Kayaker Nathan Barbier is no stranger to wild and daring adventures and this double waterfall drop in Norway is liquid proof. It’s a wild and scary looking ride, but all’s well that ends well.

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Wondering what the best cure for the winter off-season blues is? Please don’t say more snow. Even if you are a snow bunny, please don’t say more snow!

spring rafting in WV

First trip of the 2014 Season

I’ve got something even better.  Spring rafting on the New River is back and it’s pumping.  The first commercial trip of the season went out Saturday, March 8th.  Three guests, two guides and myself went along with our safety boater on a lovely near 60-degree spring day.  It was the perfect first day of the 2014 season, and now I can’t shake the river off my mind.

So what tends to be the difference between spring rafting and summer rafting on the New River?  During the spring we get a lot of snowmelt and rainfall that makes the river have significantly more volume than normal summer flow. Last year with all of the extra rain, we actually saw more high-water days than normal. High water means bigger waves and bigger hydraulics. Think of being in the front of raft and seeing a huge wall of water ahead of the raft. Then, imagine crashing through it. Now, imagine wave after wave of this. That’s spring rafting.

So what kind of weather should I be prepared for and what should I wear? Water and air temps vary quite a bit in the spring.  Your best bet is to check the weather before coming, but never worry. We have wetsuits, neoprene jackets and booties, and splash jackets to rent for a very low price. Check here for more info on rental equipment. We also highly recommend base layers of poly-pro, fleece or any synthetic clothing. NEVER bring cotton, as it will make you feel much colder as it gets wet. Cotton is only suited for HOT days when you want to be cooled. Neoprene gloves and wool socks work really well for spring rafting too.

Another advantage of spring rafting is that not all the trees are in bloom so you can see a lot of the old remains of the coal mine towns of the New River.  It’s amazing how much more of the old bridges, coke ovens, company stores and rock ledges can be seen on the river in the spring.

Keep in mind if the river is above 10,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) or just over 5 feet, the minimum age for the Lower New goes to 14. Spring rafting is best suited for folks who enjoy big volume rafting and a little more excitement. To check out what the river levels are before your next adventure at ACE click here. We hope to see you all on the river soon. Especially as these spring days get longer and warmer. It’s the perfect season to raft in WV!

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girls guide to overnight rafting

No matter where we live, we all appreciate new experiences that make life more interesting and challenging. At ACE, that’s where a river overnight comes in. It’s a mix of some good ol’ fashioned fun with an evening sitting riverside eating great food and being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the current passing by.

Unplugged from work, responsibilities, electricity… it’s a dream for many, but not for everyone. A river overnight also means unplugging the hair dryer, flat iron and clothes iron. If leaving your mirror, make-up and hot shower at home make you shudder, fear not.  We’ve compiled a few need-to-knows to keep you looking and feeling good. After all, stunning on the river means you look like you belong: naturally beautiful and relaxed.

Clothes aka Gear: Gear is outdoor speak for clothes and accessories.  We all hate that feeling when we show up wearing the wrong thing, and we don’t want that to happen to you. We suggest:

  • A Sensible Bathing Suit: Note the emphasis on sensible. You’ll be wearing a PFD (life jacket), so a suit with beads or lots of strings might chafe or rub. Additionally you’ll want to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. If you have a super styling bikini, save it for an afternoon at the ACE Lake.
  • River Shoes: We recommend a sturdy pair of water sandals.  Buckles work better than Velcro in wet conditions. These shoes are made for wet rocks and are great for hiking to the bathroom.
  • Clothes Made of Synthetic Fabric: These fabrics wick moisture and dries quickly, so if a cool breeze comes through at the end of the day, you’ll still be comfortable. Many of these fabrics can also provide SPF/UV protection and repel bugs. Check your hangtags.
  • Layers: dressing in layers helps you regulate your body temperature… and looks good.
  • Sunglasses: Leave your fashion shades in the car and get a pair of sporty wrap around shades for the river. Wrap around shades protect your eyes in the outdoors, and are especially helpful at reducing light that reflects in all directions off the water. You’ll also need a sunglass strap, for when your sunglasses fall off you won’t lose them in the river.

