Adventure 101: Unplugged and Connected to Nature
The Recreation Center is a fully-sustainable hub of activity on campus. There is a basketball court, cardio machines, and a rock climbing wall located in the center. What many people do not know is that there is also a thriving Outdoor Pursuits program, run by a dedicated group of students. The program was established in the 90s with just a few students organizing five trips or so a year. It has grown significantly and today is a professional operation with 12 student volunteers planning and leading up to 22 trips a year. From yoga and backpacking trips to white water rafting and skydiving, the program aims to strike a balance between relaxing and adventurous trips. Participation is open to students, faculty and staff and the public.
If someone has never rock climbed or gone backpacking before, can they still sign up for a trip? “Absolutely,” says Ryan Hammes, Outdoor Recreation and Sports Clubs Coordinator at SSU. “We welcome novices and encourage people to try something new and go beyond their self-imposed boundaries,” he says. The program has organized trips to Point Reyes, Sierra Hot Springs, Big Sur and the King Range Wilderness area, just to name a few. The trips are educational, and the skills and self-discoveries people make while on them translate into life beyond the trail. Bob Blaine and Adam Williams, who are student trip coordinators and leaders for the program, believe it is important for students to “unplug” from their computers, turn off their cell phones and go outside for an adventure. The best part about leading trips, says Bob, is “bringing people of different ages and from different backgrounds together in nature. The outdoors can be very therapeutic and healing.”
Professionalism and safety are a priority for the program, and every trip is led by a student leader who is trained in first aid and CPR. Five out of six of the leaders are Wilderness First Responder certified, which is the highest level of national certification in wilderness emergency management. To make sure that the participants are well prepared, every trip has a mandatory pre-trip meeting to discuss details such as safety and gear logistics. Don’t have a backpack or sleeping bag? Those items can be rented, along with other technical gear, from the Outdoor Resource Center for a nominal fee.
In many ways, the SSU program is comparable to a national program, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Like NOLS, the Outdoor Pursuits program practices minimal impact and sustainability and emphasizes education. However, the Outdoor Pursuits participant fees cost considerably less and some trips are even free. Also, the Outdoor Pursuits program dovetails with the newly established Outdoor Leadership study plan within Sonoma State’s Environmental Studies and Planning Department.
To those who believe going outdoors and trying something new is not for them, Adam responds, “If you have never tried something before, how do you know that you won’t like it? The trips will be an experience you will never forget.”
To sign up for a trip, go to the Outdoor Resource Center located on the 1st floor of the Recreation Center, or call the Outdoor Pursuits program office at: (707) 664-DIRT. Trip participant numbers are limited, so be sure to sign up early. For more information about the Outdoor Pursuits program, including the schedule of 2008-2009 trips, visit the website at: http://www.sonoma.edu/campusrec/