About Me

My photo

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


Saturday, September 20, 2014

'Tis the Season, Again

Please remember that hunting season has begun in West Virginia.  Muzzle loaders/black powder and bow seasons begin or have already commenced this month.

It was as much through hunting as through hiking that I discovered the forest, first felt wonder and reverence for that singing green shadow as a tween becoming a young man.

Hunting, done wisely and well, is necessary in today's ecosystem, as the predators who once filled this niche slowly recede into memory, still surviving in a few open ranges and preserves in the west.  Our own eastern wolf is gone, the cougar and mountain cats of legend hunted to near-mythic status, bobcats ranging in small packs in only the most desolate of spots, and bear have been chased down to small, sleek creatures half the size of their ancestors, who eat more berries than meat.

In short, white tail deer have few or no natural predators, and as a consequence, the tasty varmints are everywhere.  Because West Virginia is crisscrossed by roads frequented by logging trucks, working parents and NASCAR fans, more deer (and occasionally people) die from auto injuries than gunfire or arrow. Living in West Virginia requires special insurance due to the number of deer damage claims.

I grew up with a great generation of hunters and we saw the loud, drunken camps, the idiots and the dangerous morons who would leave a waste stream a mile wide through Eden itself. For every one of those examples, I knew a dozen conscientious hunters who left little save bloodstains and footprints, who ate all but the bones and hide, and used most of both.

Hunting is a tradition that far predates our nation, and is one of the cornerstone principles for the foundation of the National Forests. Venison is both delicious and naturally low fat, with none of the toxins or horrors associated with agribusiness "farming" of beef and poultry.

If all works out well, I'll be one of the silent invisible majority who come, do their thing, and vanish without a trace, in just a few weeks.

As ever, and in anything, what is done well, no one remembers, what is done wrong, no one forgets. Not all hunters leave a gut pile strewn with beer cans and cigarette butts at a pullout on a public road.

Please wear bright colors when you head out into our national forests, from now until January.

Remember that Franklin Gorge is private property, and stay off the top of the cliffs.

No matter where you climb, try to keep your pets close or leave them at home, make enough noise to make yourself known, maybe say hello, wish them good luck, and share the forest with folks who actually pay, in some cases, hundreds of dollars in permits and fees, and train just as rigorously as any climber, who spend as much if not more than we do on gear, just to use our public lands for whatever time they can snatch from work and life, four months out of every year.

So What's Up with the Guide and PHAR/UP?

Well, let me tell you...

PHAR/UP supplied local climbers with a grant of 50 Fixe hangers, 5-piece bolts and ring anchors for upgrade of existing anchors and new route development at Old House, in the Lower Canyon. Those same area climbers are currently working towards a grant for trails development and human waste disposal at this remote crag.

Last week, I met with Julie Fosbender, Troy Waszchy and Brandon Olinger of the Monongahela National Forest's Cheat-Potomac Ranger District, to talk about the upcoming guide and impacts.  We visited Long Branch and the Guide Wall, talked about the private property hodgepodge (the trail to the Guide Walls is on private land, the developed routes are not, the section between the developed walls is private, as is the top). We talked about the impact of other user groups like fishermen and hunters, as well as the global importance of Smoke Hole Canyon from an environmental perspective.

We drove out to Reed's Creek, were the folks from the MNF were understandably impressed with the amateur efforts of a college group from Vermont, a score of local climbers, a disabled homemaker and one toothless old curmudgeon, working without support from any national organization.

At this point, we have a great relationship with these folks.  They are excited to see climbing expanding in the forest, since climbers are perceived to be more environmentally active and aware. Our efforts to mitigate impact while respecting local landowners has given them a great example of how climbing can be.

If I sound just a bit proud, it comes from the days of paper chasing and the hundreds of phone calls it took to get here; building trails as steadily as I developed routes, maintaining a conversation with the National Forest and the landowners who were still willing to talk to climbers, building bridges to the community even as I bash away at the clay feet of their advocates and idols.

I'm discussing distribution with the publisher, and the feedback we've had from the folks who have seen the sample guide has been nothing but positive.

We're working on new designs and ironing out some wrinkles (no pun intended) in our T-shirt production and distribution, which supports a small local start-up.  Some of our Kickstarters have already seen the first efforts, if you have not, rest assured... more will be making their way to your doors in the coming days.

Registration for Hallowe'en Trail Daze continues... register before 9/30 by sending me an email at wvmgray@gmail.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Help us Save Blair Mountain!

Yo, climbers!

Too many mountains (over 450 of them and counting) have been erased from the landscape of West Virginia and the surrounding Appalachian States.

