We needed something that would spark enthusiasm for our
entire youth group. That has been the major problem of every summer trip we
have ever taken. We could never find common ground and then settle for
someplace that was at least agreeable. The only problem, “agreeable” seemed
to mean some crowded beach with a bunch of cheesy things made overseas and
with nothing but tourists.
This year I decided to speak up. I have always wanted to go whitewater
rafting on the New River in Fayette County, West Virginia. We had driven
through the place a number of times, and it always seemed like it would be a
great vacation site. The New River Gorge Bridge alone almost demands a stop.
After peering down into that beautiful canyon, I knew we had to give it a
At the annual vacation meeting in February, my sister Anna and I laid out the
best proposal we could. We’ve both been working in sales for our high school
yearbook for two years, so I like to think we had an idea of what we were
doing. Our best friends, Patrick and Natasha, were easy to convince. They
have been to West Virginia many times and to Oak Hill in October for New
River Gorge Bridge Day. They were more than ready for a return trip.
My brother Bob and his friend Sarah were tougher and Sarah’s brother, Lee,
was not crazy about the idea of missing the beach. However, after he saw the
bike trails that criss-cross the Gorge, he took
little arm-twisting. My cousin Kate loves the beach as well, but when I told
her about the impending white water adventure, she was ready to leave right
Many of our chaperones do not consider it a vacation unless they get to play
golf, eat out, and play more golf. Once I convinced them that there would be
plenty of that, they agreed.
Upon the advice of some friends we decided to do the adventure portion of our
vacation with Songer Whitewater. As we were driving
over the longest arch bridge near Oak Hill, I got one more look at the New
River Gorge. We then drove to Songer and located our campsite. It was
perfect. We had plenty of room with great shower facilities, video game
facilities, and live music.
We got up the first morning, ready for our trip down the mighty New River.
Rivers Resort has their basecamp set up so they are only a few short miles to
the launch site for our trip and the only outfitter located at the takeout
area. We met our guide, Steve, and took off. The river trip was everything I
expected it to be. We navigated some of the most extreme whitewater on the
East Coast. Rapids like Surprise, Double Z, and Miller’s Folly were as
challenging as they were exciting. The Rapid that stands out most was one
called Lower Keeny. We hit huge walls of bubbling
whitewater and towering waves deluged us from every direction. The boat,
which was self-bailing, was constantly flooded with water. It was amazing!
One of our chaperones, who is approaching 70, but still thinks she is 20, had
a blast. She could not stop raving about how great it was. It was a truly
wonderful feeling to be with good friends and family on such an adventure,
not to mention the great riverside lunch Rivers provided.
That evening we had a delicious dinner at a local restaurant. Barbecue ribs
that fell off the bone. My cousin is a vegetarian and she had rave reviews of
the Veggie Lasagna. That evening we were all tired, and a little sore but
anxious for what the next day had in store.
We woke up the next morning ready for more adventure. Some of the adults
headed off to the Brier Patch 18 hole
golf course. Others in our group went to Tamarack and Twin Rivers, local gift
shops and museums, showcasing the best of West Virginian artisans and
craftspeople. That left the rest of us to spend a day kayaking on the upper
section of the New River. Although none of us had ever done it before, our
guide John was very patient. We had such a great time, enjoying a leisurely
and instructive day on the river.
We met everyone else in Beckley, a neighboring town, for a quick bite to eat.
We then went to watch Theater West Virginia’s outdoor drama, “The Hatfields and McCoy’s.” A great play about a bloody feud
that took place on the West Virginia/Kentucky border.
The next morning most of our group headed out to do some early morning
Mountain Biking. Lee, my mountain biking friend, was eager to go. We enjoyed
a wonderful day on the Minden-Thurmond trail. It was beautiful trail that
follows the river. Lucky for us, it was easygoing and had breathtaking vistas
of the New River. Our guide Joyce said there were more white-knuckle trails
ahead and I later found out what she meant.
Joyce, Lee, and I left the less experienced group behind with their guide,
for some of the most exciting bike trails around. We encountered hairpin
turns and sheer drop-offs that were extremely challenging. It was amazing to
see how brutal and untouched those Appalachian Mountains can be. After almost
two hours on some wild trails, we decided to meet up with the rest of the
After another mouth-watering meal, the adults went to The Red Dog Saloon to
have a drink and listen to some live music. It was a great bar with a high
The next morning we wanted to do something different. We decided to set up a
caving tour in near by Greenbrier County. After
being shuttled to the cave site, we were taken on a guided tour deep into the
earth. It was very powerful to be in a cave. Our guide told us to turn off
our lights to experience total darkness. The formations were amazing. Knowing
that I was standing next to something that was over 1000 years old was a
truly intense feeling.
That night we decided it would be a good time to watch the sun set. It was
lengthy trek to the edge of the gorge, so we decided we should take a horse
We got together a team of horses at Babcock State Park and took off for a overlook. As we watched a glowing sun sink behind the
lush hills of West Virginia, one of my most skeptical friends turned to me
and said, “ I don’t think I could have asked for a
better vacation. Thank you.”
We watched the sun set on the horizon. Looking at our group, I realized how
special it was to have everyone together like that. I knew that another trip
to Oak Hill and another stay with Songer would be
on the agenda for next summer.