New River Gorge with Kids

climbing in new river gorge bubba city

C climbing to her dad

New River Gorge Climbing Trip

We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing.  It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to.  Our ClimbingWeather.com app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night – and it wasn’t far off.  The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer.  We finally arrived at the campsite (Rifrafters.com) at 1:30 in the morning.

We parked the travel trailer and worked on getting the heater working.  My son crawled into the full size bed under my down comforter, snuggling with my husband. . . Now, I’m not bitter or anything but it was a cold night sleeping under kid-sized blankets and snuggling with my daughter who doesn’t like to be under said blankets.

Bubba City, Sandstonia

For our first day at the New, we decided to try out Sandstonia in Bubba City.  The hike in was relatively moderate with a rocky trail on the descent for the kids.  It took us about a half hour to navigate the trail with both kids hiking in on their own steam.  The hike would have been significantly more of a challenge with a three year old, as the rocky nature of the descent made me wish they had their helmets on a few times and my four and a half year old had to go down a few of the more prominent boulders “bum first”.  The landing area and “play area” at the base of the routes was big enough for the kids to have room to play without being in the way.  There were a good number of moderate routes to warm up on and then we climbed a 10c called Kinestica that was a great fun route with a roof that required a high foot pressed out to send.

climbing

R climbing part of a 5.7 at Sandstonia

The kids wanted a turn to climb so we set up a top rope on a 5.7 slightly farther along the wall.  Both gave it a go before the weather started to turn cold for the day.  Given the hike out was uphill, (and it was the week before daylight savings) it was set to get dark around 5, so we opted to start our hike back out.

Bubba City, Beer Wall

On day two we opted to give Beer Wall a try. We had wanted to come back to the New with kids, but remembered this approach and counted it out until the kids were big enough to navigate the ladder and rope descents.  This approach is slightly shorter and less robust than Sandstonia except for the area near the final approach. . . There are two rope ladder sections and one real ladder area.  With one younger child and and two or more adults, it would be manageable but with two kids, my opinion is that they need to be able to navigate a ladder without difficulty.  It wasn’t nerve racking, but we gave each child a spot to make sure that they didn’t miss a step, dismount too far, and/or slide down the rope too quickly.

Once down to the climbing, the area was great for kids. . . with two major caveats.  Beer Wall gets pretty crowded on most weekends. This happened to be a slow weekend (probably the last of the season) and there weren’t many people out.  There is also a chimney area that has a great cave and play area  for older kid playing.  This is a hazard for younger kids as they can fit into cracks and crevices that adults can’t get into to “rescue” them. It also goes way back, which is a problem if your child doesn’t pay attention to any limits you set.  The cave is great fun, with that BIG warning. Also, there’s a bolted chimney above and if someone is climbing, that cave is definitely off limits to kids as it’s clearly in the landing zone below the climber.  The landing area for the rest of Beer Wall wasn’t terribly kid friendly or large, particularly given that it is usually more crowded. We enjoyed the climb, but were limited on time and once done with St. Pauli Girl (a 10c with a thin start and what they call a roof crux, but it seemed more like a crack crux than a roof, in my opinion) we hiked out.

Next trip to the New River Gorge

On our next trip to the new, we are thinking of trying out the Summersville Lake area.  We’ve been cautious of it thus far because of the obvious water hazard with kids.  Still, it seems like we are almost there with regard to being able to navigate the more challenging areas with the kids, and it may be worth a try.  We would love to try out the new AAC campground, but with the trailer, it’s not in the cards (no rv’s/trailers allowed).  We are also looking forward to taking the kids somewhere on the water, if we can find a more moderate area for kayaking.  All in all, warmer weather and/or spring time can’t come soon enough as there are lots of routes and areas for us to revisit now that the kids are able to navigate more difficult terrain.

warm and reading in the travel trailer

R reading in the travel trailer

The travel trailer was a huge win again, as the temperatures were such that it was not kid friendly (not in my opinion).  It was definitely below freezing out side, and warming up, even inside, was a challenge.  Dinner and dessert in the trailer was relaxing and cost effective, as we made fish tacos and ate ice cream. The filthy kids were a cleaning disaster and a warm shower was a wonderful feature.  Even morning was fun, with a heater in the trailer that allowed me to make coffee without freezing!  We would definitely not have been able to travel so late in the season without the travel trailer.  Alas, we’ve now winterized and it will be resting until spring.

Hiking in a Creek

water hikeHave you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have.

Many of our adventures start out as one thing (“I want to climb X route” or “sleep at X campground”. . . “I want to relax in a tube on the water”, or “I want to sleep in the sand”) and end up as something completely different (“The route had a group staked out on it for the day” or “I couldn’t find the campground in the dark”, “the tube had a hole”, or “it rained”).

With kids, the ability to adapt your planned adventure is a required skill.  Adaptability and flexibility are a key component to successful outdooring (yes, I’m using that as a word).

This past weekend,  I wanted to go for a hike at Tucquan Glen with the kids (a place we’ve hiked before).  While I planned for a hike, there was a part of me that remembered the kid’s excitement at the water.  The trail follows the water on either side of a creek that feeds into the Susquehanna River.  It’s a mile out and back, and the trail is both rocky and shaded.  The kids greatly enjoy the obstacles and the terrain.  I enjoy that we can turn around at any point, cross the creek when we want, and/or sit down for lunch with the beautiful (small) waterfalls as our scenery.

Day Hike Packing for Creek Wading

On this day, I brought water shoes for the kids (actually, C wore her Keen sandals, the water shoes were for R who outgrew his Keen’s).  We also packed lunch, snacks, lots of water, and water guns for playing in the creek.  Their attire included a bathing suit, though I brought dry alternatives.   While my plan was to hike to the river, I was prepared for some water fun.  We even brought the dog.

Day Pack Packing list

  • Water shoes
  • Bathing suit
  • Dry Clothes
  • Towels (pack towels recommended)
  • Picnic blanket (my one luxury)
  • Lunch Food
  • Water
  • Snack Food
  • Water Guns
  • Water bag for electronics
  • Life vest (not packed, but might be needed for future creek hikes)

tucquan glen water Hike Turns into Wade

As you might expect, things didn’t go as planned.  The kids took one look at the creek and switched into “water mode”.  Water shoes went on, shorts came off, and in they went.  The hike turned into a wade, with me dodging water gun shots and making sure kids didn’t lose their footing when they stumbled upon slick rock.

Since I was hiking around, I realized there were a few things I hadn’t considered.

Dangers of Creek Wading: Central PA Version

1.  Know depth of creek bed and strength of current

Obviously, wading in a creek with a strong current is dangerous.  This creek had a mild current, but keeping C in arm’s length was important, as she didn’t have on a life vest and any slip on wet rocks could be problematic.   The water was shallow, though did go up to my knees occasionally (and that’s her belly button height).  Knowing to look for the occasional deep spot was a requirement.

2. Have a plan for exiting the creek bed.

Another thing that I hadn’t considered (because I know the trail) but that I would certainly pay attention to for an unknown trail would be keeping an exit open and/or knowing how far up the sides of the creek bed the trail is.  Sometimes you can scramble up a bank, but knowing there the openings are and how to get back to a trail is a factor to consider if you are unfamiliar with the area. Tucquan has paths on both sides of the creek, and you can get up out of the creek bed at any time.

3.  Keep an eye out for Beaver Dams

Beavers can be dangerous, and they prefer creeks for building their habitat.  Beavers can be violent when threatened and are actually quite vicious in a fight.  Avoid confrontation, and walk away from both the Dam and the Beaver.  Beaver Dams are, in the long run (from what I read) beneficial to water quality but in the intermediate vicinity (drinking from a creek near a beaver dam) it can cause a few less than pleasant side effects including tularemia and giardia.  Since beavers defecate in the water, avoid drinking water near beaver dams.   More information from the experts here.

4.  Don’t drink the water

In addition to beaver dams, there are natural and human contaminants in the water that may or may not cause illness.  It’s safest to teach your kids not to drink the water, and instead pack it in for your day hike.  If you want to drink the water, make sure you are testing and/or purifying before making your decision.  Kids should be taught to follow this rule without fail, as creek waters are in danger of pollutants from farm run off, beaver dams, and other potential sources that could cause sickness.

5.  Animal Hazards

There are a few venomous snakes that can be found in PA Creeks, the copperhead being the most common in Central PA.  Check out which snakes are venomous in your area.  The PA Herps site is a great resource for PA, and you can search for those spotted by county.  Outside of Pennsylvania, you have your own set of creek dangers. . . Feel free to add them in the comments at the bottom of the page, and I’ll provide more information here.

tucquan glen kidsOur hike turned into a wade, with the kids walking, splashing, and laughing.  It was a great modification to our planned hike.  We only went a quarter of our planned distance (wading takes longer than hiking), and we loved every second!

 

 

Camping With Kids at Assateague

Horses on Assateague IslandThis past weekend was a first for our family.

So. . . we took a non climbing camping trip!  It was a weekend camping trip only a few hours from home and I am happy to say that the trip was a huge success.

Assateague Island State Park Camping

We drove 4 hours to the Maryland State Park on Assateague Island.  Assateague is known for both a state park and national park (Assateague National Park) hosting hundreds of wild horses, beachfront camping, and unparalleled undeveloped East Coast Seashore wilderness.

Camping is available at both the Maryland State Park and the National Park. Reservations are recommended (and hard to come by for peak season which is from May until September).  The State park campgrounds have a bit more on the amenities including hot water showers, clean bathrooms, and running water toilets.  The NPS facilities are more rustic and sufficient for those that aren’t picky about running water and indoor warm water showers.

Beachfront Camping on the East Coast

Beachfront camping on the East Coast is hard to come by.  When camping at Assateague, our site happened to be right up against the dunes, and only a quick walk over the dune path to get to the beach.  The National park also boasts ocean front campsites but you will want to look at the campsite map to find the appropriate site.  Bayside campsites are, as you would image “Bayside” rather than ocean front.

We lucked out with the weather – 70’s during the day and sunny. Evenings were a bit cooler with heavy jackets and a warm fire being needed for comfort.  Temps were probably in the 40’s at night.

At this time of the year, the camping was lovely with limited bugs and no humidity – my understanding is that the heat can get oppressive and the Assateague mosquitos and flies are quite aggressive and non responsive to bug spray.  As things heat up, the bugs become an issue.  With regard to sea gulls and other wild animals, we had limited interaction.  We did see some deer in addition to the wild horses.  Bird watchers will likely see a large variety of sea and East Coast birds.

A quick warning: Where we stayed, the water had a particularly rough shore break as the ground changes depth quickly and the waves break hard and shallow in the water.  While I’m sure that the summers account for this and folks are aware for swimming purposes, if you have difficulty swimming or young children, you will want to take particular care with the shore break.

Beach Front CampingNational Park Camping, Assateague Permits and More

Assateague State Park and National Park border one another and you can walk from State to National without much effort.  Not sure how they patrol the state to national beaches, but I’m sure they must during the summer at there is a National Park Pass required to go onto National Park land.  The pass is valid for both Assateague and Chincoteague Island – Chincoteague is the Virgina side of the island and is host to only commercial campgrounds, though there are more summer housing rentals on that side of the island.  For $15, you can have a day pass, or $30 gets you the annual.

