Here is a copy of the parent updates that parents received every 3-5 days throughout the trip. In addition, we also send out several pictures and social media post with additional updates.
Monday the zip lines were a welcome break from the drive. They arrived just after lunch to zip and everyone was all smiles and excited. Everyone had such a great time and would have stayed all day if they could. Afterwards we headed over to the Nolichucky River and picked up pizza on the way to a cabin on the river. After dinner they hung out next to the river and enjoyed a nice campfire to officially kick of the trip!
Tuesday the spent the day hanging out with some special needs teens picnicking above the dam and rafting on the Watauga River. The Watauga River is a dam released class I-II rafting trip that starts at the bottom of the dam. We got there before the water started flowing so it is always neat to see river rise as the dam opens up. The water is a little chilly as it comes from the bottom of the dam but the water it is also crystal clear! Even though the river is not super wild everyone had fun swimming, playing games, and they enjoyed spending time giving back to the community. Afterwards they headed up to a bald spot of the mountain where they could see for miles and look down on Erwin, TN before building another campfire near the river.
After two nights in the cabin today they will start the EPIC Clinic and get ready for their first backpacking trip. During the EPIC Clinic we go teach everyone the knots they will need, how to build tarp shelters, how to use the stoves, water filtration, proper packing strategies, backcountry safety, hygiene, and Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics. After lunch campers get to put all that info to work as they start a 2 night backpacking trip out to the rim of the Nolichucky River Gorge where they will camp 2000’ above some of the rapids they will get to raft later in the week on the first night. The next night they will hike back to the bald spot the checked out Tuesday night and camp out. This will be everyone’s first real chance to push themselves and we don’t see anything that should stop any of them!
That about sums up everything for now and we are going to try to get you some pictures up by the end of the week once they get back from the backpacking trip. Thanks for being patient and we will keep you guys updated as much as possible.
Campers made it through their first backpack trip and had a great time. EVERYONE DID GREAT! They started off Wednesday morning by going through the EPIC Clinic learning how to build tents, work with the backpacking stoves, tie knots, and pack their packs. After lunch they hit the trail and hiked about 4.5 miles down to the rim of the Nolichucky River Gorge where they set up camp. The hike was mostly downhill following some old logging roads and creeks before opening up to a clearing along the rim where they could look down about 2,000’ and see some of the class IV rapids they will get to raft down on Sunday. They made it into camp early enough to build another camp fire where they celebrated the day’s accomplishments under the stars. This was also their first chance to build a tarp shelter and they nailed it! Thursday was a little bit tougher as most of the trail was uphill and they had to hike about 6 miles! They really pushed themselves and did great! Everyone was in great spirits when they made it to the mountain top. Their first backpacking trip was a success and everyone felt accomplished!
Friday they spent the day caving through 3.5 miles of a wild cave where they got to scramble up and down muddy rocks, crawl through a narrow passageway, and hike down an underground stream in complete darkness. Without their headlamps they literally could not see their hand in front of their face! At the end of the day they were MUDDY! Afterwards they headed back into town where they cleaned up, did laundry, and picked up some bratwurst to cook for dinner.
Saturday morning they hiked about 1.5 miles to another overlook where they could see the river below. After lunch they paddled down the lower Nolichucky on “bellyaks” and “ducks.” Bellyaks are like long body boards made for rivers, and ducks are small inflatable kayaks. Everyone had a great time but they were definitely tired at the end of the day.
Sunday they will spend their final day on the Nolichucky River rafting down the upper section. Many seasoned rafters consider this the best section of river in the Southeast. This class III-IV whitewater river winds its way nine miles through the second deepest river gorge on the East Coast. The water levels are prefect for the campers to take ducks so they will get to put their rafting skills to the test! Campers always love the ducks! I think they like being in charge.
