UF students paddle into the dark

The overnight canoe trip is organized by a group on campus.

Published: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 at 10:36 p.m.

A group of about a dozen University of Florida students will dip their canoe paddles into the cool, dark waters of the Santa Fe River tonight and, with the glow of a full moon as their guide, embark on a journey into the wilderness.


Moonlit paddle

Santa Fe Canoe Outpost in High Springs runs full-moon canoeing trips on the Santa Fe River every month. Canoes and a river guide are provided. Trips are about three hours long and include a bonfire celebration at the final destination. The cost for adults is $50 and children under 12 are free. Book your trip online by going to http://www.santaferiver.com or call 386-454-2510 for more information.

As their canoes glide between mossy oaks and across the sparkling water, these students hope the worries of a new semester and all the stresses of life in Gainesville will melt away for a few hours.

Justin Fisch, a UF student who planned the trip, said he hopes getting out into nature will be a perfect getaway for his fellow students.

"I think it has a lot to do with students' mental health, their physical health, and their general well being as a student," he said. "I just don't think there's really anything that can beat the outdoors in terms of self-therapy."

Fisch, a sophomore political science major at UF, will lead the Full Moon Santa Fe Paddle, which is one of about 50 yearly adventures organized by TRiP, UF's student-run travel and recreation program.

Fisch and the almost 40 other leaders of TRiP each plan one trip a year, and Fisch said his inspiration for moonlit canoeing came over the summer, while he was working as a hiking guide in Nicaragua.

"We had a beautiful hike ... where we would hike to the top of a volcano during the full moon," he said. "And so I (thought), 'Well, what kind of full moon adventure could you do in this area?' "

Fisch decided on an overnight paddle on the Santa Fe River, complete with a bonfire, smores and a night spent sleeping under the stars. The next morning, the group would eat breakfast and paddle to a spot further downriver where they'll conclude the trip.

In all, participants on Fisch's trip will be paddling the river for almost six hours, and will be outdoors from 10 tonight till 10 a.m. Sunday.

Katie Sullivan, a junior at UF and the director of TRiP, said that trips like the full moon paddle are a great way to squeeze in some outdoor activity and meet new people.

"You're definitely going to make new friends," she said. "A lot of students have made lasting friendships."

Christian Goett, an exchange student from Frankfurt, Germany, is studying law at UF this semester and will be going on tonight's trip.

"It's a good way to meet up with other people and do some kind of sports." he said. "I mean, it's just a bit of paddling, but it's still something and you get out there into the natural environment, so it's pretty cool."

Fisch looks forward to meeting the participants, and hopes that the trip will allow them to get out of their comfort zones for a night.

"For some people it might not be their piece of cake, but for others, they might love it," he said. "They might discover a new passion that they never thought was there."

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