Family Vacation to California

I’ve been out of town for the last two weeks on a family vacation in North Central California, mainly about 30 minutes east of Sacramento.  Good times with the family, and snuck out to climb in the early morning quite a few times.  One thing I found out is that while mornings are the coolest timeframe, it can be frustrating to work something hard, because the conditions just get continually worse as the day goes on.

The first place I checked out was a newer area called the Firestones.  It’s two boulders that sit right off I-80 and at the edge of an area burned out by  a big forest fire a few years back.  Elijah and I warmed up on the north boulder which has about 6-7 main lines on it ranging from v0 to maybe v8ish.  The boulder is split by several horizontal cracks and changes from a slab at the south end to a nice overhang with good holds at the north end.

Elijah bouldering on the North boulder at the Firestones

The south boulder is quite a bit taller and home to about 6-7 main lines up to about v11.  The proudest line (Big Monster) climbs out a roof on slopers, then crimps, followed by a big dyno to a horizontal rail and then follows an arete feature up the tallest face.  Thankfully the line has a beautiful landing.

Sasquatch bouldering on the south boulder at the Firestones

The next outing was a solo mission to a small suburban boulder garden called Deer Creek Park in Rocklin, Ca.  It’s an old quarry area that was turned into a local park full of granite boulders.   Like any urban area, there is some graffiti and trash, but it wasn’t too bad.  I packed out a small grocery bag the first day, and it seemed like a short cleanup day would take care of the rest. Libby and I also came back the next evening to check it while the kids were at an Arcade/Lazer Tag night.

In total there are about 50 or so problems up to v10 of varying quality, with most of them being pretty fun.  I went twice and was surprised to not see anyone either time.

The Saddle Boulders may have been the coolest place we checked out. The approach to the boulders is a gravel road that sits on an abandoned railroad track and drives through a series of old railroad tunnels.  The tunnels are filled with beautiful graffiti art.

Graffiti Art in the tunnels

Graffiti Art in the tunnels

The boulders themselves sit in a high alpine forest that feels really remote (because it is).  The guidebook only lists the problems on the two main boulders (about 30-40), and has a little topo with other boulders.  I would guess the area has quite a bit of potential for future development as everything listed on the topo is within 5 minutes of the parking.  We walked around and explored and found tons of boulders that looked fantastic.  Many of them have obviously been cleaned, but some looked as though the hadn’t been touched in years.

Libby and Elijah hanging out in the forest

Next up for the family was a trip west to silicon valley (for the computer geek) and into San Francisco.  Since we were in the area, we headed up to Castle Rock State Park to check out the sandstone.  The area was a lush green forest high atop coastal mountains.  Along parts of the road you could look down to the pacific on one side and to San Francisco Bay on the other.  The drawback was that it was windy, rainy, and cold.  Not optimal conditions for climbing.  Nonetheless Libby, Elijah and I rallied and joined a group of 10-15 others who were climbing at a small cluster of boulders called the Magoos.

In the final stretch I was able to sneak away for one more early morning trip out.  I headed back to the Firestones to polish off Big Monster (one of the top ten problems I’ve ever climbed), then headed to an area known as Rainbow.  Short on time, I only check out a few boulders at Rainbow.  One of them is an incredible tall boulder called the Jawbone.  With a v7 of the same name which was super intimidating but really good.

Gary got more pics I’ll try and get loaded soon, and I have more video that I’m working on putting together.

There were probably a dozen other areas in North Tahoe that I didn’t even get a chance to check out.  More for another trip!!!!