Longing for a Spring Break



Throwback pic from one of many Red Rocks climbing trips in Nevada.

I grew apoplectic as I checked the weather app on my phone in mid-March. “Negative five degrees windchill?” I said. “Are you kidding me? It’s not supposed to be below zero in March.” This seemed cold even for Sioux Falls—ridiculously and unnecessarily cold. I felt like punching walls, shaking babies or even running ten miles (not that I feel up to that currently). Some serious cabin fever was setting in.

Elizabeth and Pippa were getting stir crazy, too. And then it dawned on me suddenly and swiftly—the Lawrences need a spring break. It has been a grueling year, and the persistent cold, gray days of late haven’t helped our mental state. The solution was so simple: cram our stuff in our car and head west. Of course, when you travel with a toddler, this is easier said than done—packing the endless piles of toys and gear, enduring tantrums due to missing a nap and the more-frequent-and-lengthy stops.

But we were on our way, and that was all that mattered.

This year, we set our sights on Colorado for spring break, for many reasons— family, some work needs and we still have a rented house in Longmont (Unfortunately the shortness of this trip won’t allow much time for CO friends). By contrast, my weather app now promised temps in the 60s, 70s and even 80s. Wow, usually one must go much farther south for that type of weather!

I have always loved spring break. It’s an opportunity to shake up the routine and venture somewhere different and warm. No matter what age or stage of life, anyone can benefit from a change of scenery in March.

The concept started in the 1930s and eventually earned a place on our American academic calendar. The hype grew furiously during the 1980s MTV era at Daytona Beach, unleashing a ballyhoo of beaches and beer.


Of course, I prefer spring breaks that include outdoor adventure.

I took my first collegiate spring break in Red Rocks, Nevada—a rock climbing destination near Las Vegas. I soon discovered that sleeping without a tent in the desert is a terrible idea—especially when tumbleweeds attack during a nighttime windstorm. Hello sleep deprivation.

Even after college, I have endeavored to enjoy more spring breaks, which usually include a desert destination within a day’s drive. However, sometimes I’ve broken the norm with something wintery, like a few years ago when my buddy and I skied the Grand Teton.

So, which one of my spring breaks has been my favorite?

Going to the Grand Canyon with Elizabeth when we were first married is high on the list. But another one that stands out includes a return to Red Rocks, about six years ago with my buddy Mike. This was nearly my tenth trip there—I’ve lost count. We completely geeked out on climbing for a full week, with no social obligations or distractions. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with such singular focus. We ascended multipitch after multipitch, including Prince of Darkness, Frigid Aire Buttress and many others. At night, over a dinner of Trader Joe’s or Baja Fresh, we’d peruse climbing guidebooks in our tent, discussing the minutia of our next project. It was like binging on your favorite street taco stand—all week. Finally, you felt like you had your fill of carne asada and cilantro. At least for now.


Here’s another throwback pic from Red Rocks 2009. There’s always some great sport-climbing classics in the Black Canyon. 

During the trip, one moment on the sharp end (lead climbing) typified Type 2 Fun—an experience that is harrowing in the moment and only fun to tell about later. Halfway up the 1,000-foot route, we miscalculated divvying the pitches. Mike, who relishes weird and challenging climbing (which makes him the perfect partner), insisted on the section of offwidth, where the crack is too big for hand jams, and is usually awkward and scary. I ended up leading this pitch. Since there is no easy way to stop climbing once you’ve started, the task fell to me.

Jamming my right thigh in the crack felt very insecure, but it was all I could figure. We only had one big cam, so I had to keep sliding it up every few moves, meaning I risked a massive fall for a few seconds each time—maybe even 80 or 100 feet at the worst points. Fortunately, I somehow groveled and panted my way to the top. I arrived sweaty, haggard and not happy. Meanwhile, Mike sailed past the awkward sections but once at the anchor, looked disappointed. He’d been denied his precious offwidth. Go figure.


There are some pretty entertaining routes in Red Rocks, including Tunnel Vision, where you literally climb through a cave for one of the pitches. 

In the end, this trip proved very memorable. As I have pondered spring break, in some ways there will never be enough of those carefree days for me to enjoy. As time continues to pass quickly—and life seems to go swifter the older I get—life’s difficulties and obligations seem to only increase, making such trips challenging to pull off. Ah, such is life. But as much as we can, my family and I will endeavor to spring break it up, each year.

Back to our present break, Elizabeth and Pippa and I arrived in Colorado a few days ago. The trip was rather last minute as we have already spread ourselves thin moving between Longmont and Colorado Springs in a short time. Maybe we will get to do some skiing and rock climbing?

We hope you get to celebrate spring break, too, whether far away, or even with a warm day in your present locale. Cheers to Spring Break 2017.


The three of us relished the 80 degree weather, including taking Pippa to the playground. 

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