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AuSable River Canoe Camping, MI

On September 28th eight hardy souls departed for a paddling/camping trip to complete our journey of the AuSable River in the northern portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. A similar group paddled the first 60 miles of the river in June of 2013. The crew was ably headed up by Captain Bernie Weitekamp, and co-led by Doug Sherow. Jim and Bette Hanna were the only couple, and the balance of the crew was comprised of John Bredenkamp, Dan Harrell, Donald Weitekamp, and Donald Nelson.

While last year’s trip was on the first half of the river which is narrow, shallow and has a five mile current, the second half is quite different, with five ponds (lakes) and five portages, so the paddling was similar to that experienced in the Boundary Waters. As a result, the paddling was more challenging, but the crew was up to the task, following orders barked out by Captain Bernie. We stayed the first and last nights at the Mai Tiki Resort in two cabins on a large beach overlooking Lake Huron, which came complete with palm trees and a bonfire on the beach each night.

Our first campsite on the first day of paddling was hampered by the fact that one couple left their tent in the van, so we were forced to improvise. Fortunately, the Alcona Park campground took mercy on us and offered a cabin at half-price, which turned into a palace and card game location for the crew.

Card Shark Bette and Captain Bernie gave Jim and John an exhibition of Masters Euchre by soundly drubbing them repeatedly throughout the night. The following nights the couple improvised their accommodations by the effective use of rainflys as ground cloth and overhead protection from wind and rain. Two tents placed nearby afforded additional windbreak for protection.

Beginning Tuesday our challenge of the river increased as we were not aided by a flowing current. That situation prevailed every time we paddled through the five ponds and portages for the balance of the trip. Additionally, we were thoroughly tested by lower than predicted temperatures, rain and even fog one day of the trip. We were also tested by Ricky Raccoon one night while camping, and Captain Bernie engaged Ricky at 3:00 AM in a discussion of why he should choose another campsite instead of ours.

One bizarre twist to our paddle occurred on the last portage of our trek, as the hydroelectric plant went off-line for repairs just as we arrived at the portage location. The siren blasted and the flood gate was opened with a rush of water. We were unable to launch at the normal location. When we learned that the flood gate would remain open until the following Sunday night, we realized we needed an alternate plan for our launch. Once again, Captain Bernie’s great leadership shone as a beacon. He barked out orders to the crew and we carefully walked the canoes downstream to a safe location far from the turbulence and rush of the water flowing over the dam spillway. We all survived without incident thanks to Bernie’s quick thinking and great leadership.

Several miles from the terminus of the river, John and Doug observed a family of eagles. The male was spotted high in a tree on one side. Around the bend the larger female was on the other side with a three year old juvenile on a lower branch. We had invaded the family fishing area as they were watching for potential prey. (A family that preys together—stays together, according to John).

After finishing the paddle we all returned to the Mai Tiki Resort for showers and adult beverages,followed by a great dinner at Wiltse’s Brew Pub in Oscoda, Michigan. After dinner, it was determined that Don Nelson should be given a trail name, similar to the trail names given to Appalachian Trail hikers. He shall henceforth be known by the trail name of MIKEY—because Mikey eats everything! Nothing goes to waste when he is present. He was a great asset to the trip and was there to help whenever it was needed. All in all we were glad to have completed this river trek successfully and carry many memories of the challenges we overcame in mastering the AuSable.

Manistee River Trail/North Country Trail Backpack, MI

Trip participants: Kathy Koning (co-leader), Dave Hoffmeyer (co-leader), Mark Bontrager, Emma Castator, Lisa Forester, Susan Haldeman, Leslie Green, Les Schaffer, Barry Tague

This was beautiful hike, with some minor weather challenges. We had great people who came together as a team to have a fun three days. We also set what we feel are two new club records (more on that later).

The group met up in Westfield on Friday morning to begin our seven-hour ride to the Manistee National Forest. Many club members have done this hike before, but this was the first time hiking it as a CIWC event. On the road we entertained ourselves by holding the chore ”lottery” as we drew slips out of an envelope to assign roles for cooking cleanup and water filtration. We also spent some time looking at the radar hoping the rain would hold off!

After making one last stop in Cadillac to say good bye to porcelain for a couple of days, we were off to the Upper River Road trailhead on the west side of the Manistee River. Ed Chappel, the North Country trail area coordinator, informed us that the trail went right through the parking lot. . .we only found one trail leading in the opposite direction of which we were headed. Club Record #1: earliest to get lost on the trail, heading the wrong way straight from the back of the club van! We road walked in the direction we were supposed to be headed and came across the trail just before we crossed the bridge on the Manistee River.

After we crossed the river to continue our six-mile day, we came across a pile of bear scat . . . so much for the assurances that there were no bears in the area! It started to sprinkle as we looked for a campsite, but the heavy rain held off until it was time to set up camp. For a river trail, it was not very easy to get water. Our water gathering team headed down a steep embankment and then had to lean over to get water. Les leaned over a little too far and went head first right into the river, getting completely soaked. Luckily, she made her way out and was able to get into dry clothes.

The rain kept getting heavier so we were faced with having to cook, eat dinner, and set up our tents in the rain. It was impossible not to get a little wet but, overall, we did pretty well staying dry. The only victim of the rain was Kathy’s spork, which was never to be seen again in spite of all our efforts to find this key piece of gear.

The rain did finally stop around 3:00 AM, and we awoke to damp tents with temps in the mid-30’s. The rain and drop in temperature did make for good sleeping weather, so the group didn’t get moving until around 8:00 AM the next morning. It was a challenge to get water and to attempt to dry out gear. We also took our time cooking pancakes, so we successfully set Club Record #2: we didn’t break camp until 11:00 AM.

Once we got on the trail on Saturday, it was beautiful! The east side of the river has many beautiful views overlooking the expanse of hills with the Manistee River flowing below. After hiking about five miles along the east side of the river, we crossed a hiker-only suspension bridge and ate lunch alongside the west side of the river, one of the few places where it is easy to get water.

After lunch we decided to go about six more miles to make our Sunday hike shorter. We came across a skeleton of a deer right in the middle of the trail. For some reason we did not see much wildlife other than birds – no deer or bear nor any smaller animals like squirrels or even chipmunks.

The trail climbs onto a high bluff about a half-mile from the river, so the only place to get water on the west side is a nice clear stream called Eddington Creek. After topping off all of our water bottles and bladders, we continued on. On the east side there are plenty of campsites, but on the west side there are very few. We found a mostly level area alongside the trail and made camp amongst the ferns.

The beautiful day turned into a very nice evening, Mark taught fire making skills, our Saturday night dinner crew did a fantastic job, and then it was on for evening activities. Our campfire was perfect for making s’mores, and we enjoyed them immensely! We told old hiking stories and went to bed under a perfect, starlit sky.

In the morning, we got up to a quick breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail for the last five miles back to the trailhead. We arrived by 11:00 AM with everyone accounted for and drove into Manistee for a McDonald’s restroom break. Naturally, we couldn’t resist the guilty pleasure of some fast food after being on the trail. We arrived back in Westfield around 7:00 PM and put an end to a very successful hike. Great people, great teamwork. Great scenery and great times were had by all!

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Paddle

Trip participants: Bill Armstrong and Gary Boehle (Co-Leaders), Diana McClure, Cathy Schuler, Chris Jordan, Lukas Fakner, and James Kendall.

The trip started from Greenfield, Indiana. A stop was made in Wolcott, In. to pick up Chris and then on through Chicago, all
of Wisconsin, and through Duluth and up to Ely, Minnesota by 7:00 PM. The club van runs great!

Sunday morning found us paddling our Kevlar canoes east up Moose Lake to the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA). Lunch included fresh northern pike and bass filets caught by James. Five portages later (with Gary carrying about 3 packs at a time) we were in the west end of Knife Lake looking for our first campsite. Several good spots were already taken and we settled on one on top of a steep rocky climb that was just big enough to accommodate our
seven tents. Steak kabobs and veggies for dinner were enjoyed by all.

