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West Virginia Trip Report 2008

We kicked the 2008 season off with a great week in West Virginia, doing some boating, teaching a clinic, and taking in the Cheat Fest. Here's Andria's report and some photos from our travels.

Spring Time in WV!
Spring means something different for everyone. As the weather gets warmer, some can't wait to mow the grass or garden. For me, I am a gypsy--I crave the road, new places, new experiences, and because I am a river gypsy, I feel most comfortable living in a vehicle with smelly wet poly pro, not knowing what day it is, and kicking back with a beer reminiscing about the day's paddle and making plans for tomorrow's new river.

The River Gypsies' tour has begun with our annual pilgrimmage to one of our favorite places on earth: northern West Virginia. This area is very unique. Life is slow and simple for most, cell service is hard to come by, the roads are often steep and unpaved. The mountains are low and plateued with awesome views of the grassy country side dotted with golden dandelions and dairy cows. Here is where I would put the picture I took of that, but my camera lost all my pictures--sorry. Anyway, these mountains may be small but they sure do hold some of the world's most fantasic whitewater. This year these sandstone rivers have been blessed with an abundance of spring rainfall.

We arrived and drove down a crazy four wheel drive road in the rain to camp--I love having a 4WD home! We awoke the next morning to sleet and being stuck in the sand. We had a fun morning of getting ourselves out of the mess and then headed to the Big Sandy take out to wait on boaters. We waited almost all day and finally a crew pulled in--a bunch of guides from Wildnerness Voyageurs. A lot of them had just returned for the season and were ready to go boatin! We got to the put-in and and found out the level was 7.1 feet--higher than I had ever done it and most in the group! We were a little nervous! We surfed some awesome waves at the put in and proceeded downstream. My fear faded as I realized that it was good fun class III/IV at that level. We needed to stay on our toes for wood and big holes, but the river was really friendly at that level. Here is Drew Eastman firing up Wonder Falls:

photo by Susan Hollingsworth

We made some good friends that day:

Upper Yough guide Megan Smith and kayak instructor Susan Hollingsworth

We got to the biggest rapid, Big Splat (class V), and after watching 2 guys go, I decided to give it a go too:

photo by Susan Hollingsworth

After some deliberation because he was in a playboat, Leland fired it up too:

photo by Susan Hollingsworth

Leland ended up getting down and personal with the hole at the bottom of Big Splat which resulted in a thorough beat down and a removal of the spray skirt from the cockpit rim of his kayak. Way to go Leland--starting the season off right! Eric and Lou rescued Leland's gear down below--a BIG THANKS to those guys. We had a wonderful rest of the day and really enjoyed paddling with that bunch.

It remained rainy and cold for the next few days, and we continued to wear out the Big Sandy with good water in it each time getting to kayak with friends. We also got a Top Yough run in at 450 (class IV/V) with boating legend John Regan.

On Friday, our 2 day creeking clinic began. We had a perfect water level in the Top Yough for teaching, 350 cfs. After scouting, running, and some portaging of the first huge sandstone slide, Swallow Falls (class IV/V), we proceeded downstream to work on boofs. The Top Yough is a great river for this because it has many boulder gardens and ledges with classic boofs. It was a great day, finally turning warm and sunny and everyone in the clinic was showing progress. We had an awesome day!

The next day, we did the Big Sandy at 5.5', a good low level that is also good for teaching because the water is moving slow on the way to the drops, making the timing less of an issue so that people can work on the placement of the stroke and body position. The Big Sandy is a gem because we could work on boofing and also on waterfall technique at Wonder Falls, a straight forward 18 foot drop. I finally convinced Leland to take some pictures! Here are the boys learning how to 45:

Jon Arnold

John Greer

Jim Carter

Bruce Best

Jeff Kahn

Learning to get forward off of a drop is a difficult task--I am still working on it too!

Here is boating legend and owner of Whitewater Warehouse, Bernie Farley, dropping Wonder Falls c-1 syle:

After 4 Big Sandy runs and 2 Top Yough runs, Leland and I were tired after not much paddling all winter! But now we had Cheat Festival and the Cheat Canyon was running at optimim flows, so we had to suck it up and keep going! Here is where I would insert my pictures of Cheat Fest, but my camera also lost those. The day after Cheat Fest, we crawled out of bed and noticed most people had already left and the cold and gray had returned. We looked up at the raft that was still up on the van racks that we had planned for Leland to row to train for Marsh Creek (Middle Fork Salmon) in a couple of weeks. We felt very unmotivated. Time to suck it up--the river was calling! We uloaded the raft, frame, oars, and the most important part, the cooler. We put it all together and carried it to the river--how do you rafters do that all the time? Rafting is alot of work! We put Hudson's (our dog) life jacket on and I grabbed the small Rev and we headed to the put in.

Andria in the small Rev. The sun came out and it turned into a hot and sunny day!

The Cheat canyon is a magical place. There are sandstone canyon walls and lush vegetation.

Leland and Hudson practicing for the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

The rapids are pool/drop at this level (2.5 feet on the Albright gage) and the play was fantastic--many many awesome surf waves.

Susan Hollingsworth surfing it up in the small Rev.

We boated with the Wilderness Voyageurs crew again. They were a really great group of people who obviously love to be on the river. Many thanks to them for hooking us up with rescue, shuttles, and good company. A special thanks to J-Rod for showing Leland the raft lines and bringing the lunch!

Leland takes a break in the sun with Hudson.

Andria and Leland taking a lunch break in the sun.

I can't wait for more days like these!