Outdoor Rec breaks daily ‘rut’
Some Blugold students are content with hanging around Eau Claire on the weekends and doing the normal college thing. House parties, Water Street and Blugold sporting events keep them in town.
Other students, however, leave the city. They are looking for something else.
These students seek solace in the outdoors. They take off in all directions, feeding their addiction for being outside.
These people are the folks at the university’s Outdoor Recreation, and they want to get more than just the usual outdoor enthusiasts outside.
“People get intimidated because they think, ‘I’ve never been rock climbing or backpacking before,’ ” said junior Rob Lenio, an ODR employee and trip leader. “But everything we do is geared towards beginners.”
Lenio started leading trips four semesters ago during his sophomore year. Before that, as a freshman, he was a regular participant on trips.
The best trip he said he has ever been on was last spring break’s voyage to Tennessee and North Carolina to white water raft.
“It was crazy,” Lenio said. “It was the most fun I have ever had in my life. We had a great group of kids.”
Lenio hopes on repeating last year’s successful venture this spring break when he leads a backpacking and camping trip to Moab, Utah.
The trip is for eight UW-Eau Claire students and costs $500. This fee includes everything that students would need on the trip.
The ODR brochure states that the “only requirement for this trip is a sense of adventure, reasonably good physical fitness, a stiff pair of hiking boots and a sense of humor.”
Although trips to various parts of the United States and Canada are commonplace for ODR, they are not the only things that make the organization so special to its users and employees.
The Outdoor Rental Center, located in the ODR office underneath Hilltop Center, maintains the largest inventory of outdoor equipment in the Eau Claire area.
With a Blugold card, students can rent anything from canoes, kayaks, camping gear, ski equipment, fishing polls or ice skates.
“We pride ourselves on offering the whole gamete,” ODR program director Dan Langlois said.
Along with the selection, equipment prices are hard to beat, senior Kevin Allen said.
Allen has been at Eau Claire for four years, although he only started using ODR’s services this past fall semester.
“It is so cheap you can afford to try everything,” Allen said. “To buy stuff, you really have to be committed to a sport. This allows you to try a wide variety of cool sports.”
Langlois sees ODR as a hidden pleasure of sorts. He said the people who know about it use it frequently, but added that many students are unaware of its existence.
“Some people are very much involved,” Langlois said. “But then every once in a while a senior will come popping in and say, ‘I didn’t know this was here.’ ”
Lenio wants students to know that you don’t have to be a seasoned outdoorsman to enjoy all of the amenities ODR has to offer. More often than not, people who initially get involved with ODR have little experience outside, he said.
“Most people when they start here have never done stuff like this before,” Lenio said. “You get hooked, though.”
ODR presents students with the opportunity to take in nature, Langlois said, but it’s the students who make the decision whether to come back.
“A lot of our trips are for inexperienced people where we’ll take them out rock climbing or white water rafting and start from scratch,” Langlois said. “We give them a taste of it and they take off from there.”
Besides gaining an appreciation for one’s surroundings, junior ODR employee Eddie Lancour said trips and rentals are some of the best ways to get to know people on campus.
“It is a great opportunity to meet people,” Lancour said. “You get to meet a different type of person, someone interested in the outdoors.”
Lenio agreed saying that more than anything, Outdoor Rec gives people the chance to get away from the daily grind.
“You get into a rut with school doing the same thing every weekend, the same thing every week,” Lenio said. “Going out really breaks that rut.”
Outdoor Recreation has helped shape Lenio. He says that through the interaction with his peers and through their challenges in the wilderness, his ability to work with people has gone through the roof.
“I have developed my leadership skills tenfold,” he said. “I really enjoy getting people who have never done this before hooked on it.”
Of all the things that being outside have taught him, Lenio said it’s the relationships that he’s made along the way that have impacted him the most.
“Outdoor people are inherently good people.” he said.
Along with its trips and rental packages, ODR recently has gotten more involved with environmental advocacy and awareness.
ODR has numerous activites planned for Earth Week in mid-April. The Chippewa River bank clean up is planned for April 22 and is open to all Eau Claire students.
Langlois said he stresses the importance of being environmentally conscious.
“We try to make the connection with student environmental groups,” Langlois said. “I think this is really important.”