Monday, September 26, 2011

Sharks, Shores, Smiles, Sunshine

SHARKS!  As well all know, this has been a buzzword around San Diego and USD for a couple of months now.  With recent the Great White sightings at Mission Beach and in La Jolla, who would think that anyone would dare to venture into the coast?  The answer to that question is undoubtedly Outdoor Adventures.

Students paddling through the surf!
Two weekends ago, Outdoor Adventures set out to La Jolla Shores with the Freshman Honors Living Learning Community (LLC), the Women’s Center, and the United Front and Multicultural Center (UFMC) for an off-campus afternoon explore the Pacific Ocean.  Groups of students were taken on kayak tours of La Jolla complete with Leopard Shark sightings, a view of the seven sea caves, a few splashes here and there, and a chance to paddle and kayak surf the beautiful waves.  Other groups got an up close and personal view of the Leopard Sharks, skates, and stingrays with their snorkel, mask, and fins!  While some explored the surf, others showed their athletic talents playing Frisbee and volleyball, while others got that San Diego tan they have been dreaming of for months.  With fully trained adventure guides and all the right equipment, trips like this are hard to beat.

USD Women's Center
This outing is a prime example of the adventures the Outdoor Adventures office offers right on campus.  It is easy to get stuck in the beautiful bubble of the USD campus and forget the diverse and vast opportunities San Diego has to offer.  Not very many, if any, universities offer students and opportunity to swim up to Leopard Sharks, which gather in La Jolla.  It is unknown why the sharks occupy La Jolla shores, but scientists speculate that they are there to help themselves gestate in warm waters.  These gray, spotted sharks can grow to be as big as seven feet long, but usually remain in the five feet range.  Leopard sharks are completely harmless, bottom feeders and do not eat humans.  La Jolla, for its unique wildlife, beautiful views, and unmatchable opportunities make it a just another reason why USD is the right place to be.

Senior Ali Olsen plays in the waves!

What made this day such a success is that while experiencing breathtaking views, enjoying the refreshing water, and engaging in outdoor activities, a community was being built.  Community is a key goal here at USD and in Outdoor Adventures.  Communities are built when people explore, adventure, learn, live, and are challenged together.  When we are challenged to do something new or something that scares us, like swimming with sharks for example, we are able to grow and to gain new insights into ourselves and inevitably the people we are experiencing these things with. While students who took this adventure may not have even realize it now, by participating in this, they were constructing the onsets of their own USD community; a community that is fostering positive, healthy, and enjoyable activities and that is pushing people past the boundaries they may have set in the past.  That is what we are all about here at Outdoor Adventures.  Out trips are about giving people chances to see what this beautiful city has to offer as well as giving students opportunities to learn about themselves and meet people who could potentially be their friends for a lifetime. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Climbing Competition

The USD rock climbing club competed in the UCSD Outback climbing competition. USCD has a sweet climbing gym on campus. We were slightly jealous to say the least. But alas, what we give up in function we make up for in beauty. Have you seen the outside of our buildings?

The competition wasn't your typical high-stress environment. They have such a nice, encouraging group of people over there. We had a lot of fun and actually did quite well. Women's open: 4th & 5th. Men's open: 4th, 7th & 8th.

After having so much fun, the club is planning on entering more competitions throughout the coming semesters. We figure since we already have matching t-shirts we might as well show them off.

(From left to right) Rosie, Craig, Jonathan, Sean, Jen

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rock Climbing Club

I wanted to take this moment to plug a fantastic club on campus. Last year a rock climbing club was started at USD and it's doing some pretty wonderful things. The mission statement of the club is: "The Rock Climbing Club is a new student organization with the purpose of uniting USD students who have an interest in climbing. It will provide a fun and rewarding environment for beginners and experts alike. Students will be able to hone their abilities and improve their confidence with fellow learners of the “vert." This club will help test climbers mentally and physically, while practicing safe technique. Members will have the opportunity to get involved in the climbing community and explore some of the country’s premier climbing areas. "

Last week they went to Joshua Tree for a weekend trip. Students of all climbing backgrounds converged on this premier Southern California climbing destination. Here are some pictures from their adventure.

If you want to get involved with the club you can add the FaceBook page or email Jonathan at There are going to be great opportunities this fall to have a blast with the climbing club.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wrapping Up With Dutch Oven Delight

As the school year winds down for the semester, it always seems that the work picks up.  It is at this time when I start to consider the importance of going to class, reading the endless chapters, and writing the endless papers.  I agree that they have value, but how can I use that last Shakespeare paper in my real life?   I think one of the greatest parts about being in college has been the realization that I learn by doing.  Here is where the first word I gave you in my first blog post (Adventure Awaits) comes back into play.  Experiential.

Photo Credit: Keala Shultz
Ryann and Danielle preparing stuffed
Experiential means experiencing, I mean the word experience is right there.  As I foresee myself spending more and more time within the studious walls of the Law Library and putting on my ‘thinking cap’, I am flooded with thoughts of how much more I learn when I am actually outside of the walls of a classroom.  Instead of doodling on my Biology notes and fading in and out of focus as I stare at the never ending power points, my mind flips back to just a few weeks ago at a guide training where we had a giant Dutch oven cook off.

