We are now one with nature . . . or at least we smell like it.
Up at 6, ready to go, and ready for a long day of paddling. Today was our longest paddle day of the Expedition with 16 miles down the middle James. Our breakfast consisted of fluffy pancakes, some fresh blueberries, and some syrup. We met up with some volunteers from Healing Waters and Dominion power, and learned the art of fly fishing. These kind-hearted men taught us how to cast, tie a fly, and fed us doughnuts, cookies, grapes, and most importantly, cold water. After Dominion interviewed Sarah, Melissa, Garrett, Zach, and Ms. Mosely, we packed our boats for a very hot and long paddle. We had the pleasure of be accompanied by an employee of Dominion, Cindy, who boated with us for a few miles. If she is reading this right now, we all hope you had a phenomenal time with us. Even if that time was short.
A day on the river is all was peaceful. A way we make that fun is by making was to keep cool and entertained. The simple solution to both-splash wars! We keep going on with our paces, and our splashing, when we decide to stop for some lunch. On the menu today was delicious fresh veggies and cheese and hummus wrapped in tortillas. We got to chill for quite some time and cool our systems, maybe a little longer than we should have, but we definitely got to cool down, fuel up, and drink plenty of water. Not much later than when we set off, we start to hear thunder. The clouds were rolling in fast on our tails, but not faster than us to find a spot to wait it out. The staff members with us check their radar, and us teens gathered under a bridge that was located at the pull-in quick storm stop. We all gathered in a circle and we start up a rousing game of never have I ever, and it wasn't very long before all the adults wanted in. It just goes to show that you never outgrow such fun experiences. And yes, waiting out a storm on the river while starting up an interesting childish game is so much fun! As we enhance our knowledge about each other, and just enjoy each other’s time together, we breakout the left over doughnuts! We also play a few more enticing games and riddles and tell stories like we have known each other for the longest time.
The radar tells us that the storm is heading south and we were heading east so we set off safely and quickly to our next destination. It starts to sprinkle a little but nothing dangerous, so we just enjoy the cooling sensation and paddle on. The storm goes away to work off our doughnuts, some of us started a canoe race! We worked up quite a sweat and just laughed off the rest! Surprisingly, we were ahead of schedule. Everyone was already hot and muggy so we all decide to take a dip. We leisurely floated for a while, and splashed and told puns and jokes till we all come along our last bend of the river on today’s trip. One would really be surprised how fast 16 miles goes by when paddling with so many fun and creative people. It barely even felt like work or exercise. What did feel like a hard-core, PX-90 style workout was lugging all of our gear for the night up an enormous, somewhat muddy, eroded, hill with very loose dirt at the top. Though we easily came up with a solution, executing it was difficult. We started a fire line; a type of conveyor, so to speak. And with that, our gear was up the hill in no time. We scouted Sycamore Island to find places to set up all the tents and started to find really weird things. We saw piles of planks of wood, a door, two clothes lines already set up, and the most beautiful thing anyone could ever see: a make-shift port-a-potty. And not something like our “the throne”, but a real toilet seat with wood planks around it, and a tarp over it to cover up even more. Needless to say we cleaned off the seat and put toilet paper and hand sanitizer in there, and we were good to go! In all seriousness though, the view from the hill was breath-taking. Simply in no words could even the best author or best painter ever describe such a view. There are so many speechlessly beautiful spots on the James River to count, and with each stop we always find a new view that takes our breath away.
Dinner gets started before most of us realize it, and it is a true make your own pizza! We had non-bake pizza with your choice of bread, sauces, cheeses, and multiple toppings. It was personal pan size, and amazing to have a slice of home-like food. (No pun intended) Everyone scarfed down their pizza, and we go do whatever we need to, but quickly come back to one of the best times in the evening: our nightly campfire. (And we did quickly come back, mainly because another brutal thunder storm had started to roll in and we had just put the rain sheet over our tents after letting everything air dry.) We snuggle in close around the fire, and share our thorns (worst part[s]) and roses (best parts) of the day, and then end with appreciations for something we were thankful for. From there we branch off into story-telling and just general chatting. It gives us a great chance to unwind and relax before bed.
This expedition has been truly amazing so far. I wish you all could be here with us.