Johnny Miller

Today we welcome photographer and climber Johnny Miller as this month's guest blogger on The Wilder Coast. He is the man behind the lens over at Millefoto.com. I am starstruck by his landscape portfolio- the High Dynamic Range urban images in particular are vivid, unearthly and nearly unsettling.

After three years, I thought it would be a good idea to post a boy's perspective on all of this. So here with his take on climbing, sex, and getting out of town, is Johnny Miller.

Things I observed on my last trip to Vantage
Leaving behind the city is an integral part of my life. It's elation, it's semi-indescribable. The way the gray matter on the map, the urban-brain, tendrils out - until it's just me on a sinuous curve through the mountains.  It's easy to explain to someone who loves the outdoors and yet different for everyone. I love that. The radio stations blink and fade to nothing. Crossing the impenetrable rocky regions in transit to a beautiful new reality.  
The first glimpse of the rolling clear hills. Not the forest. I hate the forest. I'm talking clear, grassy hills - no trees and lots and lots of hay fields. Golden and falling down to the river, a hundred miles away. It's like rolling downhill along with the water. Get me away from the fucking forest. I hate the forest. The forest and the city‚Ķnature and man's most oppressive creations.   
Finally, a destination. Orange-red rock in a fractured state. I was climbing out at a local crag with some friends a couple weeks ago. The river was nearby, you could smell it. The rock was warm. This girl sat next to me, we had just finished a really hard route that neither of us could really believe we actually completed. First I climbed it, then she did.
"You're an amazing climber."
"Seriously? Because YOU'RE an amazing climber."
The truth is both of us climbed like our lives depended on it. Me, because I needed to impress her. She, because she needed to prove that she could keep up. We both probably have issues. But it was nice basking in that glow in the sudden silence that descended on the crag. We sat in a little alcove below the main climbing wall, shielded from the chatter of the climbing hordes who descend on this place by the hundreds in autumn.
We were so comfortable already, and I had just met this girl at 7am. When she belayed me off the wall she held her hand out, a really strong hand, to pull me into the wall and away from the edge. I ended up sitting on her leg as I came down the final two feet, our sweat mingling in a sort of electric soup. I could smell her.  Suddenly I realized that I could take this girl to the very edge of the cliff, lay her down, and make love to her while we watched the clouds and sun and wind turbines dance on the horizon. I wasn't even terribly attracted to her.
"I would rather be here than anywhere else right now."  That was a true statement.
"I agree with you."  I hoped that was true.
The rest of our group had split along natural lines into twos and threes. I hadn't seen anyone except my new climbing friend for hours, and it was strange that it felt so natural to cohabitate on the rock wall, like albatross do. I didn't grab for her hand, I just sat there and listened to my feelings. I learned a little while ago that it's important to listen to yourself, and when you think you may be filled up with emotion to the point of bursting, and need to share that emotion in order to make it seem real, that's when you really need to hold it back and focus on directing that inwards. So I sat there and I could feel her next to me, and there was an anticipation that wasn't altogether unpleasant but it seemed to take away slightly from the pure beauty of our surroundings so I chanced another comment.
"I don't think I need to climb another route today."
"I'm perfectly happy if that was the last route I climb for the rest of my life." 
I turned to look at her and the large brown eyes were swimming with emotions the same as I was. But I knew then that I had been wrong about the making love thing, that I would ruin everything if I tried it, if I even stepped toward her those big brown saucers would slit down and peak and say, "boy, you're crossing the line, sit back down".

Is it just me that equates every sublime feeling with a girl to sex? Or is it every male? Clear as a pool I looked through those eyes to what lay beneath and it was pure and girlish and innocent and it truly was, it just truly was. No sex required to consummate the emotion. I learned tact early on in and it has stood me well. I quietly killed my carnal desire.
The sun went down. It became cold. Our clothes come back on, the lycra covered up with polyester, the polyester covered up by wool, the wool covered up by down. We enjoy the post-sunset glow but it was already over, the moment we had, and the rock becomes hard again. Suddenly thoughts about Mexican food, and getting back home, and the long walk out of this cliff band and up the gully and over the mesa and down to the parking lot. And I'm really, really sad that we didn't decide to just spend the night out here, because it'd be so much more comfortable repeating this moment at sunrise, from the opposite direction, and eating eggs in the morning. I never eat eggs in the city.
But everyone returns eventually.
The radio stations blink in reverse, country music and farm news slowly hissing into nothing as the mountains loom up. Huge rock walls, beautiful rock walls, painted with moon light. The reflectors on the road showing the way back, up and over the pass, breadcrumbs for the wayward to return once they've realized their error. "Escape", they scream, "is futile!" The forest, the terrible green forest, closing in above us like a dank prison. Its colder, its wetter, its home.
Inside the car our arms touch but it's a small backseat.
I don't think it means anything.