You can stop at the visitor center before you get over the Verrazzano Bridge.  We didn’t stop there but we did hear that there was a nature center with a number of hands on displays for the kids.  Pets are allowed in certain campsites and locations in both the state and national park but, as with all National Parks, they must be on a leash.

Firewood can not be brought from out of state, but is available within the county and can be purchased on your drive in – there are a number of stores that have it for sale and we recommend purchasing outside of the park as what we bought within the park was a bit greener than what we used from outside of the park (within the county).

Over Sand Vehicle DrivingDriving on the Beach

Assateague has miles of sand open for driving with an Over Sand Vehicle Permit.  The permits vary in price based on usage but we bought an annual pass for $90 to drive further down the beach.  Additional campsites are available in the backcountry that you can hike and/or drive to using your OSV permit.

The OSV permit has some caveats that you should be aware of.

1.  Only 145 vehicles are allowed in the NPS OSV area at one time.  That number fills up quickly during the summer and the limit was 3/4 full on our trip in April by the end of the day – I would imagine it is a difficult task to get in within the limit during the summer months.

2.  Requirements include a specific type of shovel, piece of wood or steel, tow straps, and tire pressure gauge as you must lower tire pressure to 15 and have the tools to get pulled out of sand should you get stuck.

For more info on the OSV, visit the NPS Assateague information page.

Going on a pony huntFinding the Assateague Horses

Finding the horses is a complete luck fest. . . They can be walking on the road, on the beach, in the campsite area, or in the parking lot.  . . Or you can go through the trails stumbling over pile after pile of warm horse manure with no horse in sight for hours.  It’s just hit or miss, but you are bound to see a few.  We made an adventure of following the horse trails through the woods a bit only to realize that we were probably making too much noise to surprise anyone.  It was a fun time, and the kids certainly enjoyed checking the horse scat to see how fresh it was an how “hot on the trail” we were.

So are the horses at Assateague horses, or ponies?  Well, you’ll see signs for both across the island.  We spoke with a local who said that they are ponies because of their size. . . they aren’t over a certain number of “hands” so they are considered ponies not horses.  So there you go.

The running of the horses occurs during the month of July when the horses swim from the mainland back to the island.  It’s likely not to be missed, but since we don’t do crowds, we opted to visit in a less popular month.

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Things to do at Assateague Park

1. Watch the sunrise from your campsite

2. Hike along the beach and look for shells and horses.

3. Drive on the beach.  Stop for a picnic. Go on a pony hunt.

4.  Kayak or Canoe around the bay

5. Bring a paddle board (not sure if they had rentals)

6. Dig in the sand. Build Sand Castles

7. Visit the Nature Center

8. Hike on one of three nature trails; dunes, forest or marsh.

9.  Bike around the park with the kids.

bike ride on assateague islandBetween marshmallow roasting, hot dogs for dinner, digging holes in the sand, driving on the beach, going on a pony hunt, picnics, walks, and bike rides, we managed to fit a lot of activity into a short weekend – even if we didn’t go climbing even once!

 

Governor’s Stable With Kids

Atop Moby's Dick BoulderGovernor’s Stable

The weather this weekend was as close to perfect as you get in Pennsylvania in August.  Sunny, breezy, no humidity, high 70’s etc. We decided to take the kids to Governor’s Stable, a bouldering area in Central PA that is right near Elizabethtown College and Three Mile Island.

Access to Governor’s Stable

For those that haven’t been to GS before, access to this area has been obtained through the hard work of the Friends of Governor’s Stable organization.  Information can be found on their website.  Memberships are available (we happen to be charter members with a 3 year pass) but day passes can also be purchased online.  The kiosk at the entrance is looking great and the instructions make it quite clear that payment, a waiver, and sign in is required to access the area.

