The Last of Our Ties

A piece of me was left in Europe. It was one last thread to a year spent abroad, and to a relationship that no longer existed. I was set to fly out in a few weeks to retrieve it.

Then my flight to Dublin got cancelled. 

In Grizzly Years, Doug Peacock opens the book in the wilds of Wyoming, in winter, when the grizzly bears get slow like molasses, a thick lethargy that sludges through their blood, and makes them want to bed down until spring. 

He was there, out of season, not as a griz tracker, but as a troubled man needing to perform a last rites. A bear, one he’d gotten to know, was shot by a sheepherder, illegally. He now had the skull, cleaned by the tainted hands—poorly—strings of connective tissue hanging loose from the bone. Together, they sat by an open flame. 

His daughter had said he should return the skull to her home, to bury a life prematurely annulled.

In the morning he would do so.

The day was three seasons in one. Cold rain gave way to damp gray then afternoon sun with a high in the 70s. These spring intervals are fickle just like the traction on the rock as they went from saturated to chalked up.

It’s this uncertainty of footing, of having to trust in the nature of things, of yourself and of the connection to something slippery, that puts you on alert.

I was supposed to be in Albania by now. But I willed the flight grounded.

The email came through, “We’re sorry to inform you…” I was sorry too, but I needed more time. I was awash in doubts: Should I go back? Do I really want this? Do I have to see her?

We were bouldering outside, it felt good to have my hands on sharp granite. I thought about staying and I thought of nothing at all. I thought about what climbing had meant in our relationship, and how that would be something we would carry forward in our woven narrative. I thought about wanting my gear back.


He took the skull and brought it to rest outside the den where the mother’s cub was settling in, left to its own devices from here on out.

The trouble with a change in plans is the need to communicate them with another party. We’d been trying to minimize talking, or at least I had, and I now needed to coordinate a new set of arrival dates, meeting times, exchanges.

The back and forth was hard for both of us. She lobbed a salvo. 

“If you don’t really want to meet up, I could ship it wherever you need.”

I hadn’t thought of that, locked in as I was on a plan already set in motion; A march on a path that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on any longer. The bigger trip was a tour through the Balkans, more climbing, more rootlessness. I had convinced myself I wanted to go and stopping in Budapest was the easiest course.

This new option was a cold shower for all of it. 

The skull was placed in a willow that sat at the opening of the cub’s hideaway, to watch over it through their deep sleep. Peacock draped a small bear paw of silver and turquoise atop the skull. He spoke, “your fur against the cold, bear…”

The chrysalis was woven complete: Paper wrapping, padding placed, shipping labels printed and pro forma invoices filled out and slapped on. It shipped out Tuesday at noon, and with it our last tether together severed.

Three days and two continents later the mail arrived on the front porch at 4:29pm.

“…When my skull lies with yours will you sing for me? The long sleep heals…


The package in hand marked the tying of our loose ends. The spool was finished.

Whats left is a tapestry, beautiful in its own way, perhaps misshapen, but uniquely ours. It was left unfinished and finished all the same. Its better that way. 

We’ll store it away and admire it for what we created together, a parcel of the past.


“…We will find new life in the spring.”

Training Journal: 4/8/19 – 4/14/19

First time outside bouldering this season! Wahoo! 3 climbing sessions, 1 step-up session, 1 yoga session. Really should keep up my running…

Monday
2h of yoga.


Tuesday
30 minutes of step-ups. 1,080 ft. vertical, carrying 42lbs.

Wednesday
2 hr. of top-roping: 5.10-5.12-. Mostly crimpy, pinchy, balancey routes.

Thursday
2 hr. of bouldering. V4-V8. Didn’t spend a lot of time resting, wanted to try a lot of different problems.

Friday
Rest day.

Saturday
First time bouldering outside this Year! Sent several V1s, V3, almost completed a V5, did some traversing and just playing around on the rock.

Sunday
Rest Day.

Feature photo source: The author

The Coolest Climbing Festivals in North America

Road tripping is part of the great American mystique, it’s a rite of passage, and for climbers, it can be a way of life.

If you’re keen to head out on the road in 2019, for climbing of course, here is a list of some of the coolest climbing festivals to organize your trip around. From ice farming classic lines to bouldering on an uninhabited island to a bean-based fete and even a 24 hour suffer-fest, you’re sure to find something to catch your eye and make you want to hightail it the hell out of Dodge.

