Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to the Future

Esther looked like this on May 1st,
 and  also when I arrived home
 eleven weeks later

I got home to Vermont a few days ago.  Arriving home was so sweet actually, because, after all, it is HOME! Of course Annie and Grace were there to greet me as soon as I drove in (how wonderful to see them!)  When I left May 1st I don't think the trees were even budded out yet - now everything is brilliant green from the warmth and moisture of the New England summer.  The inside of the house looked and felt a little different when I first entered - although it hasn't truly changed.  It is funny how our minds fool us somehow, dontchya think? What I mean is that when you are away for a while, things always look a little different when you come back.  The dog looks a little fatter or darker or something.  The yard looks a little smaller in size. The walls look brighter or lighter. The cat looks...  well, ok, the cat looks EXACTLY the same!!! The goats were mostly indifferent to my arrival - except for Purslane who is smart and came running over to me for her kisses. The kids look good. And Tuni hasn't changed one lick.

I was smart and allowed myself several days of "re-entry" - a transition period.  I figured that after being away for almost 11 weeks and living the leisure life of climbing most anywhere and anytime I wanted (a little stretch, but in principle, not really), I would need some time to unpack and settle in before getting back to the routine.  In my first few days home I have received calls for assistance with computers - not surprising really. So I hopped right back in today and made calls, appointments and caught up on emails or loose ends.  Why is it that when you plan an extended trip it takes weeks, months, even years to prepare for it and get everything ready, but as soon as you return it take mere minutes to get back into the old routine again? Maybe that's why they call it "routine?"

Well, from a climber's perspective I played my cards quite nicely.  Northern New England suffered a LOT of rainy weather while I was out west enjoying abundant sunshine (the weather apps I used even call it that "abundant sunshine"!) Granted I have returned to some pretty hot and humid weather, but it is late July and this stuff doesn't last (in fact today it was quite cool again with some light rain).  I have another 2 months of good climbing weather to look forward to and hope to get all over those rocks in the Adirondacks, North Conway and Franconia Notch.  Besides, I improved my crack climbing skills so I can't wait to get on some of the cracks on Spider's Web, Cannon, Cathedral and Whitehorse. (Quick! Before I forget what I've learned!!!) Now that I am back at work, I just need the weather gods and goddesses to synchronize the good stuff with the weekends.

Kim and Mars from Australia,
posed in front of their Eurovan
with Blanche in the background
I received a nice email from a climbing couple I met in California - they are Australians on a one year hiatus from work/home life to climb all over the US, Canada and perhaps Europe.  They bought a 2002 Eurovan in CA and of course we immediately began the van-speak when we saw each other at Lover's Leap campground.  A super fun couple.  Kim hit the nail on the head when she emailed me about returning home. She said the best way to deal with getting back to the routine of work and all the not-so-exciting feelings associated with that is to immediately start planning your next trip!  She is so correct - and I do that everytime.  If I do not have some sort of climbing adventure planned I am lost.  So not only do we have the rest of our summer weekends planned out, we are talking about next year when Annie turns 60 and another far-away climbing when adventure tour must be arranged.

One more thought. If you are actually one of the few people following this blog, please know that I am retro-blogging, now that I am home and have sorted through some photos. I have already told a story about climbing in Yosemite that replaced a previous iPhone blog post which was not detailed.  I will continue to do this as time allows and I hope folks will check back often and comment.

(Side Note: If you are interested in following Kim's climbing and travel blog, it can be found at

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's a Long Way To Tipperary

The old wartime marching song comes to mind when I consider the long drive east.  It is a catchy tune and it represents a longing for home.  Once the day came that the climbing part of my journey would cease and the traveling would recommence, my heart and mind were evermore drawn to Vermont.  Of course the climbing will continue since it is summer and the best time to climb in New England is August, September and October anyway.  I want everyone back home in New Hampshire and Vermont to be sure all of the biting black flies, mosquitoes and deer flies are gone in time for my arrival.

But the route home has taken me to Maryland first, where I have been visiting my mother.  It is always fun to go back to my roots - to the home where I was born and raised - and of course spending time with my mom is always a nice treat.  It was no treat getting here, however.  I made the drive in five long days from Almo, Idaho to Owings Mills, Maryland.

Curious sign in Nebraska
Those 5 days were generally uneventful.  I traveled through southern Wyoming again on interstate 80.  The State of Nebraska took a full day.  The temperature was in the high 90s and the humidity hit me like a freight train.  By the time I reached my destination campground, I was thoroughly wrung out.  Sweat was pouring off me just as I sat at the picnic table.  (Look for my upcoming "Bug or Windshield" post for details of this day).  Before continuing, I stopped in Omaha for an appointment to get Blanche her needed service.  She got her oil changed, some new wiper blades and they plugged a slow leak in one tire (found a nail in it).  Iowa hadn't changed since I drove through in May (although the corn was a lot higher.)  I headed for Champaign, Illinois that day to tick off another 525 mile day.  Since I was headed in this direction to cut a little south to I-70, I embraced a great suggestion made by Annie and her best friend Marta.  Marta's parents live in Champaign and would be tickled to have a visitor.  Since 50 is young from an 89 year old perspective, I would be a breath of fresh air!  My overnight visit with Bert and Bat (yup - fun nicknames!) was delightful.  When I approach 90 years of age, if I can have the attitude, spunk and smarts of these folks I will be thrilled (not to mention surprised!)  Bat (Marta's mom) is still mowing the lawn, gardening and waterproofing the decks at age 88!  And she won't have it any other way. Hey - if I can still mow the lawn at 88, you better believe I'll still be tying in and climbing the rocks, too!  Special thanks to special people who so generously opened their home and hearts to me on my travels.
Bat and Bert - they've seen and lived through a lot and they love life
In contrast to much of Illinois, Indianapolis appears to be a thriving city (opined via the van window at 65 MPH of course). Ohio is what I expected - just plain Ohio.  On the last day of my journey towards Mom's house, I stopped into my alma mater for a peek.  This probably was only the second time I have visited my college since I graduated in 1982.  Walking about campus percolates memories and feelings, most of which are pleasurable (I loved my college, Frostburg State University).  I walked the halls of the PE and Athletic building where I spent the most of my time back then - including a trot through the Hall of Fame corridor (my plaque is hidden behind a gymnasium door - sigh - but I am in good company).  The lacrosse coach and I chatted and she took me down to the turf field (of course we played on grass in my day).  And certainly it was fun checking out the town streets I once walked, the pubs I frequented and my old off-campus rental house.

