Sunday, March 2, 2008

Here's a pictorial tour of our winter shelter for those of you that won't have a chance to visit before the end of April...

Our little home here in the desert, and our trusty sentra! We still love it, even more now that we don't live in it!

Gotta love that porch... not to mention the man on it!! Ahhh, life is good!

Morning sun sheds its light on our dining room!

...which also happens to be our "sitting room"...

... and our "kitchenette"!! It's so simple. I love it.

The congos next to the fridge... and into the bedroom...

where all the magic takes place...

and the computer nook... which is all attched to the...

Oh! and lets not forget the walk in closet... can finally unpack my 1 duffle bag of clothes : )

Just for the record... Josh has more shoes than I do!

This is the veiw from our bedroom window. One day last week, there was one end of the rainbow out the back window...

and the other end of the rainbow was outside the other bedroom window!! I thought that was so cool. That's what we woke up to on one of our days off last week. That's our home, for now anyway!

Here's some pics from last week, we took a drive down to the south entrance of the park called Cottonwood Springs. Wildflowers were abounding!! It is so beautiful. The locals said they haven't had a bloom like this in four years. This year should be great for the flowers because of all the rain this winter. The joshua tree in our driveway is about to burst too! Surely we'll have blooms this week. The joshua tree, or yucca brevifolia is actually in the lily family! We'll see if the flower is similar to that of the lilys we're familiar with.

Teddybear Cholla field. This one small area was all cholla cactus as far as you could see. Apparently the moisture, sunlight and elevation were perfect for the plant to flourish. Be careful though... they jump!! (Pictures were taken minutes before I got one stuck in my thumb, they're so hard to get out I almost passed out!!)

What else have we been up to? Well... climbing, of course!!! We are in Joshua Tree!

Josh and Ian's summit of Rainbow Buttress two weeks ago, in Red Rocks Nevada

Yeh! Josh on one the Mel Cracks (5.10c) cranking it out.

There's me on Baby Roof (5.8) in the North Wonderland.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Some of Paulina's Pictures from December:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"The desert either sucks you in or spits you out!"

I guess we got sucked in! Writing from our new apartment here in Joshua Tree, California. Right now I am listening to the wind howl outside, and I am very grateful for four walls and a roof! I suppose I'll try and catch you up since our last post... our rainy arrival to JTree in early december. Ahhh... feels like only yesterday we were living in our cold smelly tent!

About a week into our stay in the park, we wondered on down into town for some burgers and beer, and we stumbled upon Crossroads Cafe... the climbers' hub, I guess you could say. There we met the kind and welcoming woman behind the counter, Bernadette. She informed us she too was from Pennsylvania, and was living out of her truck with her boyfriend. They had been on the road for eight months at the time. She told us where we could find free camping (the park was $15 bucks a night!) and invited us to go climbing with her and her beau the next day. There we met Ian (Bernadette's fella), Eric who also lives out of his vehicle ( from Santa Cruz, but originally from Canada) and Paulina (from Boston, but originally from St. Petersburg, Russia). We learned Paulina and Eric would be camping in the park too for the next few weeks and decided we'd all share a site and save some cash.

One thing led to another, and we all became friends... Eric, Ian and Bernadette are all seasoned "dirtbag climbers" and took us, the "noobies"under their wings. For a more thourough discussion of this term "dirtbags" see one of Ian's posts from last year:

Shortly after we met them, Ian and Bernadette decided to get an apartment and jobs at the local cafe (this has been the way they spent the last few winters... replenishing funds for their next take off). Bernadette, being the sweetest thing ever, began inviting us over for dinner and showers almost weekly. We were a bit envious of their situation. It's smart to work during the winter and take off for summer and fall... it's often cold and the days are short. We began to see we have much to learn of this nomadic lifestyle... these guys knew what they were doing.

