Friday, June 01, 2007

Adirondacks - Friday: The Drive Up

Wow. My first climbing trip in a few years. The last time I went was maybe in 2002 when I went with the now defunct Weclimbs climbing group to the Gunks (as an aside - the MassClimbers group has gobbled up two entire climbing groups: Weclimbs and the MetroRock Google group. The takeovers havent been entirely successful, as only a handful of of people from each group are active. But still, long live the MassClimbers group and health to all!). That trip was an odd trip for me. I was really at the mercy of those with whom I stayed with, and we hit the same climbs each day we were there (Near Trapps? = Keyhole?). It was nice, however, to catch the fireworks at a nearby town's Fourth of July celebration. Don't get me wrong, the climbing was fantastic, but I wish I had better known what to expect then. My outdoor experience at that point had consisted entirely of learning to climb in Scotland, expanding my experience on the bens and crags of Scotland, and a two-week trip with my original climbing partners: "MG" and "KP" in Switzerland. This time, I vowed to myself, would be different. I wanted to play a greater role in what I climbed, whom I climbed with, and when I climbed. In this period of my life when things have been turned upside-down, I finally wanted to begin to take charge of the things I wanted to do. I felt this was my first opportunity to do so.

Why did I think this? For one, I felt that I was going up with people who valued discussion and variety. Two, I have my own car now and, despite driving others up and being responsible for their desires (which I should note is my preference for long trips), this means I have considerably more freedom to move about on my own if I should make that decision. I also don't have the commitments that I've had in the past and, while that fact is not all puppies and candy canes, it is a little load-lightening.

So when "Jello" first called me from Ray Brook (where he lives now - in between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake) last week, I knew I wanted to get out of Boston and get a good, solid weekend of risking my life on my terms for once. It was an exciting thought, "Greg's first step out in a long, long time." It was time to learn to trust myself and stop worrying about...well, I'm not sure what I'd worry about exactly, but that is my nature. Learning to look out for my own interests first is a new concept for me, and something I need to seriously focus on. It is odd because I wish I could do this with somebody else as my partner in crime. I know, that's a bit a hypocritical, but is an accurate depiction of my current state of mind.

Anyway, upon reading "Jello"'s long-coming e-mail to the group, I figured I'd ask the group if anyone else was interested in going up with me to meet our former karate kicking mate who never seemed to drain of physical energy. As it turned out, "Bikeman" was leading a group to the same region over Memorial Day weekend as well, so I made connections with him and then called "Jello" to confirm that I could stay with him (for me, it's about the climbing, not the camping. I don't mind camping, per se, but I prefer to have a roof over my head and easy access to the nearest bathroom - especially when I later found out that the campground everyone else was staying at lost their water supply Monday morning). I left a message with two phone numbers for him to call back to. And then I waited. And waited. Days went by and the trip on "Bikeman"'s end slowly started to come together. I was offered a place to stay at the campsite, but didn't have a tent (and was concerned that the two-tent per site limit would force me out into the cold - a notion I was foolishly worried about because I don't think "Bikeman"'s group would have allowed that to happen: such good people as they are). So I called "Jello" again, and left another message. I reread his e-mail. He was definitely going to be free beginning that Friday and through the weekend, but no return call came. So then I called yet again. Nothing. I paced. I fretted. I pulled out what little hair I have left. I even drank a bit too much whiskey wondering what to do.

"Where the hell is he?" I wondered, and began to realize that he was probably out in the thick of the woods working with the kids in the camp he worked for. The thought that he didn't have cellphone access started to creep in, and I wondered if I would actually hear from him for the first time enroute to his place Friday afternoon.

Tuesday came and went, as did Wednesday. No word from "Jello". Alternative plans were made. I could stay at the campsite, but needed a tent. I managed to borrow a tent, but I also knew the sites were filling up. I hated to be like this, but I knew my staying at the campground was going to be a last-minute decision. I secretly hoped that after everything was said and done there would remain one, last campsite where I could pitch my tent without the fear of kicking someone else out, someone who had likely been promised the site. This hope, sadly, replaced the hope that I'd get to stay with "Jello". I mourned the missed bed and slowly began to accept my fate.

