Spring 2017 Rock Climbing Day trip

At 6:45 in the morning a group of SMU students and alumni met in the rental shop to leave for Lake Mineral Wells State Park.  We left filled with excitement, Red Bull, and a new understanding of why dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate.  On the van ride there, we called the State Park when they opened at 8 hoping they would be open for climbing, and to our delight, they were! When we arrived we quickly checked in, met the lovely employees, and went straight to the crag to set up anchors.  It was now a battle against gravity for the participants.

They struggled up the limestone cliffs jamming their hands and feet in cracks and putting chalk on their hands to shield against the rough rocks.  It was certainly a test of their strength and willpower.  Did they send the routes you ask? Absolutely they did.  They were sending them all over the place!  After a couple hours of joyous climbing it was time for lunch.  With a gentle breeze and gorgeous weather to accompany us, we divulged in chips and guacamole, cheese sticks, and delicious sandwiches.  We quickly refueled and set out for another session on the rock.

Our participants continued to send route after route.  No one wanted to leave, so we just kept climbing!  However, all good days come to an end and it eventually did come time to leave.  We packed all the gear up and headed back to Dallas.  On the way home, we stopped and got some delicious milkshakes for the road.  With an appreciation for nature and sugary dairy treats we arrived back to campus tired, but satisfied with the day’s adventure.

  • Colton Ciavarra – SMU OLT
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2017 Spring Break trip

Spring Break 2017 for SMU Outdoor Adventures started with a group of 10 participants which included two student leaders (Tanner Thompson and I) and the Outdoor Program Professional (Albert Mitugo). The rest were eager participants who had chosen to be in another place different from Cancun, Mexico. We had chosen to go to Canyonlands National in Utah, which is not exactly a stone throw away from Dallas. So we left SMU at the crack of dawn (4.30 am to be exact) on March 11 and drove 10 hours before we spent the night in Bernalillo, NM. The next day, we drove the rest of the way and camped at The Needles Outpost, just outside of the National Park.

On the morning of March 13th, our group, led by Tanner and I (we were five in number because permits allow only up to seven individuals in a camp site) began the first leg of a 23 mile expedition in Canyonlands National Park. The other group of five was led by Albert on another route. As one of the group’s leaders, I was excited to put all of the work I spent planning this trip into action. We started in (relatively) unremarkable terrain, there were a few raised chunks of rock around us maybe 50 or 60 feet high, but other than that we were surrounded by scrub trees, cacti and bunch grasses. That quickly changed as we ascended from the trailhead, however. The soil under our feet soon turned into solid sandstone, and the small gulleys to either side soon became 200+ foot vertical cliff faces. After we had gained enough elevation, we were able to see the snowy La Sal Mountains in the distance towering over the desert canyons. The walls of these canyons seemed like they were made out of clay by a kid in kindergarten. Each rock feature was so exaggerated and bulbous, it seemed like I was looking at impressionist art. After about two hours of hiking we climbed the saddle into Elephant Canyon, which surprised me with its colors. Junipers and firs with dark green needles were contrasted by the deep oranges of the canyon walls. Add the clear blue sky into the picture and it seems like these colors were deliberately chosen for this place. Soon we were on the canyon floor in a dry riverbed, which made me feel tiny. It’s one thing to be on flat land with trees three or four times your size above you, but the walls of this canyon that engulfed us were easily 350 feet tall. They greatly restricted our visibility and dropped the temperature by at least 10 degrees (which was much needed, might I add). By this point we were within a mile of our campsite, so we took a quick snack break and kept on trudging through the sandy riverbed. We got to our campsite in about 45 minutes, exploded our packs, and got out everything we needed to make cheesy pasta, the perfect reward for a full day of hiking.

