Matagorda Island Sea Kayaking Fall Break Trip 2012

On October 13th, 2012 eight people set out to conquer and explore Matagorda Islands over SMU’s fall break.  They came back on October 16th, four days later, stronger, wiser, and with an incredible once in a lifetime experience of survival against the elements.  And if you don’t believe me, we have the pictures to prove it. 

            The first task, was waking up before the sun to meet outside Dedman Rec. Center where a memorable six and a half hour drive down to Port O’Connor awaited.  A mixture of sleeping, introductions, and learning about one another defined the ride down as the group began to bond quickly.  Talk of different majors from Advertising and Marketing to Engineering led to advice for the future from all different age aspects including both undergraduate and graduate students.  Finally arriving in Port O’Connor, we stopped to pick up our Island permits in Walmart and even some ingredients for S’mores!  The first night was spent learning how to light and cook using small backpacking stoves, putting up tents and most importantly good “tentequitte”.  After a beautiful night in the campgrounds, the group couldn’t wait to actually get out to Matagorda.

            Getting up early the next morning, we set out to conquer the waters next to the Gulf of Mexico.  After getting down to the water, we loaded up our kayaks and launched from a lovely fishing center to brave our five mile paddle.  We laughed and talked at the beginning of the paddle, and enjoyed the company of five bottle nosed dolphins!!  After playing a few rousing rounds of musical kayaks, we reached our half way point of an old abandoned coast guard tower we got to explore!  What a thrill, but finally the group buckled down and set out to reach our final destination, Sunday Beach.  Finally pulling onto shore, everyone setup camp and began cooking their scrumptious pasta meals, yum!  After, everyone turned in for a good nights rest in preparation for our day hike down the beach to explore more of Matagorda Islands.

            Waking up somewhat leisurely we had a lovely oatmeal breakfast, packed up our bags and set off down the beach.  After a nice two-mile march down the beach looking out across the Gulf of Mexico, we stopped and sat down to have a nice Pizza Bagel lunch.  We continued constantly reapplying our sunscreen and drinking loads of water on the journey back to camp.  Once back at camp, the rest of the day was everyone’s to do with as they wished.  Whether it be another small hike around the beach, while taking a nap in the sunshine, playing in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, or even a quick paddle around the bay.  After our few hours flew by we sat down, made our last nights dinner and prepared for the paddle back.

            Up and rearing to get on the water early the next morning, we completely broke down camp and finished tying down the kayaks with the remaining gear.  Shoving off just in time to catch the last bit of sunrise, and even enjoying the company of our dolphin friends.  We hit the halfway point in no time, everyone beaming from ear to ear including myself as our group had made amazing progress!  We chatted, laughed, and even sang on the remaining paddle back to Port O’Connor.  Waving one last goodbye to our dolphin friends, we pushed up at the docks, changed into more confortable clothes, and loaded everything back into the van, tying down the kayaks nice and tight for the drive home.  Then we popped in a few movies and drove home in what seemed like no time.  After arriving back at wonderful SMU, everyone was sad to say goodbye and agreed to a reunion soon!

Amanda Trexel

SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader

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Fall Caving Day Trip- Sept 22, 2012

For the past couple years, SMU Outdoor Adventures and Inner Space Caverns have worked together to produce an experience that few have the ability to partake in.  Called the Wild Cave Tour, Inner Space leads groups off the beaten path in order to explore some of the more hard to reach areas of the cave.  Inner Space is the largest cavern system in the state, meaning there are many different areas to explore and discover.  This is truly one trip that produces different sights and memories with every trip, as I was lucky to see along with my Assistant leader, Manuel Familiar and six amazing participants.

Our trip began at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday, October 22 in front of the Dedman center at SMU.  The sun was still working its way up into the morning sky when Manuel and I were joined by our excited six participants.  We all loaded up into the van and began our way towards Georgetown, TX, a city about 20 minutes north of Austin.  After exploring a bit of Georgetown’s Main Street and stopping for a quick breakfast, we arrived at Inner Space Caverns, and by 10:30 AM, we had all our safety equipment on and were ready to descend deep into the earth with our guides Don and Brandy.

The beginning of our tour began with a quick picture to show just how clean we were before our scramble through the deep.  Once we moved off the normal tour path, we first arrived at the Press Room, where the discovery of the cave was announced to the media.  From there, we headed towards the back of the Dragon’s Mouth and onto the Squid Room.  Most of the rooms in the cave have names based on the geological formations found within, and the Squid Room provided many, many interesting formations for us to see.  While in the Squid Room, we noticed all the moisture in the air and our tour guide, Don, told us about how the cave’s humidity level is a constant 98%!  The moisture in the air was actually steam coming off from our clothes! 

From the Squid Room we moved onto the first real crawl that led us to Bob’s Bone Pit, a pile of rocks that contained ancient fossils from when the cave was actually a deep-sea canyon.  Down there you saw fossils of ancient fish and other pre-historic animals forever entombed in the rock.  It was crazy to think of just how old this cave was.  When we asked our other tour guide, Brandy, about how long  it took for this cave to form, she could only guess millions of years! 

