Meet The Team
We’re lucky to have collected a remarkable set of friends and river guides. Since we’re NOT a thrill-seeking white-water company, getting down our rivers is pretty straight forward. So we’ve found that our best guides are people nearing the latter stages of their careers, not the beginning. We need guides who are full of life’s experiences, and who come already programmed with a hard-drive full of knowledge.
A Virginia native, Laurel’s home waters are the Potomac and Shenandoah. She started guiding rafters in college in the 1990's under Lee Baily, legendary owner of River and Trail Outfitters and adapted quickly to the rowing frame style of raft with seats for guests that we use at Ashby Gap.
She’s our "funnest" river guide who has built an impressive set of experiences: working for her town, at local farms in the local food movement, farm markets, and as a hiking guide with our partner @HikeAdventures.
Laurel provides: scenic tours, whitewater rafting
Ray's killer resume includes having been a Park Ranger in the Shenandoah National Park, the Fairfax County Park Authority, and a middle school science teacher. Ray is the guy who can identify almost every bird in our environment just by it's call. Test him, he loves it!
Ray is chomping at the bit to take our guests to the river or woods to share his knowledge, stories, and excitement about Virginia’s incredible habitat. He's also an accomplished biker and triathlete, not to mention having spent the last twenty years with a kayak permanently affixed to his truck. Hope you get to meet him, his schedule is currently limited.
Ray provides: scenic rafting tours, guided kayaking tours, Ashby Gap river overnight rafting/camping trips, birding expeditions
Erika’s been raising two girls for the past decade and a half and is very excited to be jumping into another family venture. Many of our current river customers remember when Erika helped Jeff build his fishing guide business in the late 90's, (secretly Jeff says, many of the fishermen talked about her sandwiches more than the fishing). She also had a successful nutritional consulting and catering business before launching her gourmet “Mucho Macho Mustards”. Erika is excited to take charge of the food for Ashby Gap. A master at the grill--seriously a master-- she’s killing it by building charcoal and campfire ready menus for our guides to complete.
John Hayes "The Admiral"
If there was an "Admiral" of the Potomac, it would undoubtedly be John Hayes. He’s been guiding fishermen and sightseers on the river for 35 years, and is about the most loved person we know. You may recognize his name as he is founder and owner of John B Hayes Tobacco in Fairfax and Winchester. Now that he’s retired from running his stores, John spends his time guiding river-lovers. He’s a great chef, story-teller, and teacher—he taught Jeff to row 20 years ago-- and his knowledge of the river is unmatched. A great booming laugh, and hugs and smiles are his trademark. If you’re looking for a fun and friendly guide to float the afternoon with, look no further.
John provides: scenic tours, smallmouth bass fishing, catfishing, Ashby Gap river overnight rafting/camping trips
Ex-Punk Rocker (not always so "Ex" you know!) Travis is owner and head fishing guide of "Kingfisher Guide Service". We seem to get Travis as our guide on those occasions when we call him far enough out that he's not booked to take someone fishing.
While currently the reigning smallmouth king of the Shenandoah, Travis is also known for his experience teaching whitewater kayaking in some of the technical rivers of North Carolina. Don't let his straw hat and charming WV twang fool you, he's not only a thoughtful intellectual, but as Ashby Gap owner Erika says "he's got a true heart of gold and feedback from guests do nothing but concur".
Travis provides: scenic rafting tours, guided kayaking tours, smallmouth bass fishing, catfishing, carp fishing
Neil "power stroke" Johnson spent his early life being raised by a clan of river otters. Some say this led to his uncanny ability to strike fear in all species of fish and waterfowl found in/on our local waters., but you'll have to ask him in person when you see him. Blessed with movie star looks and a Greek godlike physique, Neil will no doubt propel your journey downstream with vigor and enthusiasm. He specializes in ###### ##### ######## parties and sorority retreats. Don't forget to ask him about his " snake charmer" dance
Neil provides: scenic tours, smallmouth bass fishing, guided turkey deer and waterfowl hunting, Ashby Gap river overnight rafting/camping trips
Doug is the closest thing we have to a "happy drug" and just conducts business in a contagiously relaxing and fun manner. He's also our "Donc",and if you're scratching your head, that's a Crocodile Dundee Movie reference and worth looking up.
His super easy laid back demeanor and contagious smile won't let on that he's a deeply experienced whitewater guide on some of the world's heaviest class V rapids on the New and Gauley Rivers. He's also a tremendous smallmouth bass fishing guide. Glad to have Doug on the team.
Doug provides: scenic rafting tours, smallmouth bass fishing, Ashby Gap river overnight rafting trips
Deep down, Jeff knows that if Ashby Gap thrives it's because our rivers are some of the most beautiful in the world. He's also handpicked the best spots and is plotting ways to get you there in comfort, when it’s quiet, and when the most interesting things are happening.
After 15 years protecting the Shenandoah and Potomac (as Shenandoah Riverkeeper then President of Potomac Riverkeeper Network) all Jeff wanted to do was get the river to the point he felt he could return to guiding and providing river expeditions.
When possible, Jeff provides: scenic rafting tours, guided smallmouth bass fishing, guided carp fishing, Ashby Gap rafting overnight/camping trips
We get it, few people over the age of 40 like to sleep on the ground, so we’ve acquired camping gear that will provide you with an actual restful and comfortable sleep. So don’t give up on the idea of doing overnights on these beautiful rivers. Here’s how we do it:
We sleep two people per six-person tent. Not only can you stand up in the tent, but there’s so much room left that you could set up lounge chairs in between the beds.
