Saturday, August 10th – Sunday, August 11th – Kayaking on the Wisconsin River

We woke up Saturday morning to pack the gear we would need for our overnight kayaking trip on the Wisconsin River.  We would be paddling 31 miles from Sauk City to Lone Rock.  The company (WI River Outings) that was transporting us and renting our kayaks suggests 21 miles for an overnight trip.  Of course, we disagreed.

We made sure all our stuff fit into our dry bags, secured A.J. and Liz’s kayaks to the car, and planned to stop for a few more food and beverage items.   

Ooops! In our excitement to start paddling we forgot to stop at a store.  Oh well… we’ll figure something out!


As we began our trip down the river, we would interchange segments of paddling with segments of connecting all of our kayaks together and “pontooning it.”  


We realized a few things:

  • This was NOT a swiftly flowing river by any means.  
  • 99% of the other paddlers had canoes
  • Canodians (our term for the people with canoes) can bring LOTS of stuff…. coolers, umbrellas, floaties of all sorts, and other ridiculous items we were not even aware of yet.
  • The cheese we brought along definitely needed crackers to accompany it.
  • If we wanted to find more food and beverages, we would need to make it 25 miles to Spring Green.
  • 25 miles seemed like a lot… progress seemed slow…

We had a few instances along the way of getting caught up on sand bars, and either having to butt scoot our way to deeper water or get out and pull the kayaks off the sand.

There were many large sand bar islands along the way where a choice needed to be made… left or right?  Which one seems to be moving faster?   Dave was typically in the lead and made the choice, however, at one of these points, A.J. made an executive decision to go left.  This brought us into the area we referred to as the bayou.  It turned out to be a really cool section of the lake, despite a few shallow areas and logs to navigate around.  What was even cooler, was the fact  that after we popped back onto the main section of the river and WERE making good progress… much better than we thought.  Paddling to Spring Green and walking in to town for provisions might actually be reasonable!


As we approached the area where the map indicated there should be a road, we began to keep a look out.  We also devised a plan that two of us would walk into town and two of us would keep paddling with the extra kayaks in tow.  Since the river curved around the town area at this point, the walkers would just continue through town and meet the paddlers on the other side.  We were having a difficult time seeing the road, so we pulled onto an island and asked the campers if they knew where it was.  They were kind enough to not only tell us how to get into town, but also give us sausages and beverages.  Good karma wins again!  They also told us about a campground a few miles down river that had good food.  We decided this sounded AWESOME. After a bit more chatting and laughing, we hopped back in our kayaks and enthusiastically paddled towards food instead of walking in town.
Just as we were beginning to worry that we might somehow miss the campground, we began to hear music.  As we paddled around the bend…. THERE IT WAS! WOOHOO!


We beached our kayaks and headed up towards the Wisconsin Riverside RESORT (not campground) to find dinner.  We refueled our bodies while listening to the live music.  After dinner we paddled a few minutes across the river to a sandbar island where we set up camp for the night.


We woke up Sunday morning knowing we had less than 5 miles to go, but our bodies were sore and tired.  After packing up camp, we “pontooned” down river while we ate our breakfast.  Soon the grey skies started to drop rain on us…. then heavier rain.
It was at this point that we discussed how many people might be really unhappy about the situation, but we were just fine! Dave even got a crazy burst of energy and began speeding down the river crazily zigzagging between obstacles both real and imagined.


Before long, we found ourselves at our destination, Lone Rock.  It was 9:00 am, and our pickup was 10:00, so we had time to brew some coffee before the shuttle arrived.

There were only two other people at our pick-up, so we had lots of room to ourselves on the mini-bus.  Little did we know what craziness would ensue as we headed back towards Sauk City.  

At the next stop, there was a sea of people, and it was quite amusing watching their faces as our little mini-bus showed up. They were not aware of the full-sized bus was on its way.  These crazy canodians had coolers, pool noodles, all sorts of flotation devices, TONS of trash, huge sleeping bags, wet paper towels, and hoola hoops (???).  

Back at A.J. and Liz’s apartment, we cleaned up all of wet, sandy gear, and relaxed for the evening.

Friday, August 9th – New Glarus, WI – Pheasant Hunting


We (Alex, Dave, A.J…. poor Liz had to work today!) woke up early to go on a guided pheasant hunt with Rodrigo, Hazel and Gus, of Wisconsin Adventures.  We left the apartment at 5:00 am.  After driving in the wrong direction for quite a while, we finally arrive at the farm just before 6:00 am.  Rodrigo and his brother gave us (more) coffee as they finished setting up the trap shooting segment of our morning.  Rodrigo did a great job of explaining safety procedures and making sure we were comfortable with handling and shooting the guns.



