By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
Callie Stevens is a senior Outdoor Leadership major. This year she will give readers a walk through the adventures, lessons and experiences of an OL major.
As a new year begins, exciting things are going on in the Outdoor Leadership program. The OL program is welcoming its first senior class and the second-ever junior-level “Discovery Semester,” an immersive experience centered on outdoor leadership coursework. This is the first year that the OL program has had upperclassmen, since the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools (SACS) approved Young Harris College to offer a bachelor’s degree in OL.
Because of this, the seniors have an engaging semester in front of them. We are enrolled in both “Wilderness as a Metaphor” and a senior seminar. In “Wilderness as a Metaphor” we read and discuss literature in the outdoor community and learn to make connections between lessons people can experience while in wilderness settings.
In the senior seminar class, we will start preparing for an internship during the summer by creating resumes and critical documents. In both of these classes, we are going on several trips to conferences and festivals. The largest of these are a storytelling festival inTennesseeand the Adventure Education Conference atNorthGreenvilleUniversity. These conferences are going to be fun and educational for me because we will meet a lot of people that could be future employers in the outdoor community. This year should be quite interesting for seniors.
The junior “Discovery Semester” is broken into four classes consisting of group development, water pursuits management, challenge course management and land pursuits management. These classes adhere to a block schedule, meeting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each class is three to four weeks long, beginning with group development.
The classes take a toll on students mentally, physically, emotionally and socially. The “Discovery” group went on their first trip last weekend, where they went whitewater rafting, rock climbing and camping, kicking off what promises to be a semester filled with a lot of learning and adventure.
As a new year continues, I am excited to see what unravels in my senior year. Whether it is my own adventure in or out of class or following the juniors in their “Discovery,” I hope that this year is filled with excitement, exploration and education.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
Last weekend, the back country living skills class went on the annual Banff backpacking trip. The class was lead by Rob Dussler, chair of Outdoor Leadership, and left Friday afternoon for Brevard College in N.C. The group attended a film festival called the Banff Mountain Film Festival, then went on a two-day backpacking trip that the class organized.
Banff Mountain Film Festival is a competition held annually where outdoor enthusiasts send in videos of extreme stunts they have attempted. After the competition, a selection of the best films go on tour across Canada, the United States, and internationally from Scotland to South Africa to China, Japan and points in between.
Each year, the films travel to 30 countries reaching more than 210,000 people at over 550 screenings. Brevard College is one of the sights that is nearest to Young Harris College.
Before the videos start, local outdoor programs hold booths to advertise and give away free items for the event. This is always one of the best parts of the trip because students get a bag of free outdoor stickers and information about possible future employers. After the film festival, the class goes and car camps for the night and wakes up early the next day to start their backpacking trip.
Students had to plan everything from location, to how hard the trip is, to food and even decide what gear is taken. Students had to think about things such as trail length, and if the elevation changes a lot.
Despite the difficulty of the trip, freshman outdoor leadership major, Melissa LeViner from Woodstock enjoyed hiking to the top of John Rock, which is a rock face in Pisgah National Forest located in the Appalachian Mountains in Western N.C. This provided the backdrop for the YHC students to eat their lunch.
“Banff got me really excited [about] being an outdoor leadership major and knowing that I will work in this field,” said LeViner. “It was cool to be surrounded by people that view the world and share the same passions as me.”
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
Climbing on a rock face that has never been climbed before is a thrilling experience. Some of my friends and I recently found a new rock face close to school and climbed it for the first time.
Holding on with my finger tips, my arms burning tired, sweat rolling down my face, I look around for where I should go next, since there are not holds marked by previous climbers. I take a deep breath in preparing myself to stretch one hand as far as I can, while my other hand is barely holding myself to the wall. My fingers touch the hold I am aiming for, and I put a little pressure on the hold as I shift my weight from one hand to the other.
Before I can move my feet, the rock that I moved my hand to breaks off the wall and crashes to the ground. I reach for another hold, but there is no use. I fall a few feet before the rope catches me.
I take a second to catch my breath and calm my head. Then I grab back onto the wall and start to climb again.I was the second person to climb one of the routes on the rock face. The wall was dirty with moss, leaves and brush hanging on hand holds that we would have to move out of the way in order to climb.
Climbing routes for the first time is always an adventure. You have to figure out where hand and feet holds are on your own. You are like a pioneer adventuring into unknown territory. During the adventure, sometimes you stumble and fall. However, once you finish and have the pride that you were the first. It makes the struggle worth every second.
So be your own pioneer. Go find your own rock face and see what adventure it has to provide.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
You may have seen students walking around with what looks like gloves on their feet. These shoes have no padded cushioning or a flexible sole, but are strong enough to protect one’s feet. The most interesting feature about the shoes is that it separates each toe like gloves. Some people have labeled these weird shoes as monkey feet, but they are actually called ‘Five Fingers’ and are becoming very popular in the outdoor community.
