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July 28, 2016

America’s Best Swimming

On West Virginia’s largest lake,

some of the best swimming in America hides in small coves tucked under dense canopies of deeply rooted Cedar and Hemlocks. The alluring Summersville Lake holds incredible opportunities to embark on new adventures. In fact, it has activities for all types of enthusiasts. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will have no complaints with the absolute gorgeous scenery of this 2,700 acre, crystal-clear lake. A true adventurers sanctuary.

This was the second stop on the Big Swings South Eastern #KeepItClean adventure. We had traveled five hours from our last destination solely relying on the Big Swings App to lead us to our next swimming hole. We set up camp for two nights at Mountain Lake Campground, which is literally right between the two locations we wanted to visit.

Day One

We arrived at the campground around two PM after a long drive from Ohiopyle Natural Water Slide. A quick tent set-up and off we went to our first West Virginia location, Bastard’s Cove.

Being only a mile away, we piled back into the cars and followed the Big Swings app to a small gravel area that marked parking and access to the hiking trail. The band of explorers was ready to swim. Anxiety and nervous energy coursed through the group as the single-file line made its way down the rapidly thinning path. A giddy excitement had everyone’s dopamine levels pumping; thoughts of what lie ahead raced through our heads.

Dropping into the valley, the branches started to overwhelm the path;

the heat had disappeared and moisture settled in as if we were entering a jungle. The group pushed through the large, dew-covered, green leaves and worked down what had become a very steep path. By the end, we found ourselves scaling down a mud wall grasping roots as a makeshift ladder. It was truly amazing how the landscape changed in such a short distance.

We found ourselves standing atop a twenty-five-foot waterfall on a thirty-foot-long sandstone ledge with cliff faces of varying heights all around. The water’s flow was weak, only making a five-foot-wide cascade, but a mesmerizing cascade to say the least. Walls stood tall running diagonally out in either direction with blue water in front of and below us making an unreal swimming cove. Jumpers were already taking advantage of the refreshing waters- flipping and leaping from the dry stone ledge out over the falls.

We did our safety checks and got right to jumping. The group took turns on the twenty-five-footer. One by one, we pushed from the ledge and vanished into the blue-green water below. Nate Emery recounts, “This is one of the best road-trip spots. There is nothing like jumping into crystal-clear water surrounded by a waterfall and insane cliffs! I can’t wait to go back.”

The more skilled of our jumpers made their way up a bit higher

to the fifty-three-foot ledge and tested their aerodynamics. Launching themselves like birds from the cliff side, onlookers gasped in fear and excitement. Boats approached to watch the DJI Inspire Quadcopter flying above the athletes as they plummeted with great speed to the water. Watching these practiced athletes soar through the air can be purely fascinating- leaving the onlooker in disbelief.

Once we hucked some gnarly stuff off of everything we could, we wrapped up filming and jumping for the day and hiked our way out of Bastard’s Cove. Gathering in a field adjacent to the parking area, we sat and watched the sunset over the distant mountain peaks. The dark mountain range’s silhouette made the pink and purple streaked sky remarkable. It was the perfect ending to a day of exciting travel. That is, until we got back to camp.

Arriving back at camp the clear sky became angry quickly.

The clouds twisted above us, and the wind suddenly picked up. We secured camp and threw up a tarp to gather under. The sound of the rain came first, sweeping through the trees. We heard it coming fast from a distance. Louder and louder it rushed through the woods towards us; it was literally getting darker by the second.

As the wall of rain hit us, we were lucky enough to have it accompanied by its friends: thunder and lightning. We braved the storm under the tarp at our picnic table enjoying what food we had that didn’t need to be cooked. It took a few hours for the storm to subside enough to start a fire, which we quickly did. We fed and got a bit toasty. Knowing we had a big day ahead, everyone passed out to dreams of clear skies in the AM.

Day Two

The camp was soaked, and it was still drizzling… not the most motivational sight as you unzip your tent. The group woke up to disappointment. Gradually, people unveiled themselves with groggy eyes and frizzy hair. They stumbled in the direction of the bathroom, stretching out the half-night’s sleep they had managed. Upon seeing the dismay of the crew and the shape of the wood, it was time for a hot meal at the closest diner we could find. Nothing cheers up an adventurer like eggs, bacon, and a West Virginia biscuit covered in sausage gravy!

With full bellies, we headed back to camp. The windshield wipers squeaked back and forth across the dry glass. The sun broke through the clouds leaving light flares across our windshield. Our hopes rose for a sunny day of jumping; although, the mountains had a different plan for us. The caravan crested the first mountain hill towards camp, and a new storm cell came rolling through the valley, whipping in as fast and hard as the night before. With so much gear in tow, we decided to suspend the hike until the storm passed or at least calmed.

Hours went by and the group grew impatient; so,

I made a call. I went from tent to tent telling everyone to get ready for a rainy hike. We covered our backpacks with waterproof covers and threw our rain jackets on. Hiking through a storm can be either exhilarating or just plain spirit-breaking. Our spirits certainly weren’t broken as we were all smiles and giggles for the mile and a half hike. Thunder and lightning reigned out above the canopy as we stomped happily through muddy puddles. A sixty-five-footer was waiting ahead, and we all knew it. With a quarter mile left, the clouds started breaking up again, letting sunspots appear on the leaves all around us. We all felt a sense of accomplishment by this point; sun or no sun, nothing was stopping us!

Approaching the apex, the narrow forest trail opened up to a sandstone floor, and we suddenly realized how high we were above the water.

The path led to a dead-end on solid, stone bluffs, leaving us to look out over three-hundred plus acres of water and unforgettable shoreline of cliffs and lush trees. The rain passed, and we watched as the sun pushed the dark storm clouds into the distance.

After sending a spotter down to check the water for debris, we set up the cameras and had at it! The crew found a few different heights to jump from. We spent hours leaping from the ten to sixty-five-foot jumps into the seventy-degree waters.  Thankfully, the skies had broken for us, and we were able to jump without it pouring.

It’s important to note that the Big Swings crew has been on hundreds of jumping adventures together, and we are professionals. No one jumps from any heights that they haven’t trained for. All of the jumpers are trained and have been practicing for a very long time. Any of these jumps could end in serious injury or death. Please practice safety checks, wear safety gear like Kingii Floatation Devices, and know your limits if you decide to ever jump off a cliff. *It is illegal to jump from any cliffs higher than six-feet on the entirety of Summersville Lake. 

Article brought to you by: Big Swings App, Kingii Floatation Devices and GranitRocx Backpack