For 8 Seniors, Friendship and Alligators on the Suwannee River

011bowdoin-beyond-the-pines-suwanneeStudents recently gathered at the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center to see photos and hear tales of canoeing, camping and alligator-spotting from this year’s Beyond the Pines Fellowship recipients, who spent a week in March paddling down the Suwannee River.

The Beyond the Pines Fellowship, which is funded by a gift from the Benson family to the Outing Club, is awarded annually to students who propose and plan an outing that will take them far beyond the bounds of Brunswick.

The Suwannee group consisted of eight seniors who, with the exception of one, completed the Outing Club’s Leadership Training together during their sophomore year. They included Sarah Johnson, Louisa Oakes, Phil Cuddeback, Julie Bender, David Bruce, Ben Richmond, Zina Huxley-Reicher and Alex Thompson.

Johnson explained that the trip was a reunion of sorts for the former “LT” buddies, who have remained good friends ever since. “We wanted to reunite with a trip to echo and expand on that experience,” she said, “and we knew we wanted to go South for the weather.”

So south they went. The group spent six days canoeing down the Suwannee River, which flows from southern Georgia into northern Florida. Thompson remarked that though the group managed to canoe over 70 miles in that time, the days were relaxing and well-paced, especially compared with the intensive trips that defined their earlier Leadership Training experience.

Still, Huxley-Reicher explained that the canoeing trip did not come without challenges. “There wasn’t very much information on the river online and so we had to go with our gut and trust that once we got there we would be able to gather the information we needed. And there were other small things of course, like the hour in which we thought we weren’t going to be find white gas for our stoves.”

In the end, though, everything worked out. “We had good food, beautiful weather, solid canoes and excellent company, and not to mention, we saw alligators!” said Johnson.

For this group of friends, and for other students involved in the Bowdoin Outing Club, the outdoors provides the setting for memories that will last a lifetime. Huxley-Reicher explained, “The opportunity to spend time on the river with a group of people who I have spent the past four years developing relationships with both in and out of the wilderness context was magical. There is nothing like sitting around a fire with seven of your best friends relishing every second of what you are doing.”

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