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September 20, 2005

Ok, so you’ve just paddled the Upper Gauley for 6 hours
and with hardly
a break.

Your loop muscles (lower back, calfs) are fried, your
wave-wheelers (obliques) are cinched up tight, and your hip-dysplasia
is so bad you feel like on old German Shepard on his last trip to the
vet. Perfect time for a scenic stroll through the beautiful West Virginia
mountians! Here are some ‘tips’ to make your stroll just super.

In advance: Glue some foam where your shoulder meets
your cockpit rim and duct-tape over it till it is secure for the whole
season. Both Sides! Take only what you need for the river – yes a throwbag
is essential, but you can probably leave the dry clothes in the car. Wear

Now that you are at the take-out:

Step one: COOL DOWN! take a swim in the cool clear
waters, wash off the sweat, and get chilly

Step 2: Get EVERY DROP of water out of your boat with
your sponge or your buddies.

Step 3: Prep your gear: wrap drytop around your waist
securely (double knot), tie your shoes on tight, helmet clipped in your
boat, PFD on, secure everything so that when your brain is looking for
any excuse to stop it won’t find any.

Step 4: mentally prepare for battle this means getting
some rockin tune going through your head that has a medium-slow pace you
can hike uphill to. ( ie Sympathy, Kashmir, Highway to Hell or modern

Step 5: Git going – slow and steady – and don’t stop
till you hit the top!

Things to look forwards to on your way

1. the lovely Panther Creek falls opens your walk.
You can pass slower parties by walking up the creekbed around the big
rocks here.

2. The straightaway at the top of this first pitch
– smile as you make your pass, anyone stopping here is in for a long day.

3. The steep, slick section of dirt and laurels: we
suffered a summer of drought to make this section so passable this season,
so you better enjoy it! The footholes are small, but no mud yet . . .

4. The rock garden: appreciate the cool breeze as you
step carefully through the mossy rocks and logs. Contemplate what the
creek has been doing for the last 100 feet of gradient . . .and push on.

5. The next steep – this is my ‘switch’ point where
I go to my left shoulder. If you don’t rotate often, you’ll be sore in
your neck and back tomorrow. This one is way worse than you remember.
Think of this as ‘the beginning of the end’.

6. The Overhung Bluff on the left: DO NOT rest here!!!
It is a morale breaker that sucks the life out of your assault as the
mosquitos suck the blood from your veins. Push on past the throngs of
people wishing their boats would stop sliding down, that there was a dustless
place to sit, and that the mosquitos would stop eating long enough for
them to catch their breath. Forge ahead to . . .

7. The Old Shed marks the light at the end of the tunnel!
Ponder whether this was an old still, is still an old still, was / is
a hide-out for ‘bad’ locals on the lamb, or will serve as the perfect
meth-lab for your special Gauley-fest batch next season (couldn’t we all
use a pick-me-up about now?).

8. The step-over log: Now we’re there! You can hear
the boats hitting the grass with a thud, the wails of elation, and the
cheers and jeers of those who’ve recovered already. So get your act together:
wipe the sweat from your eyes, reduce the gasping to a minimum, stand
up tall, and plaster a smile on your face. No matter how much you’ve suffered,
you’re about to walk out of the dark and into the light – and a field
of friends desperately hoping you’ll look worse for wear than they did
just minutes ago.

For extra style points: make it to the car before dropping
your boat get all your gear put away and load your boat before popping
the first beer / soda / water help the last guy in your party by loading
his stuff and handing him something to drink then relaxing till he’s ready

See you in the the field at the top of the hill!