Located in the heart of the High Country, Boone, NC, is home to 18,000 students who attend Appalachian State University. Many students attend App State solely for the outdoors aspect that the university and town offer… and for an education too, I guess. The rest of the student population quickly discovers that an outdoor lifestyle is hard to avoid, therefore, they, too, become an outdoor-adventure-junky.
From a variety of courses and majors, to the programs and clubs students can join, to the local shops located on King Street in downtown Boone, the town fully engulfs the outdoor lifestyle. Within an hour of campus there are several different locations in which a person can seek adventures. Whether it’s a short day hike to Elk Knob, a quick drive over to the Blue Ridge Parkway, or a long weekend spent in Linville Gorge, adventure is always near by.
With the help of the university’s Outdoor Program (OP) and University Recreation Center (UREC) students and staff can easily rent equipment at discounted prices including backpacks, tents, kayaks, stoves. You need it? They’ve got it. The OP also offers a wide variety of staff-led trips to educate students, encourage them to meet new people, and provide new places to explore. Some of this month’s expeditions include whitewater rafting, rock climbing and bouldering, sunset canoe trips, and caving.
This week I had the pleasure to speak to a few members of ASU’s Outdoor Program in order to get better insight on their involvement with the great outdoors.
Jonathon Weaver, a current senior at App State has been a trip leader for the OP since his sophomore year. Weaver fell in love with the outdoors at a really young age.
“My granddad lived in Cleveland County and had 100 acres behind his house of woods and farm… both [he] and my great-granddad would take me out there and we would hike,” Weaver says.
Today, Weaver finds himself tucked away in a kayak as often as possible.
“Wilson Creek is by far my favorite place in the High Country. It’s two miles roadside, class IV whitewater… it’s the place to be,” says Weaver. “I find myself connected with water — ocean, stream, pond, creek, it doesn’t matter. There’s such an adrenaline rush with kayaking, I can’t explain it, it’s just so fun”.
Aside from being in the outdoors, Weaver teaches a free kayaking roll clinic in the Student Rec Center pool once a week. Both students and townsfolk come together from all backgrounds of experience to take part in this clinic.
“Some people have been doing this as long as they can remember, others have never even been in a kayak before,” Weaver says.
Being apart of the OP as a student has enriched Weaver’s life in many ways.
“If nothing else being outside is a stress reliever in itself… a big part of being on the OP staff is just personal development,” says Weaver. “After going on a trip we come back and sit down and say, ‘That was good… how can we make it even better?’… It forces me to be introspective and then you begin to ask yourself, ‘How can I be a better person? How can I be a better leader? How can I be even better”?
From another perspective, Andrew Hawley has been leading trips for more than 10 years. He received his BS in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management from North Carolina University. He later attended Ohio University where he received his Masters in Recreations Studies. Hawley’s love for the outdoors led him back to North Carolina where he is now the event coordinator of ASU’s OP.
Around the High Country, Hawley finds adventure about 45 minutes away from Boone at Linville Gorge. “It’s majestic, it’s beautiful… there’s something about looking through the gorge with the mountains above you and being on top of one of the cliff faces looking down at the river with the sound of the whitewater rushing around you,” says Hawley.
No matter the reason one ends up at Appalachian State, I guarantee that by the end of a student’s four years of school, they will have spent just about as much time outdoors as he or she has in the classroom. There is so much more to life than the education you can gain from a textbook. The real world situations you get yourself in will teach you much more about this life than any scholar ever could. So, in the words of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, “go outside and play.” Go see what the world has to teach you right outside the classroom door.