Early on the morning of April 25, sleepy Kingfishers gathered in front of the school, clutching their pillows, sleeping bags, and snacks. No one knew where we were going except the teachers! As the bus pulled out, Dr. Gates announced our destination: Wildwater Adventures, a camp where we could enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chatooga River.

The first real stop was Clemson University where we toured the campus with a student guide. Clemson is Dr. Simmons’ alma mater. There were lots of spring flowers and we could see rolling foothills in the distance. (Whenever we are on the road, we take the opportunity to visit colleges so students will have a better idea of what type of college they might like to attend).

We arrived fairly late at the Whitewater Adventure Lodge and got our bunk assignments. A lot of people were in yurts but some girls ended up in a cabin. After a dinner of hotdogs and hamburgers, Kingfishers ate s’mores and watched the starry sky until lights out. One yurt had an issue because one person had to have a light on to sleep and another person couldn’t sleep with light in the room (somehow they worked it out).

The second day of the adventure, we got to try the ropes course and climbing wall. Many people were able to conquer their fear of walking on ropes up to forty feet in the air. By at least trying the ropes course, we could earn points for our team. The first group even convinced Mrs. Crosby to go up there. Some kids had a unique way of negotiating the rope bridge, which Dr. Gates described as “samba-ing.”

The team-building activities were even more challenging than the ropes course, although they were closer to the ground. We had to flip a tarp over while standing on it, guide a blindfolded person to an object, get our whole team, one at a time, through a tire without touching it, and help each other across an obstacle course. There were some tears of frustration but also joy as people figured out how to manage each challenge. Sage’s favorite was the blindfold challenge “because it was funny to watch people walk into poles!”

Meanwhile, the 40 foot climbing wall was very popular and almost everyone tried it. “Baryck, the twins, and Zoey did the rock wall fifty billion times,” said Annika.

In the afternoon, we jumped back in the bus for a tour a Furman University, a lush green campus with a lovely lake in the middle. Furman is Mrs. Crosby’s alma mater. Instead of going back to the camp for dinner,  Dr. Gates took everyone to Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant outside of Greenville.  All forty of us sat at one long table and Baryck ate a lemon—he was the entertainment. By the time we got back to the camp, everyone was totally exhausted. “BEDTIME!” screamed the MS boys in Mr. Culbertson’s yurt as they hurled themselves into their sleeping bags. “On this trip,” said Nathan, “you slept when you could.”

On the next morning, we had breakfast and got everything cleaned up and our stuff packed. Then it was time to go white-water rafting! For many students, this was their first experience. Our guides gave us lifejackets and helmets and a paddle. They instructed everyone on what to do and what not to do out on the Chattooga.

After a short bus ride to the launch site, we boarded our rafts. The guides took the lead and everyone tried to listen closely for instructions about how to paddle. Dr. Gates told everyone never to let go of the T-bar on their paddle.

The whole trip took about three hours and the ride was fantastic. The climax of the trip was to drop through Bull Sluice down its Category 4 rapids. We had the choice to walk down or go down in the raft; most students chose to shoot down in the raft. It was a blast! “It’s like you’re dropping through a hole in the river,” said Dr. Gates. “You go deep into the water at the bottom then the raft pushes you up.”

As the adrenaline wore off, we spent some time jumping off rocks into the river and enjoying the sun.

It was soon time to head back to Georgetown. Tired Kingfishers said their good-byes to Wildwater Adventures and took to the highway. After dinner at Zaxby’s outside Columbia (where Larson got hot sauce and it became “a thing”), we arrived back at the school around 10:30.  We needed this trip and it was fabulous!

By Annika and Ethan Ab