This morning I am writing you from our rental cabin in Stanton, Kentucky. You can hear the quite patter of rain on the rooftop over the gurgle of the coffee machine behind me. I am always the first awake, and I like it that way. Only one light is on, and beyond the rain and the coffee machine there is a sense of stillness all around our cabin.
The Red River Gorge sits just southwest of Lexington, and is surrounded by dense forests that are rainbow with fall foliage this week. This is only my second time here, but it's revered as one of the best places in the country for climbing and frequented by many climbers from around the world. The sandstone walls of the gorge are tall, and after decades of erosion they are covered in thousands of holes and pockets. It's as if they want to be climbed.
This area of Kentucky is so different from my own home. For one, it’s wet. Even when it’s “dry,” things are humid. The forests are thick, mossy walls of deciduous trees, which are painted all colors of fall right now. (I find myself uncontrollably taking photos of this rainbow forest).
If you plan to stay outside all day here, you must plan ahead. Once we’re out of the house, we’re out of the house: our cabin is a ways from the closest town, at the far reaches of a ranch. Donkeys wander the grounds with the company of a single Shetland pony. Our rental minivan can barely handle our steep gravel driveway! In town there is a grocery store, but once you are in the Gorge you are essentially off the map. The road is dotted with signs of a few adventure companies and parking lots for climbers. There is a campground with a pizza shop where many climbers set up camp, and that’s it. We make sure our bags have enough to get us through an eight to ten hour climbing day.
My climbing bag almost always looks the same: gear (climbing shoes, quick draws, a headlamp, etc.), extra clothing (a down coat, a rain coat, hat, gloves, warm pants), drinking water, sunscreen, and easy-to-pack food.
I try to include a source of protein for long-lasting fuel, something with carbs for quick energy, and snacks for in-between routes. This trip, Chomps sent me a box of their grass-fed jerky sticks to try, and they were the perfect protein to bring. They are lightweight--a lot lighter than a can of tuna, which I often pack- and stay good without refrigeration so you can pack them for a long trip (unlike hard boiled eggs or cheese). If you're looking for something Paleo-friendly, these are great because they are Certified Paleo, Certified Gluten-Free, and WHOLE30 Approved. I also have found Chomps to be super satisfying, which is important when we aren’t going to get home for dinner until 7 or 8pm.
What to Pack in Your Day Pack for a Healthy Lunch:
- 1-2 food high in carbohydrates, for quick energy: apple, banana, grapefruit, dried fruit, or even a cooked sweet potato
- 1 food with plenty of protein, for long-lasting energy: Chomps! They are 100% grass-fed too, so even though I normally shy away from things that can be called “meat sticks,” these are dang good. Find them on their website, Amazon, Trader Joe's, or at Target.
- 1 veggie (optional – this can add weight to your pack but it’s nice to have): carrot or celery sticks are easiest for me
- 1-2 other snacks: chocolate (this is especially good when you need some extra motivation), trail mix (this mocha trail mix is a total treat!), peanut butter packets, no-granola bars, or even grain-free cookies
This last week was a learning experience of a new kind: I didn’t train for this trip as much as I would’ve liked to, so rather than setting my expectations high, I focused on the simple pleasure of being on vacation, unplugged and amongst the trees. When your goal is simply vacation, life feels pretty luxurious.
By day four I was starting to get used to climbing on a rope and was able to get into a groove (at home, I tend to boulder, so my head wasn’t prepared for sport climbing like it should have been). Now that we’re heading home, my motivation is renewed and I’m psyched to get training on both ropes and boulders again! There is no replacement for a weeklong adventure for getting your spirits high and your workout routine rejuvenated, whether that means going with a group of friends on a bike tour, paddling down a river, or backpacking!
Chomps sponsored this blog post, but the images, thoughts, and experiences are all my own! This post is a true reflection of my last week—snacks, adventures and all!