After a trap shooting session, we headed over to the fields where 12 pheasants were released.  Hazel, the 4-year old female, was a high-energy “killer.”  She would run and leap through the air tracking down the birds.  She was so excited that she retrieved the first bird she found before we even shot it!  Gus, on the other hand, was a more serious hunter, who wouldn’t break a point until Rodrigo gave him permission.
We had a great morning of following the dogs through the fields of high grass, talking with Rodrigo, and bagging 7 of the 12 birds…. we got every bird the dogs found!


We think Rodrigo was amused by us… “Yeah, lets just walk through that thick field of thorny plants,” “Can we help clean the birds?”
Apparently, no one ever offers to help clean the birds either.  We thought this was perfectly reasonable.  We should have the whole experience… and if we were going to shoot something we should be able to complete the entire process and do the cleaning as well.  

After Liz got home from work that evening, we cooked up our birds with some roasted vegetables.


Monday, August 5th – Wednesday, August 7th – On The Road to Madison, WI

Monday morning, after checking out of our out of our hotel room, we were back on the road heading towards Madison, WI.  We planned to drive to Omaha, NE, grab dinner, spend the night, and check out the zoo Tuesday morning.

After eating a tasty cheese curd appetizer, followed by bison burgers at BrewBurgers, we tried to settle into the car for the night. This did not go well.  The temperatures were too warm and humid for sleeping in the car, and we were not in an area for setting up a tent.  So, after about two hours of not being able to sleep, we started to look for a hotel.  After driving by a sketchy looking place, and getting away from it as quickly as possible, we found a respectable looking hotel.  Once in our room, we cranked up the A.C. and slept like babies until our alarm awakened us for breakfast on Tuesday morning.  We did discover some things about our room that made us less than happy (a TV that didn’t work, moldy caulking in the shower, a plastic bag over the smoke detector, and a duct-taped bathroom door).  Upon alerting corporate to this, our stay was comped. SWEET!

The Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium proved to be the best thing we have come across in Nebraska!  Nebraska has always been the flat, never ending state of nothingness on our travels.  We like to visit zoos, and so far, this one is high on our list.  The animals all seemed happy and well taken care of, there were lots of senior citizen volunteers greeting and talking to visitors about animals, and the exhibits were set up VERY nicely and interestingly.  This zoo was definitely worth its reasonable $15 admission fee.


After leaving the zoo, we drove the remaining 6ish hours to Madison, WI.  We caught up with Liz for a bit before heading to bed.  A.J. was traveling for work and wouldn’t be back until Thursday evening.  We sure did sleep well!  We never heard Liz leave for work and didn’t get out of bed until 10:00!

We had a very unproductive Wednesday, and were perfectly fine with that!  When Liz got home, we all walked to the grocery store for supplies to make the dinner we picked out, red lentil rice cakes with salad.  Dinner was a success, definitely a meal we will make again!  


Friday, August 2nd – Sunday, August 4th – Hoback and Vedauwoo, Wyoming

Friday, August 2nd

We woke up to a beautiful morning in the Cliff Creek dispersed camping area near Hoback, WY.  We had a very relaxed morning of cleaning out car and reorganizing the car, while eating leftover pizza from the previous night.

After the car was repacked, we headed to Hoback Shield to climb. Doug climbed there last year with Alex’s brother and sister-in-law, while Dave drove Alex to Salt Lake City to catch her flight to land her new job.

It was a great sport crag for our low-key day; quick approach and each lead yielded several routes to climb.  We cranked out about six or seven routes before heading down the road to a sweet hot spring at the base of a waterfall…. something else Doug discovered last year.


Soon after getting in the hot spring, we saw a family eyeing up our spot.  Oh no… Last time we shared a hot spring with kids it turned into a churned up mess of mud from all their thrashing.  Luckily, this family turned out to be awesome to hang out with.  We wound up spending about three hours soaking and talking with them before we decided that we should hit the road and head towards Vedauwoo, where we would meet up with Seth and Max the following day.


After drying off, we headed back towards Pinedale to finally get rid of our borrowed bear canisters and find some food.  Doug convinced us, despite our initial hesitation, to eat at the Chinese restaurant.  This wound up being a great choice!  We wound up with a family style meal that included a big bowl of soup followed by appetizers and large plates of four different entrees to share.

