The long drive to the BMW/Town Flats Mine area (the Horse Pens of Kentucky…literally) leaves ample time for conversation. And what we talked about was how different bouldering is than other recreational activities. While ultimately I enjoy singular sports, there is a social and team aspect to it. While it is a subset of rock climbing it is also distinct in its tactics and form.
What avails me to bouldering over rock climbing is that it is social while being more fast paced from an activity sense. Let me describe for those unfamiliar.
Typical rock climbing scenario: Two climbers hike to a crag which may or may not be crowded like a mall on Black Friday. Climbers must lay out gear, tie knot in rope, feed belay device, on belay-belay on, climb until tired or to end of climb, lower off. All total it might be a half an hour after starting before the second climber gets an opportunity to tie in and climb. Then you pick it all up and move down the line to the next climb.
Typical bouldering scenario: Two climbers arrive at the boulders and throw down crash pads below project. Within ten minutes both have tried the problem.
Now, add a half dozen other participants. In the same two situations on a single climb/problem a couple hours goes by with the roped climbers while the boulderers have all tried the problem within fifteen minutes. Others are possibly working lines within close proximity.
Everyone is actively climbing instead of sitting around while one guy hangs the draws. Or two people. Or three. But in the roped climbing scenario things move much more slowly. And unlike bouldering no one is really involved in the climbing other than the climber. Oh, sure, you can watch and cheer from the ground, but in bouldering the action is condensed. The spectators are spotters and in a fast rotation become climbers and then spotters/cheerleaders, and the cycle continues until everyone is too tired to climb anymore.
This appeals to my ADHD wiring. This appeals to my proprioceptive cravings. That’s why I’m out there to begin with. It’s not for the briars, bugs, and sunburns. The fresh air is nice.
Cycling appeals for related but different reasons. Everyone is mobile. I’m not waiting while you’re riding. We can get on with things and no one feels left out or like they’re wasting their time. Bouldering is like the mountain biking of the climbing world. And mountain biking is like bouldering in its approach to the landscape. Except someone has to first build trails. Bouldering isn’t exactly that dependent on development. Kipp would argue.
Speaking of mountain biking…I’m itching to get back on the bike. One day at Veterans whetted a voracious appetite. But rain keeps coming. I want to get out on the road again too. Word has it Jeaph has a new sporty-sport bike. Maybe I want to ride solo for a few rides to get my derrier conditioned and my cycling legs back under me. I’d love to haul my mountain bike out to the strip mine and ride around. I’m afraid the four wheelin’ crowd might have used up all of the potential mountain biking. Sigh.
Up and down the Mountain Parkway…one way to work and one way to fun. And somehow I live in the middle of it all.
I’d like to own a piece of land in the middle of nowhere for a weekend cabin. It could be pretty basic. Maybe not even electricity or water. Nah, I think I’d want indoor plumbing at least. But out there? There are even strip mines and the potential for strip mines all over that area. I saw just a couple of days ago that my home county of Powell is considered a coal county. We have never had a substantial coal mine. Definitely not a strip mine. That is worrisome to me.
I know my watershed. I know that there is no coal mining and even little oil drilling going on upstream of my faucet. But it’s oh so close. The squagmire of Big Sinking is just over the hill. The ecological disaster that is “the oil fields” where my Papaw Lacy worked out his life is in the next watershed over, but that formation extends across watersheds. More drilling is possible. Fracking is not a remote possibility anymore. And apparently there might be coal in them thar hills.
I’ve never seen myself as an ecological activist. Maybe an interested party, but...a protester? Nah! That’s for younger, angrier people. Except when it’s not.
I can’t help but watch the ragged logged-out hills blur by as we speed out to the newest boulderfield in Kentucky. I’m confused by what I want for my home state and home area. I think I want coal to go away. I think I don’t want to see the destructive logging practices of the 19th and early 20th centuries come back. But I’m willing to trundle and scrub and level landings all the day long. Am I just as bad?
I feel like my presence in those hills is more noble. I’m really not taking anything out, and if I’m giving anything its access and opportunity for others to get out and enjoy the landscape in a less extractive and destructive manner. But do I really understand the full impact of my presence? I can’t say that I do.
A while back I was looking for bike touring destinations. I guess it was around the time I went to the KBBC Conference at Jenny Wiley. I rode out early that day and met Mandy there. It was an amazing ninety mile ride from my house through this very area (well, a couple miles north) and afterward I perused the map and found the source of the Red River. It was there near where Breathitt, Magoffin, and Wolfe Counties come together. B. M. W. Looking at the map back then I wondered if I could find a discreet place to camp out there. I didn’t know there is an abandoned strip mine and some vacant wooded land owned by a guy who would eventually welcome recreationalists like myself. Now I know.
The idea of a bike tour to the source of the watershed I live within had a deeper significance to me even then, when it was really just for a lark to explore the river that flows near my house. But now, knowing about the mine, knowing about the recreational possibilities in the area…it seems like a pilgrimage I should make at some point in my life. To trace out that Red River, to find the source of the waters of my life…it could be inspirational.