Nine to Five
Thanks to the new job I started almost a month ago, I have weekends off for the first time in decade. While I have been preaching the benefits of having weekdays off almost as long as I have been working weekends, I was pretty stoked to join the ranks of the “regular people” working Monday through Friday, nine to five. While I knew that there would be an adjustment period to my new schedule, I was not wholly prepared for just how busy places get on the weekend.
I’ve been working weekends for the last ten years, but it’s not like I didn’t get the occasional weekend day off. I never remember things being this busy. I recently spent a Sunday bouldering at Pawtuckaway, and was floored by how busy the park was. On most of my travels there I have seen a hiker or two and encountered one or two small groups of climbers. Typically driving the “road” into the park is an adventure in itself due to the huge ruts, enormous roots, and giant rocks that populate the majority of the surface (not to mention the periodic flooding). On that day it was made even more hazardous thanks to the large amount of people walking in the road and the incredible amount of cars parked along the side of it. I believe I saw more people on the road that day than I had seen there the past five years total.
When I finally made it to the parking area, I had to bypass the first two parking lots (I use the word lot but it is really more a collection of parking spaces in between the boulders and trees that line the road), and was lucky to find a place to park in the final lot. From the lot the hoots and hollers could be heard coming from distant boulder fields, with the noises growing louder the closer I got. Upon arriving at the boulders, I couldn’t believe the amount of people there climbing, in spite of the indicators I met with on the approach. The way groups were lined up at the boulders was reminiscent of climbing events I have been to down south such as Boulderween or the days leading up to a Triple Crown event, not an average weekend day. On most of my past visits to Pawtuckaway, I have encountered three or four other climbers; on this day, three or four people were watching three or four more spot a climber. Groups of six or more climbers were more the norm rather than the exception that day.
The weekend prior to my Pawtuckaway adventure, I was in Crawford Notch on a cool fall day that was threatening rain. I was climbing Lost in the Sun with a few friends. Being an easier multi-pitch route, Lost in the Sun typically sees a fair amount of traffic, but on that day we only encountered one other party. By the time we ran into them, we were already in the process of rappelling the route, so we basically had the place to ourselves. Getting into the car that day I thought to myself that weekends aren’t that bad, but in hindsight I am pretty sure the reason we were alone was no one wants to climb wet slabs, with the threat of having to bail off the route in the rain.
Driving into Woodstock after getting off Lost in the Sun was just as unsettling as Pawtuckaway would be the following week. Cars lined both sides of the road, and the parking lots were all filled with cars. People swarmed the sidewalks of downtown Woodstock, most of whom I will presume came north to gaze at the fall foliage. Even the little convenience store where we typically grab sandwiches and beer had two registers open and people lined up five deep. It was a pretty shocking to see the normally sleepy store (that I like to joke looks like it could fall apart any minute) be so busy.
I don’t know how I feel about the crowds, but I’m sure that as I settle into a routine I will find a way to avoid them, or at least most of them. For all the hassle of dealing with the masses, there are some real positives to having weekends off. For one thing, when coming home from New Hampshire on a weekday you had to concern yourself with rush hour traffic–no such problems on a weekend. Plus, the group of people available to get out on the weekends is far larger than the weekday variety. My girlfriend also seems to enjoy having me around more (only time will tell if that remains true). I suppose with time I will either find ways to avoid the crowds or learn how to live with them.