Monday, September 29, 2008

Article on the Whitewater Side of Life--For Many, Including Me, Its not Just a Hobby, but a Passionate Lifestyle

Why Ride a Raft Down a Wild River? --Wil Hansen

The sport of rafting allows you to experience remote wilderness environments, high adventure, and a rare level of self-sufficiency. If you're lucky enough to live near a white water river, it's a great way to spend a day in the outdoors. If you take an overnight river rafting trip you can camp out in comfort, in a deluxe spare-no-frills style, because rafts can carry so much gear, fresh food, and your favorite beverages. By carefully selecting the river and flow level or season of the year, you can bite off as much or as little physical challenge and adrenalin-pumping thrill as you can handle. Whitewater rafting is high adventure with a bit of an adjustment knob!

White water rafting is very much a thinking sport. If you’re rowing or paddling a big rapid, it's like a chess match against a force of nature. If you let down your concentration you get your butt kicked, sometimes figuratively, sometime literally. Your angle to the current and position relative to obstacles and your optimal 'line' through the rapids are critical. Each maneuver sets up the next. And when the current slows, you can just sit back and enjoy some of the best scenery on the planet as it drifts quietly by. If taking the oars and the responsibility isn’t your thing, you can sit back and let expert river guides handle the boat and take you to places you simply will never see any other way.

River rafting is also a social sport. Where else can you live and travel with a group of friends and/or family for days or even weeks at a time and together tackle the challenges thrown at you by the natural environment and the adventure of wilderness isolation? And each afternoon, when you beach the rafts at your campsite, you've arrived at your own little Margaritaville!

Off the water, white water rafting becomes an eating and drinking sport (at least to the degree that this is a good thing!). The best wines I drink all year are consumed from my polycarbonate wine glass while sitting in a beach chair beside a river, in the middle of nowhere. I get to gaze at outstanding scenery and share the company of good friends. And then we cook up a feast, do a little fishing, or play games, and then relax around the campfire. When we wake up tomorrow, we’ll do it all again. We spend the day running rapids, seeing the sights, and exploring the secrets of the river corridor. The sport of white water rafting has it all!
The amazing mix of excitement, comfortable camping, and natural beauty that is white water rafting is very addicting. If you've read this far, you've probably already fallen under its spell.

A Day on the River
An amazing aspect of multi-day white water rafting trips is the irony of the daily routine. On one hand you know precisely what you will be doing today and tomorrow, and the next day, which is, having fun, travelling downstream.
You'll break camp each day, load the gear onto the boats, pull away from camp, out into the current, and enjoy those first few miles in the morning which are always a special time to be on the water. You'll stop to scout rapids, and stop for lunch, goof around, and explore the historical and natural features of the river corridor. And then in the afternoon you'll make camp, maybe hike or fish a bit, play games, eat dinner, and sit around the evening campfire until the embers die away.

But each day will be brand new in every other way, with its own unique sights and adventures. Maybe that's what makes casting off in the mornings so fun. Each morning, you know you won't see that camp again; everything today will be brand new. Not only is the sound of the flowing water invigorating, but the whole day is set out before your, for you to encounter and enjoy. You live the life of a nomad, a wanderer. The river takes you away, and reveals to you the rare experiences that are together, a river rafting trip. You'll learn what's around each bend as you move downstream. You'll see it all, and experience the magic that is moving water, the excitement and adventure of the rapids, the solitude and silence of the calm pools.
After a day or two of this wonderful ironic routine, you’ll undoubtedly slip into a mental state that we river runners call 'river time'. Your mind downshifts to a more primitive mode. The cares and stress of your life back in the 'real world' slip away. Here, on the river, there is no rush, except the rush of moving water. For you, nothing must happen urgently. You take it as it comes. You savor it. You relax.

Pick a rock or a nice place on the beach. Settle in. Take a nap, read a book. Chat with your friends. Indulge your hobbies of cooking or photography or knitting, fishing, hiking, or whatever it is. Read your maps; find the old homestead or mining claim up that gulch behind camp. Look for traces of Indian camps, pit houses, and ancient art work. Soak in a crystal clear hot spring with a glass of wine, and the wilderness scenery all around you. Imagine life in the corridor thousands of years ago. Most of the river corridors in the western US have been inhabited for 5-10,000 years and more. These are places human beings like to be.

Chances are it looked to those folks as you see it today - except the wine glass, and the tent, and the camp kitchen, and the folding chairs, and all the other conveniences of a modern river rafting trip.

If you're on a river, you are one lucky person. May you find your fair share of 'river time':

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back from the Gauley and West Virginia

We pulled out of our driveway in Collings Lakes at about 4am. Al and RJ left a couple hours later. We made great time --a little over 7 hours. Since it was too early to check in at Mountain Lake Campground, we decided to check out the new Wood's Ferry Put In. The "official" public launch is below Ender Waves on river right at a sandy beach. Most will use the commercial boat launch upstream --who wants to drag rafts thru the sand?