For those of you who do not know, Dutch ovens are big cast iron pots that we fill with delicious foods that you would never guess could be made on an outdoor adventure.  You heat up coals and evenly place them beneath and on top of the pot so the heat evenly circulates.  Menu items for this training were enchiladas, stuffed peppers, calzones, monkey bread, peach and apple cobbler, and a new experiment -smackos (tortillas, chocolate, and marshmallows).

Photo Credit: Keala Shultz
Step 1: heating up the coals
While you may be wondering how this even relates to school or learning, in fact for me it has a ton to do with it.  Food on outdoor trips is a big deal.  There are a lot of factors that go into making an outdoor meal, especially if you want to eat well like we do here at ELAC.  There is menu prep, shopping, checking for allergies, and of course procedure for actually cooking the food.  More importantly, like I explained above, Dutch oven cooking is complex and it takes patience.  It also involves flexibility in dealing with the different environmental conditions on each trip.  I won’t tell you all the details of my Dutch oven failures in the past but let’s just say my chocolate chip cookies never quite passed the test all three times I tried before I decided to retire.  That being said, most of us guides had no idea about all that goes into a meal or even how to prepare it.  I have been a guide for almost two years now and this cooking training was the first time I actually took the time to be taught how to make a meal from start to finish.  Here was learning by doing first hand.

Photo Credit: Keala Shultz
Monkey Bread!
What was special about this training was that the guides and I each got to partner with a guide in development to go through the steps of a certain meal or dessert and help them to understand the process.  By doing this and teaching at the same time, I actually learned new things myself and got more experience in a teaching role.  While knowing when to rotate a cobbler or when the calzone is perfectly cooked will not help me on my finals, what I can say is that applying the things you learn and going out and testing what you are taught is where true learning happens.  So my advice is once you have sharpened your last pencil and flipped your last flash card for this semester, get outside challenge all these lessons and theories you have studied this whole year!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Joining the Guide Program

I remember the way I felt as the first day of college approached. It was a mix of primarily excitement, but also a little anxiety mixed in. Would I find people to connect with? How would I adjust? How friendly would people be?
These fears quickly dissolved. As I was preparing for the orientation adventure, I was met by a handful of friendly and excited current guides and fellow freshman. Over the next three days, I made new connections with many of the participants and guides on Pre-O. I was now ready to begin college with no fears, no doubts, and a 100% love for my new life.

The guide program has been an invaluable asset to this once scared and uncertain freshman. It immediately provided me with a new home. I have met so many friendly and wonderful like-interested people through the program. I met some of my best friends through Pre-O, and I continue to make new friends with every guide training and training trip.
Both Pre-O and the Channel Islands training trip have been the best parts of my first year here. I still say, eight months later, that Pre-O was the most fun I’ve had at college. January Guide Training was a great experience as well. The trip reignited my commitment to the program. For one week some fellow guides and I camped in one of the most remote national parks, spending our days kayaking, exploring sea caves and hiking. For an outdoorsy girl like myself, it was a great week.

The last night of January Guide Training was mixed with nostalgia and sorrow. I was so grateful for all of my experiences I had and shared with my fellow guides on Santa Cruz Island. And for that reason, I was slightly distraught about its terminus. My biggest fear was that the trip had served to bring us all together but that our bonds would for whatever reason fray. This fear never materialized. I still greet my fellow Channel Islanders with vigor whenever I should run into one. The island brought us together in a way that is tough to break easily. We shared the some unforgettable and “legendary” moments out there. We watched the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean- a rare possibility in the U.S. We got up at 3 am to hike up to the highest point on the island at 2000 feet. We huddled together near the summit for an hour and a half in raging winds that threatened to rip us off our feet. We toasted the long-awaited sunrise with smoked oysters at 6 am. We watched, and laughed, and gagged, as a fellow guide rolled strawberry jam, chocolate, and leftover oyster sauce into a tortilla, and ate it- all. We waded through streams in a part of the island that bore a likeness to the island in the show Lost, only to discover a hatch and a jeep named Hurley. We kayaked near a pod of orcas. We laughed off the minor mishaps, from a guide’s inexplicable fall from a kayak to my own failure at wielding a throw rope correctly. We rooted on a brave soul to finish eating the largest calzone I had ever seen, singlehandedly …Essentially, we shared a week together that only those who were there could understand and appreciate fully. These experiences brought us together, but the memories keep us together. The opportunity to have similar experiences is one of countless reasons why I love the guide program.
The guide program has given me and continues to give me so much. It provides a unique opportunity to get to know people in a way nothing else can. It provides an easy environment for people to bond, be it guides or participants. It trains us and prepares us well to lead outdoor trips. It has inspired me to pursue summer outdoor jobs. It provides an opportunity to get to know others, the world, and myself in a more intimate way. It provides the opportunity to become closely acquainted with the sublime beauty and magic of the natural world. Bottom line: it provides countless opportunities and asks for not much in return, and I could not be happier at this college because of the guide program.

