New River Gorge Bridge Day

Yes, this guy really did jump!

Attending Bridge Day on the New River Gorge Bridge has been on my bucket list. For me, it was a dream comes true. Because of my experience, I now plan to attend every year. It is an annual event that is held every third Saturday in October. Considered the world’s largest and most dangerous extreme sports event, I was not sure what to expect.
Leaving Ace Adventure Resort the morning of, my GPS had stopped working. To my surprise Kroger, one of many designated parking locations for the event was less than ten minutes away. Parking did not seem to be a problem. Everything was well organized by the County. Every fifteen minutes, school buses would pick you up and drop you off round trip for $2.00 making it a short convenient ride to get from one destination to another.

When arriving on the South side of the bridge the excitement in me grew. There were people as far as your eyes could see. According to Cindy Dragan from the Bridge Day, Commission there was an estimated 75,000 spectators from all over the world to attend this year. Sponsors and vendors lined up on both sides of the highway. Selling handmade crafts, jewelry t-shirts, crazy looking beanie hats, and kettle corn. Children were jumping on a bungee trampoline. The aroma from food was so tempting. I enjoyed lemonade and the best funnel cake that ever melted in my mouth.

The weather was overcast with temperatures in the low 60’s.For attire I dressed in layers wearing a, North Face wind jacket. Over all, a perfect autumn day for the event.
From below the bridge while taking photographs and video, I found myself saying a silent prayer for each participant. The BASE jumpers were leaping, diving or being launched from a catapult some 876 feet above me. Free falling three to four seconds before deploying their chutes. It looked like rainbows’ dancing in sky as their parachutes open to become their saving wings of grace.

New River Gorge

Landing in the New River

In West Virginia for just one day, BASE jumpers can legally leap from the New River Gorge Bridge, and soar like an eagle in the wind. Wild Water & New River jet boats come to the rescue if they happen to splash in the frigid river below. It was like a scene out of a movie. Nine hundred thirty-four jumps took place.

Bridge Day 2013 was ending. One of the most touching moments I had that day was the opportunity to interview Lonnie Bissonnette who jumped from the bridge in a wheel chair with his best friend Bertrand Cloutier. They jumped in memory of their two best friends. Lonnie’s best friends name was Scott Halliday who also loved the sport. He passed away in July 2013. Bertrand best friend was Mario Richard who had an unfortunate accident in Italy a few months ago doing what he loved. “Feeling free and being part of the skies.” Bertrand explained: “There were four who jumped not just Lonnie and me.”

Bridge Day

Lonnie Bissonnette, Bertrand Cloutier and Vicki White

When talking to Lonnie I asked him, what advice would you give to someone who may or may not be in your circumstances? What advice would you give to our youth? He responded: “Vicki, I would tell anyone to go for their dreams and don’t let anyone stop you from achieving them.” Bertrand responded saying: “This is how we live our lives and we hope to inspire others.

Written By: Vicki White

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2013 Video Boaters Awards

2013 Video Boaters Awards

On Wednesday, October 2nd, over 250 folks from the New & Gauley River community gathered at The Historic Fayette Theatre in Fayetteville, WV for one of the most-anticipated events of the year, the Video Boater Challenge (VBC). 2013 was the 10th anniversary of the event, and it was a night to remember. The VBC is a film festival featuring the work of the video boaters who film whitewater trips on the New & Gauley Rivers. A panel of industry peers in several categories judges their videos. The audience votes on the two most prestigious awards, Viewers’ Choice for Best Video and Best Video Boater. ACE’s own Josh Collins received video Boater of the Year! All proceeds from the VBC go towards the preservation and operations of The Historic Fayette Theatre.

The ACE Video Dept. once again won a majority of the awards, winning 1st place finishes in 6 of 9 categories! Our video boaters were also awarded three 2nd place finishes, and three 3rd place prizes. Contestants were rewarded from a well-stocked prize pool of donations from local, national, and even international sponsors. Among those contributors is ACE Gear Shop, which has been a major sponsor of this popular local event since its beginning.

Our Video Department is very much behind the scenes of the event, from the Director of the show, to stage actors, and technical staff. New for this year was a live musical performance by the Appalachian Thunderfunk Video Boater’s Band, an all-video boater ensemble of which three out of four work for ACE!

ACE Adventure Resort would like to extend their congratulations to our award-winning video staff: Josh Collins, John Cornwell, Katie De Butts, Peyton Love, Lisa Marie, Tom Riley, and T.K. Shields. Way to go! So proud to watch your work at the 10th annual video boater challenge.

