By Ruoshan Dong ’21 and Jake Verny ’21
219 students of the ninth grade class canoed down the Colorado River in a four day retreat during the week of Oct. 9. Students had the choice between the Lower River Retreat located in Arizona and the more intense Upper River Retreat located in Nevada. On the Upper River, students had to paddle more due to the lack of a running current. Retreat is an opportunity for students to bond, form new friendships and work on their teamwork skills.
Due to strong winds and unforeseen circumstances, the Upper River retreat was cut short by one day, causing students to return home on Oct.11 instead of Oct.12. Consequently, the students remained on one campground throughout the entire retreat, instead of canoeing to a new campground every day.
Lower River participants met on the morning of Oct. 9 at 7:00 a.m, while Upper River participants met at 6:15 a.m due to the slightly longer bus ride to the Upper River. Students were divided into 6 groups of about 12 students on the Upper River, and into 12 groups of about 12 students on the Lower River. On the first night, the Naturalists at Large taught students on both retreats how to paddle and canoe properly, set up tents and what to do in case of an emergency while on the water. At night, students went stargazing and played various games to encourage teamwork.
“I bonded with everyone in my group by playing games with them and doing other team building activities. It was really fun,” Upper River participant Lyon Chung ’21 said.
On the second day, students canoed down the river, playing games along the way and stopping at various shores to rest and eat. The Lower River students canoed to their new campground while the Upper River students canoed back to their original campground. At night a campfire and talent show was held at both retreats.
On the last day of the Upper River retreat, students got the opportunity to visit the Hoover Dam on their way home. Afterwards they went to a beach where they ate lunch and swam.
Overall, Upper River participants seemed to enjoy retreat and making new memories with friends, although some were disappointed about it being cut short.
“Even though we had to come back one night early, it was a unique experience and great getaway from all the academics and stress,” Jacky Zhang ’21 said.
Meanwhile, Lower River participants canoed to a new campsite each night, which challenged the students’ adaptation abilities. The students enjoyed their retreat and the opportunity to get a break from academics and other activities.
“During retreat, I grew closer with my fellow classmates and became one with nature. The river was beautiful and canoeing down it was very peaceful. My naturalist was great, and I enjoyed my day group,” Lower River participant Vadim Wulfsohn ’21 said.