Now almost 58 years old, I had last kayaked West Virginia’s Upper Gauley river (American Whitewater Class IV-5.0 difficulty rating) in my early 40s. Prior to this year, I had been away from whitewater kayaking 10 years. With boater friends one mist-shrouded morning this last October, I became one with the water again thundering down Gauley gorge.
During “Gauley Season” each fall, the Army Corps of Engineers lowers Summersville Lake on consecutive weekends, opening the outflow tube at Summersville Dam. Newly free epic whitewater charges downriver, as it has for eons. Gauley Season attracts whitewater boaters from all over the United States, with American Whitewater’s colorful Gauley Fest whitewater festival (postponed this year due to COVID-19) rowdily celebrating everything whitewater.
Although the Upper, Middle, and Lower Gauley are physically challenging runs, one notices silver-haired paddlers mixing in with the young pups, eager to run “Insignificant” or “Pure Screaming Hell” rapid one more time. When I was younger, one of our favorite whitewater companions paddled the Upper into his ’80s, always with a big smile on his face.
In our elder law practice a few years ago, my wife Karen and I started noticing that some of our clients we were helping qualify for assisted living admissions were our own ages, or younger, with many of these folks suffering from avoidable illnesses. Without a healthy diet and without enough exercise, our clients had become more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. For clients wanting to “age in place” in their own homes, those who had put on too much weight now had to enter assisted living instead, because their family caregivers were no longer strong enough to help them safely out of bed, or up from a chair. These clients now required the specialized lifts and extra staff attendants that an assisted living facility could provide.
These observations helped motivate me to get back in shape myself. I joined a Crossfit gym, started making healthier food choices, and lost quite a few pounds as I become ready to tackle the Upper Gauley once again.
Vance Parker Law supports healthy aging. I hope that you enjoy my Upper Gauley whitewater video, and that you will get outdoors yourself whenever you can, to create your own healthy adventures…
The author paddling through the froth at Pillow Rock rapid, working to stay “on line.”
Whitewater friends paddling to the Lower Gauley takeout, after completing the 26+ Gauley marathon run (Upper, Middle, and Lower sections), with over 100 Class III to Class 5.0 rapids, on October 10, 2020.