melissa i strong
rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily
How Quickly Life Changes
I could feel the tingling beginning slowly in my hands. Immediately I tried to throw down the electric leads. As I desperately shook my hands I realized I couldn’t. I was part of the electric chain and that was when I realized how screwed I was as I felt the current ramp up.
On April 2, 2017 I made a mistake, a very big mistake.
Here it is the big news----drumroll please---I am opening my own restaurant!
Working in the restaurant industry in Estes Park for 21 years I am more than ready to start my own adventure and work for myself.
I am so fortunate to have solid funding and some amazing talented people jump on board with me. !00% in are Jimmy Kuch and Chef Ethan Brown!
Together we are bringing you Bird & Jim, named for Isabella Bird and Mountain Jim some true grit Estes Park historic characters. We are offering a modern mountain dining experience from an ingredient driven kitchen. Our goal is to bring thoughtful cuisine driven by seasonal ingredients sourced from the Front Range of Colorado and beyond in a comfortable atmosphere featuring stunning views of Rocky Mountain National Park.
All summer long I waved goodbye to Adam. Some days these goodbyes were filled with acceptance others were filled with bitter lament that I was not going climbing.
The fall was a bust. My knee was feeling better but hip and back were messed up and are still but today not as bad and hopefully on the mend.
The good news—I was able to do some boulder problems! I wasn’t as weak as I thought and once I started moving I was actually climbing all right much to my and Adam’s surprise.
Getting back to being ME!
Australia, Picking Up The Pieces, A New Hat, and Awaiting An Accurate Diagnosis- Elbow EnlightenmentJuly 28, 2016
Australia was an escape--something to look forward to after getting the news that our IVF (in-vetro fertilization) attempt was not a success. Also to give us a break after my knee surgery foiled any other vacations this year...
A New Hat I also started my role as a climbing volunteer in Rocky Mountain National Park, RMNP. I am the first climbing volunteer the park has allowed (bouldering specific)!
Picking Up The Pieces With these physical challenges I am also attempting to pick up pieces of my emotional self—the shattered dreams of not becoming a mother. Coming home and knowing IVF did not work I am realigning my expectations on life...
Awaiting A Diagnosis- Elbow Enlightenment Just last week I found out the sad truth and the jury is still out as I wait to see a specialist at the Steadman Clinic in Vail on August 17. It appears according to the radiology report, yes I have tendinitis but also a lot of other things going on...
Facts & Some Speculation About What is Going on With the Future of Hueco Tanks:
• The Public Use Plan, PUP, in Hueco Tanks is being reviewed in a series of meetings for suggested changes.
• The PUP review meetings were sparked by unrest driven by a former park ranger, Alex Mares, about locals not being able to get into the park. Alex and his collaborators have claimed that rock climbers were dominating the park and therefore locals could not use their park.
KEEP READING IT GETS INTERESTING
Not The Summer Fun I Was Planning
Remember that MRI I did't get after Switzerland? The one after my right knee made the loud popping sound—well I finally got it thanks to the fact I developed elbow tendonitis in my left elbow. Why are these two aliments connected? .....
Avoiding the bitching moaning blues—life of an aging athlete or ailing?
Well it was my turn I guess but from what I understand tendinitis is not catchy. Adam’s “recovery” from a two-year battle with tendinitis occurred not too long before my elbow flared up and man it is on fire.
Managing tendinitis, a knee injury and carpel tunnel and searching for the silver lining... I think I found it.
Recommendations from TPWD of the Hueco Tanks Working Group
TPWD has come up with a response to the working group recommendations and are moving forward hiring people to get some the recommendations to come to fruition. The stakeholders representing recreation recently met with TPWD representative, Mark Lockwood, Region 1 Director, to review some of their responses to recommendations put forth by Hueco Tanks working group. The areas discussed were“cultural resources survey using D-Stretch to identify pictographs not recorded previously and guided rope climbing tours on North Mountain."
Making lemonade out of lemons backfired big time in this situation.
We went into winter without travel plans for several reasons. I was getting over carpal tunnel surgery and my plaguing elbow tendinitis made me not excited to plan climbing trips. Also, Adam did not have a foreman to take over the tree service making it very difficult – in fact impossible to leave. We were rolling with it and figuring we’d get to Hueco sooner than later...
Moving Wood; Waiting For Answers—An Attempt at In Vitro Fertilization—A Window to My Soul.
Sisyphus was condemned to move a stone up a hill over and over again. Today I chose a similar fate for myself as I picked up as many logs as my fragile self would allow from the pile of wood in the front yard. All I had to do was wait. Wait for a phone call that would tell me if my surgery that morning could possible result in us having a baby.
