The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

Photoseries: Devil’s Lake Outdoor Connection Trip

Gretchen Willis
Bennett at a lookout point. Photo taken by Trinity Rietmann.

Inside the lobby of the Recreation Eagle Center sits Outdoor Connection. Students walk past the facility on their way to the Fitness Center or the basketball courts, for those who take the time to go inside and see what Outdoor Connection has to offer they will find a variety of equipment. 

In the facility, mountain bikes are suspended from the wall and rows of rollerblades behind the rental desk. In the back, sleeping bags, tents, coolers and camping stoves fill the shelves. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) line one wall hinting at the paddleboards, kayaks and canoes that are stored in the boat yard. All of these items and more are available for students to rent, providing them with resources to explore the outdoors. 

Rentals are not the only thing that Outdoor Connection offers. The staff also lead outdoor recreational trips. These range from evening sunset paddles in the La Crosse area to week-long camping trips in places as far as Utah or Arizona.

Colten Tessness, an Outdoor Connection trip leader, talked a bit about why Outdoor Connection is important to UWL’s student body. “I think Outdoor Connection is a really good program to have on campus because it keeps students connected with nature when they’re typically working with a lot of computers or technology… so I think that having Outdoor Connection here allows people to escape for a weekend and really just connect with nature more,” said Tessness.

Right now, Outdoor Connection is in the middle of its fall season of trips. Grace Vigil, another trip leader, gave insight on the  behind-the-scenes process of setting the trip schedule.

Vigil explained, before school started the staff came up with trips that interest them as leaders and ones they think students will enjoy. This season Outdoor Connection planned a variety of trips including paddleboarding, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and a few camping trips to various locations in the area. There are usually two student leaders for each trip, and once the staff decide which trips they want to lead the planning begins. A location and route are chosen and an itinerary is created. Then an email is sent out to the participants and they arrive on the day of the trip ready to go. 

Tessness explained how the trip leaders drive from location to location, help set up camp, prepare meals, and lead hikes and other activities for the participants. Essentially, all the participants have to do is show up, and the rest is done for them.

This past weekend, Tessness, Vigil and Trinity Rietmann led an overnight camping trip to Devil’s Lake State Park. The group left Saturday morning and returned Sunday afternoon. There were eight participants who attended the trip to Devil’s Lake State Park. 

Wagner said, “I really liked Devil’s Doorway [a rock formation at Devil’s Lake State Park]. That was a blast.” She continued “And I can’t even get over the fall colors! It’s so pretty!” 

Vigil’s favorite part of the Devil’s Lake trip was the jumping rock. “I like to put myself in situations that push my comfort, like jumping off the rock,” Vigil said. “I’m so scared of heights, and I think it’s just really cool to show that you can do something when you put your mind to it, and you don’t have to be in a little box that you put yourself in.”

Vigil also spoke about how the role of trip leader is outside of her comfort zone. “I don’t typically take on leadership roles, I just observe,” she said. “I think it’s really cool that I push myself to have a bigger role in things.”

Tessness spoke about stepping outside of his comfort zone as well. “For me, the most exciting trips are ones where I can push myself outside my comfort zone and try new things, and I find it really rewarding to be able to accomplish new things and achieve goals that I haven’t reached yet,” he said. 

Getting outside into nature is a step outside of some individuals’ comfort zones, but according to Tessness, one just has to go for it. “My message to students who haven’t really experienced the outdoors is just to get outside and connect and try something new and see if you like it,” he said. 

Outdoor Connection is a first step for those students who want to get out into nature, but do not necessarily know how. Vigil said, “Around La Crosse, there are so many good areas that you can go outside and enjoy the nature, but so many people don’t know how to find that themselves,” She continued. “I think it’s really cool that we plan, and we find the places to do things. Then people can go back and do it themselves and have a really good time because they know the area already.”

“It’s [connecting with nature] very therapeutic for me. It’s just time for you to sit with your thoughts, and you’re just by yourself, and it’s for yourself,” Wagner said. 

“I feel like it just slows everything down. Life is so go, go, go. School this, work that. In the outdoors it’s just a calmness and a peace,” Vigil said. “It’s not man-made, it’s just nature and relaxing.”

This weekend’s trip was a chance to get out into nature for all those involved however, it is not the last opportunity to get involved in the outdoors. Outdoor Connection has more opportunities coming up for students to connect with nature. A Full Moon Hike will be running this coming Friday, and the following weekend another group is heading out to Devil’s Lake State Park. Other offerings coming up include more camping, fall color hikes, and trail biking.

“Overall I’m just a better, happier person when I’m outside connecting with nature,” Tessness said. His advice to everyone is to “see how that experience changes you… just try it out!”

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About the Contributor
Trinity Rietmann
Trinity Rietmann, Photojournalist
  • Year at UWL: Junior
  • PGPs: she/her/hers
  • Hometown: Baraboo
  • Major: Art Education
  • Minor: Photography and Recreation Management
  • Other Campus Involvement: Women's Rugby Team
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Become an art teacher
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Hiking at the Bluffs
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