Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I hadn’t really planned on spending much time at the Gauley this year. I missed last year’s Gauley Fest so I definitely wanted to make it to that. But with all the other trips I’ve been doing lately I figured two days at the Gauley would suffice. But after thinking about it some I decided I wanted to do the Animal Upper Gauley Race. I hadn’t ever gotten to be there for it so I thought it would be fun. This of course required finding another racer to go with so I made plans with Geoff and we left my house in Rockville at 7am Friday morning to get to the Gauley for the Wavesport Open. As we needed to be at Pillow Rock by noon we were in a hurry. I cringed at the gas mileage as we sped along with four boats on the roof, making it to Summersville in what has got to be a record 4 hours and 10 minutes.

We headed straight to the dam and put on. I was paddling my Project for the fist time in months and feeling pretty awkward. I’ve all but forgotten how to paddle a playboat!! . I was rather wishing I’d brought my Burn! I did my best to keep up with him but ultimately gave up when I ran into Sean, Ian, Jeff and James below Insignificant. We got to Pillow too late for the freestyle comp but got to see the boatercross. Jeff and I watched while the other guys participated in some or all of the events at Pillow, Lost Paddle and Sweets. The boatercross at Pillow was by far the most chaotic and definitely really fun to watch

Wavesport Open: Pillow Rock Boatercross


Wavesport Open: Lost Paddle Boatercross

Lost Paddle

The guys were not going to let me live down putting my boat on "The Uhaul of Shame" so for the first time ever I carried up the Panther Creek trail. It actually wasn't bad. That was the one redeeming thing about the playboat, it weighs practically nothing. I had gotten so used to hauling the Solo or Burn around that this felt like no effort at all. In fact it didn’t' feel any harder having the boat than the usual walk up the trail. I didn't have to stop once and actually passed some people who weren't carrying boats!

Maggie and Geoff at the takeout

We hung out around the festival grounds for a bit Friday night and got to sleep early to be ready to meet Bobby at 9am the next morning to do the Marathon. I’d run the Lower Gauley before but had never done the whole thing, so was looking forward to this experience. With different people running different sections setting shuttle took 2 hours. OMG that was a long time to sit at the dam, but at least it was nice and warm and there were lots of people to hang out with.

I was now paddling the Frankenstein. Geoff had let me borrow it for the race and I needed to learn how to paddle it before Monday. I was a bit nervous how I would do in a longer boat on the Gauley, having only ever paddled it in a playboat. But with the miles and miles of flatwater ahead of us having a long boat was certainly a good idea (and man was I glad not to be in a playboat after just the first few miles!)

Maggie running Pillow, Photo: Bob Anderson

We had quite the odd assortment of boats: Bobby in the pink T-Slalom, Sean in his T-Canyon, Jeff in the Hurricane, Ian in a Perception Fox (really cool boat, I’d never seen one of those before), me with Franky and Geoff in his wildwater boat. I ended up really liking the Frankenstein a lot (Eric I may be fighting you for it next summer!) I had hated the Pirouette and besides paddling that some (and the Cheat on a low water race day being the hardest thing) and the Response once I really had no experience paddling anything longer than the Burn on whitewater, let alone big water. So I have to say I was really rather nervous about it. But to my surprise it paddled great. Quite stable and I actually flipped less in it then in the Project! Also felt a lot more in control and it was nice having speed for a change. I had mostly good lines, though it took some getting used to not getting spun out. I had the most incredible back ender at that bottom wave at Insignificant, it was actually rather fun!

Bobby and Ian

Maggie and Franky

We had a good run. Though I was a bit annoyed with the guys for being rather slow. I had been worried I’d have a hard time keeping up with them but they were paddling so slow!! (well not Geoff of course) I wanted to get through all the flat water as fast as possible and they were barely paddling! I remember swearing I’d never paddle the Lower G again when we ran it 2 years ago. Definitely better in a long boat. I am never paddling it in a playboat again, that is for sure.

