Thursday, November 15, 2007

Red Rocks - Thursday Touchdown in the Land of Has-beens

Having not flown a great distance in quite a while, it dawned on me about four hours into my flight from Boston to Las Vegas that airlines don't feed their customers anymore. I was a bit miffed that I was surviving on a single croissant from earlier that morning, two very small cookies and several glasses of water without ice. Ordinarily, I wouldn't mind not having the ice in my cup. Besides keeping your drink cool, all ice does otherwise is get in the way of the large gulps one wants to throw down. So not having ice to wet one's nose can be small victory in the world of fine dining. However, I really could have used something extra to eat, and the ice would have provided an honest snack to a single male flying to Vegas for the first time in his life.

But let's not get caught up in the details here. I wasn't flying to Vegas to party. In fact, if it weren't for Red Rocks Canyon then I'd probably never go to Vegas. This isn't like Amsterdam, where the known qualities of each city are partying, sex, and, well if not for gambling in Vegas then more sex in Amsterdam. Amsterdam also has architecture, canals, and Vermeer (not to mention the longest legs one will ever lay eyes on). Vegas, as you probably can guess from my intro, is one, big disappointment.

For starters, as I debarked from the plane, I followed my hunger-headache to where I thought there would be easy-to-find food. Naturally, because I rarely turn down food, I found a circular food court not far from the gate. Happy that my tummy was about get recharged before heading off into the desert to explore the weekend's approaches and climbs, I stopped on the perimeter of the circle and tried to scan the restaurant signs so that I could figure out what was available to eat and reconcile that with what I wanted to eat. But as I scanned the signs an odd thing happened to me; I couldn't read the signs. This was odd because I could see them very clearly, but there was something - something flashy, bright - that kept pulling at my attention. I tried for several minutes to study the restaurant signs: Appleb...China Delu...Something Pretzel...Wheel of Fortune...Candy Shoppe...Blah Blah Bar and...WHEEL OF FORTUNE?!?!?!?!?! My eyes slowly scrolled down at a proportional speed that which my nose followed by scrunching into a position of disgust - Jesus! There's freaking slot machines in the airport. And there's people playing them. What the f...?

I was annoyed at the in-your-faceness of the scene around me. I just couldn't believe that it would be this pathetic, but there it was right in front of me: chain smoking Korean War heroes and their wives pulling levers and pushing on-screen buttons underneath the cheesiest, country-fair-likeness flashing lights trying to get a fucking airport. It was almost unbelievable.

I didn't stick around long enough to begin to appreciate the beauty of slot machines, probably much to the dismay of the McCarran Airport capital venturists. So I picked up my rental car and made another discovery about Las Vegas that hadn't ocurred to me: Vegas is a town of has-beens. Seriously, no one doing Vegas, unless on a world tour, is relevant anymore. If they were relevant, they wouldn't be doing Vegas. Instead, they'd be doing New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris, Bangaluru (formerly Bangalore - seriously, check for yourself), Sydney, Boston (plug) and Sao Paulo. You see the difference? One is catering to millions of young fans at the edge of entertainment and the other is telling jokes or singing songs to forty-something bitter, single women and fat men who want nothing to do with each other but would probably screw each otherall night if the one asked when no one else was looking. Well, that and seniors spending the Social Security I'm never going to see back again (thanks, Boomers. Don't think we haven't thought of a cull). Speaking of forty-something: forty minutes after touchdown, I was standing in the parking lot of Pine Creek Canyon in Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area (which goes by the nifty acronym: RRCNCA), breathing in a deep sigh of removedness, and beginning my journey into a world that I desperately needed to venture into: a world known as Nostressland.

But first, let me give you my initial impressions of Red Rocks. While there are red rocks in Red Rocks Canyon, the name of the canyon forced me to pause and wonder, where the hell are all the red rocks? OK, I admit, the first couple of pullouts, the ones that pass by Calico Basin, have very red rocks. And I also admit that throughout the canyon there are some fantastic horizontal bands of red rock streaking across the various mountains. But, for the most part, and by "most part" I really mean 90% of the park, Red Rocks Canyon is a blend of 1970s pale brown, unfashionable shades of tan, and a mix of varnished...I don't know what to call it...unhydrated piss-colored sandstone. In other words, the place is freaking ugly.

