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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thirty Days On the Road

Bear with me, I'm writing this from a tempemental laptop in an uncomfortable crouch on a wooden chair with a sore old ass and a huge grin on my face.

We've been at it for thirty days now, from the time we locked the apartment door until now; living out of a small truck and a big tent full of backpacks and climbing gear and smelly clothes and assorted gadgets, in a series of National Forest and private campsites, backroad pullouts and friend's houses.

Spent the weekend hiking around some favorite old spots in Germany Valley, pruning back half-forgotten trails, shoring up steps and cleaning up old lines. Getting back in touch with the local store keepers and landowners to confirm access and ownership. Downloaded a vast store of beta on West Virginia countryside marryin's and buryin's, reunions and feuds, slow business, high prices, flash floods, pillbillies, mean young men and fast young women. Sat in camp in the slow-falling shadows of evening watching my wife-to-be organize and artisan and wander peacefully through her own space, the purple air filled with the scent of honeysuckle and green grass and sage and birdsong.

We now have a topper for the S10 affectionately known as Icy Blue, acquired from a kindly, chatty little fellow on the outskirts of the town of Stuart's Draft, Virginia, on Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. The money was a traveling gift from my parents following two days of work in their hundred-foot oak trees. Cindy and I rose early, skipped coffee and crossed the various mountains and rivers and state lines to reach Stuart's Draft, near Waynesboro, where we checked out the goods, paid the man, mounted the new unit and finished a 200 mile round-trip loop, including visits to Doc Goodwack and a few other friends, in time for late lunch back in camp at The Bluffs. Happy hour was declared early in celebration of our new acquisition.

We crashed early and were deep into REM sleep when a familiar voice called out "Hello?" a light shone into the tent and someone asked "Are you guys naked in there?" I confirmed the truth and we were granted a few moments of abuse-filled dimness in which to remedy the situation. We emerged into welcoming arms and there were soon open beers and seats found for everyone.

Plans and introductions were made, amid jokes and smokes and laughter, and an hour or so later the raiders wandered back out into the night. Miss Cindy and I crashed smiling and rose early, determined to beat the heat, spending the day in the river with friends, toproping and doing a bit of rappeling on the private cliffs close to camp. There were big plans elesewhere, but the weather and the humidity seemed determined to thwart first ascent ambitions, with a heat advisory for West Virginia and humidity hovering around 80 or 90 per cent. If nothing else, I knew that Cindy's MS would NOT react to conditions like that in a favorable way. Having dealt with her seizures from heat and dehydration before, I was determined to take it easy and err on the side of caution. Besides, after three seasons of riding herd over the small riot of Eagle Rock Campground on this first major outdoor holiday of the year, it felt nice to have no obligations, no one else's messes to clean up. There were opportunities enough to climb in the future. For now, it was time for the Power Couple.

We're settling into this lifestyle of simplicity, something natural to the heart of what we both really ARE, deep down; gypsies, wanderers, travelers. With the topper to keep our gear dry, safe,and out of the sun, we're thinking of taking a week or two to help out in Joplin, before heading on out to Colorado to see if my friend DeChristo (Tom Reid) is as ornery and ugly as ever, if the cliffs are as fine and tall, the air as sweet and clear. From there, who knows? But make no mistake, we ARE getting married and California IS on the schedule... the schedule is just very, very liquid, right now. If we have promised or threatened to visit, please bear with us. We both lived on other peops schedules for years and we're being a bit irresponsible right now. The vacation will turn into tour soon, I promise.

We have challenges ahead, some known, many not. I am still trying to find work and still finding very little. People who are building are not hiring, and if so they aren't hiring carpenters closing in on 50- those guys know too much about the building code and labor laws. They ask too many questions and bend too few rules and have opinions that are not all about the bottom line. As in the rest of my life, my inability to stay silent regarding stupidity, waste, responsibility and safety costs me a great deal in the search for gainful employment, as well.

Cindy is still fighting the battle with MS, and some days ae better than others. We are living this life a day or a week at a time, accepting what is, trying to change what we can, trying to save our energies for the adventures ahead rather than worrying about the things we have no control over in the puppet theater most folks call day-to-day life.

We lazed in the river until mid afternoon, when I climbed the hill to retrieve Cindy's fishing gear and met our late-night party rolling down the hill to the Hole. Coco the chocolate Lab was in the lead by several hundred feet, tail wagging her whole body, deflated football clenched in her teeth. The others came wandering down the hill, gawking at the soaring, private cliffline over the road and asking me questions about access and privacy and climbing.

