On April 8th, I had the pleasure of shooting the COOPERS ROCK 50K & Half Marathon. It was a beautiful day and the stoke was high (even with the sub freezing morning temps). In typical WV spring fashion, Coopers Rock was covered with 3in of snow at 6am, and by 2pm it was 60°F and all the snow had melted. The photos below are a few that stood out, but here’s a link to the rest of the images from the race.
This is a rocky, challenging, and scenic trail race at Coopers Rock State Forest in north central West Virginia. The 50 km course covers nearly every trail on the south side of the forest, features several scenic viewpoints, and has 4000 feet of elevation gain. The half marathon course is a shorter version of the same trails and has 1500 feet of elevation gain.
we decided to go skiing in those part…
On Sunday the plan was boating the Cheat Canyon! ..and I was in a raft with two of my friends, Lydia and Dani. Though, I was really itching to hard-boat as I had recently found some success on the Cheat Narrows with my friend Everett’s Wavesport Recon, being able to roll it with ease (onside & offside…it’s a magical boat).
We didn’t have the Recon on Sunday, but I found that another friend, Matt was going to tow a play boat with his shredder for surfing in Big Nasty. I had hard-boating fever since my last trip, so I asked if he minded if I went down in his play-boat. I asked quite confidently, feeling that I was ready for the undertaking that is hard-boating the Cheat Canyon.
In the Hard-boat:
The play-boat was much different in the water than I imagined, and compared to the Recon I had a very hard time rolling it. I swam once at the end of the first large rapid, and was a little shaken up by how I couldn’t roll the boat when I needed to.. but, I thought no, I can figure this thing out, and gave it another try… and down the river we went. The next larger rapid was more complex, and I was the only hard-boat among 3 inflatables…So I picked a line that looked …well, not good. I was headed right into a curling hydraulic that consumed me and my boat..I had a good breath though, and tried rolling back up, failing twice, but getting close with another breathe each time. On the 3rd attempt at rolling, I reached out to brace off the surface of the water, but at the same time I went over a spillway in the rapids, my right arm extended to far and smacked down into the next tier of rapids. Under water I heard the crunch/crackle and a tear, as my should slipped free of it’s socket…I suddenly lost all use of my right arm. Upside down, underwater, and with one arm I tried to jettison the boat. Forgetting to pull my skirt, I got caught by it’s elastic embrace before I was able reach it with my working/swimming arm to release it. I seemed to stay under for a little while before it was done with me. Then, the river kindly reset my shoulder back in it’s socket. Suddenly able to use my right arm again, I made my way into an eddy where I was rescued by a raft of friends.
Maimed, ego flattened, and feeling thankful to be alive, I sat humbled by the river. The realization of how much knowledge I had yet to earn and learn came over me… The Cheat Canyon is big water, and we were running on the low side that day. From a raft, the large white water is much easier to manage, which warped my perspective of the Canyon. My girlfriend Tara had warned me of the magnitude and technicality of the canyon, even when the water is low.
“The burned hand teaches best.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien.
The following collection of images were taken post injury while riding princess in Dani and Lydia’s raft (save the first two). I think these photos are a good testament to the products of staying positive after unexpected/unfortunate events, and also the support of great friends.
The irony is that on Saturday evening I took a jaunt on my bike through White Park (prior to boating Sunday ) and thought the whole time that I was going to break or dislocate something if I wan’t careful. My biking skills are only so so, & going over large logs was simply me asking to hurt myself…so I didn’t. I just cruised around, or hopped off and ran over them… and it was a good day. I need to learn to listen to my intuition more, and crosswalk some of that logic into areas where my ego has set up shop.
An underwater journey with Jim Snyder into the mysteries of squirt boating. …from an evening with friends along the Cheat River
“Squirt boating originally evolved from slalom kayaks. Racers found that if they let the upstream hip drop into the current and slide the stern of the boat under water, they could decrease the amount of time required to make large degree turns (90+ degrees). West Virginia kayaker Phil Coleman dubbed it squirt because of the way the boats squirted forward with extra speed thanks to the trapped buoyancy of the stern and the shape of the hull and deck. It is analogous to squeezing a pumpkin seed in between your fingers and having it shoot out away from you.
