Tuesday, 1 December, 1998. Phoenix, Arizona.
I don't believe I've ever really given much thought to the meaning of the holiday Thanksgiving. I've always equated the holiday with family reunions and eating until I'm stuffed.
This year I spent Thanksgiving at Joshua Tree doing what I love -- climbing. I climbed an incredible route, Figures on a Landscape (5.10b), likely the best single pitch of climbing I've done on my trip. That evening my new found friends and I shared our simple dishes to make a wonderful thanksgiving. That night as I looked at the stars I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for: taking this opportunity to climb and travel, incredibly supportive friends and family, climbing partners who traveled with me, email companions and incredible places that are only accessible by climbing.
After I dropped Julie Haas off at the airport in LA, I thought I'd be headed north back to San Francisco. But sketchy plans had fallen through, so I considered where to go. I wanted to go somewhere warm, cheap and had good climbing. Joshua Tree fit the bill perfectly.
Not having any prearranged climbing partners, I put up a note and hoped for the best. I spent the weekend climbing with Scott and Christy, climbers from LA. We had a great time climbing in the warm sunshine. On Monday, after my climbing partners had returned to LA, I couldn't find a partner so I used the opportunity to take a shower and do my laundry.
Over the next few days I'd meet a really fun group of climbers. First I met Shaun from Brisbane, Australia. Then I met Chris, an ex-New Englander currently living in Seattle. Wednesday evening, Geoff from Bakersfield, California joined our little group. This was the group I spent Thanskgiving with. Geoff had lived in Austin, my next destination and gave me some suggestions on things to do there. Plus he is an experienced diver and gave me a few tips for when I take my dive class.
Friday, I was feeling the effects of a few days of hard climbing, so I took the day off to read and go hiking. That evening, we invited our new neighbor, Phoebe to join us for dinner. Actually we were looking for an excuse to crowd around her campfire. It has gotten quite cold in the evenings! Geoff's friend Gregg arrived late that evening.
I awoke Saturday morning to extremely gloomy skies, which turned to rain just as we finished breakfast. So we bailed to Jeremy's, the local cybercafe to avoid the rain. Gregg entertained us with card tricks and beat us at chess. And guess who I ran into? None other than the ubitquous Steve Angelini. We'd missed each other in Moab by a few days, and we lamented the terrible weather we had in October.
Having enough of the indoors, Geoff was interested in learning to aid climb. Back at Joshua Tree it was still drizzling as I taught Geoff how to aid climb. I'm sure we could have picked a better first aid route, but Left Ski Track on Intersection rock was close and convenient. The crack angles left which makes things a lot more awkward. At times Geoff was pretty scared and thrashed but he was making progress. Unfortunately not enough progress to finish before dark. So he set an anchor and he bailed out. We figured his rope and anchor would be fine until morning when we could recover it. Of course by climbing on Intersection rock, the whole world had watched Geoff climb.
On Sunday, Shaun, Chris and I went out climbing. Meanwhile Geoff and Gregg climbed an easy route to the summit of Intersection Rock to recover their gear. As Geoff rapelled down, he couldn't find his gear. The rope had been hanging just as they had left it when they'd started climbing up that morning. They asked a neighboring party if they had seen anyone recover their gear. They begrudingly admited they had recovered the gear and offered to sell it back to them. After a heated shouting match, the gear was returned. I was shocked to hear this story after being incredibly impressed with the ethics of the climbers I'd met so far.
I ended my stay in Joshua Tree by climbing a really fun crack, Illusion Dweller (5.10b). I was so happy with my lead, that I didn't want to lead anything more. Sunday nights are special in the town of Joshua Tree. The Thai restaurant has an all you can eat buffet on Sunday evenings. As you can expect it is packed with climbers! Continuing my east coast associations, I ran into Mark Kahrl, who left Rhode Island for LA.
I had thought about staying an additional day or two in Joshua Tree, but I couldn't think of a route more satisfying than Illusion Dweller had been. So I started east. After several weeks of continuous tent living, I'd gotten tired of cold dark evenings, so I spent last night at the youth hostel in Phoenix. The Phoenix hostel was a nice improvement over the one in Boulder. The caretaker, Sue is a trip, just shy of insane. Hopefully I can coax her into letting me use a phone jack...