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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Smell of the Sea. The Sound of a Sea Gull.

       After having a life changing, eye opening, transformative experience, it is incredibly hard to convey it to others. How do you express the feelings, the sounds, the colors in the sky in such a way that makes them understand how amazing it was? That is the trouble that I have when I try to talk about my recent January block experience. Sea Kayaking and Marine Natural History, which takes place in Mexico. It was an absolutely wonderful course that taught me how to observe my surroundings with a sense of new found clarity. I learned to appreciate the sounds of the brown-footed boobies, the smell of the sea, the touch of a sea urchin, the feeling of the west northwest wind on my face. There was a feeling of being present that I had never encountered before.This was my first Adventure Education course at Prescott College, my first outdoor-based class ever, besides orientation, my first science class since high school and my first time sea kayaking. I had the time of my life. Since my arrival at Prescott College three years ago, I have been told more times then I can count that before I graduated this was the one course I had to take. So, after I filled out my degree plan and realized that I had room to take it I jumped on the opportunity.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.
The first week of class we spent in Prescott preparing for the trip. The week was full of food planning, personal gear check outs, inspections of the group gear, discussing natural history and going over the logistics of the trip. At five in the morning the first Saturday of block we pulled out of the parking lot in our Prescott College vans, the trailers stacked with sea kayaks to begin our journey to Mexico. We spent around 10 hours in the van, sleeping, talking and sleeping. We arrived at the Kino Bay Station in the evening, with just enough time to run down to the beach and watch the sunset.

We spent the next day in town gathering the last of our food and filling up our 40 water droms. The next day we drove two hours south to our launch spot near St. Augustine. We camped there for two nights, and on the third morning, we left on our expedition.The next 2 weeks was a 50 nautical-mile adventure. On travel days, we woke up at 4:30 in the morning, and if the weather conditions were good, ate breakfast, packed our boats, and launched right as the sun was coming over the water. The magic of sunrises is so invigorating. We would paddle for 2 to 3 ½ hours on average to our next camp spot. The first morning of paddling a pod of dolphins swam right past us, hundreds of them in the water, jumping and splashing around. I knew at that moment that the trip was going to be unforgettable. The rest of our travel days, as well as our layover days, consisted of snorkeling, practicing kayaking skills, hiking, shell collecting, writing our natural history field journals, tide pool walking, observing, reflecting, reading about invertebrates, bony fishes and mammals, food making, sunset watching and fun having. We also had classes everyday about different topics such as the weather, tides, winds, and moon cycles.The last morning of the expedition, as I was packing my boat for the last time, and putting on my wet wetsuit for the last time, a wave of sadness washed over me. I realized that this was the end to one of the best things that had ever happened to me. One of the best experiences that I have ever had the opportunity of having was coming to an end.

Even while writing this, I am having such a difficult time articulating what I want to say. As I said in the beginning, how do you articulate so many laughs, emotions, and memories into a blog, or even into words? I am afraid that I did not do this course any of the justice it deserves. Nothing else I could write would paint a clear enough picture, so I will leave you all with this, it is my highest recommendation that all students, no matter what their major area of study, take Sea Kayaking and Marine Natural History before graduating Prescott College. I promise that you will not be disappointed, and will be able to see with your own eyes what I could not convey in words.

Cheers! Amanda Hampton, 02.2012

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