14 April 2017

Ladder Canyon Overnighter

*Day 1: 

Last time we explored Ladder Canyon outside of Mecca, CA it felt like we didn't have enough time to spend on the trails as long as we would have liked because it's a 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive from our place to get there. So this week while the kids had spring break, I told them my idea: to go there again and do an overnighter. Yeah, we could have just been "normal" and set up a tent for a little campout, but I didn't feel like doing all the packing & prep work for a real campout, especially if it was just going to be me and the boys. So I told the boys my idea: to take sleeping bags and sleep in the van in the dessert, so we could hike all day and get up and do some more hiking, and they loved the idea. (We must have done something right as parents that our boys all cheered when they heard that I wanted to let them sleep in our car out in the middle of nowhere).   :)    Too bad Michael wasn't able to join us!  (Not that's he normally loves the idea of sleeping in a car anyways). But he's going with us on Saturday to explore the Mud Caves, so that should be way fun to do together!

I really wanted to bring the dogs with us, not only because it seems so sad to leave them at home when we're doing outdoor activities, but because it's always a nice idea to have a couple of extra large dogs around when you're sleeping out in the middle of nowhere. I figured we could bring them even though it'd be hot, because I was already going to bring a big jug with 6 extra gallons of water so we could keep the dogs cooled off well enough with that. But I just couldn't figure out any decent way to get them up and down the rope or ladder sections of the canyons -- they're really quite good at scrambling up and down big boulders with us, but we're talking about a 12 to 15 foot drop in a few spots. I found that there are actually rappelling harnesses for XL dogs, and now I want to get one someday (no matter how silly Michael may think I may be), just to be able to take them when we want to go places that are less accessible like this. 

So, we did it. It took us longer to get here because there was bad traffic for some festival in Palm Dessert on the way here, and we had to turn around and take a long detour because of some fire that they were putting out in another area along our way here. But we finally got here, got sun screened, and headed right out on the trail to find the canyon with the ropes that we had heard about. It was fun -- a nice narrow slot canyon with ropes mounted to the canyon wall in three different spots. 

It was a lot of fun. (Too bad I had to deal with teenager attitude throughout the day today, but I guess that's the stage of life we're getting ourselves into now). But it was a good experience overall. We hiked along the tops of the ridges for a while -- it was warm up there in the sun today (I think it was a high of 90 degrees here today, so just about getting to the time of year when it's too hot to enjoy the dessert), but at least there was a nice breeze up on top. 

Then we made our way back down into the top of Ladder Canyon and came down the ladders. The boys had a lot of fun climbing the canyon walls.  After our hikes earlier this week, they were pretty tired out after a few hours, so we came back to the car to refill our water bottles.

They helped me set up the sleeping bags in the car. I had a little scare when Courtland & Isaac were playing together and bumped faces -- Isaac's tooth to Courtland's eyebrow -- and Courtland started gushing blood. I put pressure on it as he was laying down, and it bled enough that the area all around his eye filled with blood and it covered my hand. But once we got it cleaned up, luckily it was just a tiny cut and it wasn't open so he didn't need stitches. (I always insist that Michael takes his suture kit whenever we go camping or hiking, but after this I told Michael I may have to take the suture kit along with me in the future). :)  After we had dinner, the boys all settled into their sleeping bags in the van and started reading the books they brought along. It's amazing -- with the sun setting and the gentle breeze blowing through the open car doors and all the boys caught up in their books, it was the most quiet and peaceful time we've had all day. And as the sun went down, we got to watch the bats swoop across the sky and the boys counted the stars.  Maybe this is the way to travel. (Or maybe in a camper van, because even after we left two van seats at home, and then we set another van seat outside the van for the night, we might be hard pressed to fit in Michael & the dogs too, or enough gear/food for more than just an overnighter. (Actually, we could totally fit Michael & the dogs too for now, but once all these little men of ours are a few years older & bigger too, they might not fit quite as easily).  Well, I hope I've worn the boys out so much this week that once it gets dark enough that they can't read anymore they'll all just roll over and fall asleep. Wish me luck! . . . 

*Day 2:
 Sleeping in the van with all the kids went surprisingly well.  I was pleased when the last of the other cars in the parking area pulled out around 7:30pm and we had the whole canyon to ourselves for the night.  Once it got too dark outside for the boys to keep reading, the two youngest boys started to get pretty silly, but after I threatened them a couple times with having to get out of the van they finally quieted down and everyone went to sleep.  The weather was perfect -- just cool enough to make it comfortable to drape a lightweight sleeping bag over myself, with a pleasant little breeze.  I left the windows cracked open all night (crossing my fingers that the car wouldn't fill with mosquitos), but we didn't even get any flies or anything in the car.  I woke up a few times at night, but fell right back to sleep right away after shifting and getting comfortable again.  (I was in the driver's seat and Elijah was in the passenger's seat with the rest of the boys in the back.  At one point in the night I awoke to find El's feet pointed toward the passenger's side door and his head leaning on me, and I had to put him back in his seat.  But other than that the night was uneventful and we all got a pretty good rest.  

After breakfast Kolby really wanted to explore the canyon past where the cars park, and we had fun finding another little slot canyon on the side and climbing around in it a bit.  Then we went back again to do the rope canyon, and then come back down the ropes.  When we got to the first rope the boys decided to do a challenge not to use the ropes to climb up.  We all got up the first rope section without needing to use the rope, and the younger 4 boys got up the second rope section without the rope (but in our defense, Kolby & I each got almost to the top of that section without the rope, but we used the rope to hurry up and get to the top of it because some other hikers came along and we didn't want to make them wait).  At the last (and tallest) rope section, I think some of the boys did it without the rope, but I had to use the rope at two different parts of it.  It was really fun to challenge ourselves.  

Coming back down the ropes was fun too -- and more challenging than going up them.  I think everyone did it without any problem (except I swung sideways on the rope coming down one of them and knocked my elbow pretty hard, so it's a bit sore still).  It must be more popular to go in the morning, because when we did the rope canyon the pervious afternoon we didn't see anyone else at all, but when we did it this morning we passed by 4 different families/couples.  But that didn't make it any less fun.  Then we piled in the car for the long drive home.

The perspective on this photo is a little funny: Camden is holding the rope and standing at the very top of this canyon & leaning backwards.  His body is straight, and parallel with the ground (which is about 15 feet bellow him).

Next time we head out that way, I want to check out the Grottos -- apparently there are a couple of sets of caves in that same area near the Salton Sea.  So that would make for a fun weekend trip sometime.  

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