East/West House Expedition: Panthertown Valley, Fontana Lake, Ocoee & Nantahala Rivers
Our school year officially began earlier this month (September 7th), and things are off to a great start! East and West House were the lucky teams to go on Expedition first. For those of you who aren’t very familiar with the Academy at SOAR, our students operate on a two rotation. They spend two weeks out of the month on campus and two weeks on expeditions, traveling throughout the United States. For this first expedition, the teams stayed close, visiting some of western NC’s beautiful outdoor spaces. After a minor 2 day delay due to Hurricane Irma’s heavy wind and rain, East and West house departed campus for their first adventure of the year!
Their first stop was Panthertown Valley, near Cashiers, NC. Upon arrival at the trailhead, the students had a quick lesson on using a compass and how to read maps. After hiking a few miles, the teams made it to their first campsite of the trip where the learned the ins and outs of setting up camp—where to set up sleeping, cooking, and bathroom areas to protect from animals, assembling the tents, and setting up their water filter. The students spent a total of two nights in Panthertown Valley, hiking out on their last day to head to Fontana Lake to set up camp for the next phase of their trip.
Fontana Lake is a beautiful mountain lake bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Before beginning their canoe trip, each team spent a day on the Ocoee River in Tennessee, barreling down the river’s class 3 and 4 rapids. One of the most exciting rivers in our area, the Ocoee is known for whitewater rafting and for hosting the whitewater events during the 1996 Summer Olympics. After a warm shower and a night of rest, the students finally began their canoe trips. East House canoed a total of 18 miles and West House a total of 19 miles! But don’t worry, there were plenty of breaks for swimming, cliff jumping, and exploring. Last but not least, the trip ended with a day on the Nantahala River. While not quite as thrilling as the Ocoee River, students had the opportunity guide their rafts and implement the strokes they learned to help steer their rafts with confidence.
As with all expeditions, school is incorporated into day to day adventures. On this expedition students calculated water usage, researched dams as alternative forms of energy, calculated density of objects they found at and around their campsites, began reading Candide, learned about the Columbian Exchange, Medieval Times, and the Reconstruction Era.
Both houses have returned to base and are currently in their first campus phase, doing school in a more “traditional” way and likely dreaming of their next expedition starting in a couple of weeks. Up next, rock climbing in Seneca Rocks, WV and backpacking in Shenandoah National Park.