Greetings, from the Great Outdoors! Welcome to the Outdoor Nation Campus

Who says summer has to end? Bust out your paddleboards, grab your rock-climbing gear, and head outside to join this year's Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge

Who says summer has to end? Bust out your paddleboards, grab your rock-climbing gear, and head outside to join this year’s Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge. (Photo Courtesy of UCI Recreation)

I made sure the adjustable leg hoops felt snug around my thighs before tightening my waist-belt. After securing a climbing helmet, I quickly coated my hands with white chalk and brushed off the excess dust on my pants.

There’s nothing more exhilarating than scaling the challenging walls of Planet Granite, a fitness gym regarded as the hub of hardcore rock climbers.

Once I made it to the top and reveled in how small my friends had become, I thought, “Wow. I really did it.”

My muscles ache like they’ve never felt before, but the sense of accomplishment in completing a taxing endeavor makes you forget the pain. When I found out about the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge at UCI, I knew it was a great opportunity to do a sport and other physical activities I loved while also representing my school.

The Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge was created and hosted by Outdoor Nation, a foundation which aims to increase participation and awareness in health-related issues. This non-profit organization was created in 2005 after the book Lost Child in the Woods stressed the importance of pure play and creative curiosity for today’s children and future generations.

“Outdoor Nation was created because certainly people like me, who love the outdoors and the benefits it provides for my life and the lives of others, were concerned about future generations losing that connection to nature,” said Doug Tully.

Doug Tully, the director of Outdoor Adventures, strove to involve the UCI community in the Outdoors and helped to expand the program in Campus Recreation. Tully spent his childhood days in the Midwest and had perpetual access to bike riding, camping, and even a swimming hole made out of old limestone.

He graduated from UC Irvine in 1992 and pursued physical education in graduate school. After several years of coaching volleyball, Tully rediscovered his passion for the outdoors by creating outdoor experiences for the public and has continued to do so ever since. For Tully, scaling walls in places like Yosemite keeps him healthy and happy.

This will be UCI’s first time participating in the event, which is open to students and faculty as well as anyone who identifies themselves as a UCI supporter.

This challenge can take place anywhere outdoors, whether it is paddleboarding at sea, biking along the track, or scaling the mountains. On the “Outdoor Nation” app, which is available on iOS and Android, participants post pictures of their outdoor activities in order to earn points for themselves and for their school. This goes on between Sept. 4 and Oct. 15. The app is not only an effective way to keep track of the points of each participant, but also to encourage outdoor activities. Prizes are awarded each week, with a grand prize for the individual from each school that submits the most posts during the challenge.

Several events encourage UCI participants to come out and exercise. Late Night at the ARC will take place on Sept. 19 and students may make use of the rock wall for free from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Additional rock climbing exercises take place on Tuesday Sept. 20 and Wednesday Sept. 21 at the ARC from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  On Thursday Sept. 22, there will be crate stacking at the ARC from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  On Friday, Sept. 23, there is kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding in the Newport Back Bay from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and again on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Campus Recreation also offers a series of outdoor trips during the quarter, the first of which is on Saturday, Oct. 1 for rock climbing at Ortega Falls.

Outdoor Adventures also rents out gear to encourage students get outdoors to camp and backpack. They can also set up a custom-planned trip for any person or department that has an interest in getting outdoors but doesn’t know where to start.

Tully remains steadfast in his belief that getting outdoors is the most important thing for emotional wellbeing.

“Breathing the fresh air, getting into a relaxed space to hike or camp or even getting a little scared when rock climbing….it’s all the best natural way to feel human and grounded again,” said Tully.