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CCEE students, faculty bond over whitewater rafting excursion

Another summer, another thrill-seeking group of CCEE students and faculty hitting the frothy river rapids for a bonding whitewater rafting excursion.  

Distinguished University Professor Mort Barlaz has led an annual weekend camping and rafting trip for interested CCEE students for more than 10 years. This year, 14 environmental, water resources and coastal engineering students and friends and family joined Barlaz for an outing to Almond, North Carolina, to raft down the Nantahala River in early August. The group camped at Turkey Creek campground and enjoyed a picnic lunch.

“I love the water and the mountains and want to share that with other people and give them access to an experience that they might not otherwise have on their own, Barlaz said. “It is much more fun in a big group that includes people with experience to help shepard others down the river.”

This year’s trip marked the second time CCEE master’s student Vie Villafuerte has joined the group for whitewater rafting. 

“I loved the trip last year and I couldn’t wait to go again this year,” she said. “It is a great opportunity for the students in the CCEE department to get to know each other while taking a break from lab/research work and connecting with nature.”

Villafuerte said that she enjoys the trip because whitewater rafting is the “perfect combination of nature’s power and adrenaline rush all while enjoying the outdoors and navigating through the rapids.

“You can feel the water’s power for a minute, and the next, you can relax in the tranquility of calmer stretches, and that is why the last rapid was my favorite part of the trip. We had the option to stop before the last rapid or continue down the last rapid in the Nantahala River which is a Class III rapid meaning that it has higher waves, eddies, and obstacles like rocks. It was scary nonetheless, but everyone in our group decided to paddle through it and it was such a great experience.”

CCEE Ph.D. candidate Paul Acuna said the trip is a great opportunity to “disconnect, destress and have a nice summer experience before the semester starts.” 

“The group was amazing and we all had a great time in the campground enjoying some snacks and a nice campfire before going to sleep. Getting to know some grad student peers was great. Dr. Barlaz’s willingness to organize the trip is greatly appreciated. I’d love to do that again next year.”