I run. In the woods I feel like an animal. My kind of trail running isn’t a path with woods on either side, it isn’t a paved bike lane along some river—my kind of trail run is a narrow path that forces me to engage both my feet and my mind; and in turn my heart and my soul are engaged just as much.
West Virginia is known for some epic trails, hiking and mountain biking—from our camp site there was a small trail that was meant for a walk or a hike, measuring, according to the sign, 1.1 miles—not far at all. But if you remember, I’ve been out for 12ish weeks and any kind of run was going to satisfy my itch to ‘float’ over rock and root. I set out to run, I ended up running, walking and absorbing the woods for all they had to offer.
Imagine a field full of tents, music blasting from across the field and then enter the woods and there is literally a line you can cross that shuts all that off. Your senses shift and change as you approach a bridge that lets you cross a stream. You walk over the wooden bridge and it’s like someone hit the ‘mute’ button on reality and turned the volume up on a nature—this is exactly what happened. The only sounds after I crossed the bridge were chipmunks leaping out of the way, a few birds and my labored breathing. The 1.1 mile loop had an ‘approach’ and the real loop was .8 miles—short but tough. Hills, mud that made me slip up and down hill, roots, branches and logs to leap over…this was the trail running you see in a The North Face advertisement. I vow to never stop exploring and press on through the loop 1, 2, 3, 4 times. Solid.
For the first time I was wearing a pair of shoes that are considered ‘barefoot’ for their intended purpose on the trail. I’d never worn them in the woods, these shoes connected me, forced me to feel the earth under my feet and allowed it to radiate up my body and pulse through my blood. As I finished my run I had nothing but a grin on my face and sweat dripping all over my body, (WV is hot and humid when it wants to be.) I emerged from the woods to see my new friends grinning back, Alan, Lauren, Josh, Adam and Steve—they could sense the joy I was feeling and were rearranging their cars, ready to go hike and climb and inviting me to do the same. Even if there had been time for a shower there wasn’t one available; this was the beginning of my showerless week. I washed my face, threw on some yoga pants and joined them to explore WV some more.
Sorry. I’ve been busy prancing, dancing, dipping, climbing and frolicking in the woods of West Virginia the past 8 days. I guess that’s a good thing, right? Right! I have been adventures to express and I know that I hate reading big, long articles so I’m going to break my escapades into a few different sections—Part One: I climb.
I was invited to join the crazy fun climbers of the New River Rendezvous in Fayetteville, WV (if you ever get the chance to go, please do!) I went out a day early to meet up with some [now] friends and climb some rock and camp out. Alan and his buddies were more than welcoming, all week I hung out with Lauren, Josh, Adam and Steve (not the Adam and Steve from Parker Posey’s sorta comedic gay comedy Adam and Steve, these guys were totally straight and not as crazy as the movie.) Later more friends joined us and cooked some fabulous meals, I’m convinced I eat better when camping out than I do when I’m actually home to cook for myself.
Again, I have to state that climbers are probably the most welcoming group of athletes I have ever met. As the festival kicked off and more and more people began to pitch tents we got to know our neighbors and I had the joy of climbing with a guy I soon nick named Balloo, (only because he was as big as a bear and I caught him scratching his back on a tree halfway through our approach to the rock,) and two other dudes from Florida that were making their way north and thought they’d check out The New, (that’s what people from WV call The New River Gorge…I’m basically a local now.) Our climb was short lived because the rock was wet and a bit slick, but I made it about half way up, the entire way getting tips and encouragement from those guys below me—it’s truly a great feeling when people you hardly know are just as stoked as you are when you get over a hard part.
After a few top roping attempts (and successes thanks to my supportive new friends that wouldn’t let me quit!) my climbing fix was satisfied and I’ve caught the bug. I’m not sure when I’ll be back out, but between my previous trip to Oregon and this trip to West Virginia I’m super excited to get back out, grow stronger and see where this new sport can take me. I want to be a part of this great community that is so willing to share the awesomeness of the rock. With such support and enthusiasm it’s impossible to not be excited about being in nature, harnessed in with a friend below keeping you safe and shouting tips and tricks so that you can reach your goal!
More to come about West Virginia soon! Yeeeehawwww!