SMU Outdoor Adventures

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

Fall Backpacking Trip

PB140033.jpg Photos are in from SMU Outdoor Adventures’ Fall Backpacking Trip in November.

Start planning now for Spring 2009 Outdoor Adventures:

SMU OA At the Flagpole: Jan 21-22
Colorado Ice Climbing ($285): Jan 30-Feb 2
Backpacking 101 Workshop (2 evening class with Overnight): TBA
Overnight Backpacking: Feb 13-15
White Water Kayaking Class (multiple days with day trip): TBA
Canyonlands National Park Spring Break ($249): March 7-13
Wilderness First Aid ($185): March 21-22
PCIA Climbing Wall Instructor Course ($218): March 27-29
Inner Space Caving Trip: April 4
Staying Found-Land Navigation Workshop: TBA
Skydiving ($189): April 10
Top Rope Anchors Workshop: April 17 (evening)-18
Overnight Canoe/Kayak Trip: April 25-26
Rock Climbing Day Trip: April 25

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Sea kayaking to Matagorda Island

An update from David on Outdoor Adventures’ Fall Break sea kayak trip to Matagorda Island, Texas:

This trip was an adventure for many reasons. Specifically, OA Trips had never gone to this location. So the planning and logistics were considerably more difficult.

Our jumping-off point of Port O’Connor (POC), Texas, had only a few sea kayaking references, maps contacts or published information. It was only by luck that we found Chris at Central Marina in POC. He directed us to resources and maps of the area that we could legitimately utilize for the trip.

We found out that there were a number of kayaking trails through the smaller islands directly out to Matagorda. A good sign. So right from the get-go, this trip would be interesting. Combine our lack of information with possible affects of Hurricane Ike a month earlier, and we really weren’t sure what to expect.

Long road to Lake Texana
Christina, Iana, Tommy and Zeng were the “guinea pigs” on this new trip led by OA Trip Leaders Dexter and David. The trip took an unfortunate turn down the wrong road when we followed MapQuest directions to our first night’s camping at Lake Texana State Park, our layover point for the push to POC the next day. We were provided directions through Houston with 5.5 hours of driving to get to our destination. Not knowing any better, we followed these directions, and to our disappointment, arrived 10 hours later at beautiful Lake Texana. Rumors had it that Houston was a traffic “vortex” of disappointment. Already, this trip is proving to be difficult.

At Lake Texana State Park, we set up our camp for the night and decided to use the remaining daylight to take the group out for some quick sea kayaking instruction in preparation for the unknown paddle distance and duration to Matagorda Island the next day. Except for the warning signs exclaiming, “Watch out for alligators,” the lake was a perfect spot to demonstrate the ill effects of wind and waves on sea kayaking in the back of our minds, Dexter and I were hoping that this is the worst it would get. To our relief, no real problems from our practice session and no lost appendages to hungry alligators.

After dinner, the group crowded around our comforting, albeit small, campfire telling stories and playing mindgames. As the time wore on, we eventually called it a night and hit the ol’ sleeping bags – the evening too warm to get in the bags.

On to Port O’Connor
Day 2, Sunday, we packed up camp, made ready with our gear and sped for POC, a mere 1.5 hours away, dutifully watching the wind. The day started and would remain beautifully sunny, but as we approached our put-in, we noticed the wind gradually picking up to an estimated 15 mph. We hurriedly packed the boats and prepared to get on the water. At 12:30, we were off.

Our first obstacle of the day would be crossing the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW), a manmade canal for large boat traffic. My experience with the ICW from the East Coast involved huge tankers and freighters making their way up and down the coast using the ICW as a protected travel route. In POC, it was only about 100 yards wide and served mostly pleasure and fishing boats and the occasional tug and barge.

Regardless, it is not a good place to hang out, as these bigger boats can’t stop quickly. So we paddled hard through the choppy waves to our inlet, where we would follow the small inlets and shores of smaller islands.

Matagorda Island has a long and interesting history, which I recommend you look up and read yourself. For our purposes, just know that it is a combination of islands, marshes and dunes with channels cut through for small boat traffic. The islands are uninhabited except for the occasional cattle and abandoned fish camps.

