All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Davidson Outdoors’
Hunched over a conference table proofing magazine pages on Wednesday, I daydreamed of being outdoors. Happily, my job permits—nay, expects—me to be outdoors on a regular basis, acting as a loco parent to some 1,900 college students on any given day. Wednesday, my buddy Mike Goode, assistant director of Davidson Outdoors, had invited me to come swing on the high ropes course out by Erwin Lodge. I jumped at the chance, even before I knew there’d be pizza.
Pages proofed, Dodger and I pedaled madly down the wooded hills behind Baker Sports Complex in the crisp autumn air until we heard sounds of hilarity. We rounded a bend into the clearing under the high ropes course and saw why: students were taking turns hoisting each other up to a cabled-and-carabinered apogee some 30 large feet in the air, then letting loose for a broad, shrieking, arcing swing over the heads of their peers safe on the ground.
Of course, the students in the air were safe, too. Safety always, always comes first at Davidson Outdoors. It’s a solid bond among many solid bonds unique to this group, I have found in 11-plus years paddling rivers and Everglades, hiking trails, playing cards by campfire, eating s’mores and s’much more with the good citizens of Davidson Outdoors. One of Wednesday’s crowd described the weeklong Everglades canoe trip, which I joined in 2002, as “a week in a dorm room on the water.” Another encouraged a high-ropes climber to “Use your inner chi!” Students get to know each other really well on a DO trip, safety first, fun a close second, and respectful, supportive hilarity approaching secret-language proportions filling in all the gaps, all for one and one for all. You have to be there.
I’m glad to be able to be there now and then, and especially so Wednesday. Dodger, too! (Sorry about that double slice of sausage-mushroom pizza, Mike.)
Day 2, Section 9 on the French Broad River seems like a while ago to me. I can only imagine how far ago it seems to the entering first-year students I met there in mid-August during Summer Odyssey 2011. Time runs a lot faster when you’re 18 than when you’re not.
I can barely keep up with the Davidson Outdoors crews even now around ye olde campus. Since school started, I’ve been on the Know Your Farms tour co-sponsored by Davidson Outdoors with the Sustainability Office. (Dodger stayed home, not approving of farm animals.) Dodger and I went down to Challenge Course by Erwin Lodge to facilitate part of a weekend retreat of the Generals a cappella group. We’ve popped our head in at times at “DO” HQ in the Union to check on trips and classes for fall and beyond, and I run into Davidson Outdoors folks all around campus. It’s good to have tribe. It makes me appreciate how much of a tribe the whole campus is, and for that matter the whole extended family. Happy sigh.
So anyway, here are some sweet snapshots representative of the good time had by all on the river and environs. Thanks to River Log Andrew Wilkins ’11 and Trip Leader Lucy Hedley ’12 for sharing their pix. Clickable.
I had one of those days earlier this week that got just a little bit too file-management-y and status-update-y and sit-on-my-butt-y at my desk-y. By five o’clock I just had to get outside with Dodger and go jump in the lake.
“Aaaiiiieeee!” I went, as I hurled myself off the end of the dock into Lake Norman. The plunge purged and defragged my noggin to an extent that life in real space and time was good again under a darkening sky.
The simple combination of fresh air, relatively fresh water, and my own kinetic motion recalled to me how much I love to get outside. Sometimes my sofa makes me forget.
In the Carolina Piedmont region, we’ve got a great place to take advantage of the good green earth, right in our own backyard or further afield on the coast or in the mountains. Adventures with Davidson Outdoors, the student outing group on campus, are always special-favorite road trips. I particularly love plunging down the French Broad River with DO’s Summer Odyssey crews of incoming new students. Odyssey first-years are fun as a box of puppies, tumbling fast toward their freshman year all yap and pizzazz, bonding by backpack and relating on the river in small groups for a week before freshman orientation.
One Sunday afternoon in mid-August, I drove up the side of the Blue Ridge Mountain range and fjorded the stream at Silver Mine Camp in Hot Springs, N.C. The DO river logistics crew, aka “river logs” or just “logs,” were away on a river paddle. They’d left me a “Welcome, John!” sign on the blackboard. I had also learned earlier that at the log camp when I arrived there would be a first-year student recuperating from the epizoodics contracted on the trail. Not a happy camper, that.
So as not to disturb the napping student, I walked up the hill from the parking area quietly, past the familiar fragrance of the fa-foom facilities toward the picnic shelter. There on a long table, in wildlife-proofed disarray, lay the outdoorsy household accoutrements of a week roughing it. What caught my eye was the pile of reading material gathered on the end of the table: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Healing Appalachia….
I snatched up the Fitzgerald short stories, dragged a camp chair into the brightest patch of light then making its way to the forest floor, and dove into “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.”
Ah, reading outdoors for the pleasure of it, there’s a status update for you. I need to remember to do it more often, away from that damn sofa. One man’s woo-woo, of course, is another’s deeply held belief system (lifted from a New York Times writer whose name escapes me just now, but I thank him), so I need the reminder of the Tao Te Ching quote taped to my computer monitor, to slow down and just be sometimes:
“Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about other people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. Do your work and then step back. The only path to serenity.”
Later back at the log camp after the crew had rolled in, we all shared a simple supper made more savory by the summer mountain air cooling to woodsy damp around our shelter. We took turns churning orange-coconut ice cream and played Liverpool Rummy by headlamp, until finally we started to melt away to our tents, one by one.
I slept like a puppy.