By Mary Kate Sheppard, Staff Writer—
In the face of a global pandemic, many of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s usual activities have been cancelled. However, UTC Outdoors has taken advantage of the safer outdoor environment, and expects that several of their planned trips will still be happening.
The UTC Outdoors Coordinator Lisa Ivester has decided to keep trips local this semester, which means no farther than an hour outside of Chattanooga. The 13 trips that they plan to take place this semester will include: a waterfall hike, Rocktown bouldering, winter backpacking, Howards waterfall caving, a full moon hike, mountain to town biking, a photography skills hike, TN river kayak camping, a beginner camping weekend, sunset climbing, whitewater kayaking, flatwater kayaking and Tumbling Rock caving.
“I’m optimistic that these trips will be a huge success,” Ivester said. “We have some really exciting trips planned. We, like everyone, are watching the COVID cases and waiting for administration approval.”
UTC Outdoors is ready for the outdoor adventures and the sense of normalcy that comes with being in nature. Ivester and her staff are also looking forward to helping students learn about and explore the outdoors.
Out of all the trips planned, climbing and caving are two of their most popular trips.
“A lot of people come to Chattanooga and UTC looking for something new and adventurous,” Ivester said. “Caving is one of those activities. It’s something you wouldn’t do on your own, but if you go with an expert and a group, possibilities open up.”
UTC Outdoors allows students of all expertise levels to come together and experience something new and exciting while also staying safe.
Registration for trips are held in person at the Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC), so that students and staff can talk through the process and know what to expect.
“The trips are student led by Outdoors staff,” Ivester said. “They go through a ton of training and preparation to keep students safe.”
The Outdoors staff is doing everything they can to ensure the trips are COVID safe as well. The group has limited the number of students who can attend to six, not including the two trip leaders. They also require masks in the ARC and transportation vehicles.
“The best part of the great outdoors is the fresh air, so when students get on site, we typically tell them to keep their masks close in case we group up for a water break or a safety briefing,” Ivester said.
Junior Trip Leader Abby Moore said she is also excited about the upcoming trips. With five semesters working with UTC Outdoors and a year of trip leading under her belt, Moore said she is optimistic about this semester.
“It’s one of the best experiences, getting to gain knowledge and experience while exploring my own interests,” Moore said.
She added that one of her favorite parts of the job was learning how to lead peers and teaching people new things. Moore is especially excited for the full moon hike, the Tumbling Rock caving, and whitewater kayaking.
“I have so many great memories of past trips I’ve led and been on. It’s so cool to meet new people and later see them on campus and remember the memories we share,” Moore said.
With all of the trips still tentatively planned, Moore hopes people will sign up, so they are able to lead more trips in the future.
“If we get to run trips, I’m excited to gain more memories,” Moore said. “It’s so fun, so everyone should sign up for one.”
A list of all of these activities with additional details can be found on the UTC Outdoors website.