Arkansas, despite it's reputation, has many fantastic adventures for the outdoor person. There's the beautiful rivers, The precipitous cliffs, cavernous....uh...caverns. Nonetheless Arkansas is well deserving of its reputation as a backwards, racist, bible belt state, filled with simpletons. Nevertheless I went and had a good time.
The reason for heading to Arkansas was twofold. First there's the climbing. The sandstone is just dreamy. The second reason was to hang out with family for Thanksgiving. I'm not going to lie I was a little more excited about the climbing. This isn't to say I wasn't excited to see family but I really wanted a second chance to tear up the Arkansas sandstone.
So in case it wasn't too obvious, I'd been climbing in Arkansas before. Two other times to be exact. It was actually where I had my first outdoor climbing experience. Now that I've been climbing a while I wanted to really push myself and so I got my chance.
To start though I had to drive all the way from upstate New York to Boston to catch a flight. It's a five hour drive, something I did not enjoy, especially since my car does not have cruise control. Luckily, Greg was kind enough to let me stay the night before my flight and even gave me a ride to the airport the next morning, thus preventing me from throwing out my back trying to carry my stupidly heavy bag. Then after a flight from Boston to O'Hare and from O'Hare to Des Moines. The total time from Boston to Des Moines was about 4 hours. Then after meeting up with my girlfriend we had to drive another 3 hours to Kansas City and then after staying the night another five hours to Jasper, Arkansas, the location of Horshoe Canyon Ranch. I had to do all of it again, today being the Boston to upstate New York portion of the trip.
We made it though and after paying some fees we settled in for a well deserved rest. The funny thing was that I ran into some people from my Alma Mater's climbing club and so we all traded stories by the fire and decided to climb together the next day.
The next morning I woke up early. It's a problem I have when I am outdoors where I wake up at the crack of dawn. I don't know why and despite feeling well rested I wish I didn't do it because nobody else ever wakes up at near the time I do. So what to do at six in the morning? Go bouldering! After succesfully fiddling around on some V3's and V4's I went back and got the morning rolling. To start off we headed to the Roman wall which had a good mix of easy and moderate climbs. I immediately onsighted a 5.9, Sybarite which made me feel pretty excited about the rest of the week. The next climb I did was Centurion, a 5.10a. Unfortunately, I blew the onsight because I misread the sequence although I climbed it again later and suceeded easily. After a few more climbs we called it a day without much ado about anything.
The next day was my girlfriends day, she not being a climbing fool such as myself, so we decided to head into town and see what fun was to be had. On the road we saw a lot of billboards for for Mystic Caverns so we decided to check it out. All the "God Saves" signs didn't dissuade us from visiting although by the end of the tour I became convinced the guide had spent too much time in the cave and probably thought they were seeing Jesus, because apparently Sasquatch, and several other furry creatures were in there. It was still really neat. Since town didn't have anything fun to do we decided to head back. We stopped along the way at a bridge before Jasper to check out the Buffalo River. If you're ever in Arkansas I recommend it. I would love to canoe the Buffalo River.
Afterwards we decided to call it a day because there wasn't really time to climb and we were pretty tired. So we hung out with one of the ranch dogs, Chili, and cooked some Quinoa. Too much in fact. So then we rested for the next day.
I woke up early again and decided to walk around the west side of the canyon which is home to the Confederate Cracks and Crackhouse Alley as well as what appears to be some awesome bouldering. The forecast was for rain and I had gotten sprinkled on a bit while walking so I was a little uncertain of whether climbing was going to even happen. We quickly made our way across the canyon and after trying to redpoint a few climbs we decided to head back to the car to replace the guidebook I thought was lost (but later found underneath the food) and get some more water. Funny thing though, my parent's car was there which was totally unexpected because they said they weren't going to come out. So after a little phone tag in "no signal land" we met up at the North Forty walls. After doing a few easy climbs the temperature had plummeted at least twenty degrees and the steady sprinkle was slowly doing in our will to climb. So we decided to head to my grandmothers house to get ready for Thanksgiving.
Now my family isn't crazy persay, they're just a little odd. Before the normal Thanksgiving day stuffing me and my uncle went and shot shotguns behind some of his tenants. I'm sure they weren't scared at all.
Arkansas is a funny place. The bible thumping is so in your face as to make you wonder whether people actually talk to each other anywhere but church and the racism is almost quaint, ("those nice black folks", there's only four of them). Despite this I still enjoy going there. It's the damn Natural State and the natural beauty is as prevalent as the praise Jesus signs. I can't help myself, whenever the opportunity presents itself I will go to Arkansas for the fun things available there.
The Friday we were to leave it was twenty four degrees when we left the house. This time it was just me, my dad, and my uncle. We decided to start on something pretty easy till it started to warm up. So we did a nice little trad route on the Kindergarten Boulder. Then we climbed Narwhal a short 5.7 chimney. I don't climb a lot of chimneys so it was fun. Then for our final Arkansas climb of the week we climbed Cows in the Mist another short 5.7 face climb.
Suffice to say I'm quite enamored with the climbing in Arkansas. The solid sandstone, dinner plate jugs, and the beautiful color of the rock simply mesmerize me. Shotgun toting, bible thumping, confederate flag flying, backwoods hicks, won't stop me.