We got to campsite 310 a little after 2pm and started setting up camp. There was only one tree so I didnt get to put up my hammock : (

After setting up camp we decided to hike the Long Point Trail that takes you to a great cliffs overlooking Summersville Lake. This was a relatively easy hike, mostly thru the woods, with lots of deer. The hike is about 1.75 miles each way.

How can you beat such a cool view

Falling off the edge was NOT an option

Climbing around the crevasses near the cliffs were fun

Jayson didnt seem to mind that the "cracks" sometimes dropped 30+ft below.

Since the road leading back to camp was all on campground property, some of us took the high adventure ride on the cooler hitch.

Roxie's Whitewater Taxi

Next morning we drove down to Swiss and left the X-terra at our Lower Gauley take-out.
We drove to the Wood's Ferry put in, which had plenty of parking since we got there early. We launched at about 10:30ish. The water was still rising, but still fairly low. Todays release from Summersville dam was only 2500cfs--which is about 300cfs short of full release --We were probably riding at about 1800cfs--we were hoping to get to Koontz Flume a bit early to get some extra surfing in---but it was still a little to low to get a good surf outta 5 boat hole

bottom of the Wood's Ferry boat ramp

Al was celebrating his success at guiding Backender Rapid

RJ and Jayson

Mark, Al and myself took turns in each of the rapids. Most rapids were fun but uneventful--however--(theres always a however on our trips!) Al fell out at the bottom of Lower Mash. Mark was now guiding B.F.R rapid--he hit the funky L shaped hole and we got smacked around a bit. The raft kicked up sideways and emptied the contents of the raft except Jayson. He laughed at our swim to his later remorse. Our other eventful run was at Class V Pure Screaming Hell. Everything went schwimmingly until Hell Hole. Seems at this lower flow Hell Hole got more of an attitude. We hit it straight, and I immediately got launched and slammed forward on our cooler--Al and RJ were busy digging to get out of the hole but to no avail---i tried to return to my guide posititon --but the back of the raft got sucked back into the hole, the front of the raft shot skyward, and out tumbled everyone but Mark and Cori. The Lower Gauley is SUPPOSED to be easier than the Upper and here we are at a swim count of 10 !! Cant wait--to see how things pan out tomorrow.

We got to the take out, left Al's Mountaineer at Wood's so we wouldnt need to run shuttle tomorrow. Went back and got cleaned up at camp and went out to La Carreta's for dinner in Summersville.

Day 2 The Upper Gauley

Day 2 blowing up the raft at the Upper Gauley put in

Looking back upstream at Summersville Dam

Saturday morning and had to fix an issue with one of the valves on the raft. God knows how badly it would suck to loose air in half the raft while on the Upper Gauley. But Al, and Mark jimmy rigged that sucker like the true redneck rafters they are!! Duct tape rules!!We hooked up with some of our friends, (-aka--saftey in numbers!) We were boating with Clif and Biz, riding in Clifs red Avon, and Courtney and Cornbread in Cornbreads new shredder. There were a couple more shredders, and a green raft also in the group. Cornbread's friend Ellie was down from NC and never seen the Upper G before today, so we invited her to join our boat. Ellie quit her job back in NC in order to do the Gauley---now there's a chick who understands priorities!! Thankfully she had an awesome first time down (as opposed to her having big traumatizing swims on her maiden voyage)Thankfully too was us getting thru my "nemesis' rapid--Insignificant--despite the fact we dropped into the big pourover sideways!! But no swims (Thanks Earl for sparing us!)

Cori (L) Ellie (center) and Mark (L) below Insignificant

Courtney (L) and Cornbread (R) in her new shredder

Whitewater groupies below Insignificant

Great line in Pillow Rock, awesome hit in the Hawaii 5-0 in Lost Paddle (Got some big air on that one!)

Clif (L) and Biz (R) hovering in an eddy below 4th drop of Lost Paddle (V+)

We smoothed thru Iron Ring. I was nervous about Sweet's Falls, since the previous 2 seasons I dumped at the hole in the bottom, and was further bugged by the fact my friend Dee told me that her last run a few day back involved slamming into Dildo Rock. But alas, we nailed the line in the crease of the falls perfectly. We did however wind up almost flipping in the box. We got stuck in the Room of Doom-when we tried to paddle out we got pinned on the rock guarding the exit and dropped Cori, she got sucked into the R.O. D but luckily we plucked her out. We lowsided and squeezed out the "poop chute" and that was that. Of course the river paparazzi were all over the rocks at the Box and were droolin for bigger carnage. One of em kept obnoxiously blowin their whistle---I would have loved to force feed him his whistle.

