City of Rocks is a fur piece from Cheyenne, so with gasoline
and time being so precious, I don't get out there much. I've been
there twice so far: first in 1994, as an overnight stop on a journey
to Washington State; second, on a dedicated climbing trip in 2003.
I would love to get out there more often.
In September of 2003, I met Squeak in Rock Springs where he was finishing up
a conference, and we dragged his ghetto camper to Almo, Idaho. This is where
the pavement ends and the West begins, as they say. The camper was a little
out-of-place amongst the campground's international array of tentage, but the
weather was showing its teeth at night. One blustery morning, I was sipping hot
coffee in my underwear, the camper getting nudged a bit by the wind. The gas
heater was purring away. I observed our friendly Canadian neighbors at their tent
site, dressed for Everest, huddled over their tiny cooker on the picnic table, trying
desperately to shield it from the brutal gale. I rapped loudly on the window to get
their attention. They looked up. I waved and raised my cup, a Good Morning
salutation. I smiled. They flipped me off in unison just as Greg farted.
It was pure magic. All seemed right with the world.
I had the lack of foresight to bring along a fine bottle of Scottish single malt whiskey. Turned out to be a bad idea,
because we reveled late into the evening our first night there. Yes, we drank too much cleaning product. Our first morning
on the rocks was painful and minimally productive. We limped around Bumblie Rock, the shortest walk we could manage, gladly
waiting in line to climb just a handful of routes. We were only marginally better the following day, taking a walkabout in search of
a route which we found, unfortunately, occupied by a couple having an epic. We slunk away,
unwilling to offer any sort of heroic measure. And unable to as well, really.
Our Canadian neighbors, two guys on a long road trip, joined us for grilled halibut one night. They filled us in on Canadian fish regulations
as Greg & I stuffed our faces with my brother-in-law's tasty Alaskan bounty.We offered them the rest of the scotch, but they declined:
"Oh! Scotch! Oh, no thank you! You guys must be alcoholics!"
The following morning, a trio of women showed up at their campsite. Greg, who can be quite a social butterfly, was immediately
at odds with one of the girls, through no fault of his own. She had a toxic, angry personality, and from our site next door,
we could hear her dragging the whole group into a dark, contrary mood. Some folks just have a gift for that sort of thing.
A couple of days of shorter routes had us ready to try something longer, and easy. Theater of Shadows (II, 5.7) is such a route on Jackson's Thumb, a satellite of the giant
Stienfell's Dome, which is over a half mile North of the remote North Fork Overlook trailhead. There
are up to 18 bolts on each of the route's four long pitches. Jackson's Thumb is 600 feet high.
I took the first & third pitches, while Greg took the second & fourth. The crux was in the first
fifty feet of the route. After that, it was the joy of movement. Squeak said it was over-protected,
and as I recall, he skipped a few bolts now & then on his leads. Not me, though. I savored every
nugget of 3/8" steel I clipped into. From the summit of Jackson's Thumb, we rappeled into the
gulley between our summit and the higher Stienfells Dome (two 80-foot abseils). It's an easy
3rd-class scramble down to the base of the Thumb after that. We collected our stuff and hiked
back down the hill to the Rattle Van. It was time to eat. Tomorrow, we would drive home.