Soaked to the Bone White Water Rafting the New River April 13-15, 2007 by Bob Svercl

Soaked to the Bone
White Water Rafting the New River
April 13-15, 2007
by Bob Svercl

It could be said for a few instances over the weekend. But what a fun one was had! My usual worrying about a MUSG event came in the usual form: insomnia on a Thursday night. No surprises there. Just worrying that I didn’t have the money to get everyone there, rent gear, AND get everyone back. That plus making sure everyone had a great weekend. Friday came around and things began. Already we split our group up, most of us meeting at 2:45 to eventually leave at 4 (after a quick trip to get food and the usual wasting of time). Oh, and it was Friday the 13th, so much was going to happen out of the ordinary, and it did! On the drive to West Virginia, we saw many cops, and one (or two, actually) almost pulled me over on the way there!

I was driving about 100 feet behind and in the other lane of a white Corvette (and admiring the car with both of us driving at 85 mph) and see it suddenly slow down so I followed suit. A cop was waiting for us, and to my dismay looking back in the rear view mirror I see it start up and start following towards us. Luckily for me the Corvette was seen first and the driver immediately knew he was getting a ticket so he pulled over first and I didn’t get one. Then not more than 20 minutes later I get a call from Whitney in another car saying “That’s an undercover cop behind you” whilst I was at 80 mph (I slowed down and luckily nothing happened).

But my luck would not run too long. After finding Songer Whitewater and choosing a camping spot, Whitney then “christened” the 18th hole of a Frisbee golf course on the property (oh Whitney), and a few of us headed to get groceries. Not more than a mile from Songer I get pulled over (driving 80) by a cop! The cop walks up and starts questioning me about who owns the car. I try telling him it’s owned by my dad but I’m the one who uses the car. After some confusion (and I’m confused that he was confused!), he left and gave me a warning. “Whew!” I thought. Then the warning said I was going 20 over the limit, which wasn’t true and made me even happier I didn’t get pulled over. Of course I learned later that the road around there is a huge speed trap and they have one of the highest concentrations of speeding tickets in the nation. Needless to say, I didn’t drive within 5 mph of the limit the rest of the way! After a LONG grocery trip and much confusion within the Wal-mart (not our fault), we made it back and hung out at the fire with everyone else. Well, not everyone else! The last 5 of our group had left late and were having trouble with Kelton’s van, which has seen better days on the mountainous roads! Upon their arrival, we greeted them with hugs, hot dogs, and a warm fire. It was rainy but we made the most of it, as MUSG always does because it rains every time we try to camp, and I got to use my new tent for the first time!

Waking up Saturday morning last, as I was told it took a while for people to wake me up, I was glad to be dry for the first time on a camping trip and there were no puddles for me to roll into. Morgan, Lee, and Kelton weren’t so lucky, though. They ended up being next to each other in their tent on an “island” as the water had crept into Lee’s side of the tent (on a hill). The campground was soaked, but we were hungry and got some breakfast (according to Morgan, “That gravy was bangin'”). And Whitney demonstrated her amazing ability to piggyback anyone (even myself) by giving the then barefoot Lee a ride to the building. After getting wetsuits, we were hurried into getting on the bus. Now time for some whitewater rafting!

I, thinking I didn’t want to get my sneakers wet but didn’t want my feet to be cold, decided to wear just socks on my feet. Dumb idea. Lots of walking on nice, sharp gravel was had! My socks were destroyed, but the whitewater had more in store for us. Usual bus trip to get to the river, though we did make fun of a girl who had put her helmet on backwards. After splitting into teams of 6, we were ready for the water and got our rafts and guides. It was cold, with the rain coming off and on, but we were on the river. Kelton and Lee, resident Geography majors, taught us about the clouds forming at the saturation (or dew) point around the mountains. Melissa, our rafting guide, told us about the various mining towns that used to exist along the river, and we saw many places where there appeared to be caves! Oh, yeah, and then came the rapids!

I think a good majority of us (except Lee, yes we know, you didn’t!) fell out of the rafts and spent some time swimming in the rapids against our will at some point in time during the trip. Apparently with the rains raising the river by 7 and a half feet, the rapids were ideal according to our guides. Whatever, that just meant more fun, right? Here’s how my raft went vertical and I fell out, it’s told like a dream because of how fast everything happened it’s the only way I can remember it . . .

We get turned around in the raft, facing upstream and being stuck in this one wave moving slightly to the left (our right at the time). We can’t seem to get out of it, and then suddenly the raft gets pulled very quickly to the side. I fall out. The first thing I see when I pop up out of the water is the raft completely vertical. It lands right in front of me and I then get sucked underwater. I pop up and hit my head on the bottom of the raft, which scares me because I was still trapped underwater. I then go down and pop up at the surface, and watch as I slowly drift away from the raft towards calmer waters. “Hey, how’s it going?” I hear from my side as Teri is there in the water with me, also having been thrown from the raft. We calmly floated for a bit until we were eventually picked up by our raft.

The best part about this story is that if you were to ask everyone else who was in the raft (Morgan, Kelton, Lee, Teri, Melissa, and Dan), they would be able to give you a completely different perspective on the whole thing. Apparently when the raft went vertical, Kelton flew back into Lee and both went flying back into Melissa! After getting to the end, we took the bus back (This calls for a beer!) and a very tired group of cavers made it back to the campground. Now for the storm that had come in, with 60 mph winds that sounded like they would tear the campground apart! Lunch eaten (much to our delight). Naps taken, most hung out in the lodge around a stove. Then we moved to the bar, where a bluegrass rock band called Joanna’s Crossroad played some awesome music. I learned from someone the importance of checking for the Adam’s apple in the bar. A few of us went back and started a fire, which was damn near impossible in a wet and windy campground, but Kelton saved the day and proved to be our Prometheus (Don’t get it? Go read some mythology!). Time for night #2, and some took to the cars for shelter, with myself joking it would snow the next morning (hmmm, no one really seemed to like that joke).

Eventually I woke up Sunday morning (last again), but not before I got to hear this memorable quote:

Whitney: “Bob’s STILL sleeping!”
Bobby: “That’s because Bob’s part bear.”

After packing up, we headed to a Subway and much to the dismay of the 1 person working there, a group of 18 hungry people all showed up at once! Then we hit the road. My car was fine. Tara’s car was fine. Kelton’s car and Bobby’s car were having a race, apparently. Kelton’s car couldn’t go more than 30 mph uphill, and Bobby’s car needed to pull over every 40 minutes to refill fluid. Kelton’s car eventually won, as the “Stop and Go” tactics of Bobby’s car paled in comparison to the “Go and Shudder” tactics of Kelton’s car. We all made it back, and that’s what’s important. Plus, somehow we all had fun in the midst of this!

Fun Facts learned from this trip:

  • Lee’s cousin is apparently “hot shit” around rafting guides, and his cousin trained Melissa.
    Don’t ride in Kelton’s van, you may die if you have to stop or go uphill.
    Don’t go whitewater rafting in socks, walking on gravel will kill you.
    If it’s a MUSG camping trip, expect two things: cold and wet.
    With my messy habits (I’m a “pig” if you see my room whenever I get lazy), sleeping habits (I’m a “bear”), and existence as a human, I am a true man-bear-pig and must be protected from Al Gore at all costs.
    Never tell a Geography major that the weather isn’t part of geography.
    Kelton and Lee still have not learned that anytime they do anything with me, they end up experiencing cold conditions (Kelton’s at 4 and Lee’s at 5 instances).
    Route 19 is a giant speed trap.
    Friday the 13th is a force to be reckoned with.