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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Outdoor Adventures offers surprising perks

As summer looms and the temperatures rise, there’s no time like the present to take a break from textbooks and term papers and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a complete novice, UC Davis’ Outdoor Adventures has you covered.

Located in the barn next to the Silo, Outdoor Adventures has been guiding trips and renting outdoor equipment to the UC Davis community since 1972. Offerings range from rafting and sea kayaking to backpacking and rock climbing.

“We’re one of the country’s largest student-run outdoor education programs,” said Danny Milks, the outreach coordinator of Outdoor Adventures.

Milks said he and two others are the only full-time staff members at Outdoor Adventures – the rest of the staff is composed of five student managers, approximately 75 student guides and 10 students employed at the rental center.

“What makes OA special is that there’s a really strong community of participants and guides – OA is a place that is really welcoming to students,” he said.

And experience level isn’t an issue for participationin most Outdoor Adventures trips.

“All trips are instructional-based,” Milks said. “Most are introductory, but we can work a trip so almost everyone can get something out of it.”

As part of UC Davis Campus Recreation, Milks said Outdoor Adventures is run as a nonprofit, with more than 5,000 participants a year.

“We try to keep prices as low as possible for students,” he said, adding that to control expenses, most trips require participants to provide their own transportation and food. Students planning their own trips can also rent tents, skis, kayaks, stoves and other equipment for low prices, Milks said.



One of Outdoor Adventures’ most popular and accessible trips is whitewater rafting down the South Fork of the American River’s class III rapids, Milks said. Located in California’s Gold Country, the South Fork is a short drive from Sacramento.

“It’s a one-day trip, with no minimum skill levels,” Milks said. Trips are conducted every Saturday and Sunday from April to September, and fees are $52 for students.

“Many students go as an end-of-year celebration,” he said of the guided trip.

Students looking to spend a little more time out in the wilderness can consider Outdoor Adventures’ three-day rafting trip on the Klamath River in the northeastern part of the state.

“It’s a very remote location protected by the river. There are no structures, no establishments,” Milks said.

“It’s really relaxing to just raft for a day, and then stop and set up camp,” he said. “People play Frisbee, play horseshoes, read, or sit around and play the guitar [at the camp.]”

The Klamath trip is also known for its large dinner at the campsite, Milks said: “The rafters cook up a gourmet meal.”

The guided tour over the river’s class III rapids is offered over Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends, with a capacity of20 participants each trip. The cost is $180 per student.


Rock climbing

In addition to aquatic adventures, Outdoor Adventures offers many land-based adventures, including various rock climbing trips throughout the school year.

“One of the coolest feelings ever is having birds fly under you,” said Casey Chambers, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and Outdoor Adventures guide for rock climbing and winter sports.

“I like when you feel the wind come by you and it drowns out everything else – you just see nature and a gigantic piece of stone,” Chambers said.

A beginner’s rock climbing trip is scheduled for May 17; participants have until May 15 to sign up. The trip costs $35 per student.

“Most climbing trips are one day out and give people an introduction to climbing real rocks, which are a lot different than climbing in gyms,” he said.

“We can get everyone up to the top,” he said. “Skill level isn’t the limiting factor, it’s more the desire [to climb].”



Outdoor Adventures also offers numerous backpacking trips to locations such as Point Reyes, Big Sur, Cache Creek, and through the Sierras, said Julie McPherson, sophomore cultural anthropology major and wilderness guide.

One trip McPherson guides is “Introduction to Backpacking.”

“Our goal is to teach people the skills they need to go into the back country on their own and feel comfortable,” she said. “It’s really fun and rewarding.”

Outdoor Adventures is offering an introduction to backpacking trip in the Sierras from May 31 to June 1. The cost is $39 per student.

McPherson said participants hike through the wilderness, then set up sleeping bags and tents for the night.

“But when it’s beautiful weather, sometimes we sleep under the stars,” she said. “I’ve got great memories from every trip I’ve been on.

“Outdoor Adventures is my family at Davis; I’m glad so many people are involved, and I wish more would get involved.”


Become a guide

Students interested in becoming an Outdoor Adventures guide can apply for a spot in guide school, which is operated once a year for each discipline, Milks said. Outdoor Adventures will hold rock climbing and healthcare guide school during fall quarter.

“Guiding is so much fun; it’s the best job ever,” Chambers said. “The guides usually enjoy the trips as much, if not more, than the participants. They love this stuff.”

For more information on Outdoor Adventures and a complete list of trips and classes, call 752-1995 or drop into the Outdoor Adventures barn next to the Silo.


ANNA OPALKA can be reached at features@californiaaggie.com


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