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The Cave goes West

Traveling individually and being on the road just never gets old. Especially if you get to travel the fascinating and breathtaking west of the United States of America which literally bursts of epic natural monuments.

Utah, Nevada and California – open spaces, extremity and wildlife.

Out of love towards the endless variety and vastness of this country and because of our passion for Backpacking we chose to come back for a second visit in fall 2012. To refresh the memories, to create new ones and to bring our understanding for being outdoors and adventure to the next level.

Starting in Cologne, Germany me (Raffael), my wife Janika and our Cave from Heimplanet  went on a journey we had been dreaming about for a while back then. Would the trip live up to its expectations? The highlights should be the Zion Canyon we would be returning to, Lake Powell with an adventurous Kayaktrip and 2 of the most famous mountains of the Sierra Nevada: Mt. Whitney and the Half Dome!

First Stop: Vegas. We then lost all our money and The Cave gambling and spent the next 10 days crying on the sidewalk. Just kidding. From Vegas straight to Utah in 2 days. All we did in Vegas was the rest of shopping we had to do, groceries and a bit of gear before we could take our rental jeep to the Colorado Plateau.

Second Stop: Monumental red sandstone. Giant Walls. Freezing Virgin River. Zion Canyon National Park. 4 days.

Arriving at Zion Canyon South Campground we first moved into our showoff tent The Cave and pumped, yes pumped, the beauty up. Everyone who was walking by had to stop to take a closer look at what was happening. We met so many people that night and kept telling everyone about Heimplanet and the concept that most of them found absolutely sensational.

A guy who knew people at North Face couldn’t get enough of The Cave and took pictures from every possible angle. He wanted to know every little detail about it so we ended up giving him a fact sheet. A very good way to start the first night with The Cave.

The Night whatsoever was way noisier than we expected. The wind was working the trees in the Canyon and sounded like a long, heavy  and very old train crossing  an intersection. The tent magically didn’t seem to care though and hardly moved atm all. Which is a huge difference in comparison to our old tent, where the layers  would press in your face or back, when the wind picked up. Regardless of not using the pegs The Cave did a very good job that first night.

The next morning we packed our gear and headed towards the Narrows of the Virgin River leaving the “Temple of Sinawava” full of expectations. This is where the giant red walls come so close to each other, that it gets hard to walk next to the Virgin river, which is only a couple of feet wide and cuts its way deeper and deeper in the limestone every single day. Because the walls are so close to each other and extremely high the sun struggles to throw some warming rays down there every now and then. It’s water especially in the morning is extremely cold and rarely gets warmer than 18°C. But we didn’t care too much about that, as the fascinating beauty of the scenery took our breaths away the deeper and further we got. When we finally hit the so called “Wall Street” we decided to have a break, soak up the atmosphere and warm up for a bit. What a magic spot to have a break! On the way back a warm breeze had managed to find its way in the canyon and made it very easy for us to return to The Cave very quickly and call it a day.

At night rain and thunderstorms haunted the area but we knew we could rely on the The Cave so no worries there.

The next morning we decided to cross Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel and check out the Zionplateau which offered us an amazing view over Zion Canyon. Back in the camping area we snacked away to be fit for the walk up “Angel’s Landing”. A 2.000 meter solitaire playfully surrounded by the Virgin River in the middle of Zion Canyon.

As we wanted to watch the sun set in the valley from the summit we had loads of spare time to eat our lunch and close our eyes for a bit as well as involving in a nice and long talk about politics, Obama, Socialism in Germany and the crisis in Europe in general with two very kind but brutally conservative locals from Utah.

The next morning we headed towards Kanab. We could not wait for our Kayaktrip!

Third Stop: Kanab and the jeweller that wanted to be an arms dealer too. Also: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. 2 Days.

Utah around here in Kanab seems to be like one would imagine Texas to be. We found a jewellery with the beautiful sign saying “Indian Art – Guns and jewellery”. Yeah right… . Next to beautiful necklaces rings and souvenirs you had the choice between the classic Ak47 rifle or a pumpgun, Anything the regular-everyday-normal guy needs. Crazy.. .

We spent the afternoon in the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. An amazing area with Sand Dunes in the colours of corals. We decided to call it an early night to gain some energy for the 5 day trip in our Kayak.

