March 26th, 2016
When I studied abroad in the Fall of 2011, I took a train tour from Italy, through Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, France and Spain. Along the way, I routinely relied on the kindness of strangers (and friends) to help me in times of need. I learned how to make friends of people with whom I could barely communicate because of language barriers. These friends fit in a special category of human connection for me; brief, but sincere, and hugely important. I would have never guessed I’d have the opportunity to make such friends as this not twenty minutes from my front door. But that, apparently, is just the beginning of the magic of the Rumney Rocks day use area.
I’ve known about Rumney basically my whole life having, as I’ve said, grown up not twenty minutes away, but I never thought seriously about going out there until I came back from Montana determined to continue practicing climbing.
I was supposed to meet a group of local university students out at the rocks to climb for the day, but when I arrived they were simply not there. I parked and got out, meandering over to the kiosk, figuring I’d at least wander around the crags to see what was there. Two guys, one blonde, one brunette, were sitting at the picnic table next to the kiosk. I said hello to them and then continued looking at the sign. A practiced eavesdropper, I started listening to their conversation, which seemed to be in a language I’d never heard before.
Turns out that it was French, only the Quebecois version of French, which, I promise you, sounds nothing like the French of high school french clubs or Parisian metro workers. My curiosity could not be repressed, so I asked them where they were from, to which they responded with, “Québec,” and then promptly asked me what I was doing.
“Welll…I was supposed to be meeting a group here, but I can’t seem to find them.”
“Oh,” said the blonde, “Well, do you want some coffee?”
And that was the start to my beautiful and (so far) brief friendship with Charles, Vince, Ana, Laura, and Lucy. I had heard tale of the greatness of the climbing community, but I was surprised and pleased to find it so close to home in such an unexpected way. My Quebec friends let me borrow their gear (including shoes! I hadn’t bought my own shoes yet- that’s how amateur we’re talking), they belayed me, they taught me how to rappel, they shared their French cheese (a mark of true kindness), and they welcomed me into their group of friends.
I found a waterfall, I climbed three 5.8’s, I worked my ass off, got a sun burn, and had so much fun.
In return for the kindness of these friends, I led them to D Acres, a Permaculture farm and hostel about 10 minutes drive from the rocks where they could camp out and cook dinner in a kitchen. In return for that help, they fed me waaaay too much burrito and beer (for which I am eternally grateful).
The drunker everyone became that night, the less English speech there was to benefit me, but it was still immensely enjoyable to sit around a campfire, listening to these easy-going, mirthful friends enjoy life. It was infectious, and I curled up into bed that night with a huge, beer-and-climb-weary smile on my face.