Ryan Adams took a break from canoeing when somebody called out excitedly. A group of dolphins appeared in the water not too far from his group and Adams, at the time a junior mechanical engineering major, dove into the water to swim towards them. Adams was able to take a picture with one of their fins before they swam away.
This picture became one of his favorite mementos from the Outdoor Adventure Club's (OAC) 2011 Spring Break trip to Florida. The OAC has been active at UB since the 1990s and attracts large numbers of students each year. The goal of the OAC is to bring students out of their everyday scenery and expose them to new experiences through trips to different places, both local and further away.
According to the club's president, Leah Wzientek, a senior civil engineering major, one of the biggest benefits to being in the club is that it provides students with opportunities they may not find elsewhere. The club tries to remain active and outdoors, regardless of the season.
"In the past, OAC turned into ‘Indoor Adventure Club' when it turned winter," Wzientek said. "This year, we tried to keep up with the outdoor activities. We wanted to bring it back to nature a little more. Every weekend we try to have a hike, no matter what the weather is."
Wzientek first learned about the club her freshman year. Her roommates and floor mates were leaving campus to go on "crazy trips" every week and when she became a sophomore, she decided she wanted to be part of the fun as well. It wasn't until her junior year, however, that she decided she wanted to hold a position in the club.
This revelation came about from a friendship she had made through the OAC with an international student named Yuka. Yuka signed up for the white water rafting trip without knowing much English, or much about what the trip entailed – she simply knew that she "liked water."
"From there, Yuka went on almost every trip and became one of my best friends…we would talk about life, America, Japan, boys, etc. for hours on the night shift of driving," Wzientek said. "[Before she left] she said that joining OAC and meeting the members had made her experience in America. That's what influenced me to become president – I wanted everyone to be able to have that experience of being part of something."
This year, the club will be driving for 24 hours to the Everglades in Florida. There, they will canoe for three days and camp out every night at designated spots along their path.
After the canoeing portion of the trip, they plan to drive to Biscayne National Park, a location famous for their underwater attractions. According to the National Park Service website, Biscayne National Park offers activities such as snorkeling, boating, and camping, in addition to enjoying the scenery.
Ryan Lynn, junior finance major and Vice President of OAC, said that some of his favorite memories from this year include the club's trip to the Adirondacks. According to Lynn, the hiking is hard and can be extra tough on some people who aren't adequately experienced. Even after hiking miles in the snow and freezing cold, however, the view from the top of the mountain is worth the exhaustion.
"You get up there and you're like ‘Wow, this is f***ing gorgeous,'" Lynn said. "This exists in real life? I thought this was only in pictures and movies. This is real and I'm feeling this, I'm up where nobody else is right now…Once you get up there, you just get that adrenaline rush."
Though the club members are all educated on safety procedures, sometimes accidents happen. During one white water rafting trip, a raft popped after smashing against the rocks and the passengers were all reorganized onto other rafts.
Another time, on the way to a hiking trip in Zoar Valley, NY, one of the cars full of members got lost and wound up in Pennsylvania without the phone numbers of any of the other members in the other cars. According to the members, these types of occurrences are rare and shouldn't discourage.
Lynn recalls one experience during a hike, however, that left him a little shaken up.
"I got trail fever," Lynn said. "We were walking and I got this thing on the radio…and as [I responded] I just felt like there was a deer or something running behind me – I could swear on my life that this bear was just running after me. I felt the ground shake and I heard all this noise, and I shined my flashlight and there was just nothing. I was just hallucinating. Scariest thing that's ever happened to me."
Ultimately, the members of OAC are dedicated to the club and the trips because they enjoy being active with friends, and each trip is a break from their normal lives.
"[At school] you can't be adventurous – you go to class, you ride the bus, you walk from Ellicott to the Student Union. [So] its really the experience," said Matt Schultes, a freshman engineering major. "You have to get out there and experience it. Once you go on one hike, you just keep wanting to go on more."