Trip Report by Native Eyewear Ambassador Kelly Halpin.
The offseason. A period of time in mountain towns that is both a blessing and a curse. While the town’s finally empty of tourists for the season, the weather begins to move in and push the outdoor enthusiasts back inside. Here in Jackson, Wyoming, we have maybe eight weeks of summer if we’re lucky, and cold weather the rest of the year. Fall temps begin to creep in near the end of August and closing people out of the alpine altogether by October. And then it’s a long, long wait until winter ski season turns on.
So what to do with the in-between months this fall? The easy option was to play in the Utah desert—a favorite of mine, but something I have done for years. So I needed something different but with equal adventure.
The answer was California. A land of sunshine, waves, and produce. A state that has everything from mountains to oceans, with a mild climate and an allure that draws people across the country. It was the perfect place for an offseason road trip.
My friend Alex was currently working on his surfing skills and trying to expand his climbing knowledge—so he made a perfect travel partner for my California adventure. I wanted to work on my surfing ability as well. We packed up a borrowed suburban with everything from running shoes to ropes to surfboards—oh and two dogs. Our plan was to begin in Truckee, cruise to the ocean, work our way down the coast, and finally end in Bishop before heading home to our Wyoming mountain town.
The first stop on our way to California was a quick tour of the Bonneville Salt Flats. A great pit stop between Salt Lake and Reno to stretch your legs and take a few artsy photos alongside the glassy reflections. A few hours further along I-80 and we landed in Truckee. The first morning I went out for a run in the forest. I have always loved the trees in Truckee. The butterscotch scent of the pines and the way the needles cover the trails—it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of California.
That afternoon it was time to climb. Alex and I drove up to Donner Pass to play with trad gear and run some solo laps up Kindergarten Crack—a two-pitch 5.5 route with a mellow walk off. He was just learning to crack climb and it was his first free solo, but Alex did extraordinarily well considering. He had a lot of patience and a good head game. After our climbing session, it was time to hit the road and head west to San Francisco.
I think San Francisco might be my favorite city in the United States. It has access to trails, surf, climbing, great food, and a well-rounded art scene. Our first day in the bay area was dreary and wet without a lot of good surf, so we spent the majority of the day working from a coffee shop next to the beach and ending the day with a trail run we found nearby on Trail Run Project. The second day we awoke to sun and, after a quick stop for dates and raw cheese at a nearby health store, headed up to Bolinas to get our boards in the water. I think it might have been the coldest water I have surfed in a long time, but incredibly fun all the same. Given Wyoming’s proximity to the ocean, it had been a few years since I had been able to ride my own board in the ocean. It felt really rewarding to still be able to catch waves on her.
The next stop was Santa Barbara. Warmer temps and warmer water. We stayed at the Wayfarer Inn—a modern hostel type hotel within walking distance of the beach and all the shops. Alex and I spent a few days running in the morning and surfing the afternoons at various breaks up and down the coast. For me the highlight wasn’t the surfing, but the evening farmer’s market. I packed my bag to the brim with local olive oils, fruit, nuts, and cheese. Our farmer’s markets back home had ended in September and didn’t have a fraction of the amount of produce of a California market. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh dates and persimmons.
For our final stop on our California offseason trip, we veered back north and inland to Bishop. The warmest days of our trip were behind us, but the high desert still held enough heat to maintain good sending temps for climbing. Bishop is well known amongst the climbing community for it’s immense and varied bouldering. It was a little too cold to hit the famous Buttermilk boulders on this trip, but we managed to get a really great session in at the Happys a little lower in elevation. Bouldering used to be my favorite kind of climbing and it had been many years since I had been in Bishop. It felt really good to chalk up my hands and smear some sticky rubber on the volcanic rock. Alex had never bouldered outside before so getting to see him send his first problems, even onsight a number of them, was one of the best parts of the trip. I have a feeling he will be back for more.
It was hard leaving California that last day. The trip had provided us with exactly what we had needed this offseason. We got one last chance to play in the sun and were leaving with sand in our hair and calluses on our hands, not to mention one last sunburn for the winter season. With the suburban packed full of fresh California produce, some tired pups, and a few satisfied adventurers, we headed back into the snowy mountains of Wyoming.