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Postindustrial Creative Director Lindsay Fleuriet and Founder Carmen Gentile (see if you can pick them out) paddle through the roaring whitewater on West Virginia’s New River.

Rediscover West Virginia again and again

Every time he visits the Mountain State, Postindustrial Founder Carmen Gentile discovers new things to thrill and intrigue him. This time it’s heart-racing rafting and a small town’s impressive collection of creatives.

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By Carmen Gentile


That first explosive burst of white water washing over you while paddling through a maelstrom of swirling currents and jutting rocks is all it takes.

After that, you’re hooked.

I caught the rafting bug in my teens and have run rapids ever since, both close to where I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and around the world, in places like Brazil and New Zealand.

But none compare to the splendor of West Virginia’s New River Gorge, one of the great “Postindustrial” adventure destinations if you consider its history.

For decades, the gorge was mined for coal by legions of workers, stripped bare of its natural beauty in the pursuit of its mineral wealth.

Coal miners on an electric-powered mine locomotive at Kaymoor, West Virginia, in 1914. // National Park Service

But by the 1950s, coal production had dried up in the gorge, and its natural splendor began to return. The once barren, rocky slopes plunging into the river sprouted new life, creating the verdant, diverse ecosystem thrill-seekers and visitors enjoy today.

And with the help of those early rafters and other outdoor enthusiasts, the gorge quickly became a world-class whitewater, rock climbing, hiking, and nature-loving destination.

Postindustrial Creative Director Lindsay Fleuriet and I recently embarked on a guided tour of the New River with the help of  Kenneth “KP” Parkison (the capable-looking guy above, at the back of the boat), a veteran guide with outfitter Adventures on the Gorge.

As evidenced by the above video, I was hooting up a storm as the rapids thrashed us about while Lindsay bravely paddled into the furor, determined not to be ejected from the raft.

We also went on less jarring adventures, hiking trails along the gorge where we found a series of spectacular waterfalls you’ll want to check out when you visit.

Postindustrial Creative Director Lindsay Fleuriet checks out one of the incredible waterfalls in New River Gorge National Park.

When we weren’t rafting or exploring the canyon on foot, we saw an old friend of Lindsay’s in Fayetteville. Kevin Umbel is an Ohio-born rock climber whose love for the sport first drew him to the former coal-mining-community-turned-adventure-and-entertainment-destination more than 20 years ago.

Umbel is also among a growing creative class in town, producing excellent photography (though Kevin doesn’t like to be called a “photographer,” per se) alongside painters and other artists.

Fayetteviille’s Love Hope Center for the Arts showcases some of the town’s talent and also offers classes and studio space to nurture the next generation of artists.

Love Hope Center for the Arts Executive Director Stacey Tope gave us a tour of the old church-turned-artist gallery before snapping this picture of us.

We had hoped to spend more time with Kevin, but just like many folks from Fayetteville, he was on his own adventures much of the time we were there.

Same goes for Chris Jackson, another Fayetteville resident whose photography has appeared in Postindustrial.

Only after we left West Virginia were we able to connect with Chris, who was camping in another part of the state.

“Yeah, that happens a lot,” he laughed when I told him we’d hope to catch Kevin, him, and others during our West Virginia adventure. “We’re always out doing something.”

To see more of Postindustrial adventures in West Virginia and elsewhere, visit our YouTube channel and Instagram, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any updates!

Postindustrial founder Carmen Gentile has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets, including The New York Times, USA TODAY, CBS News, and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan. Reach him at carmen@postindustrial.com.

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