Renewable Thinking

Kayaking with the NicNats… at night!
by Alex Osteen -- October 8th, 2012

Fall has officially come to North Carolina. You can tell it’s fall because the air has that fresh crispness, Durham’s summer heat and humidity are finally subsiding, the earliest leaves are starting to change and, most noticeable for lots of happy/surprised Dukies around here, college football is in full swing (and Duke is 5-1 on a four-game winning streak right now).

This past week about 25 of us MEMers took advantage of this fall season, tossed aside our notebooks, closed our laptops, and went kayaking… at night! It was a crazy idea that turned out to be a lot of fun and was actually a really relaxing outdoors experience. The night was cool but not cold and the sky was partially clouded but allowed enough celestial light to shine down to guide our path. The “East Coast goat bugs” were out in full masse, as my friend from Seattle calls cicadas for the bah-ing noise they make.

At 7:15 in the evening, just as the sun was beginning to set, we took a small armada of various colored kayaks and canoes, strung with pink and green glo sticks, up the calm Eno and Neuse Rivers. The Eno and Neuse are two tributaries of the Falls Lake watershed, about a half hour northeast of campus.

We all had various levels of boating skills. Some people flew effortlessly up the water in their kayaks. Whereas one person got tipped into the river within the first five minutes. I probably looked like a drunken pirate given my zig-zagging paddling style and others collided with overhanging branches and submerged logs. No one seemed to care too much though. We paddled happily, blissfully up and down the river for about three hours and got back home at about 10:30, giving me just enough time to put in a good two hours of Energy Systems Modeling homework before bed.

The trip also was cool because it related with some of the things we’ve been talking about in several of my classes. In my GIS class, for example, we have mapped Falls Lake and analyzed its surrounding land use, water testing stations and nearby superfund sites to see if its pollution is being adequately monitored. Then to go and smell the manure from nearby grazing land in person really brought the assignment home. Also, in my Energy and the Environment class we’ve discussed how nearly all the lakes in the state of North Carolina are artificial, built for hydro dams. And sure enough, one of our guides talked about the work she had done with the CCC back in the 70’s to buy up all this land to build the lake.

A second year student advised me during orientation to take some time to get outdoors during the program. Yes we will be doing lots of relevant school assignments and meeting leaders in our field, but it’s important to step into nature every once in a while to remind us why we’re doing this in the first place.


1 Comment

  1. Katie
    Oct 8, 2012

    It was actually 34 of us!! A very big group for them, they said, but I’ve been told they loved our group. It’s true, being a student can be crazy but it’s so necessary to go on outings like this sometimes.

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