Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rafting the Upper Yough

White Water, Rafting, Adventure, Grand Canyon, Upper Yough River

A few weeks ago Nick and I made an impromptu trip to Western Maryland to raft the Upper Youghiogheny River with Precision Rafting.

White Water, Rafting, Adventure, Grand Canyon, Upper Yough River

A Little Back Story

I am not a water person. I wish I was, but somehow my sister ended up with all the water skills. I'm actually slightly fearful of the water. I can kinda sorta {maybe} if my life depended on it swim. 

I'm partially kidding about the "if my life depended on it" part, but overall I'm not super comfortable in the water and I never have been. 

Yet somehow I found myself signed up for a 21-day unguided rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. The closer we came to the trip the more I started wavering. How was I, someone not comfortable in the water, going to survive 21 days on a rafting trip?

I seriously felt like I was in a bad relationship with the Grand Canyon rafting trip-- we were on, off, then on again.

At one point I was off-off. The nope, you're not going to persuade, pressure or guilt me into going, kind of off. 

But Nick was pretty relentless. I agreed on a last ditch effort to see if I would like rafting. Hence the trip on the Upper Yough River!

White Water, Rafting, Adventure, Grand Canyon, Upper Yough River

The Upper Yough River

I was kind of nervous. This was only my second rafting trip ever, and the first one was kind of a joke. The Upper Yough River is dam released from Deep Creek Lake, which means that there are some pretty legit Class III - V rapids.

Here's what Precision Rafting has to say about the Upper Yough:

"The Upper Yough (pronounced YOCK, like rock with a Y) flows through one of the last remaining wilderness canyons in the eastern US. World renowned for continuous whitewater and an impressive average vertical drop of over 115 ft per mile for 5 miles. This creates a river adventure with non stop intensity, exhilarating thrills, and adrenaline pumping action. Famous for its tight and technical passages, continuous rapids, this is an impressive section of river. "The miracle mile" is a mile long section with a vertical drop of over 120 feet per mile. This section of river was considered unraftable in the early stages of exploration.

In the mid 1960's some brave open canoeist started boating the river with mixed results which helped name the rapids.  It was not until the early 1970's  the river was kayaked with better success, still no one wanted to raft this section. In the early 1980's  Phil Coleman and Roger Zbel begin to seriously look at commercially  rafting the Upper, with the thought of starting a whitewater outfitting business. In  August 1981 Precision Rafting Expeditions was formed. These early commercial trips were not without adventure and mishap as these pioneers started to get the pattern down, also the rafts in use were not the state of the art self bailing boats of today. Bucket  boats added to the excitement by forcing you to stop before all of  the big drops to bail your raft. The local residents weren't to thrilled to see commercial activity take place and it was not uncommon to have shuttle vehicles vandalized. Gun shots were another means of discouragement. 

This is Maryland's only wild and scenic river corridor and is still a very wild and pristine river canyon. Over the years though commercial rafting began to catch on and before long mid 1985 the State of Maryland started to regulate outfitters and guides. A lot has changed over the years but rafting the Upper Yough is still a very exciting trip.  

The river starts as a flat water river for about 1.5 miles and then the warm up mile starts with little  rapids that get a little closer together and a little harder as you move through the warm up mile.  Then the awesome central canyon begins. For nearly 5 miles you take on 20 major rapids, back to back!! Control and technical maneuvers are made easier with the small state of the art self bailing rafts, the crew is one guide for three rafters for maximum action. For ten breathtaking miles your adventure takes you through 20 consecutive major rapids-each one guaranteed to leave a lasting impression."

Well, How'd It Go??

I ended up having a really good time. We had an awesome guide. He was calm and confident, and it made me feel calm. All I needed to do was follow his directions.

White Water, Rafting, Adventure, Grand Canyon, Upper Yough River

Maybe our guide was just being nice, but after I got over my initial fears he was taking us through slightly more challenging routes because he thought we could handle it. Supposedly, we were pretty strong paddlers. Whether it was actually true or not, it made me feel good about myself and my abilities.

There were a few guides on the trip who have rafted the Grand Canyon before. It was neat to talk with them and hear about their experience. Turns out, rafting in Western Maryland is absolutely nothing like rafting in the Grand Canyon. I kind of figured that, but I needed to get on the water. I needed to feel comfortable on the water when there would be trained people around.

Pics or It Didn't Happen

We took the GoPro to record our experience. Whenever I go back and watch the videos I'm slightly amazed. I'm sure there are bigger, badder rivers out there. But this one had so many boulders! I remember sitting in the raft and thinking "We're going through there??"

"Rafting looks so- Excited to follow the #grandcanyon trip! #whitewater #rafting via @amanda__maureen"

Here are a few of my favorite rapids!

Bastard Falls 
{Class IV} 
marks the end of the warm-up Class III rapids.

Charlie's Choice Rapid 
{Class V} 

Heinzerling Rapid 
{Class III+}

I'm excited and nervous about the Grand Canyon trip. It will be the trip of a lifetime. The beauty and majesty of the river and the canyon will be unparalleled. 

Life seems to have been consumed with planning for this trip. We talk about it all the time. We've been purchasing clothing and equipment. We've been reading the river guide and hiking books. We've been meal planning. There have been countless group emails and discussions. 

I'm learning a lot and have so much to share :) Stay tuned!

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Your turn! Have you ever been rafting? Are you comfortable in the water, or are you like me? What is the biggest adventure you've ever been on?
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AK