Our destination, Matagorda Island, is the larger barrier island and borders the Gulf. It was once a Texas state park and is now managed by the federal fish and wildlife department.

As we paddled close to the smaller barrier islands, careful not to get too far into the boating lanes, we saw plentiful sea birds, including pelicans, sea gulls, cranes and an osprey that we were lucky to watch fish in the waterways around us. Once we crossed out of the smaller channels, we passed a now-abandoned Coast Guard station platform worn from the weather and sea, and popped into Matagorda Bay where the winds and waves really picked up.

All ashore
We had to hug the shore until we reached our destination, Sunday Beach on the thumb of Matagorda Island. At about 4:30, we reached our destination for the night … total hours paddling, 4; estimated mileage, 7.

As we stepped out on the island, we couldn’t help but notice several groups of people and families on the beach. It seems that this area is frequented by pleasure boaters. Almost immediately upon landing, we walked the 100 yards across the island to the Gulf of Mexico. Another surprise waited as we scanned the beach … trash everywhere. Not just the occasional paper plate or plastic water bottle, but debris such as large tree trunks, furniture, toys and a huge cylinder as big as a small house. You could definitely tell the island had felt the affects of Hurricane Ike.

After some frolicking in the Gulf, we headed back to our boats to unload and prepare our camp. Unfortunately the wind had continued to increase, and sand blew freely everywhere. Having seen the SMU emblem on our boats, a family introduced themselves to our group. Turned out, the husband was an SMU graduate from 1969, having spent the day on the island with his wife and two granddaughters. Just goes to show you, SMU has an extensive “reach.”

Sand, more sand and coyotes
We set up our kitchen as best we could, out of the wind and blowing sand. We found a relatively protected area in the dunes to set up our tents. As the group explored the island, we managed to strike up a conversation with the last of the pleasure boaters, curious about what we were doing out on this island in boats with no motors. They informed us of the islands current inhabitants … coyotes and feral hogs, lots of them.

Personally, I would prefer to go up against a black bear than a wild hog. Hogs are known for their anger and tenacity. Regardless, we would prep the best we could and make sure to keep an eye out for any unwanted visitors.

08%20fall%20sea%20kayak%202.jpgAfter a sandy meal of spaghetti, sardines and smoked oysters (we are on the coast), we built a nice fire beach-side and enjoyed the full moon, stars and lights of the town in the distance. It was a great feeling to be alone in such a place. As it got later, we all began to feel the day’s paddle and decided to head for the tents.

A few brave souls decided it was better to sleep outside with the moon and consistent sound of crashing waves and wind. Those who stayed in the tents were not any better off as the wind continued to hurl sand into every opening. One thing is evident, when camping on the beach; you just have to learn to love the sand because there is no getting away from it.

The next morning, a few woke early to witness an uninterrupted sunrise. As the sky in the east went from bluish gray to pink and orange, we enjoyed the serenity of it all with only the sound of waves and wind. We strolled to the boats only to find that the coyotes had discovered our food storage in the bulkheads of the kayaks. The little buggers even scratched off the hatch covers to get inside. We must have spooked them early enough as luckily, no food was lost.

After breakfast, we decided to hit the water and paddle back to POC in hopes of getting back before the afternoon winds picked up and made things difficult. Good fortune was on our side as the wind was now at our backs and the previous day’s 4-hour paddle only took 3.

Along the way, we took our time and had a little fun exploring some inlets and an abandoned houseboat. At one point, a bottlenose dolphin rose for air not 15 feet from our boats. Literally, we could see its eyes. We reached our take-out point just as the winds began to pick up for the afternoon, and the waves occasionally would break across the kayak cockpits.

Home for a shower … and sleep
As we unloaded the boats and loaded the van and trailer, we reflected and reminisced about the last couple of days. But before the trip could end, we decided to explore the local cuisine for lunch in Port Lavaca at a little Mexican seafood place. Because we had made such good time, the group decided it would be great to get a shower and sleep without sand. So we pointed the van north and drove through the afternoon, evening and night to arrive back at SMU.

