March 25, 2012

It has been a LONG time ......

I started this blog about a year ago, and quickly stopped writing when my life became hectic and tumultuous. It has been a whirlwind of a year in so many ways.... Financially, emotionally, physically... with tons of traveling, work, and heartache. So much has changed. So much has happened. I don't even know where to begin.

The van took a shit while I was out in Yosemite last spring. The transmission went out, and I didn't have the money to fix it. So, when the tow truck guy came to take it away, I sold it to him for a few hundred bucks. It was time. I definitely cried as i watched the tow truck drive away. That van had been my home for the last six years. It was the only space in my life that was truly "mine." I hitched a ride back to Boulder and remained car-less until October, when my sister sold me her Ford Explorer as she was leaving for Africa. I miss the van.... It was roomy with a full double bed in the back, tons of storage space, big comfy seats up front for driving ..... and it had character. The new rig is pretty ordinary, but it is slowly growing on me. I need to trim down what I bring on trips, but dig the four wheel drive and better gas mileage!

The sumer was tough, because the boy I was dating went off to fight fire all summer.  I missed him a ton and spent lots of money visiting California to see him. We had some incredible and idyllic times together when he could get a few days off ... then he went to Yosemite after finishing work and broke up with me right before Christmas and broke my heart in the process.

So, the holidays were hard, and I was so psyched for them to be over! I needed a vacation for my heart and my soul.... something new.... exciting... scary... crazy .... something that would change the course of my life.....


The first week of January, I jumped in the car and drove straight to Lodi, California. My only mission was to complete my AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) training. After that, who knows.... I was terrified, but determined to see what it was like. I just wanted to scare myself senseless, and knock my heart out of the rut it was in ....

 I had no idea how much I would love the sky and flying.

Seven weeks and 120 jumps later, I had to come back to Boulder to work. I had spent WAY too much money, but was climbing or jumping every day. A friend of mine asked me what it felt like to skydive, and here's what I told him:

      "It is like the ocean. Stepping out of the plane is like nothing else in this world. Time stops ... there is only peace, falling, floating, serenity... like you are being swept into a wave. The first five seconds are like a dream world...... and then you start to hit the wind as you pick up speed. It feels like the air is holding you, tossing you if you let it. The earth nears .... coming up closer and closer .... and if you were to do nothing, you would impale with the ground, and all would end .... but then you pull your chute, hope it opens and float like a feather until you land. It is therapy ... total zen meditation... the epitome of letting go."

My car, newly purchased parachute, and climbing gear are still in Sacramento, and in two days I am flying out to pick them up and run around for another six-week adventure. I have no idea where it will take me or what will happen, but I am psyched!

Mostly, I am just excited to get back on the road. Nothing fills me more than the unknown.... Nothing heals my heart like adventure, solitude, and the new-ness of each day.... now it is just me, Charlie and the Ford Explorer :)

April 19, 2011

'The Hole'

Today, I have decided to discuss a topic of a most delicate nature. Some might find it offensive, disgusting, revolting, or simply gross. If you have a weak stomach, you might prefer to backtrack your browser and check out Britney’s latest fashion flops or the nation’s most recent weight-loss trends. As for the rest, you have been warned.
The good news: If you do not rock climb and are sitting in your cubicle reading this, do not worry... the ‘hole’ will not get to you. If you only boulder or sport climb, you also will never have to deal with this dreadful malady. 
It is only those of us who cannot abstain from the perfect splitter cracks of Indian Creek that need to watch out. Ah yes, you Creek-dwellers know exactly what I am talking about. I am sure that at some point, you hung your head in shame and embarrassment, thinking you had some crazy fungus or infection between your two smallest toes. 
Well, lift that chin up and hold your head high. You are not the only one to develop this bewildering disorder. It is actually a quite common occurrence for us Creek-climbers. The condition, a.k.a ‘Creek toe’, is a sore or painful blister found between the last two toes of either foot (sometimes both). It is incredibly painful .... surprisingly so, to the point that it drives most sufferers to stop climbing completely until recovered. Here’s a close-up shot of my latest ordeal with the condition. 

For its small appearance, ‘the hole’ is actually quite debilitating. People will tell you that it is a fungus, an infection, or both. I, however, believe it is a product of the .75 Green Camalot splitter crack. The featureless one typical of Indian Creek, which provides no footholds, and forces you to continually jam your little toes mercilessly inside. 

If the crack is too small, your foot will not fit at all. If the crack is too wide, you can shove your whole foot inside and stand comfortably.The problem arises when you think your foot will fit in a crack (when in reality it doesn't), and you continue to try your darnedest to force it in. Your poor little toes end up taking the brutal impact of this struggle. Your foot is already crammed into a little climbing shoe. Subsequently forcing it into a crack of this size, creates a ton of torquing friction between your two smallest toes. Small protrusions/calcifications of bone in your foot rub together and basically grind away the flesh in between.... hence, 'the hole' ...
Once the hole has set in, there is only so much you can do.

First and foremost, stop shoving your foot in a crack for a few days! The only way to guarantee a non-recurrence is to quit crack climbing completely. For most of us, this is not an option. There is a lot of bruising that occurs during the development of the hole, so seriously, give your foot a break for a few days. The more you crack climb while afflicted, the deeper the sore becomes. This means exponentially more pain and a substantially longer recovery period. 
Wear sandals as much as possible, and put a spacer between the toes while sleeping. (Cotton balls work well.) If you continue to wear socks and shoes, keep a cotton ball between the toes (as pictured below), to prevent that little blister from marinating in your foot gunk and sweat.   

Keep the sore clean and air it out regularly. It is an open wound, and can easily fall prey to the above mentioned fungal or bacterial infections. 
Finally, when you decide to return to climbing, use moleskin on the inner sides of both toes. This will create a space between them and prevent a relapse. 