Monday morning sunrise through the fog was enjoyed by the early riser, Cathy. We all packed up after a breakfast of freeze dried eggs and bacon and moved east to Thunder Cliff. A beautiful overlook of Knife Lake was viewed and a short yoga session on the cliff edge was performed by Bill, Diana and Lukas. The Blueberry picking was also great up on the cliff. We then proceeded to the south arm of
Knife Lake to a fantastic camp site with a wrap around beach and a rocky point for sun bathing. A warm sunny day encouraged all to wade and swim to cool down. The first of three homemade dehydrated meals prepared by Chris were devoured
by all, with another sampling of fresh caught bass.

Loons with their fluffy, downy babies were seen on every lake. Many Bald Eagles, ravens and seagulls filled the skies. One beaver and a few mergansers were seen but no bears nor wolves. Pesky
chipmunks and red squirrels scampered about the camp sites trying to steal a bit of food and a small rabbit, (or hare) lived at one campsite. Mosquitoes and biting flies were only a minor nuisance
generally.

Monday sunset and Tuesday sunrise were both beautiful with clear starry skies overnight. James provided stories about the constellations that had us all spellbound. We spent the next day at the same site. Cliff jumping, swimming, fishing, book reading and exploring waterfalls (Eddy Lake) filled up the day. Gary’s dehydrated bar-b-que and more fish then filled us up for dinner in the evening.

Hard rain and strong winds woke us up in the night but only one tent was slightly damaged and by morning the weather cleared for another hot sunny day on Wednesday. After pancakes, we reluctantly packed up and left this 5-star campsite and headed out of the south arm of Knife Lake to another fantastic 5-star site looking out over Knife Lake toward the West. More swimming (watch out for the leaches, Cathy), fishing, napping and firewood gathering were done and Lukas (“Put Another Log on the Fire”) provided us with plenty of fire in the evening. What a beautiful view of the sunset could be had while sitting high on the “throne“ up on the hill from the camp. The forester that dug that pit must have been laughing the whole time about the site placement.

After a restful night and an oatmeal breakfast, we packed up and started to head in over the portages again. What proficiency and skill was shown in our mastering of the portages this time! No triple trips were needed by anyone. An unsuccessful attempt was made to find the root beer lady’s memorial rock prior to the portages. Lunch was enjoyed on Carp Lake Point and several fish were caught, including two at the same time on one plug. After the final portage, another fine camp site was located and we all settled down for our last evening in the “wilderness”. Thimble berries, red currants, and
some kind of high bush blueberry (or were they huckleberries, I don’t know?), were picked at this site. Bill managed to pick up a water snake along the shore for all to see, maybe a little too close for Cathy though. Chris’ spaghetti dinner with James’ bass filled us up again in the evening.

On Friday morning a short “shopping” trip was made at Prairie Portage, including viewing the waterfall, and then we all headed down to Moose Lake and back in. The afternoon was spent cleaning up in the showers, touring the town. Some went to the International Wolf Exhibit before pizza at the Italian restaurant. More shopping and some cold, locally brewed blueberry ale at the Boathouse ended the evening.

Saturday’s trip home started at 5:00 AM. A morning drive along the north shore of Lake Superior was followed by an afternoon tour of Chicago with former tour bus guide, James, providing the commentary. What a great unscheduled addition to the trip!

Chris left us at Wolcott and the rest of us got to Greenfield on August 9. (Just 137 days till Christmas). Sunday morning came early as Lukas had to catch a plane to South Dakota by 7:00 AM. Lukas came over from Germany to take our canoe trip and the go work with a church group with American Indian children for three weeks before returning to his first job as an electrician in Germany. Good luck Lukas, glad you could join us!

What a wonderful trip! Everything worked like clockwork. No one got stuck with jobs that they didn’t want to do and everyone cooperated with all the tasks needed for a smooth camping/canoeing trip. Thanks to the CIWC for providing the van, equipment and the opportunity to go on this wilderness trip.

Intro to Canoe Camping, Chain-O’-Lakes State Park, IN

Participants: Emma Castator, Marvin Pribble, Nick Fullenkamp, Paula Hartzer, Pam Thompson, Gloria Danielson and her granddaughter Kayla, John Carlson (co-leader) and Bob Hart (co-leader)

The purpose of the trip was to give campers some experience with canoe instruction and paddle skills practice and to experience the differences between canoe camping and backpacking. Due to tight
timing and canoe rental policy we only had 24 hours to accomplish our goals. All participants met in the overnight parking area and we checked with everyone on water-proofing their most critical gear items.

Once we checked out the canoes John Carlson gave some basic instruction on terminology, proper packing of the canoes, how to safely enter and disembark and demonstrated each of the basic
strokes – both for bow and stern positions. Then it was time to head to camp. The paddle from the canoe launch area was about two miles and we traversed through three small lakes and three sets of channels. We arrived at the remote “canoe camp” about 2:30 PM. All paddlers learned quickly.

The first order of business at camp was to select tent sites and pitch the tents. We were anticipating some overnight rain so care had to be
taken to stay out of holes and areas that might have heavy drainage. After that there were a series of demonstrations with some ”show and tell” discussions. Those included: SPOT safety signaling device usage, various footwear options, canoe lift and carry, proper overnight positioning of canoes, protecting food from critters (including bears), tarp erection and some general information.

Campers then had some free time before supper to enjoy the solitude of camp, go for a hike on nearby trails or to practice their newly learned paddle skills. Meanwhile a second tarp was erected “ just in case”. Supper was a group effort and then there was the traditional campfire with many “tall tales” about real wilderness paddle trips. We went to bed early anticipating some rain before daybreak.

Sure enough, rain did develop in the pre-dawn hours and that second tarp came in handy. Breakfast was prepared under acceptable conditions. We learned how to make an egg casserole in a zip lock bag which was a really neat idea. Shortly after breakfast the rain stopped so we packed up and paddled back to the launch area. The week end was declared successful and everyone received a handout to take home.

 

 

Red River Gorge Backpack, KY

Participants: Danielle Griffin, George Lindley, Kathy Koning, Kristen Koning, Sarah Koning, Jim Mata, Donald Nelson, Brock Schaffer, Leslie Schaffer, Barry Tague

We met at 9:00 AM on Saturday morning on the south side of Indianapolis. After introductions and loading of gear, we drove four hours to Red River Gorge for a Memorial Day weekend hike. After
stopping for parking permits, lunch, and shuttling cars, we started out on the Sheltowee Trace Trail, beginning at the Corner Ridge Trailhead on the north side of the park. We hiked about three miles following turtle blazes and set up camp near the Lost Branch Trail. Due to starting later in the day, we found the best campsites already occupied and end up staying about ¼ mile uphill from the river
which was our needed water source. After setting up camp and cooking a group dinner, several people went down to the river to pump water. While the weather was perfect during the day, the night
temperatures were a bit cooler than some had anticipated.

After waking on Sunday and cooking a hot breakfast, we started on our eight mile hike past many beautiful and popular landmarks. We first came across the Indian Steps where we watched people
rappelling off of the cliff. We continued on the trail, crossing two small creeks, and climbed to Indian Arch which was a remarkable sandstone formation. After hiking along several scenic cliffs, we crossed a suspension bridge over the Red River. We followed the Red River downstream and saw hikers jumping off a large rock into the river. Shortly after, we found a campsite for the night near the Chimney Top Creek. The poison ivy was thick everywhere and it was a challenge to avoid. After wading in the creek, pumping water, and eating dinner, we had a campfire, s’mores, and good conversation. After hoisting the food bag again, we settled in for the night. Most of us figured out a way to be a little warmer the second night.

On Monday morning we woke to another perfect day. We ate a quick breakfast and headed out for the remaining three miles to Pinch-Em-Tight Trailhead. After a 400-foot gain in elevation, we reached Signature Rock where we took in the sun, lots of water, and the scenery. From there, we hiked a short distance to the trailhead and parted ways. We met new friends, learned new skills, and overall had a great Memorial Day trip!

New York Appalachian Trail Hike

Participants: Joni Moore (Leader), Donna Davidson (Co-leader), Bill Armstrong, Curt Romerill, Dan Harrell, John Bredenkamp, Keith Trinkle, Paul Moore

Utilizing almost every inch of space in the CIWC van for our trip gear (backpacks, pertinents and such) we headed out early for our trip. After an uneventful day of travel and making good time we spent a night in Mifflinville, Pennsylvania which got us far enough along to have time the next day to do some shopping at Campmor Outfitters. We then decided to head to the New Jersey/New York state line and begin our hike there.

