“It’s hard to beat North Carolina in July especially when you’re whitewater rafting just south of Great Smoky Mountain National Park,” said Nathan Vink, assistant director Recreation and Wellness Center Outdoor Adventure program. Ten Knights including three international students from India and Columbia, one student trip leader, and Vink packed, bumped and weaved their way through the Nantahala River for a three-day adventure that they will never forget.
The trip began with an 11-hour ride from Orlando to the Turkey Creek Campground in Almond, N.C. not far from the Tennessee state line. The students set up camp and cooked a great dinner before setting off early Saturday morning. Vink led a team of five students in one raft. The other four students divided into tandem inflatable kayaks or double “duckies.”
Vink, who has ten years of whitewater raft guiding experience including time with Outward Bound in Utah, says the elements were apparent from the start, “We launched onto the river, hitting rapids right away. Along the way we were tested by a bumpy and rocky river, dodging back and forth while staying together around each corner.”
He describes the Nantahala River as cool and clear as the Fontana Dam feeds the river with water. Students were treated to scenic views to take pictures along the way including a train that passed by at one point. Saturday’s run ended with a trip through the irregular waves up to four feet high with narrow passages to maneuver of the rapid white water of Nantahala Falls – intermediate class three. Rapid classifications go from one, for beginners, all the way up to six which is considered extreme or exploratory [meaning very few have attempted a run]. Students took turns rotating in the varying vessels to get the full experience of peaks and valleys of calm waters and swift rapids.
Vink says there was a bit of autumn in the air that day. “We found the river to be colder and a little spookier with a fog hanging on the water. We bumped our way down for another fun run [the run takes about two hours]. Afterwards, we headed back to camp for a celebratory dinner around the campfire.” That night the group of Knights exchanged stories of the day. The next morning the team jumped back into the van to head home to UCF and tell their friends about their adventure.
The adventure trips are just one component of the RWC Outdoor Adventure program. OA’s serves the students and RWC’s continuing commitment to its vision of providing healthy lifestyle alternatives while enriching the campus experience.
For more information on the Outdoor Adventure program, contact Scott Mauro, RWC marketing and communications manager, at: RWC or call 407.823.2408.