If you have questions about gear we highly recommend that you stop by the ACE Gear Shop and talk with our expert staff.

  • Hair and Make-up: You’ll want to leave your full make-up kit and hair products at home. Even makeup that says 100% waterproof doesn’t stand a chance with whitewater. Besides there aren’t any mirrors on the river. Leave the eye-shadow, eye-liner, mascara and blush at home and pack just the essentials.
  • Sunscreen: No river trip should ever be undertaken without waterproof sunscreen. You’ll need 2, one for your body and one for your face. You can get a tinted face sunscreen if you really can’t live without foundation.
  • Lip Balm/Gloss: A tinted lip balm, or gloss is fine and brings the right amount of glam to the river, make sure your balm or gloss has SPF in it.
  • Bug Repellent vs. Perfume: Perfume attracts bugs, bugs leave red welts and make you itch. Bug repellent repels bugs. We’re not going say anything else about this; you know which one to bring.
  • Hair and Hats: Keep in mind that for your day on the river you will be wearing a helmet, and they don’t do anything to make your hair look good. That being said, we recommend ponytails or braids for longer hair. If you have shorter hair, it’s probably going to stick out of the helmet, it will annoy you, but everyone else will think it looks cute. Start your braid or ponytail below your ears, so you won’t give yourself a headache. For that same reason, avoid hair clips and headbands. Use hair elastics. Hats rarely fit under helmets, but are great for riverside stops.
  • Nails: If you can’t go without nail polish, wear clear or very light colors so when your polish chips it won’t be noticeable. If you have long nails or tips, we recommend you trim them. Or bring clippers, a file and superglue for when they break.
  • Toilets and Showers: There aren’t any. We recommend you chat with your guide to get the full scoop on river bathroom etiquette. Pack wipes and search ”poison ivy images” so you don’t accidentally find yourself in a patch of this itchy plant.

We know it’s hard to break routines and patterns, but we also know that the experience of being outside and on the river is a great way to recharge. And nothing is prettier than a genuine smile!

We hope this girls guide to overnight river trips helps you stay as beautiful on the outside as you already are on the inside. And don’t forget: ‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.’ Helen Keller

 

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Dear Whitewater Adventurer:

We write to let you know of a BIG change happening in the New River Gorge. Please read the Press Release below for imperative information about this landmark event.

New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge dismantling has begun

National Board of Parks: New River Gorge Bridge Must be Moved

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Due to the destruction of the West Virginia mudrat habitat, a protected and endangered species, the W.Va. Department of Thoroughfares and National Board of Parks have unveiled plans to move the New River Gorge Bridge, the most photographed landmark in West Virginia.

Officials say dismantling the bridge and moving it to a new location is the only viable option to save the habitat of this endangered species.

The Environmental Protection Association and the New River Institute (NRI) have been lobbying for the protection of this rodent’s natural habitat for decades, unbeknownst to local residents.

Insiders at NRI say recent studies concluded that the cliff network under the bridge is crucial for the vermin’s fragile reproduction cycle and thus, its ultimate survival.

The rarely spotted animal is nearly all tail and teeth and is known to cannibalize itself when its habitat is unsuitable for reproduction, according to professor Lionel Compton of the NRI.

“People who might question the case for moving the bridge need only look into the eyes of a mudrat that’s considering cannibalism, and I think they’ll change their minds.” Compton said.

The bridge is projected to be moved upstream to a location near the Summit Bechtel Reserve sometime late in 2014, according to a release from the Department of Thoroughfares.

Contractors were sent in last week to begin the project. Dismantling began with the careful removal of the bridge decking. Helicopters are being used to transport the steel super-structure upstream one piece at a time.

For more information about this project and alternate driving direction for those traveling south on Route 19 through Fayetteville, West Virginia, please click here.

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Ramps

WV Ramps

Spring is on its way, and nowhere is the scent of its rebirth quite so pungent than when ramps come popping from the ground. Formally known as Allium Tricoccum, a wild perennial onion, it has a unique flavor and aroma that is reminiscent of garlic and onion. But that doesn’t really tell half of its stinky story.