Though these shoes look weird and awkward, they are actually quite useful for outdoor enthusiasts. Being an outdoor leadership major, I love to feel connected to nature and Five Fingers is perfect for this. Remember back to your childhood, running around barefoot in the grass with not a worry in the world and simply letting yourself feel completely natural with the world around you. Five Fingers let me go back to childhood memory and feel one with nature. Though I can feel everything my feet are touching as if I were barefoot, it does not hurt because the sole of my Five Fingers protects my feet. This allows me to feel even more connected to nature. Besides the whole natural hippie connection to nature, Five Fingers are actually a useful toy for outdoor enthusiasts.
Barefoot sports are a growing field in the outdoors. People are going barefoot while hiking, running and performing water sports. These shoes are beneficial in ways that traditional shoes are not. For example, barefoot running allows you to land on your forefoot, directly below your center of gravity resulting in better balance, increased stability and less impact. All of which helps prevent injuries.
Five Fingers, as ugly as they seem, are very useful in water sports. They are tight on people’s feet, and are not bulky like other water shoes. They also have rubber soles that grip when wet, which is perfect for barefoot sports.
Five Fingers are more than weird, ugly shoes that hippie outdoor enthusiasts wear. They are useful toys we use in our adventures. Five Fingers allow us to get closer to nature while still protecting our feet. So the next time you see someone wearing monkey feet around campus, ask them why they jumped on the Five Fingers wagon.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
Think back to elementary school during the winter months. Were you still allowed to go play on the playground when it was frozen? Now imagine having your favorite playground frozen for four months straight. Would you choose to brave the bitter cold or decide to stay inside in the loving heat of your house? This is the vicious decision outdoor enthusiasts have to make during the winter months. Do they care enough to face the cold to explore nature’s beauties or do they crawl back inside and stay warm? To much surprise, there are many activities that people can do during the winter and still be active with the outdoors including rock climbing, caving and snow hikes.
Rock climbing during the cold winter is entirely different than climbing in the summer. The rock is brutally cold, which makes climbing harder because it makes your hands cold and harder to hold onto the rock. Many outdoor enthusiasts still courageously go rock climbing, because they love it so much. But for those who like climbing but don’t love it, I suggest indoor rock climbing. Climbers use indoor rock climbing as a training tool because they can focus on the climbing aspect like learning how to make a new move or building up their strength, without having to worry about environmental issues such as the weather. It’s the perfect compromise of being able to stay warm but still be active in an ‘outdoorsy’ way.
Another great compromise is caving. There are 513 caves in Georgia. Though most are on private property, there are many like Petty John’s Cave in Lafayette that are open and free to the public. The amazing fact about caves is that they stay a constant 58 degrees year round no matter what the temperature is outside. This makes caving perfect in the winter because people can actually go warm up while exploring all the routes and adventures the caves hold. With all the benefits of caving it can also be very dangerous. So, be sure to have a guide that has been to the cave before and knows its passages. This will help prevent getting lost and allowing for a better experience.
One of the best adventures during the winter is snow hikes. Outdoor enthusiasts usually embrace the cold when it has snowed and explore a whole new playground. The mountains are transformed completely when they are covered in snow. What use to be green and noisy, is now quiet, peaceful and elegant when it’s covered in snow. Some of the best adventures are going on day hikes to places you have been before and seeing how it changes during the winter months.
An ancient Chinese poem describes a snow covered mountain as “pure snowflakes blooming on the pine Huangshan Mountain in winter is the snowy heaven on earth.”
The mountains are just as, if not more, beautiful to explore during the winter. So, try taking a day hike and seeing the mountains in a new perspective.
The outdoor enthusiasts’ playground may be frozen during the winter months, but there are still a variety of activities to go explore. The question is, how adventurous are you?
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
Adrenaline is rushing through every cell in your body. Nerves are on the edge of a cliff. Butterflies are soaring in your stomach, which feels like is in your chest. Your life in your hands with the knowledge of one mistake could cost you that life.
Imagine a whole semester filled with this exhilaration. Spending four months on a constant adrenaline rush. Then, imagine after a month being made to sit quietly for hours in a desk listening to a lecture.
The Discovery students have moved back into normal schedules with normal classes. As for me, it has been a strange transition. I have made the joke several times that I somehow acquired ADD over the break. Last semester we were constantly active, and we practically stayed on an adrenaline high. In the new semester, we are forced back into traditional classes. I sit in class having to make myself focus, because all I keep thinking about is me wanting to be outside doing something active.
