A group of Keene State College students took a trip to Maine over winter break to cross-country ski, snowshoe and take part in various outdoor activities.

The course Outdoor Recreational Leadership is an upper level course taught by Sandra Howard, an associate professor in the music department. Howard said that the trip included 12 students across multiple majors who went to The Forks, which is a place in Maine that hosts many outdoor activities throughout the year. Howard said, “So really without that resort we wouldn’t be able to offer the course because they have access to all the equipment and the outdoors of that particular area.”

Photo Contributed by Sandra Howard

Photo Contributed by Sandra Howard

Senior Rebecca Wilber said she had no prior experience with many of the activities the class took part in such as cross-country skiing but said her inexperience was one of the reasons why she wanted to take part. “I went on the trip because I knew it would be new experiences for me… Most of us were in the same boat in that this was a new experience for us to be going out for a week in the middle of nowhere basically with two feet of snow and being given new equipment like snowshoes and skis that we’ve never used before,” Wilber said. “So we got to learn together and embarrass ourselves together. I think the biggest thing I learned was just to take opportunities when they’re offered to you even if it’s out of your comfort zone.”

Environmental Studies major Alec Czepiel said he first came across the opportunity for the trip when he saw a flyer on campus. Czepiel said he is the president of the Environmental Outing Club at KSC and has a lot of experience with outdoor recreation activities. Czepiel said he felt as though the trip was a good way to increase his skills and leadership qualities. “I am a graduate from another leadership school called Knowles, it teaches you all that wilderness stuff. I went backpacking in Wyoming for two months a few years ago through that program so it gave me a decent amount of experience,” he said.

Howard said one of the memorable moments of the trip was when she and the students went on a night hike and then turned their headlamps off to look at the starry sky in silence and experience the wilderness at night. “That was a real powerful moment for a lot of the students just taking time to be in the outdoors and feel the wind and listen to the sounds of the river and being in the dark which is taking you out of all this stimulus and really just being you in the woods,” Howard said.

Wilber said that one experience from the trip that stayed with her was when the group was going down a mountain cross-country skiing. “It was when it started to get warm last week and so everything was melting and so not only was it slippery coming down the mountain, and steep and we were a bunch of inexperienced skiers but snow was also soft, wet and we were all falling on every single turn. To end the hike when we finally got to the flat part at the bottom where we felt more comfortable it just started downpouring. We didn’t really care since we were all already soaked, we were just trying to make the best out of our time,” she said.

Senior Mitchell Hale said that he needed an upper level course and said he had some prior experience with the activities the group took part in. Hale said the trip was a good way to try new things and be pushed out of his comfort zone.

Howard said the trip was a good way to bring two of her interests of outdoor recreation and teaching together. Howard said that in 2009, when she first got to KSC, there was an initiative to have more ISP courses. Howard said she went to the Physical Education Department to let them know about her skill set in outdoor recreation and suggest having a class about outdoor recreation. Howard said the course was first offered as a summer course in 2010. Howard said that she has a been a licensed Maine Guide since 1997.

Colby Dudal can be contacted at cdudal@kscequinox.com