So we climbed and communed and knitted for the rest of December, then we headed to Boise to leave our "home" at Tom and Lisa's as we flew to PA for Christmas. It was a great stay at both parents' houses. We spent some real quality time with everyone, and ate lots of food. It was a little hard to adjust to the first Christmas as a married couple. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to Aunt Lucille's for the first time in a long time, being that we spent that night with the Hardings. That gathering is one of the only times of the year I see much of that side of the family, I was truly dissapointed. Praise God that life is eternal, and we musn't squeeze all our time together into this short time on earth. I think of that concept often. That's what my Dad told me when we were dancing together at the wedding. It makes me feel better when I start to miss home. Thanks to our families for letting us freeload for a couple of weeks over the holidays. New Years Eve was the best sushi I've ever had... with our new "friends"... I think we might be on to a new tradition, but next time we'll skip the sake! : )

So upon our return to "the pit" and its simple pleasures, we began to think more of the "work now play when it's warmer and the days are longer" concept. In a matter of one week, we had both scouted out some jobs... me as a cook/server in a cafe, and Josh as a subsitute for the school district. The same week we found a little apartment a few miles from town and the park. Leslie, the woman we are subletting from is a kayak instructor and will be living out of her truck in Baja California until the end of April. God must've orchestrated all of the happenings of that week, because it went better than we could've imagined.

We have regained new motivation to climb on our precious and few days off together. We have rediscovered a longing we have for eachother when we are apart (that didn't happen very often over the last 5 months!). And we are replenishing our travel funds for the next big adventure. Our place here is beautiful, the community here has embraced us, and all in all life is good. God is good. I'll post some pictures soon. I must be off to work soon. Josh just woke up... time for breakfast.

Love you all. Miss you. Please drop us a line... love getting messages from you.

Our new address:

Josh and Maria Harding
P.O. Box 221
Joshua Tree, CA 92252
(the post office doesn't deliver directly to our home... the road quality is very poor)

Friday, November 30, 2007

The long awaited update, sorry!

Sorry about not being more diligent in keeping this more updated (for your sake and mine)! I guess we left you all back in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming!! That was almost a month and four states ago! Well. We met some really awesome people in Wyoming. God led us to Lander Church of Christ on a Sunday and they were so good to us. One couple from the church, Tom and Sarah took us out for lunch then another couple, Beth and Jeff Leafgreen invited us to their home for dinner and bible study. They were so kind, they offered us showers, then to do laundry, then they let us stay in their spare bedroom!! That was a real treat since we had been sleeping in literally freezing wheather all week. So, that lifted our spirits and reminded us that God and all his people are on our side. This gave us motivation to go and visit Tom and Lisa in Boise (besides, we needed somewhere to declare recidency so we could get some insurance, but to no avail). We took off the next morning from the Leafgreens, stopped in Jackson Hole to see Molly for a night, then drove to Boise.

Tom and Lisa were great, as usual... called them last minute to tell them we were coming and we had no plans of how long we'd stay. Regardless, they took us in and fed us and entertained us for almost a week. We even got to crash their church book group while they were discussing a book Josh and I had recently read, "Sex God" by Rob Bell. Really great book. Makes you think a lot about marriage and sexuality and how it realates to God and who we are called to be in Christ. Josh started a debate on torture at the book group. It was great. Thanks to Ashling for sharing her bedroom with us : )

After Boise, we were itching to climb again... so we drove to Salt Lake City, UT. There we waited for a package of antibiotics for Josh from Dr. Mom- thank you a million... he's all better now!! We climbed a little bit in Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside the city, but it was so cold, we didn't last too long. We'll definately have to go back there when it gets warmer again... the rock climbing was so much fun, and that canyon was so beautiful. The one night just as we were coming down from a climb we spotted a HUGE white mountain goat!!! It was awesome...

