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:
http://www.wvdnr.gov/fishing/didymo.shtm
http://www.epa.gov/region8/water/didymosphenia/International%20fact%20sheet.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/region8/water/didymosphenia/didymo_field_guide.pdf
http://www.vtwaterquality.org/lakes/docs/ans/lp_dididguide.pdf

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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.

Conclusion:

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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Raft guide cultureSo yep, I’m ready to pop. The formally “innie” belly button is sticking out like a Thanksgiving-day-turkey ready to be taken out of the oven. In the last 40 weeks I have learned a lot about my river community, others and myself.

Raft company culture is a weird environment to be pregnant around. Half the people you know from work are genuinely super happy for you. They mean it when they say congratulations, and ask about names and how you are feeling. To them, having kids seems like a normal part of life. No judgment, just normal.

And then there’s the other half. These co-workers are seriously uncomfortable around you. It’s like they are thinking, “How dare you do something so mainstream?” It’s literally like they feel like your life is now very pathetic compared to theirs. Their looks remind me that I’m a traitor to the unspoken rules of raft guide coolness. You know: never grow up (despite your age), never succumb to a desk job, and never settle down.

This group’s reaction has been weird for me. I guided solidly for over 12 years and I lived the raft guide’s dream. I lived in tents, survived off my tips, paid off my student loans with my pathetic paychecks, and everything I owned fit in my car. I traveled, worked and played on many rivers all over the world. Yeah, I lived the dream. These were some of the best years of my life.

Then one fall, I decided it was time to head east for one of those infamous Gauley seasons I had heard so much about out west. And yep, I met him. You know that one funny guy that a gal just can’t walk away from. We dated for three- four weeks during Gauley season, and by the end of that short season, we decided to leave our formal lives and start a new one together. I could go on and on, but that’s not the point of any of this. Shortened version: we traveled, we got married, we wanted ONE MORE GAULEY SEASON before we traveled some more. Then somehow we never left WV. We both ended up with “real jobs.” But our “real jobs” were at a rafting company, so somehow that was going to negate the fact that we would be sitting at a desk for 40 hours, 50+ weeks a year. We wanted the stability. We bought a house. We work hard at our “normal” jobs. And so it goes.

Many of my friends from around the world are still “wow”ing me with their travels and adventures in lands far away. Did I sell out? Did I give up the free thinking dream? Am I too selfish to be a good mom?

And then there is the other side of that FB feed, the folks my age, who are knee-deep into parenthood. They share photos of their kids and families and their genuine happiness is written all over their faces. I see those genuine smiles and it feels as comforting as sitting on the back of a raft did for so many years. It makes me excited, yet I am as scared as I was when I flipped a fully rigged gear boat on the Tuolomne (CA) at 12,000+ cfs back in the day.

Turning back is not an option. And if I could, would I? No. To me, I’m choosing to live in the best of both worlds. A community of river folks who know that life is more than a paycheck surrounds me. I have REALLY great friends. They love the outdoors as much as I do and we play together in the New River Gorge all the time. We have steady lives, and I’m not worried about how I’m going to get enough money together to survive between raft and ski season. I can have a dog, and the joy he brings is just plain priceless. I shower almost every day. I don’t sleep on a paco pad nightly anymore. And most days, my husband and I laugh. We are grateful for the past, but we know our best days are actually ahead of us.

So that’s me signing out for a couple of months to learn how to read and run motherhood. Wish me luck! Something tells me I’m going to need it…

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The Ultimate Question: Is White Water Rafting Safe?

Is white water rafting dangerous?

Get your PFD adjusted by a guide

Starting Your Day Off Right:
It starts with showing to ACE Adventure Resort up on time, an hour before departure, well rested with a clear head and ready to go.  Save the late night celebrations for AFTER your trip, not before.

Your trip leader will greet you and lead you through the liability waiver process, including the critical portion where you are asked to share any special medical circumstances you may have. If you prefer you can verbally and privately advise the trip leader of your situation, but it is vital that we know in advance anything that would better prepare us for any emergency and make informed decisions about how to conduct the trip.  Please be honest and forthright so we can do our best to assure you have a good day.

The trip leader will then go over conditions of the day and advise whether extra insulation is recommended.  Listen carefully and ask any questions that come to mind.

