The Kentucky State Line

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I crossed the Kentucky state line at about 7pm. Home. I thought I would be gone for just three months but three turned into four and four turned into six. In the past six months I’d seen more, done more, and gone farther than I ever thought I could.

The whole way through Tennessee I fantasized. Fantasized about pulling up to my friends’ house in Louisville and plopping my nasty feet in the living room and smiling as I looked around at everyone’s faces and let the love envelop me. The thought compelled me as I sped along the interstate. Oh how I missed my friends.

I wanted to tell them. To tell them how this whole vagabonding thing isn’t actually for me. That rock climbing was cool and all but it’s not worth dying for and how I’m not fucking packing my backpack again for at least six months… Christ who am I kidding I know that I’m going to do this

all

over

again.

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El Salto

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“The sun was getting on me a little bit when I was up there.” says Beau.

I sit with my back to a tree and gaze up at the limestone wall towering above me. Me and Beau are at the base of Animus Wall in El Salto, Nuevo Leon. The sun has finally caught up to the wall, enveloping it in light and heat. No climbing until it’s gone. Friction is nonexistent in the sun. Animus Wall has a very particular sun schedule. The wall is in the shade until around 11am. It’s then enveloped in blistering sun until 2pm and becomes climbable again. This leaves you a pretty good chunk of time to relax, sit around, and ponder why you fell on your last burn.

My last three weeks have been like this. Life in the town, Cienega de Gonzalez, is slow. The days start to blend together eventually. There’s not much else to do in Salto other than rock climb. Reading, skating around, the occasional van movie party. Typically I wake up around nine. Hoark down some breakfast tacos. Pack my gear and then hike into the canyon. Climb a bit, and then lay around the wall and wait for the sun to go away. On especially lazy days it is better to just wait around until the sun is away and then head out.

In the meantime, me and Beau just shoot the shit.

“My last season in the Red was so hot every night, what I would do is roll down the windows all the way so I could sleep at night.” I begin. “But then the mosquitos would just eat me alive. So for the first three nights it was murder, and then after that they kind of accepted me as their own and stopped bothering me. And then I never got eaten again!”

“So they got the fill of your taste.” Beau says.

“Yeah they were like ‘that’s enough Alex buffet.’” I reply. We both laugh.

Beau has just gotten done making another attempt on his project, Lazy Boy Lover. The first few bolts of the route climb directly above a tree, making the fall a little spicy. With a bad belayer, the chances of busting your ass on a tree are fairly high. He’s been falling around the same spot every time. He’s committed fully to it and is going to make another attempt once the sun goes away.

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The entrance to the Salto.

I put on my Mexican street market Ray Bans to shield my eyes from the blaze and open the book I’ve been reading, City of Thieves. Beau peers at me as I read. “You kinda look like a CIA spook in those. Like, Saigon, 1965.”

“Oh god, don’t say that.”

“Or some beatnik artist. Have you ever read On the Road?”

“I kind of fucking hated it.” I reply.

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know. I got three-fourths of the way and was just like eh. I don’t know, like I’ve heard it’s a good book I just wasn’t enjoying it. I might reread it.”

“I mean it’s just the flow. I like how jazz was like punk rock back then.” he adds.

I finish my novel and almost cry at the crag because my favorite character died. I toss the novel into the dirt, stand up, and clutch my head in my hands. Fuck man, I need a break. A hike into the canyon sounds nice. I take the brain off of my backpack and pack the essentials. Water, extra layer, and The Essential Writings of Lenin.

The Salto canyon goes for miles. Literally. Hike something like 26 kilometers and you’ll be spit out at La Huasteca. Our friend Emily decided to go for it the day before. She’s somewhere deep down in the canyon at the moment. The walls surround you on all sides as you trudge down the canyon. This far away from the city, the only sound is your footsteps as you disturb the stones of the wash. It’s pretty eerie.

27090013Andrew in the thick of Animus Wall.

27120021The morning coffee spot.

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In the depths at Boca Wall.

27120016Ian taking a nap at the pink house.

27120003Views from a beautiful rest day.

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Victoria doin’ it at La Palma. Chossy roadside climbing at its best.

27090017Kika’s self portrait.

27090014Andrew making the moves on Camino Del Chino. He sent!

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The parking lot at Kika’s during peak season. Living here for a month was an experience.

27090011Common Kika’s scene.

27090010The morning commute through the wash. “The wash giveth and the wash taketh away.”

As I walk down the canyon the prospect of doing the hike to Huasteca crosses my mind. I sit down on top of a boulder in the middle of the wash and ponder my chances. Not good. Farther ahead the wash has begun to devolve into a boulder field. Twenty-six kilometers of that? Not a chance. I open my Nalgene and take a long drink.

The sun is starting to crest a little farther over the canyon. Time to get back to the crag. It’s my turn to climb. I hop off the boulder and begin the hike back.

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