On the Nantahala River

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P1030847The sun is peaking over the mountains and the fog slowly begins to lift. Forty excited, some apprehensive, Kenan Fellows awake ready for a day to raft down the Nantahala River. Buzzing with chatter we all load the bus for the hour drive from NCCAT to Nantahala Outdoor Company.

After a quick safety session and being secured in our PFDs we are off to explore the Nantahala River. The session title is “Team Building Skills” and oh boy does rating in a six person boat epitomize the cohesiveness needed in a strong team. Our tour guide, Pam, goes over the paddling commands she will call out as we forge down the river. Her instructions will be clear and concise. However, we need to make sure we are actively listening to apply the paddling commands.

It was all smooth sailing for the first few miles of our eight and half mile journey and then, our ability to work together was tested. We were quickly placed into a situation in need of strong communication skills and adaptability to a stressful situation, three boat members, including the tour guide went overboard. Working swiftly and collaboratively we were able to help all three team members successful get back on the boat.

Stopping for lunch, we all are more relaxed about the “bump” on the trip. We sit around, debriefing about the events surrounding the members falling out of the raft, what was happening at the moment, our on point of views, what we could have done to maybe prevent it and what we could do for the next five miles down the river to ensure everyone’s continued safety.

Back on the river, we stop briefly to hear Cherokee history and the ecology of an island which contains over 100 types of flora. The River Whisperer had us engaged in the Cherokee Creation story along with music of the Cherokee and their history. He and Peter, a local scientist and teacher explained the different types of flora found on the island and local medicinal uses for these plants.

Equipped with our own strategies on navigating the river we help each other avoid low branches and on coming rocks and rapids. Swiftly and efficiently we bounce up and down over the rapids and through the “spin cycle.”

There it is…Nantahala Falls, class 3 rapid, what we have been preparing for all day. Can we successfully and effectively navigate through the rapid without losing a team member? Have we developed the skills over the last 8 miles to be a dynamic team? 2 forward paddle,…3 forward paddle…ALL forward, Pam calls. Down the boat goes, over the Falls, then bump, then…YES! We did it! We celebrate our team accomplishment. We paddled over the Falls and through the rapid maintaining all 6 members and our tour guide in the boat. We cheer and high-five. We have successfully completed our task, we are a dynamic, effective team.

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