I don't think you can say you've really seen a sunrise until you've climbed up on some tall, cold rock in the middle of the desert and looked East until you were totally bathed in rosy light.
This landscape is beautiful, and totally foreign to me. I got up before dawn every day to catch the sunrise, and we spent all daylight hours rock-climbing.
Lauren Austin, my dear paddling friend who is currently studying geology at UC Davis, taught me the ins and outs of outdoor climbing (along with Eric, pictured below!).
Learning how to make a rope-backpack
Lauren also taught me a lot about the rocks themselves. They are volcanic, and have very large, rough crystals ("the cheese grater", we called it, when we were up on the rocks, hoping not to fall on exposed skin). They fracture at 90-degree angles and erode in straight lines, creating these really interesting angular rock towers all over the park: a rock climber's fantasy.
There are rocks just everywhere. Milions of rocks. Billions of rocks!! Each person in the world could have his very own rock.. probbly even his very own rock tower.
We met all sorts of interesting climbing nuts (get it? Climbing nuts!!?) We also ate delicious food for Thanksgiving: instant mashed potatoes, vegetables, and chicken... all thrown into the same pot and cooked on a backpacking stove. There's no water in the park, so we definitely didn't shower for 5 days. It was chilly and windy and the surrounding mountains were covered in snow. I loved every bit of it.
This was my first time climbing outdoors, and I have a newfound respect for people who do this. It's admittedly freaky when you get up on the wall on your second pitch and you're the last one to come up, the wind is blowing all over the place, you're not entirely certain how to do your next move, and all you can think about is that #3 cam in a crack five feet above your head that's totally saving your life right now. But I made it to the top, thoroughly enjoyed myself, and am hopeful that my next go of it won't be quite so unnerving.
Eric and Lauren watching me ascend the pitch