Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 Wrap-up

While 2010 and I admittedly got off on the wrong foot, it's developed into a pretty amazing year overall, especially from a travel standpoint.  In the spring I spent a great weekend in Montreal for a friend's bachelor party, as well as a week out west visiting my brother with my mom and my wife, Emily.  We flew into Vegas, showed my mom as much of the strip as we could in a few hours, caught a few hours of sleep, spent a few hours bouldering at Red Rocks, then headed west to my brother's army base in the Mojave.  While it was too windy to climb during the beginning of the week, it did clear up for a couple days of bouldering and a day of trad/toproping before we left.  Most of the rock was some semi-crumbling volcanic scuff, by no means a destination, but there was a great peacefulness in knowing that it had probably never been climbed and might never be again.  Our own boulders for one perfect day, with nothing but memories and a few pictures to show that we had ever been there.

Me bouldering near Barstow, CA

Mom (Pennie Close) at Red Rocks
Emily's Red Rocks victory stance

One advantage to being a teacher is having the summers off.  While I usually choose to work summer school, I decided to take off this year for a trip to Africa that didn't end up working out.  Instead, I found myself taking a road trip out to Colorado to visit my sister Sara, and spend some time hiking and climbing around Rocky Mountain National Park with her and my mom.  Although much of our climbing days was simply stopping to play on trailside boulders that we encountered while hiking, we did get in a few bouldering sessions at Flagstaff, and visits to two bolted areas in or near the park.  Jurrasic Park, on Lily Mountain, was absolutely beautiful.  One of the most striking lines there was an amazing arete called Edge of Time.  Wow.

Mom (Pennie Close) near Lake Haiyaha

Mom, Sara, and me on top of Meadow Mountain
Sara in Jurassic Park
Me on Edge of Time
Orchid on the trail up to Lawn Lake
After coming back east for a friend's wedding, I had a few days at home before Emily and I hopped on a plane to Amsterdam.  It was my first time in Europe, not including our honeymoon in Ireland, and was an incredible trip.  We spent about a week and a half visiting assorted friends in the Netherlands and Belgium before catching a ride to France for two days in Paris and two in Fontainebleau.  Every country was a great experience, with friendly people, good food, good beer, and a sense of oldness that I've never really felt in the States.  I was especially surprised how comfortable I was in France, with all the stories I've heard about Americans not being well received.  Everywhere we went though, people were interested in starting conversation with us as travelers, and always helpful in getting us where we needed to be.  And although I usually don't like cities, standing on the hill outside Sacre Coeur it was impossible not to be impressed as couldn't see where the city stopped in any direction.  I will, however, advise travelers to Paris to not order the andouillette.  Pretty much a sausage made from chitlins and thrown on the grill, and the only time in my life that I can remember being unable to make myself finish unpleasant tasting food in a restaurant.  Four bites and I gave up, then happily helped Emily eat her raw beef.  DON'T get the andouillette!

Fontainebleau was also a destination that I would recommend to any traveler, whether or not they have any interest in climbing.  The town itself was pleasant, with our bed and breakfast located above a pedestrian street full of good restaurants.  A few hundred meters away was the Chateau de Fontainebleau, an old palace that was well worth the three or more hours we spent touring it.  And the forest itself...well, I don't think I can really do it justice.  Thousands of boulders scattered through a forest of evergreen and aspen-like trees, with a sandy ground that made me feel like the beach had suddenly landed in the middle of a Colorado forest.  And as for the climbing, it was the first time I could say for sure that a place was my favorite climbing area.  Not my favorite bouldering area, or toprope area, or sport or trad area, but the place I would choose without question if I could only climb in one area for the rest of my life.  And it would take a lifetime to climb everything there.


Amsterdam from the canals
Belgian rooftops
Belgium, not Disney World

Obligatory Eiffel Tower shot
Me at Fontainebleau
Emily at Fontainebleau
Emily at Fontainebleau
Emily at Fontainebleau
Having managed to avoid the oppressive summer heat of home, I finished out the year with several great trips to Coopers Rock in WV, lots of bouldering down the road at Northwest Branch, my first real visit to Arizona, and Thanksgiving out in Vegas and California.  As I type, my little sis is in London on her way to South Africa, and from there sailing across the Atlantic with 5 Gyres.  Tomorrow, weather allowing, Emily and her mom and I are off to close out 2010 with a week in Arizona.   Life is pretty good.

Merry Christmas!

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