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Guide one day and you’ve got a story to tell: of the big wave that came crashing down at just the right moment, drenching your raft; of the copperhead that was coiled on a rock as you floated past; of the tremors and triumphs of climbers first introduced to a whole new vertical playground.
If anyone kept track of these things, the New River Gorge area just might have one of the highest guide densities on this planet. So, it might have a good number of stories floating around, too. We asked around….
The Moans and Shrieks of Semi-Frozen Trainees
I’ll never forget my first weekend of training to become a raft guide. We started training in Feb (or at least that’s how I remember it). We were training on the Cheat River and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground for the run on Saturday. The company had been nice enough to provide each of us with a wetsuit and paddling jacket that we got to keep for use on Sunday.
That night we sleep in the bunkhouse called the Cheat Suite which, of course, had no heat whatsoever. All the trainees hung their wetsuits over the railing on the back porch to drip dry as much as possible that night hoping they’d be dry and ready for the next day’s run. Since the temperature dropped below freezing that plan didn’t exactly work out. They became U-shaped popsicles instead.
The next morning the only way to get the wetsuit on was to insert the appropriate body part and thaw it out until you could slide it all the way on. I had suffered through most of the process when one of the trainers walked in. He stood there surveying the scene while listening to the moans and shrieks of semi-frozen trainees.
After shaking his head in disgust he grabbed his wetsuit and walked over to what we thought was a closet door in the corner. As it turns out it was a shower. He tossed his wetsuit in and cranked up the hot water. After calling us unintelligent people of questionable parentage he walked out without another word. —Tiny Elliott, currently of AOTG, formerly of NARR and AW
100 Pounds Lighter, but Faster
Every now and again, when there is an odd number of guests on our zipline tour, we get to race against one down AdrenaLine, a 3,150 foot-long zip and the longest on the East Coast. On a recent trip with an odd number, one of my trip’s guests was Joe, at least 6’5” tall and exactly 260 pounds (our weight limit). During the first five lines he and I had an ongoing banter about racing each other. Since I’m only 5’11 and 160lbs, he was very confident he could beat me.
As we approached the top of the final zip, his New Jersey trash talk was at an all time high and it was game on. Everyone else took their turn, then he and I stood atop of one of the highest peaks in the county and looked out above a large piece of Fayette County. Just when I was about to start the countdown he quickly yelled, “Ready, set, GO!” Joe got the jump on me by a split second and his stature gave him an even greater advantage. We soared down the dual lines, but he was easily beating me by at least 30 feet. I had the feeling that for the first time in a long time I was going to lose my AdrenaLine race.
Joe apparently knew this, for he made a victory gesture in my direction. Little did he know about the extreme air currents people experience at 300 feet above a valley (not to mention at 60 mph). His facial expression soon turned from one of assured victory to one of complete helplessness as he spun out of control, his legs and arms flailing like a child learning to swim.
I was still tightly tucked and closed our distance rapidly. There was only a quarter of the line left. As I passed him he was starting to regain control, but it was too late. I connected with the braking block at the end of the zip at 45-50mph just a second before Joe did. I wondered for a second, did Joe let me win? After being unclipped, Joe answered that question for me. He reached his hand out with fifty dollars. I had won fair and square. —Keith Kinsey, guide at Gravity Zip Line, AOG
That Girl’s Got Wheels
Of all the bike tours I have given my favorite trip was with a 9-year-old girl and her mother. They had booked a full-day trip, which depending on the participants can be up to 30 miles of riding, mostly off road. I was concerned that the little girl would struggle but her mom said she really wanted to go and it was all her idea. So we decided to give it a go.
We loaded up the bikes and headed out of town into the woods. I assumed she would make it over to Kaymoor just a few miles in and that would be enough. Many riders struggle with the first section of the trip and until this day we had never taken kids on that section.
I was wrong. She rode almost every section of the trail. If she liked a section she asked to ride it again. We rode all the way to Thurmond that day, 20-some miles in all. It wore out her mother, who would have gladly stopped at lunch. When we loaded the bikes on the van the young girl asked if we could just ride back to town. —Andrew Forron, owner and guide, New River Bikes
Cute Little Rabid Beast
On a very dismal rainy day in May, 2010, my clients and I had been on the river for at least 2 hours fishing the eddies along the right bank of the New River. The fishing wasn’t bad. We thought with a swelling river that we’d surely catch something big, maybe a musky or a giant New River small mouth bass.
It was a peaceful morning with idle fishing chatter and the snare drum of raindrops smashing into the hardwood leaves above us. We began to float down a shoal. Just as I began to pull on the oars, there was a deafening shriek.
At the bottom of the shoal, we wondered out loud about the unworldly sounds. Each of us admitted they scared the heck out of us.
We kept fishing and wouldn’t you know it…there was more whining, a shrieking audible rumble from the thick laurel lining the railroad grade above. It appeared we were actually being followed by something. I was bewildered and cautiously slid our boat along the bank.
No less than 25 yards from the island eddy, the thick underbrush immediately below the railroad grade erupted and the nettles shook violently as the creature approached the river’s edge. And then it showed itself as it careened down the steep graveled bank and leapt towards our raft.
I grabbed my fishing net and placed the basket underneath the monster just before it was absorbed by the turbulent flows below us. The eerie noises we’d heard over the last twenty minutes didn’t emanate from a rabid beast after all. My net was filled with a 4- to 6-week old puppy who’d apparently lost his way.
His name is Drifter and he’s still with me. It rips me apart when I see those puppy dog eyes telling me that he desperately wants to go with me as I leave for another day on the water. —Froggy, Mountain State Anglers