SMU Outdoor Adventures

SMU Outdoor Adventures offers recreational trips and outdoor skills workshops from its “base camp” at the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.

Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park

At 4:45 am Saturday March 9, 12 SMU Spring Breakers piled into the white Outdoor Adventure van, closely situated after only just learning each other’s names and majors. 14 hours later, at 7 pm Mountain Time, the van pulled into the Rio Rancho Comfort Inn, completing day one of the road trip to Canyonlands National Park, UT.

For spring break 2013, SMU’s Outdoor Adventure Program took eight students backpacking March 9-17 through the Needles District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. The trip was planned and led by student leaders Jeremy, Grant and Karly. Program director Albert also tagged along.

Students of different ages and languages came together for a unique experience. Graduate students Sanket and Leo, transfer student Chanesia, Jing Jing, sophomores Arvin, Lizzie, and freshmen Alex and Becca all signed up for a spring break away in the back country. Only two had backpacking experience, and only four had been camping before.

The trip itinerary consisted of two driving days, the first night spent in the Comfort Inn and the second camping out at the privately owned Needles Outpost – the last running water and traditional restrooms the group would see for five days. From there, they left the van behind at the trail head and hiked to their first two camp sites in Big Spring. Day two they spent at Squaw Flat, Day three and four they were at Lost Canyon, and on day five they camped along the Horse Canyon trail. In order to reduce the group’s impact as much as possible, the leaders split into pairs and each lead a half of the group to a different camp site. The two groups would meet up in the morning and complete the majority of the day hikes together, and then go their separate ways late in the afternoon to camp sites about one mile apart.

The first night sleeping outside at Needles Outpost was by far the coldest, with temperatures plummeting as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot drinks were cradled under layers in attempt to create warmth, participants huddled like penguins jumping up and down as the feeling in their toes surrendered to the cold. However, this did not stop the participants from staying up and admiring the luminous starry night. They huddled up by Grant’s telescope as he described and pointed out the different winter time constellations such as Orion and The Pleiades, and the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius.

Leaders Albert, Jeremy, Grant, and Karly decided not to put up a tent and enjoy the serenity of sleeping under the stars, only to wake up with frozen sleeping bags. Even Albert said it was the coldest night he has experienced in the canyon lands despite his years of experience.

A typical day for the group began with a morning stretch once the two groups had joined together again, hiking to next camp site, stopping for water and lunch, setting up camp at the new site then cooking dinner, discussions, and the nightly debrief before going to sleep.

Though this was a spring break trip, education was not completely left behind. The participants learned basic back country skills such as cooking, water purification, and tent set-up.

Because Canyonlands National Park is a desert, a few of the campsites were dry, meaning that the backpackers often had to haul water in dromedaries whenever a water source was found.

Cooking for the participants quickly became a game of concocting original, filling dishes. What started as rice and beans wrapped in a tortilla with cheese, quickly became Craisin pancake breakfasts and pepperoni calzone dinners. While several of them had never really cooked in the front country, they were able to pick up basic cooking skills and get creative with the menu. The participant cook group at Albert’s camp often made two dinners in order to keep Arvin happily fed. He ate all of the left-over’s and then some, balancing out the smaller appetite of Alex, who became known as Steelex, a combination of his last and first name.

With these freezing night-time temperatures, needless to say that hot drinks were the highlight to everyone’s morning and night. Any left over water was boiled and used to make tea, cocoa, and cider.

On the lay-over day in Lost Canyon, the group went on a small hike to an elevated slab of smooth rock area to have lunch, participate in some facilitation activities, and to take  two hours to themselves, in their own space, to do whatever they wanted. This time period was called “solos” because it was essentially the only time that the participants and leaders had genuine alone time since the early morning departure March 9. Participants used this time to decompress, nap in the sun, and reflect on their experience and on their life as a whole.

Eventually, by the last long day-hike, the intensity of maneuvering in and out of the canyons became less strenuous and participants began to pass the time in song. Lizzie, Jing Jing and Chanesia especially found this amusing, and serenaded the rest of the group with songs from One Direction, Britney Spears, and even the Backstreet Boys.

