3 Days – 3 Rivers
Day 2 – July 6th
The Gauley River
This is actually day 2 of my 3 Days – 3 Rivers trip. I chose to write about it and publish it last because it was by far the best of the three days and trips. For that matter, it’s in the running for one of the best days of my life.
We began our day with a trip down my favorite country route through Fayette County, West Virginia. We were driving our 97 Land Rover Discovery and my aunt and uncle followed closely behind in their 96 Discovery. (At the time, I owned a 95, 96 and 97 Disco so we often had four of them parked in our yard.) The air was already getting warmer so we enjoyed cruising with the windows down.
We passed through Gauley Bridge and followed the Gauley River to our put-in location. The Gauley is so beautiful that I often found myself swerving a bit off the road as I looked over at the flowing water. We reached our put-in and unloaded the canoe, paddles, life-vests and all of our gear. Misti snapped a few pics and we said goodbye to my aunt and uncle who would drive our Disco to our take-out location and leave it there for us. They watched as we loaded our gear into the canoe, walked it out into the shallow water and took our seats for the next several hours. Shortly after the put-in, there are a few fast moving shoals that are an exciting way to start the trip. If the water is low, we often have to walk the river bottom and pull the canoe with its painter. But this day, the flow was perfect (since that day, I’ve been checking and recording river flows on the days that we canoe – we usually try for a flow as close to this as possible.) The canoe bounced in the fast flowing water as I steered right or left to avoid the boulders hidden just under the river’s surface. Misti was facing forward but I am sure that she was smiling as much as I was. By the end of the shoals, we were both somewhat wet from the river splashing against our canoe – much needed cooling from the July heat.
From there, it’s mostly smooth water broken by the occasional shoals. This is where the calming effect of the river begins to permeate everything about you. It doesn’t take long to forget about your responsibilities. Your cell phone becomes a distant memory. And all of your worries and troubles begin to sink to the bottom of the river as you leave them behind. There are a few beautiful places to stop for a short break. Over our many trips down the Gauley, we’ve found several that have become regular stops for us. We often stop for a break under a railroad trestle. The trestle provides a bit of shade for a shallow pool of water that is perfect for wading and for cooling down. I’ve traveled extensively but have found no where on earth that I enjoy more than here.
Most trips down the Gauley, we just float away our time. We talk about serious issues as well as complete nonsense. We don’t require much else to enjoy our life. Most trips, I discuss fishing and the fact that I expect this to be a prime fishing opportunity. Misti usually replies, “I don’t care if I catch any fish.”
“Well, I bet if you cast this top-water bait through this big hole we’re getting ready to go through, you’ll catch a great big small-mouth.”
She may not have cared if she caught a fish, but I imagine everyone on the river heard her giggling as she did. Most of them weren’t “lunkers,” but they were great fun! We caught over twenty small-mouth bass ranging from tiny to quite edible. We also caught quite a few red-eyes as well. I think that Misti giggled and laughed after nearly every one. We took pictures of quite a few, but as the day went on, we caught so many that we gave up on the photography and just enjoyed the lucky day. There were a few holes that the fishing was so good that we paddled back upriver so that we could float back down and fish again.
Eventually we reached Gauley Bridge. We paddled up to the original piers that supported the bridge destroyed in the civil war. We floated slowly through the deep waters and looked down between the massive boulders. Here, the Gauley joins the New River to form the Kanawha. We paddled into the New and watched a snake as well as a few mink on the river bank. The NatGeo moment was a perfect end to our paddling.
As darkness crept into the valley, we rolled the windows down in the Land Rover and enjoyed the cool air as we headed back home to discuss one of the best days of our lives.