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 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


NPS Great Falls Web Page.

dry dredgers web site

Ohio Metro Parks Web

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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 –

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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.

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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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Outdoor Lifestlye Books

Outdoor Lifestyle Books Worth Reading

Books are worth reading anytime of the year. While it’s great to laze away summer days in the hammock, I find I don’t mind winter nearly as much all cozied up with a good book. Reading about epic adventure, misadventure and the amazing experiences of others is a powerful way to engage your brain and increase your knowledge about living an outdoor lifestyle. I thought this list was pretty comprehensive and I’m happy to be able to check off a few titles. What are your favorite reads on this list?

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When you make your living on the river you understand the truth in the words of David Suzuki, ‘We all live downstream.’

West Virginia made national news last week as a State of Emergency was declared, when over 300,000 people were left without clean water due to a chemical spill. The spill happened on the Elk River, 1 ½ miles upstream of the intake for the regions water treatment plant in Charleston, WV. The chemical, 4-methyl-cyclohexane-methanol, leaked from a plant owned by Freedom Industries. West Virginia American Water, The CDC, FEMA and others have worked around the clock to determine how to clean up this chemical spill and to restore clean drinking water to the affected communities. Countless volunteers have delivered water and meals throughout this disaster.

Here at Wonderland, our water safety and quality has not been compromised. This devastating spill is downstream and west of us. The Elk River is not a tributary of the New River or the Gauley River; the Elk is a tributary of the Kanawha River. The New and the Gauley rivers form the Kanawha River, which runs through Charleston, WV.

The State of West Virginia is being heavily criticized for not having stricter regulations to avoid this type of situation. However, as we learn more, they are not alone in being caught off guard by this disaster. Homeland Security states that the U.S. as a nation does not have preventative measures in place for this type of disaster. And WV American Water does not have a system in place to detect chemical agents in their systems.

Water security was part of a 2002 Law passed by Congress requiring utility companies to assess vulnerabilities, but the law did not follow-up with a mandate to correct deficiencies. While the White House supports establishment of secure water systems and safety regulations, no progress has been made to establish anything. We suspect this will change. But efforts have to come from many sources: the public has to voice their concerns and demand accountability. Businesses that store and use chemicals have to be held to stricter regulations, government agencies like DEP and Homeland Security have to be empowered to enforce regulations and have 100% follow through on initiatives that keep our water systems secure.

We’ll be keeping up to date on this event as the investigation reveals more information. As of this writing thousands are still without water. WV American Water has a water safety map that shows areas where clean up has been completed. Rebuilding from this disaster is going to take time and much effort, and our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors in the valley.

WV State Page- Has updates about the State of Emergency, as well as Listings of Water Distribution Centers.

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I’ve always been intrigued by hummingbirds — enjoying their undisguised curiosity as I relax on the front porch of our house. But like most people, I knew next to nothing about why they do what they do beyond that watchful gaze, clear enjoyment of an easy meal and their entertaining mid-flight battles for territory.

In this part of the country, it’s the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird that is most common. That’s where Bill Hilton Jr. and “Operation Ruby Throat” come in.

I’ve been fortunate to participate in one of Bill’s clinics through the Hummingbird Festival. He’s a wealth of knowledge, and most importantly, he loves to share it with anyone who is genuinely interested in learning about these unique birds.

My timing of this blog is slightly off since hummingbirds living in our region of the United States have departed. Similar to some “snow-birds”, hummingbirds live internationally, traveling between North America and Mexico or Central America. And they won’t be back until April of this year, March if you live south of North Carolina.

Despite that fact, proper feeding etiquette can be learned any time. Just so we’re clear, my knowledge on this topic comes from Bill himself, his hummingbird feeding hints and the “Operation Ruby Throat” website.

To start, don’t waste your money on store-bought nectar. White table sugar and water are the only ingredients. That means don’t add red food coloring. I know — it’s hard to resist. With my first batch, it seemed as if the hummers were not interested in what I had to offer. But my patience prevailed. The red hardware with which most feeders come equipped should be all that’s needed.

