Chasing Winter Sun on California’s Route 395

Sometimes life speeds up way too fast, and it can be really hard to slow down. During the second half of last year, life hit ‘fast forward’, quicker than ever before and work completely consumed my life. Needless to say, my humble blog did not get the attention it deserved. Between September and December I:

  • Got a big promotion and started a new job with a ton of responsibility (yay). I’m excited for the role; however, the transition was exhausting and terrifying
  • Started to run a new team; my first time being The Boss (scary!)
  • Survived the acquisition of my company by a large conglomerate (post-promotion)
  • Presented at a large conference about the work I had done during the summer (and what earned me the promotion, I suppose)
  • Spent a week in New Orleans presenting to some major customers
  • Completed a department re-shuffle
  • Really frustrated my partner and dog with the amount of time I was spending at work, thinking about work, and doing work
  • Burned out hard

I can confidently say that 2018 was a complete professional and personal rollercoaster, and by December I was so ready to get off the damn rollercoaster.

So, for two weeks over Christmas we packed up Feist, the dog, hopped in the truck, and drove down from Vancouver Island to Bishop, California, to do some camping, some exploring, some climbing, some hot-spring jumping, and complete unplugging. It was exactly what we needed to rest and recover from one hell of an eventful year.

Bishop, California

Bishop was the epicentre of our holiday, and is everything we could ask for: friendly locals, good coffee shops, a variety of local restaurants, lots of outdoor spaces to explore, a plethora of spectacular hiking, and, of course, world class bouldering! The town was never crowded and still full of hikers and climbers; every third vehicle was a Sprinter van (the vehicle of choice for the hard-core affluent dirtbags) and I saw more Patagonia puffy jackets and vests than featured in MEC or REI.

The energy in the town was incredible; so many excited people on holiday and enthusiastic to explore the area! Since all the region’s attractions are various forms of outdoor adventuring, the town was very much full of my type of people. After a year of stress and tension, it was so invigorating to relax and let the community’s energy sweep me along.

Boulders for Days!

Bouldering is a discipline of rock climbing in which you climb short, difficult problems that usually only take you 10 – 15 feet off the ground.  You do not use a rope and rather place thick foam pads (eponomysly named ‘Boulder Pads’) under the problem and use spotters to protect you during a fall. Excuse the climber in me nerding out for a moment…

We knew the bouldering in Bishop was world class, and still we were woefully underprepared for the magnitude and quality of bouldering and boulders we encounters. It was fantastic! The boulder fields were bustling with happy and excited people who were all inclusive and supportive. Everybody wanted you to do your best, whatever that was.

Initially, I was quite terrified: I had never bouldered outside before and I also have a bad knee. The thought of falling on the ground the wrong way and busting my knee or rolling an ankle was quite distressing. During first few climbs I would cling to the rock, rather terrified and immobilized because I didn’t want to fall pulling the next move, and I didn’t want to go back down and fail. It was only after I practiced falling and jumping off the rock in a controlled setting that I started to get the hang of the climbing. I was more scared of the unknown of falling, than the falling itself!

It was so satisfying to be pushing ourselves and succeeding! I particularly love climbing outside because you have to be so completely focused on the job at hand, there is no room for any other considerations or worries. Once I did, it was so enjoyable to be part of the community and excitement.

I will certainly say that the opportunity to climb outside in such ideal conditions completely inspired both of us to re-focus our time and fully commit to a training cycle for climbing.

The Sun and the Cold

When we headed to California we had a few key self-care goals: be together, sleep outside, and get some sun.

We certainly found sunshine in California (in fact, I don’t think we had a single day of rain or overcast). What we also found was cold. Really cold. -15C kinda cold. So cold that Feist didn’t want to get out of the truck kind of cold. So cold that camping and sleeping outside was not practical with the equipment we had packed (everything was rated to -10C). After a particularly cold night all bundled up together and while we were trying to make coffee (except all the water froze into this crazy ice slush when you poured it out, the stove could barely run, and coffee grounds were frozen together, and the lids were frozen on the travel mugs…) we had the most amazing adult realization:

  1. We are both professionals
  2. We both make a decent salary
  3. Inexpensive motels in Bishop are less than $100/night

So we packed up and went to a clean, small, comfortable motel! Over the 15 nights we were travelling, we only stayed in the motel for 5 nights, so we still had lots of opportunities to sleep outside, got all the sun, and didn’t spent 2 hours trying to make coffee in the morning. Win-win-win!

Ancient Trees

Rest days are crucial every one to two days of climbing and are spectacular opportunities to drive out of town and explore all the exciting offerings of the area. We headed south east and visited the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the Inyo National Forest. These trees are the most ancient living things on earth, with some of the oldest being over 5000 years old! It was awe inspiring and humbling to greet these resilient trees.

The snow was quite deep so we were not able to walk very far and the sun was getting quite low on the horizon. When we return to eastern California, I want to take more time to hike and explore the Bristlecone Pine Forest. The elevation is quite significant (over 11, 000 ft) and it would be so incredible to wander among this unique forest.

Beautiful and Tepid Hot Springs

We rang in the new year by going to bed early, and getting up at 5 am on January 1st to drive to the local hot springs and watch the sun rise on the mountains. We had the wee hot spring to ourselves (appropriately named ‘Rock Tub’) which was wonderful and special; however, the water was tepid and when coupled with -17C air temperatures, the entire experience was quite invigorating and still worth it.

It’s easy to become accustomed to moving at 100 mph and I sometime forget that I can slow down and decompress. It was really special to remove ourselves from our daily lives for a few weeks and we returned home happy, invigorated, and ready to get back our routines. We also felt like we barely skimmed the surface of possibilities, and are hoping to return soon. I suppose that is the mark of an excellent holiday: how happy you are to return home and how soon before you want to return to that destination.

One thought on “Chasing Winter Sun on California’s Route 395

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s