Strangely, though I am antsy to get out of class, I am also really enjoying learning. It is surprisingly refreshing to have to think hard about different topics and broaden my perspectives. Last semester we learned a lot, but it was information that you do not realize how much you learned until you have to put it into practice. For example, we learned the different strokes of paddling a canoe. I didn’t realize how much I really learned about them until we got on the river and the strokes just seemed natural from learning them properly. With learning that takes place in traditional classes, you are able to reflect right after class and see what you learned.
Though the Discovery semester is over, I am still discovering new qualities about myself. I have realized that I love and miss the field work of living in the woods. I have also discovered, as nerdy as it sounds, that I enjoy learning. I do not know what the semester holds for me, but I do know that I am going kayaking this weekend, and I am going to study this weekend. As for me, it sounds like the perfect weekend for an outdoor leadership major coming out of the Discovery Semester.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
This past week, the Discovery students started the land pursuits section of the semester with a three-day backpacking trip. We went to the Cohutta Wilderness in Blue Ridge. The trail was 13 miles and followed the Jakes River, a famous fly fishing river. The trail itself is rather easy for the level of experience the group has. So, our minds were left to float with only the care of the river crossings and the beauty around us.
The trail was flat for the majority of the hike and crossed the river 18 times. This was my first experience river crossing with packs on. The average pack weighs 25 to 40 pounds, so crossing a knee-deep river is quiet different with all the extra weight. The crossings certainly increased the risk in the hike, because if we fell, our packs and the gear inside would get wet -especially bad on a cold night. So, the river crossings increased our awareness of what we were doing.
At the beginning of the river crossing I picked up a walking stick to use for extra balance. There were many times when the force of the water almost pushed me backwards.
I would make sure one foot was set on the bottom of the river. Then, I would carefully slide my other foot over to set it, but I found my foot on a large rock that was slippery. I would slide my foot around trying to find the edge of the rock before my one foot slipped, which would result into me falling into cold water. Then, I would find the edge of the rock with my foot and get it settled so I wouldn’t fall. Almost every river crossing was like this where we snaked our way across the river taking each step with care.
Once we got past all the river crossings, which ended up being on our last day of the trip, we were able to be amazed at nature’s natural beauty during the fall. As the trail climbed away from the river and to the ridge where we had parked, we were able to see the trees in all of their glory of the leaves changing to the fall’s natural colors. As we looked about we were captured by auburn colors that would take anyone’s breath away.
The trail was a steady climb at this point, which allowed me to let my mind wonder instead of focusing on the trial. I thought about how peaceful the moment was. I was surrounded by some of my best friends in the middle of the woods with only the sound of our feet on the ground and the natural wood sounds of birds chirping, squirrels running on the leaves and the wind whistling through the trees. I closed my eyes and listened to the peaceful noises and wondered why people would want to live in the middle of cities. The woods provide a peaceful safe haven for the mind, body and soul.
I watched the mountains roll around us and thought back on the trip and the semester. With only two weeks left in the semester for the Discovery students, we continue to be immersed in the woods, which provided us with the peace needed to allow us to grow as students, educators and individuals as a whole.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
As the leaves change colors and fall turns to winter, another season comes to an end— the ‘thru hikers’ season. A thru hiker is a person who hikes completely thru the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. Early every spring outdoorsmen and women set out to hike the whole 2,179 miles of the Appalachian Trail, known by hikers as the AT. Thru hikers either hike north bound from Springer Mountain, Ga., or south bound from Mount Katahdin, Me.
It takes thru hikers an average of eight solid months to finish the hike. Thru hikers hike for many different purposes some being very personal and others not so much. Often the hikers are in a transitional part of their lives moving between college to the “real” world, moving between jobs or simply lost in their lives. So, they decide to take the time to get away from society and figure out what they want in life.
One of these thru hikers is one of Young Harris College’s own, Dr. Jim Bishop, who is an assistant professor of English. When Bishop decided to hike the AT, he was a college graduate, who was teaching outdoor education at the time.
When asked why he decided to hike the AT, Bishop said, “I wanted a change in my life. I liked my job but just wanted something different; and since I had the time to do it, I decided to take some time out of my life and thru hike.”
During his thru hike, Bishop recalled the simplicity of life. Bishop said, “I would wake up, ate breakfast, hiked all day, set up camp, slept, wake up and repeated the whole process. The simplicity of those months allowed me to process through my life and figure out some different aspects.”
Though captivated by the simplicity of life during the day, at night Bishop would have extra time to reflect or read.
However Bishop added, “depending on how exhausted I was. Some nights I would be so tired from the day I would fall asleep early, some nights I would just reflect on life and other nights I would read. I rediscovered how much I enjoyed reading for fun on the hike.”
Often while thru hikers are on their adventure, they hike for days between towns and without society.
While left without any real contact to society, Bishop stated, “The trail has its own society. The people who are on the AT are usually there for a purpose and are very caring and friendly. I didn’t feel disconnected from society, but simply placed into a different one.”
