When I confirmed my flights, I quickly reached out to Daniel. I miss climbing outdoors, as does he, and late-August is definitely a good time to get onto the wall. It’s hot, true, but also minorly less likely to be rainy… so I’ll take it.
After deliberation, we locked into a destination – Hanging Mountain, a new crag recently opened to the public. I’d first heard about it last November, when flying out for Dillon’s bachelor party, but honestly didn’t know much about it, aside from that it was in Western Mass. We dove into some research, locked in the details, and headed out early on Sunday morning.
Well… early-ish. I mean, it’s Daniel, right? And me. We do mornings… but not really.
As far as new crags go, it was amazing. As far as established crags go, it was also amazing. The rock was solid, the trails well cut, and the belay areas tolerably sized. The areas were beautifully close together, and it was basically abandoned on the Sunday that found us scaling the heights.
So what did we climb, you may ask? Well. We climbed all the things!
Acorn Face / Squirrel Wall: – Lost and Found, 5.7, Sport lead – Radiant Sky, 5.10d top rope, one cheat move… I admit.
Progressive Buttress: – Green New Deal, 5.7+, Sport lead – Nevertheless, 5.8-, Sport lead – She Persists, 5.8, Sport lead – Feel the Bern, 5.10, Top rope
I went back to Massachusetts! My friend Allison was getting married! I’d get to dance, see everyone, and have a great time!
It was a near-thing, truth be told… Looking at flights ahead of time, this whole “gas is expensive and the world is falling apart at the seams” thing is definitely happening. Or, at least, the airlines are using it as an excuse to jack up prices? Either way – a normally $600 round-trip flight was looking more like $1,800, and my attendance at the good times, delicious food, and awesome dancing was looking unlikely at best.
Then, miracles! Two days before I had to make the call about whether to bite the expensive bullet… flights dropped! I found a round-trip ticket for $800… not the cheapest, but also not nearly as outrageous as the previous costs had ballooned to. I booked it, locked in a hotel, and launched my excited RSVP out to the bride and groom.
See… Allison is a swing dancer, and a DJ. Most of her friends are dancers, or DJs. When you combine that with excellent taste, a good palette, and a drive to rock every event attended… well, I was psyched for the wedding.
Weddings are a lot like hikes. Bear with me – the metaphor will make sense in a second.
They’re awesome, and enjoyable, and give lasting excellent memories.
But they don’t transcribe well to paper. I could type out about the food (delicious), the dancing (fun), and the company (stellar), but it wouldn’t come close to expressing the details and minutia of the event.
So I won’t type it out. I’ll just leave you, my dear readers, with this photo of myself, taken by Daniel, after I commandeered his sunglasses. Because obviously Daniel brought sunglasses.
I’ll also briefly mention the excitement of the evening afterward… we’d all made our way back to the hotel, after an excellent evening. We’d chatted, wound down, and had all retired to our respective boudoirs.
I was awoken to a distant chirping.
The chirping approached quickly, gaining volume and intensity, until the fire alarms in my room ignited into sound and light. Groggily, I threw on clothes and grabbed my wallet and room key before heading toward the stairway. Meeting Daniel and Erin on the way, we quickly learned through the grapevine that someone had lit something on fire in their room… but no one really knew any other details.
An hour, and a few fire trucks, later… we were back in bed. Fun times, but nothing too significant aside.
It made for some good groggy morning conversation at the diner the next day, though. I’ll tell you what.
It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Massachusetts… I think it was for Dillon and Liz’s wedding, wasn’t it? That’s sounding right… though I frankly can’t believe that was only six months ago. These last few months have felt like forever, and it was high time that I got back East. The rock was calling, family and friends beckoned, and I hadn’t seen my Grandma in far, far too long…
Ohh man… Okay so bear with me for a moment or two, because I’m gonna tell you a story.
Years ago, I started college in Boston.
Yup. We’re throwing ALLLLLL the way back to 2005, baby!
Anyways, when I started and moved in, I was fortunate enough to find a pretty solid friend group who I began exploring the city with. One of those evenings we decided to go into the North End, and find ourselves an excellent Italian dinner.
As we were wandering around, we came to a small hole in the wall with an older gentleman sitting out front. We’re talking your perfect stereotype of an older Italian grandpa… small, with a cigar, lounging around with a cigar tray and a glass of some kind of bourbon or wine or I don’t know what. We didn’t know yet that hole-in-the-wall places are almost always the best, so we proceeded to walk right on past… until the gentleman called out.
“There’s no room inside. Sorry, all booked”
We looked in… there were one or two patrons, but it was still early in the evening, and the restaurant was far from full.
“I wish we could seat you, but we can’t. Sorry.”
He looked us over… we were stopped, but half-starting to move on past.
“You know what? I like the look of you all. Give me a minute, I’ll talk to the host and see if we can get you a table.”
We looked at each other. We had no idea what to do… We were all fresh-faced Freshmen, and were barely out of our high school cocoons. He came back out.
“I talked to the host, and convinced him to give you a table. Come in! Come in!
That evening, I found the best Chicken Parmesan in the city of Boston. Some people say that, somewhere in the universe, is an ideal version of every object. A perfect chair, the optimal hair tie, and the perfect climbing shoes. I may not have found that single ideal Chicken Parmesan that night, but I haven’t found one better since.
I’ve been back to that restaurant, Cafe Lucia (or Lucia Risorante, I can never quite remember) quite a few times. Work dinner, friend dinners, dates, all of it. It’s never failed to astound, and I’m terrified of the day that something causes them to close their doors.
Thankfully, this visit to Boston saw them still open, and still just as inviting as that evening so many years ago. Dillon and Liz, Daniel and Erin, Clara and Brian, we all met up and enjoyed their amazing fare. We ate, we drank, and we caught up… for which I’m endlessly thankful.
Any time I get sad or lonely out in Oregon, my mind wanders back to that street in the North End… or more accurately, to the smiling faces of friends that I know are always there for me. Even if it’s something as simple as an evening out in the North End to celebrate the end of an amazing week back on the East Coast, visiting friends and family.