The next day, we had to climb out of Elephant Canyon and make the descent into Squaw Canyon. And I really do mean climb. When we got to the saddle between the two canyons, all we saw was a 20 foot rock face in front of us and a metal ladder made of rebar bolted into the rock. This ladder was built and maintained by the Park Service (whom I trust very much), but it was a scary climb nevertheless. My group made the climb up to what was at the time (and still is) the best view we had of the park. We were able to look down into both canyons and note the differing colors and geology, all with the snowy La Sal Mountains still towering over us from 50 miles away. There was another ladder set up for us to descend into Squaw Canyon, and to be safe I set up a pulley system with the webbing and two carabiners I was carrying so we didn’t have to climb down with our packs on. The rest of the day was uneventful as a day in Canyonlands could be. For most of the afternoon, we stayed hiking on the sandstone tops of the canyons, exposed to the forgiving March sun and the cool wind that effectively canceled it out. Towards the end of our hike, we dropped down onto the canyon floor and hiked our way to the second campsite of the trip in the center of Squaw Canyon.

In the meantime, Albert’s group hiked into Squaw Canyon and out of it into Long Canyon in the first day of hiking. On the second day, they hiked further up Long Canyon before getting to camp.

The third day was a layover day, meaning we didn’t move camp. So, we packed the essentials for our day packs and hiked to the Albert’s group that was camped about 3 miles away in Lost Canyon. It was immediately clear that Lost Canyon was ecologically and visually different than the last two canyon systems we had hiked in. The valley floor was overgrown with deciduous trees and reeds, with enough water to keep them alive until at least the next rain. We hiked along a stream that was not flowing, but it absolutely wasn’t dry. We took this opportunity to fill up on water. Soon after our water break, we met up with the other hiking group. They had set up camp in a shady spot behind a large rock outcropping. We hugged, exchanged stories, and were quickly off to our day hike. We hiked about five miles towards Peekaboo Springs, a spring on the east side of the Park. Our hike took us along the roofs of the canyons. Towards the end of our hike, we discovered the reason for the name “Peekaboo”. There was a gap in one of the canyon walls, about 4 feet by 4 feet. Looking through it, we could see the hike down to the spring as well as the rest of the canyons in the park. It was not a forgettable view, to say the least. At this point, we decided to turn around and head back to camp. When we got back, we said our goodbyes and parted ways until the next day.

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The following day was the last day of our trek. We had plans to meet with the other group at a trail junction about a mile north of our camp and all finish the hike together. Because we only had to hike a mile, my group got there an hour and a half before the meeting time. We chose to spend this time as an extended lunch break. Finally the other group caught up to us, and we hiked the last mile out together. The only notable things from the rest of the day are the ice cream I ate and the shower the program paid $3 for, which was worth about $30 to me. The next day we packed up, put on our normal people clothes and began the 16 hour drive back to Dallas.

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Michael Weiss- SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip leader.

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OA Spelunking!

 

Early on Sunday (Oct 2, 2016) morning some daring students set off to Georgetown Texas for an active day with SMU Outdoor Adventures. A couple scratches and a whole lot of mud was to be expected, but we didn’t bring sunscreen today since we were spending the entirety of our day underground. For four hours we traveled off the beaten path in Inner Space caverns down tiny tunnels. We held our breath and sucked in our stomachs as we squeezed through narrow paths. We dragged ourselves through mud and dust as we traveled through holes a mere eighteen inches in diameter. We set a new record for most amount of time spent in absolute darkness.

But it wasn’t all hard work, we came across a wide variety of beautiful crystal formations slowly growing among the stalagmites and stalactites. Formations with wild names such as, the wedding dress, three sisters, and spear head. Many of these formations were hundreds and even thousands of years old. We also came across a number of massive fossils ranging from fractured Mammoth tusks and prehistoric American camel bones to the shells of Ammonites.

We even did a bit of swimming! Unlike past caving trips, Inner Space Caverns had experienced an unusual amount of rain fall which turned an atrium filled with mud into a five foot deep swimming pool! We even had a chance to float through a few tunnels that had only been partially submerged. This gave us the great opportunity of cooling off and cleaning up at the end of our tour. Never before has a caving expedition surfaced from Inner Space Caverns looking so clean, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t come out dirty.

