Monday, July 10th

After many sad goodbyes with a few tears here and there, our introduction to the Lower James River Expedition began. First, we were introduced to the people we would be spending the next week with, and immediately began to make new friends. We then toured the VCU Rice Rivers Center, learning about many ongoing and past programs that take place in the research facility. Before beginning our expedition, we learned about many different personality types and ourselves so that we can grow as leaders.

We proceeded to eat a lunch consisting of self-made sandwiches and fruit to prepare ourselves for our first excursion to the James. To ensure our safety, we were briefed on proper techniques and behavior on the water. Our first of many grueling days of paddling was split up by two stops for snacks, rest, and rehydration. Six miles and 4 hours later, we arrived at our final location for the day: Lawrence Lewis Park.

At Lawrence Lewis Park, we learned how to prepare our campsites. We were then assigned our teams that we would be completing tasks with, including the tasks of cooking, scientific studies, leadership, and, most importantly, the blog. Following this, today’s cooking team prepared some burritos with rice, ground beef, lettuce, sautéed onions, and more. By the end of the day, we learned how to efficiently work as a team both at camp and on the water. Tune in tomorrow to see what happens next!

Written by: Diego and Dylan

Tuesday, July 11

****Correction to last post: ALL PERSONS ARE ACCOUNTED FOR. Please ignore the terrible “joke” edited out from the last post, written by students. All future posts will be edited by leader before posting. Our sincere apologies.****

On our second day of the Leadership Expedition, we ate a quick breakfast of delicious cream cheese, bagels, and yogurt. After, as a team, we packed all of our things and headed for another day out on the James River! From the words of many of the kids, canoeing to Fort Pocahontas was way easier to manage and completing 9 miles in 6 hours felt like a breeze. During the duration, we appreciated the the amazing view of Cypress trees, bald eagles, and occasionally sturgeon jumping out of the water.

While canoeing we took many stops along the way to rest, refill water, and eat snacks. Many of these locations had some pretty amazing views especially when canoeing to and from our stop in the Cyprus trees. We then had a lunch stop where we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and meat and cheese sandwiches. After making our final paddle to Fort Pocahontas we beached the canoes up on shore and started preparing camp. We took all the tents out of the truck and brought out food supply to start making dinner. For dinner there was glorious pizza although the chef’s didn’t figure out how to cook the cheese right until after everyone was served so they got the best pizza. After eating we all went swimming off the dock, the water was deep enough off of the dock for us to jump in! 

While swimming in the river, we bathed ourselves in it with Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 soap! The sun set while we sprayed each other with water guns. After that, we gathered firewood for the campfire. Once we got it started we ate s’mores with jumbo marshmallows. We then took a little walk to brush our teeth. We had to spray instead of spit because it reduces the human trace to attract animals. We came back to the campfire and told life stories. It started to get late, so we all went to sleep and the temperatures were a lot cooler and more comfortable.

Wednesday, July 12

On our third day of expedition, we woke up to crickets and had a delicious breakfast of watermelon, sausage patties, and biscuits. After eating, we packed up our tents and prepared to canoe our longest stretch of 11 miles! We had 4 people rotating through the kayak today: Jude, Tallis, Dylan, and Stephanie, with everyone else partnered in canoes.

During our first break, we stopped at a little beach to have a lunch of wraps and sandwiches. After lunch, we continued our paddle for another 3 miles to our next rest stop. Once we got there, we immediately went in the water. In the middle of the water we saw a Bald Cyprus tree right along with a giant colony of tiny crabs! Some of the crabs had claws as big as their bodies! 

As we continued our paddle, we discovered that the 11 miles weren’t as bad as we originally thought.

After around 7 hours of paddling, we finally reached our camping site. We were greeted by Nat and Ryan, who also work for the JRA. Matt gave us popsicles and Gatorade then we went on to pack up canoes, life jackets and paddles. While we were packing up, the cooks left to start prepping dinner. We had a delicious dinner of burgers, hotdogs, corn, fruit, and chips. Immediately after, Nat took us ver to the river to inform us on the quality of the water. We were given the opportunity to test the water ourselves to see the healthiness. Some examples of things we tested were temperature, oxygen, and pH. #mesmerizing

The campsite was immaculate. We played lots of talking games including paranoia which was tons of fun. After we kinda sorta in a way guarded the food from the vicious squirrels. Next, we showered in the campsite showers! They gave everyone wonderful privacy. Afterwards in great wonder and awe, we frolicked over to the miraculous sunset over the shimmering waters below. Our smiles glittered and our hearts pounded quickly as Katie took some breathtaking pics of some of our team.

In fortitude and gallantry, a few left the beautiful scene to grab blankets, cards and waters for everyone to share. We attempted to play the fantastic game of BS (banana split) but it ultimately was not a success. We all happily had to go to bed and try to sleep even with the crying babies, howling dogs, and constant chatter of everyone else around us. Personally, I slept great.

P.S We started a thing called campers of the day and today Dotty and Lindsay won. Dotty won for her fantastic paddling skills, hilarious jokes, and beauty. Lindsay won because she was Dotty’s partner and Dotty felt like adding her.

Tursday, July 13th

On our fourth day of the Expedition, we slept in until around 8 A.M. before eating pineapple and fruit bars for breakfast and packing up camp. Then, we descended to the dock and waited for the motorboat to pick us up. 

Today was somewhat different from the past few days, in that instead of boating down the river, we boated down the river quickly. We rode on a 50-foot deadrise called the Longview, which was captained by Capt. Todd. He and James helped Lindsey, Tallis, Steph, Liz, Dylan, and Jude set up the fishing equipment, and then we caught a lot of croakers and catfish. We released them back into the water once we named them. (Some of these names include Gerald, Jimmy, Tim, Garfield, and Bethany.) Our scientists, Elizabeth, Steph, and Riley tested for pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and others. They were assisted by Nyah, who has incredible handwriting and scientific knowledge. 

James and Katie led us to set up a trawl net for five minutes, and we caught around 200 spot and a couple blue crabs, which we released. Even though we didn’t do any paddling today, we were exhausted standing around in the sun. (Jude, Dotty, Steph, and Lindsey took a nap on the engine covers on the boat.) We ate a ton of snacks, including fruit snacks and Cheez-its while we played cards and read our books. Dylan tested his wrist strength and challenged others to do the same.

When we docked the Longview, Miss Karla of the Crittenden-Eclipse Community Center, took our dry bags to the community center. (Which has air conditioning, by the way.) We walked here and listened to Karla tell us about Screwpiles, which is a book she wrote about forgotten lighthouses. She gave us all a copy. 

We went to a pool, took showers, and then came back to the community center for a huge crab boil. After that, we got ready for bed and had a talent show on the stage. There happened to be cockroaches watching us too.

P.S. The cockroaches haven’t left our beds, so please send help. KACHOW!

-Tallis, Nyah, and Jude, All-in-one.

Special thanks to Dr. Bronner

Friday, July 14th

Friday morning we woke up and had delicious pancakes for breakfast before packing up camp and loading everything onto the boat. We had a great final trip before meeting the parent and ending our adventure on the James River! This trip gave us memories that will last a lifetime, long-lasting friendships and a new appreciation for our environment.