Cedar Creek Falls

When asked to lead a hike to Cedar Creek Falls, I was a bit cautious having never been there before. Don't get me wrong, hiking isn't something that typically intimidates me. I recently was talked into a 28-mile day hike in the Grand Canyon, and enjoyed every minute of it. I've been hiking since I was old enough to walk, and have fallen madly in love with the fresh air, scenery, and the inevitable
exercise that results from
a great hike.

Although I was certain that Cedar Creek Falls would be an awesome hike, I knew it was going to be a challenge blindly leading a group there. But, if guiding trips has taught me nothing else, it has taught me to be confident with what I know best. Since I'm an avid hiker, I figured this hike couldn't throw much at me that I haven't experienced before.

Cedar Creek Falls is a spectacular 80 foot waterfall, and has understandably become an extremely popular hiking destination. However, a lot of visitors, lacking knowledge of the area and knowledge about hiking in general, fail to prepare themselves for the risks associated with the area. Calls for help are more common in this area than any other hiking trail in San Diego, and at least one person a year dies at Cedar Creek Falls. As a guide, it was impossible not to be intimidated by these facts. Risk management is something that never leaves my mind as a guide, but knowledge of the potential hazards at Cedar Creek Falls caused me to approach the trip with more caution than I am used to.

The group crossing the river.
The trail to the falls includes several river crossings, which meant there was no way to avoid getting wet. Luckily, I had warned the group, and most people were prepared with water shoes 'at the ready.' Other hikers on the trail weren't so fortunate. I noticed several groups attempting to cross barefoot. This may seem harmless, but because of the extremely rocky river bottom and the heavy current, I thought they were taking a pretty big risk. At times like these, it's important to consider the fact that no matter what, you still have to hike BACK. Some people forget this minor detail and manage to make some pretty poor decisions. An injury caused by crossing a river barefoot isn't worth the pain you'll experience trying to hike back out with that injury.

The river is certainly a hazardous detail on the trail, but the real action happens at the waterfall itself. After hiking for an hour or so in the heat, nothing sounds better than jumping in the refreshing Devil's Punchbowl at the base of the falls. This is where a lot of people start making bad decisions. Yes, a swim sounds glorious after breaking a sweat on the trail. No argument there. But where a lot of people go wrong is in their decision to go cliff-diving into the inviting swimming hole. A lot of times, people get away with it, no harm done. But who wants to be the exception? I'm sure the adrenaline rush is great, but a lot can go wrong when you fling your body over a rock ledge in hopes of hitting the water safely. Because of the numerous accidents that occur at the falls, my group was encouraged to enjoy the waterfall from a distance. A cool day prevented anyone in the group from swimming, but knowing all that can go wrong in a dive off the surrounding cliff ledges, I don't think any of them would have chosen to take the plunge.
The SD Outdoors Class on the trail.

Despite the risks associated with Cedar Creek Falls, I absolutely loved the area, and plan to go back at least once more before graduation. People will continue to make poor decisions, but I think the hike taught me an important lesson about risk management: Never to underestimate risks in the backcountry. If something goes wrong, it's a lot more difficult to find help than it is in an urban area. Just because other people take big risks doesn' t mean I have to do the same. I have a lot more hiking to do in my lifetime, and I'm not taking any chances in ruining my ability to hit as many trails as I can!

I highly recommend Cedar Creek Falls to anyone who enjoys hiking. San Diego has a lot of fun things to offer, but you definitely don't want to miss this amazing place!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

La Jolla 1/2 Marathon

I was promised a course with one hill. ONE HILL! Not four. And the “one hill” ended up being the monster at Torrey Pines. The uphills were only half the battle. The steep downs ate what was left of my dignity. Tip: Research the course before you sign up for a race. Not doing first hand research was a blessing in disguise though. If I had known the course was going to have 850’ of elevation gain I probably wouldn’t have signed up. I read a bunch of reviews online and everyone chose to talk about the poor race management and the disgusting tap water instead of the aforementioned issue. Runners are a finicky bunch.

My complaints are only skin-deep. I loved the experience. The La Jolla ½ Marathon was a great course with lots of challenges. The sun displayed a rare shy side for the whole race. It was perfect running weather. The scenery was also grade A+. There’s something magical about being one of 6500 people all heading to the same destination. At times I let the energy of the group propel me forward. When the herd charged hills, I merely followed. I got lost in the music of click clack click clack.

PRing is a small part of the experience. Learning how to be a better runner is so much better. The race was great motivation to train harder. I could see myself being a decent ½ marathon junkie by 2012. I’m really looking forward to signing up for my next adventure.

If you’ve never participated in a race I strongly encourage you to look into it. Half marathons attract people from all walks of life. There is no stereotypical participant. Also, you don’t need to train as much as some people think. I always hear people saying things like, “Ya, it sounds fun but I’m so out of shape.” I’m telling you, there are all shapes and sizes at races. Everyone is welcome. So what if you pace the 82-year-old woman with one leg. The experience will be well worth your time. Let’s go race!