Exploring the world away from campus

Story by Katie Hoffman


Carlie Hagerman said she has always enjoyed being outside and surrounded by nature, but admits it was the poster that caught her eye and led her to sign up for a backpacking trip through the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


“I thought, ‘Wow, this is something I could do,’” Hagerman said.


While in the Porcupines, the mixture of fresh air and “amazing fall colors” had her hooked.


A few months later, Hagerman went on a whitewater rafting trip: soaking wet, freezing and in the middle of a snowstorm on the Peshtigo River.


“I just remember being so cold, but it was so much fun,” Hagerman said. “Everyone was experiencing the elements, enjoying themselves.”


Backpacking and white water rafting are just two of many trips offered by the Environmental Adventure Center at UW-Eau Claire.


Trips offered through the EAC are designed for beginners, and students aren’t required to have any experience in order to sign up for a trip.


Program Director Al Wiberg said students looking to sign up for a trip typically gravitate toward certain activities.


“If we offer rock climbing, backpacking and white water rafting, they’re going to fill. Students like the high adventure, even if they have no skills at all,” Wiberg said.


This semester, the EAC is offering two rock climbing trips to Devils Lake, a backpacking trip to the Porcupine Mountains and a white water rafting trip to the eastern side of the state.


When the weather starts to get colder, Wiberg said the EAC quiets down, but come first snow fall, students want to hit the slopes.


“If there’s a good amount of snow, we’ll offer a ski trip to a
local ski hill,” he said.


Part of Recreation and Sports Facilities at Eau Claire, the goal of the EAC is to expose students to alternative social environments and educate them on the outdoors through adventure trips.


John Bowen, a senior geography major and trip guide, said a goal of the EAC is to show students how humans are depleting the Earth’s resources, and how it takes an effect on the environment.


“It (the trip) makes students aware of resources around us, and teaches them how to appreciate them,” Bowen said.


Trips are posted on the EAC Web page, as well as their Facebook page, but Wiberg said word-of-mouth is the best way students hear about the trips.


After choosing the trip they’re most interested in, students stop by the center to sign up and pay the trip fee, which Wiberg said is usually “very reasonable.”


“Our trip fees range from $55-65 for a weekend,” Wiberg said. “That includes everything: food, transportation, camping fees and any specialized training
prior to leaving.”


Aside from trips, the EAC also offers a rental program to university ID holders. The largest inventory of outdoor equipment in the Eau Claire area, students, staff and faculty can rent anything from a life vest and coolers, to a sleeping bag and toboggan.


Prices vary depending on item and length of rental — daily and weekend rates — and Wiberg said students are able to get everything necessary for a trip
into the wilderness.


Students can even stop by the EAC for help planning their own trips. Wiberg said individual adventure planning is something he loves doing but isn’t well-known among students.


“I’ll sit down with students, and help them plan things to bring, help them develop their trip and give advice on things they might not think about.”


Now with two trips under her belt, Hagerman said she loves to talk up the EAC trips to her friends and residents.


“The workers are so friendly and knowledgeable on the trips,” Hagerman said. “Take advantage of the opportunities that are available — go on lots of trips.”