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We had just completed the Double Hawaiian rapid of the Pigeon River, and a breathtaking sunset in the distance was our reward for a day of hard work. I closed my eyes and laid back in the red solo boat that had carried me faithfully down so much intense whitewater that summer, and I relished in the glory of creation. It was my sixth summer of paddling at a summer camp in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the best one by far. Paddling was not the only highlight of the nine weeks I spent in North Carolina. I built lifelong friendships, witnessed breathtaking moments in the depths of the mountains, experienced the exhilaration of feeling one with a raging river, and truly found the key to living: love.
Camp Kahdalea has been my home away from home for the past six years. The activities offered are endless and include rock climbing, mountain biking, whitewater paddling, and hiking. The atmosphere present here is unachievable anywhere else. As a small-town girl from Louisiana, this is a small taste of heaven for me; I only know flat land and hot weather. The towering mountains and class V rapids are miniscule in comparison to the immense love flowing through the hearts of the people present in this place. For the summer of 2009, I decided to venture out, take a risk, and stay at camp longer than ever before, for nine weeks!
My main focus at camp and something I truly adore is paddling. I was a part of the advanced group this particular summer, and we all became a close-knit family as we experienced the joys of the river together. The many bodies of water traveled by our canoes and kayaks included the Green, Nantahala, Tuckaseecee, French Broad, and Pigeon rivers. I grew a great deal, expanded my knowledge of the river, and especially learned about myself. This unique experience developed from many flips of my canoe, a certification in swift water rescue, perfection of strokes, a crash course in swing dancing, jam sessions around the campfire, and domination of many difficult and thrashing rapids.
As the weeks wore on with out-of-camp paddling trips, quality time with friends, and ridiculous camp games, I came to realize that my incredible summer wasn’t just about the adventures I took. It was much, much more than that. It was the love, joy, and peacefulness wrapped up in the core of those experiences that made my time there unbelievably worth-while. The friends I made taught me simply through their actions that genuinely loving one another is truly the key to happiness. My aspiration to live life to its fullest was planted in this special place, and I will be forever grateful for the lessons learned during this time.