It was a bit out of the blue when my cousins invited my sister and I go to white water rafting several years ago. It was something I had always found interesting, but nothing I would have gone out of my way to plan on my own. I had always, however, secretly wanted to give it a try since my mom forbade me from going with my Girl Scout troop way back in the 90s. The invitation felt a bit like redemption, I would finally get my chance, and so we signed up to go.
The New River Gorge National River in West Virginia is a white water lover’s dream. They say it is some of the best rafting in the country, and while I can’t personally attest to that (having only been once) I can say that it is quite an experience. We left home in a caravan of people and gear in the very early hours of morning, heading for southern West Virginia and the put-in we would depart from. The morning seemed rather endless, given the three hour or so drive to our destination and then the task of inflating and loading all the rafts. It was hot and muggy by the time we were ready to go, but finally we were on the water.
It was still hot and muggy, but at least we were moving!
The New River Gorge is a beautiful place, and the banks of the river would be our home for the next two nights. We would spend three days traversing the rapids, stopping in late afternoon to set up camp and breaking it down again in the morning to move on. We were a large group, full of both experienced and inexperienced rafters, and it took a few hours to acclimate and learn the ropes. The main thing we were up against on this trip was not the rapids themselves, but the swollen river. It had rained a lot in the days and weeks leading up to our outing, and that meant the water was unseasonably high. This meant that some of the rapids were not as rough or fun as they might have been otherwise, and it also meant we spent a lot of time paddling with our oars to keep the fast moving water from shoving us headlong into the banks.
Along the way we picked up a goose we named Lucy, who followed our boats diligently and slept in our camp. Eventually we saw Lucy one last time, bobbing along with a group of Boy Scouts. She had to be somebodies pet, she was to used to people, though she was fearless and not the least bit afraid of the rushing water. What a goose!
We all faired pretty well until our last day, when it began to pour the rain. We were heading into one of the roughest sections of white water rapids we would have to pass through, all of us in our life vests and ready for action. There were huge swells of water here, and one of the rafts (not the one I was in, thankfully) ended up flipping. Everyone was able to hold onto the raft and eventually get back inside, but it was definitely a scary moment!
White water rafting and camping on the banks of the river is certainly nothing I will ever forget. I had a great time with a lot of people I love spending time with, and I made some long lasting memories.
If you’re interested in going rafting, I recommend finding a good outfitter with all the gear, equipment, and training to make it a safe and enjoyable experience. I’d also recommend starting out with a one day trip, just a few hours, to see how you might like the experience. Three days was a lot, almost too much, and while I had a great time I don’t think it’s an experience I’m looking to personally repeat.
Life List Item: Complete.
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