Having enjoyed our time in Morgantown, we made our way down to Fayetteville, West Virginia, and prepared for a weekend of Gauley River Rafting Goodness!!
46 weekends out of the year, the Gauley River is a pretty average boating experience. In the fall, however, everything changes. For six weekends (beginning the weekend after Labor Day) the Army Corps of Engineers provides a series of twenty-two controlled dam releases for the express purpose of downriver recreation. And for those six weekends –known as Gauley Season — the Gauley River one of the premier whitewater runs in the world.
It’s an epic experience every boater longs to participate in, and attracts over 60,000 adventurers every year! The Upper Gauley offers tremendous class III to V+ drops in steep, turbulent chutes, and rocky routes that demand constant maneuvering. It’s a constant thrill ride and definitely not for the faint of heart!
We were meeting a number of people there to boat with, including three HFAC raft guides. The first was Teakwood, a longtime Gauley and Shenandoah raft guide who had been one of my trainers when I started rafting. He had graciously agreed to spend the weekend taking us down the river, and brought his awesome family along to join in the fun!
Also joining us was my buddy Ian, a great young guide who has taught me much about the water. Ian was also my “Bro-day Brew-day” buddy over the summer and we spent a lot of time together exploring local breweries. Ian brought his girlfriend Erin, another good friend and fellow raft and zip guide. Ian and Erin are two of our favorite HFAC people, and we were super excited they made it down with us.
Also joining us was my world-exploring cousin Barry, who was actually part of our inspiration to live our mobile lifestyle. Barry has traveled the world, rafted the Zambezi River in Africa and other big rivers overseas, and was eager to try out the Gauley. Rebecca and I arrived in Fayettevillle on Thursday, and Barry flew in midday on Friday. My wife was kind enough to go get him from the airport, allowing me to run the Lower Gauley (class IV and below) with Teakwood, his family, Ian, and Erin. And we had an awesome time.
After a summer of dropping water levels on the ‘Doah, these raft guides were thrilled to finally be on some real water. The temperatures, both air and water were incredibly comfortable, and we had a great day. On top of the rafting we did, we got to watch Ian playing on down the river in his kayak, which was a lot of fun.
Rebecca, not one to waste time or opportunity, picked up my cousin and took him exploring around Fayetteville, checking out the New River Gorge Bridge, famous for the annual Bridge Day Fest, which we ended up attending a few weeks later.
We all met up back at our base camp for the weekend — the campground at Cantrell Ultimate Rafting. Our group enjoyed a great dinner and a bonfire, and talked about the next day.
Morning dawned clear and bright, and we loaded up for a Teakwood-guided customer trip. Teakwood has been working at Cantrell’s for years, and we spent several weekends this trip camping and rafting with them. It’s a family-owned outfitter, and we had a great experience with them. The showers are awesome, there’s a very convenient camp kitchen, they have both RV and tent sites, and a very popular bar with live music right one site! They even let us do laundry in an empty cabin on a few occasions.
One of the Cantrell family, Adam, was the guide of the other boat in our two-boat trip, and we had an awesome day on the river. Rebecca, who was a bit nervous, fell out almost immediately, ending up under the boat and popping up right next to me. While not at the top of her priority list, she was glad to get her first swim over with and get on with enjoying the rest of the trip.
Although I haven’t spent much time with my cousin Barry since we were both pretty young, we got along famously, and had a great time both in and out of the boat. Our group took a lunch break up on Postage Due, a rock overlooking Sweet’s Falls, and enjoyed watching boats of all sizes and shapes shooting the falls.
We made it safely to the end with only a minimal amount of swimming, and the next day, got up and did it all again! We had a tremendous weekend, and were very grateful for Teakwood showing us a great time on the Gauley River.