( 👉Don’t stop, can’t stop! Feel like driving straight through the Atlantic? Here are the coolest climbing festivals in Europe to keep your stoke on high)



January

Ouray Ice Festival

The largest ice climbing event in North America, the Ouray Ice Festival started with a little luck. Scratch that, it started with a little leak.

Many moons ago, climbers in the area found a dripping penstock which carried river water to a century-old hydroelectric plant. The result of the holey pipe was fantastic ice features, including icicles as high as 100 feet.

Fast forward to today, the Ouray Ice Park manufactures over 200 routes using a gravity-fed irrigation system, making this one of the highest concentration of easily accessible ice climbing anywhere.

Thanks to Jeff Lowe and gang, this event now attracts 1,000s of attendees a year, from pros to beginners.

Nearly all of the funding for the Ouray Ice Park comes through donations. The easiest way to support the Park is to become a member, and much of the money raised for the festival goes towards the operational expenses. When you sign up, be sure to consider extras like the Gear Card, which lets you demo gear from the sponsors, including crampons, axes, gloves, jackets, backpacks and more.

Hip hip Ouray!


Photo source: Mountain Project


Links: Event page / Facebook event / History of the event / Even more history

Additional Information:

  • Date: January 23-26, 2020 (25th Anniversary of the Ouray Ice Fest!)
  • Where: Ouray, Colorado
  • Cost: Free! But you can sign-up for (paid) clinics during the Fest weekend. Clinics run from Intro to Advanced!
  • Food: Check out Brickhouse 737, Bon Ton, Thai Chili, KJ Wood Distillery or one of four breweries in town, including Colorado Boy Tap Room and Red Mountain Brewery. Like chocolate, be sure to visit Mouses Chocolates. More info.
  • Accommodation: Ouray Ice Park Members get discounts on select lodgings in Ouray.
  • What to Bring: Ice climbing gear. Warm clothes to be a spectator. A thermos!
  • How to Get There: About a 5.5 hour drive from Denver, CO and 6.5 hours from Salt Lake City, UT, and just under an hour from Montrose Regional Airport. If you need transport to Ouray, check out Western Slope Rides.




March

Photo source: cochiseclimbing.com

Beanfest

Known as the “anti-climbing festival,” this irreverent event used to be passed along by word of mouth only (so, like, shhhh). It’s a little more accessible these days yet still maintains much of the haphazard good-clean fun of its origin.

Well, maybe “clean” isn’t the right word here. N00bies are likely to be “beaned” by the Bean Master which ceremonially beatifies them into the bean-loving ranks. This consists of having beans smeared across your forehead. Welcome to Beanfest.

Why beans? It all starts when Ray Ringle, Scott Brown, John Steiger, Don Gallagher, Fig, and Steve Grossman, local climbers, got rained out one evening in Bear Canyon. They decided to bide their time with a hot pot of beans and a bottle of tequila. Shenanigans ensued and the rest is history.

Of course there’s plenty of good climbing to be had in the rugged canyons and towering granite domes, which keeps people coming back year after year. And the remote location means no one will hear fart, after you eat all those beans that are good for your heart.

Photo source: Mountain Project


Links: Facebook page / Mountain Project / History of the event / First person account (they had fun) / More climbing area information

Additional Information:

  • Date: March 22-24
  • Where: Cochise Stronghold, Arizona
  • Cost: Free
  • Food: This is potluck style. Bring plenty to share.
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • What to Bring: Food for the potluck!
  • How to Get There: About a 90 minute drive from Tucson. Mountain Project has good directions.



May

Leavenworth Rockfest

Leavenworth is a tiny town with a massive climbing footprint. At 1.25 square miles and a population of about 2,000 people, the town’s Rockfest, surprise surprise, is actually Washington’s largest climbing festival.

Why’s that? Because of bomb ass climbing! Leavenworth has some of the best alpine climbs in the country, from the big granite spires of Liberty Bell to the West Ridge of Prussik Peak (400 ft, 4 pitches, Grade III, 5.7) to the stunning rock of the North Ridge of Mount Stuart (9,415′, Grade IV, 5.9). If you like staying closer to ground level, there is a ton of bouldering, which makes this the go to destination for Seattle boulderers.

