Have you ever wanted to take a walk on the wild side? Just for a day or two?
For many of us, the outdoors consists of nothing more than the space we dash through between our house and our car.
Or a glimpse at a digitized mountain view—frozen on a computer screen saver.
Or a drive to a favorite restaurant; or hosting a backyard barbecue.
On weekends, when the nearby real-world mountains, rivers, and streams beckon, we seek outdoor adventure, but we often wind up on the couch watching a ball game or taking a nap.
Increasingly, though, time-stressed people are turning to outfitters to arrange their weekend recreation.
Canoeing, kayaking, fly-fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, backpacking—all it takes is a phone call, and you will be off on your adventure.
Southern West Virginia is uniquely positioned for outdoor exploration with a wealth of white-water companies, secluded fly-fishing streams and recreational opportunities along the New River Gorge.
New River snakes its way north, creating a rock climbing and white-water kayaking haven. Outfitters in Fayetteville, Oak Hill and Hinton are ready to make it easier to discover these places so close to home.
You probably would like to know what an outfitter does exactly. An outfitter is no longer the kind of trail-blazing character that we came to know on TV, a character smoking a pipe and wearing an L.L. Bean wool shirt, a man who leads uneasy tenderfoot patrons from the cities and towns into the wilderness, cutting down acres of saplings to make tent poles and rustic camp furniture for his clients.
No sir. Today’s outfitter may be a woman. And clients not only enjoy mastering outdoor challenges, but also learning outdoor conservation principles along the way, including skills such as leave-no-trace camping and catch-and-release fishing techniques.
There is a wide spectrum of outfitters in our area from which to choose—too many to mention here.
Some may simply rent you a backpack, tent, canoe, or kayak and send you out the door; some may shuttle you to a river put-in; and others will accompany you on your trip, teaching you proper paddling, fly-casting, or climbing techniques; setting up your camp; and cooking meals for you along the way.
You can also select the intensity of your adventure. Budding climbers can take a rock-climbing class at nearby Fayetteville on a Saturday morning or sign up for a full weekend at the imposing New River Gorge or Seneca Rocks.
Several stores that carry outdoor sporting goods may also serve as outfitters.
A fellow explained at a local shop the other day: “The difference between an outfitter and an outdoor-supply retail store is that an outfitter not only sells or rents you the equipment you’ll need but will also show you how to use it.”
And they will offer the services of knowledgeable guides who take you out and teach you how to safely enjoy an outdoor sport.
This is especially important with rock climbing, where mistakes can be costly, if not fatal.
Some kayaking instructors and outfitters do not merely focus on perfecting kayaking skills, either. They try to offer a more complete experience, teaching clients the basics of kayaking, including vital water safety and paddling skills, and giving clients lessons about the local history, ecosystems, and wildlife of the area.
And though kayaking and rock climbing are perennial outfitter-guided pastimes, fly-fishing is another sport growing in popularity among area residents.
A friend of mine is into building bamboo fly rods at his home workshop. He also ties his own flies and fishes exclusively with his own hand-crafted patterns.
Strolling along a cool mountain stream with your fly-rod in search of a wily trout presents a refreshing antidote to life inside the city limits.
That is why we are out there in the first place, to get away from the modern world, right?
Ideally, our weekends should be entirely free for adventure.
Do you really want to take a walk on the wild side? Your next adventure is as close as the nearest phone book.
It is your call.
Top o’ the morning!