Article added Thursday, October 5, 2000
The Real Beast of the East
Story by Julie Black with photos by Jason Black
So, what is Gauley Season?
Every year, thousands and thousands of people take rafting trips with
professional companies down the Gauley River in Summersville, West
Virginia. This 28 mile stretch of river below Summersville Dam has
well over 100 challenging rapids including "The BIG Five." That's
five class 5 rapids, class six being declared unrunnable in river
talk that is.
Drift-a-Bit says, "The centerpiece of our operation is our guides. We realize that our guides are our most valuable resource and therefore employ only personable individuals that we feel mirror our company philosophies of giving people friendly, personal attention and an exciting whitewater rafting adventure."
Speaking from experience, guides on the Upper Gauley DO make the difference in your trip down the river. It's a challenging day of whitewater, and like our guide said, "This is not a river ride at Disney Land. This is the REAL DEAL!"
The Night Before the Trip
I'll have to admit, I scared a few of them with that statement, but you have to harass the "new-bees" a little bit.
The fear in the air was thick, but mostly because no one knew what they were in for except for me, my Dad, and my brother. I'm no Upper Gauley River expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I've been down 4 times. Big water is BIG water, no matter how many times you've seen it. You just have to remember that anything can happen!
It's Trip Time...
Our troops looked psyched up, and most of us over dressed for the unseasonably warm water that was waiting for us. The meeting at Drift-a-Bit was professional, and our guide "Al", explained all the possible things that can happen on the river. The word I heard the most was, "FOCUS". He must have said it 10 times, but it sunk in I think.
Finally, after a bouncy ride on the bus, we were at the put-in. The
flumes were spitting out around 2,400 CFS, and for those of you who
don't know what that means it's A LOT of water. It's enough to make
8 foot waves come crashing in your face.
Here's a few tips to remember before you head down into class V
The best thing to do if you're on a rafting trip of any kind is:
Listen to your Guide - Seems simple doesn't it? Well, just remember that when you're dropping down into Insignificant Rapid (Click it to see it!), and you'll see what I mean. Your guide knows best. It's what they do.
Stay Focused - The river (especially the Upper Gauley), is no place to fool around. It's big water, but I've seen folks get hurt on easier rivers just because they were goofing around. Remember, that river was here long before you... show some respect.
Try to Work Together - Watch what you're doing, like your paddle going into the water. Get some good timing going on with the other rafters, you should try to work as a team. You're not professionals, but try to do the very best you can.
(* These are just a few points, and there are more, but this is what I remember
Our guide was an all around great guy. We found out a lot about him during the day, and although he had to yell at us to keep the boat online, he told us that it didn't mean that he hated us. Hey, it's hard to hear over all that water and people yelling out, "Ya-Hoo!"
It's true that there's plenty of rafting companies to choose from if
you decide to take a trip down the Gauley River, or the New River.
Out of all those choices, Drift-a-Bit sticks out the most
and I'll tell you why. They're down to earth people. Their guides
are excellent at what they do, and they're serious about it. Their
philosophy is simple, " Give folks the personal attention they deserve
while sharing our love of whitewater rafting and the culture of West
Drift-a-Bit has been a small outfitter and taken pride in remaining a small outfitter. There are other outfitters who have grown and grown, turning their customers into numbers and their facilities into "whitewater rafting resorts". At Drift-a-Bit you are not a number and they're not a resort. What they ARE is an outdoor adventure company committed to giving folks an exciting whitewater rafting experience in the scenic hills of southern West Virginia.
This must be why they have so many repeat customers every year. Repeat customers become old friends, and the reunions continue around the campfires, on the rivers, year after year. They've got some "new" old friends now, the crew from the NJ National Guard. That's right, our crew will return next year to the Gauley and all it's splendor, and we're going downriver with Drift-a-Bit.
Special Thanks... To our guide Al, who put up with us for hours with a smile on his face, to Pat Strader for introducing me to Drift-a-Bit, to Bill Bertsch (my Dad), who put this wonderful trip together, and to my husband Jason Black, who took some awesome WW pictures!