Organized by the Leavenworth Mountain Association, the event is now in its 20th year and features all sorts of goodies from climbing clinics, gear demos, a bouldering competition, raffles, and talks by pro climbers, Will Stanhope and Brittany Goris (who just completed the first female ascent of City Park, once, and possibly still, the hardest crack climb in Washington).

All the money raised during this event goes towards conservation efforts (the dry climate makes erosion problematic), trail maintenance, and even simple things, like paying for porta potties (which are actually desperately needed in the area).

In the words of Adam Butterfield, the Vice President of the LMA, “People should come to the Leavenworth Rockfest because this is one of the north west’s best climbing areas. It’s beautiful, has amazing climbing, and you can ski, climb, and boat all in the same day, where else would you get that?” Another insider tip: Once you’re in town, be sure to try the Timber Town Brown from Icicle Brewery or grab a glass of the homespun Huney Jun kombucha.

Big mountains in a small town and great beer? Um, yea. Who’s coming with me?!


Photo source: Mountain Project

Links: Event page / Facebook page / Mountain Project climb info

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 24-26
  • Where: Leavenworth, Washington
  • Cost: Free to attend, clinics cost $50, camping is $20/ 1 night, or $30 for the weekend.
  • Food: BBQ at camp and dining can be found in town.
  • Accommodation: Camping at Spromberg Canyon Meadows.
  • What to Bring: Trad and sport gear, boulder pads.
  • How to Get There: About a 2 hour drive from Seattle.



June

Photo source: Outside Magazine

Flash Foxy Summerfest

Summerfest is about inclusivity, which strikes a chord for climbers of all genders because these events sell out in a minute. That’s right, one minute.

Flash Foxy began in 2014 as an online platform to celebrate women climbing. It has since grown into a series of climbing festivals, women’s outdoor leadership training, and climber education. What started with a women’s only focus has expanded into Summerfest, an event that encourages “all genders” to attend in an effort to move away from binary characterizations. “Our goal is to create and maintain a safe and diverse space where consent and respect are our first priorities,” notes Shelma Jun, founder of Flash Foxy.

If you want to help “shift the climbing culture to be a better reflection of all of us,” as Jun declares, be sure to register before sales close on May 31!

Photo source: Mountain Project


Links: Event page / Organizer website

Additional Information:

  • Date: June 7-9
  • Where: New River Gorge in Fayetteville, West Virginia
  • Cost: $120, Clinics and Workshops ($75/clinic and $25/workshop).
  • Food: There are a plethora of options around Fayetteville.
  • Accommodation: A list of places to stay can be found here.
  • What to Bring: Mostly sport and bouldering gear.
  • How to Get There: ROAD TRIP! Fayetteville is centrally located in WV, about 4 hours from Charlotte, NC, Louisville, KY, Columbus, OH, and 5 hours from DC.

Rock the Blocs Bouldering Fest

Come on lucky #7! Okanagan Bouldering Society has turned in a masterpiece (going into their 7th year) in this 2 square kilometer boulder field with over 1,000 problems–with countless FAs to be had.

The Kelowna Boulderfields is one of the largest and best bouldering areas in this part of North America, consisting of highly-featured gneiss for varied holds, styles and terrain. Okanagan also happens to be one of Canada’s most favorable climbing climates, so you’re bound to get good sending conditions. Thanks to locals, Jason Duris, Doug Orr, Andy White, and others, the bouldering scene grows by leaps and bounds each year.

The festival includes a bouldering competition, area development projects, clinics, and fun comps like a pinch and pull-up contest. For British Columbia natural beauty and stellar bouldering, make this your Canadian destination of choice for June.

Photo source: Squamish Climbing Magazine


Links: Event page / Facebook group / Excellent review of the area

Additional Information:

  • Date: June 22-23
  • Where: Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada
  • Cost: Free. Know that this is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Okanagan Bouldering Society, so please consider donating!
  • Food: Bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping (free).
  • What to Bring: Crash pads (which you can also rent from Gneiss Climbing), camping gear
  • How to Get There: Thorough instructions can be found here.




