Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Climbing Past my Fears

This past Sunday, I finally accomplished something I'd been trying to do since before freshman year: I went rock-climbing! As soon as I found out about the Wilderness Program (now the Adventure Sports Center in Alumni Hall), I decided that I wanted to try rock-climbing. New Jersey has plenty of good hiking spots, but to an unexperienced climber, nowhere to go to learn. Luckily for me, Vermont is very cliff-friendly. My plans did not work out last year, but this time around, I succeeded. By the end of the day, I was completely and utterly exhausted, but felt like my self-esteem had gone through that metaphorical roof.

The corner with the trees was my second climb route - just left of the edge of this picture was my first. 
My last climb - up a wet and mossy corner crack. Such an arm workout!
My last climb ended on a ledge; I then rappelled down 50 feet to the ground.
If you already are an outdoors person or want to be more of one, the Adventure Sports Center is the perfect place to do that. Plenty of day trips are offered throughout the seasons - rock-climb in the fall, then ice-climb in the winter - for everything from a beginner's hike to a kayaking trip on Lake Champlain. Trips are small; my rock-climbing trip only had six people, not counting the instructors, so don't worry about getting lost in a crowd. Any gear you don't already own is provided for free; most day trips cost $10-$15. Not bad for such an amazing experience!

When I saw the first two climbing routes our instructors (Trish, Lindsey, and Andrea - who also co-owns the Petra Cliffs climbing gym) set up, I had a minor, (hopefully) internal freakout. I knew we would be climbing on actual rocks - not those handily screwed-in, brightly colored "rocks" that I now know are called jugs - but subconsciously I think I was hoping for handholds to magically appear. Obviously, they didn't. Rocks don't do that. After putting off starting twice, I finally did it. I may not have gotten very high (cold rock = numb hands), but by my last climb, while I was far from an expert I was much more confident in what my body could really do. 

On my way up on my last climb - thanks for the picture, Andrea!
I am fine with the concept of heights and looking off high places, but the prospect of falling terrifies me. Not the best mindset for something where you are literally hanging on a cliff. But by my last climb, I was still scared to fall (even though I was roped in, so I couldn't, really), but was also able to more easily find handholds and trust my rope (and myself). I definitely owe that to my instructors. With the perfect balance of encouragement and the occasional boost with the rope, they helped me push my boundaries without making me feel like I was free-falling past them. I think that's a defining characteristic of our Adventure Sports instructors; I had the same experience on a snow hike last February. 

Rappelling off the ledge - behind that smile I was freaking out. Thank you, Andrea for the peptalk and the picture!
The last climbing-related activity I did was rappelling. To be honest, I found that harder mentally than the climbing itself. When you rappel, you are belaying yourself - that means you control the amount of slack in the rope and therefore how fast you descend the rock. When I was climbing, someone else belayed me; for rappelling, although Andrea had a belay rope attached as a safety measure, I was in full control of what was happening. 

As I said, I hate the idea of falling, so convincing myself that walking backwards off a ledge while secured only by a rope and harness was a good idea was more than a bit of a struggle. But I did it, and in the process, I learned to trust myself. Sensing a theme here?

We hiked to the top of the cliff for lunch - what a view!
Although three days later my muscles are still making themselves known, I have no regrets about having tried something new. I don't know if I'll ever be a hardcore climber, but this trip taught me that something "scary" can still be fun, even if you've never done it before - I'll definitely be climbing again in the future. I really encourage you to try something that pushes you out of your comfort zone - the benefits of overcoming that small fear are totally worth it.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Beyond a Burlington Bus Ride

Hello, readers! After a long and busy summer (and spring), my blog is back up and running. I really enjoyed writing about what I did, but since it is a new school year, I'm going to change things up a little to keep it interesting. Two of the changes you can (hopefully) look forward to:
  • Starting next week, I will be posting every other Wednesday. I may post on other days (like today), but unless I really feel like things aren't working, there will always be alternating Wednesday posts. 
  • I'm currently playing around with some new ideas for my material. I'm still going to focus on things to do on campus and in the surrounding area, but you might see some photo or SMC-oriented posts that are less centered on activities. Bear with me and we'll see how things go!
As many of you may know, last weekend was Family/Alumni Weekend. My family drove up all the way from New Jersey, wonderful people that they are, and we spent the weekend doing as many "Vermont" things as possible. Of course, I'm not a Vermonter, so I could be entirely wrong about that, but we still had fun.

