Craving some time in nature we headed out of DC to the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia for the long Memorial Day weekend. Not deterred by rumors of near freezing temperatures being forecasted at night, we found a lovely little campsite nestled along the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River. The best thing about the site was that it had wooden platform tents with lovely canvas sides, several panels of which were unique pieces of tie-dyed fabric.
Armed with a borrowed sleeping bag and three duvets, we were ready to battle the temperatures, which did indeed go down to freezing all three nights. We were quite warm under the covers, especially with our winter woolly hats but getting up in the middle of the night to pee was not too enjoyable! Still, hearing the running water a mere fifteen feet from our heads was worth it, as was the lovely little clearing we had with a fire pit and a wrought iron table and chair set which were perfect for getting food together and then sitting in front of the crackling campfire each night.
We stayed on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains and the Eastern Continental Divide, so all the water ultimately flowed to the Gulf of Mexico. Every little stream, creek and river made its way to the Ohio River and then on to the Mississippi and the Gulf. It was pretty crazy to be standing on a little river in eastern West Virginia and know the water flowing past us would eventually pass a shrimp boat down on the delta south of New Orleans!
Water was a big part of our weekend. Besides camping next to a river, we spent Saturday hiking in Blackwater Falls State Park. The Blackwater River is a brown river with a beautiful two curtain waterfall that falls approximately fifty feet.
After looking at the falls we hiked into the park a while and came to a lovely outlook called Lindy Point. From there you can see up the Blackwater Valley as it stretches out several hundred feet below. The hillsides are completely covered by green leafy trees and it is not hard to imagine the beauty of that point in the autumn when the leaves are turning and the sun is setting.
The biggest reason why we chose to go to West Virginia was to do some white water rafting. We had heard that the rafting in West Virginia is the best in the East, and we were looking forward to experiencing that. We took an all day trip on the Cheat River, which flows south to north in the northern part of the state. We got all wet suited up, including booties and a water jacket to keep us warm as the water temperature was in the fifties and the air temperature wasn’t much warmer, and headed out onto the river.
We were paired up with two other couples and a very knowledgable guide and off down the river we went. Large stretches of the river were just lazy currents which didn’t require much effort from us. Other stretches, however, required vigorous paddling to ensure our raft took the correct line. The water level was slightly down, so the highest class of rapids was a Class IV, but those few stretches were very fun, bouncy and wet! Though we were warned that it would be likely to have people fall out, we only had one person take an unwanted swim when we briefly got stuck on a rock and then were bumped by another raft.
The last rapid was a swimming rapid, a deep channel through two boulders that allowed us to be out of the boat if we wished so we both jumped out to run the rapids with nothing more than our life vests and helmets. The water was rather cold and the couple of breaking waves did lead to mouthfuls of water, but we both really enjoyed our voluntary swim in the rapids.
The state of West Virginia’s tourism motto is Wild, Wonderful and we couldn’t agree more!