When we finally crawled out from the dark we showered off, changed into dry clothes, and snacked on sandwiches. Yet another successful weekend excursion before setting off back to campus do get our homework done and study for those midterms.

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Zipping around, Sept 2016

Early sunrises are not typically part of my morning routine, however, when donuts and zip-lining are calling to me, I don’t mind an early wake up. Arriving to the SMU Outdoor Adventure rental shop, I realized everyone was feeling the effects of an early morning, but even under the groggy eyes I could feel the anticipation and eagerness for our adventure to take place. Twenty minutes later when we pulled up to the donut shop, I am pretty sure all regrets of losing sleep were gone.

With stomachs full of sprinkles and glaze, we hit the road and let the sleep leave our eyes. The one and a half hour drive was filled with my questionable music taste, and I am pretty sure I gave the foreign students a twisted perception of what Americans listen to.

There was small chit chat, all along the inclined drive to the location, but when the narrow dirt road opened up to a clearing that overlooked several acres of land we were all too eager to stay quiet. The employees were welcoming and seemed just as excited to see us. In no time we were strapped into harness with baggy construction gloves on our hands and bulbous hard hats on our heads. As expected, this was the prime time to have a mini photoshoot. From here everything moved fast, we learned the proper techniques of stopping and next thing we knew we were standing on platforms that swayed thirty feet in the air. Anticipated silence turned into screams as one by one each of us dropped of the platforms to ride the wires between trees. Shockingly enough, our group of college kids were relatively quiet compared to the shrieks of the grown adults following behind us.

As we swung from tree to tree the lines grew longer and faster and soon enough we were voluntarily jumping off the platforms to reach max speed. The true challenge came with line number six when they gave us the option of flipping on the zip line. Some of us dared and some of us didn’t, but regardless, it was nine hundred feet of view over the scenic hills. We thought that was going to be the thrill of the day, until they began to lead us on a small trek up through the woods.

Little did we know, we were on route to fly down a 1500 foot monster. Even the climb to the zip-line was treacherous because they had setup a short ropes course to reach it. We had reached such top speeds flying down that you could feel the heat coming off the line. This was hardly noticeable though considering we were flying over a large valley that had rivers and expanses of wildlife. The scene was so impressive that the true difficulty was remembering to stop yourself.

After the course was over each of us sat down to a hearty lunch. Needless to say, everyone took a post lunch nap on the car ride back. This trip however, was one for the books.

Bela Lacayo- SMU Outdoor Adventure Trip Leader in Training.

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Zip Lining Day Trip- September 19, 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of embarking on one of Outdoor Adventures’ many trips. This time we headed down to New York, Texas to try out zip lining. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this particular New York, because nobody else has either. As the road narrowed from the dense foliage on either side encroaching into our lane, I wondered if our leaders actually knew where we were going. But sure enough, five miles past the last sign of civilization, the trees parted revealing a gorgeous estate with rolling hills in all directions. I felt as if we had stumbled on a zip liner’s paradise. The family who run this company had their eighty-five year old house transported here as the center, and began setting up a network of lines which connected the hilltops all across the arZippingea. In a matter of minutes we were covered head to harness in safety gear and prepped for takeoff. The moment when you step off the platform, your heart drops into your stomach as the zip line takes you on a thrilling ride through trees, over lakes, and on to platforms. Everyone around was all smiles and full of enthusiasm, making the trip all the better. It was a fantastic way to spend my Saturday afternoon, and the free Popsicles at the end topped off the day perfectly.

Henry Copeland – SMU OA Trip leader in training

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Paddle Boarding Day trip – Sept 12, 2015

Sunny skies, slight breeze, full van, the first ever Outdoor Adventure Paddle Boarding day trip was a success. Eleven of us packed into the van at 9 a.m. Saturday Sept. 12, and we headed to White Rock Lake. Despite the Saturday morning wake up call, the van was buzzing with both experienced lake goers and first-timers.