The food coma that was coming on made us question whether or not we could make the 4 hour drive to Vedauwoo.  Doug quickly was sleeping like a baby in the backseat, and Alex and Dave revived themselves with milkshakes and coffee.  After that, Dave was a trooper (as always!) and drove the whole way.  We drove around the washboard dirt roads until we found an open spot to camp.  Doug settled into the car, while we set up the tent.  As we were just about asleep, a small critter kept creeping near our tent.  We’d scare it away… and it would come back…. persistent little guy!  It wasn’t that we were scared of it, but we didn’t want it to chew a hole in our tent.  Dave’s threats to bash it with the can of bear mace must have hit home;  it scampered away and left us alone for the remainder of the night.


Saturday, August 3rd


Despite our wishes to sleep in (we only fell asleep after 3am), the hot sun soon roused us from our sleep and tent before 8:00 am.  We headed down to the main day use area of Vedauoo.  We set ourselves up at a table under the gazebo and brewed some coffee with the flip-and-drip and made some gerbil food (fruit, yogurt, and granola).  We hung out, literally, in hammocks, napped, talked, and read while we waited for the guys to arrive.  We all hung out in the same area for quite a while before we decided to go set-up camp, then get on some climbs. 

We headed up the road to Seth and Max’s usual camping spot, set up the tents.  The storms that were moving in made us decide to make a camp fire instead of climb.  Of course this escalated into harvesting large quantities of fire wood from the dead trees, making a big fire, making the fire go up the ramp/crack in the boulder it was built next to….


After lots of good times and laughter, we settled in for the night.

Sunday, August 4th


Conversations over breakfast and coffee brought Dave to lead “Friday the 13th,” a sweet, but exhausting, 5.10a finger/hand crack.
All three of us found it to be a super fun climb, though tiring in our current lack of endurance strength state.  Dave even liked it so much that he climbed it a second time, on top-rope.


After cleaning up the gear, we headed over to check out the guys hitting up a sick squeeze chimney in The Maze.  Max managed to finish out the climb and get back on the ground just before the skies opened up.


We hit Little Caesar’s for dinner, five people, five pizzas, $25. We mauled the pizza from the chairs in front of the counter before heading to the Sierra Trading Post Outlet Store in Cheyenne to see what kind of deals we could score on outdoors clothing/gear.  Now it was time to part ways again.  Doug was on his way back to Golden, CO with Seth and Max, who would drop him off at the airport the following day.  Dave informed Alex that he got them a hotel room for the night.  WOOHOO! Time for real beds and the first showers in a week and a half!

Friday, July 26th – Thursday, August 1st – Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY

 

Friday, July 26th

After climbing, we headed back into town and cooked up black bean tacos, while organizing or loading up our packs.  Doug wound up getting too excited with a bag of flour and before long all the interior and exteriors of the cars, along with all the gear, was coated in a layer of white dust.

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After successfully jamming our packs with ridiculous quantities… and with ridiculous weight… we were ready to go.  We all got in our cars and drove towards Big Sandy Trailhead to sleep for the night.

 

Saturday, July 27th

We had a slow, relaxed morning, despite our original plan to wake up early and hit the trail.  We talked and laughed over peanut butter/banana/apple sandwiches and coffee.  Sometime after 11:00 we parted ways with Seth and Max and made our way to trailhead.

As we ate lunch, a group came off the trail and realized they were locked out of their car.  When they decided that they would just smash the window, Doug came to their assistance and enthusiastically took a trailer hitch to the window.

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At 12:30 pm we finally started to hike.  The first 5ish miles were easy hiking and seemed to fly by.  The remainder of the 9 miles to the Cirque are said to be a heinous hike through an area named Jackass Pass.  As we were beginning this section, storms began to roll in, so we decided that Dave and Alex would pump water, while Doug scouted out a place to take shelter and wait out the storm.  After last seeing Doug walk by us without his pack, we waited for him to return.  Forty-five minutes of wondering where Doug went, why he wasn’t back, and where his pack was, lead us to decide to continue along the trail and hope to find him.  About a mile up the trail, we spotted his red bandana tucked under a rock on the side of the trail… and then spotted Doug ready to nap underneath a huge pile of boulders.  We joined him, and cooked up some baby-back rib flavored rice while we waited for the rain to end.

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A few more miles of hiking brought us to the climbers trail through a talus field.  Beautiful views began to come into view.  Could this REALLY be The Cirque??? This hike was not nearly bad enough based on the reports we read.  We finally (joyously) accepted the fact that we WERE in The Cirque and the hike was not as bad as we expected with our overloaded heavy packs.  We scouted out a killer area to set-up camp, cooked some dinner, and headed to bed.

