ORAC provides students with thrills and adventure

A group of WKU’s Outdoor Recreation Adventure Center (ORAC) participants pose for a photo during a trip to the top of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas last spring. Photo provided by Maggie Shelton

Brittiny Moore

Students looking for a break from their normal routine and a different kind of educational experience need to look no further.  

The Outdoor Recreation and Adventure Center, ORAC, is an organization that offers students weekend and break trips to the great outdoors. 

Leah Rossettie, an outdoor recreation graduate assistant at WKU, manages ORAC as part of her graduate assistantship.

“ORAC is a great resource for WKU students who want to get out, enjoy the fresh air and be active outdoors,” Rossettie said. 

While ORAC was created for WKU students, all Preston Center members and student-sponsored guests are welcome to join. 

“All ORAC trips are beginner-friendly. You do not need any previous experience to go on a trip with us,” Rossettie said. “Our staff [is] here to teach you the basics and how to safely enjoy outdoor sports like hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, backpacking, rock climbing, camping and so much more.”

ORAC’s WKU webpage displays trips before the start of each semester.  

This September, ORAC will be hiking and canoeing at Nolin Lake in Kentucky, swimming and hiking in Rock Island State Park and whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.

“One of the most thrilling trips we run is a whitewater rafting excursion down to the Ocoee River in Tennessee,” Rossettie said. “It is an absolute blast paddling through rapids. It’s a whole different kind of roller coaster but every bit as much fun!” 

ORAC will highlight backpacking, rock climbing and mountain biking for October’s trips. This includes backpacking the Appalachian Trail and the trails of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Tennessee. Bouldering will be offered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and mountain biking will be offered in Brown County, Indiana.

“A weekend of mountain biking on trails like the ones we plan to visit in Brown County, Indiana, this semester is also quite an adrenaline rush,” Rossettie said.

ORAC will be taking another backpacking trip this semester to the Grand Canyon National Park during the Thanksgiving holiday. This week-long trip will take participants all the way down to the Colorado River. 

Last November, Ali Boyd, a junior from Versailles, participated in the ORAC Grand Canyon trip and said it was one of the best experiences of her life.

“It was painful at times hiking up and down the trails all day but absolutely worth it when you climb over the last mountain and see the killer views,” Boyd explained.

Louisville senior Maggie Shelton, who participated in the ORAC-led excursion to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, believes others should become involved with the unique program because it offers much to learn both physically and mentally.

“It [is] a way to become more involved with people that (sic) you might not have the opportunity to meet in an everyday setting on WKU’s campus,” Shelton said. “[ORAC] has really fueled my fire in wanting to become more adventurous and one with the outdoors.”

Rossettie encourages students to become involved in ORAC and adopt an active lifestyle.

“Outdoor Recreation is my profession,” Rossettie said. “It is what I love to do, and introducing people to all the different ways that they can enjoy the outdoors as a part of a healthy mental and physical lifestyle is what makes me feel purposeful.”

For students interested in this opportunity, registration is open for all ORAC trips on a first-come, first-serve basis for the rest of the semester. All students are encouraged to register at Preston Center.