Colorado and Furry Companions
This past month I’ve been traveling within the confines of the US. It’s been a nice change to long airplane rides, rental cars, jet lag and all the other hurdles of overseas travel. However, one of the best parts is I get to bring along my four legged companion, Max. We adopted Max about a year and a half ago from the local rescue. He came to us fifteen pounds underweight, scared, nervous and the farthest thing from an agile mountain dog. I haven’t had a dog since I was a kid living at my parents house. I swore I would never get a dog of my own after my nine year old Sheltie died, leaving me a sobbing mess. Add in all the issues with my travel schedule and it just seemed like the logical thing not to have. I guess that time healed the passing of Steffie and perhaps once a pet person, always a pet person.
After returning from Norway we went home to Yosemite and enjoyed some unseasonably cool temps. Without crowds, classics like the Moratorium and the Great Escape were empty and ripe for climbing. It felt awesome to get to enjoy the Valley without swarms of climbers on or waiting for the climbs. The Valley floor was jammed and crawling with tourists, but the routes were empty.
After much debating on where to visit next (Squamish, Washington, the east side, Colorado) we finally decided on Colorado. I knew that the time in the fall would probably be filled with the splitter granite cracks of Yosemite, and the thought of Rifle and the sport routes of Colorado sounded very appealing. Plus, after calling Colorado my home for eight years, there were many great friends to visit.
I haven’t taken a long trip to Rifle since I was a skinny young sixteen year old kid. I flew out to Colorado Springs to spend two weeks with my friend and kid climbing phenom Kevin Branford. Kevin was a few years older than me and loved spending time on the steep blocky cliffs of Rifle. Joining us were also Dave Hume, Aaron Shamy and Eric Scully. We were all psyched kids who couldn’t think of anything but climbing.
I returned only a handful of times in the past fifteen years, mostly reluctantly and dragging my feet. At the time there was no where else I’d rather not be. I couldn’t stand the thought of crowded cliffs, beta spraying, and me getting my butt kicked in front of everyone. I always put up a stink anytime Rifle was mentioned, knowing I’d rather eat a plate full of brussel sprouts than drive into that canyon. Instead I stuck to the aptly named cliff, the Fortress of Solitude. Only a short drive away from Rifle, The Fortress was right up my ally; not a person in sight (minus the snowmobilers at the parking lot each morning) and a beautiful serene mountain environment. It became my favorite stateside sport climbing cliff for many years.
Unfortunately, the Fortress swelters in the heat of the summer, making Rifle an appealing summer destination. Plus, I’ve become okay with getting my butt kicked in front of people, and actually appreciate any helpful beta on a route. With a new found acceptance of Rifle, I’ve really enjoyed my summer trip out here.
Max learned to love Rifle as well. Our first day there he couldn’t quite comprehend the concept of laying down in the dirt (yes, he’s a bit of an odd dog, but I think his first five years were a bit rough and definitely never ever involved dirt, hiking, or the outdoors). Instead he stood the entire eight hours of climbing, watching climbers go up and down, just hoping that we would return to the comforts of the living room sometime soon.
After the first day, we started taking our slider bouldering pad with us for Max to lay down on. Yes, he resembled a prince, but at least he was off of his hurt ankle and enjoying the cool canyon.
For the rest of the trip, I’ve been going back and forth between Boulder and Rifle, which has been a great treat. Unfortunately, Max’s first night in Boulder was filled with an emergency room visit as he got bit by something and broke out in hives, soon resembling a Shar Pei. Pacing back and forth and constantly rubbing himself against the wall, it was hard not to laugh at his discomfort. A quick steroid injection returned him to his otherwise smooth physique and back to normal in a couple of days. Other than that, it’s been amazing to have him and the other furry companions around to help train, write, cook and otherwise fill the silent space with the clicking of their toe nails or the thumping of their wagging tails.
I don’t have any overseas travel planned for a while, and I am feeling very lucky to have Max around until then.