Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Classic Adventure Story

Are you craving a classic outdoor adventure, the likes of which you used to enjoy weekly on The Wilder Coast? Well look no further than this post. We just wrapped up an old fashioned epic in sunny Index, Washington. This weekend had everything- missing teeth, boys, kimchi, the bible, yurts- just some friends from my WFR class getting together for some trad climbing and general raising hell.

I wonder what people who actually raise hell think about people like me using that phrase. You know, people who go out and drink and fight and then end the evening by burning down a courthouse. And then I'm like Oh yeah, we got into someone's hot tub! Whose hot tub was it? WHO KNOWS! Raise the roof! But now I'm just giving away the story.

To start at the beginning, we spent a wonderful afternoon climbing very long, tall routes. We had to tie two 60m ropes together to make it work, which is safer than it sounds. Index is all trad climbing, and for those of you who don't understand what that means, I will break it down for you. Trad climbing, as opposed to sport climbing, is scarier and more expensive and the people involved are a bit more gaunt. But, it does enable you to climb some incredible cracks. The cracks in Index are all classics, world class stuff. I loved it! Now I'm addicted to crack! ha ha no really, everybody who climbs, it's time we stop using that joke. That joke has been done a lot. We're all getting tired of pretending to laugh at it. 

Chris was the only one amongst us who climbs trad so he did all the leading. Chris is a climbing ranger on Rainier, a friend from WFR, and the unsung hero of my piece The Over-Brewed Bro, which he said he found 'Funny' and 'Just a little insulting' and 'Did you have to use that picture' and then after a few days, 'Nah, it's fine.' We love you, Chris!

As a sport climber, I'm used to big faces with a bunch of tedious crimpers. Your fingers and toes do all the work and all the flesh between them is just dead weight. Face climbing makes me feel like a fatty. Crack, on the other hand, is a full body adventure. First you dip yourself as deep as possible into your chalk bag, then you jam all your limbs into the crack and wrestle your way up and I'm not kidding, that's how it's done. Crack climbing celebrates The Whole Woman. 

We climbed until sunset and then coiled our ropes and returned to our little camp next to the beautiful Skykomish river- the river where I learned to paddle. Incidentally I call all rivers I've ever run "The river where I learned to paddle" because one never stops learning, am I right? The one exception of course being the Rio Claro, which is the river that made me go bat shit insane, temporarily.

Lisa and I went down to the Sky to unwind and play with the dog. There we found a boy sitting alone on the bank drinking a PBR, smoking pot and leafing through his bible. All our splashing and being-girls-ness caught his attention and he introduced himself. His name was Nathan, he spoke with a strong Chatanooga drawl and he had that frightening friendliness of the deep South that makes the brains of Northerners short-circuit.

"Interesting combination of things you got going there, Nathan," I said, gesturing towards the paraphernalia in his lap. Maybe it was rude but I couldn't help but point out his recreational drug use, combined with beer and marijuana. Nathan raised his PBR can towards the heavens. "You know, Jesus, he's my friend, and I talk to him like my friend. And I hang out with my friends I like to drink beer and smoke pot."

Well alright.

Nathan had a few bros kicking around and we  invited them over to our corner for dinner. Chris and his friends cooked up a great meal out of Chris's dumpster diving finds. Something with Kimchi and noodles and oil in excess, it was really good. As we ate, someone said "Well if you're going to get your meals out of a dumpster you might as well eat the fermented stuff," and we all nodded appreciatively. Paul, who has children, quietly ate a block of cheese and nothing else. Then Jeff made us all Gin and Tonics with slices of lime out of the back of his truck and Lisa and I made a roaring fire. 

As soon as it was completely dark, a boy showed up around our fire. His name was Abe, he was missing a tooth and he proudly declared to all that he lived in a van. I played that trick on Abe where I pretend that we've met and I'm really sad and disappointed that he doesn't remember me. I think that trick is funny but nobody ever likes it and it always sets a weird tone for the rest of the evening.

 After a few rounds of camp fire stories a la Jeff, Abe invited us all to a place where he's house sitting. "It's got a hot tub and everything," he tells us. Boy lures girls to unknown grown up's house with promise of hot tub. Boy, how many times has this happened- and you get there and the 'hot tub' has a big green cover on it and obviously hasn't been used for a decade. But you keep going because the allure of a hot tub is that good.

Lucky for us it was a legitimate, working hot tub, steaming away in the back yard of somebody's lovely home. All of the boys pulled off their clothes and hopped in the tub- everyone except Nathan, who stripped down to his boxer briefs and climbed in cautiously saying, "Y'all, I'm cool with y'all bein' naked but I'm gonna leave my unders on. I think it's a cultural thing."

Since you're wondering, Lisa and I stayed put in our Patagonia bikinis. You just don't pay that much money for a bikini only to whip it off in front of company. As we soaked, the expression on the boys' faces said if they'd known we were going to stay clothed, they would have probably kept their trunks on because now it felt weird. I can recognize that look from a mile away.

