Outdoor Adventures Blog

Landscape photos of trees and a sunset

How to Explore Safely

Some people talk about trying new things, but never do. They lack the knowledge of how to go about it. Getting out of your comfort zone is tricky but if you know what to expect it makes the adventure safer and more enjoyable for you and your friends.  

Research the area 
The first thing I recommend you should do is research where you are going. What can you do there? What is the weather going to be like the day you go? What will the conditions be like? What are the rules? Are there any permits you need? What gear do you need? These are all questions you should ask yourself. Knowing these things before you go will help you have a successful and fun trip without the stress of scrambling to get gear you forgot or have to turn around because you don’t have a permit for the area. Remember before you leave for your trip make sure to check your gear and that you have everything. Make a list that will allow you can check off what you have. 

Don’t go alone 
Being alone in the woods, or even a familiar place is generally not a good idea. There are too many bad things that can happen that could be avoided. Maybe you get a flat tire and your phone is dead, or you take a wrong turn and you’re lost in the woods. What then? Always try to go at a minimum a group of three people. If something were to go wrong you have one person available for first aid and another to fetch help. This rule can be lessened on less serious activities like stand up paddleboarding or a short hike, always use your judgement. Going alone also won’t be nearly as fun as going with friends. It’s a good opportunity to become better friends and raise your confidence. Having someone there to support you will allow you to learn the activity faster and enjoy it more. 

Know your limits 
Know when to stop and take a break. If you feel yourself get overwhelmed by everything, sit down and take a food and water break. Making sure you’re doing well mentally and physically is important since it would be your first time. One bad experience could make you less likely to get out your comfort zone in the future. Ideally, you’re doing something new because you want to get better at it. That’s hard to do when you can only associate one negative experience with it.  

Leave no trace 
Follow the no trace principles to preserve the area you visit. It’s vital to keep the areas you visit pristine by not leaving behind any trash, water bottles, clothing, or gear. Essentially, do not litter. Another point of leaving no trace is do not pick flowers, move rocks, throw rocks, or engage with wildlife. This can harm the environment and possibly change trail paths as well as make wildlife accustomed to humans when they shouldn’t be. Be respectful to the places you visit so other people can enjoy them just as much as you did.  

Overall, remember that you're doing something new to have fun and that is what matters. Prepare your gear the night before and double check you have everything. Look into the expected weather conditions and any permits you may need. Do not go alone for your safety and for your fun. Know when you should stop and rest to fully enjoy your day. Leave no trace you were there in order to protect the environment for other users. Follow those general guidelines and you’re all set to have a wonderful new experience you will want to repeat. 

Elisabeth looking at the camera with a waterfall behind her

Elisabeth Dollar works in the Climbing Gym with Outdoor Adventures. She enjoys rock climbing and playing ultimate frisbee. 

Archived Posts:

  • The importance of Outdoor Recreation at a university can often be under appreciated, or even dismissed. I would argue that there is a large population that do not find their connection to the university through sports. While some students find a connection to the campus through social clubs or competitive sports, there are those that struggle to find that same connection. Outdoor Recreation offers an environment that can be inviting, un-threatening, and very beneficial to those that truly participate. Participating in a backpacking trip with 11 other people that you have never met in the rain can teach you a lot about yourself. Those new friends may even become your support network while you go through what might be one of the most challenging times of your life up to now.   

    Outdoor Recreation is more that than that though. Another important aspect of Outdoor Recreation is the facilitated experiential education that can occur. This would be activities like high rope challenge courses but can include the rainy back packing trip as well. Experiential programming can be any facilitated activities that fulfill specific predetermined objectives like team building, or communication, or just getting to know one another. Sometimes that objective could include having fun paddling on the lake with some new friends. You may have to work together to play a game or accomplish a task. There is always a nugget of useful reflection for a good facilitator no matter the activity.  

    Outdoor Recreation provides golden opportunities to learn and practice important transferable life skill. It can provide context for things learned in classrooms such as the physics of bicycle riding, or the physiology the human body in cold water. Learning how to find your voice in a group dynamic or realizing that you can take charge and lead when needed can give you the self-confidence to succeed in every aspect of college life. The development that can happen is invaluable, but it will never happen unless you get involved.

    Ed Baltes with trail behind himEd Baltes is the Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventures in Sports and Recreation. He has been with KSU for 14 years and overseeing the Outdoor Adventures Bike Shop for 10. He is an avid cyclist, mechanic, and artist who enjoys spending time with his wife of 28 years.

  • After working in the Kennesaw State University Climbing Gym for the past few months. I often get asked what pair of climbing shoes is the best. This is a tricky question because no one pair of climbing shoes is going to be perfect for every situation. Climbing shoes might be the most crucial tool for climbing hard. It is important to choose the right shoe because sometimes the right shoe can be the difference between sending your project or taking a 25-foot whipper off the last move. In all seriousness, climbing shoes are important and there are a wide variety to choose from. The question lots of climbers have is “what climbing shoes should I buy?” Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. Climbing shoes have a variety of different aggressiveness, and rubber stiffness. 

    One important aspect of climbing shoes is the amount of aggressiveness in the profile of the shoe. Most climbing shoes can be summed up as neutral, moderate, and aggressive. Neutral shoes have a flat last on the bottom and normally will give the most comfort to the wearer. Most beginner level shoes will have a “flat last.” (Meaning the shoe’s shape will be flatter and the climber’s feet can sit flat inside). A few examples of these shoes include the Scarpa Origins, the La Sportiva Tarantulaces, and the Evolv Defys. However, there are also higher performance shoes that the flat last. These shoes are often used for long trad climbing ascents, crack climbing, or big wall ascents where the climber will have to wear their shoes for exceedingly lengthy periods of time. A few examples of these include the La Sportiva TC Pros, La Sportiva Mythos, the Black Diamond Aspects, the Scarpa Maestro, and the Evolv General. Overall, the neutral lasted shoes will almost always give the most comfort because it allows the climber’s feet to remain flat inside the shoe.  

    Climber on outdoor rock with focal point on shoe

    The next level of shoes are built on a moderate last. A moderate last has a slight downturn in the toe and the climber’s foot will be slightly curled at the toes. A moderate shoe is an excellent choice for intermediate climbers who want to upgrade from their flat beginner shoes. Moderate shoes have the slight downturn which puts the climber's foot in a better position to stand on smaller holds and crank with their toes. Additionally, it will give the climber an advantage on overhanging routes and boulders because the downturned toe is able grab pockets and holds like a talon making it easier to stay on the wall. A few good examples of moderate shoes include the La Sportiva Katana Lace, the La Sportiva Otaki, the Scarpa Vapor V, the Scarpa Arpia, and the Evolv Kronos. 

    Lastly, the third style of shoe is shoes built on an aggressive last. These shoes commonly have an extremely downturned toe profile and often an asymmetrical shape. As a result, these shoes will often offer the least amount of comfort for the wearer. However, the performance benefits are exceptional. The downturn forces the climber's toes into a curled up, crimped position that allows them to truly press off holds on their toes. These will require the climber to be precise with their foot placement and focus on their placing their feet while climbing. The downturn of the toe excels at overhang climbing even more than the moderate shoes because the toe can almost act as an extra hand toeing into the holds. A few examples of aggressive shoes include the La Sportiva Solution, the Scarpa Instinct, the Evolv Agro, and the 5.10 Hiangle. 

    Indoor rock climber on bouldering wall

    Another important feature that separates climbing shoes is the stiffness of the rubber. Some shoes will have exceptionally soft rubber that prioritizes sensitivity. These shoes will give the climber the best feel however, the softer rubber often wears out quicker and the incredible sensitivity will start to hurt the climber’s toes after extended wear. Some shoes have a very stiff rubber to prioritize pressing with power on holds. These shoes can often be worn longer on small holds because they are less sensitive but offer more support for the climber’s toes. Softer shoes often prove greatly beneficial in climbing gyms because they have soft sticky rubber that sticks to plastic holds very well. Additionally, they are better suited to smear on volumes that one might find in comp style gym boulder problems. Stiffer shoes are more useful outside because they can edge and stand on sharp rock for longer periods of time. A few examples of softer shoes include the Scarpa Drago, the La Sportiva Theory, and the Tenaya Mundakas. A few examples of stiffer shoes include the La Sportiva Miura Vs, the Scarpa Boostic, and the Evolv Geshido. 

    In conclusion, climbing shoes play a crucial role in climbing; however, none of this advice matters if the shoe does not fit your foot shape. Climbing shoes have a wide variety of different sizes and shapes. Some shoes are made for wider feet, others are made for low volume feet, while others have slimer heels, and some have smaller toe boxes. The best way to make a choice on climbing shoes would be to try as many pairs on as possible before making a purchase. This will allow you to test out what shoes fit your feet well. The best climbing shoe is the one that fits your feet the best. Thank you, and happy sending!

    Brevin Barnes on a Climbing Trip 

    Brevin Barnes joined Outdoor Adventures in January 2021. Brevin is kind of obsessed with rock climbing and is probably going to climb so hard his fingers fall off. Whenever he is not climbing, he is focused on earning his History Education Degree at Kennesaw State University. 

  • Cycling was not something I envisioned myself getting into. It started with mountain biking in preparation for Nature Bound’s 2019 Colorado trip, and since then, cycling has been making an impression in my life by pushing my comfort limits and willingness to learn.   
    In dealing with newcomers to cycling, the outdoor community at KSU is very welcoming and friendly. I remember well my first real mountain bike ride at Lake Allatoona. I had ridden a different set of trails once before on a bike that was not made for the type of riding I was doing. I had zero practical knowledge about mountain biking or the trails I was on, and I broke my chain halfway in to the trails and had to walk out back to the car. This time, I was armed with good equipment and support from a mentor who worked as a trip leader. I experienced my first wipe-out while learning the correct way to ride on a trail and was finally getting a feel for using a better bike.  
    It is not until doing something for a while, that we develop a sense of what we could improve on. After riding for two or three months, I joined Nature Bound for a trip to Colorado. I did not conquer the canyons, but I left convinced that I could become a better rider here in Georgia. Colorado had hills steeper than 90 degrees, terrifying drops, and lengths of flowy trail that when pushed hard, would push you back harder. I look back at the challenges I experienced there and see that they greatly expanded my world of riding. There is also a special feeling that comes about when traveling cross-country and taking what you have learned on the go. It has motivated me to ride for growth here in Georgia. It helped me break through the challenges of being new to mountain biking by exposing me to more than I knew what to do with. From handling the bike to riding in jump parks to accepting the fear of “questionable” trails, I feel I came out a better rider for it in the end. 
    Another worthwhile and crucial part of cycling to me is the experience of working on bikes. My first time working on a bike was a travesty; it was an old, worn out bicycle that I rode to get around the roads on a summer work-away. The bike lock was a chain secured by a nut and bolt, if that is any mark of what it was worth to the owner. I was riding when a small stick lodged itself in the rear wheel. The stick was thin and seemed more than harmless, so I kept riding on the road until there was room to pull over. As soon as I stopped, I shifted the bike into catastrophic failure. 
    To fix what was wrong, I had to learn about the derailleur and the limit screws and purchase a chain tool (that now resides there). The beginning of my relationship with that bike was also a challenge. I had to learn the art of taking off a stubborn tire to install a new inner tube. This short-lived experience gave me exposure to the depth of working on a bicycle. 
    Now, about two years after later I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on bikes at the Outdoor Adventures Bike Shop. Mechanical things are not my area of comfort, but I love the feeling of making a repair, setting adjustments, and creating peace of mind that a bike is in better shape (most of the time). The knowledge is incredibly essential as a rider. Knowing how to repair a bike not only helps in fixing issues that I run in to on the trail but knowing how a bike works helps me ride better without breaking it in the first place. 
    Altogether, looking towards the future, I aspire to keep using what I have learned to have fun and experience new things. Mountain bike races and another trip to Colorado are plans that are in the back of my head. More often, though, it is just riding the bike at a local trail or for a fun way to run errands. For now, I have much to practice and much I want to learn.

    Matt Klinger with backpackMatt Klinger joined Outdoor Adventures in 2019 to grow his knowledge in outdoor pursuits. Matt is an organizational & professional communications major.

  • If you ask anyone who has experience in the outdoors about lessons learned, they will probably have some crazy rambling story about how they took on more than they could handle, and everything went wrong. In May 2014, I was new to mountain biking and thought I could pull off an epic trip for my cousin Garrett, our roommate Tanner and myself. So, if you ask me about lessons learned, this is that story... 

    Trip Overview: A 4 day, 3 night bikepacking trip in the Cohutta Wilderness. Beginning east of Chatsworth, GA and traveling north east to Jack River Falls and back. 3 riders, completely self-supported. 

