A group of five SMU students, one Outdoor Leader Trainee, and two veteran trip leads peeled out of Airline Blvd before the sun rose. Destination? The Ocean! We chatted and jammed to classics including “Burning Up” by The Jonas Brothers on the way to Port Lavaca, building our energy and group chemistry for the kayaking journey ahead. After a quick stop at McDonald’s for some breakfast, Steve (one of the trip leaders) powered out the last few hours of the road trip to get us to the campsite safely. The participants crushed the camping lessons, learning how to cook and set up tents in the backcountry in no time!
Once we were all settled in, we headed down to the water and unloaded the kayaks. We grooved through paddling basics and splashed around in the water for about an hour. To cap it off, a friendly race to see who would be leading the pack in status the next day when we started our real journey out to Matagorda. No shocker, the tandem with an SMU rowing team member blew the competition away. On Sunday we rose early, cramming as much gear as we could into dry bags and then hitting the road once more for Port O’ Connor. We got to the shore, loaded up the kayaks, and paddled South!
On the paddling trail, the conditions could not have been better. A nice tailwind kept us cruising all the way through. We stopped for lunch, participants picking out dolphins in the Bayou as we snacked on bagels, peanut butter and Nutella. Diego taught the lesson on fingers: Nature’s PB spreader. It was tough work, but we kept pushing and made it all the way to the beach well before sunset. Everyone was exhausted, excited, having a fantastic time away from cell towers and homework assignments. We took a break to swim in the lagoon, more dolphins, crabs, pelicans, and seagulls joining us for the good time. After we had chilled out a little bit, we got to work pitching tents and setting up camp. A delicious and carb heavy meal of pasta and sauce absolutely SCHMACKED after a long day of kayaking. If only TL Jamie hadn’t forgotten the spice kit…We snuggled up in our tents and drifted off to sleep after a hard day’s work to the sound of the ocean hitting the beach just a few feet away.
Day two on the island started late and lazy. We slept in, woke up to a beautiful scene of rolling clouds and sparkling sunshine. We had a quick adventure swimming across a small channel that had opened up in the beach as a result of the previous year’s hurricane. Then had a lunch, sitting around the lovely sand art made by our participants while swapping stories about our times at SMU. Next up, lighthouse. We kayaked across the channel this time, moving with our gear and sunscreen. Steven was in-advisably shirtless. After a few hours of walking on the beach, we hoisted ourselves up on to the ledge that was inland and crawled through a field of head-high grass to make it to the lighthouse. The lighthouse was decommissioned years ago, but still stands as a beautiful landmark for the bird sanctuary that is located on the island. Dinner that night was a delicious mix of vegetable soup and ramen noodles. I heard several “that was the best meal I’ve ever had”s as we cleaned up the gear, scrubbing pots with sand and rocks before splashing some saltwater to finish the job.
On our last day, the wind shifted again! I couldn’t believe how lucky we had gotten with the weather. It was easy breezy beautiful kayaking all the way to the coast guard tower, where we roped up the kayaks and popped up for a quick lunch. I spotted a sea turtle from the tower, which made my day. Everyone was exhausted, excited to be able to see our destination. Hammering down, we finished the paddle before noon, hopped in the van and booked it to Dallas. We got back, unloaded the gear and said our goodbyes. It was an amazing weekend, with great, tough participants. Everyone learned things about themselves and how to enjoy life and the outdoors when conditions aren’t manicured and perfect. I can’t wait to hear about the next time these participants get outside, and next year’s trip!
-Jamie Paterson, Trip Leader