Feature Story

Hiking, Kayaking, and Fostering Spiritual Growth

April 18, 2016 – by Billie Paulus ’16

OWU's wilderness trek to the Roan Highlands of North Carolina and Tennessee focused on diverse ideas of worship and Christian leadership.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Wilderness Ministry Treks Provide Serious Fun

Ohio Wesleyan University students seeking an adventurous and life-changing spring break found both elements during this year’s three wilderness treks.

Students participating in the wilderness trek to the White Mountains of New Hampshire examined faith traditions.

Reilly Reynolds ’16, who is studying management economics and Spanish, traveled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. “It is unlike any other experience at Ohio Wesleyan!” Reynolds says. “Wilderness treks give us the incredible experience of forming a closer bond with ourselves, nature, and our spirituality, all the while exploring a new piece of the earth.”

Another group journeyed to Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia, where they spent time backpacking and kayaking. For Delanie Baker ’20, who is studying pre-medicine and microbiology, the trip held much in the way of spiritual growth. “I feel like I overcame so many fears,” she says, “and have a stronger trust in God.”

Ohio students traveled to Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia for a wilderness trek that explored themes of identity, community, and spirituality.

OWU’s annual spring break wilderness treks are intended to support personal spiritual growth, regardless of religious affiliation.

The third group ventured south to the Roan Highlands of North Carolina and Tennessee, and focused primarily on diverse ideas of worship.

Chase Smith ’17, who is studying creative writing and English, says, “On this trip, I learned that worship is difficult to describe and to identify. We are all worshipful creatures, but something that is worshipful to me may not be worshipful to another.”

William Hayes, chaplain and director of Wilderness Ministries, is responsible for coordinating, leading, and implementing these trips each spring.

“Spring break wilderness treks are one of OWU’s most unique offerings,” Hayes says. “They provide an immersive experience where learning about faith and spirituality is integrated with real experiences in the outdoors, from rock climbing and backpacking to sea kayaking and canoeing.”

Ohio Wesleyan prides itself on the many opportunities it offers to engage in experiential learning, Hayes says, and spring break wilderness treks provide one more way to grow at OWU. And best of all, he says, “Fun and adventure are always included!”