I have returned safely from my two-and-a-half-day adventure in West Virginia. I camped for two nights in a tent, hung out with sixteen wonderful people, rafted on the New River, and played a drinking game for the first time in my life. (The drinking game in question was Uno. You may not be aware that Uno is a drinking game. I wasn’t either and neither was anyone else, but we made up the rules as we went along. For +2, drink twice. For +4 wild, drink four times. For any skip or reverse, drink once. None of us were heavy drinkers so we didn’t stick too closely to the rules.) A good time was had by all.
There was one thing about the trip that was a little bit sad. The New River valley is one of the most popular places in the country for rafting and other outdoor adventures. In the past there were more than a dozen rafting companies running the river. Our group has been going with one company, Songer, for several years.
Like many such companies, Songer and the other rafting companies have been struggling to stay afloat (yuk yuk) for the past couple years due to the economy. Last year they merged with several other rafting companies including Rivermen and Class VI. They all ditched their old locations and went together on a massive lodge near the New River Gorge Bridge, right across the gorge from Fayettesville. The lodge features two large campgrounds, three restaurants, two bars, and lots of other jazz.
Personally, I don’t like the new place. I believe that outdoor adventures should be outdoorsy. They should take place in rustic, primitive locations; that’s part of the fun. Traditionally all rafting companies did it that way. The building was somewhere between a shack and a cabin, usually tucked away in some small town on the riverside. Nowadays, such small, low-key operations are gradually getting swallowed up by large conglomerates. Any outdoor adventure area now has its own lodge, complete with bars, live music, televisions, and all the other conveniences of home. But vacation destinations shouldn’t have the comforts of home; that’s why we leave home to go to them. Gradually, the special little places are all turning into indistinguishable copies of the same generic place.