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The mountains began to glow a reddish hue as the sun made its slow farewell over the Red River Gorge. The day, our weekend camping trip in Kentucky, was coming to a gradual end, but I needed to keep climbing.
It wasn’t that I was scared I’d hit darkness by the time I made it to the top, it was more a pressing urge to prove to myself that I could complete at least one sport climb that day, that I could overcome my pounding heart and the little, cautious voice inside my head saying, “It’s okay to quit now, Anna.”
I made my first attempt outdoor rock climbing the day prior, and although I managed to make it up a 5.7 and a 5.8 route and flounder around on a 5.9 several times – 5.7 on the Yosemite Decimal System is considered beginner or relatively entry level – my biceps, my grip strength, and especially my forearms weren’t conditioned enough to endure a second, long day of climbing.
So instead, I opted for the role of cheerleader that Sunday, the hammock lounging, beer sipping, affirmation shouting, happy go lucky girl, who was just excited to be outside on an unseasonably warm day in February, watching other, more skilled climbers ascend sandstone faces in one of the most pristine climbing locations in the country. For being brand new to the sport, I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful and welcoming place to try outdoor climbing. But I can’t even take credit for that.
You see, as much I would like to think that I’m adventurous and spontaneous, I can’t tell you the last time I tried picking up a new sport or jumping in my car to go explore a new place or just taking a hike into the woods. Even at 25, I’ve allowed myself to fall into a day-to-day rhythm of crossing tasks off my list, of seeking experiences that I know will bring me comfort and of avoiding the unfamiliar, the activities that I would have raised my hand for as a kid, but now shy away from for fear of … well, for fear of a lot of things.
So naturally, the climbing trip wasn’t my idea, but rather the brainchild of an attractive, adventure-driven man I’d recently started seeing. Gary’s spent the last 10 years of his life rock climbing. He’s traveled all over the country to do it. And when he’s not outdoors or ascending giant climbs, he’s brainstorming new things to try or outdoor adventures to take.
Gary throws out little adventure ideas like he’s contemplating what to make for dinner. “If we get in the car now, we’ll have at least two hours of daylight to boulder at the New” or “Let’s grab the chess board and go find a pretty place to play a game and watch the sun go down.”
I love that about him.
And as the sun was setting on our Sunday in Kentucky, I started to regret my day of hammock swinging. I knew that if I got back into the car that night without any climbs to report, it was going to make the exhausting, two-and-a-half-hour drive home with Gary a little less satisfying.