On March 4, 2010, I had the pleasure of going on the first commercial rafting trip of the 2010 whitewater season. Paul and Tyler were on a father and son trip and were excited to be the first rafters of the year.What we could not have predicted was the weather. It was 35 degrees with six inches of snow on the ground. It seemed odd to be prepping for a river trip in these conditions, but we all were excited and determined to have a good time.
We were prepared for the cold. Paul and Tyler were wearing wet and dry suits to ensure their protection from the elements. We all wore multiple layers and looked like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” The water temperature was in the high 30s. Paul said the initial splash of the monster waves felt like it gave him an instant brain freeze.
I, personally, was excited to have this amazing, ancient river to ourselves. I have been down this section of the river at least 500 times and knew what to expect. The bonus of the day for me was the way the snow highlighted miles of old coke ovens (used to purify coal back in the day) and dozens of old homes in coal ghost towns. It made me look at the Gorge in a fresh new way.
The rapids were running so high and fast that the trip only took two and a half hours. These were the greatest water levels I’ve seen on the New River in a while. All of the snow from this crazy winter ensures great flows through the upcoming spring season.
At ACE’s private takeout, we could see Bo (the river manager) and Gary (the transportation manager) waiting for us. Even though we were a bit frosty, a good time was had by all. And the hot chocolate waiting for us on shore wasn’t bad either.
It was nice that they were on a father/son weekend and decided to spend it with us. They also did our Zip Line Canopy Tour and stayed in the Grey Fox cabin. They were anxious to get back to their cabin for a long soak in the hot tub to take the chill off.
It is amazing how quickly the weather changes here. A week later I guided another trip and it was in the 60s and we were peeling off our wetsuit layers. Now is the time to really maximize the best New River levels of the year. We can’t predict the weather but we can guarantee a great time.