New Directions

Discovering the trails with Campus Recreation

Leader Liam Gayter points towards the view of Looking Glass Rock.

It’s a campus tradition that occurs miles and mountains away.

Students know it by its Bulldog name—pre-rendezblue—the first-year program held every August before classes start that helps incoming students explore their new home, from urban adventures in downtown Asheville to wilderness experiences in the National Forest. One hundred percent of the students participating in the wilderness experience say the program helps them succeed at UNC Asheville. They connect around common interests, get a jump start on the transition to college, and bring newfound expertise back to the classroom and back to the trail, particularly for the students who sign up to lead the adventures the next year. 

Trail Traditions

Students explore the mountain trails surrounding Asheville. A long day of exploring the outdoors is hungry work. When the time has come to sit down and enjoy a meal outside, check your bag for all your tasty treats, wrap it all in a tortilla and you can enjoy your own unique combinations. Favorites might include peanut butter, pretzels, jelly, trail mix, or anything you might have bouncing around the bottom of your backpack.

Each pack of 10 or 12 Bulldogs receives a colored bandana to help recognize their group, and to foster a collaborative environment. Each colorful pack has a unique name that only they understand, like “Raisin Bran” or “Banana Cult”—and they learn how to work as a team and accomplish goals together. 

When the day is done, the Bulldogs take some time to sit by the fire—or a “Nalgene fire,” which is a headlamp inside a Nalgene water bottle—and enjoy skits by students and leaders. Bulldog creativity gets to shine with an evening talent show!

The Path Ahead

Leader Samantha Creech brings her ukelele on the trails to play during break times.Even after Bulldogs have taken their first steps onto campus and through the Blue Ridge Mountains, their journey continues with UNC Asheville’s Campus Recreation and Outdoor Programs, which also has a new leader this year.

Wendy Motch-Ellis comes to campus as the new director of campus recreation, after serving 12 years in campus recreation work at UCLA and serving NIRSA, the professional association for campus recreation. She’s especially interested in wellness on campus, and in the role that outdoor programs can play, giving credit to the team in place.

“Leah Belt, associate director (an alum ‘06) and Phil German, assistant director, bring our outdoor programs to life through their mentorship and guidance of our amazing students in Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Leadership Program.”

That goal of getting everyone active and outside fits perfectly with Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Programs which offers trips for UNC Asheville students including climbing, kayaking, backpacking, caving, skiing, mountain mindfulness, fly fishing and rafting.

The program also teaches the Outdoor Leadership Training Program (OLTP), which is a four-credit opportunity for students to learn about leading others in the outdoors and is a great start for students who want to become pre-rendezblue trip leaders. The program lasts a full year and involves classroom learning, wilderness medicine training, field training in backpacking, kayaking and climbing. Campus Recreation also offers a team-building program through low-challenge course initiatives and group development activities.

Students canoe around Lake Junaluska where a water fight ensues.For their own adventures, students, faculty, and staff can rent gear and equipment from Campus Recreation, including everything from renting commuter and mountain bikes at the on-campus Bike Shop to checking out tents and sleeping bags for overnight adventures.

“Our future goals for the program are to continue to offer UNC Asheville students opportunities to grow through experiential learning and to provide them with the skills necessary to have a safe and impactful experience in the outdoors,” Motch-Ellis said.