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My Very Happy Unbirthday

ic6Today is my very happy unbirthday. One of many, I admit, but a holiday (to me) just the same. Since I celebrate all my non-birthdays, I like to try to do something really special when my actual birthday rolls around. Last year I went ice climbing (my first time) at Northern Lights Rock & Ice in Essex Junction, Vermont.

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I had a blast! I was a little apprehensive about going at first. Climbing and ice were two words that really just didn’t seem to go together. But when you strap the crampons on your boots and you take the ice axes in hand something special happens – you become a person with many sharp objects with which you could hurt yourself (or others).

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Northern Lights Rock & Ice is a great place for beginners to try ice climbing for the first time. They provide you with all of the equipment you need. They also have their own ice wall, complete with rope and pulley system to belay you. Great idea, because if something should go awry and someone does get injured, you’re in the middle of a town, accessible to help, instead of being out in the wild. Another great thing is that if you like them on Facebook (clink link) you can get a ‘buy one, get one free’ coupon!

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I had such a great time that I’ve planned another ice climbing trip, this time for Christmas. Out in the mountains in New Hampshire. On wild ice. (As long as it’s there, otherwise the trip will have to be postponed.) Which brings up the question – what will I do for my next birthday? I think I want to try spelunking.

Climbing the Walls

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This weekend the sky was grey and streaked with angry clouds. It was cold, windy and rainy. Not the type of weather you want to be outside in, but after a week at work, spending the day inside makes me feel like I’m going to climb the walls. So that’s exactly what I did!

I went to the Central Rock Gym that opened this past summer in Watertown, MA. Last winter I logged a lot of hours at the Central Rock in Worcester, but the Watertown gym is closer and the walls are higher – up to fifty feet! New building, new equipment, new climbs – what’s to lose? The rock climbing gym is a lot different from climbing rocks on mountains outdoors. (Unless you do the whole Cliffhanger thing, but after you’ve seen the opening scene of the movie, why would you?) It’s an incredible whole body workout, and you can rent all the equipment you need so you don’t have to invest in any purchases until you decide whether you like it or not.

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The first thing I’d like to say about rock climbing gyms is that they smell like feet. Just a warning to anyone who hasn’t been to a rock climbing gym before but would like to give it a try – brace yourself when you walk through the door. Even a new rock climbing  gym, even in the cold, can knock you over with the smell of feet. (Just being honest.) You get used to it quickly, though, and shouldn’t let it stop you from giving it a try. Rock climbing shoes are uncomfortable to just stand in, and a lot of people take them off whenever they’re not climbing. The padded floors tend to pick up the odor and hold onto it like the last piece of Halloween candy, so be forewarned.

As long as you’re careful and know what you’re doing, it’s relatively safe. Most gyms offer introductory classes every couple of hours on the weekends. You have to trust your belayer – the person on the ground who takes up the slack in the rope and keeps the line locked so if you slip and fall, you don’t go far. The pulley system used is great; you can safely belay for someone well over a hundred pounds more than yourself.

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The harness isn’t the most comfortable contraption, but it’s a necessary evil. One you slip and swing for a bit 40 feet up in the air you’ll appreciate it. It provides a sense of security and comfort. And after your first slip or two you’ll find that it’s not as scary as you’d imagine. Just watch the wall, get back on it, and keep climbing. Or not. If you want down, you just let your belayer know, and use your feet to propel and protect you as you jump down the wall.

It’s a great way to spend a day inside. It’s not all upper body strength like you might think – your arms and back will get worked, but a great deal of climbing involves strategizing your way up in your mind and using your legs. While climbing, I’ve been next to five year olds and people well into their golden years. (I don’t wan to be rude and speculate about age, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an octogenarian or two!) So give it a try sometime!

Wild Ponies

Tempest & Sullivan  They come racing full speed ahead to greet me, their furry little bodies bouncing off each other as they vie for the lead. Rearing as they nip and paw at each other for the right to welcome me first. Sliding to a halt in front of me, nuzzling my hands, demanding the attention they deserve. My pups are wild ponies.

My little ponies constantly race around the house frolicking, wrestling, teasing each other with toys. I love when I’m down in the basement and I can hear their thundering stampede dashing about overhead like a herd of wild oxen. Or when I take them hiking and they dart about like little wolves, sniffing, searching, stalking down their prey.Tempest Smiling

Tempest and Sullivan are the sweetest Terrier Terrorists you’ll ever meet. A combined 50 pounds of nub wagging, wiggling joy. Sometimes they’re just plain savage with their over exuberant affection and insatiable demands for attention. They’ll lick your skin raw if you let them.

Sully Posing

Puppy love is not always easy. They’re a big responsibility, and, like children, you have to put them and their needs first. There are days when their needs and demands are overwhelming. Times when you’d like to go somewhere or do something, but you can’t because you have to get home and walk the pups, or you can’t leave them home along that long. But they do make life better, happier, and at times even easier.

Both Tempest and Sullivan are rescue pups. Tempe is a tall, wild haired Jack Russell with the characteristic terrier personality – complete with the big attitude and intelligence. Sully is a…..special blend. Very sweet, good-natured and agreeable. Knowing a dog’s breed can be important in educating the owner about potential health (and behavioral) issues, so I had his DNA tested. My little man is half Schnauzer, quarter bull-dog, and 1/8 both Dachshund and Pomeranian. But they’re both 100% adorable.

Love Puppies

I’m a huge advocate of adoption. There are shelters all across the country teeming with animals waiting for a good home. Large and small, young and old, pure breeds and mixes…..there’s a perfect match out there for every one if you take the time to look. And I hope you do.

Pups in a Florida Garden

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