We swam and fished and watched eagles soar over the Gorge, waved to the landowners wading downriver from us, tossed sticks and blls and otherwise tried to coax Coco into the water. As shadows fell over the river, we retreated to hang gear from the Sandbagger's Buttress and enjoy some shady rock climbing; Jaynie shooting up the cliff liike a natural and Mike showing the same kind of determination he had on his initial outing the week before, Cindy cranking the thinner line to the left with determination after being spit off the week before.

Evening faded into cold Stella Artois and laughing conversations as we sorted and swapped gear by the cars, bidding them goodnight as we headed for camp and a late dinner. Stars gleamed from the skies overhead as a whipporwill launched into his endless refrain. Honeysuckle blew on the breeze as Cindy turned to me and smiled, her forest eyes dancing, and for just a little while, all was right with the world.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Aborted Rapture

Survived the end of the world and spent the weekend at the crags (surprise! Of course, with the weather we had, if I hadn't been there, the world WOULD have ended, so you are all welcome. I'll look for the checks in the mail. )

Cranked Saturday with Doc Fisher and Cindy B, at an increasingly popular Secret Crag #7. The Stewarts and Randy L, along with amanda and Johnathan showed up and pulled and partied, and several of our D.C. neighbors wandered in as well. The hundreds of feet of new trails and edging constructed since their last visit went unremarked.

Mister Fisher vocalized his way up the steep and still-crumbly 5.10R sport route Grain of Sand, but fell below the anchors. After a prolonged rest, he returned and sent the route then retrieved his anchors. No progress was made on the heinous project just L of Cold Day in Hell.

An early evening turned into late-night pizza fest after several hours of Guiness, pool, humorous commentary on the Apocalypse/Rapture and as designated driver for a friend who called from the bar as we passed through phone coverage.

Back to camp late and crashed hard. Up early to run errands and fetch coffee and see if the world had gotten the day wrong by 1 (no change). Mike D and friend show just after noon, with Coco the chocolate Lab bounding happily through the woods. We wander out through the thick forest covering the private land and private crags near camp and set a top rope/rappel for Mike's first experience at each. He rocks it, and we all have fun on a moderate wall.

Later, while taking a break, we discover a baby copperhead about 9 inches long coiled right in the midst of our set-up. babies, of course, are the worst due to their tendency to completely drain all venom into the victim during a bite. We dispatch our unwelcome guest after a round of photos and more smokes all around are called for to steady jazzed nerves.

Cindy gets on rock, as does the Curmudgeon and Mike D , who aced the first and second rappels like an old hand and proceeds to climb in the same manner, crimping small holds and stepping high in work boots.

An awesome afternoon hike out through a sunlit forest along a rushing stream, dozens of songbirds filling the air with music as butterflies dip and soar through the mountain laurel and rhododendron. We crack cold Stellas and enjoy a few moments of conversation and recounting before the needs of home and pet ownership call our friends away and we head back to camp and dinner.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another adventure afternoon

Spent yesterday morning clearing trail and pruning around camp while Cindy ran into nearby Petersburg on errands. High broken clouds brought morning sun and soft breezes to our rain-beseiged little camp, a welcome change after a week of daily storms and precipitation. Tiny maples, red and white and chesnut oaks, lady slipper and sassifrass glistened with drops of moisture along the forest floor, spiderwebs spun to diamond in an instant of dewfall, the rich smell of the growing, ancient forest heavy as the mist that swirled in the shafts of sunlight. Stone and concrete foundations peek through leaf and brush derelict ships in a leafy sea, and a shattered length of beam slowly sinks into the earth under a burden of multicolored fungus and moss.

Cindy returns from town with a proud smile and a new inspection sticker, and we grab a quick lunch and head over to the rim in search of the afternoon's latest adventure.

After some wandering and peering, we locate the top of an old trad line of mine, a ground-up indulgence that proved interesting in the short section of crack just above mid-height. A complex anchor and a brief battle with some hanging deadfall and the resultant brush see us in place on a ledge about 20' above the game trail that winds along the bottom of the cliff. The route is partially wet but clean and we set about beating ourselves silly on the steep crack moves up a sharp dihedral (corner) to the awkward exit at the roof, which brings you out of the wetness and onto the shoulder, an easy stemming scramble up a steep slot to the anchors.

