Outdoor Adventures Blog

Landscape photos of trees and a sunset

Leadership from the Trails to the Emergency Room   

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.

Woman with 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.

Nurse 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 Pownall

During 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. 

 

Archived Posts:

  • 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

    Eno:  
    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.  

    Buff:  
    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.

    Coffee: 
    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. 

 

 

 

©