Cecelia Reyes, of Fresno, had never gone camping or even traveled outside of California. So when she went to Zion National Park as part of a school trip earlier this semester, it was more than just an experiential trip. It was a way for her to conquer her fears and gain new life skills in the process. 

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That is just one goal of the Recreation Administration 146: Adventure-based Programming course, which prepares students for careers in outdoor recreation. Through the semester-long course, recreation administration students like Reyes, learn the skills and knowledge needed to pursue outdoor pursuits and experiential activities. The course concluded this semester with a trip to Zion, which is considered one of the most scenic and adventurous national parks in the U.S., famed for its high plateaus, amazing views and sweeping canyons. 

On the early morning of Oct. 21, while stars still lit up the night sky, course instructor Dr. Jason Whiting and his 11 students began their adventure three states away to Utah. They were among the first group of CHHS students to use the new CHHS van as transportation. The 12-seat van, inscribed with bulldog insignia, was purchased this past summer with funds from a $75,000 gift from Chevron. Students, staff and faculty are encouraged to use the van for travel, volunteer and experiential learning opportunities, as well as research purposes. The goal is to provide students with additional hands-on learning experiences that will better prepare them for careers in the health and human services fields.

The group arrived nearly 10 hours later to stunning views, but dark skies as it was already nightfall by then. They set up camp, ready for the adventure to come the next day. That first night, temperatures dropped to a chilly 30 degrees – a climate Reyes was not used to. 

“Dr. Whiting taught us to expect the unexpected,” Reyes said as she reflected on that first night. “In order to get out of our comfort zone, we need to learn to adapt to our environment.”

Whiting added that conquering fears and the unknown is all part of the concept of his RA 146 course, which is just one part of the learning process. 

The next morning, the group headed on their first outing, Emerald Pools. A series of trails along this majestic park led to sparkling waterfalls and pools throughout. Later that day, some of the students traversed the popular Angels Landing, known for its steep paths, some which require holding onto chains along the cliffside. For many of those students, it was their first experience hiking a trail of that height and magnitude. 

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Each evening concluded with camp side fires by their tents, which gave the group an opportunity to connect in-person after many months learning through the virtual realm. Reyes said the ability to connect and collaborate with her classmates was among the best parts of the trip. 

“Aside from class, we did not really know each other,” Reyes said of her classmates. “So that’s why making connections on this trip was so important for me. By socializing with my classmates, we got to know each other better, and didn’t feel so alone while being so far from home.” 

Among the most exhilarating trail for the group was The Narrows, a popular destination for travelers young and old. The trail takes hikers though the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, with gorges that seemingly reach to the sky. Each person in the group donned dry suits for the day-long excursion, which took them wading through the Virgin River as they got deeper into the narrow canyons.

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“I’ve seen [the Narrows] on Tik Tok a lot,” Reyes said with a laugh. “I’m a really clumsy person, so it was challenging to hike through the rocks and water, but it was all worth it. I got to mark something off my bucket list! It was also really nice to have my classmates and Dr. Whiting encouraging me and motivating me to keep going. It made me feel comfortable in my space.” 

On the last and final full day, Reyes stayed behind as her classmates and Whiting ventured out to try their hand at canyoneering – a sport that involves traveling through canyons using a variety of techniques like rappelling, problem solving, swimming, hiking and more. 

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The students arrived back to Fresno on Oct. 24 with enough memories to last a lifetime, but also with newfound knowledge and skills needed for careers in outdoor recreation. For future students interested in the course, Reyes offers this advice:

“I think that everybody should go camping or get out of their comfort zone once in their lifetime. Try something new and challenging! You might just want to do it again.”


To learn more about the RA 146 course, contact Dr. Jason Whiting at jawhiting@csufresno.edu.