The Approach at Governor’s Stable

This trip was a lot easier than earlier trips as the kids walked the entire way.  The hike in is as much of an adventure as the climbing, as there are tree stumps to protect the trail (it’s a muddy/swampy area after rain).  It was quite the adventure, as C & R jumped from tree stump to tree stump the entire way in.  From the park parking lot to the first boulder is well under a mile, with a bridge crossing, plank walking, and the aforementioned stump jumping along the way. The first portion of the hike is along the road (less than 400 meters) and there isn’t much of a shoulder, but there isn’t much traffic either.

Poison Ivy

Warning: Watch out for poison ivy and know what it looks like, as there is a good bit of it around.  They’ve done a great job of clearing it off the trail area and away from the immediate climbing boulders, but it is out there and should be avoided.

Climbing at Governor’s Stable

While we usually stop at the warm up boulders on the way in (there’s a great area for the kids to play), we’ve gotten stuck there for hours in the past as the kids love the big flat boulder that they can play on and jump off.  We skipped it this trip and went straight for some of the climbs we don’t get on very often. We went to the area known as Moby’s and friends to start.  The kids love climbing the slab that is the top portion of the Moby’s Dick problem an they managed to smear up that for a bit before hanging out at the top of the boulder (picture above).

While they snacked, I climbed the v3 ish Minky Mantle (I started to the right) which went pretty quickly after a few warm up tries.  We also messed around on Moby’s Dick, but didn’t give it a real try, as that is where the kids were climbing.

After an hour or so of lunch, climbing, and hanging out on top of the Moby’s Dick boulder, we packed up and hiked over to the Bread Loaf arete.  I love this climb but can’t seem to top it out – it’s a head game for me, as the crux (for me) is quite high and I’m disinterested in turning an ankle (let it be known that the landing is flat, so I’m just being a bit whiner).  The Bread Loaf Arete (v4ish) climb lost a hold in January but it is apparently not any harder (just headier. . . ).

Kids standing on top of boulderAfter another kid climb on the backside of the Breadloaf Arete, we decided to call it a day.  On the hike out, C ran theentire way, trying to beat her dad and brother.  It was amazing.  I could barely keep up (with the crash pad).

All in all, a successful day at GS with not too much climbing, but a lot of family adventure fun!

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Furnace Climbing

Kids Climbing at Elizabeth FurnaceElizabeth Furnace, VA Climbing Area

Elizabeth Furnace, VA is a a great place to take the kids for a mid week stop along a longer family vacation, or a great day trip for those that live within an hour our two.  There are a good number of routes immediately off the road, making the hike from the parking pullout only a hundred yards or so.  The climbing is far enough from the road that kids aren’t going to be in danger of running out in the street, but close enough that you can see the road just behind you and slightly down hill.

There are a number of climbs in this area, the first being a sporty 5.8 that is a perfect beginning top rope. . .Even our 3 year od made it more than halfway up (see photo above).  Information about the rest of the climbing area can be found in the latest (soon to be published) Mid Atlantic Climbing Falcon Guide by Eric Horst.

When to climb at Elizabeth Furnace

Seasonally, it makes sense to climb in the fall/winter/spring, if you can catch it dry.  Summer is roasting, but the nearby creek is likely accessible for a quick dip in the water (we didn’t try it). In addition, you want to avoid the weekends, if possible, as the high density and easy accessibility make this a great area for weekenders.

The main climbing area is right off of the road, and there is another, less accessible area.  We didn’t go there, and I can’t recall the name, but it is also highlighted in the Mid Atlantic Climbing book coming out soon.

What else to do in the area

I say that this is a great stop along a larger trip, because you aren’t going to want to make this your primary destination – climbing or otherwise.  It’s a great stop along the way, but you’ll find more for the kids, the climbers, and the family outside of Elizabeth Furnace.  Only an hour or so south is Masanutten Resort, a water park, outdoor fun area with a kids and adult ropes course, and some hiking right along the mountain ridge.  In addition, you are about a half hour from Shenandoah National Park and the scenic drive.  Hiking and climbing opportunities abound in the park.

