‘Reflect and reload’ | Ohio Wesleyan University

“Reflect and reload”

Hikes in the Ohio Wesleyan Desert Give Time to Forge Friendships and Faith

By Cole Hatcher

Alena Arnold ’23 enjoys a sunrise over Blue Ridge Mountain.

When the autumn holidays have finally arrived, Alena arnold ’23 was tempted to spend her free time writing an article and catching up on other class work. Instead, Arnold and 12 other Ohio Wesleyan University students followed a different call.

“This fall break, instead of working on my geography essay, I found myself watching the sun rise in gold and orange over the Blue Ridge Mountains,” said Arnold of Ashland, Ohio. “I woke up early and walked with a few of our fall vacation group to the ridge near our campsite. We climbed a huge chunk of rock and sat at the top, watching the world bathe in a golden glow. I could have stayed there for hours.

“Strangers to Friends”

Josie Fornara ’23 has been on Wilderness Treks since her freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan.

A double major in environmental sciences and biology and Sociology-Anthropology Minor, Arnold said the four-day backpacking trip to Grayson Highlands, Va. was also filled with other memorable moments.

“We saw wild ponies grazing on the mountainside, playing in an icy mountain stream, and singing campfire songs.” She said. “I saw our group go from strangers to friends with the ease of backpacking.

“I’ve been a member of the Outdoor Ministry Team (OMT) Fall Trips every year,” said Arnold, “and every year it reminds me of why I love them so much. Our groups have open and meaningful faith discussions, or spend time alone, reflecting and rejuvenating in nature. I love the break from the hectic college life that allows me to get away from it all into the wilderness, and there is nowhere I would rather spend my fall vacation.

Treks twice a year

Allyson Amstutz ’24 is happy to meet ponies on the Fall Break Wilderness Trek in Grayson Highlands, Virginia.

William hayes, associate chaplain and director of the Wilderness Ministry for the Ohio Wesleyan, can’t help but smile when he hears such a positive response to treks twice a year. The Ohio Wesleyan offers fall and spring excursions in partnership with the Coalition for Christian Outreach, based in Pittsburgh, PA.

“The Wilderness Treks are designed for students to learn outdoor living skills through a four day backpacking trip and are intended to give them the time and space to focus on their faith and spirituality in the context of a supportive community, ”said Hayes. “I hope the students return to campus with new friends, a greater love for the outdoors, and a new desire to continue to grow in their faith.”

Refocus on relationships

Grace Ison ’23 and Abbie Setlik ’23 enjoy the breathtaking views during their OWU Wilderness Trek.

Josie Fornara ’23 from Coshocton, Ohio, also participated in the October Fall Break Wilderness Trek.

“As a busy college student, there’s nothing better than having the chance to get away from the hectic pace of campus life for a few days,” said Fornara, a double major in pre-professional zoology and science. ‘environment and Chemistry minor.

“When I’m distracted from classes, homework and meetings, I feel like I don’t have a lot of time to think, reflect or spend quality time with my friends,” she said. “Nature treks give me the time and space to get away from these distractions and refocus on my relationships with God and with the people around me. Not having cell service certainly helps with this! “

Allyson Amstutz ’24 and Jaden Smith ’23 are rock climbing in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Like Arnold, Fornara also enjoys meeting and getting to know other OWU students.

“We all come from different social and cultural backgrounds, and we all have different academic and extracurricular interests,” Fornara said. Some of us are high school students who have already found our place on campus, and others are in our first semester in college. Some are avid hikers, and others have never slept in a tent before.

“I feel so welcome”

“It’s very gratifying to see how all of our differences ultimately bring us together throughout the journey,” Fornara said. “For example, seasoned backpackers help less experienced group members learn to pack their bags, pitch tents and cook meals using a camping stove, which helps everyone get to know each other. and to feel included as a member of the group. “

Wild horses dot the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Additionally, being in an unfamiliar environment opens up group members to vulnerability and the willingness to engage in personal and meaningful conversations with each other, ”she said. “I remember being so well received by the other students in my group on my first Wilderness Trek as a freshman, and that same feeling of acceptance and community is the main reason I continue to ‘look forward to Wilderness Treks every year. “

Trekking here, there and everywhere

Ohio Wesleyan students learn camping and life skills during Wilderness Treks twice a year.

In addition to Arnold and Fornara, participants in this year’s Fall Break Wilderness Trek were Allyson Amstutz ’24 from Orrville, Ohio; Grant Brooks ’22 from Dublin, Ohio; Savannah Cushing ’25 from Mokena, Illinois; Katie Doiron ’23 of Monument, Colorado; Grace Ison ’23 Oakmont, Pennsylvania; Kaylee Moore ’23 of Greenville, Pennsylvania; Jonathan Munroe ’24 from St. Louis, Missouri; Caylin ’25 Prize of Findlay, Ohio; Setlik Abbey ’23 from Herndon, Virginia; Carissa Silet ’23 of Buffalo Grove, Illinois; Jaden Smith ’23 from Marion, Ohio.

In addition to Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Hayes said OWU’s hikes also included trips to Joshua Tree National Park in California; Cumberland Island, Georgia; Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado; Ten Thousand Islands, Florida; and Quito, Ecuador. In March, the Ohio Wesleyan Spring Break Wilderness Trek will visit Death Valley National Park in California.

Learn more about Wilderness Ministry and fall and spring hikes in Ohio Wesleyan.


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