The road trip to Gauley began late in the day after Matt Hamilton and I loaded up the truck here at the office and started heading south.  After fighting traffic for hours we finely arrived at Matt’s parents house just before midnight in southern Ontario to find an empty house.  After breaking in for a quick sleep we hit the road again.  We left we high ambition to find something to paddle between here and West Virginia.

That quickly died as we found even the mighty Upper Youghiogheny river with its scheduled releases wasn’t even going to release!  We continued pretty uneventfully into West Virginia to the town of Fayetteville where we hit up the local pizza shop called Pies and Pints for some well...pies and pints.  That first night in Fayetteville then took a turn as we had arrived well before all the other paddlers.  We got wind of a bar in the next town over that had a life blue grass band so we headed there.  After that wrapped up we headed back to Fayetteville to Charlie’s bar because it was free beer night! They were out of free beer.  But the locals told us about this house party just one town over so we headed there for a random night of beer drinking and ping pong playing.

After that random night and lack of finding water we decided to run the New River Gorge which runs under the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.  The river was fun and more paddlers had came to town so it was time to head over to the Gauley Fest site to start setting up the Level Six booth.  We also got a chance to watch an incredible lightning show in the next pass over.

It was finely Friday.  The first day of Gauley release so we wasted no time and went straight for the Upper section.  It was my first time but it was a blast with the high light rapid having to be Pillow Rock.  Such an amazing run.  The party also went off Friday night at the festival as well with many vendors such as Ace Gear offering some sweet early bird specials and it was only a short time for our booth before we were starting to sell out of popular sizes.  So word to the wise for next year, get there Friday night because all the good stuff was gone before Saturday!

Saturday Matt and I decided to chill after staying up pretty late at the Piano Bob after party.  We chilled in the sun for a little bit before setting up the booth once again.  The Saturday night party went off as for par at Gauley Fest.  We shut the booth down after midnight as we pretty much had nothing left to sell!

Sunday was another sleep in day and late start after helping clean up a bit around the festival site.  Turned out there was a huge bon fire about 50 feet from my tent late Saturday night that I had no clue that was going on as I was out cold.

We hooked up with Level Six athlete Brenna Kelly at this point too for another rip down the New River Gorge and Pies and Pints before starting to head back south in hopes of a Wisp or Youghiogheny release.  We slept in an open log shelter in Maryland that night and woke up with high hopes.  At least one of the 2 rivers had to have water.  But no. No water.

We decided to move on to New York for some play boating at Holes Brothers and thus began one of the more interesting 8 hour drives I have been on.  It was going well until we stopped at Denny’s for dinner.  No food after an hour!  Then it came out stone cold with our appetizer looking like it had been half eaten!  We all walked out for the first time.  After a few more interesting events we arrived in Watertown NY late at night and headed straight to the bar where Brenna realized at 11:55 that the date was the 21st and her birthday was in 5 minutes!  So we grabbed some shots and drank until last call.  Then we moved the party to the bus where drank wine and called it a night (thanks for the hospitality Mike!).  After a session at Holes Bro we headed back to the Level Six office were we order some pizza and drank some of our $13 thirty pack of beer we had left!

Awesome road trip with some awesome people!  Can’t wait for Gauley 2011!

John Rathwell, Matt Hamilton, Brenna Kelly

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