The Gauley River, “Beast of the East,” the most fun you can have with everyone else’s pants on, is 23 miles of world-cup whitewater, raftable in two sections or all in one go. It only last six weeks or 23 days in the fall. But before you make your X on the line, here are 5 questions to ask yourself:
- Do I like fun? Maybe you don’t. It’s honestly possible you’d rather spend your time taking pictures of inconsiderate parking jobs and posting them to Instagram. Or maybe, like Bilbo Baggins, you think adventures are “nasty, uncomfortable things,” that “make you late for dinner.” But maybe you’d like to go somewhere new, with topography and sunsets and deep green panoramas that hit like a roller-coaster hill, where the laughter’s so contagious the CDC should be scared. Or you want your routine shattered so completely they’ll have to HEPA-filter the particles. And be around others — seeing and doing things that leave every jaw hanging and every supply of superlatives empty. If that’s you, score a point.
- Do I think “safe” is an illusion? Do I agree with Helen Keller that “Life is a daring adventure or nothing?” Am I OK with some risk? (Rocks, waves, holes, steep gradient, snakes, spiders, guys who think I have a purdy mouth?) Maybe you think comfort and cubicles are overrated, and everything’s gotten too regulated, flavorless, and politically correct. That stagnation is the only real danger. That a little fear is actually fun. Getting tossed around by living water like it’s a giant tabby and you’re one of those little balls with a bell and feather. If so, one more point.
- Do I want to unplug from my “friends list” and plug in to my friends? Am I tired of commenting on events and pictures or do I want to be in some? To feel like I’ve lived through something Time Warner spent $200 million on, with people I love. And talk about it after, on rocks by the river, at the bar, by the campfire, making new stories that start, “Did you see—“ “I thought we’d—“ “That was so crazy—“. If yes, one more point.
- Do I think there’s something in the raw edge of nature that can’t be had anywhere else? Would I have fun at a water park carved by weather and tectonics over millions of years? Using my body, not leaving it cooped like a sad dog tied to a yard stake in a disk of packed mud. If it sounds nice to spend real time where aeons without urban planning and Walmarts have “Bob-Rossed” the place up, another point.
- If my life was a book, would anyone even look at the pictures? Or would every page be identical, with, “Get up, go to work” at the start? Never mind Jack. All work and no play would blunt Superman. Or are there interesting edges, things that can’t be compressed, memories that stand out in full color? Decades from now, will I remember any particular Saturday spent on yard work or laundry? Put another way, is my life flashing before my eyes and I don’t even have a cold? If you’d like mental keepsakes of days spent in sun and glory, starlit nights with live bands and good people, and you think a bucket list weekend sounds like oxygen, one more point.
So how did you score? 0-1: They have Matlock on Netflix. Enjoy! 2: We don’t want to frighten you, but there are knives in your kitchen. 3: You appear to be breathing. 4: We’ll save you a seat! 5: Watch it, you might never go home. (We didn’t.)