I hadn’t rafted the Summer Gauley in years. I raft the New River all the time, so why not the Gauley? That’s because it is the true definition of adventure. Everything is unknown until the morning of your trip. You don’t know how much water is being released from the dam until that morning, what exact section you’re going to take or even what size craft you need. In my “mom” head, after all those years not rafting it, it had become this mythical creature in my mind, the thing nearly all mom’s fear = the unknown. But what I so easily forgot is the feeling that comes with taming the beast. When the adventure is complete and your adrenaline fueled body realizes you did it, you kicked it’s arse.
I walked off the river that day with a feeling I hadn’t had in over a decade. I was a superhero. I was Brandi again and I was on top of the world. I could do anything. And that feeling hasn’t gone away. Every mom needs a little time to herself, to remember who she once was. But more importantly to remind herself she’s still the same person even if she doesn’t take as many risks as she once did.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear…so when’s the last time you did something that scared you?
We are excited to share another guest confession from Brannon, a visitor from Tennessee, who admits she never thought she enjoyed rafting until she went with the right people and the right company! So get your best buds and hit the road for a wild ride down the Lower New River in an ACE boat - her story proves there's just enough wild-ness for everyone and with fun people a good time on the water is guaranteed!
"One time I went rafting. And one time it wasn’t fun at all.
My first rafting experience I went down the New River with a company that was NOT my beloved ACE. (Let’s just be clear about that because it turns out there is a big difference.)
I didn’t have the time of my life like they said I would, and, frankly, I got out of the raft at Fayette Station feeling like I would never need or want to do it again. So from that day on, I avoided rafting and kept my recreational activities on the good ol’ reliable dry land (with the exception of stand up paddle boarding and zip lining which is technically not on the ground.)
Knowing I wouldn’t be able to stay away from ACE I decided I would just get my thrills from attending events like Mountain Music Festival and Party in the Holler. That was enough for me. Zip lining provided just the right amount of exhilaration for me as an adventurous poser who wants to experience just enough thrills to be able to post on Instagram and make my friends think I am a total thrill-seeker. Let’s be honest. I need to know there is basically no risk involved in order for me to accept a “challenge.”
That being said, a few buddies of mine at ACE that are cooler than me by 1000% convinced (read: peer pressured) me into accepting a challenge of going rafting again, promising me that I would have the time of my life if I just went with the right people, people that I could trust. Even though I knew good and well that it’s Mother Nature who has the final say, not my overly-confident raft guide friends.
A few pep talks and whines later, I was floating down the river heading towards the first rapid, having flashbacks of the previous terrible time and trying not to pee from fear (just check out the looks on my face!)
My guide got us gracefully through each and every rapid, coaching me the whole way and assuring me things were going to be okay, patiently tending to my every 3-year-old-esque freakout. I unexpectedly ended up having the time of my life the whole way down this time.
I conquered fears that day and I pledged my allegiance to ACE Adventure Resort. The guides are simply superior, and I have no desire to ever let anyone peer pressure me into adventurous things again but them. So my advice to you, is if you’re like me and are sometimes scared of your own shadow but still thinking about going rafting down the Lower New River, don’t go with anyone but ACE.
(I haven’t been paid or bribed to say any of this, by the way, I’m truly just a huge nerdy fan and am so grateful to them for providing me with one billion smiles and lifetime of memories.)"
Aww... thanks, Brannon! We love you, too!! We loved seeing your smile as you were surprised by how much fun a rafting and camping adventure can be with us! See you again soon!!
I think we can finally start celebrating that summer is almost here. We're rafting almost everyday and the gorge is almost green to the rim. After being cooped up all winter, I can hardly make myself go back inside at the end of the day and camping is finally on the horizon. Sunny days that we've all been daydreaming about are finally here, so why not spend the nights outside, too? Sleeping in a tent is the best for many reasons, especially these:
1. The food magic that happens in the fire.
We can all appreciate some good food at the end of the day. Especially after a day spent adventuring in the woods. I'm not real sure what happens in that fire, but you can seriously cook anything in a cast-iron dutch oven and its going to be insanely delicious.