Thursday morning rolled in with me to work, and stomped out as I headed to lunch. I was getting desparate. Already, I was to take "Naples" and "Lucky" in my car, and they were to stay at the campsite properly (they made all their proper arraingements with "Bikeman", something I was still obscure out). My intentions, I felt, were becoming disingenuous. I needed to hear one way or the other that I could or not stay with "Jello" after all. All I could think about was leaving at three in the afternoon, getting to the campsite at nine at night, having to drop them off and somehow get in touch with "Jello" when in all likelihood my cellphone wouldn't have the reception to call. It was stressful, and I seriously came close to biting the bullet and committing myself to camping only.

But then he called, (thank God he called!) laughing at me as I picked up my phone at work. He apologized profusely and explained that, in fact, he did not have reception whilst in the woods during the week and over the weekend. I felt foolish, but was relieved that I would have a place to stay, under a roof, and with access to a bathroom at the very low cost of five dollars per night. I couldn't have been more relieved. For the first time, I was not stressed and looking forward to the trip, but was excited only. I actually felt my heart sigh, and a smile came across my face.

So now it was set. "Naples" and "Lucky" were to ride up with me, and I could safely drop them off before heading another forty-five minutes north to Ray Brook. "Jesus" called later that evening and asked if he, too, could catch a ride up. With me wanting to split the cost among as many people as possible, I said "sure" and we set up a time to meet at "Bikeman"'s the next afternoon. Finally, things were falling into place.

As another aside, it should be noticed that I have a new car. I bought it a couple of weeks ago and when I did, I was generally impressed with the size of the trunk. In fact, I thought the trunk was too big and that the engineers who designed the interior could have saved some leg-room space for the rear passengers. Still, as I bought the car, I kept thinking about how great it was going to be to be able to stash my climbing gear in the car without the fear of not having enough room. Boy, was I wrong about that. To be honest, I knew there was going to be a problem as soon I put my sleeping bag, sleeping mat, suitcase and climbing bag in the trunk: it had taken up nearly half the space, and I still had three other people to squeeze into the car. When I got to "Naples" and "Lucky" I was certain "Jesus" was not going to be able to drive up with us. After loading thier stuff into the trunk, there was just no room whatsoever for any of "Jesus"'s things, and I knew from talking to him on the phone that he had a tent, trad gear, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and clothes. Knowing that the rear seats had little leg room to begin with, and that it was going to be a five-hour drive, I did not want to have to load bags onto people's laps just to make us all fit. In the end, however, that's exactly what we did. "Jesus" piled food between his legs in the front seat, "Naples" took the middle, rear seat with "Lucky" in one of the side, rear seats by her side. They had food sandwiched between their legs too (excuse the pun) and two bags stacked in the other side, rear seat beside them. We managed to squeeze two more bags in the trunk (how, I don't know) and we were off - straight into I-93 rush-hour traffic...all the way Concord from Somerville.

As you can imagine, the five-hour drive was pushed back to six, and that was just to the campground. After I dropped them off, I still had another forty-minutes to an hour to get to Ray Brook. I had told "Jello" that I'd be there by nine that evening. I didn't walk through the door until two minutes before eleven - seven hours after we left at four o'clock in the afternoon. I arrived, met his roommate and co-worker("Unity"), showered, and crashed. I was looking forward to seeing the crew and getting up some long, trad climbs the next day. It was a relief to finally settle down once I did.

Apropos of Nothing: 1) Vermont is very green with mountains that don't have a single bald spot to break the line of oaks, maples and pines (I'm sure there are other species, too, but that's all I'm going to write about); 2) It is really a pretty drive to Middlebury; 3)CR roads in New York are not well signed. I felt like I was driving in rural Boston; 4) Google Maps is not as reliable of a driving tool as you'd think it is; 5) Lake Placid is a long, long way away from the rest of the world to have an Olympic Training Center and; 6) the freaking ski jump tower at night is scary to discover if one doesn't know that it is there.

Tomorrow - Day One.

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