Disa Woodland, Copy Desk Chief~

Over spring break, the Outdoor Leadership Program (OLP) took eight students into the Florida Everglades for a week-long trip of camping and kayaking. The students met OLP at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, March 2, to start the 15-hour trip to Florida.

The group stopped at the tip of Florida to camp for the night before finishing their car ride to Everglade City. After getting their travels approved and a short briefing by park rangers about potential hazards, the group camped on mainland for one more night before waking up at dawn to go onto the waters. The group kayaked the southeastern portion of the Ten Thousand Islands part of the Everglades National Park including the Rabbit key, Mormon Key and Pavilion Key. The group stayed on the waters for four days in all and traveled a total of 28 miles. The students and faculty would paddle for about an hour at a time before stopping at islands along the way to stretch their legs or eat lunch.

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Professor Peter Betty over spring break with OLP.

Professor Peter Berry enjoyed leading the group and cited his most memorable moment during the Everglades portion of the trip: “On our third day on the water, there had been a storm that morning, so we had built a shelter on a nearby island and had lunch and did some team-building exercises. After the storm passed, the rest of the day was calm and peaceful, and we made great time finishing the paddle into Rabbit Key and had lots of time to relax and explore the island that afternoon and evening.”

On the way back from Florida, the group stopped at Manatee Springs. The students and faculty were able to get extremely close to the manatees there. Sophomore Matt O’Loughlin said that “paddling beside the manatees was an amazing experience. There was a large group that was making its way up the spring.”

Sophomore Walker Allen said his favorite experience “was being outside and enjoying the experiences of nature, especially the sunsets and sunrises.”

The overall experience has been evaluated as “excellent,” by Berry, O’loughlin and Allen.

According to Berry, for OLP’s “next ‘big’ trip, some students requested to paddle the Suwannee and camp at the springs along the way. I’d also love to lead a rafting trip to Costa Rica or Iceland, where we could also go caving in the lava tubes.”

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