Ten weeks, one campervan
BY HEATHER GLASS McGONEGLE ’10
Editor’s note: The following excerpts were taken from Heather Glass McGonegle’s blog (10weeks1lifetime.com.), where she chronicled her exploration of the western United States and Canada.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2016, we hit the road for 10 weeks of the campervan life. We traveled over 6,500 miles, climbing new routes and running new trails. From Colorado to Canada, we pushed out of our comfort zones and discovered our love for adventure (and each other) along the way.
Today, Eric, myself, and the two pups set out for one grand adventure. … The timing could not have been more perfect. I had been ready for change in my career and was looking for other opportunities. Eric also came across change in his career and had to follow a noncompete rule. … I am writing this now as we head west, where we will be taking a pit-stop in Fruita (Colo.) to trail run and mountain bike.
We knew we would be traveling through the desert at a time when the daytime temps would be hitting nearly 100+ degrees. … So, we plan accordingly. Climb early in the shade. Run and bike in the morning. Escape to a coffee shop with the dogs in the afternoon. Our first day in the area consisted of exploring the Long Canyon crags.
Lake Powell (between Utah and Arizona)
Following Zion, we drove to Las Vegas for our first hotel stay of the trip. … I am sure we were quite the sight when we pulled up to our hotel. Red, van. Out jump two even dirtier humans, hair unwashed for almost two weeks. Open the van door, out jump two dogs and out with them, climbing gear and gallon water jugs tumbling down to the ground.
Mount Whitney/High Sierras (California)
Our next destination was California, specifically the High Sierras. … Upper Boy Scout Lake was a mile and another 1,000-plus feet from the base of Mount Whitney and our climb. We hiked up Tuesday, late afternoon, set up camp, made dinner, and settled in for a WINDY night of little sleep.
Mount Whitney/High Sierras (California)
… (After the climb up Mount Whitney) ice axes in hand, we started our way down the Mountaineer’s Route, an 1,800-foot steep snow gully. … It was a brutal, knee aching hour of constant downhill. … Fast forward that hour to our campsite … and our tent that was no longer there. … Luckily, though, we found it sitting 300 feet below us in a brush patch. More importantly, our sleeping bags and pads were still in the tent. The tent was not functional, forcing us to an open-air bivy (sleeping outside) for the night.
We stretched our tired bodies, looked at each other, and silently agreed, “rest day.” At this point, we had climbed nearly 20 days with only four days off.
Yosemite National Park (California)
We entered (Yosemite) late on a Sunday afternoon after climbing Cardinal Pinnacle and luckily scored a perfect campsite in the Tuolumne Meadows campground. … Our first climb was West Crack … considered a meadows classic, must-do climb. … And, so began a cycle of magnificent climbing, running, and rest days in our new home.
We have led a peaceful life up to this point, slowed down and felt far away from the hurry of modern day life. That is what the Yosemite Valley felt like that day. Hurried. Busy. Overwhelmed with visitors … trying to squeeze every last drop out of their vacation. I do not blame them. It causes me to pause and wonder when we lost the battle in balancing our work, family, friends, recreation, health, and well-being. Vacations, or the activities we enjoy doing, should never feel stressful, hurried, or tick-list crammed.
Cirque de Towers (Wyoming)
We could not help but sing the song ‘On the Road Again’ as we drove miles and miles of road on our way to the Cirque. The open road once again felt free as we cruised endless highway, windows down.
The alarm was set for 5 a.m. We hoped for an early start with the goal of climbing a four pitch 5.9 high on Pingora Peak. However, as the alarm sounded, its tone was drowned out by the sound of rain on the tent. … We spent the day napping and playing cards. Tomorrow we would try again.
The third day granted us a blue-bird day. We got another early start and arrived at the base of the climb once again (Pingora Peak, Southwest Face) at about 7:30 a.m. It was a four pitch climb that proved each pitch to be truly on classic level.
Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia
Eric and I originally booked this week to the Bugaboos well before we knew the campervan life was even an option. Snowpatch Spire sat on my desktop background at work for months. But the picture did not do justice as we crept closer to the base of the park.
Last day, last chance—we wanted to make this work badly before our psych completely ran out. We were out the door by 5:45 a.m. Once again, there was a chance of storms that day, so we played it safe by hopping on a route called Wildflowers (5.9) on the west face of Snowpatch.
As I look back on the last two and a half months, I stress that we do not think we are special for the miles we traveled in the van or on foot, nor the thousands of feet we climbed. Yes, we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to do something like this. Yes, we created memories that we will remember for a lifetime. The trip itself is only a small piece of who we are, but a monumental showcase of how we want to live. We want to explore adventure’s limits, not limit ourselves, in all things work and play. We want to live, not just be alive. This seems to be a common theme in today’s world—more and more individuals are shifting their desire for status and money to experiences and simplicity. All of us make choices, day in and day out, in regards to how we want to live. … Every day, every moment is an adventure if you make it one.