Adventure Outings trip leader shares outdoor thrills

Wildcat Wilderness Orientation
Melissa Berndt and her group take a moment to rest during Wildcat Wilderness Orientation on top of the cinder cone volcano in Lassen National Park. After going on many trips through Adventure Outings as a participant, Berndt is now a trip leader who guides others. Photo courtesy of Melissa Berndt.

Facing the turbulent water around her, Melissa Berndt submerged in and out of the Trinity River as it rushed her down the rapids.

Gaining speed, she came to a halt and felt water on her face. As she braced herself, she soon realized that the water was not from the river but from tears of joy.

“We could have flipped a raft and it could have gone bad,” said Berndt, senior nursing major in health education. “We were sitting at the bottom rapid so excited that everybody was safe. I was really proud of everyone.”

Berndt’s eyes widened as she reminisced on the thrilling adventure she took with her co-workers, who shortly became some of her greatest friends, she said.

The senior nursing major, who has been involved with the outdoors since she was young, is now a trip leader for Adventure Outings, a student-run wilderness exploration club.

As a child, Berndt’s parents would take her on trips to Alaska, where the family would kayak and live outdoors the entire month they were there.

“My parents just really loved taking me camping,” Berndt said. “I wanted to take those experiences and develop a leadership role.”

After Berndt transferred to Chico State, she heard about Adventure Outings through a campus tour. The student-run group organizes recreation trips to different parts of Northern California. It provides transportation and chooses the destinations for outdoor adventures.

Berndt went on about four to six trips every semester as a participant until she finally became a trip leader, she said.

“All you have to do is show up,” Berndt said. “It’s a pretty sweet program underutilized by students.”

The organization has been around for about 20 years and offers trips for students, faculty and anyone else who wants to join in. The cost can range from $10 to $120 for the weekend.

“Adventure Outings is a really great way to meet friends,” Berndt said. “Some of the trips are really intense for people. They think it is physically impossible to achieve their goal. People totally get emotional.”

About 30 trips are offered each semester, and for each the organization has to obey different permit sizing. The trips are open up to the public and on a first-come, first-served basis. Rafting trips and campgrounds can hold 30 people, however, the group’s vans can take 15 people each.

“You’re living with people the entire week,” Berndt said. “We all get up and make breakfast together. We would raft and then make a huge dinner and sleep in tents for seven days.”

Berndt likes being disconnected from cellphones and taking in the beauty of nature in a peaceful escape. Students spend too much time in the classroom and are too connected to technology, she said.

The Adventure Outings office is located in the Bell Memorial Union, and the group also runs a rental equipment office in the Wildcat Recreation Center.

“We have a gear room at the WREC,” Berndt said. “You can rent out things like sleeping bags or snowshoes and go on your own adventure with a group of friends.”

The goal for Berndt and the organization is to start getting people to take advantage of the outdoor adventures that the group has to offer.

“We want people to appreciate what is in their own backyard,” Berndt said.

DJ Morris can be reached at [email protected] or @djthejournalist on Twitter.