Outdoor Leader Training (OLT) Trip- August 2012

At first, I didn’t know what to expect. I had a vague idea of what it would be like to be out in the wilderness for an extended period of time, but nothing prepared me for what was to come in the OLT trip.

Right from the start, I knew that it was going to be quite different than anything I had ever experienced. Starting with the 4:00am departure and one of the longest continuous drives I have ever participated in, the journey had started: The group consisted of five students in training and two leaders. Hardly anybody knew each other, which made for a long, quiet drive out to Red River, New Mexico. A few stops for gas, bio-breaks, and food. I was quite entertained with the ever-changing scenery unfolding infront of me as the drive went on. By the time we arrived to our first campsite, we were all a little bit more acquainted with each other. The easy part had ended though,  and the real part had yet to begin.

The following morning we were all up and ready to go by 9:00 am, which became a routine for the majority of days infront of us- wake up by 7 am, eat, pack our backpacks and be ready to move out by 9 am, arrive at the next campsite between 12 pm and 1 pm. This was repeated almost daily with a few exceptions. Sleeping was tough, especially being  in a tent with 3 other men in what seemed like a 3 1/2 person tent, but it was also probably due to poor choice of terrain. The food was actually a lot better than what I had anticipated. Not only did I learn how to cook great combinations, but also learned to create cinnamon rolls which surprised me with its wholesome, sweet flavor. From quesadillas to lentils with rice, macaroni and cheese to mashed potatoes with refried beans, the menu was as diverse as the flavors.

The scenery was absolutely breath-taking.  Two hours into the first hike of the trip and we were already surrounded by green, living mountains and fresh crisp air. The stars were a thing unto themsleves. When I could, I would stare at the night sky for hours, contemplating my reason for being there at that moment, pondering the rest of the universe and feeling so small in the middle of nature, but in awe all the same.

The hikes were tough. Inclines would get steep and we would get treated to some nice descents every so often to catch our breath. All paces were steady and enjoyable. So much flora surrounding us at all times, it would fill me up with energy as well as catching a good gust of refreshing wind during our arduous moments of the hike. There was nothing like finally getting to the next campsite and laying down to rest with your backpack off for a while in our down time before the afternoon classes. The classes given were also quite interesting. Learning a great many things and even now knowing that there is still so much more to learn excites me. The leadership opportunities also helped raise my confidence level in myself and grow as a person. The several mountains we summited were reminders of how great each and every one of us can be if we just pull ourselves together and work towards a goal. On one of the final days, we were given the opportunity to reflect for three  hours alone, to which I say, was probably the turning point of my experience on the trip. It helped me put a lot of things together, find strength in what I had acheived over the course of that week. It pretty much summed up to this: If we are able to climb mountains, our problems in the front country look much smaller and more manageable. It is possible to overcome your own personal ‘mountains’ when you muster up your strength and pull it towards a goal.

On the final day of the hike, Albert Mitugo and Kelly Gilliland (our leaders) left us so we could find our way back to the van by ourselves, to prove that we can, in fact, put everything we learned into action and lead our way out of the wilderness. We were greeted with delicious sandwiches for all at the roadhead. We drove back to Red River, where we had a refreshing shower, an amazing dinner and slept in a yurt. That is where I found out that I had lost 13 pounds over the course of the hike! The following morning we left at 3:30am and began our final 13 hour trip home. By this time, everybody had become so close, that even the thought of ‘group death’ after the trip ended put saddness on our faces. We had to change the term to ‘group transformation’ beause ‘death’ was too strong a word for us.

 A few stops for gas, bio-breaks, and food and we were back in civilization once more.  I felt awkward with so many people around, and when I got to my apartment, it felt so small and dark, compared to having the mountains as your living space. A sense of empowerment and confidence has been flooding my system since then, I can fully say that I came back a changed person. Problems look smaller, I appreciate my loved ones so much more, and the discipline that the OLT trip gave me has served me wonderfully, to the extent that I now wake up a lot earlier to appreciate the day more. It is one thing I tell everybody now, to make a week long trip, unplugged from civilization at LEAST once a year. I plan going on  many more trips such as this one, and I hope to make the same quality of friends that I managed to make this time around.