2. Living off the grid.
Of course that doesn't involve leaving your phone at home (we're not that crazy), but taking a break from watching TV and entering the real world is just enough to disconnect. The saying "disconnect to reconnect," is cheesy but oh-so-true. The outdoors can offer you a better connection to your inner self than any TV show. There is also something about being able to sustain living off of just a few totes of camping gear; it definitely makes you feel as if you could survive pretty much anything.
3. Decompress yo' stress.
The grayness of winter is over, y'all. The bright blue of summer is here and you have to admit that it's much better for the mind. No more dreary days of no sun. Surround yourself with some fresh green trees and soak up the sun... it's good for the soul. Plus, the relaxation of staring mesmerized into a crackling campfire for hours is the best way to dissolve any tension.
4. Best. Sleep. Ever.
The sounds and fresh air of the outdoors can produce some pretty fabulous sleep. It must have something to do with the trance that the campfire tends to put people in before bed time. Whether it's the peaceful sounds of the breeze blowing through the trees or the chirping crickets at sunset... whatever it is, sign me up!
5. Wonderland Waterpark is finally coming together.
We are partially open as of May 1, but plan on being in full swing by May 21, for our Grand Opening. Make it a weekend getaway by camping under the stars in our mountaintop campground, playing at the water park all day, then enjoying good food and cold drinks at the new Lost Paddle Bar & Grill.
Share your camping tips with us at #campACE
Follow this link to our camping page for more info and to reserve your spot.
[ That moment when you see your little monster mature in minutes while watching them climb higher than they ever thought they could and then you get that overwhelming teary-eyed emotion where you realize… they get it! It's official. You're doing this whole Momster-thing right. Fist bump. ]
"When I was a kid I spent many hours outside exploring nature and adventuring with my family. Now that I have two children of my own, I want to share those experiences and make new memories. My boys are typical suburban kids, they play sports, love technology, and have pretty busy schedules. Taking some time out to 'unplug' is really important for me and good for them. Our time at ACE was spent mountain biking and rock climbing. My youngest son, Drew, is an inexperienced mountain biker, so while he can ride a bike well, this was new for him. The support and attention he received from our guide, Chris Carnefix, was amazing. Fix was so patient and encouraging to Drew, that by the end of the trip he was a more confident rider and felt like he really had pushed himself. We had a fun ride and got to enjoy some beautiful scenery.
Next up was rock climbing! Now, I do not have a fear of heights but my older son, Hank, does not particularly enjoy them. I rappelled first, which neither of my boys were very interested in doing. But, once I started rock climbing, I could see that Hank was really thinking about giving it a shot. Again, the staff at ACE provided such a relaxed and encouraging environment that my "no-heights" kid was willing to give it a try. We were both challenged and had an awesome time.
Both of my boys have tried something new, challenged themselves, and got to spend some time outside. It really means a lot to me that their outdoor adventures are a positive experience and ACE ensured that they were. ACE's attention to detail, enthusiasm and professionalism in the world of outdoor fun guarantees our return."
-Mazie, real Mom-ster from Athens, Georgia
Moral of this Mom-ster's story? Simple land-based, beginner level activities - such as mountain biking beside the New River on the Southside Junction Trail - can teach your little monsters to recognize beauty as the bright spring colors (Redbuds, Bluebells, Bleeding Hearts, Violets, Dogwoods and more are all in bloom right now!!) are bursting with purples and greens. They also will gain an appreciation for local history while climbing around and exploring the abandoned coal mine towns. Every time they take a breathe of crisp West Virginia clean mountain air while stretching their muscles rock climbing, they will be firing on all senses while exercising. These will be the moments they will always remember from their childhood and crave as adults. (Seriously, if you took an informal poll among our staff, we can guarantee that collectively our most cherished memories are the fun times we had as kids either at summer camp or adventuring with our parents that got us hooked on the outdoors for life.) After all, our mountain air is just as sweet as our summer sunshine... isn't that how the song goes? Or is it sweeter than moonshine... either way, "Run wild, child. Run wild."