July

International Climbers’ Festival

In its 26th year, this is one of the most renowned festivals in the U.S. And they go BIG in their production: Big attendance (over 600 climbers annually), big list of activities, big mountains, and big swag (from what I hear).

Here’s a sample of what you can expect from this cowboy and climber haven: Plenty of sport climbing from Wild Iris and Sinks Canyon and alpine trad in the Wind River Range, a mini film festival, a Limestone Rodeo red-point competition, nighttime bouldering, a dyno competition, a writer competition with Climbing Magazine(!), an art walk in town, a lip-sync battle, beer, bluegrass, and more clinics you can shake a quickdraw at. Yee ha!

And just look at the pro list…

Volker Schoffl, Craig DeMartino, Kitty Calhoun, James Edward Mills, Kris Hampton, Brittany Griffith, Kate Rutherford, Tommy Caldwell, Elaina Arenz, Chelsea Rude, Eric Horst, Maria Fernanda Rodriguez Galvan, Jessa Goebel, Kai Lightner, Marcus Garcia, Dru Mack, Colette McInerney, Molly Mitchell, Shingo Ohkawa, Becky Switzer, Jonathan Siegrist, Matt Segal, Ben Rueck and more… And more they say!

Yep, go big, Wyoming.

Attendee perspective:

“This past summer, a close friend, myself, and a cute dog were on a three week long climbing road trip. We had no set plan, and no itinerary. The general idea was to just cruise around, and see what we could find. After getting chased out of Salt Lake City by thunderstorms, we ended up in Lander, Wyoming. 

Unbeknownst to us, we rolled in right in the middle of the 2018 International Climber’s Festival. We took to the festivities, and found a welcoming, vibrant community. We slept in the city park, sampled beers at the Lander Bar, and took to the local crags. 

Some locals showed us around Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris. We had a great time, and it reminded me of how awesome the climbing community can be. I hope to attend the ICF again in the future. If anyone wants to meet up and chase down some Alpine route in The Winds, then I am all game!”
– Timothy Carlson at Hike the Planet!

Photo source: Mountain Project


Links: Organizer website / Facebook page

Additional Information

  • Date: July 10-14
  • Where: Lander, Wyoming
  • Cost: $60 early access, $80 regular price. $25/ clinic.
  • Food: Grab a pint and a burger at the Lander Bar.
  • Accommodation: Free camping in Lander at the City Park for 3 days.
  • What to Bring: Camping gear, climbing gear, and a lot of energy.
  • How to Get There: About 4.5 hour drive from Salt Lake City, UT and about 5.5 hours from Denver, CO.



August

Dover Island Boulderfest

Known as Nova Scotia’s Granite Playground, Dover Island provides sweet serenity and over 100 boulder problems on a little plot of Canadian paradise. The festival is only accessible by boat, and Norm, the local blacksmith, will happily ferry you across. No joke. You can also rent kayaks and paddle the 1km from shore to shore, if you please.

Think this sounds more like a chilled out summer canoe trip with your buds than a climbing festival? That’s about right. The organizers, Climb Nova Scotia, cap the number of attendees at about 100 in order to keep the uninhabited landscape closer to it’s naturally low-key ambiance. After all, you’ll be sharing the island with over 50 endangered species.

Oh ya, and there’s stellar boulder problems ranging from V0 to V10, situated right along the shore, next to docile lakes, and in the shade of pine forests. I hesitated to include this because, well, I just hope I can snag a ticket!

Photo source: Climb Nova Scotia


Links: Organizer website / Event page (from 2018) / Personal account

Additional Information

  • Date: August 4-5
  • Where: Dover Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Cost: $65
  • Food: Provided by Climb Nova Scotia.
  • Accommodation: Camping on the island.
  • What to Bring: Water (there is no fresh water on the island), climbing equipment, camping gear, snacks, camera, and appropriate clothing.
  • How to Get There: Take 333 South from Halifax to West Dover, just east of Peggy’s Cove. Turn on West Dover Road and follow until you reach water.

Idaho Mountain Festival

You won’t find a lot of spuds here, despite it being in Idaho (branding opportunity?). But, you will get a plate full of off-kilter activities to help you cope with your forlorn potato deprivation.

For one, this is a mecca of moderate trad climbing and a treasure trove of granite bouldering and fun oh fun sport climbing. The festival takes place at Castle Rocks State Park near Almo, Idaho which is next door to the well-known City of Rocks National Reserve.

