This past weekend, I went on the Cox Mountain Off-Trail Challenge expedition with Outdoor Recreation. I never thought I could be just 15 minutes from campus and feel like I was in the middle of the mountains, a hundred miles away. Six other students and I spent our Saturday hiking along the Eno River. We took in the river’s beauty while learning how to use a compass and a map to find our way off the trail.
The trip had many highlights. Aside from getting exercise and exposure to nature, I enjoyed interacting with other Tar Heels the most. Because we had no technology, no distractions and a full day of adventure, we were able to get to know each other really well. I quickly learned that, like me, most of the students decided to hike to take a break from the stressful school environment.
It may be a little embarrassing to admit, but our lunch was another high light of the trip. Before we left Chapel Hill, we packed our food and split it among people’s backpacks. Although the bell peppers, pitas, hummus, cheese and apples were delicious, I fell in love with the typical hiker’s meal for instant energy: GORP, which is a mixture of granola, oats, raisins and peanuts (plus M&Ms – my favorite part!).
I truly valued the learning and leadership aspect of this hike. Although three instructors joined our trip, it was fully student-led. We got to pick which direction to go, when to break, and how long to hike. Everyone stepped up to the challenges this presented and learned a lot from it. After the trip, we debriefed together on what we learned, what challenged us, what was rewarding about the hike, etc. I never expected to learn so much about myself from hiking for just a few hours.
There are only a few more trips this semester, but next semester, a whole new calendar of expeditions will be posted. The expeditions range from day trips to weekend trips and you can choose from hiking, climbing or kayaking. Whether you want to spend a day with friends or step out of your comfort zone to meet new people, I would encourage you to take a day off from the stresses of school and enjoy nature.
For more information on Campus Rec’s expeditions, visit www.campusrec.unc.edu/expeditions.