OLDS: White Water Raft Guiding

Ah, the river.

Honestly, this was the most stretching section for me.  I am not a big water person anyway, but water that is 45 degrees, moves quickly, and is littered with hazards makes me even less of a water person.

We spent eight days on the Nantahala River learning to guide and also completing a Swift Water Rescue Level 4 Certification (SWR). This involved a lot of time spent in wetsuits practicing rescuing people and trip after trip after trip down the river in our rafts.

The week began with a short lesson in the classroom about all the hazards of white water, and consequently how to avoid them, or what to do if you can’t avoid them. Then we went to the water and learned rope throwing and spent time getting accustomed to our wetsuits before actually beginning training in the water. We even voluntarily went into the water just to check it out.

Throughout the week we learned how to rescue people and boats in trouble through the sequence SRTHRGH, which means Self Rescue, Reach Out, Throw, Row Out, Go, and Helicopter. In every rescue drill we went through we would have to go through this sequence before deciding how to rescue the victim. We started with throwing ropes to the victims and then progressed to going into the water ourselves. Another part of the SWR certification was learning how to make anchors, vector pulls, and the knots that go along with them.

We then took turns guiding down the whole river. The Nantahala River is a class three river (the scale being from one to six). The guide sits in the back of the boat and is responsible for steering the boat away from obstacles and hazards. I developed this really weird habit of speaking in a British accent whenever I was guiding. Straight lines are not my strong point, so we ended up stuck on rocks and in the bushes quite a bit when I was guiding.
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This section held many metaphors and lessons for me.

It is not an understatement to say that I was terrified of the water; I didn’t even want to get in it during the slow moving portions. Deep down I knew that if I fell in just once I would probably be fine, and then I’d know that certainly a caution was necessary, but I did not need to be afraid. Well, low and behold, on one of the first days the boat hit a rock just right and into the water I went. As I had predicted, I was just fine and this ended up being one of my favorite days rafting (it also helped that earlier when I was guiding I caused us to lose one of our paddles so for a good chunk of the day I just chilled in the raft, but that’s besides the point).
If you’re scared or want to do something you think you can’t accomplishing it can be as simple as just falling in. Rarely do things turn out as bad as we think they might, so the best option is to just go for it. This isn’t a perfect metaphor, as I only became slightly less afraid of the water and would still sit in the middle of the boat in rough parts, but the lesson still remains: go for it!

I was really uncomfortable this week. Wetsuits aren’t the most comfortable clothing in the world, I hurt my left pinky finger pretty badly on day two, I fell in twice, I cried A LOT, tied my brain into knots while learning knots I didn’t understand, scraped my feet up, blushed and sweated from embarrassment often, and was just in general afraid of what I was doing and wanted to be doing something different.
Despite this rather long and dragging list I learned many valuable things. Even though I was uncomfortable and just in general pretty bad at guiding I was pushed out of my comfort zone, which is exactly where I needed to be that week because being there taught me lessons I would carry over into the rest of OLDS and back into the frontcountry. This is a rather cliche topic, but guiding down a class three white water river well before I was ready made me realize that I can accomplish more than I think I can, and even if you get stuck on every rock (basically) and go down the wrong side of the fork you can still finish strong, even if you cried a lot in the middle and at the end. This also taught me that not every situation of value is an enjoyable one; you could hate every second of something and come out with valuable and life changing lessons.

And most importantly, it taught me to loosen up. Every time I was the guide I found myself incredibly tense and stressed out. Everyone else in my boat would be singing river songs and trying to grab leaves with their teeth as we passed under trees and I would be fuming about how miserable I felt and about how bad I was at guiding compared to everyone else. The week would probably have been much more enjoyable had I relaxed a little and gracefully excepted the fact that I will likely never be a world class river guide, but I could still have fun anyway.

In the end, none of the hazards of the river killed me (though I am 98% certain I tumbled through a hydraulic), no one was harmed too bad while I was guiding, everyone passed their SWR certification, we got grilled cheese for lunch one day, and I never have to river guide again if I don’t want to.

During this section we took a break from Ephesians and had several sporadic teachings and attended a few services.

Some highlights:
1 John 1- Jesus is the light and to live in Him, truly, we cannot keep sinning and doing wrong in the dark; we have to bring it out into the light and let Jesus deal with it for us.

Genesis 1&2- God is community, therefore we need community. In that community everyone has a part and we have to find out what our part is.

The message of the gospel is offensive, but that does not mean that we are to be offensive

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The whole gang 

OLDS: Backpacking

Ah, our first wilderness section! To introduce us to wilderness living we spent two weeks backpacking the mountains of North Carolina. On these two weeks we learned the basic skills of camp set up and tear down, backcountry cooking, packing our pack, avoiding our food (and ourselves) being eaten by bears, water filtration, and how to do almost nothing but walk everyday (this one isn’t always a basic backcountry skill, but we still learned it).

For our first day we got dropped off on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway in a foggy drizzle. After praying and lugging our huge packs onto our backs we took off for our first half mile hike.

