You are here

Bonding with the Outdoors

UMD freshmen take a kayaking trip in Lake Superior
September 12, 2016

Recreational Sports and Outdoor Program (RSOP) offers Freshman Outdoor Trips that change lives before school even starts.

A bear visited the campsite.

One of the Freshman Outdoor Trip campsites was visited by a bear.

Madison, Wisconsin native and UMD freshman Emily Sebranek didn’t have any experience camping, but that didn’t stop her from signing up for RSOP’s freshmen kayaking trip in the Apostle Islands.

Four days in the wilderness had her hanging her clothes out to dry in the sun and licking her dinner plate so bears wouldn’t be attracted to their campground.

Although the first day of kayaking was the shortest, Emily said it was the hardest. “I had just left my parents the day before, and then it rained the entire day,” she says. “It was emotional. My new roommate and I cried a lot and it was like the rain was expressing what we were going through.”

The Apostle Island Caves

The students explored the red sandstone cliffs and sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The first day may have been hard, but the next three days made up for it. “We got up at five in the morning and we took the most peaceful sunrise kayak through the Apostle Island caves,” Emily says. The quiet and beauty was peaceful. “It was worth it; I didn’t do anything like this in Madison.”

Doing the dishes are usually a chore, however Emily had “a blast” doing them one night with her fellow campers. “It was ‘Aha’ for me,” she says. “I realized that I was going to be friends with them for a long time.”

Ryley Oliver, who kayaked the Apostles in a different group, had a shocking experience. She was visited by a bear. The students were still sleeping when the women leaders started making breakfast. "They walked away from the campsite for a minute and when they turned around, the bear was eating our granola bars," Ryley says. "The bear, who the students named Celeste, was so persistent, the park ranger had to close their campsite.

The bear sighting just added to Ryley's enjoyment. "I liked being unplugged" she says. "It was refreshing to not worry about time."

Ryley is from Glencoe, Minn. and the trip made her thankful. "I hope I never take for granted what I have, like showers and clean running water."

RSOP has been putting on Freshman Outdoor Trips for over thirty years. Trip leaders are made up of students and staff. Although the number of students per trip varies, close to 100 students take one of the trips each fall. National research indicates the social connections students form help to smooth the transition from home-life to college-life. Like Emily and Ryley, other UMD students back up the research with the positive feedback they give the outdoor trips.

Emily Sebranek and Ryley Oliver kayaked in the Apostle Islands in separate groups.

Emily Sebranek and Ryley Oliver kayaked in the Apostle Islands in separate groups.

The program remains extremely popular. In summer 2016, students mountain biked, experienced rock climbing, hiked, camped, paddled sea kayaks, and found secret fishing spots. Within a four day stretch, students got a taste of what the Northland has to offer.

Natalie Moriarty, and Jaren Thell contributed to this story.

For more information visit: