By Patrick Hall '20
BREVARD, N.C. - To kick off the 2019 summer, seven Brevard College student-athletes embarked on an outdoor adventure of a lifetime. The challenging expedition, known as the "Voice of the Rivers", is an annual journey coordinated by Brevard College's Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (WLEE) program.
On May 6, the seven student-athletes along with five more Brevard College students set out to Durham, North Carolina to start an 18-day kayaking trek to Cape Lookout. The Tornados paddled approximately 250 miles down the entirety of the Neuse River and along the shores of the Outer Banks.
The Tornados originated from three athletic programs - Track & Field, Men's Soccer, and Women's Soccer. Caitlyn Cloud-Morton (Track & Field), Erica Zufferey (Women's Soccer), Hannah Weatherall (Women's Soccer), Sallie Riggan (Women's Soccer), David Garrett (Men's Soccer), Eric Lenhart (Men's Soccer), and Patrick Hall (Men's Soccer) all completed the ambitious trip.
In total, a group of 15 completed on the trip including Brevard College students Madison Smith, Malynne Petoia, Mariah Grande, Zachary Bracken. Professors John Buford and Michael Castelaz, Logistics Manager Ryan DeGarmo, and Teaching Assistant Kaitlin Chaump supervised the adventure.
Over the course of the trip, the students constantly exhibited teamwork in a variety of settings. Whether it be cooking, a teaching lesson, or paddling in pods, the Tornados collaborated to be as fluid as possible. With most outside of their comfort zones, they relied on each other to make it through the journey.
"We became very close as a group fast," said Women's Soccer student-athlete Zufferey. "We had to sleep, eat, and spend every minute of the day with each other."
The 18-day trek started off at Falls Lake in Durham and while going down the Neuse River the students camped out on the river's banks as well as some secluded campsites. In 12 days, the Tornados accomplished this goal, reaching the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where they camped on the beach. With the sun beating down, sand everywhere, and harsh winds, the students were pushed to adhere to the changes of the environment. The change from the muddy shores of the Neuse to the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks proved to be one of the most daunting challenges of the trip.
The Tornados found the change in environments to be amazing. Wildlife, plants, and landforms were the most extreme differences between the two ecosystems. On the Neuse, bald eagles, beavers, and snakes (poisonous and non-poisonous) were observed. Approaching the Pamlico Sound, jellyfish, sea turtle, and ospreys emerged. Paddling on the river, the Tornados also visited the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park where the cliffs span 90 feet.
Along with the beauty of the land, the students also witnessed remnants of past natural disasters that hit the area. Most recently, Hurricane Florence still showed its destruction eight months after it came through eastern North Carolina in September 2018. Fallen trees in and around the river, massive flood lines, and destruction of properties along the river banks are some sights that were found along the paddle.
"The people of eastern North Carolina are still cleaning up and repairing what Hurricane Florence left behind," said Garrett. "However, seeing the community coming together to help out the towns across the state was a rewarding experience."
The 18-day trip came to an end on May 24, and the Tornados returned to campus with lifelong memories provided by the Brevard College WLEE program. The Voice of the Rivers trip has been a tradition during summers at Brevard College and will surely continue for future Brevard College students.
"For those of us who are student-athletes, we will be able to apply the leadership skills we gained for our upcoming seasons," said Hall.
About the Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (WLEE) program at Brevard College:
"Located in a world-class mecca for biking, hiking, rock climbing, and whitewater, Brevard College's Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (WLEE) program is the nation's premier college outdoor leadership program.
We deliver an innovative and intensive experiential curriculum to develop ethical leaders and skilled educators capable of managing a variety of outdoor experiences for a wide range of participants in diverse and dynamic environments.
We use direct experience and interdisciplinary study to foster in each student qualities of personal responsibility, independent thought, a collaborative spirit, environmental stewardship, and a lifelong commitment to service to and learning." via brevard.edu
For more information Brevard College's WLEE Program, go to https://brevard.edu/wilderness-leadership-experiential-education/
For more information on The Voice of the Rivers, go to https://brevard.edu/voice-of-the-rivers/