"Not all those who wander are lost"

The Hunt for the Mountain Pine Beetle

Houses are full of things that gather dust.

-Jack Kerouac

 

Some people wonder why I don’t make plans, but it’s really just my reaction to the unpredictable nature of my life.  If I make plans, then I expect them to happen, I work toward them and I have a harder time changing things if I need to.  If I don’t make plans, I do whatever comes naturally.  Plus, even if I do make plans, they usually don’t happen.

Before leaving Lander, I bought a flight to Spain.  I was psyched.  I had been training all summer, and then I would have a few weeks to climb in September before heading to Spain, Turkey, and France for 9 months.  I barely had enough money to even consider such a crazy trip, and not nearly enough to actually do it without a lot of free camping and free meals.  None the less, I was going for it and figured I would make it work somehow.

If you can’t guess by the tenses I used and the first paragraph, none of that actually happened.

Just as I was leaving Lander I got a message from a friend I had climbed with in Ten Sleep asking if I wanted to work in eastern Wyoming spotting for Mountain Pine Beetle the following day.  I like the fact that I can pick up and change my life on a moment’s notice.  Unfortunately I don’t have any magical powers so I wasn’t able to start work Friday when I got the message late Friday morning.  We talked though and the only thing I came away with was that I could make better money than swinging hammer or serving for a couple months if I headed to Spearfish.

I had missed the first training so I headed to Ten Sleep for a few days.  I battled on Supermama for a couple days and got really close to a send, but figured out that I was grabbing a hold wrong too late in the day to pull it off.  Snow and cold temps were coming in so I headed out.

I showed up in Spearfish with no idea what was going on, but with the idea that if things fell through, Spearfish Canyon is a cool climbing spot I wanted to check out anyway.  A couple snowy days hanging out in my van later and the sun finally returned.  I headed into the canyon and spent three days exploring a great new limestone summer crag.  Spearfish has some great climbs and tends to be a bit of a different style from Ten Sleep, Wild Iris, Sinks, VRG, or Wailing Wall.  That’s one of the things I love about limestone; it feels like every limestone crag has a very unique feel and style.

The county run training started and my climbing ended.  I learned how to spot beetles, check to be sure, and then was working 6-7 days a week.  I had expected to climb most days I wasn’t working, but soon realized that, on the occasional days I didn’t work, it was hard to drive an hour and a half just to show up at the crag hoping to find a partner.

Work was a lot of hiking up hills, across steep hills, down steep hills, swimming though scrub oak, and hoping crazy rednecks don’t shoot me for being on their neighbors property.  Working in a group would often involve a lot of standing around since the group went slower than the slowest person once you factor in communication.  Once I was able to work alone, it became relatively serene.  I would spend days listen to books, podcasts, and music as I tromped through the woods looking for beetles.  I ran into lots of deer and turkeys, and had a few glimpses of a big herd of Elk.

Osage, WY was without a doubt the worst place I have lived.  It’s a dingy former oil town that has more empty buildings than inhabited ones.  Newcastle, the next town over, has all the charming appeal of living on an oil rig; it’s far from everything, nothing to do, and nobody there.  The one tiny haven I found was T & A Brewery.  I noticed their sign a few days after they opened and soon it was a regular hang out.  After realizing that none of the other smoky dives in town had anything good (one bar tender asked me if the IPA I requested was a brand of beer or a mixed drink), it was awe-inspiring to walk into a renovated brick building and see 20 shining taps on the back wall.  They have internet, comfortable couches, TVs to watch football, and Andrew (one of the owners) is even a Patriots fan.  It was a little piece of Newcastle that didn’t suck.

Work was always uncertain, never quite knowing if we would have more work once we finished the current plot.  At the beginning of November, I was told that we would have to wait almost a week to get the next and probably last plot.  I was done.  I packed up and headed east the next day.  My plan was to head to Spain and if I had to drive to Kansas to leave my car, I might as well go climb in the Red and go home for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes my own logic stupefies me, because, despite each place being 10-20 hours apart, that made some kind of crazy sense.

I had a great time hanging out with some friends and my brother as I headed east.  Unfortunately my few days in the Red were frigid and frustrating (as a result of essentially not climbing for 2 months).  Still, it’s hard not have fun when you’re life costs ~$5 a day and you have friends around, not to mention a plentiful supply of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.  I climbed a bit, hung out, and continued toward Maine.  The real bummer came my second day after leaving the Red when my elbow began hurting while doing pull-ups in a gym.

My constant debate about what to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas was finally put to an end when I accidentally searched for flight prices to Turkey on December 6th instead of January 6th.  A hundred dollars cheaper, no need to figure out a plan, and no good reason I could see to stay all added up to one decision; I was going to Turkey in less than 2 weeks!

Thanksgiving was fun hanging out with family and friends, hectic trying to get everything ready before I left for Turkey, and gone way too quickly.  Then it was time to begin the grand adventure.

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