The past few weekends have been really busy for us, but long weekends with spectacular weather are just too tempting to pass up, so we were off to VA again for some more bouldering fun. After spending a fun evening with Canaan’s grandparents (both sets!) we were off bright and early the next morning to meet Manbert at Grayson Highlands State Park. The low humidity and highs in the upper 60’s felt amazing – and I sure was glad that I had bought Canaan some fall clothes right before we left!
This was a landmark trip for us, since it was the test run with our Kelty Kid Carrier. We finally felt like Canaan was ready to graduate from the Baby Bjorn to the new big boy pack – and since Norbert and Manuela were the ones that gave us the pack (way back when the Bean really was the size of an actual bean…), it only seemed fitting that we try it out on a trip with them. After Steve used his MacGyver (MacGruber?) skills to rig up a Camelbak system inside of the pack (which you can read about here), we loaded it up and gave it a whirl!
We were optimistic about it since we’d been putting Canaan in it while doing stuff around the house for the past couple of weeks, and he seemed to enjoy it, but none of us expected just HOW MUCH FUN he would have in it when he actually was outside! It was hysterical. Half the time he would fall asleep – which we hadn’t been sure he would be able to do, so this was a pleasant surprise. The rest of the time he would be gazing around in wide-eyed wonder, holding on to the front of the pack like he’s on a rollercoaster ride – with a look on his face of absolute glee! The pack has a mirror connected to the strap, so that I could peek back there and see how he was doing, and almost every time I looked back there, he had a HUGE smile on his face, just staring at the scenery (which was gorgeous by the way – I was probably doing the same thing!) Sometimes I even heard him giggling!
Day 1 ~
We started out in familiar territory at the beginning of the Listening Rock Trail, but ended up working our way around the loop. We began at the Bilingual Boulder – Bilingual (V2), Bipolar (V4+), and then a hand hold broke on Steve when he was on Biopsy (V1 no longer…). We then trekked down to The Hive and got on Benadryl (V0), and Jaws (V1+). New problems for us were Honeycomb (V0) – really fun line that followed juggy knobs up a bulge and large crack system. (Plus there was a really fun kneebar in the middle…). I also did Drone (V4), which was a couple of hard moves off the low start to an easy, trending right, top-out.
We then packed up our stuff and went off in search of the Tuna Boulder, which we’d been told was hard to find, but our handy-dandy Mountain Project descriptions once again came through for us, and we found it without any trouble.
We took a break for lunch, and then I was psyched to send Totally Tuna (V3+) on the second go. This problem was definitely worth the hike down – it started way low on a big pinch to a deep flake, then floated through a sea of crimps to a good sized slot – then a big throw to a flat but featured breadloaf hold. From there the top out was tricky, but not desperate – I found a good knob, and got my right foot way high, but had a hard time moving from there. I ended up (rather ungracefully) beaching myself on the top of the boulder like a whale (tuna?). Next we went to the Electricity Boulder and got on Voltage (V0+). Since we had time, we wanted to go back and show Manbert some of the stuff in the Pit Fall Area, so we hiked back around and did Mike-n-Ike (V0), Bicentennial Arete (V0), Pit Fall Warm-Up (V0), Pit Fall (V2).
By this point our fingers were wrecked, so we headed back to the campground to set up tents and work on food. We had a FEAST over the fire – it seems like all we did from 630 til the time we went to bed was eat! We had plenty of meat including sausages, plenty of veggies, and chips, salsa, and guacamole! Those sausages in natural beef casing were absolutely delicious. I heard they produce from choice meet and order casing from DCW Casing (http://dcwcasing.com/). That seems to be the perfect match. After dinner we decided we wanted something sweet to top us off, so we headed up to the campground store to get stuff for s’mores (and also so Canaan could visit his favorite park ranger lady friend, Juanita).
Canaan fell right to sleep as soon as we put him down, so we figured we were in for a good night. I snuggled into my brand new red and shiny Marmot sleeping bag that Steve got me for my birthday, expecting to be able to sleep for at least 6 or 7 hours before being joined by a hungry bean…WRONG!!! Instead I was woken up by a screaming bean a little after midnight…and too many times to list after that. We’ve been having a few rough nights of late (teething…) but this one put those to shame. Looking back, it wasn’t that much worse than what he’s been doing, but being in a dark tent (and knowing there are tons of other people trying to sleep near us) definitely complicated his nightwakings. On a brighter note, my new sleeping bag gets a rave review…Actually, make that two rave reviews, since Canaan spent almost as much time in it as I did.
I told Canaan that Norbert and Manuela might not want to talk to him after his nighttime antics, but thankfully he was greeted with an understanding smile (and Steve and I were greeted with a sympathetic one 🙂 ). We enjoyed a nice breakfast, packed up camp, and headed for the Highlands!
We hiked along the Rhododendron Trail up through the countryside until we veered off towards a rocky outcropping. It took us a while to figure out our bearings, but we ended up successfully finding the Horizon Boulder. One by one we ticked the problems along the back of the boulder with a fantastic, exposed backdrop – Peace of Westphalia (V0), East of Eden (V1), True North (V3), Unknown b/t East and True (V1?), Windy Heights (V2). Windy Heights was definitely the most classic line of the day – it followed an overhanging arete, topping out on jugs, with ridiculous exposure for a boulder problem!
We hiked out and enjoyed lunch in the shade by the picnic tables at the trailhead, then headed down to the AVP/Boneyard Area. We successfully found the Roadside Boulder (not that difficult to find…), but found the stream running right along the base to be less than inspiring.
The Roadside Warm-up (V0) along the backside of the boulder had a semi-dry landing, so we all traded out turns between that and sitting by the car while Canaan finished up his nap. We were unsuccessful in finding the Boneyard, but accidentally found the AVP Area, so we decided we might as well stay there. We did Alley Way (V0), and Blockade (V2). We took a few go’s at some other problems that I think would have gone down if we were fresh, but its always nice to have projects to come back to!
Once again, a great weekend of relaxed and for the most part casual bouldering with great friends. It feels good to get back into the swing of things bouldering – we are definitely looking forward to heading to the Hound Ears Comp in Boone in a few weeks! We were also really pleased with how well everything went with Canaan in the Kelty backpack – it made things so much easier!
Now when Canaan falls asleep on the hike, we can just set him down in the pack (it has a sort of kickstand type thing), and he can continue sleeping – rather than searching for a flat spot in the shade to spread the blankets out and carefully trying to ease him out of the Baby Bjorn without waking him up (which was 90% of the time unsuccessful). It is also so much easier on me having both Canaan and all the gear on my back in a well-fitting pack that balances the load well, rather than wearing him on the front and a pack on my back.
And as a side note, Canaan more than made up for his horrible Sunday night escapades…he drifted off to sleep in the car around 7, woke up at 830 when we got home just long enough to get in his jammies, change his diaper, and have a bedtime snack, and didn’t join me in bed for his breakfast until after 6! And then he even cuddled up next to Mommy so we could both have some more snuggle time (AKA sleep…). When we finally got up for the day and Canaan flashed me his sweet smile, I thought for sure I would see a little pearly white in there, but all I saw was an even bulgier, slightly redder, sharp spot…So I’m guessing there might be a few more sleepless nights in the coming days, but hopefully we were all able to fill up our sleep tank enough to get us through it!