An Unexpected Detour
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An Unexpected Detour

In order to coordinate some things for an upcoming trip, I had to take an eight hour, solo drive this past Saturday, traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and Needles, CA.  As I was on my way back from the high desert, two little voices began a whispered argument in my head…

Hey!  You know what’s sort of on the way backish from Needles – Big Bear – Holcomb Valley! You might find people to climb with…Yeah, but it will be after four by the time I get there, everyone will probably be done for the day…But it will give you the chance to get out of the car…But then I’ll have a longer drive back and I have to work tomorrow…

And the so the voices debated for some time, all the way up to that critical moment when I finally had to decide – stay on the highway, heading towards home, or veer off through the middle of the desert towards Big Bear.  In the end, despite the late hour, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get outside, and so with a squeal of tires, I was off the highway and driving through the rolling sandy hills.  An hour and a half later, just past 4:00pm, I pulled into the north parking lot of the Holcomb Valley Pinnacles, with no real idea of what I was doing. I always keep spare gear and water in my car though, so I put on my pack and set off down the trail, hoping I might be able to find some friends and snag a climb or two before dark.

The funny thing was though, as soon as I started hiking, I was just so ridiculously excited to be out of the car and tramping through the wilderness, that I didn’t even care if I found anyone to climb with. Even though I was in a familiar place with people all around, the split second decision and the lack of a plan made it feel like a much bigger, wilder adventure than it actually way.  I felt like I could do anything!

As luck would have it, after hiking around the area for some time I did stumble upon some friends from my climbing gym. I joined up with them and we all had a great time climbing several fun 10’s in an area of the Pinnacles that I had never visited before. It was getting dark then and we had just started packing up when I saw it – a beautiful, vertical line of crimps wandering up an opposing wall. I looked it up on Mountain Project and saw that the route was Drug of Choice, 5.12a.

Vertical, crimpy routes are certainly my drug of choice when it comes to climbing and despite the fact that it was getting dark, I really wanted to climb this route.  My friends were amazing and agreed that I should definitely give it a try. On my first attempt I had to take at the second bolt in order to work out a delicate foot sequence. But when my belayer lowered me after reaching the anchors, I just knew.

I pulled the rope, tied in again, and without even resting, jumped straight back on the route.  Like everything else about that afternoon, my second attempt was beautiful and flawless. I reached the top with the biggest smile on my face, so excited about this perfectly unexpected send, this perfectly unexpected day!  My friends were whooping and hollering their support from down below, while I sat at the top for a moment, taking in the view; the rising moon, the setting sun, the sky on fire.  It was such a wonderful way to end a long day.  I was so grateful to have such supportive friends, and so happy for this opportunity to spend a surprise evening at Holcomb.  The long drive home seemed so insignificant now.

I think life is like that sometimes.  It can become so planned and structured, that we forget the joy that can be found in the detours, the surprises we might find when we’re not looking for them.  We can get so caught up in details and responsibilities – work, getting home late, putting extra miles on the car – that we forget the value of letting it all go every once in awhile. We forget the magic and the wonder that exists in simply doing, in simply being alive.

It was quite nice to be reminded.

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