This summer has been an exciting and interesting one for this small town Oklahoma boy. I’ve experienced many things that were very new to me. I worked as a Challenge Course/ High Ropes Course Facilitator, rode in a helicopter for the first time, visited three states I had never been to, had three staples in my head (which I removed myself), went fly fishing, crabbing, slack-lining, high-lining, sport and trad climbing, and backpacking. The best part of it all has been developing a closer relationship with my best friend who was with me in it all. It has been the most exhilarating summer I’ve ever had.
The routine part of my summer in Stillwater was working as a facilitator at Oklahoma State Universities’ high ropes course and picking up landscaping jobs on the side. When not working, I tried to swim, slackline, mountain bike, rock climb, and catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets as much as I could.
After work and play, I spent some time preparing for Egypt by completing necessary paperwork, studying and practicing Arabic, and keeping up with Egyptian political developments. The adventurous part of my summer began when my friend Sarah and I went to visit my family in Illinois in late May, early June. We stayed about a week in the family cabin and spent nearly all of our time bass fishing and swimming in the lake.
Before and after our time in Illinois, we made multiple trips to rock climb in Arkansas throughout the summer. The climbing and camping was fantastic. I had some awesome times with friends, met new ones, climbed hard, and relaxed around campsites and fires while playing guitar. It’s so refreshing to sleep under the stars. During these trips I learned how to trad climb and rode in a helicopter for the first time!
At the end of the summer Sarah and I embarked on the biggest trip of the summer and of my life. I pulled out of my parking spot in Stillwater on July 28 with all of Sarah’s possessions, and my camping, hiking, and climbing gear. I headed for Colorado where I met Sarah at the Denver airport. We stayed around the Denver and Colorado Springs area for a few days visiting one of my friends and rock climbing. Driving onward we camped in Moab, Utah for the night and arrived in Logan the following day. We stayed a few days in Logan at a beautiful campsite. Our tent set only 20-30 feet from a swiftly flowing creek, and there was a climbing area only a short hike away.
Leaving Logan, we headed northwest toward Boise, Sarah’s home for the next year. After resting for a day and moving her into her new place, we spent a few days in Sun Valley (east of Boise) with Sarah’s family. After Sun Valley, we moved north past Sunbeam into the Salmon-Challis National Forest to spend the night at the trailhead of the Loon Creek Trail. This was the first trail that we intended to hike. It’s an 18 mile trek that follows Loon Creek all the way to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. However, we abandoned the idea ten minutes away from the trailhead because of a forest fire that had been raging in Idaho for a week. A northeastern wind had blown the fire’s ash and thick smoke over the area that we were venturing. Instead, we moved south of the fire to spend a little less than a week in the Sawtooth National Forest. We backpacked through the most beautiful country I have ever seen, hiking 55 miles with everything we needed to live on our backs. It was one of the most refreshing and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. We started at the Grandjean trailhead and made a giant loop that ended where it began. After leaving the trailhead about 5:45 pm, we made it to Trail Lakes (our first camp spot) about 3-4 hours later. Such a late start caused us to hike the last hour of the rocky and steep switchbacks at dusk. We arrived about 5 minutes before it was necessary to pull out our headlamps to see. Tired but excited to see such a beautiful lake with jagged mountains in the backdrop, we pitched the tent, ate dinner, and slept.
The next day’s scenery was much different than the first. Our entire 7 mile hike was filled with dead trees caused by fire and/or disease.
The hike was difficult. Our trail meandered through steep switchbacks that led us through a passageway crossing a small mountain range, back down to a valley, and then up again toward another range. It ended with the most intense switchbacks of the day. We trekked back and forth, climbing steep terrain for what seemed like an hour. We finally made it to the top of the divide and we could see Sawtooth Lake , our campground for the evening.
This was by far my favorite spot that we stayed. The view from the top of the divide is stunning. I arrived about half a minute before Sarah and yelled with excitement at what I saw. When Sarah arrived, her jaw dropped in fascination. We had another 20 minute hike to the base of the lake where we set up camp for the night. It was nice getting there a little early. We relaxed and took a swim (the water was probably in the 40’s… brrrrrr).
The next four days were equally exciting and scenic. The scenery was just a little different each day and our destination always ended at a lake that was pleasantly serene and enjoyable. On average we crossed about 2-3 creeks a day and saw a countless amount of chipmunks and birds. Here is some scenery from day 3.
We hiked 14 miles on the third day, which was our most difficult hike of the trip. We were rewarded with another beautiful lake in our tent’s backyard.
Upper Baron Lake:
Day 4 scenery:
Camp spot for night 4; Cramer Lake:
The last two days provided some respite because although there were a few divides that we crossed, we mainly hiked through meadows (relatively flat land). So, although we hiked a good number of miles, it was only difficult because our legs were already tired from the previous days.
Last campsite; Elk Lake:
We arrived back at the car in the evening to discover that we had left the windows down. Wooops. Luckily nothing had been taken, but the inside was covered with ash from the surrounding fire. We drove back to Sarah’s house in Boise and rested for the next couple of days.
We then drove to Oregon to meet Sarah’s family in Cannon Beach. The three or four days we spent there were relaxing. Among other fun and interesting things we did while there, we went crabbing (a new experience). My boat caught 5 keepers. I was the master puller of the net. 😉
After Cannon Beach, we spent a little less than a week at Smith Rock State Park (Central Oregon) climbing. The climbing there was amazing, the best I’ve ever done. Sarah and I did our first multi-pitch climb (basically where both climbers take turns moving up a very high wall… It’s called multi-pitch climbing because it takes multiple climbs to reach the top).
A view from the top pitch of our multi-pitch climb (500 feet high):
Probably the most exciting time I had at Smith Rock was high-lining. I have been slack-lining for a little under a year now and I enjoy it a lot. The first night we climbed at Smith, I met a local who started talking about a high line that was set up. After asking him if I could join, I high-lined twice over the next few days.
After finishing our adventure at Smith Rock, we again went back to Idaho. The last few days were spent hanging out with a good friend who met us for a day, and… of course… rock climbing at a local spot in Boise.
I got home from the airport a few days ago and have been finishing things that needed to get done before I depart for Egypt. Now, I am all ready to go. I leave in two days and I am anticipating another exciting adventure ahead. It will be a very different adventure than any I have experienced. I will be stretched and challenged, but it will help me learn and grow. I hope to discover truths about the country, the people, myself, and the world. I imagine that it will end up being the most exciting adventure I’ve ever had.