What Makes West Virginia's Gauley Rafting's Madcap Mecca?

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I also had a crew of motorcycle gang members… They came down and the first thing they asked me was "where are the drugs and the beer!" They were looking in the coolers and the water jug. We got about halfway down the river and then—I'm a skinny guy—they looked over at the most muscular guide on the trip and said, "You should tackle that guy, get him out of the boat." I was like, "All right." So we slid over there and got behind them within five feet [1.5 meters]. I jumped and I got a hold of him. I would have had him out of the boat, but the other boatload of gang members immediately jumped on us both and were shoving us to the bottom of the boat. They didn't want me to get him out of the boat at that point. It was war. So I had a hold [on] his life jacket and it started to tear, so I had to let go; I went back and got in my boat. Then my boat piled into their boat and they started to fistfight—with smiles on their faces. And my hand was bloody and they looked at me and said, "You bled for us man. You're all right." They loved me after that.

What do you enjoy most about rafting?

For me, the best part of rafting is the people. It's totally a people sport. Everybody starts together; everybody finishes together. It's hilarious, and it just brings out the true character of people. When you push off the shore, you get to completely let go of all the nonsense you have to deal with at home. And it's funny to see people roll around like sacks of potatoes too. … I really can't think of any other way that you could go directly from your full-time life to a wilderness expedition—join up with seven other people who have never done a wilderness expedition before, and do it with style and with some funny hillbilly along with you to watch out for you—and then come back in one piece. There's no other way to do that without dedicating years and preparation and losing your job.

Any parting advice for people heading out to the Gauley?

Bring some shoes you can get wet and ruin. If it's cold, get a wet suit. Don't worry about anything else. And for God's sake bring some good jokes.

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