Monday, 28 July 2008

Climbing WV

Last week we headed west to Franklin, West Virginia to climb. We encountered this sign along the way, and I thought it was funny enough to jump out and take a photo.

The best climbing in the immediate area is at Seneca Rocks, which is all trad. Apart from me there was no-one else with much trad experience so we hooked up with some self-proclaimed bolt monkeys and hit Franklin Gorge.

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The monkeys knew their stuff, and after a 5.9 warm-up lead for me (bit more than a warm up), I got up a variety of 5.10a's and 10b's on top rope. We stayed the night at a nearby 4-H camp, which had the worst bathrooms I've seen outside Asia, but was otherwise really nice. I later found out that 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health) is sort of like the scouts, and WV is home to the first 4-H camp. Back to the rock the next day for more climbing. Em did some walking at Seneca Rocks and Blackwater Falls which looked really nice.

Assateague and ocean city

A couple of weeks ago we headed to the beach for Em's birthday. We camped at the Assateague Island National Seashore, which is the narrow strip of sand extending down the coast of Maryland and Virginia.

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It is best known for its "wild" horses, which are pretty used to people. We had them wandering through our campsite and hanging out on the beach - I'm used to dodging jellyfish on the beach but piles of horse poo was a new one.
We hung out on the beach, did some swimming - the water was *seriously* cold, and drenched ourselves in 40% DEET to keep the mozzies at bay, which were bad everywhere except on the beach. We also drove into nearby Ocean City, which is kind of like the Gold Coast. The beach there is nice, really long, with lots of volleyball courts. The boardwalk along the shore is huge (3 miles long!) but unfortunately is chock full of tourist trash shops - cheap T-shirt stores, henna tatoos etc. There weren't even that many bars, and basically no nice restaurants, although some of the hotels might have had some nice places to eat. Made us glad we were camping in the national park!

Biking the northern central rail trail

A couple of weekends ago Em and I joined some fellow aussies to ride a few miles of the northern central rail trail. This is part of a network of trails built on abandoned railway lines (minus tracks and sleepers) that runs a continuous 330 miles from DC to Pittsburgh! The scenery was nice, the trail amazingly flat, and a whole lot of people were floating down the river on inner-tubes since it was a stinking hot day. Think we will have to give that a go before we leave!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


A few months ago I was reading one of those "things to see before you die" lists in a magazine, and was astounded to find that there was some house in Pennsylvania (of all places) that made it into the top 20, alongside others entries like the Grand Canyon and the Pyramids!

Turns out this is no ordinary house, it is Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece plonked on top of a beautiful waterfall in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. It was completed in 1939, and is composed of a number of cantilevered concrete slabs that hang out over the waterfall, held in place by piles of local rough-cut stone, all perched on top of a waterfall with no foundations. As our guide said, there will never be another house built like this in the US because there is no way you could get the planning permissions!

The tour was excellent, and we learned of many FLW innovations that put him ahead of his time. My favourite feature was how he built around a number of large boulders, incorporating one as the floor of the fireplace, and another that has hillside water seeping over it and into a hidden drain that passes under the house. Definitely worth the trip!