Sleep in late in our newly renovated Laurel Cabins (the kids now have their own bedroom and TV) then chillax in a hottub at the end of your day of play. Pretty much any sunny morning or afternoon spent with one of our guides exploring the New River Gorge area will be packed with fun, adventure and encouragement. We live to help kids learn to rely on their senses so they will find their own rhythm and pace that meets their comfort level with any adventure we offer at ACE. When your little monsters feel free to run AND use their outside voices AND they can learn through play, it's a win-win vacation for everyone!
***Hit the road and set out for a West Virginia Mother's Day weekend adventure the kids won't ever forget. Fill those smart phones and tablets with #Momster adventure selfies and share your good old times with us on all the usual online social spots like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter with these hashtags:
I can't believe I'm typing these words but our winter of construction is finally coming to a close. During our off-season, we have improved almost all aspects of our fun-filled resort. We've had a big secret this winter that we're finally ready to share. Transforming into a water park takes a lot more than brand new inflatables. We've also been building two 300-ft water slides alongside our already awesome water park. We're more than halfway finished with the slides and are expecting to have them open in May.
Not only is our lake completely transforming, the lakeside patio is also seeing huge improvements. There will be an expanded concrete patio along the water park with more seating. In addition to beautiful new landscaping leading up to the bring-your-own-food picnic area. We'll be introducing Wet Willie's Snack Shack and Gameroom, where you can purchase Wonderland Waterpark souvenirs, water park passes, changing rooms, and an arcade-style game room. We are also offering private rental areas for parties; from birthday parties to family reunions.
When you drive into ACE, its hard not to notice the NEW Lost Paddle Bar & Grill. The new addition will allow more outdoor space for live music. The accordion glass doors leading into the Lost Paddle make it feel twice as big. And well, the new bar is at least twice as big! Thanks to Josh and Steve, two of our favorite raft guides, for working so hard on all of the Lost Paddle renovations!
The cabins around ACE are also getting in on the improvements. Some of them are even getting additional bedrooms added onto them. New furniture, updated decor, and several more changes can be found throughout our cabins. Thanks to Scotty O, another favorite raft guide, for his carpentry skills on the Log Cottages!
Our excitement for this season to kick off is hard to contain. 2016 will be an awesome year here at ACE and we hope you join us to break-in the new and improved ACE Adventure Resort.
As an effort to diversify our habitat here in the New River Gorge, officials from the EPA are introducing the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) into the ecosystem. The current biosphere of the area is believed to support this species. "The water of the New River can reach temperatures around 85 degrees during the summer months. There is also plenty of aquatic life to sustain a healthy diet for the reptile," an agency representative stated.
During a whitewater rafting trip, one of ACE's guides was able to wrangle one of the newly introduced alligators. He kept his guests safe by simply just having them lean into the boat. The current colder temperatures of the New River keeps these reptiles in a docile state, so they're easier to handle this time of year. Officials assure residents that the animals will likely adapt well and not be a nuisance to the environment or citizens.
*Please note: Spring training for river guides will include an introduction to the American Alligator, as well as handling instructions. Our avid gator wrangler, Drew Stew will demonstrate his technique for the paddle gator swap. Drew is no stranger to handling these type of reptiles and can give an informative introduction.
Well, mommas...I think we should all appreciate us just being here. I might be locked in my bedroom trying to write this blog. And well, we can just pretend that you're not locked in the bathroom reading it...daydreaming of a vacation. I'd love to talk about how wonderful vacations are, but do we (mommas) actually get a vacation? I'd be lying if I said my husband has packed his own luggage since we've met. That's right, since we've met. I do think that my 4-year old would do a better job packing than him, though. At least he would remember the Pop Tarts.
One of the best perks of this job, of course after I've packed all of their stuff, is coming to ACE to play. There is nothing that lights his little face up more than pulling into the Welcome Center and seeing those huge inflatables at the water park. (My son likes them, too) We get to the beach and they disappear. I put in my earphones and I also disappear. Until they're hungry…why do they always just stare at me when they're hungry? Without even getting up, I point them in the direction of the Lakeside Patio. Did that just happen? Is this what relaxing feels like? Am I on vacation?
