A West Virginia adventure – Spring Break in the New River Gorge, 2018
Saturday, 26-May, through Saturday, 02-June, 2018
“Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze. Country roads, take me home… to the place, I belong! West Virginia, Mountain momma… take me home, country roads.”
I’m pretty sure that the first real spring break I ever had was with Daniel, years ago, when we drove down to the New River Gorge to climb, and attend the New River Rendezvous. Since that year, we’ve done our best to always link up and go on some glorious climbing trip on or around Memorial Day. This year was a tough one, with Sarah breaking her leg, but she insisted that I go anyways, and let her live vicariously through me as she convalesed at home. I’d already cleared the week as vacation with my boss, even before I was hired for the project, so I was free and clear for a throwback adventure…
A sad day.
A day without climbing.
The saddest of days.
It started out well enough; I woke up and, per what’d become a very pleasant “normal”, made bacon and eggs. Or… sausage and eggs, if I recall. They were really good. Then the sad bit: everyone headed out to go rafting, and I stayed in to write and nap for a bit. I’m not a huge fan of white water rafting, honestly… not only was it fairly expensive, but it’s just not my jam… as far as activities go. Not a huge fan of water, of swimming, or of being out of control. And, funny story, rafting has all of those things in spades.
So instead, I went hiking and scouting.
Specifically, I drove out toward Lower Meadow wall, to check out a specifically beautiful 5.14a called Mango Tango.
But… after spending 15min looking for the parking lot, I gave up. I’d planned on parking on the side of the highway, but when it came time to actually do so, I decided that was silly and dangerous, and instead I’d park at the official parking lot. Which… is invisible? Maybe? I don’t know, man. I couldn’t find it.
I moved on to my next destination: the Endless Wall. A massive fortification of stone, a rock face 3 miles long, consistently 80ft tall, and covered in brutally hard routes.
I started on the far Eastern side of the cliff, planning on hiking the whole wall and then following the Endless Wall trail (a nationally renowned hiking path) back to the car.
I met a guided group. They were cool. They told me where I was, and gave me a bit of information about there area… but we mostly left each other alone. Since, you know, they were guiding people.
I explored an open-air museum for the abandoned nuttall mine. There were placards and rusted buildings, and mine cars with plants growing out of them.
I hiked West bound, and ran out of trail repeatedly. Let’s talk about this bit for a second: The New River Gorge has between two and three gagillion routes. And I found an entire section of cliff with almost no routes. No joke – I didn’t see more than two or three bolt lines for hundreds of yards along the cliff bottom. There’s so much room for development here, you don’t even know.
After I got turned around and I lost the trail for the fifth time – I could have kept bushwacking my way through… but my guidebook mentioned something about a “sea of poison ivy, hip height in summer” that made me slightly cautious about continuing. Instead of risking ichy devastation, I turned around.
Then I tried to stop at the general store for lunch. They were closed, which made me sad and hungry.
Sadness and hunger were drowned out by parking at the next trailhead, and starting into what USA Today called the best hike in the country. Instead of getting food. Which was a decision. I’m not quite sure I agree that this is the absolute best hike in the United States, but it was definitely quite pretty – I got some really awesome views, and that’s even before I descended three ladders, a cave, and a few short drops to get down to the base of the cliffs.
The trail around the bottom of the cliffs was amazing – It reminded me of the Gunks, but with smoother rock. Cliffs towering a hundred or more feet above me, continuing on unbroken for miles. I never did make it to the far end (or even the sea of poison ivy), but I did very much enjoy the hike and exploration.
After exploring the cliffs, the rest of my day was pretty simple and boring – I got lunch at Burger King (because I wanted to), picked up some groceries, and hung out with everyone at the house. Nothing particularly exciting, except for maybe the volume of food that I bought at BK, though dinner was really good – Lauren and Thomas cooked up some burgers and bratwurst, which we gorged on while washing it down with some pretty excellent beer.
A good rest day.