Some of the shenanigans include a booty easter egg hunt, in which the trails have been magically filled with Ergonomic-Gift-Guards (E.G.G.s) overnight, for you to discover in the morning in child-like reverie. If you’re into trail running, there is a 6-mile trail race, and a climber’s rodeo if you want to playtend at being a cowboy.

And if all that is not enough to keep you entertained, try and rally the 350 climbers to play a game of hot potato. Could be fun.

Photo source: Idaho Mountain Festival


Links: Event page / Facebook event

Additional Information

  • Date: August 15-18
  • Where: Castle Rocks State Park, Idaho
  • Cost: $75
  • Food: Breakfast and dinner provided (thanks, sponsors!).
  • Accommodation: Camping.
  • What to Bring: Maybe some empty bags to carry all the swag you win.
  • How to Get There: About a 3 hour drive from Salt Lake City, UT and a 3.5 hour drive from Boise.



September

24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell

“We are lions in a field of lions!” The proclamation rises in a roar, The Climber’s Creed, the crowd hoots and hollers as they prepare for a merciless 24 hour hunt of the finest sandstone sport climbing around.

“Partner! Do not freaking drop me!” The throng repeats from the MC, making declarative statements of partnership, climbing, and jokes. A lot of jokes.

Teams of two can compete in the 12 hour or 24 hour endurance climbing event (over 300 routes), with a chance to win sweet swag for things like best haircut, best costume, most routes climbed, and most biners returned by team.

Once that’s over, the festival lasts four more days with food (including a Kevin Bacon Bacon Station), camping, music, games, parties, and fellowship. Oh, and costumes! And tattoos!! And haircuts (most likely buzzed, leaving some sort of graphic on your skull)!!!

If you thirst for tomfoolery, go have a hearty chuckle with your lion pride in Arkansas.

Photo source: Two Four Hell


Links: Event page / Facebook page / Climbing Magazine Story

Additional Information

  • Date: September 25-29
  • Where: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, Jasper, Arkansas
  • Cost: $100 for the competition.
  • Food: Bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping.
  • What to Bring: An extensive list can be found on the event site.
  • How to Get There: About a 4.5 hour drive from Memphis, TN or Kansas City, MO; 5 hour drive from Oklahoma City, OK.



October

Red River Gorge Rocktoberfest

Celebrate another successful climbing season with the Red River Gorge’s biggest fundraising event of the year. With over 2,000 routes, and hundreds in the moderate range of 5.11-5.12, the RRG is one of the best destinations for sports climbing in the country.

Given the popularity, the area has experienced access issues over the years. Which is where The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC), a volunteer led org, comes in; They have been the leading advocacy voice since 1996.

The money raised enables the RRGCC to make their mortgage payments, manage over 1100 acres of climbing land and roads, and to save money for future purchases. In the past, this fundraiser has helped pay for the purchases of the Bald Rock and Miller Fork Recreational Preserve.

And what better way to celebrate their Herculean efforts than with climbing and a party! If you want to help protect this magical place, be sure to join them in Rocktober!

Photo source: Mountain Project

Links: Organizer page / Facebook page / Facebook event (2018)

Additional Information

  • Date: October 5-7 (in 2018)
  • Where: Red River Gorge, Kentucky
  • Cost: ??
  • Food: Some meals are provided. Bring your own and/ or dine on local fare. Beer on tap.
  • Accommodation: Camping at the Land of Arches campground.
  • What to Bring: Sports gear, trad, camping stuff.
  • How to Get There: About an hour drive from Lexington, KY and 2 hours from Louisville, KY.

Color the Crag

CtC is the first-ever climbing festival to celebrate diversity in the climbing community.

You might wonder why that’s important. Well, take a gander at any climbing magazine (or the expanded outdoor industry, for that matter) and you’ll see a lot of white. As in people. Yet, 38 percent of Americans are people of color. Hmm.

The mission for the festival is to “celebrate diversity in the sport of rock climbing. Our mission is to build community, promote leadership from people of color (POC), provide a positive narrative of underrepresented communities in the outdoors through inclusive and educational climbing festivals and events..” They do this by bringing together orgs like Brothers of Climbing, Brown Girls Climb, Melanin Base Camp, Natives Outdoors, Flash Foxy, Latino Outdoors and more, along with people from all backgrounds to climb for four days in the backwoods of central Alabama.

