Rock Hill college students kayaking from Fort Mill to the sea

05/21/2014 2:04 PM

05/23/2014 7:01 AM

A road trip after a grueling college year is usually a good idea. Except for Jamie Campbell and Charlie Westbrook of Rock Hill, there is no road – just trip.

They are traveling on rivers and lakes, dodging alligators and water moccasins. Their journey will be about 200 miles, by kayak, from the top of South Carolina to almost the bottom.

The buddies – each 19 – are in the midst of a kayaking trip from the Lake Wylie dam on the Catawba River in Fort Mill to Charleston’s harbor. They left Monday morning and are sleeping in tents on islands in the middle of the Catawba and Wateree rivers after paddling for hours.

“Jamie had the idea one time when we were fishing, and we just finally worked it out,” said Westbrook, a Clemson University student.

They took water, food, tents, kayaks and cellphones – for safety and posting pictures to Instagram and Facebook and to Heybo, the maker of a line of outdoor clothing they work for in the summer.

Heybo – pronounced A-bow – is Southern slang for guys who love the outdoors.

And these guys do love the outdoors – and they better to try this stunt.

For Campbell, the excitement of the trip far outweighs the physical difficulty and any potential dangers.

“There are alligators and snakes farther down, but that’s part of the trip,” the York Technical College student said. “We look at it as what is to come.”

By Wednesday, the guys had passed through Camden on the Wateree River. Ahead lay darkness and wild animals and nature. But for these guys who have hunted and fished and played outdoors since they were in diapers, this trip is just part of summer vacation. Their journey is taking them through places where hunters bag 12-foot gators and fishermen bring up catfish as big as your boat.

Charlie Westbrook’s father, also named Charlie, said young guys must be adventuresome in life at that age. He encouraged the trip.

“You are young once,” the older Charlie Westbrook said. “You have to live life. These boys aren’t watching life go by. They are paddling right in the middle of life.”

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