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We unloaded the van on the west side of the lake, next to one of the boat docks. We gave the participants grapes, clementines, and granola bars for breakfast while Manuel and I went over basic water vehicle safety and a quick how-to for paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing. 

 We were on the lake by 10:30. Excited participants flocked to the far side of the lake, proud and excited of their new-found paddling skills. After reaching the east shore of the lake, some paddle-boarders decided they had fallen one too many times, and switched out with the kayakers and canoe team in the water. 

 That’s when the wind picked up. It was noon, and with our goal of leaving by 2 p.m., Manuel and I knew it was time to start the struggle back to the west shore for lunch. He raced off, as best as he could in his kayak, and I hung back with the new group of paddle-boarders to make sure they were able to fight the strong current. After an hour-long struggle, the last of us made it back to the dock, and Manuel was already busy on the grill. 

 I took up the position of sue chef, and within a few minutes the first batch of burgers was ready for the eager, hungry participants. 

 After a leisurely lunch, everyone pitched in loading up the van and trailer, and a few extra curious students learned how to strap in the boats to keep them stable while on the high way. We made it back to campus at 3 p.m., just in time to catch the start of the Boulevard happenings before our game against UNT. 

Karly Hanson, SMU OA Trip Leader

 

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2015 Spring Break Trip

Outdoor Adventures collaborated with Alternative Breaks for the first time over Spring Break 2015 on a trip designed for students to volunteer in Taos, New Mexico and Southern Colorado doing service designed to protect America’s wild horses.  We weren’t sure what conditions we would be working under, or what exactly we would be doing once we reached the Wild Horse Mesa, located just North of Questa, New Mexico on the Colorado side of the border. We met Jim, more fondly known as Homeboy, at a gas station in Questa after a day of painting rusty panels blue, and before driving to the cabin (which is what we assumed would be a camp site). Approaching the gas station, the first thing we all saw was the port-a-potty strapped to a trailer of a navy Ford truck. The first good sign of the trip: we would have a place to go to the restroom. From there the living conditions continued to improve. Upon arrival at the cabin, Judy, the self-appointed mother of the wild horses on the mesa, told us that Stephanie had donated the cabin for our use, meaning it was now optional to brave the 20 degree nights in a tent. After the first night, only Albert Mitugo, director of Outdoor Adventures, was left outside. Nine girls, including myself and DSC_2176Samantha Reeve, the other Outdoor Adventures representative, all huddled in our sleeping bags on the floor in the cozy, 70 degrees of the heated cabin.

Throughout the day, we traveled with Judy and Homeboy around the mesa to survey the wild horses. We took notes on their coloring, age, band, and distinctive forehead markings. The goal was to create a database of all of the wild horses to prevent people from stealing them and taking them to slaughter on the other side of the Mexico border. Snow was still melting around the mesa, which made for muddy, soggy roads, none of which were paved. However, with Judy and Roy’s wild but expert driving, the trucks never got stuck. By the end of the week you couldn’t detect the blue paint under the thick layer of mud. Some of the bands were too scared of people to approach closely. We observed those bands through binoculars. On the first day in the field, we saw Maggie’s brand new colt, estimated to be only a few hours old. Claire Wilt named her Deja Blue, her last name taken from her father and lead stallion, Blue. Her mother protected her while she tried to learn to run.

After four day’s work, we had a working knowledge of the wild horse bands, and the dangers that surround them without any protective legislation thanks to presentations made by Homeboy, Judy, and Paul, a doctor who studies ecology and biology. We also had given Homeboy enough notes and photographs of the horses to create a database, which will hopefully help them in a legal battle to protect the horses from slaughter. By the time we returned home, a layer of dirt covered all of our clothes and boots, eleven strangers had become a family, and about 100 horses had become officially documented on the private mesa.

Karly Hanson- SMU Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader.