Fourth Stop: Page and Lake Powell. Or: The two of us, the Kayak and The Cave. 6 days.

With the doubleseater Kayak on the roof of our 4×4 and the esky full of food and water we hit the road towards the marina close to the town of page. It took us nearly forever to get everything on board when we arrived but we made it and soon found ourselves making the first steps towards endless waters and loneliness. We couldn’t believe our bananayellow kayak didn’t sink and started paddling in confidence.

Surprisingly enough we did very well from the beginning on considering the fact that Janika sat in a kayak for the 2nd time in her life. The 5 days passed by extremely quick and were an extraordinary experience. We spent the nights in beautiful small bays without a living soul around. Breathtaking sunsets, snakes and bats around The Cave and experiencing the fun you can have without anything but nature.

Despite the beauty and memories we gained on this part of our journey the night in the motel and an extensive sunset dinner over glen canyon probably was the best return to civilisation we could have dreamed of.

Fifth stop: Oh the road again. Nevada, Death Valley and the hippies. 2 Days. 

We got up early around 7 and crossed Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs plus other spectacular sceneries and kept driving towards California and Death Valley aiming for the Camping Area in Panamint Springs. The impressive and untouched sand dunes of Stovepipe Wells in the Death Valley are definitely something worth mentioning. With temperatures around 43°C at this stage we could see it becoming even hotter down at the basin… .

Rocking up at Panamint Valley we went for the one camping area offering the most shade. It didn’t really protect from the heat though.

We enjoyed the heat in our little oasis. Here The Cave was our ice breaker with a young hippie family that liked our tent a lot. We decided to spent the night with them and their 4 year old son who despite the heat wanted to start a fire to get the marshmallows going. It was late at night when the temperatures sank significantly when we could first think about going to bed.

Sixth Stop: The Sierra Nevada and the bears that didn’t show up or the race to the top of Mt. Whitney (4.400 mtrs.) that wasn’t much of a race. 3 days

We started the biggest challenge of our trip at 3 AM. Geared up with Headlamps we took of in the darkest dark we had ever seen with acceptable pace. We were highly motivated facing an all in all 40 kilometer hike there and back again.

I felt fit as but Janika soon began to fight with the dark and fatigue. When the sun came up we were making miles at first but my wife got slower and slower. We then found other hikers that had the same problem and were ready to split up, so no one had to walk by him self.

We managed to get up to 3.700 meters when Janika tripped and after that she showed some symptom of altitude sickness. We had come a long way already but I had to leave Janika at the 3/4 Mark of the route overlooking a lake. I joined another group and continued my way up the so called, 100 switchbacks, the hardest part of the route. The last metres were pure torture. Without taking any breaks, you can clearly feel the difference between the air on the ground and up there, in the head, the lungs and most of all the legs. The reward when finally reaching the summit though: Unbelievable! Overlooking the magnificent Sierra Nevada with it’s numerous peaks from its highest point.

The Way back revealed something essential: Head? Lungs? Legs? No problems at all! Picked the wife up after 6 hours waiting at the lake, and returned to The Cave. 40 km and 16 hrs later.

Seventh Stop: The Junction. The Valley. and again: No bears. A long walk and the Dome summit.

The day after wasn’t as bad as expected. We were surprised ourselves, how easy we coped but nevertheless decided to stop over at the Yosemite Valley hotsprings for a rejuvenating bath in 40°c water. What a treat for body and soul!

We then met Janika’s Sister and husband to climb the Half Dome together. Another 26 km walk ahead we started, knowing that the biggest challenge would await us when almost there. The last bit of the climb is a very steep part that offers support by metal ropes you got to pull yourself up on. We all managed pretty well though and I again found myself at the highest point around for miles and miles. Another Highlight in my opinion and this time: Janika on board. What a legend she is! And what a way to finish our adventure!

Eighth stop: Which is not a real stop anymore. Headed towards Pacific to Berkley, relaxed, family, Birthday and laters.

One last time we slept in The Cave after the Dome experience and agreed to call it our second home from now on. Three and a half weeks later we enjoyed every second of turning it down a notch over the last two days and prepping to go back home.

See you later adventure and hello good old germany it was. Back here playing with the thought to set The Cave up in the garden makes me realise that even the second time the place totally live up to its expectations.