            From there, we progressed to the Maze Room, but not before we went down a “slide.”  While some of the participants decided to go down  feet-first, many of us decided to go down head-first and really enjoy the slide, squeezing and slipping our way down.  Once everyone was down, we moved into the Maze Area, where the guides allowed us to pick a tunnel and venture off for some time on our own.  Don’t worry!  All three tunnels led directly back to the main room, so getting lost was impossible! 

While some of us took a quick break, one adventurous participant tried to go through a tunnel not yet entirely ventured.  We all watched as she slowly climbed up into the roof area above us and listened as she tried to make her way to the end of the tunnel.  Eventually, we heard her say she was heading back as she could feel the cavern walls getting slimmer and slimmer!  The leaders were amazed at how courageous she was in even trying!

            Our next stop was the Canyon Crawl, where we walked above a small canyon area in the cave.  While keeping three points of contact, we walked across the canyon to see that the owners of the cave were actually beginning to commercialize this area of the cave for those less-adventurous cavers. In fact, we were told that we may be one of the last tour groups here before it was closed from the Wild Cave Tour for good!  What an experience to be one of the last to see it in its most prime and untouched form!

            We then decided to take a quick break before our last difficult crawl and played around in the Mud Room.  Here, the mud was so thick and sticky that many participants began losing their shoes!  Some of us started making mud angels on the ground or made mud sculptures for future cavers to see when they come down.  I left my name on one of the walls, just in case I get to explore the cave one more time!

            Finally, we moved to the last difficult crawl before exiting the cave.  We went through the Dragon’s Mouth and moved towards Rain Drop.  After squeezing and crawling our way through the rock, we finally made it up into the main area of the cave.  We headed towards the picture area and were amazed to see just how dirty we had gotten!  Mud. Was. Everywhere!  As we again walked into the sunlight, we got to smell fresh air again and enjoyed the sun on our bodies as we relaxed and reflected on our expedition beneath the ground.  While it was nice to be outside once more, I know I can speak for the entire group that there is nothing quite like exploring the chambers of rock and dirt found beneath the Earth and that we cannot wait for another chance to do it again!

Jeremy Rechtien, Trip Leader.

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Ziplining Day Trip (9/15/12)

A Successful Saturday

Each semester, SMU Outdoor Adventures (OA) plans and runs fun and exciting trips away from campus.  This fall, we are offering seven trips, the first of which was our Ziplining Day Trip.  I was lucky enough to lead this particular trip.  Two other OA leaders, Mandy Trexel and Joshua Munguia, assisted me in making this a successful trip…

On Saturday morning, I waited with Mandy and Josh by the Doak Walker statue for our four participants to arrive.  One by one, they all showed up, somewhat nervous, but excited for the day ahead.  Once our last participant arrived, we began the two hour drive out to LaRue, Texas.  Our destination, New York Texas Zipline Adventure is located in a small town near Athens, Texas.

We neared our location on a small, shaded back-road around 10:30 AM.  We arrived at our location around the same time as our guides and followed their Jeep up a steep, tree-lined driveway.  At the end of the driveway, we found ourselves facing a large, historic home surrounded by trees and picnic tables.    After checking in, we began to explore the property and were greeted by Winston the ziplining boxer dog (apparently dogs like ziplines too)!   Looking out over the tree tops, we admired an expansive view of the lush, green tree-filled valley below.

Our guides wasted little time getting us suited up in harnesses, helmets and all the appropriate equipment.  We were walked through a few basic safety rules in ground school.  We practiced zipping (about a foot off the ground), learned how to brake and perform a self-rescue… then it was time to get on the real lines!

The first three lines allowed us to zoom from tree to tree, stopping on platforms built up on the trees.  These first lines went pretty quick, but were lots of fun and gave us plenty of time to admire the amazing views of the valley. 

The next two lines were much longer and required steep, but short hikes through the trees in order to reach the access points.  After climbing up a wooden staircase, we all got to ride on these longer lines.  A few of us tried turning upside-down or spinning while sailing through and above the trees.

For the last few lines, we went back to the first line, and then continued on to a longer line to the left that none of us had noticed earlier.  This line was approximately 800 feet long, providing ample room to try out some more tricks.  Our guides demonstrated some impressive tricks, like spinning while upside down.  Encouraged by their skills, we all attempted some more adventurous methods for riding the last zipline.  We even recorded a video of everyone showing off spins and turns.  Needless to say, we all loved that last line!

With our feet back on the ground, we returned all our gear and thanked our guides.  Since the weather and views were so nice, we unloaded our lunch and all crowed around a picnic table before heading home.  While we ate, we recounted our favorite parts of ziplining, told stories about previous trips and got amped up for more adventures yet to come!

That Saturday we all made new friends, enjoyed a fun outdoor activity together and came home safely… that’s a successful trip in my book!

 Jordan Lee, SMU OA Trip Leader

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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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