How to get fat climbing
Returning from a climbing trip is always a depressing endeavor. Leaving behind the days where the only concern is where and what to climb and returning to the everyday jobs and tasks that define our “regular” or “normal” lives is a hard transition to make. While returning to our “normal” lives is not always appealing, there are some wonderful things we return from a trip with, such as an appreciation for a soft bed and warm shower, the ease of cooking in a kitchen, memories of the trip and excitement for the next one, and, more often than not, improved fitness. Let’s face it, when your days consist of little more than climbing and recovering, and the only food you are eating is prepared on a Whisperlite, you get fit fast.
The Red River Gorge might be the exception to the rule of gaining fitness on vacation. What everyone tells you about the Red is correct. The climbing is gymnastic, overhung, and pumpy, requiring a quiver of climbing skills to succeed. Furthermore, the climbing is incredibly accessible, allowing climbers to visit more than one crag per day; however, many crags host enough routes to keep even a busy climber occupied for more than one day. The crags also offer incredible diversity allowing climbers to chase sun, shade, or protection from the rain. The diversity of the crags allows little excuse-making for a reason not to climb. Seemingly there is no reason you should not return fitter than you came.
Ashley looking down at Miguel’s from the Natural Bridge
What you do not hear about often is the temptation of Miguel’s. Miguel’s Pizza is the most popular campground for visiting Red climbers for good reason: two dollars a night per person to camp. Sure there are no designated sites, you just find a spot you like and plop your tent down on it in the field behind Miguel’s Pizza, not a bad deal. In a perfect world, you get a dry spot to somewhere near the middle, removed from the noise of the common area in the front, the road on the left, and the free roaming chickens in the back, but not too far away from the bathrooms. It cost me a mere fourteen dollars for my girlfriend and I to both spend the week at Miguel’s. (In contrast, on my last trip to Rumney I paid fifteen dollars just for one night!)
In addition to the camping, there are slacklines, a community computer, a place to store your food, a sink for washing dishes, picnic tables to cook and eat on, and a basement for late night lounging. Furthermore, a dollar fifty buys you an eight minute shower (worth every penny) and they have a basketball hoop to help keep you distracted in your downtime. I will take a moment to brag that my Horse game greatly improved over the week, and while I may never be the best climber in the Red, I believe that I could be the Michael Jordan of Miguel’s backyard basketball.
A section of tent city
Overall, Miguel’s seems a great place to stay and has all the components in which to gain some fitness over the week. It is in a dry country (we found beer in the next county but it is not readily accessible), ample places to rest, but enough activities to keep you busy even when you are not climbing. I imagine you are wondering how Miguel’s makes any money offering all of these services for such a nominal fee and I asked myself the same question. The answer is easy: it is the temptation of Miguel’s.
It is easy when returning from climbing to consider making rice and beans on your Whisperlite…until you smell the pizza wafting out over the picnic tables. You think you are strong enough to fight off the incredible smell, but you quickly fold when the table next to you gets delivered a delicious looking pizza. Suddenly, the idea of firing up the stove and preparing dinner seems illogical. The idea of having to clean up after cooking seems completely crazy. You have been out climbing all day and never realized how hungry you are, next thing you know you find yourself upstairs placing an order for a pizza. And since you are ordering pizza, you might as well order an ice cold Ale8One to wash it down with.
Chickens among the tents
I found myself experiencing this chain of events four nights out of five on our trip, and I never got sick of eating pizza. In fact, it became somewhat of a ritual: climb all day, pretend like I am going to cook, change my mind and order pizza. Furthermore, I progressed over the trip from simple pizzas, such as pepper and onion, to pizzas like pepper, onion, sausage, and bacon. I guess it should be of no surprise that when I weighed myself upon my return I had gained five pounds.