Can you see the mountain goat? He's just above the crack we had just climbed!
We got cold, and tired of the city scene, then drove to Moab, UT... the desert! We got to Moab at about midnight and pulled in the camground then got our car stuck in the sand!!! We couldn't get it out! We just grabbed our sleeping bags and left the car there and decided we'd try to get it out in the morning. After sleeping just next to a city for a week in northern Utah, the desert was so so quiet. God blessed us with a wonderful sleep despite our car troubles. In the morning we saw a pack of coyotes run right in front of us at the campsite. They were so cute... just little dogs. They were way more scared of us than us them. It was cool to see the gentle creatures we had been hearing make these horrific screaming noises in the morning. That's just how they communicate with eachother. Maybe they think our voices horrific too? After we spent some time and effort (and money) getting our vehicle out (thanks mom for the tech support) we spent a couple days touring around Arches National Park. It was so beautiful there... huge red sandstone formations, petrified sand dunes, and white capped mountains in the back... a landscape unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Josh in his new wind breaker! This was a cool spot in the park! An artsy shot on our hike out to delicate arch

Me doing dancer pose under the "Delicate Arch" Can you see Josh amongst all the towers??

There we hooked up with Steph and her crew from Telluride, CO. We climbed with them for a weekend which was so nice. Climbing entails so much responsibility that sometimes it's exhausting when it's always just Josh and I. It was great to work as a group for a change versus working as a pair, if that makes any sense. What great company, too. We had such an awesome time with them.
Josh climbing the scariest roof ever! What a great lead! Felt like we were in the Gunks again!
Me on my first 5.9 trad lead! I was so scared, but it was fun when it was done!! Woohoo!
They invited us back to Telluride for Thanksgiving too!! So, turkey day was a blast. Telluride is a beautiful, swank, little ski town tucked away in a canyon. Just beautiful. Steph showed us around town, and we got to spend sometime staying with her at her church, Telluride Christian Fellowship. What a wonderful group of disciples!!! After thanksgiving dinner we spent the night singing worship and dancing and hula hooping... so much fun!!! We woke up the next morning to about 5 inches of snow, so plans of meeting friends in Indian Creek got cancelled, and we ending up staying at the church for a few more days. Not a bad deal... we went out to visit the farm Steph lived and worked on this summer ans stayed there for a night at Sarah and Gerrard's place. Friends from Chicago, Ryan and Merridith cooked us an amazing meal. We had so much fun with all those guys... we hope to connect with them in the not so distant future.

Meridith, Steph, Trent, and Kelly at TCF Thanksgiving dinner All of us jammin out and worshiping after eating!

Jesse, from Taoz, New Mexico and I Steph, Trent, and Hubby on the free gondola up to Mountain Village!
So, we then went back to Moab, tried to climb Castleton tower, but it was too cold. Spent some time in the library researching straw bale houses insted, then headed south to Zion National Park. We hiked up to observation point in the park and found out Josh is a chipmunk whisperer! Ha!

Josh in Echo Canyon, Zion nat'l park, Utah "Observation Point" overlooking Zion Canyon

Yes, that is a chipmunk!!! There must've been atleast six of them around him! Can you count all three in this picture??
They were so used to people stopping at this peak to eat lunch they were swarming us at the sound of a crumpling bag. It was almost better than the view of the canyon! The next day we went for a much needed run then headed even further south to Las Vegas. Man, that was such a dark city... drt and trash everywhere, literally and figuratively. I hope I never have to go back. We went in, grabbed a guide book for Joshua tree and decided to push on to Southern California. Josh and I were truly disturbed by the state of our species in this lost city.
So, we've finally made it to Joshua Tree! Who Hoo! Last night we arrived late, but were actually warm!! The tent is a much happier place to be when we aren't freezing our butts off if ya know what I mean! But wouldn't you know... we woke up this morning to rain! RAIN IN THE DESERT! What is that?? This place gets 7 inches of rain a year, and it has been steadily raining for about 12 hours now. Everyone is talking about how rare this is, and we can't believe our luck! So, we've been sitting in this coffee shop now since 10:30 this morning (it's now 4:45). We're going to go catch a movie in a little while. As I write this I'm thinking maybe all this rain is a blessing in disguise... after all, at least we won't have to worry about the wild fires coming our way for a little while, and all the wild flowers should bloom like crazy when the sun comes out again! I'll post some pics if it turns out as hoped.

