Two years on the road has gone by in a heartbeat. Crazy how fast time flies when you’re living in the moment. Days go by with scarce notice. A plethora of climbers arriving during the night is a reminder to us that it must be Friday, or a holiday of some sort. After a couple of years of living without time schedules, alarm clocks or calendar appointments, every day seems like a weekend or a holiday to us. We are fully immersed in the here-and-now.
Year Two was not without its share of both tribulations and trials. We began at our old stomping grounds in cobble-filled Maple Canyon, Utah. It was there that Maggie connected on her second career 5.14a by cruising up a classic power endurance test piece called Pipedream. I managed to repeat two 13d routes, Ego Boost & Mexican Rodeo. Both were routes I had done a decade prior at a much younger age of 50. Disappointingly, I fell short of my ultimate goal, which was to do a 5.14 post age 60. Not to worry, it was only a minor setback. One of the prodigious incentives of living in the here-and-now is the simple awareness of the past being both irrelevant and irreversible, thus leaving the indeterminate future malleable. Prospects for eventual success await.
In early October we ventured forth to the Red River Gorge. We paddled our way up new routes in the Miller Fork Area until the wintry weather forced departure in mid-December. Just prior to exodus, we concentrated a large chunk of sweat equity time improving our recently acquired property, located a mere stone’s throw from the PMRP and Motherlode.
Fall in the Red was followed by another winter in southern Utah, where we hoped to boulder in Moe’s and recoup some power lost from months of pulling on large cobbles and moist eastern sandstone. Alas, the dank meteorological conditions followed us with a vengeance and made training on the soft Wingate sandstone in Moe’s a sketchy endeavor. The short, random stints of dry rock made it difficult to achieve any modicum of consistency. Eventually, we invested in a punch pass to a conventional health club in St. George just so we could maintain some fitness between steady storms. The mundane gym facility provided us with a warm environment to maintain our yoga practice, take hot showers and thaw out our frequently frozen skeletal matter.
(Allow yourself to be distracted by: West for the Winter & I Like Bouldering, I Like Bouldering, I Like Bouldering)
With a trip to Kalymnos on the horizon, we switched gears and headed to the Hurricave near the end of January. Here we diligently pursued the bolted bouldering typical of the exceedingly steep stone found in this massive cave. It was cold. Barely doable. We suffered, but survived, while gaining a small amount of route fitness for the days to come.
In mid-February we boarded a plane in SLC and headed for Kalymnos. The Tao of here-and-now was never more prevalent during our time spent on this beautiful island in the Aegean. It was a second honeymoon, of sorts, since it coincided roughly with our fifth year of matrimonial bliss. We loved it enough that we didn’t want to leave. Were it not for our two mutts, Lola & Frankie, being patiently cared for by close friends back in the States, we may have tested the paradigm surrounding illegal aliens concealed in a country not of their legal citizenship. Lucky for us, the only walls around the island Kalymnos are of natural origin and climbable. Granted, there are also a few low lying man made stone walls defining vague property boundaries built mainly to keep goats and sheep separate. Barriers rarely work. We witnessed on many occasions, more than we could count, where sheep and goats of dissimilar flocks paid little mind to both natural and artificial walls. They mingled, maligned and basically ignored all partitions, considering them to be merely a challenge to circumvent. Build a wall and virtually all creatures will seek to find a way over, under around or through. Go figure…
Upon returning to SLC, both of us approximately 5-10 pounds heavier from a steady diet of rich Greek cuisine, we headed back to the Red. We wanted to test the spring climbing conditions, complete some unfinished projects on our property and, more importantly, show our “Unbridled Spirit” for the state of Kentucky. We became legal residents. Our vehicles, driver’s licenses, voter registrations, and auto insurance are now all connected to the commonwealth of Kentucky. The only unresolved item related to our new residency status is our health insurance policy transfer from Utah. We’re guessing it might be in political limbo? Unfortunately, at our advanced ages, if the new AHCA plan (Anti-Health Care Act) becomes mandate, medical insurance will be priced well beyond our means. C’est la vie… guess we’ll just have to stay healthy and rely on the benevolence of hospital emergency rooms if we f—k up?!?
Our final important agenda item to accomplish while in the briar state was the recording of our legal property boundary survey with Lee County. We managed it on our last day before leaving in mid-May. This will allow us the opportunity to start building our Petite Château de L’Escalade, i.e., our forthcoming retirement cabin. Yes, even though we focus heavily on the here-and-now it never hurts to invest a small amount of time and energy toward an ambiguous future. Still, I recommend that you eat your [Zone Perfect] cake now, since the future is uncertain!
Currently, it’s nice to be drying out in Northern Arizona. Here in Priest Draw, we’ve encountered wonderfully steep limestone bouldering. We love it. We’re in the Coconino National Forest, only ten miles outside of the wooded and outdoorsy city of Flagstaff, which is home to the NAU Lumberjacks (jackcentral.org) and the Lowell Observatory (lowell.edu). Our camp is surrounded by towering Ponderosa pines in a high plateau desert environment (7,000′ elevation), within easy walking distance of the low, pocketed roofs of the Draw. The nights are cool, quiet and filled with more stars then I knew existed. There are only a few places where one can see the Milky Way so clearly (old Percival choose wisely for his observatory location), or hear the coyotes call over such vast distances without civilization’s interference. The here-and-now is never more easily preserved then while pleasantly distracted by wilderness environs.
(Refer to: Escape to AZ)
After months of long routes we find ourselves in need of a power boost. The nature of the bouldering in the Draw makes it the perfect place to train for the rapidly approaching summer season. We hope to remain here through the end of June and push our power limits to the maximum. Our eventual plan is to head north to an old haunt, Logan Canyon, specifically China Cave. There we both have an undone projects that summon us to conclude the in-concluded. Maggie has a couple of routes in mind, both of which will require maximum power, refined specific technique and indomitable spirit to complete; all within her capabilities. Plus, China Cave is as good as it gets for summer cragging in the northern hemisphere, except for maybe Flatanger (Norway), but for now, that will have to wait. We’ll need to rob a few banks to make that trip a reality, I fear.
Today, as the start of our third year approaches (officially on June 17, 2017), I’m reminded that it has now been a year since the passing of my father. I’ve always struggled with expressing my grief when it comes to forfeiture of loving family members or close friends. Perhaps this burden is due to the vast experience of loss common to someone with 61 years of life. In retrospect, I miss my father’s humble nature and his constant support of whatever life endeavor I chose to pursue. It did not matter to him how insane, reasonable, unreasonable, logical or illogical my path through existence might seem to others pursuing common or safer endeavors, he remained supportive of my efforts regardless. He sacrificed so much of his personal life potential to make my existence, and the well-being of my siblings, more richly endowed. I could not ask for a better mentor. I can still see his enigmatic smile etched heavily into my psyche, to the point that it causes my own lips to arch ever upward in autonomous grin mode. I truly miss his kindness and aspire one day to possess similar portions of such. May you rest peacefully, old man.
(Memorial blog reference: A Humble Man Gone, But Not Forgotten)
The pursuit of individual enlightenment is a worthy quest for all of us. It’s not always easy since there are many distractions on the pathway of being. To regain my inner peace, during those rare moments in which it eludes me still, I simply remind myself (sometimes, and thankfully, Maggie does the reminding for me!) to live in the moment, return to the here-and-now…
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