Finally, you can also make a short stop at Luray Cavern, an underground cavern with stalactite and stalagmite rock formations.  It’s an interesting tour, though there’s only one way in and one way out, so you’re doing the whole thing with the toddlers/kids in tow and their interest only seems to last about halfway/three quarters of the way through.

Shenandoah National Park

If you are planning a visit to or through the Shenandoah National Park, Elizabeth Furnace is a great stop (from the north) along the way.  It’s an easily accessible sport climbing area with a bit for everyone. . . Shenandoah National Park is a gem of a destination for nature lovers, so I recommend making sure to build time in for hiking your way around the park while on your trip!

Kid Friendly at Rumney?

Our family vacation took us to Rumney for three great climbing days.   We arrived on Wednesday and set up camp at Baker River Campground.  The campground alone was worth the trip, as we walked out of the back of our site and into a beach area and the river, a child’s paradise!  Between the buckets and shovels, the tubes we had purchased for $4 at Pawtuckaway, and the random stick found by our kids, the beach and river were a wonderful playground.

After a brief break to set up camp and play at the beach, we decided to take a drive to the climbing area and come up with a plan for the next day.  We’ve found that “getting there” (to a kid-friendly climbing area with the kids in tow) can be an all day affair.  To avoid hiking around aimlessly with the kids (and wasting valuable climbing time), we try to do a lot of preliminary research and some scouting of areas ahead of time, so as to cut back on the energy and time spent exploring rather than climbing.  In this case, it worked out perfectly, as we found that the hike up to the Parking Lot Wall area and the Meadows was do able (and close enough to the truck and the bathrooms for going back for food and/or adult bathroom breaks sans kids).   Once we checked out the Parking Lot Wall (not flat enough for the kids to hang out), we moved to the Meadows.  Jackpot!  This had a great flat area away from the climbing (so as not to bother others) and some routes that we were excited to get on.

The best part of the Meadows is the slab that faces the main wall.  It is perfect for sitting atop and body belaying young kids.  They climbed more than ever before, due to this great feature!

Note to parents: When picking an area in which to climb,  many parents try to pick an area based on what they want to climb. For us (and with our small kids), we try to pick an area that is safe for the kids, and then find something to climb in that area.  When asking others for advice on where to climb with kids, be sure to clarify your priorities.

  • Do you need someplace for the kids to climb?
  • Do you want someplace safe for them to play?
  • Do you want to find an easy approach?
  • What ratings/routes you prefer?

In this case, the Meadows fit the bill for someplace safe with an easy approach. Bonus, there was fun stuff for the kids to do/climb, too!

Check back for more on the Meadows and the rest of our Rumney adventure!

Vacation New Hampshire, Day 1!

It’s not often that I can say this, but the drive to Pawtuckaway went off without a hitch!  We left our house at 5:15 am and arrived at the park well before 2 pm.  Both kids were loaded into the truck without fuss and they both fell back to sleep for quite a while before waking up for the day. They were still in their pajamas, and clothes were handy for the first “awake” rest stop.

We managed to get to the last food/fuel stop in NJ before they woke up – quite a feat!  We had a cooler of drinks and snacks which cut down on the need to purchase food so we only stopped for food once (at lunch time) at the Sturbridge stop on the Mass Pike, where Ryan and I shared a huge Chicken Caesar Wrap from Fresh City (both money saving and healthy!). The kids went with their old standbye – McDonald’s. . . not our favorite place, but okay in (extreme) moderation.

We arrived at Pawtuckaway and because of our early arrival, we were able to leisurely pitch the tent and orient ourselves to the campsite (playing with the sticks, water, & dirt).

We loved the site (a waterfront spot at Horse Island) near both water and restrooms/showers but found that there wasn’t much flat area for the tent (a downfall of selecting your site online).

