Monday, August 3, 2009

Stop 7, The City of Rocks, ID Part 1

Once a stop on the California Trail 160 years ago, the City of Rocks National Reserve is now a stop on many a climber's itinerary. Located in south central Idaho in a line between Boise, 4 hours to the northwest, and Salt Lake City, 3 hours to the southeast, the City is an outcropping of granite rocks in the middle of rolling farmland. It is an unlikely place to find climbing, but that was also true of Joshua Tree. There is a long history of climbing here dating back to the mid-sixties as Utah climbers honed their skills here, and even (or more accurately, of course) Fred Beckey visited the area in his eternal search for new areas.

A view of the City of Rocks from the west

I am to meet up with a new (well, new to me!) partner I found through D climbs a bit harder than I do, but with all the routes being single pitch, we figure personality is more important than climbing level. He plans on being here for ten days, till the 8th, which seems like a long time to commit to an unknown partner and area, but as I write this on the 3rd I feel there is so much left to climb with only a short time remaining!

Granite galore!

Arriving very late on Tuesday the 28th, we begin climbing on the Wednesday morning. We turn out to be quite compatible partners, and we take our turns leading and cleaning routes on the various formations of the park. The weather is comfortable—lower to mid 80s and usually with a small breeze—and the days fly by as we get into our rhythms. Two days on, one day off. Two days on, and now another day off which finds me in the Tracy general store in Almo, pecking away at my computer and downing cold drinks and snacks while sitting at a wooden plank table with red-checkered cloth inside a business established well over one hundred years ago.

Someone needs a haircut

There is a trickle of customers inside the Tracy store; most are locals known by first name, but one family comes in, taking pictures and looking at the century of memorabilia on the walls and inside an old oak display case made by the Saint Paul Show Case Mfg. Co. of Saint Paul, Minnesota. They turn out to be the descendants of the man who donated the City of Rocks land to the Park. Everyone I've met in Almo, from the rangers both at the Park Station and within the City to the people in the the Tracy general store and post office, and the store of Rock City, have been extremely nice. It is a genuine smile that greets you upon entering one of the stores here—not rushed, not forced. It is perhaps a trite description of a small town (150 people live in Almo), but the description here doesn't seem trite—it seems just right.

Items in the Show Case

An old NCR cash register, still working though not in everyday use

Summer is the slow season here—too hot for most, whether they be climbers or non—and the park feels empty. This is partly an illusion—there are people here, but the designated camping spots are not of the general side-by-side variety. Rather, the spots are purposefully secluded from each other; sometimes even a few shrubs or some rocks between sites can create privacy, and this policy is one reason the City is so popular among all types of people.

The both of us however, being on a more limited budget than the average camper, choose to stay for free on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) ground about ten minutes outside the park. The fee for the park campsites is $12.63 per night including tax (Idaho taxes everything, including basic amenities). Though that may not sound like much, multiply that by 30 nights and you end up at almost $380 per month. I have a friend in Bellingham who pays less than that for his rent. My budget is a selective one, and I select to pay as little for camping as possible. I'd rather save the money for a night of pizza with friends, or webbing to replace old anchors. It's a strange sensation to have a limited amount of money with no more income. One of these days I will either have to stop this trip or, more likely, resupply my funds for a while. But that is something I don't need to worry about just yet!

Camping with a view of the rolling farmland

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