LA GRANDE — Students new to the Eastern Oregon area will have five days to become well acquainted with it this fall.

Eastern Oregon University’s annual East Tracks program is returning Monday, Sept. 16, and running through Friday, Sept. 20. The five-day excursion provides an opportunity for Mountaineer freshmen and transfer students to immerse themselves in Eastern Oregon’s wilderness, make new friends, and build a new community.

“This trip fosters personal growth and helps ease the transition into college life,” Outdoor Adventure Program Director Michael Hatch said in a press release.

The camping trip takes place in Hells Canyon — a 10-mile-wide canyon that winds along the border of Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington, and Western Idaho. It is not only the deepest river gorge in North America (7,993 feet), but it is also one of the deepest in the world.

Participants camp alongside the Snake River next to a limestone climbing area. While there, they will have the chance to participate in a number of outdoor activities, including hiking, rock climbing, fishing, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, hot spring soaking, and more.

Students will have the opportunity to meet one another before classes begin, and requires no previous experience in traversing the outdoors. Mary Edwards, a transfer student who attended the getaway in 2017, had never been rock climbing until her time on the trip.

“If you are afraid to climb a rock, try it at least once,” she said in a press release. “If you are afraid to get in the water, try it at least once. After the second day, there was no age difference. We were just one people enjoying each other’s company.”

Staff members encourage students to try their hand at the new experiences offered at the camp. Gabriel Tritchka, another 2017 participant, noted that his prior camping experience was “slim to none,” but guidance from Hatch and the other instructors allowed for an accessible first exposure to the wild.

“Michael Hatch is an expert guru in everything outdoors, and helped to make everyone feel comfortable,” Tritchka said in a press release. “The trip provided me the foundation for my college family.”

Incoming freshmen who participate in the adventure will have early move-in access to EOU’s residence halls. They will be allowed to move in on the Saturday prior to the trip in preparation for the Week of Welcome, which commences after their return.

The trip costs $125 per camper. Food, transportation, and rental gear are included in the fee.

Registration is ongoing, and space is limited. Sign-ups and questions can be directed to the OAP at outdoor@eou.edu, or by phone at 541-962-3621.

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