Finding limestone rock one state over

Tanner Pursley of Almo, climbs a tricky, polished rock face Saturday in Logan Canyon, Utah. (Taylor Carpenter photo)

One of the coolest things about living in the land of the free and the home of the brave is that crossing state lines is barely an afterthought.

Mostly there’s just a large sign on the highway for tourists to pull over and take selfies with big grins and dance poses.

I remember as a child living in San Diego and traveling to Arizona on family vacation to see the Petrified Forest National Park and Grand Canyon and having to stop at the state line to be “inspected.” A uniformed man bent down and peaked into our car and asked in serious tones, “Do you have any citrus fruit? Tangerines, oranges, lemons, grapefruit?” I started laughing. I had seen border crossing on the war and spy movies on TV and expected the man to be toting a machine gun and asking us for our official papers. I was having all these thoughts when we crossed the border into Utah on Saturday on our way to the pretty Logan Canyon near Logan, Utah.

This busy canyon is one of the delights for outdoor enthusiasts in our region.

The canyon boasts great trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. It also has several Forest Service campgrounds that sit next to a beautiful mountain stream that offers fishing opportunities.

Our goal was to visit some of the dozens of limestone cliffs that line both sides of the canyon. Here is rock climbing nirvana.

Logan Canyon is about 2.5 hours from Idaho Falls (give or take 15 minutes depending on road construction and your lead foot). We drove to the popular Fucoidal Quartzite wall and were the first to park at the roadside pullout.

We were quickly reminded that popular limestone rock becomes as polished and smooth as an oily kitchen countertop. After a few instances of having our sticky rubber-soled shoes zip off obvious footholds, we learned to be more careful with foot placements. You could tell the most popular routes by how slick the holds had become.

Routes in the canyon range from easy kid’s stuff to uber hard — some of the hardest in the nation. Just up the canyon from us was the famous China Wall where routes start out in the mouth of a giant cave and climb horizontal upside down for a dozen or so feet before arriving at the super steep face of the wall. Bring your one-armed pull ups and North Face sponsorships to get the job done.

While we were the first to arrive (I wanted to beat the heat), we were quickly joined by several other groups of climbers. After about an hour of climbing, we began chasing the shade. We found one shady route wedged in a corner looking very polished and slightly intimidating. We didn’t care about its difficulty rating, it was 10 degrees cooler. After we grunted and stemmed our way up it, we dubbed it our favorite climb of the day.

One motivation for me to get on limestone rock is next week’s International Climbers Festival in Lander, Wyo. Lander climbs are almost all limestone. Most of the nearby crags in our area are on basalt rock. Limestone rock climbs differently — like the difference between chicken and beef tacos.

After a day of climbing, our group was on a mission to fill our bellies. We settled on burritos in Pocatello.

On the drive back, we passed the “Welcome to Idaho” sign on the interstate. There were two women parked next to it taking photos of each other with their smartphones.