Wednesday, June 21st – Thursday, June 22nd: Mount Rushmore and Climbing at Wrinkled Rock

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Wednesday, June 21st: Mount Rushmore and Climbing at Wrinkled Rock

  • Breakfast, pack-up, then drive to Custer for coffee
  • Visit to Mount Rushmore
  • Set-up camp at Wrinkled Rock Climbing area
    • great little camp area
    • FREE
    • Short trail from parking lot to climbing areas

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  • After a big lunch and lounging in our hammocks, we headed out to climb at “Shipyard Rock” in “South Seas”
    • Walked way too far and had to walk back down the road only to realize the climbing area had a trail from our camping area.
    • Met Frank from “Frank and the Tower” without realizing who he was but knowing he seemed really familiar.
    • Climbed:
    • Shipyard Rock
      • Surging Waves (5.7)
      • Waves (5.8) – pitch 2
    • Hornets Nest
      • Second Hand Rose Arete (5.6) – long climb at 155 feet

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  • We relax at camp before returning to Mount Rushmore for the lighting ceremony which included any members of them military being invited to the stage area prior to the lowering of the flag at the end of the ceremony.


Thursday, June 22nd: Climbing at Wrinkled Rock

  • Morning of sport climbing in very pleasant weather
    • Shark Breathe (5.7)
    • Shark Bite (5.8)
    • Way too Cold for My Asspen (5.9)
    • Dirty Ernie (5.7)
  • Pack of camp and drive to Spearfish, SD, where AJ and Liz have given us a hotel stay they wouldn’t get to use!  WOOHOO for showers and comfy beds!
  • Delicious dinner at Bucky’s BBQ

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June 19th – June 20th: The Badlands, Wall, Rapid City and Custer State Park

Monday, June 19th: The Badlands


  • Leave AJ & Liz’s around 7am (after jumping the car…. Oops….) and head to The Badlands.
  • Hike several short trails.
  • See many goats and bison along the road through the park.
  • Camp at Sage Creek Campground
    • free primitive campground
    • tent area surrounded by prairies of bison and prairie dogs

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Tuesday, June 20th: Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park

  • Talk with camp neighbors in the morning exchanging travel tips (they have a traveling cat!)
  • Head towards Black HillsIMG_20170620_064140619

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  • Stop in Wall and visit Wall Drug
  • Pick up miscellaneous gear at a shop in Rapid City and see “Art Alley”
  • Facebook comment prompts a visit to Custer State Park… which prompts a visit to Wind Cave National Park
  • Luck day! Arrive in time for “Wild Cave Tour” AND there are spots open for us.
    • 4 hour guided tour of Wind Cave
    • Group of 8 plus a guide crawling and climbing through the cave by headlamp.
    • This cave is HUGE, so we only see a very small portion of it.
    • No cameras, so no pictures! :(
    • Definitely worth $30/person!

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  • Head to Custer State Park and drive along the Wildlife Loop road.
  • Animals seen: TONS of bison, white tail deed, prong horn deer, and the “begging burros”
  • People were walking over to the burros to pet them and feed them carrots.
    • Even though Alex has a mild obsession and wants a miniature donkey, she restrained herself from partaking.
  • After seeing a biker struggling several times over the last few hours, we stop and ask if he needs anything… food, water, a ride…
    • He takes the offer for a ride to his car, so we make some room for him to “sit” and get his bike on the bike rack and strap Dave’s to the back of the car.
    • We see his friend riding ahead and we stop to talk to him and get their car keys.
    • Driving, driving, driving… WOW! he had a while to ride yet!
  • Spend the night near French Creek trail.

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June 3rd – June 19th: Trainings and the Start of Summer

Note: We are taking a break from longer posts this year and are keeping it simple summaries and pictures.  :o)

The start of summer was more chaotic then normal with both Alex and Dave having to travel for trainings for work and ultimately ending up with AJ, Liz and Quinn outside of Madison, WI.  As usual this involved bike riding, game playing and pizza making.

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Friday, July 15th: Grays Peak and Torreys Peak

Alex, Dave, Sam and Trisha woke at 3:30 AM, aiming to leave Evergreen at 4:00 AM and arrive at the trailhead for Grays Peak (14,278’) and Torreys Peak (14,275‘) shortly after 5:00 AM.  Grays and Torreys are two very popular and easy fourteeners that can be summited together in an 8.5 mile round trip with about 3,600 feet of elevation gain.  Sam had actually hiked Grays Peak solo the previous Sunday while the Triple Bypass was going on, but she was up for hiking it again, and this time linking it with Torreys. 

We arrived at the trailhead parking area, after a long drive up a bumpy, rough road shortly after 5:00 AM.   By 5:30, everyone had boots on, hiking poles adjusted, and used the last “real” bathroom stop (pit toilets are “real” bathrooms… right?) of the morning.  We hit the trail in the semi-dark, and Dave’s pace quickly carried him away from the girls.  He took the opportunity to hike faster and not have to worry about leaving Alex alone. 