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Gauley SeasonAs the daylight becomes shorter and the temperature gets chillier, Gauley season at ACE is coming to an end. We definitely ended it with a bang on the Gauley!
Rafting, zip line, ATV, paintball, horseback riding, paddle boarding, climbing and rappelling, bridge walk, mud obstacle, and countless other activities full of adventure taking place at ACE, no wonder you’re hooked on adrenaline. No doubt our employees made just as many great memories as our guests did.

We at ACE are already looking forward to next season and having you back for the wild ride! After you have spent some time with us once, you may be wondering, what could possibly make my adventure different next season?

Remember that the river is always changing and every time you raft, it’s just as exciting as your first. Plus, after you tell your vacation stories (and they are cooler than everyone else’s) we are positive that your friends and family will want to come along on your next visit.

So here’s to another Gauley season of adventure here at ACE, great memories, and new excitement next season! We thank you for coming to raft the gnarly rapids, adventure the apex of the zip line, and paint each other in paintball and we look forward to seeing you again!

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SUP tours WVAdventure seekers flock to ACE in the fall season for the adrenaline rush of the Gauley River, but forget that the fall offers another great water activity. Let’s say you raft the Gauley one day of your vacation, and it is as thrilling as promised, but you want something a little more laid back the next day to even out the dynamic. West Virginia takes on a beautiful new look in the fall and to experience it in person is to truly appreciate it.

Paddle Boarding would be a perfect activity to do while at ACE in the fall. This holds the aspect of exciting and new because many people have never paddle boarded before. At the same time, it is a laid back activity that you can take as slow as you like. From the vantage point of your board you can take in the beautiful fall colors and smells, not to mention wildlife, as you paddle gently downstream. What other way to balances out the wild ride the Gauley River provides?

Learning to paddle board in WV is a fun adventure. First you start on your knees, and then you wobble up to your feet in a standing position till you successfully master that. When you do this, you will be so proud of yourself, just in time to look around and take in the beauty of fall all around you.

There is no other activity that perfectly mixes serenity with adventure. For water lovers, there is also no better way to add to your already exciting fall weekend at ACE Adventure Resort. Paddle boarding in WV is the perfect fall activity.

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Go Pro whitewater

Catching some air at Iron Ring Rapid, Gauley River, WV

If you look around, you’ll notice Facebook land has a lot more whitewater shots and videos thanks to the popularity of Go Pros. I have been using my Go Pro Hero 3 to get video and white water shots from the New and Gauley Rivers. I started playing with my Go Pro last year and have been getting more and more into it.  My favorite is to shoot POVs (point-of-views), giving the guest a realistic feel of what it looks like to raft class 5 whitewater. Through trial and error, I have learned a lot over the last year. Here are some tips on what to do and what not to do when using a Go Pro to shoot white water.

How To Mount Your Go Pro:

Go Pro white water

Go Pro Accessories

There are a few different mounts and accessories you can use for the Go Pro. At ACE, we have some helmets that have the Go Pro clips on them, but it’s always a good idea to double check with your Trip Leader before committing to bringing your Go Pro on white water. We try to keep them stored separately for Go Pro-user convenience. Lots of serious filmers prefer to bring their own, which is fine. But make sure you have taken the time to really hold down the sticky part to your helmet for some time. Heat can also help it stick better.  Another mount frequently used is the helmet strap.  If you use this, make sure you bring some tie downs for the helmet.  They tend to get slippery when the helmet gets wet and can easily fall off. Some people also use the chest strap. If you use that make sure to sit in the front. It tends to get a better view of the rapids. Go Pro accessories are available locally at ACE Adventure Gear Shoppe.

Items Useful With The Go Pro:

  • One of my favorite items is the orange float pad you can put on the back of your Go Pro camera. This floats on the surface and keeps it for going down into the water (yes I have tried it at home).  I have seen folks loose their Go Pros on the river, so again, make sure you have everything on tight.
  • Anti-fog inserts are also a trick I’ve discovered from my many river miles. This helps keep the fog out of your camera case and it really works. I have found it definitely makes for a better view for my videos.
  • Camera-tethers are also good for another back up should the camera come loose. I can’t iterate enough, how important it is to double check everything and make sure you always have a backup strategy in place to keep things secure.

Tips That Will Help Out:

  • It’s important to get two things: an extra battery and a large memory card. I like to take a lot of video and photos, so I need that 2nd battery to make sure I can get as much as possible. I also have a flash drive card so when I have too much video on my laptop (and yes, I have a lot) I have a place to store it.
  • Prep yourself and make sure you are ready to use your Go Pro. Read the instructions so you know how to work it before going on white water. I can’t stress this one enough. You don’t want rafting to be the first time you use your Go Pro. I know I have taken pictures instead of video in my time, and it can be frustrating.