This was probably the best experience of my summer!

Manuel Familiar- SMU OA Leader in training

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Fly Fishing Clinic

 Its that time of year again!  Time to break out the old rod and reel and head out to the creek on that first clear day.  SMU OA Leaders Connor, Jeremy, and Devon helped some of our very own SMU students and alumni do just that.  Bright and early Saturday morning class convened for an intro to the traditions of the noble sport of fly fishing.  After conquering the mysteries of the Orvis, cinch and other knots an advance was made to sorority park on campus, for a crack at casting.  Having mastered the iconic fly fisherman’s cast in record time we felt that a trip to White Rock Lake to put our skills into action was in order.  White rock’s water was a little murky as usual but uncrowded and perfectly breezy.  One lunch and an hour of casting later our day came to an end. The basics of fly fishing had been covered.  The SMU OA is proud to announce yet another class of collegiate basic Fly Fishermen!

Connor Flynn, SMU OA Trip Leader.

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Good Friday Skydive

Another semester, another jump.  And a day with weather unsurpassable.  The weekend of Easter, SMU Outdoor Adventures and some very brave, possibly insane participants took to the skies with the aid of SkyDive Dallas.  The day was perfectly clear with toy-story clouds and visibility for miles and miles.  Life-changing only scratches the surface of what a dive can do for someone.  Its really all most of us can think about now. There’s always the exhilaration of fear at the thought of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane but once out the door, it is a whole new world with the infinite views and weightlessness.  I can see why some of the guides who flew with us have been jumping for years if not decades.  All in all:  Lives changed, fears were conquered and friends were made.  Just another typical day with SMU OA!

Connor Flynn, SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader.

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On Belay!

The  Wellness Rock Climbing trip occurred on April Fool’s Day, 2012. We gathered around the Mustang Horse statues next to Binkley Garage and headed out to Mineral Wells State Park for a day of rock climbing and rappelling. It was the hottest day of the year so far with the temperature reaching into the mid 90s but down inside the canyon it was nice and cool with the shade from the trees and the overhanging rock protecting us. The leaders Rand, Jordan, Deaver and Tuggs set up anchors while Piotor’s class explored the area. Everybody started climbing as soon as the first lines were up and ready. There were five climbs set up before lunch. After lunch, a delicious gourmet meal of sandwiches and chips, everyone geared up for a couple more hours of climbing. Another line was put up and Tuggs set up the rappel station. Everyone safely rappelled down and it was most likely the safest activity we did all day with extreme redundancy and caution taken to insure nothing went wrong. We packed up and headed home to Dallas. Back at Dedman, everyone received their SMU Outdoor Adventure T-Shirts. Thank you to Piotor’s Wellness Class for being great participants and congratulations to Matthew Deaver, the trip leader, on becoming the first Student Manager at the Taos Climbing Tower and Hueco Bouldering Wall!

Rand Singleton – SMU OA Leader

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Cool Climbs

On Saturday March 3, eleven of us traveled out to Mineral Wells State Park for a day filled with rock climbing. No one on this trip had ever climbed there before, so they were a bit confused when we stopped at a flat bit of land that overlooked a lake. They didn’t know that a few hundred feet over were canyons in the ground to climb in. Our setters went off to get our first few routes ready, while the climbers gathered their gear up in the warm sun, preparing themselves for the descent into the shaded cliffs.

The rest of the day was spent climbing. We totaled eight different climbs up the rock face. This gave all the climbers a choice in difficulty. After some of the more difficult climbs were solved, the more experienced climbers gave suggestions to the newer climbers to help them up the wall.

We returned to SMU just as the sun was setting. Everyone was tired and satisfied with their day of doing something slightly nerve wracking, but mostly fun. 

Stphen Hayden, SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader.

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Winter Wetness

 

We left mid afternoon on February 10th and immediately hit Dallas traffic. This slowed down our excursion but allowed the group more time to bond in the van. We stopped for dinner at an Applebees around 7:00 pm and discussed how vegetables did not exist during dinner. We continued driving and arrived at Daisy State Park, AR around 11:00pm. Everyone pitched the tents quickly so as to get inside the safety and warmth of our sleeping bags.

