I’m not sure if it was the 4 years of being away, or if I truly am meant to be here, but something came over me as I crossed over the Mississippi River and re-entered the East. Every single day since I left the Great Plains there has been a physical feeling of comfort swaddling me, telling me this is what the world is supposed to be like. Some may call it humidity, but for me it’s a reminder of where I came from…and where I belong.
But before we go to Kentucky, I need to talk a bit about my last days in South Dakota. After I wrote my last blog post, my two college friends (and soon-to-be newlyweds!!!!) met me in the Black Hills for three days of climbing. They were on their own road trip taking them from New Hampshire to Seattle-where they eventually will live. We all had heard of Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills as a premier rock climbing destination, but we were all shocked as to just how frickin’ amazing it was. Thousands of routes that climb up gently overhanging limestone rock – pockets galore! I think it was a combination of my being in my best climbing shape ever (after my time in Bozeman) and the style of this particular type of climbing, but I had my strongest climbing weekend I’ve ever had in my life. After the three of us had a stellar weekend of climbing and watched the US Women’s soccer match against China, we left Spearfish, SD in opposite directions.
One of the few actual deadlines I have had on this road trip was beckoning me: July 4th – Endicott, NY. That meant I had to book it from South Dakota to Kentucky so as to leave enough time to hang out with my friend who lives there. Those 2 and a half days were a blur of “Stuff You Should Know” podcasts, semi-trucks, and pee/food breaks at highway rest stops. It was a throwback to my college road trip where we made it from San Francisco to New Haven in 50 hours. I did, however, find time to bathe in the Missouri River, check out a Sioux cultural/historical museum, and visit an active quarry where Native Americans have been mining stone used to make ceremonial pipes for thousands of years. But I eventually arrived in Newport, KY (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) with enough time to see my friend for a few days. It was here in Kentucky that I got my first taste of that sticky summer humidity that I had forgotten about…along with the swarms of mosquitoes I’m glad I forgot about. My friend showed me a great time, taking me to bars, his family farm, and a bluegrass concert in the park. I also tasted goetta for my first time; in fact, I never even knew it existed. It’s a breakfast meat that’s in the shape of a hash brown with oats mixed in – apparently a by-product of the area’s large German immigrant influence. It was delicious!
My next stop was Endicott, NY to attend a 4th of July party that doubled as an East Coast wedding celebration for my friends who got married in California. It was a super fun party, and I have to say, Tobii did really well considering all the boisterous strangers wandering around and petting him (present company included). I had him off-leash the whole time and he never left my side except to comb the ground for fallen hot dogs and cole slaw. Because of the bride’s family’s hospitality, I stayed an extra day. It was a day that could only be described as Summer: we lounged by the pool, eating and doing crosswords until we got hot enough to go swimming. We repeated this pattern until it got dark, at which time we walked to get ice cream cones. I can’t stress enough how good this felt. A day like this was not possible in the SF Bay Area. Partly because I didn’t know anyone with pools, but mainly because the weather would not permit it. I’ve realized that I am very sensitive to the climate around me. Not in the sense that when it’s cold and dark I’m sad and when it’s warm and sunny I’m happy. No, I’m happiest when there are changes. The cycles and extremes of the four seasons reflect and shape life in a way that makes sense to me. Call it nostalgia, but I yearn for those hot (sometimes unbearingly) summers and those cold (sometimes unbearingly) winters.
I then moved on to visit yet another friend outside Schenectady, NY. This was the friend I met in Bozeman, MT – he had moved back home a couple weeks after I left Bozeman. After a couple days of more poolside lounging and more hospitality from strangers, I ventured north into the Adirondacks. Now, I never really got into outdoorsy activities until college; and that was just rock climbing. So I was excited to go hiking and exploring the woods and mountains of the Northeast. Like I had written about the Black Hills, this part of the country too was not one of superlatives, but sometimes a gentle walk through the woods can give more enjoyment than a hike along the Grand Canyon. There’s more reward to summitting an Adirondack peak: although the mountains are not nearly as tall as out West (Mt. Marcy, the tallest, is just over 5000 ft.), they are deceivingly very, very steep. The last mile or so of all of the peaks requires you to use all four limbs to scramble up bare rock or hoist yourself up with exposed tree roots. Moreover, because you are hiking through dense forest the whole way, the only way to get a breathtaking view of the surrounding area is by earning it at the summit. But when you do, boy you are in for a pleasant surprise, as you can see by the photos below. And I’ve never been so clean on this road trip as I have been in the Adirondacks; there are so many lakes and ponds that I can afford to take a bath every day.
As for now, I stopped at Middlebury College on my way up to see my parents at our family friend’s cabin on Lake Champlain. As I’m writing this blog post in the college library, I’m getting a little taste of the college life before I start school in the Fall. I hope UMD’s library is this nice…