Last summer two friends and I climbed the Durance route on Devils Tower in Wyoming. It was a highlight of my summer, to say the least. This huge igneous intrusion, exposed through years of weathering and erosion, stands like giant petrified stump in the flat Wyoming landscape. The first time I visited the Tower I was 13 years old, in a 24 foot RV with six other people. It was cozy. I never thought that 13 years later I’d be standing at the top. That’s not what this story is about though. Getting to the top was relatively easy compared to our adventure getting back down.
BEST BIRTHDAY WEEKEND EVAR!!
Every year at the New River Gorge hundreds of climbers gather to raise money, drink beer, win awesome prizes, watch fuzzy men fight in the air... and of course, climb!
I spent the first week of May in Tahoe, traveling there and back via Seattle, WA and Fresno, CA. The drive is one of the most beautiful and varied I’ve done in quite a while. Scenery changed from the damp, greenness of the PNW to the snow capped conifer covered mountains of North Tahoe, to the sunny expanses of central Cali, and back again.
Total mileage: 2,110 miles
Drive time: 50 hours
-Powell’s Books in Portland, OR
-That town with a big blue lake in CA
-North Tahoe, Squaw Creek.
-The end of the Lewis and Clark Trail
And here is the map...
Winter is conference season for us NASA education folk. So far I've been to AGU in San Francisco, and AAS and AMS in Seattle. (No I'm not going to spell out the acronyms for you.) The dual conference thing in Seattle landed me three weeks in that grey and beautiful city, five days of which I took and escaped to Hawaii with. I figured I'm half way there, I might as well go the rest of the way, right? I'd find a cheap ticket to paradise, spend 5 days on the Big Island seeing the sights. That should be easy, right?
This post is about just that.
Group Sponsor Photo
This is going to sound gross, but tonight, three days after I got home, I put BACK ON the base layer I wore for THREE DAYS in a row at JTree and went running.
I found the leftover campfire smell soothing. Don't judge me.
Last Wednesday I hopped a plane and flew to California. To clarify, there was a lot more thought and planning involved. Twenty-five climbers, linked by twitter, met in the desert for a long weekend of climbing and bonding. I now call "Face Collecting" my official hobby. In the past year and a half I've met more amazing people than in the previous five combined. My "know in real life" list is long and out of date and I love it. My life is richer, and I am braver than I was before. This week in Joshua Tree was epic, and I wouldn't have experienced it without these amazing people.
So far this year the Shawangunks, or the "Gunks" of NY have been a pivotal part of my climbing season. This past weekend marked my third trip out this year, the first trip holding my very first trad lead (No, I haven't written about that yet. It's stewing... give me time!) and this past weekend hosting a mini east coast tweetup - or #NovGunksEx according to @ajsilver...
It came. It went. The event we've been waiting and planning for these many many months. I first heard about the EMS Nor'easter Festival around May of this year from the @EasternMntn twitter account, dutifully manned by Jim Darroch. It sounded like a blast: Music, sports, conservation themed - all green with TONS of vendors. A blast it was - made doubly so by the willingness of EMS to allow us to arrange a small tweetup the first night.
If there ever was an example of social media being used effectively by brands this is it. @Easternmntn has been talking (and I mean actually interacting) with me since January when Katie and I took their Three Day Mountaineering Course. I've been a loyal REI buyer for years, and a huge fan of Marmot, but ever since I started using twitter my image of the two has slipped a tad. It's not that there is anything wrong with their products or service - it's that they aren't "real." They don't talk back - they blast. They don't connect, they advertise. More and more of my money has been going to EMS this year, simply because I feel like they hear me when I speak.
What was just a festival became an investment for me. So here's how it went...
Our trip out to Wyoming began with some hesitation. Patrick had a rather unsettling lead in Boulder Canyon which shook his confidence (and my nerve), and I wasn’t sure I could change my flight home. Bill brought it into perspective though: “I came out here with the intention of climbing the Tower, and that’s what I think we should do.” I moved my flight and off we went, flying into the Wyoming-ness encased in a shell of fiberglass and chrome, watching the sun set for what seemed like hours. We arrived at the KOA campground outside the park at 11pm. Up went our tents and off went our lights. When darkness closed in around our eyes we were treated to the black outline of the tower, engulfed in the most stunning sky I’ve ever seen. The milky way was perfectly visible, banding the sky with millions of stars. We saw three shooting stars while we stood, gaping in awe. I didn’t want to go to bed.
Colorado. Is. Beautiful.
I’ve driven through the mountains a few times, flown over them a few more, but I haven’t gotten the chance to stop moving and play in them in a very long time. I asked for peace on this trip, and that’s exactly what I got. I needed those days outside like I need air. I breathed in the sky and the hills and the people like someone come back from drowning. Rather than a blow by blow account of the trip, I’m going to post a few of my favorite stories, the photos that go with them, and let my heart spill onto the page.
Thump, thump, thump went my feet, pounding on the packed dirt trail. The rythmic sound, masked by the matching pounding of my heart in my ears, and my screaming legs telling me to stop.
Crash, swish, crash went the spider filled branches as they hit my face, leaving silky threads in my hair. My arms itch, my ankle hurts, and my puppydog is tired.
Why am I doing this again?