Hampton High teacher, student explore James River on 8-day expedition

James RiverTravelCanoeing and KayakingSports

HAMPTON — Eight days of strenuous canoeing the James River have left a Hampton High School teacher and student with a new appreciation of the waterway.

Science teacher Heather Main and rising senior Ashley Hudson are back from the lifejackets-and-sunscreen lifestyle of the James River Expedition, an educational trip about the history and inner workings of the river.

They joined teachers and students from Albemarle County and Charlottesville in a journey that began June 23 in Iron Gate and ended June 30 in Lynchburg.

Along the 89 miles of river, the group tested water quality, identified wildlife, camped, took nature hikes, toured a Georgia-Pacific Paper Mill and learned about the history and water management practices of the city of Buchanan.

It was the first camping experience for Hudson, who said she never knew that cows go down to the river to drink and "poop all over the place" while there, which damages water quality.

She'll talk about pollution with her classmates and pass on lessons learned, said Hudson, adding that she didn't miss the amenities of civilization during the journey.

"It was peaceful, you didn't have to worry about what time it was or who was calling your phone," Hudson said. "You could just chill and meet new people and enjoy the river."

Main, who will teach oceanography and biology at Hampton High this fall, said the experience will add insight to classroom discussions about the waterway.

"It's not just a body of water near us that flows into the Chesapeake Bay," she said. "It has a history behind it. Being able to see it close and personal and canoe it for eight days changes your perspective."

This year's trip – which was organized by the James River Association and sponsored by the Dominion Foundation - was split into three eight-day journeys so that more students could experience it, according to organizers.

Last year, three students and a teacher from Bethel High School joined groups from Richmond, Charlottesville and Lynchburg to travel 340 miles of the James River in 28 days.

To see photos and information from both this year's and last year's trip, visit http://www.jamesriverassociation.org/expedition.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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