Over the weekend, Audrey and I went white water rafting in West Virginia at the New River with River Expeditions. I had been rafting before, but it was years ago. A few weeks ago, a Groupon popped up for River Expeditions offering half price rafting trips. We jumped at the chance!
The offer was for two nights of camping and one day of rafting so we headed down Friday with a caravan of friends, me and Audrey, another couple, and our friend who organized the trip. It was his idea to spend his birthday weekend on the river. Along the way, we stopped at the Route 11 potato chip factory and picked up some massive bags of potato chips (sooooo goooood). Their operation is surprisingly small in terms of manpower and they hand-season every batch of chips. It’s amazing to think that every Route 11 chip has been inspected and seasoned by a person, not by some fancy machine. They ship everywhere so the factory is sometimes open six days a week. If you’re interested in going to the chip factory, first, call ahead to see if they’re cooking, and second, only go out there if you’ve got somewhere else to go. Cause there ain’t shit else out there.
It was around 6 by the time we got down to the camp site and checked in. We pitched out tents and headed in to town for some dinner. Ended up at the local Bob Evans which served these horrifying apple pie fries, sliced of apples fried up with some caramel sauce on the side. They are un-good and not to be ordered ever. We got back to camp and just sacked out. We made the mistake of choosing the noisy camp site which meant we were surrounded by loud ass frat boys who spent the entire night drinking, yelling, and burning things. But I sleep like a corpse so I missed all that.
We woke up Saturday and headed down to check in. Unfortunately, Audrey and I were booked at a later trip time than the rest of our crew. It turned out to be okay in the end, but I was a little worried. I was looking forward to rafting with my friends and despite appearances, I’m not terribly good at meeting new people. We waved to our friends as they headed out on the first trip out and hung around until our trip was called.
The 9:15 trip was called and we got lined up to get our gear; helmet, vest, and oar. They call the vest a PV[something I forgot] and not a “life preserver” because it won’t preserve your life. It’ll float, but it won’t save you from a vicious, undercut rock. They gave us the safety speech on the bus ride over to the launch site. Now the last time we went a few years ago, they showed us a safety video which told us that if we fell out of the boat, we float on our backs, aim our feet down river, and let the current take us until the boat reached us. Now, they tell you to haul your soaking ass back into the fucking boat! If you pop out, swim your ass to the boat as hard as you can. Water good, rocks bad. Words to fucking live by.
We got to the launch site and hooked up with our guide and team. It was Audrey and me, another couple, three other ladies, and one dude. All of us were from the DC area. Got our boat in the water and headed down the New River.
We made it through our first few rapids without a problem. Apparently, our paddling rhythm was pretty good. So our guide asked if we were wanted to take the wild way down or the standard way down the river. Boosted with confidence, we all said we were in for a wild time.
There were two ways to approach the next rapid and since we wanted some wild action, he took us down the hard way. We all ducked down into the middle of the boat just as we hit the drop. As we hit, I flew out of the boat and down under the water. The water just sucked me under. I tried to swim up but it pushed me down right as I thought I reached the top. Finally, it spit me back up to the surface. I somehow managed to hold on to my oar the entire time I was under. I also found my left shoe that popped off in the rapid. I swam my ass off to the boat and hauled myself in. The climbing strength really helps when it comes to hauling yourself into something.
It felt like I was under for minutes. I was so disoriented and horribly frightened. I tried my best not to breath out all of my air. I was starting to panic right when I popped up. When I saw the video of the whole thing afterwards, I was only under for a few seconds. I’d like to say that the experience gave me a new taste for extreme adventure. But honestly, I was shaken for a good long while. Each time we headed towards a major drop, I braced myself a little extra expecting to go back into the drink. Fortunately, that was the only time. And I was the only one on my boat to go out.
The rest of the ride down the river was amazing. Even though I was still a bit scared, I had such a great time. The scenery is magnificent and the weather was absolutely perfect. The water was nice and warm and we had ample time to hop out of the boat and swim around. Living and working an urban environment, it’s easy to forget how gorgeous unfucked nature really is.
We got back to the saloon to meet back up with our friends who had gone on the earlier trip. Turns out that they got dunked as well. We swapped boating stories and watched the replays of our videos. It was only about 3:30pm when we got back in, but we were fucking starving. By the time the onsight restaurant opened at 5pm, we were ready to eat dinner. It was steak all around. I don’t know if any of us really tasted the food since we all wolfed it down in a matter of minutes.
We headed back to camp and lit our fire. The guy who organized our trip invented the greatest hot dog ever which I will talk about when I have a chance to draw the ingredients and all that. But it was a truly amazing dog. Audrey and I went to find our boat crew to say hey. They all came down together. We found them chilling with our boat guide all getting good and drunk.
It was time to turn in. And even though there were some assholes shooting fireworks into the trees, Audrey and I slept like logs.
15 FT WATERFALL
Gauley season is coming up in September so if you’re looking for some class 5 rapids and a really wild ride including a 15ft waterfall that you go over, the Gauley is the river for you. I’m not so sure I’m brave enough for a 15ft drop. Okay, if I’m tied into a harness, yeah, climbing I have no problem taking a 15ft whipper. But I think I’d need some convincing to take on the Gauley.
If you’ve never tried white water rafting or if you’ve always wanted to try, I highly recommend River Expeditions. They really take care of you. I would go again in a heartbeat. So get your friends together, get your tent ready, and head on out to West Virginia.