Also on the last long day-hike, the leaders found themselves geographically challenged and the maps were brought out to reconfigure the exact location of the group. As it turned out, they had hiked south for 3 miles in the opposite direction from where they wanted to go, and therefore needed to correct this. Though the participants were a little discouraged, as the beginning signs of blisters began to form on their feet, they were able to push a little further and make it to a decent camping site where the groups shared a final dinner together.

In the morning, it was time to hike out of the park and Grant, Jeremy, Karly, and Alex hiked ahead in order to scout out the trail and go grab the van from the starting trail head. When the rest of the group reached the barrier, marking the end of the trail and the park, Canyoland_4participants screamed in relief and took pictures sitting on the fence, proud of themselves for trying something new and surviving it.

The group then repacked the van and headed off to Needles Outpost for their first showers in five days, and then the drive back to Rio Rancho commenced. March 17 8:00 pm the van pulled up next to Doak Walker, signifying the end of another SMU spring break.

Karly Hanson- SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader in training.

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Rock Climbing Day Trip

An update from Manuel, David, Josh and Grant, Outdoor Adventures Leaders in Training:

Getting up bright and early on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 for the trip would have to have been the only downside to the whole experience, but those feelings quickly evaporated in the first morning rays of sunshine on the highway towards Mineral Wells State Park. With the van full to the brim, everyone quickly became acquainted even before we stopped for some morning doughnuts!

By the time we arrived, we noticed that Mineral Wells climbing site (penitentiary hollow) was already saturated by Boy Scouts on their very own climbing day trip, so we quickly set up our own anchors to make sure we had guaranteed walls to climb!

We climbed for a good few hours, shifting between different anchor points at the park, climbing on the rock wall faces, overhangs and even some real crack-climbing.

We had our lunch on a picnic bench not too far from the climbing area, with deli meat sandwiches, fruit, and some chips accompanied by nice, cold, refreshing beverages. We took out the slackline and played around for a bit until we were ready for round two of climbing!

After a couple more hours of climbing different rock wall faces, we headed back to SMU. But not before taking a pit-stop for some amazing malt shakes to finish our journey on a sweet note!

We arrived back at SMU with some good laughs, and sad goodbyes, but all happy to have gone through this experience together… and just in time for the football game!

(Photos c/o SMU Outdoor Adventures) 

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Matagorda Island Sea Kayaking: Fall Break Trip 2012

An update from Amanda, Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader:

On October 13, eight people set out to conquer and explore Matagorda Islands over SMU’s fall break. They came back on October 16, 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 “tentiquette.” 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 halfway point of an old abandoned Coast Guard tower that we got to explore! What a thrill, but 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 night’s rest in preparation for our day hike down the beach to explore more of Matagorda Island.

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 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 was another small hike around the beach, 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 night’s dinner and prepared for the paddle back.

Up and ready to get on the water early the next morning, we completely broke down camp and finished tying down the kayaks with the remaining gear. We shoved off just in time to catch the last bit of sunrise, and even enjoyed 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 comfortable 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 on a reunion soon!

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Fall Caving Day Trip

An update from Jeremy, Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader: 

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 harder 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 each trip, as I was lucky to see along with my assistant leader, Manuel, and six amazing participants.

Our trip began at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 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 six excited participants. We all loaded up into the van and began our way toward 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.

At the beginning of our tour there was 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 toward 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 how the cave’s humidity level is a constant 98%! The moisture in the air was actually steam coming off of 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 prehistoric animals forever embedded 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 headfirst 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 and saw 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 might be one of the last tour groups here before it is 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 toward 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 walked back into the sunlight, we got to smell fresh air again and enjoy 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 we cannot wait for another chance to do it again!

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A successful day of zip-lining

An update from Jordan, Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader:

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 one, on Sept. 15, was our Ziplining Day Trip. I was lucky enough to lead this particular trip and two other OA leaders, Amanda and Joshua, 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 a.m. 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 treetops, 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 then 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 were all able 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 and 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 crowded 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 to come!