Despite all the misery of the flat water I DO like the rapids on the Lower G though. Koontz's Flume is probably one of the best rapids on the Gauley. Last time we ran too far left and it wasn't very much fun. but this time I got the good line and it was awesome. Canyon Doors is one of the more beautiful rapids on the run. I also love all the huge waves of the Lower G, the Upper really doesn't have that much of that. I didn't know any lines so I had to be patient and stay behind the guys so they could show me all the fun lines.

Ian and Sean above Canyon Doors

But still the flat water is just painful. Don't even get me started on the Middle Gauley. OMG that is a downright awful run (sorry it’s just how I feel). There is one decent rapid (Wood's Ferry) and the rest is just mostly flat water. That was some of the most miserable 5 miles I’ve ever paddled (just about up there with paddling Cheat lake in 25 degrees, lol) . I would have seriously wanted to kill myself if I had been in a playboat. blah. We didn't stop much other than at the takeout for the Upper . yay for Dagger Dogs!!

Overall though we had a good time and it was a good experience to do the Marathon. I can't say I ever want to do it again but I bet I will. Definitely in a long boat though!!! Though not having to hike out at Panther Creek was nice. Oh and the church food at the end of course!! Geoff ended up kind of loosely paddling with us. in the WW boat he is of course way too fast. He put on an hour after us. Passed us half way down the Upper, waited for us at the takeout for at least a half hour, put on again well after we left and caught us again at Diagonal Ledges, hung out there for a while and eventually caught us again at the final stretch of flatwater.

We got off the river just in time to swing by the campground and drop off boats, buy beer (well Sean and Jeff anyway) and get back to the festival for me to go to Jay Ditty’s shoulder reduction clinic. Jay and a co-worker were running a study on teaching shoulder reduction techniques to non-medical people. As part of the study they conducted a short class explaining how to recognize the difference between a dislocation and other injury and also a few ways to reduce a dislocated shoulder. The clinic was excellent. Jay did a great job of explaining things, very simple and to the point.

I really wished it had been a week earlier since Laura had just dislocated her shoulder a few days before and none of us there were able to help her. I really felt that with what I learned at the clinic I could have at least tried to ease her discomfort. Just in the past month three friends have had dislocations. It’s pretty scary how often that happens and it is definitely good to know how to reduce a shoulder when needed. The techniques are simple to learn and you can really help someone out a lot (or yourself for that matter) by learning a few simple steps.

After the clinic I headed back out to the main fest and spent the night hanging out with lots of friends. I didn’t drink much this time but ate way too much funnel cake, lol. This was probably one of the more fun Gauley Fests I’ve been too. I liked they fireworks, that was new, never seen that there before. The pole dancing contest that Dagger put on was a little over the top but entertaining. I hung around till about 1 am then headed back to the campground with Sean and Jeff (had contemplated camping at the festival but was glad not to have in the end).

Sunday we paddled the Upper again (sans Geoff who didn't get up till 11, we all debated if he'd actually survived the night). I worked on figuring out race lines and did a few race runs through certain sections. I was actually pretty impressed with myself for knowing the Gauley quite well. I know I’ve run it a bunch but until now I don’t think I really remembered a lot of it particularly well before. I beat the guys to Pillow by a good bit so I decided to get out and scope out the race line I ran into Nathan up there and he convinced me to jump off of Pillow Rock. Never done that before, it was really fun.

Jumping off Pillow, Photo: Bob Anderson

Hiking up Panther Creek was rough with the Frankenstein, this time I did have to stop a few times and did a fair bit of cursing as I pitoned the longer bow into numerous trees. I hadn't really made any plans with Geoff for how to meet up with him. This was a mild issue as Sean was heading home. But when we got to the takeout his car was there so I had it moved into the shade and only ended up waiting a few minutes after the guys left. We ended up hanging out at the take out for 2 hours or so. Neither of us were very motivated to do anything. The Jackson crew showed up so I got to catch up with Stephen.