OK, to be fair, I should mention that I grew up in picturesque Acadia National Park (see links on the main page) with its majestic, porcupine-like islands floating quietly in the sparkling sea below the wise, presiding Cadillac Mountain and all it's surrounding green forests, crystal clear lakes and soft-on-the-eyes bays and fjords (yes, Sommes Sound is not only not a sound, but it is also the only fjord on the east coast of the United States. We're beautiful. I didn't say we were smart). So, to compare such a blend of color and air with the dry and drab landscape of burnt juniper trees, crumbling sandstone mountains, and lots and lots of sand that doesn't have topless women walking through it on their way to the calm, beautiful, blue sea at the sand's edge isn't quite fair. They're two different things and I fully agree that one man's ocean playground is another man's desert solace; it just isn't my solace. Other than that, the climbing looked decent.

I only had a couple of hours to spare before the park closed, so I wandered into Pine Creek Canyon (about 10 miles from the entrance gate) in search of the Dark Shadows Wall and Brass Wall. The goal was really to orientate myself so that I knew what to expect when "Tattoo" arrived later that night and we could plan with some pretextual knowledge. This hike was about 75% successful that turned into success a few days later.

I had heard that the approaches into the canyons and walls were long. A quick look of the book while on the plane confirmed that by telling me the approach to Brass Wall was about 30 minutes, with an additional five to ten minutes added on to get into the canyon where Dark Shadows was. The timing noting in the book wasn't off by much, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a 30 minute approach into Pine Creek Canyon is not the same thing as a 30 minute approach to the base of Whitney-Gilman at Cannon. The prior is almost exclusively a flat, easy walk on soft sand while the latter is a beefy scramble straight up a loose talus field. If this is what all the approaches are like, then I can handle this, I thought to myself.

It's funny, too, because one of my buddies in Boston (I forget what his nickname is on the site - hey guy with a funny spelling to your typical name, what nickname did I give you?) had told me that one stands in the parking lot and clearly sees the walls in front one's eyes, but the path to happiness is not always as straight and obvious as it seems it should be. He was right because, while the main path is pretty easy to follow (in daytime - more on that in another post), the side trails leading from the main trail to the base of the cliffs leave a lot for the imagination to make up. In other words, just because one can see the cliffs, it doesn't mean one can get there easily.

On a bit of a side note, and you can laugh at me all you want on this, but I was surprised that the deserts in the US actually have sand; soft, wiggle-your-toes-in-it sand. I know this sounds crazy, but I always imagined sandy deserts being in Africa and on the sub-continent. I never realized that the deserts in the US were not hard-cracked, dry, scorched earth. It was a funny moment for me, and I knew I was going to catch a few smirks going my way when I mentioned this.

Anyway, I found a couple of climbs on Brass Wall Right that I thought "Tattoo" and I could handle on our first day. Both were in the 5.7 to 5.8 range, had easy approaches are were long enough for us to feel as if we had done some serious climbing by the day's end. What I didn't find, however, was Dark Shadows. I found the Dark Shadows Wall, but not the route of the same name. This was disappointing to me at first, but I scouted enough to know that there was a waterfall nearby and that I was, at the very least, in the right place. As it turned out (special thanks to the dude behind the counter at Desert Rock Sports), the route I was looking for starts directly above the waterfall. So all I had to do was find the waterfall and I'd find the route. Shivers went down and up my spine as he said this, but this was primarily because I had to piss worse than a Russian race horse. I left the store seventy-dollars lighter and went to the Suncoast Casino to see if I could check in.

The Suncoast isn't a bad casino, as far as I could tell. For one, the slot machines were the same as in the airport, so I figured there was at least a semblance of consistency between the two places. I also didn't mind the fact that they pump so much air into the place because, as a result, one doesn't really notice the cigarette smoke. However, I usually pride myself on being able to find the alternative entrances to the hotels, just so I can avoid the normal riffraff that may be staying there. No such luck here. These casinos thought of everything: one must walk through the gambling area on the way to the elevators that lead to the rooms. That kind of sucked, but, as it turned out, the casino was only about 15 minutes from the entrance of Red Rock Canyon, so the minuses had plusses to average them out. If one wanted to get closer to the canyon, then one could stay at the Red Rock Casino...and lay one's head down for $400 per night. I took the $100 per night on average and slept just fine (well, after I picked "Tattoo" up at the airport, but you catch my drift).

So what can one expect in the next couple of blogs? Friday's climb, Friday's actions that led to results later in the weekend, Saturday's climb, Saturday's adventure, Sunday's wet adventure, Monday's climb and Tuesday's climbs / flight home. I think there will be a different post for each day, with some being significantly longer than others, but we'll figure it out as we go along. In any case, enjoy the ride.

And Now For Something Relevant To Vegas: Pretenders

Add to My Profile | More Videos

No comments: