Here is our story. Use #TepuiFest15 to share yours!
What a blast! We don't know if it's the off-roading, the live music, the campfires burning 24/7 or just the joy of camping and playing games with your Tepui community, but something keeps on bringing so many familiar faces back to Hollister Hills for TepuiFest, and we love it! And of course, somebody must've told somebody else because we were equally glad to have made a bunch of new friends this year. Thank you all so much for driving out to Hollister Hills again this year for TepuiFest 2015!
Sometimes things just start off a little off. We were concerned about a fire which had started burning in the Hollister area just days before the event was set to take place, but the good news was that we lucked out and it wasn't an issue! The California State Parks Rangers stationed in Hollister cleared the area safe and the event as a a GO just a day before, due to the diligent work of the local firefighters (thank you!) and the desperately-needed overnight rainfall Hollister Hills received on Wednesday. The second thing which caught us off guard were the challenging traffic conditions. We heard that the Grapevine was shut down for hours, which delayed many guests on the road from SoCal, and there was also an accident up the road from the group campsite on Friday, which took out power to the area! Of course this happens when everyone was slated to arrive, register, get a beer and listen to some live tunes. Everything got slowed down as we waited...and waited...and waited...for the food, band, firewood, as well as the others attendees to finally get through the mess and show up. Fortunately the delicious beer from Discretion Brewing in Santa Cruz made the trip earlier in the day, so at least we had refreshments. Again, thanks to all for the positive attitudes and patience as we dealt wit the situation. Everyone and everything arrived, we ate a hot meal, danced to a lively band called Pasto Seco, played horseshoes and more, and the first night concluded amongst campfires and friendly chatter.
Hot breakfast and strong coffee catered by Mexxi's set us right in the AM, and folks started breaking camp and warming up their engines early. Saturday brought a variety of activities, of all types. Some of us chose to enjoy our weekend in the outdoors with the activities around camp, and the kids on bikes and go carts kept the entertainment level high, even as we sat around in camp chairs tossing frisbees and playing corn hole. It's camping, why rush it? Others chose to participate in the activities which required a little more gasoline and diesel.
While go you could go wheeling solo or with some friends through the epic courses and trails in the Hollister Hills SVRA, there were also several opportunities to get out there on guided tours and through specific obstacles. The North California Land Rover Club was there, and gave a handy primer course as people finished up their coffee, then led a group of a dozen or so 4-wheelers out on a seven-mile off-road tour of the park. For those of you who were looking for a little more of a challenge, be aware that we may be heading into a little gnarlier terrain next year, but this was a pretty nice overview of some of the trails which we don't get to all there time. Really nice scenery from the top of a big hill on a clear blue day, even when you are in low-4, tilted at 30 degrees starboard...
Another promising activity was the Blind Driver course, where a blindfolded driver was guided through a small obstacle course by a spotter, and timed, with prizes for the quickest time (took into account obstacle-contact penalties) given out that evening. Again, while the concept was good, we plan to make a few tweaks if we run that one again next year, to get your blood pumping a bit. Let's put that differential lock and reinforced seatbelt to use!! Of course we won't plan on pitching anyone off a cliff, but look for a little upgrade to the challenge level, or at least an addition of an advanced course. Back at camp, individual lunch prep started, and it was at this point we are got to walking around a checking out everyone's killer rigs.
It was all there: built up Jeeps ready for the apocalypse, stock 4x4s with custom fabricated trailers with fold-out camp stoves, a handful of beautiful Land Cruisers, a beautiful vintage modified VW truck with wraparound camp setup, multi-tent Tacomas, and much, much more! This is the kind of stuff we love to see. Built in solar panels, modified propane and hot water tanks, hidden gear storage and piston-powered racks, monstrous rock crawlers and just about everything you can imagine. Some of our favorites? The solo driver out here to test his/her skills for the first time. The group of friends, setting up early and staying til the end. The family, driving up after work Friday, loaded to brim with toys, snacks and excitement, whose kids burst out the door and just plain love to camp. All of the above, and many more, are our people, and we love it.
The weather Saturday held in the pleasantly warm range all day, and stayed mild into the evening. We had two more bands lined up for Saturday, and HonkyDonky and Heartbreaker brought a fun folky rock sound with an attitude to the mid-day party, with plenty of antics and a few hoots and hollers. The day wore on, and as folks were coming in and out of the trails, we fortunately saw a lot more dusty smiles than broken parts, although we did hear of a brutally snapped driveshaft in a particularly chunky section of the obstacle park. Darkness fell and as dinner was readied, served and vigorously eaten, we launched into the much-awaited raffle, Blind Driver awards, and some of the unique prizes for special unofficial categories on offer at TepuiFest. Last years Best-in-Show was passed along to a super-cool, highly modified vintage VW truck which had a full mess kit setup built into the driver's side bed, every kind of camp hookup you need and a matching custom rack on which a Tepui Tent securely rested. Per Tepuifest tradition, last year's Best-in-Show winner brought the trophy back, with their winner's own special modification, and was sent home with this year's winner with the same intent. The trophy which keeps on growing...
The Frankenstein award went to a lady who showed up with an older model Suzuki Samurai, and a ground tent (yep, that was not expected) who ended up beautifying both pieces of equipment by mounting her ground tent with gusto on top of the small cab of the Samurai after coming back from the trails! It was a thing of pure beauty, and she won the Frankenstein award with flying colors. A few more awards were passed out, and a new challenge was introduced before the groovy sounds of the third band of the weekend, Thrive, came onstage. Tepui Adventure leader Todd Rogers helped us set out challenge this year, for a BIG prize next year, should an intrepid adventurer seek the opportunity. Todd hid a particular recognizable item in a specific location, and announced the GPS coordinates to the group. The challenge was this: whomever locates the mystery item and brings it back to TepuiFest next year will be greatly rewarded!! Hope that when you wrote down the coordinates on the back of you hand, you used permanent marker, because you don't want to miss out out on this one!
Next up was Thrive, and they were incredible. People were dancing, enjoying some beverages, and it was certainly an evening to remember. Good music and good times in the outdoors, served up for the whole Tepui community to enjoy.
Needless to say, we totally scored. It was a blast, we have some ideas to make it even better for next year, and most of all, thanks again for showing us a good time!
For our annual Lost Coast Adventure just a few weeks ago, we explored vast blue stretches of nearly untouched California waves, beaches and coastline, then moved deeper inland into towering redwoods and verdant scenery. That strip of California is highly recommended. Go there. But as the month wound on, something in us was really looking forward to the arid, wide open expanses of the Black Rock Desert, and once again this year, the desert did not disappoint.
For those who haven’t heard, the Black Rock Desert is a lush desert due to underground springs which emerge in various areas. Many are hot springs, and one we noticed hit a scalding 180 F! There is amazing off-road driving in the canyons and over the playas (near Burning Man, which, as we encountered, is akin to seeing a small city being built in the desert), vast plains with blooming flowers, awesome sunsets and equally breath-taking starry night skies. Those with Tepui Tent models with our operational sky panels, like the Kukenam Sky and the Autana Sky, really got a bonus on this trip for the late night star gazing opportunities from the comfort of their sleeping bags.
A few families joined the Tepui crew this year as we navigated our way to our eventual resting place amid modest (for the desert) temperatures ranging from mid 70s to mid 90s. Only one time as we journeyed did someone get stuck, as one our of our guys (Todd) got stuck (high centered on some silt), and we had to hook a winch up to Michael Horn’s truck to yank him out.
Once set up for the duration, the familiar comforts of camp such as good food and better company once again turned a fun exploratory foray into a truly memorable experience. Amy and her daughter practiced yoga in the morning to get the day started right, while some of us opted for a strong cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito as we watched the wildlife go about their business. Wild horses, donkeys, something akin to an antelope, lizards, eagles, and coyotes…we were far from alone!
To take in more of the inhabitants and their landscape, one day we went for a gnarly hike up to the top of some cliffs which offered great views of the windswept plains, canyons, and fascinating natural rock structures. We only encountered a few dust devils winding along, but certainly got a solid dose of dry conditions for a few days. The Tepui roof top tents held up great in high wind situations, and that wind that gave rise to a particularly fun activity which harnessed its power: kite flying. This activity entertained the younger as well as more seasoned of our group throughout the days, as well as loud rounds of rocket shooting!
As the day inevitably wound down, some seriously excellent camp food was served for the evening meals, including everything from spaghetti and meatballs to burgers, Brats, salads, grilled corn…good food… Add in spectacular sunsets and tall tales and you’ve got the right ingredients for a great trip.
We started comparing notes and checking maps in late May for our trip to the rugged Northern California Coast.
The first planning session in our warehouse was filled with excitement as we looked down at possible camp spots using Google Earth. We determined starting at Usal beach was the best logical choice and from there we would head north on the 4x4 trail and just wing it. Sometimes the best plan is no plan right?
Most of the group met at our Santa Cruz location for a caravan up North. It was a bigger group then we normally head out with at 22 people and 11 vehicles but there was so much interest we just had to let more folks join the Tepui Adventure. We rolled out of Santa Cruz at around 10 AM with all the toys including mountain bikes, kite boards, long boards, and SUPs as well as good grilling grub and beverages to go along with it.
As we rolled into Laytonville, the last good fill up spot before heading to the coast, we quickly realize the small town’s importance to the neighboring community and coastal wondering folks. The place was lined up down the road with people waiting to fill up with fuel and stock up on ice and other gear. A quick head count and we were back on the road heading west on narrow twisty HWY1 towards the coast. At mile marker 19.8 there is a pretty discrete dirt road that would have been easily missed if not for the sharp eyes of my co-pilot Bernard.
Six miles on pretty windy roads of slick mud and steep drop offs eventually came to an end at Usal Beach which reminds me more of the Alaskan wilderness than the California coast. With endless untouched rugged terrain and steep cliffs rising right out of the Pacific it really takes on a wild persona that excited the group after the long drive.
We established ourselves on the beach in a sort of scattered semi-circle to protect us from the wind. Out came the camp kitchen and we fired up the grill to the sounds of opening beers bottles and deploying Tepui Tents. The crackle of the camp fire soon kicked in and we were all set for a great night camping on the beach with the sounds of waves crashing just over our shoulder.
We woke to broken clouds and sun shining over the lush back drop behind our camp. With a bit of coffee and greasy eggs & bacon for fuel it was time to explore. Some folks took to the ocean on SUPs and surfboards and some to the hills on mountain bikes or foot. Everyone convened back at camp for a good afternoon lunch and to our surprise we found we had an aerial artist among the group. That was definitely not to be passed over so we took to the trees and hung her 45ft long silks. She climbed, twisted, spun and hung from every angle and it was well...just awesome. There were a few brave contenders that gave it a whirl and were surprised by the demand on core strength and balance which made our performer even more impressive as she didn’t even break a sweat.
The next day we broke camp early and took off north on Usal road through mud pits, broken down trees, and ruts that could twist a front end if taken wrong. Overall it was fairly passable and the only breakdown we had was to accommodate a lunch on the trail where an Elk was seen by one of the crew while wandering into the woods.
We passed by the views and old cottages near four corners and then ended up camping up the road just shy of Shelter Cover under the canopy of the Redwoods. Another good evening by the fire with stories and marshmallows concluded our last night before breaking camp and parting ways until the next Tepui Adventure.
Thanks all for coming out!
-Evan (this is not me on the silks, but I couldn't pass up posting this shot)
Not living in the place where you spend most of your free time can be tricky. You spend a lot of money on gas getting back and forth, and finding a place to set up camp can prove to be implausibly difficult... Even for the expert-level dirtbag. Unless you book your campsite 6 moths in advance, you'll need to get in line at Camp 4 (the only first-come, first-served campsite on the Valley Floor) at about 4 o'clock in the morning the day of your arrival to secure yourself a spot. Now you're legal, but even then the trials persist: Setting up your tent in the ONE site that has a river running through it during a super rainy fall, getting your sleeping pad to settle in between the two rocks that are just high enough to sit at an inconvenient place in your middle back but just low enough to not be wrenched out of the dirt easily, escaping the trails of super-sized ants that, no matter what you do, always seem to find their way through the tiny hole that was ripped in your mesh screen when the tent blew away last spring, and of course the never ending battle of children playing hide-and-seek behind your temporary home at 11:45 pm while the parents down a mid-season case of Budweiser. Ah... the good life.
I spend a lot of time in Yosemite as a wannabe resident and it never ceases to amaze me how stressed I get about finding a good place to rest my head, so when my family informed me that they decided to come visit and had booked a spot in the relatively bourgeois Upper Pines Campground I was ecstatic. Not only did I have a legal place to stay, but I would be able to stay in my Tepui which made quite a number of issues fade into nihility. We were booked for early November, so when the time came I restocked my truck with whatever supplies were missing and took off again to meet up with the parents and show them around town...
The initial plan was to ride a bike around "The Loop" (the road that circles underneath the valley walls) and show them the different rock formations to explain a little bit more about what I do as a rock climber and relax in the meadow/lounge around at the Ahwahnee. (Having had major reconstructive knee surgery in July I was still on doctor's orders to take it easy, so I didn't plan on much beyond minimal activity) The night I arrived was beautiful, so I quickly set up my Autana, then hopped on my bike in the moonlight to go stare at El Capitan and point out the climbers' headllamps to my friend Stan who had tagged along with my parents, but on the way back to camp I cot a call from a local resident with an interesting proposal. He asked if I would be interested in hiking to the top of Half Dome to drop off a load of gear for a film crew that was shooting some buddies of ours climbing the face on a "practice" run. The team who was climbing was, in a few days time, attempting to climb El Capitan and Half Dome in 24 hours without "aiding" their way up (using gear to assist their ascent). There have only been two teams to complete it in the history of Yosemite, so it was a pretty big deal. I was stoked he asked me to participate. My family, enthusiastic as well, wanted in but when I asked if they could go, but the response was a solid NO. We were going up the Death Slabs which are part of a sketchy climber's trail just under the face of the formation... Mom probably wasn't going to make it. I wasn't even sure if I was in any shape to try, but I said yes anyways and early the next morning we took off with packs full of camera equipment and a load of overnight gear to drop off for our friends that would top out at midnight on Monday. The route we took was washed out, full of talus, snowy in places and sandy slab in others. Slick wet rock stood in my way as I prayed for my ACL to survive in one piece and hand-over-handing fixed lines for 120 feet made me and my meniscus miss the ground. Scared half to death, I scaled the side of Half Dome where the cables had been laid down for the season and now sat in my hands like pathetic spaghetti noodles in the sun. The only thing keeping me on the mountain anymore was my understanding of friction physics, grip strength and forearm stamina. I stopped on a small ledge halfway up and laughed at myself as I looked at the sides of the mountain to either side of me... There's no coming back from a fall, and here I was inching my way along under the assumption that my shoes weren't going to slip and my unstable knee wouldn't fail. "Isn't there something in 'The Four Agreements' about never making assumptions?" I quickly shoved that to the back of my mind and kept going.
View halfway up.
The summit was amazing. I've seen Yosemite from quite a few different vantage points, but nothing has offered quite what Half Dome did. The better part of two hours was spent laying around in the sunshine with Erik while the videographer captured what he could of the last few pitches being climbed. We came around to discussing the human position within the scheme of the Sierras and ultimately landed on the same conclusion that we'd come to many times before in similar conversations. We still just felt small. On a personal level, the stoicism of giant rocks has always forced me to face how insignificant my life is... But I suppose it has that effect on most people.
