Our intermediate whitewater group recently returned from their spring tour! The group ran the Lower Youghigheny river on Friday night. We checked out Ohiopyle Falls and put on the river around four o’clock. We kept a fast pace all the way down to ‘Swimmer’s Hole’ where we stopped to surf for a bit. The group got a chance to work their boof strokes in ‘Bottle of Wine’ rapid, and we finished with some tight maneuvering through ‘River’s End’.
The sun was setting as we neared the take-out. We hustled up the hill knowing time was of the essence. We were hoping to hitch a ride back to the put-in. As we crested the top of trail from the take-out to the lower parking lot we caught the last fishermen closing the door to this truck. We yelled out and asked for a ride back to the put-in, and he generously obliged.
We loaded boats and set out to find some food. Fellow instructors Scott Anderson, and Sean Devine were en route from Washington and they joined the group for a few good laughs over a home cooked meal at Little Sandy’s restaurant. We spent the night near the town of Albright on the banks of the Cheat River. It was a glorious sun filled, warm and adventurous afternoon.
In the morning we headed to Valley Falls State Park on the Tygart River. Billy, Robert and Justin were veterans of the Falls. Gilbert and Albrittain were excited newcomers. Nerves abounded above the first fifteen foot drop, but after a few successful runs the group relaxed considerably. I was impressed with the quality of the lines off the first falls. It was a great chance for the group to work on their boof stroke, and try a series of different moves in a fairly user friendly set of rapids.
Following multiple laps on the upper set of waterfalls, we ventured down river into a three more rapids. The first, a technical class III with multiple slots. We worked on boat scouting and group spacing as we moved through the rapid. A bit of flat water, and we approached ‘Hamburger Helper’, a nasty looking rapid on any scale. The river pinches into a ten foot wide slot that slams into a huge boulder and creates an explosion of whitewater that looks like an enormous white mushroom. It was a bit of a stretch for the kids, but the instructors scouted the line and fired it up. Good lines were had by all, and we decided the rapid actually boats a bit easier than it looks.
The next rapid was ‘Twist and Shout’, a solid class IV with consequences if not run correctly. We hopped out of our boats and discussed the line. I ran the line as an example of how to run the rapid, and hiked back up to set safety above a sieve on river left. I clipped my pfd into a rope that Sean held, and worked my way out on to a rock above the sieve so I would be able to deflect any boats if they were headed in that direction. The chances of getting near the sieve were small, but setting safety took a bit of the worry out of the rapid. Robert, Billy, and Jack Albrittain were stoked to fire it up, and each had a good line with no consequence. Everyone was excited about the group’s success. It was a great rapid, and it allowed the group to push the limits and progress in their river running experience.
We headed back upriver for some lunch and a rest. A few of us continued running laps on the Falls. We discovered a great new move on the middle line of the second falls, and ran about fifteen more laps by the time the afternoon was over. Tired, hungry, and cold, we drove to Morgantown, West Virginia to eat dinner at the Black Bear – an incredible burrito spot with live music.
We camped in Albright again. We lucked out. The weather cleared and we were able to build a fire. There is nothing like a good story telling session around a bold campfire in crisp night air. I was the first to fall asleep sitting up in my chair, and soon thereafter everyone retired for the night. Scott and Sean had their own tents, I had my sleeping platform in the back of the bus, and the boys hunkered down in the newly refined version of the tarp shelter built off the side of the bus.
The temperature dropped dramatically over night. It was a cold morning. We geared up and Sean and I headed out to set shuttle. The shuttle is long and the take-out road is class V. A few of the welds on the trailer actually split because the road into Cheat Canyon is so extraordinarily bumpy.
We had a great adventure on the Cheat. The water was low, but the rapids offered up a few technical lines that kept the group challenged. There was even a rapid, ‘Q-Ball’, that turned into a huge version of ‘Swimmer’s Hole’ on the Yough. We stopped and played for a while.
After the flat water at the end of the run, we were all relieved to see the bridge and get to the take-out. We loaded boats and began the arduous climb out of the Canyon. On the way home we stopped in Cumberland to eat barbecue at the Crabby Pig. We talked about all kinds of things on the way home, and the drive went by quickly.
It was an incredible weekend in the hinterlands of West Virginia. The group learned a lot, and all of the instructors were happy with the quality of paddling and the progression of their skills.
Hopefully we will be able to hit a few more river before the end of our season.