Spending spring break within the outside – Whitman Wire

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Ella Hill is experiencing spring break with the outdoor program. Contributed photo by Ella Hill.

The Outdoor Program (OP) conducted four different outdoor tours over the course of the first week of spring break for the first time since 2019.

The trips took place primarily in Utah, including backpacking in Cedar Mesa and canoeing on the Green River. There were also two Sports Studies, Recreation and Athletics (SSRA) trips, including an Outdoor Leadership trip to Robber’s Roost Canyonlands and another SSRA Canoe Guide Leadership class trip to Green River, Utah.

Stuart Chapin, Assistant Director of Outdoor Programs and Senior Adjunct Instructor of Sport Studies, expressed his excitement at leading the SSRA Outdoor Leadership class trip to the southern Utah desert to explore the Robber’s Roost Canyon network, where students spent six days backpacked through gorges and over plateaus.

“For me as an instructor, the goals of the journey were for the students to learn, grow and have fun. There were a lot of moments where I could actually see a lightbulb popping up on their heads where they were like, ‘Oh, I see, that’s how this card works,'” Chapin said. “The students in this class spend the whole semester preparing to guide trips in the future and we have a lot of tour guides who work really hard learning first aid skills and learning different outdoor skills so that they can share that with other students.”

First grader Angel Yiu was among the students enrolled in the SSRA Outdoor Leadership class trip. She described exploring the slopes and canyons as fun and adventurous as it allowed her to abseil her fear of heights. She is interested in outreach projects to spread the word about the outdoor program.

Yiu spoke about the value of participating in the OP trips as a way to explore new hobbies, make new friends, and have a chance to test your limits.

“It’s such a good way to explore Walla Walla or the surrounding towns because when you’re stuck on campus it just feels like you’re so trapped in that one place. But on the OP trips you have places to see. It’s also fun because you meet new people,” Yiu said.

First year Luke Brennan was a participant on the same trip. For him it was a “magical” encounter.

“We arrived in the dark and had no idea what the surroundings were like. There was a sunrise in the morning and there were these huge mountains with frozen peaks behind us and in front of us were all the gorges we wanted to descend to… It was a magical experience as we were the only ones out there,” Brennan said.

Whitties Camp in Cedar Mesa. Contributed photo by Ella Hill.

The outdoors has become an important part of Brennan’s college experience, and he hopes to encourage more people to explore nature to connect with something bigger than themselves.

“For me, what I want to say to people about nature is that it’s not about the harsh conditions, it’s about distancing yourself from what’s normal… There’s less distraction and less responsibility to conform to that image that comes with society . You just wake up and you don’t care because you’re out there to experience life as it was meant to be,” Brennan said.

For Senior Noah Willis, Executive Director of the Cedar Mesa Canyonlands backpacking trip, this was a long-awaited trip that he has been keen to lead since 2020.

“It was a great group of participants. I really enjoyed it,” Willis said. “We had a group of people [for whom] It was their first backpacking trip and they all enjoyed it… I’m very glad they did it,” Willis said.

Junior Ella Hill participated in the Spring Break OP trips as co-leader of the Cedar Mesa trip, which was the longest journey she has led in her time as OP student leader. Though initially nervous, she described the experience as something special.

“Last night was one of my fondest memories. We lay down under the stars; Neither of us used our tents that night. We all just lay down and chatted and laughed and looked at the stars, all in a row. It was really fun and we celebrated the friendships we made,” Hill said.

Hill hopes more students will continue to take part in the surgical trips and that people will love being in nature as much as she does.

“Go out and try it. Go out and have that experience. Everyone, the students and the leaders are there to support you… We are all there to support you and make sure you have a good time and experience,” Hill said.

Outdoor program staff and student leaders continue to work to ensure students share their passion for the outdoors, connect with their peers, develop leadership skills and most importantly, Whitman College students enjoy the outdoors. If you are interested in participating in the upcoming surgical trips, visit the official website of the outdoor program at https://www.whitman.edu/campus-life/outdoor-program provides information on upcoming trips, events, and resources for outdoor activities.