Piedmont, Italy our Wine Vacation (from our vacation)
March & April 2015
In the back of my mind, our dream climbing trip to Switzerland was always laced with the notions of seeing more than just the boulders. Once I realized how close to Piedmont we were our vacation from our vacation began to blossom.
Ah vacation land—what can I say, boast about how amazing the rock is in the Ticino Valley, about how beautiful the scenery is, about how nice the people are, about the delicious wine, pizza and gelato, about our mini vacations from our vacation? Or complain that I popped my knee day three in Chironico (week 1 of the vacation), that I have a huge hole in my finger, that I am not as young as I once was so have to take more rest days, that it has rained, that life in dream land is not inexpensive? Or a bit of both…
The Second Meeting of Hueco Tanks's PUP Under Review
On February 19, 2015 the “working group” put together by Texas Park & Wildlife Department, TPWD, met for the second meeting in a series of six to review Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site’s, HTSP&HS, Public Use Plan, PUP, to make suggestions for the future use of Hueco Tanks. February’s topic of Natural and Cultural Resource management in HTSP&HS raised some passionate conversation. (For information about the first meeting and the events that lead up to these meetings, please see http://www.melissaistrong.com/hueco-tanks-pup-under-review.html)
Difficult Decisions; to return to Hueco or to stay at home--listening to injuries
To return to Hueco or to stay at home—not something I usually ask myself. Life has presented me with some challenging decisions due to another shoulder injury.
Hueco Tanks Public Use Plan Under Review
On January 27, 2015 about 40 people joined together for the first meeting in a series of six to review the Public Use Plan, PUP, implemented in 2000 by Texas Park and Wildlife Department, TPWD, in Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, HTSP&HS.
Listening, Understanding, Forgiving & Accepting Your Maturing Athletic Self; Confessing of Over Training & Getting Back on Course
October 15, 2014
It seems like I hit lows/valleys two times a year and it’s time to learn from the lows. What is similar in both situations is me continuously pushing myself—with little to no rest!
Now matter how much I hate to admit it I am getting older and I my body is feeling it. As I mature into my 40’s (by the way it is so difficult to face that but this is part of my lesion—I am not 20 any more--ACCEPTANCE) there is no more denying it—my body needs more rest.
Taking Pictures, Estes Park Museum's Bouldering Exhibit & Fall in the Rockies
September 30, 2014
I have always enjoyed taking pictures. I think it must have come from my father. He always had a camera ready to capture special moments, the brilliant New England scenery, skiing and other family adventures. He undauntedly lugged around bulky camera and/or video equipment on our family vacations--usually cursing at the weight of the latest contraption or when it would not function.
August 10, 2014 My First Triathlon and a Mouth Full of Lake Catamount My first triathlon went well. Not as good as I had hoped and not as bad as it could have gone. I finished in 1 hour and 47 minutes, 5th for my age group. I was hoping for anywhere from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 50 so I cannot complain but here is the story of what did go wrong.
August 10, 2014
The life of a working athlete: juggling climbing, work, training, overtraining, rest and life.
Bouldering – it is what we do, what we love to do, what we work for, it is our reward, it brings contentment, peace and happiness. When you can’t do what you love, you are just not right, there is something a little off as you go through your day with an uneasy edge. At least that is how I get when I have to rest due to an injury or just cannot climb because of the demands of life...
Spring in the Rockies
June 24, 2014
Spring in the Rockies can bring in some bad weather and we got our fair share this year—including two feet of snow on mother’s day, May 11th! On several occasions this bad weather has untimely rolled in on my days off which means a lot of cooking, training and plastic climbing which thankfully I can do all at home!
April 13, 2014
Some unsolicited advice on finger tweaks, Crimp Oil and resting...
I have always struggled with listening to my body and knowing when to hold back from climbing hard, rest completely or push though. I am a very determined person and have a hard time not focusing my attention on what I love--climbing. With most of my injuries I have pushed through--I have been lucky using this tactic in some situations and in others, like my shoulder, I believe I prolonged recovery.
EP & One Last Rodeo
From Estes Park to El Paso to Estes Park back to El Paso and eventually back to Estes Park but here in El Paso for a bit but without my love, Adam. So far that has been my Hueco season with climbing in-between, Hueco Rock Rodeo work, Wagon Wheel Co-opt, WWC, work and since I went back to Estes I worked at the Dunraven while I was home over the New Year (and of course some Tree Service book work too). My work is normal throughout the Hueco season (WWC and the HRR) but the back and forth and being without Adam is not.