As a guide here, I've watched it for years. Mommas plan the vacation from minute one. Although, I don't think we'll ever escape from the packing and planning, you can actually escape here in these mountains. There's no cooking, cleaning, worrying about the next meal. I can see relief in mom's eyes, especially when the raft guide's start to prepare lunch on the river bank. When you get off the lake and everyone's giving you the "feed me" stare. It's so easy to just walk into the restaurant without ever leaving ACE.
There's also something that happens here that is hard to explain. Our love for the outdoors is contagious and I think everyone develops it while they're out here. Watching my little man paddle around the New River in his ducky is a great feeling. I love the ability to share something that I love with him. Even if the whole family is developing this love at the same time, you definitely still feel pride in their ability to do something new.
There's a sense of accomplishment when you do something that might make you a little nervous, too. When a family gets on that blue bus after their trip, they're truly proud of what they just did together. To watch a family really grow together in just a few hours or days is priceless. I can tell that these trips truly change people. It's a whole lot more than just a vacation here at ACE. It's what keeps families coming back for years; each trip they grow a little more.
This winter, ACE has spent the off-season upgrading the heart and soul of our Adventure Resort - ACE Lake, now affectionately knows as Wonderland Waterpark! We will celebrate the grand opening of our new and improved facility in May that boasts a bigger white sandy beach, more changing rooms, an indoor arcade (just in case there's any chance of rain), plus 50 new inflatable lake toys, more water slides and an expanded patio grill with table-side service for those who need to grab a bite after a day of playing outside.
Please watch your step as you navigate your way through the resort since we will still be working on improvement projects for the next few months. Summertime cannot come soon enough and we know you all are just as excited as we are to see the newest improvements to the lake area; since we still have nine more weeks of hard work to go, we wanted to show you some of the newest additions… check out the monster-sized water slide!
Conquer the mountain and climb thirty feet to the top before sliding into the lake below or fling your friends off the newest Saturn spinning ball (if you can make it to the top first!) Challenge your family to a wipe-out style obstacle course or embrace your inner hamster and run around the inside of a giant spinning tube. Whichever toy or activity you choose, the all-new Wonderland Waterpark has thrills for any age adventurer.
*We kept many of the same crowd-favorites: THE BLOB, Wet Willy Slide, Zipline, Euro Bungee and Climbing Wall will still be part of the new waterpark.
Need a reminder for when the lake is open? Starting in May, we'll be open on weekends then starting Memorial Day Weekend we are open everyday from 9:00am until sundown. Save this schedule so you know when we're open for a fun-tastic day on the lake!
Until you make the roadtrip, you can keep on enjoying this video from last year (thanks for helping us reach over 3 million people on social media with this!!) just to see how much fun we have here...
Once upon a time, tourism was not what the local economy depended on for survival. The landscape and natural beauty above ground was not considered as lucrative as what lay beneath the surface. Coal was the cash crop for many who lived along the New River, including those who lived nearby and worked underground in the dark coal mines that are now abandoned beneath ACE's property. Although people flooded the region during this time, for years the gorge was protected from development due to the steep, hard-to-navigate terrain.
The New River name suggests this river is not very old, however the most accepted estimate suggests that the river has been running its present course for at least 65 million years. Still called the Teays River by geologists, the New was once a longer river connecting to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and emptied into Mississippi. The last advance of glacial moving occurred about 10,000 years ago that separated and buried most of that river section and diverted water onto the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. Another indication of the gorge's old age is the rock layers geologic history. Exposed cliffs make the perfect rock climbing hangouts and some scenic overlooks like Beauty Mountain has rocks over 330 million years old. Young rock layers are also exposed all over ACE property and throughout the national park; as you explore, look for the black streaks – these are coal deposits.
After centuries of being inaccessible, the railroad opened up the gorge to travelers and the landscape began to drastically change. Farms cropped up in the flood plains and the Appalachian Plateau offered coal among other valuable minerals. The railroad bordered the river, making it possible to eventually ship coal all the way to the coast. As coal mining grew, remote towns near the coalfields flourished and opened up other business opportunities like casinos, dry goods, banks; some have been historically preserved such as the town of Thurmond (which can been seen far below from the Concho Rim Overlook.)
