The distant sound of coyotes during the still of the night is a great indicator of the remoteness by which we are camped. We’re only a few miles outside of Rapid City, SD, and though we can see the distant city lights from Alexander SuperScamp’s rear window, we are indeed remotely and primitively camped in the Black Hills National Forest. Victoria Canyon (VC) lies slightly over a mile away and a couple of hundred feet below us. The late summer/early fall temps are near perfect. Perhaps leaning toward the “warmish” side of things still, but change is in the air. Soon Mother Nature will provide excellent sending temps. We are in the perfect place at the perfect time.
Climbing in the VC is steep, and solid for the grade. It’s a sport-dogger’s paradise. While the general theme seems to be powerful cruxes, the overall character of the routes varies quite a bit. There are several routes compressed into a small canyon on walls of beautiful mineral-streaked limestone. The guidebook refers to the VC as being “like Rifle without the crowds and before the holds became polished”, which is very apropos. We’ve encountered only two other climbers during our first eight days of being here. We virtually have the VC all to ourselves on our scheduled climbing days.
Day ONE on the wall was incredibly fun. Fresh from a four day rest after leaving Ten Sleep, I managed to onsight 11c, 12a, 12c and work out the moves of a 13a. I returned on day TWO to onsight a 12b and redpoint the 13a from day ONE. Maggie didn’t take long to key-in on the unique Rifle disco style of climbing movement. She quickly redpointed 12a, 12b and 12c. She worked the moves of her first VC 13a yesterday, which was day FOUR (climbing-wise) for us.
To qualify our climbing schedule: we typically climb one day and rest the next. We repeat the process thrice before taking an additional day of rest. Essentially, we climb three days and rest four during any given week. If bad weather hits us on a climbing day, we usually opt to rest rather than climb, then climb the next decent weather day, preferring better conditions. We like to err on the side of rest, as this is a long haul journey for us. Since we’ve dedicated the remainder of our lives to travel and climbing, staying healthy and motivated requires proper time for recovery. We spend our non-climbing days doing an hour of Ashtanga Yoga, taking occasional exploratory hikes, tiding up our camp area, tiding up ourselves by bathing in nearby streams (or using the solar shower) and reading.
Ideally, we limit our trips into town to once a week. This gives us the opportunity to connect with the outside world and replenish our supplies. Our most critical concern is fresh water. After a wild-goose chase and some confusing Rapid City “local” directions, we discovered Cabella’s has an outdoor fresh water hydrant free for public use. Thank-YOU Cabella’s! We grab groceries from Target and Safeway. There are several coffee shops with wifi, including a Starbuck’s inside Target. This allows us to kill two stones with a single bird (smile).
The Salvation Army thrift store has a ton of great used books. We hit in during a book sale and refurbished our reading supplies with 10 books for $2. You can’t beat that with a stout stick-clip. Showers here have been a bit of a challenge. We were spoiled by using Alli’s guest shower while in Ten Sleep. The Athletic Club close to the VC charges $8 for a day pass, so, as mentioned earlier, we’ve opted to use the clear stream in the canyon or our five gallon solar shower to stay as clean as possible. The beta for freezing cold stream skinny dipping includes the use of Dr. Bronner’s soap, a wash rag and a bath towel. First, you should wade into the water to about knee deep and wash UP as far as possible. Second, while your feet are turning blue, quickly wash DOWN as far as possible. Just ignore the fact that your whole body is now getting an ice-cream headache. Third, and final step… wash possible! Take a big breath in, then exhale as you duck under and rinse. To say it’s “refreshing” would be a euphemism. We try to bath at least once a week… whether we need it… or not.
Suffice it to say, we’re digging the VC and give it a solid two thumbs up! Like Ten Sleep, we’ve put this on our “we definitely need to return to this place” list. Our plan is to stay here for at least a couple more weeks before we start making our way east, most likely to the Red River Gorge by mid-October. We have a couple parcels of land to look at as well as plenty of climbing left to do there. We hope to enjoy it until the snow flies and then head south to a warmer destination, yet to be determined. It’s a grand luxury of being retired. Schedules are whimsical, and whimsical is what we do best.
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