After packing up camp (after a stern warning from the angry owner for checking out six hours late…oops) and running some errands we headed to the dam. I'd never camped there before, its always way full by the time we get there. But we were able to join up with Jeremy and Jen (from Ontario) who had a site. We spent a quiet evening hanging out and just relaxing after what was already a nice long weekend. It was nice getting up in the morning and being right there (granted the race didn’t start till noon so we had plenty of time)

The race was really fun. It was pretty tiring paddling hard for an hour straight. My lines were okay. At Insignificant I got caught behind a play boater and then got spun out and flipped but no big deal. Pillow and Lost Paddle were great. I ended up getting spun left at the bottom of Iron Ring and actually ended up getting worked in the hole briefly but then just rolled up, turned around and kept paddling.

I was actually impressed how quickly it all ultimately went by. The Cheat race had seemed so painfully long but this one actually was much better. When I got to the last few rapids above Sweets I suddenly realized how close I was and got a 2nd wind and started paddling harder again. I had a good clean line at Sweets (I was nervous that I’d crash there with everyone watching, lol). Overall it was just really cool getting to paddle the Gauley direct the whole way . I pretty much had the river to myself most of the way and what few rafts there were all got out of my way. It is worth doing the race if only for the opportunity to have that.

Gauley Race: Maggie

Gauley Race: Geoff

I had the shortest boat in the long boat class so I was dead last in the class of course. came in third in women's though (as there were only three of us, lol). The Frankenstein is great but definitely slow still in comparison. I finished in just under one hour, 4 minutes. Goal for next year is to do it in like 55 minutes, or at the very least under an hour. Geoff won of course, narrowly beating out Chris Hipgrave (they were the only two WW boats). Ian and James raced a Topo Duo (and won their class). AW had food provided right there at the finish so that was nice. We all hung out there for a while. It was insane how hot it was this weekend. The weather was gorgeous, really good weather for camping and for the festival. but I was rather hot during the race.

Ian and James

I ran into Brad (we did the Sandy to Cheat Lake trip back in March) at Sweets and he offered me a ride up at the end, which was great to have, I wasn’t that keen about hiking up after racing and then spending a few hours sitting in the blazing hot sun. After packing up everything we headed to the after party in Fayetteville. It was actually really nice, they had really good food (and free beer of course that I wanted nothing to do with) all included in our 30$ entrance fee. We hung out with Chris and his wife and amused ourselves with a relatively fruitless game of Cornhole while we waited for the awards (well the girls actually did manage to score some points).

As with all boater events this took forever and they didn’t start the awards till 7:30 when they finally handed out prizes (I got a MS spray jacket and some other stuff). We hung out for a while afterwards watching the video from the Wavesport Open on Friday. The boatercross was really ridiculous, especially watching it from all the different angles that they shot from. I can't wait to get a copy of that. We finally hit the road around 9 and made it back around 2am. What a great weekend! I really felt like I finally got the full Gauley experience (Four days of paddling, The Festival, The Race, Wavesport Open, camping at the dam, and yes, hiking up Panther Creek with my boat!).

I had figured that that would be enough Gauley time for me but after the race I was pretty psyched to go back. So when Monica emailed asking if I wanted to carpool it didn’t take much convincing. I roped Mark into coming along again and a few days later I was back on the road to Summersville. We joined up with Scott and the rest of the Paddlers R Us crew and had another great weekend. I borrowed Franky again and had a great time. I had no patience for the huge group we’d turned into (16 people is way more than I can handle). So I bombed down to Pillow both days and had a blast running the rapid over and over (7 total for the weekend) and jumping off of Pillow Rock 11 more times while I waited for everyone. The thrill of jumping started wearing off after a while but I just really had a great time swimming. Most times I was able to swim to one of the eddies just below Pillow and climb out easily but at one point ended up on river left instead. It was quite the challenge trying to get back across. Really quite amazing how powerful water is!

The flotilla

Trying to swim back to river left

I continued on paddling through and stopping occasionally to take pictures of everyone at a few rapids, running Iron Ring twice each day (that one still gets me half the time, I don’t get it!!) and just generally enjoying the great run.

Till next year!!

Mark running Pillow

We can always count on Scott for great Pillow splats

Monica at Pillow

Gauley Fest Weekend Photos

Gauley Photos II

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Blogger Jenny said...

Glad you had a blast, it was great seeing you there!

7:04 PM  

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