After this original maneuver was developed, a number of paddlers noticed that squirting was a lot of fun and introduced a new method of playing on the river. Squirts allowed the boats to get vertical even in flat water. The problem was that the predominant kayak designs of the 1980s were not conducive to doing squirts. Most kayaks at the time were more than 10 feet long and had a volume greater than 70 gallons (260 liters). Jess Whittemore, a kayak designer, designed the first chopped boats based on race boat designs that were intended to squirt. Then, one fairly well known paddler, boat designer, and paddle maker by the name of Jim Snyder decided to try and create a shorter boat that was designed to squirt that could also be used for running and playing on the river. The result, after many years of trial and error, was a radically low volume boat.
Squirt boating is slowly becoming more and more popular. Because it has the best of both worlds, since certain ones are very good at doing tricks in (Underdawg, Hellbender) and others are very good at doing Mystery moves in (Shred, Kor) and some are just as good as doing both (Funk, Angst.) Also most squirt boats are very good at surfing.” ~wiki
Last weekend I finally slowed down long enough to see what all the commotion was about. We picked a good time for a first impression, as their Annual ArtSpring was in full swing when we pulled into town.
I’ve never actually stopped in Thomas before, though I’ve passed through countless times…heading to Whitegrass or Seneca Rocks mostly…
The following are my photo highlights from the day and nights’ events… Feel free to leave any comments toward the photos.
Look at what Tara found beside our tent on Sunday night…the endangered Three-Toothed Snail!
The flat-spired three-toothed snail is found only in West Virginia, among Upper Connoquenessing sandstone outcroppings and boulders, in a restricted area along the rim of the Cheat River gorge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers this snail to be threatened since 1978.
Little is known about the life of this animal, but the West Virginia captive breeding program and past survey efforts have provided some information.
This snail is primarily active at night (nocturnal). Optimum snail activity occur during spring and early summer, especially during cool, moist weather conditions when air temperatures are between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit with relative humidity greater than 85 percent.
During the daytime, the species has primarily been found on the ceiling, wall, or floor of rock structures. During the night, the snails have been found equally on both rock surfaces, and on the leaf litter near rock features. The species has been observed foraging and resting under wet leaves (next to rock structure), and moving across the leaf litter to a rock feature
Here are this year’s photo highlights form the Cheat River Festival in Albright, West Virginia.
I shot a lot of these images with Tara’s new Sony A7ii, using my Nikon 50mm f1.2 (borrowing my friend Tim’s Nikon lens adapter). They’re a great combo, but I’m still getting used to the focus peaking and live view settings. Some of the images are a little soft compared to what I’m use to with the Nikon D800, but I still like the feeling and light in many of the Sony shots and decided to share them all just the same. I hope you enjoy them!
Poem by Dylan Jones – Photos by Gabe DeWitt
‘Twas the first day at Coopers, and all through the woods
The climbers were out trying to bag up the goods;
Spotters huddled round the crash pads with care,
In hopes that success would ring through the air;The toes were nestled all snug in their shoes,
While visions of moves in their heads they would cruise; Read more
The following are my responses to a recent FOC interview about the upcoming Cheat River Festival…
What was it like growing up in the Cheat River Watershed?
It gives and it takes..and gives.
My entire immediate family comes from the Cheat River Watershed. My Mom (Kathy DeWitt, previously Overbeck), grew up in Albright, where my Grampa Vic was the post master and Grama Betty was a school teacher.
Aside – When my mom was a kid, almost every weekend there was a white water rafter or guide having dinner with her and her family. Vic and Betty Overbeck (my grandparents) welcomed them. Many boaters put in the river across from her house. My mom and aunts would would serve breakfast to the boaters at times at the Fire hall the Albright fire department.
In 1985, the Cheat River destroyed 110 of the 132 houses in Albright.. my mom’s house being one of them.
Fast forward to today, I frequent the Cheat River whenever possible…to swim along the Alley…
…boat down the Cheat Narrows…
…climb above Devils Den…
….hike on the Allegheny Trail…
…or craw through some of the hidden caves…
… the Cheat Canyon is an old and special place on this earth for everyone to enjoy and protect.
What are the three best things about Cheat Fest?
and the People.