A Short Summary of ‘Jen Against West Virginia’

Those of you who know, West Virginia and I have had a “love/hate relationship” since I began paddling. Last fall for the Gauleyfest weekend, the Lower Gauley decided to show me who was boss when I had a fluke accident and flipped over above the last rapid, knocking myself out.
Later on, this past spring, I had a horrible run of Big Sandy Creek, a creek that was probably just above my skill level. I got beat down, swam twice, gashed open my knuckles and declared that I was “done” half-way down a gorge creek run (that I clearly couldn’t hike out of).

This year, I was determined to change things, starting with a re-run of the Lower Gauley.

Lower G Trip Report:
This year I was determined to come back and run the river again, this time without an episode through PSH. My weapon of choice this year was my Jackson Star and we got up early, ran shuttle and got on the river. The lower Gauley was just as I remembered it. I had no problems down any of the rapids, had some fun surfs and enjoyed great company along the way. I did keep asking questions along the way about PSH and said I wanted to get out and scout it this year. When we came up to the rapid, Clay Wright gave the briefing about where to go and what to look out for, and we started on through the rapid. Stephen Wright, Emily Jackson and I were going to catch a river-right eddy at the top of the rapid so we could get a better look at what I was going to paddle through. The spot where I hit my head was above PSH ‘proper’, and I passed through the wave train without problems. I was really nervous though and felt very tippy and vulnerable as I went down. I was told later by Devon Barker that I tensed up and wasn’t paddling very hard. She reminded me that when I get nervous is the best time to lean forward and dig in to get to where you want to be. I caught the eddy and experienced an emotional overload of tears for about 10 seconds before I peeled back out into the current after Stephen with Emily close behind. After running the rapid without even tipping over, I just want to let everyone know that PSH is not the scary rapid that people make it out to be. Yes it has a sieve to the river-right, a munchy pourover above the rapid, and a big scary hole at the bottom of the river. However, the lines through this rapid are wide and easy if you can stay upright – which is what I managed to do this year!

Upper G Trip Report
Then Stephen told me that he thought I would have fun on the Upper Gauley if I paddled it in a bigger boat. He put me in a new 2007 Fun and we paddled the class IV-V river on Saturday and then again on Sunday. I was REALLY nervous the first time I got on the river and didn’t start having fun until after running the first couple of smaller rapids. Well, I practically aced every line on the river, and didn’t run into any problems! That is, until we had passed the last major rapid and found a little slot boof right before the take-out. I had boofed it last year (walked in and paddled the last rapid) without any problems. This time Stephen went ahead first, plugged over the edge and did a loop. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I went after him, plugged and tried to loop also (a move that I already know that I can’t do) the pourover at the boof was not very big, and I didn’t even imagine that there would be consequences to it. Anyway, I ended up getting destroyed in the pourover for about a minute, with me trying to paddle out, Stephen trying to pull me out, and I eventually had swallowed enough river water that I pulled my skirt and swam. I spent another 20 seconds getting recirculated in the pourover; every time I would come up, the pourover would pull me back in and push me under again. Finally I kicked my way out and waited in an eddy with Stephen while 2 guys on a raft went in after my boat. I watched my boat pinned up against the pourover for another 10 seconds or so before the rafters were able to get it out. It was a really scary experience. The worst part of it was that I got beat down on the easiest section of the river, in a relatively insignificant spot. (I found out later, that a lot of people have gotten beat down there)

Sunday’s Upper Gauley run went well, I ran a few rapids better than before, and another few upside down due to fatigue I imagine, but I was psyched that I made it down the river twice! The best part about Sunday’s run is that I got to paddle with Lauren Burress, who has got to be the most amazing 10 year old kayaker I have ever seen. She barely batted an eye on the whole run.

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