     Close Up Photo of Map

    Route: We used trail maps of the Cohutta Wilderness to map a route starting just east of Chatsworth, GA. The route begins on the Pinhoti Trail and heads northeast to Bear Creek. Some sections of the Pinhoti are not mapped well, so we relied on a guide that we downloaded from the Pinhoti Trail Alliance website. 

    Total mileage for route: 136 mi / 15,700 ft 

    Day 1: Peeple’s Lake Rd to P6, P5, P4, to Hwy 52. Ride east to Cohutta overlook. Take P3 down, and northeast to Conasauga Rd. Continue to P2, P1 and then Bear Creek Trail all the way to camp.  
    Night 1: Camp at Bear Creek Campground 
    Day 2: Climb Bear Creek Trail and take Old CCC Camp Rd. north to FS-64 

    Synopsis: The week leading up to the trip, we weren’t feeling great about the weather. It was mid-May, so temperatures were fine, but we were likely to see rain. We figured that we had a solid plan, so one little hiccup would be fine. As we were finishing up our gear check and getting the bikes packed, Tanner is trying on his brand new cycling shoes and talking about clipping into pedals for the first time. I question whether this was the right time to do that. He tried to reassure me, and I decided to ignore that and keep packing. Then I saw how light the other two were packing compared to me. I installed a rear rack onto my back and loaded it down along with the front triangle, handlebars and I carried a 20-liter backpack. The other two packed gear into the front triangles of their bikes and carried a camel back. This worked out fine, but they didn’t have too much room for group gear, I ended up taking more group gear. With weight being a concern, we decided to leave behind certain things- sleeping pads, a tent (used a tarp instead), etc.

    photo of a hand written gear list

    We drove up early on day one, parked at a gravel lot outside Chatsworth and unloaded. About 10am, we were riding. We started our first big climb up Peeples Lake Road (gravel). We took a break mid-way and our first problem arose: Tanner failed to unclip from is pedal and fell over. Garret and I looked at each other and shook our heads. We didn’t say anything, but we knew it was going to be a long day! About an hour in, we saw a lake with a fallen tree going out into it. Seeing the opportunity for a challenge, Garrett says, “I bet you can’t climb out and grab a pinecone off the end of that tree.” So of course, we stop, take our shoes and socks off, and start walking out over a lake on this fallen tree. The goal was to get the furthest pinecone. We each pushed the limit past the previous competitor and got to a skinnier part of the tree. Another hour later, challenge #1 was complete! And today, I can’t remember who won, but I’m sure there was a lot of bragging for the next bit of the ride.  

    We continue and find our first descent. Turns out I didn’t secure the snacks good enough and the bag of carrots fell off. Tanner yell’s, “Carrots!” and slows down to pick them up, falling over in his pedals again. This time, we can’t help but laugh a little. We’re all feeling good still, and “Carrots!” became the joke of the trip, meaning something like, “Hold on!” or “I’m losing it!” 

    Approaching the first intersection, I get out the map and guide to make a decision. This is the point in which the information was not completely clear about how the new trail was cut, and an updated map was not available. Following instructions, we ride past a gate on a trail marked 3A with the Pinhoti blaze. A short climb brought us to a never ending flowy decent on doubletrack. Garrett and I were side-by-side for what seemed like 20 minutes, just flying down the mountain! Never having to say a word, we both knew that this was the reason we came on this trip. Despite a few setbacks, we were able to leave everything behind and be so into the moment and focus on just the trail and our bikes. Then we started getting air off of the “speed bumps” put in the trail to slow down water. Being caught up in the moment, I hit the last one at speed and saw the tight corner as I was in the air. I grabbed the brakes as I landed and slid right off the trail. I tumbled about 30 feet down and the gear from my bike was scattered through the woods leading back up to Garrett and Tanner looking down at me concerned. They helped me collect the gear and repack my bike. I was scraped up, but not seriously hurt and we continued riding. We hit a few creek crossings and start climbing on singletrack. I’m thinking we’ve been on this trail a while and we’re probably climbing up to Hwy 52. Just as we were getting anxious to see the next landmark, we see a parking lot. Being tired and excited and ready for a break, we get closer just to see my car... 

    Yes, we did a complete circle and had no idea until we got back. With half the day wasted, we decided to drive around to continue the trip past the “new trail” section.  

    With water topped off again, we hit the trial. This time descending on P3, which is not easy and especially with camping gear loading down the bikes. Then the rain hit. We weren’t far from the campsite, so we pressed on. We climbed up P2 and realized that we were tired, wet, and ready to relax. Tanner kept falling over in his pedals and now because of exhaustion. The worst was late in the day when he came up to rest and did a slow fall down off the trail. Garrett said, “Oh, Tanner...” and this was another sign things were getting worse. So we walked our bikes up climbs and coasted down as the sun set. We got out our headlamps to finish the last 3 miles to camp.  

    After arriving to camp, I set up the tarp and then worked on a fire. Then giving up on the very wet fire, we cooked under the tarp on our stove. Garrett and Tanner cooked the pasta while I went to the creek to fill up with water, struggling with the water filter. I took it apart and cleaned it and still couldn’t get it to work. I reported back to camp with bad news, and we boiled water instead. Soon, we had one pot of pasta and one pot of clean water just in time for the gas to run out. Each time something bad happened, we thought it was the last straw...until the next one. Trying to increase the mood, we got some cards out and played Rummy. One of us was moving pots around and spilled the pasta, which led to another memorable line from Tanner, “Let’s just eat a granola bar and go to bed.” Garrett gave a halfhearted delirious laugh as he ate the pasta right off the dirt. If I wasn’t sure before, at this point I knew that we were in trouble.  

    The next morning, I woke up stiff from sleeping on the ground, but dry (ish). The other two had slid down in the night and their lower halves was soaked from the rain. We were all thinking it but hadn’t said it- we're going home today. We packed up camp and dumped any extra food in the trash to lighten our load. With about 2 liters of water between the three of us, we put on our wet shoes and started riding. At the trailhead, a group was doing an event with pizza. We waved and kept going. We only had about 13 miles to get back, but it was excruciating. The last hour was without water, but I knew I had an old Gatorade in the car. I took one sip and let the other guys have the rest. We concluded our trip with a visit to the closest gas station to buy a few gallons of water and recover in the parking lot.  

    At what point should we have turned back? Was it during planning when I realized that the new trail section wasn’t yet mapped? Or when we saw the weather forecast? Was it when Tanner decided to try clipless pedals on a 4-day bikepacking trip? And then other decisions we made in the moment. We wasted an hour walking on a log over a lake and got to camp after dark, went way too fast down a trail we didn’t know, spilled our dinner after running out of fuel and having no way to cook more. What better decisions could we have made? Check the water filter, plan the correct amount of fuel, pack better lights for night riding, bring a bigger tarp for sleeping under. I know that we’re supposed to learn things the hard way, but did I have to put all those lessons into one trip? Maybe that was a good thing. Maybe it was an efficient way to learn lessons. Not only did I learn individual lessons, but also how to better spot troubles and predict how a trip will go. As exhausting, frustrating, and annoying as this trip was, I wouldn’t trade it of course. It was worth it knowing that I can walk up to Garrett or Tanner seven years later and say, “Carrots!” and get a laugh out of them. 

    Billy Pownall with his sonBilly Pownall is the Senior Coordinator of Outdoor Adventures, currently overseeing the KSU Climbing Gym and Nature Bound Trip Program. He has been a part of Outdoor Adventures since 2012 when he began attending trips as a student. Billy enjoys being outside and staying active; whether cycling, climbing, kayaking, or going on a run with his wife and two kids.

  • What do you do to stay motivated to be active outside in less-than-ideal weather conditions? Do you hibernate during the cold months, and why? Do you get into the gym more in the off season, or do you still get outside no matter what? What can you do to be better prepared that would motivate you to get out and brave the elements? 

    For me, the winter months represent being cold, wet, and generally uncomfortable outside. Through the years I have relied on many ways to motivate myself to get outside in the off season and remain active. I cannot stand having to go to a gym to maintain my health and fitness. I need to be outside, otherwise I fall off the wagon and slip into hibernation mode. Here are a few ways I have found that help me stay active during the winter.
    One major factor is having the appropriate gear for the activity and time of year. Regardless of your activity of choice, there is a plethora of gear options that can make any activity more enjoyable no matter the weather conditions. My activity of choice tends to me mountain biking. I have enough winter cycling apparel to outfit several people with warm, dry, cycling-specific gear. My hands tend to be the most important thing for me to keep warm. I get miserable if my feet, ears or nose get too cold, so I keep a good selection of gear with me just in case.

    My winter gear includes things like: 

    • Good full finger winter gloves (wind/waterproof) 
    • Good wool socks (stays warm when wet) 
    • Neoprene shoe covers (keeps off wind and water) 
    • Long tights/leg warmers (Easily removable)  
    • Skull cap/balaclava (ears/nose)    
    • Quality base layer 
    • Long sleeve wind/waterproof jacket 
    • Arm warmers (Easily removable)  
    • Glasses

    With all this gear you would think I would be running out the door to go ride my bike regardless the temperature . . . not so much. I have come to rely on several other factors to motivate me to be active outside from November to March.

    Aside from my clothing, I rely on a good variety of people to ride with. Having others who are willing to get out and brave the elements helps hold me accountable to show up and be active. Knowing that someone is waiting for me at the trail keeps me going. I try to have a good list of people who I can contact based on the type and intensity of the ride I am looking to do. I can also filter my contacts based on how I am feeling. If I feel a little sluggish and out of shape, I will contact people that I know might be beginners or in the same boat I’m in at the time physically. If I feel good and have been training, I’ll contact someone from the A-list of riders that can and will leave me in their dust. Either way, making plans to meet up and ride with others holds me accountable to get outside.

    Another way I stay motivated is by setting goals for Spring and Summer. Having an event or a trip that I need to prepare for can get me off the couch and into the cold wet winter weather. Going to places like Moab, Utah or Fruita, Colorado require a high level of fitness and ability. I like to go out West around May which gives me all off season to establish and maintain whatever base fitness I need for whatever adventure I’m doing that year. 

    Committing to races is another way I have been successfully motivated to ride during the cold months. Preparing for a race requires time in the saddle and if I intend to be competitive, then training in the off season is a way for me to potentially get out ahead of my competitors. Knowing that I will be at my maximum effort for an entire event forces me to have to train more whenever I can and at higher intensity. That usually means riding in the winter when not a lot of others would do so. I like using races as a tool to gauge of my overall fitness.

    Lastly, riding for a charitable cause that I believe in can help make even the coldest days tolerable. There are several rides that I have supported through the years either individually or on a team. Most of these rides are 100k or 100 miles which means you must take them seriously if you want to finish them with a respectable time. They’re not races, but many people who do them ride as hard as they can. Here is a link for a list of rides near you: https://www.bikingbis.com/charity-bicycle-rides/ 

    No matter what your activity is, there is gear out there that can make bad weather more bearable. Invest in good gear and never be under prepared again. Find some people to hang out with that are into the same things and will be there for you when you need to get outside. Set some personal goals to strive towards. Make plans to do something that requires major physical preparation. Whatever you do, don’t let these cold miserable months keep you from enjoying the great outdoors.    

    Ed Baltes overlooking a mountain bike trailEd Baltes is the Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventures in Sports and Recreation. He has been with KSU for 14 years and overseeing the Outdoor Adventures Bike Shop for 10. He is an avid cyclist, mechanic, and artist who enjoys spending time with his wife of 28 years.

  • Thankfully, fall 2020 is over.  I survived my online classes, I didn’t ruin my GPA (too much), I was able to focus on my work and trainings in the Climbing Gym, and despite not being able to lead any trips, I was able to still enjoy the company of friends and go on some personal trips to stay active outside and involved with the sports that I love.  Through the really rough semester of academic struggles, anxious feelings, and generally being overwhelmed, I’m thankful for climbing, the community Outdoor Adventures (OA) provided, my boss, and the home OA has become to me. I’m not sure I would have made it out of the semester still sane without them.   

    Some pretty great things happened last semester though. I grew and learned so much and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  My favorite moments were when I was able to connect with other students.  We continued to host Try Rock Climbing every Tuesday, and our Women’s Climb Night every month.  Getting to hang out with students who are new to climbing, help them understand the sport, and see them push themselves to do more than they thought they could is so rewarding and encouraging.  Women’s Climb Night is extra special because climbing is already a pretty intimidating sport for some. But when the climbing gym is filled with girls who want to encourage each other and help each other, it’s a pretty amazing sight.  Girls have come into the gym not knowing anyone and left with new friends. When they come back to climb together, it gives me so much joy and excitement to see them and to know that I got to be a part of it.   

    We will continue to host Women’s Climb Nights the first Wednesday of the month from 4-8pm.  The gym will only be available for ladies, and we will provide all the gear you need to boulder or climb on the tower!  Additionally, Nature Bound will be hosting our first trips in February (meet-up style) after almost a year since our last trip in March of 2020 (!!!); including a women’s hike to the beautiful Kennesaw Mountain on Saturday, March 20th.   

    I can’t help but hope for a great spring semester.  If you’re looking to be more involved on campus, more physically active, active in the outdoors, or even just looking for a good time with friends, I encourage you to come to a Tuesday night Try Rock Climbing event, Women’s Climb Night, or register for a meet up that interests you!  I’m so excited for this semester and can’t wait to see you on a trip or in the Climbing Gym! 

    Ransley holding up a tshirtRansley Cummings is a Junior, studying Leadership and Psychology through the Integrative Studies Major. Ransley works for Outdoor Adventures in the Climbing Gym and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide Team leading rock climbing trips!

  • Student bouldering in the climbing gym

    With Gravity Check 2019 selling out, the hype was up, and expectations were high for 2020. Registration numbers for the March competition were looking great, outside routesetters were lined up for the event, the staff was excited....and then a nation-wide shut-down interrupted all those plans. After months of being closed and then reopening under new pandemic era guidelines, it was uncertain how a climbing competition would be received.

     Student bouldering in the climbing gym

    The vibe was not the same. There was not a packed-out gym of spectators, there was no fair-style food like at a typical comp, and no vendors handing out free swag. What it did have was a smaller group of climbers (only 8) competing at one time, but also watching each other climb. Rather than climbers feeling pressure to fight for time on the wall, they were able to slow down and session problems together. Sure, this does happen in competitions sometimes, but the entire event was laid-back in this way. It felt like friends climbing together for fun! The competition aspect motivated climbers to keep going for a hard problem, or really work out the one that was giving them trouble. And with other climbers around to motivate, we saw a lot of sends that do not normally happen. Eli Reynolds gave us his personal recap of this:  

    “The people were supportive, but in a very competitive way. It was more of me competing against myself. It did not feel like a competition because of the support from the staff and competitors. We all wanted each other to do our best. I typically don’t like competing, but this was different.” 

    The other big difference was offering climbers a second session on a different day to improve their score. They were able to rest and come back to tackle the one or two problems that they really wanted to send. It was interesting to hear different tactics from climbers. Walt Stewart told us that it was “neat to be able to go home and think about it, process it. It made it more of an even playing field.” Another climber had the plan to climb what he could, then when he was exhausted, work out beta for other problems he wanted to climb. He came back for the second session and only climbed those problems.  

     Student bouldering in the climbing gym

    The top six scoring women and top eight scoring men (because of a three-way tie at sixth place) advanced to the finals round at the end of the week. The format for finals was completely opposite from the qualifying round. Climbers were tested on their problem-reading abilities. They were given only four minutes to read and climb each of the four problems, with point deductions for each fall. The differing format for finals provided a new challenge for Eli: “Because I like to project, I enjoyed the qualifying round more and had more success there. However, I appreciated that during finals, I had to focus more and be on point with my beta.” But Katie was surprised by her own performance in finals, “I like the challenge of the finals boulders. I wasn’t expecting to get them.” She went in with hesitancy but wound up taking first place among the women.

    Student holding trophy outside the SRAC

    Student bouldering in the climbing gym

    Student bouldering in the climbing gym

    Student bouldering in the climbing gym

  • The Department of Sports and Recreation enriches the educational experience at Kennesaw State University by promoting the physical, social, and leadership development of our students and campus community through diverse sport and recreation opportunities within a fun, supportive, and experiential environment to enhance quality of life. Our goal is to provide fun outgoing ways for students to connect so they might develop a network of support during the inevitable challenges of obtaining a degree. This applies to everyone in our campus community.  

    The experience and skills gained from organizing, teaching or participating in outdoor activities can be transferred to any number of real-world situations. Self-confidence, organizational skills, leadership, empathy, and time management are some of the valuable traits gained from participating in a robust outdoor program. These programs have been meticulously designed to facilitate personal and professional growth as well as academic success. In the Outdoor Adventures program, this comes in the form of facilitated outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, cycling, paddling, climbing and more. 

    Outdoor recreation is intended to enrich one’s life by not only participating in fun and challenging activities, but to transfer experiences and learning to guide future life lessons. Our students with special needs are no different from other students when it comes to the desire to get out and have fun engaging in the outdoors. The only difference is they need our help and support with getting involved. Without that support, it can seem impossible.  

    We interviewed two of our student employees who have experienced adaptive Outdoor Adventures at KSU: 

    Noelle is a student who discovered Outdoor Adventures by spotting our 3 wheeled hand crank cycle that was parked in our lobby. Noelle has Cerebral Palsy and was wanting to participate in a 5K road race. She was able to ride the hand cycle to get into race condition. Through her experience with the Bike Shop, she applied and is now working for Outdoor Adventures. One of Noelle’s biggest hurdles has been accessing adaptive equipment—until she found Outdoor Adventures. Noelle is now one of our biggest advocates for getting out and being adventurous. She climbs at the Climbing Gym, rides our hand crank cycles, and interacts with our outdoor community daily.   

    Lucas is a student who found Outdoor Adventures out of a need for employment. You can often find Lucas on campus promoting Outdoor Adventures to the KSU Community.  Lucas is blind and has not let anything hold him back. One of his biggest hurdles was finding people who would come alongside him and assist, while experiencing these adventures with him. He quickly got involved with Outdoor Adventures and has participated in several Nature Bound trips such as hiking and backpacking trips, cycling excursions, and has even learned how to participate in assisted belaying at the Climbing Gym in between his own climbs.   

    Other barriers for some of our students could include: 

    • Social anxiety 
    • Inaccurate perception of physical abilities 
    • Untrained staff 
    • Lack of transportation  
    • Lack of interest  

    With advancements in technology, the outdoor industry can offer a wide variety of opportunities for people that would otherwise be left on the side lines. Full body harnesses to allow for rock climbing, bikes can be pedaled by hand, inserts for boats to provide more support, and the list goes on. Our knowledge as an industry is constantly improving to enable us to make the impact that we intend for all participants.    

    Outdoor recreation is for everyone regardless of the level of their abilities. As recreation professionals, we need to solicit the help of our marginalized participants to create the necessary environment they need to thrive outdoors. Trained staff and adaptive equipment are only part of the picture. We need the input from students who need special considerations in order create experiences that are not just fun, but relevant to them and what they want to do.    

    Oftentimes, there are barriers to participating in KSU’s Outdoor Adventures programs.  People may have a disability, feel out of shape, believe that because they do not have experience they cannot participate.  This is not the case and in fact, those who do participate and overcome those barriers often teach us lessons as well.  Working together to include everyone is our goal and we hope you join us.  

    Ed Baltes on a trail Ed Baltes is the Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventures in Sports and Recreation. He has been with KSU for 14 years and overseeing the Outdoor Adventures Bike Shop for 10. He is an avid cyclist, mechanic, and artist who enjoys spending time with his wife of 28 years.

  • It’s hard to say goodbye to summer, but when cooler temperatures arrive, we get excited for even more outdoor activities.  Fall in love with this fall season and enjoy these activities recommended by Outdoor Adventures’ Staff!

    Campfire: Grab some friends or just enjoy a good book around the fire.  Use a portable fire pit to create a cozy space in your yard, roast marshmallows or cook a meal over an open flame. 

    Hiking to see the colorful leaves: 
    Enjoy a trail for a relaxed hike where you can take in the fall colors and the fresh cool breeze.  Recommended trails nearby include:

    • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield- Marietta 
    • Red Top Mountain State Park- Acworth 
    • Soap Creek-Atlanta 
    • Pine Mountain-Cartersville 

    Cooler weather temps for camping: 
    Spend the night outdoors, cooler weather means less bugs and more comfortable sleeping conditions.  Snuggle into a sleeping bag under a tarp, in a hammock or a tent and enjoy fresh air and the stars. Recommended local camping spots include: 

    • Red Top Mountain State Park-Acworth 
    • Sweetwater Creek State Park- Lithia Springs 

    You can reserve camping essentials for your next trip through Outdoor Adventures.

    Mountain biking: 
    We also enjoy seeing the fall colors at a faster pace, experience a mountain biking ride.  Get into the woods and escape for a while. Local trails to check out include: 

    • Blanket’s Creek- Woodstock 
    • Allatoona Creek- Acworth 
    • Old Rope Mill Park- Woodstock 

    Want to venture further north? Check out Bear Creek, Mulberry Gap and the Pinhoti Trails near Ellijay, GA.

    Don’t have your own mountain bike? Members and students can borrow a mountain bike, helmet and lock from Outdoor Adventures for 3 days with no charge. Reserve a bike.  

    Hammock lounging: 
    What’s better than enjoying the fall breeze from a hammock with a good book?  Find a big colorful tree in a secluded spot and enjoy quiet time to unwind.  If it turns into a nap even better!  Outdoor Adventures provides hammock rentals to students and members.  Reserve one today!

    Outdoor Rock Climbing 
    Cooler weather means less sweat and less slippery hands.  Go outside and climb! Don’t have the gear or expertise for roped climbing? There are great bouldering spots nearby.  You can rent a crash pad from Outdoor Adventures.  Invite some friends so you have a spotter.  

    • East Palisades - Atlanta 
    • Boat Rock - Atlanta 
    • Rock Town – Chickamauga, GA 
    • Stone Fort – Soddy Daisy, TN  

    Enjoy this season and share your adventures with us on social media using #ksuadventures!

  • I find it easy to get swallowed into the worries of tomorrow or the memories of yesterday. These oceans of stress can easily take us away from the simplicity of today. It is important for our physical and mental health to maintain a toolbox of techniques to cope with these stresses. For some folks, making music or art might de-stress them; running or swimming might relieve others; and there are limitless outlets to healthily cope with stressors. One of my favorite ways to de-stress is to practice yoga or meditate. I have practiced yoga for a few years; it started as a simple exercise routine, and it has now turned into a daily mental check-in. Yoga combines the exhilaration and challenge of exercise with the stillness of relaxation; this mind-body connection helps me tremendously when dealing with anxiety. When practicing yoga, movements are often linked to the inhale and the exhale which maintains our focus on the present moment. Being present opens us to better understand ourselves. How are we feeling physically or emotionally? Have my shoulders been tense all day? Has my mind been wandering for hours on end? The mission of yoga for some might be toning and exercising, or yoga might be a mission for mindfulness! 
    Yoga is for everyone, so I encourage all to give it a try especially during National Yoga Awareness Month. There are many yoga videos on the Sports and Recreation Virtual OwlFit Programs page to easily follow at home, in your backyard, or at the park! I try to start my mornings with approximately ten minutes of stretching and/or meditation; this helps me to start my day with a calm demeanor and wake up my muscles and joints. It is easy to add this into a routine because it is a short time frame, but it also makes it easier to get out of bed on early days! I also like to add a longer yoga session later in the day especially if I am sore from a bike ride or a big hike.  
    As mentioned above, OwlFit is great resource for post-workout practices, meditations, and relaxation sequences. Watching different videos and trying different poses makes yoga extremely accessible to many different body types and abilities. When we find poses that we like, we can create our own flow to practice with, or we can take a few of the aspects of yoga into our daily life or workouts. I have personally used breathing exercises to maintain decent pacing on backpacking trips. One of the first Nature Bound trips I trained on was to Panther Creek Falls in the Cohutta Wilderness. It was one of the longest hikes I had done up to that point, and my legs and lungs were getting a good workout. Despite the struggle, controlled breathing exercises that I had learned in yoga practice helped me to regulate the exertion and listen to my body.  
    For individuals looking for more of an intense workout or strengthening, they could try power yoga or pilates. For yogis looking for deep stretches or deep relaxation, yin yoga and meditation might be a good option. For folks that want a flowy sequence, vinyasa yoga would be a good plan. Now is the time to try yoga for the first time or branch out to new practices! Continued practice has had a positive impact on my mental health and has helped me to build a bit of muscle. I invite you all to find the benefits that practicing yoga will have in store for you! 

    Amelia Reynolds with trees in the backgroundAmelia Reynolds is a Nature Bound trip guide for hiking and backpacking trips. She is a recent graduate of KSU with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology. A few of her passions include sustainability, mental health awareness, and getting outside! 

  • I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and well, I’m about to say it too. Being active basically every day is a lifestyle. Having an active lifestyle takes daily balancing and prioritizing your bodies needs for nutrition and recovery, but most importantly, balancing happiness while continuing to stay active daily. Then comes in the fun of balancing the rest of your daily lifestyle, such as work, school and social life. And boy, it can get messy at times.

