I jumped off of a big rock yesterday. Anyone who knows me, knows, I’M SCARED OF HEIGHTS! I don’t like heights, unless I’m belted, buckled, or otherwise confined, like say, an airplane or a roller coaster. You do not find me on ladders over three steps, or high in tree stands, nope, I’m a chickenshit when it comes to heights. Oh, I’ve done some mountain climbing, but, I don’t look down and I don’t go very far up.
So, when we disembarked at a jump rock on the New River yesterday, I went right along, lemur-like, to jump off of this ginormous rock, which is older than Big Ernie himself, into a pool of water, undetermined in depth, but probably 20-30 feet. As I watched other rafters and my co-workers take the plunge, I really had no choice, since it was, at that point, the only way off of that little piece of heaven. The rafts had dropped us and then went around the point to pick us up.
I can’t begin to tell you how I had to force my legs to move and move fast enough that I wouldn’t be able to back out at the last moment. About two seconds into the jump I almost peed my pants because folks, IT WAS A LONG WAY DOWN!!!! It was the longest 5-6 seconds of my life. But, hey, I survived and it was the most terrifying 5-6 seconds I spent on the river.
The rest of the five hours, 59 minutes, and 55 seconds were spent paddling, swimming, running the rapids, trying not to fall off of the raft, and laughing my ass off. After one of the runs, we all took our helmets off and floated down the river on the current, our guide (a Mountaineer Gondolier) expertly guiding the raft beside of us. Candyman, our evening bartender, who was in the “sweep raft” (the last raft that picks up all of the people who fall out and can’t get back to their raft – our raft was at the front) was floating along and our Mountaineer Gondolier, Devo (not his real name), asked him if he had any new jokes… he’s a bartender, of course he has the raunchiest jokes out there! Candyman told one joke that made me laugh so hard I almost cried.
We got to swim a lot between rapids, we didn’t lose anyone from the raft, and I sat in front for most of the trip. IT WAS SO FREAKIN’ AWESOME!! The section of the river we were on had Class III – V, Class V+ being the most wicked. It definitely whetted our appetites for more, so GM and I are planning another trip, and perhaps we’re taking a few co-workers with us for an overnight Gauley trip.
In the Fall, they open the Summerville Dam which pours millions of gallons of water into the Gauley River, causing the most intense whitewater experience in North America, if not the world.
The New River flows under the world’s 2nd longest single arch bridge, The New River Gorge Bridge. Its beautiful isn’t it?
Now, imagine floating down the river, directly under that bridge. That’s what I did. With turkey vultures perched on rocks and peregrine falcons overhead, nothing to hear but the sounds of cicadas, splashing, and laughing. *Sigh*
Makes you glad a couple million years ago the Great Mother saw fit to turn a piece of swampland into the Appalachian Mountains – and the great rivers rose (and flowed northwards, in the case of the New River – which isn’t “new” at all and is generally accepted as possibly being one of the oldest rivers in the world, somewhere between 10 and 360 million years, give or take an millenia or two) and formed the great gorges and beauty that is West Virginia. There’s a reason they call it, “Almost Heaven.”
So, we adrenanline junkies are ready for another trip to whitewater country, to test our courage, mettle, and idiocy against Mother Nature. Sadly, I’m not going to have the funds for my trip to Oklahoma (unless a benevolent guest tips me $500!), so I’ll just go rafting instead. Its much closer – an hour’s drive by scenic route without pee breaks and sight-seeing. I’ll make it to Oklahoma, just not this year. Hell, maybe Oklahoma will come to me.
Anyone interested in white water rafting in the great state of West Virginia should visit the North American River Runners website. They rock! And, you should call me. I’d be glad to go along!