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December 20, 2016

Cliff Jumping Friends | NH – VT – NY

An Instagram Message began it all…

Adventurer and wild man Patrick Gianniccini reached out to the Big Swings team showing us his itinerary and general plans for a five day cliff jumping trip in Northeast America. Patrick had used the Big Swings App to find all the locations and was contacting us regarding our team joining in on the trip. Patrick had included some of the best locations in North America. Our crew jumped at the opportunity that was presenting itself and gratefully took Patrick up on his offer. It’s exciting to meet new cliff jumping friends.

The Furlongs | NY

A month later, with the cars packed to the brim, we set out on another cliff jumping adventure. Our first stop and original meet-up location was The Furlongs in New York State.

Arriving in the later portion of the day, the sun had already dropped below the horizon. We parked our cars excited to meet the guys we were about to spend the week with. Maryland cliff jumpers Partick Gianniccini, Ronnie Clark, and Nick Evans had arrived at the location some hours prior and had already set up home-base.

The group made each other’s acquaintances, and we sent some cliffs before there was no daylight remaining. As we dried off and changed into warm clothes, the night set in quickly around us. The crew made Standing Burritos for dinner which consists of: ground beef, taco seasoning, and some veggies tossed into small bags of crushed up Doritos. We spent hours telling stories and hyping ourselves up for the upcoming week before we crashed out cliffside in our hammocks.

Upon waking up, we were met by a brilliant dewy mourning.

The sun was already hitting the pool and small waterfall below the bridge, illuminating our first glances of the day. The water was a tropical turquoise hue and at the same time completely transparent. The cascade from the falls was small but beautiful as it poured down the moss-covered cliffside. After breakfast, we spent the morning enjoying the clean mountain water and jumping from several spots, ranging from 14’ to the 55’.

We mainly stuck to the 34′ side-cliff , but later in the day, when Eric Arthurs and his crew appeared, we stepped it up to the bridge. Eric is a local of Fawns Leap- a spot just a bit south but still in New York. He is an avid adventurer and loves jumping. He came out to jump with the Big Swings crew for the day and is now one of us forever. We threw down with Eric and his squad for a few hours, cleaned the location, and discussed further plans before we pushed on.

Furlongs was an incredible time and a gorgeous jumping spot. We met great people, made amazing new friends, and really enjoyed this mountain valley for the time we got to spend there. After collecting 5 bags of garbage, we left this location much cleaner than we found it. Always #KeepItClean and #LeaveNoTrace.

Alstead Mica Mine | New Hampshire

Continuing on, we headed northeast towards Alstead Mica Mine in New Hampshire. With some luck we ran into a group of fellow adventurers who were locals to the area, Will Holtzman and Riley Worthen. Knowing the owner and the gate code, they let us drive right to the top of the mountain to set up home base- without the code this is a long, steep hike.

The dark waters tell of deep bottoms and unknown dangers. The cliffs rise from the water and cast amazing reflections throughout the small body of water.

Alstead Mica Mine

The road brought us straight up the mountain and around the back of the quarry. We came out of dense woods into an open patch atop of the mountain. A vista like we had never seen appeared before us as our new friend Will said, “You guys wanna camp here with us?”—we parked the trucks and canceled the camping reservation we had for that night.

We made our way into the Mica Mine. Pushing through some foliage the dirt below our feet turned to solid stone and moss. Alstead Mica Mine revealed herself as the path opened. We gathered atop the bluff peering in amazement.

The first thing we saw was the beautiful, blue water. As our eyes adjusted to the new surroundings, the cliffs and caves came into view. Moss encrusted cliffs and bright, vibrant pine trees all reflected perfectly in the still waters below. The rising, brown slate cliffs shown slivers of sparkling mica. The several hour drive seemed like a wink as we took in the second amazing jumping location on this journey. Knowing we had such an amazing camping spot just a hundred feet away made it that much better.

We made our way to the water and proceeded to do all of our safety checks.

Number one priority is safety! Along with measuring all the heights, we swim the water out with goggles and fins checking for depths, debris, rebar, and hidden underwater ledges. Practicing safety checks gives us all the information we need to determine if the location is jumpable or not. In past experiences, we have called off several jumps due to water levels or other unsafe surroundings. Along with safety checks, the Big Swings spotters always wear Kingii safety devices; even the best swimmers and jumpers can run into emergencies.

There are a few safe locations to leap from, each a bit higher than the last. The 53-foot point is the top when it comes to safety. There are bigger jumps here we decided were too dangerous due to underwater hazards and narrow landings. You have to know where to draw the line.

The group sent it from the cliffs until the sun left the deep Mica Mine.

