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Teenagers being sought for week long canoe trip

By Staff | Apr 13, 2017

Join the first ever “Canoeing the Caloosahatchee” this summer for an epic, four night expedition. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Sanibel Sea School is seeking adventurous teenagers who wish to be apart of the first ever camp, “Canoeing the Caloosahatchee.”

Canoeing the Caloosahatchee will be held Monday, July 24, through Friday, July 28, for those 13 to 18 years old. Those interested in registering for the program must have completed the Have Paddleboard, Will Survive Camp, which included a night stay at Picnic Island.

“That is to make sure our campers are comfortable in that really rugged outdoor situation,” Sanibel Sea School Director of Education Nicole Finnicum said.

Campers will take about five and a half days to travel down the river during the overnight expedition. Campers will depart from a boat ramp on the west side of Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida and head to San Carlos Bay near the Causeway.

“It will definitely be a very different experience because inland Florida is very different from coastal Florida,” she said. “We will be able to see that transition along the way.”

Sanibel Sea School Outdoor Educator and SUP Coordinator Spencer Richardson, who will lead the camp, said they will see lots of birds, hopefully manatees and dolphins towards the end of the journey. She is in the process of creating bingo cards, so they can play wildlife bingo along the way.

The history of the pioneers that hung out along the Caloosahatchee River will also be discussed throughout the journey. Finnicum said learning about the history is important because the river was never formally connected to Lake O. The discussion of the history will inform campers about the dikes, the negative impacts of the river releases, as well as the communities surrounding the river.

Everything the campers will need will be stored in the canoes, such as water and food. Finnicum said they have used meals ready to eat in the past and the campers really seem to like the food.

“We will probably try to make some meals and pack some small camping stoves. The majority of the food will be pretty easy, such as prepackaged things that are convenient,” she said.

The campers will paddle at least 15 to 20 miles a day while camping for four nights at either campgrounds or wilderness camping.

“Typically if you are paddling leisurely you can do three miles an hour,” Richardson said. “We have 13 hours of sunlight a day that time of year. As long as we don’t face a lot of head winds we will be going with the current of the Caloosahatchee.”

Richardson said some of the campsites have trails, which they will be able to hike once they stop for the day. The time at the campsite will also be packed with canoe themed bonding games.

“We will have camp fires and story tellings. We will set up camp and make dinners all together as a group,” Finnicum said. “It will be really sort of adventure based and exploratory, but also kind of wilderness survival. How do we set up camp? How do we survive in the wilderness?”

A stop at Manatee Park, if time permits may also be apart of the week festivities.

At least five canoes will be used for the trip with at least two people per canoe. The Sanibel Sea School is seeking for at least eight campers to register for the camp, which is $550.

Finnicum said this is the first time the camp has been offered at the Sanibel Sea School because they wanted to expand their offerings for teens.

“We have been doing a lot of exploration for our inland and coastal connections. We have been doing that a lot with our landlocked kids, so we thought this camp would be a really good way to show some of our teenagers how important that connection is,” Finnicum said.

She said the camp will perhaps show the teenagers something they have never seen before, while experiencing something for the first time.

“Many of the teens have probably canoed in the past, but this is more of an epic canoe adventure,” Finnicum said. “We will be canoeing down the Caloosahatchee River and because we have never done it before it will be really exploratory. We want them to help us kind of figure out what is along the way and figure out how we can expand on this camp in the future. These guys are our test run and we hope that will attract our adventurous teens looking for a challenge and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.”

Sanibel Sea School staff will be making the same trip in May before the camp takes place.

Richardson said she is excited to watch all the kids explore the Caloosahatchee for the first time.

“I will be interested to see their progression from the first day to the last day,” she said.

Finnicum said there is always a huge transformation from the first to the last day.

“The first day sometimes they are shy, or reserved, not really confident or comfortable on either a paddleboard or a canoe. On the last day, they can do anything,” she said. “I think it’s good not only physically, they become stronger, but emotionally because they become more confident and they believe in themselves more.”