By Clarisa Guerrero

When I hear the term “ice breaker” I picture the Titanic’s engines at max capacity, steam escaping profusely from gigantic cylinders, a ship aiming right at me full speed ahead.

  Excursion Club Staffer Katie Young overlooking Observation Point. Photo by Katie Young

Excursion Club Staffer Katie Young overlooking Observation Point. Photo by Katie Young

Teachers mean something else when they talk about an ‘ice breaker.’ At the beginning of every class, they never fail to make us go around a circle and introduce ourselves as if we were a part of an Alcohol Anonymous group. There I am, with heart pounding and my mind racing to come up with something adventurous I did over the summer to cover up the reality of my chocolate-fueled binges, watching Grey’s Anatomy.

As much as I loathe ice breakers, there is one place I don’t mind it all: The Excursion Club. It is a student-run organization that leads an array of trips, from surfing, backpacking, hiking, snowboarding, archery, and rock climbing, to even jumping off planes.

At UCSB, a heavy workload is something we students know well, and it can leave us in dire need of a recharge. Many students sip caffeine-heavy Yerba in class just to keep their eyes open. In my case, getting outdoors and in touch with nature is the perfect solution.

Before a recent trip to Zion National Park, 16 of us formed an oddly-shaped circle in the parking lot for the dreaded “ice-breaker,” each announcing our major and then an interesting fact. Art, Environmental Studies, Chemistry, Film and Media, Chicana/Chicano Studies — a diverse group from across the disciplines, for sure. What we all had in common was our love for the outdoors.

  Fall Colors on the Angel’s Landing Hike, Zion National Park, Utah.

Fall Colors on the Angel’s Landing Hike, Zion National Park, Utah.

We loaded up four cars and began our journey from sunny California to the beehive state of Utah. As cash-starved college students, we voted against paying for a campground in the park and instead took the dirt road less traveled to a free spot outside the park to set up for the weekend.

Most campers preferred the comfort of a warm tent. But others hung up hammocks, and a few brave souls laid out a tarp, tossed their sleeping bags on top and gazed at the beautiful starry sky until they drifted to sleep. Wanting the full experience, I layered up and joined those on the tarp. When we woke up we were awed by our surroundings. There, on top of a cliff that overlooked a rusty orange canyon with patches of green, we had hit the jackpot.

After filling our bellies with some warm oatmeal and crunchy sweet fruits, we continued into Zion National Park. Living in California, I had yet to experience fall season colors full on. But, Zion blew me away with its vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges pouring over the trees and deep canyon.

All afternoon we hiked like tiny ants beside the giant canyon walls. Holding onto chains for your life was an awesome experience for the adrenaline junkies and petrifying for those afraid of heights. That evening, some students played their guitars and sang around the campfire. Another student pulled out his journal and jotted down his experience. A student majoring in Film and Media browsed through the shots he took on his Canon DSLR. Two embarked on a moonlit hike. I, on the other hand, turned on my head lamp and entered into the world of my novel.

The next day, half of us wanted to attempt the 8.6-mile hike that led to Observation Point, while the other half pushed for the famous Angel’s Landing hike. So we split up. I do not regret choosing Angel’s Landing, a 5-mile hike.

 

  Artist at work, under abridge, Zion National Park, Utah

Artist at work, under abridge, Zion National Park, Utah

We trekked off-trail where we spotted a painter under a bridge, beside a river. The Art major in our group was intrigued and headed over to ask him a question.

“Why did you choose this particular spot?” he said. The painter replied that he was looking for more subtle details off the beaten track. “Sure the canyon is gorgeous. But beauty is everywhere — even under this bridge, ” he replied.

That night we gathered around the fire, showed off our photos and tried to convince those in the ‘other’ group that our hike was best.

On the morning of the third day, it was still dark and I could feel the cold wind against my rosy cheeks. Several of us made our way to the edge of the cliff and waited. As the sun gradually emerged from the horizon our campsite came to life. Soon after, everyone scurried around picking up trash, rolling up their sleeping pads and loading into the cars. We made sure our “campsite” was cleaner than before we had arrived. I said goodbye — which I knew meant more like “until next time,” fellow Excursioners.”

Clarisa Guerrero is a Senior who will graduate in Chemistry next spring.

 

  Within the canyons of Zion National Park

Within the canyons of Zion National Park