Fall Break. October 9 & 10, 2006
A girl in my class had the idea to get folks together (a bit of bonding & lots of fun) and go rafting on the Lower Gauley River in West Virginia.
She's an outdoorsy girl with rafting experience and her excitement was contagious.
I'd never been rafting before, so I was psyched about the trip. The couple of girls I'd become friendly with were kind of interested and we all decided to go together. I was so proud of myself...new friends!...how long has it been?
Anyhow...the planning process was a little frustrating but in the end it worked out well. $80 for a nights camping and a 4-5 hour rafting trip including lunch. Can't say it wasn't a great deal!
(Here I am staring at our cute guide)
We left early Monday morning...our rafting trip was scheduled to leave @ Noon...we left at 7:30am-ish (the professor was late!) It's an easy 3-hour drive to Lansing, WV and turned out to be a pretty one too...but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
After starting out about 20 minutes late we got the caravan going. 3 cars. Me, Sketter (pronounced Skeeter---don't ask me why), her boyfriend Daniel and Caitlyn were in one car. Jenny, Tiffany & her boyfriend (crap, i forgot his name...he's a military guy, though...army) were in another car and Dr. Faulconer (one of our future professors) drove herself - she planned to stay an extra nite.
We headed out South on I-81 to get onto I-64 West towards West Virginia. A pretty easy guess..wouldn't you say? Not so for our illustrious leader. As we approached the entrance to 64 Mr. Military guy entered 64 East...the sign plainly said "Richmond". Obviously the wrong way.
As you well know, no one can drive as well as me and I have a small problem with keeping opinions about others driving to myself. So, I immediately expressed my displeasure (which was great given our already postponed departure) and proceded to call Tiffany in the car ahead of us. She answered and I told her my worry...that we were going the wrong way and she responded "Good Call"...what? Duh. That's a pretty dumb mistake to make....
sidenote: later that night Mr. Military tried to make a joke and it backfired. see, none of us could remember what branch of the military he was in and folks kept asking...at one point someone suggested he was a marine. He said, "No way, if I were a Marine I wouldn't be able to read the signs on the way up here."...to which I immediately replied, "Well, you did go the wrong way this morning."...which got a good laugh from everyone...even Mr. Military.
....after correcting the directionary mistake (and adding another 15 minutes time) we were finally on our way. By now I was getting worried about getting to WVa on time and was rather ancy when another block tumbled our way....
Daniel, Sketters boyfriend and a Great guy I'd soon learn, tends to get car sick and doesn't travel well. On top of which, he gets very nervous and anxious when meeting new people and his stomach responds greatly to all of this. AKA- he needed to go to the bathroom alot. We'd already waited about 10 minutes for him when they picked me up that morning...and now we had to pull off the highway and stop again.
It was actually kind of amusing. He's such a nice guy...and we didn't know him well so we didn't want to give him too much shit about his problem. (Sketter explained all of this to us while we were waiting for him) So, we pulled off the highway and called the lead car in our caravan telling her to go ahead without us and we'd catch up...this turned out to be a really good thing because just before we had to pull off I'd begun to complain that the lead car was driving WAY too slow...not even with freakin' traffic! It was making me nuts. As I mentioned, I tend to be very vocally critical of other peoples driving....when i'm alone there's lots of shouting and gestures along with the commentary.
When we finally got back on track, it was a really pretty and uneventful drive. The colors were still turning and the mountains were gorgeous. Caitlyn & Daniel slept the whole way. (caitlyn can sleep anywhere!...the girl was practically falling headfirst to the floor sound asleep)
We pulled up to New & Gauley River Adventures basecamp a little after 11am. We were supposed to meet the guides at 11:30am to prep for the trip. We quickly picked a camp site and threw up the tents since it'd be sundown by the time we got back. It wasn't horribly hurried, but not the laid-back setting up of camp that most folks are used to.
We made a potty pit-stop and headed to the parking lot to meet the guides and have a safety talk. At this point we talked some more about the temperature of the water...the day was gorgeous and the water temp in the 60s...it was then I decided to rent a rafting shirt. Its a waterproof material shirt that slips over your head, has elastic waist and sleever and a velcro enclosure at the neck. Since I had no other shirt protection...just my swimsuit...I thought it better to rent a shirt than take my chances in a cotton t-shirt. Thank goodness I made this decision...i don't think i'd have had such a good time if I hadn't.