Next you will move to the trip departure area, rent a wetsuit if needed, and get fitted with a personal floatation device (life jacket), helmet, and paddle.  Your PFD will be adjusted to you by a guide. It should feel snug enough to stay in place in the water AND so someone else can pull you into the raft by the PFD lapels without slippage.  Do NOT loosen the adjustments after it has been fitted.

Once on the bus your trip leader will start in earnest to prepare you for the day.  Their style and delivery may vary, but their intent is to make you as ready as possible for what is to come, with an emphasis on teamwork, safety, and fun.

Either on a stopped bus or at the put in, the trip leader will go through a detailed checklist of safety items, strategies and procedures.  Pay careful attention and ask for clarification of anything you don’t understand.

Is white water rafting dangerous?

A guide’s paddle talk is very important to listen to.

Next you’ll meet your guide, who will reiterate key safety issues and start the process of molding you into a team prepared for the challenges ahead.  This is a good time to share with your guide any special individual or group circumstances (medical conditions, first time rafters, non-swimmers, anyone extra nervous).

It’s also when you’ll get your first chance to practice sitting in the raft.  As instructed, tuck (don’t jam) your front foot either under a cross-tube or into a foot cup or strap.  Place your back foot flat on the floor behind you.  You’ll want a brace that helps keep you in place but allows you to move if needed in case someone lands in your lap or you are tossed unexpectedly. The most common knee or ankle injuries result from being locked in too tight.

Stay tuned for part three of this series: Is White Water Rafting Safe- Being An Active Participant. If you missed out on part one of this series click here.

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white water rafting

White water rafting in WV

The Ultimate Question: Is White Water Rafting Safe?

Safety is an important consideration in any activity, and of utmost importance at ACE Adventure Resort.  Statistically your chances of getting injured on one of our river trips are very low.  But we treat our guests as people, not statistics.  We take extra precautions to address individual needs and every participant is encouraged to personally minimize their risk before and during their trip.

The Numbers:

In 2013, 38,264 guests rafted with ACE. 19 had injuries or episodes leading us to transfer them to or recommend additional medical care beyond what we provided on the scene.  That works out to a 00.05 percent chance that rafting with ACE will result in a trip to the emergency room. And a 99.95 percent chance that it won’t!

The 4 most serious of those 19 episodes were due to pre-existing conditions – two seizures, a stroke, and heart irregularities.  The other 15 ran the gamut from a broken wrist falling down at lunch to a twisted knee to a cut finger requiring stitches and a variety of other minor accidents consistent with tens of thousands of participants engaging in an outdoor adventure activity.

Of course ideally we would like that number to be zero, and we do all we can to approach that goal.  Your efforts can go a long way to help.

Safety Steps Before You Come:

Maximizing your safety starts before you leave for your trip.  Our reservationists will take all the time you need to select the right section, season, and craft option for you and your group, from mild to wild.  You’ll be advised of age restrictions and reminded that you will be a participant, not simply a passenger on your river trip.

This is a good time to share special considerations, whether group dynamics, dietary restrictions, physical limitations, health conditions, or any other factors that would help us better prepare for your arrival.  And they’ll answer any specific questions you may have.  In the rare instance when they do not have the answer to your question they’ll find it for you or put you in touch with someone who knows.

We also encourage you to watch our safety video series to provide insights on what to wear, the equipment we will provide, how to sit in the boat, river hazards, what to do if you or someone else falls out in whitewater and how to minimize those odds.

What We Do To Keep You Safe:

All of our guides are trained in first aid and CPR.  Many have advanced training such as Wilderness First Responder, Outdoor Emergency Care, or Emergency Medical Technician.  Several work on ambulance crews or are ski patrollers in the off season.  Every new guide receives swift-water rescue training, and existing guides are encouraged to periodically renew that training.  We organize ‘Guide Olympics’ with teams of guides competing against each other in events designed to hone their rescue skills.

Every trip leader carries an extensive medical kit and means of communicating with the outside world in the event of an emergency.  Management is always on standby to provide or send help if needed.  We work closely with our professional association, the National Park Service, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, US Army Corps of Engineers, and local emergency providers to continually revise emergency protocols and enhance cooperation.

Before every trip the guides and trip leader meet to discuss any special considerations for the day.  They meet again just before putting on the river so the trip leader can share any insights gleaned from the guest check-in process.  Another huddle happens during lunch, and finally they all debrief after returning to base.

Our equipment is regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced as needed.  We were the first company to transition to self-bailing rafts and continue to seek out the best equipment to meet our needs and yours.  Mechanics work year round in our five-bay garage to keep our vehicles in good shape and our full time raft repair staff keeps the river fleet up to snuff.

All of this is akin to what any team of professionals does to prepare.  What matters most is what happens on the day of YOUR adventure, and as an active participant there is much you can do to minimize your risk and maximize your fun.

This is only part one of this three-part series, Is White Water Rafting Safe? Stayed tuned for part two and three.

 

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Zip Line Tours in WV

Vicki and the ACE Zip Line Guides

Get Ready, Set, Go!
October 20, 2013 marks the date of my first Zip Line Tour. I will have to admit, I was a bit nervous and hesitant — especially when I heard one of the guides say, “By the way, this zip line is a one of a kind in North America. You will be zipping down nine lines, on the edge of a 1,000-foot canyon also known as, “The Grand Canyon of the East.””
The guides began giving our group advice as they reviewed our safety gear. They stressed that it was important to listen to them at all times and to enjoy the ride, scenery and have fun.
Tip: You should never wear loose clothing — something close-fitting, but comfortable.
We started out with a mini-bus ride to our drop off point. I secured my camera around me to capture my experience which I highly recommend. I was ready, set and it was time to hook into the first line.
Taking the leap of faith from the edge of the first platform, I had the thought, “I’ve come this far so I can’t back out now.” Before launching, I asked Paul, one of the four guides, “Where am I going?” Checking my safety gear on last time, he laughed saying, “You’re going that way.” I knew that. The foliage had camouflaged the next platform and I could not see it. Yelping, ”Oh, Dear Jesus!” I leaped.”
Waiting for me on the other side, Chelsea and Marinna gave me a stool to stand on making it easier to unhook me from the zip line. They reassured me, “We’re here for you, Vicki.”
The next few lines had my heart pounding, and I liked it! I was topping speeds of 40+ miles per hour screaming, “Woo-hoooooo” and “Oh my goodness!” The adrenaline rush gave me a natural high. I went backwards on one of the lines. I even experienced a little vertigo and surrendered to the euphoria that was happening inside me.
Next, staggering across a 250- foot swinging bridge, climbing up a 55- foot spiral staircase, I took the PLUNGE! Guide, Steven Kimmel, having a great sense of humor, tossed me a lifeline.
I cannot express enough the professionalism I experienced from the ACE’s Zip Line Tour staff. Safety is their number one priority. I’m 42 and that day, I learned that you are never too old to try new adventures.
Written by: Vicki White

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New River Gorge

New River Gorge in the Spring

We’ve all heard the story. You know the one…the New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world. Then why is it called the new?

Like a women her exact age remains a mystery. To add to her mystic she’s also had aliases.  One of the first white men that tried to tag her with his own name was Colonel Abraham Woods. He was a well-known European fur trader and explorer. He sent  a couple of his best men into the Appalachian Mountain area specifically in search of deer and beaver for their pelts. So it’s quite possible that those men, Thomas Batts (Batte) and Robert Fallam, may have been two of the first few white men to experience this mountainous region and ride what they called “Woods River”.

Digging a little deeper I find that just a few years prior to that, Edward Bland wrote home to London of the western territories of Virginia and North Carolina.  Everything was new…He called them the New Brittaine and New Virginia. Branding is obviously not a new trend… So when Bland came upon a river that wasn’t marked on any his maps, what else was he going to call it but the “New River”.

The New River is born in North Carolina and travels north which is an odd thing for a river to do. So she’s old but she’s called the New, and she’s goes against what is a general rule of rivers in flowing the wrong way. By the time she travels through Virginia and into West Virginia she’s picking up some powerful steam. Showing it off by way of wonderful white water and leaving a trail of summer fun in her mist. She’s been feeding and providing to this area in many ways over many years, and just like any mountain woman she’ll continue to do so till she hasn’t a drop left.

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whitewater rafting termsWhile spending my summer at ACE Adventure Resort, I have realized that the whitewater world speaks a language all its own, perhaps not the New River itself but its people definitely do. And by people, I mean the unique group of thrill-seeking individuals working as raft guides. The more times you go rafting, the more of the whitewater terms you begin to pick up from them. There are probably books full of whitewater terms such as hydraulic, pour-over, punchy, reactionary, guide ejectors, undercuts, eddy and so forth. While the raft language is never ending, there are three whitewater terms that stick out in my mind as being rather important for any rafter to understand.