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

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Leadership training in New Mexico

In August 2012, five students traveled to the Latir Wilderness area of Red River, New Mexico, with two trainers to learn to become Outdoor Adventures trip leaders.  As part of the trip, they learned about backpacking, group dynamics, risk management, self-awareness and discovery, team work and outdoor skills. 

Here is an update from Manuel about the trip. Read about other trips on the Outdoor Adventures blog.

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 leadership training 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 am departure and one of the longest continuous drives in which I have ever participated, 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 in front 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 am, which became a routine for the majority of days in front 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 to create cinnamon rolls, which surprised me with their 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 themselves. 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, and I would catch a good gust of refreshing wind during our arduous moments of the hike.

There was nothing like finally getting to the next campsite and lying 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 and Kelly (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 3:30 am 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 sadness 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 on 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!

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Spring break 2011: Grand Canyon

An update from Jeremy, Outdoor Adventures trip leader:

See a slideshow of their trip.

Canyon-01-thumb.jpg What is grand, red, deep, orange and brown, with cacti all over?

The Grand Canyon, of course! Just this last spring break, six SMU students and 3 SMU alums decided to spend their spring break testing their mental and physical strength as they backpacked down, through, and back up the Grand Canyon on a 6-day trek. And I’m happy to say they were not disappointed.

All of us were tested in just the first two days, and it was not because of the Canyon, but because of the 16-hour drive. Over the course of two days of travel, we all got to know each other very well … almost too well sitting in the 12-passenger van. Finally though, we reached the Grand Canyon, and the view over the rim into the canyon was incredible. Everyone was getting excited for the hike to begin!

So, on Monday afternoon, we descended into the canyon with our first campsite to be the glorious Horseshoe Mesa. Our hike was only to be 2 1/2 miles, but in those two miles, we dropped almost 2,600 feet. Not to mention, we were greeted on the trail by thick layers of ice that made the trail slightly treacherous, especially when you are carrying a 50-pound backpack. The instep crampons helped though. As we hikers tend to do, we braved the descent and were treated to a glorious night full of delicious backcountry cuisines and a bright, nearly full moon that followed us through the week.

On Tuesday, we hiked nearly 6 miles to a secluded spot along the Grapevine Creek, where we would spend the next two days. Here, we were able to relax and converse along the creek as we began to really come closer as a group. Also, many people took the opportunity to get some sun in, read, or simply explore the area. We even took a day hike down the creek and got to see what it looked like to be really deep within the canyon itself. Some participants even decided to take a quick dunk in the creek, just to see what it was like.

After our break, we took off once more, this time headed for long tree canyon. I hate to say it, but there happened to be a multitude of trees … well, at least things that looked like trees. Again, we enjoyed the view of the canyon and even got to spend some time with some hikers from the University of Arizona who gladly shared some of their delicious food with us. Again, we enjoyed some delicious foods as we watched the moon ascend into the sky and enjoyed the glorious view of the canyons still surrounding us. We even got together to play some epic games of cards until we could no longer stay awake.

The last day was spent getting prepared for the long hike out of the canyon. We tried to get as close to the starting climb as possible … well, almost too close. Most of us decided to sleep outside that night. We woke up at 6 and began our long journey back to the rim of the canyon. From the bottom to the top, we climbed around 4-5 miles in distance and 3,200 ft. in height. All the way, day hikers were encouraging us, telling us we were just about there. So, after 4 hours of hiking, we finally reached the top! Looking back down we could see where we had just camped and we could not be any more proud of our accomplishment of hiking through the Grand Canyon!

After getting everyone back in the van, we all took the shower we deserved and satisfied our hunger with a little grub from a real restaurant. Then, we began our journey back home to Dallas, and sadly, back to the reality of the front country. I know though, as I’m sure everyone on the trip knows, that this trip will always live within us, and it will always be a great reminder of what a group of 10 people can actually accomplish.