It's a 40 minute or so bus ride (yes, an ANCIENT school bus smelling strongly of must and mold) to the river site where we'd put in. A nice ride, we chatted and ate trail mix (as most of us hadn't really had a proper breakfast)
After a rather precarious and scary ride up the VERY NARROW mountain roads in the bus we had to disembark and hike about a mile to the river carrying our vests, paddles and hemlets along the way. Luckily we didn't have to carry the boats, another truck was able to get closer down by the river.
Our group before rafting...much adventure to come.
me, 4 classmates from Blue Ridge, a professor from our program and 2 boyfriends.
When it came tome to choose seats on the raft Caitlyn and I ended up in the rear seat nearest to the guide at the back. Of course, AFTER we'd picked seats the guide told us that we were in the seats where people usually get tossed out of the boat. Thanks a bunch! Of course, no one would switch with us...but hey, it's an adventure, right?...We got under way and couldn't have had better conditions..the water was up, meaning we'd have some good rapids (i think thats the logic, anyway)and the sun was shining. Before heading to the first rapid we practiced paddling and turning and learned the calls that the guides use. ("take a break"=stop paddling, "back left/right"=paddle backwards on the left or right side, "all back"=everybody paddle backwards...etc...you get the gist)
We seemed to get the hang of things pretty well.
Now, during our safety talk and just before getting to the first rapid our guides were adamant about listening to their commands if we were to fall out of the boat while in, or just before, a rapid. Before each rapid they'd tell us which way to swim if we fell out...always emphasizing to swim towards the shore and away from any large rocks...
So we headed into our first rapid...we hit a small wave and my stomach jumped a little...this was fun!
Then, we hit our first large wave (the first rapid we hit was a class III)...before I knew what happened I had gone feet over head backwards into the water...oh, yeah.
The water was COLD. So cold that it took my breath away. All I could think of was what our guide had just said...swim left!!! to avoid the big rock coming up.
SO, i swam left. I felt that I was doing pretty good...following directions well...at least I hadn't gone under the freakin' boat!
Then, I heard everyone in my boat calling to me...to stop swimming so they could come and get me. Apparently, in my furvor to get to shore I'd unwittingly swam AWAY from my boat which could've picked me up almost immediately after I'd fallen out.
So,I stopped swimming and continued to catch my breath while starting to worry how in the hell these little people in this huge boat were going to haul my considerable weight out of the water and back into the boat. Well, it turned out well. With considerable effort the guide and two others hauled me in. Talk about THE most graceless moment ever experienced. I don't think i've ever felt more awkward than when trying to figure out where the hell my limbs were and how to use them to traverse this wet, plastic boat. NO ONE can look cool trying to do that. (and I'm nowhere NEAR cool to begin with!)
I actually was really relieved to fall out...after it happened once, I wasn't as afraid of it happening and kind of knew what to expect. Staying in the stupid boat is no easy task. My knees and ankles killed me for a few days after.
The rest of the trip had plenty more excitement and TONS of beautiful scenery...by the end I'd fallen out twice, so had Caitlyn and NO ONE else in any of the 3 boats in our group (we had a big boyscout troop from Kentucky with us)had fallen out. We did (many of us) jump from "Orgasm Rock" a huge rock just past some rapids...we had to paddle to the back of the rock and hold the boats together...climb up the rock...yes, i needed a little push from below to get started but I did it!...then jump off. so much fun!!!!
Before we jumped the guides explained that the best way to do it was to cross your ankles and cross your arms in front of your chest...well, it was all I could think about...jumping in the right position...well, true to Mariah-form, when it came my turn to jump..just after launching off the rock my brain decided to ignore that good advice and instead I grabbed my nose (what the hell was I thinking?) and splooshed below....pics are below:
Just Before Jumping...
Wide shot of my infamous jump from "Orgasm Rock"
Close up of my absolutely fabulously graceful form while jumping...HA!
Anyhow...it was a GREAT time.
We had lunch on a rock in the middle of the river and most of us snoozed on the way back to base camp. We made hobo packs for dinner (ground beef, frozen veggies, potatoes and some spice in foil and chucked into the fire to cook)they were really good! I hadn't had those since girl scouts. We all slept well and had an uneventful trip back the next morning. It was great...some of the girls want to try the Upper Gauley next year. NO FREAKIN' WAY. People die up there...but I'd do the Lower again! I won't be scared to fall out!
For more pics check out my snapfish site. If you need the link, email me.