By Sarah Teeter
Every year, Hesston College offers a variety of trips throughout the year to give students a chance to get off campus and explore a new activity. This spring, one of the trips offered was a canoeing trip on the Buffalo River in central northern Arkansas. A group of around thirty students along with instructor Bryan Kehr and a variety of chaperones, got together to take the seven hour drive to Arkansas for this one credit class trip.
Prior to the class, the students were asked to take a sort of pre-test to learn a variety of material that they would be using on the trip. These materials were such as learning how to set up a tent, how to maneuver a canoe, and the expectations that would be implemented for the extent of the trip. In the week before students left, each person signed up for a slot where they practiced setting up tents, and perfecting their canoe strokes in the pond at the arboretum, practicing for the real deal later on.
Saturday, April 27, the group packed up the vans at seven am and set out early in order to make the seven hour drive to to Arkansas with plenty of time to set up tents, eat dinner, and and get prepared for the full day ahead. “There were around ten different tents, with each tent holding three or four people, so it was a little cramped, but we didn’t mind because the first night was so cold.”said Cass King, who enjoyed every second of the weekend trip. Many people were unprepared for the cool nights and forgot to bring sweats or sweatshirts, and spent the night huddling under their sleeping bags for warmth.
The group spent the whole day on Sunday in the water, where they finally got to test out their skills on the real canoes. It had rained the a day or to before they got there, so the river was super high with a strong current, making in an easy, relaxing ride in the canoe. “We were kind of hoping for some rapids to make things exciting, but it was nice to not have to work super hard to paddle, and be able to just sit back and enjoy the scenery around us.” says Cass. “My partner and I tried to make things a little more interesting by taking little paths that were on the sides of the stream that contained a few more rocks, and made us work a little harder to stay up.” But because the water was so docile, the trip down the river in the canoes that was originally supposed to take six hours, only ended up taking three. Because of this, the group had a little more time to swim and just relax and have fun at a swimming area that included cliff jumping that most of the students took part in. “Cliff jumping was definitely the scariest part of the trip,” says Cass. “The cliffs were about thirty-five feet high which was pretty intimidating, but lots of people were doing cool tricks and twists, which made it not quite as scary, but it was a lot of fun, even though the water was freezing cold.”
The group got lucky, as there were no serious injuries throughout the duration of the trip.”There was one group in a canoe that tipped over right at the beginning, and one girl scraped her knee a little but, so that was slightly scary, but for the most part, everyone did okay, and we were all able to have fun and enjoy it.” After a successful day in the water, the group went back to the campsite, where they roasted hot dogs and hamburgers, and played volleyball, spikeball, and other fun games for the rest of the night. “The second night we all were out the second out heads hit the pillows. We slept like logs, because we were so tired, and that night was a little warmer too, so we didn’t have to worry about the cold.”
Monday was spent on the river in the canoes again, but the high water continued and the estimated three hour trip only took one hour, so the group stopped at a different swimming area, this time with a rope swing, and spent the afternoon swimming against the strong current to a tree that they then climbed in order to swing off into the river. “The rope swing was for sure one of the biggest highlights of monday.” Cass says. After a long day in the water, the group went back to the campsite and made hobo dinners consisting of meat, potatoes, and veggies wrapped in tinfoil and stuck straight into the fire, which was a new experience for many of the students. After a quick lunch, the group packed up, and made the seven hour drive home, arriving with just enough time to get to bed early to start the next day of classes.