By Guest Blogger Jen Corbin
Are you looking to do something different with the family this summer? Or are you already thinking about a fall getaway before the temperatures drop? Well, I have a place for you in my home state of West Virginia. Yes, I said a weekend trip to West Virginia (I have learned that many of you Carolina natives are unaware that the West Virginia state line is only about 2 hours from the Triad.)
Just three hours from the Triad, you will find ACE Adventure Center in Oak Hill, WV and if you are looking for adventure, big or small, this place has it! Their “bread and butter” is white water rafting on the New River, which is the 3rd oldest river in the world and one of a handful of rivers that flow from the south (Boone, NC) to the north (Gauley, WV). Now, in North Carolina, the New River is slow, easy going and great for tubing. However, by the time it reaches West Virginia, this river is raging and offers some of the best white water rafting in North America.
Rivers, and the rapids within them, are graded or given a “class” depending on their difficulty or skill level need to navigate them. The lower the class of rapids, the less difficult the river navigation is. Depending on the type of adventure you want, you can pick a rafting trip that works for you and your family. All trips have a guide that takes you down the river safely.
If you have younger kids with you, then a trip on the Upper New section of the river (pictured left above) is the right one for you. This section of the river is calm with extremely gentle rapids. You can float this section of the river in a large raft or do it in an inflatable kayak called a “Duckie”. My favorite way to raft the Upper New is in a Duckie! You do not need any kayaking or canoeing experience to navigate a Duckie on the Upper New. Beginners are welcome! If you want to do the Upper and the Lower New, it can be done all in one day, or do an overnight trip where you campout riverside while your guide cooks you dinner and breakfast the next morning.
For those looking for a high adventure ride on the New River, you will want a Lower New rafting trip (pictured right). The minimum age for rafters on these trips is 11. This section of the river has over 20 class II, III, IV and maybe even a class V rapid (depending on the water level). The rafts can hold 4-8 people, and as ACE likes to say, “The smaller the boat, the wilder the float!” I have rafted this section of the new a dozen times and it is always a GREAT time! Your guide will shout orders for you to follow along the way as you navigate the huge waves of rapids and you will have sections of smoother water where you can get out and swim the rapids as well. Halfway down the river, the guides will pull the rafts to the banks, flip them over and use them as buffets for a lunch they serve up along the way.
I have to point out that while the rafting is fun, the scenery along the New River, which is located in a deep gorge, is breathtaking. The river flows along the New River Gorge National Park which keeps the area natural and allows the natural wildlife to flourish. Don’t be surprised if you see a bald eagle up in a tree or swooping down to pluck a fish from the river!
In addition to whitewater rafting trips, ACE has zip line tours, catwalk tours on the New River Gorge Bridge (the 4th longest steel single-span bridge in the world), mountain tours via hiking, ATVs, horseback or bike, rock climbing, rappelling, guided fishing trips, kayak instruction, stand up paddle boarding, team challenge courses and more. A favorite spot for my kids is ACE Lake, which is located at the center of the facility. The lake has huge inflatables, a zip line and water slide that are just plain fun!
If you have not figured it out by now, you are going to get wet and dirty on this trip, no matter what activities you chose to do. For rafting, you will need a swimsuit (I like to wear water shorts too), water sandals (tennis shoes get too heavy and often fall off), old sunglasses you do not care to lose (I have several pair somewhere in that river) and sunscreen.
A day trip is possible, but there is so much to do, you need to stay a night or two. ACE offers several options for overnight stays, so take advantage of them! Your options start at tent camping- bring your own or take advantage of tents ACE has already set up (worth every penny in my opinion). There are also small cabins for single families and bunk houses for large groups. For those living large, they have deluxe cabins that sleep 8-12- and an added bonus, they have hot tubs! These accommodations are basic or what some would call “rustic”, but that is all part of the experience of being in the mountains.
Now all of this activity is going to get you pretty hungry. ACE has you covered there as well. The rafting, and several other trips, include a meal along the way. In addition, ACE has a breakfast buffet in the morning and dinner buffet in the evening. They also have a small tavern that serves dinner and offers a full bar in the evenings. If your kids are too young to enjoy all these amenities, maybe you and a few couples need a weekend away with some adventure?
If you have always wanted to go whitewater rafting, this is the place to do it. Step out of your comfort zone and give ACE a try. Have you been? Let us know!