Climbing the Red

by Mike Williams on
RRG-Muir Valley-Jesus Wept

It’s no secret that the Red River Gorge is a kick-ass spot for rock climbing, but where to head? Here’s a handy guide on where to find routes for all levels in the Red.

Thirty years ago no one would have guessed that the Red River Gorge would become one of the world’s most famous rock climbing areas. The climbing at “the Red,” as climbers know it, was way off the beaten path — thousands of miles from California and Colorado, and hundreds of miles from East Coast hot spots in North Carolina and West Virginia. But hidden beneath the dense canopy in the rolling hills of Eastern Kentucky was, quite literally, a “motherlode” of steep Corbin Sandstone waiting to be climbed on.
 
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Wendell Berry’s writings resonate across generations and across all sorts of boundaries. Here’s a look at some of his essential works and how they connect critical themes essential to the propagation of Kentucky’s family farms.

“Make the human race a better head. Make the world a better piece of ground.” (“Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer” in The Mad Farmer Poems).

 

As the theater lights came back up, I immediately reflected on the film, even as the credits rolled. Sure, I had enjoyed the food and scenery that Toronto had offered that day, but the main reason I had made the two-hour drive from Buffalo to Ontario’s “Queen City” was to attend the international premiere of a new documentary about Wendell Berry, the noted Kentucky author and farmer.
 
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The Berry Center puts the words of writer Wendell Berry and his family into action for Kentucky’s small farmers and an agrarian way of life.

Driving the Kentucky River road in Henry County near Port Royal, Kentucky, I’m struck by how the land differs from the massive, relatively flat fields of cotton and soybeans I remember from my childhood in Alabama.

 

Had I not known that Wendell Berry works this fertile terrain, I might have completely overlooked the small family farms that are tucked into these hills. But I did know that he writes and farms alongside the river on some of these very rises, having read many of his agricultural essays and especially his poignant collection The Unsettling of America. Berry’s poetry, fiction and nonfiction has long championed the agrarian lifestyle and its resilience in the face of many challenges — from industrial agribusiness to less-than-ideal farmland to sometimes careless farmers — but, in a country where such small farms are all too often neglected and disappearing, how many others are fully aware of the challenges that threaten their very existence?

 

Berry Center-Wendell Berry headshot
 
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In some ways, heading into this weekend feels a bit like the day after Christmas. It’s the furthest weekend away from next year’s Forecastle festival and a chance to party with all you beautiful people in the awesome enclave of Louisville’s Waterfront Park.
 
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