Easier said than done.

Cindy makes a mighty effort at the onsight TR, but wet rock and lots of recent weather-related downtime conspire to send her swinging into space. I am impressed by her determination when we trade places and I grunt through the moves more by dint of brute strength and bullheaded stupidity than finesse and superior skill. The line is a sweet bit of coner and crack, but the crack is wide even for my slablike hands, and the face around it is slightly overhanging.

I lower, and Cindy has another go of it, but a banged elbow ona blown chicken-wing jam takes her last reserves and we lower off to make the quick hike back up and around to the anchors. New "No Trespassing" signs remind me of the landowner's story of a recent burglary, and I am again very glad for having acquired and maintained both climbing access and good relations with these folks so many years ago.

Top anchors and gear are soon retrieved, cold adult beverages are soon acquired, and less than an hour later we are settling in to enjoy another fine pasta dinner and an evening of birdsong and forest breezes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Adventure, Incorporated

Took advantage of the break in showers yesterday morning to run errands and then hit the crag. Cindy and I took light recon packs and rapped down a vegetated 30m cliff in the north end of Germany Valley. The line was composed of a series of ledges, faces, corners and chimneys to reach the steep slope at the bottom, adjacent to a harder climb called "The Fall of Innennin", a technical 5.10 mixed line which I hope to put the First Ascent on someday soon, Lord willin and the rain stops a-fallin'.

GREAT little 3-hour adventure made MUCH harder by climbing in boots and helmets- kudos to the FA parties, who likely did the line wearing combat boots and protected by a loop of hemp line tied around their waists. We only found the one piton, so the line likely wandered off to a different ending, but slung horns and sheer balls were likely the only pro for those brave lads of the U.S. Army. Miss Cindy did magnificently (of course) handling the exposure, the multi-pitch rappels and climbing, and the difficulties of carrying a pack in a vertical environment with the humor and concentration of a pro. We dubbed the line "The Climb of the Unknown Soldier", probably about 5.6, tricky and sparse protection, so PG/R... but lots of holds, many of them jugs, and plenty of rests. HUGE oak tree at the top to belay from, and a ten minute stroll to camp.

Planning a trip to Seneca Rocks for Cindy's first summit in the next two weeks, then back down to Asheville, Shortoff Mountain, Looking Glass, and the Red River Gorge in the first few weeks of June.

Adventure, Incorporated, at your service....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dispatches from the Road



We don' NEED no stinkin' DISPATCHES, caberone'! Ah-ahahahahhahhaah!!"

Just over 1200 miles later, we're home again, home again, hippity-hop. (Actually, we're house and dogsitting, but we've made ourselves at home, as ordered. So, sorta homeagain.. whatever...) Blue Ridge Parkway, Linn Falls, Grandfather Mountain, downtown Asheville, Western North Carolina highways and their charming lack of signs and the incredible beauty of the Smokies. New frinds for me, reunions and lot catching up for Cindy.

Full trip report with pictures to follow.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Asheville, NC

Tuesday night, enjoyed a great evening and chimichanga dinner with our buddy Simon Moore, hiding out from the storms and rain and laughing at the vindictive mess his psycho g/f left when she cleaned out all the domestic goods "which she brought to the relationship" (half of which seemed to actually belong to Simon... go figure). Shared some of our multiple-backup domestic gear with the lad and left him in a much better mood Wednesday morning to begin the drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville, NC to visit with some friends of my future bride and see a bit of that great southern climbing.

Loooong drive, and I honestly cannot recommend anyone ever drive the BRP between Roanoke and Asheville... too many houses right beside the Park "boundary", too little info about where you are, no beta on where the intersecting highways lead (like, "can I get OFF this road ahead and get onto an interstate, or just lost?"), and damned few pullouts or rest areas, as well as the fact that, despite the temps being in the 80s a week or two ago, most of the facilities STILL aren't open... so no potties for the girls or boys en route!

Got in late, ate steak and taters and crashed! Woke late and casual, lots of coffee and sorting the mess on the truck and now we're out exploring and planning for a shish kebab dinner tonite and maybe Looking Glass tomorrow... lots and lots of great moderate climbs up on the south end of the formation, according to the beta I snagged in a phone call from the Super Sensei, Ed Begoon.

Cindy has been a trouper; driving, map reading, and generally being good company on the trip.

The day is too gorgeous to spend in here, so we're out and after it!

More tomorrow... or the next day...