    A little about me and how I manage an active lifestyle. I am 27 years old and currently work in IT support for Kennesaw State while attending classes two days a week (when not in quarantine) for Information Systems. In my free time, what little free time I have, is where the challenge comes in of balancing my active lifestyle. I am currently a coach for the Girls Georgia Devo mountain bike team. Which requires weekly practices and weekend long races. Work, school and my Georgia Devo ladies are my priorities. Obviously, work is my number one priority, being that it supports the active lifestyle I have, which seems to get rather expensive the older I get! Then, prioritizing the team, realistically would be my number one because it is what makes me the happiest. I’ve learned that while we must balance those “fun” adult priorities, like work, school, and homeownership, we will naturally and successfully balance and prioritize those things that make us happy. After all this, I still manage to cycle anywhere between 11 and 18 hours a week to work on my personal racing goals as an active cyclist. Good thing the social life involves cycling! Between mountain biking, gravel and road cycling, I manage to stay busy with all my friends.

     nicole with other moutain bikers

    How she does it:

    Being able to balance my full dinner plate of a lifestyle, requires some serious time management. This means early mornings with a healthy breakfast, and early to bed. Being able to manage a busy lifestyle requires you to be healthy and alert. Keeping my mind healthy and alert with enough sleep has really helped me to manage my priorities.  Sometimes our busy active lifestyles can get so busy that we lose sight on how we are feeling, I’ve recently started using a program called Whoop, that measures my recovery and helps keep me in check on how I am recovering for those days I don’t want to listen to my body and rest. Because, being recovered to the best of my ability allows me to do the things I love most, which is obviously riding bikes!

    What keeps her going and how she avoids burnout:

    I have recently learned that what brings me the most joy while being active is seeing the things that I do motivate others to do the same. Seeing people reach for the same goals I have, to using the same “shreddy” lingo I use. Being able to make an impact by riding my bike has brought me the most joy and happiness. When you see and hear others relate to you, especially my juniors, it does nothing but bring a smile to your face that even the hardest days on the bike don’t seem to bother you. Now don’t get me wrong, there are of course those obstacles and excuses we all struggle with. We all get tired and we all at some point will just burn out. What helps me most is being easy on myself and embracing how I feel. When the obstacles of burn out arise, I will usually call my friends and say hey, let's go do a coffee shop ride. I remove my heart rate monitor, throw my Garmin in my jersey pocket and pedal for pure enjoyment. On days that doesn’t seem to work, I focus on recovery and downtime, which is more important than the threshold intervals one thinks they need to get faster on the bike. This involves lots of yoga and meditation, best done with friends and yours truly, Zoe Guilmette, she even tags along for those coffee shop rides, a close call to yoga as my favorite recovery day.

    Being a cyclist who likes those level 3 kinda fun rides, has really helped me develop habits into my daily life. You look at things differently when they get tough. You ask yourself on those rides where you’re totally bonking, what snack do I need to get past this? My personal favorite, mini Pop-tart's! I do the same with work and school. I ask myself, what do I need to do to successfully accomplish this day. I’ve learned to be more openminded on and off the bike.

     Nicole on a bike eating a snack

    The key to keeping it balanced:

    Communication is key on keeping things balanced, whether its communication with a coach on how you feel and your goals or even communication with daily group rides. Letting people know where you are mentally and physically is so important. Nothing is worse than going out to a group ride and wanting to do a 15mph ride and the group does 19+ and you just flat out aren’t enjoying the suffer fest. This is something I always say right away, “Here is how I feel, and here is the pace I am doing today.”

    It’s your time to shine:

    So that being said, the main tip I have for being able to balance a very active lifestyle with normal day to day responsibilities is: Do the things that make YOU happy! Whether it’s intervals up the mountain, or coaching and guiding others, find that balance where you can successfully meet your goals with a smile. Smiles for miles is my motto. Find ways to help yourself meet those goals. Sometimes that can be a cycling coach, or even a life coach, communicate with them and take action. Technology is huge these days, find apps with reminders on how to reach those goals. Like me, I use Whoop every day to see where I am and plan accordingly then get up and go shred at life!

    Nicole in cycling gear on a couch with coffee

  • A triathlon always seemed like an impossible feat until the day I finally took the small leap of faith.  I suppose you could say it was the perfect storm, as I was working at Outdoor Adventures where my supervisor often shared her lunch run recaps, patrons were constantly riding bikes in and out of the bike shop and a pool less than 100 yards away from my desk.  

    When race weekend rolled around, I asked off from work and headed to the triathlon in Gulf Shores. I really wasn’t sure what to expect for my first triathlon; not much training went into it at all. I rented a bike from the bike shop and I occasionally swam every once in a while until race day. The whole weekend felt like a dream, I was so excited my adrenaline pumped from morning till night. I didn’t care that I had very little training, didn’t own my own bike or didn't really have a clue as to how the whole triathlon thing worked. I had my family there to support me and people were incredibly helpful at pointing me in the right direction. I’m pretty sure I was smiling the entire time. I was just happy to be there and to be doing the thing I saw as ‘impossible’ for so long. 

    Zoe at the Start Line of the Triathlon
    While the post-race free banana was quite rewarding at the moment, the ultimate reward was to be able to say I did it. For so long, a triathlon seemed so far out of reach, but I found the challenge that best suited me and did it. When choosing which triathlon to do, I used a concept that Outdoor Adventures teaches, Challenge by Choice. Challenge by Choice is a concept where patrons chose their own personal challenge in the activities we do. There are three zones a personal challenge can fall into: comfort, stretch and panic. I assessed my abilities and made a choice that put me in the ‘stretch zone’ for the challenge of completing my first triathlon. The stretch zone is essentially where the magic and growth happens, you’re in a state of relaxed alertness and fully engaged. I chose to participate in a sprint triathlon, meaning it was a short distance triathlon. Because I was in my stretch zone, the little challenges that arose during the triathlon like completing my first open water swim in an ocean setting or figuring out the transition zones for the first time were all manageable. The stretch zone’s motto is “no matter what happens, I shall benefit and learn.” 

    Zoe heading into the swim portion of the Triathlon
    I took the experience of my first triathlon as a life lesson to not be fearful of big goals and ideas. Instead, find the right perspective, be realistic and step outside of the comfort zone and into the stretch zone to find YOUR challenge and way of completing your goals. If the idea of a triathlon sounds remotely interesting, let this be your sign to challenge yourself and Try-a-Tri! With current COVID-19 procedures, most triathlons are cancelled for the remainder of the year, however it’s not too early to start training for your first triathlon or to simply join the Try- a -Tri challenge. The Outdoor Adventure’s Adventure Anywhere current Strava challenge is Try- a -Tri. From August 3rd - August 16th create your own challenge and complete the three separate activities that make up a triathlon, record a swim, bike, and walk/run. The duration of the activities is up to you! 

    Outdoor Adventures Strava Club

    Zoe sitting on a trailZoe Guilmette is an Outdoor Adventures Program Assistant and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide team. She has been with the program for 3 years and specializes in backpacking, whitewater kayaking and coastal kayaking trips with Outdoor Adventures. Zoe is a marketing major at KSU and hopes to work in a marketing position for an outdoor company in the future. In her free time, you can find Zoe in a coffee shop studying, riding her bike or hitting the trails. 

  • A place of solitude isn’t so secret anymore... 

    Quarantine has had a major impact on local hiking and mountain bike trails; trails have seen much more traffic than normal, even for the summer. Many families and outdoor enthusiasts have become stir crazy sitting around at their house for so long and are looking for a fun way to get out and exercise. People of all ages have taken out their old, dusty boots or their long-forgotten bikes that have been rusting in their backyard for some time and are hitting the trails. 

    Of course, with so many people going to these trails during this time, the trail systems have become very crowded. Trails are not only crowded, but crowded with beginners. For serious hikers or mountain bikers, this can be very annoying when all you want to do is escape and enjoy your favorite sport. The aspect of ‘escaping’ into nature has temporarily been taken away with busy trails since even on the tails we can’t escape crowds. For the trail goers that know these trails like the back of their hand, they are deterred from going to their favorite trails due to overcrowding. 

    backpackers enjoying the mountain view
    Sharing is caring after all... 

    But what we, as the “serious” hikers or mountain bikers, must realize is that as much as we love, use, and cherish these trails they are just as rightfully everyone else's just as much as they are our trails. For the time being, most of these ‘beginners’ are just simply looking for a place to escape and try something new. The least we can do is allow them to have a good experience. So next time you see a beginner out there lost, doing something dangerous or reckless, stop them and educate them. But don’t be mean about it. We all started somewhere; this may be their start. 
    The Golden Rule applies outdoors too...

    Along those same lines, I have seen some “serious” outdoor adventurers only acknowledge and be friendly towards other “serious” people. For example, I have seen some road cyclist only wave and be friendly towards others who look like they are serious about the sport. They see them dressed in lycra, have what looks like an expensive bike and figure they’ll say hi, but won’t be as nice or friendly towards a family just getting outside and riding bikes. You should always treat other outdoor enthusiasts with as much respect as you expect. Bad vibes can easily drive away beginners looking to pick up an outdoor hobby. Instead, shed some trail magic and play your part in building the outdoor community. For example, when you pass someone on the trail it is common to wave, smile, or say hi, even if you don’t know each other. What I see all too often is that people will avoid eye contact or keep their heads down to avoid speaking to another group. At least to me, this comes off as not only rude, but it just looks like you are not having a good time. And isn’t that the main reason why all of us are out there in the first place, to have fun? So I challenge you, next time you are out on the trail, make sure to smile and say something to everyone you pass. Even if you just say hi, you’d be amazed, a smile or even saying hello can go a long way.

    Justin Jones Profile Justin Jones is a sophomore at KSU studying Industrial Engineering Technology. Justin works at Outdoor Adventures in the climbing gym and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide Team leading climbing and mountain biking trips. When he isn't working you can find him riding a bike or climbing.

  • Growing up, I never enjoyed hiking that much.  Whenever family or friends would go, we always hiked the same trails, I was easily bored and unappreciative.  It wasn’t until I started working at Outdoor Adventures that I began to truly fall in love with the outdoors, and now I am obsessed with hiking or walking anywhere for hours!   

    With any outdoor activity, hiking provides opportunity to step away from the busy-ness of social media, school, and work, but what I have recently become more aware and appreciative of is how I don’t have to focus too much on what I’m doing while hiking, and can allow my mind to be at rest.  Especially in the last six months, I have become easily overwhelmed, and it has been freeing to be able to step away from everything and just be for a few miles.  To make it an extra sweet time, walking with friends is also incredibly rewarding.  Whether we’re catching up or just enjoying the sounds of nature together, I get so much joy from walking with others. 

    My first backpacking trip was from Lemon Gap to Max Patch in North Carolina.  The views were absolutely breathtaking, with mountains in every direction that seem to never end, a sunrise and sunset with all the colors of the rainbow, and a perfect view of the Milky Way Galaxy every time I woke up from a decently chilly sleep.  I was continuously in awe of its beauty. Not only were the views at the summit worth every step, but the 5.6-mile hike alone is so beautiful and vibrant, filled with streams, colors, fungi, rocks, slugs and caterpillars that are so strangely gorgeous!   

     Student standing in grass with mountain view

    My most memorable hike, though, was a little less glamorous. On a Nature Bound trip about a month after a gnarly ankle sprain, I was terrified, slow, and focused all my attention on every single step, distracting me from enjoying the beautiful trails and the company of new friends.  I am most thankful for that hike and my friend and mentor who encouraged me to go on the trip when I was set on not going, and helped me realize the importance of enjoying the scenery, even if it means slowing down more than I’d like.  Thankfully, hiking isn’t about speed, and neither is Nature Bound.   

    Join me for the current Adventure Anywhere Strava Challenge, Happy Hiker! Lace up your boots, and set a goal to either hike 5, 10, 15 or 20 miles within two weeks. Visit somewhere you haven’t been, or your favorite faithful trails, and just be. Take it slow, enjoy the views, and don’t twist your ankles. We look forward to seeing your ‘Happy Hiker’ activities posted in our Outdoor Adventure Strava Club.  Have fun and Happy Trails!  

    Check out our Adventure Anywhere Activities in the Outdoor Adventures Strava Club.

    Ransley Cummings with Backpack OnRansley Cummings is a sophomore at KSU studying Leadership through the Integrative Studies Program. Ransley works at Outdoor Adventures in the Climbing Gym and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide Team leading climbing trips. She enjoys climbing, hiking and hanging out with friends.

  • I often think people are hesitant to try a new adventure activity because they think they might be the slow one who holds their adventure buddy back.  I’ve felt this before, and I’ve had others tell me they would not want to run with me because they would be too slow.  

    I’ve been running consistently for the past 10 years.  My pace can be all over the place depending on the terrain, how I’m feeling, the weather, and so many other factors. I get bummed out when people say they don’t want to run with me because they think I’m too fast. I don’t plan on asking people to adventure with me and leave them behind.  That’s not the point. 

