Well, today was decision day. In all our planning we knew that this would probably be the end of the music part of our journey. The next venues that seemed to have any promise at all, musically, were a few hours south. And none of them were all that compelling. So we had been discussing changing the focus of our explorations at this point of the trip and beginning to explore the coalmining heritage of West Virginia. There is a lot of coal heritage stuff to see down in the region of Beckley, WV, which is a few hours southwest of where we are now. So we made the decision today, and headed for the coal heritage area around Beckley.
Also in that region there is a lot of whitewater rafting on the New River and the Gauley River. We would be driving right through the thick of it. That opened up a whole new realm of exploration. Yes!!!! Adventure!!!!
We stopped at the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center, which overlooks the New River Gorge Bridge in Lansing, WV. The bridge itself is amazing; the view of the river far below is breathtaking; but the real impact of the stop, for me, was the idea of using my kayak to try some river kayaking in the New River. I had read that there is a 15-mile stretch (the Upper New River) that is more mild and “family friendly.” This sounded good to me, since I have no experience with anything above class II rapids in my kayak.
I got some information about a 5-mile section of river that was recommended for beginners, and I began to imagine myself as a river kayaker. Then I found out that there were two sections of class III rapids in this “beginner’s” section. I began to wonder about the wisdom of setting off on this adventure. I realized that I probably lack the knowledge and experience needed for this sort of thing. Then, when I reflected on the fact that I would be doing this alone, I became even more doubtful of the prudence of doing it. I thought about it for about a half a day, and eventually realized that I not only lack the knowledge, the experience, and companions, but I also do not have a kayak skirt or a helmet, I realized it would be foolish for me to do this on my own. I thought about getting a lesson, but realized that I probably don’t need to be getting that involved in something new right here and now. So … I decided that now is not the time for whitewater kayaking for me. Maybe another time. When the time comes I want to do it right.
The bridge was another story. Amazing. It is the longest single-span arch bridge in the western hemisphere. It was opened in October, 1978. Every October they have a celebration – Bridge Day – and people rappel, ascend and BASE jump from it. Here it is:
Wouldn’t you love to jump off that?