Monday they will start the second part of their service hours by working with a local conservation group to help clean a local river and to remove invasive species from the streams. We have added some pictures and are working to get some more. Thanks again for being patient, and we will continue working to keep everyone updated.
Happy Friday, everyone! We hope everyone has been having as much fun as we’ve been having. Campers are still doing great and having a great time! Monday and Tuesday were spent hiking up to the top of Mount Mitchell. This is the highest peak east of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak on the East Coast. The hike was pretty tough but everyone made it and enjoyed the amazing views as well as the cooler temperatures from 6,699 feet.
Wednesday and Thursday kicked off the 2nd and final part of our service work. We met up with a local conservation group, River Link, who set up a day to remove invasive plant species from the French Broad Watershed and arranged for us to canoe down a section of the French Broad River to pick up trash. I think campers were surprised to find out how much trash you can find when you actively look for it. This was our first year to offer service hours and we think it was a HUGE success! Spending the day rafting with special needs teens was rewarding and working with River Link was very educational. Overall fun was had by all completing 18 hours of service work, and we can’t wait to do it again.
Today the campers will start their big day backpacking trip! To begin the trip they will hike in and set up camp near the base of the climbing site where they will meet up with their rock climbing guide. After rock climbing they will spend the next 4 days hiking about 25 miles before finishing up on next Tuesday morning.
Overall the group is doing well and everyone has settled in as they have found their place among the group:
- Thomas is always positive and a great motivator for the group. He really liked the caving.
- Kaleb is such a hard worker and is always finding something that needs to be done. He loved the zip lines and caving.
- Collin, our seasoned camper (his 7th trip) is our expert / Jr. Guide who has all of the answers. He enjoys the rafting.
- Hayden is always relaxed and loves everyone and everything! He had a blast on the bell yaks.
- Nate is the hard working and jolly guy who is always in good spirits. He had a great time paddling the ducks and caving.
- Samson just likes everything and is super helpful. He loves the outdoors but mainly appreciates the comradery with the group!
- Jun is our group comedian and prankster! He liked the zip lines and rafting
- Sunny is full of coolness and confidence who is willing to lend a hand when needed. He had a blast on the belly yaks.
We are having trouble getting more photos right now, but as soon as we get some we will be sure to get them to you. Thanks again for trusting us with you loved one.
Hope everyone is getting ready for a great 4th of July weekend and excited to see their campers on Sunday! We have had a great time with all of the campers and can’t believe that the trip is almost over! We really have enjoyed this group and can’t thank everyone enough for not only supporting EPIC Adventures but for supporting your teen!
The backpacking trip went great and everyone had a great time. On the first day they hiked in to a rock climbing spot where they spent the day climbing. After rock climbing they camped at a nearby hiking shelter along the trail on the first night. From there they hiked uphill most of the way for the next 2 days before camping atop of the mountain. On the 4th day they spent the last night on the trail about a mile from the van near the confluence of two mountain streams and some cool waterfalls. All in all they did great on the trail and we were very proud of everyone for pushing themselves and making it to the top. The total backpacking trip was about 26 miles bringing the trail mileage up to 43 total spread out across three separate hikes! They had planned to celebrate by stopping at a pizza buffet but it was closed. Their 2nd choice was a Chinese buffet and they LOVED IT!
Once their stomachs were full they drove about 2 hours down to the Nantahala River Gorge where they have been camping since Tuesday night. On Wednesday they spent the day taking duckies down the Nantahala River and today they will be spending the day on SUPs (Stand Up Paddle Boards) exploring Fontana Lake near the Southern boundary of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park!
Friday they will be whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River near Chattanooga TN. This river is action packed and full of big splashes. This is also where the whitewater events were held during the 1996 Olympic Games! Saturday they will spend the day getting ready to head home before they have their EPIC Banquet and one last campfire!
We should be back in Dallas around 11 AM and back in Austin about 2 PM. We will be returning to the same place where the campers were dropped off. If you are going to be running late, please let us know.