Shoulder Season Synopsis-Fall Road Trip

February 2, 2014 - 8:43am


Well this is a little overdue, but better late than never!!  Originally I was going to write this post on a recent rock climbing trip I took to Red Rocks, NV with fellow Exit Glacier Guide and friend, Shawna Cooke, but despite our best efforts, our time there left something to be desired.  The weather and other logistics didn’t allow us to climb nearly as much as we had hoped for, so I decided to make this blog entry about some of the other adventures we had been on.  Here is a little summary of what this past fall looked like!

One of the greatest parts about working seasonally is the shoulder seasons in spring and fall.  Although it gets written off by many, too cold to bike and not enough snow to ski etc., it can hold some of the best times to get out and play.  By the second week in September, things were wrapping up around the Exit Glacier Guides shop in a hectic series of events.  Immediately after our final trip, we had a pretty epic end of season guide trip, tied up some things around the shop and then hit the road.  Onto the next adventure!


The EGG crew waiting for our water taxi pick-up and enjoying the small amount of sunhine we had on our guide trip! Photo: Nathan Lane

Once we finished a busy afternoon of running errands in Anchorage, we were finally able to hit the road south.  After visiting a few friends in Whitehorse, YT and Skagway, AK, we found ourselves in Squamish, British Columbia a few days later.  If you have never made the drive between the lower 48 and Alaska, it is certainly an incredible road trip.   Filled with endless beauty, wildlife, and seemingly miles, it is an experience of a lifetime. 


Early morning views of Mount Sanford and Mount Drum along the Glenn Highway, AK.

The primary focus of our road trip was to climb.  We decided it would be best if we found one or two places to spend the majority of our time and really get to know the areas and make the most of the climbing.  Squamish, BC was first on the list.  Known for its huge high quality granite walls overlooking town, it’s no wonder this place attracts climbers from around the world.


“The Chief” overlooking the Howe Sound, Squamish, BC.

 Along with climbing there are many other outdoor recreation activities that are popular in the area including mountain biking, windsurfing, kite boarding, and skiing.  It felt great getting back into the swing of rock climbing again and Shawna and I had 2 amazing days of climbing before it started to rain.  The forecast didn’t look promising for the next few days (after all it was becoming the rainy season), so we decided to move on……well not before our trusty van, “Kimmy”, got some new front tires.


Kimmy poses for a shot at camp in Squamish.

After a cautious drive to Vancouver to pick up some new wheels, we hit the road 30 minutes later headed for the states.  North Cascades National Park was next on our list.

When planning this trip I knew I wanted to spend some time climbing in and exploring around Washington.   I had no idea where to start since I had only ever been to Washington for a few hours driving north on I-5.  I did a little research and found that I wanted to climb the Liberty Bell, in the North Cascades National Park.  Knowing nothing about the park it was a fantastic find!  Beautiful mountains and lush forests in all directions we set up camp under the moon light.  We woke early to begin our climb only find that the rain had followed us there too.  With nothing else to do we decided to begin the 2 hour approach and see what happened with the weather.  One and a half hours into our hike, the rain turned to snow.  Contrary to what you might think we took this as a good thing.  At least now we would be dry and the snow wasn’t sticking so we should still be able to climb.  It was fairly easy climbing for the first 2 pitches until the snow really started to fall.  Imagine someone cut open a down pillow and shook out all of its fluff all over you...  Needless to say the climbing went from 5.5 to 5.hard and we decided to bail 1 pitch shy of the summit.  Next time!!



High spirits despite numb hands! Bailing off the Liberty Bell in North Cascades National Park, WA.

In much need of a shower and to dry everything out, we visited friends outside of Wenatchee for the night and then head to Leavenworth the following day.  Leavenworth is a really cool town with a faux-Bavarian feel.  You would be missing out if you didn’t get yourself a beer and a bratwurst for lunch, so that’s what we did!  Leavenworth is another place I would like to spend more time.  It has amazing climbing in a large alpine playground and the local ski hill Steven’s Pass Ski Area has some amazing skiing come winter time.  After a day of rock climbing in the area around Leavenworth we decided to head to Portland, OR.

At this point we had pretty much given up the idea of staying in one place to really experience it and just went with flow of things.  We spent a night out in Portland, OR with some good friends of mine from college, sampling the live music scene, and some of the Northwest’s finest fermented beverages.  Off to a slow start in the morning we headed to Monmouth, OR where my truck had been parked all summer to exchange vehicles. 

Now that we had picked up my truck, we headed south to Bend, OR.  I really liked Bend a lot!  Well known for its craft brews and great outdoor recreation, it’s no wonder I enjoyed that place!  We checked out a small grassroots music festival and visited some of Shawna’s friends before heading out to Smith Rock State Park.  Smith Rock is a world class rock climbing destination and large factor for us wanting to visit that area.  We squeezed in some climbing between (and during) a few rain showers there before deciding to head to California in search of some much needed sunshine!

Heading south, we found some hot springs to soak in and followed that up with a quick stop in Crater Lake National Park to this wonderful view:


Crater Lake is out there somewhere.

After a long day on the road, we made it to Lava Beds National Monument in CA before we decided to stop and camp for the night.  We thought it would be great to check out some of the caves near the campground in the morning before hitting the road again, but the government thought otherwise.  That was the day that the government shutdown (including the caves??) so we had to keep on, keepin on.

Sacramento, CA was the finally stop on the trip before Shawna had to head back to Alaska, and I made my way to Utah for the winter.  A final few days of climbing, and one epic mountain bike ride near Lake Tahoe, was the perfect way to end the trip!  We finally got the sun we had been looking for and got to spend some good time with a few great friends!


View of Lake Tahoe from the top of Mr. Toads Wild Ride!

My favorite part of road trips like this one, is while you have a plan, you don’t really have a plan… at least one you really need to stick to.    The freedom of being flexible and able move on when things didn’t quite pan out, or to stay around and enjoy something that was a total surprise is hard to beat.  Special thanks to all the friends that put us up along the way and for the good times!  Until the next trip, Happy Adventures!!!!



Google wouldn't let me add all of our destinations, but basically the route we took.