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Fall 2014 Overnight camping and Backpacking Trip

Our Fall 2014 Overnight Backpacking Trip to Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, the first backpacking experience for more than half of our group of eleven, was an awesome adventure.

        We began the 3-day, 2-night trip by departing SMU on Friday afternoon at 4:30 pm on the dot as planned. After driving for approximately 4 hours and stopping for dinner on the way, we arrived at our campsite for the night in Daisy State Park. With the early morning and miles of Backpackinghiking we had ahead of us in mind, we went to bed soon after pitching our tents and exploring a small moonlight-illuminated lake nearby.

            The chilly air of the next morning made the warmth of our oatmeal breakfast more enjoyable. After breakfast, we packed our bags with everything that we were going to need for the next two days. We then left for the trail in Ouachita National Forest, on which we were going to hike to get to our next campsite. Thanks to the perfect sunny weather with temperatures around 60 degrees, we were able to enjoy our surroundings among the trees and have fun photo-shoots at overlooks that provided beautiful backdrops. For lunch, we ate bagels with peanut butter and snacked on trail mix, granola bars, and cookies. Once we arrived at our campsite, we set up our tents and started a campfire, which we used to roast marshmallows for our pre-dinner s’mores. Our dinner consisted of curry-flavored lentils, rice, and chicken spiced up with various seasonings. During and after dinner, we sat around the campfire and played mafia for hours. We decided to go to bed only when we were no longer able to keep the fire alive.

            In the morning, we had warm oatmeal for breakfast again before packing up for the last time. After gathering firewood for the next group of campers, we began our hike out of the forest, making a slight detour to visit a waterfall. The hike out of the forest was a different experience compared to that of the day before, as the trail was relatively flat with less dense vegetation. With the bright sun shining through the transparent yellow leaves of the tall trees, the weather was as pleasant as it was the day before.

            We arrived at a small stream marking the end of the trail before we knew it. Having only been snacking on trail mix for the duration of the hike, we were eager to load up the van and get to CiCi’s Pizza to treat ourselves to lunch. 

            ​We all agreed that this trip was a success–especially because the first time backpackers want to do it all again!

Hanna Shin, Trip Leader in training.

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Tandem Sky Diving Trip- Oct 4, 2014

Waking up at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday sounds like a start to a terrible day for a college student, but it’s a much sweeter feeling when you wake up from sheer excitement, knowing that today you’ll be jumping out of a perfectly good plane. I had the pleasure of leading this semester’s tandem skydiving trip with SMU Outdoor Adventures, and although I had been skydiving before, I still couldn’t contain my excitement as our van departed from SMU. It’s an hour-long van ride to Skydive Dallas in Whitewright, Texas, and as we approached the site, the group’s nerves increased. We watched as the first divers of the day made their landings, knowing (hoping?) that our landings would go just as smoothly.

Our instructors at Skydive Dallas were fantastic, showing us the ropes through ground school, a training session that teaches you how to perform different maneuvers throughout your dive. Our group was all signed up to tandem dive, so we would be attached to a professional instructor who would take care of a majority of the work while we would be responsible for reaching different positions to help our instructors out with our initial jump and eventual landing.

After ground school, we didn’t have to wait very long before we were taking off in a plane, ready to jump. The tandem professional I was attached to kept feeding me instructions to prepare as we continued to climb, and at around 5,000 feet, a couple solo divers had already made the jump. As the plane leveled out its ascent, my instructor let me know that we were next. We edged toward the end of the plane and stood up. That moment when you look out of the plane at is truly exhilarating. Before I knew it, we were in free fall, hurtling toward the ground from two and a half miles up in the air. The sheer adrenaline rush at this point is just indescribable. After around a minute of free fall, we entered canopy mode, where we sailed through the air taking in the view of the Texas countryside and talking about the dive. We then approached the ground and made an excellent landing!

After everyone was done with their dives, we enjoyed a picnic at Skydive Dallas, eating as we watched divers make their landings. The whole group was so excited and proud of themselves for doing it, and it’s an experience like skydiving with the OA that allowed us to come together and have such a fun time!​

-Jackson McMartin,  SMU OA Assistant Trip Leader”

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Fall 2014 Caving Trip

This past weekend the Outdoor Adventures crew took a group of 8 to Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown, TX.  I went on this trip as a tech, meaning that I am training to be a trip leader by shadowing another trip leader.  This was also my first trip as a tech, so it was a very new experience for me on the whole.  I would say that the trip went amazingly, especially for a first trip.  We had a full day planned when we left SMU at 7 in the morning, and the most important part of the day was going into the caverns at Inner Space.  Before I get into the journey into the cave itself, I just want to say a word about the actual trip there in the van.  I didn’t really think that the drive there was all that important aside from getting us from campus to our destination.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  That first trip in the van really sets the tone to how the entire trip is going to go.  We had a great bonding experience in the van when we needed to choose some music.  Even though we weren’t all necessarily in the same year or even all in the undergraduate program, we all managed to get the awkwardness out pretty quickly and begin seeing each other as friends.  This foundation is what makes or breaks these trips, and because we had formed such a good foundation we were all able to have more fun down in the cave by making jokes and just messing around with each other like we were long time good friends.  So the journey into the depths of the caves was really unique.  Coming into the trip I really had no idea what to expect because I had never done anything like this before.  So when we got there, we all really got geared up with arm pads and knee pads and flashlights and hard hats, really the whole nine yards.  I wore all of the gear required, but I went into the cave with high expectations for myself not thinking I would really need all of this protective gear that I was just supposed to wear.  Boy was I wrong.  Not even 5 minutes into the descent and I slammed my head into the rock ceiling because I was preoccupied watching my feet and making sure I wasn’t going to fall over.  I wasn’t hurt because of the helmet that they gave us, but had I gone down under my own guide, I would have certainly not emerged as well off.  Let me set the scene down in the cave.  Pitch darkness only illuminated by our headlamps, dead quiet except for the noises that we made, and humidity in the high 90th percentile.  Needless to say it was like nothing I had ever experienced, and it was really quite tranquil, especially when we all turned off our headlamps for a few minutes to experience our surroundings.  So to get around the cave we were guided through many tight squeezes, awkward crawls, and lots of bouldering on the walls of the cave.  The obstacles ranged from army crawling through low hanging shelves of rock to headfirst climbing down a rock shaft that couldn’t have been more than a foot and a half to two feet wide.  While simply navigating the cave was an awesome physically challenging experience, we were also presented with a few challenges that we did not have to participate in if it made us feel uncomfortable.  Theses challenges were to give us all a sense of what it is like to go caving like the guides go caving.  Theses challenges normally involved squeezing ourselves out of a small tunnel by contorting our bodies into weird shapes we didn’t even know were possible.  They were definitely a motivation to everyone when we were able to do things that visually did not look like they should ever be doable by city goes like us.  By far my favorite experience down in the cave was jumping into the mud pit.  Near the end of the trip, the guides took us to the rain drain, which basically has all of the water draining into it, obviously making everything quite muddy.  They offered that we could get in the mud pit, but naturally no one wanted to be the first one in.  So I felt like it was an obligation to the group to at least have one person go in, so I took a running start and jumped head first into the mud sliding on my stomach, and then I did one of the best mud angels I have ever seen if I may say so myself.  This got everyone much more motivated to get in and participate.  It’s not too frequently that we can simply get into a pit of mud because why not, and it really was a great stress reliever simply to have nothing to worry about and act like a kid again.  I truly think this was the best atmosphere to tech in, because although the leader, Josh, and I were technically the leaders of the group, we had the guides to rely on for everything that we could and could not do.  I learned so much and experienced something I had never gotten to do before, and had such a great time meeting new people and just have fun with them.

Nick Antonelli- Trip Leader in Training

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