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Field Notes: Battling the holiday burn-out
Field Notes: Battling the holiday burn-out

The burnout didn’t roast slowly over time like an overcooked Thanksgiving turkey. Rather, it slopped out all at once into my lap, like an accident with a can of that gelatinous sugary cranberry stuff.

I didn’t realize how much I needed time off until I was on the edge of a week of climbing in the desert, in a place with no cell phone reception and therefore no temptation to check e-mail or tweet a gratuitous “yay crack climbing!”

Then the sloppy Moab forecast put the trip in question.

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Jenn Fields blogs about Boulder’s great outdoors at

This year, I’ve squeezed in climbing or cycling or skiing amid my 40-hour work week — just like everyone else. But no long trips, just a day here and there.

This is where they really do it right in Europe — vacation time. Last summer, I left France on Aug. 1, which is when most of the country takes off for a month. (Thus Aug. 1 was also the start of outrageous pricing on the apartment I’d rented in the Alps).

You might think they have us beat on health care or child care (or taxes), but where the French have truly one-upped us is on vacation time. They get way more; we get way less. I think it’s where they get their laisse faire — August.

With a whole month off every year, I think I could avoid burn-out. Or at least avoid the cranberry slop when my one week off got messy.

Every Thanksgiving since I moved to Colorado, I’ve planned an anti-burnout day ahead of the crazed holiday season. Colorado Thanksgiving never starts with putting a turkey (or Tofurkey) in the oven — I order the whole meal pre-made from Whole Foods instead for however many friends we have coming over.

It’s not Mom’s, but Mom didn’t go ice climbing on Thanksgiving day (like I did two years ago).

Growing up in the Midwest, Thanksgiving weekend was all about food and shopping. On my last Thanksgiving at home in St. Louis, I ate two meals. When I wasn’t eating, I was laying around in a tryptophan haze with my pants unbuttoned.

On Black Friday, I rallied for an alpine start to go to the mall with my mom and my aunt.

This is no way for a Coloradan-at-heart to refresh and kill burnout at its first spark. That’s why last year, I spent the week climbing in Red Rocks, outside of Las Vegas, and ate Thanksgiving dinner with climber friends at a casino. (Casino Thanksgiving doesn’t refresh your spirit, but it will give you a different perspective on Thanksgiving dinner — also not Mom’s.)

This past Friday, desperate for a week off climbing in a different desert, I should’ve been fighting burn-out by packing up for a week in Utah. Instead, I delayed the trip and obsessively checked the Moab forecast, hopelessly waiting for it to change from 40 percent chance of snow to sunny and 55.

Saturday afternoon, after sneaking in a few warm turns at Eldora instead of leaving for snowy Moab, I checked the forecast again. It had changed for the worse — colder further into the week. My burn-out flared as I foresaw a staycation.

Then I remembered: I live in Colorado. Where you can rock climb when it’s 40 degrees if it’s sunny. Where a storm is coming through that will dump snow over (finally!) open ski areas and cover more roots and rocks in the backcountry. Where alpine starts have nothing to do with shopping.

Where better to have a staycation and kill the burnout?

That’s something I can always give thanks for. That and canned cranberry stuff.

Jenn Fields’ Field Notes runs every Monday in the Colorado Daily.