In the words of Stormy Saint-Val, a participant at last years event, “it completely changed my life! I’ve been able to eradicate this false narrative that black people don’t climb. There were [like] 300 people there! These are a bunch of people that are also climbing that don’t look like what the magazines are showing, and what narratives you have grown up with. It’s been a fuel.”

With very little cell service, a lot of friendly faces, and excellent bouldering, you’ll be sure to make friends and find community here.

Photo source: The Cliffs


Links: Organizer page / Facebook event (2018) / Review of the festival

Additional Information

  • Date: October 17-20
  • Where: Horse Pens 40, Steele, Alabama
  • Cost: $85-$100 for weekend pass, which also covers many clinics.
  • Food: Breakfast and dinner are included.
  • Accommodation: Camping.
  • What to Bring: Crash pads.
  • How to Get There: About 1.5 hour drive from Chattanooga, TN and 2 hours from Atlanta, GA.

Find yourself in Europe? I’ve got you covered! Here are the coolest climbing festivals in Europe in 2019.

Training Journal: 4/1/19 – 4/7/19

3x toproping, 1 run, 1 workout, 1 long stretching session. I wanted to run 2x, but started to feel sick this weekend. Enjoying toproping again, want to get back into leading. Weeee!

Monday
Workout:
1) Squats (bodyweight): 5×20, Pushups: 5×25, Deltoid front and side raises: 5x10x10
2) Lunges (10# in opposite hand raised OH): 3×10, Shoulder presses (10#): 3×10, Serratus pushups: 3×20
3) 1-Leg DL: 3×10, Shoulder circles (2.5#): 3x20s, Forearm curls and extensors (12#): 3×25

Tuesday
1.5h of toproping. Mostly focused on the 5.10+ to 5.11 range.

Wednesday
My body never really settled into the run. It felt okay, but not great.


Thursday
1.5h of toproping. Mostly focused on the 5.10+ to 5.11 range. A few boulders afterwards, core, and shoulder exercises.

Friday
Rest day, did a lot of stretching.

Saturday
Rest day. Was feeling sick.

Sunday
1.5h of toproping. Mostly focused on the 5.10+ to 5.11 range.

Feature photo source: Climbing Business Journal

I’m the Real Nostradamus: Predictions from My 13 Year Old Self

An envelope arrived at my folk’s home today.

The handwriting was unmistakably mine: The characters bunch up in places, rounded letters proceed along wavy edges, and finishing marks run sloppy from a lazily lifted pen. The return address said, “ECMS / Mr. Waite” (in my hand writing). Hmm. Did I write this to myself in… 8th grade?!?

I had completely forgotten if I had. What would it say? I greedily dove in.

Yes, I do remember now! The class: American History. The teacher: Mr. Waite–taller, lithe, slightly balding and for whatever reason I imagine him with a weak chin that melts into his throat. But I think that’s just an unflattering caricature I’m making up. The age: 13.

This was the year of 9/11. And if memory serves correctly, we learned about the planes colliding into the World Trade Center in that class. (The school had actually restricted information flow on the premises, turning off TVs and preventing access to computers. We only found out because fellow students were receiving text messages. Cell phones had only become a thing a few years before). That event, a framer of world views, took place three months prior to this letter writing exercise, and it clearly influenced the content. I was also clearly unimpressed with the latest homework assignment.

Well, what did I find?

It turns out I was snarky then (and I still got it!), laid on the sarcasm (ala, “All thanks to the great teachings of Mr. T-Waite, I am able to find peace and joy in school!”), and full of ambitious predictions about the future.

For the record, let it be known that I was highly accurate in my guesses, and I still have three years more to run the cycle through. Mark it, Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, will be the richest man in the world in 2022!!

Without further adieu, I present to you, 13 year old Aaron:

(Typed letter below the pictures. Spelling mistakes, etc. copied over from the original document.)

Sec. D
12/19/01

“Rip Van Essay”

January 2nd 2002:

Dear Journal,

Today at school I had a horible day. Our teachers seem to have no sympathy for us, and they simply dumped homework onto us. They pilled it on and it’s like it might take me 20 years to complete. I will write to you later.

