A New Life (in the Desert)


On August 5, my family and I departed our longtime home of Roseburg, Oregon, and headed south in our RV (piloted by yours truly) and small Honda (with Brook and our two youngest kids.) Over the next couple of days, we drove over 1000 miles and arrived at our new home in St. George, Utah in the afternoon of August 7. Our first month here was a stressful one. It had cost us significantly more in gas to get here than we were anticipating, and we had come here with a tight budget that allowed no room for miscalculation, so we didn’t have enough for a month of rent at the KOA when we got here. We quickly found jobs, but had to depend on the kindness of friends to avoid having to spend time living in the parking lot of a Walmart. Eventually we found a spot to park our RV at the home of a guy named Terry, and that is where we are now.

Both Brook and I have jobs we really like, in fact, I have three jobs right now: working as a baker at Paradise Cafe & Bakery, a hiking guide with Desert Cliffs Fitness and as a free lance photographer. Brook works as a teacher’s aide at the Dixie Montessori charter school, and our two youngest kids attend this same school. It is so refreshing to come from a town with pretty bad unemployment to a city where the job market is booming.

Since arriving in St. George, I have gotten into the outdoors well over 30 times. I have gone rock climbing, mountaineering and hiking (not to mention swimming) more than I have in the past two years. And I have barely touched all the amazing hikes within and surrounding St. George. This place is truly a world-class outdoor adventure arena. There are hundreds, if not thousands of rock routes within 30 miles, trails branch out everywhere and the terrain is incredibly diverse. For rock climbing there are areas composed of sandstone, basalt, limestone and even granite. There are flat trails, steep death scrambles and everything in between for hiking. There are multiple large arches in the immediate vicinity of town. I haven’t even mentioned that this place is one of the absolute best places in the United States to mountain bike (since I haven’t gone mountain biking — yet.) The world-famous Red Bull Rampage is held yearly in nearby Virgin, Utah. Oh, and this is also a great place to go skim boarding. The Virgin river is ideal for the sport since it tends to run wide, flat and shallow.

There really is an seemingly endless amount of outdoor recreational opportunities here. You could go to a different place every day for a year and still not have to drive further than 20 miles from the city center. Epic.

Some of the places I have hiked and climbed these past 10 weeks:

Hiked the Padre Canyon trail three times (twice with clients) in Snow Canyon State Park

Explored Pioneer Park on numerous occasions


Scrambled through the narrows (at Pioneer Park) several times

Rock climbed at Soul Asylum, Prophesy Wall, Kelly’s Rock (at the Woodbury Road crags), and Snow Canyon.

Hiked part of the Red Reef trail

Hiked up Shinobe Kibe, a mesa and sacred site

Hiked most of the way up the Gunsight route on Red Mountain

Hiked the larger, northern cinder cone (twice) of the Santa Clara volcano

Walked a large (10 mile) loop combining the Gardner Peak, Canal, Forsyth, and Whipple trails


Climbed the sub-summit of Gardner Peak


Hiked up to 9,200 feet on the Oak Grove trail


Hiked a part of the Gila trail

Hiked a large (14 mile) loop combining the Chuckawalla, Beck Hill, Scout Cave, Johnson Canyon and Paradise Rim trails. Oh, and saw this desert tortoise:

photo courtesy of John Kemp

photo courtesy of John Kemp

Explored the undesignated recreation area behind our home numerous times


Swam in Quail Creek and Sand Hollow reservoirs

Went to Zion National Park


There is a lot to do here in St. George and I am not even writing about all the other amazing things to do and see in this fabulous city that aren’t outdoor centered. We love it here. It was hard at first but now that we have some stability this town and area has really become home. The people are really nice, the weather is fabulous (St. George and the vicinity averages about 300+ days of sunshine per year), and it is a great place to raise kids.

In the days to come, I will start writing about individual adventures in more detail.





I shall return

Well, it is getting time to clean off the cobwebs and dust off the ol’ Alpinedon blog. It really has been far too long. For the last 2.5 years I have been attending school at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. In a little over a week I will graduate with my Associate’s Degree. I have worked so hard to get to this point, and I am really looking forward to taking a year off from school and getting back to enjoying the outdoors like I used to. Only this time I will be bringing the perspective of a moderately-trained journalist and videographer instead of an untrained writer. Hopefully this will add to the quality of the website.

So, while I don’t have a lot of time over the next week and a half, after that we should start seeing some more blogs about outdoor recreation, particularly climbing. On top of that, my family and I will be soon relocating to beautiful, sunny St. George, Utah, an outdoor rec Mecca if there ever was one. So that too will provide me with some new epic adventures.

I apologize for being so slack on my blogging duties, but for those of you who are still checking in, there should be some cool new posts coming up soon. Thanks and see you soon. Don.

Chapter One: The Decision


My wife, our three kids and I have been living with my elderly mother for close to ten months. And while it has been good at times, it has also been explosively bad, and so for the last several months we have been trying to find a place to live, with no luck. Our rental history has not been as good as it used to be due mainly to my former long-term battle with chronic pain. In any case, we were pretty depressed about the prospects of finding a place to live, when it dawned on me — what about an RV? I ran the idea by Brook (my wife) and she was all for it. Her mother had set aside a good chunk of money for us to get a place, and she also approved our idea for an rv, so we started looking for (initially) a fifth-wheel to buy. 

Well, after several false-starts and dead-ends brought about by a rare Southern Oregon snowstorm, we ended up driving to Eugene to look at a 30′ 1988 Gulfstream Sun Sport RV. It was out of our price range but we asked about financing and Tony, the dealer, gave us a chance and worked with us. We left the lot blown away by how fast it had ended up happening. Two days later we drove back up to pick it up. That’s when the adventure really began.


I have never driven an RV before. Driving down 7th Avenue in Eugene during rush hour traffic was a white-knuckle experience to say the least. Then, as I was merging into I-5, a big truck up ahead cut someone off and all of a sudden traffic came to a screeching halt. As I was merging. I knew there was no way in hell I was going to be able to stop this behemoth in time, so I had to make serious eveasive maneuvers into the fast lane, cutting in front of an SUV in order to do so. I was shaking after that,

Then we pulled into the gas station. I shut it off and the thing lets off the loudest backfire I have ever heard in my life. People yelled they were so startled. This was off to a rough start, It was only going to get worse.

As we headed south on the interstate, I started noticing that I wasn’t able to see the road very well, but it was foggy and dark and I thought maybe I just wasn’t used to the RV yet. Nope. Pretty soon I noticed that even if I turned the lights on and off real quick that there was no difference. Right after that I lost power, and I had to pull off to the side of the road. I turned it off and it wouldn’t start again. Brook and the kids had been following me in the car and by the time I went to talk to her, she was already on the phone with Tony.


I ended up using the auxiliary power to get it restarted and the lights came back on and it seemed to be okay again. I told Tony I would try to get it to get it to Rice Hill, the nearest town, and we ended up making it there with no issues. Anyway, to make a long story a little less long, we decided to try and make it to Roseburg, and did, although I had to use auxiliary power a lot in order to keep the lights on. We ended up parking it in front of my Mom’s house until Tony could come down and replace the alternator (later we found out that the parts company had given him a truck alternator instead of an RV alternator.) 


We are still parked in front of my Mom’s house, basically because we needed to make a few more minor repairs to it, but we have spent every night in it so far and absolutely love it! It is 25 years old but has 65,000 original miles and is in great condition. There are, like any home, boat or RV, minor issues to be fixed. Tonight we will be pulling up anchor and heading to an RV park in Sutherlin.

We have our own home now. We have downsized and culled a lot of material baggage from our lives in order to make this move, but already we feel lighter for it. This feels like the beginning of an exciting adventure. 

More to come…

Long Time, No Write.

Okay, it has been a very long time indeed. Half a year long. I am not sure what started this huge gap in my writing, but for the last several months it has been because of school. I had missed the Winter term due to some health issues, but resumed studies in April. This Spring term, I really realized I needed to buckle down a lot more in school, so I dedicated myself this term to it. Which means I basically didn’t climb at all, didn’t write anything beyond schoolwork and ignored the world (besides my family, although they might disagree) and focused on getting good grades. It paid off too.

So this is just me saying hello and letting people know that I do still exist, this blog still exists and at some point it will be remade into something much more remarkable.

Also: I have now upgraded my camera equipment. Instead of using a GoPro Hero2 and a Sony 480p video camera, I am now using a Canon T3I with beautiful High-Def and equipped with a Rode VideoMicPro for amazing sound. So when I do get to the mountains and rivers, I will be getting some truly incredible footage. But, it will probably have to wait for later summer, since I will be taking  classes at the college during June and July.