    I believe there are a lot of perks to going slow in so many different adventures.  Often while running, I think about my pace. I glance at my watch often to see how far I’ve traveled as well as my current pace. I note my average pace at the end of a run and wonder if I can do it faster next time.  But there are times when I wake up for a morning run and my watch battery is dead or I consciously decide to leave it at home and those runs make me feel free.  I never run with headphones, so leaving my watch at home takes away all distractions and I engage more with my surroundings.  

    I am currently pregnant with my second child.  Although I’m still running, Baby is making me slow down.  I will do a long run on a Saturday and possibly take my 3-year-old on a walk on Sunday instead of doing another long run.  I did this the other week and walked a route that I typically run.  I noticed so many things on the walk that I had never noticed on the run.  It was a route I had been running for years; it surprised me that I have been missing so much all this time. 

    Sometimes like me, your body makes you slow down.  You might be recovering from an injury, getting a cramp, or just having a rough day mentally.  But listening to your body and being ok with slowing down can teach you a lot and can also help you go faster later.  

    When we adventure into the woods, oftentimes we want to escape and unplug. Sometimes I must remind myself that I have no plans except to enjoy where I am and to make it to my destination for the day when I’m backpacking. When I remind myself to be intentional about slowing down, I really find myself enjoying the adventure more. 

    So on your next adventure, if it’s a personal trip or you adventure with us, I hope you embrace the slow pace and if you think you’re slow, I hope you join us anyway.  You’ll remind us all that slow is the new fast. 

    Sandefur Porter HeadshotSandefur Porter is the Director of Outdoor Adventures, Marketing and Memberships within the Department of Sports and Recreation. She’s been overseeing Outdoor Adventure programs at KSU for 10 years. Sandefur loves spending time running, with family and exploring the outdoors.

  • It seems like just yesterday I was leading trips to Montana to ski/snowboard in fresh powder, to Moab Utah to shred some gnar mountain biking, and to the highest peaks in Georgia to capture the sunsets. Never did I imagine the skills I was learning would be something I would use every single day in my career.

     Breanna on a Mountain Bike





    As an Emergency Department nurse, I am expected to be the manager of my patients. This means that I advocate for what is best for the patient, arrange care, relay information between inter-disciplinary fields, decide what procedures get priority, and knowing when to ask for help from my peers. In doing this, I have found myself needing to be assertive, provide constructive feedback, and delegate tasks. Just the other day, I received a report on a patient that was very sick. The nurse who previously had the patient was new. She hadn’t been able to provide adequate time-sensitive care as she was with another high acuity patient. She had two sick patients and was responsible for the care of both even though she physically could not take care of both patients at the same time. Using the feedback model that I practiced while working for Outdoor Adventures, I encouraged her to ask for help in the future when she is in this situation. She was very receptive and took the constructive feedback well. I enjoyed being able to show her how she could have handled the situation from an experienced nurse perspective without her feeling belittled or attacked.

    Breanna with Face Shield

    On a different night, I came on shift and was given a teenage patient who had an order to be discharged from the hospital. I thought I would have an easy start to my shift, but after taking the report and looking over the patient, I noticed that her oxygen was low and I did not feel good about letting her go home. My job is to follow the doctor’s orders, but at the same time I am a patient advocate. I brought it up to the doctor who ordered the discharge. Despite his order, he agreed to take another look. After a chest x-ray, it was determined that she had pneumonia and needed to be transferred to a children’s hospital immediately. It can be difficult to question a doctor about the orders that were given, but because I was able to use assertive communication with the doctor, my patient received the treatment that she needed. Communicating clearly and assertively sounds easy and makes sense, but it takes practice. I was able to get that practice while working at Outdoor Adventures. As a Trip Leader, I had to have tough conversations with my co-leaders. It’s not about being right or being wrong. Whether in the hospital or on a trip, it’s about being safe- even if that means assertively telling the doctor or trip leader that they need to reconsider a decision they made.  

    Nature Bound encouraged me to practice these important leadership skills with each trip that I led and now I am using them daily as a nurse. I am so thankful to feel comfortable in providing and accepting feedback, asking for help, being assertive, and delegating. Looking back at those staff meetings and leadership courses, I never knew that the communication skills I was learning from Outdoor Adventures would be used in a life-saving situation in the Emergency Department.  

    Breanna OutsideDuring her time at KSU, Breanna Pownall not only excelled in the classroom but in the outdoors as well. She obtained a BSN and spent two years thriving in Outdoor Adventures as a Trip Leader and Summer Camp counselor. She found her passion for the outdoors and leading others through mountain biking and skiing with Nature Bound. Breanna married her college sweetheart, graduated in 2017 and pursued her career as a nurse. She now works in the Emergency Department and spends her free time working out, hiking and going on runs with her family. 

  • I was probably halfway up the rock wall, holding onto the holds for dear life, tears were quickly starting to form, and then I froze. I tried to make the next move, but the hold was too far out of my reach and I started shaking like crazy. I wanted to come down, but my belayer and the group I was with kept encouraging me to keep going. I don’t know how far I actually went after that, but I do remember being so embarrassed when they finally let me down because I couldn’t stand still or speak without a sob in between every word. This is the panic zone.   

    Another time (though it has happened many times), and a few years later, I was at Sand Rock in Alabama, climbing with some friends and fellow trip leaders outdoors. I spent most of the day belaying and refused many climbs for myself, and only did one, maybe two easy ones. I love belaying, and I am very comfortable and confident in my skills, and that was a very fun day for me! But I didn’t do anything I knew I couldn’t do. This is the comfort zone.  

    Challenge by Choice exists to allow “participants [to] challenge themselves and participate fully in the experience at-hand. Recognizing that any activity or goal may pose a different level and type of challenge for each group member and that authentic personal change comes from within” (Challenge by Choice, Project Adventure). Instead of sitting out due to not being able to participate, push yourself and find a way to get uncomfortable without going into the panic zone. Find the stretch zone, which is in between the comfort and the panic zones, learn something and grow.   

    I love being comfortable, and it has always been hard for me to do something until I know I can do it well. I need to remind, and sometime force, myself to get uncomfortable and find the stretch zone. I experience it daily working in the climbing gym, and often as a trip leader and a regular participant on Nature Bound Trips. While it is ultimately up to you to decide when to keep going and when to challenge yourself in a different way, it’s critical to surround yourself with people who care about you and won’t allow you to stay comfortable, nor push you into panicking.  

    Since I started working at OA and became more involved as a trip leader and climber, there were many times that I wanted to sit back and watch instead of participating. I often still fall into that trap, but I feel most accomplished afterwards when I am challenged and uncomfortable. I have never been able to do it alone, but it is because of the steady presence and encouragement from my bosses, coworkers and friends, that make it all worth it.  

    There are always opportunities to stay involved in an activity, whether it’s spotting on a bouldering trip, practicing strokes in a kayak while others are practicing rolling, taking a few extra minutes to rest while on a climbing route if it means being able to get to the top, or taking pictures and videos and encouraging those you are with. Be willing to be uncomfortable and be willing to help others find their stretch zones too.   

    Ransley Cummings with Backpack Ransley Cummings is a sophomore at KSU studying Leadership through the Integrative Studies Program.  Ransley works at Outdoor Adventures in the Climbing Gym and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide Team leading climbing trips.  She enjoys climbing, hiking and hanging out with friends.  

  • We remember the big firsts in our sports. I remember my first time snowboarding on fresh powder, first time hitting a big drop on a bike, first time rolling up my kayak after getting thrown around on the river. I also remember my first time tumbling down the slopes, going over the handlebars on a bike, and the first time having to swim out of my kayak. Whether it’s an exciting light bulb moment, a still time of peace, or a time of painful learning, the firsts stick out in our memory.  

    This hit me recently when I took my son down the river for the first time. Being a whitewater instructor, I have spent a lot of time on the river. Some of the things that are normal for me were new to my two-year-old. As soon as we got on the water, he stood up in our canoe and almost tipped us over! We paddled to an island and walked around in the shallow water. He jumped when he felt the icy cold water. Then his face lit up when he realized that he was walking on tiny rocks that he could throw. At two years old, his vocabulary is limited, but I know he had a great first because he repeated, “Wah-wah, boat, Da-da, paddle,” over and over for days!  

    Climbers stnding at base

    Many firsts are experienced in Outdoor Adventures at KSU. As someone with a few years of experience, I feel that it is my responsibility to help others have a great first so that they might have a second. If you are an experienced outdoors person, you also share this responsibility. In order to make it a good experience, we need to keep it safe, fun and make sure they learn something. When we invite a newbie, we can’t just do the normal group ride and leave them in the dust. We can’t take them to a play wave on the river and have them wait on us because they’re not ready for it. When we invite someone into our sport, we are inviting them into our house and it better be clean! So be patient; be encouraging; and when you wonder why you’re doing it, remember that those light bulbs are lighting up all over the place! And remember that someone else did it for you.  

    These first experiences start with good planning. Pick a location that is exciting, but tame. Think about a hiking trail that is relatively flat and open with low mileage but has a nice view. This is an easy hike with a reward at the end. If the venue you select seems too chill, it’s not. For the first timer, every bit of the experience is new and exciting. 

    Next, look at equipment. Would you want to ride the bike that is over 35 pounds, doesn’t have front brakes, and can only shift to 6 of the 8 gears on the back? No way! So, don’t give that bike to your newbie either. Remember- be a good host! Let your newbie use your bike or find an appropriate rental for them. Yes, it sounds scary, but you can do it! When your newbie asks questions about gear, refrain from answers such as, “You’re not ready for clipless pedals,” or “When you’re a real mountain biker, you’ll understand.” Patience is key here. Just go ahead and explain it and you can also recommend they ride a few times before trying certain pieces of gear. And don’t let fancy gear be a barrier to the sport- do they need a cycling jersey on day 1? Of course not. A dri-fit shirt works great! 

    3 bicyclist in a row

    Then think about pacing. Pay attention to your newbie’s breathing. Can you have a conversation with them? If not, take it down a notch or take a break. Can’t find your newbie? You better stop! and then stay with them for the rest of their hike, ride, or paddle. Remember that the goal for day 1 is just for them to want to do it again. So, don’t worry about showing them next level skills, or getting in a certain number of miles, or seeing every overlook on the trail. You would rather your newbie go home thinking, “That was nice...but I could have handled more,” and not, “Wow that was hard. I’m not meant for it.” 

    Many of us understand the joy of helping someone learn about the outdoors. Let’s also remember the hard lessons. When your newbie gets a blister hiking, forgets a rain jacket in a storm, or can’t seem to stop swimming out of their kayak, remember that you need to be right there with them. Know when to turn back, when to comfort, when to teach, and when to be silent. Not every trip will be perfect- most won’t. But you can help a bad first turn into a great second. 

    Small Child Standing in River

    Getting back into the canoe, I know I have an enormous responsibility. If I want my son to have a chance to appreciate a sport that I love, I need to be a good host to him. I need to take him down rivers that won’t scare him. I need to be close so that when he slips on rocks, I can pull him out of the water quickly. I need to give him proper clothing that will keep him warm, and then recognize when he’s getting cold. I need to let him use a paddle, even though it makes my job harder. 

    I need to know that his experience is not about me. 

    Billy Pownall and SonBilly Pownall is the Senior Coordinator of Outdoor Adventures, currently overseeing the KSU Climbing Gym and Nature Bound Trip Program. He has been a part of Outdoor Adventures since 2012 when he began attending trips as a student.  Billy enjoys being outside and staying active; whether cycling, climbing, kayaking, or going on a run with his wife and two kids.

  • 8 Items an Outdoor Adventures Trip Leader would Never Leave Without

    Before heading out on an adventure, trip leaders check the gear list and check it twice. Trip leaders have likely experienced a time on a personal trip where someone forgot the fuel or the lighter. It’s a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons. Missing an essential item like fuel, utensils, or a rain jacket is a rookie mistake we probably have all learned from the hard way. Fear not, the Internet is loaded with pre-made checklists to download and use before heading out on your next adventure. 

    Now, it’s one thing to get the essentials packed, but what about the must haves that take your outdoor experience to the next level. I have compiled a list of 8 pieces of my favorite gear as well as some of Outdoor Adventures staff’s favorites. These 8 pieces of gear make it possible to implement certain tactics and practices that we train for through Outdoor Adventures. 

    Below I’ve broken down why each piece of gear has had such a significant impact on my outdoor experience and why it’s worth purchasing or renting for your next adventure! Let’s be clear...these are not the 8 essentials needed, but simply 8 items I would never start an adventure without.  