21st Hueco Rock Rodeo Round Up!!!2/19/14The 21st Hueco Rock Rodeo, HRR, once again has lived up to its iconic status and has proven that the Rodeo has grown into a fantastic three day climbing festival in the desert southwest! Hueco Tanks State Historic Site allowed 10 extra spots in the backcountry and 5 on North Mountain making it the biggest Rock Rodeo with 175 competitors and registration was full the week before comp!
The Lost Season
It has been a crazy year to say the least. The calamity began in March shortly after our return from Hueco with and avalanche that took a dear friend and fortunately spared another--one of my long time greatest friends and climbing partners, Lisa Foster, survived. Myself and many suffered greatly because of this loss. Picking the up pieces, being a supportive friend and moving forward was all we could do and still are doing.
A tale of
best friends & the poo
June 4, 2014
Yes this just happened. I'm sitting in my home in Estes Park, just finished training, minding my own business getting some stuff done before work (a very typical day) and I hear the UPS man in the drive. Thinking it must be a birthday present for Adam I happily receive the package. Hugh, not a company I recognize, what could it be, I wonder as I open the package and this is what I found.
Sendtember Paused by the Colorado Floods: Our Experience in Estes Park, CO
October 25, 2013
The sound of rain on our roof used to be a comforting sound soothing us to sleep knowing that the dry forest was soaking up the much needed moisture. That all changed for me Wednesday September 11, 2013. It had been raining all week, which was not typical for Colorado. Wednesday night the pounding rain was ferociously loud as it hammered down on our metal roof. The clamor kept me from sleep and naively my biggest worry was the garage was taking in water. Eventually it was time to quit the game of attempting to sleep and I was up. Yes, mattresses under our climbing wall in the garage were soaking up water that was pouring in and the skylights were beginning to dribble.
First Ascents and Chicken Winging
Bouldering first ascents have been hard for me to come by throughout my climbing career. I have definitely found new rocks and stunning lines but usually I am out with my husband, Adam, or another strong fellow who happens to be waiting their turn for the first ascent. They politely hang back and encourage me for a bit but then it is time for me to step aside and the problem is done. This is how the Brown Frown at Emerald Lake was established by Adam and how Buffalo Solider at Pear Lake was put up by Mike Wickwire.
A vow was made as I left Hueco--to come back ready next season--ready to crush!
I have suffered for three years from a shoulder injury that I foolishly choose to climb through rather than rest and let recover. This decision kept me climbing but not using my shoulder correctly. I was compensating and climbing in fear making the situation worse. Because of this I lost a lot of strength that I needed to get back. With my shoulder becoming more stable (yet still suffering from a shoulder impingement) I realized how weak I got in the interim--this is what initially drove me to training.
The End of Hueco...For Now
The end of Hueco—I am going back in time but it seems like I only posted on our efforts on bringing the 20th Hueco Rock Rodeo together. The Rodeo went well which was a great relief since I worked very hard putting the event together. I was so happy and fortunate to have my husband Adam’s help and a great team of volunteers who with out I would have been lost. The AAC and our guides at Wagon Wheel and the Rock Ranch really brought the event together and made it hugely successful!
2nd Annual Hueco Rock Rodeo Youth Comp Round-Up
April 4, 2014
It was sunny Sunday morning when people started milling around the Hueco Rock Ranch, recently purchased by the American Alpine Club. It was the Rodeo’s 2ndAnnual Youth Competition, which took place the day after the 20th Hueco Rock Rodeo so the people were moving a little slower but still psyched...
20th Hueco Rock Rodeo Round Up
April 4, 2015
20 years and Fred Nicole what else can you ask for! Oh a beautiful day, psyched competitors and great rock climbing! The Hueco Rock Rodeo, one of the longest running outdoor climbing competitions, celebrated its 20th year with style.
1997 Hueco Rock Rodeo Awards ceremony
Psyched to have this up on the Rock & Ice
Then and Now: Hueco Rock Rodeo Celebrates its 20th Year
Monday, 14 January 2013 12:22 | by Melissa Strong
Jan. 14, 2012 The Hueco Rock Rodeo is celebrating its 20th year in 2013, making it one of the longest-running outdoor climbing competitions! In 1989 the El Paso Climbers Club (EPCC) started the Rock Rodeo before any restrictions came into place at Hueco Tanks. In the early days the event was small and the after party was held at Pete’s—an aged sun and sand blasted Quonset hut on the road to Hueco Tanks.
