(Monday after Gauley Fest)
“So how was your weekend?”
“We fell in love”... with a river, a wave, and a boat, that is. Our first time down the Lower Gauley was absolutely amazing and all thanks to Jen, her husband Kurt, and Jeff. To think if they hadn’t posted that they were going to take beginners down the Lower Gauley, we would have missed out on the best trip of our lives. We were definitely both more than a little anxious to be doing one of the most talked about rivers ever. Who wouldn’t be though, after hearing all the Gauley stories floating around? The Room of Doom, Sweets Falls, the Big 5, Pure Screaming Hell ... with rapid names like those, it’s a surprise anyone new braves a trip down the upper or lower section.
First up was Koontz’s Flume We both knew it was just about the biggest rapid on the Lower Gauley, and seeing how we just couldn’t figure out what in the world a flume was, we ended up following Jen like fleas on a dog. We were so close that it’s amazing there wasn’t a multi-boat pile-up on the way down. Other than a short high-pitched scream let out by Annelies just before going over the “hump,” there were no real surprises. At least not until we saw 5 Boat Hole. “Swimmer’s on steroids!” More like biggest hole I have ever seen in my entire life! And to think that people actually surf in that monster, much less that we surfed in it.
Everyone was waiting in line to surf the hole. I thought to myself, “how can people not be scared to go in that hole?!” As I watched paddlers go in and out, I figured that if I didn’t go in, I’d regret it really badly. Finally, Astrid came up to me and said that she was going to surf it. After I saw her in there and still alive, I decided that I was going to go in, too. What’s the worst that could happen? I flip? No big deal. It was almost my turn and I was soooo nervous! Finally the moment came and I ferried out, right into the meat of it. My heart was pounding! It felt just like Swimmer’s, only the foam pile was over my head and so much water was splashing in my face that I could hardly see. I kept thinking to myself “keep your edge up and your arm down and you’ll be fine.” It was a blast. After a while my knee started to get tired and I realized I couldn’t get out!!! I kept trying to paddle out, but the hole just kept sucking me back in. I tried looking over my shoulder to get someone’s attention, but no luck. The hole finally kicked me out by some miracle and I paddled back into the eddy with everyone cheering for me. It was so amazing that I wanted to try again. On the other hand, I didn’t want to jinx it and we had a long day ahead of us, so I decided to leave it at that.
When we finally stopped for lunch was when I met the boat of my dreams, the Liquid Logic Skip. Jen let me try out her boat and everything just felt right. Later, I got to use it again at Diagonal Ledges, which is where I saw what that boat could really do.
Diagonal Ledges. That wave belongs in the movies ... glassy surface, a sprinkling of foam at the top, and an eddy full of eager boaters all waiting to try their luck on the wave of my dreams. I was in my GT, so I didn’t think I that I’d really be able to do much. But when I got on that wave, everything just felt right. I could spin, front surf, back surf, everything short of blunts and loops (not that I can do those anyway). While we were in the eddy waiting, a group of paddlers came in to join the line, all outfitted in Jackson boats and gear. Our dad said out loud, “look at that tiny boy in that huge creek boat,” only to have another paddler reply, “Dude, that’s Dane Jackson.” That’s right, the Jackson’s were among us.
They were all really nice and “EJ” even talked to us, asking Annelies how old she was. We think he wants to recruit her for his 16-and-under paddling team. I don’t blame him, though. Annelies looked like a pro at Diagonal Ledges surfing in Jen’s boat. That thing has a mind of its own. Jen told Annelies when they were switching boats that “it tends to want to spin, just go with it.” Spin and more! I’m still amazed at how good Annelies looked.
The day was over all too soon, despite the 11 miles of practically continuous whitewater. But when you’ve been paddling the Loop and Lower Yough all summer at under 2 feet, any new river is amazing. It truly was the best day ever and we can’t thank Jen, Kurt, and Jeff enough for taking us down. Everyone else in our group can’t stop talking about it, either. Now, if we could just figure out a way to do the Lower Gauley every weekend, we’d be two of the happiest sisters ever.