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Eager for a float, my cousin Travis and his friend Bill took their tandem sit-in, while I paddled my 10 year old sonís Phoenix 12 SOT on a test run. We went about 3/4 mile down stream to the "Snake Hole", a noted smallmouth spot in the first bend of the river from out starting point.
The river was swollen from two days of spring thundershowers and measured about 5 ft on the gauge at Buckeye. It was a lot of fun, little rollers here & there, and all three of us were WET. The Phoenix was stable and nimble, and I had no problems zigging and zagging in the strong current. We walked the kayaks back to the cabin and got a good night sleep. Rain on a tin roof has always been relaxing, and thatís what we were there for. Funny how a few hours of adrenaline can be relaxing.
We got up at dawn and checked the river. The water had risen a little more in the night, with another thunder storm passing through. After a little ORM, we deemed it a safe and got ready to go. I shuttled my truck to the park in Marlinton, a 40 mile round trip. We picked up some grub for dinner that night and headed back to the cabin. We got in our wetsuits, packed a lunch and some dry clothes, and started out in an eddy under the Sitlington Bridge, which crosses the Greenbrier River about 3 miles west of Dunmore. Travis and his girlfriend Kelsey took the tandem sit-in while Bill paddled an Otter, and I took the Phoenix 12.
There were some decent rollers, and having never paddled true whitewater, we took it easy for a few hundred yards, steering clear of the bigger waves created by refrigerator sized boulders just under the surface. After about a mile, Bill dumped his otter and we got safely to shore with all of his gear, and him, safe & sound. Thank God for neoprene. After a few minute to regain our composure, we were at it again.
The river and canyon are beautiful. We saw deer, beaver & muskrats. All the waterborne mammals today were all struggling furbearers and paddlers. I was struggling to hang on to every minute of greenery and water. I knew Iíd be leaving for the humid desert of Qatar soon, no paddling there.
We were getting the hang of the small rapids and having a blast when we got around the bend at Clover Lick. We came upon a group of Canoe paddlers who had put in at the bridge there. They made it about 300 yards when one of the canoes capsized, and two other canoes tipped over trying to rescue the first couple and dog. The first couple was on the left bank and was drying out. Two more couples were on the right bank on a sandbar in the bend another couple of hundred yards downstream. The other two canoes that didnít turn over had pulled up and sent a runner for help. They were all cold and wet and had a few bruises, but everyone was ok. We pulled two of their canoes and some of their gear (beer and paddles) out of the river a few miles downstream. I hope they made it back the next day. There was no way three of us could handle two canoes and three kayaks all the way back to Marlinton. It was all we could do to get the one canoe off the rock it was submerged against, and onto the rover bank. Alcohol and the Greenbrier donít mix, especially when the river is up and roaring.
We would paddle a decent pace and then stop to fish. What a great day on the water. Around every bend of the river there was a new landscape, waterfalls, beaver dams, sandbars, rock bars, bridges and farms. Timber, pastures, and pure wilderness, all within a 20 mile stretch of river.
We stopped for lunch at Sharps Tunnel, a 511 ft railroad tunnel at mile marker 66 on the Greenbrier River Trail. We took some photos and put back in. Just around the bend, we encountered the biggest rapids so far. These are listed as Class II at normal pool. Iím no expert, but the haystacks were a BLAST on the Sit on top kayak, it was all I could to stay on top with no thigh straps. Another mile or two downriver we came into some more haymakers to the delight of a mountain biker who was snapping photos as we came through.
We finally made it into Marlinton and took out at the park just downriver from the bridge. The canoers we passed said their truck would be here, but they had already gone, so to the victors go the spoils, we picked up some beer and an old cooler (now a bait tank on my Malibu X-factor) from their mishap upstream.
We stopped in the Roadhouse on 1st Ave (visible from the river) and had a toast to an awesome trip. They serve food here, but we were in a hurry to get back to the cabin and have some homemade High View Farms Spaghetti, and some Mountain Betty blackberry wine from the Purgittsville, WV Pliska Winery.
I canít wait till next spring to do the trip again. This time I may bring the X-factor or a canoe and make it an overnight trip. There are a few campgrounds along the way. We might even start further upriver at Durbin or Cass. It all depends, "Lord willing and if the creek rises."
Note to all: Let someone know where you will be and what time you will be back. Cell phone service is barely available in Marlinton, but nonexistent through the rest of the valley.