Baton Rouge has never been known as a haven of great outdoor recreation. But with a little driving, and several enthusiastic groups on or around campus working to provide equipment and opportunities, LSU students can easily have fun experiencing nature in Louisiana.
For starters, the UREC boasts a wide-ranging Adventure Education program that offers free clinics in kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, climbing, biking, camping and backpacking. These clinics are designed to teach even the most inexperienced student all the tips and techniques of the various skills, so that newcomers can have the confidence to go outside and have an adventure ( but maybe when this Louisiana heat lightens up some though).
Assistant Director of Adventure and Experiential Education Caitlin Christensen said UREC also has several trips planned covering various activities, as well as a full-fledged equipment rental service.
"We rent anything from mountain bikes to camping gear, we have kayaks, canoes and paddle boards," Christensen said. "We try to keep the cost as low as possible for students too because we want to serve y'all first."
Knowledge may be in abundance on a college campus but generally, at least for students, money is not. Adventure gear is expensive, but the rental program allows students to pursue whichever outdoor activity they want without giving their wallet a slow, merciless death.
Some of the trips the UREC has coming up include a biking trip to the Comite trail in Baton Rouge, a kayaking trip to Bayou Fusillier in Arnauldville, and a backpacking trip in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. Students can find more information on UREC's website.
In addition to the UREC's adventure education department, another source for interested students is the LSU Outdoors Club.
Co-Vice President and Senior English major Kelsi Mahfouz said the club's aim is to get students of all skill levels together for different recreation activities in Baton Rouge and throughout the state.
"It's really informal, really easygoing, and very low commitment," Mahfouz said. "Paying for every trip, it's literally (for) what you do. So like when we go paddleboarding, you're gonna pay for your own paddleboard, but that's it. No dues."
The LSU Outdoors Club plans both short, one-day events as well as weekend trips, Mahfouz said. Any member can suggest an idea for a trip, and the group's schedule is open to change as the majority of members may need, she added. The club also has a GroupMe where members can send a quick message to see if anyone wants to join them for a walk around the lakes, a bike ride, or other similar activities.
If you lean toward the shy side or are worried about you lack of experience, but still want to get involved with the Outdoors Club, Mahfouz said there is no reason to worry.
"A lot of people feel the same way, a lot of people start to do this stuff in college and are learning at the same time," Mahfouz said. "Within the group we'll definitely have varying skill levels and definitely a willingness to teach from members."
If you happen to try mountain biking and thoroughly enjoy it, the Baton Rouge Area Mountain Bike Association may be worth checking out.
BRAMBA was formed in 1992 in response to the need for adequate biking trails in Baton Rouge, said BRAMBA President Bob Walker. Previously, the only option for trail biking in Baton Rouge was an unofficial trail along the levee.
"We try and promote safe mountain biking, we hold different types of rides and events to do that," Walker said. "We work directly with BREC to help maintain the two trails here in Baton Rouge."
BRAMBA has group rides every Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday nights are for more experienced riders who want to go at a faster pace, while Thursday nights are geared toward newer riders. With the UREC's new mountain bikes available for rent and fall quickly approaching, it is prime-time to hit the trails.
Walker said anyone interested in the group can find information on their website bramba.org. Yearly dues are $25, and members get discounts at certain bike shops in Baton Rouge.
With the world becoming ever more digital and the internet seemingly taking over every aspect of daily life, it can be easy to forget the benefits of connecting with other human beings in nature. Mahfouz said participating in outdoor activities with others is a great way to make friends.
"The cool thing about our group is that it's open to all students," Mahfouz said. " So it's a really cool combination of so many different people from so many different backgrounds that there's really space for everybody."