Shakedown Cruise

This portion of my trip almost doesn’t really feel like the real trip.  When the Navy builds a new ship, they give it a “shakedown cruise” before they order it into the fight to make sure that everything works the way it’s supposed to.  Before I launch farther afield, I’m using this week to get acquainted with some of my future challenges.  Obviously, I’m most curious about how my recently surgered foot will handle the rigors of camping, climbing, hiking, running, and other random adventures.  I’m also learning about organizing my car, finding free/safe camping, cooking with and fixing two busted stoves, and realizing which of the volumes of stuff I’m traveling with actually makes sense to carry.

That said, my shakedown crew has been nothing short of spectacular.  Dustin and I got out of Portland around 11am on Saturday morning, and started enjoying beautiful weather as soon as we dropped off of Barlow Pass.  We stopped to collect firewood before the reservation at Warm Springs and I realized that my sense of time, and priority had already started to shift.  It was okay not to get to Smith as fast as possible, it was great to get to stop and see historical markers I’ve never stopped for.  The weekend warrior life rewards focus, but is often devoid of chance.  I finally feel like I have time to breathe.

It was sunny, but still quite cold by the time we got to Smith, and with both me and Dustin being out regular climbing shape we only managed a few easy pitches.  I remain indebted to Dustin for leading an unfortunately hard warmup 5.10a, because despite the cold, all the other easy lines on the front-side were taken.  After climbing, we wandered back to Skull Hollow, set up camp, and got dinner going.  In the dark we missed an inconvenient sign just in front of the car.  Dustin had an effective solution, and we enjoyed our dinner and campfire.  More than almost anything else, Dustin loves to think, and our conversations always leave me feeling richer.  Thanks dude.

Sign? What sign?

Sunday we got on the rock earlier and grabbed an easier line to warmup on while waiting for my good friend Kelly to join us.  We’ve been working out together for over a year, but only gotten to share a rope a few times. Not surprisingly it was equally enjoyable to get to spend another day climbing with her as trying to keep up with her in the morning workouts.  We worked a number of climbs in the ShipWreck gully area, and much to my surprise, and some concern, I was able to lead More Sandy Than Kevin (5.11a).  This surprised me not only due to the lack of protest from my foot, but also the fact that I haven’t climbed regularly in two months, and had only run two laps on the route during my last day at Smith [insert link].    I also appreciated the encouragement from my friend Pat, who had come down to enjoy the day, as he had been there for my previous attempts.  I’m looking forward to climbing with Pat again this coming weekend.

Back in the thick of it, on More Sandy Than Kevin (5.11a). Photo: Danica Yates

Dustin getting the goods.

Spent, but with plenty of daylight, the Kelly and Dustin were clamoring to hike, so we cleaned up our gear and headed past the Marsupials to check out the Lower Gorge.

A guy couldn't ask for better companions.

Smith has so many fantastic areas in such a small area…

In the theme of taking the time for new things, we took a right turn uphill just after leaving the Gorge, into yet another part of Smith that I had not explored.  In addition to his ample intellectual abilities, Dustin also has a youthful curiosity about him that often inspires unexpected adventures.  Above the Lower Gorge area, we found an old irrigation canal, with a tunnel leading under the Burma Road and hills just east of Smith.  Not surprisingly, Kelly was more than game to see where this new line went, so we headed into the dark.  Still in the tunnel ½ mile later, we found a slowly growing pool of water at the bottom.  Dustin said “I’m instigating that we go further, it’s only ankle deep…”

Down the rabbit hole...

Another ½ mile later, still in the tunnel, and within sight of the exit, we were wading through hip deep water, freezing, and giggling like school girls.  Once out of the tunnel and on dry ground, we stopped regretting having carried long underwear around in our bags all day and started feeling the screaming barfies in our feet.  We all changed into what dry options we had, and started looking for a new line back to the park.  We ended up on top of the Marsupials ridge, then along the backside of Smith for a stellar sunset, then over Asterisk Pass, and back at the cars only 10 minutes after our target time of 6pm.  I couldn’t have planned a better adventure, or better partners to share it with.

Still giggling, and stoked to have long underwear post swim.

“Take wrong turns.  Talk to strangers. Open unmarked doors.  And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing.  Do things without always knowing how they will turn out.” (

4 thoughts on “Shakedown Cruise

  1. Kelly

    This is my favorite of your posts to date, and not because I was there. You have perfectly captured the essence of spontaneity and the importance of building a life that allows you to embrace it. Bad decisions make good stories…and really, they are not bad because of what they teach you about yourself. This was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time, and I’m anxious for your travels to bring you back in proximity so I can freeload off your spirit again.

  2. Jody Koplo

    Been following your posts and loving them. Keep it up. I would be severely disappointed if you let the blog slip… 🙂

    I’m jealous of Smith – we’ve had two potential trips to the Red cancelled last minute by weather. Crazy cold spell put the weather at high 30s and raining.

    A good xkcd, and it reminds me of one of my favorites:


  3. dustin

    it should be mentioned the sign, in the spirit of propriety, was replaced prior our exodus from the illegitimate bedding grounds.

    glad to be there on the shakedown cruise!

  4. Kelly

    I’m a wee bit creeped out by the crucifix shadow that Dustin is casting while removing the offending signpost. And that his hand is outstretched to show you his stigmata.


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