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Climbing On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Author: Jim (JimK) Krumpelman
Date: November 03, 2007
The concluding canopy ascent of this climb-in best represents the high point of the weekend. In the above photo, Bob Wray was leading an 85+ foot climb in a poplar.

The tree was initially climbed by the newer attendees. This climb was late Sunday afternoon with a clear sky and relatively warm air. Our climb-in certainly didn’t begin like that. I was the first climber to arrive. It was shortly after noon on Friday, and it was raining. This kept me under the steel pavilion through night fall. It stopped raining sometime before morning. Even though this made for a significant amount of moisture, the Virginia fire ban remained in effect all weekend, so we did without that warm hypnotic flickering light of a campfire.

This may sound like a torturous beginning to a long chilled weekend. For me it was a welcomed shifting of gears into lazy conversations with other climbers on that simple Friday night.

Cliff from NC was the second climber to arrive later in the afternoon. Rocky and Dan, arrived by that evening. They were from NC and VA respectively. When the rain lightened, Cliff gave an ad hoc demonstration of his Hennessy Hammock, which is now on my list of things to buy. Likewise Rocky, an avid hiker of the Appalachian Trail, went through his light weight gear and provided some excellent educational points on minimalism. Dan is one of Bob’s newer students and a neophyte to the art of camping, so he wisely bagged that chilly outdoor dwelling concept and rented a nearby apartment. Since my tent was set up in the rain and a bit damp, I opted to sleep in my Honda Element on that first soggy night.

Day break brought the ~40 acres of Bob Wray’s wooded property to life. The spongy forest duff and rolling terrain had drained away the evidence of Friday’s rainfall. The little streams were damp, not flowing. The ever spirited Clarence from TN arrived promptly that morning and immediately sprung into action with breakfast preparations. He was outfitted with a new stove and cookware. We stood out of his way, not to interfere with the sacred coffee preparations. He does make some great coffee. I laid out the instant oatmeal and grits – to get a pulse of the culture. Grits were unanimously chosen. As we packed our gear and headed out for the first climbs of the day, Brian from NC appeared. Brian works at Vermeer and does tree work on the side. He was a welcomed addition. He shared that it was a new, unusual experience to be climbing with other people just for fun – and not be paid. By lunchtime, Courtney and Jennifer from NC arrived separately. Courtney is a veteran of our climb-ins. We’ll be hearing more in the future from Courtney on the subjects of anchor-bridge, splicing and climbing innovations. Jennifer is brand spanking new at climbing and was quickly off to the trees for a continuation of learning this skill. Greg from NC also made a midday Saturday arrival. He’s a top notch climber and practitioner of the Wray-way that everyone needs to get to know.

Dusk brought a chilly, brisk wind, and it was time for the Saturday grand feast preparations. While the cooks were setting up, the smoked Gouda cheese was sliced. It’s rather delicious on Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits. It’s also goes well with wine. Chef Bob Wray boiled up the shrimp as an appetizer. Cliff learned that Big Foot, Bob’s dog, enjoys shrimp too, and he may not ask before taking it. Chef Greg brought spicy chili, chef Dan had an electric pot of preheated beef stew (no outlets at Bob’s primitive kitchen), and I whipped up a Dutch oven version of a chick potpie. Then there were an assortment of apple and pumpkin pies for dessert. If this wasn’t enough, Courtney had brought this killer multilayer pie with coconut that danced on the tongue. It’s a good thing that we climb more than we eat.

While we were standing around the pavilion without a fire and acting like the cold wind wasn’t really that cold, Courtney came up with a novel idea. It went like this: we could step inside the tipi, located 12 feet away. It was a brilliant move, yet again it wasn’t. As we congregated in a circle around two candles that symbolized the fire that wasn’t, a discussion about the state of North Carolina ensued – all in jest. Apparently North Carolina is quite the state of firsts: first in flight, first non-Indian American birth, etc. Apparently Ohio, my state of residence, is the land of not quite first. This topic pretty much took up the evening, getting that mapped out and laughing along the way.

Sunday continued with the stellar climbing weather that had begun on Saturday. Bob took us on a new trail to several trees just being climbed in 2007. On the return, I spotted a nice tree that had never been climbed. Because it was surrounded by small pine trees 30 feet up, I had my own little set of challenges. I’ve named this tree the First Ohio Tree. Now I’m waiting for someone from NC to claim that they climbed it before me. As lunch time approached, the climbers quickly departed. I was staying behind for that final climb of the day and one more night in the woods.

As we walked back to camp having completed our 85+ foot poplar climb, Bob and I tried to estimate his climbable trees. We’re confident that it’s up through 60 in count. I’m beginning to believe that he’s beyond a hundred climbable trees. The point is that the Blue Ridge Parkway Climb-in continues to provide an immense amount of diversity for the climber. This climb-in had a significant list of previous attendees who were absent. Some had heard the call of wild in the Florida swamps and went in that direction. This BRP climb-in was about the new faces entering our community. Moreover, this weekend revealed two distinct dimensions of a growing community: concurrent climbing events and a newer generation of climbers coming on board. As Bob and I wrapped up the day, the conversation turned to the topic of hosting a rendezvous. Bob has a vision on how that could be successfully sponsored in his region. He’s interested in rendezvous discussions.

The conclusion of this year’s climb-in left me feeling serene and blessed by these experiences, the climbers’ companionship and the trees. I enthusiastically look forward to the next one.

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