Samantha Gasinksy was a sophomore when she first got a bird’s-eye view of Maryland while on a fall semester hiking trip sponsored by Outdoor Pursuits, a venture that has hooked her on experiencing nature.

“We had hiked up 6 miles on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland when we reached the summit, know as the Annapolis Rock,” said the 21-year-old from suburban Chicago who expects to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. “When I got there, I realized I could see for miles because of the view. I was mesmerized because all I could see were all the different shades of colors on the trees. It just went on for miles on a gorgeous, clear day.

“It was at that moment that I wanted to try every trip offered by Outdoor Pursuits.”

In the two years since, Gasinsky has become one of the biggest fans of Ball State’s extracurricular outdoor exercise and exploration program. She’s kayaked the White River, backpacked in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and hiked all over the Midwest.

Gasinsky is one of 850 people — students, faculty, staff and alumni — who have participated in various activities in the last year through Outdoor Pursuits. Since its creation nearly a decade ago, the office has provided enthusiasts with equipment and training for a range of challenging indoor and outdoor activities while also organizing trips, team-building exercises and other recreation experiences.

At the heart of Outdoor Pursuits, in the Jo Ann Gora Student Recreation and Wellness Center, is the rental center. The facility offers kayaks, canoes, tents, bikes and other equipment. About 1,350 items were rented in the last academic year.

Students in Dolly Sods Wilderness, a U.S. Wilderness Area in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, prepare a meal.

After a day of leadership training, students cooked a hot meal while in the backcountry of Dolly Sods Wilderness, a U.S. Wilderness Area in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia.

“I’ve benefited from Outdoor Pursuits because I got to meet new people and improve my outdoor recreation skills,” said Justin Parsons, a senior studying geography, who explained that experiences on various trips early in his college career provided a deeper appreciation for the program. He is now the lead staff member in the rental center and one of the head trip leaders.

Outdoor Pursuits also offers one of the toughest full-body workouts on campus, a climbing wall at the Jo Ann Gora Student Recreation and Wellness Center. The wall, which draws about 10,000 visits a year, has roughly 1,500 square feet of climbable surface for bouldering or top-rope climbing, as well as workshops and clinics. It’s available for individuals and private rental for parties, team-building activities and other special events.

“Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking to sharpen your skills or it’s your first outdoor adventure, we have an activity and equipment for all ages,” said Patrick Langendorfer, coordinator of Outdoor Pursuits.