Hummingbird Concoction:

  1. Pour 4 cups of water into a microwave safe glass bowl – a bowl that can handle boiling water.
  2. Heat it for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add 1 level cup of white table sugar, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. The water will still appear cloudy.
  4. Return the bowl to the microwave, and heat for an additional 3 to 4 minutes so it boils again. Boiling helps keep mixture from molding.
  5. Allow mix to cool to room temperature; then pour into your feeders.
  6. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

So now you are ready for their arrival. Be sure to have your feeders up by mid-March to welcome any early arrivals.

For more details about feeding hummingbirds or creating your own hummingbird habitat, visit the “Operation Ruby Throat” website. You’ll find all you need to know to get started.

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Did you know about Didymo?

didymo in WV

Take a look at Didymo

Rock Snot, Algea Lugee’s whatever you want to call it, Didymo is the grossest slippery invasion of freshwater rivers.  Didymosphenia geminate, is easier spread than said and way more difficult to get rid of than just popping a mucinex. This species of diatom produces nuisance growths in rivers and streams. Didymo, which is a type of single-celled algae, spreads by attaching itself to fishing equipment, waders, boats, and just about anything else that has come in contact with Didymo-infected water. Didymo has been found in the Elk River in the Webster Springs area following reports from anglers. So we need to be on the lookout for Didymo in WV!

It’s “snot” what it looks like? It looks like toilet tissue stuck in between river rocks but feels allot like wet cotton. It’s not nearly as slimy as it looks. As Didymo fastens itself to rocks in water beds it eventually chokes out everything else that may live there. It’s generally brown, tan or yellow and can grow to
up to eight inches thick.

The following methods have been recommended to help prevent the spread of Didymo:

  • Check: Before leaving the river, remove all obvious clumps of algae and look for hidden clumps. Leave them at the site. If you find clumps later don’t wash them down the drain, treat them with the approved methods below, dry them and soak them in bleach for at least 4 hours.
  • Clean: Soak and scrub all items for at least one minute in either hot (60°C) water, a 2% solution of household bleach, antiseptic hand cleaner or dishwashing detergent.
  • Dry: If cleaning is not practical (e.g. livestock, pets), after the item is completely dry wait an additional 48 hours before contact or use in any other waterway.

Absorbent items require longer soaking times to allow thorough penetration into the materials.  Felt-soled waders, for example, are difficult and take time to properly disinfect. Other absorbent items include clothing, wetsuits, sandals with fabric straps, or anything else that takes time to dry out.  The thicker and denser a material, the longer it will require for adequate disinfection.  Err on the side of caution.  Bleach solutions are not recommended for absorbent materials.

  • Hot Water:  Soak items for at least 40 minutes in very hot water kept above 140°F (hotter than most tap water).
  • Dishwashing Detergent and hot water: (‘Green’ products are less effective and not recommended for disinfecting):  soak for 30 minutes in a hot 5% detergent/water solution kept above 120°F.

A simple, portable DISINFECTION KIT might include:

•Large trash can and/or medium sized Rubbermaid-type bin for soaking wading boots
•Large stiff bristle brush for scrubbing
•Spray bottle(s) or herbicidal pump spray can(s)
•Graduated cylinder or measuring cup
•5% detergent solution and/or 2% bleach Solution

Felt Soled Boots…New Zealand, Alaska, Maryland and Vermont have banned anglers from wearing felt-soled boots. Orvis, a leading U.S. manufacturer of fly-fishing equipment, has started selling more rubber-soled boots than felt-soled to do their part in the riddance of this menace.

Do your part and inspect any items that have come in contact with river water. Please contact the DNR fisheries biologist at the nearest district office to report possible Didymo outbreaks.
Other sources of information on Didymo:

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The Ultimate Question: Is White Water Rafting Safe?

