|When I say fall, what do you invision?|
It’s been a while since the last entry, but not because I haven’t been out and about doing memorable things. Merriam provided a great bookend to the Sierra Alpine season, which brought with it the ambivalence of Summer’s end: Sadness to call an end to running around our nation’s mountain ranges in short sleeves looking for fun things to do in great weather contrasted by the excitement of watching trees turn their golden, red and orange hues, the crispness of the air, and a shift to different activities.
|The fall colors aren't restricted to the trees|
First stop was a trip back east to see good friends tie the knot and to see friends and family in New England. There’s nothing quite like driving through townships established in the 18th century with grass being the only thing making their town greens green – their aged soft- and hardwood canopies painted with the palette of fall as the birches, sugar maples and oaks usher in the fall and winter months. A great time of year to put on a sweater – and a rain jacket, as it turned out – and enjoy the company of family and friends at home.
|A typical October scene in New England|
I was greeted at home with new technology, and something for which I’m most proud of my parents: Taking advantage of state incentives to make their home more sustainable and self-sufficient, I got to observe the installation of a 5kW solar system on the roof of the garage. What was previously a south-facing slant of asphalt shingles is now a functional and aesthetic black silicon power plant that through the photoelectric effect is now making the electric company pay my parents, instead of the other way around.
|Panels to turn the meter backward|
For someone who works in the renewable energy industry, I’m excited to see those closest to me taking steps to improve the earth, and we all get the geeky entertainment of logging directly into the system to see its output when the sun comes out and watch the meter on the side of the house turn backwards…swiftly.
|A macintosh that doesn't have to apologize for its maps app: I love eating|
A wedding happened in a part of New Jersey that I didn’t even know existed. Here I thought the state consisted of a turnpike, an aged and antiquated casino city, and a garden of industry helping to fuel the greater New York City metropolitan economy. What I witnessed was plucked from a movie set: rolling, manicured hillsides with old wood fences penning in horses and giving stately presence to the splendid homes of the 1%. Throw in a fine celebration to mark the union of two great people, reunion with an old friend, and the Jersey trip was well worth the effort.
|Don't let a little overcast get you down: go find a new trail on Snake Mountain and make sure Dad is on board|
One doesn’t vacation to New England in the fall to get immaculate weather. Usually there are at least a few brisk, sunny days making strolls through the foliage-bedecked hills mandatory, but even I was surprised to return to Vermont to two solid weeks of either rain or heavily-overcast skies. No matter, as the hospitality was more than warm, stomachs were never not full of the finest homemade goods, the seasonal fruits and vegetables heavenly and the fall colors better than any impressionist rendition. Besides, people flock to the desert southwest for the sunshine and warm temps, which is exactly what was next on the agenda.
|Did I mention I love eating?|
The flight pulled into Vegas on time…just in time, actually, for more rain and low pressure. Yes, rain in Vegas, and after stops for provisions, that rain continued all the way to Zion National Park. The best of intensions for rock climbs in that incredible cathedral of sandstone were for not: Three straight days of rain meant the stone was saturated. For both safety and proper climbing etiquette, climbing classics on wet sandstone is to be avoided, so after a perusal of the walls, Ian and I decided our plans for Zion would have to wait, as the necessary weather and time windows were not in our favor.
|How do those things exist?|
No matter: with the road winding through the park closed to all motorized traffic except for tour busses, what cyclist in their right mind would not pedal the miles of red chip seal with nary a car in sight? Certainly not this guy: One of our country’s most beautiful parks, and some of the best views to take in while breathing fresh air and cutting through the Virgin River Canyon on two wheels was not to be missed. Especially poignant was the post-apocalyptic visions of an entire two-laned roadway with only periodic pedestrians and cyclists. Where are all the cars? Who cares? Not me.
Not a surprise to see the Trek cycling vacations van parked at a local hotel.
With the Zion plans postponed to another season, it was time for the annual pilgrimage to the sandstone paradise that is southeast Utah. There is something about the glowing red sandstone of that part of the world - Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Castle Valley, the Fisher Towers and Indian Creek to name a few highlights – that feels like home.
|Who loves fall in the desert? This guy|
Sure home has always really been New England, but the red hues of an exposed petrified sea floor have a special way of drawing you back, and reluctance to see you leave. When driving across the southern Utah high desert, I’m struck by how there are actually billboards I like: they are billboards telling the story of millions of years of geological history, they are everywhere you turn and they force you to get out of the car and stare in wonder while making your face hurt from smiling so much.
|Billboards I can tolerate|
|Where the jamming is so damn good|
Enough with the frothy eloquence: To Moab and to Indian Creek to be humbled by splitter cracks gracing Wingate walls. Days of climbing desert cracks never cease to provide at least two things: ample humble pie and reminders of how there is always room to get stronger at something. Desert life is simple, mostly made up of minimal ingredients: sleeping, climbing, eating, reading, conversations, story telling and a touch of tomfoolery. Throw them all together with a group of great people in a dramatic and mostly pristine landscape and you have the recipe for an unforgettable experience. Highlights included Ancient Art in the fishers, and lots of milage on many walls in the creek.
|"Damn I love the desert"|
|The views indicate you're in the right place|
Alas, unlike some who call that part of the country home for months, I had to make my visit more temporary, and schedules had me fleeing westward back to the Sierra. For anyone making the trek across the southern Utah desert, it’s worth the detour to check out Monument Valley. It’s not a wonder that our Native American friends hold such reverence for that area: The towers are improbable, and the views majestic. The very existence and shape of the Mittens, the Totem Pole, the North Window all defy logic, and demand at least an hour of detour time in the trek from points a to b.
|Worth the detour|
After ogling and picture taking, it was time to express to the Eastside. Next came trips over to the Bay and Lovers Leap, and before I knew it, fall was coming rapidly to a close. Cool temps in the Sierra got cooler and snow blanketed nearly everything, which means it’s time for another season change, and here’s hoping for the coldest, snowiest season in memory.
|Lauren squeezes in one last lap on the granite before the temps drop and the snow falls|
|Still eating...this time a platoon of gingerbread soldiers|
|Fall, it's been great this year, and I bid you adieu 'til next|