Way Down in the Everglades by Haley Stern ’20
When I signed up to go on the annual February break trip to to the Everglades with the Outing Club, I honestly had no idea what to expect. All I had to grasp on to was my friend Lenny’s comment that when he went to the Everglades as a freshman, he was a mere baby, but he returned as a man. I looked forward to this kind of revelation myself, though admittedly, the only thing I really knew about the Everglades was that it was in Florida. I knew we’d be kayaking. I hoped cool people would be there. Luckily, all of those things came into fruition, though not in any way I anticipated.
The trip came in phases, and as we got to know each other as a group, we also became accustomed to the ever present sand (in and on literally everything), and adjusted to living in “island time” as opposed to real time. The Everglades sunk into myself in a way no other place had before. That week encapsulated some of the most beautiful and unique scenery I’ve ever seen- I saw dolphins, sea turtles, and birds upon birds. Our daily paddles and the sound of water flowing through mangroves became habitual in a beautiful way, like that was the way life should be, spent in the middle of nowhere with nothing and everything to do at the same time.
I don’t think anyone goes on an Outing Club trip expecting to be fundamentally changed- we sign up because we want to do something cool, or maybe because we want to spend time with a few friends in a beautiful place. We know that we’ll be spending a week with 15 people we may not know very well, but we don’t expect the ride home will come with 16 hours of laughter. The Everglades for me marked a transition of self, a letting go and a reevaluation of what I find important enough to feel stressed about. I returned with a yearning to get back outside in the same way and to embrace as many experiences and people as I can. Perhaps I didn’t come back a man as opposed to a baby, but perhaps I did, and I’ll carry that with me for a long time.
Haley Stern is a freshman at Washington and Lee University, and she intends to double major in Environmental Studies and Geology. She is a lover of the Outing Club, smiling, and generally doing anything that’s outside. One day she hopes you will be able to find her living in a yurt somewhere in the American Southwest with a big dog and a vegetable garden.
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