Your stomach churns with  a thousand butterflies; you busy yourself like a kid whistling past a grave yard, blowing boats and humping rubber. All at once, you hear the horn sounding like Gabriel’s trumpet as the ground starts to quake like an 81 Chevy on prom night. Your butterflies go nuts as you go find a nice quiet bush to throw up last night’s booze and this morning’s coffee. Your hands quiver as you light a cigarette, and the trip leader arrives and gives you your crew: five Buckeyes and three Tar Heels. You pour your soul into giving them all the information that they need to survive, but you know the second the shit hits the fan they will do the exact opposite. Your butterflies turn to a hurricane as you pick up the raft and walk toward what awaits. You get to the Dam and the eddy wall looks like it is a direct flush to Poseidon. They hop in as you hold it steady. Then you empty your stomach one last time hoping they don’t see. Jumping in, you grab a hard left hand angle and scream “OK MOTHERFUCKERS LETS GO FORWARD HARD!” The world calms down, and you notice a young boy and his grandpa fishing. 

Through the eddy wall, you relax. The initiation of Bud’s Boner and such hardly register. But like a small carnivorous beast the insignificant thoughts come… Fog as thick as smoke on the sidelines of a small town high school football game. You seek the Pyramid Rock, point the raft towards the undercut on river right and call all back two. Drift and call all back one, “All right now you whiskey drunk-ass fuckers, lets go all back hard.” You look at the giant pour over and think, “these fucksticks are going to kill me.” You slide by with a hair to spare and set up on the wave train. “All ahead hard, you heroes! Let’s look good for the video.” Suddenly, its over and the nameless rapids pass swiftly by.

You come around the bend at Carnifax Ferry, and heard a roar that sounds like all the drains in Heaven being released at the same time. You peer through the fog and see a bolder the size of a small house sitting dead center with all of the cfs the Gauley has terminating against it. You begin your set up strokes, floating closer to the horizon line, making your entry on the left side of the downstream. You set an aggressive left hand angle as the raft picks up speed. You come up on the Three Sisters , hitting the first dead center, the second to the left, and missing the third, the grin spreading across your face knowing you’re set up perfectly for the big ride. The world speeds up and slows down in the same instance. You’re focused singly on the giant bolder, running up the pillowing white water, swearing you’ve kissed the goddess. All comes crushing down in an instant, spinning off of Volkswagen’s pour over.  Smiles and high fives all around…

The next rapids remain a fog as all laugh and joke, and you bond with these dumbass flat landers. They have no clue what life in Appalachia is about, but you think, “hey mother fucker, do you know what ‘if its brown, its down’ means?” as you talk deer hunting.   You see a huge cut to the right; the Meadow is emptying in. You always point out that if you go sixty miles upstream you will be at your parents’ place; the spring that forms one of the branches of the Meadow is on Dad’s woodlot. You begin to set up on the left, peering  for the Pyramid… “All forward two, all back three!” skipping magically among the pour overs. You get a tingle in your crotch and a quickening pulse like a teenager at  a dance after a Friday night football game. The frothy wave is dead center, you steer to clip the left hand side .  “All ahead hard,” you scream as Hawaii 5-0 wave seems to appear as a giant hand beckoning. Up and up you climb; then suddenly, you’re streaking down the drop like a madman on a homemade sled in the winter. “Back it up! Back it up!” you yell, setting a hard right hand angle, sliding past Six Pack. You grab the eddy above Tumble Home, giving last minute directions for the next drop. Suddenly the air is loud with the shrill shriek of whistles. One of the boats has dumped off Six Pack, “Agh crap!” you think, grabbing the throw bag. You hold your throw, and though nowhere as good as the brave little tailor, proud to say you get three with one throw, calling “All Back All Back!” and holding the eddy. The rest of the trip picks up the parts and pieces, and after all catch their breath, everyone makes the entrance to tumble home.  You hit the middle slot at the bottom and life is good, floating and drifting, picking your way downstream. At Shipwreck you always run so far right you can pick blackberries. 

Suddenly you go around another bend, and the world seems to drop into nothing. A fluffy small hydraulic is all you can see warning about Woodstock. You hold, and tell them a brief history of the rapid called Iron Ring. It was made by loggers dynamiting a new channel so they could get logs to market. You point onwards to the right and take one stroke forward, floating behind the entrance hole. The world quickens as you call, “All back one,” lining up on the huge reactionary. Drifting for a split second, then calling “forward!” you hit and grab a downstream angle. Once again there is peace. 

The float to Sweets is not memorable. You notice another huge horizon line looking at the three wave train. A slip to the right and you’re in the sweet spot. A quick drop and a “hard all back” gets the boat past the box. Well, there you go a typical day on the Upper G, back in the day. 

Old school Gauley footage

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