“Stay inside” may not be an ideal mantra for most, but it has a whole different meaning for people who find comfort in the outdoors. Gonzaga Outdoors is an adventure program that invites any and all students at different skill levels to get a taste of what nature has to offer. Unfortunately, this all came to a halt a few weeks ago.
Kacie Bell is a junior at GU and the student director of programming, which means she is the team lead for all of the trip leaders and is one of the main student leaders for the program. She aids in the process of hiring and training new leaders for GU Outdoors next year and deals with the trips that had to be canceled due to coronavirus.
“We had just finalized the rest of our semester schedule and were going to have our big week of adventure in a couple of weeks,” Bell said. "We had quite a few trips for Easter weekend and later on [in the semester] as it warmed up, so we had quite a bit on the calendar.”
Senior Jack Burns has been a trip leader for two years and participated in GU Outdoors his entire time at GU. He was looking forward to several trips that were coming up this spring semester.
“It's kind of cool because the different trip leaders can really decide where they want to lead any trip pretty much,” Burns said. “If [coronavirus] hadn't happened, it would have been awesome to lead a trip up to Stanley Hot Springs because it was one of my first trips that was overnight and overnight trips are better because you get more time with people.”
Burns was extremely excited for his friend Bryce Makela's surfing trip, which would have been a first-time, unique opportunity for GU outdoors.
Unbeknownst to Burns, his last trip was a snowshoe backpacking excursion with his fellow senior friends. He had no idea it would be his last trip, which was the case for several GU Outdoors seniors.
“That was my last big trip and I didn't know it was going to be the last one," Burns said. "It's kind of sad to look back on it, but also was one of the most epic trips I had with the program."
Bell is making sure to honor the graduating GU Outdoors seniors and is figuring out ways to celebrate them. Traditionally, they would have their trademark send-off barbecue.
“[We are] hoping to send them their senior gifts and come up with some creative ways to let them know how much we appreciate them over the years,” Bell said.
In addition to honoring the seniors, GU Outdoors has been working hard on hiring new leaders for the 2020-2021 academic year. In order to train incoming GU Outdoors staffers, the professional staff is working from home and thinking of ways to “virtually prepare” new leaders for trips in the fall. They are attempting to make trainings virtual and push some back to fall.
While programming is obviously halted for the rest of the academic year, Bell said the Gonzaga Out-Of-Bounds (GOOB) pre-orientation trip is the first concrete programming that is in place. GOOB is the first trip of the year. It is a new student pre-orientation program that allows for bonding in the outdoors before school begins.
“Obviously the hope and the grand plan is to work on it as normal, book everything and work with prospective students and new freshmen to get enrolled for that,” Bell said. “GOOB registration has been pushed back a month, because they moved the date of accepted students to June 1.”
GU outdoors leaders are adjusting to changes smoothly while also learning how to stay active amid coronavirus. Burns sees the outdoors as therapeutic during these times.
“I would say in regards to going outside while social distancing, getting outside of the house has been a huge thing," Burns said. "I was cooped up for too long, and when I finally did a hike [it was] a breath of fresh air."
Bell appreciates the little things more now, like simply walking along the Centennial Trail. She said she sees “small opportunities to get outside” truly making a big difference now, but we should also use caution.
“We're encouraging people to get outside but right now, stick to local trails and avoid traveling out of town to smaller at-risk communities that just have easily overwhelmed healthcare systems,” Bell said.
Bell has truly learned to appreciate the support system that the staff was for each other, and she says many GU Outdoors members are continuing to stay in touch.
“The relationships that you build and the connection to the outdoors coming together is what makes me love it so much,” Bell said. “I'm so looking forward to all the things to do and we're back together because we're definitely a service and like people oriented organization as most of the university is."