Gather 'Round the Campfire and Listen to Bizarre Tales of Days Gone Bye at Muir Valley
90-foot Vertical Cave
In the early spring of 2004, Just after the Webers purchased the land that would become Muir Valley and before any route development had started, Liz Weber hiked back past what is now Tectonic Wall and discovered the shallow cave with a high ceiling. This ceiling, up about 35 feet, was lighted very dimly, but from where? Did a shaft continue up to the top of the 90 foot cliff? It would be 4 years before Webers, who now owned the land above the Tectonic Wall, set off to further explore this cave. Rick explains: "We hiked around above the cave and found a four foot diameter dark hole in the rock. With headlamps we could see a floor about 30 feet down. We guessed these two might connect up. The only way to find out was to rappel down and hope that if there was a passage, it would be wide enough to squeeze through. Otherwise, I'd have to ascend the rope back up to the top. I geared up and started rappelling down to the floor. At this juncture, there was a small window looking out into the Valley, and this was the source of the dim light I had seen. I jogged over a few feet through a tight squeeze and then continued on down another shaft. I tossed the end of the rope ahead of me as I went and entered a little larger room where nesting material and a pile of bones of small animals lay. I guessed this had been used as a den for a bobcat. A few more feet of jogging and rappelling and I lowered through to the ceiling of the cave below, at this point being about 35 feet above the floor. I radioed Liz at the top, and she rigged up and followed me down. An enjoyable adventure."
Rick Weber rappelling down through the 90-foot vertical cave just to the left of the Tectonic Wall.
The 4-foot diameter hole Webers discovered above the Tectonic Wall.
Neighborly Lady With Shootin' Iron
Josh Thurston and Ron Bateman, two of Muir Valley's early developers were busily drilling away and putting up routes on the Bibliotek Wall when gunshots rang out and pellets pinged off the wall nearby. The guys made quick rappels and hightailed it out of the hollow. They notified the Webers who called one of the sheriff deputies that they were friends with and asked him how best to handle this problem. After all, this was Eastern Kentucky and folks do things differently down here. In a city, a quick 911 call would have been made.
The deputy said, " Aw, that's just old (name redacted). She don't mean no harm. Let's go talk with her."
We drove to her place in a remote location in the woods on a cliff across from the Biblitek wall and asked her why she fired warning shots next to the climbers. Turned out, she was just scared when she saw the guys and thought they were climbing up to do her harm. I assured her they meant her no harm and explained what the climbers were doing there. And the deputy patted her hand and advised, "Now, (name redacted) you hadn't oughta do that no more, okay? And that was the end of that.
Later, a three Muir route developers visited her to help allay her fears and volunteered to help her with some landscaping chores.
How the climbing route "Critters on the Cliff" got its name
In the early days of Muir Valley when rock climbing routes were being established at a furious pace, Karla Carandang and Jared Hancock were installing rock anchors at the Bruise Brothers wall when Karla heard a loud "plop" and turned to see that a huge rat snake had fallen from the top of the cliff onto her backpack at the base of the wall. Seemingly none the worse for wear, and having earned his wings, the serpent slithered off into the woods.
Car Over the Cliff!
Access to Muir Valley's emergency road is restricted for a good reason. It is one lane wide and can be treacherous for those not paying attention. A young climber decided to bypass the warnings and drive his father's brand new SUV down into the Valley. All was going well until it didn't. We called a local wrecking service that managed to retrieve the vehicle and send him home to deal with his father's reaction.
Pot Party Gone Wrong
In 2005, a neighbor to Muir came onto the property with several guests and a bag of Kentucky's finest cannabis and built a huge campfire. This wasn't the best idea as the winds were at about 12 miles an hour at that time. The fire jumped the fire ring and quickly started spreading up the slopes of Muir Valley. The pot party guests were way too high to keep it from spreading. So, over the next half hour, it had gotten a good start and was moving toward the main part of the Valley. The Webers and a bunch of people who were at that time climbing and setting new routes in Muir first smelled smoke, then saw it wafting down the Valley. They soon discovered the source and gathered together to see if they could help. Under the Webers' direction, they formed an ad hoc fire fighting team and tackled the blaze with trail building tools. By 4 a.m the next morning the fire breaks they dug stopped the fire from spreading out of the roughly 15 acres that it had burned.
It was disheartening, on one hand, seeing several acres of mountain laurel, rhododendrons, and small trees going up in flames. But, on the other hand, it was very heartening to see the generosity of the climbing community in a time of need.
It is worth noting here that forest fires in this part of the country don't get into the crowns of the trees to become raging infernos like the ones out west. They are more of ground fires and destroy bushes, plants, ground cover, and small trees up to about an inch in diameter.
Muir Valley has about seven miles of cliffline. That is an awfully lot of unprotected edges where things can fall over. And, through the years, lots of objects have taken a plunge into the Valley. These include two cows, at least three deer, one horse and some large trees. One of the cows and two large trees narrowly missed hitting climbers below.
Rick Weber was on a rope on the upper slabby section of "Animal Crackers" installing anchors. There was a commotion above where a coyote was chasing a small deer toward the cliff. The coyote stopped in time; the deer didn't. And, it went airborne, grazing Weber, and crashing onto the Valley floor below.