Now that process threatens a mountain that stands for so much more, Blair Mountain.

How would you pay tribute to a place that changed the course of the labor movement forever? 

We stand at a fork in the road where we can either protect the West Virginia mountain where coal miners fought for their right to unionize, after enduring years of abuse at the hands of both law and coal thugs. Fragmentation bombs were dropped on miners, after machine guns were used to strafe their families and homes from a flatbed railroad car.

We can remember the struggle of these people to simply be treated like human beings, and protect the mountain that stands as a monument to their fight and sacrifices.

Or we can allow Big Coal to blow the top off Blair Mountain in exchange for a simple plaque.

A plaque would not replace Yorktown, or Gettysburg.

And all the plaques on earth cannot replace one mountain.

Tell the Army Corps of Engineers that a plaque won't do. Blair Mountain is an important part of our history and deserves to be off limits to mountain top removal mining.

Find out more and send your message here: http://action.sierraclub.org/ProtectBlairMtn

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thanks to all the Kickstarters

Wow, crazy month, but just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to each and every one of the people who helped us reach our goal on Kickstarter:

Robert Abramowitz
Jon Alexander
Kristin Anderson
Ex Pow-anpongkul
Ethan Atwood
Henry Barkhausen
Jeff Baxter
Ed Begoon
Gabi Benel
Don Blume
Nicholas Borror
Dallas Branum
Brian Bridges
John Burcham
John Burkhart
Adam Byrd
Tony Canike
Cedric Capiaux
Nathan Cauffman
David Ciesla
Tommy Cockerell
Tim Collins
Sarah Cook
Joe Coover
Dennis Coyle
Jackson Crane
Kirby Crider
Josh Davidson
Garth Dellinger
Chelsea Devening
Brandon Dorman
Andrew Dotson
Rick Dotson
Gary Dunn
Brian Dziekonsky
Chris Egress
Sherry Erickson
Ryan Eubank
Morgan Falls
Mike Farnsworth
Keith Fegler
Jeremy Fox
Ryan Fishel
Lucas Fisher
Mark Folsom
Curtis Gale-Dryer
James Garner
John Gathrite
Tom Georgevits
Jackson Goss
Gilbert Gray
Charles Green
Michael Greene
Peter Guyre
Stephen Haase
John Harman
Amy Hazam
Jeanette Helfrich
Michael and Liz Horlick
Eric Horst
John Huber
Alexander Hypes
Collin Jenkins
Stephanie Jesteadt
Adam Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Steve Jones
Jude Kalet
John Kelbel
James Kim
Jeff Koelemay
Takuto Lehr
George Lewis
Patrick Light
Anliko Lowman
Phil Lutz
Hung Ly
Connie Magee
Kristan Markey
Joshua McVeigh
Paul Meehan
David Mitchell
Aaron Moses
Ian Nathan
Ryan Nelling
Jennifer O’Brien
Mark O’Neal
Ted Plaase
David Raines
Eduardo Ramirez
Scott Ransom
Aaron Ray
David Riggs
Chris Riha
Milas Robertson
Danny Rowand
Regina Schulte-Ladbeck
Eric Seme
Corey Shaw
Lisa Shepherd
Thomas Shifflett
Kelly Shipp
Brian Skarda
Todd Sleeman
Doug Smith
Douglas D. Smith
Craig Spaulding
Ronnie Stadtfeld
Jerry Stankunas
Zachary Stone
Lisa Storey
Greg Sudlow
Paul Sullivan
Andrew Suter
Christopher Sweet
Donovan Sweet
Samuel Taggart
Matt Thomas
Joe Thompson
John Tung
David Turk
Voltaire Valle
Frank Velez
Corey Vezina
Johnathan Wachtel
Josiah Weeks
Rachel Wills
Sigmund Young
Sofia Zarfas
Lester Zook

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Save the DATE! Hallowe'en weekend Trail Daze: Reed's Creek

Make your plans now to join the Potomac Highlands Anchor Replacement/Upgrade Program (PHAR/UP) on Hallowe'en weekend, Friday, October 31st through Sunday, November 2nd, 2014, a weekend of community, trail work, clean-up and climbing.

Limit 20 people, so sign up now!

Depending on the weather, PHAR/UP will reserve a Smoke Hole campsite, or two cabins at Thorn Springs 4-H Camp just south of Franklin, for the use of our volunteers. We will be supplying hot grub and cold refreshments while handing out Smoke Hole T-shirts, Owlfeather jewelry and other prizes to those who attend.

We'll also raffle off a new guidebook, to be delivered to your door when they come back from the publisher in December.

Respond in the comments section of this post or email wvmgray@gmail.com to reserve your spot.