While many high school students around the state are easing into a relaxing summer, twelve particular young people from the region are gearing up for the adventure of a lifetime...28 days and 340 miles down the James River. Coming from the across the James River watershed (or drainage basin), they represent communities in Hampton, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg. They applied to join the Expedition team, and as the trip leader I had spoken with them all on the phone, but just a few weeks before our launch date of June 25, I hadn't met them in person. The Training Days changed that.
Ferried to parks, lakes, and marina's by their dedicated teachers (who will be on the Expedition) and some dedicated parents (who won't be on the Expedition) the high schoolers spent four hours in training, taking in boat-loads of information about paddling, packing, and group dynamics. We learned everything from the J-stroke (makes the canoe go straight) to how to pack a dry bag properly (don't leave your rain gear at the bottom), brainstormed about what makes a great team (no complaining and laugh a lot), and oriented ourselves to the overall mission of the Expedition (come up with a conservation vision for the James for the next 100 years). Then we distributed personal dry bags (yes, we are packing everything for the month into that 38 liter space) and the official Expedition t-shirts and said goodbye until June 25. I was happy to have met everyone, and found the students to be confident, intelligent, strong, curious and funny (don't believe everything they say about "kids these days").
When we do meet in Iron Gate, VA on that Saturday morning, the real training for all of us will begin. By the time we arrive at the Chesapeake Bay on July 22, I'm sure some of the lessons will have begun to soak in.
Soon this blog will be taken over by the brave students, teachers, and guides making up the Expedition team. We invite you to follow our progress, looking for updates on this blog as well as Facebook and Flickr each day that we are out there. Thanks for reading, and have a relaxing summer!