This summer, University Communication & Marketing is getting outside, and hitting the road with its newest series: "Adventure Abound at UNM." We will explore the Outdoor Adventure Center, a unique UNM amenity with biking, getaways, classes, and challenges. Join UCAM as we team up in a four-part series with the not-always-well-known UNM center. It’s all part of UNM’s 2040 sustainability goals– to embrace wellness, the environment, and all the fun you can have with both.
It’s no secret the University of New Mexico offers a sweeping, exciting docket of classes for all types of learners. The Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC), in UNM’s Recreational Services is no exception when it comes to all that’s available.
Like much of the magic the OAC offers to students, faculty, staff and alumni, it began in the bike shop. The very origins of its class and clinic offerings started with your basic bike maintenance instruction. When OAC Specialist Charles Gwinn noticed how many questions, and how many students poured in on just this one aspect of outdoor adventure, he saw an opportunity.
“We've always had mechanics as part of it. I think we started with a basic maintenance class and then did a bike tune out class and found that folks learn more in these classes,” he said.
Moving from wheel building, to water bottle cage making, Gwinn went to the drawing board for offerings he thought would interest the UNM community as much as they interested him.
“I really do love community building and bringing in other folks and sharing their expertise,” he said.
Although bike-related classes are still held regularly, you can now find offerings on hiking safety, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and even orienteering.
"Orienteering is not necessarily an adventure, but is kind of built like one, where you have to figure out the coordinates and then find where you are according to those coordinates,” Gwinn said. “A lot of people are losing that map and compass skill, so it's just a fun skill to have and stay sharp on. It's also nice to have a backup if you lose G.P.S.”
While some classes and clinics are seasonal, like those winter activities, many are available all year. One of the prime examples is an activity where the water temperature will stay 61 degrees no matter what: scuba diving at Blue Hole.
“One of the coolest things is scuba diving here in New Mexico. It's a great benefit for students, staff and faculty,” Gwinn said.
The OAC’s partnership with The Scuba Company is one that has been nothing but filled to the brim with safe education, passionate divers, and lots of exploration, all for a discounted rate.
“It's just a really cool opportunity. If anybody's interested, you can come out and see if scuba feels right for you, and you can go on the classes from there. I love their approach to that,” Gwinn said. “They're passionate about it, they’re a group of really fun people to be around. They're kind of infectious in that way.”
Each month, or twice a month, after rigorous practice The Scuba Company makes the trek with its students to the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa. The naturally occurring body of water is a mysterious marvel, with depths of over 100 feet–making it one of the most popular diving destinations in the country.
“Going to the Blue Hole with The Scuba Company is awesome. They're great to work with and are willing to work with us on discounted rates,” Gwinn said.
If you need more convincing, you’re in good hands when you put on the goggles and strap on the tank, you can feel comfortable with The Scuba Company’s other customers.
“They work with APD and their divers. They work with Kirtland and their dive program. I know a lot of those people and everybody just has nothing but great things to say about their staff. It's a great company,” Gwinn said.
On top of safely learning, and unlocking the potential for deep-diving adventures across the world, this class offers an official certification.
“Whether it's your open water diver certification, or your advanced open water diver certification, they give you plenty of time. It's two days, sometimes three, depending on if you need more time. They even do deep water dives there too,” Gwinn said.
Even if it’s not a certification, Gwinn ensures learners at the OAC walk away with a great experience, skills, and something a little extra. For backcountry baking, it’s a whole meal.
“I learned that I could bake in the backcountry over open fires and dutch ovens and things like that. For our class here, I give them recipes that are winners,” he said.
Friends, couples and teams come together to create delicious, backpack friendly meals which make for a great treat at the end of a long hike.
“We make items like pizza and cinnamon rolls. We give them techniques and talk about baking and the science behind it so participants have a complete picture,” Gwinn said. “You can make your bread the morning, let it rise in your backpack all day, and then have a delicious meal.”
It’s a plus when each of the courses offered come together like a completed dish and sides. With wilderness medicine and backcountry baking under your belt, you’re even more prepared for a class close to Gwinn’s heart–fly fishing.
“It's something that I'm passionate about. Being in a river is also very centering, feeling the river’s flow and that you're really a part of nature. You really have to be in tune with what the river is doing and what nature is doing at the time in order to be successful,” he said. “It's really nice as an instructor to
share a passion of mine with participants.”
Much like The Scuba Company, Gwinn makes sure the very basics of fly fishing are well ingrained before his students try to hook ‘em, line ‘em and sink ‘em in the wild.
“A lot of people in my intro to fly fishing classes have zero experience, so it's nice to have every level come in,” he said. “It inspires learning between participants, and lets those folks that are a little bit more experienced see learning from a different angle, share their experience, and learn from the newcomers as well.”
That relaxation is another thing you can find in OAC class and clinic offerings. If fly fishing, scuba and baking is still not your speed, you can fully unwind your mind and body in stand up paddleboard yoga.
“It's a great introduction into stand up paddleboarding, but it’s also a good time trying to do some yoga while on a paddleboard. You do get a lot of exercise out of it, but it's also relaxing,” Gwinn said.
This is one of the OAC’s most popular offerings, taking place almost every month. It combines water, paddleboarding and yoga in an hour of light exercises and introspective thought.
“It is probably the most carefree, fun class. It's mellow movements, and relaxing yoga versus getting into a rhythm and doing really difficult poses. That's not really going to happen on a stand up paddleboard, so this is just fun,” Gwinn said.
You can always expect to learn something new and outside the box at the OAC. The great thing about these UNM Recreational Service innovators, is that they’re right there with you–they also want to try something new. That means if you see something that interests you, you may want to enroll right then.
“As far as the classes and clinics go, it just depends on staffing and what I'm passionate about at the time. Everybody's active in their own way, so one of the great things about the OAC is that we cater to all groups,” Gwinn said.
The seasons and class options may change, but the option to always dip your toe into some brand new waters will always remain at the UNM Outdoor Adventure Center.
“At the OAC, we offer classes and clinics to the whole spectrum of folks–whether you're a beginner or an advanced. We offer a wide selection of classes, regular selections, one-offs, and collaborations with community partners,” Gwinn said. “I think there is something for everybody and you don't have to be an expert but it’s okay if you’re close to being one. That's what these classics and clinics are for, to help you gain or further develop skills.”