Erik on the descent
Eventually we made our way back down and stopped at the base of the cables to watch the sun slip into the horizon, but soon regretted having gawked or so long as we began the descent of the Death Slabs... in the dark. My anxiety spiked and I said to Erik, "You know, it's nice not to be able to see exactly how far you have to fall..." I wish I had been joking. The trek down took a while, but when we were safely back on the trail I sighed in relief as I realized that I was heading back to camp where my family had made a massive carb and calorie packed dinner of potatoes, steak, salad... oh, and a bottle of wine. Excellence in all forms. My legs couldn't have been happier as the mattress in my Autana offered a welcome reprieve from standing and my back appreciated the rest on something other than off-kilter stone. The next two days were spent recovering before I decided to try my luck again... I thought it might be fun to go at it by myself. My friends were about to embark on a mission tantamount to a vertical Ironman with aspirations of taking first place, and I figured it might be nice to be there to greet them when they crossed their finish line. So, I grabbed my -40 sleeping bag and a jetboil, packed some cheese tortellinis and a couple of chocolate bars and made my way to the base of the Mist Trail. The Mist Trail is the more traditional route to Half Dome and although it is longer in distance it isn't as dangerous as the Slabs. Since I was going solo it would be the best option. It winds upward past Nevada Falls and East behind Half Dome, then up a grueling set of stone switchbacks. I was out of shape on the first run a few days prior, but now I was sore on top of that. I struggled my way to the top, pausing to wonder how smart it was to do this by myself... It was too late to turn around, but getting to the top was gonna take a while. I guess I could have crashed on the side of the trail, but I didn't bring a bear can. Bummer. Keep hiking!
As I topped out I realized that every step I had gained was worth it. The sunset was even more intense than the first round, and the stars were starting to come out in the brilliance that only backcountry experiences can provide. As I rolled out my sleeping bag I wondered how much trouble I would get in if a ranger decided to come up and bust me... then decided it didn't matter. This was glorious, and everything I wanted it to be as I melted down snow for tea and unwrapped a chocolate bar. I laid back and took it all in, dozing in and out.
Heading up the Mist Trail
A few hours into the night I got a text message (which was stranger than anything in that moment) Informing me that the team wasn't going to make it. They had stashed water on their route on El Capitan during the practice run, but someone had sabotaged them by taking it ALL before the speed attempt (The real story has yet to come out as to who or why). The team was worked from dehydration needless to say, and decided that Half Dome wasn't in the cards so they bailed to try again next season... And I was sitting on top of a rock by myself with tortellini but nobody to feed it to... I was surprisingly not bummed out. I could have the whole place to myself and go to sleep early?!?! Dream come true, perhaps? Nope. Shortly after the initial text I was informed that one of the team members was coming up to meet me after all, despite his exhaustion. (I heard later on that he had finished half a bottle of scotch from out of the back of my truck before he made that decision...) Admittedly though, it was nice to see him when he arrived at around 10:00. I made dinner, we had some laughs and we passed out under the moon. The night went by quietly with the exception of a rat, who was too bold for his own good as we battled over a Clif Bar that was hiding in my pack. Eventually I won and went back to sleep, and stayed asleep until long into the morning. The sun was already bright as it reflected off of the granite when I shimmied out of my bag and made coffee for my buddy. I downed the bar that I'd rescued from the rodent, finished off whatever had been brought up in my friend's flask the night before (a combination of what tasted like leftover scotch and moonshine) and gnawed on another chocolate bar. He left shortly after the coffee was gone (as he had a flight to catch out of LA later in the day) and I stayed to take in a little more of the view before starting my way down. It wasn't until I had finished packing up though, that I realized my logistical error. It was now 9:00, and I had to be back at my truck at 12:00 to get it out of the campsite in time. Oops. I flew down the cables doing my best to be cautious and started my mad dash back to the valley floor. The next thing I knew, however, I was on the John Muir Trail. $#!%!!!!! I was in such a hurry that I walked right past my exit for Nevada Falls and was sent an extra mile and a half in the wrong direction before I realized it, so at this point I had no choice but to keep going as turning around would have ended up taking MORE time than hiking through would. In a panic, I started running (knee and all) down the trail, skipping over rocks and squeezing past day hikers. My knee hurt, but a tow-ticket would have hurt my bank account a lot more. In miraculous timing I made it to my truck huffing and puffing with exactly 3 minutes to spare. Enough time to throw my pack onto the front seat, quickly close my Tepui (that I'd left open in my excitement to take off the afternoon before), get the cooler in the back of the truck and start the engine.