Saturday morning was relatively warm. The group packed up and headed on a quick drive to Ouachita National Forest. After parking the van at the road head, we geared up and headed out. Within in five minutes we met our first of three large river crossings. Feet were soaked to the bone but everyone was happy for making it across without falling in. Hiking was easy without too much hassle involved but the next river crossing was the crux of the route. This crossing required a five-foot drop into knee deep icy cold water and then a 20-yard hike across to a pebbly island. Everyone crossed safely and efficiently. The last crossing was the easiest and took no time at all even though it was the longest of the three crossings. The final push was an hour-long hike up the side of the ridge into a saddleback were we camped for the night.

Saturday night was the most fun and the most miserable part of the trip. We ate quesadillas with chicken and summer sausage while vainly trying to keep warm as the temperatures dropped into the teens and settled around 12 degrees for most of the night. Boiled water was put into nalgenes as feet warmers and lots of cuddling and spooning helped keep people warm while songs and jokes kept spirits high.

Sunday morning was a fun affair with time spent looking out of the scenic vista near our campsite. An easy hike down to the road helped start the day off on the right foot. While we stopped for lunch we met trail angels who shared their Carne Seca beef jerky with us. These men were our saviors! A fast paced hike along the road allowed us to leave the national forest by 2:00pm and we arrived safely back on campus around 6:30 pm. This was a trip with great participants who made the tough going easier with their great camaraderie.

Waiting for next winter,

Rand Singleton, SMU OA Trip Leader.

 

 

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Frigid Ascension

Ice and rock are very different things to climb on. Well, yes, that should be obvious to just about anyone. But when it comes to things that are solid walls and the act of progressing up them, you’d think there could only be so much variation. It all really comes down to this one point: where you can hold onto rock, you cannot hold onto ice. This leaves the climber in the position of making a place to hold onto with the movement of each of their limbs. This includes constant kicking of the crampons to lodge your feet firmly in place, while furiously and accurately digging with the ice picks tied to your hands. In rock climbing, the climber is constantly ‘fighting’ the mountain, but this can be said much more literally for ice walls.

And so we return from another trip here at Outdoor Adventures. It’s been almost a week now, and the majority of my lower legs are still covered with a wonderful color pallet of bruises. At least the soreness has finally gone away, and climbing stairs is no longer a dreaded activity. However, there still sits with me a feeling of pure awesomeness. We climbed up frozen waterfalls, desperately digging into them with each step as to not fall upon the jagged ice left in our wake. After each climb, we stood atop the wall, our sharp instruments held high in triumph, our spike lined boots clutching the conquered wall.

We fought the earth, and we had won.

It wasn’t even that cold. Our days were spent lounging in snow banks warmed by the sun when we weren’t climbing. And at night we searched for food; such as a fantastic Mexican buffet or an elusive Dairy Queen. And of course, there was no better end to the day then a rest in a hot tub.

I’d like to thank the folks at Adams State Adventure Program in Alamosa, CO for being fantastic guides to the climbing sites. They even showed us a bit of the wildlife from the area, such as a great deal of elk, a fox, and one very unfortunate dear (I hope your truck gets better…)

One more adventure in the books, another story to tell. More memories to keep us warm on those cold Colorado nights.

Stephen Hayden, SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader.

 

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Wellness Class Rock climbing day trip

The day before Halloween 2011, Piotr Chelstowski and members from his wellness rock climbing class joined five Outdoor Adventures leaders (Albert Mitugo, Jeremy Rechtien, Mandy Trexel, Chase Butterworth and Kelly Gilliland) on a trip to Mineral Wells, Texas for a day of  rock climbing. Leaving at 7 a.m. (it was still dark outside) on Sunday October 30, all climbers hopped into the van and took the bold 1.5 hour drive out to Mineral Wells state park and began the day. Four of the leaders headed out to set up the anchors at the top of the cliff while Jeremy briefed the wellness class about safety hazards including the cliff and the poisonous plants. It felt like one of the coldest days we’ve had in Texas so far this fall, but overall we had a lot of fun. We’d set up about  seven climbs by the end of the day and the climbers seemed to have had a blast! Pitor and Albert  then demonstrated repelling before participants could follow suite. Mineral Wells is one of the most frequented places by Outdoor Adventures Leaders both on and off official trips. I encourage anyone who likes rock climbing and wants to do more outdoor climbing to head out to Mineral Wells with the OA sometime next semester when the weather gets warmer.