Most of my posts focus on my on-campus adventures and Burlington outings, but this is going to be all about what you can do outside of Burlington - hence my somewhat creative title. So, when your parents come (or your aunt flies across the country) to visit you, here are a few ideas for a short road trip.

Shelburne Farms
Shelburne Farms was founded by Lila Vanderbilt Webb (yes, those Vanderbilts) and her husband as a farming estate - today it is a nonprofit run by their descendants. The farm is only a short drive from the Burlington-Colchester area and has a little something for everyone. With cows, cheese tastings, gorgeous views, and even a precocious chicken or two, what more could you ask for on a gorgeous fall day? (Nothing.)

By precocious chickens, I mean this one, who hung out under a table and watched me eat lunch. There is a food stand that sells awesome salads and hot sandwiches at the main barn - everything comes from the farm.
Brown Swiss cows are the source of Shelburne Farms' amazing cheese - try the smoked cheddar!
Shelburne Farms is certified humane - in addition to the legal requirements that they follow, their cows even come in for breaks in the air conditioning in the summer! A major part of the farm's efforts go to education about healthy living and the environment. They have camps in the summer, school programs throughout the year, and a host of other resources in what they call the Farm Barn - including a place to learn about cheesemaking and meet baby animals.
This cutie will grow up to join the milk herd eventually - but she's only a month old right now.
If you're wondering why I know all of this, Shelburne Farms offers wagon tours, which take you through most of the property. Tickets to the farm and tickets for tours are very inexpensive - $11 total for both. Definitely dress warmly - they gave us blankets in the wagon but the breeze was still a bit... brisk. The farm is open from about May to mid-October - October 16 this year, to be specific, so hurry on over and check things out! 

The tour takes visitors all the way up to the Inn at Shelburne Farms, which sits at the edge of Lake Champlain. Originally the family residence, as much as possible has been maintained in the original style. The view hasn't changed much, either.
Waterbury, VT
Just a half-hour away, there are plenty of good food opportunities in Waterbury. In addition to the main attraction - the Ben and Jerry's Factory - Green Mountain Coffee's headquarters is here, and there are also Cabot Cheese and Lake Champlain Chocolates outlets down the road. Lake Champlain Chocolates sells factory seconds (as well as everything else) there, and Cabot Cheese has samples of around twenty cheeses (that's a very rough estimate) to try. 

This is the original ice cream bus - no longer in service, it's a great picture spot.
Ben and Jerry's can take as much or as little time as you'd like. There is a factory tour - which includes samples - the old flavors graveyard, the souvenir shop, and of course, the scoop shop. There are also some truly interesting displays about the company and ice cream in general. I will caution and say that the wait for ice cream grows exponentially right after a tour lets out, but that's to be expected. I enjoyed visiting the factory at age five or six - that hasn't changed a bit, especially since there's now non-dairy ice cream for your lactose intolerant blogger!

There is obviously much more to do near Saint Mike's besides the few things I've mentioned here. But these are favorites of mine that will probably be repeated, and are proof that we've got way more than just ski mountains. Shelburne Farms may be closed during the winter, but there are other things in Shelburne and Waterbury is not a seasonal town. So when your non-skiing family makes the trek to visit you, fear not! They can't help but be entertained.

One last picture - Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains from the Inn
I already have my next post lined up - I'm just working some of the details out, so stay tuned! Did you like my pictures? Check out my Instagram under @lauralinsanity.

Until next time,