Staff-led trip to go to Big Bend park

Outdoor Recreation (O-Rec) is preparing for their annual spring break trip that will start Mar. 11 and end by Mar. 16. The three trip leaders — Shane Bono, Matthew Brant and Ian Witecki — will accompany 12 participants to Big Bend National Park.

The main portion of the trip involves canoeing and hiking through Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend. However, the group will first camp out at Seminole Canyon State Park on their way out to west Texas.

“It’s probably the most intense trip we do, but it’s nice because there aren’t any physical requirements. You’re just paddling; it’s not like a hiking trip where you have to be able to carry 80 pounds,” Witecki said.

O-Rec supplies most of what is needed for the trip, including tents, sleeping bags and ground pads. However, there are a few things participants must bring themselves.

“We have all of the outdoor stuff you would need. We also have a packing list of what to bring — clothes for when it’s cold at night, sunscreen — but nothing that’s hard or expensive to get,” Witecki said.

Although the main role of the three is to supervise the trip to make sure those who participate are safe, a lot of planning goes into the trip beforehand, including communicating with the parks department and creating an itinerary.

“First and foremost, we are there to keep the participants safe and happy, while ensuring the trip runs as smoothly as possible. We are trained in wilderness first-aid and welcome any and all questions while on the trip,” Bono said.

The leaders cook for the participants as well as take care of anything else that requires more experience, so inexperienced campers are still welcome.

“We try to make the trips so it doesn’t matter whether someone is experienced. We teach everyone how to set up tents, but other than that, it’s just learning how to paddle, which you learn there,” Witecki said.

O-Rec is taking advantage of the proximity of Big Bend to San Antonio; the proximity allows the group to experience a national park without having to travel far to do so, which leaves time  for exploring.

“We mostly just want to have a great time and to get people away from campus and outside of the Trinity bubble. That’s why Big Bend is so cool — because it’s so close, and it’s a national park. It’s probably the most remote national park in the county,” Brant said.

Last year, the trip was so popular, O-Rec had to perform a lottery to decide who would attend. This year proved to be equally desirable; the sign-up list filled up within two minutes.

“While we normally reserve places for people who aren’t in O-Rec, unless people drop out last minute, but that’s not going to happen this year because there’s a waitlist,” Witecki said.

Overall, O-Rec intends to offer Trinity opportunities to explore the outdoors, whether it’s through a short day-trip or a longer trip like the ones hosted over the spring break vacation.

“Our main goal is to share the love we have for nature with fellow students at Trinity, offering an easy and affordable way for students to get connected to the outdoors,” Bono said.

The organization considers the varied skill levels among students and often sends out surveys asking for feedback. By acknowledging these, O-Rec can ensure that any student can participate without feeling inexperienced or unskilled.

“That’s the whole point of O-Rec. We’re trying to teach people. Last spring break, we had a few people who had never even camped before; it’s usually no problem if you’re inexperienced,” Brant said.