It is Saturday morning, the 22nd of Sept. Normally on this morning we are already up and out of our hotel room in Summersville,WV; off to have a good breakfast-the last real meal of the day for us. This is because we are headed to set up our booth to be a part of the largest festival of the year-the Gauley Festival.

Endless River Adventures has had a booth at the festival since before I can even remember. Always in the same corner, next to the same other booths; the only thing that has ever changed has been the weather. We have been through near-hurricane winds, post-hurricane weather, drenching rain and gorgeous sunny days. This weekend would have been one of those gorgeous sunny day weekends.

By about 11AM, friends are already stopping in to see us-Zeke is always the first. Actually, they are stopping in to see what we have forgotten this year. It has become almost a running joke over the years. There have been times when we have forgotten anything from the tent poles (problematic in setting up a 20×20 tent!), to the scotch tape. It is a given that we have to make a run to WalMart as soon as we have our booth more-or-less put up to pick up a last few items to use for the booth. It took the gentle suggestion of one of our friends “Why don’t you guys use a packing list?” for us to finally starting planning our trip back in North Carolina with a packing list. Perfection comes in small steps for some!

Why all the trouble? Because we have such a far-reaching group of friends all over the country due to our international trips and our kayak instruction-and having a booth at the Gauley Festival is a way of catching up with so many of our friends. We have “kids” stop in during the Fest that we don’t recognize-because the last time we saw the 20-year-old they were a 10-year-old in braces learning to kayak with us. Now they are stopping in to revel in their first run down the Gauley. Granted never a Festival passes without seeing our friends Carter and Ursy. Brian and his gang (who come to the Fest and have so much fun they don’t have time to squeeze in a trip down the river!)…the list goes on for hours-as does the festival itself.

Of course, working Gauley Festival is just as much an excuse for us to sneak a run down the river on Friday before we have to get to work! And a day paddling the Gauley is always a glorious day. Even after 20+ years of paddling it.

So why the reflection this year? Because at the last minute we had to pull the plug on our trip-unpacking an already packed van and carrying our suitcase back to the house. It is part of our commitment to backing our staff up-and putting our guests first. We had a group traveling to North Carolina to spend the weekend with us kayaking and rafting, and we had to decide where to put our energy. We could not leave our staff short-handed.

Will we come out ahead on this one? Not from the stand point of seeing a lot of friends we look forward to catching up with during the Gauley Fest. But on the otherhand, maybe one day the folks we stayed behind to help out this weekend will one day also be kayaking on the Gauley-because we were there for them this weekend. Worth it? Hope so!

Regardless, we will already be looking forward to next year as the Gauley Festival is always the same time, same place.