Friday, November 26, 2010

My ol' Kentucky Home

For years we have heard talk from our climbing friends and associates about the great rock climbing in the southeastern United States. Part of the reason for this adventure on the road is to visit rock climbing areas that we have not enjoyed. First on our list of new places to visit was Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky.

My first impression of Kentucky was the beauty of the scenery and picturesque rolling pastures. Horses grazed in pastures rimmed with black painted wood. It is what any horse loving girl (me) dreamed about. Most barns are painted a neat black to match the fences. Within some barns I caught glimpses of kelp like tobacco drying in the breeze. The rolling blue grass melded into mountains.

The mountains are covered with a deciduous forest comprised of oak and many trees I don't recognize. These trees are interspersed with evergreen pines, holly and Rhododendron shrubs. The tree leaves turned orange, red, brown and yellow. When these vibrant colors were dispersed with pops of dark green, the hills were a gorgeous site. The steep rolling mountains hide bands of hard, coarse sandstone. It is unlike the red and sometimes brittle sandstone found in Utah and Nevada. The rock provides some wonderful climbing. The rock climbing in Kentucky is located in the mountains of eastern Kentucky about 1.5 hours southeast from Lexington. The closest town to where we are camped in Beattyville.

My second impression of Kentucky was of the poverty found in the mountains. There is a certain level of detritus that occurs when living in the country. I would expect to see some abandoned cars, outbuildings and equipment. However, as we drove through the hills, I was completely dumbfounded at the percentage of residences that go beyond rural detritus to trash heap. Debris starts on the front porch and spills across the yard, through the garage, to the barn and down the hill. The houses are so rundown I cannot fathom anyone living there, yet someone does. Sometimes the house is abandoned and has been left to deteriorate. Even more amazing is that the trash heap very easily could be next door to a very well groomed mini-estate.

No matter what the quality of the housing stock, everyone has a front porch. These porches range from a small stoop to a spacious covered porch that stretches the entire front of the house and sometimes around the house. All porches are completed with the classic slat back chair and a porch swing. I can just imagine a summer evening on the porch sipping Kentucky bourbon whiskey on the rocks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snap Decision

Leaving the Red River Gorge NOW! Wanted to hit up the New River Gorge but the place as far as RVs goes is closed. So Obed here we come.

The real reason for the quick move is so I can watch Gonzaga play Kansas State tonight!

Fun here we come!
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Beautiful Day

I am the belayer.
I am here to catch a fall and lower my partner to the ground after he finishes.
As I gaze upward watching his progress
I observe the brilliant blue fall sky through leafless bare gray tree branches.
Red oak leaves swirl in the breeze at the top of the cliff.
A plane silently glides through the sky leaving behind a white vapor trail.
We are alone at the cliff today. I relish the peace of the Kentucky fall.
The silence is broken only by dry leaves falling through branches to the ground.
The climb is finished and I lower my partner to the ground.
Now, I am the climber and he is the belayer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Diamonds and Dust

Run-out sections of climbing take all the mental toughness you can muster.  It sucks when the feared happens or nearly happens.  I was lucky enough to have this experience.

I was climbing, poorly, a route called Like a Turtle (.11b and not the Madonna song).  The route is nothing exceptional and makes a decent warm-up.  Let me caveat that, it has a run-out going to the last bolt.


It’s not difficult climbing but spacious.  Am I sounding repetitive?  I just want you to understand that I was strapping on my biggest courage package to pull these moves through perceived danger.

Grab the crimp, steady self with under-cling, move feet up, and repeat but vary the holds.  Now I’m to a point that my feet are at least a body length above the last bolt with a final move.  A final gentle slap to a clipping jug; a clipping jug that slowly disintegrates in my hand while raining sandstone drops on my belayer.

So I’m run-out, not confident and ready to poop diamonds as my only salvation collapses into dust in my hand.

What to do?  What to do?

Cry.  Curse. Scream. Deal with it.

Some quick movements, a lightning clip and phew.  Well I’ll through those shorts away, but the disaster was averted.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A summer well spent

Just 5 1/2 months ago we left Denver and embarked on our great adventure. The summer flew by so quickly and we wonder where the time has gone. It has probably been one of the best summers in memory. We accomplished our goals of spending the summer climbing in Rifle and rebuilding lost climbing fitness. We made new friends and learned much about ourselves.

We have met wonderful people from Australia, Canada, Germany (via Turkey), Greece, Spain, Switzerland and the US. By being in the canyon during the week we had the opportunity to meet the mid-week climbers who are rarely present during the weekends. Rifle Mountain Park lures those from all walks of climbing life to test and prove their climbing prowess. We have mingled with some very famous rock climbers and those that are not so famous.

We have met some fabulous local people and travelers who are in the park to camp. If we had not been the camp host, we would have never met or even spoken with these non-climbing users.

Not everyone we met was nice or polite and not every encounter with park users was positive. There were those who didn't want to pay for day use or camping. Some felt that being able to climb in the canyon was an entitlement not a privilege. Some flaunted the rules of the park and pushed the limits of what we would tolerate. We had to ask some to leave the park because of their behavior. When I filter out the negative encounters I am left with a very satisfied feeling about how I spent my summer.

The summer enabled us to decompress, rejuvenate and adjust. Now we are anxious to continue our adventure by visiting climbing areas in the southeastern US.