Among the sweaty commotion of gym-goers pumping iron or running to their Calorie Killer class of the White Building, you can find a group of people who are having fun in their office or out on the trails. Working in an office with intricate rope lines hanging from the ceiling, the staff of Penn State’s Adventure Recreation Center (ARC) is there to help you, the students, get more out of Pennsylvania’s outdoors.
The Adventure Recreation program, which started in 2006, primarily focuses on giving the students a yearlong schedule of outdoor trips throughout Pennsylvania and the eastern United States.
“Since the inception of the program, we have seen a steady progression of trips offered,” said Erin Johnson, one of the staff guides. Adventure Recreation is offering 22 trips for the fall 2014 semester and 22 trips for the spring 2015 semester. Typically, the program has four to eight trips during the summer as well as a Spring Break trip.
As far as the actual trips go, the program staff tries to hit all of the outdoor disciplines. The range of trips seems endless: paddling sports, like canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding; caving; camping; mountain biking; scuba diving; white-water rafting, and many more. The outings also vary with the seasons, so you can expect to see cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or even ice fishing on the trip itineraries.
But don’t freak out if you’ve never done anything like this before and still want to try it!
“All of our trips are beginner level, so we often have participants who have never worn a hiking backpack or have never been on a boat,” said Christina Spohn, explaining how the program is one of the easiest ways to get outside. “We also have a really diverse population: from freshmen to graduate students, from tons of different places and backgrounds. It’s awesome to bring everyone together, outside.”
Spohn has been a guide for the Adventure Recreation program for two years, and recently became its Program Intern. The guides plan the trips completely, responsible for planning itineraries and menus, teaching the skills needed for the trips and hosting pre-trip meetings for the participants. As the Program Intern, Spohn is more involved with office tasks like training new guides, marketing events and keeping inventory of the gear.
Beyond just trip activities, the Adventure Recreation program is completely geared toward helping people learn about outdoor recreation and introducing them to different outdoor disciplines. The ARC offers full gear rental for any backpacking or boating need and also has an in-house outdoor recreation library that students can use to plan their own trips. If planning your own trip, the outdoorsy staff is more than willing to give advice with anything, ranging from location, technical, gear or even menu planning advice.
But the ease and the fun of the program don’t end there. Student prices for trips are hugely discounted because of UPAC funding, with all trips under $50. If one of the trips listed on its website sounds interesting to you, students can easily sign up at the ARC in the White Building with their Penn State ID, their insurance information and the trip fee.
Some of the most popular trips fill up fast, though, like the white-water rapids Upper Youghiogheny River trip, which filled up in about a half hour on opening day. All of the trips have something different to offer to the participants, Spohn points out, with climbing bringing challenges and ensuing successes, backpacking as bonding a group of people together and fly-fishing as a relaxing experience on the river.
“I love taking people caving. It’s a really out-of-the-ordinary experience and sometimes emotionally tough for some people to do,” said guide Johnson, on one of the popular trip activities. “It has some physical challenges so it’s one of my favorites.”