The little town of Richwood, WV is the self-proclaimed ‘Ramp Capital of the World’, boasting both a Ramp Festival and a Ramp Farm. Ramps have a cult-like following and are both savored and feared. Served at the famed Beard House in New York as a featured recipe of Chef Mario Batali, ramps are gaining the recognition their aroma deserves.

Ramp diggers from all over the east coast descend on West Virginia forests in early spring to harvest the wild onions. A member of the lily family with white bulbs and wide tender leaves, the whole plant is edible. Ramps grow in the higher elevations on north facing slopes. Prized by chefs and home cooks alike, they can be sautéed, baked, braised and included in just about any savory recipe. At the festival, you can find ramp jam, ramp jelly, ramp butter, ramp bread… well, you get the idea.

Their pungent aroma has given them the fond nickname of ‘little stinkers’. During the festival the aroma of the cooked ramps fills the air in Richwood. The festival includes a ramp dinner and a ramp recipe contest.

This year the 76th Festival of the Ramson will be held on April 26th. While Richwood boasts having the longest running festival, there are many throughout WV, PA and OH. We’ll be making our way to one, and we hope you can check one out, too. Don’t forget to bring some mouthwash and gum — not that it will help; ramps are not called little stinkers without reason.

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The Ultimate Race
As we speak, 70 mushers and their dog teams have embarked on the 42nd running of the worlds’ toughest race. This year the race started in Willow and will end in Nome, Alaska. The course is 1,000 miles long — teams rely on skill, strength and endurance in harsh terrain and unpredictable weather. Check out the Iditarod.com to learn more about this years’ ultimate race.

Finding Adventure Everyday
Being open to the possibility of outdoor adventure no matter where you live makes life more exciting. Sure you might think it’s easy for us to say, since we live near the New River Gorge. But just like most people, we spend many of our days inside, working. And when the snow is blowing sideways and the temperatures aren’t that appealing, it just seems easier to stay inside.

In our neck of the woods, hiking is a great go-to whether on skis, a bike or your own two feet. But you don’t have to plan a big outing to find outdoor adventure in your town. Time outside should simply connect us to the natural world. Exploring the spaces around us allows us to take a break from the daily grind, to reset and recharge our spirits.

No matter where you live; rural or urban, you can find fun outside and in any season. Often times something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, sledding, making snow angels or tossing snowballs provides a good time outside.

Here is our top-five list of snow fun-ventures with really no purpose other than to make you smile. While these are great activities to do with kids, they aren’t required:

Snow Graffitti: Load up squirt bottles with colored water and paint the snow any which way you want.

Snow People: Raid the vegetable drawer and build a village.

Snow Ball Fight: Make gobs of snowballs, build walls, run, dodge and throw.

Snow Angels: Lay down and spread your wings.

Cookies and Hot Chocolate: Whether you make these yourself or stop by your favorite bakery/coffee shop, hot chocolate and cookies make everyone happy on a cold day.

For days when you are climbing the walls and are ready to venture out into the wild urban world, we’ve come up with our top 3 urban-ventures in our favorite cities:

Washington, DC: Billy Goat Trail at Potomac Falls – be ready to scramble and enjoy the river up close. This rough and tough trail will have you climbing and scrambling over big rocks. Wear good shoes and layer appropriately for the weather. For more info check out the NPS Great Falls website.

Cincinnati, OH: Find treasures from the Ordovician period, 425 million years ago. Cincinnati is full of fossils from ancient sea life. Check out the dry dredgers web site for detailed info on where you can hike and collect fossils.

Columbus, OH: You can slow down and breathe easy as you follow the Sciota River along the biking and walking paths that criss-cross the city. Check out the Ohio Metro Parks web page for more info.

All good adventures start with a sense of wonder and play, and most good times happen when we aren’t expecting them. One thing for sure there is no outside adventure waiting for us on the couch. Keep your cold weather gear handy in the next few weeks — a quick jaunt can make the difference between a gray day inside and a great day outside. As we turn the last corner out of winter, building in moments of fun everyday is what keeps your spirits up.

