3 Days – 3 Rivers
Day 1 – July 4th
The Elk River
The dismal and dreary month of January leaves my stomping grounds wet and muddy. It’s possible and I’ve done it before, but it typically proves to be a poor time for camping. Often I use this time for tending to my outdoors gear, creative art, and reminiscing of better days past. In my nostalgic state, I spent some time reviewing pictures from some of my favorite outings. As I came across my birthday trip of three days and three rivers, I found that I missed canoeing and wanted to write a few posts about the enjoyment of casually floating along a beautiful West Virginia river.
My wife and I planned to paddle the Elk River with my father and stepmother on July 4th, the Gauley River on July 6th, and the New River on July 7th. Each river was a completely different experience and we were excited to have the opportunity to paddle them over the week of my birthday.
We joined my father and stepmother at their house in Clendenin, WV and followed them to our designated put-in. It didn’t take long until Misti and I found our groove and were peacefully paddling along a mirrored surface. We’ve paddled together so many times that it was an adjustment to add anyone to our trip. Even though my parents proved to be excellent paddling companions, we found ourselves often speeding far ahead of them or falling far behind. We rarely have a goal or planned speed for our trips so we simply paddle when we want to speed up and sit and talk, take pictures, stare blankly into the river, search for fish, or do absolutely nothing when we have no need for speed.
Throughout the day, my parents caught plenty of fish. Misti and I opted not to fish this day as we wanted to spend more time taking in the new scenery. It turns out that the Elk is a beautiful river well known for fishing and canoeing. The first several hours of the day were wonderful. There were a few nice and bumpy shoals, nothing that would classify as whitewater, but fun nonetheless. These were great fun and we all enjoyed them. There were a few places so shallow that I had to pull the canoe along by its bow painter. This is also a nice time as the cool water rushes by and takes the edge off of the July heat. The only downfall was the countless slow-moving pools of water. They were nice and enjoyable at first. But as the shade gave way to scorching sun and hours passed into more hours, the pools became nearly unbearable – especially for my 7-month pregnant wife. Breaks came often and drinking water began to reach critically low levels. The saving grace for these slow and hot pools were the uncountable number of carp and perch visible on the river bottom. They were everywhere along the Elk and were beautiful to see. Sadly, even these became less and less remarkable as the sweat dripped from the brow of my hat. I was ready to be finished.
Finally, we saw the take-out. We had reached Clendenin and couldn’t wait to take a break from the sun’s beating. The women drove back to the put-in to pick up the truck and my father and I stayed to watch the canoe and kayaks. I’m pretty sure that my father napped the entire time they were gone. I waded back into the river and found a shaded spot where when seated, the water nearly reached my chin. The cool water soothed my sunburned shoulders and carried every stress, worry and trouble that I’ve ever had on down the river.
All things considered, the Elk was a wonderful river to paddle. With better preparation and planning, we could have made it a much more enjoyable trip. But even with the sunburn, the unbearable heat, and the incredibly slow pace of the pools, there are few days better than a day spent with my wife in a canoe on the river.