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Grand Adventure 2012: Days 7-9

Sunday we rested. We took the day off from gallivanting and slept in and read books. It was a lovely day.

Monday we headed back to Muir Valley to check out the Animal Crackers wall. A nice little crag made up mostly of 5.8s. At the top of this wall, we noticed a warning on the stone in chalk some other climber had written stating that there was a snake up there. Nervously we clipped into the anchors and quickly made our way back down again. Something we’ve never encountered in the gym :).





The sky opened up for a short while, letting the rain down. To not waste our climbing day we went back to the Boneyard crag (which has some nice overhangs and roofs) so Matt could attempt a send on the Stealing Melinda 5.9 he lead the other day. He made it successfully to the top with no takes or falls, allowing him another check on the list of Red River routes.

Today we decided to try climbing in a new area and visited the Left Flank crag located in Gray’s Branch. This is a truly beautiful area, further into the backwoods of Kentucky than we have traveled yet. To get there we had to travel through a one-lane tunnel under a portion of the mountain (Matt loved this. It was, admittedly, pretty cool). The hike was probably the nicest so far. A bit of a romp up the hill-moutnainside, but all downhill on the way back. The rock here is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in person and really, all I wanted to do was sit and stare at it. We came upon a stunning natural outdoor amphitheater and I couldn’t resist just feeling the vibration in the stone. It made me want to go back to school to become a geologist.



We climbed some super fun 5.8s in this area and were thankful to finally find some routes with jug holds instead of only slabs and crimps to haul yourself up on.


One thing we have noticed about all of the outdoor routes we have encountered is that the first bolt on each route is at least 15 feet off the ground with a nice patch of sharp rocks or shorn treetrunks to land on should you fall before the first clip-in. A very discouraging situation. Many of the climbers that we have met carry a stick-clip (a long-ish pole with a clip to hold a quickdraw in) to remedy this situation. With the stick-clip they are able to clip a quickdraw threaded through the rope into the first bolt without ever having to leave the ground. We are thinking we might head to a gear shop today or tomorrow to get one of our own. Some climbers frown upon stick-clips, but personally, being safe and able to continue our trip, not to mention walking upright unaided, are my priorities.

We have begun our second week in Kentucky and as much as we are enjoying our time here, I will be glad for a change of scenery. After this week we intend to head to Cedar Bluffs in southern Illinois. There seems to be some interesting bourldering there and it’s also fairly close to Metropolis, IL where the Superman Museum is!

Let’s hope by the end of this week we have our stick-clip situation worked out and we can try to get some more difficult climbs in.

Photos: 1. Matt rappels down Stealing Melinda. 2. A large overhanging at the Boneyard crag. 3. Sandstone roof. 4. Rhododendron jungle. 5. The Left Flank wall natural amphitheater at Gray’s Branch. 6. Another view of the amphitheater. 7. Red sandstone.

Grand Adventure 2012: Days 2 + 3


On Tuesday morning the sun woke us up, turning our tent into a nylon oven. We slowly got ourselves up and dressed and we payed our wifi fee so we could check back in with home and the real world. After sending e-mails and a few rounds of solitaire we decided to head out of camp and check out some nearby climbing spots. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for us. As we were eating our breakfast in a nearby park we heard thunder and saw the accompanying dark clouds come rolling in. We opted to postpone climbing for a drier day and instead ventured out to find the post office (the Fawn Relic shop is traveling with us and is still open for business!).

The post office in Slade was permanently closed last week so we had to travel to a town about 11 miles west of here named Stanton. I was able to ship off a package as well as locate a grocery store.




By afternoon the rain still hadn’t let up so we decided to go for a hike on the trails in Natural Bridge State Park. It was a little damp but the scenery there is stunning. This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to walk across a natural bridge, an experience I’m not soon to forget. We spent most of the rest of the day in the park and made it back to Miguel’s in time for some delicious pizza (kielbasa and mushroom!). We ended by being serenaded by one of our neighbors who has some talent with the fiddle.

Today there was no rain and we were able to try our hand at climbing real rocks for the first time. The first wall we wanted to climb, Roadside Crag, was closed for maintenance so we had to change our climbing plans. We hiked through some woods and up some steep hills to The Zoo wall, but after looking at the easiest route there, a 5.9, we decided to head to The Practice wall in Muir Valley. Muir Valley is truly beautiful. It is owned and maintained by a middle-aged couple and is free of charge to hike through and climb in.

The Practice wall is just like it sounds: a good place to start if you’re new to out door climbing (that’s us!). Matt and I really have our work cut out for us. Outdoor climbing is totally different from the gym climbing we are used to. We managed our way up several routes and ended up spending the entire afternoon at The Practice wall. Around 5 p.m. we made our way back to Miguel’s for some dinner. We made a puppy friend named Sumo, who really wanted to share Matt’s pasta bowl. Also, we tried Ale 8 for the first time, a most excellent ginger ale brewed solely in Kentucky.




After dinner, we drove into Stanton to grab some groceries and gasoline (only $3.49 a gallon!). Now we are all set for food for the rest of the week. As delicious as Miguel’s is, we are on a budget and have to make our money last for the next few months.

It was nice to finally get on some real rock, but we have a huge learning curve to overcome as well as lots of conditioning!

Photos: 1. Matt crossing the plank bridge into Natural Bridge State Park. 2. Natural Bridge State Park trail. 3. The natural bridge. 4. View from natural bridge. 5.The front door to Miguel’s Pizza carved and painted by Miguel himself. 6. Ale 8 ginger ale. 7. Me waiting for dinner to be served!