Sorry, I’m not quite ready to shelve the whitewater theme just yet. Bear with me.
After spending way too much time on YouTube viewing rafting videos, I have found a 3-part series that comes closer than most to showing what it’s actually like to raft the Upper Gauley. Most commercial rafting trips are accompanied by a kayak videographer who paddles ahead of the rafts, then pulls onshore at various points and films the rafts as they navigate the rapids. As entertaining as these videos can be, they really don’t give much of a flavor of what it’s like in the raft. These three videos, however, combine footage from three sources – the kayak videographer’s footage, plus footage from a rafter’s helmet cam and footage from a rear-facing camera mounted on the front of the boat. The end result is probably the next best thing to being there.
The first clip has an intro and then footage of the first major rapid, “Insignificant”.
It’s not, by the way.
The second clip features my favorite rapid, “Pillow Rock”. You run Pillow Rock by charging as hard as you can straight for the giant namesake rock, then at the last moment you shoot up and then veer past it on the right, slapping it with your paddle as you go by. Sometimes you get it, sometimes it gets you.
This clip also includes “Lost Paddle”, which is the longest and probably the most dangerous rapid on the Gauley. I particularly like this clip because you can hear the guide’s urgent commands and the rafters’ grunts and groans as they press on through this very long rapid.
The third clip shows “Iron Ring”, and finally, “Sweets Falls”. Sweets is a spectator favorite due to the many rafts which wind up flipping in the Box Canyon below the falls. There’s a Roman Coliseum-like atmosphere as the crowd waits expectantly for rafting carnage to ensue.
Many thanks to mwstoll, who put these videos together. Good stuff.