Good luck out there ... I hope you found this post informative and helpful! Let me know your thoughts and i'd love to hear about any tricks/treatments that worked well for you. 

April 14, 2011

Heading out!

Oh Indian Creek... it is time for us to part ways once again... 
As always, I have had an amazing time scaling flawless cracks, gazing at sweeping landscapes, and finding solace in perfect desert silence. Do not worry, i will be back this fall to commune once again over campfires and morning coffee... 

I dedicate this post to the many friends who shared this special time with me ....

Mason Kinloch Earle ... plastic flute-boxing

Hannah Preston ... doubting dinner

 Haircuts and Budweiser ... Bronson Hovnanian skeptically looking on 

Princess Charlie .... "I didn't do nothin' momma!"

The van ... exploding in the park

Scott Deputy .... climbing at the Crackhouse

Pamela Pack ... crushing the inversion

Amanda Smith .... loving it

 Me... hanging with the crew at the crackhouse

Special props to Mason Earle, featured in the latest Rock and Ice!

April 11, 2011

Never say 'never'

Yesterday was an incredible day! 
The miraculous happened ....I went running! An actual jog that lasted longer than a mile and crossed beautiful terrain on a sandy desert trail. I haven’t been able to do that since before my last knee surgery (almost two and a half years ago)! 
I grew up playing soccer, and even after college found myself running about six miles every other day... just because it felt good. My body needs to fly... to feel free and unencumbered in that way. Three knee injuries (and subsequent surgeries) stopped me cold in my tracks. All of the ligament damage has since healed, but i am left with huge swaths of cartilage missing in my right knee. My bones click and grind over each other with every movement. 
My doctor told me i would never climb again, and would probably never walk without pain (much less run). I know he was preparing me for the worst scenario, but my pain threshold has been maxed out ever since. I am constantly working scar tissue out of my leg, and spend loads of time doing body work on myself. I have to constantly do physical therapy to allow for greater motion.  
All of my hard work is paying off!  
I have tried jogging four times since my last surgery, but always stopped short of a mile with a “I dont know if that was a good idea” feeling. 
Yesterday i ran over four miles! 
Charlie and i set out towards Morning Glory Arch (just outside moab). It is a 2 1/4 mile trail each way, so i was planning to walk most of the way. My body felt the need to run, so i started out jogging .... and never stopped. It felt so amazing and liberating to be able to move my body in that way again. 
I am completely sore today, but I don’t feel like I did anything detrimental to the health of my knee. Charlie had the time of her life! Typically a very clean one, she was raging through the stream crossings, racing up the banks spraying wet sand in my face every time. I didn’t even care. My body was alive, my mind clear, heart soaring in the clouds! 
I dont have any pictures from the actual jog, but here’s one of charlie afterwards .... exhausted and FILTHY! 

April 9, 2011

Another Indian Creek Sunset

The sky is on fire....
Different hues of pink, orange, gold and red blaze across the sky.... basking the desert sandstone in glorious color. I can't help but pull the van over to sit and watch the show of light. Every moment feels like the sky cannot become any more breathtaking. The faintest crescent moon rises over the horizon ... the thinnest sliver of light hanging amidst the waves of fire rolling through the skies.

A warm breeze brushes my face and whispers through dried grass from last season. I can see the new shoots of spring sprouting up through the old leaves. Charlie sits curled up warming my feet.

Every time I enter this desert expanse, my heart melts into the earth. I can never fully grasp the vastness of this place or wrap my head around the endless potential lurking around ever corner. Canyons merge into each other, containing lifetimes upon lifetimes of discovery and adventure. For this brief time, however, I am content to simply sit here and watch this magical display before me. It is moments like this that I am here for. This place is where my soul truly can rest and find peace.

Colors begin to fade... the breeze becomes cooler...
More quickly now, the fire dies...
The last remainders of light linger in pinkish-purple hues on the lowest of clouds...

The moon still remains... the only sliver of light suspended in the darkening skies.

My heart is left full of fire and light .... eagerly anticipating tomorrow's adventures.

April 7, 2011

New Beginnings

My name is Sarah Watson. I am 28 years old and spend the majority of my life playing.

I have a degree in Biology and Chemisty from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire (that I have never used). At one time Veterinary school was my next step in life, but I put that aspiration on hold to travel and see the world.... I never went back.

I have a house in Boulder, Colorado, but currently live in my van and spend my life's energy rock climbing, practicing yoga, and making art.

The van is a 17 year old converted Chevy Astro Van. "The Beast" has seen better days, but she is still trucking along down the highway, racking up miles and creating memories.

Charlie is my companion ... my other half. She is a border collie mutt that picked me out at the shelter three and a half years ago. I wasn't planning on getting a dog, but she said "that one" .... and i couldn't help but take her home. She has the coolest dog-life that I know of, and travels with me to countless rock-climbing destinations. She has endless freedom and no lack of adventure.

Rock climbing also found me. I never had any inclination to challenge myself in the vertical realm as a child. Growing up in the very flat town of Green Bay, Wisconsin, I didn't know the sport existed until I was practically finished with college. Terrified of heights, i was scared to even stand near a third floor balcony! I never imagined that I would come to love hanging by my fingertips hundreds of feet off the ground.

Disinterested in the american dream, I took off on the road after graduation, needing to experience life in the fullest. I had to see everything, do everything, go everywhere, and meet everyone possible. I wanted nothing but the basics, owning only what I could carry on my back. I didn't need much, and simply wanted to learn, grow and understand myself and life in a deeper way.

That is when rock climbing found me....

I now have the van and Charlie.

This blog is the story of our life together .... Follow along on our adventures, and enjoy the ride!