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Hiking in New Mexico; skydiving in Dallas

An update from Outdoor Adventures on their Summer 2009 trips and Fall 2009 schedule:

Hilltop.jpg Photos are posted of SMU’s first Hilltop Scholars Program Expedition, a six-day summer backpacking trip in the Sangre De Cristo mountain range of New Mexico.

Eighteen students from across the country drove to SMU-in-Taos on July 19, then entered the backcountry on July 20. For six days, they faced personal and physical challenges; experienced and overcame the out-of-control; laughed and maybe even cried; felt exultation, fear, humility, and gratitude; gained friendship; built community; made discoveries, became self-aware, experienced nature; witnessed beauty and danger; and created memories.

On July 25, 18 very different individuals emerged from the wilds. Now they were a group of SMU Hilltop Scholars.

Some comments from participants after the trip:

“If you want to experience amazing views, become a leader at SMU before even stepping on campus, and make great new friends, this is the place to go. Be ready for a challenge, a challenge that I enjoyed every step of the way … WOOOOOOOT!”

“This trip made me push myself outside of my comfort zone, emotionally and physically. But that made the reward all the greater, especially while getting to know and make friends with great students and faculty.”

“This trip has helped me realize that my first year in college is going to be an exciting time full of friendship and adversity, and that fighting through challenges with friends is so much better than being alone on the journey.”

See more Hilltop Scholar Expedition photos on Outdoor Adventures’ Flickr page.


Also see photos of our summer skydiving trip.

And check our schedule for Fall 2009.


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Hiking in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park

An update from Rebecca on Outdoor Adventures’ 2009 Spring Break trip:

See more photos here.

We left early the first Saturday morning of Spring Break. This trip was lead by Albert canyonpic1.jpg
and Monti, who are SMU Outdoor Adventures staff. The participants were Rebecca, Jamila, Stefanie, Douglas, Sydni, Katrina, Reagan, Briana and Will. We were a group of strangers looking for a new adventure. We drove eight hours the first day through fierce winds until we reached Santa Rosa in New Mexico. In Santa Rosa we went across the street to eat a group dinner. The trip was off to a good start!

The next morning we woke up and drove eight more hours to reach the beautiful canyonlands. The more we drove, the more beautiful the scenery became. When we entered Canyonlands National Park, the entire van got silent; everyone was captivated by the beauty of the desert in contrast with the snow-covered mountain tops. In fact, I think that it is the only time the van was silent the entire trip.

The first night we camped, we had an awesome fire and amazing s’mores! It was a good night for the group to get to know one another and just relax after a long day of driving.

Out on the trail

The next morning we woke up bright and early, and Albert taught us how to pack our backpacks and drove to the sqaw flats road head. Then we set out on the lost canyon trail.

We hiked for a while and then branched off to the Peekaboo trail. The first day was the most challenging and most rewarding. We hiked 8.5 miles up over the canyon until we got down into it to camp. At one point we were standing on a giant rock, and all we could see was nature all around us; it was the most breathtaking 360-degree view that I have ever seen.

canyonlandsnowpic.jpg By the end of the day we were physically exhausted – some of us had faced our fears, and all of us had experienced something new together. As a group, we decided to change the plans. We decided that we would camp and enjoy the world around us, rather than be so exhausted we were miserable.

That night it snowed; some people even woke up with ice in their hair. It was a snow-covered desert; cacti were covered in snow.

Paul Bunyan’s potty

We then went on a really enjoyable day hike to Paul Bunyan’s potty that included animal tracking and print interpretation. Paul Bunyan’s potty is a massive rock formation with a hole in the middle. The National Park had a sense of humor because they put an outhouse right next to it.

We then walked back to camp and relaxed, read, had a yoga class led by Katrina, and had personal reflection canyonlandpic3.jpg time for the rest of the day.

Then on Wednesday we woke up and strapped our backpacks on for the hike to a new campsite. We hiked 3 miles that day and found great camping right inside the park boundaries. We enjoyed a good meal and the company of one another and learned how to read and interpret topographic maps, while a runner team of four people hiked five more miles to retrieve the van.

