by Sarah Leichty
“Why did I agree to do this?” My toes and fingers feel like frozen hotdogs: cold and clumsy. I’m huddled next to a small fire in the midst of Arkansas on the Ozark Highland Trail with a long night of cursing the cold and shivering ahead of me. While this moment during a backpacking trip I took with the Iowa State Outdoor Recreation Program doesn’t sound enjoyable or even bearable, I had no idea how fondly I would regard that experience after returning to Iowa. After suffering through the chilly night, my backpacking group and I woke up to a beautiful sunrise, brisk temperatures, and amazing views. I got a strange and incredible sense of satisfaction from roughing it in the woods with ten other Iowa State students, especially after purifying our drinking water and digging holes for our bathroom needs. Apart from the inspiring views of wilderness in its purest form, I met unique and diverse individuals as excited to get outdoors and experience new things as I am.
These trips also provide great contemplative pictures that capture how much you have grown as a person while becoming one with the mountain (as I’m clearly doing in the picture on the right).
The Outdoor Recreation Program at Iowa State provides affordable and easy access to outdoor recreation trips involving activities such as camping, climbing, or kayaking. A cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trip to Colorado would usually cost a boatload in just gas money alone. I ended up paying $226 for a trip with food, equipment, dishes, transportation, and lodging included. I didn’t have to plan a single thing either; I just showed up at the departure time and the group leaders whisked us away to a yurt in the remote Colorado landscape (as seen in the picture below).
Notice that I’m holding a snickers bar in my hand with picturesque mountains in the background. How much better could life get?
If you’re not ready to commit to an extended trip, there are plenty of workshops and weekend trips that will still give you an unforgettable experience. Ice climbing in Minnesota? Yes please. Backpacking in Georgia? That sounds like a dream. Canoeing in Utah? On my bucket list. As Iowa State students, we even get a pass-holders discount which is even cheaper than the already low price! Seeing as we’re funding these trips with our tuition dollars, it seems like a crime to not take advantage of them. Meet new friends, commune with nature, and discover something new about yourself. Adventure is out there!!!