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The girls stopped for a morning snack before the steeper section up Grays began.  Alex’s stomach didn’t feel quite right, and she attributed it to the early morning wake-up and too much gas station coffee on the way.  Surely, its not altitude sickness!

Snack break!

The girls make it to the top of Grays and find Dave waiting there.  He had already (literally) ran up Torrey’s with a guy he met along the trail before coming to the top of Grays.  The group took some pictures before Dave headed back down the trail, looking forward to napping at the car while he waited for the girls.  Alex, Sam and Trisha headed down off Grays and across the saddle towards Torreys Peak.  As they head up the switchbacks to the summit, Trisha has gained a burst of energy and is crushing, while Alex and Sam are instead slowing down.

When all three reach the summit, they take some pictures amongst the many others on the summit, including several dogs!

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Trail to the summit of Grays Peak
Summit of Grays Peak
Summit of Grays Peak
Summit of Grays Peak
Summit of Grays Peak
Summit of Grays Peak
Monkey Man makes an appearance on the summit of Grays Peak


Torreys Peak from the summit of Grays Peak
Summit of Torreys Peak
Grays Peak from the Summit of Torreys Peak

The girls happily make their way back down the trail towards the car, crossing a snow field and talus along the way.  They make many stops along the way for Alex and Trisha to pee, while Sam seems to have maintained her “teacher bladder” even during the summer.  Alex later attributes the excessive pee to a lack of salt that day, and a good excuse to request salty snacks on their hikes.

By 11:30, they were back at the car where Dave was waiting for them.  They arrived to find Dave talking to a guy who had been traveling all summer as well.  Unfortunately for Dave, the guy was quite the talker and he was never able to break away to get his nap.  After everyone exchanged their hiking boots for flip-flops, they made there way back towards Evergreen where breakfast sandwiches should be awaiting them!


Once back in Evergreen, the sandwiches were devoured and Alex went to take a nap, now positive that it was the altitude that made he feel sub-par that day.  Dave received a call about a second interview for another teaching position.  He would need to get home during the last week in July when they were back in Madison with A.J., Liz and Quinn.  The question now, was how to coordinate getting home.   A.J. was off the entire week, so they didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spend the week with him, and the interview was scheduled right in the middle of that week.  Alex and Dave ran through many combinations of flying and/or driving before settling on flying home on Monday and renting a car to avoid a whole other coordination of getting picked up and dropped off at the airport to return to Madison on Wednesday afternoon.  Sadly, somehow they scheduled everything around an interview on Tuesday, when in fact the interview was WEDNESDAY!  After too many phone calls, price checks, comparisons and stress adding to Alex’s already altitude sick haze and headache, the correct plans were finally set!   

The pair had planned on starting to organize gear for their backpacking trip that would begin on Sunday, but after all they had already done that day, they instead napped and relaxed for the rest of the night.

Thursday, July 14th: Boulder, CO

We packed up camp Thursday morning to head to Boulder to meet Luke, Trisha and Wes at Avery Brewing Company for a tour.  We planned to get coffee and breakfast along the way.  We found small cafe along I-25 called Owl Canyon Coffee, reviews looked good so we navigated towards it.   The place was cute, coffee and chai was good, service was friendly, but the food landed somewhere between terrible and “OK” depending on who you asked.   Turns out the breakfast burritos and baked goods were made by other small shops in the area…. But then frozen.   Kevin and Sam’s burritos were still cold inside and had strangely colored ham in them, while Alex and Dave’s were warm but not the best veggies burritos they ever had.  Dave’s rating quickly declined from “Ehhh” to terrible as he reminisced on the delicious burrito from a few days early.   Alex held fast that it wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the worst, it was just “OK” despite the calls of craziness from the rest of the group.


Once in Boulder, the group headed to Celestial Seasonings Tea for a tour.  While they waited for their tour to begin they enjoyed endless cups of a wide variety of teas.   Alex and Dave had been on this tour a few years ago, and new there friends would enjoy it as well, especially all the tea samples and the “Peppermint Room.”  Since peppermint is such a strong flavor and scent, the peppermint is stored in its own room in the facility, and standing in the room will definitely clear your sinuses!

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Still a bit early to meet their friends at Avery, the group head to The Rowdy Mermaid to get a growler filled with Kombucha, which is a fermented (but non-alcoholic) tea.  They had a small but inviting tasting room, where we each enjoyed a glass while deciding which on to fill the growler with.

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We then headed to Avery, and waited in their outside seating area for the rest of our group to arrive.  The tour wound up being pretty low on our rating scales, with not much to see from our overhead walkway or excitement from our guide.  Avery, however, did redeem itself with a delicious dinner!

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After dinner we headed back to Evergreen to get ready for our early morning wake-up call to hike two fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation).