‘We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.’
Jawaharlal Nehru

HyperLinks:

NPS Great Falls Web Page.

http://www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm

dry dredgers web site

Ohio Metro Parks Web

http://www.metroparks.net

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What’s in Store…

2012-09-17 08.23.42Winter continues to test us here in the hills as storm after storm pummels the east  coast. However, there are many irons in the fire this winter at ACE.  While the snow piles up, the staff at ACE is busy preparing Wonderland for your outdoor adventures this year.

ACE Adventure Gear Manager, Brad Scott, is stocking the shop with new products and equipment lines. He went to the EORA Show (Eastern Outdoor Reps Association) to test and order product for next fall and winter. This show, located in Greenville, SC, is a professional trade show for outdoor retailers. If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll have seen his photo and sneak peeks of new gear from the trade show.

Having fun and being prepared is what embarking on outdoor adventures is all about. Not only do Brad and all of the staff here at ACE play hard outside, they also study and learn about gear: what it is made of, how it’s made and what key features every product has. Researching gear is the part of retail no one mentions, but taking clinics and participating in dealer summits is what sets Brad and his staff apart. Not only do they use the products they sell, they spend time learning about the technical aspects from fabrics and laminates to lay-ups and plastics. Knowing the subtle differences in materials and how they perform when used in the outdoors means that you get the best advice based on experience and knowledge.

Brad has been working on spring merchandise since last fall, and this year the shop will feature a broader line of fishing equipment. You’ll find fishing kayaks and all kinds of necessities (rods, reels and bait) for a successful day of casting. Check it out — this year boat maker Native Water Craft will release ‘The Slayer,” a fishing kayak with a gear driven propeller. You pedal, and the boat takes off like a rocket.

Always on the lookout for quality made USA products, the shop will offer Glide SUP stand up paddleboards. Glide is an American owned and operated company out of Salt Lake City, Utah. With only a dozen people on staff, they make some of the best boards with which to paddle the planet. ACE offers a full-line up of flat water and whitewater options. Stop by for a demo.

Everyone at ACE is excited, for the warmer temps of spring to come our way. Stay posted for more news and updates on all of the new adventures on tap.

outdoor adventures – http://www.aceraft.com/west-virginia-adventure-activities

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Girls Gone ‘into the’ Wild….

12-Canopy-Tour-Winter-MW-02Adventure begins at the edge of your comfort zone, some days my comfort zone is the edge of the walkway out my front door, others, it’s the put it at the river, or tying into a rope at the base of a cliff. No matter our individual limits we are awed and inspired by folks all over the planet pushing limits and boundaries. Womens Adventure Magazine listed the top 10 Adventurous Women of 2013. Wow, are we ever impressed, awed and inspired.

http://www.womensadventuremagazine.com/blog/top-ten-adventurous-women-2013/

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Bird Watching – Tweetin’ West Virginia Style…

05nature07After weeks of snow, ice and cold temps…it’s a balmy 40+ degrees this morning. It’s the perfect morning for a long quiet walk along the trails at ACE. Except it’s not so quiet here…the birds are tweetin’ and chirpin’…it’s a sure sign the seasons are changing.

With over 300 species of birds calling WV home, there are spectacular species to be seen and heard all through the woods. You can find a complete list of WV Birds at the WV Conservation Agency. As the days get longer, resident birds are beginning to be more active and migratory birds are returning. Spotting birds in the spring is easy, if you know where to look. Birds fly the same routes in the fall and spring, once you locate a particular bird in the spring, you can probably spot it there again in the fall. By observing birds (which does take a little patience), you will begin to understand their behavior.

  • To attract a mate or to defend their territory, birds will sing and perch themselves on tree tops or in visible places.
  • Nesting birds will gather material to build a home for their young in dense areas.
  • Birds will forage for left-over seeds and insects under bushes or leaves in the woodlands.
  • Perching themselves in a sunny spot, birds will catch some rays on cooler days to stay warm.

While it’s relatively common to spot a cardinal, a blue jay, a heron or a hawk, there are so many other species you just may spot. WVU has an online Guide to Common WV Birds, they have drawings and descriptions so you can begin to learn about the many birds to be found here.

You can set out bird feeders in your yard in all seasons and birds will begin to visit you more frequently. Setting out bird feeders helps birds get through harsh winters when there is snow on the ground and food sources are scarce. You do need to think about a few things in order to feed birds safely.

  • Keep feeders clean, to reduce bacteria and disease organisms.
  • Use a good quality bird food. Feeding birds food not meant for them is harmful to their health.
  • Keep feeders in an open area. While you may want your feeders outside the window, birds often hit windows, which can result in serious injury or death. You can place a decal or sticker on the corner of your window. This acts a “stop sign” and lets birds know the window is not the woods, as windows often reflect the outdoors.
  • Choose your food based on the birds you want to attract. Be mindful that feeding some species will make them aggressive, as birds are territorial.

By knowing a few basics about bird behavior, you can have more fun watching them and listening to their activities. There are also great apps you can download, check out these reviews from the Nature Conservancy.

Enjoying the sounds and sights of birds while outside enriches any outdoor experience; today I’m just enjoying their sweet music after a long winter.

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A Taste of Local West Virginia Ingenuity

Photo by Brian Vincent at Appomattox River Company

Photo by Brian Vincent at Appomattox River Company

The east is getting pounded by one storm after another, and the arctic air assures us that it’s full on winter. It’s a quiet time of year, a time to reflect on the past and to plan adventures for the seasons ahead. There are still adventures to be had out the back door: hikes in the Gorge, rock climbing on the sun exposed cliffs and boating on the warmest of the cold days (for the very brave). Winter’s long evenings also give us time to savor a good drink and retell our favorite memories. And here in WV, we don’t have to go far to enjoy libations from some of our favorites.

While catching up on the news today, I caught a headline mention of our own local brewery, Bridge Brew Works. With all the attention WV has been receiving due to the recent chemical spill, I was pretty happy to read about WV folks making their dreams a reality. It seems our local brewery boys were at The Greenbrier talking about making craft beer at home and how they made the leap from home brewing to opening and operating their own micro brewery. The Bridge Brew Works proprietors are Fayetteville locals, Ken Linch and Nathan Herrold. They are the tastemakers of 2 of our favorite drafts: Long Point Lager and Bridge Brew Ale. If you’ve been lucky enough to enjoy one of their beers, you know Ken and Nate make some fantastic beer.

When you think of hands on owners, it’s hard to find 2 sets of hands as on it as Ken and Nathan. The 2 of them are Bridge Brew Works, and on any given day they can be found ordering, cleaning, brewing, bottling and capping. Their days at work are pretty full, but they still find time to get out to regional events and festivals and share what they love best — great craft beer. They gladly share their home brew knowledge by offering up tips on home brewing and answering your questions about beer making. To learn more about Bridge Brew Works and to take a virtual tour, check ‘em out.

Over in Maxwelton, Smooth Ambler Spirits is distilling world-class vodka, gin and whiskey. They’re is making headlines with their serious gins and Whitewater Vodka (you know that’s got special meaning to us). Their gins are citrusy with hints of black pepper layered on the juniper, they age the gin in bourbon and whiskey barrels to add some caramel flavor and smoothness. The Whitewater Vodka is a clean, triple distilled sweet buttery vodka perfect for sipping on its own or in your favorite drink. Seems they think spirits should actually taste like something instead of alcohol.

They make small batches of spirits using the best ingredients and pure water. For the coldest days of winter, it’s not easy to choose between the Old Scout Bourbon, Old Scout Rye or the Old Scout Yearling. They are all rich and incredibly smooth.  Their passion to create something unique and original to WV is partly why we like them. Their whiskey is also perfectly suited for bringing a little wild and wonderful into a classic Manhattan at the end of the day.

When people take their ideas and combine them with courage and effort, they don’t only create products they create micro-cultures. We appreciate ventures that start with water — at ACE we like to boat water, wild and mild. Just as we deliver an outdoor experience that challenges and inspires, both Bridge Brew and Smooth Ambler go above and beyond by sharing their knowledge and passions about good drink.

The taste of these locally made beers and spirits is another way to enjoy the local culture of the region, just like the New River is a unique whitewater experience you can only get in West Virginia. Enjoy.

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