For my birthday this year, I took a fall climbing trip. October is recognized for its ideal temperatures and being that a year had gone by since I last climbed outside, it was time. I have only been down to the Red River Gorge on two other occasions and its appeal lingered in my memory. Located in Kentucky, the gorge provides an enormous amount of climbing surrounded by rolling fields, woods and farmland. There are around 38 people who live in Slade and approximately 13,237 who live in surrounding Powell County. The rock of the Red River Gorge draws both a national and international climbing crowd. I’m interested in how a place as random and seemingly isolated as Slade, KY can provide opportunity for these disparate populations to intersect. At a gas station stop on the drive down, I apologized to a man for my truck door that was open and blocking his way, and his response was “I a’int in no hurry.”
Beyond the embrace of a slower pace, I felt nourished by spending 8+ hours a day outside, surrounded by trees and rock. My 14 year old dog Dooey got to join us this time and cheered us on as we all took turns getting exhilarated on juggy, thuggy climbing as well as scared on tiny and thin delicate slab. When it was quiet, you could hear the faint sound of the oil drills among the brushing leaves and bird calls.
For some reason, perhaps because there isn’t much industry nearby, the development at the RRG has been slow, especially in contrast to the speed I witness here in Philadelphia. The wild and seemingly untouched land is not without its human influence, but there is the sense that the natural part still outweighs the human part, that the rock has been the quiet bystander while all these climbers have come and gone, while different geologic periods have come and gone. Thank you Kentucky, for sharing your bounty with me, a northern, impatient city slicker.