melissa i strong

rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily








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. The grandeur of the gold and orange Aspen leaves astounds me every year.

Another true bonus this season brings is the cooler temperatures.  After the hot days of summer fall is a long awaited reward.

Even though fall can be perfect it can also be short lived similar to spring in The Rockies.  This morning, October 8th, snow is falling on the brilliant golden leaves.  The panic sets in—is The Park season over?  I am not ready to give up for the season.  This year I was inspired to climb on the Automator by my husband Adam and Flannery Shay-Nemirow who are both close to sending (and of course Angie Payne who did the first female ascent).  I realized last year that I could do all of the moves with ease but not the crux.  This year with some cooler temperatures I realized that I could do the crux and do it consistently.  I figured out how to climb into it and could climb out of it so now it is time to get the moves dialed and build endurance while I cheer on my husband and friend.  We want it to be cool but not freezing—we still need to be able to feel out fingers to climb. I know the rock will be there next year but after making progress it is hard to stop trying.


Another problem with fall for us—me and Adam and all of the rest of us who have been hiking to climb all summer and working 5-6 days a week—is that we are burnt out!  The physicality of our work gets us tired but the droves of people also becomes tiresome.  Our town of roughly 9000 people gets inundated with tons of people—up to 30,000-60,000 tourists can be in the area.  Now the popular activity for these voyeurs is to watch the elk mate and the leaves turn color. The slow drivers who think it is OK  to stop in the middle of the road and gawk, the long lines to get into the park, the stress of trying to park at Bear Lake—all of these things add up and can make what is my favorite time of year a challenge.   As the snow accumulates and winter sets in the droves of people will leave us to our quite little town, unfortunately when this finally happens the rocks are covered in snow.  This is when we pack up and head to the warm, dry boulders in Hueco Tanks.