By Doug Kish, M.A.
When they describe West Virginia as “Wild and Wonderful” they aren’t kidding. Ace Adventure Resort , located in Minden, West Virginia, describes themselves as “1,500 acres of awesome-ness located in the New River Gorge.” Name any outdoor adventure and they have it–ziplining, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and their most well-known activity, whitewater rafting. Plenty of fresh air and fun times await thrill-seekers of all ages.
For over 35 years Ace Adventure Resort has guided individuals away from their everyday lives into the great outdoors. Six members of Team Compass had the opportunity to experience a true adventure getaway, including world-class whitewater rafting through Class V rapids, considered the biggest.
Ace Adventure Resort continues to hold the title of No. 1 Adventure Resort awarded to them by the Travel Channel and I can understand why. Team Compass selected the Ridge View Retreat cabins for our weekend. The outdoor living space at these cabins is a plus. You can spend your downtime soaking in the forest views and wildlife below from a covered deck and family-size hot tub. Indoor amenities include a large living room, 3 bedrooms, 2 showers, a fully equipped kitchen with a stove, dishwasher, refrigerator and microwave, central air conditioning/heating, and cable TV throughout the rooms. Bed linens, pillows and towels are provided. Bring your own favorite pillow from home and a beach towel for water activities if you want.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and checked in. That is where your adventure begins when you are given a map of the property and directions to your cabin, all of which are located in secluded locations up in the mountain. After a ten-minute drive over gravel and dirt roads, I arrived at the cabin. A quick tour, and I was off exploring the mountain trails. After about 90 minutes of hiking, I arrived at Concho Lookout. Sitting on the edge of the trail, I watched trains periodically pass below weaving along the bank of the river. As the sun began to set, I heard the tranquil noise of the river rapids below. This was truly a place for mindfulness meditation and reflection.
The first full day at the resort started at the main office. After we geared up for the Zipline Canopy Tour we were taken by bus to the starting area where we began a half-day adventure. Throughout the zipline tour, our guides–Mariana, Don and Jennifer– continually assisted us to get on and off the different lines. Starting at the 490-foot Parallel Plunge line, we went through the Cruise Control, Rigor Mortis, Mighty Mouse, Sunshine and Racer lines. At some points zip lines continued and at some points a short hike was required to reach the next line.
We crossed Wobble Bridge, a one-and-a-half-foot wide, 150-foot long wooden bridge with rope and cable railings on each side allowing amazing views of the area.
We continued through the Boulderdash line and Terminal Velocity, the longest line at more than 800 feet in length and 120 feet off the ground. At that point, a 55-foot treehouse for more great views leads to the final zip, The Plunge, where zippers must take a momentary free fall before the final zip to the ground. Skimming through the air above the trees gave you the sense of flying.
Returning to our cabins in the woods for the evening, some hit the trails for a hike before sunset. Then we worked together to prepare dinner over the fire pit. After dinner we enjoyed reviewing the day’s activities while sitting under the stars and soaking our weary muscles in the hot tubs.
Our last day at Ace Adventure Resort was a full day whitewater rafting trip on the New River. We met at the main office area and were outfitted with wet suits. Although the water in the New River originates in the Carolinas and flows north, the temperature of the water was still quite cold in May when we visited. As we began to gear up in our wet suits and receive instructions, I say to myself, “I’m actually going to do this.” We were taken by bus to the put-in location. Ace Adventure Resort is the only company in the area that has their own put-in and take-out locations on the river due to the size of their property.
We had six passengers and one guide in our 15-foot boat, although there are different size boats to accommodate any size group. Every passenger wears a lifejacket at all times. After we entered the water and before we hit the rapids, our guide, Scotty O, asked everyone’s name and some background information to get to know us. He also reviewed the rules. The most important rule–no one jumps in the water to rescue anyone who falls overboard.
The first part of our 11-mile journey started with Class II and Class III rapids, which can best be described as moderate to irregular waves. As we progressed down the river, we stopped at “Jump Rock” where we were given the opportunity to jump off an overhanging rock 20 feet down into the river. Kim Wagler and I were the only passengers in our boat who dared to do this.