Bishop met many friends on the trail that he still in contact with 15 years later. Bishop believes that “thru hiking the AT isn’t about finishing. It’s about the experience as a whole, the people you meet doing it and the lessons you learn.”
When asked if his life changed any after his eight month journey Bishop replied, “Of course it did. A few years after hiking, I decided to go back to school and study literature because I loved reading. I am now a literature professor at Young Harris College. The biggest change in my life, however, is the perspective I have towards life. The simplicity of the trial and the mental toughness I had to create on the trail has allowed me to find a happy place when I am tired or uncomfortable. I think back to the trail and realize how simple life is. You simply live and be happy doing it.”
Though it has been several years since Bishop’s completion of the AT, he is only one of more than 9,000 people to have reportedly thru hiked the AT, since its completion in 1937. The trial itself is more than a trail that crosses 14 states, it’s a trail that changes people’s lives every year.
The phenomenon of thru hiking occurs every year, and each year people’s lives are changed by the solitude of the woods and the friendships formed with other hikers. So, as this year’s thru hiking season comes to an end and winter takes its place, some hikers are just beginning to plan out their spring adventure as they start the first step towards the 5 million steps of thru hiking the Appalachian trial.
By Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
Thirty feet of the ground with only two ropes holding me from my death, I take a step off the platform and onto the wire. Heart beating fast, legs shaking, and palms sweaty, I take another step with the encouragement of my peers. Fear is running through my body like blood, but I keep going trusting my friends, the equipment I’m using, and my own judgment.
The Discovery students took on challenge courses this past week. Challenge courses incorporate different obstacles that individuals try to maneuver through either by themselves or with a group to build on issues of trust, communication and leadership. In challenge courses, good facilitators use the participants’ experiences to make a bigger impact on the participants’ lives.
This is very hard to do sometimes. Because every group is different, therefore, every experience is different. It is hard to show someone who is scared of heights that they made it through a high ropes course, so they can deal with other fears in their lives. This is where being a good facilitator includes being a good educator and handling group dynamics.
Last Thursday, the outdoor education program changed its name to outdoor leadership. The school administration decided there was some confusion on the program since it is not part of the school’s educational program. The administration decided the best action would be take “education” out of the title and change it to outdoor leadership. Although many other schools have educational programs that are not under educational departments, including the University of Georgia who has both an Art Education and a Music Education, neither of which are under their educational department.
My own opinion is that I very much dislike the change. I love the major and the program because it develops us as educators. In this Discovery semester we are learning a lot of hard skills of how to handle the technical side of the activities, but we also learn the educator part of how to take the technical experience and make it a learning experience.
This name change undermines who we are as students in the program to simply call us leaders instead of educators. When we are teaching someone about big issues in life such as trust and communication, we are more than leaders, we are educators.
Besides the change itself, I disagree with the way the change was brought about. No one in administration asked the students on their opinion. It was a total surprise to the program’s students. I also think instead of settling confusion, the change will create more confusion.
Everyone on campus and involved in the program is use to the program being outdoor education. With the change, many people are confused if the program is the same or if it has changed. Though there are other degrees similar to ours such as Brevard’s Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, the point that made the program special at YHC, was that it was one of two outdoor education programs in the state. Simply changing the name makes the degree less special in the big picture.
From my understanding the program itself is not changing at all. As we continue through our Discovery semester we will continue to learn the hard skills involved in outdoor pursuits, and we will continue to learn how to be great future educators in our field. Politics are politics and nothing will ever change that, but as far as I am concerned I am an outdoor education major at Young Harris College, not an outdoor leadership major.
Callie Stevens, Staff Writer
The DISCOVERY semester finished the Water Pursuits Management part of the semester with a five-day rafting trip. On the trip, we rafted the Nantahala, completed swift water rescue training on the Tuckasegee and rafted the Ocoee for two days.
We had paddled the Nantahala in canoes a week before, so we knew the river very well. This made paddling the rafts easier. It was still difficult, because it was many of our first times every handling a raft. As you can imagine a raft handles differently than a canoe, because it is so much bigger. But we all had fun anyways.
Swift Water Rescue training was two days on the Tuckasegee. We learned a variety of different skills to help save someone in dangerous whitewater situations. It was very physically demanding, because we were in the water 98 percent of the time.
After we finished Swift Water Rescue training, we traveled to the Ocoee River. Some of the students and our instructor, Dr. Drew Cavin, were raft guides on the Ocoee this past summer; so they were chosen to guide our first trip. They would let different students guide the raft on certain parts of the river as the trip progressed. By the end of the trip, every student had guided at least one rapid.
The five-day trip was very physically and mentally demanding, but it was worth every minute. The experience I gained from the trip was immeasurable. We really bonded as a group through the trip, and I’m sure the rest of the semester will be filled with more bonding, more physical exertion and plenty of fun.