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May 1, 2013

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Brian Dunn lands near the banks of the New River and settles in a cozy cabin at Ace Adventure Resort. It’s a 400-mile journey from his home at Greensboro, Md., but that’s a small price to pay, he says, for a 1,500-acre piece of paradise at the heart of West Virginia near the New River Gorge.

 “It’s a nice getaway. And the people are great to deal with,” Dunn says. “We love the area. We love the people down there.”

 From tubing in the snow to launching all kinds of inflatable tubes on a five-acre lake, Ace Adventure Resort offers a little bit of everything, including paintball, lake kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, mountain biking and a team mud-obstacle course.

 The main attraction? Ace’s guided whitewater rafting rides on the New River, near Minden, W.Va.

 Dunn discovered Ace Adventure Resort with some groups in the late 1990s. Now, at 49, he organizes groups and aims for Ace, where he’s zip-lined through trees, rode horses and braved wild river rapids.

 But, Dunn says with a laugh, there is also some beauty in the sound of silence. “I use it for relaxation, because there’s not real good cell-phone service down there.”  

TAKING OFF ON A THURSDAY afternoon, Rick Bayes zooms through the Ace property on a four-wheeler, pointing out rock-climbing routes, little caves, trails and pointed pinnacles to explore.

“This is the ultimate reclamation story,” Bayes says. “This was actually a strip mine. At one point, there was coal right where we’re standing.”

Bayes serves as the visitors service director at Ace, a catch-all adventure resort that’s not exactly easy to find and not fancy by any means: “If you’re looking for a penthouse suite with 24/7 room service, well, you won’t find it here,” is the way Ace’s website phrases it. “But then again, we’re rafters, mountain bikers and outdoor adventurers - that kind of pampering just isn’t our style.”

 Taking it to the extreme is what lures Angie Sontag for 500 miles from her home at Clyde, Mich., to find Ace’s adventures, like tearing through the trees on a zipline.

“And we always do the rafting, of course,” Sontag says. “I’m a faithful Ace person. I’ve been there for my ninth year in a row.”

 Sontag, 36, has stayed in all kinds of cabins on the mountainous property. Here, the insurance salesperson likes to beat the heat by going rock-climbing or rappelling; she also cannot resist resting easy and cuddling in a cabin.

 “I’ve stayed in just about everything there. I change every year,” Sontag says. “This year, I got one of the cozy cabins. It’s still a smaller cabin, but it’s got the full kitchen.”

CABINS FEATURE modern amenities like hot tubs and cable television. Some have full kitchens; others have kitchenettes. Overnight rentals range from $79 to $559.

 All, too, are surrounded by the sprawling wild acreage that defines Ace Adventure Resort. Ace is a place where you’ll see plenty of deer, maybe a bear – and hear lots of hooting owls.

 “In the summertime, when it’s lush and beautiful, the seclusion is incredible,” Bayes says. “You’ve got your own place. You’ve got your own hot tub. It’s a great way to get away.”

 Outside, look for a lakeside bar, places to dine and entertainment.

 All of this is why Sontag keeps coming back, every Fourth of July. “It’s like a family,” Sontag says. “Everybody’s really, really nice. We have a blast when we’re down there.”

 And the cabins? “They have little cozy cabins that hold two, four or six adults,” Dunn says. “You’ve got your own private hot tubs out on the deck.”

 These cabins are also well spaced. “So if you want to have a party,” Dunn says, “you’re not disturbing your neighbors.”  

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May 1, 2013

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