I’ll bet whoever came up with the term “shoulder season” was living in a ski town. The phrase expresses that mild dissatisfaction from the change in temperature between fall and winter or spring and summer that means the skiing sucks, but you can’t quite go on the trails either (because they’re covered in early snow or have become quagmires soaked with spring snowmelt).
This is understandable in a ski town. But in some parts of the Lower 48, shoulder season is not the season of our discontentrather, things are peaking. Depending on where you live, a dose of contentment could be a short drive or plane ride away.
Here’s a quick quiz designed to help you take control of your own happiness during the fall months.
1. Would you rather:
(a) Get sad that it’s raining/getting too cold to climb where you live, or
(b) Go bouldering in Bishop?
ANSWER: B. Get happy bouldering in Bishop, home of gigantic highball problems in the shadow of the Sierra.
2. Would you rather:
(a) Mourn the burial of your local mountain bike trails underneath the season’s first snow, or
(b) Ride in Moab and/or Fruita?
3. Would you rather:
(a) Sit around wishing the weather wasn’t rainy and chilly at your home crag, or
(b) Take a trip to Indian Creek?
ANSWER: B. Escape the gloom. Go soak up all-day desert sunshine and learn to climb sandstone splitter cracks in Indian Creek.
4. Would you rather:
(a) Rake leaves, or
(b) Go leaf-peeping, basically anywhere in the mountains of the eastern states and Appalachia?
ANSWER: B. Leaf-peeping, hands down, because taking photos of leaves of damn near every color of the rainbow is way more fun than raking them.
5. Would you rather:
(a) Tune your skis again and wonder when there will be enough snow up high to go skiing, or
(b) Spend a weekend climbing in the Red River Gorge?
ANSWER: B. No contest. Haul yourself up the hundreds of juggy sandstone routes in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge now that temps have cooled and you won’t slip off holds because of pools of your own sweat.
6. Would you rather:
(a) Winterize your car and bring in your patio furniture before the first snow hits, or
(b) Climb in Red Rocks?
ANSWER: B. Forget the patio. Visit Red Rocks, which has hundreds of routes for you regardless if you’re looking for bouldering, sport climbing or multi-pitch trad climbing.
7. Would you rather:
(a) Put away your backpacking gear for the year, or
(b) Put it to good use one last time in the Grand Canyon (or Escalante National Monument)?
ANSWER: B. Take advantage of the temperatures being perfect in the desert this time of year; make your way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon or through one of Escalante’s smaller but certainly no less grand canyons.
8. (Free points) You would also rather go explore Joshua Tree’s ten thousand climbing routes, spend a weekend canyoneering or climbing big walls in Zion, road trip between Zion and Utah’s four other desert national parks, or climb in the New River Gorge—as opposed to cleaning out your garage in preparation for winter.
Read more stories by Brendan Leonard.