This post was originally written for the Iowa State Honors Program blog by senior Ellen Meis.
So now is that sad time of the semester when we’ve just returned from a nice relaxing spring break and suddenly our responsibilities smack us in the face again. However, since I’m not ready to deal with that yet, I’m going to extend my spring break a little by telling you a little about it and the absolute treasure that is Iowa State’s Outdoor Recreation Program. If you love the outdoors and haven’t visited the ORP office in State Gym yet, you’re missing out! Outdoor Rec offers equipment rentals (camping and backpacking gear, canoes, kayaks, cross country skis, mountain bikes, and more), bike maintenance, workshops (including wilderness first aid, outdoor cooking, and climbing), weekend trips around the Midwest, and extended trips over break. Extended trips range from paddle boarding in Florida to canyoneering in Arizona to skiing in Colorado to surfing in California. They’re inexpensive for students, well-organized, and in my experience just generally awesome.
Over spring break my freshman year, I went on the backpacking trip to the Cohutta and Big Frog Wilderness areas on the Georgia/Tennessee border (near the end of the Appalachian Trail). I had a great time exploring the forest trails and traipsing through creeks and attempting to hang our food in bear bags on the skinny Georgia trees.
This spring break, I packed up and headed out with the trip to Labyrinth Canyon, Utah, to hike and canoe the Green River. We left early Saturday morning, stayed in a hotel in Colorado, and reached our put in spot on Sunday morning. With eighteen of us on the trip (five leaders and thirteen participants), we had eight canoes and a kayak to load with our gear – dry bags of clothes, camping and kitchen gear, something like 125 gallons of water, lots of food, and a toilet system. After paddling/floating about 12 miles, we stopped to set up our first camp. We had dinner and then since it was clear, we slept out under the stars, which are absolutely incredible in the dark of the Utah wilderness. Over the week we canoed about 45 miles of the river, stopping to set up camp in the afternoons and do some hiking around the canyon. I really enjoyed laughing and relaxing and scrambling around on rocks and looking out for stray inbred crazy cows (which are supposed to be abundant in the canyon but I didn’t see any which was pretty disappointing). You can find a few pictures of the trip below (Photo credits to Brady Nahkala).
On both trips the views and fresh air – as well as a complete lack of cell service – were invigorating and the food was delicious (although that might be biased…food tastes better when you make it outside and have been building up an appetite). But my favorite part of the trips is probably the people I meet – there is lots of time to get to know each other and tell fun stories throughout the trip (And don’t be afraid to sign up by yourself! Everyone will be laughing and joking together by the end of the trip).
Yes, the weather is unpredictable (you may find yourself waist deep in a river crossing when it starts to thunderstorm for example), and you have to sit squished in a van for hours upon hours (at least you don’t ever have to drive), and you don’t get to shower for a week (smells great), but these are all really just part of the experience. It’s all worth it for a wonderful week in the wild.