Friday, May 6, 2016

West Virginia Microadventures

I knew I'd be unable, and unwilling, to live in my truck and criss-cross the country for the rest of my life in a state of perpetual adventure. About the time I was feeling fulfilled and ready to settle back down in West Virginia to build my life anew, I came across the concept of "microadventures," a term coined by British adventurer Alastair Humphreys. Humphreys has biked around the world and rowed across the Atlantic, but decided to spend an entire year focusing on smaller trips without leaving the UK.

Microadventures aren't a revolutionary concept - anyone who has gone on a weekend camping trip has definitely been microadventuring - but Humphreys brings an unprecedented level of intentionality to the idea that resonated with me. I liked the reinforcement that adventure is more a state of mind than a physical location and that I needn't give up my adventurous spirit in light of new responsibilities with work, school, and relationships. Instead of dreaming up road trip itineraries to see me through months of continuous travel, I started building out a list of single-night to weeklong length trips, mostly in West Virginia, that I could easily accomplish among the other demands of "normal" life. And then I committed to carving out the time to start working on said list.

It helps that my girlfriend Michelle is a kindred spirit. She recently moved to West Virginia to teach and I was fortunate to take her off the market before the rest of the menfolk in the state realized what they were missing. She has been eager to explore her new home and I have been more than happy to play tour guide, showing off the best of the state that I'm so proud to be from. We've embarked on a 12-month Microadventure Challenge, trying to complete at least one overnight trip a month. We're pretty well on track, but it's more about making the most of our time together and doing fun, new things instead of strict adherence to a set of rules. With microadventures there are no rules!

January - Admittedly I was a bit nervous - January isn't often the best time for a first camping trip and I didn't want to sour Michelle on the experience. But she's a stalwart adventure buddy and loved it, sleet and all. I brought every sleeping bag and piece of insulated clothing I could find just to make sure we'd stay warm. I was able to shoot a short video for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition's Birthplace of Rivers National Monument campaign with Michelle's help.

Falls of Hills Creek, proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument
We also made a day trip to Winterplace Ski Resort in southern WV
February - We visited friends from my time in the Coast Guard in Boston. The weather was bitterly cold but we made the best of our stay touring a bit of the Freedom Trail, making homemade raviolis, and playing the most epic session of the board game Trouble in my life.   

Freedom Trail, Boston MA
Faneuil Hall, Boston MA
We also made a second ski trip to Snowshoe Resort in eastern WV
March - We made a trip to Ohio to visit Michelle's parents. We rode bikes around a nearby lake and then I subsequently stuffed myself at Easter dinner. 

April - With the coming of spring we planned an overnight canoe trip along the Greenbrier River. It was Michelle's first time paddling a canoe and she handled herself adeptly in the Class 2 rapids. I see more river trips in our future! 

Michelle and I also interspersed our overnight microadventures with lots of day trips in the New River Gorge, about an hour and a half away. 

The ghost town of Thurmond, New River Gorge
Glade Creek Trail, New River Gorge
Grandview, New River Gorge
Kaymoor Mine, New River Gorge
Abandoned coke oven, Kaymoor Mine, New River Gorge
May - The warmer weather also has me busy working on trips in the Birthplace of Rivers area to help connect people with the myriad of reasons why this place is so special and deserving of national monument status and protections. I hosted Jess Daddio and Adam Ritter from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine on a 60-mile bike tour through the heart of the proposed monument. Read more about our story and watch a short clip here

Cranberry River, proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument
Cranberry Backcountry, proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument
I'm breaking with the microadventure concept for the remainder of May to complete the "Elkspedition," a 180-mile adventure down the length of the Elk River from the Birthplace of Rivers to our state capitol in Charleston. You can follow along here