It’s something we all need, but do not always think we deserve: a vacation. Beaches, secluded mountains, and all-inclusive resorts are top notch destinations, and believe it or not, they can be found before you even leave campus. 

UNM’s Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) is waiting with open seats for its Getaway Adventures. The longstanding catalog of travel opportunities has been a staple for Recreational Services for years. 

“It started somewhere in the 80’s. Laura Montoya ran the program for the most part and developed and continued to build it throughout her tenure,” OAC Operations Specialist Charles Gwinn said. “I was a trip leader back in the mid 2000’s with Laura. She exposed me to some things that helped me to grow as an individual. I took over in 2019 and have continued to work towards living up to her legacy since then.” 

Leisure services group photo
UNM Getaway Adventures, 1986

Montoya, who deserves plenty of thanks, not only laid the foundation for the variety of opportunities Lobos can take advantage of, but now can take advantage of them herself.  

“I worked for the Getaway Adventure program for 30 years, and now I’m here to chillax. It's good being on the other side,” she said.  

With tuition remission or discount, students, staff and faculty can browse an endless collection of seasonal activities for cheap. 

“It’s a great benefit for faculty and staff, and students always get a discounted rate. We try to make our trips as accessible as possible with Getaway Adventures,” Gwinn said. 

There’s snowshoeing, skiing and snowboarding, hot air balloon flights, hiking, and trips to iconic New Mexico destinations–like White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns. Did we also mention bouldering, climbing, camping, and watersports? 

“We have trips that require a good amount of fitness and experience, but we welcome everybody, and we will work with anybody to make sure that we can get you out on whatever adventure we're on, or find one that works best for you,” Gwinn said. 

If feeling like you’re on the Amazing Race isn’t your go-to for a trip, there’s a whole other realm of getaways that many universities don’t have. 

“One of the great parts of our program is our cultural program. New Mexico is unique in that we share a lot of our beautiful state with a wide variety of cultures,” Gwinn said. 

This includes trips to famous markets in Santa Fe, renowned New Mexico museums, and iconic events like the Madrid Holiday Parade and Pueblo Feast Days. 

There's lots and lots of festivals throughout the summer. Then in the fall we love feast days and the Madrid parade. Every year it fills, and it's a wild time. If you've never been there, that parade is festive, to say the least,” Gwinn said. 

UNM’s cultural getaways are especially one-of-a-kind because of the enthusiastic, all-knowing tour guide you get on these cultural experiences: OAC’s Marty Martinez.  

“Marty is an excellent part of the program. He puts his own spin on the cultural trips as a guide. He puts his extensive knowledge on display,” Gwinn said, 

This past summer, these cultural getaways included a trip to Meow Wolf, the International Folk Art Market, and a special relaxation trip to Ojo Santa Fe. 

“When we go to the market, Marty knows a bunch of vendors or knows great places to eat and creates a good social event,” Gwinn said. “It’s not just getting dumped off with a map. Marty makes it special, and I've always appreciated that about him.” 

Ojo Santa Fe welcomes a group of Lobos each schedule of getaways. Gwinn thinks it’s critical for the opportunity to embrace peace and wellness to be available no matter the time of year. 

“We've built in a lot more relaxation and mental health programs. Mental health and social emotional wellness is a big part of our program. We needed to build more community, and I think that the outdoors is a great setting for that,” he said. 

With 77 acres of gardens, water, and trails, Ojo Santa Fe is an oasis the OAC loves to take people to.  

“Ojo Santa Fe has amazing amenities. There are multiple pools with different temperatures and also saunas and massage therapists,” Gwinn said. 

In addition to the pools, hot springs and spa, Ojo Santa Fe also has gardens, chickens, and puppies to spend your day with. 

“There's all kinds of great opportunities at Ojo Santa Fe to really get your relaxation on. Whether or not you just want to sit next to a warm pool in a beautiful area, or if you want to just sit in a puppy room all day, it's there for you,” Gwinn said. 

The way every getaway can provide something different for every type of traveler is something to marvel at. For those eager for a little bit more activity, but who still desire that tranquility, Gwinn could not recommend the fly fishing getaway enough. 

“Fly fishing is such a relaxing getaway for me. Even if I don't catch anything, just being in a river and having that river flow past and sharing that experience with participants is really important to me,” he said. 

As a strong proponent of the activity himself, Gwinn ensures the overnight camping and fishing experience is off the beaten path. 

“You feel like you're a part of nature to not have any background noise. We're so far out that you don't hear cars, just nature. It's really nice,” he said. 

He scouts possible places to fish ahead of the getaway, to ensure maximum diversity of fish, as well as beautiful scenery.

Paddleboarder carries paddleboard
Paddleboard participant heads back from river

“I like to make sure that we have a beautiful area, and I like to have backups in multiple locations just in case we get there, and there's just a lot of folks fishing in that area,” Gwinn said. 

Fly fishing employs a catch and release system as well. That way, endangered species are returned, reservoirs and fisheries stay maintained, but UNM learners can still study and understand.  

“We use best practices for fish release, and make sure we’re handling fish correctly. We do not keep and eat. We try to maintain the fisheries that we go to and be good stewards of the land and the streams,” Gwinn said. 

Often, the Gila National Forest and Santa Fe National Forest are grand places to cast a line. You’re surrounded by a wide selection of wildlife and vegetation and near a clear stream. 

“We fish to those areas and talk about stream ecology. If there's good bird life, there's generally good aquatic life. I like to give people the opportunity to fish for different species,” Gwinn said. 

Believe it or not, you can find an equally diverse array right along the Rio Grande. Rather than hiking or peeking over an overlook, you can get up close and personal through standup paddleboarding.  

“One of the things we really want to do is to make the outdoors more accessible for people, and the Rio Grande is right here, and is a wildlife corridor,” Gwinn said. 

While the starting point of the swift journey varies, the scenery and calming flows of the Rio Grande do not. 

“It's beautiful, and the water's nice and cool, especially earlier in the season with snowmelt. We get you down a river that is gorgeous and still somehow right in the heart of a major metropolitan area,” Gwinn said. 

That’s the whole purpose of the Getaway Adventure Program– to find fun and beauty everywhere in New Mexico, even from your backyard. 

“We want to educate people on how easy it is to access the outdoors. People will utilize it more and the more appreciation there is for a natural environment, the better protected we hope it will be over time,” Gwinn said.  

Along the way, you’ll soak up the sun and sun, while making memories and possible friends. 

“You're around like-minded folks. Whether it's an easy hike in the Sandias or an adventurous mountaineering trip, we take people everywhere and give them the opportunity to build that community, while being in beautiful places,” he said.  

Now, going on 40 years, the Outdoor Adventure Center’s Getaway Adventures will always find a way to surprise you, and provide an excellent escapade in New Mexico. 

“It's a great way to decompress from the week, unplug, get away and relax for that time,” Gwinn said. “You can learn a little bit about yourself, the culture of the Southwest or the country or world.”