On The River:
Rafting is a participation activity.  What you do DOES matter.  Every seasoned guide has seen a guest take a much longer swim than needed because they did little to help themselves, and others who averted that long swim by following the procedures reiterated in our safety videos, by the trip leader and the guide.

Is white water rafting safe?As soon as you put on the river, your guide will lead you through paddling practice, emphasizing both individual technique and teamwork.  Paddling together as a team provides vastly more power and control than a disjointed group can produce, regardless of athleticism or strength.

That teamwork can make the difference between great routes and fun rides while keeping everyone in the boat and a less than stellar day.  There is just no substitute for the exhilaration of working together to get the most out of your run.  Striving to be part of an effective team goes a long way toward making YOUR day the best it can be.

Swims and spills do happen.  They’re part of rafting.  Prompt response to your guide’s paddle commands, and leaning or moving across the raft if instructed can lessen your odds of a swim, but raft often enough and some day you will find yourself in the water unexpectedly.  How you react next is a major factor in how you’ll remember THAT day’s adventure.

Often by the time you fall out of a raft you’re already through or near the end of the rapid and have calm water to work with as you get back to the boat.  If not, your choices or absence of them will be very important.

The majority of swimmers surface close to the raft.  Every raft has either handles or straps on the outside of the boat.  Everyone in the raft has been instructed to use the t-grip of their paddle as a rescue device.  The raft is sitting on top of the water.  The swimmer is more deeply immersed and often subject to different currents that could move them away from the raft.

All of this creates what amounts to a “magic moment” when the swimmer is close to the raft and can be quickly retrieved.  Even before you clear your eyes just make a grab in front of you.  There’s a very good chance you’ll clutch either raft or t-grip and before you know it, you’ll be back in the boat.

If the moment passes and you’re still in the river, pull your feet up to the surface of the water.  Trapping a foot between two rocks or in other underwater debris is a very rare but very serious situation.  If you don’t remember anything else, do remember to keep your feet up near the surface.

This is a good time to orient yourself, see what’s coming, look around for the closest raft, and run over in your mind whether your guide gave any special swim instructions for this rapid to steer you away from known hazards.  Time your breathing for opportunities between waves.

Know that everyone not in the river is focused on getting everyone in the water quickly retrieved.  You may hear whistles as guides alert each other that there are one or more swimmers to go after.  Your role is to be an active part of your own rescue.

In some circumstances a guide may elect to throw you a rope.  If that happens grab the rope, not the bag it was stuffed into, and simply hang on to it without wrapping it around any part of you.  If the rope lands a few feet away, swim to the rope.

Is white water rafting safe?

Get on your stomach and swim, when needed!

Often your guide or some other guide close to you will simply point in the best direction for you to swim.  Guides will always point toward safety, never toward a hazard.  The most effective way to swim in whitewater is to roll over on your belly and swim in the proper direction.  This is known as aggressive swimming, in contrast to passive swimming (on your back, feet first).

In lieu of specific instruction, remember that rocks are not your friends and should be avoided.  Trees in the water, rare on the New and Gauley rivers, are of special concern and should be avoided at all costs.

Every situation is unique, but the one common bit of useful advice is if you find yourself where you don’t want to be, figure out where you do want to be, and do your best to get there by whatever means you have available.  If a t-grip or rope is presented to you, take it.  If you’re pointed in a direction, go that way.  Most of all, continue to make an effort to improve your situation.  The most challenging swimmer to retrieve is the swimmer who drifts aimlessly downstream.


When looking for an adventure outfitter, the safety points mentioned in this three part series are important to consider. Every outfitter operates under different safety precautions. At ACE Adventure Resort, safety is our first and top priority.

For the vast majority of guests who raft with ACE, the only physical change they experience is a bigger smile on their face at the end of a wonderful day.  But there are risks involved in any outdoor adventure, including rafting.  We do all we can to assure that bigger smile for you.  All we ask is that you too pay attention to your safety, making our job that much easier and your visit with us that much better.

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