Adventure Crew

The Fault in Judging a Book by its Cover: Swamp Base Story by Nasia Woods

In the days leading up to my first adventure crew trip, I began doing my typical pre-trip research. Yet, the more I read about Swamp Base, the more pictures I saw, the more questions I asked, and the hotter the Louisiana summer got left me deeply pondering “What the heck did you get yourself into Woods?” I’m not really a big fan of the outdoors, I tend to have a few germaphobic tendencies, not to mention how truly out of shape I am — I started contemplating loopholes in my commitment. Alas, considering character traits I hope to stand by, backing out wasn’t an option.

When we arrived at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to begin the training portion of our trail, I had the pleasure of meeting a few members of a boy scout troop that had just completed the adventure. The first three, a man and two teenage boys (whom were all caucasian) happened to share their semi-rosy picture of their journey. Just before I fully regained confidence in my ability to complete this excursion, I met a middle-aged physically fit African American male who had also just returned from Swamp Base. 

I’m sitting in the lobby with my gear, waiting for the rest of my team to arrive for our final meeting of the night when the man approached me. Looking at my two packs, he began pleading with me to lighten my load before we left out early the next morning. “If I were you, I’d drop that big bag and condense everything you have into that little bag (aka turn 60lbs of gear to 20lbs). With that much stuff, your canoe is going to sink. There’s no way you can paddle with that much weight. I had half your gear and my son and I could barely move. But if you're anything like my wife (which I must be), you're not going to listen (I absolutely did not), and you’ll regret it in the morning (I did eventually regret not packing an extra pair of shorts).”

With sweaty palms and the taste of fear climbing up my throat, I asked him about his experience.  He said with a sincere look of disgust masked on his face, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life! I barely made it out. I begged the medical team to take me off, but they refused. We even had an ex-marine with our group and he struggled the whole time. If there’s anyway to get out of going, I’d suggest you do that now”. As he was expressing his final sentiments, our students began exiting the elevator. The slender man took one look at my team and chuckled “That’s who you’re going with? This kind of stuff isn’t made for us (black people), this is white people [insert explicative]”. And with his final words ringing loudly in the back of my head, he got on the elevator my crew just exited and went on his way.

Fast forward four days and five nights and we are heading into our final day of the trail. By this time, I’ve managed to get sick and experienced way more mosquito bites than I thought were possible being drenched in 30% deet; however, the pride in my-scratch that- our accomplishments deeply outweighed the pain we were currently experiencing. Our crew, the urban outreach group from Opelousas have been dominating the trail. The number of times we had to stop to swim, nap, and hang out in the shade due to being so far ahead of schedule became ambition to continue paddling harder. We were our own competition. Storms, waves, heat, nor winds could stop our drive. Everyday we worked harder than the day before. I watched our group encourage and support one another. We suffered together. But, we also rejoiced together. Our community grew on that trail, and our confidence followed.

Finally, we reached our goal. 61.6 miles under our belt, and the right to shout “We conquered the Swamp!” As we returned to the room that I had that awkward encounter just five days prior for our badge ceremony, I shared the story with our team of the man who didn’t believe. On that day, (thirteen) African American young people “Conquered the Swamp”. This was a group that looked incapable to many. An urban outreach group that many had low expectations of. Some who worried we’d possibly be the worst group to take the trail. I’m so grateful that the cowardly man came to speak to me on our first day of Swamp Base, because he afforded me the opportunity to share with our kids a real life example of the fault in judging a book by its cover. I hope our team learned that some will say because of their life circumstances, lack of money, schools they attend, neighborhoods they live in, whatever cards they've been dealt, they cannot achieve success; but so long as they have an understanding that suffering will happen, quitting is not an option, and live with a mindset for victory, they can challenge those stereotypes and dismantle negative opinions of them by proving some of the best novels ever written have broken covers. 

Adventure Crew - Meet Taij

Tiaj Malveaux: Adventure Crew Member

By: Kristina Anderson 

Tiaj is a Sophomore at Opelousas High School.  This is Tiaj’s first Adventure Crew trip!

What has been one of your most memorable experiences with Adventure Crew? “The training because it was tough and hard for me because I wasn’t used to all the running.”

What are you looking forward to the most about your trip to the Grand Canyon? ”The sight of the beautiful Grand Canyon in the fall and the experience I will get from going.”

