Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crocuses and Lizards

When I was living back east in the DC area, the crocuses were the sure sign that spring was right around the corner. No guarantee that there wouldn't be anymore 12" or bigger snowstorms before winter was done, but a pretty sure sign that I'd soon be able to put away the cold weather trappings -- the long-sleeve bike jerseys, the winter motorcycle gloves, and the kayaking drysuit -- until fall and start being dangerously distracted by sundresses as I dodged traffic pedaling home through Georgetown. Though I never did it, I was long tempted to copy one of my Virginia suburb neighbors who planted crocus bulbs to spell out, in letters four feet high, the word "SPRING" across the front lawn.

Since it's only my second spring here in Prescott, I'm still a little vague on the signs of the changing seasons, but it has to be a harbinger of things to come that we were out bouldering at Groom Creek earlier this week, just a quarter mile or so from the spot where we were playing in two feet or more of snow less than a month ago. My co-conspirators included our 14-year old (clearly the best boulderer of our trio) and a friend of hers from middle school.

Never a great climber to begin with, I wasn't helped a bit by the winter layoff. Stuff that had been easy just a few months ago left me off balance, out of sync, and at least once bouncing gracelessly off the crashpad, reminding the chatting, distracted teenagers that we'd agreed to spot one another, which is kind of hard to do when you've wandered away to talk about the latest drama & gossip.

Feeling a bit beat-up, I didn't object a bit when the fun shifted from boulder problems to a friendly competition to find the most sun-dappled, most comfortable, most scenic bit of granite to stretch across for a mid-morning siesta. With the teens having commandeered the crash pad, I tried a few options (including a nicely weathered, horizontal pine trunk that was almost wide enough to lie along without teetering from side to side) before settling on a boulder that did the trick. About 20 feet high (with chalk smudges on the handholds marking the way a REAL climber would have gotten up; I shinnied up the easy back side), there were indentations at the top that seemed custom made for my head, shoulder blades & butt. The sun washed the whole top, but a friendly ponderosa pine offered just a little filtered shade to my face, so I could survey my domain without squinting or lifting my head.

I did have to share my spot -- with one of the first lizards I've seen in 2009. Like me, she (he?) was soaking up the sunshine and the warmth of the stone that seemed to chase away the memories of when this very spot was wrapped in a snowy blanket. The lizard probably didn't know that we've got a chance of snow in the forecast for early next week, but one thing we both felt in our bones was that the cold can't last, and that spring is upon us, crocuses or not.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Verde Falls, Round 2

A second trip down Verde Falls this past Sunday went slightly (only slightly) higher on the style meter, with about 3X as much water going over the lip as had been there during my previous, elegantly-inverted escapade. This time around, I managed a good line to the left side (not an option at lower water) and thought I put in a good boof stroke at the lip that would shoot me over the top of the fall's backwash. Not so much. I submarined in good and deep, then attempted two or three rolls without really knowing which direction was up.Thankfully, it's a pretty forgiving hole and spat me free at river left after a few seconds of the rag doll shake, and my last roll did the trick.

The bigger news was West's hard-man finish of most of the run when a broken paddle in the Pre-Falls rapid left us looking at Verde Falls with three kayakers and just five paddle blades among us. We did some radical surgery on the remnants of the broken paddle (this after taking stock and realizing that not one of us had brought the "don't leave home without it" duct tape -- Doh!) and he put his C1 slalom racing skills to the test. Though Verde Falls that day probably won't be among his favorite memories, the rest of the trip was one he should be proud of, pushing a stubborn little playboat along with half a paddle.