop of Thompson was breathtaking. Both Joe and I took pictures and set up camp and enjoyed watching the fish catch their afternoon snacks.

Thompson Peak being lit by the morning sun.
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That evening the wind started to pick up and the weather forecast was calling for high winds and snow so we were ready for a long night. Neither of us slept super great as the the combination of howling wind, snow and altitude was a recipe for a restless night.

We both awoke with doubt of getting to summit that day but we climbed outside the tent to about an inch of snow and some wind but it was clear. So we made the decision to wait it out and see if the wind would die down. I'm glad we decided to wait because the wind did die down and we headed out around 10:30 that morning to make our way to Thompson.

It was constant rock hopping. With the snow from the night before we were worried about stepping in the snow and not knowing how deep it would be beneath so with that thought in the back of our
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minds it made for long and tedious hiking. We did some class 3 scrambling up to the top of the saddle to see quite the sight of a huge rock valley and luckily, not as much wind as we were expecting.

The longer we went the more the rock hopping got more difficult. But we trudged along and made it to the base of the rock fall on Thompson and up we went. This was probably the most difficult part of the climb, as the combination of loose rock, snow and ice made for a long and frustrating upward climb. Every 6 inches you gained you would fall 3.  After about halfway up we decided on the middle gully between the three options and made it to what we were hoping to be the summit but would soon realize after some more class 3 scrambling that we were some class 5 scrambling and 20 vertical feet short of the true summit. With high winds and some intense exposure we decided to call it and head down. We were SO close and it took Joe a few more attempts of route finding for us to officially give up and start making our way back down.

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The wind was picking up more and by this time our muscles were dead tired from being constantly flexed for perfect foot steps onto the tops of the rocks. By the time we had made it back to camp at the lake it was about 4:30 and we packed up and headed out pretty quick. Though we knew we had 5 1/2 miles of hiking still ahead it was nice to think that once we hit the fork in the trail it was smooth sailing back to the car.

We made it back to the car around 6:30 and without a true summit of Thompson peak. We did put in a solid effort and get DANG close though. Looking at the peak from the bottom it sure looks like we got to the top... but we will be good people and tell the truth;)
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We hopped in the car and headed out to Kirkham hot springs to hopefully soak away some of the pain of extremely tired limbs and hurt egos. We headed out to go find a free camp spot and test out the car bed for the first time. Oh man, the mobile humble abode is quite the success! We are going to be sleeping good these next few months!

This morning we opted to just head back to the McKinstry household and unpack the garb the spend the afternoon getting everything for the road trip all separated into piles and ready to load into the car tomorrow. We will hit the road tomorrow and head to Twin Falls to see my grandparents and enjoy a warm meal before heading out to The City of Rocks on Friday!
Thompson Summit... so close but so far
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Friday, October 7, 2016

Almost Departure Time

Its been a couple of weeks and the vegging is in full swing.

I've been busy honing in on my climbing knowledge and learning some of the essentials for the road trip while Joe has been away in Virginia working for a couple more weeks. But now he has returned and needless to say we are taking full advantage of the amenities provided by the McKinstry household.

While Joe was gone I was able to do a couple of things for the car that didn't require any carpentry skills. So I put my creative thinking cap on and figured out how to make the curtains. I ended up measuring the windows and cutting a square piece for each window then deciding that the best way to attach them would be by using Velcro. Though its not ideal if I ever want to take the Velcro off, but it

Rocket Box has been added
honestly made the most sense for the windows themselves. So the Velcro is on the outer edge of each window and makes it so you can still open and close the door while the curtains are up. The other side of the Velcro is on the fabric itself and sewed on. I ended up hand stitching one curtain and after 4 hours and much frustration I came to the conclusion that letting a professional use their magic on them might be the better way to go. After the Velcro was sewn on I ended up cutting the fabric to fit the window shape. But in the end the curtains are awesome, they're subtle and do their job.

Now that Joe is back we were able to finally finish the car. Not that there was much to do on it but we still ended up having to pull out the jigsaw and cut the last piece of wood for when the car is in sleep mode on the drivers side. We ran out of plywood in Washington so we finished the last piece using chip board. Though it doesn't match, it works. Especially because while Joe was gone working I found some 3in camping foam that is now our car mattress and it covers up that mismatch chip board wonderfully! After we had finished the last piece of wood we threw in the foam and used a bread knife to cut along the edges to have it fit perfectly into the car.

With that the car is officially finished. Now the packing is in full swing. Both Joe and I have created our own personal packing list for the car and have a shared packing list for cooking and other car garb that we will be sharing throughout the trip. The packing is turning into being a multiple day project but when your going to be traveling across the country and going into winter its important to make sure you have everything you need! As of right now the lists are coming along quite nicely and having the car with the extra rocket box storage is making our lives much easier.

Calorie counting and food packing for the Sawtooths
Official departure date is definitely looming but until then we have decided to semi start the road trip in the Sawtooths. I say semi start because we will be returning to my parents house on Wednesday the 12th to finish packing. As of right now Joe and I plan to head out the morning on Monday the 10th to go climb Thompson Peak. The highest peak in the Sawtooths at 10,751ft. I love the Sawtooths but haven't gotten the chance to spend anytime at all in them. Plus what better way for Joe to see a super great piece of Idaho?! We plan to hike in Monday and camp that night, hopefully summit on Tuesday and then hike out. Maybe stop at a hot springs on the way home and camp at one of those. We will get home on Wednesday, pack all the rest of the garb for the road trip and head out to City of Rocks that weekend to meet up with a couple of our friends to climb some great stuff out there. After that we aren't exactly sure where were headed but that is the great part about this trip, the possibilities are endless!