After Isabelle hit WV it was a sure thing that we would head up there. Good thing too, since we were able to hit the Dries of the New, the Lower Gauley at 6000 cfs, and the Upper Gauley at 4000 cfs. Although Mann’s Creek was running on Friday, the day we arrived, I intentionally left my creekboat at home to avoid the temptation to paddle something I couldn’t take Dane down. I have found myself in a weird position of wanting to get Dane on as many of the classics as I can in the shortest period of time. Every time we hit a new river he has such a great time that he won’t stop talking about it for days.
On Friday, Dane and I got dropped off at the put-in of the Lower Gauley by Kristine and three dogs. We are dog-sitting Kristine’s mom’s Boxer puppy, Lucy. This is easily the worst trained dog I have ever seen, but cute. Dane and I got to the put-in and did our traditional seal launch. To give you a feel of the type of day and kid Dane is, he immediately started attaining upstream because he saw a potential cartwheel hole up there. Of course there are hundreds of holes from the put-in to the take out, Dane wants one more. We sprinted from river left to river right, and hit every spot on the river. Dane lead most of the rapids and the run was super fun. A sixth grade teacher named Andy tagged along as well.
On Friday night we ate out and got to bed early. Saturday was going to be an Upper Gauley and Dries of the New day. We put-in on the Dries early at about 40,000 cfs. The river was dropping fast but we caught it at a great level for many of the classic spots. At the end we discovered a hole that was awesome for loops, lunar orbits, tricky woos, and super fun cartwheels. Andrew Holcomb showed up and between Dane, Andrew, and Chris from Canada, we had a great throw down party. We must have played that hole for two hours.
Saturday night was Gauley Fest, of course. Free beer at various hotspots, beautiful weather, live bands, DJs, lots of cool kayaking stuff, and friends from every corner of the kayaking world are the highlights there. I tried to make the “loop” to check things out and I made it an average of three steps at a time before running into a friend that I haven’t seen in a long time. The Gauley Fest reunion would be a great name for the event. My RV that I lived in for the last three years was there and it was the weirdest feeling. I walked inside and it felt as if I was coming home, even more than walking into my house at Rock Island . I think I will get another one. Dane walked around the festival wearing his brand new Mountain Surf dry top. He loves his new dry top. I swear he takes better care of his gear than anybody I know, except maybe Tobias Bersch from Germany , who is a gear fanatic with special hangers for everything, and his polypro gets washed after every outing.
Sunday was the big day for me. I was finally going to be able to take Dane down the Upper Gauley . A river that he has been coming to every year since he was born, but never seen in person. There was no question that he is good enough to run the river, in fact, he has way more skill than is necessary to safely run all of the rapids. However, I prefer to keep him a notch below his skill level. To make the trip even more special, Dane was going to get to follow Clay Wright, a Gauley River Icon with hundreds of trips down the river. Clay, who is not exactly afraid to put the pressure on Dane or treat him like an adult, was the perfect person to lead him. At first Clay was giving instructions with four or five parts to them which is at least double as much information as Dane can process at one time. So, Dane would say, “let me follow you”. If you want to know how well Dane is at following, try to scrap the white off a grain of rice, and that is how Dane follows. As the day progressed Clay began showing Dane some slots and sweet boofs . At Initiation, Dane had his first missed line with a left boof around the rock. He got the big rejection, backender around the right of the rock, a quick roll up and hit the second boof . Suddenly he knew what to work on, boofing . Geek Wave, Hungry Mother, and other playspots took much of our time. Scott Lindgren was shooting some video of Dane there, as well as at the big rapids. I was able to play with Jay Kincaid which upped the ante a little. Stuart Holbrook, a great friend of mine, whom I taught to paddle many years ago also joined us for his second ever run down the Upper Gauley.
My favorite part of the day was not even on the river. We got to the take out and I had already discussed the climb up the hill with Dane. A truck offered to take our boats back up but I asked Dane if he had enough energy left to hoof it with his boat. His immediate response was, “Let’s Go” and started walking. That is what I want in a kid more than anything, to accept a challenge with a smile on his face and a determination to do more than the average person would voluntarily. Now plenty of people hike the trail with their boats, but very few treat the hike as a positive part of the trip. Dane, who is 4’2” tall and only 55 pounds doesn’t have legs long enough to simply step up many of the steep parts of the trail so he had to find little footholds everywhere. I walked with him the whole way wondering if he would regret the decision to carry his boat up, but instead, he refused to take it off his shoulder the whole way, very cool. For many people, it may seem like an exercise of futility, or some kind of cocky little, look what I can do, attitude. However, I believe that the quiet manner in which he completed the task and enjoyed the challenge shows the key to success in any endeavor. That is, of course, something I want my kids to possess when all is said and done, and they are on their own.
Anyway, I watched the weather channel and the rains hit Rock Island , so back home I went for high water Brave Wave and Hole!!!
I just went outside to eat lunch on our deck, (it is so beautiful in the South East this time of year) and I asked Dane, “ what do you think of the hike up the hill at the Gauley?” His answer: “It is refreshing, I like the spot.” Kristine asked, “If dad wasn’t’ there and you got offered a ride up the hill, what would you say?” He said, “ no”. Fair enough, cool. That’s my boy.
Yesterday I got an email saying that I should check out Boatertalk, because there is a thread on Dane in it, so I did. It was a combination of praise and a discussion about Dane cutting in line. Dane has had issues in the past at Rock Island , the Ocoee, and other places with cutting in line at a playspot. It comes from him not paying enough attention to know where he is in line, then when he finds himself at the top, asking the person next to him, “want to go”, they usually say, “no, you go for it” and he peels out. Now, he ends up cutting another three or four people off that were behind the guy or gal who told him he could go. I showed Dane the thread and he was dumbfounded, not knowing that he had cut in line. Then the thread got pretty nasty, accusing him of being an ass, of his parents not teaching him manners, etc., etc. all by people who don’t know the kid. He was in tears when he read on. It was really depressing to watch him read material that was slamming him, even though the people who were the nasty ones, don’t know him. We used this as a learning experience which he is now aware that when he does something good or bad, people will know and the word will get out. Why? Because, good or bad, he gets noticed on the river. I thought the first words out of his mouth were quite profound when he sat there sniffling, “If somebody has a problem with me, why don’t they just email me directly and let me know ” Well, that is another lesson in human nature, I guess. Anyway , we are going to watch some video that Kristine shot from Rock Island this morning, soon as Dane finishes school.