Monday, September 27, 2010
Wild, Wonderful West Virginia
So, this past weekend, Emily and I went with a group of friends to whitewater raft the Upper Gauley in West Virginia. Now, I have rafted the Upper Gauley about 6 years ago and I can only come to the following conclusion: I was just young and stupid enough back then to not know what the hell I was getting myself into. I am under no such illusions this time around. To give some background, the Upper Gauley is a section of river in West Virginia that is known for its Class V rapids. The Gauley is impounded by the Summersville Dam to form Summersville Lake. Downstream of this, recreational boating occurs. Every fall, for 6 weekends starting the Friday after Labor Day, the Army Corps of Engineers provides a series of twenty-two controlled releases for the express purpose of downriver recreation. These releases are collectively known as "Gauley Season" and water is released at approximately 2800 cfs (cubic feet per second). It is reverently referred to as the "Beast of the East" to serious rafters and kayakers. That being said, I am not a strong swimmer and now firmly believe that I have no business on the Upper Gauley. Four days before we went, a female student from the University of Illinois died on the Upper Gauley. It took them 7 hours to fish her body out. Two days after this, a seasoned kayaker was also killed on the upper Gauley. To keep it short, I was tossed out on the second of five class V rapids on the river. I went for a DEEP swim, popped up downstream and had to be rescued by a park ranger in a kayak. The only thing I could think was, "I'm trusting my life to a stranger and I'm completely okay with that." I was skittish/paranoid from that point on. Thank goodness our guide, Rose, was excellent and kept me from dumping the rest of the day. All things considered, it was fantastic sightseeing, an intense day of rafting and a fun weekend camping.