TRAiLS GW forms subgroup for students to explore low-cost outdoor activities

Media Credit: Tyara Estrada | Photographer

Biz Rhoads, a GW TRAiLS guide who organized the group, said she wanted to offer the subgroup to students who are looking for other people to accompany them on hiking or rock-climbing trips.

GW’s only student organization focused on outdoor activity is trying to engage more students in local excursions.

TRAiLS GW, a student organization that leads outdoor hiking and yoga trips, held its first meeting for its newly formed subgroup TRAiLS Den Wednesday to encourage more students to get involved in outdoor trips. Students said the mini-group will bring together students who do not hold a leadership role in TRAiLS GW to stay up-to-date on free or low-cost outdoor activities.

“We wanted to form a general community that anyone can sign up for so they can incorporate the outdoors into their life beyond the outdoors trips they can sign up for in TRAiLS,” sophomore Biz Rhoads, a TRAiLS guide who organized the group, said. “It’s basically supposed to bring together a group of like-minded outdoorsy people.”

Rhoads said there is a “misconception” that students who sign up for TRAiLS-led activities are also part of the student organization, but any student can attend a trip and only TRAiLS guides are members of the group. She said the new group rose from the selective application process for guides – the organization accepted about 15 of its 100 applicants last fall.

Aside from TRAiLS GW, there is no formal student group on campus dedicated to spending time outside, she said. Rhoads said she wanted to offer the subgroup to students who are looking for other people to accompany them on hiking or rock-climbing trips.

Students involved with the group could also use their membership in TRAiLS Den as a stepping stone to become a TRAiLS guide, she said.

“Everyone should be in it, everyone should make the outdoors a part of their life and make it available to them,” she said.

Students involved with the group will have monthly general body meetings and access to the TRAiLS Den Facebook group, which currently boasts about 140 members, where they can post events like movie screenings or rock-climbing trips and find other students who want to attend, Rhoads said.

She added that she wants to increase the diversity of students attending outdoors trips by partnering with organizations like Allied in Pride and D.C. groups like Afro Outdoors and She Jumps.

Rhoads said she will plan free events, like picnics on the National Mall or free outdoor yoga, for students who do not want to pay for TRAiLS GW trips, which can cost between $15 and $45 depending on the excursion.

She is promoting the group through the TRAiLS GW newsletter, which has about 3,000 students on its listserv. Rhoads and other TRAiLS guides also promoted the group at a student organization fair earlier this month.

Senior Tessa Coughtrey said she used to spend more time outside in North Carolina, her home state, and transitioning to a city campus “was a pretty big change in scenery” because she could not easily find activities involving nature. She said the group could encourage her to carve out time for outdoor events.

“TRAiLS Den seems like a really fun opportunity to get a sub-community within trails,” she said. “There are the guides, and then there are people who just go on TRAiLS trips, so it’s a really good way to build the community for people who aren’t guides but enjoy being outdoors.”

Junior Mercedes Chen said she joined TRAiLS Den because she spent time hiking while she studied abroad in Chile last semester and used outdoor activities as a way to de-stress. Chen said she wanted to find a community where she could make friends with people who wanted to explore more outdoor areas around the D.C. area.

“I don’t really leave the Foggy Bottom area and going to other parts of the city, so I don’t find myself going to parks or the mountains,” she said. “Being part of this new group would be really helpful for that.”

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