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Almost Heaven...

West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, New River

Leaving Asheville our livers were telling us it was time for a couple of nights off, so after a quick milkshake we headed to West Virginia for some fun in the great outdoors. This started with a drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, in sight of the Shenandoah River. Nice!


Our destination was an outdoorsy holiday camp sort of place that specialised in white water rafting on the New River. On arrival we had a chat with the river guides. Turns out they'd had to cancel the rafting trips as the river was too high and rapids too big in the last few days, but our trip was still just about on.

"So how big are the rapids we'll be doing?"
"With the water level what it is some of them are class 5"
"5 out of what?"

So apparently there technically are class 6 rapids as well, but it's illegal to take the public on them.

Now, this all sounded exciting, but given the blame culture and over cautios health and safety rules they have throughout the US, I figured it would actually still be a fairly tame day. I was wrong.


Our trip started out with a lovely stretch of river like this, where we were instructed on how to handle the raft and how to respond to the guide's instructions, and had it drilled into us that if we ignore him or panic at a critical time we'll all be floating down the river in our life jackets, if we avoid getting smashed onto the rocks.
Once we'd got the hang of things we headed on to the first of the rapids, which was actually surprisingly big, exciting and great fun. As we all breathed a bit of a sigh of relief at getting through unscathed we asked the guide:

"So what class was that one?"
"That, well, I guess it might be up to a class 2 with this much water".
Right. We suddenly started taking things a lot more seriously.

The bigger rapids were genuinely terrifying. I was downright shocked that they'd take us through them with no experience and it was absolutely fantastic! Our guide was a lot more confident in our ability that I was and consistently headed for the biggest waves and roughest patches in the river. When we eventually hit the class 5ers there were standing waves towering above us. At one point even our guide lost his paddle and was in a flat panic as we headed backwards through some of the most dangerous bits. So much fun!

Here's a clip of one of the medium rapids, I think this one was a class 3. Jamie and I are clearly displaying the benefits of the strict Kings Road Cricket Club's training scheme, with our superior poise and balance.

Note how Jamie perfectly synchronises his headbutt/shouldercharge combo on the nice girl with my "paddle handle to the teeth" on her boyfriend. They weren't very impressed. Great days.

Posted by Matt Cocken 05:10 Archived in USA Tagged rafting west_virginia

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