I am changing. This is the first time in my life that I have willingly allowed myself to forgo outdoor adventures in order to focus on something else. I believe this will be worth it. I have one more year at Umpqua Community College and then I will be transferring to Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. There I hope to enroll in the Digital Motion Picture emphasis of the Mass Communications Degree. Just think how this blog will look when I get my bachelors!

Hope to be back here sooner next time!

A New Year, Some Thoughts

It is places like the Grand Canyon that make me feel the most alive

It is places like the Grand Canyon that make me feel the most alive

2012 was an interesting year for me as an avid outdoor adventurer. It was another down year in some ways, I hardly rock climbed at all, I only climbed three big mountains, and yet I still managed to get in a wide diversity of adventures, from rafting the upper North Umpqua to backpacking in the Grand Canyon. For a lot of people, this would have been an epic year. I guess it just shows where my standards are these days, and that is both a good thing and a bad thing.

This year, however, I would like to have a lot more adventures. These are my resolutions/goals and manifestations for 2013:

*Rock climb at least 20 times this year. Considering the amount of cragging available within an hour of my house, there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to accomplish this goal.

*Climb (or at least make a serious attempt) 10 big mountains this year. My list includes Rainier, Baker, Middle Sister, Jefferson, Whitney, Hood, Adams, and several others, but the first five are the most important.

*Kayak at least 20 times this year. I live on the North Umpqua river for goodness sake! Also, this list does not include the times when I just go in my backyard and paddle, I mean that I want to make at least 20 runs down the river.

*I want to get my family more active in the outdoors. Since Julia was born in 2011, we have not taken her on a single hike. Not one! Ridiculous. We just got out of the habit. The sad thing is (as if the above statement wasn’t sad enough), we went on many waterfall hikes while Brook was pregnant with JuJu and yet haven’t taken her to see a single one of these falls after her birth. Going to change that this year.

*Visit at least four national parks this year. Crater Lake is a little over an hour away. Rainier is half a day’s drive. Same with Lassen. If I climb Whitney, I will be in Sequoia/King’s Canyon NP.

*Start climbing more serious mountains with my eldest daughter, Zoe. She will be twelve in February, and this is a pretty typical age for kids to start climbing mountains that are a step up from hikes. We are planning on starting with Diamond Peak, McLoughlin (when they are still snow covered and require the use of an ice-axe and possibly crampons), Hood, Middle Sister and Whitney. I am also going to get her a new harness for her birthday, so we can resume rock-climbing together.

I am a better person when I get myself and my family into the great outdoors. Maybe living in the woods and on the river has jaded us a little bit, making us feel like we just have it all right here, and while it is absolutely beautiful here, there are so many places that are truly awesome that we need to get to. I certainly do. There is a huge difference between what we have here and what we could experience at a place like Crater Lake or Rainier. A sense of awe. A sense of power, a sense of humility.

I watched this video the other day, and it really reminded me of what I am missing when I don’t get to the really big places in the world, and it woke me up, made me realize what I long for. I need to go to places like Glacier, Zion and the Grand Canyon to tap into what has always been the most amazing feeling for me. It started when I first went to Yosemite as a child, and felt so small and yet so alive, and it will continue as long as I am able to get to these places.

So here’s hoping that this will be a fantastic year for me and for my family. I pray to the powers that be that I can get there often.


August 9th, 2012

Sad news in New Zealand as the search continues for three climbers who fell from Paritutu Rock. 

Paritutu Rock in New Zealand.

The grim news continues with word of a father and son falling on Mt. Rogers in British Columbia

An interesting story about a re-enactment of the first ascent of Mt. Baker in Washington.

Al Hancock and company wait out of wicked storm on K2

Denali is an amazing mountain. Tate Zandstra has written a very interesting article about two climbers.

A nice piece about a sea kayaking race in Minnesota

An awesome wingsuit video:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/38063361″>Dream Lines Part III – Wingsuit proximity by Jokke Sommer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/yetiguz”>YETIGUZ</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

A nice alpine climbing video:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/47276798″>The Hardest of the Alps</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user10188455″>LaFrenchTV</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Some sea kayaking:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/47015033″>Archipelago kayaking</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3104283″>Klas Rydstrand</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>