Overnight Canoe Trips at FBRA

Andrew Holcombe, FBRA Boys Director

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For my final “Thoughts from the Director” I would like to take a moment to talk about a part of the FBRA program that is near and dear to my heart:  our overnight self-support canoe trips.  We have just completed three of these at the boys school along different sections of the French Broad River.  Before I talk about the specific trips, here’s a bit about why I feel these trips are so amazing.

6th graders about to launch on their French Broad River headwaters self-support trip.

6th graders about to launch on their French Broad River headwaters self-support trip.

All of our multi-day trips at FBRA are an integral part of our programming, and there’s something extra special about our self-support canoe trips.  For those new to the term, a self-support canoe trip is when you load all of the gear you need for a period of time into canoes and complete an extended section of river while camping riverside.  I think part of the magic of these style of excursions is that you truly get to unplug for a little while.  One’s main goals for the day are simply navigating the river and selecting your next campsite, and you literally have everything you need with you.  This gives the trips an extra sense of calm and purpose that really do make them special.

On the student end, these trips are a huge tool to teach self-reliance, teamwork, and adaptability.  For example, if you forget something you have to figure out an alternative or rely on one of your group members to help you out.  This helps create a real feeling of being in something together for our students.  You also learn to adapt and deal with adversity.  If there’s bad weather you just figure out a way to make it through, as there’s no back up or getting in a car or something like that.  Put together, these things give our students a huge sense of accomplishment after one of these trips.

fbra french broad river academy outdoor education overnight middle school asheville

Finally a bit about our most recent adventures.  One of the goals of FBRA is to provide students with an opportunity to see as much of the French Broad river as possible; this incorporates part of our vision that they learn and experience the very amazing place they live from a different perspective.  For three weeks in May, we had a trip running each week.  All of them were 4 days and 3 nights.  Our 6th graders spent that time on the upper sections of the French Broad starting near Rosman close to the headwaters and finishing near the airport area.  This trip covers around 30-35 miles total so it’s quite the accomplishment!  Our 7th and 8th grade groups tested their canoe skills on the mighty rapids of sections 9 and 10.  These rapids are the biggest ones on the river; canoeing them successfully is no small feat!  At the end of the day these trips are a chance to slow life down, be with your friends, and sleep under the stars.  What a way to end the school year!

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