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Tubing the Shenandoah River

Part 1 – Part 2

Part 2

Justine and Erica converse on the river.

Justine and Erica converse on the river.


We hit some rapids fairly early on, and due to the shallow depth of the river, I managed to get hung up on a rock.  Figures.  A little pushing, however, and I was off the rock and underway again.


Hung up on a rock, and trying to get myself free.


Later, the water got deep on us.  This, of course, would be the time when I finally lost my balance and fell out of my tube.  Splash.  And all of a sudden, I realized that I couldn’t touch bottom.  Yikes – it was really deep.  But not to worry.  I can swim.  I kind of hung onto my tube for a bit, while making occasional attempts to get back on.  I eventually succeeded, though, and I was back up and kicking.  In my attempts to get back on the tube, I managed to lose one of my Crocs.  This is when I was glad I ended up going with the Crocs.  You see, Crocs float.  Thus I was able to easily retrieve it and put it back on.


As the river got deeper, people positioned themselves to take advantage of it, as Tim demonstrates here.

As the river got deeper, people positioned themselves to take advantage of it, as Tim demonstrates here.


Cristina floats alongside her tube.

Cristina floats alongside her tube.


And of course, the beer kept flowing, as people enjoyed different kinds of beverages...

And of course, the beer kept flowing, as people enjoyed different kinds of beverages…


...sometimes two at a time.

…sometimes two at a time.


Joe takes a moment to reapply some sunscreen.  We were admittedly a very white group, with all of us having spent much of the summer inside an office building and out of the sun.  Staying on top of the sunscreen helped keep the skin cancer fairy away.

Joe takes a moment to reapply some sunscreen.  We were admittedly a very white group, with all of us having spent much of the summer inside an office building and out of the sun.  Staying on top of the sunscreen helped keep the skin cancer fairy away.


At one point along our route, there was a rope hung from a tree that people swung from.  Here, Alex takes a swing and then jumps into the water.  At one point along our route, there was a rope hung from a tree that people swung from.  Here, Alex takes a swing and then jumps into the water.

At one point along our route, there was a rope hung from a tree that people swung from.  Here, Alex takes a swing and then jumps into the water.


Once I got all settled again, I paddled over to the tube where my cooler was riding and retrieved my lunch.  I had gone to Subway the night before, and got a 6″ turkey sub, and then I got a Vanilla Coke to go with it in the morning.  Maybe it’s the tubing atmosphere, but that sub really hit the spot there on the river.

And the floating continued, over water of a comfortable depth.  It wasn’t as deep as earlier, but it wasn’t as shallow as earlier, either.  All in all, we had a good time, as everyone kind of got settled into a spot on the river.


Christina poses for the camera.

Christina poses for the camera.


And Beauchamp is still striking that relaxed pose.

And Beauchamp is still striking that relaxed pose.


Meanwhile, Renee relaxes in her own way, before getting out of her tube to take a quick swim.

Meanwhile, Renee relaxes in her own way, before getting out of her tube to take a quick swim.

Meanwhile, Renee relaxes in her own way, before getting out of her tube to take a quick swim.


Getting back into her tube, Renee showed off her reusable Take Back The Tap bottle.

Getting back into her tube, Renee showed off her reusable Take Back The Tap bottle.


Alex took a moment to swim around and see exactly how deep the river was at this point.  It was still fairly deep.

Alex took a moment to swim around and see exactly how deep the river was at this point.  It was still fairly deep.


Then we hit the area of rapids that the bus driver had described to us.  It was definitely a swiftly-flowing area, though not quite as bad as he described it.  I don’t think anyone in our group had to practice the maneuver as described for losing the tube, floating feet first through the area and then recovering the tube afterwards.


Approaching the rapids...

Approaching the rapids…


Becca and Jordan ride through the rapids.

Becca and Jordan ride through the rapids.


Splash!

Splash!


Becca and Jordan complete their path through the rapids.

Becca and Jordan complete their path through the rapids.


Once we cleared the rapids, we immediately entered into an area with very high cliffs all around.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and educational – many lessons from various geology courses that I had taken came back into play, though for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what I was looking at.  But I recognized the various rock formations as something I had learned about in school, so you’ve got to give me credit for that.  However, as we passed the cliffs, we began to hear thunder, and dark clouds were starting to build in the distance.


Rock formations along the river.  I am pretty certain that I am looking at sedimentary rock, but I'm not so sure about what the curves in the layers, particularly noticeable in the upper left photo, are called.  Rock formations along the river.  I am pretty certain that I am looking at sedimentary rock, but I'm not so sure about what the curves in the layers, particularly noticeable in the upper left photo, are called.

Rock formations along the river.  I am pretty certain that I am looking at sedimentary rock, but I’m not so sure about what the curves in the layers, particularly noticeable in the upper left photo, are called.

Rock formations along the river.  I am pretty certain that I am looking at sedimentary rock, but I'm not so sure about what the curves in the layers, particularly noticeable in the upper left photo, are called.  Rock formations along the river.  I am pretty certain that I am looking at sedimentary rock, but I'm not so sure about what the curves in the layers, particularly noticeable in the upper left photo, are called.


Becca and Jordan pass by the cliffs.

Becca and Jordan pass by the cliffs.


I ask how things are going in one of my classic “stupid videos”, and Adam takes the opportunity to criticize my driving.  Hey, I got everyone and the car there in one piece…


Meanwhile, Bethany takes a quiet moment on this calm stretch of river.

Meanwhile, Bethany takes a quiet moment on this calm stretch of river.


Mary is all smiles on this section of river as well.

Mary is all smiles on this section of river as well.