Looking back upstream below Sweet's Falls--Postage Due Rock has all the people standing on it --the far right corner is the exit to the Box where you see the current flowing behind Postage Due

Another upstream view--notice the crowds surrounding the Falls---these people are serious about their carnage!!

and are usually never disappointed!!

After making Sweet's--we also become bloodthirsty carnage-mongers!

Cornbread and Courtney hanging out with the Creature Craft

Summary of 2 river days:

Gauley river has claimed 11 swimmers.

Al-3 swims, RJ-2, Rox -2, Cori 2, Jayson-1, Mark-1

Time to get dry, go to GauleyFest and drink lots of beer.

2nd best thing after whitewater--sitting around a campfire drinking beer.

and the Gauley River Swim Team would agree!

Day 3 Upper Gauley Part Two

Today Ellie felt confident enuf to try the shredder on the Upper G with Cornbread. Since I guided the entire Upper G yesterday---Mark was takin' over the guide position today. The raft and shredder were the only inflatables in our group today---the rest were CB's kayaking buddies and boyfriend. RJ and Jayson got 'tongued' by French Kiss Rapid after falling out after dropping over a small pourover---thats what happens when everyones busy talking in the middle of a rapid. Next Al fell out in Pillow Rock after getting pummeled in Train Wreck Hole. HA!! The carnage is STILL risin! But Al grabbed the strap and got dragged thru Pillow Rock like a champ.

Our next order of business is to create a diversion for Cornbread. Her boyfriend Mike, who was kayaking was planning to ask CB to marry him at Iron Ring---he was planning to hold up a big sign. Cornbread had other ideas at Iron Ring---her "nemesis" rapid that she has swam at least 8 or 9 times. She announced she didnt want to pull over to stop cuz it made her feel like throwing up--she just wanted to run it and get it over with. Just then our raft "mysteriously" was deflating and needed to pull over to pump it up. Of course we were full of hot air--but it was enuf to trick her into pulling over. We were all happy she said yes and promptly ate her engagement ring. (She was given a RingPop substitute until they could get off river) Of course eating the ring has now made her want to puke.

Getting engaged at Iron Ring

We had another sucessful run at Sweets and ate lunch at AW's old lunchspot on the cliffs on river right---the 2nd best place to watch carnage. After we had our fill of food and carnage--we paddled over to Postage Due--I took pix of Al, Cori and Jayson jumping off and swimming The Box.

Sweet's Falls from the lunchspot

Mark in the eddy behind Postage Due Rock

Creature craft entering The Box Canyon

Getting pinned. The "exit" is to the right. The "poop chute" is left of the pinning rock and the Room of Doom is farthest left

Al, Cori and Jayson getting ready to swim The Box

Al goes first

Al successfully exits the Box-RJ and Mark hangin onto the raft

Jayson's underwater adventure thru the Box

Cori himmin and hawin' before finally jumpin in

Hey Jerry! No black eyes thru the Box!
These swims dont count because they're voluntary!

Final summary of the Gauley
Gauley vs Adams
Gauley wins at 14 swims!

1st place: Al Sullivan at 4 swims! Mash, BFR, PS Hell, Pillow Rock
2nd place: RJ at 3 swims! BFR, PS Hell, French Kiss
3rdplace: 3 way tie with 2 swims! Rox, Jayson, and Cori
Last place: Mark with only 1 swim at BFR
Flips: BIG FAT 0

Day 4: Pillow Rock
We got up at 8am, and slowly packed up camp. Courtney who camped with us left early to meet our friend Glenn for breakfast, they were planning on shredding together and planned to meet us at Pillow Rock for the Annual Gauley Race
We drove to Carnifax Ferry State Park and hiked the super steep 1/2 mile Fishermans Trail to Pillow Rock. A great place to hang out and watch all the boat run in varying degrees of success (or lack of)

Al and RJ picked out good front row seats

Watching G man and Courtney shredding a perfect run

Splitting the Toliet Bowl and Volkswagon perfectly

G and Courtney eddied out below Pillow and walked up the trail and hung out with us on the sidelines to watch the boats and Racers comin thru.

A Songer raft getting a good Pillow ride

Green raft gambling in the Room of Doom


I have a special admiration for those brave enuf to run the Upper G in an inflatable kayak

Hiking back up the trail was a real treat, in fact 3 days later and my thighs are still talkin to me. The ride home always sucks---we miss the Gauley already. RJ brought home a souvenier in the form of a speeding ticket thanks to the wonderful Gestopo of the not so friendly Friendsville MD and their lovely downhill speedtrap.

With any luck, Mark and I might try to sneak in one more Gauley day over Bridge Day weekend in October--if not--guess we'll have to keep busy til next gauley season