Day 19, July 13th
Today was an exciting day of cerebral reflection and some blood pumping physical activity. After an early morning wake-up call, the group ate a quick granola-donut breakfast and headed on their way to downtown Richmond, via canoe, of course. Although we set off early, at about 8 a.m., the sun was still relentless the first couple of miles we paddled that day to meet the crew from Riverside Outfitters at Pony Pasture Wetlands. The group got a much anticipated adrenaline rush as we strapped down day bags to our rafts and helmets to our heads to prepare for the falls in downtown Richmond, a series of rapids ranging from class two to class four. We split up into teams of three or four expeditioners and one guide, and continued our way down the river in five rafts. In the first couple of minutes, it became clear that the boat speeding along due to the expertise paddling of Grant, Rebecca, and the ever-glorious Lena would clearly have the most fun. But I suppose that heading down Choo-Choo Falls, the first set of rapids before Hollywood Falls, got everyone pumped up for an exciting day.
When we finally got to the Hollywood drop, the group had already suffered a couple of overboard dips, some due to bumping up against rocks, and some to the grudges Chaney and Gabe felt they had the authority to avenge by tackling a few poor, innocent students. One of the most dramatic episodes of the day was our own Grant Gibson fell into the depths of the Hollywood drop. Although there is still some speculation about seeing Grant shed a few tears of horror, he was a trooper, quickly jumping back on the raft and shaking off the scare. Our guides from Riverside Outfitters allowed us all to have an unforgettable experience in the Richmond whitewater, and as Gabe put it, even created a few “whitewater junkies.”
After the rapids, some hearts began pounding even faster as a few of the students prepared to speak a couple of words about the significance of our trip at the delicious lunch Dominion had arranged for us in their Richmond office. We were warmly welcomed by an entire family of Dominion employees waiting to hear about our journey. The group relayed a few personal stories about our interactions in camp, and about our purpose on the river. Our reflections helped us remind each other about how much we care about our group, the confidence and endurance we’ve built, and leadership skills we’ve learned while paddling. Most importantly though, the lunch brought everyone together to remind us about how the heritage and pride of the James fits into our lives. After a few teachers and students got a chance to share their experience, Dominion once again showed their generosity by giving each school represented in the expedition a chance to apply for a $5000 grant to create a follow-up project after the trip.
After our scrumptious lunch, we went back to the rafts and back on the water for more Richmond rapids. Near the end of our rafting experience, we got to surf on the rapids by Pipeline. Everyone had a blast with only a few fallouts, and one flip that the guide previously planned. We bid our guides goodbye and Gabe, Caleigh, Kelvin, and Cara went to Rockets Landing to set up tents for the night while the rest of the group got ready to eat at Bottoms Up Pizza! Caleigh’s very kind uncle gave the whole expedition crew a free night of food and drinks. We were visited by more than 40 family and friends to join us and hear our great river song! When we got back to our campsite, a few students took a mighty slide down a steep hill on our bed mats. Then later, we all played a friendly-ish game of volleyball. After we finished thorns and roses in the sand, we were all happy to get to sleep, but not before snacking on candy that Grant’s mother brought for everyone. J
By Cara Chiocca & Lena Cetic