Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wind, Rain, and Whining

"I, like, totally thought we were going to die back there..."  This past weekend, I took a group of freshmen from the floor on which I serve as a Community Assistant on an overnight canoe trip down the Allegheny River.  We canoed more than fifteen miles, camped out overnight in tents, and then made our journey back to SRU in the morning.  This is the second time we have made the trip this year, and the fifth or sixth time I have made the trip since coming to SRU.  However, this time was different.  This time, instead of happy banter, splashing each other with water to cool off in the hot sun, we were bundling up in rain gear; I layered-up in every article of clothing I packed. Instead of drifting lazily, taking breaks and alternating paddlers, we were all forced to fight the entire trip, digging our paddles deep into the water, attempting to overcome the wind that fiercely tried to blow us off course. Usually this trip offers a nice little break from reality, one where everyone leaves their phones and laptops at home, choosing instead to enjoy nature, fresh air, and laughter.  This time, however, it was every man for himself.  The freshmen on the trip were beaten down, not very outdoorsy to begin with, and one even said to me, with sad, exhausted eyes, "Kara? This isn't fun anymore."  As much as this broke my heart, I also was so proud of them.  Despite the wind's best efforts, and the dangerous tongues of hypothermia-threatening water licking our boats, none of my freshmen tipped over.  Although they did complain, and ask "How much longer?" enough times for me to threaten to turn the canoes around, we all made it safely to camp.  This trip was certainly not as carefree or fun as past trips, but I still loved it.  Sometimes it's nice to be challenged, to experience something that seems almost impossible, and then surmount it.  It's nice to see my "girly freshmen" who fear dirt, bugs, and being without makeup, grit their teeth and exceed their own limits.  It's nice to be so focused on a goal that you can't think about anything but succeeding.  Every single person on this trip was completely silent for over 15 miles of river... focusing on one thing: keeping our boats afloat.  The fight to not flip, the fight to keep paddling even though our muscles were screaming in protest... the fight was on.  All you could hear was wind, and an occasional scream of "PADDLE!" or "BACK STROKE HARD!" in an frantic attempt to save a tipping boat.  It was a hard trip, but a very rewarding one.  And sometimes, the human spirit needs that fight, that extra "if you relent, I'll flip you and give you hypothermia and you'll lose the food for the trip that is in your boat" threat, just to force us to prove that we can do it.  And this weekend, after 15+ miles through wind, rain, and freshmen whining, we did just that!

1 comment:

  1. Every summer I kayak the entire Allegheny from Kinzua Dam to East Brady. I bring water, fishing gear, rope, a tarp, and a knife. I challenge myself through the sun, rain, and wind. I feel like you learn so much about yourself when you put yourself out there. It isn't just the idea of "doing" something, and certainly not of "conquering" something, but when you prove you are more than you thought you gain something valuable.

    just curious, which stretch of the Allegheny do you all paddle?