I am the first to wake up this morning. I forgot to grab my Extra Strength Tylenol out of the truck and it’s still dark. The pains of yesterday’s pleasures have caught up with me and I desperately need some. If I can get up… Yes, there we go. Unhook my BiPAP machine, take the mask off, find the headlamp, now…ouch. I talk to myself silently in my head, coaching my pain-ridden body up into a sitting position to put on my boots, scooting off of the sleeping bag, onto my feet. I unzip the tent as quietly, but as quickly, as I can, as not to wake the others. AJ snores, and James sleeps in a position that puts Emily in a sandwich between AJ and himself. I laugh quietly at the sight. The smell of fresh dew hits me as I turn on my headlamp. Ah, and my best buddy, the Brewery dog, is standing right beside me to guide me wherever I need to go. “Good boy…you’re my hero. Let’s walk, shall we?” I pet him and we set off slowly across the wet grass, stirring up the smell of the fresh outdoor air and dew in the morning, toward the truck. I punch in the door code because I don’t know who has the keys. I’m sure they’re laying right beside the Goal Zero 400 in the tent or above in the nest in the center of the tent with the headlamps. No matter. I don’t need them. Two Extra Strength Tylenol and a half hour of watching the sunrise later, my joints are feeling better. My buddy is lying at my feet, content to be with a human who appreciates him, while I sit on the bench near the outdoor sink. I hear a few stir sleepily in other tents, but no one wakes enough to manage to get out of their tent for another 45 minutes. The free range chickens and an antelope with her baby play in the grass where there are no tents pitched. The sunlight is bold and begins to warm the air. I’m enjoying the slight chill, and the sunlight warming the air is enhancing the smell of the dew in the grass. It’s a perfect morning – a brilliant start to another day of climbing in the canyon. I write a blog post on my iPad Mini and enjoy the calm morning. AJ, James, and Emily wake up after another hour or so and decide to warm up some chili for breakfast. Emily’s dad let us bring his camp stove along, so we’re in business on the tailgate of my truck. Emily brought some awesome bowls and spoons for everyone, I brought my mess kit, which is easy cleaning, and we enjoy some Nalley’s chili con carne for breakfast, along with plenty of water. Everyone is tired from yesterday, but psyched for what is to come today! We sit and talk on the bench and in some reclining lawn chairs that the Brewery has outside. It’s so nice, and we have such a fantastic day ahead of us! Since we’re staying an extra day this year, we have tomorrow, too! I think of how dear all of these people are to me – my climbing buddies. True friends. We vegetate for a while, then clean up our mess. Other campers are deciding to get up, so it’s time for us to set our course and head out. I set up my solar panels again, so that my Goal Zero 400 will charge fully for yet another night of quality sleep with my BiPAP. We get what we need from the tent, load up the truck, and head out toward the canyon.
Today, we go to a different part of the canyon and merge off onto a side road – the old highway – toward our destination. It’s a narrow road, and soon becomes mostly dirt with a bit of gravel mixed in. We drive up it for a while, switchbacking our way up the road, the same way we’ll soon be switchbacking our way up a an approach of some kind, I imagine, and we find a good place to park. After driving past it to find a place to turn around, I park the truck so we can get out easily at the end of the day, and we all pile out with excitement! We get our gear sorted out, sling our packs on our backs, and head out. I have my trekking poles with me again today because they worked so well yesterday. We pass a large boulder to the side of the trail and then head off into the brushy part of the approach. From there, it’s forest and the birds sing above us. We come upon a creek with two logs at different angles in it that will, if we’re sure-footed, take us across the water to the other side. I have my trekking poles and use them to balance, especially when stepping to the second log from the first over a deep pool of water. I got across it last year without any poles, so I wasn’t terribly nervous about it. What’s the worse that could happen? I’d fall in! Oh, well, I’d dry out. The only real loss there would be my chalk, haha! I’ve lost a lot of weight since last year, too, so it wasn’t a difficult crossing. We begin the switchbacks of the trail up the side of the slope toward the crag. I packed lighter today, so I’m carrying only two-thirds the weight that I was yesterday and it’s helping. Pine sap abounds and the sticky stuff attaches itself to everything! We reach the base of the crag after what I know isn’t as brutal an approach as yesterday’s, but it feels like it because I’m tired. I made it, though!!! I drink some water and watch AJ and James size up the next route to be climbed. It’s a 5.11 of some sort – I forgot my guidebook on the dash of my pickup – but AJ has his guidebook with him, so no worries. Emily’s around the corner sizing up her next route. I look on, wondering what I’ll be able to climb. My climbing has improved a lot, so I plan on trying some harder routes and sending some that were previously impossible for me! What a day we have ahead of us!!! So stoked!!!