Thursday, May 28, 2009

The New River Gorge (subtitle: Cool Crags Californians Don't Have)

As if the superlative-evoking climbs of the New River Gorge weren't cool enough, Mary and I discovered the beauty, secretive wonder, and local color that is rural West Virginia. Every once and a while, I come across a place that makes me feel truly "alien" or, as the local gas station attendant in Lewisburg put it, "not from these parts". We traveled country roads that wound their serpentine way through forgotten hollows, brushed with state troopers looking for [sic] "fellas without drie-vers lie-senses", happened upon a true Irish music jam-session in a tiny Irish pub, and ate the best corned beef hash I have ever—and ever will—have. My Scotch-Irish roots—hidden for so long—came out in full force. At said Irish pub (in historic Lewisburg), Mary and I ordered Bangers and Mash, Shepherd's Pie (with locally raised Lamb), Irish Stew (again, with locally raised Lamb), corned beef hash, and a hefty pint of local Stout. Oh, and that was just for one meal. We went there twice. Let it be known that I haven't eaten a significant volume of red meat in a long, long time. Yes, it was worth it. What does my Scotch-Irish half say to my California-fresh veggie half?

Feck it. Give me me bangers.

Yes, I did climb on this trip. A lot. The New River Gorge absolutely redefined my conception of what constitutes good climbing. It's only fitting that a crag this good is located in a rural locale, away from all major airports, and touts some of the muggiest weather east of the Mississippi. If this place was near L.A., it would look like Mordor—give or take a few teenage V-snobs with their radios and annoying dogs. But this is the South: most people are friendly, slow-talking, and spend their evenings at the campsite reading or chatting (not comparing the size of their... ahem... climbing muscles). I can't even begin to describe how good—and varied—the rock is. Perhaps the New just suits my style; I quickly dispensed with a hefty amount of 11's and 12's, surprising myself. Everybody told me the New had really stout grades, but for some reason everything felt natural, or intuitive. Sure, we Californians have Bishop, Yosemite, the Sierra, the Needles, and Tahoe. But we don't have the New River Gorge.

But everything I just raved about pales in comparison to this fact: I GOT ENGAGED TO MARY SKOKUT!

That's right.

Virginia IS for lovers.

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