Courtesy of the OAC
Ohio State’s Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) might be in the Adventure Recreation Center (ARC), which is known for its indoor rock walls and playing fields, but rather than being limited to this facility, the OAC ventures into the nation’s wild treasures.
The OAC is a Recreational Sports program that extends beyond the traditional gym setting. It routinely leads spelunking, camping, backpacking, kayaking, dog sledding, ice climbing, rock climbing, scuba diving and canoeing trips to places including Florida’s Everglades National Park and California’s Joshua Tree National Park. It also hosts clinics where students can learn kayak rolls, repelling, belaying and climbing-specific workouts.
I participated in one of the facility’s 10,000 Islands Kayaking Trip this winter and can personally attest to the outstanding aspects of the program.
The OAC opened in September 2004, and through 2011, attendance on these trips has grown tremendously.
David Denny, who I met initially on the trip, is the OAC’s outdoor adventure coordinator and was willing to provide details about the center. He attributes OAC’s growth to the increased outreach toward the broader university community.
“We worked with the Honors and Scholars Program, Young Scholars Program, Counseling Center, Stadium Scholars, Men’s Swim Team, ENR Scholars, to partner and offer trips for targeted groups of individuals,” he said.
The Honors and Scholars Freshman Wilderness Orientation program took freshmen backpacking through the Adirondacks as an alternative orientation experience.
Rebecca Weisshaar, a first-year in psychology, participated in an OAC trip that was different than the one I went on. She said she intends to go camping again and participate in more of the OAC’s trips.
“The trip was really intense for the first two or three days,” she said. “We were doing close to eight miles every day. That’s almost six hours every day with our backpacks that weighed close to 20 pounds.”
Having never even camped before, Weisshaar said she remembers the trip as an extreme but worthwhile challenge.
“It really pushes you and lets you push your limits as a person, mentally and physically,” she said. “It was really worth it.”
She would not be alone among first-time participants who return to the OAC, either as program participants or as staffed trip leaders. Many join the OAC staff as year-round employees.
Nicole Fink, a third-year in industrial and systems engineering, joined the OAC her first year and is now the outreach manager for the center. Although she said she has never considered herself “the outdoorsy type” and has only been on one trip, she said working at the OAC constantly renews her knowledge and appreciation of the outdoors.
“The staff at the OAC try to make everything a learning experience,” she said. “When people are out of their element on a trip or climbing at the OAC, we try to make them feel comfortable. I’ve talked to so many people before and after trips and their views about the outdoors are completely changed. When they get back they are ready to go back outdoors and do it again.”
David Winterstein, a second-year in industrial and systems engineering, was the student leader on this winter’s kayaking trip. After re-connecting with him this quarter, he told me that he’s participated in 10-15 trips. During the trip, and once on land, he attests to this growth first-hand through his role as a trip-leader and clinic instructor.
“The outdoors brings out a side of human nature that is hard to see when racing to class because you’re late for a midterm,” he said. “Much of our focus on OAC trips deals with personal development.”
Winterstein said one of his favorite memories is of the kayaking trip through the Everglades I went on. He said the star-gazing was something no “planetarium could ever simulate.”
The center is working to add white water rafting, international trips and mountain biking next year, while introducing caving and kayaking clinics this year.
In the end, these life-changing trips have helped form who I am today, and I would recommend at least one during your time at OSU.