7 heated Pictionary games, 3 split fingers, 19 nights of sleeping in a tent, 4 galloping horses, 793 falls, and a few gunshots later, I’ve survived my first bouldering trip. Needless to say, much of my trip had nothing to do with climbing. But I’ve returned from Hueco Tanks with a greater appreciation for bouldering, Texas culture, and most importantly, Texans themselves. These people know how to have a good time. But first, lets start with the boulders.
I began my bouldering extravaganza utterly terrified of falling. After processing some of the most irrational thoughts possible while shaking in fear a mere three feet off the ground, I now feel more compassionate towards those afraid of lead falls. Each time I left the ground, I could think only of the gaping vortex of sunlight shining through a tiny crack or hole in the rock below me, which I was sure to be sucked down into should I fall. After a few self pep talks about the laws of gravity, which would ensure that I would fall directly down onto the crashpads instead of 12 feet to the right at a 45 degree angle into the scary vortex, my fears began to lift. I cannot claim that I am no longer terrified of bouldering. But thanks to expert crash pad placers, patient spotters, and plenty of trial falls, I feel slightly more comfortable than when I arrived.
A steady crew of energetic, motivated, Katy Perry/death metal loving climbers made for an incredible trip. Lyric experts Trevor Turmelle (Hueco guide extraordinaire) and Sam Kelly, generously shared their favorite, unique corners of the park. I feel as though I got to see the true side of Hueco, areas of the park not often traveled. Most notably, I found it refreshing to climb with a group of individuals whose motivated approach to climbing was a far cry from obsessive. We chose problems based on whether or not they looked appealing to climb, regardless of grade. As a relatively inexperienced boulderer, I think this strategy helped me to appreciate the history and the movements of each climb, rather than trying to feed my ego and inevitably grow frustrated on problems at my limit. Needless to say, I was challenged both mentally and physically for a steady three weeks.
I’ll write more about bouldering in the following weeks, but I feel it’s important to devote some time to the most important part of my trip-the Texas culture. Sure, there’s the Rock Ranch “haven’t showered in a few weeks and don’t plan to soon so stay out of my man camp” grungy college boys culture. There’s also the historical culture of the Mescalero Apaches who left behind phenomenal pictographs and stories. But I’m talking about the hard working, hard playing culture of tried and true Texans. I’ll call the following “The Last 24 Hours of 2011-Texas Style”.
Exhibit A: The Dude Ranch
10am: Weatherproof the ramada with the one and only, newly acclaimed Texan, Sam Kelly.
11:37am: Operate a power saw.
12:54pm: Construct adult sized Jenga.
Exhibit B: Anchor J Ranch
2pm: Arrive at Anchor J.
2:11pm: Learn to saddle Poncho, Lefty, Thunder, and Lightning.
3:01pm: Mount horses.
3:43pm: Gallop. This was the single most terrifying event of my entire trip. I have very little experience with horses. To sit atop a horse who has decided to allow all four of his feet to leave the ground with each stride was quite exciting. Not to mention having to let go of the saddle horn with one hand in order to control the reins, only to discover that Poncho was going to run until he felt like stopping, regardless of the number of fearful “whoas” and timid jerks of the reins I initiated. He obviously knew he was in control of the situation. If only I had photographic documentation of the event, this post would be significantly more interesting.
4:27pm: Learn to unsaddle and brush horses.
5:09pm: Build a fence.
6pm: Commence patio festivities-homemade tamales and Pictionary.
7:46pm: Feed pet armadillo.
8:13pm: Homemade eggnog.
8:51pm: Collect tumbleweeds.
9:19pm: Tumbleweed bonfire.
9:41pm: S’mores and campfire songs.
11:51pm: Evaluate gun situation.
12am: Seven Shotguns ring in the New Year.
2am: Spend the night in Anchor J’s “Texas Room”, complete with lasso, Texas flag bedspread, life size John Wayne cardboard cutout, and branding classification diagram. Tip: If you plan to raise cows, do not choose a C as your brand. A cattle thief could easily convert that C into an O with any sort of other symbol inside, barring you from identifying your cow without slaughtering and skinning the cow to analyze the age of the branding marks. Folks, choose your brand wisely.
Thank you to Dean and Marsha and Sam and Trevor for sharing your homes and the adventures of the Lone Star State!