     8 items

    At Outdoor Adventures, staff go through Adventure Leadership Training, part of that training consists of learning about different personality types. With that, I’ve learned that some campers might enjoy escaping in their hammock to look at the view for a while just as much as other campers enjoy a competitive game of Uno. Setting up a Eno, is the ideal way of taking a moment to slow down and take in the surroundings. Whether an Eno means setting up a relaxing spot to enjoy the view or setting up your sleeping quarters for the night bringing along an Eno can offer a plethora of comfy alternatives for places to chill. Not to mention Outdoor Adventures offers hammock rentals if you want to give it a shot.  

    These gnarly, versatile pieces of headwear can be worn up to 12 different ways. They are moisture wicking, soft and durable. Buffs offer a Polartec Micro Fleece option for trapping the heat in or the original Buff which offers quick-drying breathable material for keeping you cool and protected in hot summer days. My Buff has come in handy as a ski mask, makeshift hand warmers, beanie replacement, neck gaiter and hair tie. The buff has helped me through many mentally and physically challenging cold nights.  

    While leading Outdoor Adventures trips, it’s crucial that I am physically ready and able to address any needs of my participants. In this case, wearing my Buff keeps me warm and prepared in cold conditions so I am able to meet the needs of the rest of the group. I guarantee it’s worth every penny.  

    buff in geometric black and white colors

    Wool Socks: 
    We all love fuzzy socks, but for outdoor activities you can leave those at home. Wool socks have withstood the test of time as the most popular material for keeping your feet happy and dry in any conditions. Wool socks minimize the risk of potential blisters and even frostbite with its quick drying material. Plus, there is nothing better than crawling into your sleeping bag and slipping on a clean, dry, warm pair of wool socks. Always pack your wool sleep socks or backup socks.

    Whether you’re a tea, coffee or hot chocolate kind of camper, a warm drink matched with the sunrise or sunset is hands down the best way to create a memory in the mountains. I keep a Ziploc bag stuffed full of instant coffee, tea, honey packets, and hot chocolate packets ready to go. Tea party in the woods, why not? Warm drinks over a campfire or morning coffee chats are my favorite ways to get to know my trip participants.  

    At Outdoor Adventures, we practice expedition behavior. To simply put it, expedition behavior is ‘doing your part to radiate positivity throughout an expedition.’ Since I am a coffee snob, sharing coffee in the morning with patrons needing their coffee fix is my favorite way to practice expedition behavior. Bringing a cup of tea to a tent mate on a rainy night also does the trick! 

    hand holding coffee up with tent and mountain in the background

    Puffy Jacket:  
    While warmth is an obvious reason to bring a puffy jacket anywhere, you can’t beat the warmth to weight ratio. With this being said, it's easy to pack an extra puffy jacket just in case a situation of extreme cold temperatures arises. Not only do they make warm memories, these cozy jackets can easily turn into a travel pillow when the moon rises. Puffies are built for life; a former trip leader at Outdoor Adventures had a puffy with a story for each repair patch that covered a hole in the jacket.

    Camp Chair: 
    A long day on the trails requires a nice place to rest your bum at the end of the day. Unfortunately, not every campsite is stocked with a La-Z-Boy recliner chair so why not bring your own? Bring a small, lightweight, portable camp chair that can be set up wherever the action is taking place --- or should I say wherever the campfire and s’mores are being made. 

    two women sitting in campchairs looking at a view 
    Peanut Butter: 
    Tasty, versatile, no refrigeration needed, easy storage, inexpensive, need I say more? Peanut Butter is packed with healthy fats, fiber and proteins; giving you all the energy you need after a tiring day. There are many ways to use this staple food item: a scoop on top of oatmeal, paired with an apple, a pb & banana tortilla, or by the spoonful. Peanut butter brands have made it even more convenient by offering single serving packs to stuff in the snack pockets of your backpack! 
    Kodiak Cakes: 
    Saturday mornings at my house means pancakes. Since most of our adventures take place on the weekends, access to a stove top doesn’t slow down my pancake routine. I hardly ever meet an outdoor junkie that turns down a flawless, fluffy flapjack. Making pancakes for patrons or other outdoor enthusiasts is a great way to share some outdoor magic. Breakfast in bed? More like breakfast in a sleeping bag. Kodiak Cakes are my favorite brand because they only require water and have several flavors to choose from. 
    These are a few of my favorite things to take with me on an adventure. Your 'must have' list may be different, but remember to take somethings that make you comfortable during your time outside!

    Zoe sitting in front of a trail

    Zoe Guilmette is an Outdoor Adventures Program Assistant and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide team. She has been with the program for 3 years and specializes in backpacking, whitewater kayaking and coastal kayaking trips with Outdoor Adventures. Zoe is a marketing major at KSU and hopes to work in a marketing position for an outdoor company in the future. In her free time, you can find Zoe in a coffee shop studying, riding her bike or hitting the trails.


  • Leave No Trace principles are something that should guide us during our time in the outdoors. Daily, these principles help us to have fun recreating by staying safe, decreasing our environmental impact, and respecting those around us. If we all team up together, implementation of these guidelines can make the outdoors enjoyable for other hikers, bikers, and animals that call the woods their home. As a part of our Leave No Trace campaign, we hope that everyone will be inspired to continue following these principles or possibly learn new skills to incorporate into their outdoor time!  
    Although all the Leave No Trace guidelines are important for safe and respectful recreation, a few of the principles stand out to me as vital for getting outside during a pandemic. Planning ahead and preparing, disposing of waste properly, and being considerate of other visitors are important always, but they should be at the forefront of our minds especially in regards to staying healthy while in the outdoors. 
    Plan ahead and prepare. This is what we do to find the coolest trails and the most beautiful camp spots, but it goes a bit further than that. Planning the adventure is an important part of the process to ensure your safety and those around you! Learning about the area ahead of time allows us to note the weather, the difficulty of the terrain, the expected amount of people, and other important facets of the area we are about to enjoy. Planning ahead lets us prepare for nasty rainstorms or humid summer days by bringing a rain jacket or an extra liter of water. The difficulty of the terrain can help us decide if that area is right for us. Does that mountain bike trail exceed our difficulty, or do those rapids look too intense for my skill level? Planning ahead lets us prepare to have a back-up plan for our trip to accommodate for our safety while still having fun. While researching different places, we can learn how heavily trafficked the area is or the popular times of use. Making note of when a park is busiest can help us to accommodate social distancing guidelines by going during off-times or weekdays instead of overcrowded Saturdays.  
    Dispose of waste properly. “Pack it in, pack it out” is a popular phrase used to remind folks to take their trash back to the trailhead instead of littering an overlook with granola bar wrappers. This is vital for the natural growth of ecosystems to avoid disturbing the critters in their habitat with our leftovers from lunch. In addition to maintaining the natural ecosystem and aesthetic, disposing waste properly lessens the likelihood of contracting someone else’s germs. It is important to remember to pack out used toilet paper or properly bury it in a cat hole. Doing so prevents other patrons from viewing a nasty landscape and encountering something they definitely do not want their hands on.  
    Be considerate of other visitors. Lots of people have been flocking to the outdoor community since traditional stores and restaurants have been closed. One way to be considerate is to be kind to these newcomers by welcoming them, helping others find the right trail, or simply greeting people with a smile. It is important to respect others’ space by following social distancing guidelines during this time as well. This can be done by stepping off the trail to allow other hikers to pass or switching your destination to a less crowded spot.  
    Overall, the Leave No Trace principles help us keep areas beautiful and allow us to continue having fun outside safely. By following the seven guidelines including the three highlighted above, we can continue getting our exercise, enjoying the wilderness, and basking in the sun while responsibly adhering to social distancing protocols. Happy trails! 
    To learn more about Leave No Trace Principles visit www.lnt.org  

    Amelia Reynolds outside on a trailAmelia Reynolds is a Nature Bound trip guide for hiking and backpacking trips. She is also a senior psychology major with a concentration in sociology. A few of her passions include sustainability, mental health awareness, and getting outside! 

  • KSU Outdoor Adventure programs are founded on the principles of experiential learning to develop knowledge, leadership, and community. Learning outcomes for all Outdoor Adventure programs have these three things at the forefront, it is in our mission.  Now more than ever we need to show others that they are important and that we care.  Our hope is that on every trip, every visit to the Bike Shop or the Climbing Gym each person feels welcomed, encouraged, included and excited to be a part of the adventures we offer. 

    Our programs are filled with leaders. In our programs, leaders don’t have titles. When you visit the Climbing Gym you may notice that there are many leaders there while you visit and only one staff on shift.  You may notice that there are climbers of various skill levels and climbing backgrounds, but they are giving each other beta and applauding others as they complete a route.  Outdoor Adventure programs provide countless opportunities to lead.  

    I’ve sat around campfires in the backcountry with students from different backgrounds, cultures and countries who have highlighted their differences and have had encouraging conversations while sharing the warmth of the fire.  Developing knowledge through participation in our programs does not necessarily mean learning a new skill, like how to build a fire.  It also means and often does mean developing knowledge of others which in turn leads to community. When a group of 10 strangers hit the trail for a weekend, they quickly become their own community.  They experience the weather, the challenges of the trail and all that comes with it together as a community. They share these moments around the campfire and growth, learning and community develop.  

    We teach skills such as active listening and assertive communication in our programs. These are two things that can help others feel heard.  These communication skills help people voice their needs in the backcountry in order to stay safe while on the river or on a trail. However, they also transfer extraordinary amounts of knowledge to the classroom, and everyday life.  One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the backcountry that I use in my day to day life is to ask for what I need. If you do not speak up, others may never know that you need something.  If you do not speak up, others may not know how to help you.  If you do not speak up, others may not know how to support you. 

    KSU Outdoor Adventures is a place of care, concern and encouragement.  We will not tolerate anything less. 

    Sandefur Porter Sandefur Porter is the Director of Outdoor Adventures, Marketing and Memberships within the Department of Sports and Recreation. She’s been overseeing Outdoor Adventure programs at KSU for 10 years. Sandefur loves spending time running, with family and exploring the outdoors. 

  • When I first started riding off road, my mountain biking mentality was all about being competitive. I worked full time in bike shops and surrounded myself with fast competitive cyclists who, like me, weren’t afraid to show you just how fast we were. I gradually turned into that guy who would ride fast every ride not caring if you were still behind me. It was a great way to train if you wanted to race, but it’s also a great way to get people to dislike riding with you. After 26 years of racing and working in bike shops, I decided that there was more to life than competitive cycling. I chose to quit the bike shop business and go back to school to attain Health Promotion and Physical Education degrees at KSU. Little did I know that the pursuit of my degree would change my life forever.  

    I began at KSU in my late 30’s as a non-traditional, fulltime student with more than a part time job in construction. This schedule left me little time to get to know people on campus, much less spend time with them outside of classes. While standing in line to pay for my classes, someone from the Recreation Center walked up and asked me if I rode bicycles because of the shirt I was wearing from a bike race. I knew about the Recreation Center but felt too old to go hang out with the college crowd. At the time, I didn’t realize that I had just begun the 13-year journey that would lead me where I am today. I was introduced to the KSU Bike Shop that day, and the real reason I came back to school. 

    University Bike Shops typically fall under the Sustainability, Parking, or in KSU’s case the Department of Sports and Recreation. The KSU Bike Shop is a part of the Outdoor Adventures program.  Nature Bound is the outdoor trips program. Back then it was mostly backpacking, whitewater rafting, and some local mountain biking experiences. What made this program interesting to me was the approach to these activities was based on a completely different philosophy than my competitive years mountain biking. The term “Expedition Behavior” was their mantra. It means to help, inspire, collaborate, respect, look out for, and teach. This behavior was the focal point of the activities rather than winning or beating someone.  

    Expedition behavior became an opportunity for me to teach someone who is passionate about things I care about. I would fix everyone’s bikes during group rides or perform tune-ups at the camp site after a day of mountain biking. I didn’t have to prove anything because everyone was here to learn. I could ride behind someone and coach them. People wanted to know about the things that I know well. I was able to use my life experiences to educate and inspire future generations to change the world around them. It changed the reason I rode my bike. I began to slow down and appreciate the human moments where you celebrate someone else’s achievements. I began to see the natural world more clearly and it became my mission to teach others to appreciate our resources and how to foster the health of the things we value. This also happens to be why I wanted to be a physical educator in the first place.  

    Outdoor Adventures and the expedition behaviors it teaches might not have been the path through college that I expected, but it has been responsible for some of the most formative experiences of my life.     

    Ed Baltes standing in front of bike trailEd Baltes in the Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventures in Sports and Recreation. He has been with KSU for 14 years and overseeing the Outdoor Adventures Bike Shop for 10. He is an avid cyclist, mechanic, and artist who enjoys spending time with his wife of 28 years.

