Entering college can be a stressful and anxiety-ridden experience, but Trinity Outdoor Recreation (O-Rec) offers first years a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relax and make new friends in the countryside of West Texas on the First-year Outdoor Recreation Trip, or FORT. Three first years and two trip leaders went backpacking through the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park for four days and three nights.
“It’s just really great, just being less scared going into Trinity because now you know people, especially upperclassmen. It’s a really nice way to ease into Trinity,” said Stephen Muela (’14), one of the leaders on the trip.
Muela went on the FORT trip when he was a first year and says it really inspired him to major in geoscience and environmental studies.
“It was four days, three nights in the back country, and it was great,” Muela said.
The FORT excursion has been around for several years now, helping first years feel more comfortable about the transition into college life.
“A lot of schools actually do really large pre-orientation trips as a requirement, and I think it would be really great if Trinity did something like this,” Muela said.
First year Catherine Quigley from New Hampshire heard about FORT through one of her friends and decided to sign up.
“I was talking to her online, and she mentioned a really cool-sounding trip,” Quigley said. “It’s easier for me for adjusting to a new place to live, and Texas is really far away from New Hampshire. I thought it would give me a little bit more confidence.”
First years who attend FORT get to move into their residence halls earlier than other students, which gives them time to get settled and comfortable with their surroundings.
“I’m really glad. It helped; it gave me a lot,” Quigley said.
“I’m very comfortable about San Antonio, I’m comfortable about Trinity,” Quigley said.
O-Rec typically goes backpacking for FORT because it’s a great way for out-of-state students to get to know more about Texas and all the state has to offer. In 2011, the group actually had to travel all the way to Arkansas for FORT because of rampant wildfires in Texas.
As far as future trips, Stephen says there is always something new coming up and really hopes to canoe down Boquillas Canyon one day.
“It should be really pretty. It comes out of the mountains into the desert,” Muela said.
Quigley is very excited to stay involved with O-Rec, and remembers one of her favorite moments of the trip. “One of the days we climbed Emory Peak, and we didn’t have to wear our backpacks that day. There’s this one part that was like rock climbing. It pretty much was climbing a rock wall without harnesses,” Quigley said.
Emory Peak is the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.
Muela says that O-Rec is really easy to get involved in, and all their trips are geared towards beginners. “I actually have no extended backpacking experience,” Muela said, “It made a really big impact on me as a freshman, it really helped shape what I thought I would do. I love geology. I had never been all that outdoorsy before.”
There are many trips coming up, and there are also Thanksgiving trips offered for students who can’t make it home to be with their families. Trip leaders take care of all the cooking and first aid to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for participants.