By Erin O’Farrell
Members of the Outdoor Club trail behind social studies teacher Suzanne Moss and German teacher Noel McRae up a steep ridge to reveal the foliage, brilliant colors, and natural arches that loom ahead.
On Oct. 24, the Outdoor Club made another trip to Red River Gorge for the third year in a row.
“Red River Gorge is a national park in eastern Kentucky,” said Moss. “It has tons of natural arches and tremendous natural beauty.”
McRae agreed with Moss that the beauty of the Gorge draws students back to it.
“The kids want to go back there. It’s really beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful trails you’ll find,” said McRae.
Moss said she enjoyed the Gorge as a student and wanted to share that experience with her students.
“I’ve loved the Gorge since I was in college,” said Moss. “It’s something I wanted to share with the kids. They’re really blown away by how beautiful it is there.”
Club member and senior Jared Koopman said the Gorge is a very unique place to visit.
“There’s not a whole lot of places like that around here. It’s really unique to our area. It’s one of the areas that have the most natural arches to the east which is pretty cool,” said Koopman.
Club member and sophomore Andrea Mohler agreed that the Gorge was a great sight to visit locally.
“I went rock climbing at Red River Gorge with my dad once. The overall experience was great. It’s just a really great place to go,” said Mohler.
The Gorge is an especially distinctive place visit during this time of year according to Koopman.
“In the fall, the foliage is amazing. You’ve got the contours of the ridges with everything,” said Koopman. “It’s beautiful.”
Once they reached Red River Gorge , the club backpacked. Moss said backpacking is much more demanding than camping.
“Backpacking is when you go into the backcountry and you have some type of shelter, like a tent,” said Moss. “You actually stay outdoors in the backcountry overnight. Unlike camping, you’re miles and miles away from your vehicle.”
On top of honing their backpacking skills, McRae said the students gained a lot of other educational value.
“They gained a sense of independence and responsibility,” said McRae. “It teaches them appreciation of the outdoors. We teach them to clean up their campsites, and we need to leave it as we found it or even better in some cases. It teaches them a sense of respect for the outdoors.”
Mohler said students gain knowledge about both teamwork and responsibility.
“We get more knowledge about the outdoors and responsibility because everyone has to do chores around the campsite. We learn to work as a team,” said Mohler.
Before making the trip, McRae emphasized why students need to get ready for it.
“They have to prepare and bring the right things,” said McRae. “If they don’t, they suffer the consequences. They have to prepare and bring food, the right clothing, and the right shelter. This [trip] develops good skills in that respect.”
Some students less familiar with backpacking still have an interest in doing the activity because they enjoy nature.
“You have a lot of students that want to go outdoors. They may not know different trails so we take them to an area we’re very familiar with,” said Moss.
McRae said students in the Outdoor Club often view trips like this as achievements.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment,” said McRae. “A lot of them are really proud to prepare for a trip and to go out in the woods and spend a night outside of their comfort zone. There is a sense of adventure there.”
Some, like Mohler, were motivated to go on the trip because they wanted to experience nature.
“Students go probably because they like the outdoors and that sort of experience,” said Mohler. “I’ve always been hiking and camping with my parents, and it [Red River Gorge] is a really great place locally to go hiking or backpacking or rock climbing.”
McRae said some people cannot quite perceive the importance of the outdoors, until they take a trip that changes their perspective on nature.
“The Gorge is a place for people to not just enjoy the natural beauty, but to relax. There’s no better way for me to relax and unwind than to be outside, and I think a lot of people today don’t fully appreciate that, so I like to expose students to that,” said McRae.