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Cheat Fest Week 2010.

We rolled out of NC on our first road trip of the season under sunny skies, headed for one of our favorite season kickoff destinations - Cheat River Festival in West Virginia. Although WV was "open for business" for a few years there, we've been happy on recent trips to find out that the state is once again "Wild and Wonderful." We definitely prefer it that way!

The much improved new welcome sign becons us into the hills.

Upon arriving at the festival site in the evening, we found that we had slipped through the cracks on booth assignment. Jeremy Laucks had a booth for his new Blackfly Canoes, and he was happy to share the space with us. We parked the Gypsy Van next to his Rain Van, camped, and moved into the booth the next morning.

The Blackfly/RiverGypsies booth next door to some Scumbags.

After we set up, our friends Susan and Adam came by and picked us up for a run on the Upper Yough (River Gypsies reach #227). We met up with Drew and Christie who were in from the Hood River area, and with Demshitz Nicole.

Arriving in Friendsville, we were pleased to find that the Upper Yough is still a secret hidden whitewater treasure.

We put on the river and weaved our way through the crowds down to the whitewater rapids part.

Arriving at Gap Falls, we suited up in our best whitewater party costumes and dropped into the madness.

Susan looks happy to see everybody as she runs Gap Falls.

National Falls vultures awaiting carnage.

Andria doing some rock crawlin' on the National Boof.

All smiles, sunshine, and good times below National.

Back at the festival ground that afternoon, things really got kicking. We were soaking up some WV heat, as well as many Cheat Fest refreshments. Our booth got hopping and stayed that way, with guidebooks flying every which way! It was the best event ever for our little business, and all became a bit of a blur until we found ourselves to be the last ones standing in the sprinkling rain in the festival grounds in the wee hours of the morning. Every festival we've been to lately, we've taken down our tent the next morning in the rain, and this was no exception. We hid out in the van for most of the day, and retired down to the Cheat/Big Sandy take-out at Jenkinsburg to get some rest the following night.

As we recovered from the festival on Sunday, we were greeted with this fine hangover-curing radar picture. Things were about to go from good to really good.

While we slept Sunday night, the heavens opened further and torrential rains gushed down, swelling the creeks and promising us a great week of post-festival fun. Our first stop was Fikes Creek, which Andria had never done and I had only done once 13 years before. This little PA gem was a frothy romp through the woods, providing us with a ton of fast-paced micro creeking action. We were on the John Regan whirlwind tour, so we were going wayyyy too fast to get any pictures.

After an evening of fun in Morgantown with friends, we were ready for another new river the following day. We headed out to the Middle Fork Tygart (River Gypsies' run #239), which we had been hearing great things about for years. This one starts with a super beautiful small river paddle on the Middle Fork before it dumps into the big water of the Tygart Gorge. The combintion of creeky stuff and big water made for some really fun West Virginia adventure boating.

Getting into the shorty top at the Middle Fork put-in.

The weather and scenery were perfect!

Jeff Simcoe heading down a good rapid on the Middle Fork.

Leland in the same rapid.

Our plan was to do a double-header of classic runs the next morning: Top Yough (run #226) and then Big Sandy (run #238), so we positioned ourselves at one of our favorite campgrounds near the Yough - Piney Mountain. It's one of the campsites in the River Gypsies' Navigation System Waypoints, which we were testing out on the trip. We found all of the put-ins, take-outs, and campsites flawlessly without ever having to break out the map, which gave us a lot more time for relaxing and enjoying ourselves, as well as introducing us to some really cool back roads and short cuts.

Hudson patrolling our campsite on Piney Mountain, keeping all of the vicious chipmunks at bay.

The next morning we were greeted with perfect weather and water levels - blue skies, warm temps, sunshine, 400 cfs in the Top Yough, and Big Sandy at 6.3'. We met up with Nori and Simcoe for an incredible day on two of our favorite runs.

Nori on his first run over Swallow Falls on the Top Yough.

Nori on the center line and Simcoe on the (normal) right side of Swallow Falls.

Nori dropping into the other big one on the Top, Suck Hole.

Andria heading into the bottom double drop of Suck Hole.

Simcoe sailing off Wonder Falls on the Big Sandy.

Leland at First Island on the Sandy.

Simcoe and Andria celebrating our sunny cinco de mayo double with nachos and margaritas at the Sandy take-out.

That night, we navigated to another favorite campground near Friendsville - Mill Run - to camp close to the Lower Yough. We got up the next morning and visited IR, where it was great to see John and Kara and get a tour of the cool old school house in Confluence where IR is located. After that, we stopped off and paid a visit to Andy at Riversport, a mainstay of the local paddling scene up there.

Hanging with Andy in the Lucky Dog Cafe at Riversport.

From there, we headed over to try out our new Molans on another river we had never done before - the legendary Lower Yough. After hearing about this run for decades, it was good to finally match a place with all of the stories. We got a quick run on the loop, which we found to far exceed our expectations with tons of fun surf waves, great scenery, and a really nice quiet scene on a Wednesday afternoon. The Molans were SUPER sweet too - loosest, easiest boat to play in that I've ever tried, far exceeding what I even thought was possible. I can't wait to get this thing in some more playspots!

After that it was another round of fun with friends in Morgantown, followed by an early morning prolotherapy tune-up for our nagging injuries at Blackwater Osteopathic Clinic before we pointed the van back towards WNC. Now we're home and resting up, getting ready for the next three events on our summer tour:

* The "Get Mad Throw Down," River Gypsies' book signing, and Yoga for Paddlers session at Whitewater Warehouse in Dayton, Ohio on Thursday, May 13th.

* The Saint Francis (run #294) paddle and slideshow on the making of the River Gypsies' Guide in Missouri on Saturday, May 15th.

* Book signing at CKS PaddleFest on May 28th and 29th in Buena Vista, CO.

More event dates to be added soon - hopefully we will see lots of old friends and meet lots of new ones on our Gypsy tour this summer!