Volume 82, Issue 13 Web Edition
SERVING BREVARD COLLEGE SINCE 1935
Look for a senior
profile on page 6!
December 7, 2016
Immersion students return
21 days of adventure and rerouting
By Jessica Wiegandt
Arts & Life Editor
Wilderness Leadership and Experiential
Education (WLEE) is a department that trains
students to become successes in the outdoor
industry. Immersion is a semester where WLEE
students apply the skills they have learned and
become facilitators. This semester’s Immersion
team just finished the 21-day excursion prior to
Each semester in the WLEE department
there is usually an Immersion group, but not
all the routes taken are the same. The semester
is unique because eligible students apply to be
part of the team. Group sizes are typically 10
students with one primary professor and one
co-leader for the 21-day trip.
This semester, there are nine students and the
team is led by WLEE professor John Buford.
Each Immersion has a WLEE professor leading,
with a rotation of Buford, Clyde Carter, Robert
Dye and Jenny Kafsky. Students have relative
free reign over their route for the 21 -day trip,
with limitations on van mileage and the skill
level of the group overall.
The team this semester started at Mount
Mitchell and backpacked for eight days to Lin-
ville Gorge. There, the team were rock climbing
for three days, and then moved on to the NCOBS
(North Carolina Outward Bound School).
“We got to do community service there for
the last day there and then rappelled, which
was pretty fun,” Immersion member Jordan
After staying at NCOBS, the team hiked
another two days to Ginger Cave Creek, where
the team was evacuated due to wildfire smoke.
“We got picked up and got dropped off at John
[Buford’s] river property and paddled the French
Broad starting at Section 0 [in RosmanJ,” said
From Rosman, the crew paddled a total of 56
miles in three days on the French Broad River.
Once off the river, the group was transported to
the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and
the Art Loeb Trail and hiked three days back
The weather was a large factor on the group, as
the team was out during the peak of the drought
and wildfires. The drought, which was classified
as an extremely severe drought on the N.C.
Drought Conditions Map, was causing all of
the water sources in the backcountry to dry up.
“Initially we were supposed to hike to the
South Fork of the New River when we were
finished climbing, but we had to change that be
cause there was no water,” said Haak. “We were
going to paddle the New River for eight days as
our final stretch of the 21-day. That changed.”
The team was reconfiguring the route plan up
until the final week before they left. “The smoke
gave us a lot of problems,” said Haak, “And
we had to carry water with us more than usual
because we couldn’t fill up in some places.”
Haak was evacuated from the field for two
days due to a knee injury. “During that time,
the team really ran into a water problem,” Haak
said. “They had to hike two 12-mile days in a
row to get to NCOBS when it was supposed to
take three days because they didn’t have enough
water to spend the night.”
Three students came in and out of the field
due to injury and sickness. In order to pass the
21 -day, a student has to make it 15 days in the
field. “Injuries are pretty easy and it isn’t a big
deal usually,” Haak said, “I mean, you can get
something like blisters on your feet and have to
sit out for a day or two in order to heal. It’s okay.”
One of the primary goals of the Immersion
semester is to teach students to consistently
and carefully reflect on their work. Haak said
the team wrote journals often, and took time for
themselves in the woods. “You really grow close
to everyone while you’re out there,” Haak said.
“You’re living with everyone and I spent 504
hours out in the woods, with the same people,
cooking and living together. It’s great and you
make a lot of memories, but taking time for
yourself is essential.”
The next Immersion group is scheduled to go
out in the spring semester, and will be led by
WLEE professor Robert Dye. This semester’s
team has a couple more labs to finish before a
final reflection period during exam week, includ
ing a day caving in Worley’s Cave, TN.
Immersion team hikes back onto campus after 21 days in the woods.