By Elizabeth Gondar
Jasmin Clark has always loved to take risks for no other reason than to see what she’s capable of. “I feel that if you’re not taking risks, then you’re not living right,” she says.
So when she enrolled at UCF in 2016, the marketing and Spanish double major found herself right at home as a trip leader for the Recreation and Wellness Center’s UCF Outdoor Adventure.
She’s experienced everything from caving in Alabama to a bioluminescent kayaking tour down the Indian River to exploring a region so far South, the only landmass below it is Antarctica. In December, Clark helped lead a 10-day expedition through the frozen landscape of Patagonia — an experience she can only describe as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It’s so unique there are so many different environments,” Clark says. “You have the glaciers, and the mountains and beautiful, pristine blue lakes. It was incredible… At the end of the day, I can’t believe this is my job.”
What is UCF Outdoor Adventure?
We give students the opportunity to develop themselves and also try new things in the outdoors. We’re trying to build a community for students and give them a place to come to. Because UCF is such a big campus, I think it’s helpful to have a small area and feel really safe and know you’re going to have a good time with people who know what they’re doing and have your best interests in mind.
Were there any difficult moments on your Patagonia trip?
For sure. We’re Floridians and we don’t have mountains down here, so we don’t really get to experience elevation change, so all of our hikes were really, really intense. Especially the hike to the base of the Torres del Paine — that was probably the hardest day. People definitely struggled a little bit, but once we got to our goal, it immediately became worth it because they’re huge and they just make you feel so small. You think, “I can’t believe I just did this,” at the top of the mountain looking at these three towers. It’s amazing.
What does adventure mean to you?
Exploring different places. Exploring the relationships that you have with people when you go to these places. The program is about the outdoors, but it’s more than that. It’s about building a community and exploring different parts of yourself. Take the 10-mile trek up Torres del Paine. You feel like your legs are going to fall off and everything hurts — but you find out a lot about what you’re capable of and how far you can push yourself.
What’s been your most rewarding experience as part of the program?
I think my favorite part is creating an environment where people can go beyond their limits and accomplish things that they didn’t think they could. We like to create a comfortable environment where you can take risk. I like people being really happy and satisfied with themselves and like “Wow, I really didn’t think I’d be able to paddle those last two miles,” or “I thought I’d be so scared of white-water rafting. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it,” and then they do it and they’re so happy.
Why do you think people should go on adventures?
Just to try something new. You’ll never know what you like until you try it and you might find yourself coming back again. We have a lot of people that go on one trip for the first time and then we see them over again throughout the semester because they want more. I think the chance to meet new people in an environment like that – where there are less distractions and connect with people on kind of a deeper, more meaningful level is really a great opportunity to take advantage of.
How can students get involved?
People call us the best-kept secret on campus, but I don’t want us to be a secret anymore. To any students who are even a little bit interested in Outdoor Adventure, just stop by the office on the first floor of the Rec and Wellness Center on main campus and ask questions because we love sharing information about what we do, and we love helping new students get involved.
It was so, so windy. The winds were around 50 mph and when a strong gust would blow, we had to stop walking and just focus on staying standing. We couldn’t talk to each other much during these intense gusts because it was so loud, we would just burst out laughing at how stupid we looked fighting against the wind and falling over each other and on to the ground when the wind was too strong.
Taking photos this day was challenging due to the wind. Here I am holding on to my beanie because it was trying to blow away (it ended up escaping later on). All smiles though- this hike was absolutely stunning.
We stopped at the end of the trail to have lunch with an insane view of the Cuernos formation. It was a quiet lunch after a long hike, everyone just sat back, relaxed, and marveled at the environment that surrounded us. We talked to some friendly hikers, my beanie made an escape from my head (one of my participants luckily chased it for me), and wondered how the water was that blue!
Hiking to a lake/viewpoint of the Fitz Roy. It was a challenging hike with lots of elevation change, but when the trees opened up and revealed views like this one it was so worth it. Once we reached the end of the trail it actually started to rain and the Fitz Roy was totally covered by clouds but the group took it in stride. We were just happy to be there, refilling our bottles at the top of a mountain with glacier water and enjoying each other’s company. I’m grateful for having had such a wonderful group of participants who were easy going and adaptable.
We were so excited and overwhelmed with emotion at this summit. The hike was our most grueling of the trip. There was so much elevation gain our legs at this point felt like jello. The last bit of the hike also involved scrambling through rocks and we were absolutely exhausted. Once we got to this view though, no one cared. It’s impossible to express with words or photos how huge these towers were. When we first arrived, without giving my participants instructions, everyone simultaneously found a quiet spot on their own to just sit and witness. As a trip leader, there’s something to be said for unstructured downtime during moments like these. I could tell that everyone, including myself, just needed a moment to be present and reflect on where we were, how we got there, and what it meant. Then of course, we did a photo shoot. Who wouldn’t with this view?
This was my favorite day of the Patagonia trip. We did a trek on Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina that was about 20 miles long. The trek that we did with the guide is to hike to the middle of the glacier. You’re just surrounded by ice and glacier water and mountains on the edges. It just felt like the whole world fell away and we were just there in that moment with the wind whipping at our faces and we felt like little explorers or mountaineers. It was just so fun.
In this picture you can see the landscape of snow-capped mountains that surrounded us on the glacier. It blocked most of our view of the rest of the park and it kind of felt like we could’ve been in Antarctica. Out of this world trek.
We took some pictures in this beautiful little ice cave. If you look closely you can see water droplets dripping down from the top which looked like little liquid diamonds. Caroline has her glasses and buff to protect her skin and eyes from the reflection of the sun on the ice, and crampons to walk on the ice safely!
You’d think it was a filter but the water really did look that blue, if not more so in real life. Looking down into the crystal clear, glass-like water we could see down so deep, it was a little intimidating to stand on the edge and trust the ice. We got to put our water bottles right into the water for the most refreshing drink ever. Later on we also got to stand right over a crevasse, straddle it and look into the depths of the glacier (all while being safely held by our guide with our harnesses, of course).