Feature News

TRAIL Outfitters encourages the North Central community to go outside and play

Feb 18, 2019

The campus of North Central College is nestled comfortably within the city of Naperville, Ill., but that doesn’t stop North Central students from embarking on exciting outdoor adventures.

“There are so many opportunities right here,” said Lydia Pond, director of Campus Recreation. “We often talk about campus being ‘landlocked’—but it doesn’t have to be.”

A new program called TRAIL Outfitters expands the boundaries of the student experience through outdoor excursions that help develop “curious, engaged, ethical and purposeful citizens and leaders” per the College mission. TRAIL Outfitters offers year-round trips and activities, instructional programs and training, leadership development and teambuilding, and equipment rental.

The logo for TRAIL Outfitters from North Central College.

“We want students' first exposure to adventure activities to be in a safe environment,” Pond said. “If you’re going to learn new skills and enhance your knowledge of the outdoors, we want to help with that.” Training will include equipment orientation, instruction on proper technique and first aid.

TRAIL Outfitters is a collaborative effort organized by the College’s department of Campus Recreation, the Leadership, Ethics and Values (LEV) program, and the Center for Social Impact. As part of the College’s strategic plan, an outdoor adventure program helps provide creative educational contexts and leadership development opportunities.

“While valuable leadership instruction occurs within the classroom, we are excited to offer students the chance to practice leadership in a challenging and adventurous environment,” said Abby VanHorn, associate director of Leadership, Ethics and Values. “TRAIL” is an acronym that stands for Teamwork, Responsibility, Attitude, Integrity, and Leadership – all values that are essential to developing the character of future graduates.

Through TRAIL Outfitters programs, LEV will offer leadership and team building exercises for student athletic teams, student organizations, academic classes, faculty departments and staff offices. Improved interpersonal communication, engaged collaboration, enhanced problem solving and reflective leadership practices are the goals of the team building activities.

Pond wants to take advantage of valuable resources available to the North Central community that may not be fully utilized. Campus is located immediately adjacent to the DuPage River, which is suitable for canoeing and kayaking. The pool in Merner Field House is perfect for kayak lessons. The Morton Arboretum is on 1,700 acres in Lisle, Ill., approximately 15 minutes from North Central’s campus, offering numerous outdoor experiences including biking, running, hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Four Lakes Ski Area is just down the road in Lisle. The College also has access to a large house in Dixon, Ill. usable for retreats and outdoor education, conveniently located in proximity to a number of state parks and natural resources – including Starved Rock State Park.

North Central Students kayaking down the DuPage River.

A large cache of camping gear—with everything from hiking equipment to water sports resources to cooking appliances and utensils—is ready for use in the Residence Hall/Recreation Center. TRAIL Outfitters offers a rental service for student organizations or staff/faculty who want to use the gear to plan their own trips. Equipment will be available for rent at competitive rates and the money will go back into upkeep and updates of the gear as needed.

TRAIL Outfitters is a natural extension of many outdoor-related programs that have been growing over the last few years , including NCC LEAD (Leaders Engaging and Developing), men’s and women’s leadership retreats through the LEV program, retreats through the Office of Faith and Action, Cardinal Camps for incoming first-year students, and the Outdoor Adventure Club, which Pond advises.

“TRAIL Guides” are experienced faculty and staff from different campus departments who love the outdoors and want to create unique and transformational experiences for students based on their interests and expertise.  These guides have successfully embarked on personal or college-sponsored trips all across the world, from local camping spots like Blackwell Forest Preserve, to national parks like the Grand Canyon, Arches and Joshua Tree, to international destinations like Mt. Kilimanjaro. As the program grows, students will train to become guides as well.

“What we want to build is something that’s sustainable without us,” said Pond, speaking of herself as well as fellow program leaders VanHorn and Jeremy Gudauskas ‘99/M ’11, assistant vice president and co-director of the Center for Social Impact. “We want this to become ingrained in the community and become something North Central is known for.”

Pond hopes, above all, to encourage the campus to try something new and push their own limits. The TRAIL Outfitters mantra is “Challenge by choice.”

“We’re trying to provide fun, sustainable and engaging experiences,” she said. “We want to challenge people to learn things about themselves in different types of environments.”

You can learn more about TRAIL Outfitters, including how to register for trips and rent equipment, on their web page at northcentralcollege.edu/trail-outfitters.