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Rafting the Upper Gauley River, 1999

The third of Mike's now-annual rafting trips with old friends on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia -- September 17 & 18, 1999. With David Lund and Mark Stevenson, plus a now-regular friend on the river -- our guide extraordinaire, Phillip Belcher. Tremendous, as always!

The following sequence of photos is of our run at "Pillow Rock". At Pillow Rock, about half the river piles up onto a huge rock placed like a ramp on the left side of the river. After gaining several feet the water falls off to the right side. Our goal in this run was to drive our raft up the incline of water onto the rock, to reach up and touch the rock at the moment of greatest height, and then to enjoy the drop while the current swings the back of the raft around to the right and spins us backwards into the channel.

We achieved this nearly perfectly during one of our 1997 runs. This year's first run went somewhat differently, with the results below...

Paddling hard to build the speed needed for a great run up Pillow Rock. There's a big hole you want blast through for a great ride during your approach. The front of the raft is in part of it, but we blow by it left of center.

Left-to-right: Our guide Phil Belcher, David Lund, Dave Townsend, Alex Perkins, George Noggle, Mike Jones, Mark Stevenson.

As we pass the hole Phil does something unexpected -- he yells out "back paddle" -- something we've never heard him say approaching Pillow before. (Usually he says "hit it" followed by "yee haw!".) The front of the raft is starting to climb the pile of water in front of Pillow.

Backpaddling hard, while our momentum and the current carry us forward and up.

Up we go! This is about the farthest up the rock we'd ever previously been.

Still higher. We believe that Phil's still in the raft, but he's also under water!

Nearly vertical. Notice that the raft has bounced off the rock and is no longer even touching it. The stern begins to swing around to the right.

Gravity wins. The play-by-play...

Dave Townsend has joined Phil in the drink. (We believe that's Dave's right sandal, bottom center.) George makes his exit to the left. Mike goes across the raft at the top of the photo. All that's left of Mark is a gloved hand holding a paddle (top left).

Amazingly, David Lund (bottom center) and Alex (midair, above David) remain in the raft because the front swings around and lands in time for them to fall into it.

After a few seconds submerged as the currents had their way with us and a bit of vigorous swimming to the bank, all the rafters and paddles were soon reunited in the raft to continue running the rest of the river (in a less eventful fashion). A good time was had by all.

We rode Pillow clean next day, with Mark reaching his hand out and petting the rock as we rounded it on our left.

Rafting the Upper Gauley, September 1997 (shows a clean run at Pillow Rock)
Rafting the Upper Gauley, September 1998 (with good air-time photo)
Rafting the Upper Gauley, September 2000 (another clean run at Pillow rock)
Rafting the Upper Gauley, September 2002 (see the fear of swimming the rapids at Pillow Rock!)
Rafting the Upper Gauley, October 2006 (with more full-contact rafting!)

North American River Runners (our outfitting company)
US Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District Whitewater Water Control Information

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