Cheers,

Kelly Gilliland, OA Leader

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Fall Break 2011 Matagorda Island Sea Kayaking Trip

With the onset of Fall Break, some people like to use that time for relaxing and taking a break from the hectic environment the first 2 months of school can bring.  Others
use that time to catch up on work or study for midterms the following week.  Others, like the participants on this Outdoor Adventures Fall Break, chose to go coastal kayaking along the shores of Texas in Port O’ Connor and camp on the beach at Matagorda Island!
Leaving that Sunday of Fall Break, my assistant trip leader, Hunter Higgins,
three participants, and myself left for Port Lavaca, Texas at 7:00 am.
The drive down was worrisome as it rained and poured for most of the drive down to
the city.  The weather reports were showing that the rain would keep on
coming throughout the trip, but we kept our fingers crossed and hoped that things would get better once we reached Port Lavaca.

Once we arrived in Port Lavaca, we got our first glimpse of the ocean.
Because of the rain, there was an eerie fog out over the water, and so we went
out onto a pier to get better idea of what it looked like out there.  Once
on the pier, the fog lifted and we were presented with a beautiful horizon, one where there was nothing but ocean and sky.  After taking this little break, we took down one of the kayaks from our trailer and did some brief lessons in a protected beach area.  We covered the basic strokes and some of the safety issues if the kayak flipped.  Even though one participant decided that he liked his kayak upside down, everyone did an amazing job getting the strokes down and I could not wait to see everyone in action the next day.

With the sun beginning to rise that Monday, we broke down our camp and loaded up our van and trailer and made the 40 minute drive to Port O’ Connor.  Once there, we were told by one of the locals that the possibility of rain was a mere 10%! For the first time all weekend, the worry of facing stormy winds while kayaking was lifted from the group.  From here on out, everyone was excited to be spending the night on the beach.  After loading the kayaks and getting out to the ocean, we followed our trail at a leisurely pace as we had the wind to our back and not a care in the world.  Eventually, we would arrive in our camp site, and from 1:00-6:00, our schedule consisted of the following…
1:00-2:00 set up camp
2:00-3:00 play in the waves
3:00-4:00 sun bathe
4:00-6:00 RELAX!!!!!!
After a fine dinner, we all gathered together and shared how thankful we all were that we had this opportunity to connect with ourselves again as the weeks of school had taken much of our personal time away from us.  As one participant said, it was the first time all semester that she was not worried about her homework, her job, and her cellphone for a long time.  That night, we all went to bed to the sounds of the waves crashing and the sad realization that we would have to leave in the morning.

After waking up and fighting away the mosquitoes, we broke down camp one last time and loaded up the kayaks.  After a tough but satisfying paddle back to the mainland, we loaded up the kayaks, had a great beach lunch, and then began our journey back to Dallas, knowing that even though tests, papers, and homework awaited us, we still had that one weekend of pure, unending peace and relaxation.

Jeremy Rechtien
Trip Leader

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Basic Fly Fishing Clinic

On the morning of Saturday, October 8, nine eager participants showed up on Saturday morning at the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports to learn the basics of fly fishing. First
we went through a “ground school” of sorts where we covered basic fly
fishing gear and knots. After learning as much as possible through listening, watching
and practicing, we went outside to learn how to cast with an actual fly rod.
Although we were beset with a heavy wind the participants still learnt a load
about casting on the grass just outside the Dedman center. Once an hour had
passed, everyone loaded up into the van and we drove to White Rock Lake. We had
a very welcome sack lunch near the lake. When we had cleaned up after lunch we
took our rods and headed for the lake. The wind off of the lake proved to be
too much to allow for proper casting, which really emphasized how important it
is to watch the wind before proper fly fishing.

Many of those who attended the clinic expressed a desire to participate in more SMU OA trips.

-Devon Finninger,
SMU OA Trip Leader

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