Matagorda Island is a beautiful place, and the paddle to and from can be intimidating. But the experience was overwhelmingly gorgeous. It is a definite return location for future OA Trips. The island would be great to explore, so next time, we will balance the long drive and hopefully spend 2 nights on the island.

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Hang-gliding in Oklahoma

PA040003-sm.jpgAn update from David on Outdoor Adventures’ October hang-gliding trip in Oklahoma:

It started as any other Saturday, if waking before 6 am and getting home around 1 is a typical Saturday. SMU OA trip leaders Danni and Dexter took the “barely awake” group consisting of Guy, Whitney, Fernanda, Perry, Jon and Ian to Lawton, Oklahoma, for a day of riding the thermals … Oklahoma-style.

Oklahoma-style hang-gliding is a little different from what most people visualize. No mountains or large hills, just flat Oklahoma farmland, a straight deserted road and a flat-bed Ford with an odd contraption on the back. Because there isn’t much to stop the “winds coming down the plains,” this area is ideal for hang-gliding.

PA040002-sm.jpgAfter a short ground school where participants get fitted and instructed in what and why, the instructor straps himself and the participant to a “kite” on the back of the flat-bed. The truck then starts down the road, and eventually, at about 20 mph, the “kite” is let loose from the contraption and begins to float into the air on a cable. When the “kite” gets up to 1500-2000 feet, they unhook the cable and the “kite,” instructor and participant glide back to a landing area.

The weather for the day started nicely, but high winds kept the group grounded for a short period of time. Of course, in the wilds of Oklahoma, this may seem like an eternity. Eventually, everyone got a chance to “float like a butterfly,” and gladly, no “stings like a bee” this time.

The long drive back (think a total of 8 hours in a vehicle to and from the location) was interrupted with a stop at a local restaurant on Hwy 82 & 287 for dinner. A long day, to say the least, but full of memories.

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A good day for rock climbing

An update from David Chambers on Outdoor Adventures’ September rock-climbing day trip (see photos here):

SMU OA has been doing trips to Mineral Wells State Park since its conception, but for some reason, this was one of the “memorable” ones. It probably had to do with the group and the circumstances.

We had a good group mix this trip with students Connor, Yulay, Katrina, Gabe, Sara and SMU faculty Denis Bettaver and Piotr Chelstowski. We love to have faculty and staff on our trips. The group was a good mix of “did it before” to “never haves.” This is the ideal kind of mix because it means we can set many different climbs for a variety of skill levels … our preferred method of programming at Mineral Wells because we never know what will be available on nice weekends, as explained later.

SMU OA trip leaders Dexter Jacobs and David Chambers with technical rock support from Angellia Chandler met the group bright and early that morning with the intention of getting to our destination early enough to beat as many of the other groups as possible. The group showed up in good time and better attitude … ready for some climbing.

Like I said, the group was good and the circumstances turned out great. Upon our arrival, we found out that no groups were ahead of us and we would pretty much have the crag to ourselves that morning. Since MWSP is the closest crag to DFW and North Texas in general, weekends are usually a madhouse of Boy and Girl Scout groups, college and high school programs, church groups, and private climbers. But this day was different.

When asked about what we can expect that day, the rangers pointed out that the weekend prior, over 500 Boy Scouts camped the Friday before. Most groups come to MWSP for the climbing so you can imagine the crowd that would have been in this limited climbing area.

With the help of Angellia, we were able to claim our routes with no other competition in sight. This allowed us to enjoy our climbing with ease. Of course as the day went on, more and more climbers showed up, but realistically, we couldn’t ask for the abundance of available routes. In addition, the weather would make a climber “giddy” with delight. Again, this kind of weather brings out the climbing community in droves, but I guess we picked the right weekend.

Everyone started climbing on relatively easy routes but soon progressed to more challenging climbs. The most impressive thing was not that everyone “made it to the top” of every climb. Instead it was the perseverance and effort made by all to try the best they could. For his first time climbing, ever, Yulay was tackling 5.8-5.9 climbs. Denis was getting back into the harness after a long departure and continued to execute really good moves. Connor, Katrina and Sara all pushed their strength to a new level.

