Students team up for fun exploration

There was much more than wild raging water and songs by the campfire awaiting Florida A & M University and Albany State University at the Chattooga River in South Carolina. For some students it was an experience of a lifetime.

“This trip was one of the best things I ever experienced in my life,” said Sandra Baptiste, 22, a senior biology pre-med major from Miami. “I was able to bond with new people and experience nature in a whole new light.”

Students and faculty of FAMU and ASU took part in a weekend white water rafting trip planned by the FAMU Department of Campus Recreation. The trip aimed to encourage participation in outdoor activities.

“Nature is a free gift that ought to be experienced by everyone,” said Robert Carroll Jr. Director of FAMU Campus Recreation.

“Our events are geared towards helping students step out of their comfort zones and get in touch with the great outdoors.”

The two schools joined forces, packed three vanloads of people, and headed for the Chattooga River in Walhalla, SC., located in the Appalachian Mountains.

The Chattooga Wild & Scenic River begins at the base of Whitesides Mountain in North Carolina and flows in a southwesterly direction to form the border between South Carolina and Georgia.  The Chattooga was the first river in the Southeast to be designated “Wild & Scenic” by Congress. 

Students began their voyage on flat water learning how to maneuver the boat and shift weight from side to side. After receiving instruction from boat guides the adventures began.

Then students took on complex maneuvers in fast current, large waves, and 14 ft. drops. Students were warned to beware of huge rocks.

“Even though there were a few scrapes and bruises, I still had a great time,” said Kimberly Black, 24, agricultural economics & business major from Arlington, TX.

Although rapidly flowing downstream was the excitement of the voyage, there were calm moments when rafters got the chance to sit back and enjoy nature.

“It was good to get away and experience autumn in the mountains,” said Janet Barber assistant professor at the FAMU College of Pharmacy. “I got a chance to see big bass, deer and alpacas.”

While along the river, the crew made a few stops to take pictures, swim, and explore nature. At one stop, rafters dropped down a hole in a huge granite rock, swam under the rock and ended up in a different channel of the river.

“Although I can swim I was extremely nervous,” said Tommy Burden, 26, senior physical education major at ASU. “But after the first time I did it again because it was so fun.”

According to the United States Forest Service, only a small percentage of blacks participate in great outdoor activities.

“This was the first time I really attempted to interact with nature at this level,” said Burden. “I would recommend everyone to try this activity.”

There have been nationwide efforts to increase the number of blacks to join in outdoor activities, like the creation of the Black Outdoorsman Magazine by Charles West. His mission is to promote and increase outdoor activity in the black community and to provide alternative leisure to foster positive physical and spiritual wellness.

“I believe lack of exposure and fear is one of the leading barriers that keep African-Americans away from these activities,” said Tammy Doe, a coordinator of the trip. “Campus Recreation is dedicated to creating as many inexpensive outdoor experiences as possible and we are open to student’s suggestions.”