Hopefully this helps those who will be shooting some white water with a Go Pro Camera on their next rafting trip. I only covered the basics, but they are a good foundation to build on. Now, go out there and make you and your friends famous! Here’s my latest video from Pillow Rapid on the Upper Gauley River, WV:

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Rock Climbing

Climbing in the New River Gorge

It does not matter if you’re Sport Climbing, Traditional Climbing, Top Roping, or Bouldering. The New River Gorge is a supreme spot for climbers. The New River Gorge is the Grand Canyon of the east, a true mecca for climbers. It would take a lifetime to cover all charted climbs, between the Gorge, Summersville Lake and the Meadows there is over 65 miles of cliff faces to scale including over 1700 recognized routes to climb that range from challengingly easy to impressively difficult.

Oh you’ve never been to The New River Gorge? Getting Started rock climbing in the New River Gorge is much easier then it may seem.  Go to the A gear store and pick up “The New River Gorge Rock Climbing” guidebook. This handbook has every climb that you could ever want to climb in the Gorge, Summersville, and the Meadow. Each Climb is numbered and ranked using The Yosemite Decimal System, then given a one to four star rating system to indicate the quality of the route and backed up with small descriptions lined with helpful hints about the climb itself.

Are you new to the area and you’re unfamiliar to it and with the people? Don’t worry; climbers are a friendly and charismatic group of individuals. Grab your guide book, find a good bouldering spot and bring all your gear, if you’re out going enough you can meet some interesting and inspiring people who might just let you jump on their rope or give you some good tips about the area. You can also hit up the local climber hangouts, like the New River Campground off Ames Heights Road, Cathedral Café in Fayetteville, or Waster Stone Outdoors in Fayetteville, an outdoor store geared primarily towards climbers. These are the places you can visit to help give you a “leg up” in the climbing world of the New River Gorge.

New River Gorge ClimbingPerhaps you desire a little instruction on climbing? Come to ACE Adventure Resort where we offer 1 to 4 day climbing clinics where you will learn, from our professionally trained climbing guides, how to use and care for your equipment, fitting yourself with climbing shoes and a harness, how to tie basic knots and anchors, techniques to climb more efficiently, picking the right routes, and how routes are graded. You’re addicted to climbing now? Well then you can try one of the full day or half day climbing trips that ACE Adventure Resort offers. We will take you to the premier climbing spots of the gorge, with breath taking views of the mountains, valleys, and the New River. Good Luck my friends and Climb On!

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white water rafting in WV

Abbe chillin’ out

Here are some of my best tips for how to stay warm white water rafting in WV and at the campsite: (brought to you from years of experience getting soaking wet and sleeping on the ground for fun.)

ON THE RIVER:

  • Wear shoes that give you ample room to move your toes. If there’s any significant pressure on any part of your feet, it’ll restrict blood flow and freeze your feet up much faster than if you have wiggle room. Even booties a size too big will keep you warm as your feet will quickly heat up the water sloshing around in there – whereas one size too small is sure to keep your toes numb in cold water.
  • At lunch, keep your PFD and helmet on. This keeps you a bit warmer with the added benefit of providing some protection from the elements. Keep in mind, this method keeps you from accessing the full capacity of your stomach – which seems like a disappointing tradeoff when you’re the only one in the raft who isn’t completely stuffed from one of ACE Adventure Resort’s scrumptious, grilled lunches.
  • Moving your big muscles will keep you warmer and return feeling to your extremities much faster than wiggling your toes or shaking your hands. Try this: With your arms hanging down, lock your elbows and flex the backs of your hands up towards your forearms and shrug your shoulders a lot to get circulation into your fingers. Do some squats to engage your largest muscles and get blood flowing around your entire body. If you do both at the same time, be sure to thread some leaves into your helmet and tell people you’re a bird of paradise. If you get weird looks from others in your crew, just remember that they are probably still cold and not nearly as hip as you.

AT CAMP:

  • Get completely out of your wet clothes. Some people keep their damp swim trunks and sports bras on after white water rafting in WV, assuming that the articles will dry out since all their outer clothes are dry. This is flawed logic, as your wet undergarments serve as an icepack right above your femoral arteries and chill your core.
  • Put on a hat. A winter hat is best but even a baseball cap will help. Hats are the thermos of the clothing world and will retain more heat than you’d ever expect. Scarves are good backup. Both of these are indispensable when you’re ready to turn in for the night.
  • Boil up a pot of water and pour it into one of your water bottles. Insulate it with a sock to keep it from burning your skin, and snuggle up to it like a teddy bear. Extra bonus: You don’t have to go far if you need a drink of water in the middle of the night!
  • If you only brought one pair of an essential clothing item and it’s currently soaked, wring it out and hang it over a heat source for as long as possible. If all you’ve got is a fire, you’ll run the risk of making the garment hickory-smoked and covered in little bitty burn holes while drying it. Remember, you’ll get more street cred as an outdoors-person if you smell like fire and your clothing has some battle scars!) When you go to bed, take the (hopefully) semi-dry item and put it inside your sleeping bag with you, preferably at the base of the bag so you can avoid rolling over on something icky and wet in the middle of the night. Your body heat will slowly dry the gear out over the course of the night, with the added bonus of it being warm when you have to put it on in the morning.
  • In a sleeping bag, sometimes you stay warmer if you have fewer layers on. Have you ever noticed that mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves? That’s the same basic concept – your fingers are helping to warm one another instead of sitting in their individual isolated compartments. Experiment with this before you put on every item of clothing you brought.
  • Make sure there’s adequate insulation between you and the floor. In lieu of a mattress, even a thin yoga mat or a layer of your clothing is better than nothing. If you’re a mobile sleeper like me, take some actions to keep yourself from rolling off your sleeping mat in the middle of the night, because you’re sure to wake up cold. If this means wedging yourself between the cooler and the tent wall to keep from rolling off during the night, go for it.

So there it is: How to stay warm while white water rafting. Let us know if you have an additional pointers.

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WV black bearWhile you’re staying at ACE Adventure Resort, you are no doubt making such great memories taking part in exciting outdoor activities that you more than likely haven’t considered the diverse wildlife you will encounter. You are busy soaring through the trees on the zip line or breaking huge waves on the river, that when you see the majestic wildlife that has made its home in the gorge, you are taken by surprise. We aren’t talking deer and sweet little chipmunks. However, we definitely have quite the plethora of those as well.

The wildlife in the New River Gorge that you can experience while spending time with us at ACE, is no doubt- amongst the creatures you probably have never seen back home, or even outside of a zoo. Our hefty, at home friend the black bear has been spotted meandering through the woods multiple times. These guys are native to the hills of West Virginia. No need to worry about them however, they tend to only be spotted while floating down the river and you are at a safe, pleasant view by which to spectate.

Bald Eagles in WVAnother kind of wildlife in the New River Gorge that is frequently seen while rafting is the bald eagle. These have been seen many times, as there is a family that has made the gorge their home. This member of wildlife is our national bird for a reason. To experience a bald eagle soaring above you is to experience sheer awe. It will only add to your already great rafting story that you were able to see an eagle in its natural habitat. The next creature you will probably encounter isn’t at home near the river but rather the cracks of the large rocks that actually make up the gorge. The copperhead snake is a regular to see sunbathing while on the zip line tour. Again, no need to worry, he stays at a distance that is roped off, but still where you are able to gaze at a slithery creature you may otherwise never see. The anatomy of snake is amazing, but these guys are just cool in their own right. Not to mention to get pictures of such wildlife while on an already amazingly adventurous vacation is like having your cake and eating it too for the outdoor enthusiast.

To see these creatures in their natural habitats, while both you and the wildlife remain safe, is to truly appreciate nature. You already know you’re going to have a wild experience while on vacation at ACE, why not make some wild friends while you’re at it?

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Animal Race

Post-Race Celebrations

Here in Fayette County WV outdoor adventure abounds, and just when the weather starts to cool off is when things start to heat up around these parts. September means Gauley Season, and that means big whitewater, big fun, and big personalities. Some of the industries best and biggest characters gathered at the dam on Monday morning for The Animal Race on the Upper Gauley River, and it proved to be just as fun and adventure filled as ever! There were titles challenged and defended, egos boosted and bruised, and victories lost and gained, and it was so much fun to watch!

Gauley River Race

The infamous pink sea horse

I arrived at the dam around 10:00am in time for the slow caravan of colorfully covered vehicles boasting kayaks, shredders, and rafts of various sizes, filled with boaters wearing nervous smiles and brightly contrasting river gear that could make the most serious of competitors crack a smile. While I was walking around taking pre-race photos I find some ACE races stretching and discussing the competition and just a mere 50ft away I find another group of ACE racers laughing and mainly focusing on the blowing up not of their raft, but of the pink seahorse that was to be their mascot. A little farther down the parking lot I find a very serious defending R-1 champ Brad Atkins prepping his boat away from the crowds, and pauses long enough to tell me that he is more interested in staying upright during the race this rather than solely focused on the goal of winning. I think this is a smart line of thought as this year the water level was a competitor in it’s own right. Recently there has been a large amount of rainfall to our west and that has resulted in the traditional level of 2800 cfs for the Animal Race on the Upper Gauley to be altered. This year the competitors began the race with a flow of 2,000 cfs coming out of the dam but once they hit the confluence the level jumped up to around 4,000 cfs. This added an element of unpredictability to the race that I had not witnessed before. The energy was buzzing with nervousness before the race meeting.

Upper Gauley Animal Race

The Guide of Team “Kick Ass”

The race was anything but ordinary this year, well other than Brad Atkins taking top prize 3rd year in a row in the R-1 category with a time of 1:20:52. We here at ACE are proud to boast this year’s ANIMAL RACE 2013 #1 team over all, team KICK ASS! They came in with a time of 1:04:24. This is thrilling for us at ACE because we love and support them, but it is especially epic because the team had 5 men and 1 woman and we are especially proud of Shanna Crompton for being a part of the winning team that left boats filled with men in their wake. A huge congratulation is also in order to Guide Matt Dotson, and paddlers Jimbo Tourje, Daniel Reiger, Tim Slatton and Johnny Newman. Another exciting moment this year was watching our former video boater Moose drop Sweets Falls with the entire female race team of Paddle Me Happy dropping right in their with him. It was an epic end to a long race for those guys, but certainly a photo finish!

Animal Race on the Upper Gauley River

Phil Groseclose dropping Sweet’s Falls

Farther down the river just below Sweets Falls it was quite the scene on video boater’s rock when the team made up almost entirely of ACE girls, WET DREAM made a great time of 1:13:04.They killed it out there, even through the loss of their pink seahorse mascot! They ran great lines, and made great time. You could feel the energy and relief when they paddled past Postage Due to a chorus of cheers and a waterfall of Yuenglings from the play boaters and friends gathered above. Postage Due quickly became the spot to be. Within several minutes the rock was covered in the brightly colored boats and the even more colorful characters that paddle them. Seeing so many people so happy doing something they love so much feels intoxicating. Seeing one of ACE’s favorite guides named Smiley earn his nickname after killing it out there (2nd place 1:27:42) was joy in the making. Watching Phillip Groseclose (1:31:11) style Sweets Falls and then promptly stand up and show Sweets (or more likely the rock called dildo) what he thought of it was hilarious and understandable from this bloggers perspective. She is a tricky 14 ft. waterfall after all.

The Animal Race 2013 was a day that I will remember for a long time. Taking photographs and speaking with people about what they love to do while they are doing it is an honor and an experience that is not wasted on me. Thank you racers ACE and otherwise for making Monday one of the best days of Gauley Season for this girl. Watching you all prep, paddle, play and celebrate was too much fun! Thank you Burrito Bar for a great after party for all the competitors and volunteers, and thank you Donnie Hudspeth for all of your hard work and dedication, this race wouldn’t happen without you. Can’t wait to see what happens next year!!!

 

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Gauley River Rafting

Celebrating after a great “Pillow” ride

Summer is gone now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue having adventure just because you’re stuck inside a classroom. While this is directed at the college students out there, this stands true for everyone. Plain and simple, the end of summer does not mean the end of fun. In fact, it means quite the contrary. Now that classes are in full swing, you have deadlines to meet and new concepts to master; you need something that is that much more exciting to allow you to let off some steam.

Say hello to your new best friend, rafting the Gauley River. I’m sure you’re wondering how you can manage this with a crazy schedule and tight funds being a student. I myself am a college student, and let me happily inform you, it is quite possible (thanks to ACE, of course). Rafting the Gauley River on either the upper or lower stretches is mainly a weekend activity. This instantly remedies your busy student schedule because you don’t have class. Also, this activity really only demands one day, leaving you with other days to finish projects or work on deadlines.

Imagine yourself finally breaking free of the stress that accompanies college life and finding adventure amongst the great outdoors. Yes, dreams do come true. This is such a rush that we are confident you will return to class the following Monday with not only an awesome story to tell your friends, but a more relaxed demeanor. Don’t miss the boat (or raft in this case). Plus most of us have an extra day off on Monday, October 14th for Columbus Day. Three day weekend = plenty of time to study AND play!

Statistics, business, psychology, multiple classes, teaches students the importance of opportunity. Time to take that theory outdoors and seize adventure. The break in monotony that rafting the Gauley River offers could even be beneficial to your GPA! I know, it just keeps getting better and better. To sum it up, we know that you students work hard and quite frankly we want you to play even harder.

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