From Pebbles to Cliffs- AL to KY
On Saturday, April 14, we unplugged our trailer, disconnected the water hose, wound up the jacks and hitched the Pilgrim up to Bert. We said our goodbyes to Anthony (who had chosen to take the day off of manual labor), Jeremy (who was dutifully tending the store, as usual), and of course, the ubiquitous Kenny (Kinny). The sun was shining as we slowly pulled out of Horse Pens 40 and eased down the curves of Chandler Mountain.
After a quick detour to Mi Casita in the dinky town of Henagar, AL, we drove up to Chester Frost campground just north of Chattanooga, TN. Here were more hookups, which allowed us to get some editing done on the Alban video and relax with always-flowing water. Our neighbors were many and festive, par for the course on a Saturday night in a trailer park in the South. Weary were we, and anxious to check out the fabled Stone Fort AKA Little Rock City, so we headed to bed after the requisite Sopranos mini-marathon. We are addicted to the show and may require an intervention. (“Whatsa matta wi’you?”)
Sunday was a glorious day, mild in temperature and relatively low in humidity (boulderers in Tennessee in April can’t be choosy). We drove up the winding road to Montlake Golf Course, upon whose property the boulders sit. The clubhouse staff was friendly and welcoming. We bought a guidebook, poo’d, and went climbing.
The approach is a perfect 4 minutes until you reach the Front Area, a great warm up spot with some moderate classics to test one’s meddle. We warmed up on The Incredarete, with its perfectly sculpted holds, Art of the Vogi, the balancey Crescent, and several other climbs. Byron went missing, and I found him at The Wave, a striking climb up a wave frozen in stone (I might’ve stolen that line from the guidebook). We both made quick work of it, and what a way for Byron to bag his first V6 of the trip!
We spent the rest of the day playing tourist, checking out most of the three-star lines. The Shield is every bit as good-looking as the videos make you believe. Spanky and Grimace, both V8, are basically the same problem but both look fantastic. If you love sloping edges up steeper-than-vertical terrain, you could do worse than Stone Fort. Byron and I both shivered our way up Storming the Castle, a 30-foot slab with awesome ramparts at the top. I think our ascents took a combined 10 minutes, as we both thought long and hard at the upper crux. Vikki made some good progress on Super Mario, which is where we finished out our day with new friends Lauren, Jared, Gregg, Andrew, and Kelsey.
We spent Monday at Mean Mug, an awesome little coffeehouse with French presses and fast wifi. On Tuesday, it rained, so we spent more time and money at Mean Mug. Caffeinated and stir-crazy, we headed to the Tennessee Bouldering Authority to blow off some steam, where we met routesetters Nate, Rami and Brion. The TBA is a great little spot to train, and has a casual, communal feel to it. A cute dog wandered around while all around the loft people fell onto the stacked mattresses that make up the landing zones. The RV Project recommends the TBA if you get rained out in Chatty!
We went out for drinks that evening with one of Byron’s old high school friends, Amy, and her awesome housemate Jeff. After some delicious microbrews at Honest Pint, we went to Aretha Frankenstein to finish up the night.
If thou art uninitiated in the southern way, let me sayeth unto thee: Chatty is awesome. There’s the Whole Foods, the Chacos, the kayaking and climbing and hipsters, and on top of that there’s plenty of grit still left, ya know, for the sake of keeping it real. Not only that, but you’re only a couple hours from Rocktown and HP40.
On Nate’s recommendation, we took off for Dayton Pocket on Wednesday morning. We’d heard tales of roofs, and sought a classic V7 called Torpedo. On the way, we overshot the turnoff, and given that we were on a windy country road, I tried to turn us around in a lot that wasn’t big enough. Not only was the lot not big enough, but it was not for an abandoned house, as we had thought. The scariest lady that we’ve yet encountered sauntered out while we were trying to squeak through a gap between a building and a downed telephone pole. We were trying to move the pole, and she asked us to put it back. Apparently they are flycatchers for trailers. We eventually got out, but not unscathed.
We finally made it to DP in the early afternoon, and followed Nate’s directions. There was a sweet overhanging boulder above a perfect creek, another fun little problem by the trail, and then there was the roof.
I know I spoke of the Martini Roof in Hueco as immaculate, but the roof at Dayton Pocket is even cooler. It’s deeper, steeper, has more quality lines, and the holds are all comfortable. Byron nearly did Torpedo, and I played around on some climbs that I don’t know the names of. The king line might be Honeycomb, a stout V10 with smooth, sculpted pinchy pockets coming out of the middle of the cave.
The gate to the road locked at sunset, so we left and continued north on I-75, stopping to sleep in a Walmart parking lot in London, KY. While Walmart represents just about everything I hate, I do have to say that they are a godsend to the road-weary traveler who just wants a safe, comfy place to crash for the night. Drive by any Walmart past 10pm and you’ll see semis, RVs and travel trailers occupying much of the black top.
On Thursday, we drove two more hours through some amazing Kentucky countryside, and before we knew it we were parked in the big grass field at Miguel’s Pizza, where we currently reside for the price of $2 per person per night. We are now climbing at the Red River Gorge, you may have heard of it? In either case, I have more to say about the Red than the Red’s got climbs (and that’s a lot), so I’ll get to that in the next post. We’ll be here for a couple of weeks, and we can’t wait to get some endurance in our forearms.