When I was in college, I went through a brief rock climbing phase towards the end of my senior year. My school had an indoor wall in the athletics building, and I found myself going there every day; I'd walk in the door and straight past the ellipticals and weight-lifting contraptions to the sign in sheet, trade my flip flops for some close-toed shoes, and harness up. I found comfort in the lack of competition rock climbing provided. While on the wall, it was just me, my breath, and my stubbornness pushing me to the top. The best part was seeing the results: as I conquered the easier routes and moved on to more difficult ones, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was getting better, and it showed. Then I graduated, and I've only been climbing a couple of times since, always on indoor walls.
When my friend Elena picked me up from the airport on Monday, she announced that she and a few others, including my friend Annie, were planning on driving down to Barn Bluff in Red Wing to do some rock climbing, this time on real rocks. I was dreaming of a soft bed and a long nap, but I couldn't say no to a good, old-fashioned Memorial Day full of outside activities and spending time with friends, and I was informed there would be a hammock present, so I decided to go along for the ride. I was also curious to see if my muscles would remember their time on the wall (they did not - oh, how I ache right now), and I thought it would be fun to test my chops on real rocks.
We hiked up to the bluffs from the cars, and I was overwhelmed by how different from LA our surroundings were. The woods were green, green and more green, and the air was humid and full of mosquitoes. It's funny how easy it is to forget that seasons exist when you live in a place like Los Angeles, which is ridiculously temperate and bug-free. I expressed my surprise over and over again each time I received a new bite. But it was all worth it once we found a good spot and slipped on helmets, shoes and harnesses. As I climbed, I felt a long-forgotten rush of exhilaration as I squished my toes into crevices and contorted my fingers into the perfect shape to grasp on a hold, slowly hoisting myself higher and higher. I had to stop just short of the top when my forearms became so exhausted that they felt numb and swollen and my fingers ceased to be able to grip anything. When I got back to the bottom, I could barely untie my shoes and my legs were shaking. I was drenched in sweat and elated. The remainder of the day was a glorious mixture of watching the others climb, swinging in the hammock, munching on dried fruit and granola (naturally), and enjoying the company of friends new and old. Relaxation at its finest. We all agreed that it was a successful adventure.