  • I first encountered KSU Outdoor Adventures when I applied for a job at the KSU Bike Shop, but my role and experiences grew far beyond what I ever anticipated. When I first began as a bike technician, I was not interested in participating in Nature Bound trips due my lack of knowledge/experience in outdoor recreation activities, and my mild anxiety of meeting new people. However, my frequent interactions with trip leaders and conversing with them of their experiences drove me to see for myself what all the talk was about. My first trip with Nature Bound was a five-day ski trip at Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. I had almost no experience snowboarding, so I was nervous. I was worried I would slow others down or be unable to keep up on the slopes. However, I learned that every Nature Bound trip is designed for participants who have zero experience! Lessons were provided by the trip leaders for all ability levels. Any anxiety I had about meeting new people vanished due to the trip leaders’ warmth and kindness, and the comradery created from true beginners pursuing success with a common goal. After Snowshoe, I was hooked. Overtime, I became more invested in trips and activities the program offered, particularly mountain biking and bouldering, as well as hiking, backpacking, and paddling. Eventually, I resigned from my position as a bike tech and became a trip leader myself, specializing in bouldering and mountain biking! By the end of my time at Outdoor Adventures, I had snowboarded the mountains of West Virginia, hiked and camped the hills of north Georgia and Tennessee, and mountain biked and climbed the fields, deserts, and canyons of Kansas, Colorado, and Utah. 

    Outdoor Adventures gave me many experiences, friendships, and memories that are unforgettable. We aren’t just an organization; we are a family. Through the trips I attended and lead, I realized not only a love for the outdoors, but acquired many physical and mental skills that I will carry for the rest of my days. Outdoor Adventures revealed to me that where there is a great risk, there is a greater reward. It pushed me out of my comfort zone to try new things and meet new people. I learned to be proactive and problem solve. We do our best at O.A. to plan for any and every circumstance, but sometimes, much like life, events happen that are out of our control, whether it be a flat tire on the trail or heavy winds and rain that collapse a tent. One of our favorite slogans at O.A. is, “embrace the suck.” This means to accept the difficult circumstances that surround you and your group, to appreciate them for what they are, do what you can to fix the problem, and press on despite how they feel and appear.  

    Skills such as replacing a flat on the trail or learning to pitch a tent may not be practical in my everyday life, but learning to endure difficult situations and continue on despite challenging circumstances are lessons that have and will serve me well, both inside and outside the wilderness.  

    Who knew that what began as a job at a bicycle shop would lead to many incredible adventures and even more incredible friends? I am forever grateful for everything I have learned and experienced at Outdoor Adventures. I don’t know who I would be without them! 

    Trey HudsonTrey Hudson is a former bicycle technician and Nature Bound trip leader for Outdoor Adventures. He has been a part of the program since 2017 and specializes in mountain biking and bouldering. Trey is a nursing student who hopes to work in the emergency department at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, GA. When he isn’t studying for an exam, you’ll find him on a bike ride or climbing. 

  • I have started writing this many times, and I have spent many hours trying to find words that would convey the significance of Outdoor Adventures (OA) in my life.  There were so many times where I typed, then immediately erased; I think I was trying too hard to make it seem big and extravagant, but really the impact Outdoor Adventures has had on my life has been so simple and beautiful.  Outdoor Adventures has blessed me with a job that I love. It has given me coworkers who have become some of my greatest friends, and bosses who encourage, teach, and challenge me more than ever. Through Outdoor Adventures, I have found a sport that I have grown to love so dearly, and a beautiful community of people who love to be outside, learn, and have fun.   
    When I was hired to work at OA and started training to be a trip leader, I hadn’t been involved except taking a top-rope belay test and spending some time belaying a friend every now and then in the Climbing Gym.  Even though I hadn’t been a part of what they were doing, I knew I wanted to be.  I was hired in late spring semester of last year, and I slowly started making my way into all that OA has to offer.  I started top-rope climbing in September 2019, but I was slowed down by the fact that I needed a belayer if I wanted to climb.  I love belaying, sometimes I wonder if I like belaying more than climbing (I don’t think so, but it’s probably close).  I love that I’m able to support someone and be there for them if they fall, and I’ve learned so much about climbing by watching so many people.  However, I always felt as if I am burdening others by needing that same support.  It took some time, and a little bit (okay, a lot) of pushing from my boss and coworkers to get me on the tower more so that I could get better.  With their constant encouragement and support, I was able to improve in my climbing, climb almost two whole grades harder, and significantly improve my endurance, within the span of about a month.  And within six months I was able to complete the 5.280 Challenge, where you log your climbs on MyClimb and attempt to climb a mile.  I know for a fact that if they hadn’t pushed me and given me the opportunity to ask for what I need, I would not have accomplished much at all. Through climbing and through experiencing so much in Outdoor Adventures, whether on a trip or in the gym, the people I get to work with have made everything so much sweeter.    

    Working at OA, I have the best of all the worlds; I work in the Climbing Gym, at the OA Desk, and I’m a Trip Leader.  I benefit from this in so many ways, but the best one of all is that I get to see all the ways that Outdoor Adventures serves our community at KSU.  Students just like me, who don’t have all the experience, but have the excitement and willingness to learn, are given an amazing opportunity to experience and grow so much.  I cannot imagine my time at KSU without Outdoor Adventures.  As soon as I walk into the Recreation Center, I know I’m home, and OA is family.  

    Student Holding Promotional TShirtRansley Cummings is a sophomore at KSU studying Leadership through the Integrative Studies Program. Ransley works at Outdoor Adventures in the Climbing Gym and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide Team leading climbing trips.  She loves climbing and hanging out with friends! Her favorite night of the week is Tuesday because the Climbing Gym hosts Try-Climb Night where she and another Climbing Gym attendant are available to belay on the tower.

  • Here’s to My Adventurous Mom

    My mom moved to Atlanta in the 80’s and quickly joined just about every outdoor club in the area. My mom knew no stranger; she was the type of person that would get the whole life story from the stranger next to her on the airplane. She eventually met her best friends in Sierra Outdoor Club. She began backpacking through the North Carolina Mountains and traveling across the country with them. My mom had an adventurous heart that never slowed down when she had children of her own. Sure, she had to slow the pace down a bit or add in a stop for ice cream, but she never hid her passion for the outdoors. My mom would sprinkle kindness anywhere imaginable. She would strike up a conversation with our campground neighbors, shuttle a hiker to the trailhead or bring dinner to nearby campers. 

    During my childhood there were no princess costumes, high heels or glitter. I walked around in hiking boots instead of high heels. At the age of 5, it appeared that my mom’s biggest concern was if I would love and appreciate being in the outdoors as much as she did. She would load up the car as often as possible and the family would head out for an adventure of some sort. My mom was persistent in getting my brother and I outdoors, even if it meant hauling our gear through the mountains when we insisted on not hiking another mile. My mom didn’t give in when my brother and I began whining or things got challenging for us, she encouraged us to do our best. Our adventures started small, weekend trips to the North Georgia mountains that soon turned into family camping trips out west and eventually into a mother and daughter 30 day road trip.  

    There is something to be said about a mother and daughter relationship that can stand the test of driving in the car for hours and days at a time. Over the span of our 30 day road trip my mom and I made some of the sweetest memories. During our trip, I quickly gathered that my mom had little to no fear in the outdoors. When it came to camping in bear country, she talked me out of tears when the bear broke into our car while we were away sleeping in the tent. As much as I was willing to empty my bank account for a hotel room safe and away from bears after the incident my mom didn’t let me back down from the challenge. Instead we traveled back to camp with a can of bear spray and a positive attitude. Because of persevering through little moments like these I learned to persevere through life when things got challenging.  

    All this to say, my mom greatly influenced my passion for adventure in the outdoors. I love getting to share my passion and sprinkle kindness in the outdoor community just as she taught me. I am forever grateful for all of the little moments, spontaneous ideas, and quality uninterrupted time I have gotten to spend in the wilderness with my mom.  

    Thanks to all the moms that put the effort into making life a fun adventure! 


    Zoe PhotoZoe Guilmette is an Outdoor Adventures Program Assistant and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide team. She has been with the program for 3 years and specializes in backpacking, whitewater kayaking and coastal kayaking trips with Outdoor Adventures. Zoe is a marketing major at KSU and hopes to work in a marketing position for an outdoor company in the future. In her free time, you can find Zoe in a coffee shop studying, riding her bike or hitting the trails. 

  • Graduating Amid a Global Pandemic

    Graduation is all about celebrating a new chapter in one’s life. Your family and friends watch you proudly walk across the stage for something you have worked very hard for. My graduation plans at the beginning of the semester were no different. My family, located halfway across the globe, were planning their trip to celebrate the occasion. I would often discuss graduation plans with my friends and peers, all of us excited and a bit anxious. Graduation in the middle of a pandemic was something no one could have predicted. Our lifestyle is not going to be the same again for a while and the sooner we accept that, the faster we can adapt to the new norm. 

    Everyone has been affected by the pandemic either directly or indirectly. It is what we make out of the situation that matters most now. In a weird way, staying at home has brought people closer together. For instance, I reconnected with friends I have not talked to in years and people checking in on each other was very heartwarming, encouraging me to do the same. One of my professors even made a group chat with a channel dedicated to sharing tips on how to stay motivated amid the pandemic. 

    Adapting to online classes was challenging at first and quite abrupt. Once I got the hang of it, creating a schedule dedicated to each task helped me stay motivated and on top of assignments. A lot of workplaces and job interviews have switched to online environments and online classes have helped students prepare for that. Collaborating with group members and completing assignments for online classes is quite similar and helpful for students who may not have taken fully online classes before.  

    With graduation coming up, I plan on celebrating it with my immediate family for now and later with friends. A group call with my family to celebrate the occasion is in order. It is not the same as my family being here, but we have to make the best of it. The extra time we now have has made this the perfect opportunity to take up new hobbies or revisit old ones. I for one got the chance to make trip plans for destinations I want to visit soon while also learning some new outdoor skills. I encourage others to do the same and use this time for personal development. Congratulations to all my fellow spring graduates and good luck with your endeavors! 

     Muhammad Profile PhotoMuhammad Bilal is a trip guide and mentor at Nature Bound, leading trips in backpacking and coastal kayaking. He enjoys photography as a hobby and uses it to bring the outdoors closer to people. He is an international student at KSU and is graduating in May with a degree in Interactive Design.  

  • Biking for a Better Future

    Bikes have come a long way since some of the early 19th-century models which used Flinstone-esque foot on the ground power to the daunting Victorian-era penny farthing models that sat you five feet in the air astride an enormous wheel. Nowadays, we’re graced with much safer bikes with chain drives and gears that allow riders to climb mountainous terrain or fly downhill on road bikes. However, I’m interested in exploring how bikes can be used casually, for our physical and financial well-being, and to play a part in benefiting the world around us. Have you ever ridden your bike to school, work, or maybe the store? It might sound like a neat idea, but perhaps you have never done it or ever really considered it; after all, it adds extra time to your commute, takes energy, and not to mention usually ends with sweat, and nobody wants to deal with those consequences. But I want to go over the advantages of taking the long road.  
    Biking is of course a great way to get yourself in better shape. A half hour ride can burn up to a few hundred calories while simultaneously being easy on the joints in your legs. Your overall stamina improves over time, making each commute easier while helping you out with all other areas of your life because of an increased level of fitness. For many, it’s also a leisure activity, reducing stress and improving mood. Dual purposing this leisure to replace your typical car ride allows you to avoid traffic, exchanging the view of a rear bumper with “My child is an honor student…” for wind on your back and free exercise. You might even find that you enjoy getting to plan your route ahead of time and mix it up to your liking, adding another layer of excitement while you reap the benefits over time of self-powering yourself to your destination. Your daily trip to the store can become an adventure in its own as you figure out the best way to go about getting all your goods in one trip. 
    There are also numerous financial benefits to your ride. For each mile you ride your bike, you are saving money against gas and regular wear and tear/maintenance on your vehicle. 57.5 cents per mile is the current cost of driving according to the IRS 2020 standard mileage rates. It sounds small, but I want to urge the savings potential by using the distance it takes me to drive to campus as an example: 
    Driving, at the least, is a 15-mile round trip for me. 15mi x 57.5 cents/mi means $8.63 in savings every time I bike to and from campus. 
    If I bike to campus four days a week in the fall semester, I will save $550 that semester in driving costs. If I were also biking to work on weekends, twice a week for the same distance, I save $830. Over the summer, biking to work several days a week, the savings could tip over $1,600 for the whole year just from riding the bike to work and school in place of the car. 
    Moreover, after five years, there is potential for $8,000 in savings. If you invest that money, then money saved will turn in to money earned that is well above the original 57.5 cents per mile.  Even biking just twice a week means half of the benefits, which still comes out to a nice $4,000.  

