A Traveler’s Dilemma

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I have a little notebook that I use to keep track of lessons we’ve learned during this trip. In North Carolina, I decided to sleep out with no tent or tarp because it was so dang hot and humid, knowing there might be a storm that night. There was. I got soaked, as did all of my stuff. After catching a couple hours of cramped sleep in the cab, I wrote: “Always assume it will rain in the middle of the night. Prepare accordingly.”IMG_6211

When we arrived in West Virginia, a friend of a friend set us up with a spot to camp out on a wooden platform – pretty plush right? Well the rain fly was a bit of a pain to set up and the other folks around were rocking tarp shelters so we went with that. They were all using several very large tarps; we used a single 8′ by 10′. When we got back to camp at the end of the day, the tent and everything inside of it was drenched, the tarp full to bursting. The next day I wrote something along the lines of: “In the Southeast in the summer, expect a thunderstorm every day.”

Here we are several weeks later, holed up in the library near the Gunks, after getting thoroughly soaked on our trek from the rocks to the truck earlier today. We left before the rain came, but not quite early enough. New note: “Getting wet is not a problem. The problem is getting (all of the gear) dry again. Get going before you hear thunder.” In between the storms we’ve been getting up to some really fun stuff in West Virginia, Maryland, and now New York!

IMG_6206From the Red River Gorge in Kentucky we made the short drive to the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia, where we inexpertly set up camp. After many back-to-back days of hard climbing in the Red, we decided to use our first day in West Virginia to get a lay of the land and go for our first pedal in many days. We spent a good chunk of the day at Water Stone Outdoors, waiting out a short storm and talking beta and adventures with their incredibly helpful and knowledgeable staff. We then got some beta from Marathon Bikes and made our way to the Arrowhead trail network. We weren’t super stoked on these classic IMBA-style XC trails on our first cruisy lap (clockwise), but we took the second lap at a much more aggressive pace, went counter-clockwise, and had a blast! We’ve learned that cross country trails (especially) are more fun if you pedal everything!

IMG_6215The next day we got just a couple of trad routes in at the Junkyard wall before getting slammed by another storm and calling it for the day. In the morning the clouds were already dark and heavy, and it didn’t take long for them to break open. We spent the first half of the day getting an oil change and doing some work at Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville, where we got massive, delicious servings of bread pudding (from day old muffins and cinnamon rolls!) a la mode.

IMG_6218When the sun finally emerged and the roads started to dry out we made our way back to the Junkyard and got in a very solid evening climbing session on some excellent trad routes. The rock in the New is bullet-hard sandstone, making for bomber placements. The friendly people in town and at the crags made for a very inviting atmosphere, but the hot, humid weather mixed with thunder storms compelled us to move on after another half day of climbing. Definitely a place to spend some time, but we’d recommend going in the Winter, Spring, or Fall!

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From the New, we made the winding journey to Seneca Rocks West Virginia. This tiny little town feels like it’s sole purpose is to support the adventure tourism industry based around the town’s namesake – Seneca Rocks. Seneca is a single, massive fin of rock that juts out of the forested hillside, with climbing on both sides.

The dominant style there is classic adventure trad. We set out with beta from Zack and our friend Luke, as well as the helpful folks at Gendarme Climbing Shop, and after four pitches of wicked exposure, fun climbing, and good placements, found ourselves atop the rock’s south peak! We spent a total of three packed days climbing some of Seneca’s most classic routes, and I got much more comfortable placing gear and building trad anchors.

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Dark, deep clouds and a sudden, billowing wind put a little extra speed in our step as we made the last rappel off of our final route in Seneca. We made it back to our packs and speed-walked our way back to the truck, only for the storm to move East without hitting us. Well East was the directions we were going, so as is our wont, we hopped in the truck and chased down the storm. It didn’t take long until we were bombarded with massive, meaty raindrops that all but obscured the road entirely.

IMG_6343After an exciting drive, we arrived at our destination – Eric and Lori Rice’s Country Pleasures Farm in Western Maryland. As soon as we walked in the door, we were helped to an impressive dinner of roasted vegetables, applesauce from their orchard and sausages from their cows before settling into a stimulating conversation and making our way to bed. Over the next several days, we worked on various projects around the farm, from picking blueberries, to building a hoop house, to digging garlic and more.

Eric and Lori made us completely welcome and fed us with the intention of both filling the calorie-deficit we’ve built over the last few months and keeping us full until we get back home. With their guidance, life on the farm developed a certain ease. We worked hard and we did our best to work smart – always trying to figure out the most efficient way to complete the task at hand. Yet we didn’t have to figure out where to sleep, we weren’t worried about wether the cooler needed ice or about what was in it, nor did we even feel the need to seek out any mountain biking or paddling, though it was readily available. Simpler to wake up in the morning, eat a hearty breakfast, go to work for a few hours, take some lunch, and go to work again before coming in for a delicious dinner, a cold beer, and engaging conversation. It’s a lifestyle I could certainly get used to.

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IMG_6381We made a trip out to D.C. since we were in the area, and got to check out some very cool exhibits at the Air and Space and Natural History museums, but more importantly, got to meet up with our good buddy Topher from SOU! After getting our fill of the big city, we were happy to be back on the farm with our hands in the dirt, and the Oregonian reunions continued when we picked up Alyssa from the Baltimore airport. She joinedIMG_6405 us for a solid day of farm work, and then with the truck packed to capacity and loaded up with all manner of organic goodness from the farm (including steaks, applesauce, scones, and more), we made the haul up to New Paltz New York to climb at The Gunks.

We met up with our friend Ariene from Red Rocks for a quick bouldering session before the impending storm. As we climbed we saw the clouds coming in and felt the wind pick up but didn’t start hustling until we heard the rolling thunder and it was too late. Now we’re working on figuring out our next move – it looks like there’s a high chance of thunderstorms throughout the immediate area, so we might just sit tight for a couple days and wait for it to pass so we can go climb. If y’all know of any cool places to check out in the general New Paltz/Albany region, let us know!

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– Nathan

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