The following morning we headed to Vandal’s Kitchen (yes again, we LOVE this place and would be happy to eat here every day!!!) It’s so fun to meet the owners and chat with locals and the VERY COOLEST people by far, hang out here!!! By your third time going they will know your name and any food preferences you have. I was getting ready to order the special and Elizabeth the owner told me it head bread products and I should order something else since she remembered I was GF…. I mean SERIOUSLY!!!!! Where else does that happen??? I opted for the Kale Bowl, which consisted of braised kale, topped with two eggs, sliced bacon, sliced avocado, blackberries, and sliced apples….. It was AMAZING!!! So if/when you make it to Fayetteville WV, or anywhere in the New River Gorge area, you MAKE SURE you go to Vandal’s Kitchen and get the special or anything else because it all sooooooo good!!! Make sure you take your time, talk to people and enjoy every second!!
We met up with Evan again for another day on the river. This day held it’s own magical surprises!!! The River is quite like my yoga practice….. Everyday is a little different yet it always gives you EXACTLY what you need!!! This day Sienna decided she wanted to be a Junior River Guide and Evan indulged her wishes. He put her at the back of the boat and let her take us down a few different rapids. I’m thoroughly convinced that he steered the entire time from the side of the boat, but the look on her face was absolutely incredible!! She took her task very seriously! She was completely engaged and focused…. She pointed out rocks she remembered and told us what direction to swim if we fell out and barked out stroke commends like a seasoned professional. She would firmly ask for “forward 2”, “backward 1” etc as we made our way down the river. We stopped at our favorite Whale rock and camped out for a marathon lunch of chatting and letting Sienna jump off the rock time and time again….. I felt like I had been served a slice of heaven on a rock in the middle of a class 4 rapid, in the belly of a Gorge, that was quickly stealing my heart!!! We continued down the river surfing Greyhound quite a bit, floating through more rapids, standing on Jesus Rock
and arriving at the put out as the sun set behind the mountains.
The next day Evan had to head back to VA to go work an EMT shift. Before he left he wanted to show us Summersville Lake, which was just another magical spot!!! Seriously, the Universe was in an EPIC mood when it was forming West Virginina and sure put a lot of amazing palaces in a little spot! Summersville Lake, definitely didn’t disappoint….. It is a lake surrounded by high reaching limestone rocks that shoot straight out of deep water, which allow for free climbing with a forgiving landing. I’ve always wanted to do rock climbing and Sienna and I looked into it in the area and again was outside of our budget line, so we figured one day we’d go to a rock climbing gym and check it off the list….. NEVER did we imagine we would be here climbing out of the water staring towards the sky as high as we wanted to push it. We gave it a go and I felt in a natural element. I LOVED every second and would like to find a way to continue to learn climbing techniques and get better at the sport!! I climbed up to a ledge about 40-50 feet out of the water and jumped off…… It was so much easier to jump when I could see where I was landing versus the blind landing at Laurel Falls!!!
Immediately Sienna wanted to try….. I gave her the go ahead and she flailed around in the water kicking and whining for help and a boost etc, so she could get to the top and jump. I told her with a confidence that if she wasn’t strong enough to get up then I didn’t think it was safe for her to jump. She got so mad at me and started crying and whining with intensity and determination. I wouldn’t budge and told her if she put as much effort into climbing as she did into the fit she was throwing, she’d probably already be at the top! We all took a break and swam over to a little cove with a waterfall to catch our breath and regroup. We climbed up to a lower ledge and found a rope that helped us scale up the rock to the top of the water fall and we all took turns jumping off the 30 foot waterfall. Sienna was in heaven!!! With this accomplishment under her belt she asked to try the other rock wall again. Evan and I watched from below and tried guiding her hands and feet, but this just became frustrating for everyone, so we chose to let Sienna problem solve and see what she did with it. With each little ledge she summited the beaming smile would light up the entire lake. I sat in the water TOTALLY amazed at this little girl who was quitting with devastation just an hour earlier and now with focused determination was scaling a 40 ft rock wall!! At each ledge I reminded her that she could jump from there. There were so many times I wanted to demand she jump from there and limit her ascent, but I couldn’t put an end to the sense of accomplishment she was gaining. I was so scared and kept asking Evan if this was ok, and If he thought I should bring her down……. With a calm confidence, he assured me she was doing great and would be fine. There was a time when Sienna got stuck in a spot and couldn’t find a way to the last ledge to complete the climb I did earlier. She was scared and frustrated and everything we told her to do she said she couldn’t and she started to cry. I gave her the guidance and space to release those emotions and collect herself. I asked her if she just wanted to jump from there and without even answering she took a deep breath and continued her ascent….. before I could even finish my sentence she was climbing over the top and stood up there in all her glory with the biggest, brightest smile….. raising her hands to the air in her accomplishment and just kept nodding her head YES!!!! Again there I sat in complete astonishment!! Evan and I decided to climb up to celebrate with her and we all took turns jumping of….
We climbed again and Evan and I sat on the top ledge and I felt like I got hit by a truck….. Bam, here I was sitting up on a rock ledge and the world began to spin and I couldn’t help but gasp!! My breath was completely taken away from me in this perfect moment and I couldn’t help but want to examine all the decisions in my life that led to this perfect moment. How, if ANY of the decisions were made differently, this moment wouldn’t have existed. West Virginia was NEVER on my route until I went to Bali for a YTT and a stranger from another part of the country actually did the homework assignment and brought magazines for our Vision Board and she happened to bring one that featured the New River Gorge and I was awe struck by it’s beauty. I filed it in my mind as a place I may want to check out. When we met Kevin at my going away party in Delray and he invited us to come through Johnson City, TN…. WV was pretty close and seemed easy enough to check out. I started getting nervous about time and weather and we decided to head North quickly until my other friend AJ, reminded me to slow down and enjoy and we saw on TV that the North was experiencing a massive heat wave so we decided, what better time to explore West Virginia than now? That Saturday morning we were headed to Cathedral Cafe and passed the Farmer’s Market and Sienna asked me to stop and since I was embracing my “go with it” attitude I decided to be spontaneous. We chatted with people who recommended Vandal’s Kitchen and we decided to explore a different spot. I answered a call at breakfast and completely ignored my child who made a friend with a stranger who ended up inviting us on the river and, well….. you know the rest. But HONESTLY…. have you ever just sat in a completely MAGICAL moment and examined the life events that brought you to that moment? It’s a pretty profound experience….. I wanted to freeze time and just stay there forever! Unfortunately reality and a ticking clock jolted us out of that magical space and we knew the end time was nearing…… We jumped one last time and headed to our cars. We said thank you and good-bye about 100x and drove in opposite directions.
As Sienna and I headed back to our campsite my eyes began to water and they just wouldn’t stop until a full fledged flood zone warning was issued. I was overcome by the emotional response I was having and couldn’t entirely wrap my brain around the depth of the feelings. Sienna knew I was sad and simply stated, “it’s ok mama, I know how hard it is to say good bye to people who sneak into your heart……” and the tears fell stronger for the simplicity of her beautiful words!!!
One more plot twist is on the way so hang in there……
Love & Light Me