It’s been super rainy here the past few weeks, and I’m not going to lie, I’ve kind of been digging it. When you no longer have 2 months off every summer, and need to drag yourself into the office in the middle of the afternoon, rain can be a very good thing. It keeps me motivated, and washes away FOMO, and I love when a good morning thunderstorm wakes you up forty minutes early or so, and then gives you the opportunity to lay in bed listening to the rain.
Rain however, is usually not a good thing when it comes to any sort of trip or vacation, especially when your plans hinged on the weather being nice, or at least halfway decent, and much like we’ve been getting a lot of rain over the past two weeks, it seems in the past year I’ve been getting a lot of vacation rain. Vacation rain is almost always frustrating when you see it start to come. You check weather.com over and over, trying to will slight forecast shifts, and then you rationalize that weather people don’t know what they’re talking about anyway. You try and remember all the times it rained one night, only to be beautiful the next day, and go to sleep thinking about the spot of sunshine you think you saw in the distance opening up, and try to remember if red skies at night are good or bad, or if that’s all bullshit anyway. Then, you wake up, it’s pouring, and a sinking feeling fills you because you know there’s absolutely no way your plans are going to go on as planned.
It sucks, there’s no way around it. It doesn’t have the be the end of the world though, and sometimes it leads to unplanned adventures you end up looking back on fondly. I’ve had a few experiences the past year where rain certainly ruined what was planned for a trip, but didn’t ruin the trip per say, and in one case it almost became a highlight. I’m learning more and more to embrace the rain. I’m also really learning the strength of always having a solid back-up plan.
Last August my entire family went to Ireland for one of my friend’s weddings. Despite the fact that when many people picture Ireland, they imagine golden-dappled thatched cottages, and sun kissed green hills, you should go to Ireland expecting to get wet. Rainy weather is Ireland’s default. The day we landed was sunny, and warm, but after that it got predictably dreary, and rainy, but nothing that stopped us from walking around outdoors, or impeded any picture taking. We were getting nervous when we were set to tour the famed Cliffs of Moher, because that day saw the heaviest rain of the trip, and the fog rolling in made us nervous our views would be obstructed. Ok, true talk, I wasn’t that nervous, because I’d been four years prior on a uncharacteristically sunny day, but I was nervous for my parents and sister, who hadn’t been before. It was indeed cloudy and wet at the cliffs, but the rain started to dissipate while we were there, and the fog rolled in waves intermittently hiding, and exposing the views. I for one, found this somewhat comforting since I’m terrified of heights.
The next day our plan was to take a ferry from the village of Doolin, where we stayed in a quaint little bed and breakfast, to the Aran Islands for the day. Since my family had never been to Ireland, a lot of this trip was retreading places I’d been. The Aran Islands were uncharted territory and I was part of the trip I was most excited about. The rain wasn’t falling as hard as it had been the day before, but the wind had us walking sideways from our room to where breakfast was served. It was over this very excellent breakfast (egg bake with brie, smoked Irish salmon, and basil oil), that we heard rumblings that because of the storm the ferries might not be running. We tried ignoring this talk, finished up, packed our bags, and drove down to the Doolin Harbor. It was evident almost immediately that we would not be boarding any boats that day.
We always make fun of my mother because at least once a year, she’ll encounter thunderstorm that will cause her to say that she’s never seen a storm of this magnitude before in her life. Every year, without fail. I’ve witnessed storms much worse then this in my comparably short life. I’ve never witnessed an ocean so rough. This is the aforementioned highlight the rain conjured up. It was spectacular. Doolin Harbor juts out in the Atlantic Ocean on a very tiny peninsula, so we were able to see these giant waves rolling on both sides. The rocky, cliff heavy shore in the area made for dramatic impacts, and the wind had whipped almost all of them into whitecap territory. The staircase we would’ve taken down to the ferry was almost entirely under water. We spent a good hour there taking pictures, of this, and I hate this term, but there’s not other way to phrase it, raw display of natural power. Unfortunately, there is no way these photos will do what I saw justice, but they won’t. You’re just going to have to trust me when I say it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Since the islands were out of the question, we had a bit of a relaxed day, which was nice as this trip was just going, going, going, up until this point. We did some sweater shopping in Doolin, had lunch at an Irish bakery, and drove up to Galway where we spent the afternoon in the city’s museum learning some of its history. We checked into our hotel early, which allowed my father, brother, and I to do some local exploring we probably would’t be able to had we gone out to the Aran Islands. Part of this included a walk to the Salthill Diving Tower, where we watched a bunch of crazy local Irish men throw themselves into the very much still churning sea.
A few months later, this past October, my brother and I had planned a quick weekend trip up to Lake Placid in order to get another Adirondack High Peak under our belt. We were going to try and tackle Gothics, possibly our most ambitious hike yet, and then planned on taking the ferry over Lake Champlain Saturday evening to Burlington, VT. Friday was raining all day, and the weather didn’t seem to be letting up at all as we got to our bunkhouse, just outside Lake Placid late that night. Things weren’t looking good, and I’m not just referring to the fact that we were the only guests in said bunkhouse, which wasn’t particularly well lit, and had the requisite long Shining-esque hallways that usually accompany a dark-and-stormy night murder. Like I said, Gothics is a tough hike, and not the type you could (or rather, we wanted) to tough out in a storm. I didn’t sleep well that night. Nothing to do with the rain, 100% to do with me being a wimp.
The rain seemed only to intensify when we woke up that morning, so after a quick breakfast in town, we decided the hike was gone, and instead we’d spend the day exploring Burlington, which ended up being a great thing, because I don’t think a quick, and exhausted dinner after a hike and ferry ride late in the evening would’ve given me real feel for Burlington, which I feel like I now have.
We took the ferry from the small village of Essex, NY, over to just below Burlington, and then essentially ate our way through the city (Burlington is a great place to eat or drink your way through). We stopped by the Farmer’s Market where the highlight was a peanut butter cookie, maple cream sandwich, then had lunch at the Istanbul Kebab House, my first flirtation with Middle Eastern cuisine, that I quite enjoyed. We had dinner at the Blue Bird BBQ, which was beyond excellent (upstate NY and New England are no slouches when it comes to BBQ), and then capped of the night with a cheese plate, and the requisite Vermontian Heady Topper at a small bar on Church Street, downtown Burlington’s main commercial hub. I’m happy to report the rain effected none of this gorging.
In between meals, we visited one of the many rock gyms around Burlington for a little bouldering session. Tip: look for rock gyms if your plans get rained out. They’re always indoors, and if you’re looking to do a fun group workout in lieu of your hiking or kayaking that got rained out, it’s a great substitute because it’s a fun activity to do with friends (watching them fall is particularly enjoyable), and it’s a hell of a workout. Beware though, going someplace like Burlington, where everyone is an outdoor fiend is liable to make you a bit self-conscious. I never felt bad about having weak fingers. Now I do.
So all in all, I had two trips last year “destroyed” by rain, that ended up still being very memorable.
That being said, I have a kayaking/hiking extravaganza in the Adirondacks planned for the 4th of July weekend, and if it rains, I’m gonna be pissed.