From partnering with local nonprofits to trip leader training opportunities, Gonzaga Outdoors provides students with a bridge to access all that the Spokane outdoor community has to offer.
Many of these events and trips act as a way for Gonzaga students to interact and learn more about the exciting community off GU’s campus.
Dave Gilbert, director of Gonzaga Outdoors, said while campus is beautiful, it is important for students to have the ability to see more of the world.
“Seeing new things, meeting new people and mixing it up are all good things just on their own," Gilbert said.
Within Spokane, Gonzaga Outdoors helps to lead students to local opportunities and activities they might not otherwise have access to.
For example, climb nights at Wild Walls, ice skating at the Ice Ribbon and laser tag at Laser Quest.
Yet, these excursion opportunities are not just limited to the local Spokane community.
Many trips allow for students to get out of Spokane and gives them the opportunity to learn more about and appreciate the community that is outside the city limits.
Some of the organizations that Gonzaga Outdoors works with on these trips are the Trail of the Hiawatha, Moab Cyclery, Anacortes Kayak Tours and Hells Canyon Adventures.
Gonzaga Outdoors also works with local nonprofits to increase community engagement.
Getting involved with the community in this way allows for students and trip leaders to see the importance of the outdoors and the impact they are able to have on the world.
It's list of local nonprofit partnerships includes organizations such as Riverkeeper, Friends of the Falls, Washington Trails Association, Dishman Hills Conservatory and Spokane Mountaineers.
“Our trip leaders also always get a lot out of the various training opportunities that we offer through our partners,” Gilbert said. “These are incredible growth opportunities and can be very empowering for our leaders.”
These training opportunities include working with Wilderness Medicine Training Center, American Mountain Guides Association, Association for Outdoor Recreation Center and Pangea River Rafting.
In fact, each year a handful of new trip leaders are trained with Pangea River Rapids to become river rafting guides in order to help bring other students out onto the river.
Their training was done over eight different days with two on the Spokane River in early May, four on the Clark Fork in Montana in mid-May and two more on the Clark Fork in mid-August, said Madeline Hueske, a former Gonzaga Outdoors trip leader.
“We would take turns getting to guide down the river and run laps on the same stretch all day,” said senior Callie Brewster who was trained to be a river rafting guide by Hueske. “Such a cool experience.”
Whitewater rafting is actually one of the most popular events among students, in addition to horseback riding and sailing.
“These events are special opportunities to either try things for the first time, or for some students, an opportunity to go and do something that they miss from back home,” Gilbert said.
The skills that trip leaders obtain with community training also help them across a variety of trips.
Hueske has utilized her rafting skills to lead students on a variety of other excursions such as a Priest Lake inflatable kayak camping trip, fall rafting and the Gonzaga in the Wilderness trip on the Missouri River in Montana.
“These trips were really cool opportunities in really beautiful places and a good way to enjoy paddling in a variety of different ways,” Hueske said.
By partnering with community organizations, Gonzaga Outdoors is able to provide students more opportunities that they would not otherwise have the resources for.
For example, while Gonzaga Outdoors does not own it's own jet boat, it is able to work with Hells Canyon Adventures. This trip was actually one of Brewster’s favorite trips that she has led with Gonzaga Outdoors.
“A group of about 10 participants came and we used a jet boat to get up the canyon about a dozen miles,” Brewster said. “We came home with so many inside jokes and shared memories as a group.”
It is through partnerships such as these that allow students to make lifelong memories.
“Students get access to an incredible place that they would not be able to reasonably get over a three-day weekend,” Gilbert said.
Many of the events are initially considered as a result of trip leader interest so they are able to input their own experiences and curiosities and share it with fellow students for everyone to engage in.
“I also think it is really important to expose students to these careers,” Gilbert said. “Although it is unlikely that higher level outdoor recreational and educational vocations will be recommended by career counselors, students can see it as a possible path simply by participating.”
More information regarding Gonzaga Outdoors events can be found here: gonzagaoutdoors.gonzaga.edu.