Ashley Garcia, Chattanooga, Tenn. – With the offerings from UTC Outdoors, it’s now easier for students to enjoy fall weather and the outdoors.
“The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best backpacking areas around,” said Allison Hughes, who oversees the UTC Outdoors program. “You have several options to do an overnight backpacking trip to a full weekend.”
“Chattanooga was voted ‘Most Outdoorsy Town,’ by Outside Magazine, beating out 63 other towns,” said Hughes.
This is why she believes it is important for students to get outside and take a break from school.
“While in school students spend a lot of time on the computer, tablets, smart phones, and under artificial light,” she said. “By going outside they are able to reset their brain in a stress-free environment.”
Hannah Meenach, a senior from Franklin, Tenn., said she enjoys outdoor activities ranging from camping and hiking to bouldering, which she describes as a sprint-like version of rock climbing.
“I enjoy being outside because it’s one of my favorite ways I can see God’s majesty,” said Meenach. “I feel like I can get out there and forget about all my worries, and it’s how I get through problems and challenges I have been thinking about.”
Hughes recommends going to Abrams Falls, which is about two hours north of Chattanooga.
It is an eight-mile loop that features waterfalls and has an amazing view of the leaves changing in the fall, she said.
For those who want to get outside and but not stay overnight, Hughes said going to the 4.8-mile loop on Sunset Rock Loop is a good option because it is about 20 minutes from campus.
“It has some incredible history about Chattanooga’s involvement during the Civil War and has endless views,” Hughes said.
Cloudland Canyon State Park in North Georgia is 45 minutes away from campus and offers inexpensive car camping for those who wish to camp but not hike. The cost is around $10 each night to reserve a campsite.
“It is not a very crowded park and the campsites have restrooms, showers, running water and an electrical hook up,” said Hughes.
Staying safe while being outside can be done following a few tips. One of these is to keep everything bear proof. Hughes said there are always bears in Tennessee and campers need to remove any smelly objects from their tents.
“The essentials of any good trip require planning ahead and preparing,” she said. “You’ll need a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad as a minimum.”
Students can rent equipment from UTC Outdoors. Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, bikes, canoes and other outdoor items are available to students.
Rentals require a $50 deposit, but will be returned to the student once the equipment is brought back.
One-day rentals need to be returned the following day by 6 p.m. Items to be used over the weekend can be picked up Thursday or Friday and must be returned by 6 p.m. Monday.
Students can go to the UTC Outdoors website and get information about trips and clinics the programs offers.
Trips are conducted in the fall, spring and summer semesters. Some of them include backpacking and canoeing.
“We promote skill development, so any outdoor trip we run doesn’t have an experience level attached to it,” said Hughes.
She encourages students to join and get outside.