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Sunday, July 28th

We declared a rest day and slept in.  We perched ourselves on what we referred to as “Scout Rock,” soaked in the amazing views, familiarized ourselves with the peaks, and picked out an area to hike towards for our rest day activity.

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As rest days for us typically go, it was not what most would consider restful.  It turned into a 12ish mile hike towards the top of a mountain.  Along the way, Alex began to feel altitude sickness setting in (headache, fatigue, sucking for air).  Altitude sickness has no rhyme or reason for who or when it will hit.  So, despite the fact we had spent a good deal of time in high altitude this summer it struck.  Alex waited along the side of the trail, napping and enjoying the views, while Dave and Doug continued on towards the summit.  Two hours later, Dave crept around Alex from behind in bear-like fashion to scare Alex, while Doug caught it all on tape.  Turns out they never actually reached the summit; it was too far to reach before the afternoon storms would roll in. 

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Along the way back to camp, we spotted an elk with a large rack that ran away before we could snap a picture, and a moose that Dave scared out of the woods unintentionally and then proceeded to run after.

After arriving back at camp, Doug cooked us a delicious dinner of fried polenta with a red wine sauce (yeah… who cooks like this on a camp stove???)  Despite the deliciousness of the meal, we were still hungry, and Doug proceeded cook more dinner while getting food all over camp.   Apparently, Doug makes an even bigger mess around camp with food than Alex.

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We went to sleep that night, dreaming of a 12-pitch climb on Pingora.

 

Monday, July 29th

At 4:45 am, the alarm woke us from our sleep.  In the morning darkness and chill we began to ready ourselves for the day.  Breakfast would be a hearty one… cream chipped beef…. not from a foil packet of dehydrated backpacker food either!  Alex knew the altitude sickness still had her…. her head was aching and she had no desire to eat… she always wakes up ravenous!  She sadly resolved in her mind that she wouldn’t be able to climb, but didn’t want to admit it aloud.  Dave recognized her current state, and she agreed she needed to stay back and acclimate.

Dave and Doug set off over what they referred to as 6 pitches of talus to reach the base of East Face Left (5.7) on Pingora.  Along the way they eyed up the lines of the climb and grumbled over their dissatisfaction with the writer of the guidebook.

About forty-five minutes later, they were gearing up at the base, when Doug realized he had forgotten an important piece of gear back at camp… his climbing shoes.  He decided to tackle the climb in his big, bulky, insulated hunting boots.  Not exactly the best footwear for the activity!

Dave climbs an entire 60 meter rope length, ignoring Doug’s persistent/unwanted “beta” from below.  Dave wants another 15 feet… so Doug decides to climb up 15 feet to give him the extra length.  Along the way, Dave traversed a hand crack, and protected it with tricams.  As Doug followed, he decided to traverse with his feet in the crack, which meant he had to clean the gear at his feet… quite an awkward task, especially with his gargantuan stature.  When Doug arrives at the belay station, Dave notices something is amiss with the Camelbak tubes coming from the pack Doug is wearing… the bite valves are missing and water is dripping out.  Doug assures Dave that all is well… he has one in his pocket and is confident the other is at the base of the climb. 

Seeing the weather had the look of impending doom, they decided to bail from the climb and return to camp.  This is the last point off the wall for 5-7 more pitches.  They successfully rappelled off of a sketchy boulder (luckily it did not move).  Along the way  back to camp, they bashed the guidebook author more, this time for his claim that no large gear is needed for the climb.  In typical Dave fashion, he ignored this information and took a hearty rack.  He was glad he did, since all that remained on his sling after the climb was his smaller pieces of gear.  They also bashed (literally, baseball pitch style) the illogical and random cairns that are all over the place, providing no clear trail.  They did not just destroy, however, they also rebuilt a new cairn system along the way.

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The remainder of the day involved lots of eating, followed by several storms with heavy rain and winds.  During the first storm, Dave and Doug began to trench around their sides of the tent to pull the water away from us and our gear.  During a break in storms, a full-blown trench was created all around the tent.  The “Mississippi River” proved to provide good protection from the rain.