It took a while to locate a trail leading to the Appalachian Trail (AT) but, once we did, we wasted no time in getting our day packs and boots on to hit the trail. After a mile or so we came to the section of the AT marked at the state line NJ/NY; that was a first for most of us on the hike. So, there we were beginning our hike at the beginning of the AT section for New York. We didn’t spend much time at this site as we knew it was getting late in the afternoon and we still had lots of ground to cover. After hiking several miles we came to a parking area where Paul was waiting for us in the club van which held our dinner and overnight gear. We did not waste any time refueling with a delicious barbeque dinner, loading our overnight gear on our backs and hitting the trail again for the Wildcat Shelter.

The hike to Wildcat Shelter proved to be a real challenge since there was a lot of rocky terrain and boulders to climb up and over and darkness was quickly setting in. Upon arrival at Wildcat Shelter
the shelter was found to be full (well with only two other hikers who took up the whole shelter and did not appear to be willing to share the space). I guess that’s what happens when you get there late in the
day. Thankfully, a few of our group had arrived before dark so they were able to locate good tent sites. The rest of us arrived after dark and had no problem getting set up for the night. Hiking by a full moon and our headlamps added a greater level of adventure to our hike.

On day two of our trip we discovered that most of the terrain was much the same as it was the evening before. Lots more rocky paths to hike through and boulders to climb (this really slowed us down). At the top of some of those boulders and balds, however, there were some spectacular views of seemingly endless lakes and countryside. We also enjoyed a scattering of small river falls that proved to be impressive from a close view. As the day progressed to evening and
knees were straining from several steep descents, we ended our hike a few miles short of our original goal. Having ended the day a bit early
we were able to spend more time preparing and enjoying our dinner. Joni had a feast of salmon patties with mac and cheese planned for dinner and it went over very well. Since Paul was able to meet us in the van at various points along this section of the trail, we took full advantage and Paul kept our beverages of choice iced down and ready for us to enjoy with dinner. Ice cold beer and hard ice tea…hard to beat after a day on the trail.

Day three of our trip we woke to pouring rain. After quickly packing we went to a park shelter to attempt to dry our stuff and prepare breakfast. There was no letting up on the rain and the earlier
forecast of 30% chance of rain escalated to 100% and the same for the next day. The rain seemed to preclude any safe passage over the rocks and boulders we covered the previous days, so we decided to end our hike. After some cruising around driving over a Hudson River bridge, visiting Greymoor Spiritual Center and the Bear Mountain
Lodge we decided to head back home. The best part of the drive home was a very large black bear seen in the woods near the highway while driving through Pennsylvania.

 

 

Beginning Backpacking, Shades State Park, IN

Participants: Susy Price, Sandy Hicks, Marvin Pribble, Wendy Brinson and Bob Hart (leader)

This trip was held at the backcountry camping area within Shades Sate Park. The purpose of the trip was to provide an elementary overnight backpacking experience (or refresher) for new people in CIWC.

The group met on Saturday morning at the parking lot closest to the trail head leading to the “Backpack Camp”. The first order of business was to do some light day hiking on other park trails to get acquainted and see some of the parks features, as well as look at Sugar Creek. Back at the parking area we found a nearby picnic table and had some demonstrations regarding water treatment options. Those props would be left in the back of the truck because we knew that there would be potable water at the campsite.

After lunch we split up group gear and group food and hoisted up our backpacks in order to begin our 2.5 to 3 mile hike to the backcountry camping site. It was a leisurely hike with some picture-taking along
the way. At the backcountry area we found and occupied the last two campsites. The weekend weather was predicted to be dry, so many other campers were back there. Our campsites were perfect, being close to the water spigot and the primitive toilets. The first order of business at the campsites (per CIWC protocol) was to pitch tents.

Shortly after that, we had a welcome visitor (club president Dave Hoffmeyer) who packed in our firewood. There was a policy mixup at the gatehouse and we were told that firewood would no longer be delivered to the backcountry, as had been past practice. Dave went way beyond the call of duty and we were greatly in his debt. (We found out later that this mix up was resolved and fixed by park management).

During the late afternoon and before supper there was time for rest and or exploring the backcountry area, which included a trip to the canoe campsite on the edge of Sugar Creek. The supper plan was to
make individual pizzas which (by design) required group participation. All went well and the pizzas were customized to each camper’s preference.

After supper we demonstrated how to hang food from a tree and had the traditional campfire, and of course, with campfire stories. Then, it was off to bed.

In the morning we had our breakfast, packed up and hiked out. Then Bob, Sandy and Susy went to lunch in a civilized setting at the Turkey Run Inn. All in all it was a great trip.

Hiking the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Participants: John South (trip leader), Joe Sullivan, Charles Bullock, Nick Fullenkamp, Gary Boehle

Big South Fork is located roughly 20 miles west of I-75 between Kentucky and Tennessee.

We left Noblesville at 8:30 Monday morning for a 6-hour trip to Big South Fork. The government shutdown preceding the trip had us looking at different options, but fortunately the combatants sheathed their swords (tongues) and the shutdown was over in time for the trip. One casualty of a Monday start was a brain fade. Gary left his boots behind and decided to forge on hiking the distance in his leather loafers.

This trip had a few different wrinkles. The hiking consisted of two day hikes and two backpack hikes. We hiked in three distinct locations in the park and were in two states. Each hiker provided all his own food and stoves. Some prefer to provide their own food to save weight and eat what they want. There were some good discussions about food preparation and dehydration methods.  The merits of alcohol, propane and multi-fuel stoves were also discussed. If you want a quick meal, leave the alcohol stove at home but it is easy to find rubbing alcohol even in a small Tennessee pharmacy.

After arriving on Monday afternoon we had a nice 3-mile shake down hike to our campsite next to the Clear Fork. Making sure that water was available was a prime concern for locating campsites. Most streams were still running well.

Tuesday was a day-hike on the 5.6 mile Honey Creek loop. This is considered one of the best, but most difficult, trails in the park. I would not attempt this trail with wet conditions. Backpacks are not recommended due to the rugged terrain, bending and climbing.  The trail passes by tall rock faces and overlooks the Clear Fork. The jewel is hiking up the Honey Creek ravine/valley back to the uplands. The ravine made me think of Turkey Run’s water trail on steroids. The trail twists and turns and is sometimes hard to follow.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: This loop trail had some interesting challenges and great scenery. We visited numerous rock shelters, tall rock faces, the Twin Arches (tallest east of the Mississippi), Slave Falls and Charit Creek lodge. By the map we hiked between 6-8 miles each day but Charles’ GPS said we were doing more like 8-11 miles. The views atop the Twin Arches were great and the fall colors were on display. Charit Creek is a lodge/hostel for hikers and horseback riders. The warm stove, coffee, soft drinks and candy lifted the spirits after walking in a light rain that morning. It was a great place to stop for lunch and relax.

The weather did not disappoint us. Most days were in the low 70’s to the low 50’s at night. We hiked in a light rain one morning and it rained one evening. Campfires each night helped take the chill off. Friday night did drop into the 30s. Pancakes and sausage helped warm us up on Saturday morning. Most days were sunny and warm with perfect hiking/camping conditions.

On Friday, after taking a shower and setting up camp in deserted Blue Heron modern campground, we looked for a place for a celebration dinner. We asked a local policeman where to find a good steak and beer. We were informed that we were in a dry county with only average places to eat. We ended up at the local 1950’s Drive In. The food was surprisingly good and inexpensive.

Saturday we spent some time looking over the Blue Heron Mining Community outdoor museum. There were many displays that tell the story of the abandoned mining town. A six mile hike was completed at a quick pace to start for home by 2:00. We returned safely to Noblesville by 9:00.

Upper Gauley River White-Water Rafting, WV

Trip participants: Gary Boehle (trip leader), Julie McCall, Sheryl Teague, Sonja Duelberg, Andrea Lacy, Doug Ramsey, Dennis Artrip, Cliff Cooper and Daniel Moody

There were nine members for this outing, including one that didn’t know exactly where he was going until about five minutes after he got there because his wife had planned it without telling him where or what he was doing for the next few days.

