On Tuesday morning, April 28, Kingfishers gathered in the school parking lot to load four rental vans and two Gates-mobiles with camping gear, snacks and their sense of adventure. Most of us didn’t know exactly where we were going. Just after Columbia, students began to realize something was afoot as we pulled off the highway into Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens. Students enjoyed feeding the giraffes and admiring their eyelashes (Sara even kissed one!) but the meerkats stole the show, popping up and running back and forth in the cutest manner imaginable. “Those elephants need some lotion,” remarked Sarah G., observing their wrinkly skin. With a final farewell to the penguins, we headed west on I-26.
Around 4:00 we arrived at Clemson University (where Mrs. Patrick’s kids attended) and enjoyed a nice walk around the campus and a snack in the cafeteria. After we left Clemson, somehow the word had gotten out that we would be staying in yurts for the night. What is a yurt? For a Tibetan nomad, a yurt is an animal-skin-covered frame, but for us it was a little bit nicer—spacious, clean and quiet tents that we found when we arrived at Wildwater Adventure in Long Creek, S.C. around 6:00. The kids unpacked coolers full of food, rolled out their sleeping bags and set up for the evening. After a meal of hot dogs, hamburgers, and veggie burgers, we gathered around the bonfire for songs led by Nathan, Zach and Sarah E., stories told by Jonathan and Camille, and an anti-rain dance performed by Top.
The next morning the air was filled with the smell of frying bacon. When breakfast was cleaned up and everyone was packed, we headed up the hill to the Wildwater Center to check in for our adventures. First, the high school got ready for whitewater rafting. After struggling into our wet suits, we went to the shed and gathered our life vests, helmets, and paddles. A few kids were nervous at first but by the end of the day they were glad they went. Savanna screamed the most and Dr. Gates fell out. We all plunged into the water and shot Bull Sluice with great abandon. Charles had the biggest grin on his face!
In the meantime, the middle school students were putting on harnesses and getting ready to do the high ropes course and the climbing wall. The guides taught us to ask permission from our climbing buddy before moving a tether. One by one students scrambled up the net on a pole about 30 ft. high and began to maneuver themselves carefully around the course. Johnathan, Wilfredo and Camille were champs who conquered their fears and completed the ropes course for the first time, but even the more experienced kids were terrified up there. “My leg was shaking and my harness got looser,” said Ryleigh. “Yeah, but we had to do it, otherwise we would have looked dumb,” said Grayson. The climbing wall was less intense but just as fun. When you got to the top, you could ring the bell. Middle School went out to lunch in Clayton, Georgia, and saw a coyote on the way back to Wildwater.
We arrived at the Asheville Downtown Inn and Suites around 5:00. After we stood in the parking lot for what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Gates finally came out and distributed the keys. We put our luggage in the rooms and took a walk to have dinner at a hipster restaurant called Farm Burger right down Patton Avenue. The after-dinner walk around Asheville revealed many things that we wouldn’t see on an average day in Georgetown, such as a hookah bar and a park with a weekly drum circle. We also got the opportunity to perform on one of the open stages downtown. The students were very creative: some sang, told stories, or did a dance, and others made jokes. After laughing at one another, we walked back to the hotel and it was lights out!
The students and teachers enjoyed breakfast together at the hotel (they let us make our own waffles). The students were told to put on their uniform shirts and load up in the vans. When we arrived at the Biltmore House a little later, the students were so surprised and excited; they couldn’t wait to get inside! As we began to walk around the house we got separated. We roamed around, some people taking longer to look at certain rooms or things than others. When we all had completed the inside tour, we gathered back up to walk around the Biltmore Botanical Gardens. There was a cello player in one of the greenhouses, making beautiful music. After the long, hot walk to the Bass Pond, we headed back to the hotel to take a break. On the way, we ate at Mela, an Indian buffet, where Mrs. Crosby loved the spicy spinach and the kids tried mostly chicken. At the hotel, we were given the option of swimming in the outdoor pool or shopping around downtown Asheville. Dr. Gates and Dr. Razzi took a group of students to the Mast General Store while Mme Gates stayed at the hotel to watch some of the students go swimming in the 50-degree weather. Dr. Neubauer, Camille, Ryleigh, and Bronwen went out shopping on their own, including going to the pet store. Later, we gathered in the lobby, expecting to go to a baseball game. But since it was raining and chilly, we took a vote and decided to go see a sneak preview of Avengers: Age of Ultron instead. The students had a blast and were so excited that they got to be one of the first crowds to see the new movie!
When we woke up Friday morning, it was time to pack our things. We ate one last waffle, put all of our gear in the vans, and headed home. On the way back, we had one stop left to make: the N.C. Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A craftsman named Bob Collison was turning wood to make bowls which his wife would paint and we watched him a long time. We then toured the gallery upstairs. “We totally have to buy a loom this summer,” said Avery and Isabella. Since it was getting to be a pretty day outside, we had the option of taking a hike with Dr. Gates from a trail head at the Center or painting with Mrs. Patrick. Students enjoyed doing both activities. After we finished up at the Center, we piled into our vans and the final stop was Georgetown! The students and teachers had a great time and can’t wait until our trip next year. “Ten out of ten, let’s do it again,” said Top.
by Meredith Owens and Top Lee