Finding adventures in the great outdoors

By Yvonne Condes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Canoeing, "caving," hiking, cross country skiing and white-water rafting were not sports Lori Tochihara had tried a few years ago, but thanks to Outdoor Adventures she has learned to appreciate what nature has to offer.

"It's a wonderful experience (and) the staff is really great," Tochihara, admissions office staff member, said.

Outdoor Adventures, a division of the University of Arizona's Student Recreation Center, is staffed by students who are trained in Wilderness First Response. The program offers 23 trips throughout the semester to places like San Carlos, Mexico; northern Arizona; New Mexico; and Utah. Prices range from $5 for day hikes to $325 for scuba diving, and include transportation to and from the activity, as well as equipment, if necessary.

Tochihara highly recommends caving, which involves spelunking, climbing over boulders and into crevices and getting wet and muddy. She has been on several different trips and plans to try climbing and scuba diving.

Basic rock climbing in the Santa Catalina Mountains is an introduction to climbing that spans four days with one evening, one afternoon, and two weekend days. Students learn to tie ropes, belay and repel, spending two days learning to climb at Mount Lemmon, said Ashley Wise, an anthropology junior. Wise has been working for Outdoor Adventures for three years and has been a climbing instructor for four.

Climbing can be intimidating the first time, but "I've never had anyone not want to do it," said Wise.

Mountain biking for a week in Utah last year was a very popular trip. This year's trip that takes place near Flagstaff, in the Coconino National Forest, will be three days long with three separate mountain bike rides. It is recommended for mountain bikers with previous experience, but there is always a staff member on hand for those who fall behind.

"I think the company does an outstanding job (on the trips)," said Ben Kramer, a political science and criminal justice senior, who goes on many trips with Outdoor Adventures.

Scuba diving to the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, is the only trip not handled by the staff members of Outdoor Adventures. They provide transportation and the use of the Rec Center pool, but certified members of Aquafun are instructors.

Students and faculty members go on the trips to learn about nature and also to meet people, trip leader Mike McDermott said.

The first trip is a day hike on the Butterfly Trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains on August 26 with no prior hiking experience necessary.

There will be a booth on the UA mall today and tomorrow to sign up for trips, obtain information and ask questions.

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