Since the closing of these mines, the forest has reclaimed the land in many of these ghost towns. Fossils and ferns now cover the forest floor, replacing the general stores, churches, homes and schools. Old rail lines have been converted to an entire network of trails for hiking and biking. Within the resort, you can explore what remains of Erskine at our private overnight camping spot along the New River. (As you sit around the campfire and sleep under the stars, you can imagine how remote life must have been living at the bottom of the gorge!)
In many places, you can still see stone building foundations peeking out of the greenery that were built where the land wasn't too steep. Workers would send coal from the mines deep within the mountains down narrow gauge tracks or tipples to the main railroad line along the river. Many of these places can only be recognized with old photographs to reference where buildings once were. Now, they are long gone and buildings suffer from decay so badly they are hardly recognizable. Forest overgrowth crowds out the once working coke ovens and the tipples (or coal shoots) have all been removed. Other half-day hikes we recommend where you can explore these ghost towns are the Kaymoor mine, where you can still see some of the old mining infrastructure and hike the stairs leading down the mountain, and visiting the abandoned coal tipple in Nuttleburg. These sites are managed by the National Park Service and are safely maintained and preserved for historical integrity.
Congress established the national park in 1978 to preserve and protect the waterway as well as some of West Virginia's most rare plants and animals. Today there are 53 miles of river and its gorge as well as 40 miles or tributaries that are preserved as the New River Gorge National River. The Class III-IV whitewater rapids are created as the New River falls 750 feet in 50 miles, from Bluestone Dam to Gauley Bridge, creating one of the finest whitewater rivers in the eastern United States. (For comparison, the Mississippi River falls 1,428 feet from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of 2,300 miles.)
The New River Gorge has seen many changes over the years way before rafting and adventure tourism became mainstream. As you float the river or bike or hike or ride the zip lines through the forest, try to imagine making a living and working deep within the gorge. There is a rich heritage in our community, so follow the NPS map and we invite you to get outside and explore what the New River Gorge is all about!
Just a little secret between you and me... spring is one of my favorite times to be at ACE and live in the New River Gorge. After hibernating all winter, or skiing (ya know, whatever you're into) there is nothing better than that first thunderous sound of whitewater. Imagine a kid being reunited with his bike after a long winter's break.
The blissful feeling may also have something to do with how awesome the New River is at high water. Don't get me wrong, the New River is pretty sweet all year; however, in the spring it’s HUGE waves, one appropriately named the Million Dollar Wave. A rapid called Seldom Seen that only shows it's meaty face at High Water and those flat water pools are pretty much non-existent. It's a good thing that ACE has their own lunch spot because those riverside beaches that we enjoy all summer are deep underwater right now. House-sized boulders that are exposed in the summer create house-sized holes that should have their own Twitter account. (You could seriously park a school bus down in some of these holes, trust me...we know a lot about school buses around here.)
Another reason to love Spring Rafting is that your Raft Guide will be SO stoked to be back on the river after a winter of teaching kids how to ski. Here's another little secret: there's no better job in the world than guiding rafts down Class V Whitewater. Needless to say, they are very happy to be back in action and their enthusiasm is contagious.
Rafting may be our bread and butter, or peanut butter and jelly, but we have so many wild adventures to offer. Our Zip Line lives on the rim of the New River Gorge, so prior to spring leaves blooming out, we have twice as many views of the gorge below. The New River Gorge is home to some of the best Rock Climbing in the country. You can rappel down a cliff that seems miles above the river. Rent a Mountain Bike and explore the 1,500 acres that we call home, on over 35 miles of trails that connect to even more trails within the National Park. A West Virginia spring is usually warm enough to sit around a campfire when you're ready to relax after a day of adventures. Or continue the hibernation in one of our cozy, mountain cabins and soak your bones in a hottub after a day of paddling. Either way, escape the winter and start exploring the outdoors again... according to the groundhog, spring is here!