The first weekend of August means the Dog Days of Summer are upon us. The mercury rises to its zenith, the humidity really kicks in, and the drive to get outside and sweat is near baseline. Sitting inside next to the air conditioner is one option, but no one ever wants a case of summer cabin fever. There is only one thing to do during the stickiest weekends in August: tube.
Tubing is one of the great American traditions and is so quintessentially Southern, one has to think the practice started in the Appalachia. It combines the pleasure, coolness, and excitement of the river with the enjoyment of just sitting there. Sure you may have to move a little to get to the beer cooler, or to cool off with the occasional dunk, but really it’s just like sitting in a floating recliner and watching the clouds drift by. If you want to relax outside, this is the best way to do it, and one of the best places to do it is at Big Bend on the South Branch of the Potomac in West Virginia. If you are over exercise tube Big Bend, but if you are dead set on getting a workout, grab your SUP and give your core a little boost while you’re at it. Respite is only a wobble away.
Deep inside the wild Monongahela National Forest, the South Branch of the Potomac makes a drastic U-turn through the scenic Smoke Hole Canyon. Green forested gorge walls are interspersed with rocky cliffs on the outer edge of the “big bend” in this river, while a forested campground occupies the inside peninsula. The entire loop around the campground is a mile long, packed with small riffles and fun waves, perfect for running laps in a tube on a hot summer day. Tube for an hour, walk a few hundred yards across the peninsula, and start again. This is primitive tubing at its finest, so bring your own tube, and don’t expect heavy crowds, even on a summer weekend.
Nearby: The 24-mile long North Rim Trail follows the western rim of Suck Hole canyon. It’s a primo mountain biking and hiking trail with rocky outcroppings and a cornucopia of long-range views.
Closest Town: Petersburg, W.Va.
Directions: Follow US Route 220 south from Petersburg to the Upper Tract Bridge at County Route 2. Take a right at the bridge and follow County Route 2 for 10 miles into the campground.