January 11, 2013
Chattanooga and back…
We got a little taste of the south—just a little and now we are bailing on our trip ten days early due to the weather. We took three rest days hoping to wait out the doom and gloom forecast but it only got worse. It’s not so bad, we are just going back to Hueco! We had a great trip–just wish we had more time...
From Estes Park to Hueco to Chattanooga!
It is always a difficult for me leaving my home in Colorado but once I wake up and see this view of Hueco—I am home again. It was a whirlwind leaving, as it usually is—trying to tie up so many loose ends and unfortunately we were hit hard by the flu, first me than Adam. But despite the flu and flat tire along the way we made it! We made it to sunny warm Hueco! We were welcomed by beach weather the first few weeks, which thankfully has finally relented to some cooler temperatures..
Hueco Thus Far
December 12, 2011
We left our home, friends and jobs in Estes Park, CO November 21st for the warmth of the desert. Ha, it has actually been a pretty cold December so far in Hueco but it’s a lot warmer than Colorado. We have been fortunate enough to do this annually since the 2005-2006 season. Every year it is difficult for me to leave my home and people that I have grown so close with over the years but once the bitter cold steals away the end of the truly pleasurable climbing I feel ready for the change.
Wagon Wheel Daze--Winter in Hueco 2011-12
The warm weather came with the people this season. Right around Christmas the days got warmer and have continued to be so throughout January so far…
Videos and Pictures from 2012 Fall, Summer & Spring
New boulders at Wild Basin, Elk Land and Lake Isabelle with good friends.
Coping with Bear Lake Road Construction
I feel like I have finally started to climb again ironically when the snow covers the peaks. I cannot say I quit climbing all together it was just the least amount I have charged up to the mountain that I love....A hurt shoulder meant that a 20-mile hike was in order...
Roasted Vegetables with Apricot Chicken
1 butternut squash cubed
1 sweet potato cubed
3 beets chopped
1 acorn squash sliced down the ribs
1 fennel bulb chopped—reserve the tops for later
1 bundle of green onions chopped
1 parsnip sliced
12 Anaheim peppers
1 head of garlic with the top chopped off
1 package of queso fresco aka queso blanco
12 pork chops with out the bone
2 onion chopped (keep separate)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 32 oz. packages of chicken or vegetable broth
Thanksgiving Dinner Deconstructed aka Ravioli Recipe
Sitting at home in Estes Park planning our escape to Hueco Tanks I remembered that a turkey would not fit in our camper’s oven. This was the first year we would be there for Thanksgiving so I guess I never thought of it before. We hadn’t seen some of our greatest friends in awhile and I was looking forward to being reunited with them over a yummy dinner that I was happy to cook.
Fall is my favorite season but it comes with challenges.
October, 7, 2011
I love the brilliant hue that surrounds me this time of year. The golden leaves cling to the spindly Aspen branches while others fall gently to the forest floor covering the once dark ground in a bright yellow blanket. The earthy smell of the fallen foliage is a comforting scent that floods my mind with memories of my childhood in New England.
100+ mph winds make Adam's job interesting!
Saturday evening, November 12th, the winds picked up in Estes Park. We have heard tales of winds clocked at 135mph that night. The constant barrage of howling winds that whipped through the trees and around our house kept me wide awake for hours. I laid in bed worrying about the tree that our deck is built around and the large pine in front of the house that towers above our room on the second floor. .
Summer fun! August 2011
We had many great days this spring and summer climbing with friends from near and far! Numerous quality days were had in The Park, a few at Lincoln Lake and some preseason days in Boulder Canyon and at Endo. We also had an amazing adventure developing boulders at Pear Lake--I will post about our Pear Lake escapade separate and soon.
RMNP, it’s where I love to be…
My heart is in the Rockies. My formative climbing years were spent in Rocky Mountain National Park, RMNP, which shaped the climber I am today. In the summer of 2002, not too long after I started climbing, I heard about some new boulders around Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha. Ready for an adventure I headed up with a local climber and friend Jim Belcer and Dean Potter. Being a beginner I was slightly intimidated by my company but...
I love to Cook! And Recipes!
I love to cook but I must confess that I am not the best baker, probably due to the fact that I don’t like following directions. Although good bakers tell me when you get the feel of things you learn how to substitute—I guess I haven’t come to this point, yet. Not that it is bad to follow a cooking recipe but for me it seems like in cooking you can add things, substitute & improvise a lot easier.
Our life in a Nutshell
Adam and I live in Estes Park, CO for most of the year. For three months we are in hueco Valley and hopefully for one month we get to travel. I was born and raised in Massachusetts, went to collage at Loyola university in New Orleans. After that I moved to estes Park for supposedly a year. Fifteen years later I call Colorado home.