Inside USD

Spring Break Volunteering: An Outdoor Adventure

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Emily Kirschbaum, a junior biophysics major, spent a week in Utah during the recent spring break with fellow classmates. While she had fun exploring, this experience, which was organized by USD’s Outdoor Adventures, also consisted of sustainability-minded and service components. Here’s Kirschbaum’s reflection on the week:

My favorite memories at USD have happened while I’m volunteering. This spring break was no different — I spent a week in the desolate southwest to adventure and volunteer on the Outdoor Adventures’ (OA) Utah Spring Break Service Trip.

This trip was a meaningful way to spend a week away from the busyness of the semester. Although we had a break from the demands of the semester, our education never ceased. We stepped away from traditional learning and living to, instead, learn from our adventures, each other, and nature. We spent time giving back in service and learning about different cultures and environments all while adventuring the outdoors!

There are too many incredible moments to count, but some of my favorites include watching the dark horizon glow purple over the Valley of Fire at sunrise, hiking the switchbacks of Bryce Canyon, trekking into the narrows of the Virgin River, the view from the summit of Angel’s Landing, and volunteering in Zion National Park.

Throughout the trip, we were constantly surrounded by the artistry of nature. It was refreshing to take a step back and appreciate the beautiful country we live in. The grandeur of Zion was humbling. Finding a pink blushing flower growing within the crevices of a rock was a treasure. The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon were majestic. Lying under the blurring stars while the crickets sang was somnolent. The Valley of Fire, a jungle of red rock, was a playground for our group. For the entirety of the trip, we were literally enclosed in geologic history and surrounded by thriving natural environments and rock formations, their evolutionary history dating back tens of millions of years.

The OA Spring Break Service Trip provided an incredible spring break filled with hiking, camping, newfound friendships, smores by the campfire and service.

On our first day volunteering in Zion National Park, we activated the principles of “Leave No Trace” by helping to clean up the trails. On our second day of service we worked with two National Park Rangers in the native plant nursery. We were an integral part of a project to preserve the delicate ecosystems of Zion National Park for years to come. We worked side by side with the rangers and they were so appreciative for our service. The fence and gate we helped build is a feature I can go back to in 20 years and be proud to say I had a helping hand in creating. Participating in volunteer service work was an incredibly rewarding experience and is by far my greatest memory of the trip.

I am so thankful to have spent my spring break exploring with USD’s Outdoor Adventures. This trip was great way to live out USD’s core values of knowledge, ethical conduct and compassionate service. I’ve come away from this trip a better person and filled with memories I will not soon forget, countless stories to share, and pictures to last a lifetime. There is something really beautiful about the desert that can’t be explained in words or captured in a photograph — it can only be experienced. The desert became a place where seven strangers became friends. The desert is where I became motivated to live a life in better care for our environment, appreciative of nature’s magnificent simplicity and destined to become a life-long adventurer.

— Emily Kirschbaum ‘14

Photos courtesy of Outdoor Adventures

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