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Around 1:00am, Dave and Alex awoke to hear screams of “HELP US!” from Pingora.  Upon getting out the of tent, headlamps flashing their “S.O.S.” signal could be seen on the mountain, as well as lights towards the bottom and on the climbers trail along the side.  Knowing the climbers were already receiving help, and we had next to no knowledge about the mountain, we stayed put in our site.  Falling back to sleep was difficult, and we spent a lot of time discussing the climbers’ situation, and what other skills we would like to add to our knowledge base.  We later learned a local climber, named Jerome, hiked up the talus and trail in the dark and rain, and lowered sleeping bags and coats to them, so they could make it through the cold and rainy night, and be rescued in the morning.

 

Tuesday, July 30th

After the previous night’s occurrences, we slept in until after 8:30, and ruled out climbing for the day, since it was already too late in the morning and potential rain clouds were looming.  We spent the day further exploring our gorgeous surroundings and relaxing, and practicing setting anchors and gear in the rocks around camp.

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The highlight of the day was hiking to Hidden Lake and rummaging through the piles for “cool rocks.”  We struck gold, or fools gold more likely, inside many of the rocks.  This propelled the rock smashing and searching.  Before long there was a pile of rocks we HAD to keep, and Alex begrudgingly filled her pockets to overflowing levels before heading back to camp for the night.  Along the way back, Dave struck REAL gold… a package of coffee buried under a pile of rocks.  Despite a few nibble marks on the package, it was an AWESOME find, since we did not bring any coffee along.

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Wednesday, July 31st

We awoke at 4:15am to climb the South Buttress (5.8) of Pingora.   This climb began from a ledge more than halfway up the mountain, and followed 3 pitches of climbing and 300ft of scrambling to the summit.  After some cowboy coffee, and one scant Larabar each, we began the approach to the climb over talus fields, switchbacks and slabs. 

As we neared the start of the climb, we geared up and stashed our packs under some rocks in case it rained while we were on the route.  We took pictures as we watched the looming clouds move away, then scrambled to the start of our climb. 

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The first two pitches went smoothly, though a few sprinkles of rain and flurries of snow did fly.  On pitch three, known as the K-Cracks, hail began to fall and pelt Dave as he lead this awesome pitch.

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We joyously scrambled up the last 300ft to the summit, where the winds died down, the skies cleared, and we had beautiful views of The Cirque.

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Three rappels brought us back to the flattish ground a few hundred feet from our packs.  We gathered up our gear and made our way back towards camp, passing many groups who were on their way up to the start of the climbs. 

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The remainder of the day was spent eating (notice a trend here?), sunbathing on rocks (perhaps to the dismay of a passersby or two…), and finally breaking into the celebratory wine.  Something in the evening’s meals did not sit well in the stomachs of Dave and Doug…. much to Alex’s dismay.  A three-person tent, and the effects of chili, make for a really stinky situation!

 

Thursday, August 1st

The 4:15am alarm went off, but we stayed in our sleeping bags after realizing the tent was quite wet, and the climb on our schedule was one that would not go smoothly with wet conditions.  After sleeping for a few more hours, Doug talked us into hiking to the top of Warrior II, which involved going through the scary looking Wisconsin Couloir. 

We decided that we would hike out of The Cirque after this, since supplies were beginning to run low, and the crazy weather was beginning to wear on us.  We packed up camp, stashed our packs and ourselves under a large overhanging boulder just in time to avoid a storm. 

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Once the storm cleared, we made our way across the talus, through the pass/couloir, and up more talus to the summit.  We dined on salami and cheese near the summit before heading back to our packs.

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Once back at our gear, we began our 9 mile trek back to the car.  Once through Jackass Pass, the going would be easy flat to slightly downhill for the remaining 6 miles.  After the days hike up Warrior II, dehydration, fatigue, and a heavy pack had Alex stumbling up the last of the uphill.  Doug did what Dougs  do (definition of Dougs: human or not quite, with unbelievable strength at opportune times, useful in a pinch, causes extreme destruction, both positive and negative, cooks well, breaks things and makes many messes)… he made her take off her pack (she thought he just wanted her to rest for a bit), strapped it to his front, a took off the remaining section of uphill.  At the top, we stopped to chat with a couple who were scouting out climbs.  Feeling revived and rehydrated, Alex made a huge turn around and the three of us made spectacular time crushing the remaining mileage with her in the lead.  Actually, Doug was so excited to be back at the car he ran the last half mile despite the heavy load on his back. 

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We managed to make it to the car before rain began to fall again, tossed in the gear, and mauled Doritos and PowerAde as we made our way back to Pinedale in search of real food.  That night we dined on pizza, burgers and wings at the Coral Bar before heading to a dispersed camping area to spend the night.

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