Combine duckies (inflatable kayaks), blue herons, marsh marigolds and no classes, and what do you get?
The perfect setup for a beautiful outdoor wellness day.
The Miami University Outdoor Pursuits Center (OPC) hosted an event on Monday, April 12, aptly called the “Wellness Day Paddle & Pedal.”
The day started at 10 a.m. at the DeWitt Log Homestead off Route 73, just past Miami’s Equestrian Center. Because of COVID-19 restrictions on university-sanctioned transportation, students walked, drove, biked and even skateboarded to the parking lot.
Following a short orientation on life jackets, paddling and communication on the water, nine students, one student leader and one staff leader embarked on a three-mile journey down (ironically) Four-Mile Creek.
Cameron Cox, a sophomore finance major and student leader for the trip, helped organize and promote the event around campus. Other than the cold weather and having to pull the kayaks through chilly water past shallow spots and “strainers” (fallen trees in the path), Cox said the event was a success.
As an OPC employee, Cox said he enjoyed helping people get out of their comfort zone.
“There [were] a lot of people who had never done it before,” Cox said, “so it was an opportunity for people to try something new and something they're unfamiliar with, which is what I really enjoyed about the trip.”
Jennifer Siliko, director of OPC and staff trip leader, led the band of boats down the river. While she paddled, she noticed blue herons, wood ducks, muskrats and marsh marigolds.
For her, nature is a way to relax from the stresses of life.
“Just getting to rejuvenate by experiencing all those natural things [is nice],” Siliko said.
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Scott Graumlich, a sophomore economics and entrepreneurship co-major, brought his girlfriend with him as his “quarantine buddy” for the tandem boat ride. He said the event was a great way to get out of bed on the wellness day.
“Otherwise I probably would have woken up at one o'clock, half the day would have been gone,” Gramulich said, “but it got me up early, got me outside, got me doing some physical activity. It was good.”
Siliko understands the need for students to get outside during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am a big proponent of just spending time outside even if it's just getting outside of your dorm,” she said. “I think with so many classes being remote, it's so important for folks.”
After three miles on the water, the duckies landed ashore and met a second student leader who was waiting for them with bikes to start the “pedal” portion of the trip.
Cox said the bike ride back to campus was a bit more taxing than the “paddle” part of the day. As a student leader, he took pride in having to keep morale alive, even as they navigated hills and flat tires.
“[It] was pretty cool to have to step up and repair that and finish the trip out and just [make] sure everyone had a good time,” Cox said, “because those hills really killed the morale for a second.”
Despite some hiccups in the trip, Graumlich said he would love to participate in another one of OPC’s events.
And he’s in luck.
Although the OPC has had to shift their approach and get creative with venues and programs, Siliko said they are planning another “Wellness Day Paddle and Pedal”, as well as a “Wellness Day Intro to Kayaking” and “Intro to Bikepacking,” all of which will take place on May 7.
Though wellness days are merely a necessity of COVID-19 college life, Cox said breaking the monotony of 15 straight weeks of classes with paddling and pedaling is valuable.
“Having these events to encourage people to do something actually different than the typical routine,” Cox said, “[and] make it somewhat feel like a spring break — is really cool.”