Our new friends Riley and Will had camped the night before and had the spot decked out with everything one could need. These dudes came correct. We basically threw our hammocks up and were ready to camp. We all sat back in our chairs gratified from an amazing day of travel and jumping. A massive bonfire lit the night while we watched the sun set over the distant mountain peaks. Everyone talked cliff jumping and music all night as we enjoyed each others company. It was truly a night I hope to never forget.

The crew rose, stretched, ate some breakfast, and hit the cliffs. After sufficiently waking up via early morning jumping session, we packed up the cars and headed northwest to a location called Copper Mine, in Vermont. Riley and Will decided to join the group and drive up to Copper Mine with us to get another day of jumping in Big Swings Style.

Copper Mine – South Vermont

We entered a barely paved mountain road, cliffs of silver and red appeared as we passed into the thick, wooded mountainside towards our mysterious destination. The existing pavement quickly disappeared and turned into grass, red mud, and dirt as we climbed deeper. We found ourselves on a dual-tread path moving through a thick forest of pines.

Copper Mine deep in the Vermont forest.

Copper Mine

We listened to the Navigation in the Big Swings App and drove towards our destination. The voice led us down a now tiny path while branches scraped along the side of the truck. Suddenly, the thick Vermont forest opened up to the famous Copper Mine. The two ruts led directly to the edge of a long, narrow swimming hole with cliffs running the edges for the entire length. We parked the trucks on the edge of the mine and the group leapt from the cars with excitement. Everyone was ready to swim.

The water was blue-green and warm, surrounded by copper red cliffs.

The swimming area was around 200 yards long and 15 yards wide. With such a high content of copper in the water there was no algae, making the rocks non slippery. The group explored the location and decided the safest place to jump was about mid-way down the narrow gully. We checked the water for depths and debris and took our turns leaping from the 30′ to 40′ ledges surrounding this left-over, beautiful body of water.

Our squad had an excellent day enjoying the scenery of Vermont and beautiful waters of the Copper Mine. We met a bunch of really amazing people who chipped in during our cleaning efforts. The community is full of amazing people filled with passion, as soon as we pulled out trash bags everyone wanted to help. We managed to haul out two bags of trash.

Splitting ways with Riley and Will, we ventured towards a new location and camping spot. From Copper Mine, we pushed north towards -The Grotto, in Vermont.

The Grotto – Vermont

In great spirits, we woke up and unzipped our tents. The sun rays shining through the foliage of the Northern Hardwoods told us the day held great promise. We ate breakfast, hydrated, and checked all of our gear. We followed the navigation 1.2 miles to our destination. The Grotto is set in a sequence of quarries called Rock Of Ages located about an hour southwest of Burlington Vermont.  

Excitement pulsing through the group and trash bags in our hands, we entered the quarries.

Everyone was ready to send it off some massive cliffs. We gave ourselves two days to explore the area and hit everything we could on the property.

Arriving at our destination, the group was in awe of the massive quarry that lay before us. Grey vertical walls reflected against the still, blue waters; the cliffs reached up to the sky making even the most skilled jumpers take a deep breath and rethink everything.

After a good check for debris, hidden rebar, and underwater ledges we sent it one by one, two by two, and even three by three into the water. We worked around the different points while leaving the biggest jumps for day two. For now we stuck to the smaller side of the quarry with cliffs spanning from 2’ to 67’.

On day two, we went after the 110’ and 72’ cliffs… 

Unfortunately, the property owners were on site and we walked right into them. Consequently, that section of property was being used for a magazine shoot, and we were led off the property with haste. Only certain sections of Rock Of Ages are accessible for public use; this was not one of them. The property has paths that are legal to be on through most of the premises. It is illegal to be in the water. Aside from not being legal, and being completely on private property, these larger cliffs are no joke. A mistake here means death. Don’t mess around with these cliffs unless you’re a professional. Just because you saw someone do it on YouTube does not mean you can or that it’s safe.

We did get a chance to clean the area and got to meet some really amazing people yet again. Jacob Greene from Connecticut had driven with his best friends to spend a few days enjoying the area. He and his friends helped us clean up the location. We removed all the old beer cans and trash from the swimming hole. People like Jacob make this community grow in the best way. Thanks Jacob and crew! Even though we weren’t able to jump the big ones, we were stoked with our trip up to The Grotto.

Cliff Jumping Friends

In the end, it’s not always about the biggest jump or the most dangerous trick. Cliff Jumping is about the feeling of being free and alive, the feeling most humans spend their lives chasing. That’s exactly how we all felt, free and alive. Our shared thirst for exploration brought us all together and we left friends for life. Thanks to Patrick for putting the trip together and to all the people we met along the way. We can’t wait for the 2017 Man Trip!

The Grotto

The Grotto | VT