These three terms are “high side”, “eddy” and “hydraulic”. High side comes into play on a rafting trip when the raft either encounters a large rapid or rock sideways and goes up on to one side. In order to prevent the raft from flipping, it needs weight put on the side that is up in the air. There will already be rafters seated there, but when high side is called, this is code for the entire boat of rafters to make it to literal high side and fast.

The next whitewater term, eddy, usually refers to a type of safe haven for rafters or their boat. An eddy, depending on where in the river it is can take different forms. However, the safe haven eddy I am referring to, is the one that is usually behind a large rock, to either the left or the right of the river near the shore. Guides will often pull a boat into one of these eddies after making it through a large section of a rapid to sort of reconvene with the other boats or to make sure each makes it through successfully. Because the large rock is preventing the water from continuing downstream, it has created a placid pool. It’s a nice place to take a few moments before or after the big water hits. And any fisherman knows, this is where the fish hang out.

Hydraulic is the next term that it frequently splashed around on the river. As a rafter, it doesn’t matter what section of the whitewater you are running, you will be seeing hydraulics all day. A hydraulic is simply a wall of upstream current created by water flowing over a rock. Essentially, this is a wave that can pack a punch. Sometimes hydraulics are safe to “hit”, sometimes not. However, you can be assured that your guide will always point these out to you, and if they are runnable will be yelling “all forward” as you approach.

Our guides always teach you the most important whitewater terms you need to know while rafting with ACE; however, see if you hear any of these terms while on your next trip. I bet that if you find yourself in a raft frequently you will have already picked some up!

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Campfire Cooking RecipesWhen you go camping, whether it be in a pop-up tent or cozy cabin at ACE, you tend to eat the same types of food. Hotdogs or a hamburger, whatever is easiest to grill, perhaps beans and s’mores at night. This is delicious camping food however, if you camp frequently, you and your family may get a little tired of having the same type of meal. This is a simple, wallet friendly, kid friendly meal. Even if you have no kids, everyone will find himself or herself wanting this campfire cookout recipe. It’s perfect for changing up each time you have it and everyone will enjoy personalizing it!

Fireside Camp Pizza:
-All you need to cook this is a grate to place over the fire. Tin foil is helpful to contain any mess.

Ingredients include:
1 pack of pita or naan bread (depending on preference)
1 bottle of pizza sauce
Shredded mozzarella
Any additional pizza toppings you desire. Get creative! Veggies, Meat, Fruit etc.

Directions: Place bread on grate over fire and heat until lightly toasted. This prevents sauce from making bread soggy. Once toasted, flip bread over and place on low heat, meaning pull it out of the direct flame as to not heat too quickly. Next, top bread with sauce, cheese and finally preferred toppings. Let sit and cool for 5-10 minutes. Instant Fireside Camp Pizza! Enjoy

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Tarpology

Camping in WV

If you find yourself in a tent at ACE, I feel as though tarpology is an important concept to be familiar with. West Virginia has frequently changing weather. Within the same day it can rain, be hot and turn chilly fast. In order to prepare your tent for these possible changes, tarp knowledge is good to have to take your camping experience to the next level.
You’re probably wondering what I mean by tarpology. I’m referring to the act of rigging tarps in specific ways to cover your camp spot from the outside elements. This cannot only keep you cooler but dryer. All you need is a tarp or two and some string. Two tarps are optional. This is if you would like to put one under your tent to prevent water soaking through in case you find yourself in a substantial downpour. One tarp though, when stretched over the top of tent can keep a lot of the abuse from a bad rainstorm. When stretched flat across a tent this also creates an instant shade area, for those hot days. A tarp can be easily and simply stretched above a tent, between two trees with string to protect from rain and heat.

What is important to remember about your tarp is that it should be strung tight enough to be sturdy yet still possess enough flexibility to bend with the wind to prevent it from ripping. If your tarp has one side a different color from the other, then remember to place the lighter of the two facing the sun to reflect the heat.
Something as simple as a tarp and a string doesn’t seem like it can make a huge difference, however if you’ve been camping and been rained out or fried by the heat, you will understand why tarpology is so key!

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