The trip started on schedule with a group breakfast at 8:00 AM. We had unseasonably warm weather for this trip, with the forecast calling for 84 degrees on Saturday for our time on the water. The drive east was pretty uneventful except for an exit that we almost missed. I rectified that situation and got us heading in the right direction for an approximately 4:00 PM arrival time at Ace Adventure Resort, in Minden, West VA. The cabin was spacious, with bunks for 12, a shower, a couple sinks, heat and electricity.

Seven from the group had arranged to zipline in the area, so we made it just in time to unpack the van so they could make it to the meeting point on site for transport to what sounded like a fantastic time above the New River Gorge.

Upon their return, the evening consisted of a campfire, chili, hot dogs, socializing and a fairly early turn-in because we needed to be prepped and to our buffet breakfast by 6:00 AM so we could make it to their orientation before leaving the facility for the river at 7:30 AM.

After an entertaining ride to the river, we were divided into two rafts (6 and 3) for what was to be about five hours of an unforgettable ride on the river. We were to soon find out why this seasonal release of water from Summersville Lake dam produces what is considered the #2 ranked whitewater experience in the U.S. I heard later that it’s #2, only behind the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon earns that distinction only because of the number of people that are drawn to the area annually. The Upper Gauley seasonal release typically only happens 23 days per year. The flow rate during these releases is regulated at between 2,400 and 2,800 cubic feet per SECOND.

There were lots of Class V rapids, a few V+’s and several other exciting runs as well. We swam on purpose, swam on accident, we jumped from a rock cliff and learned what it was like to be eaten by a “fuzzy box of kittens,” just to describe a portion of the outing. All of this gave us a good appetite to enjoy the hot riverside meal prepared by our guides on Ace’s private area with a great view of the last class V of the day. There were a couple more exciting rapids before making it to the end where we found the bus for the return trip, along with a nice selection of post-river beverages.

After the bus ride back to Ace, we cleaned up, rested, and snacked….then headed to the “Big Tent” to view the video of the day’s antics. There was lots of laughter and reminiscing about the great time that had been had by all.

The evening consisted of a nice meal at the on-site lounge where we had abundant choices that ranged from nachos to roasted whole hog, including brick oven pizza that was enjoyed by at least a few in the group.

We had another nice fire (thanks to the two Eagle Scouts in the group), some rested and four of us took a hike to the resort’s gorge overlook; it was a nice walk (desperately needed by at least one of us….due to my excessive grazing), but we didn’t get the full affect of the overlook due to the darkness.

When we made it back to the cabin, some slept, some enjoyed the fire, some sawed logs, some listened to the sawing logs, and the fight between the occupants of the cabin across the drive from us….and some of us slept through it, only to find a girl sleeping in the shower stall at the camper’s bath house in the morning. By the looks of their porch, I’d guess she might have had a run-in with Jack Daniels.

Our trip concluded with an hour late departure and a dead black bear along the highway, which required a (safe) pull-off for a closer look. We made up for the lost time with a couple brief gas/food stops, to make it back to Indy before 5:00 PM.

Park County Covered Bridge Bike Ride, IN

On Sunday, September 29th the weather forecast called for rain, but that didn’t stop the nine brave souls that decided we wouldn’t melt.

We all met at the Jailhouse Café in Rockville for breakfast at 9:00 AM. By 10:00 the weather was looking better and we were all full, so we decided to head out. We rode nine miles to our first stop at the Cecil Harden Dam on Raccoon Lake. Paul was our SAG driver for the day and he met us there with drinks and snacks. From there we rode five miles to Mansfield and walked over the covered bridge and toured the mill. Then, it was another five miles to Bridgeton. This was to be our ice cream stop! Mike, the owner of the mill, was grinding flour and showed us around. After our fill of goodies, we rode the 10 miles back to Rockville, where several of us decided to have lunch at the 36 Saloon.

We all had a great time and were thankful that Paul was there to support us when we needed him. I’m sure that whatever calories we burned that day were all gained back from all the great food.