Outdoor Program gears up for spring break adventures

Naia Willemsen, Campus Life Reporter

After nearly two months of classes, as well as the stress of midterms, schoolwork and everything that comes with it, spring break has nearly arrived. While many students may take the time to relax or visit a tropical paradise, some Whitman students are taking a different kind of vacation.

There are multiple outdoor program trips happening over break, including two trips to Southern Utah. The first of these trips is a backpacking trip led by students. The second is a canoe guide leadership course for students in the SSRA course—as well as some additional students who signed up for the trip. They will be canoeing 101 miles on the Green River. Both trips will take up a little more than the first week of break.

Stuart Chapin, assistant director of the Outdoor Program (OP), expressed that this opportunity to travel farther off campus is unique to spring break OP trips.

“The benefit in doing a longer trip is that with more time, you have a little more time to travel farther to a new place. The reason we chose southern Utah is that it’s the closest place likely to have warmer weather. We’re trying to escape [the cold] by having a trip in the sunny desert,” Chapin said.

First-year Nara Deller is enrolled in the canoe guide leadership course and will get the chance to paddle the Green River.

“I hadn’t canoed before, so it’s fun to learn a new activity, and I also haven’t been to Utah. [This class] seemed like a great way to get outside and spend time with people in the outdoors,” Deller said. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to be outside and experience a new place, and also to spend time with the people in my class canoeing.”

Brien Sheedy, director of the OP, explained that in addition to the exciting opportunity to travel and experience new places offered by the trips, students can also build valuable skills.

“The hook might be ‘oh, that sounds like a fun trip,’ but at the end, they’ll realize they learned a lot of very useful skills they’ll use for many years to come, like stove use or hiking techniques or paddling techniques,” Sheedy said. “There’s a lot that people get out of it and a ton of people don’t realize how much they got out of it until after it’s all done and sometimes not until several years later.”

Beyond the practical skills, though, these trips give the opportunity to build relationships.

“I think for me the primary benefit of longer trips is that you really get to know the other people on the trip in a way that is pretty deep and impactful,” Chapin said. “You just have time to have those conversations with somebody to find out what they believe about the world, and they can ask you questions, and you can get to know somebody in a way that might take months or years of having 15-minute conversations in Reid Cafe.”

Students partaking in these OP trips look forward to the experiences they will gain, and the stories they will bring back to campus.

If you would like to learn more about Outdoor Program trips, you can find out more on their website.