I admit I was nervous in the beginning; it was rainy and my pack was heavy and I felt that I could have been a little more in shape than I was, but nevertheless that first little hike set off one of the grandest adventures of my life.

I’ll spare you all the tiny and tedious details and just hit some of the highlights:

We played this game called Lowest Card and on that very first day while sitting in megatent to hide from the rain I drew the lowest card and ended up having to be the Leader of the Day (LOD) on the first day the students were in charge. Being LOD meant that you set the pace (I walked so much faster than I thought I could), were in charge of making sure everyone was ok, and decided when to take breaks. Though it was daunting to go first, I did better than I thought I would.

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“Ok guys because I’m LOD today we’re going to take a selfie now”

On the fourth morning the girls and guys split, beginning a time of great bonding and the opportunity to swim in the creeks at our campsites (praise God).

On day five we had lunch at a place called Devil’s Courthouse. The view was unreal. Here we encountered a good number of people, basically all of whom wanted to know why our backpacks were so large. One guy even offered to bring us a pizza, thought he unfortunately didn’t come through on it.

 

My second favorite campsite was a place called Shining Rock. It was this huge granite rock that we sat on to watch the sunset. No one else was with us so we felt like we had the whole world to ourselves as the sun dipped behind the mountains.

Our next campsite was my absolute favorite. It was a little ways off the trail and to get to it you had to walk down a pathway that was almost like a tunnel because of how the trees grew up over it. We also had a creek to rinse off in and plenty of rocks to sunbathe on. It was so secluded and felt like paradise. On day eight, still at this campsite, we had a zero day (meaning we didn’t hike at all.) We got to sleep in, make muffins for breakfast, and didn’t have to pack up camp. Unfortunately, while one of our instructors was washing our dishes with camp soap and boiling water she spilled the water on her foot and suffered 2-3rd degree burns. We had to go into full on WFR mood and treat her.
It was wild day between helping Maurie and her foot, getting our supplies restocked, having so much free time, and needing two new instructors (the one who hurt her foot had to be evaced and the other one was only going to be with us for a week from the start.)

A part of hiking culture is this thing called a trail name. A trail name is a nickname you get out in the wilderness. Generally it corresponds to a quirk or habit you have, an incident you’re involved in, or something notable of that sort. Coming up with trail names for all the girls was one of my favorite parts of backpacking. We drew mostly on personality quirks and habits, but mine ended up coming from multiple incidents. After much debate I was dubbed Sting Ray, due to the large number of bees that singled me out as a target. Later it ended up becoming Mama Rae, but we can talk about that later.

The following day, day nine, was insane. It was our longest day; I was LOD again, we hiked straight uphill for the first portion, and then were poured on until the end. The trail was very dense and confusing because everything looked like it could have been a trail, but also looked like it was just straight forest. We got off track many times. The rain made us cold and got into our boots and I was positive my whole pack was soaked from the inside out (thankfully the trash bag I used to line it and my pack cover worked). We ended up having to hike four more miles than we originally intended to because our campsite was in the middle of a big open field-not exactly ideal when theres lightning around. We hiked through trails that were under water, and ended up having to climb into the trees on the side of the path and sit on our packs because of the lightning. Towards the end of the hike we were all cold and tired and slightly hypothermic. When we came upon our campsite I think all of us at least thought at crying; we were done walking, we could put on dry clothes, and this particular campsite had a bathroom and toilet paper (hallelujah.)

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I was trying really hard to be as enthusiastic as everyone else 

Day ten was glorious. We had another zero day so we slept in, sat in the sun, and shared our testimonies.

For the last four days we were back with the guys. It was a time of a large group meal, sharing our stories from when we were separated, playing cards, bartering for more Nutella, being back together around the campfire for teachings, and of course walking. (On the last night six of the seven girls slept in our four person tent, which was bottomless, and since I always slept on the end I ended up rolling/being rolled outside of the tent and woke up with the trees as my view; needless to say I experienced quite a bit of disorientation that night.)

On our last day we got a little lost coming out, but we finally made it! 14 days of straight wilderness living and approximately 60 miles of hiking. We got lots and lots of pizza as our reward. I took the best shower I’ve ever had the night we got back.

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The whole group

Backpacking was incredible because theres no other way to experience community like what we had for those two weeks (which set the foundation for the rest of the semester.) All we did was walk and hang out,; all we could do for entertainment was talk and play cards. We cooked together, walked together, set up and teared down camp together, and slept next to each other every night. We spent almost every evening under the stars around the campfire discussing Jesus. All we had was each other, and we needed each other because this type of thing isn’t easy. It was truly incredible to me how much we bonded in such a short span of time. And like I said earlier, this was just the beginning.

Our teachings on backpacking covered Ephesians 1:15-2:22. We discussed how Christ completes us and gives us all the knowledge we need (Eph 1:19-23.) In Him we lack nothing and can have everything, for He is fullness. Ephesians 2:1-10 was my favorite section of scripture we studied on backpacking. Some things I wrote in my journal were,
“We weren’t just dirty, we were dead and he brought us back to life (Eph 2:1-6).”
“The hero died for the villain (which is us),” and “We were spiritually dead so we couldn’t move towards Christ.”
The realization that not only did our sin make us unclean, but also dead was heavy. Christ didn’t just wash us- He raised us to life.

