While students lug heavy backpacks up and down the rolling hills of UT in the cold, they do not often stop to appreciate Knoxville's unique geographic location.
The UT Canoe and Hiking Club, however, spends its weekends embracing all Knoxville and the surrounding areas have to offer by backpacking, spelunking, kayaking, rafting, biking, climbing, cross-country skiing, and taking mountaineering trips.
The club, a part of RecSports, is entirely student-led and organized. The $50 per semester fee covers gas, lodging, and some gear for any trip the students plan.
So far, the club has trips planned every weekend from Jan. 25-March 1.
Brian Payne, junior in mechanical engineering and president of the club, said he hopes to promote the many unique opportunities UT students have available to them.
"The Knoxville area has so much to offer," Payne said. "With the mountains so close, it opens up a bunch of outdoor opportunities.
"I think it is important for students to take advantage of this location because there is so much fun to be had in the outdoors."
While the Smokies are a popular destination for people who love the outdoors, undecided sophomore Austin Eddy said he simply gives encouragement for students to broaden their adventure-seeking horizons.
"A lot of people always say 'You really should go hike in the Smokies while you have the opportunity,'" Eddy said. "While I'm certainly not disagreeing, as I do hike there when I can, I actually spend a lot more time taking advantage of the close proximity of the Obed Wild and Scenic. It is about an hour away from Knoxville and has over 450 rock climbing routes, some of which are considered the best in Tennessee."
Many club members, like Payne and Eddy, have a background in the outdoors – Payne lived in Alaska for five years, and Eddy has been camping since the age of four.
For students less naturally inclined, however, the club offers a community of students that hope to encourage new people in their fresh air pursuits.
"Before I joined Canoe and Hiking, I had never really done anything outdoorsy," said Hayley Moran, a junior in child and family studies and psychology who transferred to UT her sophomore year. "However, in just two years I have tried everything from outdoor rock climbing, to first time snowboarding, to crawling on my knees on our annual caving trip.
"After coming to the first meeting in fall of 2012, I was hooked."
Moran said joining the club helped her conquer some of her fears about the challenges of trying new things.
"The club really opened me up to new experiences and has really given me a new relationship with nature," Moran said. "I honestly just never knew I was capable of doing these things until everyone in the club encouraged me to try them. I always assumed they were too strenuous or that I would be too slow to keep up with everyone else.
"C&H really just cares about having fun and being with each other outside, so its never a competition or anything like that. Everyone just wants everyone to be enjoying themselves."
UT students are often in the prime of their lives, and it is a time that students should be taking advantage of their youth, Moran said.
"Unfortunately, I feel that UT's community mostly cares about partying on the weekend when they could be spending their time observing the beautiful world around them," Moran said. "We have the rest of our lives to go to bars on the weekend. Why not spend this time stretching your body and your mind when you live in such a geographically advantageous place?"
The Canoe and Hiking Club will hold an interest meeting Wednesday Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. in TRECS room 227. For more information, contact Brian Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.