Guests sleep in their own personal sleeping bag and pillow set atop on a super comfortable cot, cushioned with a squishy 1” thick, closed-cell foam pad. The cot gets you off the ground and provides a cradle like environment for sleeping, and we have quite a few sizes to accommodate people up to 6’6” and 400 pounds.
The tents were chosen for their flexibility. The first configuration is for clear nights, and uses only screen for the upper 2/3 of the tent allowing for cross breezes and star gazing. If, however, clouds roll in, all you have to do is pull the already partially attached in rain fly over the tent and snap in the other two corners to make configuration two. This literally takes ten seconds, and now you have in insulated and dry environment. We love these tents.
Without exaggeration, we’ve invested in THE best gear available. Why do we do this? We do this because we’ve built our entire business model on the idea that people want to enjoy rivers and camping outdoors and don’t want the gear to get in the way. So we didn’t cut any corners and have simply selected the gear we feel will do the best job make for the happiest customers, and guides.
Our Unique Raft with Individual Seating
We designed, drew, ordered, built, rebuilt, cut, re-ordered and tinkered with this raft until we were comfortable saying it’s the river version of a Safari Land Rover. Guests get in, are comfortable and secure, and someone else drives while they enjoy sight-seeing and the company of their friends.
Our trademark boat is a 15’ commercial whitewater raft with six padded swivel seats. We believe this is literally a one-of-a-kind configuration. We could have built the boats with bench seats, but really, is that comfortable? And we certainly don’t want our guests sitting crooked on the side of the raft tubes.
We've selected Old Town loon 111 Kayaks which are, what we feel, is a tremendously comfortable, forgiving and flexible kayak option for our guests. Perfect for the very light rapids we encounter on our Scenic Shenandoah River excursions. They run straight when you want them and turn when you need them to. Plenty of cockpit space, adjustable seats and food pegs.
For mixed paddling trips we use Duckies. A Ducky is a super rugged inflatable kayak style boat. Picture a fast and maneuverable personal raft, yet shaped like a kayak. We feel they are the most stable, and most forgiving paddling craft available. They’re great in very low scrapy technical rivers because they float super shallow and are mega durable. And they’re great when the water rises and those “scrapy shallow ledges” turn into fun sets of waves. We call them duckies because the raft is like the mother duck, and the duckies are like, well, baby ducks. Together they go down the river as a team with paddlers paddling their own ducky while the gear, and non-paddling passengers, are in the main raft(s).
We love food and put a lot of time and effort into feeding our guests-- why be the only service in the Mid Atlantic that provides food if you’re not going to make it awesome?
We are honored to be working with The Lock Store in Millwood, VA and Royalicious in Charlestown, WV to provide gourmet lunches for our half day and day long trips. For extended trips we have AGA owner Erika and our guides, to make the food awesome. Breakfasts are sweet or savory, lunch is either sit down on an island or eaten on the fly (depending on the trip) but either way everything we serve will be delicious and usually with a fun gourmet twist. Dinners on our overnights are open fire, laid back, restaurant quality affairs under the stars.
Ashby Gap Adventures is a family-owned, full-service outfitting business based in the Shenandoah Valley. We put together one-of-a-kind floats, customized adventures, and western river style overnight river trips using top notch gear, guides and service, on the Mid-Atlantic’s most beautiful rivers.
Hi we’re Jeff and Erika Kelble and everyone we know wishes they spent more time outdoors, on the river, camping and hiking. But we keep hearing that either they don’t know how, don’t have the gear, don’t know where to go or don’t have the time for the hassle. With world-class rivers within 2 hours of DC, we couldn’t figure out why no one had started a full-service outfitting business. That’s why Ashby Gap Adventures was born. Using our decades of experiences, the great trips and even the “fails,” we’ve cultivated unique floats within a half-day drive of DC. For 25 years, we’ve literally crawled around every nook and cranny of this watershed to find the most beautiful, remarkable, and quiet stretches of river. No circuses, no crowds. We assembled exceptional guides, killer food, top notch gear, and rolled them into a one-stop, easy-to-use package for everyone looking to get out there and enjoy the river. So how’d we get here?
We met in college and fell in love at first sight. Now attached at the hip, we moved to NOVA when Erika graduated. After five years—plot twist #1… we traded in our health care and business careers for rivers and mountains when Jeff started a fish guiding business and we moved to the Shenandoah Valley to open a B&B for his clients. Sadly, after building our guide business B&B, the Shenandoah River lost 90% of its smallmouth bass to repeat fish kills—plot twist #2. We wrung our hands as we considered moving our business. Instead, Jeff was offered the opportunity to become the first Shenandoah Riverkeeper. Plot twist #3! After making a living for nearly a decade on the river we felt our next chapter should be written by conservation work. This was that chance! Kids were born, river conservation work grew, and soon Jeff was running DC’s Potomac Riverkeeper Network. For the next 14 years Jeff worked with dozens of farms, winning almost every non-governmental award known in the region. He raised over $20 million dollars for his work, rewrote regulations, filed over a dozen lawsuits against business and state/federal governments for failure to follow pollution laws. But we always knew that someday we’d come back to putting people on the rivers, feeding them great food and getting people together to enjoy each other’s company and the outdoors. It’s been a winding journey getting here, but we never stopped playing on the river, and neither should you.