While Ryan recovered from his half of the drive (I drove until we hit CT, he drove the rest), I took the kids to hang out at the park at Pawtuckaway Lake before dinner.  Dinner was Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai – good tasting, but requiring more time to “cook” than I allowed.  It was clear that I had forgotten how to make camp food!  The kids didn’t like the Pad Thai, so we supplimented with Mac & Cheese.  I think it was more a result of my cooking than the taste of the food – atleast that’s what Ryan said.

As we prepared for bed, we arranged the tent so that the kids slept on the crashpads (with sleeping bags and blankets) while Ryan and I slept on our camping pads in between the kids.  R kept sliding down the crash pad because of the slope of the ground.  Ultimately everyone slept but it wasn’t very pretty.

Note to self: Next time, check with the rangers/park staff upon check in to see if the site is appropriate and/or if there is anything better available.  The second night, we decided to move our tent.  We weren’t waterfront with the new site, but flat was certainly preferable to slopped! Even the slightest slope can mean the difference between good sleep and no sleep.  

1.  Leaving early is best for us. Figure out what time works best for you and your family.  2.  Keep everything accessible for the ride (food, toys, clothes). It cuts down on stops.  3. Guaranteed, you’ll forget something.  Do your best to make sure it isn’t anything important.  We forgot the kids camp chairs and our 5 gallon water tank.  Nothing to cry about, but annoying nonetheless.

All in all a good start to our vacation!

Gunks Bouldering Trip Report: Lessons Learned.

This past weekend we took Dave’s advice (@BlueFoxCA) and braved the rainy forecast for a belated Mother’s Day trip to the Gunks.  The trip was a lesson to us with regard to future trip planning.  Some of the lessons were logistical and others were things we KNOW but don’t always follow.  Here’s the trip report with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  All in all, it’s truly a reminder that a bad day of climbing is still better than a day of no climbing at all!

We left central PA around 5:30 pm and drove the kids to the Rondout Valley Campground only a few miles from Peterskill.  We chose Rondout because we wanted bathrooms, showers, and a guaranteed place to camp without parking issues – all things that you have to pay for in the Gunks.  This campground (at $40ish a night for tent camping) is less expensive than the other pay campgrounds but obviously not as cheap as Camp Slime and/or the MUA.  The kids napped the last hour or two in the car, from 8:30-10:30 pm.  Unfortunately when we arrived and pitched the tent, both of them woke up and decided it was a great time to play and explore.  By the time everyone was settled and in sleeping bags, they were wide awake – and we were exhausted!  Our 2 year old was completely unwilling to lie down well into the night (1:30 am).

Lesson #1: In order to make sure that we get a good night’s sleep, we need to set up camp while it is still light out (and before the kids nap/fall asleep).  Another option (if we are trying to push through) is to forego camping and stay in a hotel.  A Priceline three star hotel can be booked for under $50 at the last minute (as we found out the next night).

On Saturday morning, we woke up and fired up the Jetboil Zip Cooking System for some much needed Starbucks Via coffee (me) and Cream of Wheat (the kids).  The kids would have been psyched to hang out at the tent for a while but we were on a mission to boulder at the Gunks – something we hadn’t done since I was pregnant with our now 4 year old.  

Disclaimer: This was intended to be a bouldering trip particularly since we had both kids and no extra adults.  Yes, bouldering in the Gunks is “likened to jerking off in a whorehouse” (as per rockclimbing.com – thanks for the classy analogy).  We don’t disagree.  But it is what it is.  And we aren’t much for whorehouses anyway.  We don’t trad climb for the most part, and definitely not with the kids around.

We decided to skip the Peterskill bouldering this trip for the ease of access and family experience of the classic Carriage Road boulders. We’d been shut down on many of the classic Carriage Road climbs in the past and thought this would be a good chance to revisit.  We parked at the West Trapps parking lot (paying for two adults – kids under 12 are free).

As we walked on the path, the kids stopped for a few detours – climbing “kids sized” boulders and posing for pictures.  This photo is at the Welcome boulder as the kids messed around on the slab.


