Located at the Virgil Henson Activities Center on the campus of West Texas A&M, the Office of Recreational Sports houses more than just intramurals and oversight of the amenities that the building provides.
WTAMU Outdoor Pursuits is a program dedicated to teaching environmental ethics, technical outdoor skills, safety, judgment and leadership on extended outdoor expeditions and other outdoor experiences.
In short, Outdoor Pursuits enables students to go on extended trips away from campus while teaching and demonstrating the ethics of “Leave No Trace”. The principles of Leave No Trace entail that those who venture into national parks and other public lands act accordingly to preserve the long term health of these areas for prosperity.
“It was awesome,” Jeff Hearn, a senior in business communications, said of his experience with Outdoor Pursuits. Hearn participated in a skiing trip at Ruidoso, N.M. in late 2013.
Along with organizing such trips to the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma for basic rock climbing from April 11 through April 13 to prepping for their big Grand Canyon Expedition from May 16 through May 20.
“The Grand Canyon is quite an adventure,” Bill Banks, the Assistant Director of Recreational Sports said. “It is one of our largest trips, it’s a five day-four night trip. We don’t necessarily have a set schedule. It depends upon our participants, if they been to the Grand Canyon, we try to take them a different route then what we’ve been before. If there are new students, we will not only go to the Grand Canyon, we will also go hike up Humphries Peak, which is the tallest mountain in Arizona.”
Humphries Peak is located 11 miles north of Flagstaff, Ariz. and is part of the San Francisco Peaks.
According to Banks, the students who do take the road trip to the Grand Canyon have to sit through a couple of meetings. The meetings, Banks said, give students a tentative itinerary along with outlining the health issues and what students can expect from hiking the Grand Canyon.
Banks also points out that the Outdoor Pursuits program is funded by the Recreational Sports department, though students paying the registration fees are essentially taking care of transportation and food consumed on the trip.
“It’s actually student driven,” Banks said. “Because after each trip, the students have to fill out an evaluation. A question on that evaluation is ‘what other activities would you like to see us do?’ For instance, we had a student a few years ago suggest that we’d go visit some national parks.”
Banks also speaks of the other trips that Outdoor Pursuits will partake in the near future.
“We are also taking some private trips, such as taking a group of graduate students to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, outside of Red River, in June,” Banks said. “We’re also taking a trip in June where we are going whitewater rafting, at Telluride, Colo. The main reason why we going is that it’s free.”
For those who have to stick around Canyon during the summer, Outdoor Pursuits assembled two trips to Colorado. In June, the program plans to go whitewater rafting near Telluride, Colo. and a hiking trip to Mt. Elbert. Telluride hosts the only free scenic gondola in the United States while Mt. Elbert is Colorado’s tallest mountain peak.
“Sometimes for the college student, the academic weight gets a little bit heavy and are just ready to get out of town,” Banks said.
Outdoor Pursuits provides equipment rentals and guidance to those who want to create their own camping trips. They also suggest on which trails to ride on and which trails to avoid. This is mostly due to the conditions of some trails that take a toll on one’s body and their bike.
Along with conducting these trips and providing equipment, students on campus who ride bikes are encouraged to come to Outdoor Pursuits should they have issues with the self-powered form of transportation.
“We will change flats and if students have any type of gear issues, we’ll take a look at them,” Banks said. “In addition to our bikes, we also make sure that everyone has a helmet. We don’t charge for helmets.”