Monday, June 26th
10,000 steps and 5 miles later concluded our first day on the James River Leadership Expedition. We started the day with introductory games to get to learn our fellow peers that we will be with for the next week. Following the games, we took a one hour hay ride around the state park. When we got back to camp, we went straight into our first leadership session that got cut short due to a hailing thunderstorm. After seeking shelter, we made and ate dinner.
During the hay ride, the park rangers gave us a tour of the campground surrounding us. We took multiple trails and went to an overlook sight viewing the Tye River intersecting the James. While looking at the river, we learned about wildlife fur skins. Surrounding the trails, there where many Maple trees, Loblolly Pine, Tulip Poplars, and Yellow Poplars. Common sights along the trail included cemeteries, canoe launching sights, and even stargazing sights.
When we got back from the hay ride, we went straight into our first leadership training session. In this session we learned about the different types of mindsets and how they function. One of the activities for the leadership session was learning about the type of workers we are. An hour and an half later, it started to hail and rain. We packed our session up and took shelter in the bathroom. This was a great bonding experience for everyone. After an hour later, we could finally go back to the pavilion.
For dinner we had pasta with red sauce and meat sauce, a salad with cucumbers and tomatoes, and DIY garlic bread with garlic paste. We divided into groups to conquer dinner and clean up. With this, we learned new skills and had many new memories. Overall our first day on the James River Leadership Expedition was a success.
Tuesday, June 27th
We started off our first full day on the Expedition with a dry morning. The cooks prepped a breakfast sandwich which included Eggs, Cheese, Canadian bacon, and Bagels. After breakfast, we packed up our tents, bags, and other cooking supplies and headed down to the canoe launching site to review our camp jobs. One of the jobs was camp scientists which were Butter, Violet, and Kaitlyn. They performed a series of tests which where pH, Dissolved Oxygen, Phosphate, and Nitrate water testing. We went over a number of rules and expectations about canoeing and how to paddle. Then we started our 18 mile canoeing expedition.
Each canoe had two people with their dry bags and helmets. When we first entered the river, the swift currents help us go down stream. We made great time for the first half before lunch. For lunch we found a rocky beach using Matt’s drone. The menu for lunch was Peanut Butter and Jelly/ Turkey and Cheese wraps. We stayed there for about 40 minutes and went back onto the water. The second half of the expedition today included rapids, where some almost capsized. There were also very slow waters where we past time by telling riddles and jokes. Along the way we found rabbits, herrings, Tulip Popplers, and a lot of American Sycamores. Five hours later we reached our campsite for the night.
We brought up the canoes and had a quick watermelon snack. We had an extra two hours of free time where some people went swimming in the river, played frisbee, and soccer. We ended the night by cooking burrito bowls and had a campfire with s’mores.
Wednesday, June 28th
Rock jumping, and town exploring exceeded our expectations for today’s trip. This morning we awoke with a misty and peaceful atmosphere. Our cooks provided a great bagel fiesta with options consisting of PB & J, or, ham and cheese for breakfast. During the meal, we were greeted by Nat, the Head of the education department of the James River Association! We went around introducing ourselves, finding similar qualities and fun activities! Before, we did stretching for our long journey, the scientists of the day explained how the PH, Nitrate, Phosphate, Oxygen, and turbidity changed from us moving from our last location.
Then, we started our journey in the water! We rowed about 2 miles in before, we got into a few Class 2 rapids! They were very exhilarating and we were able to improve in our skills in this process! Once we were half way, we stopped by Rock Island (“Jump” Rock’). We convinced everyone to get in, and got a 360 view on the drone! After a fun splash, we paddled to a smaller island to have a little lunch. For lunch, we did a tortilla wrap “bar” and had sliced nectarines, peaches, and plums. After we finished lunch, we rowed to our camp!
Vivi, Anna, Lily, Kora, Violet, Kaitlyn, Shreya, Nate, Butter, Michael, and Collin.(Did this so everyone’s name would be included!)
Before the sunset, we reached our final destination. As we pulled ashore, watermelon slices were cut and distributed among us. We then ventured off to Scottsville, where we saw one of the JRA locations, and many local stores. There were many historical facts and a bateau. The town was small and homey. After the walk back, the cooks prepared burgers and hotdogs, along with fruit and chips for our last meal. Everyone enjoyed ice cream and laughs before resting down for the night. Goodnight campers!
Written By: Anna, Kora, & Nathan
Thursday, June 29th
This morning Lily and Kaitlyn woke up to watch the sunrise while others slept in. For breakfast we indulged in instant oatmeal with blueberries and banana. After finishing clean up from breakfast we got our supplies together and got into our canoes. Today we had a 10 mile paddle. The beginning of the paddle was through completely calm water, led by Kora and Matt. The rising sun created a really peaceful setting.
After a hour and a half paddle and some riddles by Gabe, we arrived at our lunch location. We had wraps with turkey and ham, as well as finishing dinner leftovers from the previous night. This lunch spot included a rope swing! Vivian scrambled up the tree and used the rope swing to jump into the river. Everyone else followed, and a couple people jumped multiple times. After a few tries we all got the hang of it and had so much fun! After a great hour of fun, we hppped back on the river to finish the last stretch of our journey. The last stretch of the river we paddled today couldn’t have been anymore different from the first section. We encountered rapid after rapid. They were all little, but they were all one after each other. Besides hitting a few rocks, everyone did great! Everyone agreed it was the most fun paddle we have done yet! Upon arriving at camp, we got our tents set up, and made sure the rest of camp was ready to go. Then we played in the river for over an hour. We played games like “dead or alive” and had a great time! The current was really strong so we practiced the safe swimmer position and learned how to safely float down the river.
For dinner tonight we had pizza! We didn’t have our usual set up so we improvised by placing a grate on top of a fire pit. It worked really well and everyone loved it! Thank you to our cooks, Michael, Vivian, and Shreya. Then after dinner we had a campfire with s’mores. It was such a great last night and we had the best time!
Written By: Violet, Butter, and Kaitlyn
Friday, June 30th
On our final day, we packed up our site and did our daily science readings. The camp site was great! The natural beauty of Seven Islands and challenging rapids from the day before will make a great memory of the Middle James.
On the way to our final destination, Michael spent some time catching fish near the Slate River, a tributary to the James. The river is named for the slate mining industry that has run for hundreds of years, shipping flat building stones down the James since colonial times. As we approached the last few miles of our trip, all the canoes maneuvered side-by-side and we created a flotilla by holding on to each others’ gunwales. We all joked around and thought about how much we learned and grew from our time together on the James. A final set of rapids challenged some of us, then we docked and met our parents for the first time in a week!
Looking back on the trip, it’s amazing how short our time seemed to be. We traveled almost 50 miles under our own power, learned how to set up and break down camps, conquered our fears of water (and heights), and experienced the life on the river. We took some final photos together, packed up the Ram and the trailer rig with our boats and gear, and said a fond farewell – until our next session in November!