By the end, everyone felt like they had rock climbed that day. And we still made it back to Dallas before the Cowboys games.

Yeah, it was a good day.

Note: Sign up for the Winter Break ski and snowboard trip to the Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado.

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Skydiving Round 2

An update from David Chambers on SMU Outdoor Adventures’ September skydiving trip (see more photos here):

P9210038.jpgYou couldn’t ask for a better day … cool morning with promises of sunshine and temperatures only reaching the upper 80s. Not a typical Texas “summer” day.

Our group of brave souls – Christina, Judith, Morgan, Nicole, Rebecca, Daniel, Robin and his sister Alice and Emily and her father David with OA staff Dexter Jacobs and David Chambers – headed for our rendezvous with what many felt was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a chance to tease gravity, that impeccable and consistent force of nature.

“Once in a lifetime” was a common response when asked, “Why?” Ah, to be so innocent. Yes, it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but did it occur to anyone it could the “last of a lifetime?”

P9200006.jpgWe had no worries as our outfitters, Skydive Dallas, is well equipped and capable of handling the likes of us … thrill seekers, “bucket list” achievers, and naive consumers of this thing that keeps us all on the surface of the earth.

Regardless of my ramblings, it was not very long after our arrival that we entered the “classroom” for our briefing on what to expect this day. After watching a video designed to both entertain and warn us of the possible but improbable impending doom and loss of life, we were on the floor practicing our “exit” maneuvers, and getting some laughs.

P9200022.jpgBefore we knew it, a knock on the door informed us that our first group needed to get ready to jump. Had we seen enough of the video? Did we practice enough to secure muscle memory? Is there anything else they want to let me know before it’s too late? Probably, but we had a schedule to keep.

P9200026.jpgOur fears and apprehensions were soon replaced by excitement. By twos and threes, our group left the ground and then, as if by magic, floated, albeit some more gracefully than others, to the ground. A chance to race at 120 mph toward the ground, the breeze in your hair (and teeth, and nose, etc), the peace of a floating canopy, the gradual left, then right, then left, and right as you glide to a landing.

Many people ask what it’s like. I don’t think there are words to adequately explain it, at least to my knowledge. It is one of those things you need to experience for yourself.

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Look out below!

P7180018.jpgAn update from David on Outdoor Adventures’ first skydiving trip:

Consisting mostly of SMU alumni, our OA Trips group took off for SkyDive Dallas’ location on Saturday, July 19, for folks’ first taste of “pure freedom.”

SkyDive Dallas runs one of the only North Texas operations, and what a class act. Not knowing what to expect (Bubba with a bi-plane and few chutes?), we were very impressed with the operations. From a very friendly atmosphere and people to the open facilities and private airfield, SkyDive Dallas was great. You would almost assume that skydivers would be a little “elite,” but the folks there treated us very well and were extremely friendly.

Our group was to enter ground school at 9 am, so we ended up leaving SMU around 7:45 am. After ground school, two members (only two tandem jumps per flight) were scheduled on the Otter jump plan.

P7180016.jpgWe made plans to meet up with two SMU OA alum who had made trips to the Grand Canyon and Fiji. They are avid skydivers with over 200 jumps between them. It was great to have them there. They answered many questions and provided some comfort and input for everyone. Of course, they weren’t just there to socialize and put in two jumps each that day.

P7180026.jpgAfter a while, Marshall and Steve were called back to get ready. They met their instructors and were briefly schooled in jump form and position. As we nervously watched them go to the pick-up area, the anxiousness began to hit everyone. As they got airborne, Albert and Young were called back. Next, Jeff and Margaret made their way to get suited up and ready.

It wasn’t long before we heard the roar of the Otter above us, barely visible at 12K+ feet above. But soon, little dots would stream out from behind the plane and eventually, whoosh; you could hear the chutes open. As our jumpers made their turns and sweeps high above the ground, eventually landing safely back on earth, smiles were everywhere. Our group couldn’t get enough, so many paid the discounted 2nd jump rate to get another.

