I first heard of St. Lawrence when I was 14 years old, on a three-week whitewater trip on the Rapid River located on the New Hampshire-Maine border. One of my trip leaders was a SLU student and an Outdoor Program Guide. She was one of several St. Lawrence characters who introduced and inspired me to pursue whitewater kayaking as an outdoor passion. I knew, while applying to colleges that I would need a place that could accommodate my incessant desire to get into the backcountry and into a beautiful wilderness characterized by gradient and water.
As a first-year student, I was incredibly fortunate to have been immediately introduced to a group of three whitewater guides from St. Lawrence's Outdoor Program within the first week of getting here. This first week, I (who had been a novice whitewater boater at the time) was introduced to the South Branch of the Grasse River, one of the several beautiful North Country rivers that attract paddlers from around the country, located about 20 minutes off campus. After running the majority of the river, which included some challenging class III and IV rapids, I found myself following a very experienced boater whom I had just met towards the horizon line of Twin Falls. Throughout the trip, I had been scared, but I trusted these guys as they radiated an air of confidence and made evident all safety precautions we were to take. For my sake, we got out of our boats before every rapid and determined the best way to go about the technical, thrashing, cold, and consequential sections of whitewater.
When we got out to look at Twin Falls, my palms started sweating profusely and I started having doubts. I was told that there would be no shame in walking around this section, but quickly realized that this would be a pivotal moment in my kayaking career. At about 35-feet tall and 65-feet long, Twin Falls was a monster of a step up for me. After seeing the guys disappear over the horizon line, one by one, I was floating towards the lip of the drop, lined up to shoot safely down the waterfall, avoiding the jagged rocks and squirly water that could flip me, thinking "What in the world am I doing here?" The ride was quick, bouncy, and white, and suddenly I was in the pool of calm water, looking back up at the beast I had just conquered, fist pumping and yelling as loud as I could.
Now, as a junior, I have been running the South Branch and other class IV and V sections of river around the Adirondacks with confidence for quite some time. In fact, just the other week I had the pleasure of introducing that section of river to my own friends who I had been teaching to kayak since last spring. After becoming a guide for the Outdoor Program in the spring of my first year, I've been able to introduce a huge number of students to some of the beautiful, wild, outdoor assets we have as Laurentians. From learning how to eskimo roll a kayak in the deep end of the pool during our winter clinics to taking on your first waterfall, the Outdoor Program has the equipment, guides, and knowledge to keep you safe, happy, and successful in the backcountry.
At SLU, we are fortunate enough not only to live in a place of beautiful scenery and incredible outing potential, but also to have such resources as the Outdoor Program and the Outing Club. No matter if you're interested in whitewater kayaking, backcountry skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking or anything else, SLU has the resources to get you there and teach you some lessons that could change your life, just as they changed mine.