After passing by the cliffs, the water got really shallow – the shallowest yet seen on our trip.  A number of tubes were starting to drag along the bottom, making forward progress difficult, since the water was generally less than six inches deep in places.  Tyler actually got up out of his tube, believe it or not, and pulled a number of us along for a bit.


Tyler pulls the group along.  Note the clouds building in the distance.

Tyler pulls the group along.  Note the clouds building in the distance.


Once we cleared the shallow areas, we were fully underway again with slightly deeper water.  It was enough so as not to drag the bottom, but not much more than that.  By this point, our group was really spread out along the river.  We had gone about a mile and a half by this point, I believe.


Spread out along the river.  Again, note the darker sky compared to earlier in the day.

Spread out along the river.  Again, note the darker sky compared to earlier in the day.


Then the storm that had been gathering made its presence known.  The thunder became more intense, it began to rain, and the wind started to pick up.  What a time to be on the river, as a full-blown thunderstorm came up.  There wasn’t much we could do about it, but various folks determined various ways to handle the matter.  Some people got out of the river to ride the storm out on land.  One idea that had been floated was to abandon the river there, and locate the road that ran alongside the river and catch one of the buses back to Shenandoah River Outfitters’ building.  As there was no easy way back to the road, since that area was not one of the designated end-points for tubing trips, the idea was quickly discarded.  Others simply kept going along the river.  After all, who knew how long the storm would last – it could last a few minutes, or it could go for hours.  Either way, you had to complete the course in order to get off the river, so the best way to escape the storm was to just continue on, and finish the course.


The rain begins...

The rain begins…


Carrie and Mary, along with a few others, abandoned the water entirely for a time to wait out the storm.

Carrie and Mary, along with a few others, abandoned the water entirely for a time to wait out the storm.


The rain was coming down hard, and the wind was really blowing - note the angle of the rainfall!

The rain was coming down hard, and the wind was really blowing – note the angle of the rainfall!


Bethany maneuvers with the tubes during the storm.

Bethany maneuvers with the tubes during the storm.


The rain is still falling hard, but the sky is lighter - will the rain end soon?

The rain is still falling hard, but the sky is lighter – will the rain end soon?


Thankfully, the storm was short-lived, and though the clouds never cleared, the wind and rain subsided.  There, we passed milepost 18.  Two miles down, and one to go.  Thankfully, though, the final mile was uneventful, as we floated down the river, really spread out by this point.


Adam uses a pair of flip flops as paddles to propel himself through the water.

Adam uses a pair of flip flops as paddles to propel himself through the water.


Continuing down the river...

Continuing down the river…


Milepost 19 was the end of the course, and a large wooden stop sign was attached to a tree near the mile marker itself to indicate this.  Everyone got out of their tubes, and walked up a concrete ramp to the area where the buses loaded.  We were late – we were supposed to have been off the river by 5:00, but we didn’t get off the river until around 6:30, I’d say.  But everyone else was late, too, so it worked out, since it wasn’t just us being late.  While we slowly regrouped as people finished the river, Shenandoah River Outfitters got tubes back to the starting point for the next day.  They just loaded them onto the buses, and trucked them down the road.


Milepost 19: STOP!  Milepost 19: STOP!

Milepost 19: STOP!


Waiting for everyone else to arrive.

Waiting for everyone else to arrive.


Turns out that the buses do more than just transport people.  Here, the River Rat is being used to transport tubes back to the starting point.

Turns out that the buses do more than just transport people.  Here, the River Rat is being used to transport tubes back to the starting point.


Caitlin got really cold soon after getting out of the river.  Here, she uses two life jackets to try to stay warm.

Caitlin got really cold soon after getting out of the river.  Here, she uses two life jackets to try to stay warm.


While we were waiting, a few people stopped to use the restroom at a nearby facility.  The group quickly learned that the restroom at the end of the course is disgusting.  Don’t even think about using it if you value your sense of smell.

And finally, once we had all gotten back together, we boarded a bus, taking Snapper once again.  The ride was a rainy one, as the rain had returned, and looked like it would stay for a while.  Returning to the Shenandoah River Outfitters building, I quickly went back down to where we parked, and brought the car up front.  Here, I learned that I would have a different passenger group for the return trip.  Hanna had expressed an interest in bypassing downtown Washington entirely, and so she took people going towards College Park in her car in order to take the Beltway.  Thus Caitlin, Adam, and Ryan went with Hanna for the return trip.  Meredith stayed in the car with me, and Jorge joined me for the return trip.

The return trip was pretty exciting.  The stormy weather that had first gathered while we were on the river was apparently here to stay for a while, and while the rain soon subsided, we were treated to a spectacular lightning display along Route 211 after we cleared Thornton Gap.  This was not just cloud-to-cloud lightning where the clouds just twinkle.  This was major cloud-to-ground lightning.  The most spectacular lightning we saw the whole way back was a case where yellow lightning went up from the ground, and then spread laterally through the clouds.

But eventually, we made it back.  Meredith had suggested we take Route 17 from Warrenton to I-66 instead of Route 29, but later abandoned this suggestion.  The alternate route was a shade longer, but it might have been interesting, and would have avoided the heavier traffic on 29.  So we took 211 to 29 to I-66 as we did on the way down, and then got off 66 at Rosslyn, where we took the Key Bridge and the Whitehurst Freeway to reach downtown Washington.  From there, it was a simple matter of dropping Jorge and Meredith off at their respective homes, and then all I had left to do was get myself back home.  I think all would agree that we had an amazing trip, and hopefully we’ll do this again next year.

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Part 1 – Part 2

Part 2