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The Idaho Mountain Festival- this is how it goes

We arrive before noon. We swing by the Visitor Center, Juanita will give me a look of apprehension, and a beautiful smile. Wallace finalizes the logistics of where we stop cars, arrange parking permits, and so forth.

Then, the drive to Castle. I take the shortcut.

I'm never sure who will be there when we pull up. Some get delayed with kids and life, a handful always surprise me being there early. Box after box are unloaded.

"What can I do?"

Time will pass. I get compliments on dinner, an ever-morphing chili that's some sort of unregulated mixture thrown together by the stiffly scheduled kitchen staff.

Someone will complain that the schedule states we will have a fire at 8pm. It's 8:05pm and there's no fire. Soon, there's a fire. I don't know who started it. Someone quietly slipped in and took care of it. I'll wish I could thank them.

Things will happen. An athlete gets drunk and runs around with underwear on their head. Babies cry. Early sleepers complain. Yet, I won't know about any of this. The climbers regulate each other. People quiet down. Keep track of their friends. Make sure that the property, and festival, are respected, so that the event on NPS/IDPR land can continue to happen in the future.

Ben will jolt up at 4:05am. "Ohno!" I'll murmur and pat his face and say I love him. We'll hash out the who-does-what and he'll slip out of bed, with me following shortly after.

Before the sunrise, the Solid Rock Climber's for Christ have their synchronized coffee-makers going, a slew of gurgling cords and contraptions all across the kitchen counters, to provide the hot drink for 350+ people.

Ben is off. I stick around, answering questions. It doesn't matter whether or not I know the answer.
I answer.

Athletes teach their classes, then slip in for lunches and showers. They talk to me, stories of the countries they've traveled to this year. Their eyes glaze over a little and they smile. They'll show me their running shoes with pride and tell me they run for cross-training. They talk of their accomplishments and travels not with the pride of an athlete, but with the hushed respect of one passionate and grounded.

Time will pass.

There are music and movies. I like to sneak out of headquarters then. I can't get away for more than a few minutes at a time in the evening, but I like to see Ben with the microphone, conducting. Our friends in the shadows, making sure things flow smoothly. I like to see so many people gathered, happy, together. I love seeing the sponsors, who work so hard, and watching them relax.... They are here on business but I have the satisfaction of seeing that they get a bit of climbing in and get to watch the same evening entertainment.

There are other things.

Painting nails at 1am, chatting with women I scarcely get to see about husbands and birth and climbing and aspirations. Homes and chickens and life and meaning.

There is always someone there. Things come up. I need mats for the band. I need a shelter for a clinic. I need a medic for a bike fall.

And there is always someone there.

More time passes.

Sponsors approach me. They tell me it is their favorite event of the year. Athletes reiterate that this is their favorite, there is something so special about the Idaho Mountain Festival. I am flushed with pride, but know that the event isn't from me. It's from my staff that share the shadows with me, always there. It's from the silent stones and sage brush, the climbing community of dirtbags that flock there and wax philosophical about meaning and sending.

Everything gets packed away and it's hot. We sit on the porch, waiting for trucks to return.

The final Staff pizza party is like our private campfire. We sit as best friends and talk about everything. We're dirty and full of laughter and relief. These faces, each scarfing pizza, sharing children, getting in as much time as we can with each other, these are the reasons for the festival. These are the people we've climbed with at our shared "other home," The City of Rocks. They know the formations like we do, they bring their babies to the crags, they've been with us through thick and thin and love the family reunion of sorts the festival brings to us each year.

We remember how the festival began, our first years taking longer trips to the city together with friends, before kids or trials or moving away...

Time passes.


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