Showers in Santa Rosa

Thursday morning we all headed to the van early after hiking a short 1.5 miles. We drove the eight hours back to Santa Rosa and were all SO thrilled to get hot showers and good meal! We all slept great that night.

We all learned a lot about the outdoors and had to be flexible with the elements. Living out of a backpack for those days was quite an experience. Nature is the one thing people can never dictate. It was a week of new experiences, triumphs, exhaustion, and struggles. The pictures cannot even begin to do the trip and the beauty of it all justice. We all returned safe, and that is all we could have asked for!

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Ice climbing in Colorado

An update from SMU Outdoor Adventurers on their ice climbing trip January 30-February 1, 2009, in Alamosa, Colorado: (See more photos)

iceclimbing1.jpg It’s not common to see a van load of Texans in Colorado … oh, who am I kidding? Yeah, it is. But maybe not a van load intending to do what this van load was intending to do.

SMU OA trip staff, David Chambers, Dexter Jacobs and Ryan Davis packed up and headed to Colorado on Friday, January 30, with SMU students Daniel, Ben, Darren and brother Noel, and alums Eddie, Todd and Collin. Our goal: ice climb as much as possible in two days and get back to SMU “not so late” on Monday, February 2.

iceclimbing8.jpg After pushing a long 16-hour day on Friday, we finally pulled into the “Dirty Mo,” as Alamosa is pleasantly referred to by students at Adam State University, our destination and base camp for the weekend. Upon arrival, we met up with a good friend and Adams’ Outdoor Adventure Coordinator, Mick, to get checked into our dorm rooms and take a quick look at downtown “Mo” for dinner.

We woke early the next day to get outfitted with snowshoes, plastic boots, crampons and ice tools and headed for our first climbing destination, North Clear Creek, near Creed. The sun was shining and the temperature pleasant for late January in Colorado (AM temps 15-17 F).

Surprisingly enough, we had a 2-mile snowshoe into the small, beautiful slot canyon, which helped to fight off the cold temperatures. We reached our spot with three set lines over beautiful cascading ice. The sun gradually faded behind the rim of the canyon and things began to get cold, but as soon as our short introductory skills clinic was over, we hit the ice and didn’t stop for six hours!

The Coloradans commented that it was ok ice, but to us, it was perfect. You could actually see the runningiceclimbing5.jpg water beneath the frozen surface, making you think twice about slamming your ice tool into it. We crawled out of the canyon just as the sun was setting and were able to catch that magical picture provided by the light at dusk with blue sky – with the silhouette of the Rockies and snow-covered ground as the canvas.

We eventually got packed up, but it was going to be too late to catch dinner in Alamosa with a two-hour ride back, so we headed into Creed and found the only joint open serving food at 8 pm. Upon arrival back in “Dirty Mo” at 11+, we were all too exhausted to resist the bunks, so we headed for bed with another early wake-up on Sunday.

As has become the routine, we met early, loaded up, packed up and jumped into the van for the drive down to South Fork for coffee and this time up into Wolf Creek pass to a site with a little better access.

A short snowshoe in, and we were at the bottom of the cliffs with three great-looking falls at our fingertips. It was “kids hopped up on chocolate at Pump It Up” from there on. We climbed until we couldn’t kick crampons into the ice anymore or your hands were numb from the cold and “screaming” from pain caused by lack of blood flow and constant slamming into the ice with the ice tool.

As we rounded off another day of 6 hours worth of ice climbing, we took a few parting shots and headed for the van. We headed for the “Dirty Mo” one last time and headed into the “lively” downtown for food and to catch the end of the Super Bowl. The crew packed up on Monday with temperatures hovering around 6 F, warm for the Dirty Mo this time of year. We gassed and coffee-ed up and started the long trip back to SMU.

Before the day was done, we would go from down jackets and fleece to short sleeves as we pulled into Dallas around 7 that evening. No matter the marathon weekend and total drive of 36 hours in a van. No matter that we probably won’t remember who won the Super Bowl in two years anyway. No matter the missed commitments and work. We had ice climbing fever and it will be a long time before that scenery, aching calves, painful hands, and big smiles escape our memories.

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