Along with their crew of fellow service members, participants leave base camp on day one, complete a 100-mile paddle down the Delaware River, and do not return to base camp until the last day of the course. Carrying all the food and equipment they need in canoes, the group moves to a new campsite along the river route every night. This means no showers (although participants do sometimes swim), no cell phones, no television, nor any other modern luxuries. Participants should plan to arrive on course prepared for, and excited about, devoting all of their time and energy to their expedition, their crew and their Outward Bound experience.
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Outward Bound Veterans expeditions build on camaraderie and the challenge of the natural world as a pathway to healing. These expeditions encourage participants to connect with existing strengths and bond with fellow veterans in a safe, positive, mission-driven environment. As they harness the power of wartime experiences like carrying heavy packs, moving fatigued muscles and sleeping outside, these courses help build the self-confidence and sense of purpose veterans need to continue serving as leaders in their families, communities and the nation.
Each section of the Delaware Water Gap is different and has its own personality. Participants begin the course by traveling on the upper portion of the Delaware Water Gap, known for its narrowing bends, swift water and technical rapids. The group can expect to see lots of wildlife and scenic views from Matamoras to Kittatinny Point, stopping over at Minisink and Namanock islands for breaks. After honing their paddling techniques, participants then take on a final challenge, rafting level 3 and 4 rapids on the Lehigh River. The crew travels with all the food and equipment they need to conduct their expedition such as tents, stoves, maps, emergency equipment and much more. As they paddle down the river with their expedition crew, participants learn how to work together and re-discover the commitment and effort it takes to truly work as a team. Crew members learn basic outdoor skills like Leave-No-Trace Ethics, outdoor living, and backcountry travel. Along the way, they hone communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills. During the expedition, participants learn to use technical equipment, tie knots, paddle and camp.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area encompasses 67,000 acres of mountain ridge, forest and floodplain on both sides of the Delaware River in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. From the southern end of the park, participants can view the S-shaped chasm of the Delaware Water Gap, where the river cuts a twisting path through 1,400-foot Kittatinny Ridge. Within the river watershed, the group may discover steep wooded-and-rock slopes, bountiful rhododendron, dark hallows, tinsel-like ravines and tumbling waterfalls.
“Participation in the Outward Bound wilderness course has been the first opportunity for me since my return from Iraq to socialize with other vets. Doing so in this environment was a wonderful opportunity, and has been the best post-deployment experience; giving me a breather from the demands of my daily life; an opportunity to deal directly with the changes in my life related to my time in Iraq.”
- Veterans Expedition Participant, July 2008