We left Carbondale, Colorado on Sunday 3rd October. Our first stop is Utah to go climb Castleton Tower. Neither of us have a clue what we are agreeing to. We have never climbed trad before let alone climb a multi pitch trad route up a 400ft tower.
We drove past the Newcastle exit for Rifle for the first time. Meaning two things, our road trip had started and we were going to climb in the desert! Jason was at the wheel full of excitement and nervous for the journey ahead. "Rock me mama like a wagon wheel" is on the radio again. There had been a few tears on the goodbyes at Colin's house, but we've been on the road from the UK for a while now.
The vans seems to be holding up well, jam packed but stuff is staying in place. As you know we know nothing about van conversions so it had been a steep learning curve for us all. But now as we drive along we are all smiling and kind of proud of what we have achieved.
We just don't have deserts in the UK so as we roll past the deserted town of Sisco and start to see the red sandstone on the horizon the excitement is stirring. I point out houses in the middle of nowhere. "Imagine living there, just there in the middle of nothing". We all kind of laugh it off together. As we drive further into Moab canyon I the size and scale of everything it's blowing me away.
We pass the Fisher Towers and stare hard in wonder at what we are seeing. Then we spy our goal Caslteton Tower. Wow it's so much bigger than we thought. However I start to imaging climbing it and I'm totally buzzing at the thought of it.
We set up camp practically at the base of the tower. The site is free and has a toilet, bonus! The camping in America is awesome. So different to anywhere else we've been. The camping is government owned. You basically get a plot of land, often with a BBQ, picnic table and a fire pit(and a bear box if needed). The price of the sites are often free-$10 but this cost is split between however many people are together, so cool! A lot of them have toilets and drinking water, just no showers.
The weather is saying that it might be too windy to climb the tower so rather than getting up at 5am and risking it we decide to hit a crag the next day and then climb the mighty tower the following day. Now we are here standing at the bottom of the tower seeing it in all of its beauty we are both a little nervous!
We made dinner that night and sat and gazed at the stars, all agreeing we are pretty happy with life right now. On the horizon we could see flashes of heat lightening.
We woke up at 7am the next day to strong winds and rain, the weather prediction was right. Directly above us is the most vibrant rainbow, the contrast looks incredible against the red rock of Utah. Rather than sitting it out we decide to move on, guessing it would take the rock a couple of days to dry out.
We headed to Moab to get breakfast at Moab Diner. Moab is a really cool hippy, desert dirt bag kind of place! We like it a lot. Signs in the supermarket toilets read "No washing of clothes or bodies here, we know a place you can shower down the road". We would have liked to have spent more time there but we wanted to make our way to California which was about 14 hours away.
We drove for 8 hours that day, we were kept alert by the stunning scenery that surrounded us. The desert is full of all kinds of landscape; mountains, gorges, shrubs, cotton woods and vast expanses. It's not just sand! It's funny when you're in the desert you start to feel like it, it really dries your skin out.
Our destination is a hot spring in the Nevada desert. It's pitch black when we pull in off of highway 50 onto a dirt track. We bounce all over the place as Jason manoeuvres the van up and down the hills and over the rocks. We pitch the tent in the absolute darkness having no idea what our surroundings look like and then hit the springs.
There are three other people in the springs, none of us can see each. Two of them are a drunk couple from Nevada. One of their opening stories is about how the guy almost got his gun out to shoot a dog on the way to the springs because he didn't see it's owner anywhere! Apparently if you kill a coyote in Nevada and take its tail to a court house you get $15! I'm sure this will lead to a lot of unnecessary killings and I bet Road Runner is buzzing about that. Also in the spring is another fellow climber named Jerry. He's telling us all sorts of stories about crazy climbing trips to the east. Colin is in deep conversation with him and we try to talk to him but we got stuck with the two drunks or red necks as Colin calls them. One minute they are screaming and shouting at each other and then the next they were fully making out!
We wake in the morning to the sun rising over the mountains and realising we are right in the middle of the desert, we've certainly never camped anywhere as isolated as this before. We pulled in off Highway 50 which is known as the loneliest highway in America and the camping area kind of has that feel to it too.
We laugh about the previous night and Colin shares with us some of Jerry's stories. He also informs us that he's a famous photographer, Jerry Dodrill is his name. We'll be looking out for his name in the climbing magazines from now on.
Before heading out we go take one final dip in the hot spring, not knowing when we will next be able to shower or bathe. It's a pretty sweet way to start your morning.
Oh and I totally forgot to mention that when we were in Carbondale we tried Rocky Mountain Oysters. Now don't be fooled by the name these are not the delicacies that we all know and hate! These are cow testicles!! Deep fried and battered! yummy!!