We got in a great warm up on the first few lines on the Keyhole Cliff area on Carriage Rd. It’s mostly vertical rock with smaller holds, so nothing spectacular, but nice, fun stuff.  This was the highlight of my day as I was having a fun and easy time on the warm ups.  After I finished the second or third warm up, I called out, “well, we can officially call today a success- we both sent a couple of problems.”  We’ve learned to have low expectations for a day of climbing with both kids in tow.  Since our 2 and 4 year old were both low on sleep (as were we), I didn’t have high expectations that our day was going to last long.  Nor did I really believe the weather was going to hold.

Lesson #2: Have reasonable expectations for a “good” day.  When you have extra adults around, you can expect to climb much more than a trip with only you and your spouse.  This is particularly relevant for roped climbing (particularly from a safety perspective) but holds true for bouldering as well.

I was psyched to get on Winter’s Agony, an apparent V6 in the Keyhole Cliff area that is has some balancy moves on crimpy holds. I recalled the line from our first trip to the Gunks nine years ago. And like last time, I got shut down pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, a larger group of boulderers moved in and we decided to move on, as we didn’t want the kids to be underfoot around a large group.

We moved down so that Ryan could get on the Gill Pinch Roof, a V4 climb with some bigger moves on it and yep, you guessed it, some pinches. It was then that we realized that the guide decending from the route in front of us was an old climbing friend from our early days of climbing.  Jason Beaupre was a Philly guy until he and his wife moved to New Paltz where he became a climbing guide for High Xposure.  It was fun to see an old friend, particularly on a random visit to the Gunks.  The visit should hopefully yield future Gunks visits, as Jason mentioned showing us around on a route/rope day when he isn’t guiding.

Ryan worked the Gill Pinch Roof for a while (honestly wasn’t paying attention, as I was on kid duty – and I pretty much despise pinches) and I’m pretty sure he was one move off the finish. We moved down to the Andrew boulder next and found that it. . . .was. . . .a . . . .long . . . .walk.

Lesson #3:  Bring a wagon/stroller if there is easy path access.  In this case, Carriage Road is perfect for a stroller or wagon.  This is a no brainer.  We had talked about it but I neglected to put one in the truck.  We aren’t stroller people in general.  In fact, we haven’t used any of our four strollers in about a year (we usually use the wagon for walks), as Ryan has reminded me repeatedly (“why don’t we just SELL some of them?”).  But we certainly could have used one when we were carrying both kids on Saturday.  At one point, Ryan had our son on his shoulders (in front of the crash pad) and our sleeping daughter in his arms.  I had the backpack and the other crash pad.

It was much further than we had remembered.  Especially when our four year old decided he needed to pick up worms/millipedes for the entire walk down. Then our little one fell asleep.  About an hour later (seriously, folks, it took us an hour), we ended up at the boulder.  By then, the lack of sleep caught up to me and I was dragging. . . C (pictured below with worm boy) definitely had the right idea.  I tried the Andrew Problem (V4) again (first time in about 9 years) and got further than before, but I was tired and distracted, and totally not into it. Slacker.

The final stop before we left for the day was at the first line of boulders (Steel Bridge Boulders).  I was on kid duty again and while Ryan messed around on the Lorax (V4) and some others. I helped the kids climb up the slabby boulder to the left of the Lorax (the backside of Satellite #2).  It was great fun, as they were able to climb to the top and look over (with some spotting, of course!).   C actually climbed the carriage way side of Satellite boulder #2 – she was so fun to watch (and spot!).  I think that should count as her first outdoor ascent, even if it didn’t have a name.

All in all, as we headed out to eat at Bacchus (amazing beer selection), I felt ok with our first trip Gunks trip with the kids.  Next time we’re bringing a wagon and getting to bed early.  Then I’m going to ignore Lesson #2 and expect to climb.  A lot.