We stayed in that hot tub for about an hour and told another round of stories. To relieve ourselves from the steam we'd jump into a cold outdoor shower. Then we'd see the boys naked in total silhouette, and forgive me if I'm wrong but what boy wouldn't want to be seen naked at night in an extremely cold shower? A win win for all.

There were about eight of us in the hot tub and Lisa and I were the only gals. Lisa kept having to move around and sit in different places because someone was playing footsy with her under the bubbles.

After a while we all exited the hot tub and wrapped ourselves in towels. By now it was early in the morning, and we lounged around in whoever's house it was. I put on my Carharts and my black Regulatory 1 full zip jacket and found a nice corner of the couch. Let me tell you something about those Carharts- you don't fuck around in them. They're big and shapeless and they zip up at my waist- my actual waist, not my hips where pants should live. I look like a lady who owns an all women's painting company, if you know what I'm getting out. There is no flirting or flitting around, no head-tipped back laughing while putting my hand on the guy's chest because you're so funny- not when the Carharts come on.  I where them when I want to say, "Sorry bros, you're out of luck." And if ever there was a time to stress that message, it's when you're fresh out of the hot tub in a stranger's house with five boys who are still getting over the disappointment that you and your best friend didn't take your swim tops off.

Lisa on the other hand was just shimmying all over the place. She and Abe made some gyozas from out of the freezer and apparently the process of frying them, and the subsequent adding of the hot sauce, was just too hilarious.

Around 2am Abe announced that he knew of this Yurt across town which might be cool to check out. The town of Index is about 3 city blocks so it doesn't take much to go across town. I wondered how someone who lives out of a van had so many houses at his disposal, but I didn't say anything because I wanted to check out the yurt.

The yurt was worth any pain that subsequently occurred inside the yurt. It was built on top of a long hill full of slippery, winding stairs, and all the trees were draped in colored Christmas lights that were turned on, as if someone was expecting us. Abe promised there would be sheets and blankets and pillows at the Yurt, but I know never to trust a man when he promises you bedclothes. I've been burned before. So I grabbed my sleeping bag and my pillow from the car and when we get up there guess what- no bedclothes. Not even a plush throw or a knit Afghan. So when we finally call it a night, I'm sharing my sleeping bag and pillow with Chris on the top of a rickety bunk with a terrifying ladder.

At least our close quarters yielded a really nice talk.  We were very warm and talked quietly to each other. Our talk went something like this:

Chris: Will you turn your headphones down?
Me: Sorry.
Chris: Listen you gotta turn it down even more
Me: I'm listening to The Lonely Island- so funny- ever heard of them?
Chris: I'm going to go sleep in your car.
Me: You can't. You can't put the seat back, there's an entertainment set in the back
Chris: What?
Me: An entertainment set. A piece of furniture a TV is meant to go on.
Chris: Then could you just turn your music off? It's 3am, I want to go to sleep.
Me: I can't get to sleep without it. I'm a terrible sleeper.

And so on. I loved it. I live for cozy late night talks with friends under one sleeping bag in somebody else's yurt after a night of raising hell.

We woke up around noon the next day and Lisa, Chris and I had coffee and bagels in the one cafe in town. We talked about some good things, about being 26 and having no idea what we're doing and all that. Then we met up with our smooth chested friend friend Andy Dahlen and climbed some more classic routes all day.

That's just what I love about climbing, is all the randos.  And the crack. Wonk wonk wonk.

Thank you to everyone who entered the Patagonia giveaway. It was nice to read about all the nice places out there that seem really nice. Nice work. Stay tuned for the next giveaway coming up soon.  Congratulations to our winner, chosen by random number generator:

Photohyrdaulicturbine Although I live in Seattle, fall is one of the best seasons to head for the east side of the Cascades as the storms don't quite have the umph to fully saturate your weekend plans. I love land of larches, the rocky alpine regions, such as the Enchantment lakes. This past weekend while running through this beautiful string of lakes surrounded by precipitous granite and small alpine glaciers, I found myself fascinated by the small larches precariously perched on Dragontail's cliffs, imagining the small bird that carried seed many years ago that somehow managed to survive in this beautiful, but harsh landscape. Now these few dispersed trees are bright yellow--their final hurrah before winter's ferocity returns.

I hope you wear this hat on your next adventure to the Enchantments. Take a picture and we'll post it here. 
Email me your info at Melina (dot) Coogan (@) gmail (dot) com. Spambots need not respond.

Photo credits: Lisa Niemann, Jeff Pierce and Paul Bongaarts


Jeff in Oregon said...

Love it, love it, love it! Can't wait to see ya'll again. I think one of the funnier moments for me was rolling through town at like 7ish in the morning cause I couldn't sleep with all the trains roaring by, and there's Abe strolling through town to let the dogs out to do their business. Still had his headlamp around his neck and a big shitty grin. Good times.

Adriana Iris said...

took my time to read and i am glad. i wish you could take me climbing.
i love when someone takes me to a place with words. i could smell the firewood... take me please ;)

Jason said...

I tip my hat to your photographers. Great shots. I liked the last one especially.

Ted said...

You've gotta feel better after a day like this: Mt. Index vs. Premera.