This is Alex Checking in from OBX!
The expedition just got back from its first overnight! Yesterday, we got going early in the morning, drove out to Haywood Landing in Croatan National Forest (which is quickly starting to feel like our personal playground) and set up our campsite. The landing is a small area, with 3 moderate sized sites, and luckily we got the third site. We pitched our 6 tents on a grassy knoll, surrounded on 1 side by a creek, and 2 sides by thick forest, across the way from our site was the landing. At any given time we had a great view of the river, and only saw a couple of motorboats the entire day!
Once we got the campsite situated, we had lunch and a short rest hour. Even though the weather is warm, we had a consistent breeze blowing through camp the entire day, not only did it cool us down, but it also kept the bugs at bay.
We then got into boats and went for a tough paddle upriver. The wind was pretty strong so the sterns of boats wanted to wander as we paddled, though Daniel (our leader of the day) kept a reasonable pace so that the group never got too tired. Along the riverbanks we saw crabs scuttling about, tall standing snags with more woodpecker holes than we could count, and the occasional expeditioner that had drifted into the reeds and grasses!
After cooking stuffed bell peppers over a campfire (lit by Sophia and Daniel) the group played camp games for a good while. In preparation for the next day, the expedition team went to bed early, and fell asleep as the sun went down.
Today, we woke up at 4 am, broke down camp, ate a quick breakfast, and launched our boats into the White Oak River. We were paddling via headlamps by 5:20 AM!! Sean, Sarah and I were immensely impressed by the short amount of time we got moving in!
We got up this early so that we could greet the sun as it crested the eastern horizon, and after we paddled silently in the dawn light for a time, we were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. Sitting in front of large clouds, the sun began its skyward ascent in a pink haze, and by the time it rose over the distant tree line it became a heavy yellow, bright, but not so much that we could not look at it. Still sitting in silence, enjoying the music of morning, we began singing a song, all the while our eyes were locked to the east in reverence. Kayaks all touching, with the slightest of winds holding us in position against the flow of the river, we sat in our boats stretching sore muscles, and blinked our tiredness away.
After a time, our leader of the day Olivia began to set pace for us as we continued downriver. After another few miles we were back at our basecamp. It is truly remarkable to think of how much the expeditioners accomplished this morning, well before most people were even awake.
We unloaded our boats, had some snacks, and enjoyed an extended rest hour. Some people napped, some played card games, and some people read, though across the board all were in very good moods. We then spent our afternoon relaxing in the sun, swimming in the White Oak, practicing stand up paddle boarding, cast netting, crabbing, and many other riverside activities.
Expeditioners are going to bed tonight with a sense of fulfillment, and after waking up with the sun today, I am confident that tomorrow they see that little yellow ball a bit differently.