Let me start off by saying this blog post is going to differ from my other blog posts. You’ve probably already noticed that I don’t have a title photo, and you’ll see why as you keep reading.
You can’t travel to West Virginia without exploring the mountains. There are many wonderful state parks and forests across the state, along with numerous rivers flowing through the valleys. I decided to take to the waters by trying something I’ve never done before: tubing!
I’m not talking about being pulled behind a boat. I find that rough and unenjoyable. I’m talking about casually floating down a river with an extra tube to hold your drinks. That is my idea of a good time! I discovered I could go tubing just 40 minutes outside of Charleston with a company called Elk River Get-A-Way.
This company offers kayak and tube rentals, and since I’ve kayaked so much, I opted for tubes.
I knew right off the bat this was going to be an adventure for the books. When I was looking online for pricing, it instructed me to give them a call. I talked with the owner for over 12 minutes! He was super nice, giving us the tubes for $50 for four of us. (We ended up only having 3 of us go, and we had $42 in cash on us and he accepted that no problem.) It seems all of his pricing is dependent on how many people are going, the more the better. Then he gave me verbal directions which was nice but unnecessary, and wished me well.
Sunday morning rolled around, and my friends and I woke up and headed out of Charleston towards Clendenin, where the business is located. 40 minutes later we pulled up to a little house with kayak rental signs and kayaks in the yard, so I guessed we had found it. Two men were in the yard loading up kayaks, and one of them goes, “Kate, is that you? God bless you, you’re in the wrong spot.”
It turns out the instructions he gave me on the phone were important because the tubes launch from a different spot than the company’s headquarters, so putting the company in my Apple Maps didn’t help me. He told us where we needed to be and we set off again. Ten minutes later we found ourselves driving down a windy, one-lane, residential road. We made it all the way to the end but only saw houses so I turned the car around and started to leave when I heard someone shouting at us. I stopped and rolled down the window, and here comes a man asking if we were here for tubing. We were in the right spot! I narrowly avoided reversing into the ditch and we parked the car.
It was all very casual and we were hesitant on how reliable this business was. The man, Coop, ended up having us sign a waiver and then he walked all four of our tubes down to the river where he had a nice dock to launch from. Alyssa, Derek and I stood around and looked at each other for what felt like an eternity before deciding we were going to risk it. We took off our swimsuit covers, left all our belongings in my unlocked car, grabbed our cooler and followed Coop down to the dock.
He helped us each hop into a tube and then tied our extra tube to Derek’s tube so it could tote all of our drinks behind us. It was a sweet setup! We were also given life jackets attached to our tubes and we were each equipped with an oar in case we hit any dead spots.
There’s no way to really plan around the water levels, so we just took off and hoped for the best. This was a real-life lazy river, with alcohol! What could be better? We also used this as a time to disconnect from our technology, so we left our phones and cameras in the car. The three of us began our float, anticipating 2-3 hours of solitude, unsure of where the course ended, and just enjoyed it.
We enjoyed how quiet it was. One side of the river was lined with houses but we rarely saw or heard anyone. The other side was a road and we probably saw six cars on it the entire time we were floating. It was quiet aside from the occasional bird or the sound of our paddles propelling us forward.
About five minutes into our float, we decided to attach some of the tubes together so we formed a line of tubes with our drinks in the back. This was going well until one point when I looked back and saw our cooler tube had disconnected! It was a ways behind us and we dramatically had to paddle backwards to save our drinks. We realized it was kind of difficult to steer our tubes in a line, so we got smart and used the life jackets to attach all four tubes in a circle. Now we were mega-tube! (Office reference, anyone?)
I’ll be honest, there were quite a few dead spots that day, so we were often paddling to get us going again, and it took over four hours to make it a mile down the river so we were getting a little delirious in the sun and 90 degree heat, but it was so worth it.
The end of the course is a public bank where we saw others launching kayaks and swimming in the water, and two men in bright orange shirts greeted us and helped us out of our tubes. They deflated everything and Coop picked us up in a van and drove us back to the house where we found all of our belongings untouched and safely in our car.
I’d say this day was totally unconventional. It felt very much like showing up at my uncle’s house and hopping in the river for a day spent with family. Everyone at Elk River Get-A-Way was incredibly friendly and trustworthy, and I’m grateful for that! We took a big risk leaving all of our belongings at a stranger’s house for four hours, but everything worked out wonderfully.
This excursion ended up being one of the best of the weekend. We had so much fun just spending time with each other for four hours without checking our phones or worrying about the outside world. Even though the river wasn’t flowing well, it made the entire thing hilarious as we tried to navigate and paddle ourselves down the river in mega-tube. Often times we found ourselves spinning in a circle and had to laugh it off and correct ourselves.
Although totally unconventional, I would recommend this tubing adventure to anyone passing through Charleston. It was refreshing to be treated like family by this company and it was wonderful to disconnect, even if it meant sacrificing pretty pictures for my blog. I guess you’ll just have to take my word on how beautiful West Virginia can be!