So let's get this out of the way early on...I'm no climbing hard man. The closest I ever go to that coveted status was maybe when I went out solo exploring and bouldering and put up tons of stuff without a soul around. And maybe those quasi-suicidal ground up ropes solo first ascents (which were all sub-moderate in difficulty).
Mandy and Bean and I met up with some friends at Dip Wall on Saturday to climb. Recently Mandy and I took Runaway Rhonda (the teen niece) to Dip Wall and I had a poor day of climbing. I backed off a route I'd led many times. When we arrived at the wall Miles was cleaning the route next to it and getting ready to lead the one I flubbed a few weeks ago so I jumped on the one Miles had just vacated. And had to back off.
|photo by Becky Brewer|
I top roped Green Eggs, the left route, and felt old and fat. Then we moved to The Grinch/Whoville area and I conned Miles into leading The Grinch, a sandbagged (literally and figuratively) 5.4 that is still somehow fun. I didn't feel much more solid on The Grinch, though I think I was starting to find my climbing legs again. My feet were definitely part of my confidence problem. I'm not conditioned to standing on small edges in ballet slippers anymore. Most people have the misconception that rock climbing is all about the upper body, but truly it isn't. It's a full body assault. I'm sore everywhere today.
|It's nasty and green. Do you understand why they call it "The Grinch" now?|
It was fun. The smells of climbing activated long dormant recesses of my brain. The sandstone, the chalk, the nylon all blended together in a unique aroma that clings to you long after you return home. You have to shower it off like the smell of a bad affair. There's no denying you played hooky to go climbing in the Red River Gorge unless you exfoliate that essence from your body.
We ate like fiends without guilt that night. Our bellies sang an off key chorus of hunger as we struggled to get through the grocery store without ripping into the chip aisle. Nom! Nom! Nom! Food tastes better after a day of climbing. I've done numerous studies.
Sunday afternoon I cleared out, taking the kids out to Hatton Ridge to mountain bike and leaving Mandy to a quiet and relatively obstruction free house. I used to spend a lot of time roaming Hatton Ridge and the drainages that flank it. A LOT of time.
We parked at Hatton Cemetery and pedaled south along the rolling ridge, passing the upper terminus of Powder Mill Trail, and then turned west onto the unofficial spur trail to Blackburn Rock.
Boone wasn't feeling great. In retrospect I think it was a combination of little physical activity in his life and dehydration. First world problems. But he soldiered on and eventually we made our way out to the stunning overlook. Bean rode the user defined singletrack like a pro even successfully hopping a couple of logs.
|Couldn't bunny hop this one|
It was such a nice day with perfect temps and a startling blue sky we lingered in the sun-baked rock for a good long while. I balled up an unnecessary fleece jacket and lay for awhile in the aromatic pine needles a few yard into the woods to protect my sensitive eyes from the solar dome of the sky.
Finally I had to coerce Bean to give up more time at Blackburn. She had contented herself to occupying the overlook. Boone and I chilled in the woods. But our time trickled away. I was cognizant of how therapeutic it was to just be. To just lay in the woods and absorb the peace and quiet into my bones. I go too much too fast and parry a daily fusillade of background noise. I needed that respite.
But even the ride back was therapy. Usually my high subsides as I feel myself being drawn into the gravity well of normal life. I held onto the now--held onto being in the moment--far longer than I usually do.
All was good until the second moderate rolling climb.
"You said it was all downhill on the way back," Bean whined as she pushed her bike up the hill.
"I said it was mostly downhill on the way back," I corrected, but I really couldn't remember what I said.
The last half mile to the car was a battle of wills. I'm not sure what my nine-going-on-nineteen year old expected me to do.
It was a miserable half mile. In the end she said she had fun [I had to clench the steering wheel a little tighter when she said it] and Boone seemed to be in great spirits too. As the day wound down I couldn’t help but think that dwelling in the moment, spending time with my kids in the out of doors, was terribly good for my soul. We had a great time.
It was a great weekend.