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Outdoor Recreation students put their survival skills to the test in Estes Park, Colorado

October 15, 2012 | Ian Richardson


In some college courses, a professor lectures while students take notes. But in some courses, professors and students climb mountain tops together. Often times those climbs are figurative; but in one class at Evangel, the adventure to the mountain top is quite literal.

Outdoor Education is a required class for all Recreation majors at Evangel University. The course is offered each summer and culminates in a field trip that some may consider a dream vacation.

On June 24, 2012, three adults and eight Evangel students embarked upon an adventurous journey to explore the natural wonders of Estes Park, Colorado. Through a wide range of activities, the students had to put all aspects of their classroom knowledge to the test, performing tasks that ranged from mountain climbing and backpacking to basic survival skills such as water purification.

The first day’s activity was a trip into the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park. Led by park rangers, the team took a four-hour hike and learned about animal habitats, area vegetation, environmental preservation and other subjects related to the Rocky Mountain National Park area. The second and third days were also spent hiking, with the third day featuring the ascension of Flat Top Mountain. Beginning at approximately 9,000 feet, the team hiked to the summit at 12,500 feet.

“It was an amazing experience reaching the top of Flat Top as a group and seeing God’s creation,” says Jessica Rumfelt, a senior. “It’s like nothing you have ever seen before.”

Evangel University students in Estes Park

“I have a group of friends that I always hang out with, but on this trip it was a random group of people that I didn’t really know. I can now say that some of my best friends were on that trip with me.” — Jessica Rumfelt, senior

The climb presented an opportunity for both team bonding and personal growth. For Senior Hannah Keeth, it also helped her come to terms with one of her fears. “I have always been afraid of heights, but climbing the mountain and jumping boulders with my classmates helped me somewhat overcome my fear,” she says.

The trip gives the students an opportunity to practice what they have learned throughout the course. This summer, the class was instructed by Dawn Neal, assistant professor of kinesiology.

Neal’s husband, Leon, who is Evangel’s head women’s basketball coach, accompanied the group on the trip along with Kevin Kennedy, Evangel’s sports information director. In addition to Keeth and Rumfelt, the students who took the trip were Luke Howington, Kari Barnes, Briana Walsh, Colby Broadnax, Brad Sturdefant and Cory Woods.

Each day, the team made an excursion to a different part of the park, and each night they returned to their cabins and were responsible for fixing supper. The nights would also highlight campfire devotionals, where each student described how God was working in his or her life.

Dawn says that her favorite part of each day was the campfire testimonial time, which helped her grow a lot closer to her class. “The students were able to open up to one another and share with us all about how they came to know God, what He has taught them and how God brought them to Evangel University,” she says. “I got to know each one of them on a different level.”

On the fourth day, the team took to the waves on a white water rafting trip down the Colorado River. They had the chance to view the park’s wildlife and natural wonders from a different perspective and to practice their communication skills as they worked together to steer their rafts.

If Rumfelt’s story is any indication, it is possible that the team had a little bit of fun as well.

“We were on the float trip and Corey was in the front paddling,” she says. “He kept splashing me, so I went to splash him, and, when I did, the guide pushed me in. Corey went to help me back in the raft and then dunked me back in the water. However, Colby came to my rescue and pulled me back in. The water was about 50 degrees. It was extremely cold.”

Kinesiology Students in Estes ParkThrough all of their adventures, teamwork and the sharing of their hearts, a short trip to Colorado turned into a fantastic bonding experience for the team as a whole. Instead of merely walking away with a few more credits and another graduation requirement under their belts, the students have also gained lifelong friendships.

“My favorite part about this trip was getting to know each other on a totally different level than what you would by just being in a classroom,” says Keeth. “It was so awesome to hear each other’s testimonies and how God has brought each of us out of something.”

“This trip helped me branch out more socially,” says Rumfelt. “I have a group of friends that I always hang out with, but on this trip it was a random group of people that I didn’t really know. I can now say that some of my best friends were on that trip with me.”

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