By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
This past week the DISCOVERY group started the new adventures of water pursuit’s management class. Our first activity was canoeing. On Wednesday, we left for our first water trip.
We drove to Fontana Lake on the south side of North Carolina’s Smokey Mountain National Park. After the drive, we paddled to an island in the middle of the lake and set up camp to stay on the island Wednesday and Thursday night. Thursday we paddled to Hazel Creek, where some people in the group fly fished.
Friday morning we packed up and left the island and drove to the Nantahala River. We canoed the river including the Nantahala Falls. We camped out Friday night, canoed the Tuckasegee River on Saturday than came back to school. The trip was very tiring but worth every minute because it was so much fun. My favorite part of the whole trip however was running Nantahala Falls on Friday.
White water rapids are categorized into five different classes: one being fairly easy and five being very dangerous and technical to run. Nantahala Falls is a class III rapid which means it takes a certain level of skill to run it and it can be very dangerous. Before we ran the rapid we got out of the canoes and scouted it out. The falls includes two ten feet drops one right after the other where paddlers have to avoid two different holes where many people flip. We had the choice to run it or we could decide not to run it. I decided not to run it. I was physically exhausted by that point and had heard stories of some people dying in the rapid. I was scared and tired so I decided to be a rope person (a person that stands at the bottom of the rapids with a rope to throw at people if they fall in the river and need rescuing). I watched two canoes come down the rapid perfectly and smoothly.
At this point, my canoe partner, Jennifer Watford, decided she wanted to do the falls. As she started to walk back to the canoes upstream, I decided that I could do this and I couldn’t let her do it without me. So we started the walk back to our canoe. On our way back however, we saw one of our canoe groups run the rapid and flip. Our courage that had just been built up took a sudden blow. I looked at Jennifer and said, “Let’s run to the canoes and get in before we can chicken out again.” And we did, we took off running to our canoe trying to outrun fear. In less than a minute we were in our canoe headed toward the white water downstream with no chance of changing our minds.
Our instructors Rob Dussler and Drew Cavin had already shown us where exactly we needed to go down the rapids when we scouted it out. So Jennifer and I knew which path to take, the hard part was making sure we stayed on the right path. We set ourselves up on the right line as the water started picking up speed. Jennifer was in the bow of the boat (front) so her job was to paddle hard for power, I was in the stern (back) of the boat. So my job was steer us and keep us straight.
As we drew closer to our first obstacle, a large slab of rock on the left side of the river, Jennifer started paddling harder with everything she had, and I focused on keeping the canoe straight so we would avoid the rock. As we passed the rock the water started to get even bigger splashing into our canoe from every direction. I could see the falls now up ahead, fifteen yards to set us up with the right line to avoid the holes. The canoe is taking on more water than I expected from all the water splashing in. Jennifer is still paddling every stroke using every muscle she has to keep us in the water current. The canoe is moving really fast now and we’re a few feet from the falls before I know it. Our line is set right, just hoping that we don’t flip.
The bow goes over the first drop and pushes me in the back of the boat into the air. Jennifer lands back on the water and then the back of the boat lands. No time to think though, because the first drop turned us a little and I have to straighten us out before the next drop. With one big hard stroke of my paddle the bow straightens back up just in time as it crosses the second drop and falls down. The back of the boat then crosses the drop and falls. We sit at the bottom of the falls for a second until we both paddle hard enough to pull the boat out of the hole. We made it!
Jennifer and I ran the falls like experts. It’s funny to think that I at first I didn’t want to run the falls at all because I was scared. With encouragement from the others in the group and seeing that some of them made it through the falls perfectly, I convinced myself that I could do it.
Rob always says, “It’s a good decision to push yourself as far as you can go, but it’s also a good decision to know your limits and not push them.”
I think there’s a fine balance between being scared and knowing you limits, and being scared and pushing through it to better you. I found that balance Friday and it was definitely the highlight of my week.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
As the first section of DISCOVERY semester for outdoor education students at Young Harris College draws to a close, we find ourselves connected not only to each other but also to nature. The last few weeks, we have bonded as friends working on group development, which has involved everything from walking blindfolded to canoeing in local waterways.
One of the most popular activities we did was trying to accomplish different tasks blindfolded and led by another OE DISCOVERY student. These activities allowed us to work on having trust between all members of the group. It was difficult to walk around blindfolded and having to just trust my partner with every move. The scariest activity we had to do was be led around by a partner who could not talk to you. At one point on the walk, we had to jump off a porch which is about three feet off the ground. After figuring out that my partner wanted me to sit down on the edge of the porch, I had to put my hands on her shoulders and just trust her when she pulled me off the ledge. I landed quickly and easily, but without seeing where I was jumping it was very scary.
Another activity we did to help form group bonding was a canoeing day trip. The class went paddling on the lake. We paddled the canoes in pairs, with the front person being the engine which means they paddled with the aim for speed, the second person sat in the back of the canoe and paddled with the focus on direction and controlling where the canoe went.
We switched partners throughout the trip so we could work with different people. On the way back I was partnered with Zach Thompson, a fellow DISCOVERY student from Cartersville. We had paddled with each other before so it was easy for us to get comfortable with each other because we knew that I worked best as the engine and he as the director.
After a few minutes of paddling I realized how peaceful the moment was. The water looked like glass the way it was so still and reflected the cloudless sky. I was getting tired by this point but knew that Zach didn’t care if I took a break from paddling every now and then. So I raised my paddle out of the water and set it on my knees and just gaze out on the water and the mountains. It struck me how the peaceful dark blue water looked as if it ran straight into the bottom of the mountains that jutted out of the ground into the sky. The irony hit me of how the mighty Rocky Mountains were so close to the smooth gentle lake. It made me think of how true harmony only exists in nature.
I have come to realize how being a human means that we are a balance of all three characteristics: strong, gentle, and trusting. As students we often have no clue about what the future holds for us. I think to be the best person we can we simply have to trust the people that are guiding us that they know what is ahead and know that when we jump they will be there to catch us. We also have to have an equal balance of being strong and sturdy as well as being gentle and peaceful. If one is stronger than the other, harmony is not possible. Orlando Bloom once said, “If life isn’t about human beings and living in harmony, then I don’t know what it’s about.”