 

 

OLDS: Intro

Hey adventurers! Its been quite a while since I updated this blog, but I am happy to report its because I was otherwise occupied on a semester long outdoor program.

From September to December, I attended a program called Outdoor Leadership and Discipleship School (OLDS). Based out of Andrews, NC, for those three months I showered maybe 10 times, slept outside more than inside, let the leg hair grow, grew closer to the Lord, fell more in love with the outdoors, lived out of a 100 liter backpack, and experienced real true community with the best group of people I’ve ever met.

Throughout the whole semester we:

  • Got Wilderness First Responder Certified
  • Spent two weeks backpacking
  • Learned to river guide and got Swiftwater Rescue L4 Certified
  • Rock climbed for 10 days
  • Went caving and learned about primitive skills
  • Did street evangelism in Asheville
  • Spent two days mountain biking
  • Sea kayaked for ten days
  • And spent a week in Clarkston, GA learning about unreached people and refugees

I well delve deeper into each wilderness section in later posts, as well as others aspects of the semester, to include community, discipleship, relationships, injuries (many injuries), the book of Ephesians, the body of Christ, and self-discovery.

I plan to post these weekly, so check back then!

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All the OLDS students + 2 proctors

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Ya girl (+ some random hiker)

Summer Camping

Camping in the summer? In Florida?

Definitely as crazy as it sounds, yup.

Although not terrible 🙂

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27-28 May 2016
Withlacoochee State Forest, primitive campsite

My dad and I packed everything up on Friday and walked 4 miles into our campsite from the state forest parking lot.

We stayed at a primitive campsite, meaning there was no water source or close neighboring sites. We had a picnic table, fire pit, plenty of space for a tent, and almost perfect hammocking trees.

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After setting up camp we hiked over to the river (Withlacoochee River) in order to cool off. The river had a nice sandy shore and down a little from where we were a rope swing hung above the water. The water was murky and had an orange tint from the trees. Lots of bubbles attached to unseen river life appeared on the surface mysteriously.

 

After swimming we came back to camp and had a dinner of MREs and a fire building lesson. After hanging out for a bit we went to bed. It was terribly hot, almost too hot to sleep, but our insomnia was awarded with the nostalgic sight of fireflies lighting up the night sky.

On Saturday we hiked a ten mile loop off of our campsite. Hiking in Florida in the summertime is not necessarily something I say I recommend. The heat was almost unbearable, making the hike a lot less pleasant than it could have been. I also got a number of blisters from my hiking boots…not the best day spent on the trail.  Following another lunch of MREs and some more hanging out in our hammocks (ha ha, get it?) we packed up camp and headed home.

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2o-21 August 2016
Withlacooche State Forest, Crooked River campgrounds, site 63

For this camping trip we opted to stay in one of the tent only campgrounds, meaning each campsite was marked off with a number and came equipped with a potable water source, a place to park your car, a picnic table, a firepit with a removable grate, bathhouse access, and the potential for neighbors.

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On Friday afternoon we set up our tent and hammocks, but this time we had bugs nets for our hammocks as well. We hiked a trail right along the river, but I am unsure of the mileage. The trail was very canopied and the sky was a little cloudy and it was almost evening time, so the weather felt very pleasant.

After finishing the hike we attempted to build a fire. We started out with a cottonswab soaked in vaseline (it works, I swear), tinder, and twigs. Following that we added more twigs and then bigger pieces of wood, stoking the coals and flames along the way. All things considered, it should have been a great fire, but all the rain we’ve been getting had made everything damp so the flames never quite caught the bigger pieces of wood. We worked at the fire for almost an hour, adding lint, steel wool, more wood, trail maps, several more matches, and even toilet paper, but it never become a solid, roaring fire. However, we did manage to get enough flames to make a few s’mores and thats really what matters most.

After s’mores we had an MRE dinner and then played a couple hands of a card game called Spit that I learned at summer camp from some campers. Around nine we climbed into our bug netted hammocks for bed (the tent was set up incase it started to rain at night). After about an hour of reading Harry Potter with my headlamp I went to bed. In my hammock (ENO double nest) I had a small inflatable backpacking pillow and a woobie, which is a poncho liner that is standard issue in the army. Essentially, its a poncho liner that can also be a blanket, rain tarp, insulator, something to sleep on top off, etc. Its thin and light but also warm and rain resistant. 10/10 would recommend getting one off Amazon.

I slept very well in my hammock. The air was cool so I wasn’t hot, the wind was minimal, and it didn’t end up raining after all. The moon was so bright it practically lit up the whole sky.

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The next morning after an MRE breakfast and coffee and tea courtesy of a small portable camp stove we packed up camp and drove to our next hike location. We hiked a short 2 miles in another part of the Withlacooche. The heat and bugs were killer, so we hiked short and then drove on the dirt roads cutting through the woods before going home.

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Camping in Florida in summer might be slightly insane, but, despite heat and bugs, not summer is complete without a camping trip.