Continuing on through the rapids, Scotty O asked if anyone wanted to get out of the boat and into the water to experience the power of the current. I was the only one brave enough to try this. In the water for 3 to 5 minutes, it felt like someone was pushing me along and the water was very cold, even with a wetsuit.
At about 4 miles, we stopped and were treated to a hot buffet lunch on the shore. On our way again, we hit the Class V rapids, which are large, continuous turbulent waves. In this area, our boat was sometimes pointed straight up and totally out of the water until it came crashing back down.
Boats always travel in groups, and the lead boat always waits for all boats in the group to clear the rapids before moving on. At every portion of the river, Scotty O would give us directions to paddle left, paddle right, paddle backwards, hard paddle and then take a rest. He also gave directions about which way to swim in the event you fell out of the boat. At the back of the boat, Scotty O used his oar to steer us right and left.
We eventually reached the “cloud chamber, ” named after its appearance as big, fluffy water. Our trip culminated with the biggest wave train of the day at Fayette Station where the mighty New River gorge bridge loomed 900 feet above the water.
One portion of the Resort we did not get to visit was Adventure Lake, a spring-fed mountain lake. This 5-acre water park incudes water slides, zip lines, inflatable toys, and the crowd favorite–The Blob, which launches one person at a time up and into the lake. There is a white sandy beach and a sand volleyball court. On summer nights after dark, they show family-friendly movies under the stars.
Asked about her weekend, Kim Wagler said, “There were so many breathtaking moments but my favorite had to be spending time at the Concho lookout. You could literally feel the power and glory of our Creator. I will never forget listening to the river and watching the sun go down over the mountains. The serenity of the quiet with the beauty of Mother Nature brought a peace to my heart and soul that you can’t buy.”
Ashley Gerrard commented, “This was a great opportunity to try new things. I was with great friends and had the help of a fantastic staff to make it even more enjoyable. Everyone at Ace was happy to extend a helping hand, encouraging words and detailed guidance leaving me feeling comfortable and confident. Loved being there and would go back in a heartbeat!”
“They don’t call West Virginia ‘wild and wonderful’ for nothing” and I believe we got to experience the wildest and most wonderful part of it all,” said Chris Boron. She continued, “We saw parts of the state that you could only see if you were ziplining and white water rafting. The views were absolutely stunning.”
Michelle Stratton said, “WOW, is the word that best describes this trip. I was terrified to go whitewater rafting but the guides made you feel safe and knew how to have a good time while doing their job.”
Randall Mast described the weekend as “Absolutely incredible, to forget about the stresses of daily life and enjoy the outdoors was awesome. Ziplining through the unbelievable scenery in the woods was an experience I won’t soon forget. Whitewater rafting was intense. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and they definitely made the entire experience so much better with their humor and their uncanny ability to remember all our names.”
As for why I felt this was a life-changing experience, it’s hard to put it into words since you have to imagine in your mind everything I experienced, saw and felt. The whitewater rafting and ziplining were things I had never done before but had always wanted to do.
As we traveled through the thunderous rapids on the river, I felt the extreme power of Mother Nature. As we zipped along high above the trees, I saw the beauty of our land. As we sat at Concho Lookout and I heard the stillness of nothing, I realized just how small we are in this universe. I also realized that time with friends can be priceless and, although our trip had to end, we will always have great memories of friendship and fellowship.
This trip gave me the opportunity for reflection–reflection of my past, on the current moments and on the future. What is truly important in our lives? Living your life in time or living in moments. Living in moments helps us slow down. It helps us create pictures that will stay with us and appreciate the truly special moments that matter. Slow down and make moments that will stay with you. Put down the cell phone, take a day off from social media and reflect on what’s important in your life–your family, your friends and people that love you.
The impact of all these things made this a truly life-changing experience. Thanks to the entire staff at Ace Adventure Resort–front desk employees, zip line guides, rafting guides and everyone behind the scenes–for making this getaway a memorable experience. I will never forget the sights, sounds and beauty of the area and hope to visit again in the future.
To view a first-hand account of our activities at Ace Adventure Resort, go to followcompass.com to see videos and more photos.
White Water Rafting