Outdoor Adventures reconnects students with nature
Imagine meeting a group of nine strangers and minutes later getting into a van and spending over eight hours traveling with them.
This is a common introductory experience for those attending the CSUN Outdoor Adventures trip.
Though they offer a pre-trip meeting, many students are meeting their travel buddies for the first time the day they leave for their trip. Over the hours spent traveling, they become familiar with their group and the excitement builds for the upcoming adventure.
This particular eight-hour drive was to the geological wonder of Zion National Park in Utah over Thanksgiving break.
Trips such as this one are offered by Outdoor Adventures throughout the semester and reunite attendees with the natural world around them. They allow students, alumni and staff to take a break from the technology obsessed urban setting of the city.
Peter Chagnon, a CTVA film production major and the primary guide during the trip, has been working with Outdoor Adventures for over three years.
“It’s a really great program because we’re exposing people that may not be used to going outside or the outdoors and we’re making it accessible and affordable to them,” Chagnon said.
Prior to this experience, he said that he had done very little hiking and camping. Now Chagnon guides participants through various outdoor experiences from day trips to weekend excursions like Zion.
Outdoor Adventures has been on campus since 2008, when Tim Szczepanski started the program as a graduate student.
After graduating from CSUN in 2010 with his masters in recreation and tourism, he applied to turn his creation into a career.
In the beginning, the program only offered about four trips a semester because of a lack of general funding, according to Szczepanski. Now with funding and support from Associated Students, there are various adventures offered every semester. These trips range from camping in the Lasson National Park, backpacking in Death Vallye and kayaking in the Eastern Sierra.
Szczepanski, a self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, admits to spending around 40 hours a week in front of a computer. He says that for people in this day and age, it is important to get away from this and enjoy open spaces and separation from technology.
“We live in such a technology driven world where we can never turn our cell phones off,” Szczepanski said.
He said these trips offer participants a chance to “unplug and realize that you don’t need an alarm to get up, you can get up whenever you want, you can relax.”
Beverlin Nakato, a public health major has been on several Outdoor Adventure trips but wanted to depart on the Zion trip in order to experience something new and travel outside of California.
“Since the Outdoor Adventure club had a trip, I figured why not go to Zion and get out of my comfort zone, since I don’t like the cold,” Nakato said.
The morning after Thanksgiving, the group woke up at 7 a.m. and headed out for Angels Landing, a hiking staple for any visitor of the park who is willing to make the steep trek.
In 2.6 miles, this hike climbs over 1,400 feet above the Red Wall Canyon of Zion. After an initial destination with a subtly frightening drop, one is faced with a second climb up a narrow freestanding cliff to the peak of the landing.
The trail offers chains for hikers to grasp onto while climbing the steep steps up to the peak. For those with a fear of heights, this hike would be far out of your comfort zone.
Szczepanski said the affordable pricing of the trips make them generally accessible to most students.
“The money that you’re going to pay for that experience is really just a drop in the bucket for the experience that you’re going to receive,” he said. “You can spend $150 on a weekend going to the movies and eating out just as easily as going and seeing Zion and seeing these amazing rock formations and beautiful waterfalls.”
Though the primary function of these excursions are to explore the great outdoors, students walk away with different experiences and pick up survival, hiking and camping skills.
These trips can leave one with a greater sense of self-awareness, or even a feeling that a cell phone does not have to be at the center of your everyday existence.