What do you think is going to be the most difficult part of the trip for you? ”Being high in the air and the long trails we will have to walk.”

What have you learned about yourself from being a part of Adventure Crew? ”I can push myself far and I can take pain better.”

Adventure Crew- Destinee McLendon

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Destinee is a Freshman at Opelousas High School.  This is Destinee's first Adventure Crew trip! What has been one of your most memorable experiences with Adventure Crew? "The most memorable experience so far is when we went to try on our hiking shoes in Lafayette."

What are you looking forward to the most about your trip to the Grand Canyon? "To see a new environment and different things."

What do you think is going to be the most difficult part of the trip for you? "The most difficult part will probably be carrying the backpacks."

What have you learned about yourself from being a part of Adventure Crew? "I have learned that I should never give up on myself."

Adventure Crew- Jerrica Greene

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Jerrica is a Junior at Beau Chene High school.  This is Jerrica's first Adventure Crew trip! What has been one of your most memorable experiences with Adventure Crew? "So far it has been doing the stairs and having Tav and Mr. Loren push me to finish strong."

What are you looking forward to the most about your trip to the Grand Canyon? "To see how beautiful the view is from every stopping point."

What do you think is going to be the most difficult part of the trip for you? "Getting through the entire trip without crying."

(its ok to cry Jerrica!)

What have you learned about yourself from being a part of Adventure Crew? "That I can be pushed beyond my limit."

"The Grandest Trail on Earth"

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grand canyon

The Rim to Rim Club; Yes that is actually a real thing! And it is our goal to be a part of that club by the end of this month.  Our team of 11 is strong and ready to write our names in the book.  We have been training for the past 2 months to prepare our bodies to attack this monster trail.  It will take us four days to trek a total of 24 miles. Our journey will begin on the North Rim winding down the switchbacks of the North Kaibab Trail, then crossing the mighty Colorado and scaling back up the Bright Angel trail to the South Rim. Over the next two weeks Ill we will be introducing you to each member of our team so you can get to know the Adventure Crew and they can share with you their past experiences and thoughts on our upcoming journey.  We have 8 veterans ranging in experience.  Some have been on nearly every trip we have done while others joined in the past couple years.  We also have 3 rookies that are in for the adventure like they have never experienced.  I am excited about the diversity of our group and cannot wait to see them endure and ultimately conquer “The Grandest Trail on Earth”.

-Kristina

Adventure Crew Takes on the Buffalo River

Buffalo River 2013

Every trip we take with the Adventure Crew has a feel or a theme. I believe that this trip, more so than on any other trip I’ve led in my life challenged me to the core. There is much that happens that the kids are unaware of leading up to a trip. Countless hours of planning and organizing, preparing and agonizing, but this one was unique. There is always an element of danger that’s present when you’re going into the wilderness and even more so when you are taking inexperienced kids. Compound that with this trips very challenging weather conditions and a powerful river, and you have tough decisions to make. The night before we got on the river I was faced with this precise dilemma. I knew we had adequate gear for the conditions, but wished the kids had more training. I knew the weather would warm up each day and the snow would stop after day 1, but temps in the low 20’s at night on the river would be grueling. And, what if a boat flips? Or, worse yet, what if two boats flipped?

This was the question that my decision hung on. So while the kids played games and watched TV the night before we were due to arrive at the river I was glued to YouTube. I watched multiple videos showing rescue teams handling hypothermic situations and read multiple websites describing the signs and cues. I pulled in Kristina and Jamie and we discussed the pros and cons we were facing. We strategized our game plan for the river and exactly what we would do if a boat flipped. In some ways I felt like a general leading my troops into battle knowing, likely more so than they, the difficulty we would all face. Should we just hang out in Arkansas and make the most of our time or face the sure misery the adventure would dish out?

As I have gotten older I am not nearly as carless as I use to be (to many people this is a scary thought), but I am still convinced that this is where REAL LIFE happens! The space that is outside of our control, those moments where we are dependent, uncomfortable, and scared is where we are most alive. This is where eyes widen, grips tighten, and our minds focus. This is where we don't have time or energy to be someone we aren't we are most ourselves. This is where character is forged and where memories and scares are won for us to carry forever! So the next day we arrived at The Gilbert General Store. After examining our team thoroughly Ben was still willing to put us on the river. So the journey began!

- Loren

Stay tuned for more on this trip and for now check out some of the pics we took: