Saturday, July 23, 2011

How to Beat the Heat: Get Outside!

So, right now I'm in the throes of getting ready for the biggest challenge of 2011, which will be living for ten months in Jordan as a visiting professor in the American Studies program at the University of Jordan in Amman.  I'll be leaving the first week in September, and it feels like most of my life consists of throwing things away -- at home and at work, and trying to figure out what I need to bring for my trip.

But it's also summer in Vermont and it would be crazy to spend all my time indoors doing those things when the sun is shining gloriously outside (at least when there's not a storm brewing). This last week brought two new opportunities in the outdoor realm although, alas, I only brought my camera to one of them.  Two of my big challenges for 2011 were to become a better hiker and work on my rock climbing and I've failed miserably in both areas.  But they did each get a boost this last week, first with a hike to a summit I'd never climbed before -- Hunger Mountain-- and second, with a rock climbing expedition to Bolton.

The Hunger Mountain hike fulfilled a pact with my student/friend/fellow blogger Alyssa, who had just returned from three weeks of adventure-filled exploration in South America.  Alyssa is part of the MDG book group, and is working on both the MDG 3 (Gender Equity) chapter and the case study on Ecuador.  In the latter capacity, she joined Jerry and Drisk in some pretty extreme travelling through the cities and jungles of the country.  One thing I've discovered is that a great way to de-brief from these country trips has been over bike rides and/or hikes, and as we powered up the mountain (or more accurately, Alyssa powered up and I panted after her) she told me some pretty incredible stories of ten-hour canoe rides into the Amazon, jungles with the most amazing diversity of birds and animals imaginable and episodes of beyond-reality-TV caliber wading through mud and swamps deep into the rain forest. 

Alyssa and I at the summit of Hunger Mountain. The wind was whipping around, which was great because it had been one hot climb up.

Here's a picture of Alyssa that gives a little better sense of where we were.

This was not only a new hike for me, but a whole new area.  It would be cool to come back some time and do one of the longer hikes that start from the same trail head.

My other adventure of the week, rock climbing at Bolton was, like so many of my adventures out of doors, provided through the good graces of the Saint Michael's Wilderness Program, which set up some opportunities for faculty and staff to try some sports this summer. Six faculty/staff signed up but on the day in question, four dropped out so it was just Tom and I who showed, giving us one-to-one instruction time with our two awesome student instructors, both named Andy.

The first that came with this particular adventure was rappelling, which I had never tried before.  It's not that different from being lowered down at the end of a climb, but the first time you try it, it's plenty scary.  Basically, you have to back off a cliff and the first step down is a definite leap of faith.  And the fact that rope really does get hot from all the friction is not initially reassuring either.  But once you've done it, like so many other things, it's pretty cool. And once you're at the bottom, there's nothing to do, but climb back up! The two Andys set up top ropes for two different routes for us, and we both climbed them both.

I'll be interested to see what transpires with both hiking and rock climbing in Jordan.  I met a rock climber among the students at the Fulbright pre-departure meeting who will be in Jordan when I am, and who was excited to hear about my sighting of a new climbing gym a little out of Amman on the way to the airport.  And one never knows; maybe there's a climb in world-famous Petra in the year to come. For now, I think I need to concentrate on more purging punctuated with time outside in the greatness that is summer in Vermont. 

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