    Georgia itself is in on the savings as well; Georgia Commute Options has an incentive program called “Gimme Five”, in which you can earn up to $150, $5 a day, for taking an alternate commuting option. Think about that the next time you question riding your bike somewhere.  
    Finally, as it is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s also highlight the green impact bikes incur. Fewer cars on the road means fewer emissions, reducing the detrimental effects of carbon pollution such as temperature change or the change in acidity of environments in our oceans, lakes, and rivers. These changes might not have an instant effect, but they can set in motion a long line of indirect changes that find their way to back to us. Businesses for instance have to reach further into existing habitats to keep attaining resources that are diminishing because of environmental changes. Goods may become scarcer, and prices will gradually rise. Businesses then must move to exploit another teeming source of raw goods in order to offer a cheaper product and to have a competitive edge, further upsetting critical aspects of another local environment. All areas of the world rely on sensitive, particular relationships between different animal and plant species. The endangerment of these species due to environmental changes or habitat destruction can wipe out some resources for good. This is but one example of many changes that go on that we aren’t immediately aware of and that build up over time to create big problems. If you can play a part in curbing these effects, then why not? Bike to champion the parts of our lives that we enjoy every day, from our favorite outdoor areas to the food on our table.  
    It’s a lot to consider, but in short, you should feel great every time you decide to ride your bike. It does not need to be done every day or every time you go out—it’s just a great habit to pick up and challenge yourself to do once or twice a week to start. The bike ride may take more time, but for twenty or thirty minutes of your time you get a lot of value that you didn’t have before. One day, you may find yourself in an opportune position where biking to places you frequently drive to is realistic (anything below 10 miles is more than feasible), and you can jump on that opportunity and enjoy the physical, financial, and environmental benefits you create from such a simple choice. 

    Matt Klinger Profile PhotoMatt Klinger joined Outdoor Adventures in 2019 to become a trip leader and to learn about outdoor pursuits, since focusing on ventures in mountain biking and bouldering. He also greatly enjoys playing music and wants to work with an outdoor or music entertainment organization in the future.

  • Intentional Acts of Kindness

    As the world navigates its way through this current situation, it is easy to focus on all the bad that our media throws at us. We get pulled into this sense of gloom and doom and forget that there is still a lot of good going on despite what is happening. If there is one positive from all this, it’s that we have been given an opportunity to be better people. We have been put into a situation that will allow humanity to shine through the gloom and doom. I have seen people step up to take care of people in need. I’ve seen people looking out for those around them that are struggling. I’ve seen people become closer to each other and put trivial disputes behind them for the sake of fostering a valuable relationship.  

    My name is Ed and I work in Outdoor Adventures. I make a living inspiring people to get outside, be healthy, and above all to foster an appreciation for the diversity of this world we live in. I get to wake up every day and go to a job that I love. It’s easy for me to go to work and mentor future generations to love as I have loved. But that doesn’t happen for everyone. A lot of people struggle to be happy; they struggle to find the joy of life outside or joy in general. Our current situation has enabled many people to find joy in different ways. That’s where you come in.  

    You have an opportunity to help someone find joy again. Whether that is helping someone find a passion for going outside and finding that incredible mountain vista, or just connecting with them through a video chat, or helping them to acquire things that are needed. Sometimes people just need to know that someone cares enough to reach out to them. There are so many ways with today’s technology to show people love. That is, if you have access to that technology.  

    My wife is a fifth-grade teacher and has had to adapt considerably to be able to teach remotely. Most of her students can participate in virtual programs of some sort. But there some who just do not have access to the technology that is needed to do so. She reached out on her social media outlets with a need for devices that these less fortunate students could use. One of her gym friends donated an i-Pad. She was able pass on to one her students on his birthday of all days. This incredible gift is absolutely going to change this boy’s life. The gesture alone can impact him greatly. Maybe he will be inspired to pay it forward when he has the opportunity. 

    I keep hearing people say, “We’re all in this together” and it’s true. We have an opportunity to change the face of this planet forever. I’d like to challenge you to look for those opportunities to change the world. They’re all around you. Pay it forward and sit back and see what the world becomes. 

    Ed Baltes Riding BicycleEd Baltes in the Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventures in Sports and Recreation. He has been with KSU for 14 years and overseeing the Outdoor Adventures Bike Shop for 10. He is an avid cyclist, mechanic, and artist who enjoys spending time with his wife of 28 years. 

  • Mindfulness and Hiking

    In these times of uncertainty, I find it easy to be distracted with fear of the unknown and the new challenges that are being placed in front of us. I imagine this a recurring theme for most people living in today’s world as we travel through these uncharted territories together. Although there is unpredictability surrounding many situations, we can still find stillness in the midst of this storm.

    Mindfulness is the act of focusing on the moment and being intentional and attentive in what we are doing. This can be done through meditation, becoming aware of one’s breathing, noticing the color of items around us, and focusing on bodily sensations just to name a few techniques. Many folks practice mindfulness meditation which tends to have a focus on breath work and kindly accepting thoughts that pass throughout the practice. This is a great way to get into the practice while at home, but we can also take our practice of mindfulness into the great outdoors! (Or at least our backyard for now.)

    As one of my professors used to say, “Relaxation takes practice.” At first this seemed to be an arbitrary statement, but I soon realized that she was right. It is sometimes difficult to truly relax. We are jumbled by thoughts of “What’s for dinner?” and “When is that paper due?” which makes it difficult to slow down occasionally. However, practicing awareness of the present moment allows us to appreciate the space we are in, the front porch we are hanging out on, or the unpopulated trail we are enjoying.

    Here a few ways to practice mindfulness while hiking or taking a stroll through your neighborhood:

    1. Try a body scan where you check in with how you feel during your walk.

    • How do my feet feel? Can I feel the rocks under my shoes, or can I feel the pressure of my boots?
    • How are my ankles and calves feeling? Are they sore from walking a few miles, or do they feel fresh and ready for the day?
    • How are my knees doing? Do they feel stiff? Should I step more lightly to protect them? Am I comfortable?
    • Continue scanning upward to become aware of your body’s sensations during the walk.

    2. Focus on your breathing during the hike. Note when you inhale and exhale or hold the breath.

    • I like to add phrases on each inhalation and exhalation. A personal favorite phrase right now is: Inhale/ “Uncertainty is normal,” Exhale/ “But I am certainly okay.” This helps me to feel more secure and in tune with the moment rather than focusing on things I cannot control. You can simply bring your attention to the breath or create your own phrases that help you.

    3. Play in the dirt! Another way to become present is to immerse yourself into the moment.

    • This could mean walking barefoot in a field or your backyard to ground yourself and feel the earth beneath your feet. Run your hands through the water or touch the trees as you walk past them. Gaze at the stars or watch the clouds as they pass by above. Playing in the dirt quite literally could be a mindfulness practice because we slow down to appreciate our surroundings.

    I hope that everyone is staying healthy, and I hope that some of these mindfulness techniques can help bring some stillness into your life. Happy trails!

    Amelia Headshot

    Amelia Reynolds is a Nature Bound trip guide for hiking and backpacking trips. She is also a senior psychology major with a concentration in sociology. A few of her passions include sustainability, mental health awareness, and getting outside

  • Magical Moments with Outdoor Adventures

    First day of freshman year I wandered into the Outdoor Adventures Suite for my first day of work. It may have been the shiny red whitewater kayaks hanging from the rafters, the tarps blowing in the wind drying out from the last trip; it might have been the conversations of trip leaders buzzing around, in the midst of the chaos-- I felt at home. Except this time, home wasn’t the dusty bikes and kayaks in my parents' garage or my mom running around planning camping meals for the upcoming family trip. This time it was college students learning to navigate and appreciate the great outdoors in their own individual ways. I was in awe. Little did I know the adventure ahead of me was going to be much more than just weekend backpacking trips.  

    My name is Zoe Guilmette, I am the Outdoor Adventures Program Assistant and a Nature Bound Trip Guide. My journey with Outdoor Adventures all began working as a desk attendant in the Fall of 2017.  It only took a few months for me to be all-in and to give trip guiding a shot. I proceeded to spend almost every week of college in the Outdoor Adventures Suite—it became my second home. I loved the atmosphere; working at the desk I would hear about patrons new climbing projects or new trail discoveries; out in the field I would have the ability to challenge myself mentally and physically with trip leading. Every few months it felt like new levels of confidence were unlocking within me. I was trying and expanding my knowledge with things I would have never imagined myself getting to do. I was getting to share my passion for the outdoors in hopes that beginners would get to experience a little bit of the outdoor magic. One month I dipped my toe in the water with white water kayaking and then found myself in a Level 3 American Canoe Association River Safety course. The next month, I decided to ride a bike for the first time in forever and found myself registering for my first triathlon. Outdoor Adventures was my gateway to creating magical moments in my life. 

    In December of 2018, I had the opportunity to co-lead a canoe and camp trip down the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park. 11 people and 4 days in the backcountry.  We had campfire conversations that lasted until late in the night and during the day we sang on the river to pass the time as we paddled almost 30 miles. The trip of a lifetime came and went in a flash. 

    Spring of 2019 I took a semester off to fulfill my dream of living and working at Walt Disney World through the Disney College Program.  A few months after the trip while ‘making magic’ at Disney World, I began to think about what a magical moment looked like outside of castles and characters. I immediately thought of the last night we spent on the Rio Grande. Thousands of miles away from Kennesaw and hundreds of miles away from full cell service yet, I had never felt so connected to the people around me and content with life. Even though the night was full of laughter and campfire convos, I had never experienced a quiet and peace like I did that night. Everything was so surreal, and everyone was so present in the moment. The humbling canyon walls hanging over us, the memories unfolding right in front of me, the five-star dinner we had worked so hard to cook were all forming a magical moment. These are just a few of the  priceless magical moments that allow me to ‘catch my breath’ with life and keep me coming back to find new adventures. 

     Zoe Headshot imageZoe Guilmette is an Outdoor Adventures Program Assistant and is a part of the Nature Bound Trip Guide team. She has been with the program for 3 years and specializes in backpacking, whitewater kayaking and coastal kayaking trips with Outdoor Adventures. Zoe is a marketing major at KSU and hopes to work in a marketing position for an outdoor company in the future. In her free time, you can find Zoe in a coffee shop studying, riding her bike or hitting the trails.


  • The Wilderness

    People often go to the wilderness to get away, to find solace, a place to retreat, get centered and reset. What is it about the wilderness that provides this? Maybe it’s the thrill of getting lost—at least losing track of time. Maybe it’s the sense of pride you feel when you do hard things with your hands like building fires, setting up camp, or pumping water.

    For me, I didn’t grow up camping. I played in the woods like any good 80’s kid did. I had a creek behind my house. In the woods beside the creek is where you could find my brother and me pretty much every afternoon-- year round. I rediscovered my love for the woods in college when I found my major of Outdoor Education and Psychology at Georgia College and State University. I learned both technical skills and interpersonal skills to teach me the ways of the wilderness as well as the ways of group management. During this time, I reconnected to the sense of adventure I experienced as a kid in the backyard. It quickly became my livelihood.

    I worked at a therapeutic wilderness program for nearly 4 years after college. While there, I learned that sometimes people go to the wilderness to find healing as well. Adolescents in this program were there to work on themselves, their addictions, relationships, and communication. Why the wilderness? Because there are less distractions. It’s a place that challenges you every day and you have to work to take care of yourself. They were each responsible for the setup of their sleeping tarp and cooking their own meals. The wilderness is a place where if you get wet or cold you can get ill—you have to be proactive. These experiences teach people countless lessons that may seem basic.

    Over the last 10 years while working at KSU, I’ve become an avid distance runner. I am now married and I have a young son. Getting into the wilderness doesn’t happen as often for me these days. But running brings me solace. It allows me to challenge myself both physically and mentally. It allows for me to adventure into new areas, to find new trails or roads to explore. It brings a different kind of adventure but adventure nonetheless.

    But here we are. Currently we are in our own kind of “wilderness.” I want to challenge you to find solace during this time. In isolation, slowing down, finding new hobbies and ways to occupy our time. I want to challenge you to be still in this “wilderness.” Do things that make you think critically and find ways to be calm. On a warm day, walk outside and feel the sun on your face. Take deep breaths. Sit in the grass if you can. Go for a walk or a run or a bike ride.

    I challenge each of you to lose track of time. Stop counting the days and start living these days. We won’t be in this “wilderness” for very long. And soon, we may not have this time to be centered or to reset. Embrace the fact that your haircut isn’t going to last and we are all going to look a little ragged when we come out on the other side. But don’t we look that way anyway after a trip into the wilderness? Be safe, and find your adventure.

    During this 'wilderness' join Sports and Recreation as we provide all types of virtual programs. 

    Sandefur Porter headshotSandefur Porter is the Director of Outdoor Adventures, Marketing and Memberships within the Department of Sports and Recreation. She’s been overseeing Outdoor Adventure programs at KSU for 10 years. Sandefur loves spending time running, with family and exploring the outdoors.