Our pals the Heeters in Fayetteville, WV invited us along on a river float/camping adventure on the New River. We know Geoff and Kyle from The New River Birding Festival, of which Geoff is a co-founder. They are old hands at whitewater rafting, having both migrated to the area, famous for its wild rivers, to become rafting guides. This trip would be on relatively calm waters—two days of rafting with a night of camping thrown in. Julie was busy with an illustration project, so the kids and I loaded up the van and headed south to the hills.
We caught a minor league baseball game in Charleston on Sunday night—more about that (possibly) in a future post—and stayed overnight on the Heeters' farm after the game. The two young Heeters and the two young Thompsons (boys and girls the same age) get along famously. It's nice when you can let the village raise your children.
Monday morning, instead of heading off to work, we loaded rafts and life jackets and coolers and tents and far too much other stuff into two vehicles and headed off to the river. Along the way we picked up some other friends' kids and one other adult, Katie, and began the long, complicated process of changing from land-based to water-borne creatures.
The rafts are large, heavy plastic or rubber crafts, designed to float high and to withstand the rocks and beaches of a sometimes-angry river. We ran several rapids during the two days, but the New was low and clear, so we did not encounter anything that was truly scary.
In the New River Gorge you are often far from civilization—or at least civilization and its comforts are not easily within reach. No cell signals. Too wet for the laptop. If you bring a camera it needs to travel in a dry bag or in a water-tight case.
Geoff talked me out of bringing my binoculars.
"When was the last time you spent a day without binoculars?" he asked me.
I had to think. It's been a long time.
It was a big relief to have no expensive gear to worry over. I did take my pocket digital camera.
Did I miss the binocs? Only twice—when distant birds were not ID-able with the naked eye. Otherwise, I enjoyed a more "whole-istic" view of the river and the gorge.
Floating down the river was true bliss. We told stories, jokes, sang goofy songs, and also spent a fair amount of time (kids included!) just "being"—sitting in quiet contemplation. The river's motion and sounds have that effect.
Phoebe and Liam surprised me with their willingness to raft or swim through rapids, to jump off of rocks into the water, and to revert to being nature creatures, released from the grip of Webkinz and TV and e-mail.
We slept on a sandy beach in our tent. We ate hobo-style meals squatting around a fire. We fished (both kids loved that)!
It was a really nice change of channel. Thanks Kyle & Geoff!
Some photographic evidence: