Church Rafting Trip June 2015
Dates: June 22 - June 25, 2015
People: Mark, Sarah, + many others
- 6-22 (Travel Day)
- 6-23 (Rafting Day)
- 6-24 (Rock Climbing Day)
- 6-25 (Travel Day)
MONDAY JUNE 22
We met at Grace right around 7am. Sarah and I arrived at about that time and there were a handful of cars from HG and even Grace there already. Our depature time was 7:30am. As people arrived we got our Grace kids situated in one of our two vehicles. At about 7:25a as it appeared everyone was present Pastor Lucas had everyone come inside to our sanctuary and he shared a few introductory notes on the trip and then a prayer. He also passed out a map set for the drive down. Then everyone headed out to their cars to leave. We weren’t going to caravan as we had about 7-8 vehicles. We did loosely decide to meet in Cambridge, OH for lunch. No specific restaurant was chosen.
We attempted at first to caravan our Grace vehicles but at some point the other vehicle finally fell behind. We didn’t have to stop at all before Cambridge and so made good time there. We stopped at the Wendy’s and found that the other cars were all arriving there as well. Our other Grace car was about an hour behind because of several stops.
We headed out of there and made our way on to West Virginia. Driving got slower after Charleston as we left the interstate. We were on the Midland Trail which is US60. Followed this east and hit some construction where they had things to one lane in a few spots. When we hit Glen Ferris, the Kanawha Falls caught our eye and we stopped at a small park for photos. Beautiful place. At Chimney Corner we headed south on County Route 16 and this got particularly hilly and slow. That spat us out onto US19 by Fayetteville and we made our first of many trips across the New River Gorge.
This had us at Adventures on the Gorge finally where we found the rest of the group at the main campus starting check-in. Our cabins were the Hemlock cabins and on the Mill Creek Campus on the northeast side of the road. We divided up into 2 boys cabins and 3 ladies cabins, all pretty full. I was in a cabin with the other 3 pastors and a few of the young people. The 8 Grace ladies all gathered in their own cabin. There were 3-4 people who slept on air mattresses as we were over capacity in several of the cabins.
We had free time at this point until supper at 5:30p. I used this time to get a trail-run in on the Canyon Rim Trail. Got back just in time for supper. We just had cold cuts for supper. Afterwards Pastor Loree shared a fine devotion on baptism. The evening was free time again and a lot of folks played cards or went swimming at the pool. It was quite warm this first night in our cabin, and coupled with the humidity it was a bit hard to get to sleep at first. A lot of grumbling in our cabin at the need for bigger fans, bigger windows and cooler air.
TUESDAY JUNE 23
Breakfast was set for 6:45am to 7:15am this morning since we had to be ready for the rafting departure. Pastor Lucas has a dozen or more boxes of cereal sitting out on the table with a few gallons of milk available. They also ran an extension cord from one of the cabins to run a coffee maker. Most everyone came dragging out of their cabins for some food and drink and then off to get ready for the day.
For the rafting trip I wanted to essentially carry nothing and worry about nothing while in the water. This meant no phone, no keys, no nothing in the pockets. I wore my black swim/running trunks and a tech shirt and that was about it. I had debated bringing the GoPro camera along but wasn’t sure if it would fit the helmets or how I would wear it and secure it. (In hindsight, I could still go either way, it was nice to worry about nothing, but there would have been times it may have been fun to have the camera). A few others in the group had GoPro’s. 2 of them used the chest mount and this appeared to be a decent idea. It certainly held the camera safe, not sure how the video turned out. I did learn from them that you want to put a little dab of RainX (normally used for car windows) to help the water run off the front of the casing so that your pictures don’t have water droplets in all of them.
We all walked out of our camp area at 7:30 to head up to the main buildings to get ready for rafting. Our tour wasn’t to leave until 8am but we wanted to be ready. We ended up waiting til about 8:20a til they had a bus available for us. We all fit on the one bus with a few guides in the back and the main guide, Ark, up front acting as narrator. It was almost a 40 minute drive to Thurmond where we would put in and Ark spent most of it explaining to us about rafting and things we would need to know. He did a pretty good job.
At Thurmond we pulled into a small lot and the guides were getting the rafts ready there. We all divided up into groups of 6-8. Our raft included all folks from our youth group. We also each personally had in tow our personal helmet, life-preserver and paddle. Our raft was the last to leave as Ark, who was also our raft guide, took some time getting reading a large set of oars and a seating deck for himself. It was a special setup none of the other rafts had. When we finally got into the water the other groups were probably a tenth of a mile downriver already.
Ark was good at explaining to us how to sit on the raft properly. This involved getting your feet tucked into places that you could use to hold on. He also worked with us at the beginning on proper paddling and attempting to keep in sync with the other rafters. With Ark running the bigger oars at the back of the raft we quickly caught up with the rest of the group and even moved ahead. When we hit the first class 1 rapids he said we could get out and swim. I’m not sure everyone in our raft fully understood what this would mean at and so nobody did. Several from the other rafts got out and floated through these initial rapids.
For the first couple miles it was Class 1, 2, and 3 rapids. There were also lengthier calm stretches. At one long stretch our guide invited anyone who wanted to swim to get out and enjoy the waters and so this time more did. I joined as well. The water was 70 degrees and felt fantastic. It was such a delight to float along in the water. Climbing back into the raft was a chore, however. I did it on my own just using the rope line on the side of the raft. This wasn’t easier. Our guide for some of the others tied a leg loop that dropped into the water for us to use as a step. I ended up using this later on as it was just easier and quicker.
At the first major Class 3 rapids we had our first real fun of the day. The initial drop put us into a pretty big hole with a major bump. That part alone may well have been rated higher than class 3. It was Sarah and I on the front of the raft for this point and when we popped up through this first major bump I looked across and noticed something wasn’t right. In another moment it quickly hit me: “Sarah wasn’t there!”. I looked around and in another moment or two I saw her floating about 5-10 feet away in the water. It all happened pretty fast, but we quickly grabbed her and within a minute had her pulled back into the boat. No more than did all this happen and we looked back and the last of the six rafts in our group hit the same spot and it looked as though the raft had entirely emptied out. Only the guide and one of our adults remained, at least 4 had been tossed into the river.
After that event we didn’t have any other real problems the rest of the day. We made the lunch stop about 4 miles out of 13 down the river. It was around 12:30p and I was starving. I’m pretty sure it was just after the couple sets of “Warm-up” Rapids. For the lunch stop our guides seemed to have a place they normally turned to which got the rafts out of the current and had some big flat rocks which made for a good “kitchen.” Lunch was cold cut sandwiches with drinks.
Lunch stop was about an hour and then we were back in the rafts. Our guide kept warning us that the rest of the way (9 miles of 13) would go much quicker and be much tougher. For the most part he was right. There were a number of class 4 rapids and a couple of class 5 rapids. Though the class 5’s did not feel much rougher than most of the class 3’s, you could tell from the way the guide spoke they were more difficult in terms of potential danger. He warned us a number of times of the potential for undercut rocks and those possibilities were the scariest of them all.
I can’t recall exactly where, but at one point we passed a cliff on the right side in the river and this was a well known place for folks to jump into the river. So much of our group did, including myself. I would estimate the cliff may have been 20 feet high. I had to assume the river was known to be plenty deep at that point as well. The jump didn’t look that high from the vantage point of the rafts, but standing at the top of the cliff and looking down for a moment, gets your attention. I tried not to think on it and just went for it. Got that weightless falling feeling for a second and before I knew it I had hit the water.
As we progressed on there were a couple more spots where we could get out and swim. At one stop we even got to float through another set of rapids, this time with a massive boulder in the middle. The current was supposed to take you either way around the rock, well it nearly took me right into it. I kept my feet out in front and gently had to use them to push myself away from the rock and into the current again.
Late in the journey we got closer and closer views of the massive New River Gorge bridge. Though it would look so close, we found as we floated along it just didn’t get any closer. Its size is so massive its hard to gain perspective on it. Our final put in was a landing area not long after passing under the Bridge. We were tasked with helping to pull the rafts from the water and up a small hill to where a bus was waiting. We helped them load the rafts then on to their trailer. Our bus was a little further up the hill. They had a cooler with beer, Mt. Dew and water waiting for us. Not a bad treat to end the day!
We were back to our Cabins just before 4pm and it seemed everyone had had a great time. We would find later a few had cases of sunburn but nothing worse. Not long after we were back, and as much of our group went swimming in the pool, I made my way in the rental van over to the trailhead for the Endless Wall Trail.
After returning from the Endless Wall Trail run it was still raining pretty good. This was jeopardizing our dinner plans as our only place to congregate was at the picnic tables between our cabins … which were all wet. As I pulled into the Mill Creek Campus drove around for a moment to see if any of our group needed a ride, then I returned to camp. Watched it rain a bit and upon finally touching base with all of our group hit the showers. We had supper at 6pm from Dirty Ernie’s which Pastor Lucas went to pickup. This involved shredded chicken, ribs, chicken legs + thighs, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes. A great meal. Rain had thankfully stopped just before 6pm.
After supper Pastor Seaver had a quick devotion following up on the theme of Baptism which Pastor Loree had started last night. Then the group split up for the evening. Most of the kids went to the swimming pool as usual.
I read by the pool for an hour and then headed back to camp when it threatened to rain again. Sat outside talking and reading some more and then the kids started up some card games at the tables. Hung out there til 10p when I headed inside the cabin. Read for a bit until heading to sleep. It was still a bit muggy tonight but an improvement over last night.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 24
Was up at about 6:40am today as I had one of the earliest activities going on. My rock climbing event started at 8am like yesterday. Much of the rest of the group, predominantly zip-lining, started at 9 and 10. I went and brushed teeth and when I got back Pastor Lucas was starting to get breakfast stuff out. Chatted with Luke C at the breakfast table for a bit.
I walked up to the meeting area for the rock climb and was there waiting about 7:45a. We hung out and met the other climbers and guides until just after 8am when they started getting us ready. They took our waiver forms. Fitted us each for climbing shoes, handed out helmets (they let me use my own) and gave us the standard harnesses. We loaded up into a short school bus and hit the road. 7 others (Amed + Shane, plus Rich and his three kids) plus our guides Kyle and Dylan.
We headed east on highway 82 to a small road we turned off onto. Based on Google Maps this was County Road 85/5. We parked not long down the road. Our guide Kyle headed on up the trail to get things setup. Dylan walked us through putting harnesses on and gave some tips about what was ahead. We walked down an old rocky road which GMaps has listed as the Headhouse Trail. We went perhaps a quarter mile in.
Along the right side there were now some large cliffy rock areas and it made for what amounted to an outdoor climbing gym. There was another guide with two climbers already in the area. We headed to a nice pitch with plenty of big jutting out handholds. It wasn’t 90 degrees vertical but at least 80 probably. The guide said it may be rated 5.6, I was impressed, I would have guessed easier. The guide said the climb was roughly 30 feet high. There were two rope setups in this first area each offering its own climb. Our group of 7 took turns on each with each guide running a rope until everyone had done each climb once.
We then headed to another pair of climbs in that same area. This pair had one climb set in a chimney and the other was near the corner of a face with less holds. Again we took turns each doing each climb. The chimney climb was hard and the only one of the climbs that I had to rely on the belay rope. It was quite awkward wedging yourself and pushing upwards especially in the absence of good holds the higher you went. It was more narrow at the bottom than at the top. The second face climb was also more challenging than the original first two. The holds weren’t so obvious and required more reaching.
After everyone had had a shot at the 4 climbs we hiked up trail a bit and then found a small unmarked side trail to hike around to the top of the cliffs for the rappel. At the top they had anchors already in the rock. Kyle was set up on the edge of the cliff near a tree and we would each one by one walk over to him where he would clip us in right away. He had it set that we could control speed on the main rope as we rappelled. He also had a backup that could add friction and stop us if necessary. I ended up second to last in our group. They also had gloves for us to wear which were very necessary.
The picture linked here shows a map of the approximate location of the rock climbing. The star on the map indicates that location.
When he clipped you in you would turn and face into the cliff and step back to the edge. He would then have you start to lean out. The cliff had a solid vertical face for the first 6 feet and then you would hit a lip. The main cliff was then another 15 feet further in. Kyle instructed us on keeping our feet into the rock as we began to rappel until we got below the lip. This was done to keep us from head-smacking the lip as we went down. It was just a bit nerve-wracking as we began to lean out and get started, but once passed the lip, as you were simply dangling, it was quite interesting. I could pretty much control speed all the way down. Landing was also a small challenging, trying to find footing as you controlled the rope.
Once we had all had our chance to rappel down we hiked back up the trail to the van and prepared to leave. We were back to Adventures on the Gorge at around 11:45am. I took it easy and did some reading for awhile. We waited until our group started getting back from the Zip-lining. They had started at 10 and 10:30 and it was just after the 3 hours mark they started showing up again
We all did lunch at Chetty’s Pub. Pastor Lucas had announced in the morning that we had like a $430 credit with AotG and we could use about $12 a person for lunch today. Most all our group started to trickle into Chetty’s. Pastor Loree and Kelly stuck around to make sure that Chetty’s knew who was in our group and got all things accounted for. At the end of the meal everyone was able to go and they tabulated a bill for Pastor Lucas to take care of later. I had their Cheyenne Burger with chicken breast. It had fried onion pieces, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and a chicken breast on it. Very tasty. The fries had a good garlic salt seasoning.
As I got back from my short hike I made it to the cabins by 4:15pm. I needed to be ready to take Sarah, Garrett, and Martee to their paintball session. They had to be there at about 4:40p for their 5pm paintball game. I drove them to the Ambush WV Paintball site which was about 7 tenths of a mile up the road towards Highway 19.
At just after 6 the group headed into Fayetteville for pizza at Gino’s Pizza & Spaghetti. The two Grace cars left last and I figured we were fine following Google Maps directions. That didn’t go so well. Google Maps was wrong. Apple Maps on the other’s iPhones had Gino’s further up the road we were on and it was wrong too. Finally I recalled that the group had said it was in Walmart’s parking lot. I rerouted us around some country roads and we finally found it. The rest had sat down and got pitchers of water and Mt. Dew ordered. I was there no more than 10 minutes and Sarah texted saying the paintball group was done. I think it was about 6:45pm.
I went and picked them up and then we made it back to Gino’s. By then the pizza had arrived. There was a supreme pizza with green and yellow peppers, olives and onions, a mushroom pizza, and cheese pizza. It was pretty tasty.
After Pizza we drove to the NPS Visitor Center. It was closed but we got together outside and got a group picture finally. Then we walked down the somewhat 162 steps to a lower observatory deck to get some great views of the Gorge Bridge. On the way back up I raced one of the Trinity Youth (Nick?) and had fun with him.
After the Visitor’s Center some of the group drove over to Dairy Queen, the rest went back to Camp. Back at camp finally it was dark. I joined some of the kids over behind the General Store for sand beach volleyball. We ended up having about 20 or so playing as well as 2 of the guides from their Zip-lining. This went on til almost 10:45 with several fun games being played. Being our last night most folks were staying up a little later.
THURSDAY JUNE 25
I was up at 6:15am for our last morning and went running for 3 miles around the AotG campuses. Pastor Lucas had breakfast stuff out and available just after 7am for people to eat and then continue packing. I think by about 8:30am everyone had cars packed and cabins cleaned out. For the most part everyone was on their own in leaving and driving back. The two Grace cars were last ones out and even we didn’t end up staying together on the road. Pastor Loree and I had talked about Chick-fil-A in Canton, Ohio and we decided on making a go for that.
As we drove north of Charleston I had contemplated taking the route through Columbus on the way back. Probably would have except a major storm was rolling through western Ohio and it appeared we could miss a bunch of it by heading north towards Akron as we had done on the southward drive.
Along the way we made a gas stop and snacks sometime after Charleston, it was about 10:30am. And then we did lunch in Canton at the Chick-Fil-A where we met the Holy Ghost group. They had probably beat us by 20-30 minutes. After Canton we did get some light rain but never too bad. I passed time by listening to the Cubs v Dodgers game on the Sirius XM Radio feed. We made one bathroom and snack stop on the Ohio Turnpike and then had some delays at the I-280 junction where the northbound on ramp was closed.
Made it back to Grace about 5:15pm