A Drive I Don’t Mind: The Gauley Season Commute

As Gauley Season approached, I was ready for the river trips, the weather, and the scenery. I love driving in West Virginia, and nothing compares to my morning commute in the fall.When talking about commuting to work, most envision crowded 6-lane highways, waiting on exit ramps, and a million stoplights. On a day-to-day basis, those sights blur together into a timeline: 5 minutes until the next landmark, or 10 minutes until the exit.

I usually don’t pay attention to the sights on my commute, either. It’s a 15-minute drive with one traffic light (totally avoidable). The details are a given, the background of my day, until I feel fall approaching.

Fall signals many things in these mountains, and these are my favorite season changes:

  • The brilliance of changing leaves. Bright red, dusky orange, and sharp yellow leaves, mixed with deep green pine needles, and wild rhododendron leaves. Oh, the fall colors are gorgeous!
  • Cool morning air. I run warm, and there’s nothing like the first inhale of sharp, crisp air, tinged with the taste of fall.
  • Fog rising in backyards, floating up to the sky. The fog gives the commute a mythical feel.
  • The cheers echoing from the Big Top Tent. Walking to the office, I pass morning check-in, and a grin spreads across my face as the contagious excitement moves across the property like wildfire.

When I am behind a vehicle and I can see people pointing to new sights along the way, I can’t help but notice the details as my eyes follow their fingers. The nostalgia of my first memorable drive to ACE overwhelms me.

I fell in love with Gauley Season that day, on my way to raft the Lower Gauley with my mother. I was 16. She insisted I accompany her (this was the fall when she caught the whitewater bug; the rivers stole her heart that year). I have zero regrets.

That love has not dimmed. It signals my favorite season for activities, as well as drives. What could be better than a treetop canopy tour with the turning leaves? Or rock climbing in the early morning, watching the mist dissipate while scaling a cliff face?

The activities are different each season, but I have a fondness for the fall experience.

I remember I am thankful for my commute when I drive behind those who are beholding this beauty for the first time. I am reminded that I am lucky to enjoy these mountains in every season, but especially during Fall Gauley Season.

Do you remember your first Gauley Season activity, or your first drive to ACE? Have you beheld the beauty of West Virginia in the fall?

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