As he put down his pen he felt a great sense of sleepiness embrace his soul. He put his journal back to the shelf it called home, and he trudged over to his backpack. Slowly, the books were taken out and placed onto the desk.

“Math, Science, Language Arts, Spanish, and my most favorite subject American History. All thanks to the great teachings of Mr. T-Waite, I am able to find peace and joy in school!” The boy shuffled his books around and then once again arranged them, first by color, then by size, and finally weight, before even looking at the homework he had to initiate.

DOWN went the pen to the clean and fresh piece of paper. Down, further and further still. Down to the unmarked paper, and the excruciatingly long process of homework had begun. He rhythmically began to put the heading of his paper on, as it had been “drilled” into his head earlier that school year. Then, suddenly Aaron had an idea!” Wouldn’t it be great to go into the future? He pondered the question as he automatonically went through his homework.

Slowly Aaron fell asleep. At first only nodding his head every once and a while, but before long he felt it gnawing at him. He wouldn’t be able to fight it for long! At that moment, almost cliche, a commercial with the song “Go to sleep Little Baby” played, and Aaron was done. Off into Dream World for him, little did he know when he would wake up, the world as he knew it would be a thing of the past.

Dear Journal,

When I said I would write to you later, I didn’t think it would be this late! As I’ve come to discover it’s the year 2022, which came with many snickers and sneers from the people I have met. Apparently I had been sleeping the whole time, and my parents hadn’t realised for I simply spend all my time in my room anyways. As it stands I hardly know where to begin. I woke up and had a horrible need to go to the bathroom. After I finished, I looked up to the mirror, but much expecting to see a child, all I saw was hair. That was the first time I knew something was wrong.

That was pretty minor compared to some of the other things I learned. First off, I learned there was a common currency used around the world, my petty change I traded in for the New World dollar. More minor, each sink had three knobs now, one hot, one cold, and one mixed with soap already in it (I found this out the hard way). I also learned that after George W. we had a black president who took charge immediately and finished up the war on terrorism. The string of presidents were all well bread, and intelligent who managed to reverse the economic slump, but where else is there to go after you go up? I even learned a few female’s were running for the next presidency, which had been lengthened for 5 years.

While looking through the newspaper I learned some very startling news. Supposedly America had claimed many countries for itself after the war on terrorism, stating they were obviously inadequote and unable to govern themselves, so America found it their responsibility to take it by force. On a lighter note, I learned the new fashion was baggy clothes once again, after it had been leather and other cow products for a long time. I was also suprised to hear Bill Gates was now the second richest man in the world, second to the one and only man who started Starbucks coffee, where coffee is their life and ambition. You can always count on Starbucks to be there for you. I have learned more, but I have grown weary of writing. I will write to you later. He fell asleep on his journal, and had a peaceful dream.

Training Journal: 3/25/19 – 3/31/19

3x bouldering, 1 run, 1 step-up session. Glad the business trip is over and I can get back to more of a routine.

Monday
1.5h bouldering. Wide range of levels, (V2-V6), just trying to variety. + a long walk home in the rain…

Tuesday
Body felt slow, weak. It was hard to push the pace, my legs just didn’t seem to want to move.

Wednesday
1.5h bouldering. V4-V6 range. Played a game at the end where we kept building one more onto the route, so it became a strength endurance exercise.

Thursday
Rest day. All day event.

Friday
Rest day. Cross country flight home.

Saturday
1.5h bouldering. V4-V7 range.

Sunday
25 minutes of step-ups, 900ft. of elevation, 40 lbs.

The Baggage We Carry

I didn’t realize how much baggage you could pack into a carry-on. 

Three pairs of shoes, four pairs of pants, some shorts, enough underwear and shirts for a week. And all that shit about past breakups, of the romantic and business kind. Heavy. I’m glad they didn’t make me weigh it.

That tote, a Patagonia duffel in Skipper Blue. I had brought it while living in Mountain View three years ago, the last time I had been in Silicon Valley. It was an REI clearance find. A good deal. 

Packing for this trip I hadn’t noticed the connection, it was just the best bag for the job. Just like the original intent, seven days of business in Reno. It all fit together nicely.