I'll sign off now. Really looking forward to coming home for Christmas on the 18th! We love & miss you guys...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Greetings from Wyoming

Susan the naturalist loving life at Eagle Bluff

A typical Minnesota sunset from the bluff.

3,371 miles as of last week when we left Minnesota.

Hey everyone! We're here in Lander, Wyoming where we've been freezing out butts off for almost a week now. We left Susan's in Minnesota and headed to Devil's Tower where it was very cold with a snow storm on the way, so we decided to climb for a day (sadly, no summit... but next year for sure).

The tower is a cluster of igneous intrusions in the middle of the Northern Plains of Wyoming. It's unique presence in the otherwise feautreless rolling hills of northeast Wyoming caused the native Americans of the area to worship it. They actually still do to this day. We saw some "prayer scarves" hung in the trees surrounding it's base... it felt little eerie if I do say (not to disrespect the deeply spiritual practice of the natives). To us as climbers, the tower is 800ft. of vertical cracks with a mere half acre grassy summit. So, we were all gung-ho to summit this thing, but as we drove up to it we were seriously humbled by intimidation. This is world class vertical crack climbing here, a whole new ball game for us, as our whole three weeks of traditional rock climbing skills have been aquired on the horizontal cracks of the Gunks.

Devil's Tower, the veiw from our campsite.

Josh and I among the cotton wood trees at our beautiful campsite at the base of the tower.

Besides, it was cold and windy, and a snow storm was on the way. These factors not helping build the mental commitment we would need to muster in order to undertake this summit. We decided we'd just do couple of pitches and return next summer for our summit. We'll gain some experience with vertical cracks this winter in the desert, and come back with a bit more confidence.

So after two days and a gorgeous full moon night at Devil's Tower, we were headed to Tensleep. Plans changed as soon as we hit the Big Horn Mountain Range where everything was COLD and icy. Our sights were then directed a little further south to Lander. So, here we are. We're camping in Sinks Canyon State Park. The rock here and style of climbing here is very similar to Ten Sleep or Paint Rock Canyon, so we haven't been dissapointd by the change in plans. It's still pretty cold here though. On Halloween morning, we unexpectedly woke to a frozen campsite. We also had a little problem with deer mice taking refuge from the cold IN OUR CAR!!! This was quite scary as we just read an article on mice carrying Hantavirus and transmitting it to climbers living out of their car last year in Colorado (about 6% of all deer mice carry the virus)! So Josh insisted we immmediately drive to town, empty out all our belongings, vaccuum, and wipe down the whole car with bleach water. The Sentra's never been so clean. We've been setting mouse traps every night since then in the car, and sadly, I think the deer mouse population around our campsite has really taken a hit. :(

Happy Halloween!!!

We've been waiting on a few packages from the family which finally came today. We're dying to get down south. Getting out of your sleeping bag in the morning to face cooking oatmeal with freezing hands is becoming quite difficult. We put off getting out of the tent every morning until our blatters are about to explode!! It's amazing how much you miss the comfort of four walls and a roof as soon as the cold creeps in. Getting our packages today was great!! Whoo hoo!! Feels like Christmas... by the way Mom Di- Josh wants to know where his Halloween socks are!! :) Seriously though- thanks for the granola and seeds... they will help to keep us regular in the face of too much camp food!! We'll climb here for one more day, then we're off to the desert. May I just say, praise God for warm places to go and the means to get there. When we figure out where we're going next, we'll let ya'll know.

Can't beat a view like this! Another beautiful sunset while making dinner at the campsite at Sinks Canyon.

As for Josh and I, we're learning new things about each other everyday, and falling deeper in love anyway : ) We are learning many lessons in patience, grace, and mercy being within 6 feet of each other 24-7. We've decided that if we can do this for a year and still be so in love, we can do anything. We've been meeting some really great random people along the way that are encouraging us when we need it most. Married Life is interesting and fun, and certainly a blessing from God.

Missing you all, Love You!

Mitzi and Josh