39 Outside Guides to Plan Your Subsequent Journey

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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, TJ Beezley, Outdoor Adventures’ Duke Recreation & Physical Education coordinator, was one of the many Duke employees who were quarantined at home.

With Duke Rec’s hiking, paddling, and mountain biking trips suspended, many homebound community members were suddenly turning to the great outdoors for fun.

Then Beezley had an idea.

With lots of firsthand experience planning trips to local parks and natural areas, she found it helpful to share her knowledge with up-and-coming outdoor enthusiasts at Duke and beyond. The result is the collection of outdoor travel plans for Duke students, faculty and staff.

“Nature was where people could go and feel safe,” Beezley said. “I would ask colleagues to ask me which areas I could recommend for hiking or for taking their dogs. So I thought of creating a resource for people, not just at Duke, but anyone who wants to learn more about the area.”

According to a Penn State study, nearly half of American adults now engage in outdoor recreation at least once a month, with about 20 percent adopting this behavior during the pandemic.

In the summer of 2020, a Beezley working remotely began collating information from firsthand experience and online sources about local hiking and camping destinations like Eno River State Park, Duke Forest and Jordan Lake. She then enlisted the help of Duke Rec’s marketing team to design user-friendly documents that can be downloaded.

With the first release in autumn 2020, the collection grew over the next year.

“I started with my own personal experiences of places I’ve visited and enjoyed,” Beezley said. “But I also found it an opportunity to explore new areas. Doing this research, finding new areas and then going there yourself to explore was really fun.”

In addition to maps, driving directions, and descriptions of hikes, paddle boards, and campsites, the guides also provide helpful information about facilities, fees, and resources that are available in the event of an emergency.

“I wanted information for people who might be new to the outdoors and want to make sure they are comfortable and safe, or someone who might have been in the area for a while and just want a new place, a new place or want to try a new activity,” Beezley said.

All told, there are 39 plans for backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, and paddling at area locations like Falls Lake, Raven Rock State Park, West Point on the Eno, and more.

“I love Durham, it’s a great area,” she said. “But if you have the opportunity to drive a few hours, you can be in the mountains, you can be on the beach. There are many options locally, in our backyard and just down the street.”

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