by Karlyn Hunt, staff writer
Walking past Gladfelter any day during lunch, students are likely to see the Outdoor Programs Crew advertising the expected events: kayaking, climbing, backpacking, and canoeing. But people might not expect to hear about a trip to practice yoga in the woods.
This year the crew is branching out from the conventional outdoor adventures and putting a new spin on their schedule. Crewmember J.B. Hardin says the crew wants serve the diverse interests of the Wilson community.
“We’re trying to attract a broader audience. One of the things we found last year was that the same people were coming over and over again. We really want to appeal to more people.”
The crew kicked off the school year by facilitating a unique class project in which three first year seminars dropped students off a mile or so away from campus and instructed them to navigate their ways back to Wilson. Outdoor Programs provided maps and drop off locations for the seminars.
Collaborating with classes is not the only new feature of this year’s outdoor activities. Crewmember Chrissy Cochran is inspired to lead trips that couple outdoor activity with spiritual focus. She is currently planning a spiritual backpacking trip to Hot Springs, NC, after leading a similar trip last year that was the only backpacking trip with a full student turn out. Students will hike to bathe in healing mineral water and practice yoga in the woods.
Cochran is also leading a trip unlike anything the crew has previously organized. Students will be gem mining at a Ray Mica Mine in Yancey County to collect mica (the mineral that makes the ground sparkle on campus) along with other crystals. She hopes the trips will function as a forum for discussions about spirituality and the outdoor experience.
“I thought of doing something with a different twist, because a lot of the activities like climbing and rafting are about improving hard or technical skills, but it’s just as important to work on your soft skills and communication.”