Hiking New River Gorge with Kids
We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing. It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to. Our ClimbingWeather.com app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night – and it wasn’t far off. The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer. We finally arrived at the campsite (Rifrafters.com) at 1:30 in the morning.
We parked the travel trailer and worked on getting the heater working. My son crawled into the full size bed under my down comforter, snuggling with my husband. . . Now, I’m not bitter or anything but it was a cold night sleeping under kid-sized blankets and snuggling with my daughter who doesn’t like to be under said blankets.
Bubba City, Sandstonia
For our first day at the New, we decided to try out Sandstonia in Bubba City. The hike in was relatively moderate with a rocky trail on the descent for the kids. It took us about a half hour to navigate the trail with both kids hiking in on their own steam. The hike would have been significantly more of a challenge with a three-year-old, as the rocky nature of the descent made me wish they had their helmets on a few times and my four and a half year old had to go down a few of the more prominent boulders “bum first”. The landing area and “play area” at the base of the routes was big enough for the kids to have room to play without being in the way. There were a good number of moderate routes to warm up on and then we climbed a 10c called Kinestica that was a great fun route with a roof that required a high foot pressed out to send.
The kids wanted a turn to climb so we set up a top rope on a 5.7 slightly farther along the wall. Both gave it a go before the weather started to turn cold for the day. Given the hike out was uphill, (and it was the week before daylight savings) it was set to get dark around 5, so we opted to start our hike back out.
Bubba City, Beer Wall
On day two we opted to give Beer Wall a try. We had wanted to come back to the New with kids, but remembered this approach and counted it out until the kids were big enough to navigate the ladder and rope descents. This approach is slightly shorter and less robust than Sandstonia except for the area near the final approach. . . There are two rope ladder sections and one real ladder area. With one younger child and and two or more adults, it would be manageable but with two kids, my opinion is that they need to be able to navigate a ladder without difficulty. It wasn’t nerve racking, but we gave each child a spot to make sure that they didn’t miss a step, dismount too far, and/or slide down the rope too quickly.
Once down to the climbing, the area was great for kids. . . with two major caveats. Beer Wall gets pretty crowded on most weekends. This happened to be a slow weekend (probably the last of the season) and there weren’t many people out. There is also a chimney area that has a great cave and play area for older kid playing. This is a hazard for younger kids as they can fit into cracks and crevices that adults can’t get into to “rescue” them. It also goes way back, which is a problem if your child doesn’t pay attention to any limits you set. The cave is great fun, with that BIG warning. Also, there’s a bolted chimney above and if someone is climbing, that cave is definitely off limits to kids as it’s clearly in the landing zone below the climber. The landing area for the rest of Beer Wall wasn’t terribly kid friendly or large, particularly given that it is usually more crowded. We enjoyed the climb, but were limited on time and once done with St. Pauli Girl (a 10c with a thin start and what they call a roof crux, but it seemed more like a crack crux than a roof, in my opinion) we hiked out.
Next trip to the New River Gorge
On our next trip to the new, we are thinking of trying out the Summersville Lake area. We’ve been cautious of it thus far because of the obvious water hazard with kids. Still, it seems like we are almost there with regard to being able to navigate the more challenging areas with the kids, and it may be worth a try. We would love to try out the new AAC campground, but with the trailer, it’s not in the cards (no rv’s/trailers allowed). We are also looking forward to taking the kids somewhere on the water, if we can find a more moderate area for kayaking. All in all, warmer weather and/or spring time can’t come soon enough as there are lots of routes and areas for us to revisit now that the kids are able to navigate more difficult terrain.
The travel trailer was a huge win again, as the temperatures were such that it was not kid friendly (not in my opinion). It was definitely below freezing out side, and warming up, even inside, was a challenge. Dinner and dessert in the trailer was relaxing and cost effective, as we made fish tacos and ate ice cream. The filthy kids were a cleaning disaster and a warm shower was a wonderful feature. Even morning was fun, with a heater in the trailer that allowed me to make coffee without freezing! We would definitely not have been able to travel so late in the season without the travel trailer. Alas, we’ve now winterized and it will be resting until spring.