See more of Johnny's images at Millefoto.com

Meanwhile, on the East coast....

Dangerous Girl Chelsea Kendrick
Allow me to introduce Chelsea Kendrick from Asheville, North Carolina. I chose this rad, ballsy climbing chick to be the first guest blogger on The Wilder Coast,  for reasons that should be apparent just from that picture. I met Chelsea through a mutual friend when I lived in North Carolina in 2010. Although we only knew each other briefly- I lived in Boone, a long, snowy drive from the metropolis of Asheville- Chels left an impact on me. For one, she's the creator and promoter of Ladies Climbing Night at the local Asheville rock gym, and anyone who works that hard to foster a community just melts my heart. 

Furthermore, Chelsea is the creator of crushcakes, a blog that combines two of my favorite things: climbing and cupcakes. (By the way, that name? Crush Cakes? Brilliant.) She's the very picture of health, strength and vitality, so I asked her if she wouldn't mind sharing her thoughts on the three things we both agree are fundamental for a happy existence: food, friends, and rocks. Take it away, Chelsea...
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I am pretty sure Asheville North Carolina was designed just for me. Its overwhelming plethora of food venues with local flare speaks to my true love for eating fantastic food. There are cupcake shops, chocolate lounges, tea shops, coffee shops, vegan and vegetarian restaurants, local beer breweries galore, Indian food, Thai food, Ethiopian food, Spanish tapas, anything my tummy wants and all with an affinity for using local organic products. Meanwhile the mountains tower on the edges of this funky little town hosting opportunities for almost any outdoor adventure a gal could hope for. There is paddling, climbing, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, ice climbing, snowboarding, cross country skiing on the blue ridge park way, hot springs soaking, you name it, we have it.


So what is a girl to do with so much good food and great outdoor opportunities? Well I say take advantage! My philosophy is, stay active and eat the food that feeds your soul. So many women worry about their bodies, and what to put in them, ounce by ounce, calorie by calorie. Now I am no nutrition expert but I am an expert on doing what feels right for my body, and what makes me happy. Being healthy is a huge part of being happy and being active is a huge part of being healthy. Starving myself just seems like a sure fire route to unhappiness so I try to avoid that route at all costs. I like to eat. I like to eat well. I like to indulge myself. On the flip side I like to earn it, I like to push my body until it can't be pushed anymore. I like to wake up in the morning sore all over from a weekend of steep sandstone sport climbing.


Now I know what you are thinking: This girl is extreme, she eats a ton and then exercises really hard. That isn't it at all, I eat lots of small meals in a day. I don't over do the quantity, I am all about quality. I also work very hard to find the balance in exercise because I have plenty of first hand experience with the injuries resulting from over doing it.

How did I get to this place of self confidence, comfort in indulgence, and personal challenge? For me it was rock climbing, for you it may be paddling or something else. But what specifically about these sports got me where I am now? Two things: female community and personal challenge. I run the ladies only climbing program at the climbing gym in Asheville. It is a biweekly space for women to come together and push themselves to their physical, mental, and emotional limits within a supportive, encouraging community setting. While developing our strength and climbing skills we have also developed a solid community of amazing women. We have discovered our power, our ability, our confidence and valuable connections to one another.

  
We also discovered cupcakes. I started making baked goods every so often for ladies night. Slowly but surely they came to be an anticipated pillar of ladies night. I found myself looking forward to new creative cupcake ideas for each week. Meanwhile the community was also looking forward to what I would come up with. There is something magical about stuffing your face full of buttery sugary goodness along side the same women with which you were only previously defying gravity. Some of the gals eat two or three cupcakes, with no shame or guilt or excuses. These women along with myself have come to understand a new image of female beauty. An image of strength, agility, curves, character, self confidence, and connection to fellow women. I find this image much more attractive than the anorexic, bleached, airbrushed, high fashion, depressing image we see in much popular media.

So here is my recipe for beauty and happiness: Play outside, develop a community with the people that like doing the things you like to do, and go do those things together. Eat food that makes you smile and say yummmmm! Eat it with good friends, hopefully these same good friends you just went on an adventure with earlier. Make time for having fun, and spending time with people that affirm you. Oh and eat cupcakes whenever possible because it is pretty hard to be bummed out while eating a cupcake.

Yep, she made these! For more photos and recipes, go to www.crushcakecupcakes.blogspot.com