The most dramatic observation I had while driving through western Maryland was the abundance of State Police on the highway, especially making traffic stops.  I saw several stops which were clearly beyond the usual moving violations.  Multiple cars were being stopped, and searched and I saw handcuffed young people in the grass.  Must have been a big bust or something.  I was never able to find anything in the news about it.  Regardless of these observations, I feel like the presence of law enforcement in Maryland has been greater than any other state I have travelled in on this trip.  Either law enforcement is well funded in this state or I am seeing double.  Likely there is an explanation I am not coming up with.

One of the great things about summer in Maryland is the bugs.  The lightning bugs (that's what we always called them instead of fireflies) are out each evening and the cricket chorus is deafening each night.  There is nothing quite like the sound of those katyids. This is the high side of bug life and human-insect coexistence - unlike the bugs at home which swarm, bite and generally get what they want from us. Out with the biters and in with the show bugs I say!  I will be back home in Vermont soon.
Another iPhone self-shot of me and Mom. She looks pretty fantastic for 82, eh?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The City in All Its Splendor!

The City of Rocks has to be one of my favorite places to climb and to simply BE. Nestled in the Sawtooth range of southern Idaho, this magical place has a history as rich as its sights. Around the gold rush era of the 19th century, folks traveled through these parts in their wagon trains and found it to be a great place to stay on their way to California.

Check out a more detailed history at the National Park Service's site

There is plenty to do here even if you aren't a climber. I noticed that it attracts a lot of families - plenty of young couples there with young kids and dogs - lots-o-dogs! However, "The City" is very well known for its rock climbing. There is something here for climbers of almost all levels and types. Trad, sport, mixed. Single pitch and multi-pitch. Easy approaches and more arduous ones.

My first visit here 5 years ago was in the fall. October is a great time to climb here, although the weather can be chilly, especially at night.  May and June of this year turned out to be unusually cool and rainy and as a result, by the time I arrived the first of July, the wildflowers and the green pastureland were beaming in full, brilliant color.
Beauty in The City!
There were some pretty hot days, especially around the holiday weekend.  But the great thing about the climbing here is that you can chase the shade.  The rock formations face all sorts of directions - north/south, east/west.

This is moderate mecca. Oodles of quality routes from 5.7 to 5.10+.  Beth and I were both hoping to get on some routes we had never climbed before.  (She has climbed her 3 or 4 times before as she is just a day's drive away).  There are many classics here and we certainly enjoyed ticking some off.  We also jumped on some less popular routes and discovered some fun throughout the park.  With the July heat being pretty intense by mid-day, we developed a sort of daily routine: Climb until about noon or 1:00 pm, then take a long break in our camp chairs under a shade tree. We would eat lunch, perhaps read and often take a nap! The we would head back out about 3:00 or 4:00 and climb another route or two.  Cold beer and dinner back at camp, then off to bed and wake up the next day and start it all over again!  Not too bad a life.

Columbine and rock

Memorable climbs are as follows:

*Snakes and Ladders (short but sweet)
***Rye Crisp (super fun super flake)
**Conceptual Reality (the ultimate hybrid route - watch out for fire ants at the base!
**Scream Cheese (exciting face climb with juggy crux)
***Private Idaho (fun and easier than it looks)
***Colossus (super juggy fun sport route)
***Coffee & Cornflakes (another jug-fest sport route)
**Fall Line (easy or hard on bolts)
***Thin Slice (excellent & varied, more mental than physical)
**Batwings (memorable because I fell on this one, after flailing on the harder direct start! Don't take this one for granted!)

Wild roses at the City
This is a place to return to again and again.

Terrific camping.
Caring park staff.
Endless climbing.
Forgiving, friendly rock.
Great food and socializing in town.
Easy approaches.
Moderate mecca.

The City just plain ROCKS!!!

Morning Glory Spire and Anteater formations 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Just posting a few photos from the iPhone to catch up. Unique formations at Vedauwoo, WY.

Beer Buddies

Met Josh & Dave and shared brew and stories. Thanks guys!

Rock City

Yes , that really is the name of the establishment in Almo, ID which caters to climbers wonderfully. Everyone hangs out on the porch drinking microbrew, eating pizza and exchanging stories

Top of The City

Self-shot of me and partner Beth from Colorado on top of the Morning Glory Spire at City of Rocks, ID.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

VW Heaven???

I'll post date this entry later, but just wanted to get this photo of the back yard at J's VW shop in Reno, NV where I took Blanche last Wednesday for a few checkups. Thanks to Brett. Martin, John and Jerry for friendly and fair service!

Rockin' in the City

I arrived in the City of Rocks (Idaho) and met these 2 young climbers from (of all places) New Paltz, NY (home of the gunks). We climbed together all day mostly enjoying the beauty of the Circle Creek/North Fork area where I had never been. It is turning hot here for the holiday weekend and the place is crawling with climbers. My next partner in climb, Beth, arrives this evening. We plan to enjoy a full week in "The City."
Thanks to Emily and Colin for a great day yesterday!