Tuesday, July 12th – Wednesday, July 13th: Vedauwoo, WY

Alex and Dave crawled out of their comfy hotel beds early so Dave could ready himself for his interview while Alex walked over to the main building of the hotel complex to grab coffees and baked goods for breakfast. Dave donned the thrift store shirt, tie, and suit coat he had purchased in Golden a few days earlier. Notice, there was no pants mentioned here. No worries! Dave wasn’t interviewing in his underwear, he was wearing a pair of shorts… no need to buy suit pants for a video chat interview. Alex, Kevin, and Sam vacated the room and headed back over to the main hotel building to check out the gift shop and print some paperwork while Dave interviewed. They also discovered a chess board so Kevin and Sam enjoyed a round of chess while Sam learned how to play. Dave showed up after his interview, and felt like it went well. He wound up having a phone interview, so the thrift store suit wasn’t even needed!


Dave and Kevin played a round of chess before the group checked out of the hotel and headed to Sierra Trading Post. Alex vowed that she was not going to buy anything, but before long “good deals” wound up in a shopping basket. Sierra Trading Post strikes again. Kevin found an awesome deal on sleeping pads, and Alex and Dave almost wound up buying them as well, but talked themselves out of it, concluding that they were just too heavy to take backpacking.

After making our purchases we found a Mexican restaurant, Guadalajara, for lunch. Our meals we fantastic! We were glad we had opted to order only three meals instead of four. Those three meals were too much food for the four of us… and that is an impressive feat!


After lunch, we headed towards the pile of rocks along I-80 known as Vedauwoo once again. We wound up driving to the same area we camped earlier this summer, and set up camp. We then proceeded to lounge, relax, nap, flip through the guide book, and take pictures. Eventually, they convinced themselves to drive down to the central area and walk around. Alex knew that if she convinced Dave to do this, they would wind up climbing something, probably Edward’s Crack. And they did! Alex and Dave took a quick run up the two pitches before sunset, while Kevin and Sam hiked around and caught Pokemon.




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After the group of four reconvened in the parking area, it was time to cook up mac-n-cheese for dinner in the gazebo. As dinner was being prepared, Alex walked around to take pictures. She walked by a woman who told her she could go take a picture of a moose nearby. Alex thought the woman was crazy, she had never seen a moose in all her times in Vedauwoo. But whatever, she would walk around and see if there actually is a moose. Low and behold, there WAS a moose! She snapped a bunch of pictures and worked her way towards the gazebo trying to get the attention of her friends without scaring the moose away. Finally, Kevin heard her or saw her waving motions and came her way. By that time, the moose was close enough to the gazebo area that all of them could see it…. From safe distance of course! The moose slowly made its way through the picnic area while its paparazzi watched on. Eventually it wandered far enough away that dinner was able to resume. The group cleaned up dinner dishes and headed back to camp for the night.





Wednesday morning, we headed to the rest area on the way to Beehive Buttress to make breakfast. We decided Beehive would be a great place to climb with Kevin and Sam, and hopefully get Sam to lead a sport climb for the first time. We cooked up dehydrated potatoes while snacking on oranges, peanuts and coffee. We had remembered to bring the french press, but had neglected to bring any coffee… oops! Fortunately, we had two backpacker coffee packs with us!



We drove down the bumpy dirt roads to Beehive Buttress, geared up in the parking lot, and soon were standing at the base of the wall. Alex had said she would lead the first climb, a 5.6 she had lead before. When she went to look at the guide to see how many draws she needed, Dave told her to figure it out without checking the route description. His goal was to take her out of her comfort zone and make her grow as a climber, but instead he made her grow grumpy. They bickered back and forth a bit before she grabbed more draws than she knew she needed and made her way up the wall. After returning to the ground, Kevin and Sam climbed the route while she and Dave moved to the next climb, Monkey and the Engineer, another 5.6. After Dave took his turn on the route, the two retreated to the shade of the aspen trees on the right side of the formation. The pair climber a fun arete that Dave lead, Walking the Boards (5.10a). Alex and Dave lead Rip Chords (5.6), and decide this would be a great climb for Sam to lead. Kevin lead the climb while Sam contemplated what she would do. She was tentative at first, understandably nervous to take the sharp end for the first time. She climbed it on top-rope twice, gaining confidence before she did a great job on her first lead! The group also climbed Gypsie Fire (5.6), before Alien Dave (5.10a) caught Dave’s attention. Dave lead the awesomely fun climb up a black water streak, through overhanging sections that was reminiscent of climbing in The Red. Alex followed the route and found it jus as enjoyable. The group headed back to the car, and made there way to the rest area once again to enjoy a late lunch of cheese, hummus, and pepperoni pitas before returning to their camping area for the evening. As bedtime approached, Alex and Dave climbed a top a few boulders to enjoy the setting sun and take pictures.


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