Monday morning came and we happily brought the car in to the shop- although the clutch still wasn't as bad as it was in Tuscon it seemed to be on its way, and we were excited to hopefully have it taken care of for good. We dropped the car off and biked over to the library and sat around most of the day waiting for the car to be done. They called just before 5 and $250 later we were on our way again. So far everything has been cooperating (cross your fingers for us). In celebration of the car functioning again we bought ourselves Little Ceasers and feasted.
The next course of action was to head out of Phoenix, but not too far- so that if the car started acting up again we could get it back without too much trouble. We decided that Queen Creek Canyon was the place to go. We got in late to Oak Flats the free campground and were surprised to find it very full on a Monday night. Strange, but for the moment didn't think too much of it...
Tuesday March 18th: Home
Oak Flats seemed like a nice enough place- so we decided to settle in for a while. It was the first time we filled the vans 13 gallon water tank, did laundry and filled our camp shower (thanks Amber!). When we went to town to fill the tank we got a little excited about being in one place for a while and bought all sorts of heavy food- like chicken breasts, avocados, and tater tots. Then we got to the dairy section, and milk was $1.80, we just couldn't pass that up. So we trudged back up to the campsite with one very full car. We cooked all the chicken over the camp fire and feasted once again.
Sunset from camp
So as we're sitting around the fire getting dinner ready, we begin to notice that this campground doesn't really feel like a campground. I had the distinct impression that these people around us were not camping at all. It was more like we were in the middle of some glorified trailer park, and we were just passing through these peoples homes. Weird enough, and then about 8:00 pm a school bus pulls into the campground. They pull up about even with our site; the door opens-and teenage kids just start spilling out the door and scattering. These kids just started running towards various campsites and behind trees and stuff. Mike and I were both watching in awe. As far as I could tell they all seemed to be urinating. A few minutes later everyone piled back in and the bus drove further back in the campground. We never figured out what it was, or who was driving the bus- but they were gone by morning....verrry bizarre.
March 19, 2008
Today we had the crazy idea to ride our bikes down a mountain to the pull off for the climbing area called the pond. After waiting for the semis and the hauling trucks to barrel down the hill we saw a clearing and it was our turn. After 3 or 4 swift pedal strokes we let gravity take over and we were on our way. Even with danger lurking it was hard to wipe away the giddy look I had on my face as the wind contorted it. Luckily we didn't get passed by any trucks because there was no shoulder, just a guard rail with a few dents in it (probably other less fortunate bikers).
We arrived unscathed and anxious to get on the rock, which was welded tuff. For all you non geology folks out there it is a fairly fine grained rock which consist mostly of ash spewed out of a volcano and welded by the heat and lithophied as it cooled. There are some more coarse grained fragments scattered throughout, just enough to tear up your hands (very sharp rigged stuff).
The climbs were a 2 minute walk off the highway, but still in a really pretty place. Looking at the guidebook like 2 lost fools, we spent most of the afternoon just wandering around. By the time we finally located the specific climbs we were looking for, we decided that it would be best to just enjoy the view for the day and come back the next and start climbing. The reason it took so long to find it in the first place is that you practically had to climb up a waterfall to locate the upper pond. There was a well hidden rope and ladder drilled into the rock that takes you up there. It was really neat, but even with the rope and ladder, a little scary because you were so high up.
Once you got to the top, this was the view that greeted you, another 50 foot crystal clear waterfall.
That night as we sat around our picnic table someone started walking towards us in our site. We didn't think much of it at first, seeing how this seemed to be a pretty common practice throughout this campground, (everyone just seemed to wander through everyone elses sites, another rather strange thing). However, in this case this guy was actually coming to talk to us, not just pass through as had been the case previously. He asked if we were climbers, and asked if we would want to go climb with he and his wife tomorrow. We agreed to meet up in the morning.
Thursday March 20th:
We went back to the pond, with our new found friends Dave and Chris (the friendly couple we had met the night before). They are a mostly retired couple from Colorado who have been climbing for about 6 years. Now that we knew where to find the climbs it was a lot easier and we spent most of the day there, although it got pretty darn toasty by mid-afternoon. We ended up doing 6 climbs that day ( a 5.6, 5.8- with bolts really far apart, 5.10b-top rope, 5.7, and another 5.6), which is quite a lot for us. Climbs range from 5.4- 5.14, with a 5.11 being the hardest climb that I could ever ever conceive trying to climb. Usually we're lucky if we get 3 climbs in.
However, 2 months ago Mike was apparently playing too much soccer in his sleep, and woke up with a pulled toe/ball of foot area. He found out pretty quickly that it still really hurts and wasn't able to do as much climbing as he wanted to.
After a fulfilling day of climbing we headed back to town to fill the water tank again (we had done lots of laundry) and bought some essentials, tp, more laundry detergent, cosmic brownies, and about 500 lemon cookies.
Friday March 21st:
Today we moved on to a different wall in the same area. Instead of the pond we went to an area called Atlantis. We did another 4 climbs there (5.6, 5.7, another 5.7 on a fin, and a really tall 5.8). The fin was actually really scary because you had to climb up some rubble to get to it, and then started it about 30 feet off the ground without any protection until you reached the 1st clip- with only jagged rocks and sharp trees to break your fall-luckily everything went smoothly.
Saturday March 22nd:
With Mikes toe still bothering him we decided to take a day off from climbing and just relax around the camp site. Big mistake, there was no relaxing to be found. An entire Hispanic village had moved in across the way and were fiestaing from 9pm Friday onwards. Then just down the block there was another family reunion in full swing. There was so many people crammed into this campground that the screams of young children were bouncing off the surrounding cliffs with that echoing affect of being at a swimming pool. To try to get away from all this for a bit we decided to try out an ATV trail on our bikes, not expecting too much, but figured it was better than sitting around listening to blaring country tunes. (The following night it had been blaring mexican polka and moved on to the twangy stuff early in the morning). The ride was actually ok, and the best part was as we were riding back along the road we found another campsite, much more secluded than in the campground. So when we got back to our site we loaded up everything and ran down the road before anyone else could take it. We arrived and thought we were safe, until we saw this jeep parked at the very bottom. We knew we were in big trouble because undoubtedly our space at the campground would be full by now- but luckily the jeep wasn't staying and we had the place to ourselves.
New camp site we had to ourselves- yay!
Every now and then we would go back and check on the campground, and use the potty, and boy were we glad we had decided to move on. Apparently Easter weekend is the 4th of July of the Southwest. As more people moved in, so did more ATVs, even though the campground clearly states that they are not allowed. By the end of the weekend it looked like someone had just leveled the place- it was pretty sad really.
Mike getting ready to tackle that wall
Kermit Rappels- sorry you'll have to turn your head sideways for this one
This is a picture of the 5.10 (pocket puzzle). That's not me climbing, it's just a picture from the internet, but that's the one I climbed, so I feel cool- I led it too, which makes it a lot scarier, just to brag.