P7190028.jpgBy 4pm, the heat, sun and adrenaline were enough. We packed up and headed back to SMU with memories that will truly be for a lifetime.

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11 days in Fiji

An update from Outdoor Adventures seniors Reagan and William on the group’s Kadavu, Fiji, kayaking trip in May (view more photos here):

fiji6.jpg“Bula” and greetings from Kadavu (pronounced “Kendavu”), Fiji! We’ve just gotten back from remote Kadavu Island, part of the Fijian Archipelago, where our SMU Outdoor Adventures group kayaked, snorkeled, scuba-dived, trekked and truly immersed ourselves in the Fijian culture for 11 days.

Day 1: Good-luck dolphins
After arriving at the Nadi International Airport after an 11-hour flight, we met up with our Tamarillo guide, Anthony of Tamarillo Tropical Expeditions, who would serve as our main contact and also our guide throughout our time in Fiji.

At the airport, we had a quick debrief, got to hang out in Nadi and to pick up the last necessary items for our upcoming trip. We had our first cultural experience by picking up slices of pineapple and jack fruit at the local Fresh Produce Market before jumping on the small island-hopper for the short, 45-minute flight to Kadavu.

Arriving at the airport on the small island was quite a surprise! The “airport” was a small house-sized building with only a few workers and a couple of benches. We didn’t hang around long – just long enough to pack our bags into a truck and walk to a small store to pick up chicken for the night’s dinner.

From the store, we walked to a cove to join Ratu, a local plantation owner whom we would be staying with for two nights, and his two motor boats, which we gladly hopped on.

The one-and-a-half-hour ride to Ratu’s place was beautiful, with only slight rainfall and overcast skies, but accompanied by a large pod of dolphins who playfully jumped and swam at the bow of our boat through the choppy water. Ratu said that dolphins were a blessing because they signify a change in the weather – either for the better of worse! But either way, Ratu believed that rain or shine, every day in Fiji is paradise.

Ratu was right about the dolphins, as the next day was absolutely sunny and beautiful, without a cloud in the sky. That night at Ratu’s place, we stepped out of the motor boats to reveal beautiful palm trees and the thatched-roof “Bure” we would all sleep in for two nights, and were invited to join in a ceremonial Kava welcome ceremony with Ratu’s family, Anthony and our three Fijian guides – Gus, Mox and Joseva. We felt like the luckiest people in the world as we entered this pristine environment and culture.

fiji2.jpgDay 2: Paradise
The next day and night at Ratu’s were equally enjoyable, starting off with part of the group watching the sunrise and slowly rising to another day in beautiful paradise.

We had a kayaking technique and safety review in the morning, followed by a full kayak trip along the coast and mangrove patches. It was beautiful seeing the perfectly untouched wilderness that is Fiji. The tropical fish were especially colorful, which we got to see a lot of – we even saw a black-and-white-banded sea serpent, one of the most poisonous animals in the world.

We kayaked to a small island for lunch, and because it was too windy and the water too turbid, we returned to Ratu’s for a snorkeling session. We walked through a village with Sulus – the traditional dress that resembles a sarong, worn around the waste and falling to the floor. We stumbled upon a magnificent waterfall, which first appeared to be a small creek, but then the waterfall came into view. We jumped off a boulder to get to the waterfall, climbed over and took our first look at the 100+ foot waterfall. We climbed up and took turns jumping off, while watching one of our guides, Mox, jump from over 150 feet into the pool below.

Day 3: A muddy hike to Vathalea
The third day, we trekked to Vathalea to stay in the village for two nights. The trek was enjoyable and challenging, trying to navigate through the thick mud (or Fijian mud, as the locals describe it). We trekked through a mangrove forest, took off our shoes in the quicksand-like mud, and arrived at our destination covered in mud.

We crossed a river to get to the village, played with a pet iguana and watched Daniel and Paige help a few locals take up their fishing net out in the ocean. We got a little cleaned up when we reached our Bure, had a welcome Kava ceremony, quick dinner, and more Kava.

As members of our group “gave sugar,” i.e. served some members of the village their bitter Kava drink, we learned the difference between a “high tide”-sized drink and a “low tide”-sized drink, we chatted with the locals, listened to soothing Fijian guitars fill the room, and rested up for the next adventure-filled day.

fiji1.jpgDay 4: Catching dinner
The fourth day was Clay’s birthday, and we spent our second day in Vathalea. We were immersing ourselves in Fijian culture, by trekking through the jungle in search of basket-weaving, prawn-catching and fern-gathering for our upcoming meal. We learned to weave baskets using palm tree leaves, caught prawns, and either took another trek through the jungle or took a boat ride without a motor back to Vathalea.

With a meal prepared in an earthen oven, we dined on fresh fish, prawns, vegetables, and cassava.

Day 5: Camping
The fifth day, we took pictures with the local families, attended a special morning Kava farewell ceremony, and kayaked to Waisalima, a local resort that we would camp on for the next two nights.

Day 6: Starfish sightings
The sixth day, some group members attended a local church, while others took a short trek to a massive Banyon Tree. We took long walks on the beach, snorkeled, picked up shells, and played with starfish. Later, we kayaked out into the bay to watch the sun set.

Day 7: Hula Haca dancing
The seventh day, part of our group went scuba-diving in the morning at a site called Cabbage Patch, while others took a bush walk with the three guides. The scuba divers, after seeing all sorts of fish, sting rays and colorful coral, returned to a startling surprise of the other half of our group dressed up in grass skirts, headdresses and charcoal/mud mixed to be paint all over their bodies. They performed Mox’s famous Hula Haca, Ice Block dance while we came ashore. Everyone was in high spirits and truly enjoying their Fijian experience.

We then kayaked over to Ono Island, where we stayed at Nukubalavu, an unfinished resort where we camped for a night. We stepped foot on the island with bread, tea, and coffee waiting for us: a welcome treat after a rather challenging paddle. We set up tents for the night, and had a huge meal with snapper, trout, and Wahoo, and fresh veggies from Joe’s garden. We had a Kava welcome ceremony during which Joe and Jason, the owners of the resort, swapped stories of Fiji and Australia with us.

The night ended as a small crab was introduced to the Fijian mat we were all sitting Indian-style on, and we played around with it until the night came to a close. One member of the team mentioned how each day felt as though three days had passed because of the high intensity of the program and the diversity of the activities of each day.

Day 8: Trip to Ono Island
The eighth day was filled with a tour of Joe’s garden and drinking water/irrigation system, followed by a rather challenging kayak to circumnavigate around Ono Island to camp at Kenia Resort. We had a nice night’s stay at Kenia, with a Kava ceremony, a big dinner, and star-gazing followed by a bonfire to end the night. We finished the night with our daily haiku readings and fell asleep to the guitar playing and accompaniment by local Fijians.

Day 9: Back to Nadi Bay
The ninth day, we unfortunately would up at the airport back in Nadi, where we stayed at the Nadi Bay Hotel, and dined on super spicy Indian food at a very good local restaurant.

Day 10: Souvenir shopping
The next morning, we checked out of the hotel, dropped off our bags at Anthony’s apartment, and took about an hourlong public bus ride to Lautoka, where we spent about four hours at the vegetable and fruit market, along with a handicraft market. Several hand-carved masks, hand-woven mats, jewelry, and colorful fabric rugs were purchased in order to retain the memories of Fiji once back home.

fiji5.jpgDay 11: Already missing Fiji
On the way back, we reflected on our trip and already began missing the beauty and culture of Fiji. Flying out that night at 10 p.m. was sad, as memories of the lyrics to a traditional Fijian song played in our heads:

When I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me,
Please don’t make me open my eyes.
‘Cause I’m dreaming, dreams of Fiji,
Pacific Islands, Paradise.
I’ve searched the world wide over,
Nowhere could I see,
Anywhere to compare with the Islands of Fiji.
Now I’ve drifted far away
From thoughts of my mind,
All my strength and everyday I’m lost in my dreamtime.
I see people, different races,
Friendly faces smiling at me.
Now my heart goes to where I must go,
To the islands of Fiji.

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Canoeing the Brazos

canoe1-sm.jpgAn update from David Chambers on the Brazos River Canoe Trip, April 12-13:

canoe3-sm.jpgThe Brazos River is one of our favorite and easiest trips, but spring can be tricky, especially with all the rain typical of this season. The weekend turned out to be “almost” perfect. The weather, the river and the group were good.

Whitney, Nicole, Perry, Loren, Jennifer and Julia with OA’s Danni and Ben headed early Saturday for the put-in near Possum Kingdom Dam. The first day proved a little difficult to find a good camp spot as the beautiful weather brought scores of people to the river for the same reason as us. After about 13 miles, the group eventually found a suitable site to spend the evening and night. After a long day on the river, it wasn’t long before everyone headed for the sleeping bags.

The next day was leisure, except for Ben who was saddled with the solo canoe. Paddling the remaining 7 miles proved not so difficult, and the group was heading for home sooner than expected.

Read about May’s Kadavu Island (Fiji) Sea Kayak trip here.

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Lessons learned in Big Bend

An update from David on Outdoor Adventures’ Spring Break trip to Big Bend National Park:

This trips never ceases to amaze us. Relatively easy to plan and pull off. Beautiful scenery, easy river, able to pack a lot of food (we weren’t going to starve on this one), and incredible people. This really should be a regular trip.

With OA represented by Chris and I, we were fortunate to have Jin-Chen, Sam, Breanna, Sarah, Kristin, Arden, Jessica and Logan on board. What a fantastic group!!! From “never befores” to “old timers,” this group was composed of various outdoors people, or soon to be. AND we only experienced two fatalities: canoeing egos (mine anyway) and 1 jackrabbit unable to get out of the way of the mack-daddy OA van.

Instead of the normal trip summary, we decided to do a “What did we learn?”
So, what did we learn?

There is very little to look at between Abilene and Alpine.
Don’t buy DVDs from a pawn shop
We theorized that male Jack-O-Lopes have big antlers for mating. They want to intimidate male jackrabbits. It’s an inadequacy thing. Kind of like big SUVs and trucks.
Do not disregard a bed after 12+ hours in a passenger van, even if you question the cleanliness.
In the desert, a horse has no name.
Nobody in Terlingua showers or shaves on a regular basis.
A heavily loaded canoe will not turn at the last minute … no matter how good you think your canoeing skills might be.
When trying to teach fundamental paddling, make sure everyone knows the difference between right/left and front/back before you use the canoeing terms.
Dancers are tough!
Is it just me, or are people from Pittsburgh loud?
Bathing, washing hair, or even wearing deodorant in the backcountry does nothing to cover up the smell.
Whether making things or cooking things, it is truly amazing to see creativity.
From a distance and in an arroyo (canyon for you that don’t know), donkeys sound like people laughing.
Don’t drink water from the Rio Grande.
Do not eat the last can of Mandarin Oranges before checking with EVERYBODY.
The Marfa Lights do exist, but not on this trip.
At 5:30 in the morning and in large groups (+ or – 8), the border patrol does not have a sense of humor.
It’s amazing what a little adversity, remoteness, good people and a common goal will do to bring a group of strangers together as a team.

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Rock climbing in Mineral Wells

An update from David on Outdoor Adventures’ March 1 trip:

It was a beautiful day with a small group of eager climbers – including Allison, Ashley and Jin-Chen – headed out from SMU for our favorite and closest crag, Mineral Wells State Park.

SMU OA staffers Chris, Danni, Nona and I went along for the ride.

We were fortunate to have only a few other groups of climbers to contend with at the park, so we had abundant opportunity to climb. Allison, Ashley and Jin-Chen all get thumbs-up for effort and tenacity, as we would have to literally peel them off the rock if we needed to move on or let someone else try.

Everyone experienced many successes and a few disappointments. But that is rock climbing. As one of my favorite movie quotes goes, “Sometimes you get the barr, sometimes the barr gets you.”

With such a small group and ample climbing, it wasn’t long before the group was pretty wiped. So we packed it up and headed back for SMU in time to rest, eat and enjoy the Saturday night festivities.

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