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July 29, 2019 LA GRANDE, Ore. – “Both times my mom has forced me to do something, I have absolutely loved it,” said Gabriel Tritchka, a junior who attended East Tracks in 2017. “The trip provided me the foundation for my college family.”
East Tracks, an annual outdoor orientation program, runs Sept. 16 to 20 for incoming students. This five-day camping trip takes place in Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, and introduces new students to each other and the region before fall classes start.
Participants set up camp beside the Snake River, next to a limestone climbing area. From this basecamp students have access to paddle boarding, hiking, rock climbing, hot spring soaking, fishing, swimming, kayaking and more.
Mary Edwards, a transfer student who attended the trip in 2017, had never been rock climbing before.
“If you are afraid to climb a rock, try it at least once. If you are afraid to get in the water, try it at least once,” she said.
No previous experience is necessary, and staff members encourage participants to try new activities. Tritchka said his prior outdoor experience was slim to none, but guidance from Outdoor Adventure Program Director Michael Hatch made the activities accessible to all skill levels.
“Michael Hatch is some expert guru in everything outdoors and helped to make everyone feel comfortable,” Tritchka said.
Hatch designed East Tracks to provide an opportunity for freshmen and transfer students to learn about Eastern Oregon, make new friends, and start building a community.
“This trip fosters personal growth and helps ease the transition into college life,” he said.
Edwards said she bonded with incoming freshmen and peers during East Tracks.
“After the second day there was no age difference,” she said. “We were just one people enjoying each other’s company.”
Incoming freshmen who participate in East Tracks can move in to the residence halls early, on the Saturday before the trip so they’re ready to go when they return for Week of Welcome.
The trip costs $125, which includes all food, transportation and gear rental.
Registration is open now, and space is limited. Contact the OAP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-962-3621 to learn more and sign up.
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