Chelsea Goes From Big City To Whitewater Rafting


My parents hauled my brother, my sister and I to the “middle of nowhere,” West Virginia, 13 years ago. Who would have thought then that I would be working at ACE and training to be a river guide, no less? I was less than thrilled. Having only ever lived in Boston, Mass., I was spoiled with aquariums, museums, harbors and the best professional sports in the country.Needless to say, it was a culture shock. Such a culture shock that I didn’t even realize how beautiful and wonderful the area that my parents moved me to was. Poor television reception meant that we only got three channels, two of which were ABC.

Of course, my 9-year-old self was ecstatic that I could watch General Hospital on two separate channels. I had never been to a Walmart. Wendy’s and Shoney’s were completely new additions to my food pyramid.

I no longer had sidewalks to ride my bike on, and I got lost in the woods more times than I can count. Because I had a huge yard for the first time in my life, I decided I would ditch my shoes for bare feet. That plan backfired when I stepped on a nail and ended up having to get a tetanus shot.

Because there was no pool nearby, I swam in the creek in my front yard. I promptly ceased this practice when I saw my first crawdad. Those things just did not look normal. I hated West Virginia. Noticing my very apparent boredom with my new home, my parents decided to show my siblings and I what West Virginia is all about. First stop: Whitewater rafting.

I would venture to say that my first whitewater rafting experience was not a success. But I looked good. I had a brand new swimsuit with smiley faces all over it. Pretty ironic since I hated getting wet and didn’t smile much for the duration of the trip as, obviously if you’re rafting, you’re going to get wet.

Also, I’m notoriously pale. I got so sunburnt that day I vowed I would never step foot outside during the daylight again. After that fateful July day on the Upper New River, I swore off whitewater. I was through. Who would have thought that I would end up working at a whitewater rafting company, living in a tent and loving every minute of it?

It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come in those 13 years. I love West Virginia. I realized several years ago how truly blessed I am to have grown up just 15 minutes from the New River Gorge, what I consider to be the most beautiful place on Earth. Now I’m training to guide the New River.

Yes, the same river that I whined about not that long ago. I don’t miss riding my bike on sidewalks, in fact I prefer it that way. And I definitely don’t mind the poor television reception, since the tent I spent my summer in doesn’t have electricity. Did I mention I live at ACE too?

With hundreds of miles of biking trails, endless rock climbing and miles upon miles of beautiful rivers, how was I ever bored here? It’s wonderful to be able to experience the world outside of a museum or aquarium, far from the hustle of everyday life and off of the sidewalks.

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