My first O.A.R trip
One of Gainesville best-kept secrets is the Outdoor Activity and Recreation club.
It is essentially a list serve compiled by arguably some of the nation’s most interesting, intelligent and badass individuals who plan and pitch epic trip ideas.
They meet every Thursday in on campus. Every other Thursday ends with a potluck.
Taking a much needed break from reality
(or maybe entering a brief window of reality depending on where the reader holds alcohol consumption verse physical activity on his or her life scale),
I decided to borrow a sleeping bag, charge my camera, and head out of state with a group of strangers who choose to live their lives having this much fun on the reg.
Outside of music festivals, my camping background is limited at best, and I always kind of assumed that “hiking” essentially translated pretty fairly into walking.
Those two elements aside, I had also never done any backpacking, repelling or extreme caving in my life, but thought that instead of a local kayak adventure or rock gym outing, that this would be a good first O.A.R experience.
I’ve never been much of a test-the-shallow-waters person.
We left in a caravan of carpoolers around 5pm, had an incredible Ethiopian feast in Atlanta around 11, and arrived to Virgin Falls in Tennessee around 5am.
After parking, we strapped on our headlamps and everything we’d need to eat, sleep, climb with and survive for the next three days onto our backs and hiked down the mountains for a few miles.
Our destination; a giant shallow cave behind a waterfall that we unrolled our sleeping bags in to lay down for an hour or two before the sun would come up.
At sunrise, we set up a repelling line to repel down the waterfall, packed our bags and hiked a generous journey further.
The second destination was the giant waterfall where we again set up camp with the sole intention of leaving it there to go caving.
It was now pouring.
The second cave was by far the most self-testing and satisfying part of my trip. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there was more than one occasion that I had to
(in semi solitude, clinging with my fingers and toes to wet clay and a half working light source)
have the “I’m just going to accept that this is my time to go..” speech in my head.
What had to have been miles in and out of freezing, sometimes waste-deep water, fragments of fallen cave to climb,
bigger than my beetle,
and by the thousands,
I reached the sun-drenched entrance,
covered in clay,
and feeling better than I ever have in my entire life.
We did a bigger repel down a 100 plus ft waterfall, hiked to the river for some rope-swinging, and made it back to camp to feast on the most amazing fireside potluck one could fathom.
One banana boat and a ten mile hike back up the mountain later, and I would be back on my way home.
The most self-satisfying First Rodeo I have ever had,