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By Clay Wright

October 10, 2006

It’s midnight and I’m almost to Wythville WV, on route to the Gauley and steering my Sirius between ‘Boombox’ and ‘Chill’ but taking side-hikes to NPR, where I hear on ‘Earth and Sky’ of the Harvest Moon, rising earlier than normal which would make it appear incredibly large and bright this weekend. What an opportunity for a night mission! Too bad they don’t run it at night unless there’s a hurricane. But they do: a ranger at the dam said due to the rains they would be releasing 3000 cfs all night! So after a long Saturday of airloops and kickflips on little sleep I was disappointed to see the clouds rolling in on our way to dinner. By 9PM there was still no moon and not a star in sight. So while many campers at the dam got busy sleeping or drinking, Pikey, Jeremy and I kept a close watch on the occasional brightening of the campground and sure enough, around 10 the moon popped out big and bright among a thin scattering of clouds. Mission is on!

We found James and Heather to complete our party and by 11 PM we were paddling our creekers into the fog, each paddler lit by glow-sticks provided by some cool folks from Boston. The moon was so bright at times you could see the color of the rocks and make out the smallest off slots. Other times clouds blocked the light and we would stick to the raft lines and search for the glow sticks below each rapid to regroup. But the balance of air and water temps kept the heavy fog that usually makes night runs on the Gauley so disorienting and dangerous at bay, making this mission a cake-walk compared to the ‘which way is downstream’ trips I’ve take in the past. At Lost Paddle, Jeremy Lauks ran the Mail Slot. By Iron Ring, some of us dropped into the ‘Dynamite’ slot on the far left. And by Sweets it was blue-angel 360’s off the boof rock just like earlier that day. The paddle out was quiet and quick, with some slots to run but mainly just floating along enjoying the perfectly quiet moonlit night and amazing solitude in what is normally such a social place. Special thanks to Heather for picking us up!

Tips for moonlight paddling:
Know the river completely – rapid by rapid in order – because the fog can roll in at any time.
Tie glow-sticks on the back of your PFD – so others can find you without blinding your night vision.

Arrange a meeting well below each drop that everyone can find / catch no matter how bad your lines. Not only will you keep from getting separated in the first place but you can also hear a yell or a whistle much better just a short distance away from the rapid.

Take emergency camp-gear, light, and lighter because you probably won’t find equipment in the event of a swim and the hike out will have to wait till sunup.

Paddle Safe –