As I pulled out of the campgrounds I realized how EXHAUSTED I was. I was so sore I could barely apply the brakes, so I pulled over and hung around for a few hours to say hi to a friend and rest before cooking dinner on his tailgate and reluctantly taking off for home.
After taking about a week to recover, I looked at the trip as a whole and tried to figure out if there was anything other than elevation that I gained. I could say that I got some mushy amount of personal insight out of a contrived "opportunity to look introspectively", or maybe try to rephrase some profound thought that belongs to someone else. But let's be real: nobody cares about borrowed philosophy. Not even me. And so, I've decided that in this case it is what it is. I walked around on a big mound of rocks whose brilliant riposte was to make my legs hurt for days on end... #NBD.
Can't wait to do it again. See you soon, Yosemite.
WOOOOO!!! Tepui Fest 2014 was a HUGE success and the staff here at Tepui HQ would like to say thanks to everyone who made it out this year. Without the participation of vendors such as Scott Chaney at Compact Camping Concepts and Chris Barbena from Rack-N-Road along with EVERYONE who purchased tickets we would not have been able to throw such a great party. You guys rock!
This year, we had GREAT new music on the scene. Santa Cruz local band THRIVE played a private set for everyone on Friday night and they definitely did not disappoint with their reggae fusion and stellar stage presence. Thanks to all of their members for showing up and rocking it! If you missed the set or want to support their music, you can visit their website at thrivetheband.com
Saturday was SO much fun, but we weren't gonna get through the day without and amazing breakfast from Mexxis Catering. They made really tasty meals for everyone all weekend long, and we can't thank them enough for coming out! Looking forward to having them out again next year.
With 4-wheel clinics led by the Northern California Land Rover Club taking up most of the day, folks got plenty of learning time in while also being given the chance to take off onto the trails, or stick around camp to play some horseshoes. Turns out that Team Tepui didn't get enough shoe-practice in this year, so performance was low (ahem, EVAN. Although with a new little-one in the family we can't blame him entirely)... Don't worry, though. Next year, we've got you ALL beat!
Saturday night we had a great intro to next year's Tepui Adventures from our lead guide Todd along with a cool slideshow from 2014's Adventures. We had such a blast over the last year... Thanks to everyone who came out on all of our trips!
After our super sweet raffle (people walked away with some really cool prizes) we presented the first annual "Best Setup Award". Each Tepui Staff member had representation on it and we all participated in putting it together, so it was a pretty big deal for us. The competition was pretty fierce, so a big CONGRATS to the 2014 winner, John Amoroso! We think he might have swayed the judges (mainly Dani) by baking cookies in the oven he put on his trailer, but all-in-all he really DID have a great setup.
The rest of the night was spent listening to more music (even Bernard got up on the mic for a few notes) and roasting marshmallows over the bonfire. We relaxed our way into the evening and all fell asleep to the sounds of coyotes and crickets.
Sunday we were packed up and ready to take off. We can't wait to do it again next year! Looking forward to meeting up with everyone, and seeing what adventures you've gotten yourselves into with your Tepui.