My clothes were scattered on the bed, it was an odd mix of attire and emotions. The feeling wouldn’t change once I arrived. 

Flying in to San Francisco, we swooped in low above the green hills of Muir Woods headed south. Ahead lay a graph paper peninsula coordinated by buildings and strips of green painted slapdash through like abstract art with a minimalist flair. 

The running commentary in my head was, “all those god damn houses.” I thought back to the excitement I felt the first time I arrived in SF years ago. My stomach tightened.

A few weeks back, in Boston, I got carried away by the idea of a business trip. It was the season that teases after all: Frigid temps that withdraw into snippets of Spring, before the rearguard battles back with the next cold front. Sunny California seemed like a reasonable excuse to escape the maligned battery.

But I didn’t have to come to CA. I suggested it to the company.

Why go? What was I hoping for?

I think, at some level, I was keen on making a return, to see what it would be like years later and without a connection to the area. To experience things as removed from a past life.

What I didn’t expect was all the emotion that was still wrapped up in the place. I thought about stopping by the old apartment. Imagined what it might be like.

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash.

There I am.

The smell of shade.

It’s musty with a breezy fragrance of flowers and pollen that streams in from the screen door. Dry leaves scatter about the patio behind a flimsy fence that offers little resistance to prying eyes.

I see the place empty, ready to be moved in. The opportunity for new memories, perhaps of just starting out: A family, a job. I’d tread through the living room, to the corner where we’d once set up a makeshift shipping station. Maybe peer into the kitchen and sniff the outline of Soylent shakes that sustained us for too many meals.

I’d tiptoe down the hallway. I can’t remember if the floorboards creaked, but going lightly seems important. The first room on the right was alien to me. There was a rug and a closet with board games that we never played.

The bathroom at the end of the hall was tight with a tiny window that looked out onto the trash bins for the compound. Decay and other funny smells would seep in while you showered. All for the low-low price of $3,300 a month. Perched on the shelf were bottles of microbes that allegedly ate the compounds that cause stench on the body. My roommate didn’t use soap to wash, he conscripted miniature beings to do the job for him.

The second bedroom was shared. It’s where I slept on the floor, on a mattress. It sat in the corner, and when I’d lay against the wall, reading perhaps, my feet would point to the floor-to-ceiling mirrors on the closet doors. I came to resent the reflection forced upon me each morning. Steve Jobs’ words, “Is this what I want to be doing today?” would cross the mind with increasing frequency.

Some days, when no one else was home, I would lie in bed staring at the ceiling fan lights, the blades circled like a drunk crow tied to a leash, round and round. I found that if I stared long enough at the argon-infused bulb the colors would melt out in thick strands of amoeba squiggles, rotating and twisting. The goal was to keep staring to see how far the mirage could go and to find that line where I was just on the edge of falling into some unknown. There was real fear of losing my grip.

Something beyond told me it was wise to avoid the depths.

In this imaginary vision, I’d lie there again to see if I could reproduce the effect. Maybe go over the edge, if I had the time. 




The hope in this exercise?

Perhaps to exorcise ghosts, of her lying in the bed crying, disappointed in my not renting a car, of my selfishness. She’d have to lug bags to see her friend at Stanford. I was supposed to drive. We’d break up a few weeks later.

Perhaps I’d cry in that room in that spot, to feel the pain of let down.

Photo by the author.


I won’t make it to Mountain View.

But I’m just a few miles away on the other side of Palo Alto. It feels the same, a proxy but with better vibes.

The weather is cooler than when I arrived years ago, the cherry blossoms are in bloom. So much of what I tried to slice out of my life creeps back in.

I walk around to soak in ambiance, and listen to Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight, the album with The Modern Leper, The Twist, and Poke. I try to disentangle my own braided memories: A breakup, a dissolution of a dream, the splitting of a company.

The other day I sat staring at the comforter on my bed, crossing my eyes so the beaded leaves blended together. They mixed into a stereoscopic image of porous bone like you’d see under a microscope. There was depth to the chambers, I almost reached out to feel the calcified crust.

I thought to myself, “What would it be like if I could just let this all float away?” I sat with the idea and let myself smile.

The sailor’s knot began to come undone, and I think I’ll be able to leave here with a little less baggage.




Feature photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash