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  Rafting the New River in West Virginia
  May 1997

Memorial day weekend 1997 we went rafting to West Virginia. Early Saturday morning we started from Albert house - 8 people in two cars. The weather was just perfect. After 10 hours of driving through 5 states - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, we arrived to our campground. Everybody was busy with putting up Albertís big 6-person tent. As soon as camp was settled up, we split - 4 of us went to see the New river bridge and buy groceries , others took start preparing shish-kebab. The bridge was huge and very impressive. It is the second largest arch bridge in the world. The shish-kebab was very tasty - we spend all the evening eating and drinking vodka. It was a lot of fun to fit in 8 person in a tent after all alcohol that we had. We had nice "pillow talk" - everybody was laughing for an hour.

At night it was raining like dogs and cats. We almost decided not to raft that day - it was cloudy and it was raining from time to time. But at 10 am we were standing in rafting company wearing smelly wet suits, worn-out life jackets, yellow ugly helmets. Instructor scared us to death with his safety instructions.

The first hour of rafting we were sitting and doing nothing. The river was calm and looked more like Delaware river - green calm water, woods around. Our guide was a bold guy, talking endless stories about bangi- jumping, parachuting and all other fun stuff. We made a quick stop to climb and jump from a big rock. I didnít look down before jumping and at the jump was scared of the height - it was good 3 meters. The water was pleasantly warm. All guys from our raft jumped.

The first rapid named Surprise was a set of big waves. We passed it easily - our group paddled with a good pace. This river is already forth serious river for most of us. But the raft that followed us flipped over on this rapid. We helped them to gather their paddles and shoes. Right after that we had a lunch stop - tasty salads and pasta on a shore.

New river has a few strong rapids with long calm gaps between them. Our group worked very synchronized and passed rapids with no problem. Everybody was having a good time. Somewhere in the middle of the river there was a most serious rapid. Before this rapid there was a long line of rafts waiting for their turn to pass it. There were about 30 rafts in this place.

After 10 min of waiting, we paddled ahead this most technically difficult rapid. We passed narrow rock gates, picked up good speed and made unexpected 180 degree turn. Now our raft was moving rear part first, toward black canyon wall, our guide commanded us to paddle toward the rock. We hit the rock and the next moment everybody was in the water. Alex was under the raft and pushed strongly to the rock. When I was under water I hit the raft a few times by my head also. Lena jumped from the raft from one side to another. Jane, Albert, Sveta kept paddling in the water too. Jane was so deep in the water so she touched the bottom of the river. It was suddenly dark, cold and lose of orientation. The raft climbed the wall, pushed us out and returned to normal position. Next second everybody was on the surface and started rescue each other, our stuff. Three of us lost shoes and paddles. Very soon we were sitting on our places, next raft crew helped us to gather our stuff from the water.

That was a real accident. Everybody was wet, get some water into stomach. I was thinking of warm, dry tent. And our guideís telling us that few more rapids ahead! But the rest of the rapids were not so strong. Soon we floated under the New river bridge. This is a great view!

The end of the rafting was very close after the bridge. We had supplementary cheap beer during ride back. At the company base we had hot shower and bought our pictures.

At our campground we split again - three guys went fishing (unsuccessfully), other build big camp fire and prepared good shish-kebabs again.

In the middle of the night there was a strong thunder storm. Our tent got wet, the air in the tent was stuffed. Everybody woke up at 3 am. Nick, Alex, Sveta and Albert went to sleep in the cars. We continued in wet slipping bags.

Early morning I did a mistake - pull out a cover from Lena and Alexís air mattress. They were very upset at me. On our 10 hours drive home there was any clouds in the sky. We had shish-kebabs again (third day in the row) at Janeís parents house.

Now all guys from our group are dreaming about Upper Gauley - category 5. Girls are thinking about something category 2-3.
Story by Stas Yurkevich