Outdoor recreation provides Spring Break alternatives

Sarah Binder

Imagine piling in a van with 10 new friends and driving across the country for an outdoor adventure.

For some students, these trips, provided by ISU Outdoor Recreation, are a cheap and fun alternative to the typical spring break bikini bonanza.

“Be adventurous. If something sounds interesting, you should pursue it,” said Shane Henderson, sophomore in kineseology and Outdoor Recreation employee.

For Henderson, who is looking forward to leading his first trip in the spring, the outdoors are a family affair. His father worked at Outdoor Recreation, and Henderson grew up with the outdoors and hearing stories of going around the country leading trips.

However, a would-be traveler doesn’t need to have any experience to go on one of these trips. 

All of the trips are supervised by at least two student leaders who go through extensive training, including wilderness first aide certification, technical skills specific to the trip, leadership and group dynamics.

“You need to be flexible; things aren’t always going to go the way you think they’re going to go. But our staff is trained to deal with those things,” said Jerry Rupert, director of Outdoor Recreation.

Short trips and workshops are offered for those who may want to try out a skill before committing to a longer voyage.

The eight trips offered during Spring Break, which will go as far away as California or the Appalachian Trail, are all priced between $148 and $418 for students. Faculty and community members can enroll at a higher rate.

“We’re here to provide a service to students,” Rupert said about striving to keep prices down.

The trips are limited to small groups. This both builds friendships and promotes safety.

Typically, all the student needs to bring is clothing and money for food on the road. If students have their own gear, they can get it approved to bring along.

Outdoor Recreation provides lodging and most of the gear, depending on what type of activity is planned. For example, on a backpacking trip, Outdoor Recreation would provide a backpack, cooking tools, and sleeping bag.

Every trip has a mandatory preparation meeting where equipment, logistics, and other questions are discussed. 

It takes a lot of planning to transport a group of students across the country for a week, so extended trips like these are proposed up to a year in advance. 

The farthest trip Outdoor Recreation will have offered to date will be in June, for sea kayaking in Alaska. Rupert hopes that soon the program will reach international proportions.

For students who want to become more involved as trip leaders, Outdoor Recreation can also be an employment opportunity. Rupert says his students learn important life skills, like leadership or how to deal with people, by leading the trips.

“The way we prepare our trip leaders to leave the university, we’re preparing these students for life,” Rupert said.