The Collegian
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Natural High program keeps "the thrill" affordable

The University of Richmond's Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness is getting students off campus and into the great outdoors through Natural High.

Tom Roberts, director of recreation and wellness, said Natural High began in 1992 as a grant from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association to encourage universities to provide alternative activities to students during times when they might not participate in healthy activities, such as Friday nights or weekends.

"Richmond is one of the few schools who still do "Natural High programs," Roberts said.

The program is led by Kerry McClung, manager of sports clubs and outdoor adventure, and has already hosted a trip to Virginia Beach on Sept. 4 that 30 people attended, with a waiting list of 50 people. The average trips range in price from $5 to $10.

This year, some of Natural High's events include whitewater rafting on the James River on Oct. 16, Halloween Night Ropes on Oct. 28 and a day hike to Mt. Pleasant on Nov. 14. McClung said that whitewater rafting and the day hike had already reached capacity at 30 with 50 names on both waiting lists.

The night ropes has 20 spaces available and is Halloween-themed, so participants are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes to perform the course. McClung said for those interested in doing the ropes course, completing the course with Natural High was the cheapest way to do so.

Natural High subsidizes all of its trips so that they are inclusive to everyone who wants to participate. For example, the whitewater rafting trip, which costs students $10, actually costs $75 per person, but the university pays $65 of that fee. Although the trips are offered to students and members of the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness, McClung said 90 to 95 percent of participants on each trip were Richmond students.

Sophomore Marc Branch said he participated in the night ropes course along with his community service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, and would urge others to participate in the future.

"I would definitely recommend it to students," he said. "It's a strong team building and trust activity." Branch said that the best part about doing the night ropes was the weather, which was much cooler in comparison to the day ropes.

For the spring semester, Natural High has slated its annual ski trip for February, and an additional day hike, kayaking or canoeing trip. Two to three more trips are still to be determined.

Interested students can register for each trip through the Member Services desk in the Weinstein Center. Students can also see a list of available trips by visiting the Weinstein Center's website and clicking on "Outdoor Adventure."

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McClung said registration opened for each event when it was posted either on the website or in the Weinstein Center and students should register as quickly as possible.

"Thirty is usually the average number of participants, but it depends on the transportation means," McClung said. If the group travels by university van, which only holds 12 people per van, the cap for that activity is typically 24 rather than 30, so events tend to fill quickly.

Meals are almost always included along with additional freebies like t-shirts, disc golf discs and hats, McClung said.

Last year's free T-shirt read, "I got high on campus" and was created for the shock factor and an increase in curiosity about the group. The shirt encouraged many students to participate in Natural High's activities so that they could receive the shirt and many of those students ended up participating in subsequent excursions, McClung said.

McClung said Natural High was looking to expand and was seeking input from students as to where they would like to go, what they would like to do and the best times to plan trips. These trips could be expanded from day trips to overnight, weekend or even week-long excursions.

McClung, a 2007 Richmond graduate, said she had participated in the tubing trip with Natural High -- which has now become the whitewater rafting trip -- and that she regretted having participated in only one trip during her time at Richmond.

"Natural High is really composed of outdoor trips that you may not want to do by yourself, things that you've thought about doing, or that you want to do but haven't done yet," McClung said. "Natural High provides students with those opportunities."

For more information on Natural High and to see pictures from past events, visit the group's Facebook page under Natural High at University of Richmond.

Contact staff writer Sarah Bowers at sarah.bowers@richmond.edu

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