Revisiting the James
The time to leave my second, watery, home and return to Charlottesville has come. Spending a second summer with the James River Expedition has been an incredible experience, showing me what I have yet to learn about the James more often than reconfirming what I already know about my favorite river.
On the upper James I was reminded of the power of moving water. Spending time with the first expedition at Balcony Falls, and being reminded how easy it was to fall in love with its panoramic view of the mountains, inspired me to take some more friends out to the river after the first trip was over. The water level was lower than I had been used the day we went, giving me a chance to question my paddling skills as I swam through the rapids. My humbling swim reminded me that men are always at the mercy of moving currents that have been flowing since before our history began. On the middle James I picked up a renewed appreciation for the rich history of Virginia’s river. I learned more about the evolution of travel down the James as the expedition stopped in Scottsville and spent time on a modern batteau. This year, I saw even more of how much life in Scottesville revolves around the river and got a chance to get to know more about the batteau men’s relationship with the James. These experiences with the Middle Expedition made me confident that a river culture that fosters historical and environmental conservation will thrive on the James as long as people have access to enjoy the river. Returning to the wide lower James was like visiting a new place. I recognized a few stretches of the river above all the places we camped last summer, but was much more often surprised at how unfamiliar this part of the James seemed. Keeping this in mind, I appreciated how familiar the lower James seemed to be to the captain of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation boat that the Lower Expedition got to ride. Captain Jimmy, who formerly worked in the fishing industry and is now a CBF educator, easily maneuvered through the shipping channels while telling us about his unique perspective on the James and in the Chesapeake Bay.
Most importantly, I learned that there are still many more places I have to explore, that on a river as rich in history as the James, I will always know much less than there is still to learn. I encourage all past expeditioners to revisit the James often, to challenge themselves in the outdoors, and to marvel with me at how much more there is still to see.