Bridge Day October 16-17, 2005
New River Gorge and the Lower Gauley
by Bob Kilbert
I was starting to almost doubt that this trip would ever happen. My goal was to kayak the New River Gorge and watch the BASE jumpers (parachuters). I was determined to do it this year! I knew this trip was going to be a logistical nightmare.
There was a major glitch in my plan for this trip. The New River Gorge Bridge and Fayette Station were both closed on this day. There was no way to put a take out vehicle at Fayette Station and the shuttle ride was looking like it was going to be an epic shuttle to get around the New River Gorge. I was determined to make this day happen.
My original plan was to kayak with my friend, Jane Brunette, from Cincinnati. Jane is “the person who inspired me to get into kayaking.” We were going to kayak along with a commercial raft trip since I know some river guides and the raft company owner. That plan backfired. The Park Service is strict with non-commercial boaters riding along with the customers on the buses. I had to start thinking of other plans.
After about a dozen or so phone calls to any lead, connection, friend, or anyone I thought could help us with the take-out on Bridge Day, I finally talked to the right person. I was able to obtain written permission to get past the police. Without the right credentials, they were not going to allow anyone to get near a take-out under the bridge. The take-out we had permission to use was a private takeout used by several rafting companies. Well, this was the first step in my master plan to kayak the New River on Bridge Day. Now I needed to figure out who was coming, camping, times, etc.
I wanted to keep the trip small since I had special permission to use a private take-out and I didn’t want to wear out the welcome for future years. I posted the trip on the message board and I got two takers, Ken Pasterak and his friend, MaryAnn. We ended up with eight people total for the trip on Saturday ... Jane Brunette, Susan Melbourne, John Rudland, Chrissy Zeltner, Paula Norris, Ken Pasterak, his friend MaryAnn and me. We all met at New and Gauley River Adventures around 9a.m. to begin our epic shuttle. The shuttle took about an hour and 45 minutes. We had to go all the way to Hawk’s Nest and Cotton Hill to get around the New River Gorge Bridge. This shuttle seemed like it took forever. We finally made it to Cunard and decided that we needed to hurry down the river in order to watch the jumpers.
This was John’s first time on the New River and he couldn’t have picked a better day to join us. We had a group of really good boaters, low water (7 inches) and beautiful weather. Jane and Chrissy lead the group most of the time. Both of them are amazing boaters and know the New River very well. The only rapid we scouted was Lower Keeney, which provided a good spot to take pictures and some video footage. Within about two hours from the time we put on, we made it to Fayette Station and sat there for a while to watch the BASE jumpers. We were able to watch the BASE jumpers and the rappelers for about an hour or so. After the BASE jumpers were done, we were able to paddle through and hit the next two class III rapids (Flea Flicker and Old Nasty) beyond Fayette Station. There wasn’t much to these rapids at the low water, but it was still interesting to paddle two more rapids that most people don’t get to paddle. This was now the end of the New River Gorge Bridge Day trip. We all lucked out with having warm weather, good water levels, and a great group of people to be with on the river.
The weekend wasn’t over yet for the group. We still had the Lower Gauley to paddle on Sunday. We camped Saturday night at Battle Run campground, which put us closer to the Gauley. Sunday’s trip was a smaller group consisting of Jane Brunette, John Rudland, Ken Pasterak, his friend MaryAnn and me. This was John’s first time down the Lower Gauley and only my second trip in a kayak. We put in at Bucklick and decided to take Koontz’s Flume to the far left for the easier line. It’s not the money shot for a good picture, but being this was my second time and John’s first, we decided the easier line was the way to go. We tried to take more of the conservative “sneak” lines where we could, but that wasn’t the case for all of the rapids. I got a little close to the big rooster tail at Rooster Tail Rapid. I came within about a foot of being munched at the rooster tail! For the most part, the fear of the Lower Gauley was pretty much gone from a previous weekend with Jeff Rahuba (my first run). My nemesis, Pure Screaming Hell, was the last one to worry about. Ha! Caught the eddies to the left and I was far away from that evil hole. After that, the day was pretty much over.
Finally, we were at the end of the trip. We paddled the long stretch of flat water to Swiss and the thought of beer was on my mind. Thanks to Jane’s boyfriend, Steve, our shuttle vehicle was already there. For the next hour or so, we stood in the field by our vehicles and reflected on what a good weekend it was and the good group of friends with whom we had spent the weekend.
Hopefully, this is will be the first of a series of annual trips!