Most people find West Virginia and its wilderness to be foreign territory, and have loads of questions about the area and the river. Some are justifiably curious, with others I have a hard time keeping a straight face. Here are some of the most common questions a guide fields on a daily basis:
1) If someone falls out of the boat, do you just stop and pick them up?
No! We’re in West Virginia on a Mother Nature-made river, not Disney World. Unlike the log flume ride over at Magic Kingdom, there aren’t any tracks under the water.
If someone falls out, we can’t push a “stop” button, so we have to keep floating downstream with the current. If your buddy falls out, grab onto them by the shoulder straps of their Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and haul them back into the boat.
2) The trees around here are so tall! How do you get the ones in the back to grow taller than the ones in the front?
Well, a long time ago, Miracle Grow decided to test several fertilizer formulas in the New River Gorge …. Just kidding!
Don’t forget, you’re in a gorge, so beneath all those trees, there are mountains made out of rock and dirt, thus allowing some trees to be higher, elevation-wise, than others.
3) Do you move the rocks around in the winter to switch up the rapids and keep the guides from getting bored?
The boulders along the river are all real, meaning those huge, house-size rocks weigh several thousand pounds, making them virtually impossible to move without the help of explosives and large cranes (or river guides who are super bored and want to work on a 22-1 Z-drag rescue setup).
As for getting bored, never! The river is like the stock market; the same elements are there every day, but their levels change all the time.
At different water levels, certain routes through the rapids are available. One day a raft can paddle through a wave, and the next it turns into a stiff “guide-ejector” hit where the guide goes flying over the nose of the boat.
4) Will we take out at the same place we put in?
The “put in” is where we begin our rafting trip, whereas the “take out” is where we end our rafting trip. To answer the question, “Do we take out the same place we put in?” we must first look at what makes a river.
Wikipedia, world renowned source for lazy researchers, defines a river as “a natural watercourse … flowing toward an ocean, lake, a sea or another river …. Rivers flow downhill from river source to river mouth.” When you raft at ACE, you are rafting the New or Gauley River, not the New or Gauley Lake.
By definition, we are following the course of the river as it flows downhill through the Gorge. Thus, we “take out” our rafts several miles downstream from where we “put in.” Unless you meant the question in a metaphysical sense, the answer is still “no.”