Club & Greek

South for the Summer

The Outdoors Club Visited Tennessee this Past August


This past summer six members of the Outdoors Club went on a trip to Tennessee where they took part in various outdoors activities such as kayaking, white water rafting, zip lining and camping.

The idea for the trip and trip planning was organized mostly by the club’s advisor, William Reynolds. They spent about a week down south, with three members heading out a few days early to sightsee in Nashville.

Club president Greg Cenicola, along with club members Mike Kulik and Tyler Vandegrift, both sophomores, drove out two days early to explore the city of Nashville.

“Nashville was great,” Kulik said, “All the bars had live bands. One was playing ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ and they had this girl on the fiddle. I didn’t know it was possible for a person to play an instrument like that. It was incredible.” The three also stopped at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum during their stay.

The Outdoors Club was also visited by former president Paul Mandala and former Vice President Joe York, who rode down with Reynolds and joined Cenicola, Kulik and Vandegrift in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The six stayed in Great Smoky Mountain National Park where they set up their camp.

“It was my first time ever staying in a National Park System,” Cenicola said, “It was a good experience. We had running water as well as a bathroom there.”

He then went on to tell the story of their first night and what he referred to as, the soup experience. The group sat around the campfire heating up soup for dinner when they realized they had no bowls or cups with them. “You’d think one of the six of us would have remembered to bring bowls or cups, it’s not like it was our first time camping,” joked Cenicola. “We decided to cut the tops off some empty cans we had with us and pour the soup into them. The only issue was they became too hot for us to hold. So there we were, the six of us, holding hot cans with our socks around them, eating soup; it was hilarious.”

The first official day for the complete group consisted of white water rafting in the upper section of the Pigeon Ford River. They rafted through stage three and four rapids. According to Cenicola, stage five is the most difficult level of rapids.

The six used Outdoor Rafting Adventures to take them out and provide them the gear necessary for their adventure as well as a guide to go out with them.

“Rafting the Pigeon Ford river was my favorite part of the trip,” said Reynolds, “It really got my adrenaline pumping.”

After a long day of rafting and swimming the group decided to purchase some fireworks, which unlike here in New Jersey, are legal in Tennessee. “We were setting them off in a field outside this bar,” explained Cenicola, “And eventually all eight people who were in there came out to watch us. Later, this lady walked out with a box and in a real heavy southern drawl said, ‘You boys want to see something fun?’ She lit the box on fire, turned to us and calmly said, ‘Run.’ Needless to say, we ran away fast.”

The next morning the six enjoyed a day of zip lining through a forest not too far outside of a town called Gatlinburg.

“It wasn’t too different from our zip lining trip at Hunter Mountain, N.Y. last semester,” said Cenicola. They were suspended at heights varying from 10 to 100 feet, where they zip lined from tree to tree.

The zip line tour ended in Gatlinburg, “a touristy town,” described by Cenicola, where the 21 and older of the bunch got to try out some beer, wine and even moonshine tastings. The Ole Smokey Mountain Moonshine website writes, “Our families were growing corn and making whiskey here before Tennessee was a state, and after years of having to hide from the law in the days of prohibition, we’re proud to finally be able to legally share the best spirits in the mountains.”

Afterwards the group decided to call it a night, but not before playing laser tag at one of the local establishments.

On the final day the club ventured back out into the rapids with Outdoor Rafting Adventures, although this time they rode inflatable kayaks which were referred to as duckies.

Mandala, the creator of The Outdoors Club said, “My favorite part of Tennessee was white water kayaking in duckies down the river. It was fun to be in your own boat with the freedom to check out what you wanted, at your own speed, while at the same time staying near the group. I also found a random rope hanging out of a tree and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to climb up it. The rapids were pretty fun too, all of us got the chance to try out surfing a whitewater wave. Seeing and being that close to a circular current was really cool.”

Reynolds and Kulik both notably enjoyed the atmosphere and welcoming local environment of Tennessee.

Kulik said, “My favorite part was meeting all the different people, interacting with the different guides and seeing how different life is in a place that is really relatively close to home. Laws are different, people are different, it just seemed like you could walk in anywhere and have a half hour conversation with any given stranger and hear things you just wouldn’t fathom talking about with someone in Jersey.” Kulik has been involved with the Outdoors Club for a little over a year now.

Reynolds said, “We found the locals to be very welcoming and anxious that we enjoyed every minute spent in Tennessee.”

Mandala also enjoyed the company of the trip and being able to spend time with different eras of the club. “I can’t say enough good things about the guys. It was fun being able to see the past, present and future of a club all in one trip. It will be a special memory for me. I needed the trip to unwind a little because of all my training for my Ironman race; a weekend with the Outdoors Club guys was exactly what I needed.”

When asked if he planned to stay involved with the club, now two years post-graduation, Mandala replied, “Not only do I think that I myself will stay involved with the Outdoors Club, but because of some of the close ties we made over past trips I see an Alumni group in the makings. It’s great that something I started with a little backing of effort is not only expanding and thriving on campus but even spurred off an alumni group. I think the friendships we make will last a lifetime.”

Next summer Cenicola hopes to plan a kayaking trip to the Grand Canyon, but that’s still just an idea. For now, the club has a rafting trip planned for September 29 to 30, about 100 miles north of Albany. There is room on the trip for 40 students and the cost is $75 each, which is less than half the normal price according to Reynolds. This includes, five meals, a bus ride, the campsite and admission to white water rafting on the Hudson.

In addition to that trip the club has a beach party planned for September 22. Here they will bring out all the toys, such as paddleboards, surfboards and kayaks. For more information on the club feel free to attend their first meeting of the year on September 12, which will be held in the back of the student center (near the pool tables) at 3:30 pm.

PHOTO COURTESY of Zipline Family Adventures