Words and Photos by Colleen Lachnicht
As climbers in Florida, we are not blessed with stone playgrounds at our doorsteps. An outdoor climbing trip for us requires a minimum of 16 hours on the road, round trip. To avoid spending more time in the car than climbing, we usually turn our cravings for real rock into week-long vacations, leaving two days for travel, four full days of climbing, and one rest day in the middle.
Our spring climbing trip started similarly to those in the past. We had decided on a bouldering trip to Rumbling Bald near Lake Lure, NC. After loading up the car, we stopped by our favorite bagel shop en route to the highway, the beginning of any great road trip. After about 6 hours in the car, we approach the Atlanta area, where we typically pull off for a lunch break and driver swap. As we transitioned from highway to city roads, we rolled down our windows to get a feel for the temperature in Atlanta. Cool crisp air whips around our faces, along with the spine-chilling sound of metal on metal. A nervous glance is exchanged as we roll up to a red light, and one of us utters the dreaded is-that-our-car?
Our heads raced as we realized that the gruesome metallic grinding we were hearing was, in fact, coming from my ’04 Kia Sorento. We pulled into a parking garage and call AAA. There’s a reputable mechanic about 15 minutes from our location, but we were advised against driving the car there in its current condition. A tow truck driver could be there in 45 minutes, but the mechanic’s shop closed at 4, and it was already 3:30. We wanted to arrive before they closed so our left behind gear would be secure in the shop, so we decided to risk it. The mechanic informed us that we were lucky to have made it without the tires falling off as the car’s bearings were totally shot. After talking it over for a few minutes, we realize the car won’t be ready for at least three more days.
Disheartened and unsure of what to do, we head to a local climbing gym to keep our psych up and figure out where we’ll stay for the night. At the gym, we met a friendly staff member who happened to rent out their spare room. After hearing of our troubles, they offered to lend us the room for the night. We hitched a ride back to their place when the gym closed and began figuring out a plan. Rental car prices were over $1,000 due to a big golf tournament that week, and neither of us being 25 at the time. In between stressing and researching, we learned that U-Haul doesn’t have a minimum age for rentals, and it would only be a few hundred bucks to get a van for the week. – untraditional, innovative, and definitely memorable.
With our new set of wheels, we turned our gaze back towards Rumbling Bald with a renewed appreciation for reaching our destination. A feeling of exhilarating relief washed over us as we parked the van in front of a sunbathing, tree-covered mountainside. Loading ourselves up with crash pads and our climbing packs, we savored the hike into the West Side of the Bald’s boulder field. Every step reminded us of our determination paying off. Because of our journey to this moment, every movement on the rock made more sense as we tried to ascend the problems in front of us.
Don’t get me wrong, having smooth travels on a trip is always welcome, but the bumps along the road in this journey reminded me of why I have such a love venturing into nature and wrestling pebbles so much. It parallels our everyday lives in so many ways. When faced with a seemingly impassable obstacle and the mind wants to default to frustration and disappointment, it’s crucial to take a step back and reevaluate what sits in front of you. Whether it’s finding a way to your destination without paying $1,000 or finally getting past that top-out, adaptability is key. It’s all about keeping the mind calm, finding new ways to look at your surroundings, and enjoying the process. There’s nothing better than the mountains of the Southeast to remind you of that.
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